Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

 Log In  | Sign Up  |  Contact      

Inside the Matchup

Week 14

By: Andy Swanson | Ken Ilchuk | Nick Caron | HC Green



Sunday Early:



Sunday Late:

DET @ DEN | NYG @ LAC | SF @ CIN | BUF @ TB | CHI @ GB



- Green highlight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)

Steelers @ Vikings - (Green)
Line: MIN -3.0
Total: 43.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Just when you think the Steelers are out... they pull you back in. Coming off a three-game stretch that included a tie with Detroit and consecutive losses in which they allowed 41 points, Pittsburgh knocked off the AFC’s No. 1 seed last Sunday. Ben Roethlisberger completed 21 of 31 passes for 236 yards and a pair of TDs, marking the third time in four games that the veteran has passed for multiple scores without an interception. He’s still not doing enough to entrust with regular QB1 duty, but Big Ben can be carried as a serviceable secondary option.

It's been trending this way for a while now, but Diontae Johnson (8-105-2) has really separated himself and is coming into his own as a legit No. 1 receiver in the NFL. He had a bad drop in Week 13 but still had a huge day that included a game-winning touchdown grab in the final minutes. Chase Claypool (2-52-0) works as the downfield threat, and Pat Freiermuth (3-26-0) has become a dangerous option in the red zone and on third down. Meanwhile, the idea that someone like Ray-Ray McCloud or James Washington would carve out a significant role without JuJu Smith-Schuster has expired.

The Vikings are 23rd in the NFL in pass defense at 250.5 yards per game. After sinking a lot of money into overhauling the secondary, the results have been disappointing. You can blame some of it on injury -- Patrick Peterson (illness) was out last Sunday on the COVID list -- but the struggles have come regardless of who’s healthy. Johnson is now a weekly WR1 with elite-level utilization, while Claypool is a low-end WR2 or strong WR3 against the Vikings. Freiermuth is a low-end TE1.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.7
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.14
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.3
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.25

Running Game Thoughts: While Najee Harris (21-71-0) averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry for the sixth time in seven games last Sunday, he had his biggest receiving output since Oct. 17 with 36 yards on five grabs. It put the rookie over the century mark in total yardage for the sixth time. Only three clubs have surrendered more yards per game on the ground than Minnesota (131.5), which is second only to the Steelers themselves in YPC allowed (4.7). Play Harris as an RB1.

Value Meter:
RB1: Najee Harris
WR1: Diontae Johnson
WR2/WR3: Chase Claypool
TE1: Pat Freiermuth
Bench: Ben Roethlisberger

Passing Game Thoughts: You could feel it coming, couldn’t you? Flying high after they beat division rival Green Bay in Week 11, the Vikings have dropped back-to-back games to San Francisco and Detroit. Unlike in the 49ers loss, however, Kirk Cousins played well in Motown, connecting on 30 of 40 throws for 340 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was his fifth outing of 2021 with 300-plus yards passing and multiple TDs; by basically any statistical measure Cousins is having a career year. He can be played as a low-end QB1 with the usual disclaimers about his uneven week-to-week production.

Cousins will be playing without his security blanket Thursday night after Adam Thielen (ankle) suffered a high ankle sprain. There hasn’t been a definitive timetable put on the veteran’s injury, but he’s been ruled out for this week. Without him, Justin Jefferson (11-182-1) will be the undisputed top target. He’s ascended into the fantasy heights reserved for the likes of Davante Adams and Cooper Kupp in Year 2, and he’s a clear must start. With Thielen out, K.J. Osborn (4-47-1) is a nice streaming addition that can be plugged in as a flex or even a WR3 for Week 14.

Ty Conklin (7-56-0) could also see an expanded presence offensively. He looked like he might be an emerging force in October but went four straight games without topping 45 yards before the Lions game. He’s a low-end No. 1 tight end against the Steelers, which rank 14th in pass defense on the year, allowing 233.2 yards per game. The worry for Minnesota is if Christian Darrishaw (ankle) can’t go they’ll be utilizing a makeshift line against TJ Watt, who can ruin a gameplan.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.24

Running Game Thoughts: With Dalvin Cook (shoulder) out, Alexander Mattison once again showed he’s among the league’s best backups, totaling 124 yards and a score versus the Lions this past weekend. Cook was expected to miss at least two games but has been listed questionable for TNF and figures to be a game-time decision. Pittsburgh is a plus matchup as they’re currently 27th in run defense; the Steelers have given up 130.9 rushing yards per game and a league-worst 4.8 YPC. If Cook is up, he’s an RB1 with Mattison sliding to the bench. If not, Mattison fills the RB1 slot.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kirk Cousins
RB1: Alexander Mattison
WR1: Justin Jefferson
Flex: K.J. Osborn
TE1: Tyler Conklin
Bench: Dalvin Cook (inj-shoulder), Adam Thielen (inj-ankle)

Prediction: Vikings 23, Steelers 20 ^ Top

Ravens @ Browns
Line: CLE -3.0
Total: 43.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Lost in the shadow of Baltimore’s 8-4 record is this little tidbit, Lamar Jackson is having his worst season by a significant margin. The former MVP has accounted for just 18 total TDs, putting him on pace for 26; to put that in perspective, he amassed 43 touchdowns in 2019 and 33 last year in 16-game slates. He hasn’t rushed for a score since Week 2, and he has just two games all year with more than one touchdown pass. His worst game came in Week 12 when he passed for 165 yards, 1 TD and 4 INTs against Cleveland. This Sunday is the rematch.

Marquise Brown (5-55-0) has leveled off after a strong start. Through his first five games, the speedy wideout was averaging 16.1 YPC and had five touchdowns. Over his last six, he’s averaging 10.1 YPC and one score. He posted an 8-51-0 line in that ugly Sunday night encounter with Cleveland. Mark Andrews (4-50-0) has been the most consistent producer for the Ravens passing game; that includes his crazy catch against the Browns back in Week 12 as part of a 65-yard, one-touchdown game.

Cleveland currently sits eighth in pass defense (210.3 yards per game allowed) and tied for 10th in sacks (31). Of their 11 interceptions this season, four came during their tilt with the Ravens two weeks ago. Despite his atrocious play in that game, Jackson offers too much as a runner to be left on the bench and can be used as a QB1. Brown is still seeing a lot of targets, so he retains midrange WR2 value. Andrews is a top-five TE and weekly start. One player that has faded after a quick start is Rashod Bateman, who has seven grabs for 60 yards over his last three games combined. If you’re still rostering the rookie, it’s best to keep him benched.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

Running Game Thoughts: Each successive week seems to bring more work for Devonta Freeman (14-52-1) and less for Latavius Murray (2-1-0). In addition to his increased load in the backfield, Freeman has also become an emerging weapon as a receiver, hauling in 15 passes over the last three games. Freeman had 60 combined yards against Cleveland in Week 12 compared to 14 for Murray. The Browns are tough on the run, ranking 11th at 105.3 yards per game, but Freeman can fill an RB2/RB3 role. Bench Murray.

Value Meter:
QB1: Lamar Jackson
RB2/RB3: Devonta Freeman
WR2: Marquise Brown
TE1: Mark Andrews
Bench: Latavius Murray, Rashod Bateman

Passing Game Thoughts: Cleveland has had two weeks to stew on their primetime setback in Week 12. Baker Mayfield was one of the primary culprits in that loss, hitting on just 18 of his 37 passes for 247 yards and one TD. He also lost a fumble. The hope for the Browns must be that the bye provided some amount of relief for Mayfield’s lengthy list of maladies and puts him in better position to succeed. He’s clearly unplayable at this time, but his best run of 2020 came in December so it’s at least worth watching.

When Odell Beckham Jr. was here you could make a case that both he and Jarvis Landry (6-111-0) carried some amount of value each week. Now, it’s Landry and nobody. The veteran had a season-best 111 yards against Baltimore, and though he’s sitting out practice with knee trouble, that’s residual maintenance. If you rolled all of Cleveland’s tight ends into a single player, they might be a fantasy force, but with Austin Hooper, Harrison Bryant and David Njoku mixing and matching there’s nothing there. Due to injuries and Covid-19 protocols, Hooper is the last man standing at the position so he’s viable this week.

Only the Seahawks have allowed more passing yards per game than the Ravens (272.4), and some of the coverage breakdowns have been of the egregious variety. The loss of Marlon Humphrey to a torn pectoral muscle further weakens an already suspect group. While most teams would receive a big bump with this matchup, the Browns haven’t done enough to warrant playing anyone other than Landry, who is merely a WR3.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.9
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.19
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: The Browns couldn’t get anything going on the ground in Baltimore with Nick Chubb (8-16-0) and a returning Kareem Hunt (7-20-0) combining to rush for just 36 yards. They’ll need to do more in the rematch. The Ravens won’t make it easy, though, as they have overtaken the Bucs by a single yard for the top run defense in the NFL. This is an iron sharpens iron collision, and though it’s fair to anticipate reduced effectiveness, Chubb and Hunt should still be played as an RB2 and RB3, respectively.

Value Meter:
RB2: Nick Chubb
RB3: Kareem Hunt
WR3: Jarvis Landry
TE2: Austin Hooper
Bench: Baker Mayfield, D’Ernest Johnson

Prediction: Browns 26, Ravens 22 ^ Top

Cowboys at Washington - (Ken Ilchuk)
Line: DAL -4.5
Total: 48.0

Passing Game Thoughts: QB Dak Prescott has been inconsistent at best in recent weeks, downright sloppy at worst. But in that way he’s sort of a poster child for the whole Cowboys offense, particularly in the passing game. Prescott has passed for less than 250 yards in two of his last three games and three of his last five. In that five-week window, he’s thrown just seven touchdowns against four interceptions.

Despite that, just about everyone is in play from a fantasy standpoint this week against a Washington secondary that has been torched, frankly, and can’t be bailed out by a pass rush that will be without Chase Young and Montez Sweat. Washington is among the worst teams in the league in completion percentage allowed, yards, yards per attempt and passing touchdowns allowed.

With CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper both back in the fold along with Michael Gallup and TE Dalton Schultz, Prescott will have his full complement of receivers for a second consecutive week, which should make him, Lamb and Schultz sure fantasy starters, with Cooper and Gallup in a position to bring value as well.

WAS FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.1
WAS FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
WAS FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
WAS FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.16

Running Game Thoughts: Ezekiel Elliott has been working on a bad knee, but still averaging 15 touches a game over the past month. He may have to take on a bit more because Tony Pollard, who has been spelling Elliott to the tune of 10-11 touches per game in recent weeks, suffered a foot injury on his 58-yard touchdown run a week ago. He hasn’t practiced, but expect both to try and go with probably limited production this week. Washington has been solid against the run, allowing just about 4.0 per carry.

Value Meter:
QB1: Dak Prescott (high-end)
RB2: Ezekiel Elliott (mid-range), Tony Pollard (low-end)
WR1: CeeDee Lamb (mid-range)
WR2: Amari Cooper (low-end)
WR3: Michael Gallup (low-end)
TE1: Dalton Schultz (mid-range)

Passing Game Thoughts: Taylor Heinicke has led Washington to four straight wins, throwing seven touchdowns and just two interceptions during the run. A deeper look at his stats will show at least 30 pass attempts in three of the last four games at a completion rate of 77%. But the volume is not there as he’s passed for at least 250 yards just once (256 vs. TB). This is a team that is trying to run the ball 30+ times a game and has been able to do so because they have been playing with a lead through most of the winning streak.

That’s likely to change this week when a mostly healthy Cowboys offense comes to town. With TE Logan Thomas done for the year, receiving back J.D. McKissic questionable with a concussion, and WR Terry McLaurin still working his way back to full speed, Heinicke’s arsenal is limited. Even WR Curtis Samuel has been limited with a groin injury. Heinicke is a moderate play as a QB2 this week, with McLaurin and Seals-Jones providing moderate fantasy production if they are fully healthy.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.6
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.9
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: With all due respect to Heinicke’s toughness and clutch playmaking ability, Antonio Gibson has been the workhorse and a budding star in Washington. He has posted at least 88 rushing yards in three straight games and has 20+ carries in three of the last four. He’s also added 12 catches in the passing game the last two weeks. Though he doesn’t score, the volume is there, and HC Ron Rivera continues to push the formula. Given Dallas’ 4.5 yards allowed per carry this season, don’t be surprised to see a lot of Gibson as Washington tries to stay ahead of the chains, play the possession game and keep the ball out of Dak Prescott’s hands.

Value Meter:
QB1: Taylor Heinicke (low-end)
RB1: Antonio Gibson (mid-range)
WR2: Terry McLaurin (mid-range)
FLEX: TE Ricky Seals-Jones
BENCH: RB J.D. McKissic, WR Curtis Samuel, TE Logan Thomas

Prediction: Cowboys 30, Washington 24 ^ Top

Raiders at Chiefs
Line: KC -10.0
Total: 48.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Derek Carr disappointed in Week 13 as he failed to throw a touchdown pass against Washington. Washington was (and still is) the worst fantasy defense against opposing quarterbacks this season, but Carr threw for just 249 yards and failed to throw a touchdown pass for just the second time this season. This could’ve made sense if the Raiders had gotten out to a big lead and ended up relying heavily on their running game, but that wasn’t the case - Las Vegas actually lost! Carr’s game wasn’t completely horrible, but it just furthers the point that he seriously lacks a high-end ceiling at this point and his floor isn’t anything spectacular either.

Even in what should be a good on-paper matchup against the Chiefs, Carr still isn’t a QB1 and he’s really more of a mid-to-low-end QB2 given that he doesn’t possess much rushing ability and the Raiders lack the offensive firepower to give him even one three-touchdown game this season.

The wide receiver situation in Las Vegas isn’t doing much, either, as Bryan Edwards and DeSean Jackson are both seeing too few targets to have any meaningful value. Zay Jones has surprisingly seen his targets increase over the past two weeks, but he’s still not someone who should be trusted in lineups.

It remains the reality that only one Vegas wide receiver can even be considered a fantasy starter and that’s Hunter Renfrow. Renfrow has now scored at least 17 PPR fantasy points in four of his past five games, including back-to-back 100-yard games in Weeks 12 and 13. Renfrow has quietly been extremely reliable for fantasy this season and while he’s lacked the big boom games that true top-level receivers have, his floor has typically been around 12 PPR points. That’s allowed him to remain a WR2 most weeks and he should be in that range this week against a Kansas City defense that he caught seven passes against back in Week 10, including a touchdown.

Tight end Darren Waller missed Week 13 with multiple injuries, but reports out of the Raiders seem to indicate that he’s much more likely to suit up for this weekend’s game than he was this past week. If Waller is back, look for him to again play the role of the “1B” to Renfrow’s “1A” in the Las Vegas offense. He’s been targeted at least five times in every game - even the ones he’s been injured in - which is extremely tough to come across at tight end. Waller’s 2021 season has absolutely been a huge disappointment, but he’s still a must-start player at the position if he’s out there.

If Waller is unable to go, backup tight end Foster Moreau does have some potential against the Chiefs. Kansas City has allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season and Moreau should see plenty of playing time and a handful of targets. He’s probably more of a high-end TE2 than a low-end TE1, but he’s someone you could sneak into your lineup if you’re in need.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.13
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: A nine-catch game was probably more or a “take what the defense gives you” situation than anything else, but it’s worth noting that Las Vegas running back Josh Jacobs has now caught at least four passes in four of his past five games. He’s not getting the huge rushing totals that we’ve seen from him in the past as he’s averaged just under 54 rushing yards per game over that stretch, but his additional contributions in the passing game have made him a quality RB2 option with RB1 upside when he gets into the end zone as he has in each of his past two outings.

With Kenyan Drake undergoing ankle surgery and Jalen Richard on the COVID list, look for Jacobs to dominate touches out of the Las Vegas backfield. Backup Peyton Barber will likely check in as the only other player who sees any sort of significant playing time in this backfield, but he’s not much of a pass catcher and has only seen two total carries since his 23-carry start in replacement of Jacobs all the way back in Week 3.

Jacobs’ high usage should make him a high-end RB2 this week, but it’s worth noting that he had his worst rushing performance of the season against this Chiefs defense back in Week 10. He was held to just 16 yards on seven carries in that contest, while saving his fantasy day to some extent by catching five passes. Kansas City’s defense did struggle this past week when they allowed Javontae Williams to trample them for 178 total yards, though, so don’t think that this is too awful of a matchup.

Value Meter:
QB2: Derek Carr
RB2: Josh Jacobs
WR2: Hunter Renfrow
TE1: Darren Waller
Bench: Peyton Barber, Zay Jones, Bryan Edwards, DeSean Jackson, Foster Moreau

Passing Game Thoughts: If you check the post-game box scores for Kansas City games, you’d almost have to assume that someone other than Patrick Mahomes is playing quarterback for the Chiefs right now. The former league MVP is in the middle of what has been the coldest streak of his career, having failed to throw for multiple touchdown passes in five of his past six games. That kind of (lack of) performance is just completely unheard of for Mahomes, who actually started the season off with seven straight multi-passing-touchdown games. Perhaps worse yet, Mahomes has actually failed to throw even one touchdown pass in back-to-back games, despite both being Chiefs victories. It’s hard to know exactly what’s going wrong for this offense, but at this point we have to come to the realization that this offense just is not clicking well.

If there’s an opponent that they can bounce back again, though, perhaps it’s the Raiders. We mentioned that Mahomes had failed to throw for multiple touchdowns in five of his past six games, but that one outlier? A gigantic, 400-yard, five touchdown performance against - you guessed it - the Las Vegas Raiders. It’s not fair to expect that Mahomes comes anywhere near that kind of a game in Week 14, but there’s plenty of hope that this could be the one to get the offense back on the same page.

Wide receiver Tyreek Hill didn’t get much going this past week against the Broncos, but he now faces a Las Vegas defense that he torched for seven receptions, 83 yards and a pair of touchdowns when they played in Week 10. Hill has remained a weekly must-start even during this bad stretch from Mahomes.

Likewise, tight end Travis Kelce turned in one of his worst performances of the season this past week, but he’s been otherwise quite reliable - especially for a tight end. Kelce has been targeted at least six times in every game this season and he’s the unquestioned overall TE1 for fantasy. He had a season-high 119 yards against the Raiders back in Week 10, so he’s a strong play yet again here in Week 14.

LV FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
LV FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.4
LV FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
LV FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: Running back Darrel Williams is still seeing between five to ten touches per week, but it’s been the Clyde Edwards-Helaire show since the second-year back returned from injury back in Week 11. Edwards-Helaire hasn’t been doing anything particularly special with his touches, but he’s seen 14 and 17 of them in his two games back. That type of usage is difficult to come by in today’s NFL, so he needs to be in lineups as at least an RB2, if not a low-end RB1 in this matchup against a bad Las Vegas run defense. The Raiders have given up the eighth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season and it’s worth noting that Williams got 20 touches - including nine catches - against this defense when he was the starter against this defense.

Value Meter:
QB1: Patrick Mahomes
RB2: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (high end)
WR1: Tyreek Hill (high end)
TE1: Travis Kelce (high-end)
Bench: Darrel Williams, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson, Josh Gordon

Prediction: Chiefs 30, Raiders 20 ^ Top

Seahawks @ Texans - (Swanson)
Line: SEA -8.5
Total: 41.0

Passing Game Thoughts: To say that Russell Wilson has struggled since returning from his injured finger would be an understatement. Wilson has not topped two passing touchdowns in any game since Week 10 while posting two games of fewer than 10 fantasy points.

The veteran QB looks uncomfortable in the pocket, is missing reads, and continues to overthrow his receivers. On the positive note, he did start to look like his old self in the second half of last week’s win over the 49ers and will hopefully build on that in this game.

From a matchup perspective, the Texans present an excellent chance for Wilson and DK Metcalf to get back on track and fix the issues that have made Metcalf a bust over the past month. The Texans are 14th points allowed to wide receivers and 13th to quarterbacks.

It should be noted that Metcalf has been dealing with a foot injury. He is questionable and will play, but it is something to monitor. Another injury to monitor is center Kyle Fuller, who is questionable with a calf injury.

Tight End Gerald Everett had one of the worst games you could imagine last week, with two fumbles and a dropped touchdown pass that led to an interception. It will be interesting to see how he responds and if Will Dissly will get more snaps.

The matchup for tight ends in this game is choice, with Houston giving up the ninth-most points to the position.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.15
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

Running Game Thoughts: The Texans rank 4th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, with only the Jets, Seahawks, and Lions giving up more points to RBs. Those numbers are a bit skewed by Jonathan Taylor, but if you look and the list of players who have at least 10 fantasy points, it is a pretty extensive collection.

The problem is the backfield of Seattle is a ripe mess. Veteran Adrian Peterson was brought in for some reason to poach a rushing touchdown, despite posting a pathetic 16 yards on 11 carries.

Rashaad Penny is back and in the mix but could get hurt at any time. And now it sounds like Alex Collins could be back this week after missing with an abdominal injury.

The matchup is great, but I’m not sure you can trust any of them.

Value Meter:
QB1: Russell Wilson (Low-End)
RB3: Alex Collins/Adrian Peterson/Rashaad Penny (Low-End)
WR2: DK Metcalf (High-End)
WR3: Tyler Lockett (Low-End)
TE1: Gerald Everett (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: The Houston Texans are a dumpster fire on both sides of the ball. They are dead last in total offense and 27th in total defense. Their head coach, David Culley is likely out after this season, and the previous head coach/gm Bill O’Brien mortgaged their future with terrible moves. And that does not even include the drama surrounding Deshaun Watson.

The only player worthy of fantasy consideration on this team is Brandin Cooks, simply because he is an above-average wide receiver who has an elite target share. Cooks’ upside is limited because of rookie Davis Mills under center, but Cooks still should be considered a solid WR3 with WR2 upside.

The Seahawks present a challenge on defense, as they currently rank 9th in fewest points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Only one opposing QB has topped two passing touchdowns in a game, and six players, including Aaron Rodgers, failed to score 20 fantasy points.

Seattle did take a hit to their secondary with the loss of safety Jamal Adams. While his coverage skills are questionable, his run support and ability to rush the passer on blitzes make him one of the better safeties in the league. Adams suffered a season-ending injury last week against San Francisco.

An injury to monitor on the Texans is center Justin Britt, who is questionable with a knee injury. Pressure up the middle is the worst thing for young quarterbacks, and missing his starting center bodes poorly for Davis Mills.

If you are looking for a streaming D/ST option, the Seahawks could be a great play.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.22
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.2
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3

Running Game Thoughts: Houston’s GM went with the veteran running back by committee approach this season, with the Texans collecting four older backs to carry the load. Since then, Mark Ingram was traded back to the Saints, Phillip Lindsay was released, and David Johnson has been dealing with injuries.

This is a backfield that should be avoided at all costs. No Texan has topped 100 rushing yards, and only three times all season has a Texan topped 10 fantasy points.

This game projects to be a negative game script for the Texans ground game, so everything looks to be working against this backfield. Stay away.

Value Meter:
QB2: Davis Mills (Low-End)
RB4: Rex Burkhead (Low-End)
WR3: Brandin Cooks (High-End)
TE2: Pharaoh Brown (Low-End)

Prediction: Seattle 34, Houston 10 ^ Top

Jags @ Titans - (Swanson)
Line: TEN -8.5
Total: 43.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Trevor Lawrence is learning on the job just how much more difficult it is to play quarterback in the NFL than in the ACC. The first overall pick ranks 23rd at the position for fantasy points scored, with just one game of more than one passing touchdown on his resume.

Lawrence has scored fewer than 10 fantasy points in four of his last five games and continues to limit the value of the passing weapons in the Jacksonville passing offense. It is difficult for someone like Marvin Jones to have a solid fantasy day when Lawrence is completing fewer than 60 of his passes and continues to spread the ball around to multiple receivers.

Five different receivers had at least two targets last week for the Jags, but none of them had more than five targets.

The latest Jag to join the mix is former first-round bust Laquon Treadwell, who caught a team-high four passes for 62 yards last week.

The matchup dictates that this should be a good game for Lawrence and the receivers, as the Titans have given up the third-most points to opposing QBs and the most to opposing WRs. However, predicting which Jaguar wide receiver will have the big game is difficult.

It is possible that Treadwell will continue to build on his rapport with Lawrence. Yet it is also possible he could give you two catches for 15 yards.

Targeting a bad passing offense that spreads the ball around is never a good idea.

TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.27
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.26

Running Game Thoughts: Urban Myer continued to be a knucklehead in his usage of his running backs, with Carlos Hyde getting nine carries last week and James Robinson just eight. Neither player did much, but Robinson is clearly the better player and should get more run.

Robinson came out and said he was frustrated with his playing time. Lawrence said he thinks Robinson is one of the best players on the team and should get more work. Yet Meyer, who should never have been hired, continues to use one of his old Ohio State players in Carlos Hyde, despite a 3.5 yard per carry average.

Hopefully, Meyer will give Robinson at least 20 touches in this game. Teams have found far more success passing the ball against the Titans than running it, but you should know that Robinson had his best game of the season against the Titans back in Week 5, and could be in for another strong game on Sunday.

Value Meter:
QB2: Trevor Lawrence (Low-End)
RB2: James Robinson (High-End)
WR4: Marvin Jones (High-End)
WR4: Laquon Treadwell (High-End)
TE2: James O'Shaughnessy (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Ryan Tannehill entered 2021 with high hopes. He posted his top season as a pro in 2020 with 24.5 fantasy points per game, Derrick Henry looked to be unstoppable, and the team added Julio Jones to help A.J. Brown in the passing game.

Instead of a monster season, Tannehill has been terrible. King Henry missed significant time with a broken foot, AJ Brown cant’ stay healthy and Julio Jones has been a bust. Tannehill is on pace to throw a career-worst 18 interceptions, and he has just 14 passing touchdowns in 12 games.

On a positive note, the team looks to get Jones back for this game, and a get-right game against a terrible defense is exactly what Mike Vrabel’s team needs.

Although the Jags have given up the 9th fewest points to opposing quarterbacks on the season, the defense has been reeling as of late, giving up an average of nearly 30 points per game to The Colts, 49ers, and Rams.

From an injury perspective, the Titans are getting healthy after the bye, with pass-catching running back Jeremy McNichols returning to practice and a much-needed week off last week for their offensive line.

On the flip side, the Jags might be without stud linebacker Josh Allen, who missed practice with a shoulder injury. Fellow starting linebacker Myles Jack continues to be listed as questionable with a knee injury, but he will likely suit up.

You can start Tannehill has a high-end QB2, and Jones is worth a start as a possible flex play. The recent play by Nick Westbrook-Ikhine makes him an interesting option as well. He has 100 yards or a score in each of the last two games and was on the field for 83% of snaps last week.

JAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
JAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
JAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.4
JAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: Projecting the Titans was a simple exercise in the prior three seasons. A few sentences on how Derrick Henry continues to dominate and was a must-start no matter who he was playing. With King Henry on the mend, projecting the Titans has not been as easy.

The team used Dontrell Hilliard and D’Onta Foreman in a near 50-50 split against the Patriots before their bye. Both players played well with over 100 yards rushing each, with Hilliard also adding a rushing touchdown.

We love this matchup against a banged-up Jags defense, but the uncertainty of how much volume each player will get makes is difficult to project. The return of Jeremy McNichols also makes things murkier.

Look for both Hilliard and Foreman to get work, with Hilliard getting more passes and Foreman working as the primary first and second-down back, while also getting goalline carries.

Value Meter:
QB1: Ryan Tannehill (Low-End)
RB3: D’Onta Foreman (High-End)
RB3: Dontrell Hilliard (Low-End)
WR3: Nick Westbrook-Ikhine (High-End)
WR3: Julio Jones (Low-End)
TE2: Geoff Swaim (Low-End)

Prediction: Tennessee 30, Jacksonville 17 ^ Top

Saints at Jets - (Ken Ilchuk)
Line: NO -5.5
Total: 43.0

Passing Game Thoughts: In his first real opportunity under center last week, Taysom Hill threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns. He also completed just 46% of his passes and tossed four interceptions, averaging just 6.4 yards per attempt. Let’s be honest. Hill isn’t a QB1 this week because of his play. It’s because of the matchup with a Jets team that has allowed a league-worst 108.8 opposing passer rating and 8.3 yards per attempt. Their 70.5% completion rate against is 2nd-worst in the NFL.

Still, with Hill learning the QB position under fire, so to speak, and working through a mallet finger injury on his throwing hard, it’s hard to find a receiver with any fantasy value on the Saints. Tre’Quan Smith is worth a flyer as a flex option, but this will be a controlled passing game that will feature a lot of short, high percentage passes to TE Nick Vannett and RB Alvin Kamara, both of whom are in play this week.

NYJ FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.1
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.7

Running Game Thoughts: Speaking of Kamara, expect a big day on the ground as well. After a better week of practice, a clean bill of health, and fellow RB Mark Ingram deposited on the Covid list, it’s not unreasonable to think Kamara will get a significant workload this week. He’s probably drooling at the prospect of facing a Jets defense that is getting gashed at a rate of 4.5 yards per carry and has allowed 11 plays on the ground of at least 20 yards. When Kamara needs a blow, look for backup Tony Jones, who has some big play ability of his own, to produce enough to earn some RB3 or flex value.

Value Meter:
QB1: Taysom Hill (high-end)
RB1: Alvin Kamara (high-end)
TE2: Nick Vannett (low-end)
FLEX: RB Tony Jones, WR Tre’Quan Smith
BENCH: RB Mark Ingram, WR Marquez Callaway, WR Deonte Harris, TE Adam Trautman

Passing Game Thoughts: People in New York are pretty amped about Zach Wilson’s 226 yards and two touchdowns last week. I suppose that’s progress. But while he possesses a strong arm and some excellent athleticism for the position, all stuff that looks great in a workout, it hasn’t come together on the field. He has been inconsistent, and his best work has come against a bad Texans defense and a very passive Eagles group. He has also thrown at least one interception in seven of his eight games.

Despite that, rookie WR Elijah Moore has blossomed in recent weeks and become the focus of the passing game. He has averaged 12.5 yards per catch with five touchdowns on the season, and his 48.9 yards per game is second on the team to Corey Davis, who is out for the rest of the season due to injury. That means more Moore (quad injury) if he’s able to play. Continue to check his status. Keelan Cole should return this week, but even with Davis out, I don’t expect him to have any serious fantasy value at this point.

This Saints defense is no joke, especially against the run, allowing an NFL-best 3.6 yards per carry. Expect them to shut down the run game and come after Wilson hard. While the sacks haven’t come at the rate they’d like, the front four generates a tremendous amount of pressure, which will spell trouble for Wilson. OC Mike LeFleur will try to get the ball out of his hand quickly, so RB’s Tevin Coleman (concussion) and Ty Johnson, and TE Ryan Griffin could see some higher volume in terms of targets, garnering some PPR value at the least.

NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23

Running Game Thoughts: RB Michael Carter continues to nurse his high ankle sprain, leaving the workload to Coleman and Johnson. I don’t expect it to go well for them behind a struggling and ailing offensive line that is still without Mekhi Becton. If Johnson or Coleman is going to have any value, it will come as a receiver.

Value Meter:
WR2: Elijah Moore (low-end)
RB2: Tevin Coleman (low-end)
FLEX: RB Ty Johnson, TE Ryan Griffin
BENCH: QB Zach Wilson, WR Corey Davis, WR Jamison Crowder, WR Keelan Cole

Prediction: Saints 27, Jets 11 ^ Top

Falcons @ Panthers - (Swanson)
Line: CAR -2.5
Total: 41.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The first year of the Arthur Smith era of Falcons football has been a dud. Smith wanted to bring the smash-mouth system he used in Tennessee but failed to realize that Mike Davis is not Derrick Henry.

In addition, the team lost star receiver Calvin Ridley to off-field mental health issues, effectively killing the passing game and limiting Matt Ryan to a rookie tight end learning how to play in the NFL and a bunch of No.3 options.

The result is the worst season for Ryan since his sophomore campaign. His 15.9 points per game place him 27th at the position, outside of even QB2 consideration. Needless to say, Ryan should not be on your radar in this game.

Two players who should be on your radar and Cordarrelle Patterson and Russell Gage. Patterson’s elite dual-threat capabilities as a receiver and runner make him a must-start. The Panthers are a great run defense and ranked 2nd in fewest points allowed to RBs, so expect more production in the passing game.

Gage has been a top-10 play over the past three weeks and continues to see more volume from Ryan.

It will be interesting to see who Stephon Gilmore covers in the passing game, as whoever does not get the Gilmore treatment should have a nice game.

You are starting Kyle Pitts because of where you drafted him and the lack of options at the position. However, he has been M.I.A. for a while now and could struggle in this matchup against the talented secondary.

CAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
CAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
CAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.25
CAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: We told you not to play Mike Davis last week against the Bucs because of his lack of usage and the tough matchup. Of course, Davis ripped off a 20-yard TD scamper and made me look silly.

But a closer examination of the game proves that the fading of Davis was correct. Davis saw just four carries on the day and would have been a bust without that one, fluky run.

Don’t chase the points on Davis and don’t expect a revenge game. The Panthers are second in the league in run defense and should shut him down.

Value Meter:
QB2: Matt Ryan (Mid-Range)
RB3: Mike Davis (Low-End)
WR2: Cordarrelle Patterson (Low-End)
WR3: Russell Gage (High-End)
TE1: Kyle Pitts (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Cam Newton’s glorious return to his old team looks to be short-lived, as Newton played terribly against the Dolphins prior to the team’s bye last week, and was benched for P.J. Walker.

Assuming Newton gets the start, he should still be considered a low-end QB1 in this matchup, as the Falcons are one of the worst defenses in the league. They rank in the bottom ten in points allowed to every position except tight end.

Newton will get a rushing touchdown or two, and hopefully, he can provide enough passing volume to make D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson viable. Moore is a must-start, although we are not super excited about his matchup against AJ Terrell.

Anderson takes a bit more of a leap of faith considering he has just one game of over 10 fantasy points this season. You would think that a guy who is on the field for 93% of the snaps would fare better than one catch for 15 yards, but that is an example of just how terrible Newton was back in Week 12.

Starting guard Trent Scott was placed on the COIVD-19 list and is likely out. His backup, John Miller, missed practice on Wednesday and is questionable with an ankle injury. That would leave rookie third-string guard Deonte Brown to start at right guard.

That matchup between Deonte Brown and Grady Jarrett, one of the best interior linemen in the league, could be a huge disadvantage for the Panthers in this game, especially in the run game between the tackles.

ATL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
ATL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
ATL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
ATL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

Running Game Thoughts: With Christian McCaffrey out again with a season-ending injury the Panthers will use an RBBC to carry the load the rest of the way. Rookie Chuba Hubbard will likely get the first and second down work with veteran Ameer Abdullah working in as a change of pace and passing game threat.

Neither player is an elite option because of the fact that Newton will steal goal line carries and limit their ceiling. However, if you are in need of a flex play, both should be in consideration, especially Abdullah in full PPR formats.

The matchup could not be better and the projected game script of the Panthers defense limiting Matt Ryan bodes well for running production. 14 different players have topped 10 fantasy points against this defense in 12 games, including Leonard Fournette, who had 18 points last week for the Bucs. Look for around 18 points to be distributed between Hubbard and Abdullah.

Value Meter:
QB1: Cam Newton (Low-End)
RB3: Chuba Hubbard (High-End)
RB3: Ameer Abdullah (Low-End)
WR2: D.J. Moore (Low-End)
WR4: Robby Anderson (High-End)
TE2: Tommy Tremble (Low-End)

Prediction: Carolina 28, Atlanta 10 ^ Top

Lions at Broncos
Line: DEN -10.0
Total: 42.0

Passing Game Thoughts: A surprise rushing touchdown against the Vikings in Week 13 allowed Lions quarterback Jared Goff to turn in his first game over 14 fantasy points since all the way back in Week 4. Not only that, but the Lions actually WON A GAME! It must’ve been a fun one for Lions fans, but it’s time to get back to reality because Detroit has been absolutely horrible all season long and quarterback Jared Goff has been one of the worst fantasy performers just about every single week.

The team simply does not have a reliable pass catching option outside of tight end T.J. Hockenson. Amon-Ra St. Brown finally broke out with his biggest game of the year against the Vikings as he was targeted 12 times, catching 10 of those passes for 86 yards and his first professional touchdown. St. Brown had been held under 14 PPR points in every other game this season, however, so don’t jump to toss him in your lineup just yet. We need to see more before we have any trust in him. Similarly, Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond have both been involved in the Lions passing game, but the overall numbers just are not strong enough to make them adds in anything other than the deepest of leagues.

We mentioned Hockenson (hand) as being reliable, but even he’s been up and down. At least he’s been able to turn in eight double-digit PPR games this year, but obviously his upside has been limited given that the Lions are just not in scoring position with any sort of regularity. Still, Hockenson plays a position that’s down overall on the year and he has to be a top-end TE1 in really any matchup. It’s worth noting, though, that the Broncos are quite good against opposing tight ends, having allowed the second-fewest points per game to the position on the year.

DEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
DEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
DEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
DEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: Running back D’Andre Swift was sidelined during the Lions’ win over the Vikings in Week 13 and so far it seems fairly likely that he’ll be out yet again here in Week 14 as his team faces the Broncos. Backup Jamaal Williams stepped in after Swift’s early-game injury against the Bears and played the entirety of the Vikings game as the starter so we now have a two game sample size of how the Lions would like to utilize their running backs in the absence of Swift. Williams has touched the ball an impressive 38 times in those two games and while he hasn’t yet gotten into the end zone or turned in a game with big yardage, it seems to be only a matter of time before he does one of those two things and makes his fantasy owners happy.

Williams is utilized more in the passing game than you’d probably assume if you haven’t been paying close attention, even when Swift is on the field. Without Swift, of course, he becomes the primary option in the screen game as we saw in Week 12 when he caught five passes against the Bears.

The Broncos aren’t a great offense themselves, so this will probably be a relatively low volume game overall for both teams, but look for Detroit to lean heavily on Williams in this one. He should be a low-end RB2/Flex option in this matchup.

Value Meter:
RB2: Jamaal Williams (low end)
TE1: T.J. Hockenson
Bench: Jared Goff, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Kalif Raymond, Josh Reynolds

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s now been five starts in a row where Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has failed to throw multiple touchdown passes and given his willingness to spread the ball around, it’s been extremely difficult to do much at all with this Denver passing attack from a fantasy standpoint.

Bridgewater himself has crested 20 fantasy points just once over his past 10 starts and it’s easy to assume that a game against the Lions will be the cure for that incompetence, but that really hasn’t been the case for most of their opponents. Detroit actually ranks just about middle-of-the-pack among NFL teams in fantasy points given up to opposing quarterbacks this season. Part of that, of course, is that the Lions tend to not score many points themselves, so opposing teams simply do not feel the need to pass the ball very much against them and instead they turn to their running game to run out the clock. Given the Broncos’ success in running the ball this season, look for that to again be the case this week, which will obviously limit Bridgewater’s chances for a big game while affecting all of the Broncos’ receiving options.

Only Jerry Jeudy has been even a moderately reliable fantasy option at wide receiver for Denver since he returned to the lineup. Jeudy himself has been a bit disappointing, but at least he’s turned in three double-digit PPR days out of his five games since returning. Tim Patrick and Courtland Sutton, meanwhile, have seemingly completely fallen off the radar and are no longer in serious consideration as starters in fantasy.

Even tight ends Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam have been cannibalizing one another’s playing time and targets, so it’s gotten to the point that neither of them should be in lineups, either.

This is just a bad passing game overall and one that should probably be avoided entirely if at all possible.

DET FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
DET FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.3
DET FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
DET FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.18

Running Game Thoughts: Week 13 gave us our first glimpse of the Broncos running game with only one running back in it and it certainly did not disappoint. Veteran Melvin Gordon was sidelined which led to rookie Javonte Williams getting his first game as the primary back. Williams responded by absolutely wrecking the Chiefs as he rushed for 102 yards on 23 carries while also adding an additional 76 yards and a touchdown on six receptions.

With Gordon expected to be back this week, however, we should expect that this will be back to being roughly a 50-50 split. It’s possible that Williams has earned a larger share, or that the Broncos will ease Gordon back onto the field, but it’s still unlikely that Williams will get anywhere near the kind of workload against the Lions that he did against the Chiefs.

Fortunately for Williams and Gordon, they have a pretty great matchup against one of the league’s worst fantasy defenses against opposing running backs. Detroit has given up the third-most points per game to the position this season, including a big game this past week to Vikings backup running back Alexander Mattison.

The split backfield makes it impossible to trust either Williams or Gordon as RB1s, but Williams looks like a pretty solid RB2 this week and Gordon should be a low-end RB2/Flex option. If Gordon ends up being out, of course, Williams should be back in lineups as a solid RB1.

Value Meter:
RB2: Javonte Williams
Flex: Melvin Gordon, Jerry Jeudy
Bench: Teddy Bridgewater, Tim Patrick, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam

Prediction: Broncos 24, Lions 20 ^ Top

Giants at Chargers
Line: LAC -10.0
Total: 43.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Daniel Jones may miss his second straight game with a neck injury, but things got even worse this week when we found out that backup Mike Glennon suffered a concussion during this past week’s loss to the Dolphins. It’s uncertain whether Glennon will be unable to suit up at this time, but things aren’t looking particularly good. Without Jones or Glennon, the Giants would turn to Jake Fromm. Fromm hasn’t yet thrown an NFL pass so it’s hard to believe that New York is going to turn him loose in his first game.

To make matters even worse, the Giants wide receiver room is extremely banged up right now. They could get Sterling Shepard back, but other receivers including Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay are themselves nursing injuries and could be limited or miss this week’s contest entirely. Darius Slayton is really the only wide receiver who’s not on the injury report right now so he’s probably the safest bet if you’re absolutely desperate for someone to start, but it’s best to avoid this situation completely.

Tight end Evan Engram is an option in two-TE leagues as he’s been providing low-double-digit PPR fantasy points more often than not as of late, but he’s still a very low ceiling player who has only exceeded five receptions in a game once this season.

LAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
LAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.7
LAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
LAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts: Running back Saquon Barkley is really the only Giants player who should be looked at for fantasy purposes this week and even he has been pretty disappointing since making his return to the lineup. Barkley has rushed for just 120 yards in the three games he’s played since coming back and he hasn’t scored a single touchdown yet. In fact, he’s been carried by his receptions as he’s made 16 of them in those three games, although they haven’t gone for many yards.

The Giants are likely to see a stacked box against them this week no matter who’s behind center, so don’t expect much from Barkley on the ground. If he’s going to produce anything for fantasy, it’ll have to be as a pass catcher, which he’s certainly capable of doing, but understand that his ceiling is quite low this week.

Value Meter:
RB2: Saquon Barkley
Bench: Mike Glennon, Jake Fromm, Devontae Booker, Kadarius Toney, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Kenny Golladay, Evan Engram

Passing Game Thoughts: Three straight 300-yard games for second-year quarterback Justin Herbert have resulted in the young superstar elevating himself into the conversation of being a borderline elite fantasy quarterback while his Chargers are now joining the discussion as a potential Super Bowl contender.

Herbert has done quite well throughout most of the season and while he’s thrown more interceptions than we’d probably like to see out of a top-level quarterback, he’s making up for it by throwing a ton of touchdown passes and for a boatload of yards. This week he does face a Giants pass defense that has stepped up in the second half of the season, but will likely be put in some tough spots this week as their own offense isn’t likely to move the ball much. Look for the Chargers to be playing with some good field position throughout most of the day, which should give Herbert some multi-touchdown upside even if he won’t likely be required to throw for a ton of yards in order for the Chargers to get a win.

Herbert will be without wide receiver Keenan Allen, however, as the pass catcher tested positive for COVID-19. Look for this to lead to increased targets for Mike Williams, who finally went over 100 yards again this past week for the first time since Week 5. Williams started the season off with some huge target games, but has since fallen down to about five to seven targets per game. With Allen out, however, Williams has to vault back into the strong WR2 range with WR1 upside. Please note that Williams was deemed a close contact with Allen and could still end up being ruled out, but he tested negative for the virus and reports indicate that he will be allowed to play on Sunday.

Tight end Jared Cook could theoretically see enough of a boost in targets to become fantasy relevant if both Allen and Williams end up being ruled out, but he’s otherwise pretty boring and shouldn’t be in fantasy lineups. Other receivers who should see a bit of a boost include Jalen Guyton and Josh Palmer, but neither player should be relied upon until we see them put it together on the field.

NYG FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.13
NYG FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.9
NYG FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
NYG FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: Workhorse running back Austin Ekeler is dealing with an ankle injury, but he’s expected to be active and should be in line for another heavy touch day against the Giants. Ekeler has carried the ball at least 11 times in all but two games while also catching at least three passes in every game since Week 1. In fact, Ekeler has now made it three straight games where he’s caught five or more passes. The usage alone would make Ekeler a stud player, but he’s been effective with his touches this season, particularly near the goal line which had been an issue for him early in his career. Ekeler has already scored 15 total touchdowns this season and he’s in serious contention to finish the season as the overall RB1 for fantasy. The Giants have done a good job limiting rushing yardage this season, but they rank within the top 10 teams in most fantasy points given up to opposing running backs this season, both in standard-scoring leagues and PPR formats.

Ekeler is an every week RB1 regardless of the matchup, but this is a particularly enticing one as the Chargers could get out to a big lead and end up utilizing Ekeler even more than usual here in Week 14. Another added bonus for Ekeler owners is that, with Keenan Allen out, Ekeler could also see some additional work in the passing game on top of his already high usage in that category.

Value Meter:
QB1: Justin Herbert
RB1: Austin Ekeler
WR2: Mike Williams
Bench: Larry Rountree III, Justin Jackson, Jalen Guyton, Josh Palmer, Jared Cook

Prediction: Chargers 27, Giants 16 ^ Top

49ers @ Bengals
Line: SF -1.5
Total: 49.0

Passing Game Thoughts: There’s a clear trend when it comes to the 49ers and winning this season. The less Jimmy Garoppolo, the better. In San Francisco’s six wins, he has averaged 25 attempts per game. In the five losses he started, that number is 32 -- it’s worth noting that it jumps to 36 if you add Trey Lance’s throws in relief of an injured Jimmy G in Week 4. So, have no doubt, the Niners are headed to Cincinnati with a desire to run the football. That makes it impossible for fantasy owners to rely on Garoppolo’s usage and production.

With Deebo Samuel (groin) out last week, George Kittle (9-181-2) was the focal point of the passing game. The dynamic tight end has been much better since returning from IR, averaging 76 yards and 1 TD per game over the past five weeks; that’s way up from his four-game pre-IR work of 57 yards and 0 TDs per outing. Brandon Aiyuk (3-55-0) has also gotten going a bit, tallying 22 receptions, 346 yards and 2 TDs since Kittle’s return. That after catching just 12 balls in his first six games.

Cincinnati is 27th in the NFL in pass yardage allowed (256.9 per game), and they really struggled with the Chargers last Sunday. Even though this isn’t San Francisco’s preferred avenue of attack, this is the Bengals’ weakness. Plus, there’s the state of the 49ers RBs to consider. If Samuel returns, he’s a WR1, but this is a case where his status doesn’t really affect those around him with Aiyuk playable as a WR3 and Kittle a TE1 regardless of who’s active. Jimmy G could be a risky flier with an emphasis on risk.

CIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.23
CIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
CIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
CIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.20

Running Game Thoughts: Injuries and the 49ers’ running back room go together like peanut butter and jelly these days. To that end, both Elijah Mitchell (concussion/knee) and Jeff Wilson (knee) are iffy for Week 14. Mitchell has proven himself an RB1 when healthy, so if he’s active and ready to roll he can be slotted in. Wilson would be a flex in that scenario but could bump up to an RB2 if Mitchell can’t play. If both are inactive, the burden would be fall to JaMycal Hasty, who would become an RB3 with upside. The Bengals are tough against the run (92.5 yards per game; 4th), but Kyle Shanahan won’t be changing his stripes.

Value Meter:
RB1: Elijah Mitchell (inj-concussion/knee)
Flex: Jeff Wilson (inj-knee)
WR1: Deebo Samuel (inj-groin)
WR3: Brandon Aiyuk
TE1: George Kittle
Bench: Jimmy Garoppolo, JaMycal Hasty

Passing Game Thoughts: While Joe Burrow’s final numbers weren’t great (300 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs), part of that can be laid on Ja’Marr Chase, who turned what should’ve been a 71-yard touchdown into an interception with an improbable mishandling of the pigskin. Of greater long-term impact, the second-year pro injured his pinkie finger in the Week 13 loss. He won’t miss time, but it could hamper his accuracy. It could also affect his usage, which had been down coming out of the bye as the team put more onto the shoulders of Joe Mixon. That could be the case here, making Burrow a shaky QB1.

It's been a rough stretch for Chase (5-52-0), who hasn’t topped 60 yards receiving in a game since Oct. 24 and has just two TDs over those five games. Whether it’s the result of increased attention from defenses, gameplan changes or even the dreaded “rookie wall,” the result has been Chase going from surefire WR1 to reputation-based WR2 in short order. Tee Higgins (9-138-1), meanwhile, continues to deliver. The Clemson alum has back-to-back games of 100-plus yards and a score, and he has posted more than 75 yards in four of his last five. He’s a WR2 as well, and probably the safer play.

That leaves Tyler Boyd (5-85-0), who continues to bounce between relevant fantasy contributor and complete afterthought; to that end, Boyd has logged fewer than 15 receiving yards in two of his last four games. He’s a risk/reward flex play against a 49ers defense that ranks fifth in the league in pass defense at 205.1 yards per game. Only five teams have fewer picks than San Francisco, though, which could be good news for Burrow, who leads the NFL in interceptions (14).

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: Facing the league’s worst run defense in Week 13, you would expect that Joe Mixon had a field day. He didn’t. Mixon carried 19 times for 54 yards (2.8 YPC) and a touchdown. He also went without a catch. The Bengals will need better efficiency against the No. 18 run defense (114.3 yards per game) this weekend to help keep the pressure off Burrow and his damaged digit. Mixon is dealing with an illness, but the team hopes he’ll be ready to roll come Sunday. If he is, Mixon is an RB1. If not, look for Samaje Perine to step in with RB3 value.

Value Meter:
QB1: Joe Burrow
RB1: Joe Mixon (inj-illness)
WR2: Ja’Marr Chase
WR2: Tee Higgins
Flex: Tyler Boyd
Bench: Samaje Perine, C.J. Uzomah

Prediction: Bengals 24, 49ers 23 ^ Top

Bills @ Bucs - (Swanson)
Line: TB -3.5
Total: 53.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Josh Allen and the Bills look to bounce back from a disappointing 14-10 loss at home to the Patriots in a game in which 35 MPH winds limited the passing ability of both teams. Allen threw for a season-low 145 yards, while the Patriots won the game despite throwing the ball just three times.

From a matchup perspective, the Bills are one of the worst running teams in the league and have been successful in beating teams in the passing game. That works well in this game considering the Bucs are stellar against the run but can be susceptible to the pass.

You are starting Allen and Stefon Diggs for certain. Diggs will likely go against Carlton Davis on the outside in a matchup he should find favorable. The Bucs young secondary of Sean-Murphy Bunting, Davis, and Antoine Winfield Jr. is talented and up and coming, but Diggs should still find success.

The number two or three passing option on teams have found success against the Bucs over the past few weeks. T.Y. Hilton, Russell Gage, and DeAndre Carter all have reached the end zone or posted over 100 yards. It is difficult to recommend playing Gabriel Davis, Cole Beasley, or Emmanuel Sanders based on their low target volume, but we will not be surprised to see one of them have a big game in this contest.

Davis is someone to watch. He has three double-digit games in his last six, including 30/1 last week. Again, the volume is not there, but he could be a sneaky play in DFS or very deep leagues and a flex.

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.8
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: Head Coach Sean McDermott has been doing his best Bill Belichick or Doug Pederson impersonation this season when it comes to running backs. Zack Moss was a preseason breakout candidate based on how he played down the stretch and in the playoffs, only to be a surprise inactive Week 1. Moss has sprinkled in some good games this season, but also apparently fell back to third on the depth chart behind Devin Singletary and Matt Breida.

Then, just when we all thought Moss was done, he comes back and posts a pedestrian 33 total yards on 11 touches.

This backfield is a mess and it does not look like it is getting better any time soon. Even in a good matchup, it is difficult to project any of these players doing well. In a subpar matchup like this against the Bucs, you should avoid it like the plague.

Value Meter:
QB1: Josh Allen (High-End)
RB3: Devin Singletary (Low-End)
RB3: Matt Breida (Low-End)
WR1: Stefon Diggs (High-End)
WR3: Emmanuel Sanders (Low-End)
WR4: Gabriel Davis (High-End)
TE1: Dawson Knox (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: As we all expected, Tom Brady had a field day last week against the lowly Falcons. Brady threw for 368 yards and four touchdowns, with strikes to Gronk, Leonard Fournette, and 143 receiving yards on a season-high 15 catches by Chris Godwin.

Brady will not find it as easy to move the ball through the air against Buffalo, but the Bills are far from a matchup that you should avoid.

Buffalo on paper looks like a trap for quarterbacks, with the Bills giving up just eight passing touchdowns in 12 games. However, if you did a little deeper, you will notice that those numbers are a bit skewed based on who the Bills have played.

Outside of Patrick Mahomes, who threw for a modest 272/2, no other Bills opponent ranks in the top 12 at the QB position. Also, remember that Mac Jones threw the ball just three times last week.

Don’t let the matchup scare you, and start all of your Bucs. Mike Evans, Gronk, and Godwin are no-brainers.

Fournette is too hot to bench and continues to get work running and receiving.

If the Bills still had top corner Tre'Davious White, we might feel a little worried about Evans outside. But with White out for the year with a knee injury, the Bills do not have a shutdown corner.

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.32
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.32
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Running Game Thoughts: Over the past five games, only Jonathan Taylor, Joe Mixon, and James Conner have averaged more fantasy points per game than Leonard Fournette. He has three rushing touchdowns in the last four games, and his 28 receptions are the most of any back during that span.

The Patriots showed that you can run on the Bills over and over again, even if they know the run is coming. While we do not anticipate a similar game plan this week, I’m sure Byron Leftwich can’t help but want to see how his rushing offense will do against that defensive front.

Start Fournette with confidence in what could be a fairly high-scoring game. A touchdown or two and 100 total yards is not out of the question.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady (High-End)
RB1: Leonard Fournette (Low-End)
WR1: Chris Godwin (High-End)
WR1: Mike Evans (Low-End)
TE1: Rob Gronkowski (High-End)

Prediction: Tampa Bay 34, Buffalo 24 ^ Top

Bears @ Packers
Line: GB -12.5
Total: 43.0

Passing Game Thoughts: After the Bears split two games with Andy Dalton (hand) under center, they will welcome back Justin Fields (ribs), who has been medically cleared, this Sunday night. The rookie had some encouraging moments leading up to his rib injury on Nov. 21, most notably a 291-yard passing game in Week 9 and 103 yards rushing the week before, but this is tough duty. He threw for 174 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT in the first meeting with the Packers. On the road against a defense that made things awfully tough on Kyler Murray, Patrick Mahomes and more, it’s best to leave Fields on your bench.

One player that might be sad to see Dalton gone is Darnell Mooney, who racked up 220 yards receiving in just under 10 quarters of action with the Red Rifle delivering the ball. Still, he’s been Fields’ No. 1 target for most of 2021, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue Sunday night. He could be played as a WR3. Allen Robinson (hamstring) hasn’t suited up since Nov. 8, but he was back at practice on a limited basis Wednesday and at least has some hope of returning. Robinson had a season-high 68 yards his last time out and is worth watching down the stretch, though he should be benched here.

The Packers feature the ninth-ranked pass defense, yielding 219.2 yards per game on the year. They’ve had some trouble with the deep ball in their last two games, though, and you’d think the Bears will try to take some downfield shots. Reinforcements look to be on the way for the Packers with Jaire Alexander (shoulder) designated to return from IR this week, though it’s unlikely he’ll play in Week 14. One player to watch is Cole Kmet (3-41-0); he’s had six or more targets in five of his last six games and could be a flier.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.17
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.21

Running Game Thoughts: After logging 141 yards and a touchdown on 29 touches in Week 13, David Montgomery (shoulder/groin) is dealing with several injuries and his status for Sunday is murky. Assuming he’s able to work through it, Montgomery would make a solid RB2. If not, Khalil Herbert would get the nod. Herbert ran for 97 yards and a TD against the Packers back in Week 6 and could fill that same RB2 slot if Montgomery is down. Green Bay has improved as the season has worn on and is currently eighth against the run, giving up 102.5 yards per game on the ground.

Value Meter:
RB2: David Montgomery (inj-shoulder/groin)
WR3: Darnell Mooney
Bench: Justin Fields, Khalil Herbert, Allen Robinson (inj-hamstring), Cole Kmet

Passing Game Thoughts: All anyone really remembers about the earlier encounter between the long-time rivals is Aaron Rodgers bellowing “I own you!” to the Solider Field crowd. His final line -- 17 for 23, 195 yards, 3 total TDs -- are hardly the stuff of legend, but it got the job done. The rematch may be different. When the teams met in Week 6, the Packers were 4-1 and the Bears were 3-2. Chicago gave it their best shot. Now, Green Bay is fighting for the No. 1 seed and the Bears are wondering who their coach will be in 2022. While anything can happen in a rivalry game, you shouldn’t hesitate to play Rodgers in as a QB1.

It took a while, but Marquez Valdes-Scantling (4-50-0) is starting to round into form with eight receptions, 173 yards and a score in his last two games. He’s still going to be a hit-or-miss contributor, but his upside is such that a flex spot is warranted. Davante Adams (8-104-0) resides at the top of the mountain among NFL wideouts, and though his lack of production in the red zone has been frustrating, he’s still a weekly WR1. Randall Cobb (core) is coming off his best game since being reacquired in the offseason, but he won’t play for a while due to an injury suffered in Week 12.

Chicago’s pass defense is No. 6 in the NFL in terms of yardage allowed (207.8 per game), but they’re one of just three teams to give up 20 or more TD passes while collecting five or fewer interceptions. They managed just one sack of Kyler Murray last week and miss the presence of Khalil Mack (foot), who is out for the season.

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.17
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

Running Game Thoughts: The most interesting subplot of Week 14 is seeing what the Packers will do with their backfield split. Aaron Jones (10-23-0) missed just one week with a knee injury but did little in his return against the Rams. Meanwhile, AJ Dillon (20-69-0) has emerged as a legitimate weapon, and his bruising style seems like a good fit for cold Lambeau nights. The Bears are 23rd in run defense at 120.1 yards per game allowed, and they figure to get a healthy dose of Jones and Dillon. Pencil Jones in as an RB1 (17-110-1 combined v CHI in Week 6) and Dillon (11-59-0) as an RB3.

Value Meter:
QB1: Aaron Rodgers (inj-toe)
RB1: Aaron Jones
RB3: AJ Dillon
WR1: Davante Adams
Flex: Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Prediction: Packers 37, Bears 17 ^ Top

Rams at Cardinals
Line: ARI -2.5
Total: 51.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Matthew Stafford had been on a bit of a skid in Weeks 9 and 10, but the Rams’ Week 11 bye week seems to have rejuvenated the quarterback as he has now thrown for three touchdowns in back-to-back games since. The quarterback now faces an Arizona defense that he performed fairly well against earlier this season, but the Rams were unable to even keep things close on the scoreboard. With Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins both back for the Cardinals, we should expect that this game could again turn into a shootout and that would mean good things for both Stafford as well as his weapons.

Cooper Kupp remains the overall WR1 on the season and it looks as though only an injury would threaten his chances of holding onto that crown through the end of the regular season. Unfortunately, Kupp is dealing with a toe injury that’s kept him limited in practice early this week and there is actually a possibility that he could miss Monday night’s game. We shouldn’t expect that to be the case, but fantasy owners of Kupp need to be sure that they have a backup plan should the super stud WR end up being sidelined.

Odell Beckham Jr. has certainly had an interesting 2021 season and he’s been thrust into an important role as one of the team’s starting outside wide receivers. Beckham has now scored in back to back games, including being targeted 15 times over that two game stretch. He’s only caught seven passes for 109 yards in those games so it hasn’t been anything that jumps off the page from a fantasy standpoint, but he’s certainly been a focal point of the passing game right away. Beckham hasn’t been quite productive enough to call him a locked-in fantasy WR2, but he’s someone who you could slot in that range if needed, although he’s probably better suited to be a WR3/Flex.

It looked like teammate Van Jefferson would see his playing time reduced when Beckham joined the team, but that really hasn’t been the case. In fact, since Robert Woods went down with an injury, Jefferson has actually seen his usage in the offense increase. He was targeted nine times in Week 12 and another eight times in Week 13 - each of which were his two highest target games of the season. Not surprisingly, they were also two of his best fantasy games of the season as he, too, was able to get into the end zone against both the Packers and Jaguars. Jefferson doesn’t have the brand equity that Beckham does and it doesn’t appear as though the team is scheming quite as many plays specifically for him, but he’s now been targeted at least six times in six straight games for the Rams. That kind of usage, in a high-powered offense, in what could be a shootout atmosphere, makes Jefferson a pretty enticing WR3 against the Cardinals.

Tight end Tyler Higbee has been disappointing this season despite plenty of playing time and we haven’t really seen his targets increase much throughout the year. Fantasy owners should probably avoid him, but he could have some value as a low-end TE1 in the scenario that Kupp ends up being out. We likely won’t have the luxury of knowing a day in advance if Kupp is out, though, so waiting until Monday night to start Higbee is probably not a great option.

ARI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
ARI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
ARI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.23
ARI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: Rams running back Darrell Henderson missed the team’s Week 13 blowout victory over the Jaguars and that allowed us to get a glimpse of Sony Michel being the team’s primary back for the first time this season. Michel responded by delivering in a big way, rushing for 121 yards on 24 carries, adding a touchdown on the ground and three receptions through the air to make him an RB1 for the week.

Although Henderson produced 116 total yards against the Cardinals earlier this season, we don’t yet know his status for Monday night’s game and that makes him a risky start if you don’t also own Michel. Even if you do, there’s a possibility that the two backs split more work than we’ve seen earlier this season which would mean that Henderson is more of a low-upside fantasy RB2/Flex. If Henderson is out, however, Michel should shoot up back to the high-end RB2 conversation.

If we don’t end up knowing Henderson’s situation in advance, however, fantasy owners need to be very careful about what they do in this matchup. The Rams typically utilize a single back approach and there likely won’t be many touches going to anyone other than Michel if Henderson does get ruled out, so you’ll need to plan accordingly.

Value Meter:
QB1: Matthew Stafford (low end)
RB2: Sony Michel (if Darrell Henderson is inactive)
WR1: Cooper Kupp
WR3: Odell Beckham Jr. (high end), Van Jefferson
Flex: Darrell Henderson, Sony Michel (if Henderson is active)
Bench: Tyler Higbee

Passing Game Thoughts: Fantasy owners have been without Kyler Murray for the past four weeks, but their star QB got back onto the field this past week against the Bears and immediately reminded us why he was in the conversation for NFL MVP prior to going out. Although he only completed 11 passes for 123 yards, Murray did deliver two touchdowns through the air while also contributing an additional two scores and 59 yards as a runner. It was one of his biggest fantasy performances and it’s exactly why Murray was ranked so high before the season started. While he still looked to be a bit hampered by his ankle, Murray showed his toughness and battled through the pain, which is exactly what we’ll need him to do this week in what could end up being a shootout against the Rams.

Murray threw for 268 yards and two touchdowns, adding 39 yards on the ground back when these teams met back in Week 4. While that’s an acceptable stat line on its own, it should also be noted that the Cardinals were ahead 34-13 headed into the fourth quarter in that game, so Murray’s usage was a bit down from where it could be if the Rams were able to keep up on the scoreboard.

Murray’s return to the field was an obvious jolt of energy for the Cardinals, but they also got top wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins back after he, too, had been out for four weeks with a hamstring injury. While Hopkins was held to just two targets in his return game against Chicago, he caught both passes and even scored a touchdown, so it wasn’t a completely horrible fantasy day for him. We hope that an additional week will get him even closer to full strength as he’ll now have to face a Rams defense and more specifically an extraordinarily difficult matchup against cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Hopkins was held to four catches for 67 yards when he faced the Rams earlier this season and if he’s not feeling fully healthy then he’s probably going to be in for a long day in this one. He’s still DeAndre Hopkins so it’s hard to bench him, but Hopkins is not a WR1 right now. If anything, he’s a low-end WR2 this week and potentially a WR3 if your team is deep at the position.

The other wide receivers in Arizona just simply cannot be trusted for fantasy purposes at the moment. Sure, one or two of them will probably contribute something of value, but A.J. Green, Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore combined for just six targets this past week. Obviously it was an unusually low passing volume game for the team as a whole, and that could change this week, but we just don’t have a good grasp on which one of these players is going to be featured in this matchup. If you’re looking for some context from the previous matchup between these teams, it could be noted that Green was by far the most productive of the bunch as he delivered five receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown against the Rams. Meanwhile, Kirk was held to just one catch for five yards and Moore was held to just three catches for 28 yards. It’s just too crowded of a situation to trust any of these players in normal leagues.

Tight end Zach Ertz is really the only other player who fantasy owners should be trusting in this passing game, and even that is pretty sketchy. Ertz was held to just one catch this past week, but he was a major focal point of the passing game in the Cardinals’ previous game when he caught a season high eight passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Of course, that was not with Murray at quarterback, so take that with a grain of salt, but you could do worse than Ertz in a game that could be a shootout against a Rams defense that has given up touchdowns to opposing tight ends in three of their past five games.

LAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
LAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.20
LAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
LAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

Running Game Thoughts: The Cardinals designated Chase Edmonds to return from injured reserve on Thursday, opening the potential for the running back to make his return as early as Monday night’s game against the Rams. While that still seems relatively unlikely as a return window, there is the potential for it and we’ll have to keep our eyes peeled for any additional information. Chances seem stronger, though, that we’ll see Edmonds sidelined for at least one more game which will mean another start for veteran James Conner.

Conner has been an absolute fantasy monster this season, despite the fact that he’s averaging less than four yards per carry as a runner. Conner has already scored a ridiculous 14 touchdowns on just 186 total touches this season. He’s scored at least once in six straight games, including this past week when he made an impressive one-handed catch on his way into the end zone. Conner isn’t quite as productive as a receiver as Edmonds, but he’s unquestionably one of the league’s most dominant goal line runners and in an offense as good as Arizona’s, that makes him a viable weekly RB1.

Conner scored twice on 18 carries for 50 yards when the Cardinals faced the Rams earlier this season and that was while he was still splitting touches with Edmonds. Assuming he’s the starter again this week, fantasy owners should feel pretty confident putting him back in their lineups.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kyler Murray
RB1: James Conner
WR2: DeAndre Hopkins (low end)
TE1: Zach Ertz (low end)
Bench: Chase Edmonds, A.J. Green, Rondale Moore, Christian Kirk

Prediction: Cardinals 30, Rams 27 ^ Top