Week 14 Start/Sit

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Week 14 Start/Sit

Every week, Graham Barfield and Scott Barrett provide their most and least favorite plays for shallow (10-teams) and deep (12- and 14-teams) leagues.

Please note that the “sit” calls in this column are not universal but are more recommendations to consider if you have options that project similarly. As always, our projections should be used as the final call.

These are our start/sit calls ahead of the fantasy quarterfinals:

Quarterbacks

Shallow leagues

Start: Justin Herbert, QB, Los Angeles Chargers

Herbert was on an unreal tear from Weeks 4-11, averaging 26.5 FPG and hitting at least 21.5 fantasy points in 7 of 7 games. That ranked 2nd-most over this stretch, sandwiched in between Kyler Murray (29.5) and Patrick Mahomes (24.9). And then he revealed his mortality, falling back to earth in a big way, struggling in a tough matchup against New England (6.4) after a mediocre outing against Buffalo (17.4). But Week 14 represents the ultimate get-right spot, against an Atlanta defense that ranks worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs (+5.2). There’s a narrative that Atlanta might have finally fixed their defensive woes, but that might also just be an overreaction to one brutally bad game from Derek Carr – because, otherwise, they’ve given up big scores to Taysom Hill (26.2, 25.6) and Drew Lock (30.2) in their three most-recent games. And, at the very least, there’s still a steep fall-off from “best possible matchup” to “still a very favorable matchup for any QB.” Start Herbert with confidence as a top-6 option this week, even if he burned you badly in Week 13. (Scott Barrett)

Sit: Cam Newton, QB, New England Patriots

Newton – the 2020 New England version – is essentially Tim Tebow. Which is to say, he’s a very effective runner but well below average as a passer. Which is to say, he’s still a highly productive fantasy asset. Or maybe the better comparison is Todd Gurley – you’re really just praying for him to fall into the end zone once or twice. In any case, he’s no doubt a viable streamer most weeks, but this isn’t the week to play him. New England has an implied point total of just 20.0-points (4th-worst on the week) and the Rams rank best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs (-4.7).

Deep leagues

Start: Taysom Hill at Eagles

At this point, Taysom Tebow has become a must play. In his first three starts, Hill has ripped off weekly finishes of QB3, QB12, and QB5 despite being inconsistent as a passer. Hill dominated the Falcons for 465 yards in two of his starts but struggled badly against the Broncos (9-of-16 for 78 yards) a few weeks ago. In the fantasy semifinals, Hill gets to face an Eagles defense that sets up well for his scrambling ability regardless of how well he throws it. It’s much easier for quarterbacks to break contain and scramble against man coverage, and DC Jim Schwartz plays man coverage at one of the league’s highest rates (48%; second-most). That’s a big part of the reason why Philadelphia has allowed 331 rushing yards to QBs (second-most). Even if Hill struggles again through the air, he can more than make up for it on the ground and continue his streak of QB1 finishes. (Graham Barfield)

Sit: Matt Ryan at Chargers

Even though this matchup is fairly easy for the Falcons, there are just plenty of QBs with more upside than Matt Ryan this week. Over the last month, Ryan is the QB28 in fantasy points per game (14.1), one spot behind the struggling Drew Lock (14.6). Ryan’s biggest problem has been in the touchdown department as he’s thrown for multiple scores in just 5-of-12 games and his touchdown rate (3.9%) ranks 21st. Outside of 2-QB or SuperFlex leagues, you likely have better options out on your waiver wire than Ryan. We have Jalen Hurts, Matthew Stafford, and Derek Carr ranked ahead of Ryan this week. (GB)

Running Backs

Shallow leagues

Start: David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears

Here’s what we said in the Week 14 XFP Report:

Montgomery has long been an XFP buy-low / regression candidate – in other words, he’s long seen good volume but has failed to capitalize on it – but he’s finally capitalizing on it. He’s hit 25.0 fantasy points in back-to-back games, but also in back-to-back pillow-soft matchups. These were, respectively, the 2nd-best (25.3) and best (27.1) games of his career. He’s played on 80% of the team’s snaps since Week 5 and averages 17.9 XFP and 16.7 FPG over this span. For perspective, those numbers rank 1st-, 3rd-, and 8th-most over this span. Maybe the recent upsurge in production is all a function of matchup, but, luckily, he gets another soft matchup this week – the Texans are giving up the 2nd-most FPG to opposing RBs (32.2).

Start him this week as a mid- to low-end RB1. (SB)

Start: Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Dallas Cowboys

Is Elliott anywhere close to who you needed him to be when you drafted him top-5? No. Is he still worth starting as a fringe-RB1? Yes. Really? Even though he’s been held under 9.0 fantasy points in 4 of his last 6 games? Yes. It’s scary, I know, but yes. The volume has always (almost always) been terrific – he’s seen at least 20 opportunities in 10 of 12 games. And he gets a dream matchup this week, favored by 3.5-points against a Bengals defense that ranks 3rd-worst in YPC allowed (5.00). (SB)

Sit: Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles

Over the past 2 weeks, Sanders is averaging 8.0 carries, 2.0 targets, 26.5 YFS, and 3.7 FPG. He’s reached 12.5 fantasy points just once since Week 4. He draws a worst-possible matchup this week, against a Saints defense that ranks best in FPG allowed to opposing RBs (16.1) and 2nd-best in YPC allowed (3.45). Of course, Sanders is a baller. And maybe Jalen Hurts will give this offense the spark it so desperately leaves. But you’re still not starting him as anything more than a mid-range RB2. (SB)

Deep leagues

Start: Myles Gaskin vs. Chiefs

We’re looking for bankable points at RB2 in the fantasy playoffs and Gaskin is perfect for just that. In his first game back since Week 8, Gaskin’s role was incredible. He played on 73% of Dolphins snaps, handled 21-of-25 carries, and got six carries near the goal-line. Unfortunately, he failed to convert any of his red-zone looks into TDs. Still, it’s hard to find a bell-cow back with Gaskin’s workload. According to XFP, Gaskin’s role was worth 19.1 fantasy points — but he scored 16.1. This week, Gaskin gets an amazing matchup against a Chiefs run defense that ranks 30th in FootballOutsiders’ Run Defense DVOA and the 10th-most YPC (4.4). The Dolphins are going to try to slow down the game and run the ball to keep Patrick Mahomes off of the field, so expect another big workload for Gaskin for as long as the game is competitive. (GB)

Start: Jonathan Taylor at Raiders

This season has not gone to plan for Taylor so far. Through three-fourths of the year, Taylor ranks just RB24 in fantasy points per game and 20th in rushing yards per game. There was a point in time where Taylor was playing behind Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins just a few weeks ago, but that has finally changed. Over his last two games (Week 11 and Week 13), Taylor has handled 42 touches while Hines has 18 and Wilkins has 13. Is this Taylor’s true chance to breakout? Well, the matchup couldn’t be any more perfect. The Raiders run defense has been terrible all year long as they are giving up the fourth-most yards (4.85) and the most fantasy points (0.79) per carry. It definitely won’t make you feel safe inside, but Taylor has a top-8 ceiling on this slate if he gets another 15-20 touches. Hopefully, HC Frank Reich keeps feeding him. (GB)

Sit: Raheem Mostert vs. Washington

Since returning from injury two weeks ago, Mostert hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. He turned 16 carries into 43 yards in his return against the Rams in Week 12 and then got just 10 touches for 43 yards on MNF against the Bills this past week. As we know, HC Kyle Shanahan loves to roll with committee backfields and that is exactly what we’ve seen. Even with Mostert back healthy, Mostert (56) and Jeff Wilson (53) have essentially split snaps right down the middle over the last two weeks. So, not only is Mostert splitting the workload, he’s also in a quietly tough matchup this week against Washington’s talented front-seven. The Football Team is holding opposing backs to just 3.9 yards per carry (eighth-fewest) and 0.52 rushing fantasy points per carry (seventh-fewest). Mostert is a completely boom-or-bust RB3 for the start of the fantasy playoffs.

Wide Receivers

Shallow leagues

Start: Diontae Johnson, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers

Excluding the 3 games Johnson suffered an injury in the 1st Quarter, he averages 12.6 targets (low of 10), 20.2 XFP, and 19.8 FPG. If over the full season, those numbers would rank 1st-, 2nd-, and 4th-most among WRs. Yeah, these numbers are crazy. There’s a small but not likely chance Johnson gets shadowed by Tre’Davious White this week. If so, that would push this matchup from top-10 – Buffalo is giving up the 9th-most FPG and the 2nd-most fantasy points per target to opposing outside WRs – to bottom-10. But, again, it’s not very likely. There’s also a chance Johnson gets benched for drops – he’s dropped 5 targets (worth 8.5 XFP) over the last 2 weeks – but again, the chances aren’t very high (the entire team has struggled with drops of late). But – and even with all these concerns factored in – Johnson is still an easy must-start fringe-WR1 this week. (SB)

Start: Amari Cooper at Bengals

Sure, Andy Dalton doesn’t inspire much confidence. But, at the very least, he has kept Cooper afloat for fantasy. In Dalton’s five starts, Cooper has gone for 7/79/1, 7/80, 6/81, 6/112/1, and 5/43/1 with at least seven targets in each game. This week, Cooper faces an easy draw against a Bengals secondary that has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to outside WRs this season (18.0). That’s where Cooper lines up on 80% of his routes. Cooper is a strong WR2 with low-end WR1 upside this week. (GB)

Sit: Keke Coutee, WR, Houston Texans

Listen, I’ve been on the Keke Coutee-bandwagon for a long time. I’m a fan. Bill O’Brien should be in prison. We’re all in agreement there. And he swung leagues and broke DFS in Week 13, scoring 22.1 fantasy points on 9 targets. Sure. But he also gets a bottom-5 matchup this week – the Bears have been excellent against slot WRs this year, ranking top-6 in FPG and fantasy points per target allowed to opposing slot WRs. I have him ranked as just a mid-range WR4 this week. (SB)

Deep leagues

Start: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers

Since Week 3, Aiyuk ranks 16th in XFP (14.8) and 15th in FPG (16.5). Since Week 7, Aiyuk ranks 5th in XFP (18.2) and 4th in FPG (20.2). Over this span (4 games), he’s averaging 10.0 targets (low of 7), 94.0 receiving yards (low of 75), and 21.0 DKFPG (low of 19.7). And uhh, yeah, wow. This week’s matchup is slightly below average, but, I think, these numbers are impressive enough to start with confidence as (at worst) a high-end WR3. (SB)

Start: Chris Godwin vs. Vikings

Picking the top Buccaneers wide receiver in recent weeks has been like pulling teeth. Since the team added Antonio Brown in Week 9, Tom Brady has essentially split his target distribution evenly between Mike Evans (34), Chris Godwin (31), and Antonio Brown (29). The thing is, even though he hasn’t been close to the WR1 that he was with Jameis Winston last season, Godwin’s floor has quietly been really strong despite missing so much time with injuries. Godwin has caught 5+ passes in 7-of-8 games and cleared 70 yards or scored in 6-of-8. This week, Godwin gets the easiest matchup out of the Bucs’ trio against this Vikings secondary that is allowing a ridiculous 25.7 fantasy points per game to slot wide receivers (second-most). And, Godwin has lined up in the slot on 70% of his routes since the team added AB. Godwin is a strong WR2 for the quarterfinals. (GB)

Sit: DeVante Parker vs. Chiefs

This is by no means a shot at Tua Tagovailoa in his young career, but Fitzmagic is just a better quarterback than Tua right now. And it’s showing up with DeVante Parker. It was nice to see Tua try to hit Parker on a few end-zone fades last week against the Bengals, but it still doesn’t take away from Parker’s horrific splits without his guy Ryan Fitzpatrick. This season, Parker is averaging 5.7 receptions and 74.7 yards per game with Fitzmagic under center versus just 3.7 receptions and 38.2 yards per game with Tua. Yikes. This matchup only makes matters worse for Parker’s outlook this week. Kansas City is allowing just 11.0 fantasy points per game to outside wide receivers, which is second-fewest in the league. Only the Rams (10.4) have been better. Parker is a touchdown-dependent WR4 in the quarterfinals. (GB)

Tight Ends

Shallow leagues

Start: Hunter Henry, TE, Los Angeles Chargers

Herbert was apocalyptically bad in Week 13, and, as a result, so was Henry’s stat line. But before that, he had seen 6 or more targets in 9 of 11 games. Over his prior 3 games, he averaged 7.7 targets and 13.8 FPG. Of course, there was also a gross stretch in the middle of the season where he failed to reach even 40 yards in 6 straight games, but, still, this is the ultimate matchup. Opposing TEs are out-scoring their per-game average by a league-high 4.5 FPG when facing Atlanta. Start him with confidence as a mid-range TE1. (SB)

Sit: Jimmy Graham, TE, Chicago Bears

The argument against Graham is simple – he’s been replaced by Cole Kmet, who has run 21 more routes (53 to 32) and drawn 5 more targets (10 to 5) than Graham over the past 2 weeks. You shouldn’t be starting Graham, because you should have already dropped him. (SB)

Deep leagues

Start: Eric Ebron at Bills

Tight end has been hilarious this season. And by hilarious, I mean hilariously bad. Unless you have Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, or T.J. Hockenson, you’re essentially forced to live the stream and pick between very similar options every week. However, Eric Ebron has been one of the few tight ends that have found a semblance of consistency in recent weeks. With the Steelers relying so much on the short passing game and forgoing their run game, Ebron has seen 6 or more targets in five-straight games and cleared 10 or more PPR points four times in this span. This week, Ebron gets an easy draw against a Bills defense that is allowing the fourth-most yards per game (60.6) to tight ends. He’s a top-8 play. (GB)

Sit: None of note

You can make a case for any tight end with a pulse at this point. It’s rare for a tight end to make such a massive difference in lineups, but Travis Kelce has easily paid off his early-second round draft position if you were sharp enough to take him there. Unless you have Kelce, you’re streaming this position and hoping for a lucky touchdown. My favorite streamer this week is Dalton Schultz against a Bengals defense that is allowing a league-high 68.2 yards per game to tight ends and just gave up 9/88/1 to Mike Gesicki and 6/129 to Evan Engram over the last two weeks. On the super deep end, Tyler Eifert is in play. He’s seen 10 targets over the last two combined weeks with Mike Glennon under center and the Jags’ should have to throw a ton this coming week to keep up with the Titans offense. Plus, the matchup is nice. Tennessee is allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per target to tight ends this season. (GB)

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