The Fantasy Cover 4 – Week 14
While everyone drafts to pick the best available players at a position for the entire year, week-to-week there are always matchups to exploit and matchups to avoid. I’ve got you covered. Welcome to Start ‘Em Up and Shut ‘Em Down.
This is where you find out what matchups to jump on and which ones you may want to pass on.
(General Rule: ALWAYS start your stud players*. For everyone outside of that, follow the matchups)
Start ‘Em Up
Matthew Stafford: Nothing like a game vs the Bears to get your passing game healthy, right? Well, bless the football gods if you’re a Stafford owner, because the Bucs are pretty lousy also. Tampa Bay is tied for 20th in the NF, allowing 245 YPG in the air, and are tied for 22nd in the league with 22 passing TDs allowed. The Bucs allow opposing QBs to complete 68.2% of passes, which is second to last. Great matchup for 1st week of fantasy playoffs!
Russell Wilson: While its true the Seahawks passing game has been well short of spectacular this season, they have an interesting matchup vs a Jeckyl & Hyde Eagles pass defense this week. The Eagles pass defense (26th – 259 YPG passing allowed) is almost completely predicated on their ability to sack the QB (Philly is 2nd in the NFL with 42 sacks) however Wilson is a master at escaping the rush. While his passing numbers may remain at mediocre levels, there is a strong chance he has a high rushing total. In order to slow down the rush, expect the Seahawks to go to the read-option and make defenders think. Wilson’s legs could be a major factor in this game. He already has 3 games over 100 yards. This could be 4.
Matt Ryan: The Packers average over 40 ppg at Lambeau this year. The Falcons are already a pass-first team, and will likely be playing catch up, so the GTP (garbage time points) Quotient is high in this game for Ryan. Ryan has also chucked it a minimum of 40 times in 3 straight games. That should continue as well.
Rashad Jennings: 91 yards and a pair of TDs last week vs Jacksonville sure got Jennings healthy again last week, and this week he gets a Titans defense that is dead last in the league in rushing TPG allowed (141.5). They have also allowed 13 rush TDs, 3rd most in the league.
Mark Ingram: He’s gone for over 100 yards in 4 of his last 6 games, and the Panthers are 20th against the run (almost 117 YPG allowed) and have also given up 13 rushing TDs this year. This is a very important division game as the NFC South is a burning dumpster fire but one of those teams is going to make the playoffs. New Orleans is tied with Atlanta atop the division at 5-7, and they need to get this division win as the Falcons hold the tiebreaker right now, and Atlanta has the nearly impossible task of beating the Packers at Lambeau. Saints need this game to jump into sole possession of 1st. Expect Ingram to get opportunities
Frank Gore: The Raiders run defense has actually improved, now they are all the way up to 27th in the league – allowing 130.5 YPG rushing. However, they also just got obliterated by Tre Mason last week for 117 yards on just 14 carries. Gore is a more physical back who lacks Mason’s speed but the Niners should be recognizing they are on the playoff fringe, and need to win every game. In order to do that, they have to return to their power running game, which means feed Gore.
Odell Beckham Jr: it didn’t take the talented rookie long to become Eli Manning’s top (and only reliable) target after finally getting on the field this season. In his last 5 games, he’s gone over 90 yards in every one, over 100 3x, and made the catch of the year. He’s also converting a very high percentage of his targets, and in the last 2 weeks has 17 receptions on 19 targets for 236 yards. The Titans just got obliterated by Ryan Fitzpatrick and DeAndre Hopkins in Houston, and while its not realistic to expect another 6 TD performance by a QB or over 230 yds receiving from 1 WR, Beckham will be an incredibly difficult matchup for Tennessee.
Kenny Stills: all he needed was an opportunity. Starting the last 2 weeks with Brandin Cooks on IR, Stills has responded with 260 yds receiving on 13 catches (on 15 targets) with a TD. Brees is comfortable and confident throwing him the ball, and that Carolina D….Stills is a terrific bet to continue to flourish.
DeAndre Hopkins: coming off a franchise record 238 yards receiving last week, expectations have to go back to reality. Reality, however, is that Nuk is the Texans’ top receiver now, and sees #1 WR targets. He can be uncoverable at times. Expect legit WR1 numbers from him for the rest of the season, even if Ryan Fitzpatrick struggles some.
Coby Fleener: If you haven’t already heard, Andrew Luck’s new #2 target is his old running mate TE. He went over 100 yards for the second time in 3 games last week vs Washington. While the Browns may have a good pass D, stopping Andrew Luck (at least fantasy points-wise) has become harder than stopping Peyton Manning. Luck already has over 4000 yards passing and 34 TDs. He will keep throwing it, so look for Fleener to get catches regardless.
Delanie Walker: He was invisible against the Texans last week, but that can’t be blamed on him, because once Zach Mettenberger went out of the game, the Titans could have gotten a local HS to play for them and they would have been better than Jake Locker. With Mettenberger back under center, Justin Hunter on IR and Kendall Wright not expected to play, Walker should be a target machine vs a Giants defense that hasn’t had a big time linebacker since Jessie Armstead went to 5 straight Pro Bowls from 97-01.
Kyle Rudolph: Rudolph’s numbers this year don’t suggest any reason to play him, and he had 2 catches for 7 yards (and a TD) last week. However, the Vikings are playing the Jets. When it comes to covering TEs, the Jets are absolute matadors, allowing a league high 12 TD passes just to TEs. If you need a TE for fantasy playoffs, with this matchup, Rudolph is a pretty decent bet.
Shut ‘Em Down
Colt McCoy: His numbers looked good last week vs Indy, of course he played more than half the game down double digits – which led to 47 pass attempts. He also fumbled 4x, and was fortunate to only lose 1 (it was returned for a TD by the way). The Rams pass D this year has been mediocre, tied for 20th allowing 245 YPG. However, they were brutal early in the season. Recently, St. Louis has rediscovered their pass rush, racking up 22 of their 28 sacks in the last 5 weeks. McCoy went down 6x last week to Indy. If he continues to fumble as he did last week, chances are he will not be fortunate to have his teammates recover 75% of them consistently.
Ben Roethlisberger: Ben has been a non-starter in road games this season, throwing for double digit TDs on the road only once this season, and that was Week 3 in Carolina, where he threw for only 196 yards. The Bengals are 1 of only 2 teams in the NFL to have more interceptions than passing TDs allowed.(11:12 TD:INT). This isn’t the kind of gamble you take in the fantasy playoffs.
Joe Flacco: Flacco has had his typical roller coaster season, looking strong in one game and then leaving you wondering what idiot gave him a mega contract the next. Expect the latter this week in Miami against the Dolphins. Miami has the 2nd toughest pass defense, allowing only 198 YPG, and they are the best in football giving up only 6.1 YPA. The Ravens must wish that they played the Panthers week 17 to keep Steve Smith motivated all year.
Bishop Sankey: The Giants run D flat out stinks. They are 31st in the league, allowing 140.6 YPG on the ground, and an obscene 4.9 YPC (dead last). Unfortunately for Titans fans, Sankey is playing behind an offensive line held together by band-aids and athletic tape. You’d have to be beyond desperate to play him this week. He hasn’t rushed for more than 61 yards in a game all season long.
Lamar Miller: He hasn’t topped 90 yards in a game since Week 3, and got his 1st TD since Week 9 last week. The Ravens D may not be what it used to be, but they still stop the run, giving up just 86.3 YPG (4th) and 3.6 YPC (6th).
Tre Mason: Mason hit a HR last week with an 89 yarder en route to a 117 yard day on just 14 carries. What should stand out to you is this: he only had 14 carries, and he played the Raiders. Mason’s 2 big games this year have come at home, and this game is at FedEx Field. The Redskins run D (9th in NFL 102.8 YPG) is far better than the Raiders “don’t trip over our speed bumps” 27th ranked run D.
Dwayne Bowe: Do you think he saw the money the team gave Alex Smith and said “I’m screwed”? Smith just can’t get him the football. No 100 yard games. No touchdowns. No to your starting lineup.
That was the write up on him last week. None of the info above has changed. Even against the Cardinals 27th ranked pass D (263 YPG), the answer is no. Don’t let the idea of him being a #1 WR fool you. No. No. No. Just in case you find yourself super desperate – NO.
Larry Fitzgerald: It may be hard for some owners to let go of the past, and bench Larry Fitzgerald in the fantasy playoffs, but facts are facts. He’s a game time decision, he’s not 100% according to HC Bruce Arians, and his QB is Drew Stanton. Oh, and they face the best pass D in the league in KC (197 YPG). Sorry Larry, grab a newspaper and hit the pine.
Eric Decker: Good thing Decker got $15M guaranteed because the Jets are guaranteed to try to destroy his career. Decker led the Jets in targets last week with 4. Yes, I wrote targets. That’s not a typo. He can’t produce if he doesn’t have a QB who can get him the ball, and Geno Smith is as restricted a QB as there is right now. Count your money Eric. Don’t even think about starting him.
Owen Daniels: Remember when Gary Kubiak loved to call OD’s number in Houston for all those years? I bet Daniels does too, because those memories are all he has. Daniels has had 12 targets the last 3 weeks combined, and only caught 6 of them for 57 yards. One of those last week was a 21 yard TE screen. That should give you an indication of Daniels’ place in the play calling hierarchy. He hasn’t scored since Week 7. It’s something of a surprise a Gary Kubiak offense isn’t using the TE heavily, but numbers don’t lie.
Richard Rodriguez: Richie Rodz has scored in back to back weeks, so what is he doing here? He’s only had 3 targets in those 2 weeks, and 2 went for TDs. 1) that’s unsustainable 2) they are his only 2 TDs this year. Since the Falcons can’t stop the run (Eddie Lacy) and can’t cover any WRs (Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb) don’t expect Rodriguez to get much of an opportunity to help.
Jordan Cameron: even if he gets clearance to play from his concussion (yet to be determined), he has had 1 good game this season, Week 6 at home against the Steelers. He hasn’t played since Week 8. Outside of Week 6, he hasn’t had one single week of even 50 yards receiving, and hasn’t caught more than 3 passes in a game all year. Last year is a distant memory.
Week 14 Top 5’s
Aaron Rodgers – GB (vs Atl)
Drew Brees – NO (vs Car)
Andrew Luck – Ind (@ Cle)
Tony Romo – Dal (@ Chi)
Peyton Manning – Den (vs Buf)
Arian Foster – Hou (@ Jax)
DeMarco Murray – Dal (@ Chi)
Le’Veon Bell – Pit (@ Cin)
Eddie Lacy – GB (vs Atl)
Marshawn Lynch – Sea (@ Phi)
Jordy Nelson – GB (vs Atl)
Dez Bryant – Dal (@ Chi)
Calvin Johnson – Det (vs TB)
Antonio Brown – Pit (@ Cin)
Demaryius Thomas – Den (vs Buf)
Jimmy Graham – NO (vs Car)
Rob Gronkowski – NE (@ SD)
Delanie Walker – Ten (vs NYG)
Julius Thomas – Den (vs Buf)
Martellus Bennett – Chi (vs Dal)
QB: Brees, P. Manning, Rodgers, Luck, Brady
RB: Charles, McCoy, Forte, Lynch, Murray, Bell, Foster
WR: A. Brown, Bryant, AJ Green, C. Johnson, Marshall, Nelson, D. Thomas, Julio Jones
TE: Graham, Gronkowski, J. Thomas, Gates
Patrick Creighton is the host of “Nate & Creight” on Sportsradio 610 Houston. Follow him on Twitter: @PCreighton1