Week 14 marks the start of the fantasy playoffs for most leagues, making every decision an important one from this moment on. I'm not talking about just the start/sit decisions, but the waiver wire add/drops as well.
Sometimes the best move is the one not made, so don't let the trending player fool you like he is doing to so many others. At the same time, don't overthink things and try to get cute with your line-ups. No, you shouldn't play Brian Hoyer at QB because he will be throwing from behind all game. He had his chance at glory against the Saints in Week 12 and managed just 205 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception on the day!
Switching to injury news, word broke on Wednesday that Mark Ingram was dealing with a "serious shoulder injury that could end his season." This is yet another injury that fantasy owners didn't need as we start the playoffs! If Ingram is injured and he does miss time, that would make C.J. Spiller and Tim Hightower the only two viable running backs the Saints have on the roster. With their season long over, I wouldn't bet the farm on Spiller or Hightower producing consistently as we finish out the NFL season.
I don't want to clutter up the start/sit section with Bengals players that we all know should be staples in your line-up. But, I want to emphasize that you should be starting Andy Dalton, A.J. Green, Tyler Eifert, Jeremy Hill, and Giovani Bernard. Yes, I would play both Bernard AND Hill if I owned them both in the same league. On the flip side, I'd sit the Bengals defense as there are simply better waiver wire options to stream this week.
This is must-win for the Steelers in order to keep their playoff hopes alive, whereas the Bengals can lock things up with a win. This one is a must-win for both teams, just in a different way.
Jameis Winston – Buccaneers: The Bucs get to take on a Saints defense that is basically helpless this season. This season they are giving up 28.5 PPG to QBs (worst in NFL), 29.6 PPG to RBs in PPR formats (3rd worst in NFL), and 25.9 PPG to WRs (8th worst in NFL). With both Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson healthy, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins working his way back into the fold, the Bucs have a prime chance to do some real damage against a team with nothing left to play for but pride.
Tyrod Taylor – Bills: Taylor gets to take on an Eagles defense that gives up 24.3 PPG to QBs this season, the 3rd most in the NFL. In that, the Eagles have given up 3,271 passing yards and 28 TDs to QBs this year. Taylor is a dual threat with his arm and legs, racking up 2,171 passing yards, 318 rushing yards, and accounting for 20 TDs (17 passing, 3 rushing) this season. For those who have been running out Matthew Stafford, Philip Rivers, or Ryan Tannehill all season long, give Taylor a look this week for sneaky QB1 stats.
David Johnson – Cardinals: The Vikings have already ruled out NT Linval Joseph, SLB Anthony Barr, FS Harrison Smith, and SS Andrew Sendejo, four of their best defensive players. Johnson was already an RB2 before the declarations, but with them out, he now becomes someone I would seriously consider as an "elite" fantasy RB this week! If he can get the touches he saw last week (24), good things will happen against this depleted defense.
Matt Forte – Bears: Forte isn't a secret by any means when it comes to fantasy football, but a lot of websites are shying away from him with Jeremy Langford stealing touches. And while I do think the Bears know Langford is the future, Forte is doing all he can on the field in case he is in fact auditioning for 2016. The Redskins have a middle of the road defense when it comes to RBs in PPR formats, allowing the 17th most fantasy points at 22.6 PPG. Forte is a low-end RB1 in traditional leagues, and someone that you should consider in those DFS leagues if the price is right.
Jeremy Maclin – Chiefs: Maclin was a bust this season, until he figured things out in Week 12 (9/160/1), and carried it over into Week 13 (9/95/2). This week he will try his luck against a Chargers team that is simply falling apart on both sides of the ball. The Chiefs are predominately a running team, but Maclin is their clear No. 1 WR and they are determined to keep him involved. Consider Maclin a WR2 for fantasy purposes.
Allen Hurns – Jaguars: Hurns has been one of the more consistent fantasy WRs this season, averaging 7.4 targets, 4.4 receptions, 68.9 yards, and 0.6 touchdowns per-game. You can pretty much count on Hurns getting you 4-5 catches, 65-70 yards, and a TD just about every game he is in. He missed last week with a concussion, but is hitting practice this week in full and looks ready to do some damage against a Colts defense that gives up the 3rd most fantasy points to fantasy WRs (27.4) this season.
Jordan Reed – Redskins: Tight End is a boom-or-bust position in fantasy football, so many of them are TD dependent. Reed on the other hand is seeing an average of 7.3 targets and 5.0 receptions over the past 4 games. And while those looks have only produced 206 yards and 2 TDs in that time, I am looking for mid-range TE1 stats from the Redskins TE this week. With the Bears looking to shut down DeSean Jackson, Reed will have a chance to find the openings in the defense.
Detroit Lions defense: It's not that the Lions defense is somehow better this week than they were the rest of the season. Rather, they get a Rams offense that is as one-dimensional as it gets. Everyone on the defensive side of the ball now knows the Rans have Todd Gurley, and 10 "other guys" on the field. Even with the average players the Lions have on defense, I'm looking for them to finish as a top-10 fantasy defense if they just stack the box and play man in the secondary correctly.
Matt Hasselbeck or Charlie Whitehurst– Colts: Those big-box fantasy websites love to play whatever QB is playing against the Jaguars defense, but Hasselbeck is dealing with neck and rib injuries, as well as being 40-years-old in the NFL. If Hasselbeck isn't able to go, the Colts would be forced to start journeyman back-up Charlie Whitehurst. If Hasselbeck plays, one hit will take him out; if Whitehurst starts, his lack of skills will make the Jaguars defense a sneaky fantasy play in Week 14. No matter who is at QB for the Colts on Sunday, I would find other options at RB and WR if you don't want to be one-and-done in the fantasy playoffs.
Marcus Mariota – Titans: Mariota has been solid for a rookie QB, but the Jets are a tough defense even for experienced QBs to handle at times. There are rumors that Darrelle Revis might be back for this match-up, which would allow the Jets to hide the shortcomings of Antonio Cromartie on the outside. Over the past 4 games, Mariota has thrown 6 TDs and 4 INTs, and is averaging just 225.5 YPG passing. People are going to overvalue Mariota in Week 14 because of what he was able to do in Week 13, which is always dangerous when you start chasing fantasy numbers.
C.J. Anderson – Broncos: Anderson is dealing with an ankle injury that has him listed as questionable for Week 14. Even if he does play, you can be sure the Broncos will favor a (fairly) healthy Ronnie Hillman over a hobbled Anderson as they try and lock up the AFC West. The Raiders give up 18.9 PPG to RBs this season, ranking them 20th for fantasy RB defenses.
James White – Patriots: White had a great game last week, racking up 115 receiving yards and a TD on 10 receptions (15 targets). What makes White such a dangerous fantasy player is the fact that the Patriots where throwing from behind against the Eagles. You won't see the Patriots throwing from behind like that very often, making White more fool's gold than waiver wire gem in my opinion. Be aware and beware.
Todd Gurley – Rams: There is little doubt about Gurley's talent and future in the NFL if he stays healthy. But, if you look at his numbers, he was good for a 4-game stretch between Week's 4-8 and has been very average the rest of the time. Defenses have clued into the fact that the Rams have just as many problems at QB as they do at WR. Gurley is really the lone playmaker on the Rams right now, and he doesn't have the time-in-service that someone like Adrian Peterson does to overcome those limitations. I would consider him a RB2 that could be a disappointment if the Lions focus all their efforts on shutting him down.
Stefon Diggs – Vikings: Diggs burst onto the scene in Week 4, and had a nice run going through Week 8. But, since then, he has been a disappointment with averages of 3.4 catches and 41.4 yards, and not a single touchdown since Week 8. So what is the difference you ask? Teams have film on him and have adjusted their coverage to compensate for the one Vikings WR who can produce. The Cardinals are playing as well as anyone in the NFL right now (other than he Panthers), and their secondary is a big part of their defensive effort. I wouldn't play Diggs this week unless I was desperate at WR.
Kendall Wright – Titans: Wright has been a bust all season long, with his best game after the Titans Week 4 bye being a 4/46/1 effort against the Falcons in Week 7. For all the accolades that people are giving Mariota, very little of the help has come from Wright this year. With him dealing with a rib injury, coupled with a total lack of production when he is on the field, Wright is little more than emergency bench depth in fantasy terms.
Antonio Gates – Chargers: Gates is a future Hall of Fame TE, but the Chargers are falling apart at the seams on offense with Philip Rivers basically piecing a WR corps together with practice squad-type players. With Melvin Gordon being a bust, Stevie Johnson and Dontrelle Inman likely out, and Malcom Floyd nowhere near a No. 1 WR, Gates will be blanketed all game long. And let's not forget, the Chiefs limited Gates to 1 reception and 6 yards 3 games back. It's sad to see a TE I respect so much finish up his career like this.
Minnesota Vikings defense: At 10-2 this season, and outscoring opponents 382-232, the Cardinals are a dangerous team to play when you are fully healthy. But, as I mentioned with [David] Johnson earlier, the Vikings are without four of their best defensive players this week, and the Cardinals are certainly going to put points on the board because of that. The Vikings are owned in 34 percent of all Yahoo leagues, and started in 23 percent of them, meaning that they are played weekly in 68 percent of the leagues they are owned in. There are going to be a LOT of disappointed owners this week!