Start 'Em or Sit 'Em for Fantasy Football Week 14
It's that time of year again.
No, not the holidays. It's that time too—but that's a holly-jolly problem for another day.
Week 14 brings either the first week of the fantasy playoffs or the final week of the regular season. For some, that means playing out the string one more time on a campaign gone awry. But for most fantasy owners, the equation is simple.
Win, and it's one step closer to a fantasy championship.
Lose, and that's all she wrote.
Every week now is a miniseason on its own. Every single fantasy point matters. Every lineup decision can make or break months of preparation, drafting and roster management.
It's enough pressure to knock the tinsel right off the old brain-tree.
I'm here to help you keep the season moving into Week 15.
Every week during the 2019 campaign, I've examined the start/sit questions on the Bleacher Report app and picked out some that will offer looks at players who could be due for big games or vanishing acts—the sorts of booms or busts that can be the difference between a win and a loss.
Ho-ho-ho—let's go, go, go.
Still can't figure out your fantasy football lineup for the week? Check out Your Fantasy Fire Drill with Matt Camp, and he'll solve your problems live. Submit your questions, and tune in every Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET, only on the B/R app.
Lockett on Lockdown
First of all, your reluctance in regard to Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett is understandable. Last week's goose egg was bad enough, but it wasn't an isolated incident—over the past three games (which includes the contest in which he hurt his leg), he has four catches for 64 yards combined.
That's not going to get it done in the fantasy playoffs.
Yes, Lockett was a top-five fantasy receiver over the first nine weeks in most point-per-reception scoring systems. And against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5, he had a respectable four catches for 51 yards and a touchdown. But that came before Lockett got hurt and L.A. acquired cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Since Week 10, Lockett ranks outside of the top 100 wide receivers in fantasy points.
If you have another viable alternative, Lockett needs to be on the bench until he shows some kind of pulse. And given that Deebo Samuel is a top-10 fantasy wideout over that same stretch in which Lockett vanished, the San Francisco 49ers pass-catcher is a viable alternative.
At quarterback, it appears this fantasy owner has answered their own question. New England's Tom Brady finished last week with a solid enough stat line, but most of his numbers came in garbage time. San Francisco's Jimmy Garoppolo is playing on the road against a stout Saints defense.
Jared Goff, on the other hand, is coming off arguably his best game of the year after topping 400 passing yards against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13.
The Rams quarterback only had one passing touchdown in Week 5 against Seattle, but he threw for 395 yards. That's more upside than the other two signal-callers.
The Call: Samuel and Goff
It's not a surprise this team made the fantasy playoffs. There's not a bad option among these wideouts.
But if we're going to get that elusive first championship, we need to figure out which are the three best this week.
DeVante Parker is an easy "yes," given the ungodly rip the Miami Dolphins wideout has been on of late. Thanks in no small part to his seven-catch, 159-yard, two-touchdown explosion last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, he's a top-five fantasy option at his position over the past month. And he has a top-10 matchup with the New York Jets.
Jarvis Landry of the Cleveland Browns has been even better, and only Saints receiver Michael Thomas has more PPR fantasy points over the past four weeks. Landry's a top-12 wideout for the season and gets the Cincinnati Bengals' 21st-ranked passing defense in Week 14. He's a go.
That leaves one spot and three players. Courtland Sutton is out thanks to the uncertainty at quarterback in Denver. Cooper Kupp found the end zone last Sunday for the first time since Week 8, but he hasn't had a 100-yard game in over a month.
That leaves DJ Moore, who has quietly been having a breakout season while the Carolina Panthers fall apart around him. Like Landry and Parker, Moore has been red-hot of late.
Rolling out three of the five highest-scoring receivers over the past four games sounds like a plan to me.
The Call: Parker, Landry and Moore
The Fun Bunch
There's a reason these running backs are bunched so tightly together in Week 14—all offer some upside in a PPR format.
Two of the five can be ruled out fairly easily. Kenyan Drake has shown flashes since joining the Arizona Cardinals, and he's been garnering the most touches in a now-crowded backfield. But he's also averaged fewer than four yards a carry in two of the past three weeks and draws a bottom-five fantasy matchup for running backs in Week 14 in the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Devin Singletary has been more productive than Drake of late. But the Buffalo Bills' matchup with the Baltimore Ravens is nearly as bad. He's out, too—especially with the other three facing teams that rank inside the top 10 in PPR fantasy points allowed to running backs.
That leaves James White of the New England Patriots, Kareem Hunt of the Cleveland Browns and Phillip Lindsay of the Denver Broncos. With two spots to fill, Lindsay is getting a nod for a simple reason—opportunity. He's the best bet for 15-plus touches against the Houston Texans.
The final spot is a tough call. White is coming off his biggest fantasy outing of the year and gets the best fantasy matchup for running backs against the Kansas City Chiefs, but prior to last week's explosion, he ranked outside of the top-25 running backs in PPR points.
Hunt's been a top-12 running back since Week 10 and gets the NFL's worst run defense Sunday, when the Bengals come to FirstEnergy Stadium. But Hunt is not even the No. 1 back on his own team.
With that said, I'm giving the edge to Hunt this week. It's easier to imagine the Browns grinding out a lead than the Patriots falling way behind for a second game in a row.
The Call: Lindsay and Hunt
The, Um, Not so Fun Bunch
So, um, these flex options aren't as appealing as that last crop of running backs.
And that's being kind.
Still, sometimes you gotta bite the proverbial bullet and make a pick.
Bo Scarbrough is out. Yes, the Minnesota Vikings just gave up over 200 rushing yards to Seattle. But the Detroit Lions aren't the Seahawks—when they fall behind, they will need to abandon the run.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert is out too. His target share may be up, but he has only topped 50 receiving yards once since Week 7.
You can add wideout Terry McLaurin to the "no" pile as well. The Washington Redskins have won two in a row, but McLaurin hasn't been a factor. Over the past two games, the rookie has just seven catches for 80 yards, and he hasn't found the end zone since scoring twice in Week 6.
San Francisco running back Raheem Mostert is tempting after his big game against the Ravens in Week 13. But it's looking more likely than not that Matt Breida will be back Sunday in New Orleans. That leaves Mostert with an uncertain workload against a Saints team allowing the fourth-fewest PPR points to running backs.
The upside of Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny gives him the edge. Despite the presence of Chris Carson, Penny has averaged more than 15 touches a game over the last two weeks, topping 100 total yards and finding the end zone in both games.
The Call: Penny
The Kamara Conundrum
There's a popular adage in fantasy football: "Always start your studs."
For the most part, it's a good rule to follow. But it's the fantasy playoffs now. Every week is a one-game season. Lose, and it's all over but the crying.
Given that, it's understandable to have reluctance about rolling out New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara for a couple of reasons.
The first is an awful matchup from a fantasy perspective. The 49ers haven't been a great run defense in 2019, allowing over 115 yards per game and ranking outside the top 20. But in the only terms that matter to fantasy owners (points allowed), no team in the NFC has been stingier to the running back position.
Then there's the matter of Kamara's production this season. It's not that the third-year pro has been a bust in 2019. He ranks eighth among running backs in PPR fantasy points per game. But Kamara has just two touchdowns for the season and hasn't found the end zone since Week 3.
Here's the thing, though: He's still Alvin Kamara, a player who was drafted in the first round of fantasy drafts as an anchor for rosters. He's going to get 15 or more touches Sunday, either as a runner or receiver. And he's a threat to score every time he has the ball in his hands.
You would need to have one heck of a Plan B to even consider sitting Kamara in Week 14.
Even then, there's a question you have to ask yourself: Can you live with the decision if you decide to sit Kamara and he goes off? It could make for a long offseason.
Nine times out of 10, getting cute will come back to bite you.
The Call: Kamara
Fear the Beard
On at least some level, the first part of this question feels like the owner is getting cute. Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen is having a breakout second season and ranks among the top-five fantasy options at the position in many scoring systems.
But this is simply a matter of matchup and chasing every point you can get your hands on in a must-win game. Allen's Bills face a surging Baltimore Ravens team that has been the fourth-worst fantasy matchup for quarterbacks in 2019.
The matchup for Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Dolphins isn't a great one. The New York Jets rank in the middle of the pack in fantasy points given up to quarterbacks. But Fitzpatrick just torched the Philadelphia Eagles for 365 yards and three scores, and he threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns during a Week 9 matchup against the Jets in Miami.
Allen's rushing ability narrows the gap, but I'd still lean toward Fitzpatrick here.
In the flex spot, it's an easy call. Houston Texans wideout Will Fuller V is the definition of a boom-or-bust option with a target share that bounces all over the place. David Montgomery is a good rookie running back stuck on a bad Chicago Bears offense.
Derrius Guice just averaged over 12 yards per carry and scored two touchdowns against the Carolina Panthers—the second game in three weeks in which he found paydirt.
The Green Bay Packers are a good team, but they've had their issues with the run. They rank 25th in run defense, and only five teams have surrendered more PPR fantasy points to the running back position in 2019.
The Call: Fitzpatrick and Guice
Emerald City Committee
For most of this season, Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny was an afterthought in the Emerald City. He battled injuries and took a clear back seat to Chris Carson in the backfield pecking order.
But Carson's fumbling issues opened the door for Penny to assume a larger workload. He took advantage, gaining 129 rushing yards in a Week 12 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
However, the Seahawks went back to leaning on Carson in last Monday's big win over the Minnesota Vikings, letting him carry the ball 23 times for 102 yards and a touchdown during a game in which the Seahawks bulldozed a supposedly stout run defense.
It creates an interesting problem ahead of a road trip to face the Los Angeles Rams and their 13th-ranked run defense.
We've already seen these teams square off once this year, in Seattle in Week 5. And during that game, Carson ran well with 27 carries for 118 yards and a five-yard touchdown grab thrown in for good measure.
The matchup isn't the issue for Carson and Penny in Week 14. The presence of the other is the real problem. It's possible that Carson could put the ball on the ground or get hot and shift the balance in touches one direction or the other.
But it's just as likely that both players will receive workloads similar to last week's game in Minnesota, and the pair showed both can be fantasy-relevant during that contest.
A repeat of the Week 13 performance is the best-case scenario. The worst is Seattle getting down big and ditching the run, although that would hurt Carson more than Penny.
In short, yes, both are startable as lower-end RB2 or flex options. Just don't go in expecting too much more than that.
The Call: Both are RB2/flex starts in PPR formats
Six-Pack Plus One
At quarterback, Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys doesn't have a favorable matchup against the Chicago Bears, and his numbers aren't as good away from home. But after the stinker the New York Jets put up last week in Cincinnati, there's no way I'd start Sam Darnold in a must-win game.
Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb has averaged almost five yards per carry this year and faces the NFL's worst run defense in Week 14: the Cincinnati Bengals. He's a must-start.
While you're at it, so is Kareem Hunt. Both Browns running backs are top-12 fantasy options since Week 10, and stacking the pair against a team allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to running backs all but guarantees at least one big stat line.
George Kittle of the San Francisco 49ers is in that same category. He's the No. 1 target in the Niners passing attack and has piled up at least six catches, 75 receiving yards and a touchdown in two of his last three games.
Keenan Allen of the Los Angeles Chargers gets a spot for one prevailing reason: targets. His 114 looks this season rank sixth in the league, and the Jacksonville pass defense is a shell of its formerly formidable self.
The Arizona Cardinals are a hot mess defensively—24th in run defense and 10th in PPR fantasy points allowed to running backs in 2019. James Conner isn't a sure bet to play in Week 14 with a shoulder injury, but he's a go here if he does. If he can't, Deebo Samuel of the 49ers would fill in for him over Steelers running back Benny Snell Jr., whose ceiling just isn't very appealing.
That leaves three players and one spot. Ryan Griffin has been decent of late, but the Jets tight end doesn't have much upside as a flex play. With Daniel Jones likely out this week, the shine's off Darius Slayton of the Giants.
The final spot goes to DJ Moore of the Panthers, who, as I mentioned earlier, has been on a roll in recent weeks.
The Call: Prescott, Chubb, Hunt, Kittle, Allen, Moore, Conner/Samuel (depending on Conner's status)
Few things are more maddening than being stuck on a flex call during a week in which every lineup decision can be the difference between moving on to Week 15 and calling it a year.
The thing is, this decision isn't really a difficult one.
David Montgomery of the Chicago Bears is coming off one of his better games of the season, tallying 87 total yards and a score on 18 touches against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving. But the Chicago offense has been such a pitching and lurching mess that you can't count on Montgomery having two good games in a row.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver James Washington has been riding a hot streak with seven catches for 209 yards and two touchdowns over the last two outings. But with Devlin Hodges under center last week, he was only targeted four times. That's just not enough opportunities to sustain that level of production over the long haul.
With Jordan Howard sidelined by a shoulder injury, rookie Miles Sanders has stepped into a featured role for the Eagles of late. Last week, he quietly piled up 105 total yards and a touchdown against the Miami Dolphins. And while Monday night's matchup with the Giants isn't as good, the New York defense isn't scaring anyone.
The Call: Sanders
Now it's time to help some of our intrepid readers advance to the league semis by banging out some answers to start/sit questions in classic rapid-fire style.
Look at the bright side: If I'm wrong, then you can get started on Christmas shopping. And who doesn't love a trip to a wildly overcrowded mall?
adityafuldeore is looking for some wide receiver help: "Tyler Boyd or Kenny Golladay?"
Golladay got off to a great start on Thanksgiving but cooled way off in the second half. This call is a matter of going with the better quarterback. And in something rarely heard by human ears, Andy Dalton is the better quarterback. Start Boyd against Cleveland.
We're sticking with wideouts with willyb04: "[Odell] Beckham, [Terry] McLaurin, [Christian] Kirk or [Adam] Thielen?"
It's hard to trust Thielen after the long layoff even if he plays against the Lions. If McLaurin were any colder, he'd be a popsicle. The Arizona offense did nothing last week, which is bad news for Kirk. That leaves OBJ against a porous Bengals defense.
We're shifting to quarterbacks with npconne2: "Kyler Murray, Sam Darnold or Tom Brady?"
The New England passing game has barely been passable lately. But the Cardinals have a bottom-10 fantasy matchup for quarterbacks, and the Jets managed just six points last week against the previously winless Bengals. Gotta go Brady here.
We'll stick with quarterbacks for this one from Gamby33: "[Matt] Ryan, [Daniel] Jones or [Jacoby]Brissett?"
Jones has a high-ankle sprain that looks likely to sideline him Sunday, so he's out. Brissett has a great fantasy matchup with Tampa, but he's struggled of late. The Falcons walloped the Panthers a few weeks ago during a game in which Ryan threw for 311 yards. Matty Ice is the play in the NFC South rematch.
SicEmBears1 has a decision to make at tight end: "George Kittle or Mark Andrews?"
This is essentially a toss-up between two elite fantasy options at tight end. The differentiating factor here is matchup. No team in the NFL has given up fewer PPR fantasy points to the tight end position this year than the Buffalo Bills. That gives Kittle the edge.
stephencooley doesn't have options at tight end who are quite that appealing: "Tyler Higbee or Mike Gesicki. PPR?"
Provided that Gerald Everett misses this week's tilt with the Seahawks due to a knee injury, Higbee is an easy call coming off a career day against the Cardinals. Only Arizona has been kinder to tight ends than Seattle in terms of fantasy points allowed.
Let's get defensive with pablo49hazmat: "Chicago Bears defense vs. Dallas or Los Angeles Chargers defense at Jacksonville?"
There's no question that the Bears have a better defense. And Chicago is at home. But as matchups go, facing the reeling Jaguars is much more preferable than taking on the NFL's No. 1 offense. It's a relatively close call, but the Bolts get the nod.
Finally, wayner604 needs two of these four receivers: "[Julio] Jones, [Tyreek] Hill, [Amari] Cooper, [Courtland] Sutton."
Jones is the easy call of the group after he caught six passes for 91 yards in the year's first meeting with the Panthers. He missed the Thanksgiving night loss to New Orleans with a shoulder injury, but it appears he'll be able to return in Week 14.
The others all have question marks. Hill gets shutdown corner Stephon Gilmore, Cooper's road splits with the Cowboys have been unimpressive, and Sutton is catching passes from a rookie quarterback making his second career start. Roll the dice that Hill gets behind New England's coverage for a long one.
Have other fantasy football start/sit questions? Post them here, on the Bleacher Report app or on Twitter @IDPSharks, and I'll do my best to help.
Gary Davenport was the Fantasy Sports Writers Association 2017 Football Writer of the Year.