Fantasy Football Recap and Takeaways: Week 14
Fantasy football has evolved beyond a fun hobby for avid players who study tirelessly throughout the summer and prepare just as thoroughly for every weekly matchup.
This cruel game often delivers a cruel ending. As unlikely heroes emerged, stalwarts struggled. (Has anyone seen Jimmy Graham?) With another NFL Sunday in the books, let’s circle the league for noteworthy results and takeaways for the final three weeks.
Atlanta Falcons 20, New Orleans Saints 17
- For the first time since Week 2, neither Alvin Kamara nor Mark Ingram reached the end zone. Kamara, who scored a touchdown in each of the last six games, left Thursday night’s NFC South showdown early with a concussion. The rookie expressed optimism about returning for Week 15, but it’s not his call. It’s an unfortunate way for many players to get booted from the playoffs, but his health is obviously more important.
- The Falcons overcame Matt Ryan‘s struggles, but he cost fantasy investors dearly. After going three games without an interception, he tossed three picks. That boosted his season total to 11, four more than last year’s tally. He accrued 221 passing yards and one touchdown, leaving him 21 scores behind 2016’s MVP output at 17. On pace for 4,034 passing yards, he’s in danger of setting his lowest mark since 2010. Despite all of those disclaimers, anyone who survived a Week 14 dud should probably stick with him at Tampa Bay. If given the chance to make amends, sit him for Week 16’s rematch against the Saints.
- Devonta Freeman fully reclaimed his top spot, registering 91 yards and a touchdown on a season-high 24 carries. Tevin Coleman reminded everyone of his low floor as Atlanta’s No. 2 running back by mustering 32 yards on nine carries. While Freeman is a locked-in starter, Coleman is a risky flex choice for the final three weeks. Taking out his three games in a featured role, he has just 99 touches in 10 contests.
Chicago Bears 33, Cincinnati Bengals 7
- Someone could have won some serious dough on a prop bet picking a Bears receiver to out-produce A.J. Green. While Cincinnati’s star wideout finished with five catches for 64 yards, Kendall Wright caught 10 of 11 targets for 107 of Mitchell Trubisky‘s 271 passing yards. It’s just the second time this season the rookie quarterback has eclipsed 200 yards through the air, and he cemented his first career multi-touchdown game with one passing and rushing score apiece. Wright had 15 catches in the previous seven contests, so don’t read much into one eventful Sunday. Chicago should appreciate Trubisyk’s progress, but he’s still a long way off from garnering attention in a standard fantasy league. Green remains a top-10 option despite an upcoming road matchup against Xavier Rhodes’s Vikings.
- Remember when the Bears failed to run the ball well against San Francisco? Jordan Howard‘s monster outing came one week later than anticipated. In their most lopsided victory of the season, he produced 147 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 23 touches. Tarik Cohen turned 12 carries into 80 yards. The rookie had 105 yards on the ground from Weeks 4-13. Having now cleared 1,000 rushing yards with five 100-yard outings, Howard’s big games make up for the occasional dud. He should offer reasonable returns in Weeks 15 and 16 against the Lions and Browns. Cohen enjoyed his best day since September with help from late reps, but a light workload mitigates him to waiver-wire fodder.
- With Joe Mixon inactive, the Bengals received superior production from Giovani Bernard. After relieving the injured rookie with 96 total yards against the Steelers, he collected 130 yards (62 rushing, 68 receiving) on 17 touches. Mixon averaged 65.3 yards over a dozen games. Bernard had not compiled more than eight touches in a game before Week 13, so his value is entirely attached to Mixon’s status. Treat him as a low-end RB2 if the younger rusher is not cleared from the league’s concussion protocol for Week 15.
Buffalo Bills 13, Indianapolis Colts 7 (OT)
- The Bills and Colts played through heavy snow at Buffalo, causing Jacoby Brissett (69), Nathan Peterman (57) and Joe Webb (35)-who replaced an injured Peterman late-to combine for 161 passing yards. Neither passing offense would have fared much better with Andrew Luck and Tyrod Taylor leading the charge on a white field. The biggest takeaway from this game? Paying attention to weather reports is especially important in December. Buffalo hosts Miami in Week 15 for its final home game of the season.
- As a result of the grueling conditions, the Colts and Bills respectively ran the ball 46 and 49 times. That led to Frank Gore improbably setting a career high with 36 carries in his 193rd game. LeSean McCoy‘s 32nd carry ended the game with a 21-yard touchdown in overtime, upping his tally to a season-high 158 rushing yards. Gore goes back to fringe flex consideration against a tough Broncos rushing defense, but McCoy could guide fantasy clubs to Week 15 glory if Mother Nature forces the Bills to craft another run-heavy game script.
San Francisco 49ers 26, Houston Texans 16
- Jimmy Garoppolo once again aptly played the part of a starting NFL quarterback. While Robbie Gould now has nine field goals in his two starts after converting four more, the former Patriot went 20-of-33 for 334 yards, a touchdown, and a pick. He has 627 passing yards in two starts, so it’s just a matter of finishing drives. Garoppolo holds some streamer appeal against the Titans, but nobody in one-quarterback formats should consider him beyond Week 15. The schedule closes against the Jaguars and Rams.
- Marquise Goodwin led the way with six catches on 12 targets. No other 49ers pass-catcher had more than three receptions or four targets. In two games with Garoppolo, he secured 14 of 20 looks for 205 yards. The 5’9″ receiver also has one touchdown this season, and that went 83 yards. He’s not the answer to San Francisco’s goal-line struggles, but Goodwin is a valuable WR3 with a high-yardage ceiling against Tennessee. Garrett Celek delivered a 61-yard play and his third touchdown of 2017, but he shouldn’t enter the streaming conversation with 17 receptions this season.
- Despite displaying a fencing response exhibited after suffering a concussion, Tom Savage somehow passed the protocol and briefly returned. When he spit up blood trying to play through his symptoms, the Texans replaced him with T.J. Yates, who went 14-of-26 for 175 yards and two touchdowns to DeAndre Hopkins. Every Houston quarterback has at least succeeded in feeding Hopkins, who caught 11 of 16 targets for 149 yards. He leads the NFL in receiving touchdowns (11) and has not had a game without either a touchdown or over 70 yards. Not even a third-string quarterback and a terrifying matchup at Jacksonville should scare away investors from starting the stud, who opened the season with 55 yards and a score against the Jaguars.
Kansas City Chiefs 26, Oakland Raiders 15
- Kareem Hunt offered a long overdue bounce-back performance with 138 yards and his first touchdown since Week 3. He had not eclipsed 100 yards since last facing the Raiders seven weeks ago. The early-season phenom returns in good graces just in time to face a run-funnel Chargers defense that entered Week 14 with the second-most rushing yards relinquished (129.8) per contest. Hunt contributed to their woes with 172 yards and a touchdown on the ground in Week 3, so he temporarily regains low-end RB1 status.
- Travis Kelce‘s seven catches for 74 yards signifies a nice little Sunday, but his stakeholders will feel shortchanged. In addition to dropping a possible touchdown, the tight end had two scores overturned. On the other side, Jared Cook fastened the contest’s lone passing touchdown. Entering Sunday with four catches for 47 yards in his past three games combined, he caught five passes for 75 yards against Kansas City. Neither tight end’s future outlook changes drastically. Kelce is a stud who caught some bad breaks, and Cook is the type of inconsistent option who will hover around the position’s top 12.
- Given a great matchup against a Kansas City defense he already dismantled this season, Derek Carr completed 24 of 41 passes for 211 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. He has thrown for seven touchdowns in six games since carving up the Chiefs in Week 7. Alex Smith, meanwhile, followed a four-touchdown outburst with no scores. Carr has another solid matchup against Dallas, but he’s still not a top-12 option. Don’t roll with Smith against a fierce Chargers passing defense.
Dallas Cowboys 30, New York Giants 10
- Nothing heals an offense’s wounds quite like facing the Giants. A low-scoring affair turned into a rout when Dallas scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Dak Prescott, who had not mustered a 200-yard passing game in over a month, threw for a season-high 332 passing yards and three touchdowns. He had two touchdowns in the previous four games combined. Dez Bryant grabbed most of his 73 yards on a 50-yard score, and Jason Witten avoided a Houdini act with a 20-yard touchdown on his only reception. Another soft opponent in Oakland awaits, but Prescott was so putrid before bullying a battered Giants defense. He and Witten are low-level starters at best. Play Bryant with confidence after the star receiver reached the end zone in consecutive games.
- So, who started Rod Smith? While Alfred Morris consumed 19 carries for a dull 62 yards, Smith submitted 47 yards and a score on his six carries. He also led the passing attack with five catches and an 81-yard score that padded this total to 113. With four touchdowns in the last three games, he warrants an add and flex consideration in deeper leagues. Yet his coming-out-party won’t last long, as Ezekiel Elliott is eligible to return from his suspension in Week 16.
- Say what you will about Ben McAdoo, but his predictably vanilla offense made Orleans Darkwa and Sterling Shepard valuable fantasy options when healthy. While both played under new leadership, they each watched a teammate steal the spotlight. Wayne Gallman registered 99 yards (59 rushing, 40 receiving) on a dozen carries and seven catches. In his first game with Eli Manning since Week 10, Sterling Shepard reeled in two of three targets for 16 yards. Although Roger Lewis only accrued 46 yards, he secured seven of 11 targets. At least Evan Engram had a steady day with four catches and 54 yards, but no other Big Blue player can be trusted in Week 15 against the Eagles. They’re too tough against the run to give Gallman a chance, and Shepard hasn’t helped fantasy gamers in a month.
Detroit Lions 24, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21
- Matthew Stafford played through a hand injury to complete 36 of 44 passes for 381 yards. Fantasy investors did not reap the full rewards of his productive day, as he also tossed two picks while Theo Riddick notched a pair of rushing touchdowns. With Ameer Abdullah missing his second straight game, Riddick also caught six of 10 targets for 64 yards. Following a promising debut, Tion Green wielded just 15 yards on five carries. A healthy Stafford gets the green light against Chicago, and Riddick makes for an interesting PPR flex play if Abdullah sits out again.
- Eric Ebron did not have more than five catches in a game this season before doubling that tally for 94 yards against Tampa Bay. He’s averaging 49.6 yards over the last seven bouts. That’s solid for a tight end, especially one who had 102 yards through Week 6. The annual breakout candidate also has two touchdowns and previously had not topped 58 yards in a game, so don’t go overboard with fixing the bandwagon. It is, however, getting harder to ignore him entirely.
- Doug Martin returned from a concussion to punch in a one-yard touchdown. Yet Peyton Barber still led Tampa Bay in carries (12) and rushing yards (58) while Martin turned in a typically inefficient 26 rushing yards on 10 handoffs. Per Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus, Barber also led the backfield with 31 snaps. Maybe the Buccaneers were easing Martin back into action, but Barber is currently a superior runner who deserves an extended audition for a 4-9 team out of playoff contention. An uncertain distribution makes both too dangerous to play in Week 15.
- Mike Evans now has a six-game touchdown drought. He compiled 58 yards in the past two games, both with Jameis Winston back under center. The 2016 stud has yet to hit triple digits or record more than seven receptions in a game. Benching him is too intense a measure, but he’s no longer a surefire WR1.
Carolina Panthers 31, Minnesota Vikings 24
- Stewart was averaging 3.2 yards per carry with three touchdowns through Week 13. In Week 14, he ran for 103 yards and three touchdowns against Minnesota’s No. 2-ranked rushing defense. He entered the day No. 45 in FantasyPros’s consensus RB rankings. After gushing the Dolphins for 110 yards in Week 10, the 30-year-old has frequented the end zone five times in three games. He should again receive double-digit carries and possible red-zone reps against the Packers in Week 15, but don’t count on another 60-yard run for someone who had not exploded for a 20-yard rushing gain in the first 12 games. Stewart is too touchdown-dependent to draw a significant rankings boost.
- Fantasy investors are wishing the Panthers did not activate Greg Olsen. He suited up, but did not catch any of Cam Newton‘s 13 completions. He also went back to the locker room during the game to get his injured leg re-taped. He’s still stuck at four catches and 38 yards this season, so someone would have to be truly desperate to gamble on him against Green Bay.
- Kyle Rudolph continued to flourish in the red zone. He extended his touchdown streak to three games by securing his seventh score of the season. Following eight games with either four, five, or six catches, he reeled in three for 41 yards. Adam Thielen kept rolling with 105 yards and a touchdown, but Case Keenum‘s emergence has also quietly stabilized Rudolph as a top-10 tight end who no longer comes with the basement floor of years past. Those without a top-tier tight end can fire him up for Week 15’s contest against Cincinnati.
Green Bay Packers 27, Cleveland Browns 21 (OT)
- Davante Adams‘s second touchdown of the afternoon gave Green Bay its second straight walk-off win in overtime. He now has 543 receiving yards and five touchdowns in Brett Hundley‘s eight starts. Jordy Nelson has 213 yards and no scores. Hundley tossed three touchdowns for the second time in three weeks, but he’s not a worthwhile option with the Panthers and Vikings lurking. Besides, Aaron Rodgers is now eligible to return from the injured reserve. Adams is a matchup-proof wideout with either quarterback, but Nelson needs his MVP passer to merit a roster spot.
- Despite winning the game on his only Week 13 carry, Aaron Jones played just seven snaps. With minus-two rushing yards, he did not justify a longer look. Jamaal Williams remained the workhorse with 118 yards (49 rushing, 69 receiving) and two touchdowns on 22 touches. He has more than 20 touches in each of the last five games, during which he stockpiled 605 yards and five touchdowns. The rookie isn’t going anywhere, so lock Williams into all starting lineups.
- Josh Gordon again led Cleveland in receiving yards (69) and scored his first touchdown since Dec. 15, 2013. This time, however, Corey Coleman did not fade into obscurity. After offering no catches in Gordon’s return, Coleman contributed five receptions for 62 yards and his first touchdown since Week 1. Despite the Week 13 doughnut, the second-year pro has 206 yards in his last four healthy games. Don’t forget about him in 2018 drafts, but a brutal schedule (Ravens, Bears, and Steelers) makes him an afterthought in standard-sized leagues. Not missing a step after a three-year absence, Gordon is too talented to sit.
Denver Broncos 23, New York Jets 0
- Entering Week 14 on fire, Josh McCown exited Sunday’s game with an injury. As later confirmed by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the veteran quarterback broke his non-throwing hand. The Jets’s offense went free falling with Bryce Petty, who finished a woeful 2-of-9 for 14 yards. Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse each followed consecutive 100-yard outings with 27 and four yards, respectively. Bilal Powell and Matt Forte produced 35 and 34 total yards during the shutout loss. Although few managers were relying on McCown to procure a fantasy title, his teammates all take a significant bump without him. But don’t discard Anderson, who amassed 309 yards and two touchdowns in four full games with Petty last season.
- Was Devontae Booker‘s emergence a red herring? In Denver’s first win since Week 4, C.J. Anderson fielded 22 carries. It marked the first time he hit 20 or more since, you guessed it, Week 4. He also accumulated just 48 rushing yards (and 25 receiving yards) and watched fullback Andy Janovich score inches from the end zone. This may be more bad news for Booker than promising for Anderson, who has gone three of his last four games without a run greater than seven yards. And yet it would be hard not to stumble into a big play or two if given 20-plus touches against the Colts, so he’s in the Week 15 flex conversation.
- Demaryius Thomas recovered from two poor weeks with eight catches for 93 yards and a touchdown on 12 targets. Perhaps facing New Jersey-based teams is the answer, as he earned his highest yard tally since slicing the Giants for 133 in Week 6. The Colts will have to do. Their soft secondary represents the perfect matchup for another big day. Emmanuel Sanders unfortunately cannot join the fun, as he has fallen into irrelevance with 54 yards in his last four games.
Arizona Cardinals 12, Tennessee Titans 7
- Marcus Mariota‘s disappointing season reached a nadir in the slate’s ugliest game. The 24-year-old quarterback finished with 159 passing yards, no touchdowns, and two picks, giving him 15 touchdowns (10 passing) and 14 turnovers this season. Posting 19 yards in his return from a hamstring injury, Rishard Matthews couldn’t save the slumping passer. The 49ers should present a matchup to exploit with full confidence. Mariota instead feels like more of a DFS tournament play to eschew in season-long playoff rounds. Matthews had established a steady floor before a rusty comeback, so look his way for a solid WR3.
- Once again playing without Adrian Peterson, Kerwynn Williams shouldered Arizona’s offensive responsibilities with 88 yards on 21 touches. The previously overlooked understudy has 185 yards in two games as the starting running back, a role he will likely keep in Week 15 against a below-average Washington defense. He’s a high-floor, high-volume RB2 or flex play in non-PPR formats.
- The good: Derrick Henry scored his fifth rushing touchdown of the season. The bad: He finished with 20 yards. There was no late 75-yard dash to bail out an underwhelming output this time. DeMarco Murray wasn’t great either, offering 47 total yards on 13 touches, so Tennessee’s backfield continues to be best summarized by a shrugging emoji.
Los Angeles Chargers 30, Washington Redskins 13
- Kirk Cousins cleared 240 passing yards in each of the last eight games before limping to a season-low 151 against an increasingly fearsome Chargers defense. Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder tied for a team-high 34 receiving yards. Plenty of managers probably stuck by Washington’s quarterback, but this matchup at least warned others to steer clear of a potential playoff pitfall. Although the Cardinals and Broncos aren’t easy opponents, they shouldn’t block Cousins from a solid finish. For those who play through the season, enjoy Week 17 against the Giants.
- Philip Rivers stayed hot with 319 yards and two touchdowns. Keenan Allen exceeded 100 yards for the fourth straight game, but he wasn’t his team’s top performer. Tyrell Williams instead escaped from his fantasy grave with 132 yards and a touchdown. Like his last 100-yard outing, a 75-yard score provided most of the heavy lifting. He has six games with one or two catches and fewer than 25 yards, so not even a sizzling Rivers will guide Williams back into the limelight. Anyone with Rivers, Allen, and/or Melvin Gordon, meanwhile, will like his or her chances with the Chiefs, Jets, and Raiders concluding their cozy schedule.
- After notching 50 yards and his fourth touchdown of 2017, Hunter Henry has 437 yards in seven Chargers wins and 114 in six losses. His investors will hope that’s more than random noise, as Los Angeles has won its last four games by a combined 77 points. The winning streak started with a 25-yard snoozer, but has since bore witness to 207 yards and two scores. The Chargers finally appear to appreciate what they have in the 23-year-old, so he has successfully graduated to must-start territory.
Jacksonville Jaguars 30, Seattle Seahawks 24
- What started as an expected defensive stalemate somehow devolved into a shootout. The Jaguars had allowed 10 passing touchdowns all season before surrendering three in the second half to Russell Wilson. Yet his Seahawks lost in part because of three picks. If only he were as precise as Blake Bortles, who went 18-of-27 for 268 yards and two touchdowns versus a unit that lost Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright during the game. Turnovers aside, Wilson enters Monday night as ESPN’s QB5 with 271 passing and 50 rushing yards. Doing that against the NFL’s premier passing defense is the sign of a superstar. After posting 577 passing yards, four touchdowns, and no picks in the last two games, Bortles gets cupcake matchups in the Texans and 49ers. He may be the key to December success. (Or the reason the season goes into flames, because he’s still Blake Bortles.)
- Wilson flourished despite not connecting once with Graham. With the red-zone machine quarantined, Tyler Lockett (90 yards), Doug Baldwin (78), and Paul Richardson (72) each scored a touchdown. Lockett and Richardson had a combined 25 yards in Week 13, so nobody should have dreamed of starting either wideout against Jacksonville’s secondary. Even though the latter has quietly devoured 664 yards and six touchdowns this season, neither get used consistently enough to leverage against the Rams. Baldwin is a boringly great high-end WR2.
- In one of Bortles’s best games of the years, Marqise Lee finished with fewer receiving yards (65) than two rookies. Keelan Cole compiled a career-high 99 yards and his second touchdown in as many games. Dede Westbrook also set a personal best with 81 receiving yards while celebrating his first career touchdown. Targeted 33 times in four games, Westbrook is far more interesting as a late-season impact player. The neophyte has upped his yards tally in every game of his young career, and the Texans vault him into WR3 or flex territory.
Philadelphia Eagles 43, Los Angeles Rams 35
- Carson Wentz was in the midst of another exceptional game before exiting with 291 passing yards and four touchdowns. According to Adam Schefter, the Eagles fear a possible torn ACL. His brilliance was on full display when throwing two touchdowns to Trey Burton and one to Brent Celek without the services of Zach Ertz. Now the Eagles face the far graver concern of losing their MVP candidate for the postseason. A deep supporting cast could keep the offense afloat under Nick Foles, especially in Week 15’s game against the Giants. Yet nobody would know what to expect from their top pass-catchers. Due to the Giants’s troubles defending the tight end, Burton will maintain streamer status if Ertz misses another game.
- The Eagles finally unleashed Jay Ajayi. Given 16 touches on 43 snaps, he handled double-digit handoffs (15) for the first time since joining the team. He recorded 80 total yards, but the heavier workload is nevertheless encouraging. He’ll swing a myriad of Week 15 matchups if given 15-20 opportunities against the Giants.
- Sammy Watkins has a perfectly banal 16 catches for 285 yards over the last six games. He somehow also has five touchdowns. Cooper Kupp, meanwhile, ended a five-game scoring snide despite registering 33 receptions for 470 yards in the past six tilts. The touchdown regression police will arrive eventually, so continue to rank Kupp higher than Watkins while keeping an eye peeled on Robert Woods‘s status. Seattle’s defense is no longer impenetrable, especially if Wagner and Wright join Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor on the shelf.
Pittsburgh Steelers 39, Baltimore Ravens 38
- Not even Javorius Allen vulturing two touchdowns could spoil Alex Collins‘s evening. He still finished with 166 total yards and a touchdown-his fifth in the last four games-on 20 touches. For anyone weeks late to the party, he’s legit. The rookie has recorded 825 rushing yards on just 162 carries this season. After going six games without a catch, he since has 13 for 121 yards in the last six bouts. While the Browns have stifled the run for most of the season, three opposing running backs (Mixon, Leonard Fournette, and Williams) have pieced together over 100 yards in the last month. Collins should continue to excel while playing with a lead. He’s a sturdy RB2 with a higher ceiling for the rest of the season.
- In a game where Pittsburgh jumped out to a 14-0 lead, Ben Roethlisberger recorded 506 passing yards on 66 attempts. He has thrown 196 times in the last four games, which has led to 1,446 passing yards, 12 touchdowns, and three interceptions. All three of Pittsburgh’s remaining opponents (Patriots, Texans, and Browns) entered Week 14 in the bottom 10 of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, so Big Ben should finish the season in epic fashion.
- A pass-heavy attack did not deter Le’Veon Bell, who brandished 125 yards (48 rushing, 77 receiving) and three touchdowns. Antonio Brown was held out of the end zone for the first time since Week 10, but he still dominated by catching 11 of 18 targets for 213 yards. He has 99 catches for 1,509 yards this season. There are three more games to play. While Jesse James (10-97) and Martavis Bryant (6-33) had active games in an unexpected shootout, they will lose targets when Roethlisberger throws fewer than 66 times and gets JuJu Smith-Schuster back from a suspension. The offense rotates around their superstars, so don’t expect them to sacrifice any volume of efficiency. While the Patriots have crafted a reputation for taking away a competitor’s top player, Bell and Brown stand tall as fantasy football’s two most dependable cornerstones.