Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes.
Start of the Week: Justin Herbert vs. Falcons -- Still fantasy’s overall QB8 in points per game, Herbert is coming off back-to-back down games in Chargers losses to the Bills and Patriots. After posting a sterling 20:4 TD:INT mark Weeks 4-11 as the overall QB2 in that span, Herbert has completed just 57-of-105 throws (54.3%) for 525 yards (5.0 YPA) and a 1:3 TD:INT mark over the last two weeks. He’s fantasy QB31 across Weeks 12-13. But this matchup against the Falcons couldn’t be much better for the first week of the fantasy playoffs. Atlanta is dead last in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 19th in pass-defense DVOA, and 19th in adjusted sack rate. Taysom Hill just pasted the Falcons for the best passing day of his career, going 27-of-37 for 232 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Week 13 as the QB8. Drew Lock and Matthew Stafford have also hung 300-plus yards passing days on Atlanta over the last month and a half. Both the Chargers and Falcons are top-six in offensive pace and top-three in plays per game. This has fantasy fireworks written all over it despite a meager 49.5-point total.
Ryan Tannehill at Jaguars -- Heavily aided by garbage time last week, Tannehill fired off a season-high 45 passes against the Browns and posted the QB3 week. The overall QB10 in fantasy points per game on the season, Tannehill draws a tasty Week 14 date with a Jaguars Defense that is 29th in fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks, 31st in pass-defense DVOA, and 29th in adjusted sack rate. This game’s 52.5-point total is the second-highest of the week and is an underrated spot for offensive firepower featuring two horrendous defenses. Both the Jaguars (28th) and Titans (31st) are bottom-five in opponent plays per game while both offenses are top-six in seconds per play on offense. Tannehill flamed the Jaguars for four touchdowns in Week 2 as the QB8 that week, and the two teams combined for 63 points. Favored by eight on the road, Tennessee’s implied team total of 29.75 points is the week’s third-highest, trailing only the Packers (32) and Seahawks (30.25). Tannehill is an upside QB1.
Tom Brady vs. Vikings -- The Bucs are coming off a much-needed bye week after dropping two straight and 3-of-4 prior to the open date. After tossing just four total interceptions Weeks 1-8, Brady has an 8:7 TD:INT mark over his last four outings. He’s tumbled to QB11 on the season, but surely the Bucs used their bye to try and right things on offense. And Brady catches a soft Vikings Defense that is 28th in passing touchdowns allowed, 24th in opponent passing yards, 24th in adjusted sack rate, and 25th in opponent plays per game. Mike Glennon put 280 yards on Minnesota last week, sending the game to overtime 24-24. Andy Dalton threw three touchdowns against the Vikings in Week 11. Brady is easily the best quarterback the Vikings have seen since Aaron Rodgers (291 yards, 3 TDs) in Week 8. This game’s 52.5-point total is tied for the second-highest on the slate, and the Bucs are implied to score 29.5 points.
Mitchell Trubisky vs. Texans -- Since reclaiming starting duties in Week 12, Trubisky has posted back-to-back strong box scores with a season-high 267 yards and 76.5% completion rate last week against the Lions after tossing three touchdowns in Green Bay the week before. Trubisky is not good at real-life football, but he knows how to find his way into fantasy production as the overall QB15 across Weeks 12-13. He now catches a Texans unit that lost top CB Bradley Roby to a season-ending six-game PEDs suspension. Houston just coughed up 285 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Philip Rivers last week. The Texans are 23rd in passing yards allowed, 25th in pass-defense DVOA, and 29th in opponent plays per game. This is a potential ceiling game for Trubisky as long as the weather cooperates at Soldier Field. Houston-Chicago features a low 45-point game total, fourth-lowest on the slate, but I do like the potential for this game to hit the “over,” as both offenses are in plus spots, especially the Bears.
Kyler Murray at Giants -- It’s tough to justify flat-out sitting fantasy’s overall QB1, but Murray and the Cardinals are playing some of their worst football at the moment, dropping three straight games while Murray has managed 173 and 170 passing yards over the last two weeks. He also hasn’t rushed for a touchdown since Week 10. And now Arizona is traveling cross-country to face a Giants Defense that is red-hot and just shut down Russell Wilson in Seattle last Sunday, holding him to 263 yards and one touchdown while the Seahawks posted 12 points. The Giants are on a four-game winning streak and have allowed 16.5 points per game in that stretch. Overall, the Giants are third in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, third in rushing yards allowed to the position, and 10th in opponent plays per game. This game’s 45.5-point total is the fifth-lowest of the week. Fantasy leaguers need to temper Week 14 expectations for Murray.
Derek Carr vs. Colts -- Carr is coming off the overall QB1 performance in Week 13 after he lit since-fired DC Gregg Williams’ Jets Defense up for season bests in pass attempts (47), yards (381), and three touchdowns, including the game-winning 46-yarder to Henry Ruggs on fourth down as the clock was approaching zeroes. Carr is still just the overall QB24 in fantasy points per game on the year and catches a much tougher Week 14 draw. This is a prime letdown spot for the Raiders after last week’s emotional last-seconds win. The Colts are seventh in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, fifth in pass-defense DVOA, 12th in adjusted sack rate, and fourth in opponent plays per game. Both the Colts and Raiders are in the bottom half of the league in offensive pace. Carr is unlikely to come close to 40 pass attempts, as he averaged a mere 31.6 per game prior to Week 13’s high-water mark of 47. The Raiders’ implied total of 24 points is middle of the road for the week. Carr is more of a back-end QB2 in a difficult matchup.
Jalen Hurts vs. Saints -- The Eagles have benched Carson Wentz and are giving the Week 14 start to second-rounder Hurts. Wentz was totally broken, and his confidence was completely shot, so this was a move that had to be made. But Hurts now gets a white-hot Saints Defense that is firing on all cylinders for NFC’s top squad. New Orleans is yielding just 8.8 points per game over its last five contests. Hurts will be running for his life behind an injury-ruined offensive line tasked with blocking a Saints defensive line that is No. 1 in adjusted sack rate. Dual-threat Hurts gets a Saints unit that is fourth in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, first in rushing yards allowed to the position, and second in pass-defense DVOA. The Saints hold distinct advantages all over the field for this one. Philly’s implied team total of 18 points is the second-lowest of Week 14. Hurts gets the Cardinals and Cowboys in Weeks 15 and 16.
Start of the Week: Myles Gaskin vs. Chiefs -- With Salvon Ahmed, Matt Breida, and DeAndre Washington all out for Week 13, Gaskin returned from his I.R. stint (knee) to play 71% of the snaps and handle 23 touches in his first game back since Week 8. He just couldn’t find the end zone despite 141 total yards. Gaskin has immediately reclaimed workhorse duties and is one of the safest RB2 bets on the board week to week, holding firm grips on playing time and usage. Ahmed has yet to be cleared for contact, the coaches seem to hate Breida, and Washington was acquired as mere insurance at the trade deadline. It’s unclear if any of the three will get the green light to face the Chiefs. The Dolphins are significant 7.5-point home underdogs in Week 14, but Gaskin is a natural pass catcher and can get his touches there. With only DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki as his competition for targets, Gaskin could easily see 5-8 looks in the passing game and 15 carries. Gaskin is fantasy’s overall RB22 in half-PPR points per game. The Chiefs are 20th in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 30th in run-defense DVOA.
Ezekiel Elliott at Bengals -- Zeke’s six targets in Week 13 against the Ravens were his most since Dak Prescott’s ankle explosion. But he hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown since Dak’s injury and has just one receiving score in that seven-game span. Playing in a horrendous offense behind an injury-ravaged offensive line, Elliott has devolved into a TD-or-bust RB2. Elliott has seen 20-plus touches in four of the last five games, and this truly may be his best chance at a productive fantasy line. The Bengals are 19th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, 21st in run-defense DVOA, and are hemorrhaging 5.0 yards per carry to the position. This game’s 42.5-point total is easily the lowest of Week 14, but the running backs on both sides (Giovani Bernard) look like strong RB2 plays with upside in what should be a close game between two bad teams. The Cowboys and Bengals are both top-six in total offensive plays.
Ronald Jones vs. Vikings -- The Bucs are coming off their bye. After Jones scored on a 37-yard catch-and-run in Week 12, coach Bruce Arians said Jones needs to get more touches the rest of the way. Leonard Fournette has been drop-prone and has done nothing with his looks over the last month. Arians specifically said Jones “needs to have 20 touches.” Arians has always spoken highly of Jones, but his usage of the third-year back has been all over the board and impossible to trust. The Vikings present a winnable draw for Jones, however, as Minnesota is allowing 4.36 yards per carry to running backs, 17th in run-defense DVOA, and 25th in opponent plays per game. James Robinson posted 108 yards and a score against Minnesota in Week 13, and this game’s 52.5-point total is the second-highest on the board. We want to have pieces of this game for fantasy. If Jones gets his 20 touches, he’s easily an upside RB2 play.
J.D. McKissic at 49ers -- Antonio Gibson is dealing with a case of turf toe after getting hurt early in the first quarter last week and is expected to miss some time. With Gibson out last week, McKissic played 74% of the snaps and touched the ball 15 times, including catching 10-of-10 targets for 70 yards. Peyton Barber’s 24 snaps were his most since Week 1. He’s going to be a threat for goal-line scores as a much worse version of Adrian Peterson. McKissic deserves RB3 consideration for Week 14 against the 49ers and gets a major boost in PPR formats where he could easily post a top-12 week. In five games with Alex Smith under center, McKissic has been targeted 45 times, catching 31 of those while also handling 22 carries in that span. This game’s 43-point total is largely one to avoid for fantasy decisions, but McKissic should be in lineups on Washington’s side as a threat for double-digit targets.
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Todd Gurley at Chargers -- Gurley missed Week 12 with a knee injury. Brian Hill got the start in that one but flopped badly on 50% of the snaps, generating 55 empty yards on 13 carries while failing to catch a pass. Clearly frustrated with Hill’s lack of playmaking, the Falcons turned to Ito Smith more in the second half, and Smith ended up out-touching Hill 16-13 while also scoring an eight-yard touchdown and catching four passes. Gurley was back for Week 13, but played a season-low 33% of the snaps while Smith led the trio at 36% and 10 combined carries and targets. With all three involved in a full-blown committee, none are more than desperation RB3 plays moving forward. Gurley is the best bet for a touchdown as the preferred goal-line back, but he’s extremely TD-dependent with a nonexistent floor in the passing game.
D’Andre Swift vs. Packers -- Swift has missed the last three games with a concussion and non-COVID illness. In his absence, Adrian Peterson has back-to-back two-touchdown games with a combined 31-112-4 rushing line in that span. Swift should be back this week against Green Bay, but Peterson’s red-zone and goal-line dominance keeps Swift on the back end of the RB2/3 map. Kerryon Johnson has also stayed on the radar, playing roughly a fifth of the snaps when all three are healthy. Swift has the playmaking upside to warrant desperation FLEX status, and his activation will make Peterson more of a TD-dependent RB4. The Lions’ implied team total of 23 points is tied for a mediocre 16th among 30 teams in action this weekend. Swift turned 10 touches into 72 scoreless yards way back in Week 2 when these teams last met.
Raheem Mostert vs. Washington -- Jerick McKinnon (3%) and Tevin Coleman (7%) barely played in Week 13 against the Bills, as McKinnon didn’t register a touch and Coleman turned his two into -11 yards. Mostert (44%) and Jeff Wilson (46%) split everything else right down the middle. Wilson saw 12 combined carries and targets to Mostert’s 10 and out-targeted him 5-1 in the passing game. With all four backs now healthy and this somewhat of a four-way RBBC, it’s impossible to trust any of the Niners’ backs as anything more than RB3/FLEX options in a tough spot. Washington is third in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 10th in run-defense DVOA. The Football Team is fresh off shutting down Benny Snell (8-5-0), Ezekiel Elliott (10-32-0), and Giovani Bernard (9-18-0) on the ground over the last three weeks.
Start of the Week: Robby Anderson vs. Broncos -- With volume hogs D.J. Moore (ankle, COVID) and Christian McCaffrey (quad, shoulder) slated to miss Week 14, Anderson is in store for a major usage bump against a secondary that lost top CB A.J. Bouye to a season-ending PEDs ban and No. 2 CB Bryce Callahan to season-ending I.R. due to a foot issue. Already 11th in receiving yards, 12th in catches, and 13th in targets, Anderson is a real threat to lead all players in Week 14 targets and air yards as Teddy Bridgewater’s top downfield threat. The Broncos’ No. 8 and No. 7 rankings in fantasy points allowed to wideouts and pass-defense DVOA, respectively, can largely be thrown out the window with Bouye and Callahan now out. This game has the feel of one that could breeze past its 45.5-point Vegas total.
Corey Davis at Jaguars -- In his contract season, Davis is enjoying a fourth-year breakout and career year while displaying week-to-week consistency as the Titans’ 1B receiver A.J. Brown’s 1A. Brown is expected to play through an ankle injury, but Davis should remain glued to fantasy lineups as a WR3 with upside. Davis posted season highs in targets (12), catches (11), and yards (182) with a touchdown last week against the Browns. It was heavily aided by garbage time and comeback mode, but the numbers still count, and Davis gets a tasty Week 14 draw. The Jaguars are 27th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts and 31st in pass-defense DVOA. And as mentioned above, both the Jaguars (28th) and Titans (31st) are bottom-five in opponent plays per game while both offenses are top-six in seconds per play on offense. This game’s 52.5-point total is tied for the week’s second-highest, and the Titans’ implied team total of 29.75 points is third-highest. Davis went 3-36-1 on five targets against Jacksonville in Week 2.
D.J. Chark vs. Titans -- After missing Week 12, Chark returned last week against the Vikings to pace the Jaguars in WR playing time (87%) and targets (7), but he caught just two of them for 41 yards. Mike Glennon needs to throw a more catchable ball, but the air yards and downfield looks were promising as Glennon showed no fear and was willing to throw deep. This is a much easier on-paper matchup for the Jacksonville passing game. The Titans are 29th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts, 31st in catches surrendered to the position, and 30th in pass-defense DVOA. As I’ve alluded to several times in this piece, this is a potential shootout featuring a pair of bad defenses. Both the Jaguars (28th) and Titans (31st) are bottom-five in opponent plays per game while both offenses are top-six in seconds per play on offense. This game’s 52.5-point total is tied for the week’s second-highest. Chark is an upside WR3.
Antonio Brown vs. Vikings -- In four games with the team, Brown has been force-fed 29 targets from good buddy Tom Brady, who seems determined to prove this is a match made in heaven despite the Bucs losing 3-of-4 games with A.B. in the lineup. The Bucs shouldn’t be forcing the ball to Brown at the expense of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. But here we are, as all three are in prime Week 14 smash spots. The Vikings are 30th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts and 31st in touchdowns surrendered to the position. And this game has one of the highest totals of the week at 52.5 points while the Bucs’ implied team total of 29.5 points is fourth-best on the board. Brown played a season-high 43 snaps in Week 12 and is a WR3.
Christian Kirk at Giants -- After posting 78 yards and/or one touchdown in every game Weeks 4-9, Kirk has totaled 12-98-0 over the last four weeks. A low-floor WR4/5 in a run-first offense, Kirk isn't an exciting Week 14 fantasy option against a Giants Defense that is red hot and 12th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts. The Giants are surrendering just 16.5 points per game during their four-game winning streak. They’ve held D.K. Metcalf (5-80-0), Tyler Lockett (6-63-0), Tyler Boyd (3-15-0), A.J. Green (0-0), Jalen Reagor (4-47-0), and Travis Fulgham (1-8-0) to below-expectation results during that span. And with Larry Fitzgerald due back from COVID this week, Kirk faces even more competition for targets in a game with a total of 45.5.
Darius Slayton vs. Cardinals -- Slayton hasn’t scored since Week 6 and has just one 100-yard game on the year. Since Sterling Shepard returned to the lineup in Week 7, Slayton has seen three or fewer targets in 4-of-6 games and is averaging just 3.8 targets in that span despite being an every-down receiver on the outside. Shepard and Evan Engram are simply dominating the looks in the short areas of the field for a quarterback in Daniel Jones who doesn’t throw touchdowns. Slayton is the most likely wideout to draw Patrick Peterson’s coverage Sunday.
Henry Ruggs vs. Colts -- Ruggs played hero last week by catching the game-winning 46-yard touchdown as the clock ticked down to zeroes, but he still saw just four targets and that was his first touchdown since Week 5. Ruggs has yet to top five targets or three catches in a game this season and is well behind all of Darren Waller, Nelson Agholor, and even Hunter Renfrow in the pecking order for targets from Derek Carr. Ruggs’ four targets last week represented a minuscule 8.5% market share on 47 Carr passes. We shouldn’t be chasing Ruggs’ big game against a Colts Defense that is 11th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts, fifth in pass-defense DVOA, and eighth in pass plays allowed of 40-plus yards. Ruggs is an extremely low-floor WR5. His big weeks are impossible to predict on such low target volume.
Start of the Week: Evan Engram vs. Cardinals -- Engram hasn’t been affected by the return of Sterling Shepard at all. He’s seeing 8.2 targets per game since Week 7 and posted his first 100-yard game of the season two weeks back against the Bengals with a 6-129 line. He’s seen at least eight targets in five of the last six games and now catches a Cardinals unit that just coughed up 10-68-1 to Rams TEs Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee on 13 targets in Week 13. The Cardinals are middle of the pack in catches allowed to tight ends at 16th. With Darius Slayton occupying Patrick Peterson on the outside, Daniel Jones should pepper Engram and Shepard with looks inside. This game isn’t exciting, but Engram is a lock-and-load TE1.
Noah Fant at Panthers -- We’ll throw the QB-less Week 12 out the window. Since returning from his ankle injury in Week 7, Fant has seen 6.3 targets per game and has 4-55 and 4-57 lines over the last two outings. The Panthers have been creamed by tight ends this season, surrendering the fifth-most catches and most yards to the position. This game has some low-key shootout potential featuring a pair of bad/injury-plagued defenses and a 45.5-point total. Carolina likes to funnel passes inside on defense. Fant should be good for a top-15 week with upside as a back-end TE1. Kyle Rudolph (7-68), T.J. Hockenson (4-68), Rob Gronkowski (3-51-1), and Cameron Brate (3-31-1) all met or beat expectations in the Panthers’ previous three games prior to their Week 13 bye.
Mike Gesicki vs. Chiefs -- Preston Williams (foot, I.R.) has missed the last four games. In his absence, Gesicki has posted receiving lines of 2-40, 4-43, 2-35-1, and 9-88-1 last week on a whopping 11 targets. He’s seen at least five targets in all four games in that span while playing 70% of the snaps each of the last two weeks. The Chiefs are 20th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, and Gesicki has minimal competition for targets since Williams’ injury. As 7.5-point underdogs, the Dolphins project to be chasing points Sunday.
Jordan Akins at Bears -- Akins’ snap rate climbed all the way to 70% last week, his highest mark since Week 2. He was targeted just two times in a difficult matchup with the Colts, but Akins sees the field enough to put him on the streaming map against a Bears unit that is 30th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. T.J. Hockenson (7-84), Robert Tonyan (5-67-1), Kyle Rudolph (4-63), and Jonnu Smith (2-32-1) have all decked the Bears for strong games the last four weeks. Deshaun Watson’s receiving corps has been hit with the losses of Will Fuller (PEDs) and Kenny Stills (released) in the last couple weeks.
Tight end is a crapshoot, and all we’re looking for are tight ends who can find the end zone and/or see volume in terms of targets. Predicting touchdowns is the hardest thing to do in football. Just finding a tight end who is on the field enough and runs plenty of routes is difficult enough. It’s why having Travis Kelce and Darren Waller is such an advantage in fantasy.