Thumbs Up of the Week: Tom Brady (v MIN)
Despite the struggles on offense for Tampa Bay last month, Brady is still on pace for 4,400 yards and 37 touchdowns, and the schedule sets up very favorably for him to improve upon his numbers by season’s end. Out of the bye, I expect the offense to have some things figured out, so look for TB12 to start hot against a young Minnesota secondary that will have a very difficult time containing Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Antonio Brown. Brady is a high-end QB1 for the fantasy playoffs.
Thumbs Up: Jalen Hurts (v NO)
There is some definite risk with Hurts as he makes his first career start versus perhaps the best defense in the league, but his dual-threat upside is worth consideration—and the Philadelphia offense could turn back to an RPO-heavy game plan that they’ve had success with in the past. Washington and New York both pulling off upsets in Week 13 puts the pressure on the Eagles to get a win, and Hurts has the weapons to escape the pocket and make plays with his arm or legs. Even if you don’t trust him this weekend, the rookie should be rostered in all leagues.
Thumbs Up: Mitchell Trubisky (v HOU)
Trubisky also brings rushing potential to the quarterback position despite just 16 scoreless yards over the past couple of weeks, and the Texans are another great matchup for him to hopefully take advantage of. Over the past three weeks, Houston has allowed 315.0 passing yards per game, so they remain an attackable secondary—especially without top corner Bradley Roby (suspension). Overall, I see the group having a difficult time containing Allen Robinson and company.
Thumbs Up: Josh Allen (v PIT)
Those who have Allen are highly unlikely to bench him, but Pittsburgh is allowing the fewest points per game to opposing fantasy quarterbacks, and it’s worth putting him here for anyone who might be concerned. Based on how he played against the 49ers on Monday night, Allen should be confident attacking the zone defense of the Steelers, and I’d expect the Bills will also utilize him more as a runner to prove—primarily to themselves—that they can play with anyone in the AFC ahead of a hopeful playoff run. Consider Allen a solid QB1 option.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Jared Goff (v NE)
Goff responded to criticism from Sean McVay to throw for 351 yards and a score (plus a rushing touchdown) last week against Arizona, but New England is a much different challenge, and the Los Angeles offense has been hot-and-cold depending on their opponent. Remember, Super Bowl LIII was a 13-3 slugfest, and the Pats have limited Kyler Murray (7.9 fantasy points) and Justin Herbert (4.3 fantasy points) in back-to-back weeks. Look elsewhere for now.
Thumbs Down: Kirk Cousins (@ TB)
We only have a 2015 matchup to base it on, but Cousins struggled against Todd Bowles’ defense when Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator was head coach of the Jets (196 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions)—and he will now face a rested unit that wants to bounce back after allowing huge games to Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes prior to the bye. Cousins is a low-floor play for Week 14, and I wouldn’t feel great about starting him over dual-threat streamers like Jalen Hurts or Mitchell Trubisky.
Thumbs Down: Baker Mayfield (v BAL)
Mayfield actually started his career with some impressive play versus the Ravens, but the two matchups over the past calendar year haven’t been as kind (190.5 yards per game and a 3:2 touchdown-interception ratio). Anyone who watched the game last week knows that Cleveland had receivers running wide open all over the place against Tennessee, and that won’t be the case on Sunday. The only other game with more than two touchdowns for Mayfield this season was followed up with 122 scoreless yards.
Thumbs Down: Deshaun Watson (@ CHI)
Things looked promising for Watson last week with an early rushing touchdown, but the Colts’ bend-don’t-break defense held him out of the end zone aside from that—and two forced turnovers were key in essentially ending Houston’s playoff hopes. The Bears have too many good players to not turn out a better defensive effort this weekend, and no Will Fuller (suspension) could have Watson again relying on rushing production to lift his fantasy numbers. I have him as a low-end QB1.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Jonathan Taylor (@ LV)
I was definitely worried when the Colts inexplicably kept Taylor on the sideline from basically the end of the first drive until a few minutes into the second quarter last week, but he immediately caught a 39-yard touchdown when back on the field, and the rookie finished with 135 total yards on 17 touches. The Raiders’ run defense has been really exposed in recent weeks, and not having hard-hitter Johnathan Abram (knee) again would be a significant boost after the Jets just ran for 180 yards against them. Keep Taylor rolling as an RB1.
Thumbs Up: Ronald Jones II (v MIN)
Along with some helpful changes for Tom Brady and the passing attack, I also expect Tampa Bay to fully commit to Jones II as their lead runner to get the offense back on track this month and into January. Over the first 12 games, the former second-round pick averaged 5.1 yards per carry, and the explosiveness he brings should offset any issues with drops; when he gets the ball in space, good things usually happen. I have Jones II as a borderline RB1/RB2 against a Minnesota defense that could be without All-Pro linebacker Eric Kendricks (calf).
Thumbs Up: James Conner (@ BUF)
An extremely pass-happy offense for Pittsburgh could have fantasy owners less than enthusiastic about getting Conner (reserve/COVID-19 list) back in lineups, but I am assuming that Mike Tomlin will want to create more balance down the stretch, and their starter brings a blend of explosiveness and power that was lacking over the past couple of games. If so, Conner should be an upside RB2, and he’s notably averaging 15.7 fantasy points per game in seven appearances with more than 15 touches.
Thumbs Up: Lions RBs (v GB)
It will be interesting to see what kind of backfield split Detroit has with Adrian Peterson playing well (four touchdowns over the past two games) and D’Andre Swift (concussion/illness) having been out for nearly a month, but I’d say both are worth considering against a Green Bay defense that remains in the bottom quarter of the league in yards per carry allowed (4.6). In the first matchup, Swift in particular was able to haul in five-of-five targets for 60 yards, so we’ll see if he can contribute on increased touches if active.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Miles Sanders (v NO)
Sanders was a massive disappointment with just ten carries last week, but he also didn’t capitalize on the touches he did get by dancing for a big play rather than taking what the defense gave him. New Orleans is obviously a very difficult matchup, and the receiving work that was supposed to lift the second-year runner in 2020 hasn’t been there (19 receptions for 123 scoreless yards). I wouldn’t trust Sanders as anything more than a low-end RB2 that you probably need to play without solid options to fall back on.
Thumbs Down: Cam Akers (v NE)
The current ranking we have for Akers (RB28) is higher than it’s been since early in the season, but I have some concerns about putting him comfortably in the top-25 for this week. First of all, the rookie is dealing with a shoulder injury, so a short turnaround—after a career-high 22 touches—could lead to Sean McVay falling back on the committee. Also, the Patriots have been better against the run in recent weeks with 70 or fewer rushing yards and zero rushing scores allowed in four of the games past games. The upside is there, but Akers remains volatile.
Thumbs Down: Devontae Booker (v IND)
An early rule out for Josh Jacobs (ankle) ahead of the Raiders’ Week 13 game doesn’t bode well for his Week 14 status, but Booker didn’t have the role most were expecting in his first start by playing 42% of the team’s offensive snaps and totaling just 51 yards. Aside from two matchups against Derrick Henry, the Colts have allowed just 41.5 rushing yards per game to enemy backs in four games since their bye; you’re probably hoping for a short touchdown if you start Booker again.
Thumbs Down: Peyton Barber (@ SF)
Barber is also a touchdown-dependent option this week, and the 49ers—who have allowed just six rushing touchdowns to opposing running backs in 2020—aren’t a great matchup for him and the Washington ground game. I’d expect J.D. McKissic to be the clear leader in the backfield with the offense likely going with more of a pass-heavy approach that worked last week in their upset win over the Steelers.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Chris Godwin (v MIN)
Godwin getting several pins removed from his finger over the bye week surely wasn’t very enjoyable for him, but he should feel closer to himself on Sunday, and I am hopeful that the team will build a game plan around the All-Pro wideout in Week 14 and beyond. That plus Mike Zimmer’s defense possibly placing more of a priority on stopping Mike Evans would benefit Godwin. Get him back in lineups as a WR1 option.
Thumbs Up: Terry McLaurin (@ SF)
Josh Allen putting the ball wherever he wants helped, but San Francisco just allowed a season-high 62.1 fantasy points to Buffalo wideouts on Monday night, and it wasn’t the first time they were exposed on the backend in recent weeks (at least 212 receiving yards and three touchdowns allowed to opposing receivers in three of the past five games). Similar to Stefon Diggs, McLaurin’s skillset isn’t a good matchup for Richard Sherman on the outside, and Washington’s top target had yardage totals of 90, 115, 95, 84, and 92 before a quiet game against Pittsburgh.
Thumbs Up: D.J. Chark (v TEN)
He didn’t have a reception until the end of the fourth quarter in Sunday’s overtime loss to the Vikings, but Chark remains the clear No. 1 wideout for Jacksonville, and it’s encouraging that Mike Glennon wasn’t afraid to target him downfield. The Titans didn’t cover anyone in Week 13, so I think some of the big plays could hit for Chark—who hauled in all four of his targets for 84 yards against the AFC South foe earlier this year. Call him an upside WR2 for the first week of the fantasy playoffs.
Thumbs Up: JuJu Smith-Schuster (@ BUF)
Smith-Schuster’s complete transformation to a full-blown underneath option has been kind of strange to see for a player that had a 97-yard touchdown in each of his first two seasons, but the receptions have given him a nice floor with 50 grabs over the past seven games. For this week, JuJu should mostly avoid Tre’Davious White in the slot, and I feel like the Steelers might give him a play-action shot if they can get the run going some. In full PPR leagues, I’d rather start Smith-Schuster over any of the “Thumbs Down” options below.
Others: Cole Beasley (v PIT), Christian Kirk (@ NYG)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Cooper Kupp (v NE)
Keenan Allen is clearly Justin Herbert’s favorite target and had been dominant for the most part leading up to last week, but New England held him to five receptions for 48 scoreless yards, and they should treat Kupp similarly as the security blanket for Jared Goff. With zero touchdowns since Week 4, Kupp is far from a must-start heading into the fantasy playoffs, and you might be better off waiting for the schedule to lighten up over the final three weeks (v NYJ, @ SEA, v ARI).
Thumbs Down: Marvin Jones (v GB)
Kenny Golladay (hip) doesn’t appear likely to return on Sunday, but that might actually be bad news for Jones—who will now draw coverage from shutdown corner Jaire Alexander. The veteran wideout was able to score a short touchdown against the Packers earlier this year, but overall, Mike Pettine’s defense has limited him to 48 yards over their past three meetings, so Jones might need a touchdown to save him again on Sunday.
Thumbs Down: Sammy Watkins (@ MIA)
I’m usually high on Watkins by viewing him as a weekly consideration for your FLEX spot because of his upside in Andy Reid’s offense, but he will mostly see Xavien Howard or Byron Jones on Sunday, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Dolphins gave Patrick Mahomes trouble. Obviously, the current Miami defense/team is much different than the ones Watkins torched with some big games when he was in Buffalo—including lines of 8/117/1, 8/168/1, and 7/154/1. Hold Watkins for now before considering him for matchups against the Saints and Falcons.
Thumbs Down: Mike Evans (v MIN)
He has 11 touchdowns in 12 games, but I think a lot of the issues for Tampa Bay on offense have to do with trying to get Evans the ball too much, and that could change coming out of the bye with extra time to reflect. Despite some significant struggles early in the season, Mike Zimmer’s defense has limited Allen Robinson (43 yards) and D.J. Chark (41 yards) as bigger targets on the outside in recent weeks, and I would be surprised if Minnesota allowed Evans to face single coverage in scoring territory. You probably can’t bench him, but I’d fade Evans in DFS play.
Others: Robert Woods (v NE), Jakobi Meyers (@ LAR)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Mike Gesicki (v KC)
The Broncos leaning on the run last week limited Noah Fant’s upside at Arrowhead Stadium, but he had a 37-yard catch on the game’s opening drive, and I think more plays were there to be made if Denver would have given the former first-round pick more opportunities. Before last week, the Chiefs had been shredded by Darren Waller (7/88/1) and Rob Gronkowski (6/106), so the size/athleticism of Gesicki projects to be a problem for them on Sunday.
Thumbs Up: Tyler Higbee (v NE)
I think Sean McVay—knowing that the Patriots will try to take away Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods—could decide to craft a game plan around Higbee, and playing more than 80% of the team’s offensive snaps for just the second time since Week 5 was a good sign last week as the veteran hopes to again be a difference-maker in the fantasy playoffs. New England is allowing the fourth-fewest points per game to the position, but Houston showed they can be attacked with tight ends by combining for 134 yards last month.
Thumbs Up: Cole Kmet (v HOU)
In his third consecutive game with at least 70% of the offensive snaps played, Kmet set new highs in targets (seven) and receptions (five) while catching his second career touchdown, and there is no reason for Chicago to go away from him now. Tight end has been a major struggle in 2020, so Kmet’s talent could be worth gambling on as a streamer for Week 14.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Zach Ertz (v NO)
Ertz should see increased playing time after a game back to knock off the rust, but the Saints have been extremely stingy versus opposing tight ends since a slow start—allowing three or fewer fantasy points per game to the position in six-of-seven weeks since the bye. With Dallas Goedert looking like the main guy (and better touchdown bet), Ertz doesn’t even rank inside the top 24 for me this week with Carson Wentz now on the bench.
Thumbs Down: Jimmy Graham (v HOU)
The other side of the coin for Cole Kmet’s emergence is Graham’s decline—and the veteran has gone without a catch in two of the past three games. Last week, I warned about Allen Robinson’s increasing role in scoring territory being a detriment to Graham, and he also has to deal with David Montgomery now capitalizing on scoring opportunities. Another zero is certainly possible.
Thumbs Down: Austin Hooper (v BAL)
In four games since returning to the lineup, Hooper has been targeted just 11 times, and the upside simply isn’t there with 286 yards in ten games this year. With players like Logan Thomas, Jordan Reed, and Jordan Akins often available on the waiver wire, I think you can shoot for a higher ceiling in the fantasy playoffs.