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Fantasy Football Week 14 Start 'Em And Sit 'Em

A look at suggested starts and sits for week 14 of the fantasy football season.

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Now before we get into the actual starts and sits, let me just say one thing about these recommendations. And it’s something I’ve said before, so if you’ve heard it already, just bear with me for a moment. I’m not in the habit of recommending players who should be in your starting lineup already. If Drew Brees or Tom Brady has a favorable match-up, then duh….of course you start them. If they have a tough match-up, I may put them in the sit column, but that’s more for you to understand that you shouldn’t expect their normal point totals; not to bench them for some crappy guy who has a soft match-up.

Case in point: I just received an email where a guy asked me if he should bench Cam Newton against the Saints this week in favor of Joe Flacco who faces the Vikings. Now while Newton’s match-up isn’t ideal, why the hell would you sit a guy who’s been plenty productive this year (especially lately) in favor of a guy who has sucked for, pretty much, the entire season? He’s had a nice game or two here and there, but nothing that would blow you or Newton’s numbers away. Flacco’s upside is nowhere near Newton’s upside, so remember that when you’re thinking about benching one of your productive top guns. Flacco’s the type of guy you stream in if you had Aaron Rodgers and lost him; not the type of guy for whom you bench a stud with a tough match-up.

Now let’s get to it…

Quarterbacks

Start ‘Em

Matt Ryan, ATL – So many fantasy owners were quick to jump ship on Ryan during that stretch betweens Weeks 8 and 10 as he struggled his way through some pretty rough match-ups. Everyone cited his lack of receivers as the root of the problem yet no one mentioned that he faced three straight top-five pass defenses as they discarded him in favor of the Mike Glennons and Jason Campbells sitting on the waiver wire. Well, the rough patch in the schedule is over, Roddy White is back and up this week are the Packers and their 30th-ranked pass defense. Ryan showed he can still sling the rock with 613 passing yards in his last two games and the touchdowns are en route right now. The Packers have given up 22 passing touchdowns this season and have allowed an average of 29.7 points per game over their last six. The cold of Green Bay won’t be an issue because ain’t nothin’ colder than what’s runnin’ through Matty Ice’s veins.

Colin Kaepernick, SF – Here’s where I really deviate from the pack as there are few fantasy pundits putting their faith in Kaepernick this week against the vaunted Seattle defense. But I’m telling you right now, this game isn’t going the way the masses think it’s going. Kaepernick, at home and with a new arsenal of weapons at his disposal, is not Drew Brees on the road in crappy weather. Frank Gore may find running room tight, but he continues to lend strong support and will keep the Seahawks honest up front. The addition of Michael Crabtree to a group of receivers that already included Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham and tight end Vernon Davis is going to give that short-handed secondary a run for its money this week. And if you look at Kaepernick’s numbers over the last three games, he’s got six touchdowns to just one interception and continues to show improvement. I’m going twith the upside this week and starting him in two playoff match-ups of my own.

Alex Smith, KC – For the fourth straight week I am putting Smith in my recommended start section and you know what…? I haven’t been wrong yet. The match-ups have been awesome and the return of High Times’ Man of the Year Dwayne Bowe has revitalized Smith’s passing attack. He’s averaging 272.3 passing yards per game over his last three and has seven touchdowns to just two interceptions. This week he gets the Redskins who have given up 23 touchdowns through the air this season and an average of 265 passing yards per game. Not to mention, opposing quarterbacks have a 101.5 cumulative passer rating against them. Look for another strong week.

Sit ‘Em

Andrew Luck, IND – Has anyone reminded him that this isn’t college anymore and the regular season is 17 weeks long? He’s looked awful over these last four weeks, averaging just 237 passing yards per game (200 or fewer in last two) and throwing just two touchdowns to five interceptions. Now he’s facing a Cincinnati defense that ranks second against the pass, allows an average of just 214 passing yards per game and is limiting opposing quarterbacks to a 74.5 passer rating for the entire season. While we’d all like to see a kid like Luck get his mojo back, it sure isn’t going to be this week.

Russell Wilson, SEA – Well, if I’m going to sit here and fluff Kaepernick, I may as well dog Wilson in the same article, right? Again, bucking the trend of the pundits here and disregarding the fact that he’s averaged 236.3 yards with 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions over his last six games. I don’t even care what his rushing totals in that span were. I’m pissing on those numbers. Because he’s headed to San Francisco, where there is new life in this team and an already strong defense, I’m steering clear of him this week. The speed of the linebackers – Aldon Smith, Novarro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks and Patrick Willis – will help contain the read-option and the outside runs, and the secondary will more than handle the receivers. I think the 49ers avenge their Week 2 drubbing and turn this into a statement game.

Ben Roethlisberger, PIT – It’s that pesky Miami defense again that still seems to get very little respect. They’ve held the opposition to an average of just 222 passing yards per game, they’ve given up just 12 passing touchdowns all year and opposing quarterbacks have a collective 72.7 passer rating against them. That does not bode well for Big Ben’s overall numbers. Could he hit his tight end for a quick score? Sure. Could he hit Antonio Brown for a dozen receptions? Of course he could. But the ass rush he is facing, the one with 37 sacks for a total of 238 yards lost, will keep him on the run, keep the yards down, and seriously limit the scoring. There are days when I really like Big Ben but this is not one of them.

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Running Backs

Start ‘Em

DeMarco Murray, DAL – In my mind, he’s still a low-end No. 1 running back and those are guys you really should be starting regardless of match-up. But let’s say you’re convinced that Tony Romo is just going to throw the ball all day long and you’re deciding between Murray and some lesser back with a good match-up. I’m telling you to start Murray. While you may think the heavy lifting he is going to do this week is in response to the sh*t-sandwich of criticism that Jerry Jones is feeding to his quarterback regarding his December record, Murray is going to see a ton of carries because he’s facing the Bears, the worst run defense we’ve seen in quite a long time. How bad? How about Chicago is giving up an average of 153.6 rushing yards per game and has allowed 15 rushing touchdowns this year bad? Yeah, that bad. Get Murray in those lineups.    

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, CIN – Whaaat? The Law Firm? Really? Yup. That Colts run defense looks soft, giving up 128.6 yards per game with 10 rushing touchdowns this season. The Firm is going to plow through that front line if the Bengals let him do it often enough. Now, of course, Giovani Bernard is going to be there poaching work. We’ve watched it all year. But the difference is where the Colts are softest, and that’s right up the middle. Not exactly Bernard’s forte, is it? Not to mention the Colts actually rank eighth in the league against running back pass plays this season, holding the opposition to just 21.3 yards per game. But the Bengals know that establishing the ground game is the key to open things up for Andy Dalton and that means a heavy dose of the Firm to start. He should make for a great RB2 or flex play this week.

Bobby Rainey, TB – While he hasn’t looked nearly as strong over these last two weeks as he did during that insane Week 11 breakout against Atlanta, you have to remember that he’s also faced two of the best run defenses in the game during that time. Carolina and Detroit are tough teams to run on. But the important thing is that he’s still seeing regular carries. If he touches the ball 17 or 18 times this week, that’s going to be huge for fantasy owners as the Bills give up 121.5 rushing yards per game. Even better is that they’ve allowed over 130 rushing yards in each of their last three games and five of the seven rushing touchdowns they’ve given up this year have come in that span. He could be a fun one to watch this week.  

Sit ‘Em

Rashard Jennings, OAK – Even though Darren McFadden was ruled out for Sunday after an apparent sprain of his lady-parts and Jennings will be seeing most, if not all, of the carries, he’s nothing but bench material for this week. The Jets may suck in the grand scheme of things, but if there’s one thing they can do like professionals, they can stop the run. In fact, they are the stingiest run defense in the NFL, allowing just 77 yards per game with only six rushing touchdowns. I can’t take away anything he’s done while filling in, but the ride had to end at some point and this looks like the last stop.

Pierre Thomas, NO – Similarly to the Cincinnati backfield situation this week, I think Thomas is a no-go against the Panthers because most of the attention is going to land on Darren Sproles. The Panthers allow just 80.3 rushing yards per game and have allowed just three rushing touchdowns but they rank 22nd in the league against passes to running backs and allow an average of 50.7 yards per game to them. That’s almost 25-percent of the total passing yards Carolina allows which means, if all falls in line with the averages most of the time, that’s a lot of work for Sproles to do. Time for Thomas to take a rest from your starting lineup.

Frank Gore, SF – It’s no secret that the 49ers are using Gore less for two reasons. First is that they want to keep him fresh for the playoffs and second is because they simply don’t have to be so reliant on him now that the Niners’ passing attack has come alive. Obviously, Seattle’s run defense comes into play here, but it’s also because Gore is simply seeing eight to 10 carries fewer since the bye week and isn’t being pushed enough right now. He’s still a start most of the time, but the way everything is aligning here lately, he’s probably best left for your bench this week.

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Wide Receivers

Start ‘Em

Andre Holmes, OAK – With Denarius Moore likely to be held out again Sunday, Holmes becomes a great little play this week against a soft Jets secondary. The Jets are giving up an average of 257 passing yards per game and rank 21st in the league against No. 1 wideouts who are grabbing 85.2 of those passing yards. Having a decent talent like Rod Streater lining up on the opposite side of the field and having an underrated pass-catching tight end will help keep the Jets from being able to drift extra coverage Holmes’ way, so look for him to potentially post his second consecutive 100-yard day.

Mike Wallace, MIA – You know he’s been whispering in Ryan Tannehill’s ear all week long, talking about how he was never appreciated in Pittsburgh and how he wants to show his former team how much of a mistake it was to let him go. He’s that type of guy. Hell, he’s probably telling Tannehill that he’ll buy him an Escalade for every touchdown catch he makes. Simply put, Wallace wants this in a bad way. It also helps that the Fins rank just 25th in the league against No. 1 wideouts and are allowing an average of 75.3 yards per game to them. I myself, will not miss out on a chance to catch one of the few productive games he’s posted this year and will be starting him in both leagues I own him.

Jacoby Jones, BAL – This could be one of the only times you’ll ever see Jones on a list like this of mine. The match-up is that tasty. Sure, Torrey Smith sees most of the attention, but Jones will put his stamp on the box score this week as well. He’s even better in leagues that count return yards, but Flacco should look to hit him often as the Vikings rank 28th in the league against teams’ No. 2 guy and give up 74.4 yards per game to them. That’s actually more than they allow to opposing No. 1’s. Last week Alshon Jeffery had two touchdowns to Brandon Marshall’s none. The week before it was Jarrett Boykin’s one to Jordy Nelson’s zero. And the week before that it was Doug Baldwin’s one to Golden Tate’s none. You see where I’m going with this? Start Jacoby.

Sit ‘Em

Demaryius Thomas, DEN – OK, so here’s a prime example where, even though it’s a tough match-up and you are crazy tempted to sit him, you just have to start him because if the numbers are wrong this time, then you’re looking at 150 yards and two touchdowns on your bench. You don’t want to be that guy. Instead, you start him in spite of everything and just keep your expectations super low. That should help you make your other decisions such as “do I go for broke with a crazy WR3 start or an upside-laden TE start.” Thomas’ production makes him a must-start, but with any lingering issues from his hurt shoulder last week and the fact that the Titans rank first in the league against opposing No. 1 receivers, you shouldn’t expect much. It sucks that this is coming right now for your playoffs, but that’s the game, kids.

Golden Tate, SEA – The fact that Percy Harvin might be held out for the regular season keeps Tate’s value at a decent level. However, he’s facing a tough 49ers pass defense that ranks sixth overall and third against opposing No. 1 receivers, holding them to just 63.7 yards per game. I said up above that I don’t see his quarterback having a good day and that crap rolls downhill in this case. Tate will see better action in the future, but this just doesn’t seem to be his week for him to get back on track after two-straight subpar performances.

Steve Smith, CAR – Smith has actually been a borderline start in a lot of leagues this year as he’s gone from play-making stud to mediocre possession guy. He’s ok in PPR play, but in standard leagues, he’s been a routine bust. He’s averaging just 52.7 yards per game and hasn’t sniffed the end zone since Week 7 while the red zone looks head to Brandon LaFell and Greg Olsen. Add to that the fact that he’s facing a pass defense that gives up just 49 yards per game to No. 1 wide receivers and you’ve got trouble. This is one of those cases where I would go for broke and start Jacoby Jones in his stead.

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Tight Ends

Start ‘Em

Jared Cook, STL – He’s starting to see more targets lately, 11 in his last two games and even found the end zone in one of them. Now he gets a super-cushy match-up with a normally tough Arizona defense. But the Cards are crazy vulnerable to the tight end, ranking 18th in the league and allowing an average of 83.4 yards per game to them. He’s been a bust most of the year, but with a little heat lately, he makes for a nice choice.

Heath Miller, PIT – Remember earlier when I asked if Big Ben could hit Miller for a touchdown this week? Well this is why. The Dolphins, similarly to the Cards, have a strong pass defense but somehow rank just 28th against the tight end position and give up 60.2 yards per game to them . Why less yards allowed than the Cards but a worse ranking? Touchdown’s, my friend. The Fins have given up 12 passing touchdowns this year and tight ends have caught half of them. Miller may not see a lot of yards, but he should find the end zone at least once here.

Martellus Bennett, CHI – There’s just something tasty about facing the Dallas pass defense, isn’t there? Especially when you’re a Bennett owner and the Cowboys rank 27th in the league against tight ends and give up an average of 67.8 yards per game to them. This should be a big game for the Bears passing attack and despite being on the same team as Marshall and Jeffery, Bennett will see plenty of work.

Sit ‘Em

Jordan Reed, WAS – The fact that his concussion symptoms haven’t subsided is a major factor here, but even if he were healthy, his match-up against the Chiefs isn’t looking so good either. The Chiefs rank first in the league against the tight end position and are holding them to an average of just 39.8 yards per game. Robert Griffin had been leaning on Reed quite a bit this season, but he’s going to have to look for Pierre Garcon and Alfred Morris for support this week.

Tim Wright, TB – The Bucs tight end has been relatively quiet lately, save for one game two weeks ago, but the downward trend continues here with a match-up against the Bills who are surprisingly strong against the position this year. Buffalo actually ranks fourth in the league against tight ends and is holding them to just 38.6 yards per game. Not exactly a stat you want to see if you’re looking for someone productive at the position this week.

Coby Fleener, IND – Obviously the reason for placement here is two-fold. The first is, of course, because of his quarterback’s level of play these last six weeks. The second is because the Bengals already highly-ranked and respected defense ranks ninth in the league against the tight end position and is limiting them to just 42.2 yards per game. It’s unfortunate for the Colts as they’re going to have a hard enough time hitting any of their receivers this week. I can hear those nasty “Who dey?” chants already.


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