Fantasy Football Week 14: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
It's crunch time, y'all.
In most fantasy leagues, Week 14 brings with it the conclusion of the regular season. After this week, some teams will move on to the postseason, while others will pack it in, call it a year and start spending time with their friends and families.
I know. It's terrifying to even think about.
Some fortunate souls have already sewn up a spot in the second season, but for a lot of fantasy managers, Week 14 is a playoff all its own. Win, and it's on to the playoffs. Lose, and you have to ask your spouse what the heck a Squid Game is.
Again, utterly horrifying.
The pressure this week is higher than ever before. Make one wrong move, slot one wrong player, and the entire season could be toast. Kaput. Donesville. It's enough to make you hyperventilate.
Well, take a deep breath, fantasy friend. I'm here to help.
As is the case every week here at Bleacher Report, I have checked out fantasy lineup questions on the B/R app and chosen some that should assist both the fantasy managers who asked them and others in setting their Week 14 lineups.
Let's start talking playoffs.
The Power of Politeness...and Flattery
Hey Gary, love your articles thanks so much for the help. For QB Taysom (Hill) or (Patrick) Mahomes? And two WR slots and a flex…(Devonta) Freeman, (Darnell) Mooney, Elijah Moore, Terry McLaurin and Hollywood Brown. Thanks so much. -- @Mamba24_8
Buttering me up and a double thank you? We're starting this week off strong!
The quarterback question shows just how weird fantasy football can be. A month ago, seriously considering Taysom Hill of the Saints over Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs would have gotten you placed in fantasy purgatory. However, Hill topped 100 rushing yards last week, and Mahomes hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since Week 10.
The thing is, that last game where Mahomes had a touchdown pass was against the same Las Vegas Raiders team he faces Sunday. In that game, he topped 400 passing yards with five touchdowns.
I'm not sitting Patrick Mahomes for Taysom Hill. Not now. Not ever.
At wide receiver, Terry McLaurin of the Washington Football Team is a top-25 fantasy option for the season with top-12 upside. He's a go. So is Marquise Brown of the Baltimore Ravens, who actually has more fantasy points than McLaurin and has maintained value, even with Baltimore's passing game scuffling.
That leaves one spot and three players. I tend to defer to running backs in flex spots, but Devonta Freeman of the Ravens is a middling talent with a less than ideal matchup against a Cleveland Browns rushing defense top 10 in yards per carry and total rushing yards. Darnell Mooney of the Bears is Chicago's No. 1 receiver with Allen Robinson II out, but given the state of the Bears offense, that doesn't mean much.
The last spot goes to Elijah Moore of the New York Jets, who is fantasy football's No. 2 wide receiver since Week 9.
The Calls: Patrick Mahomes, Terry McLaurin, Marquise Brown, Elijah Moore
Game. Set. Moore.
10-Team PPR league and I need 2 RB, 2 WR and a Flex. RBs: (Alvin) Kamara, (Cordarrelle) Patterson, (James) Conner, (James) Robinson, (Dontrell) Hilliard. WRs: (Cooper) Kupp, Elijah Moore, D.J. Moore, (Russell) Gage, (Christian) Kirk. -- @jdyck200
Man…I wish I was rolling into Week 14 with roster "problems" like this.
OK, the first thing we're going to do here is rule some folks out. Dontrell Hilliard of the Titans had a big Week 12, but there's no telling what his workload will look like Sunday with Jeremy McNichols on the mend. James Robinson of the Jaguars is banged up and playing on maybe the worst offense in all of the NFL. Russell Gage of the Falcons and Christian Kirk of the Cardinals have shown some flashes this season, but they aren't on the same level as the other wideouts listed here.
All of them are out.
Now we're going to knock out the no-brainers. Alvin Kamara of the Saints is expected to return this week against a Jets team allowing the most points-per-reception points per game to running backs. Atlanta's Cordarrelle Patterson has been one of the biggest surprises in fantasy football and a top-10 running back. James Conner of the Cardinals is too, compliments of a whopping 14 touchdowns. Cooper Kupp of the Rams is fantasy's No. 1 wide receiver in 2021 by a country mile.
In. In. In. And in.
That leaves one wide receiver spot and two players: Elijah Moore of the Jets and DJ Moore of the Panthers. DJ is the more proven player with more fantasy points for the season. Both are saddled with lousy quarterback situations.
The tiebreaker here is recency. Since Week 9, Elijah Moore is second in PPR points per game at his position. DJ Moore is 33rd.
The rookie gets the last spot.
The Calls: Alvin Kamara, Cordarrelle Patterson, James Conner, Cooper Kupp, Elijah Moore
More About Moore
Your articles are always great btw. I read it every week. I've got Elijah Moore, CEH (Clyde Edwards-Helaire) and D.J. Moore to fill one WR spot and my flex. Half PPR. What do you think @GDavenport? -@lando8
We appear to be getting a little heavy on the questions involving Elijah Moore of the Jets and on the keister-kissing.
Don't get me wrong—I enjoy it thoroughly. But at some point, it just becomes excessive.
We have already answered the Moore vs. Moore question in the favor of Elijah Moore, and nothing changes here just because the scoring is a bit different. There was a time when it would have been a different story—over the first six weeks of the year, with Sam Darnold under center, DJ Moore was a top-10 fantasy option.
But an injury to Darnold opened the door for a spot start by P.J. Walker in Week 10 and the return of Cam Newton, which has been a massive blow to DJ's fantasy value. Over the last three weeks, Moore hasn't topped five catches, has just one 100-yard game and one score. Meanwhile, Elijah has become the Jets No. 1 receiver—his average stat line over the last five games is 5.6 catches, 78.4 yards and a touchdown.
That's over 17 fantasy points per game in this scoring.
Were a full point per game awarded for catches, D Moore might enter into the flex conversation more. But in standard and 0.5-PPR formats, running backs have a sizable edge in flex calls. Clyde Edwards-Helaire of the Kansas City Chiefs had 17 touches for 82 yards last week against Denver, and this week he faces a Las Vegas Raiders defense allowing the eighth-most fantasy points per game to running backs in this scoring.
The Call: Elijah Moore, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Muddied Waters in the Backfield
Full PPR. (Nick) Chubb, (Alexander) Mattison, Elijah (???), Saquon (Barkley), or (D'Andre) Swift if he plays. 2 RBs and a Flex. -- @DartVath
A friendly bit of advice, oh posers of questions. Listing a player by their first name doesn't help me help you. I don't know if you mean San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell or New York Jets wide receiver Elijah Moore (who apparently is in every question this week).
If it's Moore, he's out..provided you can field three healthy lead backs. As much as I like him, these running back options are good enough that following the touches is wise. Since there's uncertainty with many of these backs, we'll rank them worst to first.
The low man here is D'Andre Swift of the Detroit Lions for one simple reason: Given reports that he would miss multiple weeks with the shoulder injury he sustained on Thanksgiving, the odds he plays against the Denver Broncos Sunday aren't good at all.
Then we have Alexander Mattison of the Minnesota Vikings. Mattison disappointed last week against the Lions, but had some potential against a struggling Steelers run defense. The problem is Dalvin Cook is surprisingly trending toward playing Thursday night. If Cook sits, Mattison is a go, as you don't want to wait for a Sunday play and get left holding the bag. But if Cook (as expected) plays, Mattison becomes an unfortunate pass.
Another player who could wind up sitting is Mitchell, who landed in the league's concussion protocol Monday. If Mitchell can clear that protocol, he'd be a rock-solid RB2 play against a Bengals team surrendering the eighth-most PPR points to running backs in 2021. But it's a toss-up at best that he'll play at all.
Then comes Saquon Barkley of the Giants. Barkley still hasn't had a 60-yard game on the ground this year. But despite those pedestrian numbers, with Jake "Really?" Fromm the likely starter for the Giants against a bad Chargers run defense, this may finally be the week Barkley gets going a bit. Still, counting on that is a bit unnerving in a must-win week.
Finally, we have Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns. Chubb is an elite talent but managed just 16 yards on eight carries two weeks ago against the Ravens, and you can bet the kids' Christmas present money that Baltimore will stack the box again this week. With that said, he has to be a go, because you can bet all your candy canes that Cleveland is going to make a concerted effort to get him untracked
Essentially, you want the top three backs from this bunch that are on the field as No. 1 backs this week. If you can't get three healthy No. 1 backs from the lot, then Moore is the Plan B play.
The (Likely) Calls: Saquon Barkley, Nick Chubb, Elijah Mitchell/Moore
I need a WR pick 1 (or 2 if Deebo (Samuel) is out. (Ja'Marr) Chase, (Tee) Higgins, (Terry) McLaurin and Van (Jefferson). -- @JTforMVP0
I think you need to prepare this week as though Deebo Samuel of the San Francisco 49ers isn't going to play this week against the Bengals. It's a bummer to be short fantasy football's No. 2 receiver (on a points-per-game basis) in a must-win week, and Samuel was called "day-to-day" by head coach Kyle Shanahan. But groin injuries can be tricky, and given how much Samuel depends on yards after the catch (and rushing), it behooves the Niners to make sure he's 100 percent before putting him back on the field.
Van Jefferson of the Los Angeles Rams is a relatively easy pass. Yes, the second-year pro has scored in two straight, and Jefferson had a big game against the Cardinals in Week 4. However, he's also easily the biggest bust risk of this quartet.
Here's where I'm gonna zag instead of zig, though. Terry McLaurin has already been mentioned in this column as a solid play against a Dallas Cowboys defense giving up the 10th-most PPR points per game to wide receivers in 2021.
But I'm going to recommend giving McLaurin the week off and "stacking" Tee Higgins and Ja'Marr Chase against the San Francisco 49ers.
The Niners haven't been a fantastic fantasy matchup for wide receivers this season—17th in fantasy points per game surrendered to the position. But that was before San Fran lost cornerback Emmanuel Moseley to an ankle injury.
Stacking Chase and Higgins is a calculated risk. You could be sacrificing a little ceiling. But in return for that, you're gaining a substantial decrease in risk. The odds are very good that at least one of those receivers will pop in Week 14.
If Samuel does make it back this week, Chase is the better option of the two Bengals. His ceiling is higher, and he's due for a big game in a contest with sneaky shootout potential.
The Calls: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins
The Quest for the Holy Bye
Thanks for the advice as always. Need this one to secure a first-round bye. .5PPR at the flex, MVS (Marquez Valdes-Scantling), (Brandin) Cooks or (T.J.) Hockenson? -- @amitaigutnicki
Nothing feels better than locking up a first-round playoff bye. It's a well-deserved breather. A reward for putting together a successful season. A vacation from the stresses of watching NFL RedZone and freaking out when a random running back your opponent has peels off a long run.
What? Don't act like you don't do that.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling of the Green Bay Packers is a pass here. Sure, there's always a chance that he'll reel in a long touchdown. There's also a chance I'll win Powerball, but I don't spend my mortgage money on candy expecting a lottery ticket to bail me out. Valdes-Scantling recorded 19 targets the past two weeks, but in the two games preceding that, he had all of four.
Of this trio, T.J. Hockenson of the Lions is the safest play. The third-year tight end has touchdowns in his last two starts and eight or more targets in five of his last seven contests. But Hockenson's ceiling isn't all that high, as he has topped 50 receiving yards just twice in the last six games and draws a bottom-five fantasy matchup for his position this week with the Denver Broncos.
Cooks is the higher-ceiling, risk/reward play. After watching the Houston offense flounder the past several weeks, David Culley pulled quarterback Tyrod Taylor last week in favor of rookie Davis Mills.
Culley hasn't officially anointed Mills the Week 14 starter against the Seahawks. Assuming he isn't actively trying to get fired, though, the youngster will probably wind up starting. Mills isn't Mac Jones. Hell, he isn't Quincy Jones. But over Mills' six weeks as Houston's starting quarterback this year, Cooks was a top-20 fantasy receiver.
The Call: Brandin Cooks
Rassling with Russell
Russell Wilson or (Derek) Carr? (Noah) Fant or (Pat) Freiermuth? -- @PhenomenalTB
That the first part of this question is even a question is emblematic of Seattle's struggles this season. Though he rebounded somewhat with 231 passing yards and two scores last week against the 49ers, that Russell Wilson would get zero consideration really speaks to how much the Seahawks have scuffled offensively in 2021.
Still, it's awfully hard to trust Wilson in a must-win matchup. Since his return to the lineup in Week 10, Wilson is 17th in fantasy points among quarterbacks. Also, while no one is denying Seattle's opponent this week (the Houston Texans) is awful, the Texans haven't been a quality fantasy matchup for quarterbacks. Quite the opposite, in fact—Houston has given up the 10th-fewest fantasy points per game to the position.
Meanwhile, no signal-caller in the AFC has averaged more passing yards per game in 2021 than Derek Carr of the Raiders. Carr has just 17 touchdown passes, though, so he's outside the top-12 fantasy signal-callers for the year. He also draws a red-hot Chiefs defense this week that has allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks since Week 9.
But the respective game scripts here heavily favor Carr and the Raiders here. Sunday's matchup with Kansas City is all but guaranteed to be a higher scoring affair than Seahawks and Texans.
The call at tight end is an easy one. Even after a quiet Week 14, Pat Freiermuth of the Steelers is still fantasy football's second-ranked tight end in terms of total points since Week 8. Over that same span, Noah Fant of the Denver Broncos is 35th, and he has one game with double-digit PPR points since Week 7.
The Calls: Derek Carr, Pat Freiermuth
DraftKings DFS Question of the Week
For those looking to pay up at running back, quarterback or roster an elite wide receiver like Copper Kupp, what is the best dirt-cheap wideout for the DraftKings Week 14 Fantasy Football Millionaire Contest? -- @RodTidwell
There's a phrase that I first heard used by (I think) Phil Backert of SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio to describe inexpensive contrarian tournament plays at DraftKings.
"$3K at DK."
Now, at that price point, you are really scraping the bottom of the fantasy barrel. But for around $4,000, there are a couple of interesting plays that can free up salary for use at other positions.
The first is Josh Reynolds of the Detroit Lions [DK DFS VALUE $4,100], who has emerged as the closest thing the Lions have to a No. 2 receiver. Last week against the Minnesota Vikings, Reynolds caught four of seven targets for 69 yards. In the game before that, Reynolds caught three passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. This week's matchup with a solid Broncos secondary isn't ideal, but back-to-back games with double-digit DK points make Reynolds an intriguing bargain option.
If you're looking for a better matchup for even less scratch, DeAndre Carter of the Washington Football Team [DK DFS VALUE: $3,400] faces a Dallas Cowboys defense Sunday allowing the fifth-most DK points to wide receivers this season. Carter has just five catches for 48 yards over the last two weeks combined, but over three straight games from Week 8 to Week 11, the 28-year-old found the end zone.
Washington will have to throw the ball to keep up with the Cowboys' high-octane offense. Terry McLaurin is sure to see the lion's share of attention from the Dallas defense, but the season-ending injury suffered by Logan Thomas last week should free up some targets.
The Calls: DeAndre Carter, Josh Reynolds
As is the case every week, we'll wrap up this week's Start/Sit column by slamming out some answers to app user questions in rapid-fire style.
First-and-10, Down four. Ball at our own 27. Two minutes left. Out of timeouts.
Have more Start/Sit questions? Leave them in the comments. I try to spend a few hours there on Friday and/or Saturday, answering as many as possible.
(Saquon) Barkley or (Antonio) Gibson at RB2? -- @joker95
Barkley's matchup against the Chargers' 31st-ranked run defense is tempting. But he hasn't had 15 carries since Week 3 and has as many 60-yard games this year as I do. Gibson has topped 20 carries and/or 80 rushing yards on the ground in three of the last four games. That workload wins the day, even if his matchup isn't as favorable.
With the injuries to running backs in the league, roll with Zeke (Ezekiel Elliott) against Washington or play it safe and start Josh Jacobs? -- @peacher32
It doesn't take a doctor to see that Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott isn't right physically, and he draws a Washington team in Week 14 allowing the third-fewest PPR points per game to running backs. With Kenyan Drake's season over, Josh Jacobs is the unquestioned three-down back for a Raiders team that will try to control tempo Sunday against the Chiefs by running the ball. Jacobs is the play.
Dontrell Hilliard, Terry McLaurin or Jamaal Williams as Flex in a .5 PPR league? -- @odie182
Hilliard topped 100 rushing yards two weeks ago, but a big chunk of that came on one play, and D'Onta Foreman actually received more carries. McLaurin's a fine WR2 play, but as I have said a number of times, I tend to defer to running back in flex situations. Provided that D'Andre Swift is out, Williams will see 15-plus touches Sunday against the Broncos. He's the call here.
Flex: Kareem Hunt or Chuba Hubbard? -- @maxgoldstein
There's a fair amount of hype around Hubbard with Christian McCaffrey out again, but it's worth noting that two weeks ago, with the Panthers trailing, Ameer Abdullah out-snapped Hubbard by a sizable margin. Before injuring his calf, Hunt spent much of the 2021 season producing as a fantasy RB1. With Hunt having had a bye week to get healthier, he's the guy against the Baltimore Ravens.
Need a QB and a Flex. (Aaron) Rodgers or Taysom Hill at QB. Flex with Elijah Moore or Branon Aiyuk? -- @bradyday
Yes, Taysom Hill's rushing ability boosts his fantasy value. Yes, Taysom Hill has a gravy matchup with a woeful Jets defense. No, I am not starting him over Aaron Rodgers coming off a bye, chasing the NFC's top seed. Assuming that Deebo Samuel sits, the flex play is a toss-up. However, Moore has a better fantasy matchup against a Saints defense allowing the fifth-most PPR points per game to wide receivers this year. He gets the nod over Aiyuk.
Full PPR league. Start James Conner or Jamaal Williams? And after that, Van Jefferson or the leftover RB? Thanks! -- @Monkeyboy2532
There's a chance that Chase Edmonds could return in Week 14, but even if he does, Conner's uncanny knack for finding the end zone in 2021 means he has to be in starting lineups. Jefferson has scored in two straight for the Rams, but the smart play (assuming no D'Andre Swift) is to go with the featured running back and Jamaal Williams as the flex.
Sleeper defense to pick up this week? Need all the points I can get. -- @BricknovaX704
This is a great week for fantasy managers who like to stream defenses, as there are several options with quality matchups that aren't highly rostered. Try to land a team like the New Orleans Saints (at NYJ), Green Bay Packers (vs. CHI), Tennessee Titans (vs. JAX), Los Angeles Chargers (vs. NYG) or Seattle Seahawks (at HOU)—in that order.
Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com for details.
Fantasy points allowed and scoring data courtesy of My Fantasy League.
Gary Davenport is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association Football Writer of the Year. Follow him on Twitter at @IDPSharks.