Welcome to the fantasy football playoffs (for most leagues). Week 14 is the start of what we've all been playing for all season. With that said, fantasy owners need to win. No longer is there another week, another game. Win now, and you move on. Lose now and you're done.
These are guys that we like or dislike more than usual based on their matchups or previous performances. This is not a start/sit column, rather a guide to use to look a little closer at players you may have just been starting without looking in depth at the matchups.
Blake Bortles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Indianapolis Colts
While it still sounds strange to say start Bortles in your fantasy playoffs, he has been a solid fantasy quarterback this season. He's thrown for at least one touchdown in every game so far this season. He has five games with more than 300 yards and only 13 interceptions on the season. He is the sixth-ranked quarterback for Week 14. He'll get Allen Hurns back this week and he faces a Colts pass defense that has allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Shake off the fact that it's Jacksonville and start Bortles in your fantasy playoffs.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills at Philadelphia Eagles
Running back on a team that really wants to run the ball? Check. Facing a team that has given up a touchdown to a running back in each of the past four games? Check. Oh, and facing his former team? Check, check, check. McCoy is the fourth-ranked running back for Week 14, but he may end up finishing at the top. He has three 100-yard rushing games in his past five. He has at least 100 yards from scrimmage in the past six games he's played in. McCoy clearly is a top running back, and this is setting up to be the week he just runs wild.
Shaun Draughn, RB, San Francisco 49ers at Cleveland Browns
Imagine, if, in Week 1, someone told you that Draughn would be the 10th-ranked running back in Week 14? Yikes. Well, the Cleveland Browns give up the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs and Draughn is the clear-cut running back for the 49ers. He's had double-digit carries in the past four weeks and at least four receptions in each game. He's had at least 77 total yards in each of those four games and he did find the end zone in Week 13. He's a RB1 this week because of the volume of carries he'll receive.
A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The last time Green faced the Steelers (Week 8), he had 11 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown. The Steelers' defense has gotten worse since then, allowing a wide receiver to put up 100-plus yards in three of the previous four games (following the first meeting with the Bengals). Green is the sixth-ranked wide receiver for Week 14. Look for Andy Dalton to have a good game and plenty of targets heading Green's way.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. New Orleans Saints
Finally back from his shoulder injury, Seferian-Jenkins is a semi-sneaky fantasy option for Week 14. He did return in Week 13, and had three catches for 31 yards on six targets. However, the Buccaneers play the Saints this week, and New Orleans is known for giving up touchdowns. ASJ played on just over a quarter of the total snaps in Week 13 as the Bucs were likely easing him back into game action. It appears he didn't have any setbacks, and he is a solid TE1 for Week 14, as the eighth-ranked tight end.
Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
When looking at playoff schedules a few weeks ago, it appeared that Rivers had a great slate ahead of him. The Kansas City defense shouldn't scare anyone, as the Chiefs just let Tyrod Taylor throw for 291 yards and three touchdowns in Week 12 and Derek Carr to throw for 283 yards and two touchdowns. However, when Rivers played Kansas City in Week 11, he threw for 178 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. He's lost Keenan Allen, while Stevie Johnson and Dontrelle Inman are questionable with injuries heading into this week. While Rivers has had seasons in the past where he's thrown to armchairs, he's merely a low-end QB2 for Week 14.
Todd Gurley, RB, St. Louis Rams vs. Detroit Lions
From first to 12th. Gurley had been the top-ranked running back six weeks ago. Now he has two weeks where he doesn't even have double-digit carries. The St. Louis Rams' offense is a mess isn't using Gurley for some reason. Until the Rams do (and time is quickly running out), Gurley is no longer a must-start RB1. He is the 12th-ranked running back, so he has RB2 value. Detroit's defense has stepped up in the past four weeks, and this is going to be a tough matchup for Gurley.
Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers
Throughout the fantasy community, many owners looked at the Weeks 14 and 16 matchups with the Panthers and were worried about Jones. And with good reason. Carolina has what may be the defensive player of the year in Josh Norman. He is a true shutdown corner and he will be on Jones this week. Norman was on Brandin Cooks last week, and Cooks did score in Week 13, but a lot of his yards came in the slot and Norman doesn't defend the slot as well. Jones typically doesn’t line up in the slot, which means he'll see a lot of Norman. Now, Jones is an elite wide receiver and it is hard to bench him. He has six touchdowns in the past five games, but is a low WR1 this week.
Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers
Here are Bryant's targets over the past four games: 12, 9, 8, 7. He's had one red zone target in three out of the past four games as well. The entire Cowboys offense is struggling with Matt Cassel at quarterback, but Bryant especially has taken a giant fall from fantasy grace. Cassel has had a hard time getting the ball out and finding Bryant. It isn't clear if Bryant is still feeling the lingering effects of his foot injury, but it doesn't seem to matter. He is the 21st-ranked receiver for Week 14, but that's because of the potential he does bring. He's a WR3 this week.
Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers
Typically when a backup quarterback takes over, the tight end's value goes up. Witten has always been Tony Romo's safety net, but without Romo in the game, he's barely worth starting as a TE2. He's seen one red zone target in the past six games and hasn't found the end zone since Week 1. He hasn't had more than 50 yards in the past six games either. Most tight ends are touchdown-dependent, but when Witten isn't even getting red-zone looks, it is hard to trust him in fantasy.
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.