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Week 14 Fantasy: “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down”

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Thumbs Up of the Week: Taysom Hill (@ NYJ)

A catch-and-run score by Deonte Harris late in last Thursday night’s loss saved Hill from a fantasy perspective, but the bottom line is that he had 20+ fantasy points despite four interceptions, and the rushing ability makes him a definite QB1. Extra time to get the finger healed up should have Hill playing more precise as a passer, so keep rolling with him against a New York defense that has allowed multiple scores through the air in every game since Week 5.


Thumbs Up: Cam Newton (v ATL)

Newton also has tremendous upside because of his rushing ability, and the only real concern for him—with Atlanta being a much easier matchup than Miami was a couple of weeks ago—would be P.J. Walker also seeing time under center. That’s not enough to downgrade Newton outside the top ten, though, and the former NFL MVP has notably rushed for a touchdown in all three appearances this year (including outings where he completed three passes and five passes).


Thumbs Up: Ben Roethlisberger (@ MIN)

The Steelers have hit their stride offensively during their 5-2 stretch, as Roethlisberger is playing very well with a 12:2 touchdown-interception ratio over the past seven games—and both turnovers came in the blowout loss to Cincinnati. Minnesota will be getting some reinforcements on defense, but they just allowed Jared Goff to have his best game of the season, and Big Ben’s weaponry will be difficult for them to match. Consider him a solid QB2 on Thursday night.


Thumbs Up: Taylor Heinicke (v DAL)

The passing numbers haven’t jumped off the page, but Heinicke has done just enough during Washington’s four-game winning streak, and I’d anticipate him needing to open things up some for a potential shootout versus Dallas this week. Since containing Kansas City’s offense last month, the Cowboys have shown more holes for whatever reason—leading to 24.04 fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks over the past two weeks. This could be a spot where Curtis Samuel is more involved to make up for the loss of Logan Thomas (knee).


Thumbs Down of the Week: Matthew Stafford (@ ARI)

He has three touchdowns in back-to-back games, but I’m not ready to say Stafford is out of his slump with the first of those outings coming in a garbage time effort versus Green Bay and last week’s coming against an overmatched Jacksonville team. The Cardinals were dominant in the first matchup (a 37-20 victory), and the underrated defense remains a better unit to attack on the ground than through the air. Stafford is a fringe QB1 that could again disappoint in primetime.


Thumbs Down: Matt Ryan (@ CAR)

Ryan couldn’t find the end zone last week despite playing well overall, but in general, Atlanta’s offense has gone ice cold with 41 combined points over their past four games—a stretch during which their quarterback has a 1:5 touchdown-interception ratio. Now facing a rested Carolina defense that limited Matty Ice to 146 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions back on Halloween, it might be wise to look elsewhere if you are in need for a Week 14 streamer.


Thumbs Down: Ryan Tannehill (v JAX)

Even with Julio Jones (hamstring) hopefully returning for Tennessee this weekend, Tannehill should operate a low-volume passing attack in order to get the offense back on track, so you might be hoping for a rushing touchdown if you start him. Prior to the bye, Tannehill had failed to throw for multiple touchdowns in four November games, and for the season, he has two games with multiple scores. I wouldn’t feel great about his chances of a big game on Sunday.


Thumbs Down: Justin Fields (@ GB)

Fields has been cleared for a primetime showdown with Aaron Rodgers, but the floor is simply too low for the rookie to garner serious consideration with a fantasy playoff berth potentially on the line. The first meeting against the Packers resulted in just 13.26 fantasy points for Fields, and he’s averaging 10.2 fantasy points per game in eight starts. At best, the rookie is a low-end QB2 flier.


Running Back


Thumbs Up of the Week: Nick Chubb (v BAL)

It might be ignorant of me to trust the Browns, but I’m hopeful that they’ll have realized over the bye week that Chubb needs to be fed (even if there aren’t early returns), as it’s inexcusable that their best player handled eight carries in the Week 12 loss to Baltimore with the game remaining close throughout. Also, the Ravens being banged up on the backend might result in lighter boxes for the rematch, and one positive from Round 1 was that Chubb saw a season-high four targets. I’m keeping faith in Chubb—averaging 5.8 yards per carry on the year—as a top-five option at running back.


Thumbs Up: Sony Michel (@ ARI)

Sean McVay wavered when given the chance to call Michel the lead back after a 121-yard performance last week, but that might have been playing coy with the media more than anything else; at worst, the former first-round pick has earned a much larger role, and the Cardinals are allowing the third-most yards per carry in the league (4.7). Darrell Henderson playing would make Michel more of a strong RB2 than RB1, but he’s tough to bench.


Thumbs Up: Dontrell Hilliard (v JAX)

While there is some risk with Tennessee’s backfield right now, Hilliard has been their most impressive option—including 131 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries versus New England. Before that, the 26-year-old rushed seven times for 35 yards with eight receptions for 47 yards against Houston in his first action of the season, and he could even be the top offensive option this week against the Jaguars. Hilliard can be played as a low-end RB2/FLEX.


Thumbs Up: Rashaad Penny (@ HOU)

Seattle has settled on a backfield duo of Adrian Peterson and Penny (with Travis Homer mixing in) to get the offense going, and there is no reason to expect changes coming off a season-saving win. AD is the better touchdown bet, but Penny turned 11 touches into 62 yards against the 49ers, and he’s firmly on the FLEX radar for a plus matchup in Houston with game flow likely in favor of the Seahawks and their ground attack.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Darrell Henderson (@ ARI)

With Sony Michel seemingly taking over the Los Angeles backfield, Henderson could be in a position similar to 2020 when Cam Akers took over down the stretch—leaving limited touches up for grabs behind him. Sean McVay has typically preferred to rely on a workhorse back in his offense, and Henderson might still be less than 100% on Monday night, which would be an “excuse” to feed Michel again in a huge NFC West clash.


Thumbs Down: Latavius Murray (@ CLE)

I believe it might be a good idea for the Ravens to get Murray more involved as a between-the-tackles presence on a struggling offense, but they’ve committed to Devonta Freeman as the clear starter—while Latavius played a season-low 19% of the snaps in their loss to Pittsburgh. Since returning from his ankle injury, Murray has zero touchdowns in three games… compared to four touchdowns in six games to start the season before going down.


Thumbs Down: Tevin Coleman (v NO)

Coleman has looked very good as the starter in each of the past two games, but now he’ll get a difficult matchup versus a New Orleans defense allowing an NFL-low 3.6 yards per carry, and the Jets don’t inspire much confidence in terms of playing from ahead. Basically, you’d be hoping for a short touchdown or for Coleman to break a long run like we saw from Tony Pollard against the Saints last Thursday night.


Thumbs Down: Bills RBs (@ TB)

Tampa Bay is neck-and-neck with Baltimore as the league’s top run defense (they have allowed exactly one more yard than the Ravens), so the Buffalo running backs are all risky starts, especially with Zack Moss back in the fold. Crazy winter conditions on Monday night still resulted in more pass attempts (30) than carries (25) for the Bills, and I don’t see offensive coordinator Brian Daboll testing the Bucs’ front much on Sunday.


Wide Receiver 


Thumbs Up of the Week: Mike Williams (v NYG)

Keenan Allen (COVID-19 list) has a shot to get cleared with his positive test coming early in the week, but Williams is still the preferred play for me coming off his first 100-yard game since Week 5. As previously stated, the Chargers have been at their best when Williams is a major factor, and he can hopefully approach double-digit targets on Sunday against a New York defense that failed to slow down Jaylen Waddle (9/90 on 11 targets) and DeVante Parker (5/62 on five targets) in Week 13.


Thumbs Up: Elijah Moore (v NO)

Moore was unsurprisingly able to get loose last week against the Eagles by catching six passes for 77 yards and a touchdown, so look for him to continue his second-half emergence with Corey Davis (groin) done for the season. New Orleans will play a lot of man coverage that the rookie can exploit, and I like him as a top-20 option after showing he can put up numbers with Zach Wilson under center (after already doing so with Mike White, Josh Johnson, and Joe Flacco).


Thumbs Up: K.J. Osborn (v PIT)

Adam Thielen (ankle) won’t play on Thursday night, so Osborn gets a significant boost into the high-end WR3 ranks as the team’s No. 2 pass-catcher behind Justin Jefferson. In five appearances with at least five targets this season, Osborn is averaging 12.7 fantasy points per game, and he should get a decent chunk of Kirk Cousins’ production against a banged-up Pittsburgh cornerback group. Pick him up if available.


Thumbs Up: Marquez Valdes-Scantling (v CHI)

Valdes-Scantling quietly totaled 19 targets in the two games prior to the bye, and his big-play potential gives him a high ceiling catching passes from Aaron Rodgers. The primary concern here would be game flow not being in MVS’s favor, but he caught a 72-yard touchdown last year against the Bears (he didn’t play in their first 2021 meeting), and the deep threat has turned into a top option behind Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, and AJ Dillon.


Others: Emmanuel Sanders (@ TB), Tre’Quan Smith (@ NYJ)


Thumbs Down of the Week: DeAndre Hopkins (v LAR)

Fantasy owners should be thrilled that Hopkins returned last week and caught a touchdown without having a setback, but it might be wise to hold off putting him back in the WR1 ranks. Although he hasn’t shadowed top opponents this year, Jalen Ramsey can hold Hopkins in check when matched up, and Arizona’s No. 1 wideout has put up modest numbers versus the Rams with 51.3 yards per game and one touchdown in three matchups since coming over from Houston. I’d view him as a mid-to-low WR2 this week.


Thumbs Down: D.J. Moore (v ATL)

There is some mystery regarding the Carolina offense with offensive coordinator Joe Brady fired over the bye week, and I would guess that more balance—both in terms of run-pass ratio and spreading the ball around more—could be the key change Matt Rhule wants. If so, Moore may have his floor lowered some, and he was already held below 60 yards in four of the past five games. With one touchdown since Week 5, Moore should be a low-end WR2 that may be dependent on a chunk play.


Thumbs Down: Courtland Sutton (v DET)

Sutton has been severely impacted by Denver shifting to a more run-heavy approach that complements strong defense, and the past five games has resulted in a combined nine receptions for 110 scoreless yards. The lack of targets (3.6 per game) and efficiency (6.1 yards per targets) over that span leaves Sutton squarely on the touchdown-or-bust map, but he has two scores in his past 17 games dating back to 2019. He’s a low-floor, low-end WR3.


Thumbs Down: Kenny Golladay (@ LAC)

I could see Jake Fromm (if he draws the start) wanting to give Golladay a chance down the field and/or in scoring territory, but there is a lot of uncertainty relying on a quarterback with zero NFL experience in the regular season, and the Chargers are allowing the third-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. Golladay is still searching for his first touchdown of the season, and he hasn’t surpassed 50 yards since the first week of October.


Others: Laviska Shenault Jr. (@ TEN), Christian Kirk (v LAR)


Tight End


Thumbs Up of the Week: Tyler Conklin (v PIT)

Conklin saw a season-high nine targets last week with Adam Thielen going down, and he capitalized with seven receptions for 56 yards. As stated for K.J. Osborn at wide receiver, Conklin should get a solid chunk of opportunities from Kirk Cousins on an offense that has stayed committed to the pass with 37.2 attempts per game. Pittsburgh has only allowed two touchdowns to opposing tight ends, but Conklin brings a high floor at the position.


Thumbs Up: Gerald Everett (@ HOU)

Houston hasn’t allowed much production to tight ends in back-to-back games, but for most of the season, they’ve bled points to the position, and top linebacker Zach Cunningham was just released. Everett was fortunate to not have his costly mistakes result in a Seattle loss last week, and he should be running angry when he gets the ball on Sunday.


Thumbs Up: Evan Engram (@ LAC)

Engram has seen five targets in each of the past three weeks, and Jake Fromm could be looking to him as a security blanket against a Los Angeles defense that—when throwing—is best attacked by tight ends. Even if the Giants get reinforcements at wide receiver, Engram is in a good spot to have a solid day, so he’s a quality bye-week fill-in.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Tyler Higbee (@ ARI)

Higbee’s role has remained stable with Odell Beckham Jr. in the fold, but he’s someone to avoid on Monday night—as the Cardinals are allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Aside from a couple of huge performances in 2019 (during the stretch when he was going off to end the year), Higbee has averaged 15.4 yards per game in nine matchups versus Arizona.


Thumbs Down: Cole Kmet (@ GB)

I’m high on Kmet as a player, and it’s been encouraging to see him become more involved since a slow start to the season. That said, the former Notre Dame standout has yet to find the end zone in 2021, and Jimmy Graham—with a touchdown in each of the past two games—being the priority in scoring territory limits Kmet’s upside for what could be a low-scoring night for the Bears.


Thumbs Down: C.J. Uzomah (v SF)

Fred Warner (hamstring) is hopeful to return for the 49ers this week, so Uzomah’s matchup would get a definite downgrade, and it’s a sub-par matchup either way with San Francisco allowing 30 or fewer yards to opposing tight ends in all but two games this season. You should be able to find a better option for Week 14.


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