In “Start or Sit,” we make a call on players who merit strong starting consideration — and players who might be best on the bench. However, owners should tailor their own lineup strategy to their roster constraints, league rules and other relevant factors, including weather, which can be dicey this time of year. According to WeatherUnderground.com, precipitation is possible in the majority of games this week. Owners need to keep an eye on the weather on Sunday and adjust if needed.
Here’s our Week 14 rundown:
Falcons WRs Roddy White and Julio Jones (at Carolina) — As a general rule, I try to avoid mentioning players who are obvious, pencil-them-in-without-blinking starts. However, I'm compelled to lay out the cases for White and Jones in Week 14. Some owners with exceptional WR depth might be tempted to bench them, and it's not an unreasonable thought to have if you are absolutely loaded at the position. Hey, the numbers aren't pretty. White (68-1,023-4) has no TD catches in his last six games, and he's racked up just six catches for 77 yards and no TDs in the past two weeks. Jones, meanwhile, has had a good season (58-931-6), but he hasn't been a superstar, and so many fantasy owners had dreams of a breakout campaign from him. Nevertheless, matchups like the one Jones and White get Sunday are the reason so many fantasy owners drafted them so early. Both wideouts have had big games against the Panthers in each of the past two seasons. In Week Four, White hauled in eight passes for 169 yards and two TDs vs. Carolina, while Jones had a two-TD game of his own vs. the Panthers in 2011. White and Jones belong in the VAST majority of fantasy lineups in Week 14 as long as the weather in Charlotte isn't truly horrible — and that doesn't appear to be the case as of this writing. Don't overthink this.
Texans QB Matt Schaub (at New England) — There's a lot of focus on whether the Texans' pass defense can hold up against the Patriots' passing game, but don't overlook the problems the Texans' pass attack could give New England. After all, the Patriots are 29th in passing yards per game allowed and 28th in passing yards per play surrendered. The Texans can trade punches with New England — and they have the ability to do so. Note that Houston is scoring about three offensive TDs per game.
Eagles QB Nick Foles (at Tampa Bay) — Is he a reasonable starting option in big one-QB formats and all two-QB formats? I think so. The Buccaneers have allowed more than 300 gross passing yards in 7-of-12 games. Even if you aren't sold on Foles, you do have to wonder if the Eagles will be playing from behind in Week 14, leading to some prime stat-sheet-stuffing opportunities for the rookie from Arizona.
Eagles RB Bryce Brown (at Tampa Bay) — Call me crazy, but when a relatively unknown running back rushes for 347 yards and four TDs in a two-game span, I'm not going to lose any sleep about the prospect of the Cinderella story ending in Game Three. Yes, Brown could flop on Sunday — the Buccaneers are allowing fewer yards per carry and per game than any other team. But he has shown too much promise to sit. Yes, starting Bryce Brown in Week 14 with the season on the line isn't what you were planning on three weeks ago, but a lot has changed, and now, the downside of leaving him on the bench and watching him run wild on the Buccaneers is greater than the risk of him disappointing.
Bears RB Matt Forté (at Minnesota) — After a strong start, the Vikings have had problems vs. the run, allowing 988 rushing yards and nine TDs in the last seven games. Forté wasn't having a banner day before leaving the Week 12 win vs. the Vikings with an ankle injury (14 touches, 46 yards), and he has had a quiet four weeks (245 total yards, one TD). Nevertheless, he's a solid starting option in Week 14. One added bonus for Forté owners: he gets to play indoors on Sunday.
Chargers TE Antonio Gates (at Pittsburgh) — In my view, he's not a must-start Sunday. For starters, the Steelers' pass defense is solid, and it has allowed four TDs to tight ends in 12 games. Second, the Chargers' offense isn't as potent as in past seasons. San Diego is scoring slightly less than two offensive TDs per game, which is well off its usual rate in Norv Turner's tenure. Third, on the basis of targets, Gates has essentially been the fourth or fifth option in the offense since WR Danario Alexander joined the Chargers. In the past six games, here's the target breakdown in San Diego: Alexander (40), WR Malcom Floyd (36), RB Ronnie Brown (32), RB Ryan Mathews (29), Gates (26). In short, Gates' fantasy value is being squeezed on all sides.
Cardinals RB Beanie Wells (at Seattle) — Wells' stock gets a slight boost with veteran John Skelton replacing rooking Ryan Lindley at quarterback. However, Wells has rushed for just 70 yards on 32 carries since returning to action in Week 12. Wells' appeal is his standing as the Cardinals' clear-cut featured back. If the Cardinals get any goal-line attempts, he will be the one to get them. But do you really want to count on the Arizona offense in Week 14?
Packers RB Alex Green (vs. Detroit) — With RB James Starks (knee) out for multiple games, Green looks likely to get his second shot as the Packers' featured runner. His first stint as the lead runner didn't go especially well. In Weeks 6-8, Green gained just 154 yards on 64 carries, and he didn't score a touchdown. In Week Nine, Starks got a longer look, and he had received most of the work since before suffering the knee injury on Sunday. Green very well could improve in his second run as the No. 1 back, and he's had more success of late in a complementary role. However, I would have a hard time starting him in Week 14, considering his early-season struggles.
Any kickers who could be kicking in dicey conditions in Week 14 — As noted, wet weather could be a factor on Sunday. As a public service, here's a clip-and-save list of kickers who will be playing indoors on Sunday: Vikings PK Blair Walsh, Bears PK Robbie Gould, Colts PK Adam Vinatieri, Titans PK Rob Bironas. Also, sunny skies are forecast for Dolphins-49ers in San Francisco, so the Niners' David Akers and Dolphins' Dan Carpenter are also solid claim-and-start propositions if needed. There's no failsafe advice to offer on the kicker-facing-bad-weather quandary; sometimes kickers thrive no matter the circumstances. (The Browns' Phil Dawson is a prime example of this.) However, the more rain and wind, the more leery I would be of expecting much out of the kicking game. And you don't need me to remind you how important every point is this time of year.