We had a feeling last week would be challenging with so many teams on BYE, and that proved to be the case. While Brock Purdy went off as our highlight player, our wide receivers were dreadful. The good news is that this is the final week of BYEs, with only two teams taking a break in Week 14. It’s also been sad watching so many injuries over the last few weeks, and we even had a sideline guy suffer a nasty leg break as well. That’s when you know the injury bug is really going around, and that’ll surely be a theme in this article!
The premise behind this article is simple. Identifying fantasy football smash plays that are on the fringe of your starting lineup. We rarely recommend a Top 20 player at any position, but we want to help you fill those critical flex spots!
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Smash Starts for Week 14
Justin Herbert (LAC) vs. DEN
There’s some panic surrounding Herbert and his recent play, but this is an excellent spot for Herb to get going once again. The Chargers quarterback is coming off one of the worst outings in his career, but he scored at least 23 fantasy points in eight of his first 10 games, scoring at least 27 in five of his last eight fixtures. That’s why he was the top-scoring quarterback for most of the year, and it’s wild that people are considering benching him after two rough weeks. It’s even more difficult to understand when examining this matchup because Denver is 29th in points scored and 31st in yardage surrendered. In their most recent matchup, Herbert had 22 fantasy points!
Joe Mixon (CIN) vs. IND
I saw Mixon on numerous benches this week, and it’s hard to understand why. Many people were panicking about the Joe Burrow injury, but that should make Mix the focal point of the offense. That was clear on Monday, with Mixon recording 19 carries and six catches for 117 total yards and two touchdowns. Getting 25 touches is impossible to overlook, especially since Mixon has at least 15 fantasy points in four of his last six outings. That should be his floor in a home matchup with Indy because the Colts rank 26th in rushing yards allowed and 30th in touchdowns surrendered to opposing backs.
Zack Moss (IND) at CIN
Moss was a massive bust for fantasy managers last week, but we’re going right back to the well. This is still the bellcow back for the Colts in the absence of Jonathan Taylor, recording 19 carries across 64 snaps in Week 13. That’s the workload we saw through the opening two months, with Moss averaging 19 fantasy points per game through his first five fixtures. It’s hard to fade any back with 20-25 touches, and Cincy is far from a scary matchup. The Bengals allow 4.8 yards per carry, the second-worst mark in the NFL. Look for these two teams to keep it on the ground in what could be a grinder of a game.
Alexander Mattison (MIN) at LV
Mattison seems to get more criticism than he deserves because he’s looked solid since taking over as the full-time back. An injury to Cam Akers has him in there as much as anyone, recording at least 16 carries in six of the 11 games he’s finished. He’s also getting the majority of third-down and goal-line carries, making him an enticing option against Las Vegas. The Raiders are surrendering the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing rushers this year. There’s also a chance Minnesota changes their quarterback, and they should lean on Mattison no matter who’s under center after the embarrassing showing in their most recent outing.
Courtland Sutton (DEN) at LAC
Sutton has quietly developed into Russell Wilson‘s top target in this Sean Payton offense. Most people figured it would be Jerry Jeudy, but Sutton has outperformed him in almost every game this season. Sutt has scored at least 13 fantasy points in five of his last seven outings while dropping 7.9 or more in all but one game this year. That’s an elite floor, but it’s no surprise since he’s the goal-line target, scoring a touchdown in nine games this year. The matchup is the icing on the cake, with the Chargers surrendering the second-most passing yards and third-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts.
Jayden Reed (GB) at NYG
Reed took a step back on Sunday Night to allow Christian Watson to go off, but he’s been the best receiver in this offense over the last month. Jayden averaged 12.1 fantasy points per game across his previous six outings before that stinker on Sunday, seeing his snaps and targets rise exponentially in that span. Both of those could skyrocket here because it looks like Watson will sit after pulling his hammy in that Week 13 win. Reed has been doing that damage with a 50 percent snap share, and we could see him crack 80 percent since Watson’s 75 percent snap share will be on the bench. That boosted usage makes him impossible to fade against the Giants, allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.
Brandin Cooks (DAL) vs. PHI
Most people talk about CeeDee Lamb when discussing the Cowboys’ receivers, but Cooks has been a revelation in the second half of the season. The veteran has scored at least 12 fantasy points in five of his last seven games, playing a season-high 71 snaps in Week 13. That means Dallas believes he’s a significant part of their offense, and he should get plenty of opportunities here with Philly focusing so much on Ceedee. It’s not like the Eagles are a terrifying matchup either, surrendering the most fantasy points to opposing pass-catchers this year. If this is the shootout we expect, Cooks should get plenty of opportunities to go off again.
Taysom Hill (NO) vs. CAR
Why is everyone overlooking Hill? Having a tight end who gets rushing attempts is a massive cheat code in fantasy, and it’s like many people are scared to use him. We saw Jaylen Samuels carry teams to fantasy championships in a similar role a few years ago, and this dual-threat ability has made Hill one of the best tight ends over the last month. He’s scored at least 14 fantasy points in four of his last six outings, recording a season-high 13 carries in Week 13. We’re not sure double-digit carries will be a regular thing as we advance, but he should continue to be the goal-line back with his punishing style of running. We expect a handful of goal-line carries against Carolina because New Orleans is a massive home favorite against the second-worst rush defense in the NFL.
Pittsburgh Steelers D/ST (vs. NE)
Pittsburgh is rostered in many leagues, but go pick them up if they’re not. The Patriots have been pitiful on the offensive end this season, ranked 28th in total yardage and dead-last in points scored. They’re averaging just 12.3 points per game, and that’s not far off of their projection here. Pittsburgh enters this matchup as a 5.5-point home favorite in a game with a 30-point total. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an over-under that low, and New England is projected to score 12-13 points.
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