Week 14 Primer: Analyzing All 16 Games (Fantasy Football)
This is the time we’ve been waiting for, the fantasy playoffs. Josh Gordon is back in the fantasy conversation, and we just witnessed Alex Smith, Josh McCown, Blake Bortles, and Joe Flacco finish as top-eight quarterbacks last week, just like we all expected. It is what it is, right? I mean, it’s kind of like this ever year if you think about it, though there are more players involved on a weekly basis than ever before.
We really wouldn’t want it any other way, either. If it were too predictable, we wouldn’t need to do all of the research we do every week. It’s also why people play DFS, because they have a legitimate shot to win every single week. Speaking of DFS… If you’re out of your playoffs in your season-long league, you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to try and incorporate more DFS talk in The Primer going forward.
If this is your first time here, here’s what to expect. Numbers, facts, stats, opinions, and some shenanigans here and there. In reality, it’s a place you can come to read about any fantasy relevant player with a non-biased opinion. Seriously, I play in 13 different season-long leagues (cut down from 18 last year), play a lot of DFS, and my No. 1 job is to help you win. It’s all about the process, even though the results may not always be optimal. The idea is to give you as much confidence as possible when hitting that ‘submit lineup’ button. With that, let’s talk Week 14.
Jump to specific game:
New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
Line: ATL by 1.5
Drew Brees: It was another mediocre fantasy performance for Brees in Week 13, as he finished as the No. 16 quarterback against the Panthers. This has become somewhat of a regular occurrence for him, as he’s now finished inside the top-eight quarterbacks just twice all season, and just once over the last 10 games. It’s odd, too, because he’s playing fantastic football, it’s just things aren’t going his way on the stat sheet. The Falcons played extremely well last week despite being without both Desmond Trufant and Brian Poole, two of their top cornerbacks, holding the red-hot Vikings offense to just 14 points. There’s still been just one quarterback to throw for more than 283 yards against them, which was Aaron Rodgers back in Week 2. There have been 6-of-12 quarterbacks to throw for multiple touchdowns against them, so it’s not like Brees is unplayable or anything. It’s on the road, but in a dome, so all should be fine there. Knowing that he’s still playing well and that this game has the highest over/under of the week, he’s still on the low-end QB1 radar. He makes for a better tournament play in DFS, as it would shock no one if he throws for 300 yards and three touchdowns in this game. We’re just not betting on that happening anymore.
Matt Ryan: He was slowed down last week by a great Vikings defense that has now allowed just 12 passing touchdowns through 12 games. The Saints defense has looked different the last two weeks without Marshon Lattimore, but he was close to playing last week, so we have to assume that he’ll be back for this game. Still, the Saints have started to show some weakness against some of the better quarterbacks in the league, allowing two or three touchdowns to Sam Bradford, Tom Brady, Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, and Cam Newton. Here’s the list of quarterbacks who have not thrown a touchdown: Cam Newton (first time), Jay Cutler, Brett Hundley, Mitch Trubisky, Jameis Winston (left game in 2nd quarter), and Tyrod Taylor. Now which group is Ryan a part of? He played extremely well against the Saints last year, throwing for 571 yards and six touchdowns in their two games combined. Knowing the Saints have allowed at least 19.9 fantasy points to each of the last three quarterbacks to play them, fire up Ryan as a middling QB1. Knowing how strong their run game is, I’d stay away in cash games, but he makes for a solid tournament option.
Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram: I’m not sure what we can say here that’s not already been said. Kamara is a pinball when going through opposing defenses, breaking arm tackles with ease, on top of being as elusive as a running back gets. He’s now breaking records with his efficiency and should be given the rookie of the year award right now. He’s the No. 3 running back in fantasy despite having 126 fewer touches than Todd Gurley, the current No. 1 running back. Ingram is getting it done too, though he’s been overshadowed by Kamara, who has now finished as the No. 1 running back in three of the last five games, and no worse than the No. 8 running back in each of his last six games. The Falcons have been an average run defense who hasn’t seen a whole lot of volume, as there’ve been just two running backs to total more than 15 carries against them. I’d say that this looks like another Kamara game, though, as there’ve been six running backs to finish top-15 against them, and they were Tarik Cohen, Ty Montgomery, Christian McCaffrey, James White, Jordan Howard, and Jerick McKinnon. All but Howard have something in common – they’re great pass-catchers. The Falcons have allowed 89 receptions to running backs this season, easily the most in the league. Start Kamara with the uttermost confidence in any DFS setting. Ingram tagged them for 180 rushing yards, 59 receiving yards, and two touchdowns in their two meetings last year. The Falcons have allowed just five rushing touchdowns on the season, so he’s a fair bit below Kamara in this one. Both are RB1’s in season-long leagues.
Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman: It was more of the same in what we’ve been seeing out of the Falcons backfield, as Freeman touched the ball 13 times, while Coleman had 11 touches. Freeman was much more productive on his touches, something that’s always the case unless Coleman breaks a long play, which he does semi-often. The Saints aren’t a good run defense, though they don’t look horrible, allowing just the 13th-fewest points to running backs on the season. A lot of that comes down to game-script and that opponents are averaging just 24.4 carries per game, the sixth-lowest total in the league. Knowing that, it’s shocking to see they’ve allowed four 100-yard running backs this year. There was just one running back who topped 85 rushing yards against the Saints last year, and it was Freeman… twice. He can run the ball on them seemingly with ease, so look for him to be highly involved this game. He makes for a great cash and tournament play on the primetime slate for DFS. Fire him up in all season-long formats. Coleman is going to be a big-play hopeful with the limited touches I’m expecting him to get this week. He’s just an RB3 in season-long.
Michael Thomas: He’ll see a mixture of Desmond Trufant (who should return from his concussion) and Robert Alford the majority of time, matchups that shouldn’t scare you off him. There have been five wide receivers who’ve seen double-digit targets against the Falcons, and all of them have scored at least 7.8 standard points or 13.8 PPR points, giving Thomas a safe floor (not that he didn’t already). If you play in a PPR format, Thomas has finished outside the top-24 (WR2 territory) just twice in the last 11 games. His consistency is quite ridiculous. The only scary part is that the Falcons have yet to allow a top-20 wide receiver in their last five games, which included Devin Funchess, Dez Bryant, Doug Baldwin, Mike Evans, Stefon Diggs, and Adam Thielen. I’m still saying to get him into season-long lineups as a low-end WR1 and don’t shy away in DFS.
Ted Ginn: It’s almost been as if Ginn finishes as a WR3 (or better) or he busts. There’s been four times where he’s finished outside the top 70 wide receivers, but he’s finished top-36 in seven of the other eight games. We always like when he plays indoors, as it accents his speed, so this game being in the Falcons new dome works out well. Knowing that this game has a total of more than 54 points, I’ll say that Ginn belongs in fantasy lineups as a WR3 this week.
Willie Snead: He’s seeing increased snaps over the last few weeks, but has still yet to see more than two targets in a game. He’s the type of player you throw in a tournament lineup, hoping he has that breakout game, but nothing more.
Julio Jones: What everyone sees is the two catches for 24 yards and assumes that Jones had a bad game against Xavier Rhodes. While you were warned about him last week, his game on tape wasn’t nearly as bad, as he beat Rhodes in coverage plenty of times, just didn’t see the targets. Even if Marshon Lattimore plays, he’s likely to be at less than 100 percent, which is no way to play against Jones. There have been six different receivers to total 92 or more yards against them, including five different receivers who have caught seven or more passes. I’d start him as a WR1 in season-long and would be playing him in plenty of DFS tournaments.
Mohamed Sanu: He’s been somewhat quiet outside of his game against the Bucs in Week 12 where he threw a touchdown and caught eight passes for 64 yards. Outside of that game, he’s failed to top 43 yards since back in Week 8, making him hard to trust as we head into the fantasy playoffs. If you recall a few weeks ago, fellow slot receiver Cooper Kupp tagged the Saints for 8/116/0. Of the five top-10 performances the Saints have allowed, three of them were to slot receivers (Golden Tate, Adam Thielen, Kupp). I’m not saying that Sanu is cash-game viable or anything, because he’s shown a low floor over the last month and a half, but this matchup is one of the better ones for him. He also gets an upgrade if Lattimore plays. Consider him a WR3 for the first week of fantasy playoffs.
Josh Hill: The Saints lost Coby Fleener for the season last week, so Hill is the one who assumes the starting tight end role, though it’ll be shared with Michael Hoomanawanui. Over the last two years, Hill has seen a total of 34 targets, turning them into 25/219/2, so don’t expect miracles if he doesn’t score a touchdown. The Falcons have been struggling a bit as of late with tight ends, allowing two touchdowns in the last three weeks, after allowing just one of them through the first nine games. It’s important to note that they were Jimmy Graham and Kyle Rudolph, two of the better tight ends in the league. You can do better than a touchdown-dependent option for the fantasy playoffs.
Austin Hooper: It’s pretty clear who Hooper is at this point in the year. He’s seen a somewhat consistent 4-7 targets over the last nine games, but has failed to top 50 yards in any of them. He’s turned into another version of Austin Seferian-Jenkins, as a tight end who will get you 2-5 fantasy points unless he finds the end zone. It’s not the worst thing when in a good matchup, but the Saints haven’t really been that this year. There’s been just four touchdowns against them, and two of them went to Rob Gronkowski and Kyle Rudolph. Outside of Gronkowski and Vernon Davis, they haven’t allowed a tight end to record more than 48 yards. Hooper is a touchdown-dependent TE2 at this point, though the high expected total makes him a bit more intriguing.
Green Bay Packers at Cleveland Browns
Line: GB by 3.5
Brett Hundley: Wait, so Hundley didn’t turn a corner in the Steelers game? Similar to the way it was in the fourth quarter against the Bears? Guys, it’s not happening. He’s a backup quarterback who we have seen enough of to know that he’s not going to carry the Packers or your fantasy team. It is a much more interesting question than I thought it’d be this week, however, as he’s going to play what is arguably the league’s worst pass defense. They have allowed at least two touchdowns or 300-plus yards to 9-of-12 quarterbacks this season. The only quarterback to average less than 6.0 yards per attempt was Blake Bortles, something Hundley has done in 3-of-7 games since taking over. There’s reason to believe that Hundley finishes as a top-16 quarterback this week, as 10-of-12 quarterbacks have against them, but you don’t feel right starting him in 1QB leagues. Outside of the Steelers game where 75 percent of his yards came after the catch, he’s thrown just two touchdowns in six games and started to hear the boos in Lambeau Field last week. Fortunately, this game is on the road. He’s a great play in 2QB leagues.
DeShone Kizer: What has the world come to when Kizer needs to be considered for the fantasy playoffs? Since losing Aaron Rodgers and his ability to control the clock, the Packers defensive deficiencies are starting to show. Through the first six weeks, the Packers held four quarterbacks outside the top-15 in fantasy scoring. Since then, they have allowed 5-of-6 quarterbacks to get into the top-15, including Mitch Trubisky. Yep, Joe Flacco has been the only one who failed to score at least 15.9 points since Rodgers went down. Kizer himself now has Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman in his arsenal, and the Packers don’t have the answers for them. Kizer has shown a solid floor over the last five games, too, finishing with at least 13.2 fantasy points in 4-of-5 games. The only game he didn’t was against the Jaguars, so I won’t hold that against him. Believe it or not, Kizer is teetering on the low-end QB1/high-end QB2 radar. Provided the weather isn’t worrisome, Kizer makes for a solid cash-game quarterback in DFS, and one that I wouldn’t mind using in tournaments.
Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones: Since taking over as the starter for an injured Jones and Montgomery, Williams has racked up 303 yards and two touchdowns on 80 carries. While his yards per carry (3.8) doesn’t stand out, the fact that he’s been able to do this behind a sub-par offensive line and a struggling offense has been nothing short of amazing. Most will see that Jones finished with 8.0 fantasy points, but know that he totaled exactly one carry, the touchdown for the game winner. This is Williams’ backfield, though he’ll be on a short leash if he struggles. The Browns have started to show signs of weakness over the last month, allowing 444 yards on 104 carries (4.27 YPC) with two touchdowns after their bye in Week 9, which is much different than the 594 yards on 204 carries (2.91 YPC) they allowed before the bye week. Because of that, Williams remains on the RB2 radar, though I wouldn’t play him in cash-games on such a short leash. Jones shouldn’t be used in season-long or DFS, as he’s unlikely to make a big impact without a Williams injury.
Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson: The Browns do nothing but lie to us about the usage of Johnson, as he’s now totaled just 25 touches in the last three games, and that’s after he totaled 39 touches in the previous three games. It was a bad time for him to have his worst fantasy performance of the year, as there are now a lot of worried fantasy owners. I wouldn’t completely lock him out, as he’s still finished as a top-32 PPR option in nine of his last 11 games, including six top-15 finishes. Crowell is the type who will let you down when you need him most, though this matchup does suit his skill-set. The Packers have now allowed a top-12 running back in each of their last three games, and a lot of it has to do with their inability to control the clock, because all three starting running backs totaled at least 20 carries. Knowing that defensive fronts now have to be mindful of the Browns receiving weapons, Crowell is a startable RB3 in season-long leagues.
Davante Adams: So, Adams has decided to have his worst game in a while against the Bucs who had allowed 18 top-24 performances in their first 11 games. His four-catch, 42-yard performance was the third time with Hundley under center that he finished with 5.3 or less fantasy points, though it was the first time in four weeks, so we need to cut him a little slack. It’s very likely that the Browns use Jason McCourty in shadow coverage this week, which isn’t great knowing that McCourty has played extremely well this year. He’s allowed a 64 percent catch rate, but at just 10.9 yards per reception, meaning he’s allowing the underneath stuff, but not getting beat over the top, which is why he’s allowed just two touchdowns on 53 targets in coverage. Adams should be played as a solid WR3 who has shown the ability with Hundley under center to overcome a tough matchup, just look at his 8/126/0 performance against the Ravens a few weeks back.
Jordy Nelson: It’s the end, unfortunately. Well, let’s be clear, it’s the end until we get Aaron Rodgers back, which could be Week 15. Under Hundley, Nelson has faded into oblivion and has now finished with 35 yards or less in each of his last six games. Knowing that Hundley has thrown just five touchdowns in seven games, it’s impossible to even rely on Nelson for a touchdown, even in a matchup against the Browns. His odds are definitely increased if McCourty shadows Adams (I think he will), so Nelson is still on the WR4 radar, though he comes with major downside.
Randall Cobb: After posting at least 52 yards in three of the last four games, Cobb was held without a catch in Week 13. If you were here last week, I’d mentioned that his previous performances were somewhat fluky, relying on big plays to even hit those totals. His matchup with Brien Boddy-Calhoun isn’t a great one, either, so find an alternative option if you thought about using Cobb this week.
Josh Gordon: I don’t know how to say this, but Gordon is a must-play in Week 14, even with Kizer under center. In his first game back in three years, Gordon posted 85 yards, which is the second-highest total the Chargers have allowed this season, with the only one totaling more being Odell Beckham Jr. He was being covered by Casey Hayward, too, one of the league’s best cornerbacks. Coming into Week 13, the Packers had allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per target to opposing wide receivers, as the combination of Kevin King, Davon House, and Damarious Randall is among the worst in the league. Knowing that he saw 11 targets in his first game back does wonders for our confidence in playing him, too. He should come with a WR3-type floor, but a WR1-type ceiling. Because of that, he’ll be slotted in as a must-play WR2. I’d consider him in both cash-games and tournaments.
Corey Coleman: Well, his target share disappeared with the return of Gordon. After seeing at least six targets in every start this year, he saw just four targets last week, not catching a single one of them. Most thought, “hey, if Hayward is covering Gordon, why isn’t Coleman going off?” That’s because Trevor Williams has played phenomenal this year as well. Against the Packers, though, both Gordon and Coleman have a chance to produce, though Gordon is obviously the favorite now. You can’t start him with much confidence, I get that, but he’s still in the WR4 conversation with guys like Jermaine Kearse, Emmanuel Sanders, and Kenny Stills as players who offer a decent ceiling, but also a low floor. He’s in play for tournaments this week against the Packers as a pivot, while everyone is playing Gordon.
Lance Kendricks: We always want to stream tight ends against the Browns, but this week, we unfortunately cannot. Kendricks has seen just 10 targets over the last six games as the starter, not catching more than two passes in any one game. Even though most quarterbacks would take advantage of this matchup, it’s hard to say that Hundley will. He’s only playable in 2TE leagues.
David Njoku: It’s really crazy to look at Njoku’s numbers side-by-side with Seth DeValve, because they’ve essentially been the same exact player, though Njoku has scored more touchdowns. Don’t believe me? Take a look:
At the tight end position, it’s all about touchdowns and knowing that Njoku is the favorite in the red zone seeing double the targets as DeValve (10 to 5), that’s what matters. The Packers are coming off a game in which they allowed their first top-12 performance to a tight end this season, and while it was Cameron Brate scoring two touchdowns, those were the only passes he caught all game. He was the first tight end to score against the Packers on a traditional pass (Xavier Grimble scored on a shuffle pass) this season. Because of that, Njoku shouldn’t be on your streaming radar in season-long leagues. He also doesn’t offer enough yardage upside in tournaments.
Detroit Lions at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Matthew Stafford: It appears that Stafford avoided any broken bones in his throwing hand when he hurt it in the Week 13 contest against the Ravens. That’s going to be rough for fantasy owners to trust going into the playoffs, but the matchup is extremely enticing. The Bucs defense had allowed a passing touchdown to every quarterback before Brett Hundley ruined that streak last week. Outside of him, each and every quarterback has totaled at least 12 fantasy points against their defense, including four 20-point games. Fun fact: Of the eight quarterbacks to finish top-15 against them, just one finished with more than 35 pass attempts. With the run game failing to get anything going, it’s likely that they lean on Stafford to move the ball. We want to pay attention to his practice participation throughout the week, but because of his hand, it’ll be difficult to trust him in cash-games. As long as he practices in full at some point, Stafford should be trusted as a low-end QB1 in season-long leagues.
Jameis Winston: He looked like the same old Jameis we’ve come to know last week, making dumb mistakes, but also making some great throws. He almost refuses to go to the ground without getting the ball out of his hand, which has led to more problems than solutions. He’s a gunslinger, that’s for sure. It’s going to work out well for you at times, but it’ll destroy you in others. Unfortunately, it’s led to more disappointment than anything this year, as he’s failed to score more than 12 fantasy points in four different games. Still, it’s hard to ignore the matchup against the Lions who have all of a sudden become one of the league’s worst pass defenses over the last five weeks. Here are the quarterbacks and their totals in those games: Brett Hundley (18.0), DeShone Kizer (23.0), Mitch Trubisky (16.5), Case Keenum (27.3), and Joe Flacco (18.7). If that’s not a call to start Winston, we should all quit playing fantasy right now. He’s in the low-end QB1 conversation and one that I’d start if you have someone in his territory. He comes with risk, but at this point, who doesn’t?
Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, and Tion Green: The Lions chose to bench Abdullah last week, and of all the players who could step up, it was Green, who led the team with 11 carries for 51 yards and a touchdown. He’s an undrafted rookie who didn’t have a single carry before Week 13, so it’s impossible to say if he’s a thing in fantasy leagues. I’ll tell you this – I wouldn’t hinge my fantasy season on it. They may decide to activate Abdullah after a week off, they may decide to go with Riddick, who has now totaled 46 touches over the last five weeks, after totaling just 47 touches over the first seven weeks. If there’s one thing that’s odd about the Bucs defense this year, it’s the fact that they’re allowing 4.2 yards per carry and that they’ve allowed 11 rushing touchdowns through 12 games with Gerald McCoy healthy, something that hasn’t been the case in years past. There’ve been four rushing touchdowns allowed over the last two weeks to the combination of Tevin Coleman, Jamaal Williams, and Aaron Jones. There’s likely value to be found somewhere here, but it’s hard to say who. If Abdullah plays, I’d consider him a high-end RB3, while Riddick still slots in as a solid flex play. I’d prefer Abdullah in tournaments if you want to play one, though it’s extremely risky. If Abdullah is out, we have to pay attention to what the Lions say during the week and who is inactive on gameday. Pay attention to my rankings as the week goes on.
Doug Martin and Peyton Barber: Prior to the game starting last week, the Bucs announced that Barber would start, so I slotted him in as an RB3 in the final hour, thinking someone would have value on that team, and we knew he’d received goal-line carries the prior week. He did such a good job that Martin may be out a job in Week 14 when he returns from his concussion. Barber totaled 102 yards on 23 carries, and another 41 yards through the air. He didn’t find the end zone, but his performance was more than adequate. The last time Martin totaled 100 yards on the ground was way back in Week 11 of 2015. Martin has received double-digit carries in 19 games since that time. At the very least, it’s likely to be a timeshare, making Martin somewhat unplayable outside of really deep leagues. It’s another situation that we need to pay attention to throughout the week, because if the Bucs decide to start Barber, he needs to be played as a low-end RB2 against a Lions defense that’s now allowed a rushing touchdown in seven straight games, including five touchdowns in the last three games.
Marvin Jones: You are slotting him into your lineups each and every week, just adjusting your expectations based on his matchup each particular week. This week it’s not so much about his matchup, but more about Stafford’s hand. If it’s okay, Jones should be primed for a massive week against a Bucs defense that has allowed the third-most fantasy points per target to opposing wide receivers. Coming into Week 13, they’d allowed 2,258 yards to the position, while no other team had allowed more than 2,047. Jones has seen at least seven targets in seven of the last eight games, giving him an ultra-high floor in a pass-happy offense. This matchup isn’t anything to run from – Jones is a WR2 in Week 14, provided Stafford is okay. He’s okay to trust in DFS cash games and has tournament upside as well.
Golden Tate: It turned out to be a pretty good game for Tate against the Ravens, as we thought it would, though he failed to find the end zone for the fifth time in six games. He’s never been a big-time touchdown scorer, but with how well Stafford has played, you’d expect more than three on the season. The Bucs have been without slot cornerback Vernon Hargreaves over the last three weeks, which may be a blessing in disguise, as he’s been one of the worst cornerbacks in football over the last two years. They slide Robert McClain in the slot when he’s out, which is great news for Tate, as McClain has been abused for a 77 percent catch rate this season. Given his limited touchdown upside, he’s just a low-end WR2, but one you should use. He makes for a better PPR play, which is why he can be considered for DraftKings cash-games. The Bucs have allowed 18 wide receivers finish as top-24 options against them this season, which is more than any other team in the league. There’s room for both Jones and Tate to perform well.
Kenny Golladay: This isn’t for those of you in season-long leagues, as you shouldn’t be putting your faith in Golladay, but he makes for an interesting tournament option in DFS. The Bucs deficiencies through the air cannot be understated, and Golladay is seeing 3-4 targets per game. If he catches one of those for a long touchdown, it can pay off in tournaments, as he’ll be less than one percent owned.
Mike Evans: Are you ready to double-down on Evans? What in the world happened to him last week? He had the matchup of the year and dropped just two catches for 33 yards. He’s now failed to score since way back in Week 7 and has just four touchdowns with four games remaining on the schedule. This week is going to be tough, as he’ll get Darius Slay in coverage, the Lions top cornerback who has played well this year. Of the seven wide receivers to finish top-18 against the Lions, Kelvin Benjamin was the only one who was their team’s No. 1 wide receiver. He finished with four catches, 58 yards, and a touchdown. If Slay is left one-on-one with Evans, he will get his points, as it’s just too difficult to defend an athletic 6-5, 230-pound receiver by yourself. Does he come with enough upside to win a tournament? Most likely not, especially considering he’s one of the priciest options. You’re playing him in season-long leagues as a WR1, just don’t expect him to carry your team through to the next round.
DeSean Jackson: This could be a blowup week for Jackson, as he’ll draw Nevin Lawson in coverage, a cornerback who runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash. The Lions are likely to shade a safety his way, but with Evans on the field, they can’t forget about him, as well as both the tight ends that can stretch the field. Over the last two years, Lawson has allowed nearly a 110 QB Rating when targeted in coverage. Jackson is a must-play WR3 this week.
Eric Ebron: We’ve talked about it for a while now, but Ebron’s role has been pretty steady over the last six weeks, averaging 4.7 targets per game in that time. He hasn’t posted any ridiculous games, but he has totaled at least 34 yards in each of the last six games, something he did just once in the first six weeks of the season. He’s scored just three touchdowns over the last two seasons on 139 targets, so unless the opponent is extremely giving to tight ends, it’s hard to say he’s TE1 worthy. The Bucs aren’t one of those teams, as they’ve allowed just three tight end touchdowns this year and all of them (so odd) were to backup tight ends. There are likely better streamers out there for you, but maybe you should consider Darren Fells. I’m kidding.
Cameron Brate: Before going to your hosting website and plugging in Brate as an auto-play, understand that even though he scored two touchdowns last week, those were the only passes he caught all game. I know, you don’t care how he gets the points, just as long as he gets them. But understanding the volatility of a player who has caught just six passes over the last five games is important. The common theme throughout those games was that Ryan Fitzpatrick was under center, but it’s still noteworthy. The Lions have started to revert to the team that was awful against tight ends last year, as they’ve now allowed four tight end touchdowns in their last three games. There’s been just one tight end who has caught more than four passes, but it’s still a matchup that looks appetizing to Brate. He’s back in the TE1 conversation, though he did play a season-low 42 percent of snaps in Week 13. He’s risky, but most tight ends in this range are.
Oakland Raiders at Kansas City Chiefs
Line: KC by 3.5
Derek Carr: It’s been a rough year for the Raiders offense, and while Carr hasn’t been the biggest problem, he has been for fantasy owners who thought he’d take the leap into must-start status this year. He’s finished as a top-12 quarterback just three times this season, and two of those instances were in Weeks 1 and 2. He’s actually finished QB20 or worse in five of the last 10 games, which is not a great feeling going into the fantasy playoffs. The Chiefs have been extra giving this season, allowing six different quarterbacks to total 20 or more fantasy points against them this year, including Carr himself back in Week 7 when he had his best game of the year, throwing for 417 yards and three touchdowns. That was also with Amari Cooper, who may not be available. This game is in Kansas City, which is a much tougher place to play, so Carr is more of a QB2 than the QB1 he was last time they played. I’d prefer not to play him in DFS, simply because he’s not safe enough for cash, and likely doesn’t offer enough upside inside Arrowhead Stadium.
Alex Smith: If you were here last week, you would’ve read that Smith didn’t all of a sudden become bad at football, and that he was one of the solid under-the-radar plays in Week 13 against the Jets. It helped that Andy Reid gave up play-calling duties, as the Chiefs came out firing, but they died down as the game went on. Opposite of Carr, Smith has been rather consistent this year, finishing with at least 14 fantasy points in all but one game, and that was in a game with 25-plus MPH winds. The Raiders defense has played better since firing their defensive coordinator, but keep in mind that those games were against Paxton Lynch and Geno Smith. Smith played very well against them in their Week 7 meeting, throwing for 342 yards and three touchdowns. He was one of four quarterbacks who have thrown three touchdowns against them this year. I’d consider Smith a low-end QB1 in this divisional game.
Marshawn Lynch: A lot of fantasy owners thought he was done due to his lack of fantasy performance earlier in the year, but if you watched his play, you knew that wasn’t the case. It’s good to see his fantasy numbers start to show what he’s been doing on the field. He’s now totaled at least 17 fantasy points in three of the last four games, with at least 7.7 points in all four of them. The Chiefs haven’t been a defense to actively target with running backs, but they’ve shown weaknesses as of late. Each of the last five teams to play against the Chiefs have totaled at least 28 carries as a team, and they have allowed a rushing touchdown in six of their last seven games. Lynch was ejected in the first meeting between the two teams on that Thursday night game, so it’s difficult to use anything as a barometer, though DeAndre Washington came in and totaled 33 yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Lynch is a solid bet for RB2 production in standard leagues, though he gets bumped down just a bit in PPR formats.
Kareem Hunt: We’ve reached DEFCON 5 with Hunt, as fantasy owners everywhere want to bench him. But let’s take a step back and assess the situation. He’s a workhorse running back who is playing at home and is a 3.5-point favorite. Has he been below average recently? Absolutely, but just how much? There’s been just two games this year where he’s finished outside of the top-30 running backs, which says a lot about his startability. Granted, those two games have come most recently, but his consistency without scoring a touchdown since Week 3 is nothing short of amazing. The Raiders have been one of the weakest run-stopping units in the league, as they’ve allowed eight running backs finish as top-12 options, including three of them to finish as top-three options. Hunt tagged them for 117 total yards in Week 7, though he didn’t score in that game. He’s a low-end RB1 for this game and one that I want to play in DFS tournaments, as the recency bias is likely to lower his ownership quite a bit.
Michael Crabtree: He’s back after his one-game suspension into a matchup against the Chiefs secondary that’s been extremely giving to wide receivers for much of the season. He matched up with Marcus Peters for much of their matchup in Week 7 when he finished with just 24 yards and a touchdown, but if you recall, that was Amari Cooper week. News came out on Wednesday that Peters is going to miss this game due to a team-imposed suspension. I’m not sure Cooper plays in this game, and if he does, he’ll likely be at less than 100 percent. Coming off a week in which they allowed both Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse 100-yard games, it’s going to be impossible to bench Crabtree. Consider him a solid WR2 for this game.
Amari Cooper: Don’t think he plays this week. On top of his concussion, he suffered what is believed to be a high-ankle sprain. The only way I trust him is if he’s practicing in full by the end of the week.
Cordarrelle Patterson/Seth Roberts/Johnny Holton: These three have value hinging on Cooper’s availability. Patterson would be the one with the biggest jump in value if Cooper were to miss, though Holton is also a home-run threat. I wouldn’t want to trust any of them in season-long league playoffs, as it’s likely that this turns out to be a low-scoring game.
Tyreek Hill: The road Hill showed up again in Week 13, popping off for 185 yards and two touchdowns against the Jets. He’s now averaged 102.9 yards in seven road games, but just 38.2 yards in five home games. It’s an odd stat, but has become a trend this year. He’s also failed to string together back-to-back double-digit performances this year, though we knew he’d be a bit inconsistent. The Raiders secondary will test that theory, though, as they’ve been burned by speed all year and have a B-squad at cornerback. It’s why Hill tagged them for 125 yards and a touchdown in the first contest. Part of the reason for his struggles is because they allow a full touchdown less per game at home, leading to less comeback modes and passing overall. It’s possible in this game, but we have to play the matchup, and the matchup is good. He needs to be in lineups as a WR2, though he offers too much risk for a cash-game DFS play.
Jared Cook: I don’t want to say that I told you so, because that’d be mean. I’ll just say that placing your trust in Cook has been a bad decision over the last five years or so, and we talked about that here last week. In three golden matchups against the Patriots, Broncos, and Giants, Cook totaled just four catches for 47 yards… in the three games combined. His targets have been there, as he’s seen five in every game, so it’s not that. In fact, teammate Clive Walford totaled four catches for 57 yards with limited playing time, which may lead to more going forward. Walford’s 25 snaps were 11 more than he’s played all season. The Chiefs were a team that Cook roughed up in Week 7 for six catches and 106 yards, so maybe there’s hope? That was a game where Carr threw for much more yardage than normal, and when Cook was actually performing, so take that how you want. Knowing the inconsistency at the position, it’s hard not to keep Cook on the high-end TE2 conversation against a team that’s allowed five different tight ends to total 60 or more yards, but he comes with tons of risk. The Chiefs have only allowed one touchdown to tight ends this season, so I wouldn’t use Cook in DFS tournaments.
Travis Kelce: I’m fairly certain Kelce had three catches for 90 yards and two touchdowns by the end of the first quarter, yet he finished the game with four catches for 94 yards and those two touchdowns. He still finished as the TE1, but it could’ve been even bigger than it was. The Chiefs are in a bad spot for play-calling, but it was good to see Kelce see eight targets in the first game without Reid in charge of the play-calling. The Raiders are a team who consistently get beat down the seams and down the field, which is ideal for Kelce. He finished with “just” four catches for 33 yards in Week 7, though he did find the endzone in that game. The Raiders have allowed 7-of-12 tight ends to finish as top-eight tight ends, so feel free to start Kelce as you normally would. If you want to pay up at the position in DFS, he makes for a solid cash and tournament option.