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10 Interesting Tidbits for Week 14

Torrey Smith has been the better Smith in the second half of the season

Torrey Smith has been the better Smith in the second half of the season

Brian Hoffman is a correspondent at FantasyPros. To read more from Brian, check out his archive and follow him @hoffmaba1.

In Week 14 of the 2013 season, Oakland backup RB Marcel Reece totaled 161 yds and a touchdown while Alfred Morris and Rob Gronkowski both had their second-worst fantasy outputs of the season. For most leagues, Week 14 begins the fantasy playoffs. In this win-or-go-home format, impressive early-season stats and big-name players are less important than hot newcomers, choice matchups, and recent trends. In this week’s “10 Interesting Tidbits”, the focus is on what players and teams have done lately, what we can learn from seasons past, and how we can avoid relying on the wrong players in Week 14.

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Since Week 6, Torrey Smith has averaged twice as many fantasy points as Steve Smith Sr.
Torrey Smith has averaged over 11 fpts while Steve Smith Sr. has averaged just over 6 fpts since Week 6. As with Giovani Bernard, a fast start to the season has fooled many into overvaluing Steve Smith Sr. as compared to Torrey Smith. While S. Smith has the talent to have a solid game in any given week, he has become a possession receiver for the Ravens, which gives T. Smith all of the upside.

Week 14 pits Julius Thomas against a team that has allowed only two touchdowns to tight ends all season
Despite missing three straight games, Julius Thomas leads the league in receiving touchdowns with 12, while his Week 14 opponent, Buffalo, has allowed only two touchdowns to tight ends all season. You’re starting Julius Thomas no matter what, but what should we expect? The key here is who scored those two touchdowns: Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski. Both are physical, athletic tight ends like Thomas, giving him a good chance to find the end zone if he suits up.

In week 14, three of the four worst rushing defenses over the last three weeks face running backs you may not have previously started
Over the last three weeks, Kansas City, Miami, Minnesota, and New Orleans have allowed the most rushing yards in the league. In week 14, Miami faces Justin Forsett, who has been solid all year and is likely already in your starting lineup. However, Kansas City faces Arizona who could be starting Marion Grice if Andre Ellington is unable to go; Minnesota faces the New York Jets, whose new commitment to the run makes Chris Ivory a viable FLEX play in week 14; and New Orleans faces Carolina who could be without Deangelo Williams due to a hand injury. If Williams can’t go, Jonathan Stewart would be the lead back and a solid RB2.

Two of the top-ten leaders in receiving yards from the past three weeks may be available in your league
Both Coby Fleener and Kenny Stills have recently had their roles increase due to injury and are in the top-ten in combined receiving yards over the last three weeks. Fleener is still available in about 15-25% of leagues and Stills is available in over half. These players should be owned in all leagues. If available, pick them up and play them over underperforming big names like Michael Crabtree, Andre Johnson, and Jason Witten.

Don’t trust a Bengals running back against Pittsburgh in December
Over the last three years, the top Bengals running backs have only averaged 33 rushing yards per game when facing Pittsburgh in December. Most recently, Giovani Bernard only had 46 total yards against them in week 15 of 2013.

Regardless of the matchup, you likely shouldn’t be trusting Bernard as an RB1 anyway. In nine games this season, Bernard has only surpassed 11 fpts three times including just once in his last six games. Since Bernard was a high fantasy draft pick and averaged 17.1 fpts in Weeks 1-3, many have continued to think of him as an every-week RB1. Those early-season stats are now a distant memory.

New England running backs can be trusted in December… but probably not this week
Any fantasy owner that has started a New England running back in recent years knows how unreliable they can be. However, recent history shows that this changes in December. In each of the last four seasons, the leading New England running back in Week 13 has led the team in rushing yards for the remainder of the season. This year, the leading Week 13 running back for New England was LeGarrette Blount. Here’s the catch: in Week 14 or 15 of each of those seasons, a different running back either outscored or outrushed the presumed lead back.

That is, in three out of four December games, there was a clear running back that you wanted. The trick has been deciding which game to sit him. In Week 14, New England faces the Chargers, who have allowed three different 100-yd rushers: Jamaal Charles, Ronnie Hillman, and Justin Forsett. None of these backs is a big bruising type like Blount. Unless New England jumps out to a large lead and simply tries to kill the clock, there’s a good chance that this is the one week that Blount will be outscored by one of the other backs, like Shane Vereen.

The Colts have given up the fourth-most turnovers over the last three weeks
One matchup that many will overlook in Week 14 is the Cleveland Browns defense against the Indianapolis Colts. Over the last four weeks, Cleveland has caused the fourth most turnovers in the league while over the last three weeks, Indianapolis has given up the fourth most turnovers. This would be a highly risky play in a week we are trying to minimize risk, but for those scrambling for a defense, this matchup could provide some hidden upside.

This is not the week to trust Philip Rivers again
Phillip Rivers season can be split into two halves. In weeks 2-6, he averaged 2.8 touchdowns per game with only one turnover in that whole period. In his next five games he averaged 1.4 touchdowns per game and 1.6 turnovers. So, which Rivers will show up in week 14 against New England? In the last four weeks, New England’s defense has allowed only 1.5 touchdowns per game and netted one interception per game, including showdowns with Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers. These stats are nearly identical to Rivers’ averages during his bad stretch.

In eight career Monday night games, Aaron Rodgers has averaged only 1.88 TDs and 1 INT
Like the Julius Thomas tidbit, this isn’t about not starting Aaron Rodgers. However, this could impact the remainder of your lineup. Since Rodgers has not excelled in Monday night matchups, it could help you chose a high-upside FLEX option over a safer option since you may not be able to count on a four touchdown performance from Rodgers this week.

While Matt Bryant has been a top-3 kicker the last three weeks, Green Bay has led by an average of 17 points at half time of its last six games
Matt Bryant has been excellent the past three weeks, but Atlanta’s terrible defense is about to face Green Bay’s unstoppable offense. There is a very good chance that Atlanta gets down by so many points that they stop kicking field goals on fourth down in the second half. Last week, Green Bay held this season’s top-scoring kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, to two points. Since most teams only roster one kicker, they tend to be abundant on the waiver wires. This may be a week to explore a different option.

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