Heroes and Zeroes - Week 14 Fantasy Football Picks

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"This is it. This is where it all happens." Those words are the somber introduction to an old NFL commercial that showed an empty Lambeau Field on a Sunday morning hours before kickoff. The rest of the commercial goes on about how it's some sort of holy ground and miracles happen every week, or something like that. (I tried to find it on Youtube, but to no avail.) I always think of those lines when someone makes a somewhat trivial situation sound like something groundbreaking is about to go down because my best friend from high school and I always used to laugh when that commercial came on. We'd recite it to each other as we were having a math test handed out to us or right before settling in for a showdown in Street Fighter II (Genesis version, of course). Old jokes never die I guess.

The fantasy football playoffs are certainly a momentous occasion for anyone who's invested the last several months or more to research, lineup scrutiny, and a whole lotta football watching. That said, it's not the end of the world if you lose and you are not a demi-god if you win. It's fantasy football. Play the guys you think will do well and hope for the best. For God's sake, don't promise to get a tattoo or wear a wig in public if you lose, just so your buddies can post it on social media or hope to make it on some cable fantasy show. It makes the rest of us look bad, y'know?

Now, let's get to my fantasy "heroes" and "zeroes" at each position for Week 14 of the NFL season. For a full set of rankings, look no further than our very own RotoBaller consensus weekly rankings.

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Week 14 Lineup Heroes

QUARTERBACK

Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders - Spoiler alert: the Chiefs defense is ****ing terrible. They gave up 38 points and nearly 500 total yards to the Jets last week, turning last week's Hero, Josh McCown, into an elite fantasy QB as predicted. You can absolutely ignore the previous two weeks of mediocre defensive numbers when they played a Bills team that can't decide whether it wants to win or tank and the dumpster fire that is the New York Giants. They now face a surging Raiders team that already beat them earlier in the year by scoring 31 points. You probably remember that as the "Amari Cooper decided to show up" game, but Carr was the real star with 417 yards and three TD. Cooper isn't yet cleared to return for this game, but Michael Crabtree will be there. I'm not going to go so far as to predict that kind of output again, but it should also be noted that the Chiefs will be without their best CB, Marcus Peters. Start Carr this week if at all possible.

Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers - If you've been looking forward to watching the smooth style of Jimmy G on the saxo... er, football field, then you enjoyed Week 13 as he led the Niners to their second victory of the season. Not a bad way to kickoff his career as the new franchise QB. He didn't throw a single touchdown, but he nearly reached the 300-yard mark (293) and completed 70% of his passes against a fairly good Bears defense. While the playbook was stripped down for Garoppolo as he continues to learn the system, the reins could be let loose in Houston this week. The Texans have allowed the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season and have actually played much worse as a unit at home than away. The Texans have allowed a 13/1 TD/INT ratio and 102.8 QBR at home, compared to 10/9 and 79.9 QBR on the road. You wouldn't start him in single-quarterback formats, but anyone out there in a superflex or two-QB league shouldn't hesitate to give him a chance due to inexperience alone.

RUNNING BACKS

Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots - You're already starting Burkhead in whatever league you own him at this point, I get it. Let me tell you why he's a top-10 back this week anyway. Burkhead is leading the Pats backfield in total snaps for several weeks in a row (including special teams) and is leading the team is red zone touches over the last three weeks with six RZ carries and three targets. He isn't guaranteed a ton of touches, but he's made the most of them for sure; he has six TD in eight games played this year and is seventh among all RB in fantasy scoring over the last three games. Think of him as a slightly slower, whiter Alvin Kamara. With Gronk out of the picture and a soft Dolphins defense on tap this week, you'd be crazy to keep him on your bench.

Frank Gore, Indianapolis Colts - If you are into low ceilings... actually, this is more about a high floor than anything else. Gore hasn't run for 100 yards (or so much as 85) all season, but he's averaging 66.8 scrimmage yards per game and nearly two receptions per game. You could find better on your bench, perhaps, but not anyone else who's playing the Buffalo Bills this weekend. After the spiraling Kareem Hunt gave them a break, the Bills reverted to their sieve-like run defense in Week 13. That means in four of their last five games, they're allowing an average of 207.2 yards on the ground. Gore may not reach 100 for the first time, but he's got as good a shot as any to reach the end zone and should be a safe play for you risk-averse fantasy players.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars - Who'd have thought that the Jags would be playing meaningful football this late in the season? Lee has cemented his role as the WR1 in that offense, although he's really better suited as an WR2. After going half the season without a touchdown, he's now scored in three of the last five games. Facing the Seahawks used to mean fading a fantasy WR3 type like Lee, but things are a bit different now. The Seahawks made a big statement in beating Philadelphia on Sunday night without Richard Sherman or Kam Chancellor, but they were exposed a bit in the passing game by Nelson Agholor. Lee could be the one to take advantage of Jeremy Lane this week, as the Hawks are shifting him to the outside with Byron Maxwell covering the slot. Lee should be able to win enough individual matchups to pay dividends in PPR leagues and still have a decent chance to score.

Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns - I can't believe I'm even doing this. Gordon simply looked great last week, rust aside. He was targeted early and often, catching four of 11 passes thrown his way. Shaky QB play does limit his value, but there is no reason to keep him benched against a suspect Packers secondary. Green Bay has seen the 11th-fewest passes against their defense this year, yet still yields 23.7 fantasy PPG to the WR position. With only Corey Coleman as any sort of threat to Gordon's targets, he should easily get double digits and maybe much more if he can score his first TD in four calendar years.

TIGHT END

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, New York Jets - While there are many trendy sleeper picks at the tight end position this week, such as Stephen Anderson, David Njoku, and Julius Thomas, it may be time to go back to the well with ASJ. The Jets are starting to get their wide receivers like Jermaine Kearse more involved, but Seferian-Jenkins hasn't completely gone away. He's averaging over six targets a game over the last three, but it just hasn't produced as many results. Facing a Denver defense that is practically tied with the Giants for the worst against tight ends, he's a must-start.

 

Week 14 Lineup Zeroes

QUARTERBACKS

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons - The Saints' top cornerback, rookie Marshon Lattimore, is still questionable heading into Thursday night. It might not really matter, at least for Matt Ryan's fantasy stock. While Ryan ranks sixth among all QBs in effective yards this season, he is the QB15 in terms of fantasy points. Believe it or not, he hasn't thrown for three touchdowns once this season and has just three 300-yard games in the books. So, even if Lattimore doesn't go, there is hardly enough upside for a QB like Ryan who faces a team that still ranks in the top half of all pass defense categories. Give me Carr, Prescott, or McCown instead.

RUNNING BACKS

Mike Davis, Seattle Seahawks - There's a simple rule I've been following all year that won't suddenly change come playoff time. Avoid Seattle running backs. Davis flashed some skill the last two weeks and got several owners to empty their FAAB wallets, but it's not as if he's dominating from a fantasy standpoint. In full PPR formats, he was the RB21 in Week 13 and RB36 in Week 11; he missed Week 12 with an injury. Which brings us to another point: do you really trust any Seahawks RB to stay healthy for more than a week at a time? I think Davis is about the 25th different RB they've rolled out this year and all of them have gone down at one point. We should probably put C.J. Prosise on a milk carton, because that dude straight up disappeared.

Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens - It's a good thing Collins got out of Seattle, because he would probably be on IR if he stuck around. OK, technically he was relieved of his job there last season, but perhaps they wished they'd kept him. Collins suddenly has a nose for the end zone, running in four scores (not seven years ago) in the last three games. Collins will get his carries, but could find trouble on the road in Pittsburgh. He's got a respectable 4.0 Y/A and averages 51.8 yards per game on the road, but has a 5.5 Y/A and 74.3 yards per game at home. The majority of his damage has come since Week 8, when the Ravens have won four of the last five contests against some mediocre opponents. Pittsburgh is not mediocre, nor do they give up big games against RB, ranking seventh against the position in fantasy points against. Collins could still be flex-worthy, but might not be in line for a big game.

WIDE RECEIVERS

Tyrell Williams, Los Angeles Chargers - Of all the boom-bust flex receivers you could roll out this week, Williams has to be at the lower end of the spectrum. There will likely not be a shadow situation this week with Josh Norman following Keenan Allen, since he operates out of the slot primarily. Instead, Williams gets to face Norman. Having Mike Williams out simply has had no effect - TyWill hasn't been targeted more than three times in a game since Week 10 and is stuck on two TD this season. Stick with less risky options like Ted Ginn, Mike Wallace, or Jermaine Kearse.

DeVante Parker, Miami Dolphins - I'm so done. Parker just isn't happening this year, maybe ever. In addition to horrid stat lines in the last three games (4-26-0, 1-5-0, 1-5-0), he is starting to draw criticism from fans and reluctant admittance from coaches (who had been singing his praises all preseason) that he needs to show more effort and not let minor injuries take him out of a game. Don't let the matchup vs. New England suck you into starting Parker. He is no longer Jay Cutler's favorite target either - Kenny Stills has taken up that illustrious mantle.

TIGHT END

Vernon Davis, Washington Redskins - What happened to the tight end position in Washington? Jamison Crowder happened. While Davis has filled in nicely for the perpetually triaged Jordan Reed, he's only seen three targets the last two games and totaled 15 yards. This includes the most baffling goose egg of the season, where he literally did nothing against the Giants. The GIANTS!!! Kirk Cousins seems to have a monthly rotation of who his favorite target is, but it certainly isn't Davis any more. For all his long receptions, Davis has just one touchdown all year and is too risky to roll out in your opening round playoff game.

 

More Week 14 Lineup Prep