Nov 30, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins (14) carries the ball as Cleveland Browns strong safety Donte Whitner (31) defends during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills won 26-10. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
As most league fantasy football playoffs begin this week, owners will be faced with tough decisions on who will make the cut for their starting lineups. The intent of this article is not to provide the obvious names who will be carrying you to playoff victory (you’re starting Drew Brees if you own him). Instead, we’ll take a look at mid-level players that are on the fringe of being solid starters, as well as some recognizable names that are better left on fantasy benches for week 14.
QB: Matthew Stafford
After ripping apart the Bears secondary on Thanksgiving Day, Stafford gets another plus matchup at home against an underachieving Buccaneers defense. Ranked 21st in the NFL against the pass, Tampa Bay will struggle to contain the likes of Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate on the fast track of Ford Field. After two straight games with zero touchdown passes, Stafford was able to throw two TDs last weekend. Another two or more can be expected this Sunday. There may not be another quarterback with a more favorable schedule than Stafford over the next three weeks (TB, Min, @ Chi). Fire him up as a QB1 for the remainder of the fantasy playoffs.
RB: Mark Ingram
Don’t let the return of Khiry Robinson or the touches of Pierre Thomas scare you. Ingram has clearly established himself as the lead workhorse in the New Orleans backfield. Although limited in practice this week, Ingram draws an extremely favorable matchup at home against the Panthers. With the Saints expected to be in the lead early, Ingram should be the primary beneficiary as the early down thumper and late game clock killer. When these two teams squared off in week nine, Ingram rumbled for 100 yard and two touchdowns on 30 carries. Expect similar or higher yardage totals this weekend against the Panthers 19th ranked rush defense.
WR: Kelvin Benjamin
After a bit of a mid-season lull, Benjamin has come back to life over his past three games, hauling in 17 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns. The Panthers figure to be playing in catch-up mode for a majority of Sunday’s NFC South showdown with the Saints, which should lead to plenty of targets for the talented rookie. The Saints rank 28th in the NFL at defending the pass so the matchup sets up nicely for Benjamin. Fantasy owners won’t mind if most of his points come in garbage time.
TE: Travis Kelce
Losers of two straight, some of the luster is starting to fade on Arizona’s pass defense. The Cardinals have been one of the worst teams at defending the tight end position over the last two seasons, which should lead to solid numbers for the Chiefs talented second year tight end. Arizona has allowed a tight end touchdown in three of their last four games, none of which were to players as talented as Kelce. With running back Jamaal Charles slightly banged up, and facing one of the toughest run defenses in the NFL (6th), Alex Smith may take to the air more often than normal this Sunday.
Simply put, the Jaguars have been a goldmine for opposing fantasy defenses in 2014, ranking dead last in nearly every scoring format. J.J. Watt and company should have a field day against a Jacksonville offensive line that has given up 21 sacks over their last five games.
More from Fantasy Football
- Is Case Keenum an option in fantasy football if Josh Allen is out Week 10?
- Week 3 fantasy football projections for the Buffalo Bills
- Backup options for fantasy football if Gabe Davis is inactive in Week 2
- Week 2 fantasy football projections for the Buffalo Bills
- Week 1 fantasy football projections for the Buffalo Bills
QB: Ben Roethlisberger
Big Ben is having one of his best seasons statistically in 2014. Thanks in large part to back to back six touchdown performances earlier this season. Roethlisberger has been a top ten fantasy quarterback in most scoring formats this year, but week 14 presents a difficult road matchup against the Bengals. Cincinnati ranks in the top half of the NFL in pass defense (14th), and has only allowed one passing touchdown in their last four games. Most owners will not have the luxury to sit Roethlisberger this week, but expectations should be tempered in what figures to be a physical low scoring battle between divisional rivals.
RB: Alfred Morris
Morris’s splits have been well documented without quarterback Robert Griffin III under center. With Colt McCoy starting for Washington last week, the third year back was held to his lowest rushing yardage total since week seven. The schedule isn’t as favorable as it might seem against the Rams 16th ranked rush defense. Outside of allowing three rushing touchdowns to the Chiefs in week eight, the Rams have only allowed three other rushing touchdowns all season. Washington should not get blown out like the Raiders did last week, but Morris’s workload has historically been very game-flow dependent. Although he has seen a slight uptick in receptions this season, Roy Helu remains Kyle Shanahan’s preferred option in obvious passing situations.
WR: Sammy Watkins
Since the Bills week nine bye, Watkins has only recorded 13 catches for 105 yards. In other words, he has only averaged 3.25 receptions and 26.3 yards per game over the past four contests. Additionally, Watkins has not scored a touchdown in any of those games. Seemingly bogged down by nagging injuries all season, Watkins is now battling a hip issue that he suffered in last week’s win against Cleveland. Although he did not miss any game time, it is fair to wonder if the constant appearances on the injury report are starting to derail what was once a promising rookie campaign. With the Broncos expected to get Aqib Talib back from injury this week, Watkins faces yet another difficult matchup, assuming he is able to suit up. He is nothing more than a WR3/4 down the stretch.
TE: Coby Fleener
Since week nine, Fleener has racked up 376 receiving yards (94 yards/gm) along with three touchdowns. Many fantasy owners have probably benefited from his uptick in production over the last month considering the general shallowness of the tight end position. However, the imminent return of teammate Dwayne Allen could damper Fleener’s outlook for the remainder of the season. Allen was a favorite red-zone target of quarterback Andrew Luck before suffering an ankle injury. Also working against Fleener is the relative success the Browns have had defending the position this year. Cleveland has only allowed three tight end touchdowns on the season, and have only allowed one over their past ten games. The return of Allen, coupled with the difficult matchup, puts Fleener on the low-end TE1 radar this week.
In many scoring formats the Philadelphia Eagles are the #1 ranked fantasy defense/special teams unit thus far in 2014. Thanks in large part to timely special teams touchdowns from Darren Sproles, along with an opportunistic defense, this Eagles unit will be very difficult to bench in week 14. However, the Seattle Seahawks have not been generous to opposing fantasy defense/special teams units this year. Although traveling east across the country has historically presented challenges for west coast teams, the Seahawks offense has not thrown an interception or allowed a fumble recovery since week ten. A smothering special teams cover unit will also make things difficult for the Eagles potent return game. Philadelphia would fall outside of my top 10 D/ST rankings for week 14.