Here we are looking at NFL week 14. Many fantasy football playoff dreams are already coming to fruition while many others find themselves vying to avoid their league’s last place trophy. So whether you’re going for gold or struggling to avoid hitting rock bottom, week 14 still matters to most all fantasy owners. That’s why this week I decided to look at every matchup and pick a player from each that deserves a start. I’ll try to avoid the obvious ones like Calvin Johnson or Jamaal Charles since there’s no sense in telling you what you already know. With any luck, one of these picks could be the catapult that launches you into the second round. For those of you that have a first round bye: if you happen to be watching the Texans @ Jaguars game then look for me in the front row behind the Texans bench throwing balls of paper into DeAndre Hopkins mane of hair.
Thursday – 8:25p ET
HOU @ JAC
Ben Tate, HOU – Week 13 saw an awakening of Ben Tate. He kept his yards per carry up and took advantage of a battered Patriots run defense. He’ll carry his 102 yards and 3 TDs into Jacksonville where they give up an average of 20 fantasy points per game.
Cecil Shorts, JAC – The best matchup for the Jags this week comes for their defense, however, I’m going to recommend Cecil Shorts for the start. My reasoning? He has 22 targets over his last two games and Chad Henne knows he has to rely on him, giving Shorts the biggest upside among Jags players in fantasy.
Sunday – 1:00p ET
BUF @ TB
EJ Manuel, BUF – He scored one through the air and one on the ground against Atlanta, and week 14 should see him get at least two more touchdowns. The Tampa Bay Bucs are giving up 20 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks so far this season. Not a bad matchup filler if you’re other QB is facing a tough defense.
Vincent Jackson / Tiquan Underwood, TB – Mike Glennon should find himself throwing a bit more when he faces the porous Buffalo Bills pass defense. The New York squad is allowing almost 30 fantasy points to opposing receivers per game.
MIN @ BAL
Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN – His 4 targets in week 13 were redeemed by a rushing TD. The previous week he had 8 receptions. It’s unclear how he’ll be utilized from game to game but it is clear that he will see the ball in some form. Patterson is a literal utility knife for the Minnesota Vikings going forward which makes him an interesting sleeper from week to week.
Ray Rice, BAL – I don’t feel bad putting Rice here because he’s been a ghost all season. The only two times he’s performed well for fantasy owners is when he’s gotten 20+ carries. There’s a good chance that can happen week 14 when he faces the Vikings who are giving up 22.5 fantasy points to RBs.
CLE @ NE
Josh Gordon, CLE – I feel a bit bad about this one but I’m going to be honest. Outside of Josh Gordon, there isn’t much to be excited about in Cleveland. Gordon has had back to back 200+ yard games and 4 out of his last 5 were games over 100 yards. He’s also had 5 touchdowns over that span. If you aren’t accompanying his name with the word “elite” yet then you haven’t been paying attention.
Julian Edelman, NE – It appears that the only player on the Patriots immune to the bench when he fumbles is Julian Edelman. In week 12 he dropped the ball twice but still saw 11 targets and week 13 was no different. He finished his last two games with 23 targets and 18 receptions for 211 yards and 2 TDs. With Joe Haden tailing Amendola for the game, Edelman should shine again.
IND @ CIN
Coby Fleener, IND – Statistically, Cincinatti’s defense has been stingy to fantasy players all season and, let be honest, Andrew luck hasn’t been playing very well lately. If I can make on specualation, it’s that there will be more airtime in this game than my Skymiles account (which is saying a lot). That said, Fleener has been a go-to checkdown for Luck lately and should continue to put up moderate numbers, even against a Bengals defense that begs to differ.
Marvin Jones, CIN – Since his 4 touchdown performance in week 8, Jones hasn’t even come close to double digit fantasy points. That doesn’t change the fact that he is a big dynamic receiver and the Colts are allowing the sixth most fantasy points to wide outs this season. AJ Green will have a good game but there will be room for Jones on Sunday too.
DET @ PHI
Nate Burleson, DET – Okay, let’s ignore week 13, please. I watched the game. Nate wasn’t even a factor. He got one measly target. However, the Eagles allow 30+ points to fantasy receivers which is the most in the league. It’ll be a shootout in Philly and Burleson is in line to catch a few bullets.
Riley Cooper, PHI – Coincidentally enough, while the Eagles give up the most points to WRs, the Lions give up the second most. This bodes well for Cooper who has emerged as an explosive option ever since Foles took over. If this game doesn’t have a handful of receiving TDs, I’ll eat my shoes.
ATL @ GB
Steven Jackson, ATL – The veteran running back is finally hitting a small stride this season. Over the last two weeks, Jackson has 3 touchdowns and is averaging almost 4 yards per carry. He’s yet to hit the century mark but the Lions backs were able to record over 200 yards on Thanksgiving. SJax could hit his first century mark of the season on Sunday.
Eddie Lacy, GB – He was ineffective versus Detroit but the Flacons are giving up the third most rushing yards per game. Lacy got his bad game out of the way and begins his fantasy playoff stretch with a great matchup. On Sunday, CJ Spiller burned the Falcons for 149 rushing yards and it’s not farfetched to think that Lacy can easily do the same. Until Rodgers is back, the rookie is the only reliable player in Green Bay going forward.
KC @ WAS
Alex Smith, KC – Guess who’s been a solid fantasy quarterback over the last three weeks? That’s right, Alex Smith. What’s even better is he has a great matchup against the Washington Redskins who are giving up plenty of points to every offensive position. Smith proved to us he could air it out this past week against Denver and week 14 should be no different. He’s a great filler for a QB with a tough matchup and a solid start to the first round of your fantasy playoffs.
Robert Griffin III, WAS – Okay, this is me about to partially eat some words I’ve spoken recently. I don’t really trust RG3 at all, especially against a defense like Kansas City’s. Let’s check our recent memory though. Kansas City has collapsed on defense over the last three weeks. Granted they played Peyton Manning twice, but that doesn’t excuse them. As far as RG3 goes, I’m not picking him here for his potential passing stats, but for his potential rushing stats. Against the Giants, Griffin had his highest rushing attempts and yards of the season. He may be realizing that he has to rely on his dynamic playing style to keep his team in the game and the Chiefs will be looking to bounce back from a 3-game skid. RG3 isn’t a must-start but I anticipate 70+ yards on the ground from him on Sunday which is certainly respectable.
MIA @ PIT
Lamar Miller, MIA – He hasn’t had a great sophomore season at all but Miller got 22 carries in week 13 against the Jets who were giving up the lowest average of rushing yards to opposing backs. The Dolphins are willing to lean on him in a tough matchup so it will be interesting to see his involvement when they face the Steelers who are giving up 100 rushing yards per game.
Heath Miller, PIT – Speaking of Millers, Pittsburgh’s Heath Miller has been targeted 25 times over the last three games and faces the Dolphins next who are giving up the third most fantasy points to the position. High targets in a good matchup points towards success on paper.
OAK @ NYJ
Andre Holmes, OAK – He appears to be finding his niche in the offense and rookie quarterback Matt McGloin wasn’t afraid to exploit it against Dallas. Holmes set career highs in targets, catches and receiving yards against the Cowboys and the Raiders should be looking to the air pretty frequently against one of the toughest rush defenses in the league on Sunday. If you’re in need of a sleeper, Holmes has some good upside.
Chris Ivory, NYJ – I couldn’t come up with anyone I would start from the New York Jets without thinking twice. So, I had to go with the best option and that’s RB Chris Ivory. The Raiders aren’t chumps against the run, allowing only 15 fantasy points per game to RBs, but if you have to start someone from the Jets, it might as well be Ivory.
Sunday – 4:05p ET
TEN @ DEN
Kendall Wright, TEN – Whoever plays Denver week to week has a pretty good chance of putting up some fantasy points through the air. Rather than feature Ryan Fitzpatrick here, let’s look at his top target, Kendall Wright. Wright has averaged 10 targets per game over the last 3 weeks and Tennessee is sure to be throwing the ball a lot to keep up with Peyton Manning. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has his best game of the season.
Knowshon Moreno, DEN – Moreno couldn’t match his 200+ rush yards from week 12, but he faces a Titans D that’s allowing almost 100 rush yards per game and 50+ receiving yards per game to fantasy running backs. Moreno’s week 13 was redeemed by his 72 receiving yards and TD so he’s looking solid heading into week 14 whether he gets his points on the ground or through the air.
Sunday – 4:25p ET
NYG @ SD
Victor Cruz, NYG – If you haven’t been leery of starting Victor Cruz lately then you should’ve been, but this weekend’s matchup against San Diego looks to be the end of his dry spell. The Chargers are one of two teams who are giving up over 200 yards on average to receivers. Cruz is easily leading his team in targets and has a great opportunity for a big game.
Keenan Allen, SD – He’s had back to back 100+ yard games and attracts the majority of Philip Rivers targets. Allen is a good week to week play and this Sunday will be no different. He’ll continue to get plenty of opportunities at the ball and as I’ve always said, in this league, opportunity is everything.
SEA @ SF
Russell Wilson, SEA – He’s only scored less than 15 fantasy points twice this season and has clearly proven he’s a contender in this league as the only top 10 quarterback with less than 300 pass attempts. In fact, outside of Cam Newton, he’s the only quarterback in the top 10 with less than 400 pass attempts. Russell gets it done with efficiency and leg work, so if the pass isn’t working he’ll open up the field with his legs (or Marshawn’s). Despite the tough matchup, Seattle and San Francisco play each other well and Wilson isn’t the worst QB decision you could make for week 14 or nearly any week for that matter.
Michael Crabtree, SF – He only got four targets in his first game back from his Achilles tear, but half of them were downfield bombs. He grabbed one for 60 yards and didn’t show much restriction from his injury. The 49ers played it safe for his first game back, but expect him to get more involved against the Seahawks. Both teams will need everything they can get to pull off a win.
STL @ ARI
Jared Cook, STL – He had his best game of the year by far against the Cardinals in week 1 where he grabbed 7 passes for 141 yards and 2 TDs. If there’s ever a time this year that he’ll do it again, it’s against the Cardinals who are giving up the most fantasy points to tight ends.
Michael Floyd, ARI – It isn’t certain if Andre Ellington will play and I’m not going to put all my eggs in a basket labeled “Mendenhall” despite the good matchup. Floyd, however, has clearly stepped up in the last 3 weeks. He was one yard shy of having three straight games of 100 or more yards and Carson Palmer will continue to lean on him going forward.
Sunday – 8:30p ET
CAR @ NO
Greg Olsen, CAR – New Orleans is tough against the tight end position and although we haven’t seen the division rivals play each other yet this season, Newton is expected to continue his trend of frequently targeting his tight end. In his last three games, Olsen has 15 catches and 2 TDs. His yards won’t be very high but it’s hard to argue with a player that is a redzone threat from week to week.
Darren Sproles, NO – Carolina has one of the toughest defenses in the NFL, but they’re giving up 50 receiving yards to running backs per game which is among the highest in the league. If I know this, Drew Brees knows this and will more than likely look to exploit it. That means high targets for the pass-catching back in New Orleans.
Monday – 8:40p ET
DAL @ CHI
DeMarco Murray, DAL – Coming off of a three touchdown performance in week 13, the Cowboys and DeMarco Murray should look to exploit the Bears league-worst rush defense, who are giving up over 125 rushing yards per game to RBs. Murray has only had 20+ carries twice this season and there’s a good chance he’ll get close on Monday night. Start him with confidence, which is more than you can usually say for Murray.
Jay Cutler / Josh McCown, CHI – While Dallas allows the most fantasy points to running backs, they also give up the most points to quarterbacks (22.5). McCown has been good in Cutler’s stead, but the starting QB plans to return in week 14 and is still the superior player. Whoever finds themselves under center on Monday night is sure to have a good game. Whether it’s Cutler or McCown, start them with confidence that they’ll help your team in the first round of the fantasy playoffs.
For more insight and analysis from Ryley Henry, follow him on Twitter: @ryleyhenryff