This is the Fantasy Football Nerd's look at the best and worst matchups for Week 14 of the 2016 NFL season. Decisions are based upon the FFN rankings and matchup analysis. Given the known conditions, these matchups are the ones to watch and/or avoid.
Please Note: This list does not generally include the elite players that you are going to start regardless of matchup. You don't need us to tell you to start Aaron Rodgers, Rob Gronkowski, or Antonio Brown. Instead, we take a look at other players on your team that we believe either have great matchups or should be avoided for multiple reasons. Factors like opposing defense, performance trending, and peer comparisons may influence our decisions.
Start 'em Jameis Winston (TB, QB)
There's one name that really stands out when looking at the Top 5 QBs this week: Jameis Winston. Ranked ahead of such names as Aaron Rodgers Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson, Winston's matchup with New Orleans is just the kind of game that you want to get your fantasy playoffs off to a good start. The Saints give up the 2nd-most yards per game through the air and almost 18 fantasy points. Plug Winston in.
Start 'em Kirk Cousins (WAS, QB)
Ranked 9th this week on FFN is Kirk Cousins facing a Philly defense that shouldn't be as tough as it was in Week 6 when he racked up 17.32 fantasy points against them. In the last two weeks, the Eagles have given up 22+ fantasy points. We expect that trend to continue.
Start 'em Latavius Murray (OAK, RB)
Fantasy owners have had their concerns with Latavius Murray this year including the timeshare, injury (ankle), and the fact that he's only topped 100 yards rushing once this year, but he's the workhorse with a talented offensive line. He's facing a Kansas City front that just allowed Devonta Freeman to put up 22.5 fantasy points (26.5 PPR). Murray is ranked 15th this week making him a solid RB2.
Start 'em Jeremy Hill (CIN, RB)
Another name sticks out when looking at this week's rankings, and that's Jeremy Hill facing a Cleveland defense that gives up the 2nd-most rushing yards per game. When Hill faced them in Week 7, he shared duties with Gio Bernard and still racked up 25 fantasy points. Hill is ranked inside our Top 10 this week and remains a must-start.
Start 'em Julian Edelman (NE, WR)
With Gronk out, Amendola out, and an ineffective Martellus Bennett, Julian Edelman has become the main receiver for Tom Brady and his Top 12 ranking this week puts him in WR1 status in both standard and PPR formats. On occasion, Baltimore can be tough on wideouts, but with the volume that Edelman should see, he isn't in any danger of missing double-digit fantasy production.
Start 'em DeAndre Hopkins (HOU, WR)
Believe it or not, there are many fantasy owners who have given up on DeAndre Hopkins. Don't be one of those guys. He scored last week against Green Bay, and even with the Brocketship throwing, he should find the endzone again this week. He managed just 7 fantasy points in Week 6 but added 9 receptions in that game for 16 PPR fantasy points.
Start 'em Jamison Crowder (WAS, WR)
It's not lost on those who are looking that both Jamison Crowder and DeSean Jackson are ranked next to each other and projected for the same fantasy points (7.9 std) this week for the same reasons we outlined above on Kirk Cousins, but we like Crowder a bit more than DJax given his consistency. In the fantasy playoffs, we'll take consistency over risk/reward every time.
Start 'em Cameron Brate (TB, TE)
The other receiver to own on Tampa Bay that is NOT named Mike Evans is easily Cameron Brate. He has quietly become one of the more productive tight ends in the league and we expect that to continue against New Orleans.
Start 'em Antonio Gates (SD, TE)
Closing in on Tony Gonzalez's record, Antonio Gates should continue to be the top target in the red zone and see more action than Hunter Henry against a Carolina defense that has given up the most fantasy points to tight ends this year.
Start 'em Atlanta Falcons (ATL, DEF)
The Falcons are available in nearly half of all leagues across all major platforms which is good news if you're streaming defenses because the Atlanta D has one of the most favorable schedules for the fantasy playoffs. No other team gives up more fantasy points to DST's than the Rams making this a great way to get your fantasy playoffs underway.
Start 'em Steven Hauschka (SEA, K)
Ranked 10th this week among kickers is Steven Hauschka coming into Lambeau Field to face Green Bay on Sunday afternoon. The Pack has allowed the 9th-most points on the board and has surrendered an average of 7.7 fantasy points to kickers this year.
Sit 'em Marcus Mariota (TEN, QB)
Marcus Mariota has been one of the nice fantasy surprises this year easily outperforming his preseason expectations. This is not the week that we're going to put our trust in him though as he faces a Denver secondary that gives up the fewest passing yards of any defense in the NFL. The Broncos have kept opposing QBs to 12 fantasy points or less in 8 games this season.
Sit 'em Tyrod Taylor (BUF, QB)
Even with the return of Sammy Watkins, Tyrod Taylor is a tough start this week against the Steelers who have only allowed one QB this year to surpass 20 fantasy points. Manning, Flacco, Brady, McCown, and Prescott averaged just 13.8 fantasy points over the last five weeks making Taylor's chances slim and dwindling for a solid fantasy day.
Sit 'em Devontae Booker (DEN, RB)
I think we all expected a bit more out of Devontae Booker when the Broncos lost C.J. Anderson for the season. The Titans give up the 7th-fewest yards on the ground per game and just an average of 11 fantasy points the past three weeks. Booker is ranked 25th making him a flex play against Tennessee.
Sit 'em Terrance West (BAL, RB)
The compass is not pointing West this week. Ranked 34th among RBs on FFN, Terrance West (even though he's coming off a great game) should struggle mightily against the Patriots who sit inside the Top 10 rushing defenses this year and held both Todd Gurley and Matt Forte to 5 fantasy points the past two weeks.
Sit 'em Allen Robinson (JAC, WR)
A leading contender for Bust of the Year is Allen Robinson and his fortunes aren't likely to change this week against Minnesota who gives up the 4th-fewest yards through the air. Only three wide receivers have hit double digit fantasy points against the Vikings all year, and with the rough shape that Jacksonville finds itself, it likely won't be four.
Sit 'em Rishard Matthews (TEN, WR)
Just like Robinson above, only three wide receivers have hit double digit fantasy production against Denver who gives up the fewest yards through the air per game. Rishard Matthews is ranked 44th among WRs this week making him barely a flex play.
Sit 'em Martellus Bennett (NE, TE)
Martellus Bennett has been no different than a slot machine this year. Just when you think he's going to pay off, you end up with nothing. When the conditions have been great, he just hasn't delivered; yet, there were one or two big payouts that keep you coming back for more. Against the Ravens, we expect Bennett to struggle as they have only allowed one TE to reach double digits (Tyler Eifert in Week 12) in standard scoring. Bennett is too much of a gamble to start this week.
Sit 'em Dennis Pitta (BAL, TE)
I hope you enjoyed Dennis Pitta's performance last week, because it won't happen against New England. The Pats have allowed a measly 2.8 fantasy points to opposing TEs all year. Pitta is ranked 19th on FFN this week putting him well outside the TE1 range.
Sit 'em New York Giants (NYG, DEF)
It's not every week that we see Big Blue all the way down the list in the defensive rankings, but facing a playoff-bound Dallas team that has shown their ability to run and throw wherever they want, it makes sense.
Sit 'em Mason Crosby (GB, K)
Ranked 22nd among kickers this week is long-time fantasy staple Mason Crosby at home against Seattle. The Seahawks have surrendered just 1.3 fantasy points to kickers over the last three weeks and 5.1 fantasy points over the season.
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