There is a common misconception among people who don't understand fantasy football, but think they know all there is to know about NFL football. That fallacy is that if an NFL team loses, their players will also lose in fantasy football. I bring this up because I always hear people in the media who think they can give out fantasy advice talk about how you should avoid players like Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, and/or Blake Bortles.
Did you know that Hurns finished as a WR2 thanks to his 5-36-1 line this week? Did anyone bother to tell those people that Bortles finished ahead of media darlings Philip Rivers, Colin Kaepernick, and Peyton Manning? And, Bortles was just a fraction of a point behind Drew Brees this week in fantasy points? Lee was just 1.10 points behind Dez Bryant for fantasy points this week and still finished with flex play numbers.
My point is to not listen to people who try and tell you about fantasy football by using pure NFL logic. There is a massive difference between fantasy value and reality value, and the two don't always intersect.
Looking around the NFL, did anyone in the world predict that the Panthers would beat the Saints by 31 points this week? It could have been worse if not for a Drew Brees garbage-time TD late in the 4th quarter. The Saints have been nothing short of a disaster in reality, but Brees had managed to hold on to his fantasy value (currently ranked #6 for QBs on NFL.com) thanks to Jimmy Graham and Brandin Cooks. Now that Cooks is out and teams are adjusting to shut down Graham, Brees is not a sure bet for the fantasy playoffs. The only real bright spot for his owners is that he gets the equally disappointing Bears in Week 15.
Cam Newton – Panthers: I've not been shy about my views on Newton as a fantasy QB, but he did pull a rabbit out of his hat this weekend when he drummed up 309 total yards and 4 TDs. This game was over right about the time the clock started, so Newton's 226 yards passing are of no real concern. With the Bucs up next, look for Newton to headline this week's Start 'em list.
Jay Cutler – Bears: Cutler is one of the most deceiving fantasy QBs out there because he ends up with QB1 stats most weeks, but he doesn't seem to remember that he is allowed to throw the ball downfield until late in the game when the score is already lopsided. Cutler managed to finish with 341 yards and 3 TDs (2 passing, 1 running), but he did throw another INT. The 15th INT for Cutler puts him in 2nd place on the season, and word around Chicago is the Bears are having buyer's remorse after giving him a 7-year, $126.7 million contract in January. Caveat emptor!
Jonathan Stewart – Panthers: Stewart finally got to play without DeAngelo Williams cutting into his playing time this week, and he finished with 155 yards on 20 carries (7.8 YPC). Stewart is one guy I would target off the waiver wire this week (16.2 percent owned on NFL.com) with the Bucs coming to town. Without Williams, Stewart is a high-end RB2; with Williams he is more of a flex option.
Andre Williams – Giants: When Rashad Jennings went down in Week 5 Williams became a must-add player in all fantasy formats. What we learned is that he is a TD-dependent fantasy player, who has a hard time putting up yardage numbers because he only gets what is given to him on the field. The good news is that the Titans gave him a lot this weekend with Jennings nursing an ankle injury, and he finished with 131 rushing yards and a TD (also chipping in 3 catches for 16 yards for PPR leagues). The Titans tend to make everyone look better than they really are, so don't reach too far to pick up Williams for the fantasy playoffs.
Charles Johnson – Vikings: Johnson has taken over the starting role in favor of fantasy bust Cordarrelle Patterson, and he doesn't seem to want to go back to the bench as he hauled in 4 passes for 103 yards and a touchdown against the Jets' leaky secondary this week. Given the problems the Vikings have on offense, Johnson is a risky WR to play as we head into the fantasy playoffs. I've seen some big box websites calling him a WR3, which I think is overly generous. He is TD-dependent and the Vikings don't get to play the Jets every week. I'd leave him alone to finish out the season with the Lions and Dolphins coming up in Weeks 15 & 16.
Cole Beasley – Cowboys: Beasley is the WR version of Jerome Bettis late in his career. Even though he only saw 3 targets this week, he caught all of them to finish with 3 receptions for 42 yards and 2 TDs. Beasley finished as a WR1 thanks to the touchdowns, but that doesn't mean you should add him in your fantasy league. Beasley didn't have a touchdown until Week 12 and his previous season high was a 4-42-0 line in Week 1. Let someone else take the hit on the points Beasley won't give them.
Mychal Rivera – Raiders: Rivera had a good three-week run in Weeks 8, 9, & 10, totaling 21 catches, 185 yards, and 3 touchdowns. As with any Raiders player, he came crashing back to Earth by hauling in just 7 catches for 69 yards and no touchdowns the next three games. This week he plastered his name all over the box score by catching all 7 of his targets for 109 yards and a touchdown. Rivera is risky to rely on as the Raiders hit the road and head to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs next week. Beware and be aware.
Minnesota Vikings defense: The Vikings had a cupcake matchup with the Jets' struggling offense in Week 14, and they didn't disappoint. Even though they did give up 22 points, they also posted 3 sacks, 1 INT, 1 recovered fumble, and a defensive touchdown. There are more and more people just streaming defenses throughout the season rather than burning a mid-round pick on one and hoping they pan out. If that is you, just shadow the Jets or Titans to finish out the season.
Peyton Manning – Broncos: Manning entered this week with a 51-game touchdown streak that began in 2010, and there was no real reason to think the Bills could end it even with their 2nd-ranked defense. But that is exactly what happened as the Bills held Manning to just 173 yards and no TDs, while coming up with 2 interceptions on the day. It wasn't all Manning's fault mind you, as the Broncos are running the ball more with the thought of saving their Hall of Fame QB for the playoffs and a hopeful Super Bowl game. Nevertheless, Manning was a major fantasy disappointment in Week 14.
Philip Rivers – Chargers: The Patriots had the perfect defensive gameplan for the Chargers this week; stick Darrelle Revis on Keenan Allen. Apparently that is all you have to do to throw Rivers off his axis and bring the offense to a grinding halt. Rivers managed to complete just 20-of-33 passes for 189 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT, which shockingly wasn't even his worst game of the season (he went for a 138-0-3 line in Week 9). The Chargers get the Broncos next week, putting Rivers on the QB1 map for probable garbage-time stats if the Broncos step on the gas pedal as we near the end of the season.
Alfred Morris – Redskins: When your quarterback can't keep the defense honest with his arm, games like the one Morris had this week will happen. Morris managed an embarrassing 6 yards on 8 carries, adding 11 yards on his 1 reception. With the problems the Redskins have at QB this season, defenses can just key in on stopping the run like the Rams did this week. Morris has the talent to be a RB1/2 most weeks; but without a QB that can make the defense respect the pass, Morris is bench fodder as we head into the fantasy playoffs.
LeSean McCoy – Eagles: The Eagles already had a tough matchup with the Seahawks, and McCoy didn't make it any easier on them when he lost a fumble on the first play in the second half. McCoy finished with just 50 empty yards on the ground. He'll get a chance to redeem himself next week against a Cowboys team he shredded for 159 yards and a touchdown on Thanksgiving.
Keenan Allen – Chargers: We already went over the flop that Rivers put up this week, and it is impossible for a WR to put up quality stats when your QB finishes among the worst in the league for the week. Allen didn't see his first target until the second half, making his first catch late in the 3rd quarter. He finished with just 3 targets, and caught 2 of them for a whopping 3 yards this week. With the Broncos coming to town in Week 15, I wouldn't expect a bounce-back performance from Allen.
Reggie Wayne – Colts: Wayne has easily been one of the more disappointing fantasy WRs this season, being drafted in virtually every league on the planet but giving back end of the 12th round value this season. Thankfully the misery should be over as Wayne is dealing with knee and elbow injuries, in addition to a torn triceps. He had just 1 catch for 5 yards this week, putting a cap on his worst season since his rookie campaign. Wayne can safely be cut in any and all leagues, including keeper leagues.
Julius Thomas – Broncos: One of the most frustrating things a fantasy owner can deal with is your stud TE finally being active after an ankle injury kept him out for two games, only to watch him relax on the sideline the entire game with no real plans for playing. I feel like writing the Broncos front office a strongly worded letter informing them of my displeasure after putting Thomas back in with him being active, only to get a big fat zero for Week 14. Word is, though, that he will be back for Week 15 in his normal capacity, right in time for a [fantasy] playoff run.
San Francisco 49ers defense: I'll be honest, I expected much more out of the 49ers this weekend than what they gave us for fantasy defense numbers. The Raiders rival teams like the Jets and Titans for dysfunctional offenses, but the 49ers managed to give up 24 points to them with just a single sack to mitigate the damage to their fantasy owners. With the Seahawks and Chargers on the schedule to finish out the fantasy season, I would try and find other options on defense if you own the 49ers.