For most managers, this is the final week before the fantasy playoffs. Six teams on a bye and a slew of big-name injuries could not have come at a worse time. Unfortunately, this is the reality of Week 14, so managers should be extra cautious about crucial start and sit decisions.
Here are five players facing bad matchups or dealing with backup quarterback play that should only be played at your own risk. With so many fantasy-relevant pieces out for various reasons, managers may not have a choice but to start them. If that is the case, remember to add safe-floor, high-upside options to help make up for any scoring deficits.
Brandon Aiyuk - WR San Francisco 49ers
Brandon Aiyuk is facing a two-fold problem in Week 14. Not only are the 49ers taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they will be doing it with Mr. Irrelevant, Brock Purdy. If you’re not familiar with the term, it is assigned to the very last pick in the draft. First, it was Trey Lance out for the season, now Jimmy Garoppolo is done with a broken foot. That leaves Purdy as the next quarterback to take the reins for the 49ers.
Just to be clear, Purdy did not play poorly when he came in for the injured Garoppolo. He threw 25 completions on 37 attempts for 210 yards, two touchdowns, and only one interception. The issue isn’t with Purdy’s efficiency, but rather his ability to stretch the field. He did not throw a single “deep” reception (completion of 20 or more yards). His longest pass was 19 yards. That meant Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey saw more usage in the short and intermediate game. However, that also means that Aiyuk’s deep-threat potential may suffer the most with Purdy under center.
Couple that with the Buccaneers’ defense and this could be a rough week for Aiyuk. They have allowed the fourth-fewest receptions, seventh-fewest yards, and just two touchdowns to wide receivers in the last four weeks.
Diontae Johnson - WR Pittsburgh Steelers
It’s very possible that Diontae Johnson has been dropped in most leagues, but just in case a manager is holding out hope, he is in this week’s fade column. He has yet to eclipse double-digit fantasy points in half-PPR scoring since Week 3 against the Cleveland Browns when he scored 12.4. Since then, he has reached 8.5 points as his highest total just twice.
The Baltimore Ravens struggled against wide receivers but have picked up their game in recent weeks. Over the last month, they have only allowed two touchdowns, 58 receptions, and 459 yards to the position.
Both Pat Freiermuth and George Pickens have taken over as the scoring leaders for the Steelers with Kenny Pickett under center. Johnson is getting the looks, he had 11 targets in Week 13 against the Falcons but was only able to turn that into five receptions for 60 yards.
Johnson can get lucky on that many targets, but it will be an uphill battle in a divisional matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.
Gabe Davis - WR Buffalo Bills
I cannot believe that I am saying this, but Gabe Davis is a hard fade this week against the second-best defense in the New York Jets. The problem is that you likely have to start him due to the bye weeks and injuries.
The Jets’ defense has been on fire this season and it doesn’t look like they are slowing down anytime soon. They have the second-fewest receiving yards and are tied with (shockingly) the Falcons with just 46 receptions over the last four weeks. Davis should be considered a boom/bust player in a good matchup and that is not this week.
He always has a chance to make big plays on a few receptions, but he can also leave you with anywhere from 5.8 (Week 12) or 1.8 points (Week 4).
Marquez Valdes-Scantling - WR Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes wasn’t lying earlier this season when he said he was going to spread the ball around to all of his receivers. Unfortunately, that leaves very little room for reliability unless your name is Travis Kelce or even JuJu Smith-Schuster.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling‘s last double-digit game was in Week 10 against Jacksonville, which was his best game of the season. He logged three receptions on four targets for 60 yards and a touchdown for 13.5 fantasy points. That’s not a huge stat line for the best performance of the 2022 season.
Far from being boom or bust, Valdes-Scantling is more meh or bust, and that is in good matchups. This week, the Chiefs face the Denver Broncos who are ranked 13th best against wide receivers over the last four weeks and are ranked second in the league on the season. They have been exploited in the secondary and have allowed five touchdowns, but which receiver will get the nod is still up for debate on a weekly basis.
DeAndre Carter - WR Los Angeles Chargers
It may seem like a reach, but with so many players out in Week 14, even a warm body on the field may have to suffice. If that is the case, understand that DeAndre Carter will be WR4 behind Keenan Allen, Josh Palmer, and Mike Williams (if healthy).
The Chargers are facing the Miami Dolphins who have yet to allow a touchdown to a wide receiver in the last four weeks. They have also allowed just 411 yards on 39 receptions to the position. That is not enough volume to go around to help a WR4 get enough touches to be fantasy relevant. Instead, he will be a third-fourth read in the offense and is a touchdown-dependent option with fingers crossed and a prayer to get points in your lineup.