Week 14 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Fantasy Football Stars to Play and Bench

Richard Janvrin@@RichardJanvrinFeatured ColumnistDecember 7, 2017

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 3: Quarterback Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions throws the ball in the third quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Thursday marks the first official day of Week 14 of the NFL fantasy football playoffs.

The pressure is on.

We'll get a game on Thursday Night Football between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons featuring plenty of players on numerous rosters.

Whether you're the No. 1 seed or the No. 8 seed, that doesn't matter: any team could fall at any time.

Remember, fantasy football is a weekly contest, in all reality.

Below, we are going to look at the stars of each position. There will be one guy from each position you should start and one you should sit, as well as five matchups from each respective position group you may be wondering about.

Let's pick up the win.

        

Quarterbacks

Matchup Comparison

Tom Brady (at MIA) vs. Drew Brees (at ATL): Tom Brady

Philip Rivers (vs. WAS) vs. Alex Smith (vs. OAK): Philip Rivers

Carson Wentz (at LAR) vs. Matt Ryan (vs. NO): Carson Wentz

Matthew Stafford (at TB) vs. Dak Prescott (at NYG): Matthew Stafford

Josh McCown (at DEN) vs. Cam Newton (vs. MIN): Josh McCown

         

Star to Know: Matthew Stafford, DET (at TB)

Gail Burton/Associated Press

Let's start with this to get it out of the way: there are some health issues with Stafford heading into Week 14.

According to Tim Twentyman, Detroit Lions Insider, head coach Jim Caldwell has said that Stafford is not "out of the woods yet" with his hand injury.

Now, let's assume he starts and get back to the point.

Going up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Stafford will be in line for a fantastic outing.

The Buccaneers have faced some relatively easy competition recently, from Brett Hundley, Matt Moore and Josh McCown, so don't be scared off by their current ranking of 12th in fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.

It wasn't that long ago that the Buccaneers were looked at as the laughing stock of all the secondary's in the league.

Even with those recent games with subpar opposing quarterbacks, the Buccaneers still rank 31st in DVOA against the pass.

Start Stafford up this week.

       

Start to Sit: Case Keenum, MIN (at CAR)

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03: Case Keenum #7 of the Minnesota Vikings signals for a first down during the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C.  Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There may be some recency bias here, but Keenum is coming off an OK outing against the Atlanta Falcons in which he threw for 227 yards and two touchdowns.

This was far from his past four performances, where he threw for 280 yards in four consecutive games and in three of those four, threw for multiple touchdowns.

On the road against the Panthers may be a bit of a different story, though.

While Keenum does have some of the best skill position players in the game today at his disposal, the Panthers rank eighth in DVOA against the pass and allow the 10th-least fantasy points to the position.

With that said, there is a bit of a silver-lining: the Panthers are tied for giving up the eighth-most touchdowns on the season.

This may be too much of a gamble in the playoffs right now, so if you have another option, go with it.

         

Running Backs

Matchup Comparison

Le'Veon Bell (vs. BAL) vs. Leonard Fournette (vs. SEA): Le'Veon Bell

Alvin Kamara (at ATL) vs. Mark Ingram (at ATL): Alvin Kamara

LeSean McCoy (vs. IND) vs. Carlos Hyde (at HOU): LeSean McCoy

Todd Gurley (vs. PHI) vs. Devonta Freeman (vs. NO): Todd Gurley

Melvin Gordon (vs. WAS) vs. Kareem Hunt (vs. OAK): Melvin Gordon

          

Star to Know: Kenyan Drake, MIA (vs. NE)

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - DECEMBER 03:  Kenyan Drake #32 of the Miami Dolphins celebrates after scoring a tocuhdown in the third quarter against the Denver Broncos at the Hard Rock Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

When you combine a pass-catching running back with a game script that will likely result in his team being down by multiple touchdowns, good things will happen.

Not only that, but Drake will get all the carries, too—however many that is.

It's pretty much what was outlined above: he'll get plenty of touches combining the ground game and catching passes.

Drake caught a touchdown against the Patriots in Week 12 and had nine carries—that seems par for the course here, too.

Don't be scared off by his opponent. Drake is in a unique situation where he'll get plenty of targets out of the backfield and every single carry the team gives out.

        

Start to Sit: DeMarco Murray, TEN (at TEN)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 26:  DeMarco Murray #29 of the Tennessee Titans runs with the ball against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 26, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans backfield is not fun to figure out. For the team, it's a great problem to have, having two talented running backs in Murray and Derrick Henry, but for fantasy, it's an issue.

Not only that, but the Titans will be on the road against the Arizona Cardinals, who rank fourth in DVOA against the run.

We never know which running back is going to the "the guy" that particular week. Couple that with the matchup, this is just a recipe for disaster.

Avoid Murray here.

          

Wide Receivers

Matchup Comparison

Antonio Brown (vs. BAL) vs. Mike Evans (vs. DET): Antonio Brown

DeAndre Hopkins (vs. SF) vs. Dez Bryant (at NYG): DeAndre Hopkins

Brandin Cooks (at MIA) vs. Adam Thielen (at CAR): Brandin Cooks

Keenan Allen (vs. WAS) vs. Tyreek Hill (vs. OAK): Keenan Allen

Jarvis Landry (vs. NE) vs. Julio Jones (vs. NO): Jarvis Landry

           

Star to Know: Brandin Cooks, NE (at MIA)

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 26: Brandin Cooks #14 of the New England Patriots reacts after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter of a game against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on November 26, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Roga
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

When we talked about Kenyan Drake, we mentioned that the Miami Dolphins are likely to get beat up on in this game.

Well, in order for that to happen, the Patriots need to score points via touchdowns.

Who do you think will score those touchdowns? Cooks will.

With tight end Rob Gronkowski suspended for this game, it's mostly on Cooks here to be the primary target for quarterback Tom Brady.

Simple as that. He'll get plenty of volume and needs to be in the lineup against a mediocre Dolphins secondary.

          

Star to Sit: Julio Jones, ATL (vs. NO)

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 26: Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons walks off the field after beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 26, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C.  Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Now, I'm not trying to get on anyone's bad side here, so I'll provide a caveat: if New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore misses this game, I'd play Jones. If he plays, sit him.

There's been a common theme with Jones this season: against tough defenses or cornerbacks, he doesn't produce much.

In Week 12, Jones went absolutely off against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, notching up 253 receiving yards, but in Week 13, he had just two catches against the Minnesota Vikings.

This is a bold move, and I'm weary suggesting this, but this is the time to be objective.

If Lattimore suits up and shadows Jones, you might want to think about sitting him down. 

         

Tight End

Matchup Comparison

Travis Kelce (vs. OAK) vs. Jack Doyle (at BUF): Travis Kelce

Zach Ertz (at LAR) vs. Delanie Walker (at ARI): Zach Ertz

Evan Engram (vs. DAL) vs. Cameron Brate (vs. DET): Evan Engram

Hunter Henry (vs. WAS) vs. Jimmy Graham (at JAC)

Austin Seferian-Jenkins (at DEN) vs. Jason Witten (at NYG)

        

Star to Know: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, NYJ (at DEN)

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 15:  Austin Seferian-Jenkins #88 of the New York Jets celebrates a scoring a touchdown against the New England Patriots during the first quarter of their game at MetLife Stadium on October 15, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jer
Al Bello/Getty Images

At this point in the season, it's easy to identify trends in fantasy football.

One of those trends is the Denver Broncos' inability to cover a tight end. We're now up to Week 14 and they still cannot correct it.

So, we'll take advantage of it as fantasy owners. 

Giving up the second-most fantasy points to tight ends, ASJ should find his way in the end zone. Get him in your lineups.

         

Star to Sit: Kyle Rudolph, MIN (at CAR)

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 03: Kyle Rudolph #82 of the Minnesota Vikings catches a touchdown pass during the second half against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C.  Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

We already discussed sitting Case Keenum in Week 14, so it shouldn't come as a surprise to bench his tight end.

Rudolph has served as a valuable asset for Keenum, but this isn't the week. 

The Panthers give up the fourth-least fantasy points to opposing tight ends and allow only three catches per game to the position.

Nope. Not working out for me. Sit him.

            

Statistics courtesy of Football Outsiders and Pro Football Reference.