Week 14 of the NFL season means the playoffs are officially upon us for some, and one week away for others. But, what is universal for all is that each and every decision from here on out has to be spot-on accurate. One wrong starter or one wrong benching and you will be on the outside looking in!
I’ve gotten so many emails this week about guys like Michael Crabtree, Andre Ellington, and Tiquan Underwood that I have to remind you all of a rule that I have in fantasy football: don’t get cute! You’ve made it this far without these guys, so why try and get creative and stick one of these waiver wire players (Ellington has been junk since their week 9 bye) and leave points on your bench when you sit a guy who has been producing for you? The truth is I seriously doubt you will find anything on the waiver wire in week 14 that is truly better than what you have been starting all season long. Stick to the basics!
Josh McCown – QB Bears: Jay Cutler was officially ruled out on Thursday, meaning McCown gets to take on a generous Cowboys secondary that gives up 24.8 fantasy PPG this season, 2nd most in the NFL. With Alshon Jeffery officially a must-start player now and Brandon Marshall already one on the other side of the field, McCown will have possibly the best WR tandem in the NFL against one of the worst defenses in terms of fantasy points allowed. I’m licking my chops as I own McCown in several leagues and could see him being a top-5 play this week.
Nick Foles – QB Eagles: Did you know that Foles has yet to throw an interception this season? In 196 passing attempts Foles has 19 touchdowns and not a single interception, a fantasy owners dream! While Foles is owned in 68.0 percent of NFL.com leagues, he is only started in 36.4 percent of them showing that fantasy owners need to do a little more research when setting their line-ups. The Lions are right in the middle of the pack for QB fantasy points allowed at 20.2 PPG, but the Eagles defense isn’t as it allows 23.0 PPG, the 6th most in the NFL. That means this game should be higher scoring, giving Foles extra chances to add yards and TDs to his already impressive totals.
Zac Stacy – RB Rams: I am going to go against the stats here and pick with my gut. The Cardinals are the #1 defense at stopping fantasy RBs this season, allowing just 12.0 PPG to them. But, Stacy is averaging 69.6 YPG this season and has scored 4 TDs in his last 4 games. I think the Rams try and grind it out on the ground this weekend and Stacy sneaks in a TD or two for fantasy owners. There is some real risk here, but 2nd place is just the first loser!
Rashard Mendenhall – RB Cardinals: I’m not really a big Mendenhall supporter anymore, but he has scored in two of his last three games while averaging 4.2 YPC in each of the last two games. And, you have to take into account that the Rams run defense is the exact opposite of the Cardinals. So far this season the Rams are allowing 22.1 fantasy PPG to RBs, 3rd worst in the NFL. I don’t think Mendenhall breaks the 100-yard mark this season, but he could easily score a TD with 60-75 yards added in.
Michael Floyd – WR Cardinals: Floyd has to be the WR I’ve received the most questions about this week as he is dealing with shoulder and ankle injuries and didn’t practice until Thursday. But, alas, he did return to practice and should be a ready to play on Sunday. Over the last three games, Floyd has racked up 18 catches, 396 yards and 2 TDs. The Rams are in the middle of the pack in the NFL at fantasy points to WRs (22.7 PPG allowed), but with Janoris Jenkins covering Larry Fitzgerald, that leaves possibly Brandon McGee covering Floyd with Trumaine Johnson still not practicing after a concussion in week 13.
Ladarius Green – TE Chargers: The Giants defense gives up 9.4 PPG to fantasy TEs this season, the 8th most in the NFL. Last week Green played in 91.0 percent of the Chargers offensive snaps (61-of-67), while Antonio Gates played in 1 more snap (62) giving him a total of 92.5 percent. Green looked better than Gates, racking up 45 yards and a touchdown to Gates’ 41 yards and no touchdowns. The Chargers have gone to a two-tight end base formation now and Green has real TE appeal against a weak defense at covering the TE. He still has Gates in front of him, but Green is producing despite that fact.
Oakland Raiders defense: I would put the Patriots as my #1 overall ranked defense this week, then probably then probably the Chiefs #2. But, after those two, I would have to do the unthinkable and put the Raiders #3! Not because they signed someone or got somehow better than the #18 ranking they have on NFL.com this season. No, the Jets and Geno Smith are just that bad on offense. In the past 7 games, Smith has thrown 11 interceptions to just 1 touchdown. It is almost a mind boggling stat to see and know this guy is still going to be the starting quarterback that weekend. The Raiders are virtually unowned in fantasy leagues and they have great sleeper appeal for people looking for a one-week streaming defense.
Peyton Manning – QB Broncos: This is more of a buyer beware than a true sit situation because it is nearly impossible for owners to sit Manning and still win. In the 10 games he has played in sub 32-degree weather, he has 11 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 214.1 YPG, and a 59.4 completion percentage. Those stats are well below his career 65.4 completion percentage, and 269.5 YPG average. And, let’s not forget that the Titans defense is ranked #4 this season against fantasy QBs, allowing just 15.9 PPG. If you HAVE to play Manning this weekend, know that there is a chance he could find himself on the losers list.
Ben Roethlisberger – QB Steelers: Big Ben is currently ranked 11th overall for QBs this season on NFL.com thanks to his 3,375 yards, 21 TDs and 10 INTs. The problem for him is that the Dolphins are ranked 5th in the NFL against fantasy QBs this season with an average of 16.3 PPG allowed. The Dolphins are tied for the 2nd most INTs as a team at 16 and Roethlisberger is due for a bad game with 8 TDs and no INTs in his last 3 games. I’d find other options as the Dolphins defense is underrated.
Rashad Jennings – RB Raiders: Darren McFadden has to be the NFL’s most injury prone RB, and his latest injury is rumored to be worse than initially thought. That means Jennings is locked into a starting role to finish out the fantasy season for the Raiders. With that said, the Jets have one of the best run defenses in the NFL, allowing a league best 77.0 YPG rushing. The Raiders don’t have the ability to open the run by scaring defenses with their pass, so the Jets are going to just stuff the line and dare the Raiders to throw against them. I would outright sit Jennings this weekend.
Ray Rice – RB Ravens: I know what some of you are thinking, “No duh, Rice has been garbage all season long!” Well, the Ravens take on the Vikings and they are tied for the 3rd worst defense against fantasy RBs (with the Rams) with 22.1 PPG allowed. I’ve seen some major websites pumping Rice as a sleeper pick this week because of it. But, I actually go in the opposite direction and ask why you would trust a RB in the fantasy playoffs who is averaging 43.8 YPG and 2.9 YPC this season. Of his 4 touchdowns this season, 3 of them came in weeks 1 & 5, and the other in week 11. Rice could pull of a miracle like he did in week 11 against the Bears and run for 131 yards and a touchdown, but I wouldn’t want to pin my fantasy season on it.
Greg Jennings – WR Vikings: After last week’s 78 yards and a touchdown, a lot of fantasy owners are going to stick Jennings into their line-ups hoping that he has turned the corner and is ready to produce. The problem is, he didn’t, he won’t, and they shouldn’t! The Vikings average 210.6 YPG passing (8th lowest in the NFL); the Ravens give up 228.9 YPG passing; Matt Cassel is starting for the Vikings this weekend (Christian Ponder out with a concussion) and he averages 171.4 YPG this season. There is little reason to think Jennings will repeat his fantasy success again this weekend.
Marquis Colston – WR Saints: Colston is owned in 90.3 percent of NFL.com leagues, and started in 65.2 percent of them, yet he is ranked #50 overall this season for WRs. That puts him in the WR5 range for fantasy value. Honestly, why do you keep holding out hope for this guy? The Panthers have the 4th best defense at shutting down fantasy WRs with 15.7 PPG allowed… total. That’s 15.7 points for all guys listed at WR for a team. The Saints may be a pass-heavy team, but they are passing in Colston’s direction this year and you should pass on him this weekend (pun intended).
Jordan Cameron – TE Browns: Cameron was my pre-season sleeper pick at TE, and that pick worked out great for the first 8 weeks of the season. But, since week 9, Cameron has a high of 6 receptions and 43 yards, both in different games. Cameron also hasn’t scored since week 7, which is quite a different story from the first four games where he scored a total of 5 touchdowns. Jason Campbell looks like he will get clearance to play this weekend which is good news for the Browns. With Cameron being on the decline since week 8, I wouldn’t bet my fantasy hopes on him changing it this weekend.
Dallas Cowboys defense: For all the same reasons I would start McCown, Matt Forte, Marshall and Jeffery, I wouldn’t come within a country mile of playing the Cowboys defense this weekend. The Bears have a high powered offense now and the Cowboys defense is just too generous to make me think they can hold the Bears to a score under 30 this weekend. The Cowboys are owned in 58.8 percent of NFL.com leagues right now, and the Raiders are owned in 7.2 percent of them… what are you waiting for?
A reader asked me recently how many fantasy leagues I am in. I told him 62 total; 37 for the NFL and 25 for the NBA since I write for 2 NFL teams and 1 NBA team. He then asked how many of those NFL teams made the fantasy playoffs. The answer is 30. Nobody is 100 percent accurate with their prediction or their draft picks. All it takes is for one guy like Arian Foster to be a bust or get hurt (which he did both of) and your season can easily be over before it’s even started. But, because I tend to know more about the news before it makes it to the big-box websites or TV/Radio show, I have salvaged many of my teams by being a waiver wire hawk. The season isn’t over until it is over!
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.