Week 14 of the fantasy football season is finally here, and the Rotoworld crew has everything you need leave the weekend with a win. Patrick Daugherty answers your lineup questions with his Week 14 Rankings, Nick Mensio tells you who to start and who to fade in Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em, and Evan Silva breaks down every matchup in his award-winning Matchups Column.
As for me, I am here to shed some light on the most important injury situations facing fantasy owners heading into the weekend. The sister resource to this column is the Rotoworld News Page, which will have every single inactive and all the late-breaking news up to kickoff and beyond. I also tweet last-minute thoughts at @notJDaigle.
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Jets @ Bills
*Sam Darnold (foot) practiced in full all week and was removed from the team’s injury report, but coach Todd Bowles still wouldn’t confirm who would start between Josh McCown and the rookie. In related news, Darnold will start. The Jets will also be short ILB Darron Lee due to his surprise four-game suspension. As Evan Silva noted, Lee’s played 97% of New York’s defensive snaps this year and, in being their fastest linebacker, was an integral piece in stopping Josh Allen from racking up rushing yards on Sunday.
*WR Isaiah McKenzie (toe) is questionable. That may seem insignificant, but following the releases of Kelvin Benjamin and Andre Roberts mid-week, Buffalo may have only Zay Jones, Robert Foster, Deonte Thompson, and Ray-Ray McCloud available at wideout if McKenzie’s unable to play.
Colts @ Texans
*Despite missing two practices mid-week and being slapped with the questionable tag, the Colts are expected to have T.Y. Hilton (shoulder) back on the field for what could potentially be an offensive assault for both teams. Without TEs Mo Alie-Cox (calf, out) and Clive Walford (waived), Indy will again have only Eric Ebron, Erik Swoope, and blocking TE Ryan Hewitt available at the position. Ebron will stay an every-down player and indisputable top-three tight end this week.
*D’Onta Foreman (Achilles’) was left off the injury report after getting activated off PUP mid-week. He’ll presumably play limited snaps behind Lamar Miller. As always, Keke Coutee (hamstring, questionable) was infinitely limited and listed a game-time call. If he plays, he’ll simply take away from Demaryius Thomas’ value rather than become a viable option himself.
Ravens @ Chiefs
*Even if Joe Flacco’s (hip, questionable) active, he’ll simply backup Lamar Jackson. Not only does Kansas City boast the league’s worst rush defense DVOA, the team has also allowed a league-high four rushing touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks despite facing the fewest quarterback rushing attempts (20). Read that last line again. Jackson makes a tremendous DFS bounce-back option and high-floor low-end QB1 in season-long.
*Sammy Watkins (foot) suffered a setback in practice on Thursday and will reportedly miss the next 4-6 weeks. The Chiefs signed Kelvin Benjamin to take his spot, but he’ll be inactive due to the short turnaround. Chris Conley will continue being used as the team's default second wideout, as he has on 91.5% of snaps the past three games. He’s merely a flex play against Baltimore’s No. 5 pass defense DVOA since he’s only seen a 16% target share in that stretch.
Panthers @ Browns
*Cam Newton (shoulder) had the fantasy world in tears following two limited practices, but he was a full participant on Friday and removed from the team’s injury report. Things are also looking up for D.J. Moore (see below), who played 66 snaps ahead of Curtis Samuel (58), Jarius Wright (39), Devin Funchess (32), and Torrey Smith (9) with all back healthy.
*The Browns will have to keep Moore in check without top corner Denzel Ward, who’s typically been assigned shadow coverage and currently ranks as PFF’s No. 15 CB among 196 qualifiers. The rookie will now draw Terrance Mitchell (and some T.J. Carrie) instead.
Patriots @ Dolphins
*The Pats admittedly have very few defenders that directly impact outcome, but CB Stephon Gilmore (ankle, questionable) just happens to be one of them. Oft used in shadow coverage, PFF’s No. 3 CB would likely drape the bigger DeVante Parker if active. In the event he would be assigned to Kenny Stills, though, note the speedsters team-high 149 air yards (a 39% share) the past two weeks have shown Miami’s clear intention to utilize him downfield — an easier task if Gilmore is scratched.
*Fins elite corner Xavien Howard (knee) is out for the foreseeable future, which immediately vaults Josh Gordon up a tier. Rather than having to deal with PFF’s No. 19 CB, Gordon will now be matched against secondary options Minkah Fitzpatrick and Torry McTyer (when the Dolphins play nickel). McTyer has allowed the eighth-highest quarterback rating (137.3) among corners who have played at least 100 snaps (per PFF). Danny Amendola (knee) is also questionable, but there’s reportedly “no way” he doesn’t play in this revenge spot. He hasn’t topped 90 yards in any game this season.
Falcons @ Packers
*Matt Bryant (back, questionable) is Atlanta’s only notable injury as the team heads into the frozen tundra.
*Before locking in Aaron Jones at the expense of Mike McCarthy’s long gone incumbent play-calling, take heed the Packers could be without starting LT Bryan Bulaga (knee, doubtful), LG Lane Taylor (foot, questionable), and RG Byron Bell (knee, questionable). Randall Cobb (hamstring) and Jimmy Graham (knee, thumb) were both removed from the injury report.
Saints @ Buccaneers
*New Orleans will still be without LT Terron Armstead (pec).
*Starting corners Carlton Davis (knee, doubtful), M.J. Stewart (foot, questionable), and Brent Grimes (knee, questionable) will again be game-time calls. Grimes and slot corner Stewart did notably practice in full throughout the week. More importantly, the Bucs will be without DeSean Jackson (thumb) for the second straight contest, freeing Chris Godwin for at least one more game. Godwin mirrored Mike Evans with a team-high 36 routes in Week 13 and has now posted receiving lines of 3/98, 7/111/1, and 5/101/1 in three career games without Jackson. Whereas Godwin’s explosiveness makes him a high-end WR2 against the Saints, Adam Humphries’ floor and astounding 19.7% target share from Jameis Winston keeps him as a safe WR3.
Giants @ Redskins
*Odell Beckham (quad, questionable) stayed limited on Friday, but he’s fully expected to play. Evan Engram (hamstring) will be back, but ESPN’s Jordan Raanan noted Engram’s role since the bye — a primary passing-down option on 47% of the team’s snaps — won’t change. Coach Pat Shurmur hinted as much Friday, stating the Giants would try to use “all three [tight ends] and try to maximize the use of their strengths.” Assuming that’s the case, Engram can’t be seen as anything more than a TE2 ROS.
*Josh Doctson (hip, questionable) isn’t a terrific option himself, but he is the team’s only deep threat and No. 3 WR in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards Buy-Low Model. If he’s out, you can legitimately make a case to stream the Giants Defense against Mark Sanchez and his ensuing (lack of) surrounding cast.
Bengals @ Chargers
*Not only will the Bengals have to limit the Chargers’ deep-ball wideouts without CBs Dre Kirkpatrick (ankle) and Tony McRae (concussion), LT Cordy Glenn (back, out) will also be unavailable to help protect from Joey Bosa and Los Angeles’ daunting pass rush.
*Melvin Gordon (knee) will miss his second straight game. Before locking in Austin Ekeler as a mandatory play, here’s what coach Anthony Lynn had to say on his explosive backup: "[Ekeler’s] wearing down a little bit. He's a core special teams guy for us and he's played a lot of running back for us. So he's a little tired. You might see Justin [Jackson] play a little bit more, you might see [Detrez] Newsome play some this week." Newsome played nine special teams snaps last week, so the insinuation is that he would simply play more special teams. Rookie Justin Jackson (14, 22%) outright outperformed Ekeler last week, though, exceeding the latter’s 2.3 yards per touch with an 8/63/1 rushing line of his own. Having run a whopping 31 routes, Ekeler still indisputably has the higher floor of the two, and thus remains a confident RB2 Sunday. It still sneakily profiles as a better matchup for Jackson on paper as the Bengals have been crushed on the ground by James Conner (19/111/2), Kareem Hunt (15/86/1), Peyton Barber (19/85/1), Alvin Kamara/Mark Ingram(25/160/2), Gus Edwards (17/115/1), Nick Chubb (28/84/1), and Phillip Lindsay (19/157/2) in their last seven games. Jackson’s a sneaky flex start, and can even be stacked in the same lineup with Ekeler given the duo’s tandem roles.
Broncos @ 49ers
*As you’ve probably heard by now, Emmanuel Sanders (torn ACL, IR) went down in practice and will miss the remainder of the year. With Demaryius Thomas (traded), Jeff Heuerman (broken ribs, IR), and now Sanders suddenly off the field, the Broncos have 53.2% of air yards, 50.8% of targets, and 60% of their targets inside the 10-yard line up for grabs. Courtland Sutton and fourth-round rookie DaeSean Hamilton will start on Sunday, with the former remaining the high-ceiling boom-or-bust option. Denver’s secondary will also be extremely thin without CBs Chris Harris (fibula, out) and Tramaine Brock (ribs, out).
*With Matt Breida (ankle) ruled out, Alfred Morris (healthy scratched in Week 13), Jeff Wilson (54 snaps, 71.1%), and Matt Dayes (one snap) should all be active. Even so, Wilson quietly ran the third-most routes (33) among running backs last week, which isn’t a role he’s suddenly going to cede to Morris. Wilson’s the high-floor RB2 you should look to start whether it be in standard, PPR, or DFS formats. Marquise Goodwin (personal) is expected back, but second-round rookie Dante Pettis will continue starting in place of Pierre Garcon (knee, out). As a boom-or-bust downfield option, Goodwin should open the field even more for Pettis rather than steal looks. Pettis is a high-end WR3 as he’s recently buoyed his newfound opportunity into an average seven targets and 4.5/103/1.5 receiving on 92% of the team’s snaps since their Week 10 bye.
Lions @ Cardinals
*Matthew Stafford (back, questionable) suffered his current injury last week against the Rams, but was able to return and finish the game. He did at least a little something in practice every day, presumably setting himself up to play. You’re probably not in the fantasy playoffs if you’ve been starting Stafford and Bruce Ellington (back, questionable), anyhow, so feel free to ignore that last sentence. LeGarrette Blount should again lead this backfield in carries without Kerryon Johnson (knee), but the sluggish plodder will have to score (perhaps even twice) to return any sort of value. CB Darius Slay (ankle) is questionable.
Eagles @ Cowboys
*There’s reportedly “optimism” LT Tyron Smith (elbow, questionable) will return for this divisional tilt. He’s missed the last two games with a stinger.
Steelers @ Raiders
*The loss of James Conner (ankle) shoehorns former NC State hybrid WR/TE Jaylen Samuels into a starting role. Stevan Ridley will be involved behind him. Samuels has the higher floor of the two by a mile and projects for 14-18 touches. In leagues where he’s tight end eligible, Samuels should only be put on the backburner for Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce, and Eric Ebron. He’s a PPR RB2 where he's strictly RB-eligible.
*Doug Martin (knee) was a full participant in practice all week but is still listed as questionable to suit up. “We have C.J. Anderson," Raiders coach Jon Gruden suspiciously said. "We're giving him a crash course on our protections and our system. If need be, we'll have him up.” Even if Martin plays, it’s possible Oakland chooses to have four active running backs (Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington included), rendering the former to nothing more than a cross-your-fingers flex play.
Rams @ Bears
*Rams have a clean bill of health as they head into Chicago.
*Mitchell Trubisky (shoulder) was a full participant in every practice this week and wasn’t even given a designation on the Friday injury report. “He put together three really good days at practice,” coach Matt Nagy said. “The main thing for us was just seeing conditioning wise if can he could hold up and he did.” He’ll start and immediately slingshot right back into QB1 consideration as the Rams have quietly allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per game (23.9) to opposing quarterbacks.
Vikings @ Seahawks
*Stefon Diggs (knee) played a season-low snap rate (77%) last week, but he did so only after he was able to squeeze in a single limited session. He’s already been limited in two practices this week, putting him on track to play Monday night.
*As of Friday evening, Doug Baldwin (hip) hadn’t practiced in consecutive days. In the event he’s ruled out, note Tyler Lockett averaged 6.5 targets and a 4.5/68.5/1 receiving line in two games sans Baldwin earlier this year.