Welcome to Week 14 of the National Football League regular season, or in fantasy, the start of the postseason. If you're still reading you're likely in the fantasy playoffs, so congratulations and good luck in your pursuit of a championship. Yours truly finished 10-3 in a three-way tie for first place in the regular season of the FLEX League PPR, drafted on Sirius XM Satellite Radio back in August. I'll be playing against Karl Safchick of DynastyOneFantasy.com in the opening round, as I just missed a first-round bye due to tiebreaker. I also made the postseason in my big-money PPR fantasy league, and found the common denominator - a stud wide receiver. If I win my leagues I will send a big thank you note to Pittsburgh Steelers WR Antonio Brown. Good luck to all of you, and I hope you win extra holiday cash!
Houston, We Have a Problem
The Houston Texans have slid down the standings and out of contention in the AFC South, and it's been all about the injuries. The Texans just cannot stay healthy, and it seems there is a new player hitting the Reserve/Injured List (IR) every week. Houston went from one of the most enjoyable teams to watch to an absolute train wreck in the matter of a month or so.
The latest injuries occurred to C.J. Fiedorowicz (concussion) and Bruce Ellington (hamstring), as both were placed on IR due to their injuries. The team signed TE MyCole Pruitt and WR DeAndrew White to the 53-man roster to replace them, as they need bodies. However, it will be Stephen Anderson who will suddenly find himself as a borderline fantasy play after his breakout performance last weekend. He racked up career highs with five receptions and 79 yards after Fiedorowicz was forced into the league's mandated concussion protocol early in the Week 13 game in Tennessee. The 49ers have allowed 49 receptions for 490 yards and six touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season, including touchdowns to both Seattle Seahawks TEs Jimmy Graham and Nick Vannett in Week 12, and New York Giants TE Evan Engram in Week 10 before the team's bye and a score to Arizona's Jermaine Gresham in Week 9.
The Texans have important position players with multi-week injuries or others on IR like QB Deshaun Watson (knee), Ellington, Will Fuller (ribs), D'Onta Foreman (Achilles') on offense, and J.J. Watt (knee) and Whitney Mercilus (pectoral). No team can withstand those type of hits in the injury department and still stay competitive. Fantasy owners of Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins have to be thrilled to have negotiated the injury minefield to get to this point relatively unscathed.
Fuller hasn't been placed on IR, but he has missed several games after emerging as a breakout performer earlier in the season with Watson. The stud wideout is still considered "week-to-week" by the club, and he has yet to resume practicing. At this point there is likely to be a lot of rust once he is able to return from cracked ribs, but it's so tough to pull the trigger and drop him based on his early production. However, if you're in a roster pinch and need a more certain option, you need to make a move because the season could be over each week with a loss now. Braxton Miller (concussion) stepped up with four grabs and 71 yards last week, but he also exited with a concussion. He has a golden opportunity if he can pass all tests and get back into the lineup. Outside of Nuke Hopkins, the depth chart shows Cobi Hamilton, Christ Thompson and White, if Miller is also forced to the shelf. Ouch.
Unfortunately for fantasy owners looking for a streaming defense, the San Francisco 49ers are not the way to go, even with the turnover-prone Tom Savage under center. The Niners have allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, so Savage might still have a very productive afternoon throwing downfield to Hopkins, on short and intermediate routes to Anderson, and on backfield dump-offs to Miller. Anderson has legitimate low-end TE1 value this week basically because the cupboard is just so bare. He could see eight to 10 targets and upwards of 80 receiving yards.
Pittsburgh Steelers rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster has been a fantasy find this season, and he seems very affable and well-liked on his team. However, he made a very big mistake in Monday night's slugfest in Cincinnati, dishing out a cheap shot against Vontaze Burfict, then also taunting the injured player and drawing the ire of the league. He has been suspended for one game and the penalty was upheld, so fantasy owners will have to make do without him against the Baltimore Ravens in another potential slugfest. Antonio Brown (toe) posted 101 yards and a touchdown in Cincinnati, and he appears poised for another giant week despite his swollen big toe. See Instagram.
Martavis Bryant also finds himself in position to be a nice fantasy option for playoff-bound teams. While the Ravens have allowed just five touchdowns to opposing wide receivers, second-lowest in the NFL this season, Bryant is a nice WR3 or flex fantasy option this week. He has four catches and 40 yards on six targets in each of the past two games. How's that for consistency? He had three grabs for 48 yards on five targets in Week 4 in Baltimore, his second-highest yardage total of the season. Smith-Schuster has outshined him this season, and that's widely publicized, but it's Bryant's time to shine in Week 13. Don't miss the boat.
Quick Hits: Doug Martin remains in the league's concussion protocol, not yet cleared to practice. We'll get a better sense of his availability on Wednesday when the team holds its first official practice with an injury report, but it's almost safe to assume he will be a DNP. If he is forced to the sidelines again, Peyton Barber is the player to target off the waiver wire if he is still available. He shined last week in a starring role, as he had the carries primarily to himself with Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims fighting for scraps. … Like Smith-Schuster, stud tight end Rob Gronkowski lost his appeal after a cheap shot against Buffalo's Tre'Davious White. The Pats lost Martellus Bennett (shoulder) to IR, so Dwayne Allen will get his chance, while Jacob Hollister also gets a chance at targets. If you're absolutely desperate for a tight end, Allen could emerge. At the very least he is a solid low-cost DFS option with some upside. … Mark Ingram (toe) is dealing with a toe injury, and he was absent for practice on Tuesday. He was limited, or at least estimated to be limited, on Monday, so technically it's a downgrade. If Ingram cannot play on Thursday in Atlanta, it would be the Alvin Kamara Show. It probably will be anyway. … Like Martin above, Amari Cooper remains in the league's concussion protocol, and he is also battling a left ankle issue. Coop might be back in Week 14, but he is a big question mark against the Chiefs. Michael Crabtree is back from suspension, but it might be Cordarrelle Patterson shining again as a fantasy starter if Cooper remains on the shelf. The skidding Chiefs were torn apart by Josh McCown, Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse last week, so imagine what Crabtree and a speedster like Patterson could be capable of accomplishing. … The Bills finally pulled the plug on Jordan Matthews and placed him on the IR, ending his disappointing first season in Western New York. To be fair, he has been banged up for a majority of the season and trying to play through the pain.