Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 14
It’s never too late in the season to learn a valuable lesson.
Last week, I rebuffed Carson Wentz and Jared Goff despite 2016’s top picks drawing dreadful defenses in the Dolphins and Cardinals, respectively. They each snapped out of ugly funks — against stout competition as the week’s QB4 and 6. Earlier concerns aside, Wentz is a full go for Week 14’s savory matchup against the Giants.
When bowing down to the Week 13 matchups, good results followed. Dede Westbrook produced his first touchdown since Week 1 against Tampa Bay, and yet another tight end preyed on Arizona. So why fight it?
With many managers facing a must-win situation to make or stay in the playoffs, nobody can afford to take the “Defense doesn’t matter” gambit. While that doesn’t mean anyone should bench Patrick Mahomes against New England, there’s another high-profile passer worth sitting in an equally brutal assignment. These Start or Sit evaluations are accompanied by each player’s Expert Consensus Rank (ECR), as of Tuesday night, from half-PPR leagues.
Start: Kirk Cousins (MIN) vs. DET: QB9 ECR
In terms of quarterback rating (87.2) and adjusted yards per attempt (7.1), Monday night represented Cousins’ worst game since Week 4 at Chicago. It wasn’t even that bad. He surrendered his first interception since Week 6 but still finished with 276 passing yards and two touchdowns in a 37-30 loss. In eight contests since September 29’s 16-6 loss to the Bears, Cousins has compiled at least 15 fantasy points — as the overall QB6 — all but once. The one outlier? A 19-9 triumph over Washington in which he went 23-for-26 with 285 yards, but no touchdowns. A similar outcome is likely the only way he doesn’t pay off against the Lions, whose 30th-ranked passing defense has tallied just five picks all season. Cousins already torched them for 337 yards and four touchdowns in Week 7. Heck, Mitchell Trubisky just stuffed them on Thanksgiving. A high floor and ceiling, especially with Dalvin Cook‘s status in question, makes Minnesota’s signal-caller an easy top-10 option.
Sit: Drew Brees (NO) vs. SF: QB15 ECR
Brees has played five of his six games against bottom-10 passing defenses. He’ll suddenly face the steepest test imaginable in the 49ers, who have relinquished a microscopic 134.3 passing yards per game. Aside from an Andy Dalton anomaly in Week 2, the only quarterbacks to top 15 fantasy points (Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson) against San Francisco relied on their legs. That’s not an option for the 40-year-old Brees, who has minus-one rushing yard this season. Even inside the Superdome, there’s too much riding on this weekend’s slate to go down swinging because of a brutal matchup. Don’t feel too guilty benching Brees, who manufactured 10 or fewer fantasy points in five games last season. Three of them were from Weeks 14-16.
Start: James White (NE) vs. KC: RB27 ECR
The Patriots faced an unfamiliar game script last Sunday night when trailing by much as 18 in the third quarter. When nothing was working for their stagnant offense, they turned to White. Catching two touchdowns from Tom Brady on a season-high 98 rushing yards would have been more than enough to appease his investors. He also, however, surprisingly led the team with 14 carries for 79 yards. His previous 2019 bests in each category: nine for 38 in Week 9’s only other loss to Baltimore.
It’s certainly possible New England succumbs to the AFC’s other division leader. A loss (or shootout win) against Kansas City would lead to ample opportunities for White. Only the Texans have permitted more receiving yards to running backs than the Chiefs’ 69.4. White’s 68 snaps in Week 13 shattered his previous top tally of 44, so Bill Belichick might finally be ready to concede that Sony Michel isn’t succeeding. Even in a timeshare, White has at least one red-zone touch in every game this season, totaling nine handoffs and 14 catches. Despite his November doldrums, the New England back is once again a worthy flex choice in PPR or half-PPR formats.
Sit: Kenyan Drake (ARI) vs. PIT: RB26 ECR
This isn’t because of David Johnson. In three games since the fantasy first rounder’s return, Drake has still maintained Arizona’s featured role with 53 touches. He’s only made them count for 153 yards. Go ahead and blame the rough schedule. Tampa Bay and San Francisco have forfeited the second- and third-fewest fantasy points to running backs, respectively, while the Rams have relinquished 3.7 yards per carry. Unfortunately for Drake, it doesn’t get much easier this Sunday.
The Steelers, somehow still firmly in the playoff hunt, have allowed just 3.8 yards per handoff. No running back has scored a rushing touchdown against them since Mark Ingram in Week 5. Drake, meanwhile, has gone consecutive games without a red-zone touch. In four contests with the Cardinals, he has parlayed his 15 catches into an inefficient 91 yards, so he could merely transfer volume into a passable PPR performance. Don’t expect much more in another difficult setting.
Start: D.K. Metcalf (SEA) at LAR: WR28 ECR
Any concerns about Josh Gordon siphoning
Decaf D.K. Metcalf‘s value have yet to brew. In three games since joining Seattle, Gordon has corralled four of five targets for 47 yards on a limited snap count. The well-caffeinated Metcalf has controlled 15 of 23 targets for 180 yards. No WR3 is a lock, but the rookie has topped 60 yards seven times and found the end zone in two other games. Averaging 12.7 air yards per target, he’s a steady deep threat getting more chances than expected in a run-heavy offense. He could especially have a huge showing if Jalen Ramsey shadows a hobbled Tyler Lockett.
Sit: Dede Westbrook (JAC) vs. LAC: WR41 ECR
Playing Westbrook worked last week, but don’t go double or nothing. Despite continually finding innovative ways to lose, the Chargers have held their last four opponents (including Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes) to 695 combined passing yards. Only the 49ers and Patriots have permitted fewer fantasy points to wide receivers this season. Throw in the lack of red-zone targets sent his way before Week 13, and Westbrook gets downgraded to a WR4 in a poor matchup. Even if he falters, consider giving him another chance when the Jaguars then face the Raiders and Falcons.
Start: Jack Doyle (IND) at TB: TE7 ECR
After tallying one touchdown through Week 8, Doyle has three in four games. In the Colts’ first game since losing Eric Ebron for the season, his fellow tight end played 68 of 72 snaps. Because Marlon Mack, T.Y. Hilton, and Parris Campbell were also all out of action, Doyle comfortably set 2019 highs in targets (11), receptions (six), and receiving yards (73). Even if Hilton returns, Ebron’s absence is enough to fortify Doyle as a top-10 option against the Buccaneers. Only the Cardinals have ceded more fantasy points to tight ends, and Jacoby Brissett will now also be missing Chester Rogers.
Sit: Tyler Higbee (LAR) vs. SEA: TE12 ECR
Congratulations to those who added and started Higbee once the Rams ruled out Gerald Everett against the Cardinals. Just about any tight end is in play when opposing Arizona; Vance McDonald is (understandably) the ECR’s TE14 despite averaging 22 yards per game. Granted, the Seahawks represent another favorable opponent. They’ve ceded the sixth-most fantasy points to the position, but that still amounts to six fewer points per game (8.7) than Arizona. Higbee, meanwhile, has now reached 50 yards in just three of 59 career games. Even if the day-to-day Everett stays sidelined, his teammate is far from guaranteed to maintain a solid target share alongside the Rams’ three wide receivers. Contrary to the ECR, I’d rather roll the dice on Kyle Rudolph or Mike Gesicki maintaining their recent kinship with the end zone. If Everett returns, neither he nor Higbee is any more than a mid-tier TE2.