Fantasy Football Week 14 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
There are no easy matchups remaining as fantasy football turns to its postseason. You are only going to face the best of the best, so expect some tense moments this weekend.
You have gotten this far, so you should be well-versed in setting your lineup and making these tough decisions, but Bleacher Report is here to break the ties. This is our weekly Start 'Em, Sit 'Em in a six-part, position-by-position slideshow.
You get all the starts, all the sits and all the rankings to wade through the minutia in fantasy crunch time. Good luck surviving and advancing this week.
Quarterbacks: You Need to Find Alternatives for Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson
Josh McCown, Chicago Bears
He has Marc Trestman, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery working in his favor now that Jay Cutler (ankle) has been ruled out for Monday night's shootout against Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas has been the worst team in fantasy against quarterbacks and the second-worst team against the pass. This lines up to be a 300-yard, three-touchdown performance for McCown. Start him for some Monday night magic in fantasy crunch time.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Dalton's run of consecutive 300-yard games ended weeks ago, but he played some quality secondaries. The Indianapolis Colts are more middle of the pack against the pass, and Dalton has thrown for eight touchdown passes combined in his past two home games. This will wind up being another multiple-touchdown performance, if not a 300-yard one, making him a top-10 fantasy option this week.
Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs
With many of the preseason top-12 quarterbacks facing unfavorable matchups, the Chiefs' Smith gets another week among the top options in fantasy. Smith has at least been consistent in fantasy terms amid this three-game losing streak, and he draws the reeling Washington Redskins, who are 27th against the pass. Smith should go for more than 250 yards and a couple of touchdowns as the Chiefs snap their losing skid.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
You can like Kaepernick's passing revival the past couple of weeks all you want. You cannot like him against the No. 1 pass defense in football, the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks are also No. 2 in fantasy against quarterbacks, allowing just 12 touchdown passes through 12 games. Only the Tennessee Titans (eight) and Carolina Panthers (nine) have allowed fewer. You're not sitting their opposing quarterbacks (Peyton Manning and Drew Brees), but you should be sitting Kaepernick here.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
Unlike Kaepernick, Wilson has been a consistent force for fantasy owners, but he should be sat in this matchup all the same. The 49ers are the third-best team against the pass and against fantasy quarterbacks. We should fully expect this pivotal division game to be a battle of field position and field goals. Wilson is a marginal play best left for 14-plus team leagues and two-quarterback formats.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Big Ben has had some big moments in fantasy this season, but the Dolphins haven't allowed many of those, either. Miami is fifth best against fantasy quarterbacks, is in the top 10 against the pass and hasn't allowed a quarterback to throw for multiple touchdown passes since Brees in Week 4. Big Ben looks headed for a mere 200 yards and a touchdown, which makes him a low-end play even in two-quarterback formats.
|1||Peyton Manning||Den||vs. Ten||1||0|
|2||Matthew Stafford||Det||at Phi||2||0|
|3||Drew Brees||NO||vs. Car||5||+2|
|4||Cam Newton||Car||at NO||6||+2|
|5||Tom Brady||NE||vs. Cle||4||-1|
|6||Nick Foles||Phi||vs. Det||3||-3|
|7||Philip Rivers||SD||vs. NYG||9||+2|
|8||Tony Romo||Dal||at Chi||8||0|
|9||Josh McCown||Chi||vs. Dal||7||-2|
|10||Andy Dalton||Cin||vs. Ind||16||+6|
|11||Carson Palmer||Ari||vs. StL||17||+6|
|12||Alex Smith||KC||at Was||13||+1|
|13||Matt Ryan||Atl||at GB||10||-3|
|14||Russell Wilson||Sea||at SF||11||-3|
|15||Robert Griffin||Was||vs. KC||12||-3|
|16||Joe Flacco||Bal||vs. Min||14||-2|
|17||Ryan Fitzpatrick||Ten||at Den||15||-2|
|18||Eli Manning||NYG||at SD||22||+4|
|19||Andrew Luck||Ind||at Cin||18||-1|
|20||Ben Roethlisberger||Pit||vs. Mia||20||0|
|21||Mike Glennon||TB||vs. Buf||23||+2|
|22||Case Keenum||Hou||at Jac||19||-3|
|23||Ryan Tannehill||Mia||at Pit||25||+2|
|24||Colin Kaepernick||SF||vs. Sea||21||-3|
|25||EJ Manuel||Buf||at TB||24||-1|
|26||Matt Flynn||GB||vs. Atl||26||0|
|27||Chad Henne||Jac||vs. Hou||31||+4|
|28||Kellen Clemens||StL||at Ari||32||+4|
|29||Matt McGloin||Oak||at NYJ||27||-2|
|30||Jason Campbell||Cle||at NE||30||0|
|31||Matt Cassel||Min||at Bal||33||+2|
|32||Geno Smith||NYJ||vs. Oak||29||-3|
Running Backs: First-Round Disappointments Like Ray Rice Ready to Come Through
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
Rice had a big performance against the Bears a couple of weeks ago—the last-ranked run defense in football—and he draws another weak opponent in the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday. Minnesota is the third-worst team in fantasy against running backs, so patient and loyal Rice owners should be rewarded with 100 yards and a touchdown again.
DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys
Speaking of those Bears, Murray is coming off his three-touchdown performance on Thanksgiving Day and getting that dream matchup in the first week of the fantasy postseason. The Bears have been ripped on the ground by a 100-yard rusher in each of the past five games, including a season-high 211 yards to Adrian Peterson last Sunday. It is the reason the Bears are the second-worst team in fantasy against running backs.
C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills
He might not be 100 percent from his early-season ankle issues, but he is getting better and is coming off a season-high 149 yards. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have allowed just two rushing touchdowns all season, but the Bills are going to be stubborn with the run. The only instances an opponent rushed for more than 15 times on the Bucs, it gained over 100 yards. It takes a stubborn running team to beat the Bucs run defense, so we expect Spiller to eventually pop one, like he did a week ago. He is the much better play over Fred Jackson.
Rashard Mendenhall, Arizona Cardinals
Andre Ellington (knee) missed last week and is not 100 percent, so expect the game plan to feature Mendenhall, particularly inside the 10. The St. Louis Rams have given up the fourth-most points to fantasy running backs, so we expect Mendenhall to crack 60 yards and a touchdown at home, where he has scored four touchdowns in his five games played there this year.
Willis McGahee, Cleveland Browns
The New England Patriots have been approaching the Bears' basement level against the run of late—they are 31st in the NFL—and the Browns' McGahee is coming off 71 combined yards and a touchdown. Jason Campbell is back under center for the Browns, so we should expect a conservative game plan and a healthy dose of McGahee once the Browns get inside the five. McGahee won't be a great option, but he's headed for 60 yards and a touchdown like Mendenhall.
Rashad Jennings, Oakland Raiders
Jennings has not been cleared from his concussion, according to the San Francisco Chronicle's Vic Tafur. Further, he will be facing the New York Jets run defense, No. 1 in football, on the road in an early game. West Coast teams notoriously struggle in 1 p.m. ET games in the East. Jennings will be a subpar play if active, so find a replacement for him now.
Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints
The Panthers have allowed the third-fewest points to fantasy running backs this season, which includes just four touchdowns. Only the Bengals and Cardinals have allowed fewer touchdowns to backs this season. You might consider using Sproles in PPR leagues, but the 30-year-old fantasy bust couldn't prove to be a fantasy factor Monday against the Seahawks. He is headed for fewer than five fantasy points in standard leagues again.
Donald Brown and Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
Speaking of those Bengals, the Colts have a tough task to try to get their running game started on the road in Cincy. The Bengals haven't given up a rushing touchdown to a running back since Week 3 or a touchdown of any kind since Week 4. Brown and his now-backup Richardson are impossible to trust in this tough matchup.
Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden, New England Patriots
No one knows for sure exactly how the Pats backs will split carries on a weekly basis, so consider receiving back Shane Vereen the only useful play of the lot at this point. Also, the Browns defense has been in the top five against the run, allowing just 98.9 yards per game. Even if you expect a Patriots blowout here, you would be playing running back roulette by guessing which back gets the carries and fantasy numbers.
Bobby Rainey, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Despite the fact the Bills have given up five touchdowns to running backs in the past three weeks, this is a much better defensive front than the numbers suggest. Outside of those five touchdowns, the Bills have allowed just two more touchdowns the rest of the season. Sure, they are trending the wrong way of late, but so is Rainey after his Week 11 breakthrough. Rainey looks headed for 20 carries for 55 yards in our eyes, which would make him a huge bust in crunch time. Put your trust in a better player in a crucial week.
|Rank||Running Backs||Team||Opponent||ECR||vs. ECR|
|1||DeMarco Murray||Dal||at Chi||4||+3|
|2||Jamaal Charles||KC||at Was||1||-1|
|3||Adrian Peterson||Min||at Bal||3||0|
|4||Matt Forte||Chi||vs. Dal||2||-2|
|5||LeSean McCoy||Phi||vs. Det||9||+4|
|6||Ray Rice||Bal||vs. Min||17||+11|
|7||C.J. Spiller||Buf||at TB||22||+15|
|8||Reggie Bush||Det||at Phi||10||+2|
|9||Eddie Lacy||GB||vs. Atl||5||-4|
|10||Knowshon Moreno||Den||vs. Ten||6||-4|
|11||Marshawn Lynch||Sea||at SF||7||-4|
|12||Shane Vereen||NE||vs. Cle||15||+3|
|13||Frank Gore||SF||vs. Sea||20||+7|
|14||Le'Veon Bell||Pit||vs. Mia||11||-3|
|15||Alfred Morris||Was||vs. KC||13||-2|
|16||Chris Johnson||Ten||at Den||14||-2|
|17||Zac Stacy||StL||at Ari||19||+2|
|18||Ben Tate||Hou||at Jac||12||-6|
|19||Andre Brown||NYG||at SD||8||-11|
|20||Steven Jackson||Atl||at GB||21||+1|
|21||Giovani Bernard||Cin||vs. Ind||23||+2|
|22||Chris Ivory||NYJ||vs. Oak||28||+6|
|23||Rashard Mendenhall||Ari||vs. StL||29||+6|
|24||Ryan Mathews||SD||vs. NYG||30||+6|
|25||Danny Woodhead||SD||vs. NYG||31||+6|
|26||Willis McGahee||Cle||at NE||42||+16|
|27||Montee Ball||Den||vs. Ten||33||+6|
|28||Darren Sproles||NO||vs. Car||36||+8|
|29||Rashad Jennings||Oak||at NYJ||26||-3|
|30||Donald Brown||Ind||at Cin||27||-3|
|31||Maurice Jones-Drew||Jac||vs. Hou||16||-15|
|32||Lamar Miller||Mia||at Pit||25||-7|
|33||Joique Bell||Det||at Phi||34||+1|
|34||Bobby Rainey||TB||vs. Buf||18||-16|
|35||LeGarrette Blount||NE||vs. Cle||38||+3|
|36||Fred Jackson||Buf||at TB||24||-12|
|37||BenJarvus Green-Ellis||Cin||vs. Ind||35||-2|
|38||Chris Ogbonnaya||Cle||at NE||39||+1|
|39||DeAngelo Williams||Car||at NO||41||+2|
|40||Mike Tolbert||Car||at NO||43||+3|
|41||Bernard Pierce||Bal||vs. Min||48||+7|
|42||James Starks||GB||vs. Atl||59||+17|
|43||Stevan Ridley||NE||vs. Cle||47||+4|
|44||Jonathan Stewart||Car||at NO||44||0|
|45||Trent Richardson||Ind||at Cin||53||+8|
|46||Brandon Bolden||NE||vs. Cle||45||-1|
|47||Peyton Hillis||NYG||at SD||55||+8|
|48||Roy Helu||Was||vs. KC||57||+9|
|49||Dennis Johnson||Hou||at Jac||52||+3|
|50||Kendall Hunter||SF||vs. Sea||71||+21|
|51||Pierre Thomas||NO||vs. Car||32||-19|
|52||Bilal Powell||NYJ||vs. Oak||40||-12|
|53||Benny Cunningham||StL||at Ari||54||+1|
|54||Jacquizz Rodgers||Atl||at GB||51||-3|
|55||Shonn Greene||Ten||at Den||50||-5|
|56||Mark Ingram||NO||vs. Car||56||0|
|57||Bryce Brown||Phi||vs. Det||61||+4|
|58||Robert Turbin||Sea||at SF||74||+16|
|59||Michael Bush||Chi||vs. Dal||62||+3|
|60||Knile Davis||KC||at Was||65||+5|
|61||Brian Leonard||TB||vs. Buf||64||+3|
Wide Receivers: Plan to Sit All of Your 49ers and Seahawks Options Here
Victor Cruz, New York Giants
Because of Eli Manning's struggles behind his patchwork offensive line, Cruz hasn't reeled in a touchdown since Week 4. We would still keep Cruz active in all leagues here, though, because the San Diego Chargers are fifth worst against the pass and fourth worst against fantasy wide receivers. Don't start Manning based on these numbers, but keep the faith with Cruz.
Torrey Smith, Baltimore Ravens
Smith's touchdown total might be down, but he rates as an elite fantasy option this week against the Vikings. Minnesota has given up the third-most passing yards and the fifth-most points to fantasy wideouts this season. We should fully expect Smith to go over 100 yards and a touchdown here.
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jackson was limited in practice this week with a hamstring issue, but the matchup against the Bills is just too good to ignore if he is active Sunday. He stands as a game-time decision as of this writing, according to the Tampa Tribune's Roy Cummings. The Bills have given up the second-most points to fantasy wideouts, including 16 touchdowns. Only the Philadelphia Eagles have given up more.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
The Titans' receiving corps was a mixed-up mess to sort through on a weekly basis, but we have finally determined a leader of the pack. It is Wright, who has five catches or more in 10 of his 12 games. He is a PPR gem and hasn't had a bad week in those formats since the season opener. Against the Broncos' 29th-ranked pass defense (bottom 10 in fantasy against wideouts), expect Wright to have a busy day in garbage time.
Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons
White might not be 100 percent, but his production looked like it last week. Also, he managed to play 97 percent of his team's offensive snaps, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter. White had as many receptions (10) as he had in the prior two months combined—and more yards (143). We wouldn't hesitate to start him in all leagues against a Green Bay Packers secondary that has given up over 250 passing yards per game.
Jerricho Cotchery and Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers
You probably cannot afford to sit Antonio Brown, but the Miami Dolphins are a top-10 team against the pass and the second-best team in fantasy against wide receivers. Cotchery has been a red-zone threat, but the Dolphins have given up just one touchdown reception to a wide receiver all season—the best in the league. Start Brown out of necessity, but avoid the Steelers' fringe options because of the matchup.
Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, San Francisco 49ers
The Seahawks secondary might not be as good as it was at the start of the season, but it sure didn't look all that bad against the Saints. It held Drew Brees to a season-low 147 yards Monday night. The Seahawks clinch the division with a victory, so expect a strong performance against the 49ers, a team much less capable in the passing game than New Orleans.
Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Percy Harvin (hip) and Jermaine Kearse, Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson has been more consistent than Colin Kaepernick, but he figures to be as limited in a game almost certain to be played close to the vest in a defensive struggle. The 49ers are the third-best pass defense in football, and only the Panthers, Titans and Dolphins have allowed fewer touchdowns to receivers. Ignore all of the marginal Seahawks options in this matchup.
T.Y. Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey and LaVon Brazill, Indianapolis Colts
If the struggling Colts have found the past few weeks tough against the Titans and Cardinals—two talent-laden secondaries—it doesn't get much easier against the Bengals, the eighth-best pass defense in football to date. Cincy (seventh) is neck and neck with the Cardinals (sixth) against fantasy wideouts and has allowed a 100-yard receiver just once at home all season (Josh Gordon).
Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, New England Patriots
The Browns might not know exactly where to put shutdown corner Joe Haden, but it should also be noted that Cleveland is a top-five team against the pass and a top-10 team in fantasy against wide receivers. If you start any of Tom Brady's non-Rob Gronkowski or Shane Vereen receivers, it would be Edelman, but we have seen Edelman have big stretches before and then disappear again. That is the Patriots Way. Avoid these guys, if only because they all cancel each other out.
|Rank||Wide Receivers||Team||Opponent||ECR||vs. ECR|
|1||Calvin Johnson||Det||at Phi||1||0|
|2||A.J. Green||Cin||vs. Ind||2||0|
|3||Dez Bryant||Dal||at Chi||4||+1|
|4||Josh Gordon||Cle||at NE||5||+1|
|5||Demaryius Thomas||Den||vs. Ten||10||+5|
|6||Antonio Brown||Pit||vs. Mia||12||+6|
|7||Brandon Marshall||Chi||vs. Dal||3||-4|
|8||Larry Fitzgerald||Ari||vs. StL||13||+5|
|9||Alshon Jeffery||Chi||vs. Dal||6||-3|
|10||DeSean Jackson||Phi||vs. Det||7||-3|
|11||Eric Decker||Den||vs. Ten||20||+9|
|12||Andre Johnson||Hou||at Jac||8||-4|
|13||Victor Cruz||NYG||at SD||16||+3|
|14||Wes Welker||Den||vs. Ten||17||+3|
|15||Vincent Jackson||TB||vs. Buf||9||-6|
|16||Torrey Smith||Bal||vs. Min||11||-5|
|17||Michael Floyd||Ari||vs. StL||21||+4|
|18||Mike Wallace||Mia||at Pit||26||+8|
|19||Roddy White||Atl||at GB||24||+5|
|20||Jordy Nelson||GB||vs. Atl||19||-1|
|21||Marques Colston||NO||vs. Car||30||+9|
|22||Dwayne Bowe||KC||at Was||29||+7|
|23||Pierre Garcon||Was||vs. KC||14||-9|
|24||Kendall Wright||Ten||at Den||23||-1|
|25||Julian Edelman||NE||vs. Cle||25||0|
|26||Steve Smith||Car||at NO||32||+6|
|27||James Jones||GB||vs. Atl||36||+9|
|28||Anquan Boldin||SF||vs. Sea||35||+7|
|29||Keenan Allen||SD||vs. NYG||15||-14|
|30||Steve Johnson||Buf||at TB||31||+1|
|31||T.Y. Hilton||Ind||at Cin||28||-3|
|32||Rueben Randle||NYG||at SD||41||+9|
|33||Hakeem Nicks||NYG||at SD||39||+6|
|34||Harry Douglas||Atl||at GB||22||-12|
|35||Riley Cooper||Phi||vs. Det||18||-17|
|36||Cecil Shorts||Jac||vs. Hou||27||-9|
|37||Brian Hartline||Mia||at Pit||33||-4|
|38||DeAndre Hopkins||Hou||at Jac||50||+12|
|39||Mohamed Sanu||Cin||vs. Ind||75||+36|
|40||Dexter McCluster||KC||at Was||61||+21|
|41||Danny Amendola||NE||vs. Cle||43||+2|
|42||Rod Streater||Oak||at NYJ||40||-2|
|43||Andre Holmes||Oak||at NYJ||49||+6|
|44||Emmanuel Sanders||Pit||vs. Mia||38||-6|
|45||Jarrett Boykin||GB||vs. Atl||42||-3|
|46||Nate Burleson||Det||at Phi||34||-12|
|47||Miles Austin||Dal||at Chi||71||+24|
|48||Robert Woods||Buf||at TB||57||+9|
|49||Kenbrell Thompkins||NE||vs. Cle||53||+4|
|50||Michael Crabtree||SF||vs. Sea||46||-4|
|51||Brandon LaFell||Car||at NO||51||0|
|52||Justin Hunter||Ten||at Den||66||+14|
|53||Marlon Brown||Bal||vs. Min||59||+6|
|54||Santonio Holmes||NYJ||vs. Oak||63||+9|
|55||Terrance Williams||Dal||at Chi||62||+7|
|56||Golden Tate||Sea||at SF||37||-19|
|57||Donnie Avery||KC||at Was||72||+15|
|58||Greg Jennings||Min||at Bal||56||-2|
|59||Chris Givens||StL||at Ari||83||+24|
|60||Marvin Jones||Cin||vs. Ind||64||+4|
|61||Ted Ginn||Car||at NO||73||+12|
|62||Tiquan Underwood||TB||vs. Buf||48||-14|
|63||Cordarrelle Patterson||Min||at Bal||54||-9|
|64||Tavon Austin||StL||at Ari||58||-6|
|65||Jeremy Kerley||NYJ||vs. Oak||77||+12|
|66||Lance Moore||NO||vs. Car||76||+10|
|67||Doug Baldwin||Sea||at SF||47||-20|
|68||Darrius Heyward-Bey||Ind||at Cin||87||+19|
|69||Lavon Brazill||Ind||at Cin||88||+19|
|70||Ace Sanders||Jac||vs. Hou||60||-10|
|71||Mike Brown||Jac||vs. Hou||70||-1|
|72||Stephen Hill||NYJ||vs. Oak||103||+31|
|73||Santana Moss||Was||vs. KC||107||+34|
|74||Kenny Stills||NO||vs. Car||74||0|
|75||Andre Roberts||Ari||vs. StL||81||+6|
|76||Rishard Matthews||Mia||at Pit||65||-11|
|77||Vincent Brown||SD||vs. NYG||84||+7|
|78||Jason Avant||Phi||vs. Det||79||+1|
|79||Greg Little||Cle||at NE||85||+6|
|80||Nate Washington||Ten||at Den||52||-28|
|81||Kris Durham||Det||at Phi||55||-26|
Tight Ends: Rams' Jared Cook Looks Like the Start of the Week at Arizona
Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams
It has taken him some time to prove fantasy worthy with Kellen Clemens under center, but this stands to be his best performance since Week 1's 141 yards and two touchdowns. The Cardinals have some talent in their secondary, but they have been exploited by tight ends to the tune of 939 yards and 13 touchdowns—the worst totals in the league. It is no wonder the Cardinals are dead last against fantasy tight ends. Cook is a must-start option in this dream matchup.
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers
The Dolphins defense is a similar story to the Cardinals. It is great against wide receivers but exploitable against tight ends. The Dolphins are the fifth-worst team in fantasy against the position. It should be a solid week for Miller working the underneath routes off Ben Roethlisberger's play action. Expect six catches for 70 yards and a touchdown from Miller here.
Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears
Bennett hasn't been as productive with Josh McCown under center for the Bears, especially amid the breakthrough of Alshon Jeffery, but he rates as a starting option against a Cowboys defense that is 31st against the pass. Only five teams have allowed more receptions to tight ends, so Bennett figures to rebound from his two-catch performance from a week ago.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
ESPN radio's Chris Russell reports Reed expects to return from his concussion, but he returns in time for another headache: the Chiefs defense. Kansas City has been the stingiest team in fantasy against tight ends, the only team allowing under five fantasy points per game to the position in standard leagues. Let Reed prove healthy and effective before you trust him in fantasy crunch time.
Zach Miller, Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson has incorporated the tight end a lot more this season, and Miller is coming off season highs of five catches and 86 yards. The problem with trusting him in fantasy lineups this week is he will be facing a 49ers defense that has allowed a league-low 422 receiving yards to the position. The 49ers are No. 2 in fantasy against tight ends, and Miller is not a No. 1 option for fantasy owners.
Zach Ertz and Brent Celek, Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles' tight end combo combined for three touchdowns, but that was against the aforementioned Cardinals defense that has been abused by the position. The production and Nick Foles' hot streak made these two potential waiver-wire pickups, but a matchup against the Lions makes them bad plays in fantasy. The Lions have allowed a league-low one touchdown reception to tight ends this season, which has helped them slot as fourth best in fantasy against the position.
|Rank||Tight Ends||Team||Opponent||ECR||vs. ECR|
|1||Rob Gronkowski||NE||vs. Cle||1||0|
|2||Jimmy Graham||NO||vs. Car||2||0|
|3||Julius Thomas||Den||vs. Ten||5||+2|
|4||Jason Witten||Dal||at Chi||3||-1|
|5||Jared Cook||StL||at Ari||12||+7|
|6||Vernon Davis||SF||vs. Sea||4||-2|
|7||Greg Olsen||Car||at NO||7||0|
|8||Tony Gonzalez||Atl||at GB||6||-2|
|9||Antonio Gates||SD||vs. NYG||8||-1|
|10||Jordan Cameron||Cle||at NE||13||+3|
|11||Coby Fleener||Ind||at Cin||11||0|
|12||Martellus Bennett||Chi||vs. Dal||14||+2|
|13||Heath Miller||Pit||vs. Mia||17||+4|
|14||Ladarius Green||SD||vs. NYG||16||+2|
|15||Rob Housler||Ari||vs. StL||20||+5|
|16||Jordan Reed||Was||vs. KC||10||-6|
|17||Garrett Graham||Hou||at Jac||9||-8|
|18||Tim Wright||TB||vs. Buf||19||+1|
|19||Delanie Walker||Ten||at Den||15||-4|
|20||Brandon Myers||NYG||at SD||27||+7|
|21||Zach Ertz||Phi||vs. Det||29||+8|
|22||Brent Celek||Phi||vs. Det||35||+13|
|23||Brandon Pettigrew||Det||at Phi||32||+9|
|24||Jermaine Gresham||Cin||vs. Ind||33||+9|
|25||Zach Miller||Sea||at SF||34||+9|
|26||Tyler Eifert||Cin||vs. Ind||28||+2|
|27||John Carlson||Min||at Bal||23||-4|
|28||Marcedes Lewis||Jac||vs. Hou||21||-7|
|29||Scott Chandler||Buf||at TB||22||-7|
|30||Dennis Pitta||Bal||vs. Min||25||-5|
Defense/Special Teams: Baltimore Ravens Get Great Matchup at Just the Right Time
This was supposed to be a transition year for the Ravens defense, having lost Hall of Famers after the Super Bowl title last winter. It started that way against the Broncos on opening night, but the Ravens line up as arguably the best play of the week against the Vikings. Minnesota is turning to the error-prone Matt Cassel at quarterback, and the Ravens should put up a huge performance in their bid to get back in the wild-card hunt. Start the Ravens in all leagues.
New England Patriots
The Pats have been awful against the run (31st), but the Browns aren't exactly proficient in that area either. Cleveland has the 28th-ranked rushing attack and will have to turn to the limited Jason Campbell at quarterback. Sure, Josh Gordon is hot, but the Pats are going to stack the box and blow this one out at home. Tom Brady and the Pats are just too good in December, as we outlined in this week's Fantasy Notebook at Bleacher Report.
San Diego Chargers
Not only have the Chargers not been able to duplicate their fantasy scoring from a year ago, but they have also struggled to stop anyone. The good news is they are at home this week against a Giants team that has given up the most points in fantasy to defense/special teams. They are not a great play, but if you are a fantasy owner that streams defenses, they might be your only play.
New Orleans Saints
Rob Ryan's turnaround hit a snag Monday night in that blowout loss to the Seahawks. The Saints return home to much friendlier conditions in the Superdome, but the matchup is no better. Carolina has been the second-toughest team in fantasy against defense/special teams, because it is one of two teams that hasn't allowed a defense/special teams score all season. Don't trust the Saints in any leagues, even if you see this game playing well below the under.
We figured the move from Lovie Smith, a defensive-minded head coach, to Marc Trestman would change the way the Bears play football. We didn't expect the change would be so pronounced. The Bears are a bad defensive football team now and are dead last against the run. You cannot trust this unit against anyone, especially Dallas, a team that has been the third best in fantasy against defense/special teams.
New York Giants
Justin Tuck got after the quarterback last week, and the Giants defense has played much tougher after the 0-6 start, which coincided with the addition of linebacker Jon Beason. The problem with trusting this unit this week is the Chargers are alive in the AFC postseason hunt. They are in the top 10 of fantasy against defense/special teams, and you have to figure Philip Rivers is going to have a big performance at home against a lame-duck team playing out the string.
|Rank||Defenses and Special Teams||Team||Opponent||ECR||vs. ECR|
|1||Baltimore Ravens||Bal||vs. Min||5||+4|
|2||Kansas City Chiefs||KC||at Was||2||0|
|3||Seattle Seahawks||Sea||at SF||3||0|
|4||New England Patriots||NE||vs. Cle||1||-3|
|5||Carolina Panthers||Car||at NO||9||+4|
|6||Cincinnati Bengals||Cin||vs. Ind||8||+2|
|7||San Francisco 49ers||SF||vs. Sea||11||+4|
|8||St. Louis Rams||StL||at Ari||7||-1|
|9||Arizona Cardinals||Ari||vs. StL||6||-3|
|10||San Diego Chargers||SD||vs. NYG||13||+3|
|11||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||TB||vs. Buf||17||+6|
|12||Denver Broncos||Den||vs. Ten||12||0|
|13||Detroit Lions||Det||at Phi||28||+15|
|14||Dallas Cowboys||Dal||at Chi||22||+8|
|15||Green Bay Packers||GB||vs. Atl||20||+5|
|16||Chicago Bears||Chi||vs. Dal||21||+5|
|17||New York Jets||NYJ||vs. Oak||19||+2|
|18||Pittsburgh Steelers||Pit||vs. Mia||18||0|
|19||Miami Dolphins||Mia||at Pit||16||-3|
|20||New Orleans Saints||NO||vs. Car||14||-6|
|21||Philadelphia Eagles||Phi||vs. Det||27||+6|
|22||Buffalo Bills||Buf||at TB||15||-7|
Kickers: Justin Tucker Has Re-Emerged as One of Fantasy's Best
Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens
He completes the full circle of Ravens starting options this week. The Vikings have been one of the most exploited defenses in fantasy and are the fifth-worst team against kickers. Tucker started slowly, but he should be active in all leagues down the stretch.
Steven Hauschka, Seattle Seahawks, and Phil Dawson, San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers and Seahawks are the two best teams in fantasy against kickers, but these two legs figure to be busy in a defensive struggle Sunday. We wouldn't be going out on a limb by saying whichever team kicks more field goals will win this game 12-9.
Mike Nugent, Cincinnati Bengals
This name isn't a popular one in fantasy this season, but we expect him to be much busier in the month of December. The Bengals shouldn't have a problem moving the ball on the Colts as much as scoring in the red zone, which can make Nugent a candidate for double-digit fantasy points here.
Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis Colts
He is coming off a great week, but he tends to be a better fantasy play at home in the dome. The Colts have been struggling, and we shouldn't expect it to get any easier against the Bengals on the road. There are better options available to you off waivers.
Blair Walsh, Minnesota Vikings
He has been better for fantasy owners as Adrian Peterson has heated up, but the Ravens have a good run defense and can keep Matt Cassel and Co. from moving the ball into scoring position here.
Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis Rams
Like Walsh, the second-year kicker hasn't been as elite as he was in fantasy as a rookie. Blame it on the quarterback woes. The Cardinals one of the top 10 teams in fantasy against kickers this season.
|1||Justin Tucker||Bal||vs. Min||2||+1|
|2||Stephen Gostkowski||NE||vs. Cle||1||-1|
|3||Matt Prater||Den||vs. Ten||3||0|
|4||Mason Crosby||GB||vs. Atl||9||+5|
|5||Steven Hauschka||Sea||at SF||5||0|
|6||Phil Dawson||SF||vs. Sea||13||+7|
|7||Mike Nugent||Cin||vs. Ind||21||+14|
|8||Dan Bailey||Dal||at Chi||8||0|
|9||Ryan Succop||KC||at Was||12||+3|
|10||Garrett Hartley||NO||vs. Car||4||-6|
|11||Nick Novak||SD||vs. NYG||14||+3|
|12||Matt Bryant||Atl||at GB||10||-2|
|13||David Akers||Det||at Phi||19||+6|
|14||Robbie Gould||Chi||vs. Dal||11||-3|
|15||Alex Henery||Phi||vs. Det||6||-9|
|16||Nick Folk||NYJ||vs. Oak||30||+14|
|17||Greg Zuerlein||StL||at Ari||28||+11|
|18||Blair Walsh||Min||at Bal||16||-2|
|19||Dan Carpenter||Buf||at TB||26||+7|
|20||Jay Feely||Ari||vs. StL||20||0|
|21||Adam Vinatieri||Ind||at Cin||7||-14|
|22||Sebastian Janikowski||Oak||at NYJ||23||+1|
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.