The Oakland Raiders‘ offense hurt a lot of good fantasy rosters on Thursday night, managing only 13 points in a loss to the Chiefs on a bitterly cold night in Kansas City, with those who started Derek Carr or any of his receivers ending up especially disappointed.
For some of you, this marked a rough start to the last week of the fantasy regular season. For others, it was a bad way to begin the playoffs.
Listen, sometimes these things are unavoidable — good players are going to have bad games — and to those of you who rode Carr Co. to fantasy success all season only to have this happen in Week 14, chalk it up to bad luck.
That being said, the week isn’t over yet, and there are plenty of roster decisions left to be made. So who are the players to roster this week?
Our weekly ESPN Insider cheat sheet provides a rundown of the greatest hits from all of our Insider fantasy football content. In this file, you’ll find answers to the top questions of the week, along with injury updates, matchup advantages and wild-card plays from Eric Karabell, Tristan H. Cockcroft, Matt Bowen, Scott Kacsmar, Mike Clay and Al Zeidenfeld. It’s all the best tips, distilled into one handy file.
Here’s what our experts are saying about Week 14:
Beckham has eight touchdowns on the season, and all of them have come in the last eight weeks. Al Zeidenfeld writes that nobody should shy away from the Giants’ star receiver just because he’s playing the 11-1 Cowboys.
“Pairing Beckham with Eli Manning gives me a chance at capturing all of the upside from what looks like an underrated matchup for both,” he writes. “The Cowboys do tend to limit opposing volume because of their style of play and dominant time of possession, but they’ve been solid versus the run, and the majority of the yards they do give up are through the air. Beckham has received a ton of volume this season, logging double-digit targets in every game but four, and has the highest percentage of team yards of any wideout in the league. He has a solid floor and possesses two-touchdown upside at home from a quarterback who has been very consistent of late.”
Baldwin’s touchdowns tend to come in bunches, as we saw at the end of last season and in the three-touchdown performance against the New England Patriots a few weeks back. This week’s game against the undermanned Green Bay Packers’ defense has a chance to be another one of those games, provided that Russell Wilson has the necessary time to throw in this difficult road environment. Scott Kacsmar explains:
“A rash of cornerback injuries has led to a tough season for the Green Bay pass defense,” he writes. “The Packers rank 32nd against No. 1 wide receivers, and Baldwin certainly qualifies as one of those, if you have watched him over the years. … [He] should be poised for a big fantasy game in Green Bay. Play him confidently in any format.”
Following a surprisingly quiet week from Brees at home against the Detroit Lions (zero TDs, three INTs), he is one of the top quarterback options in Week 14 against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense that has allowed 22 touchdowns through the air.
“After not throwing a touchdown at home for the first time since 2009, expect Brees to rebound well in Tampa Bay where he has five 300-yard passing games in his career,” writes Kacsmar.
Playing the matchups
Hill has had 15 carries or more in four of the last five games and benefits from a matchup against the winless Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Let’s also not forget that he has touchdowns in four of the last six games.
“Hill has seen a massive uptick in volume since Giovani Bernard went down, but his efficiency has been awful,” writes Zeidenfeld. “This is where a matchup with the Browns can suddenly make everything better. The Browns have allowed the third-most fantasy points to running backs on the year, and in their first matchup in Cincinnati, Hill posted an insane 30.2 DraftKings points. While I’m not expecting that same performance here, Hill brings in a high touchdown equity and expected volume of 20-plus combined touches against one of the most exploitable defenses in fantasy.”
Willie Snead, WR, New Orleans Saints
While Snead hasn’t scored in any of the last three weeks and was limited to two catches on six targets last week against Detroit, Mike Clay still believes in him and points out that Snead has another great matchup this week against Tampa Bay cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.
“Snead was a letdown in a good matchup last week, but he’s a decent candidate to bounce back this week,” writes Clay. “Teammates Michael Thomas and Brandin Cooks will spend most of the day working against Brent Grimes and Alterraun Verner, both of whom have been solid in coverage this season. Snead lines up in the slot on 81 percent of his routes, which is where the struggling Hargreaves has been holding down the fort for suspended Jude Adjei-Barimah. Tampa Bay also experimented with undrafted Javien Elliott in the slot last week, so Snead could benefit from that coverage as well. Thomas and Cooks don’t necessarily need to be downgraded, but Snead should be upgraded in this matchup.”
The Philadelphia Eagles’ defense has surrendered 19 passing touchdowns, which is tied with New Orleans for 14th in the NFL. As decent as that may sound, Clay believes the Eagles will have their hands full with the Redskins’ passing attack on Sunday.
“… The Eagles’ cornerbacks are a major weak spot, so the Redskins should have no trouble getting the ball to their wide receivers on Sunday,” he writes. “McKelvin missed the Week 6 meeting between these two teams, but he’s struggled to the point that his return shouldn’t help the cause much. In that first game, Redskins pass-catchers accounted for 14 receptions, 197 yards and two touchdowns on 25 targets while split out at wide receiver. Malcolm Jenkins took over as the team’s clear and primary slot corner after the first meeting, which means Jamison Crowder‘s matchup will be a little bit tougher than last time, although he did beat Jenkins for a touchdown. Still, Jackson and Gar?on had the better matchups against struggling McKelvin and Carroll on the perimeter. This is a wide receiver unit worth investing in this weekend.”
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
The Dallas Cowboys may have rattled off 11 wins in a row, but their one and only loss of the season came to the Giants in a game where Manning tossed three touchdowns. Now, the two teams face off again, and Tristan H. Cockcroft expects Manning to have similar success the second time around.
“Eli or Joe Flacco, Joe Flacco or Eli. One could go in either direction when selecting a lower-tier quarterback matchups play, but it’s Manning who gets the blurb nod, primarily because he’s the one more likely to impact a greater volume of fantasy matchups, evidenced by his 75.5 ownership percentage in ESPN leagues compared with Flacco’s 24.7 percent,” explains Cockcroft. “Flacco does have the greater amount of fantasy points both for the season (179-178) and the past five weeks (90-86), but Manning has also done that despite what has been widely regarded a disappointing season by his No. 1 receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., a superior talent to anyone Flacco has at his disposal.
“This is quite the matchup, in terms of both volume and quality, and while the healthy return of Barry Church in Week 13 did help the Dallas Cowboys, Morris Claiborne‘s absence (avulsion fracture) still tilts things toward both Manning and Beckham. Two of the past four quarterbacks who have faced the Cowboys, Ben Roethlisberger (28 fantasy points, Week 10) and Kirk Cousins (29, Week 12), lit up this defense, and Sam Bradford (14, Week 13) actually exceeded his seasonal average (12.7) last week in what was an almost entirely dink-and-dunk performance.”
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins
Many expect to see Washington air it out this week against the Eagles, but will the Redskins have the services of their star tight end, Jordan Reed, who is dealing with a shoulder injury? Reed is officially listed as questionable, but John Keim of ESPN’s NFL Nation reports that the tight end “remains confident that he’ll be able to play at Philadelphia on Sunday.” Ultimately, it will be up to the medical staff to determine Reed’s availability, but this is an encouraging sign that he could be back on the field for the first time since Thanksgiving.
Smith (ankle) is among the Vikings who have been ruled out for Sunday’s game against Jacksonville, which hurts Minnesota’s defense and provides a boost to Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson and the rest of the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ passing attack. Smith is a big loss in IDP leagues, and his absence downgrades the Vikings’ D/ST in leagues that use team defenses.
Dalton has fallen off the fantasy radar this season, but a game against the Cleveland Browns has a way of changing that.
“Dalton somewhat unexpectedly passed for 332 yards and two touchdowns against the Eagles last week in arguably his best game of 2016,” writes Kacsmar. “Even though A.J. Green is still out, Dalton has a great matchup with the winless Browns’ 31st-ranked pass defense. Dalton also had a game with more than 300 yards and multiple touchdowns against the Browns in Week 7. Stack him with Tyler Eifert here, or try a value stack with Tyler Boyd in your most diverse tournament lineup this week.”
Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys
Witten may only have two touchdowns on the season, but he’s a sneaky good option on Sunday, according to Cockcroft.
“After he was held without a catch for the first time since Week 9 of 2008 or a target for the first time since Week 15 of 2003 last week, Witten might be a difficult sell for his fantasy owners,” he writes. “Still, that was a considerably tougher matchup against the Vikings’ defense than this one against the New York Giants, who have afforded more fantasy points to tight ends the past five weeks than any other team (59). Ladarius Green‘s 17-point explosion in Week 13 illustrates the position’s potential facing this defense, so long as the targets are there. Considering Witten has been targeted at least six times in each of his past four games against the Giants, and 38 times total during that span, it’s worth taking the chance.”
The former first-round pick in 2015 missed all of last season and took some time to get going this season, but he’s been a factor in the Ravens’ improving offense over the last month. Eric Karabell explains:
“Perriman was quiet for a few months, but he’s scored touchdowns in three of four games, albeit with low target totals. Not saying I’d use him this week, but if he gets eight targets, I would think about it moving ahead.”
Big question of the week
Can Malcolm Mitchell keep it going for the Patriots in a tough matchup against the Ravens? Matt Bowen points out that the New England rookie receiver has caught 17 of 22 targets with three touchdowns in the last three weeks, taking advantage of the Patriots’ transition to more three-receiver sets in the wake of Rob Gronkowski‘s season-ending back injury.
“Given that Mitchell was owned in only 19.8 percent of leagues as of Tuesday, he is a must-add for owners in need of a boost in production,” writes Mitchell. “With two solid matchups over the next three weeks, his fit in the Patriots’ offense and the recent run on production, Mitchell should find his way into lineups as a WR3/Flex option in PPR leagues.”
Al Zeidenfeld is a promoter user at DraftKings (Username: Al_Smizzle) and plays on his personal account in games he offers advice on. These views/strategies are his own and do not reflect the views of DraftKings. He may also deploy different players/strategies than what he advises.