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Week 14 Start and Sit Recommendations for Fantasy Football

The time has come to make that final push towards the fantasy football playoffs. We may have to rely on some unexpected names to get us there based on injuries and matchups. Similarly, some players have yielded solid season-long results but are not facing favorable conditions this week. My Week 14 start and sit recommendations feature players you may be on the fence on. Generally, these are based on 12-teams leagues as per the Expert Consensus Rankings. Players below are ones who I feel will either exceed or fall short of expectations based on usage, matchup, and potential game flow. Keep in mind that circumstances can (and likely will) change between now and kickoff, so use your discretion. As always, feel free to hit me up with any questions you have regarding your Week 14 start/sit decisions.

More fantasy football fun for Week 14: Waiver Wire | FAAB Guide | Start & Sit | Loves & Hates | Stock Watch | Sleepers & Streamers | D/ST Streamers

Week 14 Start and Sit Recommendations

Quarterback to Start

Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans v. Jacksonville Jaguars

Ryan Tannehill had an ugly month of November. The veteran threw for four touchdowns versus six interceptions and averaged just 193 passing yards over four games. However, I do believe there is hope for him to post a top-12 fantasy performance this week. Tennessee is coming off a bye, which should give them time to tweak their execution on offense. More importantly, it gave Julio Jones and Jeremy McNichols an extra week to heal. Both will return in Week 14 after multi-week absences due to injury. Their return should enable them to rely more on the passing game after they curiously ran the ball 39 times in a game they lost by 23 points last time out. The matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars lines up as a favorable one for Tannehill as well.

Opposing quarterbacks have had a field day against Jacksonville’s defense this season. They have completed 71 percent of their pass attempts against Jacksonville this year. That is the highest rate in the league. The Jaguars have also allowed opposing quarterbacks to average 7.89 yards per pass attempt, which is the fourth-highest number in the NFL. And signal-callers have a 103.2 quarterback rating against Jaguars this year, the third-highest mark in the league. Only three teams have fewer sacks than Jacksonville, and only one has forced fewer interceptions. By nearly every measure, this shapes up to be a matchup to exploit. This is a get-right spot for Tennessee’s passing game. Ryan Tannehill has not quite lived up to his preseason ADP, but I think he has a top-12 finish in him this week.

Quarterback to Sit

Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals

Last week, I had confidence in Matthew Stafford, and he finished as a top-five fantasy quarterback. This week, not so much. The Arizona Cardinals are one of the more formidable defenses in the NFL. Arizona is in the top-five in terms of passing yards, passing touchdowns, and yards per pass attempt allowed. They also allow quarterbacks an NFL-low 2.37 seconds per pass attempt. That last point is what gives me cause for concern about Stafford this week. He has had his issues when pressured this season. Stafford has a solid 30:9 TD: INT ratio on the year, but has just five touchdowns against three interceptions when pressured. You can even argue that Stafford has been lucky in that regard. Stafford has been “credited” with nine interception-worthy throws when under duress this season. Overall, his quarterback rating drops 45.2 points when he has been pressured.

To their credit, the Rams’ offensive line has done a good job in limiting pressures. They allow pressure on just 22 percent of dropbacks, which is the fourth-best rate in the league. However, opponents have converted 18 percent of pressures into sacks. That is the second-highest mark in the league. Facing a raucous crowd on Monday night, I would not be surprised to see some communication issues between Stafford and his offensive line, or perhaps even with his pass-catchers. This feels like a spot where a lot could go wrong. I expect a lower scoring game than most, and I believe the Rams will rely more on the running game with Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel. This is a matchup where I would recommend benching Matthew Stafford if you have a suitable replacement handy.

Week 14 Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | Kicker | D/ST | PPR | Flex

Running Backs to Start

Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel, Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals

Well, lookie here! It’s the Rams running back tandem of Darrell Henderson and Sony Michel! If you are reading this, you probably remember 10 seconds ago when I said I expect the Rams to run the football against the Arizona Cardinals. Well, I still believe it. What can I say? I am a man of my convictions. Seriously though, I do believe the Rams will rely on the running game, assuming that Henderson is healthy. He was active last week but was a bystander as Los Angeles easily defeated Jacksonville. Henderson has gotten limited reps in practice this week, but I would imagine he plays on Monday night. If he does, he has a ton of upside against a Cardinals defense that allows 4.66 yards per rush. That number is the third-worst in the NFL.

For his part, Michel filled in beautifully for Henderson a week ago. Michel finished as the overall RB4 on the strength of 121 rushing yards and a touchdown. Head coach Sean McVay has indicated that Michel will be more involved going forward. However, we do not exactly know to what extent. In the 10 games in which they have both been active, Henderson has averaged 18 opportunities per game. Michel has checked in at a mere 6.8. I expect to see a much more even split in Week 14. And as I mentioned, I believe Los Angeles will make a concerted effort to run the ball. If both running backs get double-digit opportunities, they should be viable fantasy plays this week. Pay attention to Henderson’s health and any nuggets regarding Michel’s usage in the coming days. As things currently stand, I would recommend starting both Rams’ running backs.

Running Backs to Sit

Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys at Washington Football Team

It pains me to put Tony Pollard on this list. Pollard enters Week 14 as the overall RB24 despite scoring just two offensive touchdowns on the season. He has been incredibly efficient, and I think he could have carried fantasy teams to championships, especially as Ezekiel Elliott struggles to fight through a knee injury. However, I say “could have”, because now Pollard has an injury of his own to deal with. And it is a painful one. Pollard reportedly suffered a partially torn plantar fascia during a long touchdown run. I’m no doctor, nor do I play one on TV. But I do know that this is a very difficult injury to play with and to play through. Dallas has designated Pollard as questionable, and he is a game-time decision for Sunday’s divisional showdown with the Washington Football Team.

The good news is that Dallas plays on Sunday’s early slate for once. That means we will know if they deem Pollard active before we have to set lineups. I have Pollard in a league and am hoping he doesn’t play this week. Even if he does, I would not recommend starting him. First and foremost, he is at high risk for re-injury and ineffectiveness. There is no guarantee he makes it through the game or gets his normal workload. This also isn’t a very good matchup for running backs. Washington allows just 3.64 yards per rush to opposing running backs. That is the second-lowest number in the NFL. No team has faced fewer rushes inside their five-yard line this season than Washington. The deck is stacked pretty heavily against Pollard this week. I just cannot trust him this week given the circumstances.

Darrel Williams, Kansas City Chiefs v. Las Vegas Raiders

Darrel Williams is a consensus top-30 fantasy running back at the moment, which is right on the cusp of Flex range. That means he is essentially a situation-dependent start/sit candidate. Hopefully, you are not in a situation where you need to rely on him this week. Some will point out that Williams has logged one more offensive snap than Edwards-Helaire since the latter’s return in Week 11. That’s cool and all, but I do not play in any leagues where snap count is a category. And I don’t think that you don’t either. What we care about are opportunities, and Williams has suffered greatly since the return of CEH. In the two games in question, Edwards-Helaire has 31 opportunities to Williams’ 16. Williams had averaged 19.2 opportunities per game during the five-game stretch that Edwards-Helaire missed with a knee injury.

The best argument to be made for Williams is that the Las Vegas Raiders have allowed five receiving touchdowns to opposing running backs this season. Williams is Kansas City’s preferred option in the passing game, so there could be some optimism from that standpoint. However, that is not exactly something we can bank on, especially in a situation where a berth in the fantasy playoffs could be at stake. With all the injuries at the running back position, there is a lot to be said for having warm bodies at the ready. Having said that, eight opportunities a game is simply not going to cut it for fantasy purposes. I have no desire to start Darrel Williams this week. If he manages to get in the end zone this week, so be it. I still think the prudent decision is to sit him if possible.

Wide Receiver to Start

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears

I highlighted Marquez Valdes-Scantling in this week’s Bold Predictions piece, but I think that it is worth mentioning him here as well. Here is what I said earlier in the week:

Marquez Valdes-Scantling is widely known in fantasy circles as a boom or bust player. Well, my Week 14 bold prediction expects a “boom” week from the Packers’ wideout. Valdes-Scantling returned in Week 9 following a month-long absence. In his first two games back from injury, MVS was targeted just three times. However, Aaron Rodgers has made a concerted effort to get Valdes-Scantling more involved as of late. MVS has been on the receiving end of 19 targets in Green Bay’s last two games. If this trend continues on Sunday night, it could mean a big day for Valdes-Scantling.

Valdes-Scantling’s bread and butter is the deep ball. His 19.38 aDOT is far and away the most in the NFL among players with at least 30 targets. For reference, Courtland Sutton is next highest at 15.74, if we exclude Henry Ruggs’ 16.89 mark.

Defending the deep pass has been an issue for the Chicago Bears this season. Chicago has faced just 42 deep pass attempts (defined as attempts at least 20 yards downfield) on the year, tied for eighth-fewest in the NFL. Despite that, they have permitted six touchdowns on such pass attempts. That number is tied for the fifth-most in the league.

Opposing quarterbacks have a 117.6 passer rating on deep balls against Chicago. That is the fourth-highest mark in football. Valdes-Scantling is a high variance player, but this is the type of matchup that is tailor-made for his skill set and role in Green Bay’s offense.

I wrote this before the announcement that Randall Cobb will undergo core muscle surgery, so I am even more bullish on Valdes-Scantling than I was then. While I still think there is a very good chance that he and Aaron Rodgers connect on a deep ball given Chicago’s woes in that area, the more important factor in my belief in MVS was the increased number of targets. I think Cobb’s absence increases the likelihood that Valdes-Scantling remains heavily involved this week. Granted, they play completely different roles in Green Bay’s offense, but there will be a trickle-down effect with Cobb unavailable. I initially ranked Valdes-Scantling as my WR37 earlier in the week, but I now consider him a top-30 fantasy wideout for Week 14. His floor is much safer, and he has massive upside in this matchup.

Wide Receivers to Sit

Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos v. Detroit Lions

Courtland Sutton is a receiver whom I initially ranked higher than Marquez Valdes-Scantling earlier in the week. Upon further review, I regret that decision, and it will be rectified before the action begins on Sunday. Sutton’s matchup is decent enough. The Detroit Lions have allowed a wide receiver to surpass 120 receiving yards in each of their last two games. But the wideouts in question (Darnell Mooney and Justin Jefferson) have reliable volume metrics. Sutton does not fall into that category by any stretch of the imagination. While Mooney and Jefferson each eclipsed the 120-yard mark against Detroit, Sutton has 110 receiving yards since Week 8. Not coincidentally, that marked the return of Jerry Jeudy following a six-week absence due to an ankle injury.

In the six games Jeudy missed, Sutton was targeted 55 times. In the six games Jeudy has played, Sutton has been targeted just 21 times. And his production has fallen off at even a more precipitous rate if you can believe that. Sutton has yet to finish inside the top-50 (or top-60 in PPR scoring) fantasy wide receivers in any game in which Jeudy has played this year. So why exactly are we starting him again? For me, this is a very similar situation to the one I outlined above with Darrel Williams. If Sutton somehow scores a touchdown, chalk it up to variance and move on. But there is no way I would count on him scoring double-digit fantasy points this week. There is no tangible metric you could point to in making that argument. Hard pass.

Jamison Crowder, New York Jets v. New Orleans Saints

Jamison Crowder has enjoyed solid volume when he has been active this season. In nine games, the veteran slot receiver averages 6.2 targets and 4.7 receptions. However, it has not equated to a ton of fantasy points. Crowder has scored just two touchdowns on the year while averaging a meager 41.3 receiving yards per contest. Among the 44 wide receivers with at least 40 catches on the year, his 8.86 yards per catch ranks third-lowest. His lone top-20 weekly finish came in his season debut in Week 4, and he has finished outside the top-40 more weeks (5) than not (4). Crowder has a semi-safe floor in PPR formats, but there is painfully little upside. That is especially true in difficult matchups like the one Crowder will encounter on Sunday when he faces the New Orleans Saints.

I’m old enough to remember when starting receivers against Saints slot cornerback P.J. Williams was good business. But that has not been the case in 2021. Williams has flourished this year after being a proverbial punching bag for most of his NFL career. Among 62 cornerbacks who have covered at least 200 routes this season, Williams ranks fourth in yards allowed per route covered (0.63) and fifth in fantasy points allowed per route (0.15). He has yet to give up a touchdown catch this year, and in fact, has scored one of his own on a pick-six against some guy named Brady. That was one of three interceptions Williams has recorded this season, which is a new career-high. Jamison Crowder could be a WR3 if things break his way, but I am not expecting that to happen this week. Start a receiver with greater upside.

Tight End to Start

Austin Hooper, Cleveland Browns v. Baltimore Ravens

Week 14 could be a tricky one for fantasy managers streaming tight ends. Of the four most generous NFL defenses in terms of fantasy points allowed to tight ends, two of them (Philadelphia and Indianapolis) are on a bye. Las Vegas is facing Travis Kelce. Call me crazy, but I don’t think he is available on any waiver wires. That leaves the Baltimore Ravens, who face the Cleveland Browns this week. Normally, an advantageous matchup in and of itself may not be enough to sway me on a player like Austin Hooper, who has totaled just 261 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games this season. However, it does look like the stars could be aligning for the former Atlanta Falcon and top-six fantasy tight end.

In addition to the matchup, Hooper should stand to benefit from added opportunities. Cleveland has ruled out Harrison Bryant with an ankle injury, and they also placed David Njoku on the reserve/Covid list this week. That leaves Hooper as the lone man standing in an offense that features the tight end position. Baker Mayfield has targeted his trio of tight ends 33 times in the last three games. That number is particularly high when you consider that he has thrown just 87 passes in that stretch. Facing a Baltimore team that has given up the sixth-most catches and fourth-most receiving yards to tight ends this year is the icing on the cake. In a week where four of the top-10 tight ends in season-long fantasy scoring are either injured or on a bye, Austin Hooper makes for an ideal Week 14 streamer.

Tight End to Sit

Zach Ertz, Arizona Cardinals v. Los Angeles Rams

I listed Zach Ertz in this section a week ago, and I am going back to the well. Of course, there is more than last week’s result that has caused me to recommend sitting Ertz again this week. First, Ertz popped up on the injury report with a shoulder injury. The issue is not likely to result in missed time, but it is something to keep an eye on. I also do not think this sets up as a high-volume game for Ertz. As I mentioned earlier, I expect this game to be less explosive than most seem to. With that in mind, I do not feel a desire to start any of the ancillary parts of either team’s passing offense. That is what I consider Ertz to be, especially now that DeAndre Hopkins is back.

Arizona has designated Chase Edmonds to return from injured reserve. If he returns on Monday night, that could also cut into Ertz’s workload. I also worry about the individual matchup for Ertz against linebacker Ernest Jones. The rookie has gotten more comfortable as the season has gone on, and enters Week 14 allowing 0.53 yards per route covered. That is the best among the linebackers who will be primarily tasked with covering tight ends this week. His 0.18 fantasy points per route and 70 percent catch rate are third-best among the same group. As I just mentioned, there are quite a few top-tier tight ends who are out this week. Based on that, I can understand why someone would start Ertz. However, I do not feel he will finish the week as a top-12 fantasy tight end, so I would sit him in this matchup.

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