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Fantasy Fool: Week 14 starters and benchwarmers

By Ladd Biro

Special to the Sun-Times

Wondering whether or not to start Drew Brees and Emmanuel Sanders, or to bench Geno Smith and Cordarrelle Patterson? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 14 of the 2014 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks at Eagles. Wilson leaves a lot to be desired in the aerial department, but his running prowess often makes up for the lack of TD passes. The Eagles just shut down Tony Romo & Company, but they are typically very generous to opposing passers. Look for a better-than-normal day at the office for Wilson; and better than normal is pretty darn good.

Chris Ivory, RB, Jets at Vikings. Personally, I wouldn’t want to rely on any Jets player during the fantasy playoffs. But those who watched theMonday night snoozer know the team’s offensive game plan with Geno Smith under center: Run, run, run. Chris Johnson had the better game last week, but that was an aberration. Against the Vikings’ soft run defense, Ivory is the safer bet.

Frank Gore, RB, 49ers at Raiders. Here’s another guy who’s hard to trust. But against a pathetic Raiders team that just coughed up 172 yards and 4 touchdowns on the ground to the Rams, Gore makes a great RB2 or flex play. Especially since the 49ers’ passing attack is struggling.

Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins vs. Ravens. Somehow, the rookie has managed to do in a few weeks what Mike Wallace hasn’t done in nearly two years: Get in sync with Ryan Tannehill. Landry is the most targeted and productive of the Miami receivers, and he should pile on the stats against Baltimore’s sieve-like secondary.

Kenny Stills, WR, Saints vs. Panthers. The second-year wideout is coming into his own, thanks to Brandin Cooks’ absence and a blossoming rapport with Drew Brees. Look for him to build off last week’s mastery of the Steelers with another stellar outing against the hapless Panthers pass defense.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Matt Stafford, Tom Brady, Eli Manning; RBs Justin Forsett, Joique Bell, Mark Ingram, Isaiah Crowell, LeGarrette Blount, Tre Mason, C.J. Anderson; WRs Josh Gordon, Brandon LaFell, Odell Beckham, Jr., Keenan Allen, Anquan Boldin, Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins.

Roll ‘em back

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons at Packers. Ryan is coming off one of his best games of the season and he has a good matchup on paper. But don’t be fooled. He and his receivers fare much better in the climate-controlled confines of their domed home. The tundra will be frozen at Lambeau Field on Monday night, the ball will be slick and the opportunistic Packers secondary will remind the visitors why they prefer the South.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills at Broncos. As expected, F-Jax has claimed the lead back role in Buffalo now that he is fully recovered from his groin injury. But he’ll be facing a juiced-up Broncos run defense that just held Jamaal Charles in check and is among the league’s stingiest units. This is a tough road assignment for Jackson.

Latavius Murray, RB, Raiders vs. 49ers. Though the rookie has passed the NFL’s concussion protocol and is cleared to play, his head coach is not ready to anoint him the team’s lead RB. With Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew stinking up the joint, and literally zero to lose by launching a youth movement, that’s baffling. Regardless, don’t risk Murray in your lineup against a solid 49ers run defense.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals vs. Chiefs. Fitzgerald is now practicing in full, putting him on track to return after a two-week absence due to a sprained knee. Arizona desperately needs his play-making ability on the field, but a less-than-100 percent Fitzgerald teamed with a struggling Drew Stanton facing a solid Kansas City pass defense is a recipe for fantasy failure.

Vincent Jackson, WR, Buccaneers at Lions. Josh McCown is in a funk, and he’s playing favorites. Unfortunately for Jackson, Mike Evans is the golden child. The veteran has taken a back seat to the rookie; and with Detroit’s disruptive secondary on tap, all bets are off for Jackson.

More thumbs down: QBs Cam Newton, Mark Sanchez, Joe Flacco, Colt McCoy, Josh McCown, Drew Stanton, Kyle Orton, Derek Carr; RBs Darren Sproles, Doug Martin, Trent Richardson, Jonathan Stewart, Jeremy Hill, Matt Asiata; WRs Percy Harvin, Eric Decker, Pierre Garcon, Sammy Watkins, James Jones, Michael Floyd, Martavis Bryant, Jordan Matthews, Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker, Steve Smith.


Davante Adams, WR, Packers vs. Falcons. You’re probably not desperate at WR if you’ve made the postseason, but Adams has a chance to follow-up last week’s breakout performance with another dandy. The visiting Falcons are essentially inept at pass defense, and Aaron Rodgers is surely their worst nightmare. There will be plenty of balls to go around, and perhaps an early shower for the starters.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…forgets to factor in the weather, especially on kickers. It’s worth a reminder that things can get nasty in a hurry up north. Challenging conditions could be in play at several venues this weekend, including those hosted by the Titans, Packers, Vikings and Seahawks.

Ladd Biro was named Football Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association for two consecutive years (2010, 2011). He was a finalist again in 2013. Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (, on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).