7 Interesting Tidbits for Week 14 (Fantasy Football)
Congratulations if you made your fantasy football playoffs, and chances are you did if you’re dabbling in this space. As always, let’s journey through some Interesting Tidbits to highlight important fantasy football related changes and trends entering the week. This can include notable recent performances, changes in playing time, intriguing matchups, and so on. Let’s see what’s on tap for Week 14 and (hopefully) beyond!
Josh Gordon sees 11 targets in his first game back, and now faces the Packers
We saw Josh Gordon’s long-awaited return in Week 13, and he did not disappoint. Playing his first game since 2014, no one really knew what to expect in a tough matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers (seventh in DVOA against the pass), but Gordon passed with flying colors, leading the team in both targets (11) and receiving yards (85), in addition to a whopping 210 air yards. Even opposing cornerback Casey Hayward was impressed. Gordon didn’t get in the end zone, but given the circumstances, it’s about as good as we could have hoped from the enigmatic wide receiver. Now, everyone who took a chance on Gordon will be licking their chops at his upcoming opportunity against the Green Bay Packers, who have been very generous to fantasy wide receivers this season, and rank 21st in DVOA against the pass. Of course, we’re still talking about a one-game sample size, so we can’t necessarily chalk him up for a big game, but there’s every reason to feel bullish about 2013’s leader in receiving yards again.
Russell Wilson has a brutal matchup against the Jaguars
No doubt, if you have Russell Wilson and you’re in the fantasy playoffs, chances are he’s a big reason you got there. So what cruel fate it is now to look at the schedule and see arguably the worst possible matchup awaiting him in a crucial Week 14. The Jacksonville Jaguars are the top defense in DVOA against the pass, first in passing yards allowed per game (167.1), and lead the league in sacks (45.0). And yet, we’re talking about the top overall fantasy scorer of 2017 in Wilson, so unless you somehow have another elite fantasy quarterback on your roster, you’re better off sticking with him despite the circumstances. Even with Mike Davis possibly emerging as a useful running back, the Seattle Seahawks have struggled to run the ball most of the year, leaving Wilson to serve as virtually the entire offense. Wilson leads Seattle in rushing yards (432) and is second among quarterbacks. It’s fair not to expect a ceiling game, but given the rushing upside and his strong performance against a tough Philadelphia Eagles team last week, now isn’t the time to abandon the guy that got you to the dance.
We’ve seen the New England Patriots backfield actually hold steady for another week, and the Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis show continues to pay dividends for those in both camps. James White saw an uptick in volume, but trailed behind with 11 touches, while forgotten man Mike Gillislee was once again a healthy scratch. Burkhead has seemingly become the back with the most upside, contributing regularly in the passing game and continuing to vulture goal-line carries from Lewis, scoring four touchdowns over the last two games. However, Lewis is still getting consistent volume between the 20s, getting at least 14 touches in six straight games. Most other teams can’t support two fantasy backs like this, but on a high-powered offense like the Patriots, they usually find themselves in positive game scripts, helping keep their opportunities up. We can expect more of the same against the Miami Dolphins this week, who are double-digit underdogs.
The Broncos offense is completely in shambles
The Denver Broncos went back to Trevor Siemian at quarterback in Week 13, but it was the same old story for this beleaguered offense. Even in a cupcake matchup against the Dolphins, Siemian flamed out in spectacular fashion, throwing for 200 yards and three interceptions, sinking not only his fantasy day but those of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, who did virtually nothing despite a combined 17 targets. The unpredictable Broncos backfield also reared its ugly head, with Devontae Booker taking a backseat, and instead C.J. Anderson coming out of nowhere to dominate the touches 19-3 for 110 yards. Anderson’s output was nice, but it turns out Booker was reportedly dealing with the flu, so there’s no telling how this will shake out the next time. The Broncos get a reasonable matchup against the New York Jets this week, but outside of desperate situations, this doesn’t look like an offense you want any part of with your fantasy playoff life hanging in the balance.
Given the ever-changing roles in the Green Bay backfield this season, it was reasonable to expect some form of a timeshare following Aaron Jones’ return. Instead, Jamaal Williams out-snapped Jones 48-2, getting all of the running back touches except one. Of course, Jones’ one touch turned out to be the game-winning touchdown, but it was decidedly still Williams’ backfield. Williams has now hit at least 21 touches in four straight games. Jones was quite good himself earlier this season, so it’s not unreasonable to assume that he gets his piece of the pie eventually, but as things stand, Williams should be in for another hefty workload this week. The Cleveland Browns actually aren’t the greatest matchup for opposing running backs — they rank first overall in DVOA against the run — but considering the Browns rank last in points per game (14.7), Williams is likely to see a positive game script to guarantee his volume.
Alex Smith rises from the dead and has a soft matchup against the Raiders
Right when we’re ready to give up on Alex Smith, he goes and throws a ridiculous 366 yards and four touchdowns against the Jets, even adding a 70-yard run. Smith seemed to benefit from Andy Reid giving up play-calling duties, and while it didn’t result in a win, it was the Kansas City Chiefs best offensive performance in weeks. The resurrection bodes well for Smith, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill to keep it going against a woeful Oakland Raiders defense, who rank dead-last in DVOA against the pass, and 25th in sacks (22.0). On the other hand, it’s difficult to have the same level of confidence in Kareem Hunt, who received just 12 touches for 63 total yards and no scores in the back-and-forth shootout. The volume was even more disappointing considering Charcandrick West wasn’t available for the game, and the Chiefs only had two active running backs. Oakland provides yet another solid matchup for him to break his scoreless streak, but at this point you can be forgiven if you’re not holding your breath.
The Packers make for an unlikely Week 14 streaming defense
As noted earlier, Green Bay isn’t actually a very good defense. In fact, they’re quite the opposite. Still, even poor defenses can have their uses in the right matchups, and they have that in the Browns this week. DeShone Kizer leads the league in interceptions (15), and the Packers aren’t total slouches at attacking the quarterback, ranking 11th in adjusted sack rate. Cleveland is also among the most pass-heavy teams in the league, which is exactly what we want to generate sacks and turnovers. No doubt, the high dose of passes is in large part because the Browns often find themselves trailing in games, but as Vegas road favorites, the Packers could very well find themselves with a lead. That said, being away from home still isn’t ideal, and the return of Josh Gordon could give the Packers secondary fits, so it’s not like the play isn’t without faults. However, if you’re still scrambling for a last-minute defense, Green Bay could be the ticket.