Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 14
If you’re reading this, that means you’ve either made the playoffs, lost a bet, or are my mother (Hi mom! Thanks for reading! Be nicer in your comments, please). If it’s the former, congratulations and well done!
Some people think that if you’ve made the playoffs, you’ve got a pretty set team, and don’t need to worry about making those borderline lineup calls. But we know better. Thanks to one of the craziest football seasons in recent memory, many of us have gotten by through waiver wire additions and simply making the right decision week in and week out. So let’s try to keep it going, shall we?
If you’ve been reading this article all year, you know how it goes. I’ll discuss one start or sit from each position, which represents a player I have ranked significantly higher or lower than the expert consensus rankings. We’re only talking the questionable calls here – guys who fall as borderline potential starters in standard-sized leagues.
I’ll also add a few other names that I am higher or lower on than the expert consensus. That will give you plenty of opportunities to yell at me for those decisions. Note: if you want to see my rankings for the week, they are pinned on my Twitter page at @danharris80. They will show you exactly how many spots higher or lower I am than the ECR on every player.
Jameis Winston (TB v. DET): ECR of 13
Winston returned on Sunday after missing nearly a month and looked positively Winston-esque – not overly-accurate but with enough juice to be a fantasy asset most weeks. The Lions haven’t been a particularly soft matchup for quarterbacks over the entire season, but they’ve shown plenty of cracks lately. The defense has allowed an average of more than 20 fantasy points to the past five quarterbacks it has faced. That number, which is impressive in its own right, looks even better when you consider that those five quarterbacks are Brett Hundley, DeShone Kizer, Mitchell Trubisky, Case Keenum, and Joe Flacco. With the possibility that Matthew Stafford could miss or be limited in this game, there may be chances for the Bucs to have a short field, and Winston should have the opportunity for multiple scores.
Cam Newton (CAR v. MIN): ECR of 12
This is a “soft” sit designation, in that I’m not appreciably lower on Newton than the current expert consensus ranking, but he’s pretty much the only borderline option with any noticeable difference. There’s not much to do with this one – Newton is an excellent fantasy option most weeks, given that his rushing ability provides a solid floor. But this is all about the matchup with an outstanding Minnesota defense. Putting aside the random Kirk Cousins shootout back in Week 10, only one quarterback (home Ben Roethlisberger back in Week 2) has surpassed 15 fantasy points against this defense. That includes two matchups with Matthew Stafford, and games against Drew Brees, Jameis Winston, Jared Goff, and Matt Ryan. And if that’s not enough for you, they’ve allowed just 56 yards rushing to quarterbacks, by far the lowest in the league. Cam is still a borderline start, but I’m a little less borderline on him than the consensus.
Giovani Bernard (CIN v. CHI): ECR of 26
My guess is this ECR will rise if the news on Joe Mixon‘s availability grows less encouraging, but for now, I’m simply MUCH higher on Bernard than the ECR and view him as a strong RB2 this weekend against the Bears. First, given that the Bengals are on a short week and largely out of the playoff discussion, I do expect Mixon to miss the game. And, assuming he does, I have zero hesitations about starting Bernard. He looked spry against the Steelers in relief duty, and it wasn’t THAT long ago that fantasy owners drafted Bernard as a potential RB1 in fantasy leagues. The Bears are adequate against opposing running backs, but this is all about volume. Quick – name the running back who is next in line for carries in Cincinnati. Right, it’s Brian Hill, who was just recently signed off the Falcons practice squad. Expect a ton of touches for Bernard here, and for him to once again do some damage. There were a lot of good options at running back off the waiver wire this week. Bernard is by far the best for this week, in my opinion.
Jerick McKinnon (MIN at CAR): ECR of 27
McKinnon scored a short receiving touchdown against the Falcons, but he hasn’t topped 60 total yards in any of his previous four games, and Latavius Murray has looked far more effective. The Panthers were gashed by the Saints running backs last weekend, but that’s hardly a strong indictment. They’re still generally one of the best run defenses in the league and have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs despite last week’s explosion. On the short side of a platoon and against a tough defense, McKinnon is much more of a low-end, rather than a strong, Flex option for me.
Cooper Kupp (LAR v. PHI): ECR of 27
Kupp has slightly benefited from the absence of Robert Woods in recent weeks, though he’s been remarkably consistent all season long. He’s tied for sixth in the NFL in receptions since Week 10 and has seen 31 targets over that span. The matchup against the Eagles is not particularly favorable – they’ve allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to slot receivers on the season, as Patrick Robinson has excelled in coverage. But “follow the targets” is a pretty easy maxim to follow in fantasy football and it generally leads to success, and Kupp is going to see plenty of them at home this weekend. It’s not a strong start designation, but I consider him closer to a low-end WR2 than a Flex.
Marqise Lee (JAC v. SEA): ECR of 31
Other than getting Patrick Petersoned a couple of weeks back, Lee has been dynamite of late, scoring three touchdowns over his last five games. The Seahawks are down Richard Sherman, but they showed last week against the Eagles that their pass defense remains strong, shutting down an explosive offense (outside of the occasional Nelson Agholor broken play and heroic throw by Carson Wentz). And since Sherman went down, the Seahawks have held Julio Jones, Marquise Goodwin, and Alshon Jeffery to a combined 13 catches for 210 yards – not awful numbers but below their typical outputs. I expect a low-scoring slug it out affair on Sunday and for the Seahawks to look to limit Lee’s effectiveness. I’d consider him just a borderline WR3.
Usual deal here, where there’s not all that much to discuss, so we’ll just do some quick hitters. Vernon Davis (WAS at LAC): ECR of 16 has been awful lately, but given his previous track record, I’m more willing to consider him a borderline start. And I’m less excited about Charles Clay (BUF v. IND): ECR of 15 than most, as his recent ineffectiveness, combined with the prospect of Nathan Peterman starting, makes me queasy.