Week 14 is either the final week of the regular season or the start of the playoffs in many fantasy leagues. If you are in need of a win to secure a playoff spot or to stay alive in the postseason, you might find some help from unusual sources. The Bucs, Jets and Bengals are not necessarily synonymous with fantasy success, but all three teams have intriguing matchups this week.
On to Week 14 …
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
Raiders (@ Chiefs) Thursday, 7:25
We don’t always recommend Thursday games, but when we do, we prefer Oakland. This might not be the most interesting game in the world, but it’s close, and it’s the only game this week that offers a top-five offense (Oakland) versus a bottom-five defense (KC). Although the Chiefs yield just 20.2 points per game, they give up a 28th-ranked 385 yards per contest. They bend against the rush (27th) and the pass (22nd), so don’t shy away from your Raiders just because of KC’s defensive reputation. Like the Cowboys, Oakland is a young team on the rise and they should be competitive in a game that will go a long way toward deciding the AFC West.
Must start: Amari Cooper
Solid play: Derek Carr, Latavius Murray, Michael Crabtree
Worth a look: Sebastian Janikowski
Last resort: Jalen Richard, Clive Walford
Stay away: Raiders D/ST
Bucs (vs. Saints) Sunday, noon
Opening spreads have Tampa as a 2.5-point favorite with an over/under of 51. If those numbers play out, the Bucs would score about 27 points, which actually seems a bit low considering they have scored at least 28 in three of their past five games. The two teams that held them below 28 – Kansas City and Seattle – play much better defense than New Orleans. Doug Martin said he was “fine” after being sidelined with an undisclosed injury during last week’s win in San Diego. Be sure to monitor his status.
Must start: Mike Evans
Solid play: Jameis Winston, Martin*, Cameron Brate
Worth a look: Jacquizz Rodgers (if no Martin), Roberto Aguayo
Last resort: Freddie Martino, Adam Humphries, Bucs D/ST
Cowboys (@ Giants) Sunday, 7:30
The Giants have the league’s fifth-best run defense, but are just 25th against the pass. Dallas has the league’s second-most productive running attack at 155.8 yards per game. With New York focused on stopping Ezekiel Elliott, the Cowboys should be able to find success in the air. Dak Prescott had 227 passing yards and no TDs in the first matchup, but that was way back in Week 1. A much more productive, confident squad travels to New Jersey this week.
Must start: Elliott, Dez Bryant
Solid play: Dak Prescott, Cole Beasley, Dan Bailey
Worth a look: Jason Witten
Last resort: Cowboys D/ST
Stay away: Alfred Morris, Terrance Williams
Chiefs (vs. Raiders) Thursday, 7:25
Spencer Ware is a must start this week. Oakland gives up 4.9 yards per carry – tied with the 49ers for worst in the league. Another must start, Travis Kelce, continues to be the bellcow in KC’s low-octane passing game, but Tyreek Hill’s versatility makes him a solid play.
Bengals (@ Browns), Sunday, noon
The Bengals have been a huge disappointment to their fans and to those who drafted Jeremy Hill. But, facing the Browns and their 31st-ranked defense, Hill and Tyler Eifert warrant fantasy consideration. Monitor the injury status of A.J. Green.
Jets (@ 49ers) Sunday, 3:05
The Jets are a hot mess, but they have enough talent to produce against the 49ers and their league-worst defense. Matt Forte is an especially good play against a San Fran defense that is giving up a league-worst 4.9 yards per carry.
MATCHUPS TO AVOID
Vikings (@ Jaguars) Sunday, noon
The woeful Jaguars are 2-10, but only three teams (Ravens, Cardinals, Vikings) give up fewer yards to their opponents. The Jags are particularly tough in pass defense – they yield just 196 yards per game and 6.4 yards per attempt. Minnesota counters with … well, not much. They have the 31st-ranked offense and the league’s worst rushing attack. Likewise, the Jags are not a good play against the third-ranked Vikings defense.
Must start: Vikings D/ST
Solid play: Kyle Rudolph
Worth a look: Stefon Diggs
Last resort: Jerick McKinnon, Adam Thielen
Stay away: Sam Bradford, Kai Forbath
Packers (vs. Seahawks) Sunday, 3:25
Green Bay certainly has a chance to win this game, but that doesn’t mean you should be loading your lineup with Packers. Seattle’s defense is eighth in yards allowed, but tops in points allowed at just 16.2 per game. The Packers have no semblance of a ground game and could struggle against a strong pass defense. It will be interesting to see how the Seattle secondary adjusts to the absence of Earl Thomas. Jordy Nelson has re-established himself as Aaron Rodgers’ primary target. He has topped 90 yards in five of his past six games.
Must start: Rodgers, Nelson
Solid play: none
Worth a look: Christine Michael, Davante Adams, Mason Crosby
Last resort: Randall Cobb, Jared Cook, Packers D/ST
Ravens (@ Patriots) Monday, 7:30
Baltimore’s offense is coming off its best game of the season. Last week at home against Miami, the Ravens produced 496 yards of net offense, including 381 passing yards and four TDs for Joe Flacco. That’s a very different outcome from what Flacco and the offense usually deliver. They average just 21.3 points and 347 yards per game. Coming into the Miami game, Flacco had thrown just 11 TDs against 10 picks with only two multi-touchdown games all year. Fantasy owners with Ravens on their rosters will have to decide if last week was a fluke or if Flacco and the offense have turned a corner. Baltimore will likely find New England’s defense not nearly as accommodating as Miami’s. The Patriots give up just 17.2 points per game. Coincidentally, the Ravens give up that same 17.2 per game. This looks to be a hard fought, low-scoring game.
Must start: none
Solid play: none
Worth a look: Terrance West, Mike Wallace, Dennis Pitta, Justin Tucker, Ravens D/ST
Last resort: Flacco, Kenneth Dixon, Steve Smith, Breshad Perriman
Saints (@ Bucs) Sunday, noon
Even though Drew Brees is coming off a disappointing three-interception performance, an argument could be made for him as the No. 1 fantasy QB in Week 14. At first glance, Tampa’s 22nd-ranked defense wouldn’t seem to be much of a roadblock to the Saints and their league-best 428.7 yards of offense per game. On the other hand, no one has scored more than 21 points on the Bucs since Atlanta in Week 9. Probably not wise to bet against Brees, but be cautious with other Saints.
Patriots (vs. Ravens) Monday, 7:30
New England should win this game, but Baltimore’s top-ranked defense won’t be a pushover. Martellus Bennett has the second-most receptions (44) on the Pats, but he’s caught just six balls for 40 yards in the past three games. His last TD was in Week 5.
*Check injury status