December 18, 2014

2014 Fantasy Football Week 16 Start'em, Sit'em

When Washington and Philadelphia met in Week 3, neither of the current starting quarterbacks played in that game.

To be honest, I would have thought you were crazy if you told me then that both RG3 and Mark Sanchez would appear on the "start'em" side of this column for Championship Week. But here we are and both of them are viable options as top-12 fantasy quarterbacks for Week 16.

That said, it's not a universal start recommendation for RG3 or Sanchez (or any player on this list). Ultimately, the decision will come down to the other options on your roster, if applicable.

As my 11th-ranked fantasy quarterback in Week 16, Sanchez is a viable option for those in a 12-team league. That said, if you have Drew Brees and Sanchez as the quarterbacks, you should start Brees, who I have ranked ahead of all quarterbacks not named Aaron Rodgers.

So, in other words, my fantasy football rankings are a better guage of which player I would start out of multiple options.

With this column, however, the goal is to highlight players with favorable (or unfavorable) matchups that I may not otherwise start (or sit) or those that I like (or dislike) more than usual.

Looking ahead to the rest of this week's games, here are some players to consider starting:

QB - Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (vs. PHI)

Coming on in relief of an injured Colt McCoy, RG3 had his best outing of the season last week as he finished eighth in fantasy points among quarterbacks, an encouraging sign for those considering him this week. It's been a quarterback carousel in the nation's capital and Kirk Cousins made his first start of the season in Week 3 against Philly. In that game, he threw for 427 yards and three touchdowns and finished as the QB2 for the week. In their 14 games this season, the Eagles have allowed 11 of them to finish as a top-12 fantasy quarterback. With such a favorable matchup, I expect RG3 to continue to build positive momentum at the most critical point in the fantasy football season.

QB - Mark Sanchez, Philadelphia Eagles (at WAS)

Based on projected point totals using Vegas odds, only the Saints and Packers are projected to score more points this week than the Eagles (29.50). In addition, no team has allowed more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season than the Redskins, who have surrendered 10 passing touchdowns over their past three games. Sanchez is coming off back-to-back disappointing performances (10.54 and 6.08 fantasy points, respectively), but the matchup is too good for him to not bounce back this week.

RB - Joique Bell, Detroit Lions (at CHI)

Over the past three games, Bell has finished the week as the RB4, RB3 and RB11, respectively. The first game of that span was against the Bears, who will try to slow him down on a short week. Given that the Bears have benched quarterback Jay Cutler, the line has increased from 7.0 to 9.5 points and there's a good chance that the Lions are playing with the lead for most of this game. Bell has a total of 87 touches over his past four games and I'd expect another heavy workload (and productive outing) from him again in Week 16.

RB - Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins (vs. MIN)

Coming off a disappointing performance against the Patriots, who have been playing much better run defense recently, Miller gets a favorable matchup this week against the Vikings, who have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. Miller hasn't had many great games, but he's had a lot of good/useful games. Miller has finished as a top-21 fantasy running back in 10 of his 14 games and has the 13th-most fantasy points scored in total among running backs this season.

RB - Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons (at NO)

Like Miller, Jackson is coming off a disappointing performance (5.7 fantasy points, RB42) last week. That said, Jackson has finished as a top-22 fantasy running back in five of his previous six games. During that six-game span, S-Jax had a minimum of 18 touches in five of those games. With the Saints allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs, Jackson is a great candidate to have a bounce-back week.

RB - Toby Gerhart, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. TEN)

Man, I was so wrong on Gerhart. I was all-in on him being a strong RB2 for 2014, but that obviously did not happen. With an 86/265/1 rushing line heading into Week 16, it may be difficult to trust Gerhart. Given the season-ending injury to Denard Robinson, however, Gerhart should see the largest share of the workload in one of the few games in which the Jags are favored against a team that has allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Tempering expectations a bit, Gerhart is ranked just inside my top-24 running backs for the week.

WR - Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants (at STL)

At this point in the season, ODB has become a no-brainer must-start, but it's amazing what he has done especially considering the hamstring injury that kept him out of almost all of training camp, the preseason and the first four regular-season games. That said, ODB leads all rookie receivers in receiving yards (972) despite playing only 10 games. Beckham Jr. has a minimum of six catches and 90 yards in seven consecutive games, which ties an NFL record.

WR - Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. GB)

Evans has less than 50 receiving yards in four consecutive games and a total of only 13 catches during that span. That said, four of those 13 receptions have been caught for a touchdown. Evans didn't get his first NFL touchdown until Week 4, but he has a total of 11 touchdowns in his past 10 games played. In a game where the Bucs should be playing most of it from behind, Evans gets a favorable matchup as the Packers allow the ninth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season.

WR - DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins (vs. PHI)

Jackson has been a bit of a boom-or-bust fantasy option throughout his career and this season has been no different. To be fair, he has played with three different quarterbacks. D-Jax has failed to finish as a top-50 fantasy wide receiver in three of his past four games. That said, I expect a performance from D-Jax closer to the outing (117 yards and a TD) he had the first time he faced his former team. No team has allowed more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers than the Eagles.

WR - DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans (vs. BAL)

Hopkins has really stepped up his performance in his second season as he has 69 receptions for 1,167 yards and six touchdowns through Week 15. The quarterback situation has been less than ideal for the Texans and gets even worse as they move on to their fourth quarterback this week. That said, the matchup against the Ravens, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, is too tasty to consider benching Hopkins assuming that he plays this week. (Note: Hopkins is currently dealing with an ankle injury and is listed as a "game-time decision.")

TE - Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs (at PIT)

On the year, Kelce has scored the ninth-most fantasy points among tight ends this season even though he hasn't always seen the number of snaps or targets that fantasy owners would like. In their past five games, the Steelers have allowed four top-10 performances to opposing tight ends. Meanwhile, Kelce has finished as a top-10 fantasy tight end in three of his past four games.

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Here are some players to consider keeping on your fantasy bench(es):

QB - Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers (at SF)

The 49ers have allowed only one 300-yard game this season (Peyton Manning) and have held opposing quarterbacks to just one touchdown or less in nine of 14 games. Not only is the matchup difficult, but Rivers is dealing with a back injury. While the injury won't keep him out of the game, it could limit his effectiveness. In addition, Rivers will be without his most talented receiver (Keenan Allen).

QB - Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers (vs. SD)

While the other quarterback in this game has a tough matchup, Kaepernick's matchup is neutral -- San Diego has surrendered the 17th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. That said, Kaep has scored less than 15 fantasy points in eight consecutive games for an average of 11.01 during that span. In those eight games, he has thrown six touchdowns (no more than one in any game) and six interceptions. And over the past five games, he has thrown for less than 200 yards four times.

RB - LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots (at NE)

In his four games as a Patriot, Blount has averaged double-digit fantasy points per game. And we've seen how effective he could be with them at the end of last season. If anything, however, this week's game shapes up to be one that features Shane Vereen. In fact, Vereen was the top-scoring fantasy running back in Week 7 when they faced the Jets the first time around. Granted, Blount was a Steeler at the time, but he's hard to count on Blount this week as the Jets allow only 87.5 rushing yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry.

RB - Giovani Bernard, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. DEN)

As well as Jeremy Hill has run the ball lately, Bernard is clearly the "2" in the team's 1-2 rushing attack. Even though Bernard had 18 touches last week for a total of 104 yards, he finished outside the top-24 fantasy running backs in each of his previous three games. For me, Bernard is more of a flex option against the tough Broncos run defense that has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to the position this year.

RB - Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers (at SF)

Sitting out of practice in back-to-back days, Mathews could end up missing his second straight game due to an ankle injury. If he plays, however, he should remain on your bench against the 49ers. The 49ers rank eighth in the NFL in rushing defense (101.1 YPG). If he sits, I'd keep both Branden Oliver and Donald Brown on my bench as well.

WR - Percy Harvin, New York Jets (vs. NE)

Over the past four games, Harvin has finished as the week's WR100, WR70, WR9 and WR94. Aside from the 6/124/1 line in Week 14, Harvin has a total of two catches for eight yards on 11 targets in the other three games during that span. Even though Harvin also gets some production out of his rushing attempts, he should be on your bench facing a defense that allows the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.

WR - Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers (vs. SD)

The good news is that Crabtree won't face the Seahawks this week. Facing them twice in the past three games, Crabtree has a total of 85 yards over the past three games. That said, Crabtree has finished outside of the top 30 fantasy wide receivers in seven of his past eight games and it's difficult to trust him given the overall struggles of the passing offense.

WR - Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals (vs. SEA)

The good news is that Fitzgerald has 11 receptions on 19 targets in his past two games. The bad news is that he has only 64 yards -- 5.8 per reception and 3.4 per target -- in those two games. Now he and the Cardinals will face the league's best pass defense with Ryan Lindley under center. The 11-3 Cardinals are projected by Vegas to score the fewest points this week and none of Arizona's offensive options are in play.

TE - Larry Donnell, New York Giants (at STL)

Since scoring three touchdowns in Week 4, Donnell has scored a total of only two touchdowns in the past 10 games. Part of that has been the emergence of ODB, who has dominated Eli Manning's targets. Donnell has now finished outside the top-20 fantasy tight ends in four consecutive games with an average of just 2.45 fantasy points per game. Allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to the position, the Rams have allowed only one top-12 performance to opposing tight ends this season.

To see who I would start based on your team, please consult with my Week 16 rankings:

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December 05, 2014

2014 Fantasy Football Week 14 Start'em, Sit'em

We are one game into the Week 14 slate and the lineup decisions that you make for the rest of this week's games can be the difference between advancing to the next round of the playoffs and ending your season.

With our Start'em, Sit'em columns, we highlight some players that we like (or dislike) for the week for various reasons -- recent production, opportunity, matchups, etc.

That said, players listed on the "start'em" side shouldn't be started blindly -- or vice versa.

In other words, I like Russell Wilson going against Philadelphia's weak secondary this week. However, if you own Aaron Rodgers and Wilson on the same team, you should start Rodgers, my top-ranked fantasy quarterback, over Wilson.

For a better guage of which player I'd start over another, check out my fantasy football rankings.

Looking ahead to the rest of this week's games, here are some players to consider starting:

QB - Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (at PHI)

Wilson has averaged 19.62 fantasy points per game with three top-eight finishes over the past four weeks. Wilson isn't going to put up gaudy passing statistics, but he has accounted for 19 touchdowns -- four are rushing scores -- with only five interceptions. Not only has he rushed for more than 30 yards in nine of his past 10 games, but he has three 100-yard rushing games this season. Allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, the Eagles have allowed a quarterback to finish as a top-12 scorer in nine of their 12 games this season.

QB - Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (vs. BAL)

Over the past seven games, Tannehill has been a bit boom or bust. While he has finished as a top-eight fantasy quarterback four times including three top-four finishes over that stretch, he also has finished as the QB19 or worse three times. And while he failed to capitalize on the favorable matchup against the Jets this week, he has another favorable matchup this week against the Ravens, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this season.

RB - Daniel Herron, Indianapolis Colts (at CLE)

The Browns are middle of the pack in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs (19th most), but they rank 29th in the league in rushing defense (132.5 yards per game allowed). Since the season-ending injury to Ahmad Bradshaw, it's been a fairly even split in touches between Herron and Trent Richardson with Herron getting the edge due to his involvement as a receiver. That said, Herron has been much more productive -- 20 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown plus seven receptions for 39 yards in his past two games. (For a T-Rich comparison, scroll down to the Sit'em side of this column.)

RB - Tre Mason, St. Louis Rams (at WAS)

It was a tremendous week for Mason, his fantasy owners and the Rams in Week 13. Mason carried the ball only 14 times, which ties a five-game low, but he rushed for a career-high 117 yards and two touchdowns and added three catches for 47 yards and a third touchdown. Mason has exceeded the 100-yard mark in two of three games and he has 17-plus touches in five consecutive games. This week's matchup isn't favorable (Washington allows the fourth-fewest fantasy points to RBs), but Mason has become a must-start given his volume of work and recent production.

RB - Isaiah Crowell, Cleveland Browns (vs. IND)

Facing the stout Bills run defense, Crowell averaged a career-low 0.24 fantasy points per touch last week. That said, he had a career-high 18 touches and he finished as the RB17, RB23 and RB6 in the previous three weeks, respectively. In Week 14, Crowell gets a more favorable matchup against the Colts, who have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.

RB - Joique Bell, Detroit Lions (vs. TB)

Even though Coach Caldwell dubbed Reggie Bush the team's "starting" running back, it's Bell -- not Bush -- that should be in your starting lineups. Bell is coming off his best performance of the year with 23 carries for 91 yards and two scores as well as two catches for 16 yards. Scoring a season-high .908 fantasy points per touch on 25 touches, also a season high, Bell finished fourth in fantasy points among RBs last week. Over the past four weeks, three opposing running backs have finished as a top-eight scorer against the Bucs.

WR - Kenny Stills, New Orleans Saints (vs. CAR)

Stills is coming off his best performance of the season (5/162/1), but he's had a productive stretch since Week 7. During that seven-game span, Stills has 34 receptions for 550 yards and three touchdowns and the 14th-most fantasy points among wide receivers. With the second-most favorable fantasy strength of schedule, Stills should finish the season strong. The Panthers have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season.

WR - DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans (at JAX)

Coming off a career day (9/238/2), Hopkins now has four games with at least 100 yards and seven games with at least 80 yards. Hopkins has a favorable matchup against the Jaguars, who have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.

WR - Odell Beckham, New York Giants (at TEN)

Like Stills (second-best) and Hopkins (eighth-best), ODB has a favorable strength of schedule to close the season as the Giants have the sixth easiest schedule. Beckham Jr. had a somewhat disappointing game last week, but he still finished with eight receptions for 90 yards. He now has a minimum of six catches and 90 yards in five consecutive games and he faces the secondary that allowed Hopkins to get 238 yards in Week 13.

WR - Brandon LaFell, New England Patriots (at SD)

Over his past five games, LaFell has averaged 6.8 receptions on 9.4 targets for 75.0 yards per game and has scored a total of four touchdowns. Only seven teams have allowed more fantasy points per touch to wide receivers than the Chargers (1.91). Only the Packers, Saints and Broncos are projected to score points than the Patriots this week based on Vegas odds. LaFell is solid WR2 this week.

TE - Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans (vs. NYG)

One week after finishing with 155 yards, Walker had just six yards on one reception in Week 13 against the Texans. The Texans have been one of the league's stingiest defenses against opposing tight ends, but this week's opponent has been much more generous. The Giants have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season.

TE - Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins (vs. STL)

The matchup for Reed is not favorable, but he is one of the league's more gifted tight ends when healthy. After missing Week 12, Reed had nine catches for 123 yards on 11 targets in Week 13 to finish the week with the second-most fantasy points among tight ends. Given the matchup, I wouldn't expect the same type of production, but I do expect him to still be heavily involved in the game plan and finish the week as a top-12 option.

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Here are some players to consider keeping on your fantasy bench(es):

QB - Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers (at OAK)

The 49ers are favored by nine points this week and the Raiders are coming off a 52-0 drubbing by the Rams last week. It wouldn't surprise me if Kaepernick finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback this week, but the last time he did so was Week 6 (mid-October). Kaepernick has thrown one or no touchdowns in six consecutive games and has less than 200 passing yards in two of his past three games. In addition, he has just 24 rushing yards or less in six consecutive games.

RB - Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts (at CLE)

A touchdown? Jumping into the Dawg Pound? That's sort of like me talking about where I'm going to take Mila Kunis if we go on a date. Ain't gonna happen. Ok, T-Poor's likelihood to score is greater than mine as he scored a touchdown in Week 12 against the Jags, but he has averaged just 2.0 YPC since Bradshaw got hurt in Week 11. (That's bad, even by Richardson's deflated standards.) And last week, he rushed eight times for 12 yards with his "long" rush being only three yards. In the Colts "Boom" (Herron) and "Bust" (Richardson) backfield, the Colts running backs to start (and sit) are fairly obvious.

RB - Latavius Murray, San Francisco 49ers (vs. SF)

Doing tons of damage on just four carries (112 yards and two touchdowns) before sustaining a concussion in Week 12, Murray missed last week's game but he has been cleared via the league's concussion protocal. And although I have him ranked highest among Raider running backs, Murray has a difficult matchup this week against the 49ers, who have allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs this season.

RB - Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons (at GB)

With the 21st-most fantasy points among running backs this season, Jackson has been especially productive over the past five weeks with double-digit fantasy points in four of those games. Although it's an average matchup for S-Jax in terms of fantasy points allowed, the Falcons are this week's biggest underdogs (nearly two TDs). It's certainly possible that this game gets out of hand early and the Falcons are forced to abandon the run, which could limit Jackson's upside. Jackson has averaged just 1.3 receptions per game this season.

WR - Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at DET)

Going against the league's top-ranked scoring defense, it should be no surprise that the Bucs are projected to score the fewest points this week (15.75). Even though he had 117 yards just two weeks ago, V-Jax has only one top-25 finish this year and that was Week 5. Coincidentally (or not so coincidentally), that was the one week that rookie Mike Evans did not play.

WR - Michael Crabtree, San Francisco 49ers (at OAK)

Despite being healthy, it's been a disappointing season for Crabtree (51/577/4, WR40 through Week 13). If I start a 49ers wide receiver this (or any) week, it's going to be Anquan Boldin, who has been a much more reliable option this year. In his past nine games, Crabtree has exceeded 6.2 fantasy points only twice and he has averaged just 5.67 fantasy points per game over that span.

WR - Eric Decker, New York Jets (at MIN)

The Jets threw the ball only 13 times last week, which resulted in seven receptions. Only four of those receptions went to wide receivers even though Decker had the most (two for 18 yards). In fact, the Jets wide receivers had more carries (nine) than the entire team had receptions. Assuming that the Jets use a similar ground-and-pound game plan, I'd keep all Jets receivers on my bench although Percy Harvin may get enough rush attempts to flirt with flex-level production.

WR - Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs (at ARI)

When Bowe catches his next touchdown this season, it will be his first. To be fair, he is tied for the most receiving touchdowns among his position group this season. (Then again, so am I.) Although Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson has had an up-and-down season, Bowe has averaged just 2.3 receptions for 26.0 yards per game over his past three outings and he's outside my top 60 fantasy wide receivers.

TE - Owen Daniels, Baltimore Ravens (at MIA)

No team has allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season than the Dolphins, who have surrendered an average of only 4.68 fantasy points to the position this season. The Dolphins have not allowed a top-12 fantasy tight end since Week 3 (Travis Kelce) and only one tight end has had more than 40 yards against them (Martellus Bennett, 58, Week 7). Meanwhile, Daniels has just six catches for 57 yards over his past three games combined.

TE - Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers (at OAK)

Davis has become a Sit'em staple. Held out of the end zone since Week 1, Davis has had 30 receiving yards or less in eight consecutive games. Based on talent, Davis has the potential for a two-touchdown game any given week, but he's averaged just 1.64 fantasy points per game over his past eight games. That makes him hard to trust in a do-or-die playoff scenario.

To see who I would start based on your team, please consult with my Week 14 rankings:

Keep track of our site's updates: (1) follow us on Twitter, (2) LIKE us on Facebook and/or (3) add us to your Google+ circle

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