Fantasy Football Weekly Recap: Week 14
The fantasy playoffs are here, and I hope your matchups are going well! If not, well, you can always get a Monday night miracle.
Each week, I’ll be here to give you some instant stat-based insight into NFL offenses. I try to focus on the numbers, but I’ll also break down some of the significant injuries of the day as well. Without any further ado, I present the key storylines from Week 14.
And as always, check back on Monday mornings for storylines from the week’s late afternoon slate and Sunday Night Football.
Story #1: Derrick Henry ran for 215 yards and two scores.
I said it in Week 11, folks, Derrick Henry is going to be a league-winner. He rolled over the Jaguars this week, notching 215 rushing yards and two scores. He added seven more yards on two receptions.
— NFL (@NFL) December 13, 2020
This was Henry’s fourth-career game with 200-plus yards and a pair of touchdowns. He has now surpassed Hall of Famers Jim Brown, Barry Sanders, and LaDanian Tomlinson for the most such games in NFL history.
Henry ends his fantasy schedule with games against the Lions (worst defense against running backs entering Week 14) and Packers (third-worst). Those are both smash spots, and if you’re lucky enough to have him on your playoff roster, the championship is yours to lose. Don’t blow it.
Story #2: Drew Lock threw four touchdowns.
Lock had a fantastic game against the Carolina Panthers, as he completed 77.8% of his passes for 280 yards and four scores — a career-best! That included a pair of touchdown passes to rookie K.J. Hamler.
— NFL (@NFL) December 13, 2020
So what happened? Denver’s coaching staff put Lock in some fantastic situations, and they deserve a lot of the credit. Also, a Rasul Douglas stumble helped Lock score his second touchdown of the day.
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) December 13, 2020
Lock had a much better fantasy performance than a real-life one. I don’t know if the Broncos are sold on him long-term, but his stats from today will at least keep him in contention. He seriously needed to have a good game after getting roasted by Jeudy on Twitter last week.
The sophomore quarterback shouldn’t be on your radar as a streamer in 1QB leagues. He’s a decent option in 2QB leagues, however, and he’ll have the Bills (seventh-worst defense against the position entering Week 14) and Chargers (sixth-worst) to end the year.
Stories #3-6: Injuries.
Football is a violent game, and unfortunately, that means we’ll lose players to injury each week. A few fantasy-relevant players went down in Week 14’s first slate of games: DeVante Parker, Mike Gesicki, Noah Fant, and Brandon Allen.
#3-4: Parker and Gesicki exited early against the Chiefs this week. Parker left with a leg injury in the second quarter and failed to return. He had not caught a pass before his departure. Gesicki injured his shoulder in the fourth quarter after scoring twice. Post-game, Tua Tagovailoa said that Gesicki was “really hurting.”
There’s a realistic chance that the Dolphins have to replace their two leading pass-catchers for their Week 15 matchup with the Patriots. New England beat Miami 21-11 earlier in the season, but the two teams have trended in vastly different directions since then.
If the Dolphins have to play without Parker and Gesicki, see if they activate Preston Williams this week. If they do, he’ll be the lead weapon; if not, expect Jakeem Grant (if healthy — he left briefly with an injury, too), Lynn Bowden, and Mack Hollins to be the go-to options. Grant and Williams are worth speculative waiver-wire adds for Week 15.
Both of Miami’s backup tight ends, Adam Shaheen and Durham Smythe, will be touchdown-dependent streamers for the matchup if Gesicki can’t play. Shaheen has three touchdowns on the year to Smythe’s one.
#5: Fant left Denver’s game against the Panthers with an illness, possibly related to the one that held tackle Garret Boles out of the matchup. The two players tested negative for COVID-19. Fant failed to earn a target before his departure.
Fortunately, Fant should be all set for Week 15. Unfortunately, those who started him this week now have an increasingly difficult path to the next round of the fantasy playoffs. He’ll get the Bills (sixth-worst defense against opposing tight ends entering Week 14) and the Steelers (third-best) to end his fantasy season.
#6: Allen left Cincinnati’s game against Dallas with a leg injury and failed to return. Playing behind this offensive line is terrifying, and this is the second quarterback the Bengals have now lost to injury. Allen had completed 75% of his passes for 217 yards, one score, and no picks before his departure. He managed to avoid taking a single sack, although substitute Ryan Finley took two before the game ended.
With or without Allen at quarterback, the Bengals are a team to avoid in fantasy, and you shouldn’t count on any of their players to help you win a fantasy championship. If Finley starts, he’ll be a very low-end option for those in 2QB leagues, and his presence will hurt the value of both Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins.
Stories #7-8: Benchings.
#7: Bernard got pulled from Cincinnati’s game after a fumble early in the first quarter.
#DallasCowboys defense with the takeaway ❕
— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) December 13, 2020
A later turnover from Trayveon Williams would help Bernard get back in the game for a few snaps, but Bernard ended the day with just three rushing attempts, three catches, and 23 all-purpose yards. Yikes. For some perspective, Williams and Samaje Perine both ended up with more touches than him.
The Bengals will play the Steelers next, and since they give up the second-fewest points per game to opposing rushers, I would avoid Bernard in Week 15.
#8: Glennon struggled against the Titans and got replaced by Gardner Minshew with the game well out of reach. Glennon had completed 56.6% of his passes for 85 yards and a pick before his departure.
Malcolm Butler locking it down. ? @Mac_BZ
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) December 13, 2020
This should be Minshew’s team moving forward. That could be good news for Keelan Cole, as Minshew connected with him for a late touchdown pass. Cole also led the Jaguars in targets (12), receptions (7), and receiving yards (67).
That said, it’s hard to get excited about any of Jacksonville’s pass-catchers when their target distribution is this unpredictable. Cole and Laviska Shenault, who combined for 23 targets this week, totaled only five in Week 13. I would avoid all of Jacksonville’s pass-catchers moving forward — except D.J. Chark, whose speed and consistent target share make him a decent boom-or-bust play.
Story #9: Irv Smith led the Vikings in receiving yards and touchdowns.
Kyle Rudolph sat this one out, and without him to contend with, Smith proceeded to lead the team in multiple receiving stats. He totaled the most receiving yards (63) and receiving touchdowns (1) in the loss, and he ranked third in targets (4) and second in receptions (4).
.@swervinirvin_with the score!!!#Skol
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) December 13, 2020
If Rudolph can’t play next week, Smith should be a high-upside streaming option for Minnesota’s game against Chicago. The Bears’ defense was giving up the fourth-most points per game to opposing tight ends entering Week 14.
Story #10: Antonio Brown led the Buccaneers in receptions and targets.
The Buccaneers didn’t need to do much to beat the Vikings, as Minnesota kicker Dan Bailey pretty much won them the game with his four missed kicks. That said, Tom Brady still attempted 23 passes, and most of them went to Brown.
Brown tied with Mike Evans for the lead in targets (5), but Brown caught the most passes (5) and had the second-most receiving yards (49). Of the 10 passes not caught by Brown, Evans hauled in three, Chris Godwin got two, and no one else earned more than one.
The fact Brown led the Buccaneers’ receiving corps doesn’t indicate that he’s the new best option among them in fantasy. Instead, it points to how little floor they all have. In a game where Tampa Bay doesn’t need to pass much, all of these receivers can completely bust, as Brady has far too many mouths to feed.
The Buccaneers will play the Falcons (third-worst defense against wide receivers entering Week 14) and Lions (eighth-worst) to end their season. These receivers will have immense upside in those matchups, but as this week showed us, they also won’t have any floor.
Story #11: Chad Hansen led the Texans in receiving yards.
The Texans have had a nightmarish few weeks. This week, they had to start their WR5 (Keke Coutee), WR6 (Chad Hansen), and RB2 (Duke Johnson). The end result was an ugly showing on offense and a blowout loss to the Chicago Bears. Hansen led the team with 56 receiving yards; Duke Johnson ranked second with 53. Keke Coutee, a popular waiver-wire target entering the week, ended up with only 24 yards (and a score).
Deshaun Watson couldn’t do much against Chicago’s defense without most of his supporting cast. He completed 70% of his passes for 219 yards and a score, adding 38 more yards on seven rushing attempts, and he briefly left the game after a nasty hit late in the third quarter. He tried his best, though, and it’s not his fault that Jordan Akins dropped an easy pass in the end zone.
The Texans will have a rematch with the Colts next week, and Houston’s best receiving option, Brandin Cooks, should get neutralized by Xavier Rhodes again. That means more targets for backups like Hansen, Keke Coutee, and Randall Cobb (if he’s activated from injured reserve). I like Coutee a lot next week if Cobb doesn’t play.
Story #12: Jalen Hurts looked fantastic in his first start.
I’ll come clean: I wasn’t expecting much from Hurts this week. While I loved him as a prospect, I genuinely did not think he could succeed against this defense from behind this offensive line. As a passer, Hurts ended the day with a 56.7% completion percentage, 167 passing yards, a passing touchdown, and no picks. His touchdown pass came on a fourth-down conversion attempt.
?: FOX pic.twitter.com/o6GFAFOG14
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) December 13, 2020
Hurts was not sacked once, and he added 106 rushing yards on 18 attempts. Given how good the Eagles looked with Hurts under center, it’s possible that Carson Wentz had been deflating their efficiency data somewhat, causing me to balk at the prospect of Hurts making his first start here.
Regardless, Hurts should be a strong fantasy asset moving forward, as he’ll play the Cardinals (14th-best defense against opposing quarterbacks) and Cowboys (11th-worst) to wrap up his fantasy season.
Stories #13-15: Injuries II.
#13: Stafford left late in the fourth quarter in Detroit’s matchup with the Packers. He had thrown for 244 yards and a score before Chase Daniel subbed in for him.
Stafford has been banged-up most of the year, and he’s now dealing with an “unbelievable amount of pain” caused by the rib injury. He hasn’t been ruled out yet, but if you were planning to use him for next week’s game against the Titans, you should be prepared to look elsewhere at quarterback. His backup, Daniel, could be a decent streaming option in 2QB leagues, but he doesn’t have enough upside to warrant consideration in 1QB formats.
#14: Samuel went down with a hamstring injury on his first play in San Francisco’s game against Washington. He gained nine yards on the play before making his premature exit.
If you have Samuel on your roster and are still in title contention, it doesn’t sound like you’ll be getting him back this year. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said that the injury “didn’t look good,” and since Samuel missed time with a similar injury earlier in the year, there’s a chance that the team shuts him down at this point.
Brandon Aiyuk totaled 16 targets with Samuel sidelined, and he’ll be a strong WR2/3 option moving forward as the last receiver standing in this offense.
The quarterback hasn’t been ruled out for Week 15, and since Washington now leads the NFC East, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back under center. Smith’s status is important to monitor if you’re planning to use Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, or Terry McLaurin next week, as Smith has been much better for their fantasy value than Haskins.
Story #16: Jonathan Taylor and T.Y. Hilton both scored two touchdowns.
These two are tearing up consolation brackets around the world right now. After inconsistent (and in Hilton’s case, bad) play during the fantasy regular season, these two have turned on the jets to end the year. Taylor totaled 165 yards on 22 touches, while Hilton got 86 yards on his five receptions. No other member of the Colts offense found the end zone.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) December 13, 2020
As long as Frank Reich continues to feature him, Taylor should be a reliable low-end RB1/high-end RB2. I’m less optimistic about Hilton, but he’s now led this team in targets in consecutive weeks, so you can probably trust him as a high-upside WR3/FLEX moving forward — especially against the Texans, as he caught eight passes for 110 yards and a score against them in Week 13.
Story #17: Chase Young scored a touchdown.
The Washington Football Team’s offense scored fewer points than their defense did on Sunday. The offense combined for no touchdowns, but three of their drives ended in field goals. Meanwhile, the defense put up two touchdowns.
CHASE YOUNG SCOOP AND SCORE TD
That’s his first one in the NFL
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 13, 2020
With an offense like Washington’s, you sometimes need splash plays from your defense to remain competitive. The Football Team’s defense has been a reliable D/ST option through the season, but since they’ll play the Seahawks, I would consider pivoting away from them.
Story #18: Diontae Johnson got benched.
The beleaguered Pittsburgh receiver leads the league in drops. He came into Sunday’s game with 10, and he left with 12.
Diontae Johnson leads the NFL with 12 drops.
The only player with double-digit drops this season. pic.twitter.com/M98bhuhfnp
— PFF (@PFF) December 14, 2020
Head coach Mike Tomlin warned players that he’d bench them for failing to “make routine plays routinely” after last week’s loss, and he followed through on that threat by benching Johnson for most of the first half. Johnson would eventually return later in the game, finishing with four catches for 40 yards.
Johnson failed to deliver on his WR2 upside this week. Fortunately, he has a soft matchup against the Bengals next week. They’re an average defense against opposing wideouts, so as long as Ben Roethlisberger enters Week 15 healthier than he entered Week 14, you should be able to trust Johnson as a high-upside WR3.
Story #19: Todd Gurley is getting phased out of Atlanta’s offense.
For those of you who invested an early draft pick in the Falcons running back, I’m sorry. Things haven’t gone well for him in recent weeks, and even though he’s been active, he hasn’t done much in this offense. He only got 30% of Atlanta’s rushing attempts this Sunday, as the bulk of the work (55%) went to Ito Smith.
Gurley wasn’t even the most efficient back, as Smith’s 3.8 YPC out-paced his own 3.2 YPC.
Todd Gurley hasn’t played more than 36% of the snaps in any of his last three games
He hasn’t carried the ball more than 8 times in those three games or rushed for more than 26 yards
He plays the top-ranked Bucs run defense in Week 15
I’d start Jeremy McNichols > Gurley
— Adam Koffler (@AdamKoffler) December 14, 2020
If you’re still in playoff contention, Gurley is droppable. He isn’t usable next week against the Buccaneers, and he isn’t worth holding onto for his Week 16 matchup with the Chiefs.
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