I’m incapable of putting the past behind me in fantasy. Heading into my league’s playoffs, I am the third seed (and thus no bye), which makes me remember Week 3. I had to choose between Charles Clay and Eric Ebron at tight end. My wife said Clay. I went Ebron. I lost by 7, and would have won with Clay. Win that game, I’m the one-seed, on a bye, and relaxed this week. I want to be relaxed.
And then there’s my advice. I advised not to use A.J. Green in fantasy in Week 13, because the Steelers have a strong pass defense and the Bengals have a low snap pace. Obviously that backfired horribly, which happens. I know it does. But I made the mistake of telling my wife about the backfire. She’s been sitting next to me while I write this (maternity leave and all), and just mocking me over and over about the Green advice. I love her dearly, but she’s a meanie (he said with all the love and tongue firmly in cheek).
(And in my defense, I said to use Alex Collins. Win some, lose some.)
Anyway, we’re on to Week 14, and our Week 14 fantasy advice. Below is a look at some of the best and worst fantasy situations of the week, based on matchups and our exclusive PFF statistics and information. Good luck in your fantasy playoffs.
Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers: It’s easy to get sucked into the fantasy box scores, especially when, you know, that’s what we do here. And from the fantasy box score, Garoppolo was something of a disappointment in his debut as a starter, tying Blaine Gabbert as the No. 25 fantasy quarterback of Week 13. But look deeper, and you’ll see a quarterback with an 86.7 PFF game grade, against a Bears team that hasn’t allowed a quarterback to top 300 passing yards since Week 1. This week, Garoppolo gets to face a Texans defense that has allowed 13 passing touchdowns in six games since its Week 7 bye, and has allowed three-plus passing scores in a game five times this year. Expect Garoppolo’s fantasy numbers to rise to meet his grading in Week 14.
Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts: Since joining the Colts in 2015, Gore has finished a week as a top-10 fantasy running back just seven times (only once since Week 9 of 2016), while he’s been top-20 22 times in 44 games, top-30 33 times. That’s who he is; he’s not going to have a 180-yard, two-score game. He’s not going to win you a DFS GPP. But he’s a high-floor option — especially in the right matchup, which Week 14 should be for him, as the Colts travel to Buffalo to face a Bills defense that has allowed 11 rushing touchdowns to running backs in the past five weeks, only stopping the inexplicably imploding Chiefs rushing attack. You can’t expect Gore to finish Week 14 as the overall No. 1 RB, but if you need a low-end RB1, he’s got as good a shot as anyone.
Peyton Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Because he didn’t find the end zone in Week 13, Barber’s game might get overlooked. But as the quasi-surprise replacement for Doug Martin (most expected Jacquizz Rodgers to be the workhorse), Barber got 23 carries for 102 rushing yards, and added four receptions for 41 more, leading the team in both rushing and receiving yardage. He topped 3.0 yards after contact per rush. Even if Martin returns for Week 14 (which doesn’t seem likely), Barber should keep the job, and gets to face a Lions offense that has been miserable against the run lately, allowing 10 rushing touchdowns to running backs in the last seven games, and allowing a nice three-week run of me picking backs against them in this space and looking smart.
Mike Wallace, Baltimore Ravens: The Ravens took their time diving in on Wallace this season; he had five or fewer targets in six of the team’s first seven games. But he’s averaged 7.5 targets over the past four games, including 11 and 8 in the last two. He’s scored a touchdown in two of the three games he’s played against his former Steelers team, who we saw struggle against A.J. Green Monday without Ryan Shazier — even if he’s not a defender in the secondary, he’s the captain of that defense. Assuming Shazier misses Week 14 (and unfortunately that seems a safe assumption), Wallace could produce again.
Sterling Shepard, New York Giants: Teams that have allowed more fantasy points to wide receivers than Dallas: Tampa Bay and Kansas City. Teams that have allowed more touchdowns to receivers than Dallas the last three weeks: /null. Eli Manning is back at the helm for the Giants this week, and while he’s still the quarterback who got benched a week ago, he’s also still the quarterback who is better than Geno Smith. With Shepard back healthy, he’s easily the top wide receiver on a struggling Giants team, and he shouldn’t have a tough road against Dallas.
Stephen Anderson, Houston Texans: Yet another concussion for C.J. Fiedorowicz sent him back to injured reserve this week. And with Ryan Griffin already on IR, that leaves Anderson to fill the position for the Texans against the 49ers, and he saw 12 targets in Week 13. San Francisco allowed 107 yards and no scores to opposing tight ends total through Week 5. Since then, in seven games, the 49ers have given up six scores and more than 15 fantasy points a game, which would be bottom-six in the league over a full year. And yes, for those following along at home, that difference correlates exactly with when the 49ers let NaVorro Bowman leave.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: Newton is the No. 6 fantasy QB the past five weeks. He ranks that high despite ranking only 29th in passing yards over that stretch, and 30th in completions. Yes, Newton is once again relying almost entirely on his rushing prowess for his fantasy success. For the year, he’s the leading rusher among QBs by 83 yards, and in a five-way tie for the lead in quarterback rushing scores. He’s PFF’s 27th-graded quarterback, 32nd in passing grade out of 38 qualifying passers. He needs his rushing skill to produce for fantasy. Well, this week, he and the Panthers face a Vikings defense that is PFF’s No. 9 team in run-defense grading, and has only allowed two quarterbacks (DeShone Kizer and Kirk Cousins) to score on the ground all year.
Todd Gurley, Los Angeles Rams: The Eagles haven’t allowed a running back to score a rushing touchdown since Week 4, and have only given up three all year. The team has allowed an average of 41 rushing yards a game to the position since Week 4. Two of Gurley’s three lowest-yardage games of the year have come in two of the Rams’ three losses. The Eagles haven’t allowed a team to top 24 points since Week 2 against Kansas City (and only once all year), and Gurley’s fantasy production tracks pretty strongly to the Rams’ point totals. Don’t expect a shootout here.
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints: We’ve been targeting pass-catching running backs against the Falcons all year long. Well, you won’t find a much better pass-catching back group than the Saints’ Mark Ingram and (especially) Alvin Kamara. The Saints have reworked themselves into a running back-first attack this year, relegating Thomas to WR2 status instead of the WR1 he was a year ago. Meanwhile, while the Falcons do struggle against receiving backs, they’ve only allowed one touchdown to an opposing wide receiver since Week 8, and give up the sixth-fewest fantasy points to the position across the league. You’re still using Thomas in season-long, but he’s a DFS fade this week.
Julius Thomas, Miami Dolphins: For the season, Thomas is the No. 19 tight end. But over the past five weeks, he’s tied for sixth, and only Jimmy Graham has more than Thomas’ three scores. But before buying all the way in on the Thomas rejuvenation, look at what his Week 14 opponent, New England, has done against the position of late. Since Week 6, the Patriots have played six games, and have allowed 170 yards total to tight ends, with no scores.