Week 14 represents the first playoff matchup of the season in many fantasy football leagues, which means even the slightest lineup miscue can ill afford to be made.
Some players are essentially matchup-proof and should be in the lineup no matter what, but other calls aren't so easy since injuries or poor play from expected studs have forced many to rely on players they never thought they would.
In what is likely a do-or-die week for most fantasy football owners, here is a rundown of what you should do in the face of some of Week 14's toughest start 'em, sit 'em decisions.
QB Tyrod Taylor (BUF)
Many were skeptical when the Buffalo Bills chose Tyrod Taylor over EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel as their starting quarterback prior to the season, but the move has certainly paid dividends for the Bills and fantasy owners alike.
The 26-year-old Virginia native is approaching 2,500 total yards to go along with 20 combined touchdowns and just four interceptions in 10 games. He is a threat with both his arm and his legs, which could pose major issues for a Philadelphia Eagles team that struggles to stop both.
Bills head coach Rex Ryan is among those who have been extremely impressed by what Taylor has brought to the table this season, according to the team's Twitter account:
A huge part of his game has been throwing the deep ball, as he ranks inside the NFL's top 10 with nine completions of 40 yards or more.
Bills offensive coordinator Greg Roman believes Taylor is among the best in the league when it comes to taking shots and connecting down the field, per Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News:
He's seeing the top of the coverage really well, he's trusting our guys and putting it out there for them, and they’re making plays on the ball. He's definitely hitting all his marks and I doubt there's anybody out there throwing it deep, better. If there are, they're probably pretty darn good quarterbacks that have played in this league a long time.
Taylor's skill set should play well against a Philly defense that has surrendered 28 passing touchdowns, which is the second-most in the league. It has also given up 41 pass plays of 20 or more yards, which is something Taylor can take advantage of.
Taylor has been on a roll of late with seven touchdowns in his past two games against solid defenses, and he'll keep it going against one of the NFL's more suspect defensive units Sunday.
RB Shaun Draughn (SF)
It wasn't long ago that running back Shaun Draughn wasn't considered good enough to hold a job with the struggling Cleveland Browns, but now he's set to return to Cleveland as the San Francisco 49ers starting running back.
Injuries to Carlos Hyde and Reggie Bush forced Draughn into a starting role, and while he certainly hasn't been dominant, he has been a fantasy factor based purely on his workload.
Draughn has at least 18 touches in each of his past four games, and he is averaging over five receptions per contest during that time, which makes him especially valuable in point-per-reception leagues.
Former 49ers and current Browns safety Donte Whitner has been impressed with Draughn's development and laments the fact that Cleveland let him get away, according to Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News:
"He's looking really good on the field," Whitner said. "(Draughn is) running the football, catching out of the backfield, kind of making us wish we kept him."
In addition to the amount of times he touches the ball, Draughn and his fantasy owners figure to benefit from a fantastic matchup in Week 14 as the Browns allow the second-most rushing yards per game at 136.3.
Add in the fact that Draughn may have some added motivation against his former team, and he could very well be in line for his best game of the season.
WR DeVante Parker (MIA)
After making just four catches in his first eight games, it seemed like a near certainty that Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker's rookie season would be a bust. The narrative has done a complete 180-degree turn over the past two weeks, however.
Parker has seen increased action due to Rishard Matthews nursing a chest injury, and that should continue against the New York Giants on Monday night.
The former Louisville standout has seven receptions for 143 yards and two touchdowns over his past two contests, and it is clear that he is starting to build a rapport with quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Dolphins head coach Dan Campbell is among those who can see the massive strides Parker has made since the start of the season, according to Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
There is inherent risk involved with starting a rookie receiver who has just begun to play well in your fantasy playoff contest, but Parker has the ability and the matchup needed to have a big game.
The Giants allow 314.5 pass yards per game, which is by far the most in the NFL. They have also given up 22 passing touchdowns, and Parker has been adept at finding the end zone in recent weeks.
Parker is finally showing how good he can really be, and a true breakout performance on Monday Night Football is a very real possibility.
QB Matt Ryan (ATL)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has long been a solid, mid-tier starter in fantasy football, but his recent play suggests he is worth nothing more than a spot on the bench in fantasy terms.
Although he started the year off well, he has been in steady decline with nine touchdown passes and nine interceptions since Week 7. It is a drop-off that NFL Network analyst Brian Billick and many others have struggled to explain:
Part of the reason may be a lack of weapons, as there isn't much Matty Ice can count on aside from Julio Jones. That will be critical this weekend as Atlanta faces a Carolina Panthers team that is among the best in the league against the pass.
Carolina is allowing just 227 passing yards per game, and it has more interceptions (19) than touchdown passes allowed (16).
Jones figures to be blanketed by potential All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman, which will limit what Ryan can do even further.
Ryan is currently on pace for his worst statistical year in essentially all aspects since 2009, and it is unlikely that a meeting with the undefeated Panthers will help him turn things around.
RB C.J. Spiller (NO)
Running back C.J. Spiller has been a massive disappointment this season with the New Orleans Saints, and even an increased role in the offense is unlikely to change that.
Mark Ingram recently underwent season-ending shoulder surgery, per ESPN.com's Mike Triplett, which presumably leaves Spiller as the best option in the Saints backfield.
With just 60 touches on the season, though, it is pretty clear that head coach Sean Payton isn't totally comfortable with the former Buffalo Bills star.
Because of that, it is entirely possible that veteran Tim Hightower will get most of the early-down work. That would leave Spiller as the primary passing-down back, but he simply hasn't produced in that role.
In addition to that, the Saints will face a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense in Week 14 that has been great against the run this season.
The Bucs are allowing just 3.5 yards per carry and have given up five touchdowns on the ground.
Spiller's talent is undoubtedly enticing, but now isn't the time to take a risk on someone who has shown no signs of being a big-time player in 2015.
WR Michael Crabtree (OAK)
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Michael Crabtree has been in the news this week after signing a contract extension, but he shouldn't be in your lineup.
Crabtree inked a well-deserved four-year deal, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter (h/t Bill Williamson). He is on pace for the best season of his NFL career with 66 grabs for 760 yards and seven touchdowns, but his ceiling of production for Week 14 is extremely low.
The former San Francisco 49ers star is going up against a Denver Broncos defense that is arguably the best in the NFL against the pass.
Denver is giving up a league-low 195.6 yards per game through the air, and it has allowed a mere 11 passing touchdowns.
In Crabtree's first matchup against the Broncos this season, he caught four passes for 54 yards, which simply isn't good enough in a fantasy playoff week.
Crabtree will be going up against a Pro Bowl cornerback at all times in either Aqib Talib or Chris Harris Jr., and it is highly unlikely that his new contract will pay immediate dividends.
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