By Cole Banker and Chris Blake
As we turn the page to Week 14 and the FANTASY PLAYOFFS, here is our list of players to be confident in and be skeptical of. To clarify, when we say we “love” a player, we mean that we expect him to outperform his projections for that week, and the opposite for players we “hate.” We are using PPR scoring when we refer to players’ rankings. Enjoy.
Quarterbacks we love this week
Cole: Sam Darnold (NYJ) vs. Miami
Darnold disappointed in an embarrassing loss to the previously-winless Bengals, but up until that game, he showed a lot of promise. Three straight games of 20+ points gives us reason to stick with Darnold, even for just this week in a very promising matchup. The Dolphins have finally started to score on offense, but this uptake has been largely wiped out by the inadequacies of their defense. Only the Cardinals give up more points to opposing quarterbacks, so keep faith in Sam Darnold in what should be a high-scoring matchup.
Chris: Carson Wentz (PHI) vs. New York Giants
Wentz has not had the season that many expected, however, he could be in line for a big game this week in the city of brotherly love. The Giants defense has struggled mightily this season, allowing north of 28 points per game, and that number gets far worse if you take out games played against Mitch Trubisky, Case Keenum, and rookie Dwayne Haskins. While Nelson Agholor is questionable to play, a healthy Alshon Jeffery should be enough to dismantle Pat Schurmur`s defense. Additionally, Wentz should enjoy the comforts of home as he has posted a quarterback rating of over 11 points higher when playing at Lincoln Financial Field.
Quarterbacks we hate this week
Cole: Drew Brees (NO) vs. San Francisco
A disappointing Thanksgiving performance against one of the league’s worst defenses does not inspire a lot of confidence from me in Brees, and I would not feel comfortable starting him against the 49ers. Brees’ big play ability has diminished, and he has virtually no boom ability, having no games with over 25 fantasy points. The 49ers allow just 11.8 fantasy points per game to opposing signal callers, which is reason enough to keep Brees on the bench in what may be a preview of the NFC Championship.
Chris: Kyler Murray (ARI) vs. Pittsburgh
Murry has been phenomenal this year and will likely place in the top two in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting, but Pittsburgh`s elite defense will be a difficult challenge this week. The Steelers have recovered from a rocky start and have turned their defense around since acquiring Minkah Fitzapatrick, who is tied for the league lead in interceptions with five. Pittsburgh is allowing just 18.8 points per game and 213.5 passing yards per game. Additionally, with the Steelers having a solid linebacker corps and a tendency to play zone coverage, Murray`s ability to run with the football could be neutralized.
Running backs we love this week
Cole: Benny Snell Jr. (PIT) @ Arizona
This is a name you don’t hear that often, but with James Conner out yet again, Snell should get a workhorse role in the Steelers’ must-win matchup in the desert. While Jalen Samuels is officially the #2 RB on the depth chart, it’s Snell that gets the bulk of the work, averaging 18.5 carries in the last two games. While he won’t have a role in the passing game, his volume keeps him in the FLEX conversation against the Cardinals, a team that yields nearly 120 rushing yards a game.
Chris: Sony Michel (NE) vs. Kansas City
Michel, another player who has underperformed relative to expectations for the 2019 season, gets a chance to right the ship in week 14 against Kansas City. The Chiefs have once again shown opposing offenses the way to attack them is through the ground game. The Chiefs defense is giving up 141.3 rushing yards per game this season, match that number with the fact that they are also allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs and you have a formula for success for Michel. The Patriots are quite familiar with the Chiefs, in fact, in two games against Kansas City last season, including one in the AFC title game, Michel combined for 53 carries for 219 yards and four touchdowns.
Running backs we hate this week
Cole: ALL CHIEFS RB’S @ New England
You would figure that LeSean McCoy would get a workhorse role, which virtually every other running back on the roster injured, but that will not be the case. Darwin Thompson will undoubtedly have a role, and recently-signed Spencer Ware is sure to see some work as well. Andy Reid hasn’t swayed from his running back by committee philosophy all season, and it doesn’t appear to change. The matchup alone is enough to be hesitant, with the Patriots having the best run defense in football in terms of fantasy, holding opposing backs to just 11 points per game.
Chris: Marlon Mack (IND) @ Tampa Bay
Mack is likely to return from injury this week, but that does not guarantee he will immediately pick up where he left off. Mack will have to overcome a stout Tampa Bay run defense that is allowing just 76.3 rushing yards per game, one yard shy of the Jets for the league low. On the other hand, the Buccaneers pass defense is allowing the second-most yards per game. Expect Indiannapolis to attack through the air this game, which likely limits Mack`s ceiling. Additionally, having suffered a broken hand less than one month ago, the Colts may be looking to ease Mack back into his role as the workhorse running back in that offense.
Wide receivers we love this week
Cole: Alshon Jeffrey (PHI) @ New York Giants
Out of nowhere, Jeffrey exploded for 137 yards and a touchdown with 9 receptions against the Dolphins. Even more inspiring for fantasy owners, Jeffrey saw a season-high 16 receptions. Alshon has solidified his role as the #1 passing option for Carson Wentz, and their rapport appears to be growing as the season progresses and Jeffrey gets back to full health. The Eagles need this win badly, so expect them to come out firing against a very exploitable Giants secondary that ranks 31st in defending the pass. An even tastier matchup than last week for Alshon sets him up for another huge game on Monday night.
Chris: Stefon Diggs (MIN) vs. Detroit
With Adam Thielen carrying a doubtful tag into yet another game, Diggs will remain as the clear wide receiver one in an efficient passing game. On the other side, Matt Patricia has been unable to turn Detroit`s defense into anything that resembles an elite unit, and the declining play of Darius Slay is likely playing a factor. Slay, likely to matchup with Diggs plenty of times this Sunday, has seen his PFF grade drop from 80.6 to 75 to 60.2 in the last three seasons. Detroit has allowed the third-most passing yards per game at 280.1, meaning red-hot Kirk Cousins should be able to find Diggs often this week.
Wide receivers we hate this week
Cole: Tyreek Hill (KC) @ New England
Tyreek faces the best defense in football Sunday afternoon and is sure to find extra attention from the talented Patriots secondary. While his speed and agility is unlike anything the Pats have seen all year, I expect the Patriots to force Patrick Mahomes to use all of his options by taking away his primary target.
Chris: D.J. Chark Jr. (JAX) vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Chark has slowed down from his scorching start this year, reaching the 100-yard mark just once since week five. The return of Gardner Minshew II could help the passing game, but the rotating cast of quarterbacks could also lead to a lack of chemistry in the offense. Additionally, the Chargers have returned as a top pass defense, allowing the fourth-least amount of fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. The return of Derwin James for Los Angeles will also help this pass defense moving forward as he made his season debut last week in Denver.
Tight ends we love this week
Cole: Jack Doyle (IND) @ Tampa
With Eric Ebron on IR, Jack Doyle took over as the every-down tight end for Indy, and he excelled in this new role last week, breaking out for 6 receptions and 73 yards, adding a touchdown as well. With TY Hilton likely to sit again, Doyle should be one of Jacoby Brissett’s top options Sunday afternoon in Tampa Bay. It’s also a healthy matchup for the Western Kentucky alum, as the Bucs are 2nd worst defense to opposing tight ends in fantasy.
Chris: Darren Waller (OAK) vs. Tennessee
Waller finds himself with a favorable matchup in week 14 against Tennessee. The Titans have almost done a complete 180 from last season in which they allowed the least amount of points to opposing fantasy tight ends; This year they are allowing the seventh-most points to the position. Waller has seen his role decrease at all since the beginning of the year, as he leads the Raiders offense in targets with 87, 34 more than the next closest player. Expect Waller to continue his breakout season this week.
Tight ends we hate this week
Cole: Mark Andrews (BAL) @ Buffalo
The way the Ravens actively use all three of their tight ends makes it hard to rely on Andrews as a reliable starter, but his play ability keeps him lineups. However, Andrews draws another tough matchup against the surging Buffalo Bills, who boast the league’s third best passing defense. Even more concerning, this secondary is only giving opposing tight ends 4.2 points per game and have allowed them only 2 touchdowns all year. Lower your expectations for Andrews in a run-heavy offenses this Sunday up north.
Chris: Jared Cook (NO) vs. San Francisco
Cook, a familiar face on both the love and the hate lists this year, finds himself on the wrong side in week 14. San Francisco poses a daunting matchup not only for opposing offenses as a whole, but also for the tight end position; The 49ers are allowing the least amount of fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this year. While Cook has seen plenty of targets, he has only gathered more than four receptions twice on the year, limiting his upside in PPR leagues.
Defenses to stream
Cole: Eagles (@ NY Giants)
Chris: Green Bay Packers (vs. WSH)
Defenses to avoid
Cole: Los Angeles Rams (vs. Seattle)
Chris: San Francisco 49ers (@ NO)
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org