Week 14 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Highlighting Matchups to Exploit and Avoid

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2016

Owners understand how tough Week 14 is after a brutal Thursday game.
Owners understand how tough Week 14 is after a brutal Thursday game.Ben Margot/Associated Press

One game into the slate, it is abundantly clear Week 14 won't be an easy task for fantasy football owners still alive and competing. 

With major playoff implications on the line, many owners likely turned to Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr on Thursday Night Football against the Kansas City Chiefs. A quality matchup from a numbers standpoint, Carr fell flat and scored four points.

This disastrous turn of events likely has owners scrambling to better prepare for the rest of the weekend. Here's a bit of help via matchup comparisons at each spot and matchups to know.

      

Quarterback

MatchupVerdict
Carson Palmer (at MIA) vs. Andy Dalton (at CLE)Andy Dalton
Joe Flacco (at NE) vs. Ben Roethlisberger (at BUF)Ben Roethlisberger
Matthew Stafford (vs .CHI) vs. Aaron Rodgers (vs. SEA)Aaron Rodgers
Russell Wilson (at GB) vs. Matt Ryan (at LA)Matt Ryan
Tom Brady (vs. BAL) vs. Cam Newton (vs. SD)Tom Brady
Author's opinion

Matchup to Exploit: Andy Dalton, CIN (at CLE)

Seasoned fantasy owners know the deal—Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton isn't worth rostering all year. But if he's available during Cleveland Browns week, he's a must-have.

Dalton, owned in 61.6 percent of leagues, dropped 20 points via 308 yards and two scores on the Browns back in Week 7. Cleveland, believe it or not, hasn't improved since, permitting the second-most points to quarterbacks on average.

It doesn't really matter who Dalton has handy. In Week 13, without A.J. Green, Dalton posted 21 points via 332 yards against a solid Philadelphia Eagles defense.

Owners in need don't have to look further.

       

Matchup to Avoid: Matthew Stafford, DET (vs. CHI)

Butch Dill/Associated Press

This one probably hurts on first glance, but owners on the brink of elimination can't take a risk on Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford in Week 14.

Yes, Stafford enters the week coming off a 23-point performance and has a game against the three-win Chicago Bears. But do you know what happened the last time he played the Bears? Try two interceptions and seven total points back in Week 4.

Miserable team or not, Chicago doesn't give up many points to quarterbacks. The Bears permit the 10th-fewest points to the position and have allowed more than 20 points just four times.

Stafford is a big name, but he's one to avoid in exchange for other streaming options.

        

Running Back

MatchupVerdict
David Johnson (at MIA) vs. Le'Veon Bell (at BUF)David Johnson
Jordan Howard (at DET) vs. Devonta Freeman (at LA)Jordan Howard
Thomas Rawls (at GB) vs. LeSean McCoy (vs. PIT) LeSean McCoy
Melvin Gordon (at CAR) vs. Ezekiel Elliott (at NYG)Ezekiel Elliott
Doug Martin (vs. NO) vs. Carlos Hyde (vs. NYJ)Doug Martin
Author's opinion

Matchup to Exploit: LeSean McCoy, BUF (vs. PIT)

Ben Margot/Associated Press

Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy seems back to his usual self over his last four games, where he has scored 11, 10, 27 and 19 points.

Owners have to love the idea as Shady heads into an encounter with the Pittsburgh Steelers, owners of a defense allowing the sixth-most points to running backs on average.

Whereas some backs won't get carries if the team falls behind (see Toddy Gurley), Shady has a respectable usage clip regardless, boasting 17 or more carries in three of his last four and seven times total.

Healthy and with a full head of steam, McCoy should post one of the top lines of the week.

       

Matchup to Avoid: Jay Ajayi, MIA (vs. ARI)

Sometimes when the wheels fall off, they fall.

Look at Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi. A must-have sensation for back-to-back outings with 200 yards, the workhorse has now scored in double digits just once over his past four games.

Ajayi still sees plenty of usage—he's just not doing anything with it. Expect the trend to continue in Week 14 against the Arizona Cardinals, a matchup as tough as it sounds.

Those Cardinals permit the second-fewest points to backs on average and have held five entire backfields to single-digit production.

      

Wide Receiver

MatchupVerdict
Jordy Nelson (vs. SEA) vs. Tyrell Williams (at CAR)Tyrell Williams
Golden Tate (vs. CHI) vs. Dez Bryant (at NYG)Golden Tate
Antonio Brown (at BUF) vs. DeAndre Hopkins (at IND)Antonio Brown
Julian Edelman (vs. BAL) vs. Larry Fitzgerald (at MIA)Larry Fitzgerald
Brandin Cooks (at TB) vs. Doug Baldwin (at GB)Brandin Cooks
Author's opinion

Matchup to Exploit: Tyrell Williams, SD (at CAR)

Those who don't know San Diego Chargers wideout Tyrell Williams by now should.

Williams is the hottest new commodity on the Chargers, having scored a touchdown in four consecutive games after a spotty start to the season.

Next up for Williams is the Carolina Panthers, a secondary surrendering the seventh-most points to wideouts on average. Five opposing wideout corps have totaled 27 or more points on the unit, the high mark sitting at 52.

Williams won't hit such lofty numbers on his own, but it speaks to the likelihood of a secure floor with a game-winning ceiling.

      

Matchup to Avoid: T.Y. Hilton, IND (vs. HOU)

Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

Indianapolis Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton posted 146 yards and 14 points in Week 13, so it's understandable if owners want to trot him out without thinking.

Don't.

Hilton has been one of the more frustrating hit-or-miss players this year, going for double digits in six games and single digits in six others.

Arguably a matchup-based play, Hilton next has to deal with the Houston Texans defense that held him to four points in Week 6. This wasn't an anomaly, not with Houston standing strong at the third-fewest points allowed to opposing wideouts.

Given the situation, Hilton isn't worth the gamble with so much at stake.

      

Tight End

MatchupVerdict
Greg Olsen (vs. SD) vs. Jimmy Graham (at GB)Jimmy Graham
Dennis Pitta (at NE) vs. Cameron Brate (vs. NO)Cameron Brate
Tyler Eifert (at CLE) vs. Kyle Rudolph (at JAC)Tyler Eifert
Eric Ebron (vs. CHI) vs. Lance Kendricks (vs. ATL)Eric Ebron
Coby Fleener (at TB) vs. Zach Ertz (vs. WAS)Coby Fleener
Author's opinion

Matchup to Exploit: C.J. Fiedorowicz, HOU (at IND)

C.J. Fiedorowicz isn't the biggest name at tight end, but he's become a bright spot for the Texans and owners who trot him out in the right situations.

Fiedorowicz ranks second on the Texans in targets and has three double-digit outings this year. The latter doesn't sound like much, but keep in mind he wasn't used until Week 4 and he's considered a matchup-based play.

Speaking of the matchup, the Colts cough up the 10th-most points to tight ends on average this year, something Fiedorowicz can confirm—he scored a touchdown with 14 points on the unit in Week 6.

Look for the rising star to have a repeat performance.

     

Matchup to Avoid: Dennis Pitta, BAL (at NE)

Say hello to one of this week's regression specials, Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta.

Pitta exploded in Week 13, scoring two touchdowns and 19 points. But owners shouldn't overcompensate for the outburst. It was only Pitta's second double-digit outing on the year and the first time he scored a touchdown.

Still, Pitta is a big name so it's worth stressing the importance of avoiding him in Week 14 against the New England Patriots.

Given the fact Pitta has to hit the road to take on a defense that has only allowed two touchdowns to tight ends all year, owners need to look elsewhere for help.

        

All scoring info and statistics courtesy of ESPN.com standard leagues, as are points-against info and ownership stats.

Follow Chris Roling (@Chris_Roling) on Twitter.