Editor's note: Our bullet point articles are written to better explain our weekly rankings, which you can find here.
If you’re reading this you’re more than likely looking for advice for round 1 of the fantasy playoffs. Check out the below key points about the two most commonly streamed positions during these do or die weeks, QB and Defense/Special Teams. Good Luck!
Start of the Week:
QB –Russell Wilson at Philadelphia- #6 in Weekly Rankings
Is Wilson the best fantasy QB this week? Probably not, but everyone above him is just too obvious to talk about and I’d only need to say their names as to why you should love them this week. Russell Wilson travels to Philadelphia, the 26th ranked team in terms of passing yards against. Russell Wilson’s rushing stats have been amazingly consistent and high with over 30 rushing yards in 7 straight weeks including four games over 70 yards and two games over 100 yards. It’s a given that Wilson will add fantasy points via the rush. Going up against one of the weakest pass defenses against fantasy QBs, Wilson should be able to have one of his best passing days of the season. When he does both things well, we’ve seen Russellmania be able to put up top 3 QB weeks.
D/ST – Minnesota v. NY Jets - #1 in Weekly Rankings
The Vikings will be without star rookie LB Anthony Barr but I’m still placing them in the top spot. This defense just put up a 30 spot in standard leagues with its two blocked punt TDs and all around domination against the Carolina Panthers. Their 35 sacks rank 4th in the NFL and they’re suddenly the 9th ranked fantasy defense. This week they’re matching up with Geno Smith. The Jets are literally scared to let their QB throw as evidenced by last week’s bizarre game-plan where Smith threw 13 passes. If the Vikings put 8 or 9 in the box and stop the Jets on first down and create 2nd and 3rd and long, we could be seeing many sacks and turnovers and very possibly a score for this defense.
QB – Ryan Tannehill - #10 in Weekly Rankings
Tannehill is coming off a dud in a prime matchup against the Jets last week. However, he’s coming back home where he’s had multiple TDs in his last three outings. Tannehill is in the midst of a breakout year and the addition of rushing stats to his game via the read option have made him a weekly fringe QB1. This week he faces the Ravens, a team who may be struggling against the pass more than anyone in the NFL right now. The Ravens have been a different defense since star CB Jimmy Smith went down for the season. They’ve allowed over 32 fantasy points to QBs in 6 PT KD leagues in 3 out of the last 4 weeks and we all remember the 6 TD game they gave up to Big Ben. If things weren’t bad enough, All-Pro defensive tackle Haloti Ngata has been suspended for the remainder of the season for using Adderall. The Dolphins should be able to move the ball at will and Tannehill should extend his streak of multiple TD games at home.
D/ST – New Orleans v. Carolina- #8 in Weekly Rankings
The New Orleans Saints are fantasy football’s 28th ranked defense. I don’t really have much good to say about them other than the play of Keenan Lewis and Cameron Jordan. The high ranking of this team should tell you just how much the Carolina Panthers are struggling. In their last two road games against Minnesota and Philadelphia, the Panthers have allowed opposing fantasy defenses to score a mind boggling 30 and 35 fantasy points respectively. Cam Newton has 7 turnovers in his last 3 games and the Panthers’ special teams is coming off a week where they allowed two blocked punts. The Saints have already played the Panthers on the road, a game they won 28-10 and a game in which they had their best fantasy defensive outing of the season. The Panthers are in the midst of an epic collapse and I don’t think a trip to New Orleans is the answer. The Saints are most likely available in many leagues and I highly recommend them as a matchup play.
QB – Ryan Fitzpatrick at Jacksonville - #23 in Weekly Rankings
Warning! Do not chase last week’s six TDs game from Fitzmagic. It’s so tempting to think that Fitzpatrick can keep this up, but he’s a journeyman part time starting QB. We’ve seen Matt Flynn do this and completely disappear off the face of the earth, so please do not think this kind of play will continue. Fitzpatrick is in his 9th season and is on his 5th team. That is telling. In addition, Jacksonville sounds like a great matchup but it’s not. The Jaguars rank 20th against fantasy QBs but have gotten better as the season as progressed as they’ve only given up one 20 point fantasy QB game since week 4. Stay away, do not be baited into this dud in the playoffs.
D/ST – Indianapolis at Cleveland - #18 in Weekly Rankings
Brian Hoyer has been completing a lot of passes to the opposing team but this week the Colts will be without Pro Bowl CB Vontae Davis. Davis is the backbone of this defense and frankly he’s the only reason it’s even mediocre. Without him the Colts are vulnerable against both the run and pass. Last time the Colts were without Vontae Davis was 11 snaps into a game against the Steelers, a game in which the Colts gave up 51 points. Look for a big time shootout in this game.
Congratulations! If you’re reading this then (in most leagues) you’re in the fantasy playoffs! Now let’s begin that Super Bowl run. There’s a common saying “may the best team win”. I couldn’t disagree more with this saying! “May MY team win”, or for you readers, "may YOUR team win” is more like it……unless you’re one of my league competitors. And if I or you happen to be the best team, then this still qualifies. But, in the playoffs the standings are irrelevant, and regular season accomplishments do not matter. It’s three weeks of win or go home, and whether you're a top seed or lower seeded playoff team, be confident. Those teams who are stacked really do have a chance to go home early. It’s a small sample size, but in my 12 team league, the best team, the team who led the league in points during the regular season, has only gone on to win the Super Bowl twice out of 10 years. So if you don’t think you’re the best, then maybe that’s a good thing!
Beating the best is the key to winning it all, and it is going to take some chutzpah. If you’re going up against a team who is truly elite and is projected to beat you by 30+ points, it’s going to be tough but it's not over by a longshot. If you know you’ll be up against a big score, then I suggest trying to hit a home run with a high upside start even if the player has a low floor. If you’re in this position, now is not the time to stick with your boring, low upside players (i.e. Reggie Wayne, Owen Daniels, Frank Gore) just because you’ve been starting them all year. It all comes down another saying, one I do like a lot, “no guts, no glory”. I’ve witnessed teams starting players like Billy Volek (former Titans QB), Ryan Moats (former Eagles RB), or Tim Tebow make deep playoff runs, demolishing teams who are better on paper. Hey, just look at what Ryan Fitzpatrick of all people was able to do last week. At this time of the year, anything goes.
If you’re in the playoffs then most of your lineup should be set with the exception of maybe a flex spot and the always matchup dependent TE spot. However, there are players at every position that I believe can be the first step towards your 2014 Super Bowl ring. The below sleepers and busts will be a good source for week 14’s home run hitters and those players to avoid in round 1 of the playoffs.
Without further ado, your week 14 Sleepers and Busts:
DISCLAIMER: A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for. These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him.
· Teddy Bridgewater vs. New York Jets. If you’re playing matchups at QB the best thing you can do this week is embrace your Teddy bear and hope for the best…your Teddy bear of course being Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater is getting more and more comfortable every week in Norv Turner’s offense and Turner has finally decided (fortunately for Bridgewater and the Vikings offense as a whole) that Cordarelle Patterson should not be on the field. Explosive WR, Charles Johnson’s emergence and Kyle Rudolph’s return to the lineup have allowed Turner to run the offense he envisioned when he joined the staff and it’s led to Bridgewater acquiring value as a matchup play. He has back to back 2 TD weeks and only 2 INTs in the last 5 weeks. The Jets are as good of a matchup play as you can get. Ranking 30th against the pass and having only picked off three passes this season, the Jets are a dream playoff matchup. They're going through the motions to finish the season and Rex Ryan knows he’s not coming back. There is no motivation on the part of Gang Green to pull off a surprising performance on the road. Expect Bridgewater to continue to mature, and if the game stays close and Teddy gets to throw for four quarters, we could be looking at a career day and Bridgewater’s first 3 TD game.
I’d Start Teddy Bridgewater over: Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Mark Sanchez
· Andy Dalton v. Pittsburgh. I totally understand that Pittsburgh is a great matchup and that their CBs are burnable. However, I don’t trust that Andy Dalton and his 13/13 TD/INT ratio are capable of taking advantage. His pro-bowl LT, Andre Smith, is out for the season and Dalton is fresh off a 176 yard 1 TD/3 INT dud against an awful Tampa Bay secondary. Dalton is as inconsistent as they come and he’s thrown 0 TDs in 4 games this season while also throwing 1 TD in another 4 games. So 66.667% of the time he's thrown at most 1 passing TD. He's not exactly trending upward either with 2 TD/4INT in the last two weeks. The Andy Dalton name has some recognition and can make you feel warm and fuzzy when looking at the matchup, but you can easily do better than him as a fantasy starter.
I’d Start the following players over Andy Dalton: Ryan Tannehill, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater
· Trent Richardson at Cleveland. To be clear I like Boom Herron this week but I like Richardson slightly more. Richardson gets to go back to the city where all the running in place started, Cleveland. Seriously, it’s a revenge game for Trent and if he’ll ever put it into that next gear (first gear?), it will be this week. He’s gone on the record saying he’ll jump into the dog pound after he scores, and the Colts if they can take an early lead will do what they can to get Richardson in the endzone. Colts head coach, Chuck Pagano remains adamant Richardson is the starter on this team and will continue to receive touches. Herron’s explosiveness (and Richardson’s lack thereof) keeps him in the rotation but he’s had fumbling issues that keep Trent out there getting half the touches. Besides this being a revenge game, Cleveland sports a soft front 4, and while the defense focuses on containing Andrew Luck, they can be had in the running game. I don’t see this as a high ceiling start but I can see this as a flex play with about 70 total yards and at least one TD.
I’d start Trent Richardson over: Jonathan Stewart, Frank Gore, Latavius Murray, Bishop Sankey
· Frank Gore at Oakland. Frank Gore is coming to the end of a fine career and could very well find himself in Canton one day. However, this season may be the beginning of the end. Gore has had 50 yards or fewer rushing in 5 out of the last 7 games and only 1 rushing TD in the last 10 games. He only has 9 catches on the season so he’s no longer a factor in the receiving game. The matchup against Oakland is ideal, but Gore having a big game would mean that San Francisco would have to be able to move the ball on offense. The offensive line is vastly under-performing both in the pass game and run game. Nothing the 49ers have done the past three weeks has shown that they have the ability to move the ball. Last week was pathetic, but I’ll give them a pass against Seattle. But scoring only 16 points and 17 points against two of the worst defenses in the league (NY Giants, Washington), is inexcusable. Oakland presents another supposed plus matchup, so Gore is ranked as a high RB2, but he’s clearly past his prime, and I’m starting to believe that the 49ers do not have a solution to the mess they’re experiencing on offense.
I’d start the following players over Frank Gore: Tre Mason, Ryan Mathews, Lamar Miller, Gio Bernard, Trent Richardson
· Nate Washington v. New York Giants. This is for you guys in deep 3/4 WR leagues, and you’ll thank me later. Nate Washington is about to have a BIG week and a BIG fantasy playoffs so grab him. Prior to this year Washington was a viable WR3 in all leagues. He was 2013s #35 WR in .5 PPR leagues having put up over 900 yards receiving. He has a 1000 yard season to his name and has 8 career 100 yard games including 3 just last season. This season Justin Hunter, a promising WR with freakish speed and size, was supposed to be the next big thing, so the Titans, a team that is not really in win now mode, gave Hunter all the reps, snaps, and looks he can handle. Hunter suffered a lacerated spleen in Week 13 after getting hit by a freight train named Daniel Manning. Hunter stayed in the game briefly but was ineffective. After the injury, Nate Washington started getting peppered with targets, racking up 9 in total along with 5 receptions, 61 yards, and a score. This was Washington’s 2nd TD in the past 3 weeks, a stretch where he’s had over 200 yards receiving. The Titans top WR threat, Kendall Wright, suffered a cracked bone in his wrist this week and could miss week 14, leading to even more targets for the savvy veteran. The Giants come to Tennessee, still brutal and banged up at every position on defense. Nate Washington will be able to outsmart the Giants porous defense and will have many targets, many catches, and at least one of his patented big plays. I recommend him as a #3 WR, the same place he ranked last year when he played a full complement of snaps. His week 14-16 schedule is NYG, NYJ, @Jax. GET HIM NOW.
I’d Start Nate Washington over: Roddy White, Reggie Wayne, Keenan Allen, Marques Colston, Julian Edelman, Reuben Randle
· Keenan Allen at New England. Next stop Revis Island. The Chargers have so many other weapons with Gates, Floyd, Royal, and then Mathews in the running game, so there is no way Mike McCoy's gameplan will be to overload Keenan Allen with targets. Revis has left his Tampa Bay days behind him and returned to his lockdown form in 2014. Stud WRs Jordy Nelson, Calvin Johnson and TY Hilton have combined for 9 catches for 125 yards and 1 TD the last 3 weeks against Revis! When ONE of those guys has a game like that nobody blinks an eye, but to lock down all three like that is something that cannot be ignored. Keenan Allen isn't even close to the player those guys are, so I’d expect him to do less than the 3 catch, 40 yard average that they were held to in the previous three weeks. Allen has been hot but he simply cannot be started this week in any/all formats.
I’d start the following players over Keenan Allen: Nate Washington, Charles Johnson, Stedman Bailey, Greg Jennings
· Travis Kelce at Arizona. One team’s strength against another team’s weakness. Arizona has elite CB talent but cannot seem to stop TEs ranking 27th on the season against the position. Kansas City is still waiting to throw its first TD to a WR while their TE combination of Travis Kelce and Anthony Fasano have combined for a whopping eight TDs. I like this matchup a lot for Kelce. The Chiefs will do their best to run the ball with Jamaal Charles, but could very well struggle against the league’s 6th ranked team in rushing yards against. They’ll have to go to the air and it only makes sense that they use their TEs to do so. Not convinced? Take a look at this motley crew who has hit paydirt against the Cardinals: Jared Cook, Cooper Helfet, Daniel Fells, Levine Toilolo, and Julius Thomas. Outside of the elite TEs and Delanie Walker, I like Kelce the most this week at this position.
I’d start Travis Kelce over: Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Greg Olsen, Jordan Reed
· Dwayne Allen at Cleveland. Dwayne Allen is set to make his return to the lineup after missing the past two games with a sprained ankle. Prior to his departure he was squarely in the mid TE 1 conversation. However, I’d expect some rust in his first game back. In addition, Coby Fleener has been fantasy’s #1 TE over the last three weeks. Fleener had a very ugly drop on a sure thing long TD last week but has otherwise been picking up large chunks of yardage through the air and getting into the endzone. Allen will clearly cut into Fleener’s looks but I don’t see the Colts forgetting about what Fleener has done the last few weeks. Furthermore, the Browns are on tap, a team who allowed a huge game to Jimmy Graham in week 2 but has since not allowed any TE to score more than 11.8 fantasy points in .5 PPR leagues. They’ve completely shut down many of the TE they’ve faced during this stretch and in 6 games have limited TEs to less than 6.4 points. Allen is a risky play returning from injury and perhaps sharing with Fleener and the matchup at Cleveland lacks the upside needed for a fantasy playoff start.
I’d Start the Following Players over Dwayne Allen: Travis Kelce, Jordan Reed, Kyle Rudolph, Larry Donnell
That’ll do it for week 14. Do not leave any bullets in that holster. There's no reason to play it safe now. Go big or go home. May your run to the Super Bowl begin this Sunday. Good Luck!
On this weeks' diagnosis edition, the Helpers discuss playoff sleepers for the teams lucky enough to make the playoffs. If you're worried about your flex, WR3, QB1 or RB1/2, then hopefully we can help guide you with some guys we think are bound for success in Week 14.
Sleeper quarterbacks (listen to podcast for more)
Alex Smith (owned in 36% of leagues)
If quarterback is your weakness, then you might consider starting Smith this week against an Arizona team that's struggling on offense. The Cardinals' woes when it comes to moving the ball are wearing down their defense, as evidenced by the team giving up 19 and 20 points in the last two games to quarterbacks. Over the last five games, Smith has totaled 16, 21, 4, 15, 19 fantasy points. His one dud in that sequence came against the Seattle Seahawks, and the Arizona Cardinals are a far cry from Seattle on defense right now. Their best cornerback in Patrick Peterson was torched last week by Julio Jones.
Zach Mettenberger (owned in 5% of leagues)
Mettenberger is lucky to get a Giants team that struggled to stop Jacksonville and rookie quarterback Blake Bortles last week. Mettenberger has demonstrated the ability to score points, and this matchup should help him come close to multiple touchdowns.
Sleeper running backs
Andre Williams (owned in 51% of leagues)
We mentioned Williams earlier in the week, so we won't go into too much detail. But he's a worthy flex play if you have him on your bench. You probably can't pick him up as he's owned in over half the leagues currently.
Matt Asiata (owned in 35% of leagues)
Jerick McKinnon may be out after not practicing for the second straight day. Asiata will likely be the head running back against a New York Jets team that's without one of its best defenders in Muhammad Wilkerson.
Sleeper wide receivers
Donte Moncrief (owned in 25% of leagues)
It's surprising to see Moncrief only owned in 25% of leagues and yet it's also not. He can pile up yardage when he gets targets, but he's often overshadowed by the likes of Hakeem Nicks and Reggie Wayne. Well, he played in more snaps than Nicks for the first all season last week, a game where he flourished with over 100 yards receiving. The Indianapolis Colts play the Cleveland Browns this week, and All-Pro cornerback Joe Haden will likely match up with Indy's top WR in T.Y. Hilton. There's a dropoff after Haden in terms of talent at the corner position, meaning Moncrief may have a chance to flourish with Hilton drawing so much attention. Luck could target him on the under route, which is where Moncrief can do a lot of damage after the catch.
Nate Washington (owned in 2% of leagues)
With Kendall Wright's status in jeopardy, Washington could see time in the No. 1 role for the Titans this week. He's among the most available players on the waiver wire this week and has posted fantasy totals of 14, 6 and 12 over his last three games. He's been reliable and could be a nice flex play if you feel like your current guy isn't good enough.
If you were lucky enough to make the fantasy playoffs in your league this season, chances are your lineup is already set. It's easy to know which guys to start for Week 14 right? You simply go with the guys that got you there. Your QB1, RB1, RB2, WR1, WR2, TE, DEF are all ready to go.
This idea of sticking with your studs is a philosophy we will endorse to the death. Advanced fantasy football people don't think twice about it, while beginners may get too cute and bench somebody because of a bad matchup or just a bad gut feeling. Word to the wise, your best players are matchup proof, so start them.
But even though your studs are set in stone, there are last-second tweaks that you can make to your flex spot that can often make the difference between a good week and a great one. Since flex players often aren't the most electric guys, their chances of success boil down to favorable matchups and a good situation. If you can find the right guy in the right matchup who's peaking at the right time, you can really give yourself an edge over an opponent that's probably just a good as you are because he's in the playoffs as well.
Here are five running backs who we would trust as flex options for your first playoff matchup in Week 14.
Carlos Hyde (owned in 36% of leagues) @ Oakland
Hyde has been one of the top fantasy handcuffs all season. He doesn't get a whole lot of opportunities but when he does, he runs hard and usually sees touches around the goal line. The 49ers have a good matchup against a Raiders team that's given up the most fantasy points to running backs (22 points per game) this season. It's likely the 49ers utilize Hyde and Frank Gore as a one-two punch and Hyde sees some production as a result.
Over the past three games, Hyde has recorded carry averages of 9, 7, and 5, respectively. He hasn't rushed for many yards in those games, but he has scored a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints, a bottom-five team in fantasy points allowed to running backs (20.4 points per game) on average. It's likely the Raiders could allow a similar result.
If you really don't know who to start in the flex spot and don't want to leave things up to a boom-or-bust receiver, Hyde is a good bet to give you some kind of production because of the matchup. San Francisco also ranks 8th in the league in rushing attempts (347), so the opportunities should be there for Hyde.
Jonathan Stewart (owned in 27% of leagues) @ New Orleans Saints
For the same reasons as we just mentioned for Hyde, Stewart could also benefit from a good matchup against the New Orleans Saints. With DeAngelo Williams likely out with a hand injury, Stewart steps in as the best running back option on a Panthers team in desperate need of offensive firepower.
Last week against Minnesota, Stewart averaged 7.1 yards per carry on his way to 85 yards on 12 attempts. It was Stewart's best game in over a month.
When it comes to the New Orleans Saints' defense, they've allowed 95 yards from Le'Veon Bell, 182 yards from Justin Forsett and 152 yards from Jeremy Hill over the last three weeks. Their defense hasn't shown any signs of improvement so expect the Panthers to go at them with the run game.
Isaiah Crowell (owned in 67% of leagues) vs. Indianapolis
Ok, so it's unlikely you'll snag the Crow off the waiver wire this week as he's owned in the majority of leagues. This advice is more for the people who already have him and are wondering if they should start him in this week. Well, we didn't like Crowell last week against Buffalo and we were vindicated, as he ended up rushing for just 29 yards on 17 carries (1.9 yards per carry) against a tough Buffalo run defense that swarmed him on nearly every play. It was like watching a guy repeatedly run into a brick wall at times.
But the key number in Crowell's stats is '17.' Crowell's 17 carries are a good indicator that the Browns will continue to run the ball even if the end result isn't positive yardage. They still used him around the goal line plenty as well, so a touchdown could be play. The Browns were also trailing in that game throughout and still committed to the run game, which is a good sign gameflow won't affect Crowell's numbers. Also, fellow rookie Terrance West gave up a costly fumble which could limit his workload going forward.
As for the matchup, the Colts rank in the bottom five against running backs (19.9 points per game) and their offense hasn't taken good care of the ball all season long. Newly starting running back Dan 'Boom' Herron's has had issues with fumbles early on and quarterback Andrew Luck has thrown at least one interception in eight games this season. Add in the fact that the Browns have at least one takeaway in 8 straight games and this could be a game where we see Cleveland get a chance to turn mistakes into points.
Andre Williams (owned in 40% of leagues) @ Tennessee
Starter Rashad Jennings injured his ankle last week against Jacksonville but the injury is not considered to be serious. Even if Jennings is healthy, Williams is likely going to see some carries against a Titans team that ranks second worst in the league against running backs (21.8 fantasy points allowed per game).
Williams has not been very effective in his rookie year, as he's averaging just 2.9 yards per carry this season. Still, he's received a respectable 134 carries in 12 games. The Giants like to mix it up in the run game and Williams has the right matchup to at least snipe a touchdown and rush for 40-60 yards, making him a candidate for a solid 12-15 point game which is a great number for a flex spot.
LeGarrette Blount (owned in 63% of leagues) @ San Diego
Blount received the bulk of the workload against Green Bay with 10 carries and should be the Patriots No. 1 running back with Jonas Gray in the doghouse. San Diego has been OK against the run (15th overall) but they still surrendered over 100 yards to Justin Forsett last week and also gave up over 100 total rushing yards to both Miami and St. Louis.
It's likely Blount sees around 12-15 carries, rushes for 70 yards and scores a touchdown. You just have to take the risk that Shane Vereen or Brandon Bolden won't snipe one here or there. Even if they do, there's no reason to expect Blount to not see the majority of the carries in Week 14.
Due to some odd scheduling with the holiday, the usual Monday edition of First Aid was moved to Tuesday. The Helpers discuss the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots, why LeGarrette Blount is a good fantasy option for the playoffs and why those with Jimmy Graham should be excited rather than fearful after his zero target performance against Pittsburgh. Plus weekly awards and some talk about Johnny Manziel.
New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers: 24-for-38, 368 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions (24 fantasy points)
Rank among fantasy QBs for Week 13: 7th
Quarterbacks who did better: R. Fitzpatrick, A. Luck, D. Brees, P. Rivers, C. McCoy, B. Roethlisberger
Rodgers plays great against bad teams. But more importantly, he plays great against good teams too. Granted, he had the added bonus of a raucous crowd at Lambeau Field, but his talent was on full display here against one of the better secondaries in the league.
Rodgers has been a monster these past five games, with fantasy point totals of 48, 34, 23, and 28. He's as matchup proof as it gets when it comes to fantasy quarterbacks, and will likely be a No. 1 guy heading into a matchup against a bad Atlanta team in Week 14.
Tom Brady: 22-for-35, 245 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions (17 fantasy points)
Rank among fantasy QBs for Week 13: 13th
Quarterbacks who did better: R. Fitzpatrick, A. Luck, D. Brees, P. Rivers, C. McCoy, B. Roethlisberger, A. Rodgers, J. Flacco, S. Hill, M. Stafford, M. Ryan, M. Sanchez
Brady continues to be one of the most reliable fantasy options. His last five fantasy point totals have been 44, 35, 18, 23, and 21. He's locked in as a QB1 but the San Diego Chargers have played well against quarterbacks this season.
LeGarrette Blount: 10 carries for 58 yards, zero touchdowns (5 fantasy points)
Rank among RBs: 31st
Blount looks like the guy in New England. His 10 carries led the Patriots and out carried Brandon Bolden, Shane Vereen, and Jonas Gray. The Patriots like him, and he's a steady flex option if you want to add him to your team. He'll likely have a touchdown or two now that he's getting the most carries.
Eddie Lacy: 21 carries for 98 yards, 2 catches for 17 yards (10 fantasy points)
Rank among RBs: 22th
Lacy continues to be among the most reliable RBs and for those who traded for him or stuck with him during his dark weeks early in the season will be rewarded with a great playoff matchup against Atlanta in Week 14.
Davante Adams: 6 receptions for 121 yards, 11 targets (12 fantasy points)
Rank among WRs: 18th
Adams played well, but don't consider adding him or starting him. He benefited from Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb drawing coverage from Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis. Plus, he dropped a potential touchdown pass.
Rob Gronkowski: 7 catches, 98 yards, zero touchdowns (9 fantasy points)
Rank among TEs: 4th
Gronkowski remains the toughest matchup for any defense at the tight end position. His 12-yard run where he trucked three defenders on his way to a near touchdown is an example.
1. Kenny Stills WR/New Orleans Saints
After rookie Brandin Cooks was placed on injured reserve with a broken thumb, the Saints were in dire need of a receiver to put stress on defenses vertically. Second year wide receiver Kenny Stills has done just that for the Saints offense, averaging 20 yards per reception over the last two weeks.
After Cooks went down, many assumed that veteran Marques Colston would be the one to fill the void, but over the last two weeks it has been Stills that has taken over as the team’s primary target out of the Saints wide receivers. Over the last two weeks, Stills is leading Saints' receivers in targets (15) and receiving yards (260), showing great chemistry with quarterback Drew Brees.
Going forward I expect Stills to continue to be the big-play target in the passing game. While he will likely have some duds for games over the next few weeks, Stills’ ability to stretch the field will make him a boom-or-bust WR3 over the final few weeks of the season.
Recommendation: Add Immediately
2. Davante Adams WR/Green Bay Packers
Going into the Packers game against the Patriots this weekend, the main question was 'how would Rodgers attack the Pats' cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner?' Well, turns out Rodgers tried to stay away from the tandem as much as possible, leading to a breakout performance for the Packers no. 3 receiver Davante Adams.
Adams was able to get free from coverage on a consistent basis Sunday, totaling 6 catches on 11 targets for 121 yards. Adams was one drop away from having an even better afternoon, as he let a perfectly placed ball on a slant pass in the end zone slip through his hands.
I have to warn all of you fantasy owners that think Adams is going to be a consistent target in the Packers offense. Over the last three games, he has just four receptions on eight targets. The Packers will not be playing a caliber cornerback tandem like the Patriots for the rest of the season. Despite a relatively easy remaining schedule (Atlanta, Buffalo, Tampa Bay) I do not expect Adams to see enough targets to be a reliable fantasy option. Proceed with caution folks.
Recommendation: Add In Deep Leagues
Value: WR4/Low Flex
3. Johnny Manziel QB/Cleveland Browns
If you're like me and can't stand the hype that ESPN gives Johnny “Football” Manziel, I would highly recommend keeping your television turned off this week. After starting quarterback Brian Hoyer was pulled after his fifth interception in the last two weeks, the Johnny Manziel-era appears to have officially begun in Cleveland.
Manziel replaced Hoyer in the 4th quarter of garbage time against the Bills and looked relatively good in relief. Manziel finished the day completing 5 of his 8 passes for 63 yards, and one rushing touchdown in typical Johnny Football fashion. Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shannahan wanted to use Manziel’s mobility as soon as he entered the game, using boot and play-action passes. Manziel was relativey accurate, although most of his passes were short passes that relied on YAC ability by the wide receivers.
For all the Manziel-ites out there thinking he's going to come in and have the same success as a starter as he did in relief of Hoyer, I am telling you to pump the brakes a little bit. The Bills spent all week game planning for Hoyer and his strengths and weaknesses, putting the defense at a major disadvantage once the mobile Manziel entered the game. If he still has the same success next week against a Colts defense allowing the 16th fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, I will give the rookie some more credit.
Recommendation: Stash in Deeper Leagues/Two QB Leagues
4. Colt McCoy QB/Washington Redskins
Now that I don't to listen to Robert Griffin III doing his best Bill Belichick impression after being benched in favor of journeyman Colt McCoy, we can finally get back to evaluating the Redskins offense purely from a fantasy perspective.
In the two games that McCoy started, he's given the Redskins offense a quarterback that looks comfortable running the west-coast offensive system, completing 76% of his passes (56/77) for 691 yards (345.5 Passing YPG), and three touchdowns
It's hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that Colt McCoy could potentially be a starting quarterback in the NFL. With his slight frame and lack of ideal arm strength, McCoy has the look of a career backup in the NFL. However, with RGIII continuing to regress in his third NFL season, the opportunity is there for McCoy to revitalize his career as long as he plays well.
Recommendation: Stash In Deep Leagues
5. Dan “Boom” Herron RB/Indianapolis Colts
After loosing Ahmad Bradshaw for the rest of the season with a fractured fibula, many NFL pundits assumed that Trent Richardson would regain the bulk of the carries for the Colts offense. However, in typical T-Rich fashion, he has been ineffective once again as the teams starting running back.
In the last two weeks since Bradshaw went down with a season ending injury, Richardson has once again shown that he is incapable to being the lead back for an NFL offense. In the last two weeks Richardson has rushed for 54 yards on 21 carries (2.5 YPC), showing little to no agility or the ability to make people miss.
With Richardson once again showing to be ineffective, the door was left open for Dan “Boom” Herron to take hold of the starting running back job in Indianapolis. Herron has made the most of his limited opportunities, finishing with a line of 20/153/1 (7.65 YPA) over the past two weeks. Herron has also shown to be a reliable pass catcher, averaging 3.5 receptions per game in the same time frame.
Going forward I fully expect Herron to carve out a bigger role within the Colts offense, as he adds a dimension that Richardson simply does not. With a weak schedule against Cleveland (4th most rushing yards allowed per game), and Houston (13th most fantasy points to opposing RBs) Herron has a chance to be key piece for owners during the fantasy playoffs.
Recommendation: Add Immediately
Value: RB2/High Flex
I’d like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all the readers and families of readers out there. Thanksgiving is far and away my favorite holiday of the year. The holiday encompasses my two favorite activities, eating (hopefully) really good food and watching football. It’s that simple. There are no gifts I need to worry about buying, there’s no religious aspect to the holiday, there’s no costumes and people ringing my doorbell all day long, and as much as I love kids, there’s no Thanksgiving fictional character that I have to worry about blurting out isn’t real. It’s really just “Hey, come over we’ll watch football, we’ll eat really good food and then we’ll watch a little more football.” What a holiday! I’m sure the attendees at the 1st Thanksgiving did not incorporate football into the plans for how the tradition would carry on, but I’d like to say thanks on this Thanksgiving to the pilgrim who invented this holiday, I thank you sir/madam. Whoever you are/were, you started what became the perfect day, a national holiday solely based around food and football. Ok I do admit the holiday gets me thinking about how thankful I am for my beautiful wife, the rest of my wonderful family, and all my friends, and it even gets me thinking about how thankful I am for my freedom and about how incredible our soldiers are. So in summary, football, delicious food, more football, family time, and ignoring the bad momentarily while accentuating all the good things in life to be thankful for…..it’s the perfect holiday.
This is the last week of many regular seasons. Do or die, make or break, or in my case division title and first round bye, or monumental collapse. Use these sleepers and busts to jockey for playoff position and to ensure that this will not be your last week.
Happy Thanksgiving once again to you all. I’m also thankful for each and every one of you out there giving this article a read.
Without further ado, your week 13 Sleepers and Busts:
DISCLAIMER:A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for.These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him.
Matt Ryan v. Arizona
Is Arizona a very good defense? Sure. Is this matchup ideal for Matt Ryan? Probably not. But Ryan is at home against a team who we know for a fact will not allow the opposition to run the ball. Ryan is ranked as the number 20 or so QB on most popular sites and if he did perform that poorly it would just mean the Falcons would get totally shut down completely at home. I refuse to believe this will happen. In 4 home games (they’ve had 1 neutral game in London which I am not counting) Matt Ryan has thrown 9 TDs while only committing 3 turnovers. Also, the Cardinals, while they are one of the elite NFL defenses, have allowed the 8th most passing yards per game this season. He’s not a must start QB1 but Ryan historically performs significantly better at home than he does on the road, and even if the Falcons lose this game handily, he’ll still have a good amount of yards and a couple of TDs to show for it.
I’d Start Matt Ryan over: Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Zach Mettenberger,
Cam Newton at Minnesota
Newton is coming off a bye week so maybe he’s been able to heal, but he clearly hasn’t been playing healthy. He’s no longer the threat he used to be running the ball. He’s also reverted back to his poor decision making ways with only 4 TD and 10 turnovers in his last 4 weeks. Minnesota is at home and is coming off an impressive showing against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. They lost the game but they put pressure on ARod and limited the Pack to 24 points, not an easy feat. The strength of the Vikings defense lies in their secondary where Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith lead the way, limiting teams to the 7th fewest passing yards per game. They’re also a top 5 defense against opposing TEs, the position of most strength in the Panthers passing attack. Newton is being ranked as a matchup QB option, in the 13-16 range but I see him as a borderline QB2 and maybe even a non-start in 2 QB leagues.
I’d Start the following players over Cam Newton: Andy Dalton, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, Zach Mettenberger, Kyle Orton,
Dan Herron v. Washington
Herron was a surprise starter last week, even to fellow Colts RB Trent Richardson. There was a fairly even time share between he and Richardson, but Herron out touched him and out gained him and most importantly he racked up five receptions while playing on 3rd downs. The Colts will miss Ahmad Bradshaw but it’s nice to see that they have a better talent than Richardson in Herron that they can use when killing clock. Clock killing is exactly what the Colts will be doing this week at home against the hapless Redskins. The Skins will be going into Indianapolis start Colt McCoy. This seems like a total mismatch, one that will heavily favor the Colts. Look for Herron to once again out touch Trent Richardson and approach 100 yards while getting in the endzone at least once. Herron is a high RB2 this week.
I’d start Dan Herron over: Isaiah Crowell, LeGarrette Blount, Giovanni Bernard, Fred Jackson
Isaiah Crowell at Buffalo
Isaiah Crowell is a great talent that much is clear. His future in this league is bright. The Georgia alum was able to break out last week, ripping apart the Falcons in a homecoming game for him in Atlanta. However, I do not think he’s matchup proof and is not a must start. Buffalo is ranked 5th against fantasy RBs in .5PPR leagues. At home they’ve limited their opponents and have only allowed the Patriots to put up more than 22 points. This game has cold weather low scoring game written all over it. The Bills defense is fast at LB on the edges and match up with Crowell’s skill set. Despite Josh Gordon’s return to the lineup, the Browns will not have success moving up and down the field, and the opportunities for redzone touches and scores will not be there for the Crow. Crowell is a flex option this week but I would not trust him in leagues that start only 2 RBs.
Charles Johnson v. Carolina
Charles Johnson was a much hyped up rookie coming into the season but had not been a factor until week 10. In the last two weeks his catches, targets, yards and playing time have all skyrocketed. This past week it was apparent that he was the Vikings number 1 WR, playing 67/69 snaps and receiving 11 targets. He only turned those targets into 3 catches for 52 yards but he did score a TD and was open on several other occasions. The last two weeks have resulted in 9 catches for 139 yards and a TD. Carolina comes to town sporting the 26th ranked defense against fantasy WRs. CB Captain Munnerlyn and safety Mike Mitchell have been major losses in the secondary from a once dominant defense. Perhaps an even bigger factor has been the suspension of All Pro defensive end Greg Hardy. Hardy’s absence has all but eliminated the Panthers pass rush and QBs and WRs are having a field day against the new Panthers defense. Look for Teddy Bridgewater to have one of his best days as a pro passer and for his new number 1 target, Charles Johnson, to be the major beneficiary. Johnson can be started in many 3 WR leagues.
I’d Start Charles Johnson over: Kenny Stills, Michael Floyd, John Brown, Steve Smith, Julian Edelman
Kenny Stills at Pittsburgh
Kenny Stills was expected to step up after Brandin Cooks went down with a broken thumb, and he did not disappoint. Stills caught 8 balls for 98 yards in his new role, however this week he and his teammates at WR could be in for a down game. The Saints, a disappointing offense, travels to Pittsburgh. The Steelers sustained early season injuries and after weeks of being decimated on defense return 3 key starters in Ike Taylor, Troy Polumalu and Ryan Shazier. The defense has been able to remain effective ranking 16th in passing yards against and 9th against fantasy WRs despite these key losses. Now with the defense back at full strength the Steelers should be able to once again become a viable defense, especially at home. Other than Jimmy Graham there is no sure thing in this difficult road matchup.
I’d start the following players over Kenny Stills: Charles Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Wallace, Steve Smith, Sammy Watkins
Charles Clay at. New York Jets
Charles Clay was a top 10 TE last season and he has built fine chemistry in the redzone with Ryan Tannehill. This season he hasn’t had as much success playing in a new offense and dealing with injuries, but he’s shown to be able to produce in the right matchups. Coming off a groin injury, he returns just in time for the 3rd worst team against TEs the New York Jets. The Jets have allowed a mind boggling 12 TDs to TEs and this past week allowed one to Bills TE Scott Chandler. Outside of my top 6 TEs this week (Graham, Gronk, Julius Thomas, Greg Olsen, Delanie Walker) it has not been easy to find consistent TE play so it’s important to play the matchups. I’d start Clay over anyone who isn’t those 6 guys in this game.
I’d start Charles Clay over: Antonio Gates, Coby Fleener, Larry Donnell, Travis Kelce
Antonio Gates at Baltimore
Antonio Gates was the reason why many fantasy teams got off to a great start with his surge of TDs in the first half of the season. Recently he’s been the reason why fantasy teams may be going through an epic collapse to end the season. Gates has combined for only 74 yards the last three weeks. He’s only had 10 targets in that stretch and he hasn’t had more than 61 receiving yards in a game since week 2. He’s TD dependent and is on the road against a defense in Baltimore that has allowed slightly over 10 points per game in five home games. TD opportunities may not be available against this stingy defense. I’d play the matchups and look elsewhere at TE this week.
I’d start the following players over Antonio Gates: Travis Kelce, Delanie Walker, Coby Fleener, Charles Clay, Tim Wright
That’ll be it for this week. Happy Thanksgiving weekend. Good luck and see you in the playoffs!
Our bullet point articles are written to help better explain our weekly rankings, which you can find here.
Start of the Week
DeAndre Hopkins v. Tennessee Titans #20 Weekly Rankings
Hopkins owners were probably starting to get a little bit nervous about the talented second year wide receiver, but this is the week I expect him to bounce back. After a torn pectoral muscle landed Ryan Mallett on injured reserve, the Texans offense will once again turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick and his beard to run the show.
While the move back to Fitzpatrick likely means a frustrated Andre Johnson, Hopkins could once again have a chance to show off his big-play ability in the Texans offense. In weeks 1-10 when Fitzpatrick was the Texans' starting quarterback, Hopkins was featured as the vertical threat, leading the team in yards-per-reception with 16.3 compared to just 13.2 when Mallett was under center. Hopkins was also more of a scoring threat, catching all four of his touchdowns on the year when Fitzpatrick started. When Mallett took over, a lot of people assumed that because of his big arm, it would immediately translate over to game play, but both Hopkins and Johnson saw their average yards per reception drop when Mallett was starting.
What a better way to bounce back from a mild slump in terms of fantasy production than a matchup with the Titans' woeful secondary. With Andre Johnson dealing with Jason McCourty all afternoon, I expect Hopkins to be featured more heavily in the game plan. Hopkins will presumably line up against third-year cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who Pro Football Focus has rated as the third-worst cornerback in the NFL(-10.4). PFF also ranks Wreh-Wilson in the top-10 in terms of receiving touchdowns allowed (5). Wreh-Wilson missed week 12 due to a back injury, and his replacement Coty Sensabaugh was no more effective, allowing 8 receptions for 81 yards against the Eagles. As you can see, regardless of who lines up as the Titans' other starting corner opposite Jason McCourty, they're susceptible to above average fantasy days. Start Hopkins with confidence this week.
Jarvis Landry v. New York Jets #27 Weekly Rankings
After carving up short/intermediate area of the field against the Broncos to a line of 7/50/2, Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry was a hot commodity on the waiver wire this week. Now after posting four touchdowns in his last four games, Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins' offense gets the pleasure of matching up against the traveling circus that is the New York Jets.
In the last four weeks, Landry has established himself as Tannehill’s safety blanket, catching 82% of the 29 targets thrown his way over the last four weeks. In addition to leading the Dolphins in targets, over the last four weeks Landry is leading the team in receptions (24), receiving yards (192) and touchdowns (4). With Tannehill continuing to struggle to drive the ball down field, Landry’s value will continue to grow within the Dolphins offense. All but 9 of Landry’s targets have been within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, so as long as Tannehill continues to struggle with his deep ball (PFF’s 25th rated QB Deep Ball Accuracy) Landry should continue to be the primary target in the Bill Lazor’s offense.
Charles Johnson v. Carolina Panthers #30 Weekly Rankings
It's hard to imagine a player that has only been with a team since week 5 can come in and establish himself as the team’s top receiving option, but that's exactly what Vikings’ wide receiver Charles Johnson after being signed off the Browns practice squad before week four.
After leading playing 67 of the team’s 69 snaps in week 12 and leading the Vikings leading receiver, Charles Johnson has established himself as the No. 1 receving option in the Vikings offense. After seeing a total of 12 targets in the previous four games in which he saw action, Johnson has seen 17 in the last two weeks.
Now going up against one of the worst secondary units in the NFL, Johnson has a chance to have another big afternoon. Pro Football Focus ranks the Panthers secondary as fifth worst ranked unit in term’s of pass coverage (-35.0). The Panther’s defense has not been any better from a fantasy standpoint either, as they are giving up the 6th most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers on a weekly basis.
One more little tid-bit for fantasy owners looking for potential sleeper option; both of the Panthers' starting cornerbacks, Antoine Cason and Melvin White, have allowed passer ratings of 116.5 and 129.5 respectively on passes thrown their way this season.
Greg Olsen v. Minnesota Vikings #6 Weekly Rankings
I am sure that when Olsen owners see his name on this list some of you want to reach through you computer screens and smack me in the face, but I think you guys need to temper your expectations for the tight end this weekend. Under the Leslie Frazier regime, the Minnesota Vikings defense was one of the worst units in the league against opposing tight ends, ranking as the second-worst unit against the position in 2013. Now with Mike Zimmer running the show in the Twin Cities, the Vikings' defense has become one of the elite units against the tight end this season.
The Minnesota Vikings defense has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season. It's not like the team has played against a bunch of scrubs either, going up against the likes of Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski this season. In those games against Graham and Gronkowski, neither of the two were able to top 60 receiving yards or score a touchdown against the Vikings defense.
I understand that outside of Kelvin Benjamin, Olsen is the only pass-catcher on the Panthers roster that has any fantasy relevance, but I have feeling he has a chance to be a fantasy bust this weekend. Olsen still has the workload potential to put forth a solid game, around 5/50/0 would be my prediction, but if you're looking for a guy to explode this week I do not think Olsen is your answer.
On a special Thanksgiving edition of Diagnosis, the Helpers break down each game on the Thanksgiving slate including the Eagles/Cowboys, 49ers/Seahawks and Bears/Lions. They talk about every relevant fantasy player in those matchups and finish the podcast by sending out love letters of thanks to the players who have helped them throughout the fantasy season on their own fantasy teams. Also, check out our weekly rankings here.
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
Mark Sanchez — Sanchez has been playing adequately in replacement of Nick Foles, and is a solid QB1 option against a bad Dallas secondary. While Sanchez is prone to turnovers (he's averaging about two interceptions per game) the high octane offense of the Philadelphia Eagles combined with the good matchup should keep him in the 15-20 point range.
Tony Romo — Romo is in line for a big week. The Eagles have one of the worst defenses against the quarterback, surrendering 19.5 points per game. Only the New York Jets allow more. He's a must-start for Week 12.
DeMarco Murray — Obviously a must start, Eagles are better against the run than the pass, but the offensive line of Dallas is far and away the best in the league right now. Expect another 100 yard rushing day.
LeSean McCoy — McCoy is finally starting to recapture the elusiveness that helped him claim the rushing title last season. When he makes guys miss in the open field, he rattles off big gains. McCoy found the end zone last week and recorded his first game of 100-plus rushing and a score. He's a must start this week.
Jeremy Maclin — A must-start WR1 as always. With 980 receiving yards on the season, Maclin is ready to eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the first time in his career. He remains one of the best ADP draft bargains of 2014.
Jordan Matthews — Continues to thrive as the No. 2 receiver with Sanchez under center. It's impossible for Matthews not to be productive based on Sanchez's strengths in the intermediate game.
Dez Bryant — Clear cut WR1 in a great matchup. Bryant should near 100 yards and find the end zone at least once this week.
Terrance Williams — Not startable due to a low volume of targets, but the Eagles do give up quite a few points to receivers. If you're very desperate, there's some upside to this matchup.
Zach Ertz (sleeper*) — The Cowboys are one of the worst teams in the league at defending the tight end, giving up 10.1 fantasy points per week to tight ends on average. They've also given up a league-worst 72 receptions to tight ends on the year. Vernon Davis, Larry Donnell and Jimmy Graham have all carved them up.
Jason Witten — Remains a very solid TE2 against a defense that hasn't fared well against tight ends with DeMeco Ryans out.
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford — We know he's played bad recently, but Stafford has a great matchup at home against a bad defense. He's a great option this week.
Jay Cutler — Rated our No.17 QB in our weekly rankings, Cutler continues to struggle with turnovers and overall poor production. The only upside is the Bears will likely be down in this game early which could mean plenty of garbage time yards. He's a QB2.
Reggie Bush — He's expected to start today, and is a desperate play even with a good matchup. Still, the Lions could use some help at running back as they're one of the worst rushing teams in the league. There's some element of home run potential here.
Joique Bell — Still a great flex play in PPR leagues.
Matt Forte — Don't be scared off by the tough matchup even for a second, Forte's one of the best receivers out of the backfield in the league right now. Any rushing yards negated by a tough Lions run defense should be made up for in the passing game.
Brandon Marshall — Played much better lately, he's got 8 touchdowns on the year but three of those came in one game against San Francisco. He's still a must start in 12-team leagues.
Alshon Jeffery — Wide receiver who is always a must start. He's scored three touchdowns in the last four games.
Calvin Johnson — Megatron could be in line for his best game of the season. The Bears will be without their top defensive back in Kyle Fuller and Johnson has seen target numbers of 15,12, and 10 in his last three games.
Golden Tate — Tate is a solid WR2 in a plus matchup. His 97 receiving yards were a lone bright spot against New England last week, and he's already eclipsed the 1,000 yard receiving mark for the first time in his career.
Martellus Bennett — A guy who doesn't get enough credit. Bennett struggled last week but also strung together a 134-yard effort against the Green Bay Packers. The Lions one weak spot comes in defending tight ends, so Bennett has upside in this matchup.
Eric Ebron (sleeper*) — Injuries have slowed what was expected to be a good rookie season for one of the top tight ends of the 2014 draft. Ebron has a great matchup against the Bears, who rank dead last against the tight end (10.9 fantasy points per game). Expect Stafford to look for him in the red zone.
Our bullet points articles are written to help better highlight our weekly rankings and explain our rationale behind ranking certain guys in certain places.
QB –Andrew Luck vs. Jacksonville - #2 in Weekly Rankings
I never get to write about players like this because they’re so obvious but I just want to express that I think Andrew Luck is about to have his best game of the season. He’s coming off a home loss in a blowout against the Patriots and I think he gets it going in a huge way when the Jaguars 24th ranked defense vs. fantasy QBs comes to town. Luck will take last week’s frustration on a team devoid of talent on defense and 300 yards and 3 TDs is the minimum of what we’ll see. Getting Luck in the lineup is more than obvious, but get every Colts player in there as well.
D/ST – San Francisco vs. Washington - #1 in Weekly Rankings
The 49ers are coming off their best defensive performance since week 1. They went on the road into Metlife Stadium and intercepted Eli Manning 5 times due to a ferocious pass rush. It’s no coincidence that this performance came at the same time as Aldon Smith’s return to the lineup. The defense only managed just 2 sacks but that total is sure to grow this week against the Redskins, a team that has allowed the most sacks this season. RG3’s work ethic was called into question earlier this week by Steve Young and Young’s unnamed sources, and his coaches have said he needs to improve his fundamentals. His leadership is a bigger question as he basically threw his teammates under the bus deflecting the blame for last week’s horrific loss to Tampa Bay. Most importantly his talent is being called into question. He threw a pick 6 this past week and 2 INTs, and his dreadful season continues to spiral in the wrong direction. He’s just a shell of the rookie we all witnessed just a couple of years ago. Griffin can’t stay out of the spotlight and there is a target on his back. Things will not get any better in San Francisco this week. Start the 49ers defense with confidence.
QB – Tony Romo - #10 in Weekly Rankings
Tony Romo was incredibly impressive in London’s 31-17 victory over Jacksonville. The broken bones in his back seem to be a non-issue at this point and while they cannot fully heal in one week, the late bye worked to Romo’s advantage. Romo travels to New Jersey to take on public enemy #1 the Giants. The Gmen can’t get out of their own way defensively, ranking dead last against the run and 22nd against the pass. The Cowboys will once again lean on the running game and pick their spots leading to a game from Romo similar to what he had against another hapless and hopeless defense in London.
D/ST – New England v. Detroit- #5 in Weekly Rankings
Calvin Johnson? Golden Tate? Matthew Stafford? No problem! The Patriots are coming off one of the season’s most impressive games by any football team, a 21 point victory on the road in Indianapolis. They slowed down Andrew Luck and TY Hilton, so coming home for a lesser offense will be no problem. The Lions are playing winning football, but it’s the defense that has led the way. There are big names at the skill positions for the Lions but they have struggled mightily when facing a top defense. Teams such as Buffalo, Miami, Arizona and Minnesota have stymied the offense throughout the year. Despite Chandler Jones’s absence the Patriots have continued to play tough defense, especially against the pass. Expect Stafford to struggle once again resulting in multiple turnovers.
QB – Ryan Tannehill at Denver - #14 in Weekly Rankings
Ryan Tannehill is in the midst of a career year and is a fine QB, but this is the wrong week for him to start against the Broncos. Denver is a great team on both sides of the ball. When a team like this comes off a loss where they lose to a clearly lesser team (Rams), you don’t want to be playing against them the following week, especially in their building. Denver will be out for blood to prove that they are the best team in the league, and every Dolphin player is in a lot of trouble. Peyton Manning will be sustaining long drives on offense limiting the Dolphins opportunities and Von Miller and Aqib Talib will lead this defense in a rout over a quality but inferior team like the Dolphins. Look for Tannehill to hover in the low 200s in terms of yardage and 1-2 scores along with 1-2 turnovers.
D/ST – Arizona at Seattle - #21 in Weekly Rankings
Let me start with saying that the Cardinals have a great defense. They understand how to play against their NFC West rivals, the Seattle Seahawks. However, the Seahawks are at home where they always play dominant football, and despite their recent struggles they are still the Super Bowl champs. They have a top 5 RB in Marshawn Lynch and one of the smartest QBs in the game in Russell Wilson, two players who will be touching the ball on basically every play and will not allow turnovers to pile up. Wilson is too smart to take the amount of sacks needed for the Cardinals to be a good start. Seattle is desperate and I expect them to play that way, and play their best game of the season. Find another matchup play defense and stash the Cardinals for another week.
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