With most fantasy football playoffs beginning this week I have decided to put a spin on my normal column. Throughout the week I have gathered lineup questions from all of you and have picked the most intriguing ones. I will give lineup recommendations for teams that want to play it safe as well as teams that have tough matchups and may need to take some lineup risks.
Here goes nothing! And remember, if you lose it’s your fault and if you win you can give me all of the credit.
QB (start 1):
Ryan Tannenhill: He has a very good matchup this week against the Ravens, who, over their last 4 games have surrendered a total of 13 passing touchdowns. Tannenhill has been inconsistent this year but the opportunity will be there against the Ravens this week.
Andy Dalton: We all know there is good Andy and bad Andy, but I think it’s the former in week 14. Over the last 5 games, Pittsburgh has been torched by the opposing quarterback: Brees 257 yards and 5 touchdowns, Mettenberg 263 yards and 2 touchdowns, Vick 132 yards and 2 touchdowns, Flacco 303 yards and 2 touchdowns, Luck 400 yards and 3 touchdowns, Fitzpatrick 262 yards and 2 touchdowns. Obviously Dalton is not as good as Brees, Flacco or Luck, but you have to believe he could put up similar if not better numbers than the other 3.
Colin Kaepernick: Kaep hasn’t thrown multiple touchdowns or eclipsed 30 rushing yards in a game since week 6. He does have a decent matchup against Oakland on Sunday, but surprisingly, the Raiders have allowed only 10 passing touchdowns over their last 5 games. Oh, and 5 of those were thrown by Peyton Manning in 1 game.
Recommendation: Ryan Tannenhill is definitely the safest play this week at home against the Ngata-less Ravens. If you need a lot of points, Dalton has the biggest upside due to the suspect Steeler secondary.
QB (start 1):
Tony Romo: The Bears have allowed passers to throw for over 300 yards 6 times and 4 or more touchdowns 3 times. In 6 games against above average quarterbacks they have surrendered 20 touchdowns. Romo and the Cowboys could find themselves in a shootout with both defenses struggling.
Tom Brady: Since week 4 against the Chiefs, Brady has been on fire. During that span, he has thrown for at least 2 touchdowns in every game. Brady will put up solid numbers no matter who’s on the schedule.
Recommendation: Brady is the smart play here. He has been nothing short of terrific over the last 8 games and the Patriots are playing like a Super Bowl contender. Romo does have a great matchup, so if you are not satisfied with Brady’s 18-23 fantasy points and need 30 or more, Romo definitely has the potential to have a monster game in Chicago.
(RB start 2):
LeSean McCoy: McCoy has been running great of late, racking up 289 yards and 2 scores over his last 2 games. McCoy continues to act as the workhorse for the Eagles, reaching 20 carries in all but 3 games. Week 14 should be a tough test for Philly, as they have a meeting with an improving Seattle defense. Outside of their tilt with Kansas City, Seattle has allowed only 1 100-yard rusher all season.
Tre Mason: Since becoming the lead back, he is averaging over 18 carries per game. The big play potential that we saw out of Mason in college finally came to light against Oakland last week. The Rams are a running team and will continue to hand Mason the ball even against the Redskins’ 6th ranked run defense.
Isaiah Crowell: I absolutely loved Crowell this week before the injury and news that Brian Hoyer would once again lead the Cleveland offense. With Terrance West having a case of the fumbles, Crowell has taken over the Browns’ backfield. This week could not be any better for Crowell against the Colts and their 28th ranked run defense. If healthy I love Crowell this week, but the hip injury seems to be significant as the Browns just signed Shaun Draughn.
Ryan Mathews: The Patriots have been inconsistent in stopping the run this year, just like the Chargers have been inconsistent running the ball. New England hasn’t allowed more than 1 touchdown to an opposing back all season and have held opposing backfields out of the end zone in 7 games. Since his return to the Chargers’ backfield, Mathews has games where he rushed for 70, 105, and 40 yards. I think you would be happy if Mathews racked up a double-digit fantasy performance, but expecting a big performance is a stretch.
Recommendation: LeSean McCoy and Tre Mason are by far the safest plays this week. They are their team’s workhorses and will get the opportunities to make plays even in difficult circumstances. Prior to his injury, I would have started Crowell probably over McCoy, but I can’t start Crowell with confidence at this point in time.
WR (start 3):
Josh Gordon: Since returning from injury, Gordon has 15 receptions for 195 yards in 2 games. He is easily the Browns’ number 1 receiving threat and hasn’t missed a beat after being suspended most of the season. He has a very tough matchup this week against the Colts who have allowed only 5 touchdowns to opposing receivers if you take away their game vs the Steelers.
Emanuel Sanders: Among receivers this year, Sanders ranks 4th in yards, 5th in targets, and 3rd in receptions. He has become a must-start every week even in a tough matchup with the Bills. As long as number 18 is throwing the ball, Sanders should continue to put up big numbers.
Odell Beckham Jr.: The Giants head to Tennessee to take on the Titans who allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for 6 (Editor’s note: WTF!) touchdowns last week. In the week 13 matchup, Fitzpatrick’s number 1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins had a career game, racking up 238 yards and 2 scores. Over his last 5 games, ODB is averaging 119 yards and 7 catches a game. Expect those numbers to grow in this ideal match up.
Jordy Nelson: He is a must-start every week, especially against the Falcons. Atlanta is giving up 202 yards per game to receivers and have allowed at least 1 touchdown in 9 of 12 games.
Kelvin Benjamin: Benjamin has been a bit inconsistent this year, tallying 2 games with only 1 fantasy point and 7 games with a double-digits. Unfortunately, the Panthers face the Saints this week. New Orleans was 1 of the teams that held Benjamin to 1 fantasy point. However, the Saints defense has been suspect since their first meeting with the Panthers, allowing at least 1 touchdown and 163 yards to opposing receivers per game.
Recommendation: This seems like a no-brainer to me. You have to start Nelson and Sanders and ODB is playing too well to sit him. Gordon is tempting and has big play opportunity, but so do the other 3 in much better matchups with much better quarterbacks.
Flex (start 1):
Martellius Bennett: Bennett is the 5th ranked tight end in fantasy this season, but he’s only broken 100 yards once and hasn’t scored since week 5. He does have a great matchup against the declining Cowboys defense that has allowed tight ends to score 8 times, however. Bennett is a great play at tight end this week, but may be a bit risky out of the flex spot.
Mohammed Sanu: Sanu’s potential completely relies on Dalton’s performance. Like I mentioned with Dalton, the Bengals offense has a great matchup against the Steelers. Sanu’s numbers have been on the decline since AJ Green’s return, but I think he is an upside flex play against a team that allowed 3 different Saint receivers to score last week.
Denard Robinson: Robinson is a guy I bought high on a few weeks ago, but he has largely disappointed. Robinson has totaled only 69 yards on the ground the past 2 weeks in nice matchups. Robinson is still the number-1 back in Jacksonville and will get a solid amount of touches, but his upside is limited in this offense.
Recommendation: Tough call here, but I will always lean towards a running back for a safe play. You know Robinson will get touches where as Sanu and Bennett rely on their quarterback getting them the ball. If you are looking for an upside play, Sanu is a great option.
Flex (start 1):
Jonathon Stewart: If DeAngelo Williams does not play (it looks he won’t), Stewart will be the lead back for the Panthers in New Orleans. The Saints are surrendering the 3rd most yards per rush this season. Last week, Stewart had 12 totes for 85 yards against an above average Vikings defense. He should be a solid play with limited upside, much like Ryan Mathews.
Daniel Herron: Herron has split carries with Trent Richardson the last 2 weeks. Chuck Pagano came out Wednesday saying he is not ready to give the bulk of the carries to Herron. ‘Boom’ did have 88 yards on 8 carries last week, but 49 of those yards came on 1 play. Herron has been the better back, no doubt, but it looks as though the 2 fumbles he coughed up over the last couple of weeks are limiting his upside.
DeSean Jackson: With Colt McCoy at quarterback this season, Jackson has 11 receptions for 220 yards and a touchdown in 2 games. Jackson has been the definition of a boom or bust player this year producing 6 single-digit fantasy performances and 5 games where he broke 100-yards receiving. The Rams have given up 13 touchdowns to opposing receivers this year so if healthy Jackson could be in line for a big day.
Recommendation: Jonathon Stewart should get you anywhere from 6-12 fantasy points. So if you are playing it safe I would go with Stewart, but Jackson has shown he has some chemistry with McCoy and can break a big play at anytime. Jackson would be the guy I start this week as his floor isn’t that much lower than Stewart’s and his ceiling is much higher.
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/aQJ6R6
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Payton is the newest fantasy football contributor to The Sports Script. Be on the lookout for more of his work in the coming weeks and follow him on Twitter @PaySand!