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.
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.
On Friday's episode of diagnosis, the Helpers discuss Jonas Gray and have mixed reactions regarding whether or not he's startable this week against Detroit. They give you four players who nobody is talking about who could help you in the playoffs. Plus, they talk about sleepers for this week, Brandin Cooks' injury and the Ben Tate signing
The Helpers discuss their hits and misses from Week 6, give you some good buy low candidates to help fortify your lineup and analyze the San Diego Chargers/Oakland Raiders Week 6 game and its fantasy implications. They finish it off by answering a few of your fantasy questions.
Hits and misses
They nailed Matt Forte, Justin Forsett and Ben Tate. All running backs were among the Top 10 in the rankings this week and all of them performed well. They also nailed Andre Williams, who struggled in his first start against Philadelphia after many claimed he was in for a big week in the absence of Rashad Jennings.
Their misses include Cam Newton and Kelvin Benjamin, who they predicted as busts against Cincinnati and who instead went off for big days. Keep in mind, they did have an entire overtime to accumulate more stats. But yeah, they missed those.
It will be interesting to see what Jonathan Stewart will do to Newton's rushing stats if Stewart does in fact return this Sunday. Just something to keep in mind if you own Cam Newton.
Oakland/San Diego analysis
The Helpers analyze Week 6's game between the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers. A shootout game, there were a couple break out fantasy stars in this one. Derek Carr put together his best game as a pro, throwing for 282 yards, 4 touchdowns and 1 interception.
A few things about Carr. He throws a remarkably accurate deep ball. Had the Raiders not dropped five passes in the first half, Carr could've put together a near perfect game. He's a boarderline QB2 going forward.
They then ogle over Philip Rivers stats for a second. Rivers, who was drafted as a QB2 in most leagues, has the most fantasy points of any quarterback not named Andrew Luck through six weeks. He has five games of at least 20 fantasy points, which is fantastic consistency.
Another break out fantasy star was Raiders WR Andre Holmes. A guy dubbed a sleeper by many experts coming into this season, Holmes broke out for his first 100-yard game and added two touchdowns. His speed is unquestionable and when you add his size (6'4), he can do things on the field reminiscent of another former Raider by the name of Randy Moss. He's a fantastic flex option right now.
As far as tight ends go, Ladarius Green led the Chargers' TEs in receiving yards with 60 yards on four catches. Antonio Gates got the touchdown, but was held under 30 yards receiving. Gates remains a force in the red zone, and will continue to score touchdowns with his big body as long as he's matched up in 1-on-1 coverage. We like Gates more as a TE1 right now, but Green is slowly creeping his way into flex status.
Buy low candidates
Carson Palmer — When healthy, he has great weapons at receiver to work with in Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown. He's also projected for 16 points in ESPN leagues this week. Those 16 points are more than many starting quarterbacks including Matt Ryan (who is only projected for 15). He has got an easier schedule coming up. The Cardinals play Atlanta, St. Louis, and Oakland in the next five weeks.
Sammy Watkins — Guy is an unbelievable talent. Though inconsistent at times, he's utilized in the offense and sees plenty of targets. He is also still developing chemistry with quarterback Kyle Orton, a guy who was basically plucked off the street after the Bills coaching staff was worried about E.J. Manuel's confidence. Orton has been on successful passing offenses in the past (most recently with the Denver Broncos in 2010) and if he starts getting more comfortable with the offense, expect Watkins to see more consistent numbers.
The Bills also have an easy slate of games coming up. They play the Jets twice, Minnesota, and also have Oakland around fantasy playoff time. We've seen rookie receivers come on late in their first year (think Cordarrelle Patterson last season) and Watkins is as good a threat as any to do just that. His value also isn't very high right now. He's a WR3 who you could trade a solid TE2 or even an RB2/3 to get. So if you play it right, you probably won't have to give up much.