There is no better time than now for those bench players you've held on to, or picked up off the waiver wire, to pay off with fantasy points. On the other hand, given their track record with disappointing fantasy owners, many people might have watched their bench players outscore their starters. It's the age-old dilemma of trying to predict the future based on the past!
Like any previous week this season in the NFL, Week 14 saw several fantasy starters went down with injuries. The biggest injury was to Bengals QB Andy Dalton, who fractured the thumb on his throwing hand. Head Coach Marvin Lewis is calling Dalton week-to-week, but there is a good chance he doesn't return again in the regular season.
- A.J. McCarron is an interesting waiver wire addition this week with the Bengals facing the 49ers in Week 15.
Running backs were again hit hard in Week 14 with Thomas Rawls breaking his ankle (out for season) and T.J. Yeldon (62 yards rushing, 1 receiving TD) spraining his knee. The Jaguars didn't update Yeldon's status on Monday, but Denard Robinson racked up 75 yards rushing, 12 yards receiving, and scored a touchdown after Yeldon went down. Those numbers put him in the RB1 category for most formats!
If Yeldon can't go in Week 15, Robinson will step in against a Falcons defense that has given up the 2nd-most rushing touchdowns this season. The Seahawks are likely going to turn to DuJuan Harris at RB, but Bryce Brown will compete for touches as well.
For those in IDP leagues, did you know that Panthers CB Josh Norman has now held DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, T.Y. Hilton, Dez Bryant, and Julio Jones to 150 yards and 0 touchdowns combined this season?
Russell Wilson – Seahawks: Wilson has turned on the afterburners in the second half of the season, and this week he may have just hit Mach 1 against the Ravens. The Seahawks QB threw for 292 yards, 5 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. For those keeping track, this now brings his total over the last four games to 1,171 passing yards, 16 TDs and 0 INTs. With the running game is disarray, look for the Seahawks to lean on Wilson even more against the Browns in Week 15.
Blake Bortles – Jaguars: The Jaguars absolutely crushed the Colts by a score of 51-16 on Sunday, with massive efforts from both sides of the ball! Not only did Bortles account for 250 yards and 3 TDs in the air, but he managed to pick up 17 yards and a TD on the ground as well. The great news is Bortles is spreading the wealth around, finding Allen Robinson (4 yards receiving, 1 TD), Allen Hurns (105 yards, 1 TD), and Julius Thomas (54 yards, 1 TD) for endzone visits. Bortles, Robinson, Hurns and Thomas all remain high-end fantasy options next week against the Falcons leaky defense.
Eli Manning – Giants: Manning is one of those fantasy quarterbacks you just love to hate. He is either killing you with 213 passing yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs like he did in Week 9 against the Bucs, or he is going off for 337 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INTs like he did this week against the Dolphins. He did lose a fumble, but that didn't hurt his fantasy numbers much. Even with him being a high-end QB1 this week, his owners need to remember that the Giants take on the undefeated Panthers in Week 15, making Manning a desperation fantasy play at best.
Isaiah Crowell – Browns: Crowell was this week's fantasy surprise, racking up 145 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns against the 49ers' porous run defense. Crowell had averaged just 3.2 YPC entering the game, so fantasy owners need to be careful before running to the waiver wire and picking him up for Week 15. Even if you lost Rawls or Yeldon this week, the Browns hit the road to face a tough Seahawks defense next week, putting Crowell well off the fantasy RB map in my book.
Tim Hightower – Saints: Hightower took over as the Saints' lead back after Mark Ingram went down for the season with a torn rotator cuff, and he was on point for those who grabbed him and stuck him right into their lineup. He ended up getting 28 carries, which he turned into 85 yards and a touchdown against the Bucs. The carries are encouraging, but the effectiveness of those carries are worrisome. I'm not sure the Saints will continue to stick with a RB that averages 3.0 YPC, even if their season is well over. He'll be more of a lower-end RB2 next week against the Lions.
Doug Baldwin – Seahawks: Baldwin is clearly Wilson's go-to guy at WR, and he piled up 6 receptions, 82 yards, and 3 TDs this week against the Ravens secondary. With the Seahawks running game in shambles, Baldwin's spike in production is no accident. Did you know he now has 321 receiving yards and 8 TDs over the past three games? Baldwin is a must-own and must-start player in all formats going forward!
Ted Ginn Jr. – Panthers: Ginn had himself a nice day, statistically speaking, going off for 120 yards and 2 TDs against the Falcons. I say he had a nice day statistically because he only saw 3 targets on the day, catching 2 of them for gains of 74 and 46 yards respectively. Ginn is a true dart-throw for fantasy purposes, so you can't play him as anything more than a WR3 next week against a middle-of-the-road Giants secondary.
Zach Miller – Bears: Miller is now the Bears' starting TE with Martellus Bennett out for the season, and he showed his upside nicely by hauling in 5 of 6 targets for 85 yards and a touchdown against the Redskins. Miller isn't someone you can plug-and-play to finish out the season, but he is a solid play next week against a Vikings defense that gives up 7.3 PPG to TEs this season.
Jacksonville Jaguars defense: Can anyone name the one fantasy writer in the world who told people the Jaguars defense was the Week 14 sleeper defense? Don't worry, I'll wait. Give up? It was me! Yes, the Jaguars defense finished Week 14 as the #1 fantasy defense thanks to their 10 points allowed, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 1 recovered fumble, 1 defensive touchdown, and a punt returned for a touchdown. Andre Branch returned a fumble 49 yards for a touchdown, and added 2 sacks to finish as the #1 overall IDP player this week. Rashad Greene took a punt 73 yards for a touchdown, ranking him #1 for KR/PRs this week.
Even with the Panthers shutting out the Falcons, the Jaguars still had a better fantasy week on defense.
Matt Ryan – Falcons: There's no pretty way to say this, so I'll just say it. The Falcons were manhandled by the undefeated Panthers on Sunday, losing 38-0 in a game that could have been worse if the Panthers didn't take their foot off the gas. Ryan settled for playing small-ball all game long, finishing with 224 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT. Next week Ryan takes on a Jaguars defense that has to be riding high after what they did to the Colts in Week 14.
Philip Rivers – Chargers: The Chargers' slide continued on Sunday as they lost 10-3 to the Chiefs. Rivers managed just 263 yards, 0 TDs and 1 INT on the road this week. If you look at the Chargers' four games since their Week 10 bye, Rivers has totaled just 943 passing yards (235.8 average) and 4 TDs (all came in Week 12), while throwing 3 INTs. I would consider Rivers a QB2 in Week 15 at home against the Dolphins.
Devonte Freeman – Falcons: Can you believe that Yahoo had the audacity to project Freeman to be the 3rd-best fantasy RB this week against a stout Panthers defense? That ranking alone deserves an Ocho Cinco "CHILD PLEASE!" Freeman managed just 62 total yards (40 rushing, 22 receiving) on his 15 touches (12 rushing, 3 receiving), but also lost fantasy owners points by losing a fumble. When you figure it all up, Freeman finished Week 14 in the 25-30 range for fantasy RBs (depending on your scoring). Next week he gets an underrated Jaguars run defense, so be aware and beware.
Shaun Draughn – 49ers: Draughn had a pretty nice matchup on paper against a Browns run defense that had given up the 5th-most fantasy points to RBs this season. The Browns, however, were having none of that this week as they limited Draughns to just 43 yards on 11 carries. The problem he had this weekend was the 49ers were playing from behind, thus virtually abandoning the running game. It won't get much better for him next week either as he faces a Bengals D-line that is consistently getting into the backfield this season.
Calvin Johnson – Lions: While Megatron did see 5 targets this week against the Rams, he managed to haul in just 1 for a catch, and turned it into 16 empty yards. Johnson just isn't the WR he once was, and the Lions offense isn't nearly as dangerous as it once was, either. The Lions get a chance to blow the doors completely off next week though, as they take on a Saints defense that is the worst in the NFL against QBs. If Matthew Stafford can get things going, we could see another Thanksgiving-type game for Johnson in Week 15. I'd consider him a WR1 next week.
Larry Fitzgerald – Cardinals: Fitzgerald's stats have been on a steady decline since the Cardinals Week 10 game against the Seahawks, which he burned for a 10/130/0 line. Following that game, the future Hall of Fame WR has turned in yardage totals of 90, 66, 55 and now 41. The decline isn't his fault though, as Michael Floyd and John Brown are now fully healthy, rendering Fitzgerald to more of a possession role while they run the deeper routes. He did manage a highlight reel pancake block, which allowed Michael Floyd to score. Nevertheless, Fitzgerald is a WR2 next week against the Eagles.
Colby Fleener – Colts: Once again Yahoo proved they are literally throwing darts at a dartboard, blindfolded, when they make their weekly projections after putting Fleener down for a projected 4.2 receptions and 51.4 yards this week. Those numbers strangely enough were the same totals he had against the Titans in Week 3, and would be tied for his 2nd-best game of the season. He finished Week 14 with just 1 catch for 6 yards, proving yet again why you should never trust a website that tells you a player will do what he has failed to do ALL season long!
Buffalo Bills defense: The Bills didn't put up their usual defensive effort on Sunday, giving up 23 points to the Eagles, while amassing just 1 sack and 1 INT on the day. The Eagles did most of their damage on the ground (113 combined yards and a touchdown) with a 3-headed beast at RB consisting of Darren Sproles, Ryan Mathews and DeMarco Murray. The points allowed, coupled with the lack of defensive stats, put the Bills outside the top 25 fantasy defenses for Week 14. They get the Redskins next week, so they should be a safe start for the 2nd round of the fantasy playoffs.