Playing for a playoff spot? Already in the playoffs? It’s likely do-or-die for you. One lineup switch, one late pickup, or that one fade that is being overvalued by projections right now—identify it, set that lineup today, and change that 0-1 to 1-0 this week. Welcome back to my Fantasy Football Weekly Loves & Hates.
In this series, we identify the best and worst value plays at each skill position for fantasy football purposes. We take into account matchups, game scripts, advanced statistics, and any other relevant news. This won’t be your spot for trying to rank the top players at each position or suggesting deep waiver wire digs every week. Rather, whether you are playing DFS or season-long formats, your start/bench/cut decisions can be informed based on the players that stand out the most at each position—the ones that could go off (loves) and the ones that could disappoint and lose you a matchup (hates).
We will review the previous week’s picks and grade our performance before giving out picks for the upcoming week. I firmly believe that the most important part of the process of winning is to evaluate your winning and losing decisions. We’ll do exactly that in our evaluations of the previous week’s picks.
Week 13 Review
My Week 13 loves and hates can be viewed here. Here are self-evaluations of those picks, with grades for me in parentheses.
My quarterback love of the week was a matchup target against the Las Vegas Raiders. Entering the week, they ranked as one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL by DVOA and fantasy production. While Taylor Heinicke didn’t necessarily disappoint by his expectations for those streaming quarterbacks and tailing this pick, a turnover and a low-volume game spelled a limited ceiling. Heinicke only passed the ball 30 times, the third-lowest among his starts this season. He produced 196 yards in the air and 10 yards on the ground. He salvaged his performance with 2 touchdowns but he finished as the QB16 of Week 13.
Washington’s game script was instead dominated by Antonio Gibson, now healthy and leading the backfield. Over the last two weeks, Gibson has recorded a staggering 64 touches and has amassed 257 scrimmage yards and a touchdown. He is the PPR RB3 in that span.
Over the last two weeks:
🔥 64 touches (#1 among #NFL RB)
🔥 257 scrimmage yards (#2)
🔥 45.7 #FantasyFootball PPR points (#3)@AntonioGibson14 heard the slander, got healthy, and is now going crazy. 🥵 #WashingtonFootballpic.twitter.com/moXutBL93t
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) December 8, 2021
My quarterback hate of the week was a testament to the mismatch that is the Chargers front seven vs. the Bengals offensive line. Indeed, Joe Burrow was pressured early and often and forced into bad throws with little time as the Chargers seemed like they were going to blow Burrow’s Bengals out of the water. Instead, during a comeback effort, Burrow played through a finger injury and completed 24 of 40 passes for 300 yards including a touchdown in the air and a touchdown on the ground. Despite that effort, he logged 2 turnovers (granted, one of which was a tipped ball off Ja’Marr Chase’s hands) and Burrow finished as the QB14 of Week 13. Just a meh performance.
Running Back (A+)
At the running back position, I took a look at two backfields that could be fluid and I was looking to get ahead of the game early in the week. With Darrell Henderson Jr. dealing with an injury early in the week, I advised making sure Sony Michel is rostered and considered as an RB2-tier play if Henderson is unable to suit up. A few injury reports later, Henderson was listed active but Michel still got the lead job against an atrocious Jaguars ballclub.
Just as we called, Michel was productive, recording a season-high 5.04 yards per carry on his way to his biggest game since Week 3 of last season. He rushed the ball 24 times for 121 yards and a touchdown, tallied a trio of receptions for 8 yards, and was the PPR RB7 of Week 13. My apologies for the disrespect, Sony. You were an RB1-tier fantasy play. Henderson did not record a snap in the game, likely as a precaution in a blowout game.
On the other hand, my running back hate of the week was Devin Singletary. Not only did I not trust any single member of the Bills backfield on Monday Night Football in Week 13 but I also can’t think of Singletary as a startable fantasy player at this point. On a snowy, windy night, the ground game was active for both teams but Singletary couldn’t do much with his 10 carries. Here is how the Buffalo backfield performed in the slippery primetime duel.
|Devin Singletary||48%||10 carries, 36 yards, 0 TD||0 catches (0 target), 0 yards, 0 TD|
|Zack Moss||41%||8 carries, 21 yards, 0 TD||2 catches (3 targets), 12 yards, 0 TD|
|Matt Breida||12%||1 carry, 3 yards, 0 TD||1 catch (1 target), 5 yards, 0 TD|
Table. Buffalo Bills running back splits, Week 13 vs. New England Patriots
Singletary has had ball security issues all season and even in a ground-dictated game, he couldn’t find fantasy relevance. The Bills face the Buccaneers, Panthers, and Patriots next, all of whom have been good fantasy defenses against running backs.
Wide Receiver (F)
Wide receiver was the spot I performed the best at in last season’s series of the love/hate column and I’ve already had four weeks this season with picks in the A-region. However, this is now back-to-back weeks of disappointment. My wide receiver love of the week was Kenny Golladay; I was looking for involvement in the red zone and regardless of quarterback, I was expecting the talented pass-catcher to be the alpha of the Giants offense. While Golladay started off the game with a sprinkling of targets, his 3 receptions on 5 targets for 37 yards early on was all that he got. He acquired an injury mid-game that kept him out for a few snaps. While he did come back in the game, he was locked up and witnessed the Giants’ offense stagger and not get him involved again.
My wide receive hate of the week, Tyler Lockett, chose Week 13 to get things right and make fantasy managers who benched him regret their actions. The Seahawks finally looked alive against the 49ers but instead of sticking with D.K. Metcalf as the go-to pass catcher, Lockett got the fantasy relevance as he caught 7 of his 8 targets for 68 yards, including a touchdown, his first score since Week 2. Lockett finished as the PPR WR11 of Week 13. Yikes.
Tight End (B-)
I was on a little streak at tight end, seemingly cracking the code at this erratic position in fantasy football. However, that streak is taking a break with my sleeper shot at James O’Shaughnessy who simply stunk it up. As usual, Trevor Lawrence targeted his primary tight end as O’Shaughnessy drew 6 targets. However, he only caught two passes for 16 yards and was otherwise absent from the Jacksonville passing attack, which wasn’t very productive to begin with against the Rams. O’Shaughnessy was completely fantasy-irrelevant but given the matchups coming up, it isn’t wise to rule him out as a viable tight end streamer in future given his volume role in the offense.
On the other hand, I did point out that Jack Doyle was being insanely overhyped headed into Week 13. After a big Week 12 against the Buccaneers, Doyle was the easiest stay-away against a Texans team that the Colts frankly did not have to be active in the air against. Indeed, the Colts passed the ball only 22 times and of those, only one target was in the direction of Doyle, who caught that ball for 13 yards and closed his book in the fantasy box score. The Colts are on bye in Week 14 and it doesn’t make much sense to waste a roster spot on Doyle when you can simply use a tight end streamer on someone with more reliable volume going forward.
Week 14 Loves & Hates
Some good calls, some bad ones—this week is pivotal. Let’s steal some roster spots on our way to some season-determining wins. Here are the picks for Week 14 of 2021 fantasy football.
Love: Zach Wilson (NYJ)
It is rare that I am okay with streaming a rookie quarterback in fantasy football, especially one that has dealt with injuries and spurts of poor play already. Additionally, Wilson will be without his best weapon in rookie riser Elijah Moore, who has been placed on the injured reserve.
However, if you need a freebie at this position, Wilson has much more upside than his consensus rankings suggest right now. The New Orleans Saints are looking to bounce back and break a losing streak. That gives us two narratives to work with.
First, I expect the Saints to play from ahead as most competent teams have been doing against the Jets so far given the lack of talent on the Jets’ defensive core. Second, the Saints defense having problems of their own recently gives a window of opportunity for the two-time Pepsi Rookie of the Month Zach Wilson to put up production in the air.
#Jets Week 4 without Moore ⬇️
▫️ Corey Davis: 4 rec (7 tgt) – 111 yds – 1 TD 🏥
▫️ Jamison Crowder: 7 rec (9 tgt) – 61 yds – 1 TD 💪
▫️ Keelan Cole: 3 rec (4 tgt) – 92 yds 👀
▫️ Win vs. TEN
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) December 11, 2021
This season, the Saints rank #32 (dead last) in the NFL in pass rush win rate as a defense, likely giving Wilson a clean pocket to work with on many occasions this week. Additionally, while the Saints continue to be fairly strong against the run, they have allowed way too many big plays in the air; their 10% explosive pass play rate allowed ranks as the sixth-highest among all NFL defenses. Enter: the #2 overall pick with the big arm that thrives off the big play, ranked #10 among NFL starting quarterbacks in average depth of target. Wilson should produce in the air in what could be a high-scoring game and with the Jets shallow at running back, I expect Wilson to be active throwing the football when the Jets visit the red zone. Perfect upside play for a steamer at the position.
Hate: Matt Ryan (ATL)
Speaking of defenses than can pass-rush, how about the Carolina Panthers defense? They rank #2 in the NFL in pass rush win rate as a defense and #5 in the NFL in fantasy defense against quarterbacks. To counter that, the Falcons are putting up another garbage offensive line that now ranks #26 in the NFL in pass block win rate as a team. That spells disaster for Matt Ryan, who has posted a 47.0 PFF grade this season when under pressure, good for #37 among all quarterbacks this season (out of 68 total quarterbacks).
Additionally, with the Panthers offense being one of the uncertain situations in football right now after the firing of offensive coordinator Joe Brady, this game could be one of the toughest to read game script-wise. If we can’t get a feel for the narrative, why feel good about starting Ryan in your lineup? This is an easy avoid.
Love: Saquon Barkley (NYG)
This isn’t the first time I have targeted the Chargers rushing defense and it probably won’t be the last unless something flips a switch. This season, the Chargers rank #9 in the NFL as a defense in pass DVOA but at the bottom of the barrel (#32) as a defense in rush DVOA. Additionally, they rank #25 in the NFL in run stop win rate as a defense. With Daniel Jones ruled out again for the Giants, Mike Glennon will start again for the Giants. However, Glennon isn’t getting much help on offense as just about every single pass-catcher on the team is dealing with a nagging injury concern and will find it challenging to even take the field for full action as of now.
The help he has, talent-wise, is pretty much just Saquon Barkley. It feels berserk that I have to tell you be sure to start Barkley in fantasy football in Week 14 but at this point of the season, with his roller-coaster health issues and an offensive support unit that doesn’t give him much room to succeed, it does seem like a reasonable thought experiment to evaluate whether he will be a safe start. Week 14 is that week though. With the matchup as juicy as it is and the upside for opportunity through the roof, Barkley should be in all lineups as he could very easily put up an RB1-tier performance, one that fantasy managers have been expecting all season when they drafted him early in the first round.
Hate: Joe Mixon (CIN)
The 49ers are coming off a tough divisional loss against the Seahawks in Week 13 but one of the biggest plays of that game came off a fourth-down fake that went to Travis Homer for a 73-yard rushing touchdown. That was truly an anomaly game as the 49ers have posted the third-best defense in the NFL by rush DVOA this season.
While San Francisco has allowed their fair share of touchdowns this season, paying up for Joe Mixon in weekly formats (DFS) is probably not the brightest of ideas given the other options available. This season, Mixon has stayed relatively healthy and hasn’t missed a start. Still, Samaje Perine’s four red zone targets is exactly the same number as Mixon’s and Perine has also carried the ball 10 times within the opponent’s 20. It is clear that if there are any issues with Mixon’s health going into this matchup, Bengals head coach Zac Taylor could very well have Perine vulture some important touches.
Headed into a weekend where Mixon could make or break a redraft fantasy season, you likely have to start him if he is active but if his status is iffy due to his illness this week or injury last week, the expectations should be tampered for a running back that has been a bit touchdown-dependent. Mixon has found the end zone in six straight games but if he doesn’t continue that streak in Week 14, you’re looking at someone that might not finish in the RB1-tier for the week.
Love: Brandon Aiyuk (SF)
We’ll stick with the same game. In what could be a nail-biter of an inter-conference game, there needs to be some passing in this game from a San Francisco team that is without their starting running back Elijah Mitchell. 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been playing better as of late and ranks as the #1 quarterback in the NFL by PFF grade since Week 8. While his #1 target through the air is still the superstar tight end George Kittle, expect a little more defensive attention to be keyed in on Kittle in Week 14.
#FTTB red zone targets since Week 8 ⬇️
🌉 George Kittle: 4
🌉 Jauan Jennings: 3
🌉 Brandon Aiyuk: 3
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) December 11, 2021
This season, the Bengals rank slightly above average defensively against tight ends by receiving yards and fantasy points per game, significantly better than the Seahawks, who are atrocious in that department. In contrast, the Bengals are the eleventh-worst defense against wide receivers this season per PPR scoring. If Deebo Samuel misses another game, Aiyuk could be the #1 producer on the 49ers offense. Even if Samuel suits up, he could be utilized in the run game leaving Aiyuk as the #1 fantasy pass-catcher in Week 14 for a 49ers offense that might have to win another shootout, this time against a Bengals team that ranks #28 in the NFL in pass rush win rate as a defense.
Hate: Odell Beckham Jr. (LAR)
One of the big names acquired by the front-office-active Los Angeles Rams was the perennial Pro Bowler Odell Beckham Jr. So far, the move has been fruitful for fantasy box scores. Since the Rams’ bye, Beckham has scored a touchdown in both games and totalled 7 receptions on 15 targets for 109 yards. That fantasy relevance is definitely worth rostering for a fantasy playoff push, but not worth a start in Week 14.
This season, the Cardinals rank #3 in pass DVOA as a defense, #10 in fantasy defense against wide receivers, and #2 (second-lowest) in explosive pass play rate allowed. Beckham could also match up on the outside many times with Byron Murphy, one of the better cornerbacks in football this season per completion rate allowed (59.4%) and quarterback rating allowed (71.6). Expect the Rams to go more with Mr. Reliable Cooper Kupp with some help from Ben Skowronek, Tyler Higbee, and a run game that could see some productive action against Arizona’s defense that only ranks #15 in rush DVOA as a defense. Beckham’s ceiling is heavily capped in a do-or-die Week 14 for fantasy managers; go with someone safer on Sunday instead of waiting for Beckham to disappoint on Monday Night Football.
Love: Austin Hooper (CLE)
Through the first 13 weeks of the season, the Browns have targeted tight ends 30.9% of the time. That ranks #1 in the NFL in target share for the position. Still, Cleveland tight ends haven’t once been safe starts in fantasy football this season because of their depth at the spot, rostering David Njoku, Harrison Bryant, and Austin Hooper. This week, both Njoku and Bryant have been ruled out, leaving Hooper essentially alone as a tight end for Baker Mayfield’s offense. The Ravens have been banged up all season long and the stars are aligning for Hooper to face one of the best matchups he can get in Week 14.
This season, Baltimore has allowed the sixth-most receptions, fourth-most receiving yards, fourth-most receiving touchdowns, and fourth-most fantasy points per game to tight ends. Although Cleveland still remains a run-first offense in philosophy, their willingness to throw the ball has been trending up; Cleveland’s 59.67% pass play rate over the last three games actually ranks #14 among NFL offenses. With Odell Beckham Jr. out of town, the targets must go somewhere and Hooper is now a top-three pass-catching option on the team in Week 14 and certainly a viable tight end streamer.
Hate: Cole Kmet (CHI)
Speaking of not waiting till a primetime game, your tight end spot better not be a move to trust Justin Fields in his return to the Bears lineup. The 22-year-old Cole Kmet is an athletic talent to be reckoned with and I made him my love of the week at tight end as recently as Week 12, when it panned out big and he was the PPR TE7 of the week. However, that was with Andy Dalton at quarterback, a situation that Kmet was producing more in for fantasy purposes.
In Fields’ first seven career starts (Weeks 3-9), Kmet never scored a touchdown and surpassed 50 receiving yards just once (Week 9 in a shootout). Kmet averaged just 6.6 PPR fantasy points per game in that span. On the other hand, in the three full games Dalton has managed under center (Weeks 1, 12, 13), Kmet averaged 10.3 fantasy points per game and in all three games, he had at least 7 targets and 40 receiving yards.
At this point of his career, Fields is still not quite the thrower Dalton is and cannot be trusted against an impressive Packers defense that ranks #10 in the NFL in pass DVOA as a defense and #12 in the NFL in fantasy defense against tight ends.
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