It’s playoff time! Wondering whether to start LeSean McCoy and DeAndre Hopkins or to bench Jamaal Charles and Michael Floyd? 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 2017 season.
Watch ‘em roll
Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers vs. Lions. Winston put up respectable numbers last Sunday in his return from a three-week absence due to a shoulder injury. He’ll look to build on that performance in a home draw against a Detroit secondary that has coughed up serious fantasy points to opposing QBs lately. Though Mike Evans could struggle in his matchup with Darius Slay, Winston’s other receivers should have a field day.
Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins vs. Patriots. Damien Williams may return to the field for this contest, but Drake has earned more than his fair share of the carries. He should have little trouble slicing through one of the NFL’s most vulnerable run defenses. The main worry is that Miami could fall behind early and be forced to abandon the running game.
Samaje Perine, RB, Redskins at Chargers. Perine took a step backwards last weekend after two consecutive 100-yard outings, but he should bounce back nicely against a Chargers defense that struggles against the run. Perine has become a workhorse by default, and he should get plenty of volume to excel as L.A. clamps down on Washington’s passing game.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Colts at Bills. Hilton delivered against the NFL’s stingiest secondary last week, thanks to a nifty, 40-yard TD catch and run. He’ll have a chance to improve on that performance on his trip to Buffalo, which has surrendered big chunks of yardage, and plenty of scoring plays, to No. 1 wideouts over the past several weeks.
Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots at Dolphins. This game may not be competitive for long, but with Rob Gronkowski sitting out, Amendola should be a busy man. Even if Chris Hogan returns, Amendola will keep the chains moving for the Patriots while Brandin Cooks takes the top off the sieve-like Miami secondary.
More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Alex Smith, Dak Prescott, Philip Rivers; RBs Jordan Howard, Frank Gore, Dion Lewis, Alfred Morris, Giovani Bernard, Peyton Barber, Lamar Miller, Carlos Hyde; WRs DeSean Jackson, Larry Fitzgerald, Dez Bryant, Keenan Allen, Sterling Shepard, Michael Crabtree, Marquise Goodwin, Davante Adams, Adam Thielen, Jarvis Landry.
Roll ‘em back
Jared Goff, QB, Rams vs. Eagles. Goff has struggled against three of the best pass defenses in the NFL (Seattle, Minnesota and Jacksonville), and he’ll face another elite unit on Sunday. Robert Woods is likely to miss another week, adding another red flag to Goff’s prospects.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars vs. Seahawks. The old adage that you don’t sit your studs in the playoffs may not apply to Fournette, who hasn’t been very studly of late. His lingering ankle woes appear to be limiting his burst and Seattle’s stout run defense will surely stack the line to keep the rookie from controlling this game.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Panthers vs. Vikings. He’s dealing with a tender shoulder, and he doesn’t get many carries. Where McCaffrey excels is in the passing game, but Minnesota’s defense is exceptionally tough against opposing running backs – including the pass-catching types. They’ve only surrendered one receiving TD to a tailback all season.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Broncos vs. Jets. How can you trust a wideout with seven receptions for a whopping 38 yards total over the last three games? You can’t, even in a favorable matchup like this. Sanders’ talents are being squandered by pathetic quarterback play; so while you can always hope for a breakout, your postseason fate is best placed in another receiver’s hands.
Marvin Jones, WR, Lions at Buccaneers. There is legitimate concern that Matt Stafford’s injured hand could compromise his ability to grip and accurately throw the football on Sunday. The Bucs have improved their pass defense recently, so Jones may have trouble keeping up his stellar production.
More thumbs down: QBs Matt Stafford, Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota, Blake Bortles, Joe Flacco, Josh McCown, Jay Cutler; RBs Devontae Booker, Danny Woodhead, Doug Martin, Mike Davis, Orleans Darkwa, Isaiah Crowell, Kerwynn Williams, Ameer Abdullah; WRs Will Fuller, Jordy Nelson, Doug Baldwin, Kelvin Benjamin, Sammy Watkins, Dontrelle Inman, Jamison Crowder, Nelson Agholor, Jeremy Maclin, Martavis Bryant, Jermaine Kearse.
TAKING A FLIER
Josh Gordon, WR, Browns vs. Packers. It’s understandable that Gordon only snagged four of the 11 passes sent his way in his 2017 debut last week against the Chargers. The once-elite wideout was shaking off the rust, he faced a tough secondary and his chemistry with rookie QB DeShone Kizer is a work-in-progress. But did you catch that number 11? As in 11 targets? That’s extremely telling, and with the Packers’ struggling unit coming to town, Gordon has a great opportunity to exploit all that attention.
DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO … complains about the way your league allocates postseason berths, seeding and payouts. That’s a discussion for preseason, not now. If you think your rules are unfair – and if they’re all about win-loss records and don’t factor in points, you’re right – put a reminder on your calendar for next August and propose a change prior to next season’s draft.
Follow Ladd Biro on Twitter @ladd_biro.