1:00PM ET Games
Cleveland @ New England
A week after lighting up the Texans' then-top-ranked pass defense on the road for 371 yards and two TDs, Tom Brady returns home to face Cleveland's fifth-ranked unit. The Browns have played legitimately stout defense all season, but still have a 21:9 TD-to-INT ratio against, and Joe Haden has turned in back-to-back sub-par efforts with Antonio Brown (6-92-1) getting the better of Cleveland's top cornerback in Week 12, and Cecil Shorts (6-64-1) repeating the feat last Sunday. 116 of his last 165 (70.3%) passing for 1,458 yards (8.84 YPA), ten touchdowns, and two picks, Brady should be treated as a matchup-proof QB1 in the fantasy postseason. ... Brady's target distribution since Shane Vereen returned from short-term I.R. three games ago: Rob Gronkowski 29; Vereen 28; Julian Edelman 27; Danny Amendola 18; Kenbrell Thompkins 14; Aaron Dobson 7; Brandon Bolden 2. ... The Browns have defensive run-game personnel to all but eliminate New England's revolving door of early-down rushers, so expect heavy doses of movable-chess-piece Vereen from the matchup-oriented Pats. OC Josh McDaniels won't slam LeGarrette Blount or Bolden into brick walls all day. The Patriots will scheme around Cleveland's front seven instead of at it, with Vereen as their best means of moving the chains. Lock him in as an every-week RB2 with RB1 upside in PPR. ... Gronk has played in six games this season, and has at least 100 yards and/or a touchdown in five of them. Only Jimmy Graham has an argument as a superior Week 14 tight end bet, and I'd still play Gronkowski over him every time.
Although McDaniels and Bill Belichick have a tendency to shift skill-position usage at the drop of a hat, Edelman appears to have passed Amendola on the depth chart based on the last two weeks. Not only has Edelman severely outproduced his higher-paid teammate, he's started each game while Amendola has come off the bench, and played 87% of New England's offensive snaps to Amendola's 68% during the two-game span. Edelman is an every-week WR3 until things change, with additional PPR value. Amendola is a lower-ceiling, lower-floor WR3. ... The Patriots are not as vulnerable as most teams to the Haden factor because they work over the middle and down the seams so often. Haden is an outside-island corner. New England's "X" receiver would be likeliest to draw Haden's coverage, but neither Dobson (foot) nor Thompkins (hip) can be trusted in fantasy due to injury and role concerns. Dobson was scratched last week, while Thompkins lasted three snaps before calling it a day. ... The Browns rank fifth in run defense and permit 3.47 yards per carry, the third stingiest clip in football. Playing Blount or Bolden is not an advised Week 14 fantasy strategy. Bolden is third string -- behind Blount and Vereen but still ahead of Stevan Ridley -- while Blount is likely to only pay fantasy dividends if he lucks into a goal-line plunge.
Friday Update: Dobson (foot) was formally ruled out Friday, while Thompkins (hip) is listed as questionable. This is a fantasy situation to avoid when you add the Haden factor to the lack of clarity regarding Thompkins' health. For all we know, the Pats could trot out Josh Boyce at X receiver or even Austin Collie, whom they re-signed off the street this week.
Jason Campbell (concussion) will start at Foxboro. Campbell has hardly been a world beater, but at least gives Cleveland a better shot at generating offense than practice squadder Alex Tanney or in-season pickup Caleb Hanie. Twice in his career Campbell has faced a Bill Belichick defense, completing 46-of-75 passes (61.3%) for 541 yards (7.21 YPA) with a 2:3 TD-to-INT ratio. Belichick's 2013 unit is playing top-ten pass defense. Avoid Campbell in two-QB leagues. ... Campbell's target distribution on the year: Josh Gordon 40; Chris Ogbonnaya 25; Davone Bess 23; Greg Little and Jordan Cameron 21; Fozzy Whittaker 13; Willis McGahee 4. ... These are Cameron's stat lines in Campbell's four 2013 starts: 4-81; 1-4; 6-29; 3-32. The Pats are 20th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, leaving Cameron on the TE1 borderline. ... With early-season shutdown corner Aqib Talib continuing to battle hip problems, New England is showing vulnerability to enemy No. 1 wide receivers. Andre Johnson touched up the Patriots for 121 yards on eight receptions in Week 13, and Demaryius Thomas finished the game before with a 4-41-1 line, converting his touchdown in Talib's coverage. Gordon has more than earned a WR1/2 start in the first round of fantasy playoffs with a league-high 623 receiving yards over the last three weeks. Arizona's Michael Floyd is No. 2, with "only" 396 yards.
Bess hasn't cleared 70 yards in a game all year, hitting pay dirt in 1-of-12 appearances. He isn't even worth rostering in 16-team fantasy leagues. ... Little has been almost as ineffective with two games above 50 receiving yards and seven drops on the season, among 80 targets. He has no re-draft-league value, and Little's Dynasty appeal is minimal to be kind. ... The Patriots' defensive weakness is versus the run, where they rank 31st overall and cough up 4.48 yards per carry, the seventh highest clip in football. Unfortunately, Cleveland lacks both workload clarity and talent in the backfield. Fullback/halfback Ogbonnaya is coming off of a nine-touch, 34-yard game where he played behind McGahee. McGahee's 57 rushing yards in last week's loss to Jacksonville were a single-game high since Week 5, but there's very little chance McGahee's 32-year-old legs are suddenly coming alive down the stretch of his 11th season in the NFL. He's a low-ceiling flex option at best. Pass-game specialist Whittaker hasn't reached double-digit touches in 2013.
Score Prediction: Patriots 24, Browns 16
Detroit @ Philadelphia
A week after dropping 115 total yards on Arizona's top-four run defense, LeSean McCoy will square off with Detroit's top-three group as Chip Kelly's virtually unstoppable run game meets the Lions' immovable defensive front. Over its last six games, Detroit has stymied enemy running backs for 228 scoreless yards on 108 carries (2.11 YPC). The Lions haven't allowed a rushing TD since Week 4. McCoy has been a matchup-proof RB1 throughout the season, but he may need a fluky long run or goal-line score to meet fantasy expectations. As Detroit's defense returns from a long week following a Thanksgiving Day win over Green Bay, Philly is more likely to have passing than running success in Week 14. ... Red-hot Nick Foles has a fantastic fantasy playoffs schedule that begins Sunday versus the Lions' No. 26 pass defense in a game with the highest over-under of Week 14, at 54 points. I'd start Foles over Tom Brady (vs. CLE), Cam Newton (@ NO), Russell Wilson (@ SF), and Philip Rivers (vs. NYG) this week. Foles leads the NFL in touchdown rate (9.7), yards-per-attempt average (9.1), and quarterback rating (125.2). ... Foles' target distribution since returning from a concussion four games ago: Riley Cooper 24; DeSean Jackson 21; Zach Ertz and McCoy 15; Jason Avant 12; Brent Celek 6; James Casey and Bryce Brown 3.
With few exceptions, the Lions' defense has been shredded by enemy No. 1 wideouts throughout the season. Stat lines that stand out against Detroit include Antonio Brown 7-147-2, Brandon Marshall 7-139-2, A.J. Green 6-155-1, Dez Bryant 3-72-2, and Josh Gordon 7-126. Shake off Jackson's slow Week 13 effort and start him as a WR1. The Lions are dealing with dual injuries to critical CBs Chris Houston (ankle) and Darius Slay (knee). ... Cooper is shaping up as a hit-or-miss WR3, but also has an attractive matchup versus Lions No. 2 corner Rashean Mathis. Whereas D-Jax will run most of his pass patterns against hobbled LCB Houston – assuming he even plays -- Cooper will take on 33-year-old right corner Mathis on the majority of Sunday's downs. ... Ertz's Week 13 breakout game (5-68-2) is a reminder of his intriguing long-term fantasy outlook, but keep in mind the rookie did it against a Cardinals defense allowing the most fantasy points to tight ends. The Lions are 28th in that category. Ertz's outlook hasn't changed much based on one game. He's still just a mid-level TE2. ... Clearly taking a backseat to Ertz in the passing game, Celek hasn't cleared 50 yards in a game since September. Celek is waiver-wire material in fantasy leagues.
A week after serving up 302 passing yards and three touchdowns to Carson Palmer, the Eagles' Jekyll & Hyde defense takes on a Lions passing attack that ranks No. 2 in yardage behind only Denver, third in passing touchdowns, and third in 20-plus-yard completions. With Peyton Manning and Drew Brees both facing difficult matchups, an argument can be made for Matthew Stafford as Week 14's premier fantasy quarterback play. Philadelphia ranks last in the league against the pass. ... Stafford's target distribution in Nate Burleson's five 2013 starts: Calvin Johnson 54; Burleson 37; Joique Bell 26; Reggie Bush 23; Kris Durham 20; Brandon Pettigrew 19; Joseph Fauria 8. ... After a one-target clunker on Thanksgiving, look for a bounce-back game from Burleson versus a Philly defense sure to be preoccupied with defending Megatron and Bush after their monster Week 13 efforts. Game flow and defensive attention from Tramon Williams contributed to Burleson's catch-less Turkey Day, but the good news is his teammates made the Packers pay in the 40-10 tail kicking. Burleson lacks a high ceiling as a 32-year-old possession/slot receiver, but remains a formidable WR3, particularly in PPR leagues. ... The Eagles allow the most fantasy points in the league to enemy wideouts, reinforced by Michael Floyd and Larry Fitzgerald's 5-99-1 and 5-72-1 stat lines, respectively, last week. You might want to start Calvin Johnson against them.
Pettigrew has one game above 60 yards all year and Philly allows the third fewest fantasy points to tight ends. Pettigrew isn't a viable fantasy playoffs streamer. ... Fauria only plays in the Lions' red-zone offense and will burn you badly if he doesn't high-point a touchdown in any given week. He's accomplished the feat in 4-of-12 games this year. Tough odds. ... Durham played a bigger role as Burleson took a backseat to Green Bay on Thanksgiving, but managed to parlay seven targets into just 68 scoreless yards. The Lions' No. 3 wideout and No. 4 or 5 pass-game option, Durham can be comfortably dropped in 12- and 14-team fantasy leagues. ... Bush is on fire again with 428 yards on his last 82 rushing attempts (5.22 YPC). With 100-plus total yards and/or a touchdown in 7-of-11 appearances this season, Bush is the No. 7 overall running back in fantasy football. He's a mid-range to high-end RB1 against the Eagles' 19th-ranked run defense. ... The Lions have kept Bell involved as a change-of-pace and breather back behind Bush, but his 22 Thanksgiving Day touches aren't a trustworthy workload as we look forward. Bell's usage spiked due to the blowout 30-point victory. He would be a high-risk and ultimately unappealing dice-roll flex play in Week 14.
Score Prediction: Lions 30, Eagles 27
Atlanta @ Green Bay
Eddie Lacy's fantasy owners are understandably frustrated by his inconsistency in the absence of Aaron Rodgers, but from a big-picture standpoint nothing significant has changed. Lacy remains the focal point of a Packers offense that wants to feed him a high volume of weekly carries in order to mask its quarterback and defensive deficiencies. The Week 14 matchup is certainly right for a bounce-back game as Green Bay's offensive line returns from a long week to recuperate from its Thanksgiving Day pummeling by Detroit. Atlanta's defense has hemorrhaged 857 yards and eight touchdowns on 138 carries (6.21 YPC) to Pierre Thomas, Marshawn Lynch, Bobby Rainey, Carolina's backfield, Andre Ellington, and C.J. Spiller/Fred Jackson over its last six games. East, west, or south of Chicago, there isn't a more favorable matchup for run games than facing the Falcons. Perhaps hold your breath, but lock in Lacy as an RB1. ... Matt Flynn was downright horrendous two Thursdays ago, exacerbating protection breakdowns by holding onto the ball too long and performing like a deer in headlights against the Lions. The Packers are still expected to start Flynn against the Falcons, though he's highly likely to be on a short leash with Scott Tolzien waiting in the wings. Flynn has a great matchup and still isn't a two-QB-league play.
Flynn's target distribution through two appearances as a Packer: Jarrett Boykin 12; James Jones 11; Lacy 10; Jordy Nelson 8; Andrew Quarless 6; James Starks, Brandon Bostick, and John Kuhn 2. ... Due to Flynn's talent limitations and thus-far inability to perform in a competent manner, all Green Bay pass catchers will be Week 14 shots in the dark. Boykin missed multiple opportunities to win in contested situations on Thanksgiving, going catch-less on three targets. On Sunday, Boykin will run most of his pass patterns into Falcons top cornerback Asante Samuel's coverage. ... Nelson has the best matchup among Packers receivers Sunday against an Atlanta team that has mixed and matched slot corners throughout the season, failing to find any real stability at the position. Matchups don't matter when the quarterback can't get the receiver the football, of course. Nelson is a boom-or-bust WR3. ... Same goes for Jones, who led Green Bay in targets (5), catches (3), and yards (79) against the Lions. I'd rank them Nelson > Jones > Boykin for this week. ... Athletic tight end Bostick is due back from his concussion, but projects as no better than fifth in line for Flynn's pass attempts. Bostick hasn't seen more than three targets in any game this year. Quarless remains the Packers' in-line blocking tight end.
The Falcons' offensive outlook is trending upward with a cake Weeks 14-15 schedule returning from arguably its finest performance of the year. Although their seasons ultimately will go down as "lost," Roddy White and Steven Jackson are both hitting their stride just in time to face Green Bay and Washington's Nos. 24 and 23 total defenses, respectively. I wrote last week in this space that S-Jax is running far better than he did initially coming off his early-season hamstring strain, and Jackson promptly delivered year highs in carries (23), rushing yards (84) and touchdowns (2) in Atlanta's Week 13 triumph over Buffalo. Over the past five weeks, the Packers have been gashed by Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, Andre Brown/Brandon Jacobs, Adrian Peterson/Toby Gerhart, and Reggie Bush/Joique Bell for 803 yards and five scores on 151 carries (5.32 YPC). Jackson is a quality RB2/flex. ... The Falcons have begun rotating Antone Smith, Jason Snelling, and Jacquizz Rodgers as change-of-pace complements to Jackson, preventing all backups from establishing even the slightest sliver of flex-play relevance. None of the above is worth a roster spot in 12-team fantasy leagues. ... Matt Ryan's target distribution since Roddy's Week 10 return: Harry Douglas 43; White 29; Tony Gonzalez 26; Darius Johnson 21; Quizz 13; S-Jax 12; Snelling 7; Smith 3.
White ate up Buffalo's defense underneath and beat LCB Leodis McKelvin down the sideline for a 29-yard gain in last week's win. While Roddy didn't look explosive or create much separation, he's a skilled enough route runner to rack up catches on Green Bay's up-and-down cornerback crew. Playing his way back into the high-end WR3 mix, look for White to match up with Sam Shields on most of Sunday's snaps. ... Replacing rookie Micah Hyde at slot corner, Tramon Williams played a leading role in Nate Burleson's catch-less Thanksgiving. I prefer White over slot man Douglas this week. ... This has the look of a White-Gonzo game. Green Bay has served up the tenth most receptions and yards to tight ends. Despite OC Dirk Koetter's affinity for rookie TE Levine Toilolo, Gonzalez is not in danger of losing significant snaps and is worth starting as a mid-range TE1 at Lambeau Field. He's No. 6 in fantasy tight end scoring on the season. ... Johnson has been the Falcons' No. 3 receiver with Julio Jones on I.R. and White back healthy. Lacking re-draft fantasy value, Johnson has topped 40 receiving yards in 1-of-7 appearances. ... The Packers rank 22nd in the league in pass defense and have been carved up for a 22:6 TD-to-INT ratio against. Enemy quarterbacks have combined for a 99.1 passer rating versus Green Bay, the sixth highest mark in football. Despite Ryan's struggling second half of the season, he's worth matchup-based QB1 discussion. I'd start him over Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, and Russell Wilson this week.
Score Prediction: Falcons 24, Packers 20
Kansas City @ Washington
Credit where it's due: Although "winner" Alex Smith's team has dropped three straight games, Smith has arguably turned in the best three-game stretch of his career during the losing skid, challenging defenses at the intermediate level and more often than not winning, as well as fitting throws into tight windows. If the Chiefs are going to overcome defensive depletion and make a Super Bowl run, they'll need Smith to keep playing in this manner. Smith has now completed 118 of his last 193 passes (61.1%) for 1,185 yards (6.14 YPA), and a 9:2 TD-to-INT ratio. He's a high-end QB2 with some QB1 streamer appeal against Washington's 27th-ranked pass defense. ... Smith's target distribution over his last four games: Dwayne Bowe 39; Dexter McCluster 28; Jamaal Charles 23; Donnie Avery 19; Anthony Fasano 15; Anthony Sherman and Sean McGrath 7; A.J. Jenkins 5; Junior Hemingway 3. ... Bowe's stats during the four-game stretch: 5-51-1; 4-57-1; 7-67; 3-56. The yardage totals aren't prolific, but the numbers are good enough to earn Bowe solid WR3 billing in this plus matchup. ... With 40-plus yards in five of his last six games, McCluster has assumed a larger pass-game role as Avery has faded. McCluster remains a fantasy option in return-yardage leagues only. Avery was droppable in 14-teamers months ago.
Nursing a concussion and knee sprain, Fasano was a TD-dependent fantasy commodity when 100%. Despite the attractive matchup against a Washington defense allowing the fourth most fantasy points to tight ends. I'd write off banged-up Fasano as a TE1 streamer. If Fasano does not play, McGrath would be on the Hail Mary radar. ... Smith's on-field improvement notwithstanding, the Chiefs remain most likely to attack Washington's defense with offensive centerpiece Charles, who is coming off a highly impressive 120-yard, one-score gashing of Denver's previously top-five run defense. Charles singlehandedly dropped the Broncos to No. 7 versus the run. In Week 14, he draws a Redskins team ranked 14th in run defense with an NFL-high 17 rushing touchdowns allowed. As LeSean McCoy faces Detroit, Adrian Peterson treks to Baltimore, and Marshawn Lynch does battle with San Francisco, Charles is fantasy's top running back starter this week.
This Week 14 matchup looked exponentially more daunting a month ago than it does now for Robert Griffin III. The Chiefs have since been gashed by Buffalo on the ground in Week 9, returned from a Week 10 bye to cough up over 100 combined points in the ensuing three games, and lost top edge rusher Justin Houston (elbow) in the process. Bookend OLB Tamba Hali played through a mid-ankle injury in last Sunday night's loss to Denver, but had zero impact in the pass game. RG3 now returns from one of his better outings of the year to face a Kansas City defense with all of two sacks over its last six games. Lock in Griffin as a low-end but intriguing QB1. He's still No. 8 in fantasy quarterback scoring on the season. ... RG3's target distribution since the Redskins lost Leonard Hankerson (ACL/LCL) two weeks back: Pierre Garcon 23; Josh Morgan and Logan Paulsen 6; Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson, and Roy Helu 5; Fred Davis 4; Alfred Morris 3. ... That is all-out target domination by Garcon, who is currently on a six-game streak of six-plus receptions. Although Garcon's touchdown production has underwhelmed this season, he's been a PPR beast and at very worst is an every-week WR2 in standard leagues. Only Calvin Johnson has more targets across the league, and only Antonio Brown has caught more passes.
Jordan Reed will be a locked-in top-eight TE1 fantasy start if he receives medical clearance from his concussion. Otherwise, the Skins lack viable fantasy pass catchers beyond Garcon. Getting the ball to Morgan, Moss, and Robinson just isn't a big part of OC Kyle Shanahan's weekly plan. ... Coach Mike Shanahan explained following Morris' 11-carry Week 13 game that the Redskins purposely scaled back Morris' workload because they didn't feel comfortable slamming Alf into a stacked box on a slick FedEx Field. Still, this is a team that ranks No. 1 in the NFL in rushing and No. 7 in rushing attempts. The Redskins haven't suddenly scrapped their identity. Expect Morris to get back on track Sunday against a Kansas City defense that has had problems defending the run throughout the second half of the season. The Chiefs rank 21st in run defense and are allowing 4.57 yards per carry, the sixth most generous average in the league. Montee Ball set season highs in rushing yards (117) and YPC (9.0) at Arrowhead last week. Morris is a high-end RB2.
Score Prediction: Redskins 24, Chiefs 23
Miami @ Pittsburgh
Although OC Mike Sherman's whimsical week-to-week run-game commitment deprives Lamar Miller of true fantasy trustworthiness, Miller's arrow is clearly pointing up after he turned a season-high 23 touches into a respectable 85 yards in last week's clash with the Jets' league-best run defense. Miami's rushing attack played a crucial role in the 23-3 victory, which moved the Fins into sole possession of second place in the AFC East. The Dolphins have a more favorable Week 14 running-game matchup versus a Steelers defense that ranks 18th against the run and has given up 13 rushing touchdowns, tied for fifth most in the NFL. Pittsburgh will also be without RE Brett Keisel (plantar fasciitis). Miller is capable of paying serious flex-play dividends if Sherman keeps feeding him. Miller's opportunity has increased significantly following Daniel Thomas' torn ankle ligaments. ... The Steelers are vulnerable through the air, though not quite to the extent they are on the ground. Dick LeBeau's defense ranks 11th versus the pass with 14 passing touchdowns allowed, sixth fewest in football. With multiple scores in just two of his last five games and a 17:13 TD-to-INT ratio on the year, Ryan Tannehill is a middling two-quarterback-league play this week.
Tannehill's targets since Brandon Gibson tore his patellar tendon: Brian Hartline 50; Mike Wallace 48; Charles Clay and Rishard Matthews 40; Miller 16; Michael Egnew 6. ... As Steelers "top" CB Ike Taylor is on pace to set Pro Football Focus' single-season record for yards allowed, Pittsburgh is getting destroyed by opposing No. 1 receivers. These are the last three top wideouts to face the Steelers: Torrey Smith 6-93-1; Josh Gordon 14-237-1; Calvin Johnson 6-179-2. Ninth in fantasy receiver scoring the past three weeks, Wallace is trending toward WR2 value. ... Clay has a tough matchup against a Steelers defense allowing the sixth fewest fantasy points to tight ends, but remains a quality low-end TE1 with at least seven targets in four straight games. ... Slot receiver Matthews has topped 52 yards in just 1-of-12 games this season and can be dropped in 12- and 14-team leagues for the fantasy playoffs. ... Although Hartline's target numbers are way up the past three weeks and he is coming off of a 9-127-1 line against the Jets' inept secondary, Hartline hasn't suddenly morphed as a player. He'd be a poor WR3 gamble at chilly Heinz Field.
The Dolphins were vulnerable to the pass and suffocatingly stout on the ground in second-year defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle's first season, but the opposite has been true in 2013. Keyed by a fearsome pass rush that's tied for fifth in the NFL in sacks, Miami is playing top-nine pass defense with a 12:16 TD-to-INT ratio against and the lowest passer rating allowed (72.7) east of Seattle. The Fins are likely to win one-on-one battles all day versus Pittsburgh's shaky offensive line, keeping Ben Roethlisberger under duress. Big Ben has quietly scored in the top-seven fantasy quarterbacks this year, but is best viewed as a QB2 in this difficult matchup. ... Ben's target distribution over the last month: Antonio Brown 42; Heath Miller 30; Emmanuel Sanders 26; Le'Veon Bell 22; Jerricho Cotchery 14; Markus Wheaton 6. ... The matchup says to sit Brown, as Miami has held opposing No. 1 receivers Vincent Jackson 3-28, Keenan Allen 3-45, Steve Smith 5-69, and Santonio Holmes 0-0 in serious check over the past four weeks. Brown has earned matchup-proof treatment, however, as the NFL's receptions leader (85) who torched Joe Haden for a 6-92-1 line two weeks back. Brown has at least five catches in every game this season. Brown is at his best working underneath, where Roethlisberger will need him to get open early in routes because Pittsburgh's vertical pass game will likely be a non-factor due to protection woes.
The Fins have surrendered the fifth most fantasy points to tight ends, making Miller an attractive Week 14 play. Over the past three weeks, Miller ranks fourth among tight ends in targets (25), first in catches (21), and sixth in yards (194). With one solitary touchdown on the season, Miller is "due" to hit pay dirt. ... Having topped 70 yards in just three games all year, Sanders is a low-ceiling WR3 gamble. If the Dolphins leave top CB Brent Grimes at his usual left cornerback post, he'll be likely to draw Sanders on most of Sunday's snaps, leaving Brown in more burnable RCB Nolan Carroll's coverage. ... Cotchery's career-high eight touchdowns look awfully fluky when he's on pace for under 700 receiving yards. Cotchery had never topped six TDs before in a season and has two catches for six yards combined the past two weeks. Cotchery is not a recommended WR3 versus Miami. ... With 18-plus touches in each of his nine rookie-year appearances, Bell has been and will continue to be a volume workhorse. He has a plus matchup in Week 14. Over its last six games, Miami's run defense has allowed 769 yards and five TDs on 170 carries (4.52 YPC) to enemy tailbacks. Le'Veon is the No. 10 overall running back in per-game fantasy scoring.
Score Prediction: Steelers 23, Dolphins 20
Indianapolis @ Cincinnati
The Colts pulled out a Week 13 win over Tennessee despite continued pass-game struggles. The offensive line can't protect Andrew Luck, who's absorbed more hits than any signal caller in the league. Lacking trust in his supporting cast, Luck has begun to show signs of shell shock, holding onto the ball too long and sensing pressure that isn't there, leading to erratic ball placement. The Bengals' pass defense has remained stout amid year-ending injuries to DT Geno Atkins and CB Leon Hall, and currently ranks No. 8 overall with a 15:13 TD-to-INT ratio against and the league's fourth stingiest passer rating allowed (74.5). Just 89 of his last 154 passing (57.8%) for 948 yards (6.16 YPA), two touchdowns, and six picks, Luck is a clear fantasy QB2 at this point. ... Luck's target distribution since Reggie Wayne's ACL tear: T.Y. Hilton 46; Coby Fleener 38; Darrius Heyward-Bey 27; LaVon Brazill 21; Trent Richardson 15; Donald Brown 13; Stanley Havili 10. ... Hilton is currently on a stretch similar to what Pierre Garcon has experienced in Washington at times this year. He is racking up receptions and targets, but the yardage and touchdowns haven't been there the past three weeks for a variety of reasons. As it was with Garcon, fantasy owners' best approach with Hilton is to keep starting him as an upside WR3. He has at least five catches in five straight games and a plus Week 14 matchup against Cincinnati's elderly cornerbacks.
As Hilton draws 35-year-old LCB Terence Newman and 30-year-old RCB Pacman Jones on the perimeter with 33-year-old Chris Crocker at slot corner, No. 2 pass-game option Fleener will deal with a Cincinnati defense allowing the fourth fewest receiving yards to tight ends. Fleener is a low-end TE1. ... Brazill played ahead of Heyward-Bey for much of last week's second half after an ugly DHB drop. Emerging as Luck's No. 3 target, Brazill is worth rostering in 14- and 16-team leagues down the stretch. At 5-foot-11, 192, Brazill ran a 4.43 forty at the 2012 Scouting Combine. ... The Colts hinted at more of a three-wideout committee behind Hilton this week, with Da'Rick Rogers' role expanding at the expense of Heyward-Bey's. While Rogers has intriguing long-range talent, he only played 13 snaps in Week 13, failing to see a target. Rogers does deserve some credit for drawing a roughly 30-yard pass interference call against Titans CB Alterraun Verner. He just lacks re-draft fantasy value. ... Appropriately installed as Indy's feature back in last week's win over the Titans, Brown played 52 snaps compared to Richardson's 13, handling 16 touches to T-Rich's five. Richardson was primarily used as a short-yardage back. T-Rich was droppable in 12-team leagues a few weeks ago. Brown is on the back-end flex radar against Cincinnati's top-eight run defense. Note that the Bengals have allowed four rushing TDs all year, third fewest in the league.
The Bengals emerged from their Week 12 bye attempting to mask up-and-down quarterback Andy Dalton's flaws with a decidedly run-first game plan. Racking up 38 rushing attempts to 23 passes, Cincinnati handled San Diego 17-10 on the road. The Bengals will likely continue that approach Sunday against Indianapolis' 28th-ranked run defense, particularly with road-grader RG Kevin Zeitler returning from a foot injury. Although BenJarvus Green-Ellis remains no better than a low-ceiling flex option, the offensive switch bodes well for every-week RB2/flex Giovani Bernard, who has at least 15 touches in three straight games. In the passing game, OC Jay Gruden won't stop trying to spring Gio into space. ... Dalton has an above-average matchup on paper against Indy's No. 17 pass defense, but won't get enough volume to support QB1 stats if Cincinnati sticks to smash-mouth offense. While run-heavy game plans are capable of increasing Dalton's efficiency, they will hurt his counting stats. Having completed 80 of his last 151 throws (53%) for 876 yards (5.80 YPA) and a 6:9 TD-to-INT ratio, Dalton has regressed into a two-QB-league option only. ... Dalton's target distribution over his last four games: A.J. Green 46; Mohamed Sanu 24; Bernard and Marvin Jones 19; Tyler Eifert 17; Jermaine Gresham 15; Andrew Hawkins 7.
The Bengals' offensive transition is least likely to impact Green, who will still hog targets just as Andre Johnson, Percy Harvin, and Michael Crabtree have done in recent years on teams with similar philosophies. Keep trotting out Green as an elite WR1. ... The Bengals started Jones over Sanu coming off the bye, but both remained rotational wideouts. Each played under 50% of the snaps, and they combined for 21 yards on five targets. Neither can be trusted in fantasy playoff lineups. ... Slot man Hawkins broke off a 50-yard reception against San Diego, but played fewer downs than both Sanu and Jones. Hawkins is a better real-life than fantasy player. ... Nothing has changed for Eifert and Gresham, who would be a TE1 if combined into one tight end but as is are canceling each other out of weekly fantasy consideration. They're TE2s to begin with, and low-end ones this week against a Colts defense allowing the seventh fewest fantasy points to tight ends.
Score Prediction: Bengals 21, Colts 20
Buffalo @ Tampa Bay
Regardless of the Buccaneers' top-12 run defense ranking, Buffalo will invariably enter this game with a run-based mindset because such is rookie coach Doug Marrone's offensive philosophy. The Bills rank second in the league in rushing attempts and 23rd in passes, attacking teams on the ground in spite of defensive strengths and weaknesses. It's worth noting Tampa Bay will be without SLB Jonathan Casillas (knee) in this game, stripping the Bucs of a core early-down run defender. Although his recurring ankle woes are something of a concern, C.J. Spiller exploded off Buffalo's Week 12 bye to drop 157 yards and a touchdown on Atlanta. View Spiller as a high-upside, low-floor RB2 in Week 14. ... Fred Jackson wasn't quite as prolific as his more talented teammate against the Falcons, but parlayed 15 touches into 78 yards and two touchdowns, and remains the heavy favorite for all goal-line work in Buffalo. F-Jax is a safer RB2/flex option than Spiller, albeit with a more limited ceiling. He's still a high-quality fantasy start. ... Beginning to settle into something of a late-rookie-year groove, E.J. Manuel has completed 41 of his last 63 throws (65.1%) for 468 yards (7.43 YPA), four touchdowns, and no interceptions with a fifth score on a scramble. He's worth a look in two-quarterback leagues against a Bucs defense that ranks 18th versus the pass, has allowed the second most passing touchdowns in football (24), and is now dealing with multiple injuries to top defensive player Darrelle Revis (groin, chest/shoulder).
Manuel's target distribution since returning from a knee injury three games ago: Stevie Johnson 18; Marquise Goodwin 17; Scott Chandler 12; F-Jax 10; Spiller and T.J. Graham 9; Chris Gragg 6; Chris Hogan 5; Robert Woods 3. ... Woods returned from his high ankle sprain to regain his every-down Z receiver role in Week 13 against Atlanta, but was targeted just three times and will need to demonstrate production to become a deep-league option late in the fantasy playoffs. ... Notable slot receiver stats against the Bucs over the last seven weeks: Harry Douglas 7-149-1 and 6-134-1; Nate Burleson 7-77-1; Rishard Matthews 11-120-2; Doug Baldwin 6-75-1. Johnson runs the majority of his routes in the slot – where he should avoid Revis Island -- and is a high-end WR3 versus Tampa. ... Goodwin and Graham's catch-less Week 13 games are a reminder that they are raw, developing deep threats in an overall inefficient and low-volume passing offense. Goodwin in particular has blowup potential in any given week, but can't be counted on for reliable game-by-game numbers. With Woods back last Sunday, Goodwin played 23 downs, his lowest snap count since Week 7. ... Lumbering Chandler does battle this week with a Bucs defense allowing the 16th most fantasy points to tight ends. Averaging 40.9 yards per game without a touchdown since early October, Chandler is just a TE2.
The Bucs' offense takes on a Bills defense that got gashed in terms of yardage by Atlanta in Week 13, but still made numerous big plays. Despite serving up Steven Jackson (23-84-2) and Roddy White's (10-143) best games of the year, Buffalo sacked Matt Ryan six times and forced two turnovers. Now leading the NFL in sacks and tied for second in interceptions, the Bills pose a daunting test for rookie Mike Glennon, who is returning from arguably his worst game of the year. Consider Glennon a bottom-barrel QB2 and keep starting Buffalo's fantasy defense. ... Despite yards-per-carry struggles from feature back Bobby Rainey -- he's managed 99 yards his last 38 runs (2.61 YPC) -- it is promising from a forward thinker's perspective that OC Mike Sullivan has stayed the course and continued to feed Rainey in brutal back-to-back matchups versus Detroit and Carolina's top-three run defenses. The Bucs aren't an abandon-the-run kind of team. They didn't even give Brian Leonard a Week 13 carry, confirming Rainey is entrenched as their go-to runner. Quietly, Rainey's 76% snap rate in last week's loss to the Panthers was his highest in a Bucs uniform. Rainey gets some matchup relief Sunday against a Bills defense that ranks 24th versus the run and got torched by Atlanta for 151 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 30 rushing attempts (5.03 YPC) last week. Rainey is a better Week 14 flex than meets the eye.
Glennon's target distribution this year: Vincent Jackson 92; Tim Wright 43; Leonard 29; Tiquan Underwood 28; Chris Owusu 10; Rainey 7. ... On plays where its pass rush doesn't get home, Buffalo is vulnerable in coverage with top CB Stephon Gilmore still struggling to find his bearings following early-season wrist surgery. These are the stat lines of the last four No. 1 receivers to face the Bills: Antonio Brown 6-104; White 10-143; Santonio Holmes 2-71; Dwayne Bowe 7-67. V-Jax is a boom-or-bust WR2, but it's hard to imagine ever benching him because he is so heavily targeted and capable of scoring multiple TDs. ... Underwood has made five starts since Mike Williams landed on I.R., registering box-score lines of 2-29-1, 3-64, 1-20, 3-108-2, and 3-51. I don't like those odds. ... Wright is a hit-or-miss streamer with an unattractive matchup. The Bills have allowed the second fewest yards and fifth fewest receptions in the league to tight ends.
Score Prediction: Bills 20, Bucs 17
Minnesota @ Baltimore
Joe Flacco is in a similar category to Eli Manning as quarterbacks who simply haven't played well enough this year to be considered reliable QB1 streamers, frequently flopping in even the finest of matchups. Flacco remains an intriguing two-quarterback-league play and higher-end QB2 against a Vikings defense that ranks 30th versus the pass and has allowed an NFL-most 26 touchdown passes. Like Eli, Flacco also quietly has one of the most favorable fantasy playoff schedules in football. After the Vikings, Baltimore visits Ford Field for an indoor tilt with Detroit's No. 26 pass defense, and wraps up with a possible shootout against the Patriots in Week 16. ... Torrey Smith similarly stands to benefit from the Ravens' weak rest-of-season opposition. With 70-plus yards and/or a touchdown in five consecutive weeks, red-hot Smith is fantasy football's No. 15 overall wideout over that span. He's a borderline WR1 against Minnesota. ... This is Flacco's target distribution since Baltimore's Week 8 bye: Smith 44; Jacoby Jones 25; Ray Rice 23; Ed Dickson 17; Marlon Brown 15; Dallas Clark 13; Tandon Doss 11; Deonte Thompson 8; Brandon Stokley 4.
Despite the favorable Week 14 matchup, neither Jones nor Brown has been remotely productive enough to be counted on in the first round of fantasy playoffs. Jones has emerged as the better bet between the two with 13 targets the past two weeks compared to Brown's three. Brown didn't start in Week 13 for the first time all season, as Jones got the first-team nod opposite Smith. ... Coach John Harbaugh expressed hope this week that doctors would clear Dennis Pitta (short-term I.R., hip) to play Sunday, albeit in a limited role. If Pitta gets the green light and plays well on his handful of snaps, there is an outside chance he could be a realistic fantasy option in Week 15 against the Lions. ... Rice has cleared 3.5 yards per carry in 1-of-11 games and would likely need a goal-line plunge to pay dividends as a Week 14 start. He's been ineffective in both fantasy and real life all year. The Vikings rank 23rd versus the run, giving Rice appeal only as a low-upside flex play. ... Bernard Pierce has at least eight carries in four straight games, but is averaging under 3.0 YPC on the season and hasn't found pay dirt since his Week 3 start against Houston.
The Vikings will trot out Matt Cassel for his first start since Week 6 in a road date with Baltimore's top-12 pass defense. The Ravens are tied for fifth in the NFL in sacks and have a 12:9 TD-to-INT ratio against since Week 1. Cassel has always been a quarterback who struggles under pressure, which Baltimore can bring. This isn't a good matchup for Minnesota's already limited pass game. ... Cassel's 2013 target distribution: Jerome Simpson 26; Greg Jennings 21; John Carlson 15; injured Kyle Rudolph 13; Cordarrelle Patterson 12; Adrian Peterson 9; Jarius Wright 8; Toby Gerhart 5; Joe Webb 4. ... Despite Jennings' somewhat productive track record with Cassel under center -- he has 15 grabs for 202 yards with three touchdowns in 2.5 games of Cassel this year -- those numbers aren't something I'd hang my hat on in the fantasy playoffs. He's a poor WR3. Jennings has hit the 60-yard mark once since Week 4. ... As the Vikings manufacture touches for Patterson, he provides upside seekers with the highest ceiling in Minnesota's receiver corps. He's a better bet than both Jennings and Simpson. ... Baltimore is 17th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, and tied for 28th in receptions. This isn't a great week to stream Carlson. ... The Ravens rank sixth in run defense, but Peterson can never be benched. Once feared to be an injury risk, A.P. is coming off of season highs in carries (35) and rushing yards (211) in last week's overtime win over the Bears. Over his last two games, Peterson has 357 yards and a touchdown on 67 carries (5.33 YPC).
Score Prediction: Ravens 20, Vikings 13
Oakland @ NY Jets
In a battle of bottom-11 offenses, Raiders-Jets predictably has the lowest over-under of Week 14 at 40.5 points. Both clubs will trot out sputtering rookie quarterbacks with injury questions in their supporting casts, and no guarantee of lasting all four quarters. Look to other games for fantasy sleepers this week. ... Geno Smith leads the NFL in interceptions (19) and turnovers (23), and hasn't so much as thrown a touchdown pass since October 20. I'd rather stream the Raiders' fantasy defense than lean on Geno in a two-quarterback league. ... Geno's target distribution over the last three games: Santonio Holmes 12; David Nelson 10; Stephen Hill 9; Kellen Winslow, Greg Salas, and Jeff Cumberland 6; Bilal Powell 5; Tommy Bohanon 2, Chris Ivory 1. ... With Holmes experiencing another setback with his constantly balky hamstring, Nelson has emerged as the best bet for production in New York's pass-catching corps. And that's not saying much. Possession receiver Nelson led the Jets in Week 13 targets (8), but parlayed them into 37 yards and hasn't scored a touchdown in eight games with the team. He's a fantasy WR4. ... Hill never did lose his starting job despite threats from Rex Ryan's coaching staff, but his performance has been pathetic. Hill has caught one of his last 14 targets for two yards. And that is not a typo.
Slot receiver Jeremy Kerley is due back from his dislocated elbow, an injury that wound up costing him a month. Kerley's return will send fill-in slot man Salas to the bench, though Kerley may need a game or two to resume playing full time. ... The Raiders are 19th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, creating a matchup to avoid for rotating Winslow and Cumberland. ... The Jets' only chance to generate competitive offense is via the run game, to which playcaller Marty Mornhinweg's week-to-week commitment has been inconsistent. Ivory has rushed for 335 yards on his last 53 carries (6.32 YPC), yet Mornhinweg still doesn't seem to realize Ivory is his best offensive player. Ivory is a boom-or-bust flex option against the Raiders' top-ten run defense. Ivory would be a lot better bet if the Jets were intent on playing run-first football and "hiding" their quarterback. ... Averaging ten touches for 51 total yards per game since the Jets' Week 10 bye, passing-down specialist Powell won't be a realistic fantasy playoffs option barring an Ivory injury.
Coach Dennis Allen stated following Oakland's Thanksgiving loss to Dallas that the Raiders will use the rest of the season as an evaluation period for their two young quarterbacks. Allen wants to see both Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor play. So it's conceivable that both will see snaps against the Jets, especially if starter McGloin endures a slow first half. New York is 25th in pass defense with all kinds of secondary woes, and the Raiders still don't have a quarterback worth using in two-QB leagues. ... McGloin's target distribution through four appearances (three starts): Rod Streater 21; Andre Holmes 19; Rashad Jennings and Marcel Reece 14; Mychal Rivera and Jacoby Ford 11; Denarius Moore 9; Darren McFadden 1. ... Moore (shoulder) is expected to miss one more week, giving Holmes a third consecutive start coming off his breakout Thanksgiving game. Holmes repeatedly got the better of Cowboys top corner Brandon Carr, which suggests the seven-catch, 136-yard performance wasn't necessarily a fluke. Holmes is worth a long look for 14-team leaguers and WR3 desperados against the Jets. This is a defensive backfield that genuinely cannot cover, benching rookie first-round flop Dee Milliner repeatedly with major safety woes and banged-up Antonio Cromartie (hip) playing like very arguably the worst cornerback in the league.
Streater's day was slower against Dallas, but he's still 17th in fantasy receiver scoring over the past three weeks and a safer WR3 than Holmes, even if the latter offers more upside. Don't start Streater over studs, but he has an enticing Week 14 matchup and remains the favorite for targets in Oakland. ... Since its Week 10 bye, Rex Ryan's league-best run defense has stymied Buffalo, Baltimore, and Miami tailbacks for 204 scoreless yards on 86 combined carries (2.37 YPC). With McFadden (ankle/hamstring) not expected to play and Oakland's coaching staff trying to keep Jennings' (concussion) availability a secret, the Raiders' backfield is a situation to avoid in the first round of fantasy football playoffs. The Raiders were so desperate for tailback bodies in practice this week that they converted onetime running back and current cornerback Taiwan Jones to offense. Third-string runner Jeremy Stewart (ankle/knee) is also banged up. First-year OC Greg Olson has never seemed to fancy fullback Reece a competent ball carrier despite Reece's 2012 success in the role. Reece has received double-digit touches in 1-of-12 games under Olson.
Score Prediction: Jets 17, Raiders 13
4:05PM ET Game
Tennessee @ Denver
Ryan Fitzpatrick has been and always will be maddeningly streaky as a gunslinger without a gunslinger's skill set. He tries to make throws his physical limitations won't allow him to make. Following a Weeks 10-12 hot run, "FitzMagic" bottomed out last week at Indianapolis, committing four turnovers in the 22-14 loss. Fitzpatrick's historical trends suggest that game may be the precursor to a very rough stretch. Even in this possible shootout, Fitzpatrick shouldn't be on QB1 streamer radars. He's a fine two-QB-league play. ... Fitz's target distribution this year: Kendall Wright 57; Delanie Walker 39; Nate Washington 32; Chris Johnson 28; Justin Hunter 23; Kenny Britt 10. ... Wright's stat lines in FitzMagic's six games of extensive play: 7-78; 5-69; 6-74; 9-80; 6-103-1; 6-77. Wright has led Tennessee in targets in five, averaging over 80 yards a game. He's a WR2 in PPR and high-end WR3 in standard leagues. ... Hunter followed up his Week 12 blowup with one catch for nine yards in the loss to Indy, seeing five targets. With Damian Williams due back from a three-week quad injury, Hunter is in danger of losing snaps. ... Here's an interesting stat: A whopping seven of Washington's targets this season have been intercepted, just two shy of co-league leaders Calvin Johnson and A.J. Green in that metric. And Megatron and Green both have nearly double the overall targets. Perhaps this explains why Fitzpatrick has been loath to throw Washington the football. He hasn't seen more than six targets in a game since Week 7.
With Walker (concussion) not expected to play Sunday, the Titans will turn to some rotation of Craig Stevens, Taylor Thompson, and Visanthe Shiancoe at tight end. Purely from a fantasy standpoint, I like Walker's absence for the Week 14 cause of Wright. They are both between-the-numbers pass catchers. There's a good chance Wright will be heavily targeted in this game. ... Johnson has 440 yards and four touchdowns on his last 97 rushing attempts (4.54 YPC), and was ankle tackles away from a number of long runs against the Colts. Although CJ?K is more of a low-end to mid-range RB2 versus Denver's top-seven run defense, he's running well and producing enough in the passing game to be worth a locked-in Week 14 fantasy start. It's worth noting Jamaal Charles touched up the Broncos for 120 total yards and a touchdown last Sunday. When Johnson is on his game -- and he is right now -- he's every bit capable of being a Charles-type back. ... Shonn Greene vultured a red-zone touchdown in Tennessee's post-bye Week 9 win over St. Louis, and has been scoreless since. He's averaging 7.5 touches over his last four games. Just a handcuff for Johnson owners, Greene is not in the flex-play discussion against Denver.
The Titans deserve credit for playing stout pass defense this season under the guidance of top defensive assistant Gregg Williams. Tennessee ranks seventh versus the pass and has allowed the fewest passing touchdowns (8) in football, holding enemy signal callers to the NFL's seventh lowest passer rating (79.0). I still think the most likely outcome for Sunday's game is Peyton Manning dissecting Williams' complex blitz packages and dropping 300-plus yards with multiple TDs for the 11th time this season. I'd confidently start Peyton as a top-three QB1 in the first round of the fantasy playoffs. ... It's still worth noting that Tennessee's greatest defensive vulnerability is on the ground, where they're playing No. 17 run defense and have coughed up 16 rushing scores, most in the AFC. This game sets up well for Knowshon Moreno, whose 18 yards on 15 carries in Week 13 aren't indicative of how spry he looked despite entering the game with a twisted ankle. He racked up 72 yards and a touchdown on four receptions, and having watched every snap of Broncos-Chiefs, in my opinion the reason Montee Ball was so much more productive in that particular game was because Denver's offensive line just so happened to block better on his carries than on Moreno's. Ball had alleys to run through; Moreno did not. And I don't think that is a reliable indicator of what's to come. Moreno should be locked into fantasy lineups as a borderline RB1 against Tennessee. Ball is just a dice-roll flex play with too much downside for my taste.
Peyton's target distribution since Denver's Week 9 bye: Demaryius Thomas 38; Wes Welker 29; Eric Decker 27; Moreno 15; Julius Thomas 10; Ball 9; Jacob Tamme 8. ... Demaryius has at least 100 yards and/or a touchdown in six straight games. This is a tough matchup with Titans outside CBs Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty, but Demaryius has been matchup proof all season. ... In the passing game, this contest has Welker written all over it. Tennessee's perimeter coverage has arguably been the league's best, but it can be exposed inside. Welker is also likely to be Peyton's primary "hot" read when Williams inevitably dials up blitzes. Just as Decker busted a slump in last week's win over Kansas City, Welker will likely break his box-score funk versus the Titans. ... Decker runs most of his routes against left cornerbacks, which is McCourty's position. Pro Football Focus has graded McCourty as a top-three NFL corner this year -- even higher than Verner -- and charged him with zero touchdowns allowed since Week 2. I'd treat Decker as a WR3 despite last week's four-TD explosion. ... Orange Julius is an every-week starter whenever active, and his return to full practice Thursday suggests he's very much on track to play against the Titans. Tennessee is allowing the 15th most fantasy points and eighth most yards to tight ends. At Thomas' position, only Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham are better plays this week.
Score Prediction: Broncos 27, Titans 17
4:25PM ET Games
St. Louis @ Arizona
The Cardinals return home from a Week 13 road loss to Philadelphia to face a St. Louis defense with imposing outside-edge rushers and not a whole lot else. Despite the benefit of Robert Quinn and Chris Long, the Rams rank 19th in pass defense, and allow the second highest yards-per-pass attempt average (8.4) and completion rate (67.2) in football. When Arizona and St. Louis met in Week 1, Carson Palmer pummeled the Rams at their place for 327 yards and two TDs with a 65% completion rate. Now back in the desert, Palmer has completed 129 of his last 188 throws (68.0%) for 1,568 yards (8.34 YPA) and a 12:4 TD-to-INT ratio. The Cards scaled back Palmer's practice reps this week in order to rest his arm, but he's a viable QB1 streamer and locked-in two-quarterback-league start. ... Palmer's target distribution during Arizona's 4-1 hot stretch: Larry Fitzgerald 41; Michael Floyd 34; Andre Roberts 27; Rob Housler 26; Andre Ellington 10; Jim Dray 8; Rashard Mendenhall 6. ... Notable enemy receiver stats coughed up by St. Louis' defense this year: Brandon Marshall 10-117-1; T.Y. Hilton 7-130; Golden Tate 5-93-2; Justin Blackmon 5-136-1; Cecil Shorts 5-74-1; Fitz 8-80-2; Dez Bryant 4-38-1; Julio Jones 11-182-1; Steve Smith 5-69-1; Andre Johnson 7-88; Anquan Boldin (twice) 5-90-1 and 9-98. ... Fitzgerald is approaching WR1 value with five touchdowns over his last five games. Among NFL wideouts, only Calvin Johnson (12) and Demaryius Thomas (10) have more TDs than Fitzgerald's nine. ... Floyd is second in the league in receiving yards (396) over the past three weeks. He's earned every-week WR2 billing.
Continuing to lack both on-field and box-score consistency, Housler finished last week's loss to the Eagles with 21 yards on three receptions, committing a bad drop that could lead to reduced playing time. I wouldn't want to stream Housler against a Rams defense allowing the fifth fewest fantasy points to tight ends. ... Roberts had eight catches for 97 yards in the Week 1 game at St. Louis, but his snaps have been scaled back dramatically ever since due to Arizona's increased reliance on two-tight end sets. Roberts can't be trusted in the fantasy playoffs. ... Ellington is tentatively expected to return from his knee injury this week, but presents an awful lot of Week 14 risk as a role player at less than full strength. I'd like to see Ellington play effectively in a game before trusting him. Knee injuries can be a serious drain on skill-position performance. ... The Cardinals plugged Stepfan Taylor into Ellington's passing-back role in last week's loss to the Eagles, giving Mendenhall 18 carries with no receiving usage. Mendenhall remains a low-upside flex option who likely won't pay fantasy dividends unless he scores a goal-line touchdown. He's BenJarvus Green-Ellis West. This is a middling matchup. St. Louis is 15th versus the run.
Although its run-heavy approach has worked in certain instances this year, the Rams' offense is extremely limited in the post-Sam Bradford era with little to no threat of a passing attack, and zero chance of battling back from early-game deficits. The Cardinals' defense also poses a daunting matchup for opposing pass games. Over the last five weeks, Arizona has limited enemy signal callers to 124-for-219 passing (56.6%), 1,157 yards (5.28 YPA), and an 8:7 TD-to-INT ratio. The blitz-oriented Cards sacked Nick Foles five times last week. Kellen Clemens is a virtual lock to struggle, making Arizona's defense a recommended Week 14 fantasy play and the Rams' receiving corps a situation to avoid. ... Here is Clemens' 2013 target distribution in case you're desperate: Chris Givens 33; Jared Cook 27; Tavon Austin 20; Zac Stacy 17; Austin Pettis 11 and Brian Quick 11; Lance Kendricks 10; Stedman Bailey 6. ... Cook would be the one Rams pass catcher worth a Hail Mary look with two factors working in his favor: Cook shredded Arizona for by far his season-best game (7-141-2) in these clubs' Week 1 meeting, and the Cardinals far and away give up the most fantasy points to tight ends. Cook has otherwise flopped, of course, and is just a matchup-based streamer option. ... Stacy remains the centerpiece of St. Louis' offense, but is a mere mid-range RB2 against Arizona's top-four run defense, a unit holding enemy rushers to the second stingiest yards-per-carry clip (3.46) in football. As defenses are now gearing up to stop Stacy, his production has begun to tail off a la fellow rookie bellcow Eddie Lacy in Green Bay.
Score Prediction: Cardinals 21, Rams 10
Seattle @ San Francisco
Colin Kaepernick has made two career starts against Pete Carroll's Seahawks defense. In those two affairs, he's combined to complete 32-of-64 passes (50.0%) for 371 yards (5.80 YPA), one touchdown, and four interceptions. Kap has rushed for 118 yards in his two starts versus Seattle, though the rushing stats aren't enough to offset his passing woes. I think Kaepernick has played better than given credit for this season considering his depleted supporting cast -- he's accounted for 12 TDs compared to three turnovers over his last six games and his passing yardage has risen in three straight weeks -- but I wouldn't even consider him in a standard fantasy league in this matchup. The Seahawks are No. 1 in pass defense and didn't miss a beat without CBs Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond III in last Monday's beatdown of New Orleans, holding Drew Brees to season lows across the board. ... Kap's target distribution with Michael Crabtree back in the starting lineup last week: Anquan Boldin 10; Vernon Davis 5; Crabtree and Bruce Miller 4; Frank Gore 2. ... Seattle stifled Boldin in these clubs' Week 2 meeting, holding him to one catch for seven yards with LCB Richard Sherman traveling into the slot more often than usual in an effort to eliminate Kaepernick's first read. Boldin should be more productive this time around, though probably not by much. He's a stretch as a WR3 play in the first round of fantasy playoffs.
Another concern for San Francisco's offense is LT Joe Staley's MCL sprain. Pro Football Focus has graded Staley as the NFL's second best offensive tackle. His Week 13 injury appeared so significant 49ers beat writers initially fully expected him to miss this game. Staley plans to play, but LG Mike Iupati will not due to an MCL injury of his own, shaking up the left side of San Francisco's offensive line in a tilt with Seattle's deep group of speedy edge rushers. ... I looked at every route run by Crabtree in his Week 13 debut. His most impressive play was a 60-yard reception that reminded of Crabtree's run-after-catch skills with a vicious stiff arm of LCB Trumaine Johnson. The throw was perfectly placed deep down the right sideline by Kaepernick, but Crabtree ran an excellent stop-and-go route to cross up heavy-footed Johnson, and added yardage to the play with physicality. Crabtree played 42-of-67 snaps (62.7%), rendering Mario Manningham (23.9%) obsolete. I wouldn't start Crabtree against Seattle, but would consider him a prime WR3 candidate for Week 15 at Tampa and particularly Week 16 versus Atlanta, assuming he continues to play well. ... It's difficult to hold Davis' 3-20 stat line from Week 2 versus Seattle against him because he left early with a hamstring injury. Davis is the only Niners pass catcher I'd feel confident starting in Week 14. The Seahawks allow the 15th most receptions in the league to tight ends. If the 49ers are going to have any sliver of passing success Sunday, it'll go through Davis. ... Seattle's run defense has been only above average this season, ranking 13th in rushing yards per game allowed and 15th in yards per carry (4.10). They have historically been far more vulnerable on the ground in away games as opposed to at home. This game is on the road. Gore is more of a mid-range RB2 this week, but he's still a fantasy starter.
Vegas' over-under for this game is 41 points, third lowest of Week 14. Although San Francisco-Seattle games have been incredibly difficult to predict over the past two seasons, especially in terms of scoring, my gut feeling is this will be a 13-7 kind of result as the Niners' top-five defense takes on Seattle's No. 1-ranked group. In the aforementioned Week 2 meeting, San Francisco held Russell Wilson to 8-of-19 passing for 142 yards, a touchdown and a pick, with 33 rushing yards. Despite Wilson's recent statistical tear -- he has a 20:5 TD-to-INT ratio over his last ten games with a 21st score on a scramble -- I wouldn't want to trust Wilson in the first round of the fantasy playoffs. He looks like a boom-or-bust play more likely to bust. ... Wilson's target distribution with Percy Harvin (hip) back on the shelf last week: Zach Miller 8; Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate 5; Marshawn Lynch 4; Jermaine Kearse 3; Luke Willson 1. ... Miller's team target high is likely not a sign of things to come. San Francisco allows the fewest fantasy points in the NFC to tight ends, and these are Miller's stats in his last five meetings with the Niners: 2-22, 2-15, 0-0, 1-9, 2-19. ... Baldwin is just a low-end WR3, but he would be my pick to lead Seattle in Week 14 receiving. Baldwin will run most of his routes against 32-year-old slot CB Carlos Rogers, and has combined for 104 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games against San Francisco.
Tate's last five stat lines versus the Niners: 1-8-1, 3-16, 0-0, 2-27, 1-19. Perhaps Tate will buck that trend this week, but I wouldn't want to bet on it. He's a WR4 in Week 14. ... With Harvin not expected to play again, Kearse will continue to play in three-receiver packages as the Seahawks' No. 4 passing-game option. Although Kearse is never a bad bet for a touchdown, he's cleared 50 receiving yards in 1-of-12 appearances this season and is no more than a deep-league Hail Mary option against San Francisco's top-three pass defense. ... The one Seattle skill-position player with a documented and consistent history of success against the Niners' defense is Lynch. Over his last four 49ers meetings, Lynch has rushed 95 times for 419 yards (4.41 YPC) and scored five all-purpose touchdowns. Lynch has totaled over 100 yards in all four games. He remains an RB1.
Score Prediction: 49ers 13, Seahawks 10
NY Giants @ San Diego
The Bengals successfully attacked San Diego's soft defense with a 38:23 run-to-pass ratio in Week 13, and it's fair to anticipate Giants OC Kevin Gilbride copying the approach. New York's passing offense has been borderline dysfunctional all year, but the run game has been efficient, sustaining, and consistent since Andre Brown's return four weeks ago. Strictly in points per game, Brown is the No. 7 fantasy back on the season, behind only elite RB1s Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, Knowshon Moreno, Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, and Marshawn Lynch. He's outscoring Reggie Bush, Eddie Lacy, and Frank Gore. With Brandon Jacobs (knee) likely shelved for this week, Brown is a locked-in RB1 against a Bolts defense that ranks 22nd versus the run and coughs up the second highest yards-per-carry clip (4.86) in the league. ... Eli Manning's target distribution since Brown returned from short-term I.R.: Victor Cruz 32; Brown and Rueben Randle 17; Brandon Myers 14; Hakeem Nicks 11; Jerrel Jernigan 9; Bear Pascoe 6; Peyton Hillis 3. ... Cruz's scoring drought has dropped his value from early-season WR1 to lower-end WR2, but a blowup game could be on the horizon against San Diego's 28th-ranked pass defense. Enemy No. 1 wide receiver stats versus the Chargers since their Week 8 bye: Pierre Garcon 7-172; Demaryius Thomas 7-108-3; Mike Wallace 4-39; Dwayne Bowe 5-51-1; A.J. Green 5-83-1. I like Cruz as a high-ceiling Week 14 play, and am starting him on FanDuel.
Although it shouldn't shock anyone if Nicks has a good Week 14 game considering his pathetic opponent, the contract-year wideout has played himself out of WR3 discussion in the fantasy playoffs by laying egg after egg in the finest of matchups. His two-catch, 34-yard Week 13 game in D.C. sealed the deal. Nicks still hasn't scored a touchdown this season and is officially a WR4. ... Randle also has a great matchup but has been a boom-or-bust WR3 all season while lacking any semblance of statistical predictability. If you're looking to start him, you're on your own. ... The Chargers are 24th in receptions allowed to tight ends and 26th in yards. Myers' box scores have picked up in recent weeks, but he isn't suddenly a dynamic player and still hasn't seen more than six targets in any game since Week 2. And his matchup isn't great on paper. ... I'd probably rank Manning as a top-12 fantasy quarterback this week just based on matchup alone, but wouldn't feel especially good about it. The reason Eli's outlook is elevated has nothing to do with his own play and everything to do with the defense he's facing. The Chargers are allowing a league-high 67.5 completion rate to enemy signal callers and the highest quarterback rating (101.6) in the AFC. They can't rush the passer or cover. Manning has upside as a closed-eyes QB1 streamer.
Chargers coach Mike McCoy's offensive wizardry has flown under the radar this season due to San Diego's sieve-like defense and 5-7 record. McCoy changed his offense on the fly in Week 13, switching from an 11 personnel team to 12 personnel with two tight ends as every-down players. NFL defensive coordinators swear two-tight end offense is tougher to defend than three wides, so it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if McCoy stuck with this style of play the rest of the way. The biggest loser is Eddie Royal, who is injured anyway. The beneficiary is mismatch-creating freak Ladarius Green, who more than doubled his previous season high for snaps against Cincinnati, playing 61-of-67 downs (91.0%). Third in fantasy tight end scoring the past three weeks -- behind only Rob Gronkowski and Vernon Davis -- Green has earned legit TE1 billing with talent and now production to capitalize on the major playing-time spike. In Week 14, Green will take on a Giants defense that struggles in linebacker coverage and allows the eighth most fantasy points to tight ends. ... Gates played 62-of-67 snaps against the Bengals and going forward will be the poor man's Gronk to Green's Hernandez. Green has more upside than Gates, but the veteran remains in low-end TE1 territory. Gates is still fantasy football's No. 8 overall tight end on the season.
The Giants rank a respectable 13th versus the pass, but are third to last in sacks and will again be minus top defender Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder). Scuffling Robert Griffin III touched up the JPP-less G-Men for 24-of-32 passing (75%) and 295 total yards in Week 13. This isn't an imposing matchup for low-end QB1 Rivers. ... Rivers' target distribution since San Diego's Week 8 bye: Keenan Allen 44; Gates 41; Danny Woodhead 26; Vincent Brown 19; Green 18; Royal 17; Ryan Mathews 12. ... Despite Green's emergence, Allen is Rivers' go-to pass option. He's averaging 92 yards over his last eight games and is a high-end WR2 in this plus-weather matchup. ... Woodhead can be downgraded to shaky flex option until his playing time and workloads pick back up. Woodhead is playing less because Mathews has been so effective. Down to 29 snaps and nine touches per game over the last month, Woodhead is too unreliable for fantasy playoffs confidence. He averaged 37 snaps and over 14 touches in his previous seven games. ... Mathews has a fairly forbidding matchup with New York's top-nine run defense, but Mathews' increasing passing-game and all-around role makes him a superior Week 14 flex play to Woodhead. Mathews has 548 yards and three TDs on his last 111 carries (4.94 YPC). He's played 99 snaps to Woodhead's 85 the past three weeks.
Score Prediction: Chargers 24, Giants 20
Sunday Night Football
Carolina @ New Orleans
Both Sunday night competitors deserve credit for major 2013 defensive improvement, but it's hard to overlook their historical head-to-head results when attempting to prognosticate this game. Cam Newton has faced the Saints four times in his career. The scores have been 44-38, 35-27, 45-17, and 30-27. During Carolina's eight-game win streak, Cam is 153-of-239 (64.0%) for 1,731 yards (7.24 YPA) and a 13:6 TD-to-INT ratio with five additional rushing touchdowns. Only Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford, and Drew Brees have more fantasy points among quarterbacks this season. I wouldn't pick the Panthers to win this game, but I would bet the over on the 46-point over-under. And I'd start Cam Newton. ... Newton's target distribution during the eight-win streak: Steve Smith 59; Brandon LaFell 50; Greg Olsen 44; Ted Ginn 35; DeAngelo Williams and Mike Tolbert 19; Jonathan Stewart 6. ... Although New Orleans' defense has been generally stingy in tight end coverage, it coughed up six catches, 88 yards, and a TD to Seattle's tight ends last Monday. In this potential shootout, Olsen should be treated as a rock-solid TE1. Olsen has at least 85 yards and/or a touchdown in five of his last six games. Among tight ends, only Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham have scored more fantasy points than Olsen the past five weeks.
Smith has a tougher Week 14 matchup. Here are the stat lines of the last 11 "No. 1 receivers" to face New Orleans and emerging shutdown corner Keenan Lewis: Brandon Marshall 4-30-1; Mike Wallace 3-24; Larry Fitzgerald 5-64; Vincent Jackson 5-77; Aaron Dobson 6-63; Stevie Johnson 7-72-1; Dez Bryant 1-44; David Nelson 1-19; Anquan Boldin 6-56-1, Roddy White 2-24; Golden Tate 4-45. Smith is a dicey WR3. ... LaFell scored a wide-open 16-yard touchdown on a blown coverage in last week's win over Tampa Bay, but has hit the 60-yard mark in 2-of-12 games this season. He isn't worth rostering during the fantasy playoffs beyond 16-team leagues. And neither is Ginn. ... New Orleans' defense is serving up 4.62 yards per carry, the fifth highest average in the league. Panthers running backs have a chance at combined rushing success in Week 14, but Carolina's lack of voluminous workloads and goal-line vulturing by Tolbert and Cam deprive their tailbacks of any semblance of reliable start-ability. When all three Carolina runners have been healthy and active this season, here are the snap counts of each backfield contributor: Tolbert 154; Williams 103; Stewart 75. Their touch totals: Williams 44; Stewart 37; Tolbert 24. With Williams back from his quad injury this week, Carolina's backfield is a fantasy situation to avoid.
Drew Brees typically turns in one or two true clunker games per season. Brees' 2013 hiccup happened in Week 13 at Seattle. Over the past three years, these are Brees' combined stats in games following ones where he threw one touchdown pass or fewer: 214-of-313 (68.4%) for 2,463 yards (7.87 YPA), and a 22:6 TD-to-INT ratio. Carolina's defense is a different animal, of course, but this game is back in the Superdome, and Brees has never been prone to sustained stretches of unproductive performance. It's more likely than not Brees bounces back in a big way versus the Panthers. Start him with confidence before a mouth-watering Week 15 matchup in St. Louis’ dome. ... Brees' target distribution since Marques Colston returned from a knee injury four games ago: Jimmy Graham 32; Colston 29; Pierre Thomas 22; Darren Sproles 19; Kenny Stills 11; Lance Moore 10; Robert Meachem 9; Ben Watson and Josh Hill 6; Mark Ingram 5. ... The Panthers' biggest defensive vulnerability has been in tight end coverage, the position to which they allow the 12th most receptions in the league. This is a quality matchup for every-week difference maker Graham. ... With six games over 60 yards this season but the other five at 40 yards or fewer, Colston has been a boom-or-bust WR3. Treat him accordingly against the Panthers' No. 6 pass defense, which has allowed the fewest passing TDs (9) in the NFC.
Stills, Moore, and Meachem essentially form a No. 2 receiver-by-committee situation, with none of the above separating himself. Moore and Meachem are waiver-wire fodder in the fantasy playoffs, while Stills is just barely worth rostering in 14-team settings. ... Sproles' eight targets against the Seahawks were promising, but his snap rate (31%) wasn't. He'll be a weak flex option versus the Panthers' athletic linebacker corps. ... Lead back Thomas does battle Sunday with Carolina's No. 2 run defense, a unit giving up the fewest rushing touchdowns (3) in the NFC. Thomas would be a better flex gamble than Sproles, but not by much. The Panthers stuff the run and have enough sideline-to-sideline speed at the second level to snuff out the screen game, where Thomas is at his best. ... Since his faux-breakout performance in Week 10 against Dallas, Ingram has carried a combined 23 times for 79 scoreless yards (3.43 YPC). He has no re-draft fantasy league value.
Score Prediction: Saints 27, Panthers 23
Monday Night Football
Dallas @ Chicago
DeMarco Murray has a fantasy playoffs schedule that positions him to put owners on his back. After visiting Chicago's last-ranked run defense Monday night, Murray will take on Green Bay's No. 26 group, and close out fantasy season against the No. 14 Redskins in Week 16. Since Week 6, Alfred Morris/Roy Helu, Brandon Jacobs, Eddie Lacy/James Starks, Reggie Bush, Ray Rice, Zac Stacy/Benny Cunningham/Tavon Austin, and Adrian Peterson/Cordarrelle Patterson have combined to paste the Bears for 1,167 yards and 12 TDs on 182 runs (6.41 YPC). Coming off a long week to rest his legs and without Lance Dunbar (PCL surgery) around to steal any carries, Murray is a top-five RB1. ... Ninth in fantasy quarterback scoring on the season, Tony Romo is more of a low-end QB1 at Chicago, whose defensive strength is versus the pass. The Bears get torched by the run, but rank a respectable 14th in pass defense and are tied for sixth in the league in interceptions (15). The front four is finally getting healthy with Jay Ratliff installed at three-technique tackle and RE Julius Peppers having racked up 5.5 sacks over his last five games. It's entirely possible OC Bill Callahan and coach Jason Garrett build their Week 14 game plan around featuring the run. Romo is still a quality fantasy start, but with potentially limited upside.
Romo's target distribution in Miles Austin's five starts this year: Dez Bryant 52; Jason Witten 33; Austin 29; Murray 27; Terrance Williams 15; Cole Beasley 8; James Hanna and Dwayne Harris 5; Dunbar 4. ... The Bears allow the third most receptions and yards to tight ends, setting up Witten for a high-volume Monday nighter. Witten is a mid-range TE1. ... Since returning from his latest hamstring injury two games ago, Austin has pathetically secured 2-of-8 targets for 35 scoreless yards. Austin's biggest impact right now is blocking Williams and Beasley, who were much more effective in his absence. If Dallas has serious designs on making the NFL playoffs, Callahan and Garrett ought to strongly consider demoting Austin into a fourth receiver role. He's got no juice. ... Bryant has 25 targets in two games since the Cowboys' bye week, with a blowup on the horizon. In Dez's last meeting with the Bears -- October of 2012 -- he shredded Chicago for eight catches and 105 yards. Only Calvin Johnson is a superior Week 14 fantasy play at wide receiver.
Jay Cutler (ankle) has resumed practicing with an eye toward Week 15, but Josh McCown will get the nod once more Monday night versus Dallas. Through six relief appearances, McCown is 120-of-184 passing (65.2%) for 1,461 yards (7.94 YPA) and a 9:1 TD-to-INT ratio. Facing Dallas' No. 31 pass defense, McCown is pushing for mid-range QB1 value in Quarterback Whisperer Marc Trestman's offense, which emphasizes high-percentage throws with timing and rhythm in order to mitigate opposing pass rush. It's certainly working, as the Bears rank No. 6 in the NFL in passing offense and field two top-five overall fantasy receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. ... McCown's target distribution on the season: Marshall 53; Jeffery 51; Matt Forte 28; Martellus Bennett 23; Earl Bennett 14; Michael Bush 3; Marquess Wilson 2. ... Jeffery has graduated to every-week WR1 status. He's eighth in the league in receptions (70), fourth in receiving yards (1,109), and ninth in 20-plus-yard catches (15). Jeffery should be locked into fantasy lineups without any hesitation against the Cowboys' leaky secondary. ... Marshall is coming off of a slower Week 13 box score than his bookend, but nothing has changed with regard to his fantasy outlook. With at least 75 yards and/or a touchdown in 9-of-12 games this season, Marshall is the No. 4 wideout scorer on the year, behind only Calvin Johnson, Josh Gordon, and Demaryius Thomas.
Martellus has been fairly far down the passing-game pecking order with McCown under center -- relative to Marshall and Jeffery, at least -- but has an attractive Monday night matchup versus a Cowboys defense allowing the seventh most fantasy points to tight ends. Bennett is the No. 10 overall fantasy tight end on the year, and a fine low-end TE1 start. ... Although the return of ILB Sean Lee (hamstring) will help, it's impossible to overlook Dallas' run-defense woes the past three weeks. DC Monte Kiffin's unit has hemorrhaged 494 yards and six TDs on 88 carries (5.61 YPC) to the Saints, Giants, and Raiders' tailback tandems. As many of the league's top running backs face daunting Week 14 matchups, Forte is a top-three RB1 against the Cowboys. Forte is fifth in the NFL in rushing yards, tied for sixth in rushing TDs, and third among tailbacks in receptions.
Score Prediction: Bears 27, Cowboys 24
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