With the fantasy football playoffs in full swing for Week 14, smart owners will be on the lookout for high-upside players.
Playing it safe isn't the right strategy when the championship is on the line.
As is the case every week in the NFL, a handful of players not known as fantasy stars will put up big numbers. Owners who saw it coming and started them will reap the rewards by moving on to the next round of the playoffs.
With that in mind, here are a few breakout candidates for you to consider starting in Week 14.
Note: All fantasy stats and info are courtesy of ESPN (standard scoring).
Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens
It's been a rough year for Joe Flacco and any fantasy owners who thought he'd be a top-10 quarterback. Through Week 13, he's No. 19 among fantasy quarterbacks, averaging just 12.4 fantasy points per game.
However, a favorable matchup against the Minnesota Vikings will result in a huge game for Flacco, and he's worth a start in Week 14.
Minnesota's defense is the absolute worst in the NFL against fantasy quarterbacks, as they average 20.4 points per game. In the last two games against Minnesota, Scott Tolzien, Matt Flynn and Josh McCown combined to score 47 points.
In addition to the matchup, there's another factor to consider here: Flacco could finally be getting tight end Dennis Pitta back this weekend, as noted by Ravens journalist Garrett Downing:
Dennis Pitta and Jimmy Smith could both be on the field this week for the Ravens: http://t.co/MV9jwcaBcT— Garrett Downing (@gdowning14) December 2, 2013
Flacco's top target, Torrey Smith, told USA Today's Jim Corbett that his QB is feeling more comfortable throwing downfield: "The deep ball has definitely been the difference in the game for us the past two weeks. We'd love to keep it going.''
Minnesota's defense plus Pitta equals a huge game for Flacco.
Projected Stats: 275 yards, three touchdowns
Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Arizona Cardinals
The Arizona Cardinals host the St. Louis Rams in Week 14, and the Rams have given up the fifth-most fantasy points this year to opposing running backs.
Rashard Mendenhall is going to be a gold mine as an RB2 or flex option on Sunday.
He tallied season-high totals in carries (18) and yards (76) last weekend against the Philadelphia Eagles, and he scored 13 points the week before on just 13 carries thanks to a touchdown run against the Indianapolis Colts.
Mendenhall has carried the ball no fewer than 12 times in his last five starts, during which time he scored three touchdowns. He's due for another big game at home.
Projected Stats: 100 total yards, one touchdown
Rod Streater, WR, Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders are on the road in Week 14 to take on the New York Jets, and Rod Streater will have a field day to help the Raiders win for the fifth time this season.
New York has given up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing receivers this year, averaging 25 points allowed per game. And instead of improving as the season wears on, the Jets have gotten much worse, allowing 33.2 points per game in their last five.
Oakland is likely going to be without Denarius Moore for the third straight game. He didn't practice on Thursday, Dec. 5, as noted by Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times:
Denarius Moore is not at practice today. He's still bothered by a shoulder injury.— Steve Corkran (@CorkOnTheNFL) December 5, 2013
Streater lost a few targets last weekend when Matt McGloin and Andre Holmes hooked up seven times for 136 yards, but he'll be heavily targeted once again this weekend against New York, which will shut down Oakland's running game.
Projected Stats: Seven catches, 130 yards, one touchdown
Jared Cook, TE, St. Louis Rams
Fantasy owners were drooling about Jared Cook's potential after he went off in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals, hauling in seven passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns, earning 24 fantasy points in his Rams debut.
Then, nothing. In his next nine games, Cook averaged 3.44 points per game, failing to hit double digits once.
How many touchdowns will Cook score against the Cardinals?
But the talented tight end finally showed up on the fantasy radar once again in Week 12 against Chicago, catching four passes for 80 yards and a touchdown. He earned 14 points in that game before getting shut down once again last weekend in San Francisco.
He's due for another monster game in Week 14, however, as the Rams are in Arizona to take on the Cardinals for the second time this year. Since the first time the two teams met, the Cardinals have failed to improve against tight ends, allowing more fantasy points than any team in the league (14.8 per game).
Projected Stats: Five catches, 120 yards, two touchdowns
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