Fantasy Fool: Week 14 starters and benchwarmers
Wondering whether or not to start Ezekiel Elliott and Jordy Nelson, or to bench Bryce Petty and Christine Michael? 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 2016 season.
Watch ‘em roll
Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers vs. Saints. Winston has cooled off over the last three games, though two of those contests came against the Chiefs and Seahawks. He and Mike Evans should reacquaint themselves in this matchup, though, as the Bucs try to keep pace with Drew Brees & Co. New Orleans’ secondary believes in the spirit of giving, so look for Winston to do plenty of taking.
Thomas Rawls, RB, Seahawks at Packers. Green Bay’s run defense is light years away from its early season heroics, having transformed from stingy to sucky. Rawls should have no trouble maintaining his positive momentum from Week 13, especially given the frigid conditions on the frozen tundra, which should put a slight damper on the passing attacks.
Jeremy Hill, RB, Bengals at Browns. This could be another frosty affair favoring the running games. Despite Rex Burkhead’s advances, Hill remains Cincinnati’s lead rusher, and they love to utilize him at the goal line. Cleveland has surrendered 13 rushing TDs in 12 games. Look for Hill to make it 14-for-13.
Ted Ginn, WR, Panthers vs. Chargers. Wondering where all of Kelvin Benjamin’s and Greg Olsen’s stats have gone? Look no further than Ginn, who has racked up 241 receiving yards and 3 TDs over the last three games. As you may recall, Ginn was a late-season bloomer in 2015 as well, so don’t be surprised if he continues his surge.
Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants vs. Cowboys. The familiar mantra is that Dallas’ defense is playing much better than anticipated, but they’ve still given up a ton of passing yards (more than 276 per game) and a whopping 20 TDs through the air. Of course, they’ll be heavily focused on Odell Beckham, Jr., which means Shepard will again be covered by lesser defenders. He should be a busy man Sunday night.
More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Andrew Luck, Matt Stafford, Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton, Carson Palmer; RBs LeSean McCoy, Matt Forte, Jordan Howard, Devonta Freeman, Todd Gurley, Jonathan Stewart, Frank Gore; WRs Donte Moncrief, Tyler Boyd, Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Brandon Marshall, Jordan Matthews, Larry Fitzgerald, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Tyrell Williams, Jamison Crowder, DeSean Jackson, Steve Smith, Michael Thomas, Julian Edelman.
Roll ‘em back
Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans vs. Broncos. Mariota has helped lead many a grateful owner to the fantasy postseason, but this isn’t the week to expect heroics. Denver’s top-ranked pass defense is not to be trifled with, and despite coming off a week of rest, the young gunslinger will surely be tested by his opponents’ relentless pass rush and world-class corners.
Devontae Booker, RB, Broncos at Titans. Trevor Siemian is on track to reclaim his starting job, which is great news for the Broncos’ passing game. For his part, Booker will be facing an imposing defensive line that has surrendered just six rushing scores in 12 outings. His ceiling isn’t high enough to justify the risk.
Ryan Mathews, RB, Eagles vs. Redskins. Washington offers one of the most favorable matchups for opposing rushers, but Mathews is unlikely to exploit his good fortune. He’s likely to be limited coming off a knee injury, and he’ll re-join a crowded backfield in which both Darren Sproles and Wendell Smallwood have carved out their respective turf. He may luck into a goal-line plunge, but Mathews figures to be a low-volume performer on Sunday.
Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars vs. Vikings. I hate to pick on A-Rob two weeks in a row, but he deserves it. He simply isn’t getting the job done, especially against elevated competition like the Broncos and this weekend’s opponent. Look for safer options.
Rishard Matthews, WR, Titans vs. Broncos. Matthews is on a stellar roll coming off his bye, notching seven TDs over his last eight games. But just as Mariota will be facing his toughest test of the season, so will Matthews. Neither is likely to help you advance to the second round of your playoffs.
More thumbs down: QBs Blake Bortles, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Tannehill, Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford, Brock Osweiler, Jared Goff; RBs Rashad Jennings, Jerick McKinnon, Tim Hightower, James Starks, Carlos Hyde, T.J. Yeldon, Isaiah Crowell, Terrance West, Kenneth Dixon, Wendell Smallwood; WRs Will Fuller, Victor Cruz, John Brown, Marvin Jones, Tavon Austin, Travis Benjamin, Allen Hurns, Randall Cobb, Cameron Meredith, Adam Thielen, Corey Coleman, J.J. Nelson.
TAKING A FLIER
Robby Anderson, WR, Jets at 49ers. I’ll begin by making clear there’s no way I’d start Anderson in the first round of the playoffs. But I still wouldn’t be surprised if he soars. If you actually watched Monday night’s game, you saw Bryce Petty direct 11 passes his way in the second half alone. Anderson dropped several of them, but he did snag a nice long TD reception. Against the soft 49ers secondary, Anderson should continue to build on his obvious rapport with the Jets’ new signal-caller.
DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO … fails to factor in the weather this weekend. Blustery conditions are possible in several parts of the country, and could tilt your lineup decisions between two otherwise equal options. Remember, kickers are expendable and often shouldn’t be trusted in slippery and windy elements.
Ladd Biro is a four-time finalist and two-time winner of the Football Writer of the Year Award by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog (fantasy-fools.blogspot.com), on Facebook and via Twitter(@ladd_biro).