It’s Week 14, which means the start of the fantasy playoffs for many leagues. With games even more important now, the difference between keeping your championship hopes alive or going home could be who you decide to start or not start.
Before I break down this week’s quarterback and defense/special teams (DST) suggestions, let’s see how well I did with my Week 13 pearls of wisdom.
Start Ryan Fitzpatrick (25.8 fantasy points) – Back-to-back weeks with 25-plus fantasy points.
Start Marcus Mariota (36.92 FP) – Mariota finally used his legs and it paid off big time.
Sit Philip Rivers (7.08 FP) – Playing against the Broncos with no offensive weapons meant Rivers couldn’t anything.
Sit Matt Ryan (14.16 FP) – Ryan’s poor play is a big reason why the Falcons are in a nosedive.
Start Jay Cutler (8.08 FP) – In what should have been a great game, Cutler struggled, throwing for 202 yards and 0 TDs against
Sit Russell Wilson (34.06 FP) – Is there a hotter QB out there than Wilson right now?
START THESE QBS...
Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ (vs. TEN)
Fitzpatrick has accounted for less than two touchdowns in a game he finished only once this year - when the Jets blew out the Dolphins in London and Chris Ivory ran for 166 yards. Overtime helped inflate Fitzpatrick’s numbers in Week 13, but I’ll take 390 yards and two TDs any week. This week Fitzpatrick and the Jets play host to the Tennessee Titans, who just let Blake Bortles throw five TDs. The Titans’ defense is crumbling, now giving up the 11th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and you can bet that Fitzpatrick is going to air the ball out to Brandon Marshall all game and finish once again with 300 yards and at least two scores.
Russell Wilson, SEA (at BAL)
The Seahawks are playing on the east coast for their second game in a row and usually that means that Wilson struggles. That wasn’t the case last week in Minnesota, as he put up 34.06 fantasy points, his second 30-plus outing in a row. Right now there is no hotter fantasy quarterback heading into Week 14, as Russell is rounding into form at the perfect time for his owners. This week the Seahawks travel to Baltimore in what should be an excellent matchup for Wilson. The Ravens have given up the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks on the year and you can bet that Wilson will once again score well over 20 fantasy points. He probably won’t score 30 again because the Ravens probably won’t be able to make it much of a game.
Tyrod Taylor, BUF (at PHI)
The Taylor that everyone scrambled to get off the waiver wire at the beginning of the season is back. He’s scored 26.24 and 29.24 fantasy points in his last two games against pretty good defenses in the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Texans. Plus, Taylor and Sammy Watkins seem to finally be on the same page, so it should come as no surprise that both are putting up great fantasy numbers. What makes Taylor even more enticing is that he is starting to run more, evident by his 28 rushing yards and a TD last week. This week the Bills look to keep their playoff hopes alive as they visit the City of Brotherly Love. We all know by now that the Eagles have a poor defense. They are giving up the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season and Taylor should have no problem hooking up with Watkins all game and should once again get a rushing touchdown as well.
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Brian Hoyer, HOU (vs. NE)
For the first time in a while, the Texans’ defense wasn’t able to control an opposing offense (in this case the Buffalo Bills),
which led to Hoyer having to throw the ball 40-plus times to keep the Texans in the game. That was great for Hoyer owners, as he ended the day with 24.22 fantasy points. The same script should play itself out this week as the Texans host a motivated Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, which are coming off back-to-back loses for what seems like the first time since fire was created. You can bet that the Patriots are going to look to rebound in huge way which means Hoyer will throwing early and often once again to keep pace.
SIT THESE QBs...
Matt Ryan, ATL (at CAR)
There should be a permanent seat in the “sit” section for Ryan as he has been absolutely terrible this season. What’s worse is that this has especially been the case in the red zone, where most fantasy points are scored. Ryan has been and should have been a top-5 fantasy quarterback this season. It’s really hard not be when you get to throw the ball to Julio Jones all game. Hopefully if you’re a Ryan owner you started looking for help several weeks ago when the first cracks started to appear. It’s fantasy playoff time and Ryan will do you no good as he is playing at Carolina this week (and also against them in Week 16). The Panthers are currently allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and will easily shut down Ryan this week.
Derek Carr, OAK (at DEN)
Carr is good, there is no doubting that, but we all need to slow down about appointing him the next great quarterback of the future. He looked awful last week against the Chiefs, throwing three very costly interceptions and it should have been four. All you really need to know about Carr this week is that he is playing the Broncos in Denver. The Broncos are coming off a game where they completely suffocated Philip Rivers and the entire Chargers offense, holding them to only three measly points. Carr’s favorite weapons (Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree) are going to see blanket coverage from the Broncos’ cover corners Aqib Talib and Chris Harris, so Carr isn’t really going to have anyone or anywhere to throw the ball. Leave Carr on your bench this week.
Marcus Mariota, TEN (at NYJ)
Mariota has been on fire lately, scoring 21.42 fantasy points two weeks ago and then he went off for 36.92 last week against the Jaguars, a performance that was really helped by rushing for a career-high 112 yards and a touchdown. That won’t happen this week as the Titans travel to New York to take on a Jets team that is very much in the playoff hunt and knows that this is a must-win game for them. Darrelle Revis (concussion) will also likely be back, which will probably eliminate Dorial Green-Beckham from the game (unless Revis covers Kendall Wright, but why bother?). The Jets are allowing the 10th-fewest fantast points to opposing quarterbacks on the season and the last time Mariota faced a good defense was back in Week 10 against the Panthers, when he scored just 8.8 fantasy points.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Philip Rivers, SD (at KC)
If you listen to all the fantasy experts out there you will know that they love the matchups that Rivers has for the fantasy playoffs. That was back in the middle of the season before the Kansas City Chiefs turned one of the worst defenses in the league into one of the best. Even though Rivers has been a very good fantasy quarterback this season and usually rebounds big time from clunkers (like he had last week when he scored 7.08 fantasy points against the Broncos), he just doesn’t have any receiving threats left. Antonio Gates is playing valiantly through a knee injury and the only legitimate target Rivers had left, Stevie Johnson, went down with a groin injury last week. Stay away from Rivers this week if you can.
Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)
START THESE DSTs...
Kansas City Chiefs (vs. SD)
Over the last four weeks, the Chiefs DST has scored a combined 61 fantasy points… or 12 more than the next-best unit in that time. There's no reason to think this defense won't continue to shine against the Chargers, who have been generous to fantasy DSTs. Consider Kansas City a must-start DST this week.
Detroit Lions (vs. STL)
The Lions DST hasn't been a great fantasy option this season, but owners who like to stream should give it a serious look based on a terrific matchup in St. Louis. Detroit should roar against a struggling Rams offense that lacks a stable quarterback and fields very few weapons aside from running back Todd Gurley.
SIT THESE DSTs...
Houston Texans (vs. NE)
The Texans DST has looked much better in recent weeks, ranking 10th in fantasy points at the position in their last four games. However, an upcoming matchup against Tom Brady and the Patriots is enough reason to keep Houston on the bench this week. Opposing defenses have averaged the fifth-fewest points against them.
Miami Dolphins (vs. NYG, Mon.)
You could be tempted to start the Dolphins DST after last week's 17-point performance against Matt Schaub and the Ravens, but facing the Giants isn't what you would call a favorable matchup. In fact, opposing DSTs that have faced Eli Manning and the G-Men have averaged a mere 5.25 fantasy points per contest.
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.