The RotoExperts.com Staff reviews the Week 14 action through the fantasy lens.
Many teams who win in fantasy football have the right mix of "hot" players. They stick with them no matter what. You don't bench your fantasy superstars or guys who are playing well during the most important time of the season, even if their matchup seems to be a very challenging one.
DeAngelo Williams is playing like a fantasy superstar this year, and Monday's memorable performance against the usually stingy Buccaneers provided a resounding confirmation to the fantasy strategies previously mentioned. Williams rushed for 186 yards and two TDs, just when many fantasy players thought his run of strong games was about to come to an end. Williams, however, remains unstoppable. It seems like he has been a different guy since the day Carolina drafted Jonathan Stewart to challenge his playing time.
Williams has become a complete runner, able to bang for important yardage inside, and he is an absolute terror for opposing defenses who let him move into open space. He conjures up memories of Terrell Davis in his prime. He's a shifty runner with great instincts, displaying the ability to change gears and either run behind his pads or explode to the second level of defenders. Williams will be the key to many fantasy championships in 2008, and much like Brian Westbrook has shown us recently, the best fantasy players earn elite status by producing fine numbers against any opponent.
The 115 yards and two TDs from Jonathan Stewart were certainly unexpected. Many of his owners benched him in Week 14, based on the matchup and the recent play of Williams, who had owned the spotlight in Carolina. Stewart's outing proved that both players can excel together, which is certainly John Fox's ultimate vision. Stewart, however, has been statistically unreliable in his rookie season, yet he has provided his owners with the maximum possible production from a flex position. Stewart's numbers can easily sink again in the next week or two, but he will still be a useful starter with regular goal-line opportunities.
Upcoming opponents will certainly give Stewart more respect after his fine outing against Tampa Bay, and the Carolina running game is sure to be a focal point of defensive game plans. Williams still may not be stopped, but it remains to be seen how the rookie will adjust to being in the defensive crosshairs. At this point of the season, what you can expect from most players in terms of upside and consistency has been well established, and one outing should not change your thinking. Williams has been excellent all season, so don't bench him in any scenario. Heck, it's obvious you wouldn't after Monday night. Stewart, despite his fine outing on Monday, has been up and down numerically, so you'll have difficult decisions to make on him in the final weeks if you are considering him for anything more than a flex spot.
The outstanding running game has certainly helped Steve Smith, as Carolina has hit its desired stride in terms of offensive balance. Smith caught nine passes for 117 yards and a TD, and there is no doubt that opponents will continue to be greatly challenged by the Panthers. If they try to focus extra attention on the run, Smith will surely burn them downfield. Defenses who give safety or linebacker help to contain Smith leave more room for Williams and Stewart to eat up. Carolina's outstanding offensive line opens large holes, continues to smash defenders as run plays develop, and also gives Jake Delhomme lots of time to throw.
Delhomme, however, finished with only 173 yards and the one TD pass to Smith, and he has been nearly useless from the fantasy perspective recently. With the running game flourishing and Smith being his only dependable big-play target (that hasn't changed), no fantasy owner with serious championship aspirations would use Delhomme right now.
The Tampa Bay defense/special teams unit presents new and disturbing concerns. The Buccaneers have allowed 20 or more points in three consecutive games. Until recently, owners of the unit would simply activate them and then worry about the rest of their lineups. Right now, there aren't many other options available in free agency, and you have to believe the defense will come out wanting to re-establish itself in a major way against Atlanta in Week 15. The back seven is much better than it looked on Monday, and they will be fired up to put an awful outing behind them next week.
Lost in the din of Carolina's dominance was a 200-yard, two-TD performance by Antonio Bryant. He has officially replaced the faded Joey Galloway as Jeff Garcia's top big-play man, and opposing secondaries can't seem to stop him even if they give him extra attention. There has never been any doubt about his playmaking abilities, and Bryant should continue to roll in Week 15. Consistency has often been an issue, but most of his owners don't employ him as anything more than a WR3. They won't be willing to bench him after Monday's outing.
Warrick Dunn totaled 62 yards from scrimmage, and it is apparent that he is a matchups play at this point of the season. Fortunately for his owners, he faces the Falcons next week (he should be highly motivated to burn his ex-team). Carnell Williams rushed for a score in his second consecutive game and dispelled any doubts that he can be a reliable goal-line runner. Williams plowed straight through linebacker Jon Beason on his four-yard TD run in the third quarter.
How bad is the Raiders offense? The only points scored by Oakland came on a kickoff return. The Oakland offense totaled 163 yards, and has scored less than 20 points in nine of their last 10 games. With games coming up against New England, an improved Houston team and Tampa Bay, there is absolutely no reason to play any Raiders you haven't gotten around to cutting. Philip Rivers had only 10 completions, but made them count, as he threw three touchdowns and no interceptions. LaDainian Tomlinson had 91 rushing yards on 25 carries and one touchdown; however, Darren Sproles totaled even more fantasy points, as he had 64 total yards and two receiving touchdowns. If Sproles is still on your free-agent list, grab him in case of a late-season Tomlinson injury. Vincent Jackson had his best game of the season, with five receptions for 148 yards and one touchdown. Last week, Jackson was held without a reception, this past Sunday both Antonio Gates and Chris Chambers offered a doughnut in the reception category. Don't read too much into that, especially in Gates' case, as the Chargers were up big early, and ran the ball 46 times. San Diego's schedule includes Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Denver, so expect big performances from Tomlinson, Rivers, Gates and Jackson in the two division games, while the Tampa Bay game will produce less fantasy points, especially on the ground. -- Matt Wirkiowski
Another ugly offensive performance was turned in by the Browns, who are down to their third-string quarterback, Ken Dorsey. Also, Kellen Winslow Jr. did not play, due to a sprained ankle. The Browns haven't scored an offensive touchdown in three games, and it won't get any easier, with matchups against Philadelphia, Cincinnati, (Ok -- that one will be easier) and Pittsburgh. In fact, the only Brown you should be starting is Phil Dawson. Dawson has kicked at least two field goals in seven consecutive games. Give the rest of your Browns, including Winslow Jr., Jamal Lewis and Braylon Edwards the rest of the year off.
Chris Johnson ran the ball 19 times for 136 yards and one touchdown, while LenDale White handled the ball 24 times for 99 yards and one touchdown. Johnson added 30 receiving yards, while White added two receiving yards. Much like Philip Rivers, Kerry Collins didn't need to throw much, and only completed 14 passes, including two touchdowns and two interceptions. One of those touchdowns went to little-used running back Ahmard Hall, while the other went to Justin Gage. Two of Tennessee's next three opponents are in the bottom 10 in run defense, with the third opponent being Pittsburgh in Week 16. Depending on your depth, you'll want to consider other options at running back against the Steelers. -- M.W.
Gus Frerotte left Sunday's game with a back injury after completing seven passes for 70 yards and two interceptions. He was replaced by Tarvaris Jackson, who threw for 105 yards and one touchdown. Bernard Berrian caught three balls for 29 yards, while Visanthe Shiancoe was the Vikings' leading receiver, setting season highs with five catches, 69 yards and one touchdown. Frerotte's status for Week 15 is uncertain, but Jackson looked sharp, so if you need a fill-in for Week 15, don't forget Berrian and Shiancoe. The Cardinals have allowed the most receiving touchdowns, and present a friendly matchup. Adrian Peterson had 117 total yards, but failed to reach the end zone. Chester Taylor had 53 yards and a rushing touchdown, and has scored in three consecutive games. If you are thin at running back, Taylor is a sneaky start who will get you fantasy points, but won't have a huge week unless Peterson misses a game.
The Lions were a miserable source of fantasy points, again. The lone bright spot was Calvin Johnson, who reeled in three balls for 84 yards and one touchdown. He is the only Lion worth starting. Daunte Culpepper completed 14 passes for 220 yards and one touchdown, while Kevin Smith gained 90 total yards, but hasn't scored since Week 10. -- M.W.
This game was played in Toronto. Which was unfortunate for the Bills, as their offense was apparently stopped by Border Patrol. All Buffalo could muster was a field goal by Rian Lindell. J.P. Losman, filling in for the injured Trent Edwards, did nothing to keep the starting gig any longer than absolutely necessary, as he had 123 passing yards and one interception. As a result, the Bills receivers were fantasy duds, with Josh Reed leading the way with five receptions for 58 yards. Lee Evans extended his scoreless streak to seven games as he managed three receptions for 23 yards. Marshawn Lynch could do nothing against the Dolphins defense, and finished with 31 rushing yards. The Bills look like a team that has mailed it in, and if you have enough depth to remove Lynch from your lineup, do so.
The Dolphins are fighting for a playoff spot, and have a reasonable schedule with three opponents who rank in the bottom half of the league in points allowed and yards allowed. Chad Pennington, depending on your depth, is an option against the 49ers, and especially against the Chiefs. Against the Bills, he threw for 181 yards and one touchdown. Ronnie Brown had 88 total yards, while Ricky Williams chipped in with 42 total yards. The Dolphins' lone touchdown was caught by Anthony Fasano, who finished with three catches for 36 yards. Davone Bess was Miami's leading receiver, hauling in nine balls for 74 yards. If Bess is still on your free-agent list, grab him. -- M.W.
Donovan McNabb had a serviceable afternoon against a very tough Giants defense, completing 19-of-30 passes for 191 yards and a touchdown. After being benched because of ball control issues, he's now been turnover-free in two straight games, and has regained the full confidence of Andy Reid. Make sure to keep him plugged into your lineup for the remainder of the season. DeSean Jackson was held without a catch for the first time in his young career. That can attributed to added attention from Giants defenders after Kevin Curtis (concussion) was knocked out of the game. While the zero catches are a bit disconcerting, Jackson is too explosive not to be used in your flex spot. Stay away from Curtis. Concussions can have a lingering effect, and he hasn't been that useful of late anyway. L.J. Smith had his best day of the season, with six catches for 44 yards. After nearly losing his job, Smith is slowly becoming more involved in the Eagles offense. Desperate owners could do worse than starting the former Pro Bowler at tight end.
In windy conditions, Eli Manning completed only 48 percent of his passes for a season-low 123 yards. He did manage to throw a late touchdown, and has now found the end zone in every game. Manning is a reliable option, but bad conditions (the Meadowlands are notoriously windy late in the year) or a bad matchup could warrant a benching. In Plaxico Burress' absence, Steve Smith led the way with four catches for 47 yards, Domenik Hixon had three grabs for 30 yards and Amani Toomer caught two passes for 25 yards. Hixon has the most upside of the three, but with Manning clearly not tied to any one guy, it's hard to start any of them with confidence. -- Chris Ryan
Matt Schaub returned from his knee injury in grand fashion, throwing for two touchdowns and delivered the first 400-yard passing game of his career. Schaub was playing at an elite level before the injury, and Sunday's performance should be a warning to those owners considering benching him. Owen Daniels benefited from having his starting QB back in the lineup, catching six balls for 65 yards. Both totals were far and away the most he's had since Week Nine, the game that Schaub was injured. Kevin Walter out-performed his higher profile counterpart, Andre Johnson, by exploding for 146 yards and a touchdown on six receptions. Walters' eight touchdowns rank him among the leaders at the position, and even though he's made a habit out of following up big performances with duds, it's hard to leave him out of your lineup.
Ryan Grant alleviated all doubts about the lingering effects of his thumb injury by rushing for 19 times for 104 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Jackson did not get a single carry. Grant has really come on strong of late -- just as he did last year -- and is a must-start for the remainder of the playoffs. Donald Lee had three catches for 48 yards, and he found the end zone for the third time in his last four games. Over that span he's averaging 3.2 receptions and right around 30 receiving yards, making him a very good starting option. -- C.R.
Drew Brees' 230 passing yards were his lowest total of the season, and his top two receiving targets, Lance Moore and Marques Colston, suffered because of it. Moore had three receptions for 35 yards, while Colston managed to haul in three passes for 26 yards. Moore has totaled just five catches and 50 yards over the last two games, and Colston has yet to put together back-to-back good outings. Neither should be trusted outside of a WR3 spot. Pierre Thomas scored twice, and had his first 100-yard game since Week 17 of last year. He's now crossed the goal line six times in the four games since taking on an expanded role, and he will clearly be the primary ball-carrier and short yardage option for the remainder of the season. Reggie Bush only had 13 touches, but he totaled 106 yards and scored on a five-yard pass. Thomas' stellar play is going to limit his numbers, but Bush can put fantasy points on the board in so many different ways that he should remain active for the rest of your fantasy playoffs.
There was nothing out of the ordinary on the Falcons side of the ball. Matt Ryan had another strong performance, throwing for 315 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Michael Turner rushed for his NFC-leading 14th touchdown, Jerious Norwood continued his unproductive play (nine touches for 38 yards), and Roddy White had a career-high 164 yards to go along with 10 receptions. Michael Jenkins was a nice flex play as he recorded five catches and 69 yards. This game illustrated perfectly what to expect from the Falcons' skill position players in the final weeks. -- C.R.
On a day when Peyton Manning threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns, it was more than a bit surprising to see Reggie Wayne contribute only five catches for 48 yards and go scoreless for the fourth consecutive game. He's been under 50 yards in five of his last eight games, and should be downgraded to WR2 status. Marvin Harrison led the Colts with 78 yards, but was caught from behind on a 67-yard catch-and-run, showcasing his loss of that extra gear that made him such an effective deep threat during most of his career. He did catch a touchdown though, and shares the team lead in that department with five. Harrison and slot receiver Anthony Gonzalez (who also caught a touchdown) should both be employed as flex players. Don't pay any attention to Gijon Robinson's six-catch, 69-yard afternoon. He's a seldom-used TE that just happened to fit into the game plan against the Bengals. Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes each received 10 carries, with Rhodes scoring on a 17-yard run. Addai suffered a shoulder injury, opening the door for Rhodes to see signification second-half action.
The Bengals have been held without a touchdown in 11 straight quarters, and outside of T.J. Houshmandzadeh (eight catches for 75 yards) and Chad Johnson (five grabs for a season-high 79 yards), they obviously offer virtually nothing in terms of fantasy production. -- C.R.
Kyle Orton was solid, completing 20 of 34 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns; he remains a strong play in two-QB leagues or extremely deep leagues. Devin Hester had five catches for 80 yards, but Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark caught the touchdowns. Hester is too inconsistent to be a fantasy starter at this point of the year. Clark can be ignored and Olsen is a low-end starting TE. Matt Forte continues to be a reliable running back (what "rookie wall"?), as he rushed for 106 yards.
Maurice Jones-Drew, on the other hand might be the only Jaguar with any value still left. Jones-Drew scored Jacksonville's lone touchdown and had just over 100 combined yards. Jacksonville's offensive line is still too porous to recommend Jones-Drew as anything more than a flex play for playoff teams. However, he often avoided the tackler and should be a great keeper for next year. David Garrard completed half of his 38 passes for 178 yards, an interception and a touchdown. Garrard should be nowhere near your fantasy team in a standard re-draft league, especially with Jacksonville facing the Ravens in week 17, if your league continues then. The same is true for the Jacksonville receivers, who did nothing of note in this game. -- Mark Strausberg
Jay Cutler failed to connect on just eight of his 40 pass attempts, throwing for 286 yards and a pair of touchdowns to Brandon Marshall. Marshall was a PPR gem, catching 11 passes for 91 yards. Tony Scheffler added five catches for 61 yards and Eddie Royal had six catches for 42 yards. Denver will rely heavily on the passing game down the stretch. The reason for that is because Denver lost its sixth running back of the season. Peyton Hillis, who had 58 rushing yards and a touchdown, injured his hamstring and looks to be done for the season.
Larry Johnson has just 36 yards on 11 carries and you should not be expecting much from him for your playoffs. Dwayne Bowe had seven catches for 96 yards and remains a WR2 play. The Tyler Thigpen Express is starting to run out of steam, as he completed just 17 of 32 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown. However, he remains a low-end QB2, especially with San Diego on tap next week. The Chargers have struggled defending the pass. -- M.S.
If you were hoping for a Willis McGahee revival, time to pack up the tents. McGahee got the lion's share of carries early, but was unable to do very much with them and finished the day with 32 yards on 11 carries. If you're not dissuaded by the poor production, you should know that McGahee also suffered a knee injury late in the game (he fumbled on the same play). If you haven't yet, you can drop McGahee now. Le'Ron McClain is Baltimore's workhorse and carried 20 times for 61 yards and a touchdown. Despite his limited use, Ray Rice actually looked the best of the Ravens running backs, garnering 31 yards on his three attempts. Joe Flacco completed only 10 of 21 attempts for 134 yards, but did connect on a 28-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Mason, who finished with three catches for 60 yards.
The Washington offense looked far worse, as the lone highlight was Jason Campbell's five-yard touchdown pass to Antwaan Randle El. Santana Moss "led" all receivers with 48 yards. Clinton Portis barely carried the ball at all in the second half and finished with 32 rushing yards. Portis' owners should be grateful for the upcoming Cincinnati game. -- M.S.
Shaun Hill passed for 285 yards and two touchdowns. Hill has two touchdowns in four of the 49ers last five games. With Miami and St. Louis the next two weeks, Hill makes an adequate start. Isaac Bruce caught six passes for 70 yards and has 19 receptions the last three weeks. Bruce is a valuable PPR player. Bryant Johnson caught six passes as well, totaling 49 yards and a score. Johnson shouldn't be started, even in three wide-receiver leagues. Jason Hill caught four passes for 39 yards, and his only limited value is in PPR leagues. Frank Gore caught a touchdown and ran for 52 yards before being carted off the field with an apparent leg injury. DeShaun Foster replaced Gore and ran for 35 yards on 16 carries. Even if Gore is out for any period, Foster shouldn't be started.
Brett Favre threw for a season-low 137 yards, despite running for a touchdown. Favre hasn't thrown for a touchdown in two straight weeks and his tank is running dry near the end of the season. Favre shouldn't be started the next few weeks. Thomas Jones received only 10 carries, but ran for 56 yards and a score. Jones has scored in six of the last seven weeks. Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery each had only one catch. Coles now has seven yards in the last two games. Cotchery hasn't topped 100 yards since Week 8 and shouldn't be counted on for anything more than WR3 stats. Dustin Keller had two catches for 14 yards, obviously suffering from a poor game by Favre. Keller should bounce back next week against Buffalo. Leon Washington rushed for only one yard, but caught six passes for 31 yards. -- Brad Rysz
Kurt Warner threw for 279 yards and a touchdown, his 13th straight game with a touchdown pass. Warner will continue to do his thing as the Cardinals gear up for the playoffs. Larry Fitzgerald caught six passes for 73 yards and his ninth touchdown. Fitzgerald is the type of consistent force necessary for a long run in during the fantasy playoffs. Anquan Boldin caught five passes for 62 yards and was held under 100 yards for the third straight game. Boldin is slowing down a bit, but not enough to cause any concern. Steve Breaston caught a team-high seven passes for 90 yards. Breaston is the ideal WR3 for PPR leagues. Tim Hightower scored a touchdown, but ran for only 32 yards on 12 carries. Hightower hasn't topped 35 yards since rushing for 109 yards in Week 9. With Minnesota coming up next week, Hightower should b benched. J.J. Arrington totaled 52 yards, but isn't getting enough carries to warrant a start.
Steven Jackson caught a touchdown and ran for 64 yards, but fumbled twice. Jackson has nice matchups against Seattle and San Francisco coming up, so he makes a RB2 late in the schedule. Torry Holt led the Rams with five receptions for 61 yards. This has become a typical game for Holt. Donnie Avery caught two passes for 18 yards. Avery hasn't scored since Week 8 and can be dropped. Antonio Pittman totaled 67 yards, but he is only useful when Jackson is out. -- B.R.
The Seahawks provided a scare, but Matt Cassel and the Patriots outlasted Seattle to get the victory. Cassel threw for 268 yards and a touchdown. With Oakland and Arizona the next two weeks, and the Patriots in the thick of the playoff hunt, Cassel is primed for a big finish to the season. Wes Welker caught a season-high 12 passes for 134 yards. Randy Moss was held to three catches for 56 yards. Moss has two sub-par games since his three-touchdown game in Week 12. Like Welker, though, Moss makes a great WR2 the next two weeks. Sammy Morris received 11 carries and rushed for 36 yards and a touchdown. Morris is a strong flex play, as he has the best chance to score of any Patriots running back. Kevin Faulk continued his decent all-around play, rushing for 16 yards and catching five passes for 22 yards. Faulk doesn't have much value unless Morris is out.
Seneca Wallace filled in for the injured Matt Hasselbeck and passed for 212 yards and tied a career-high with three touchdowns. Wallace also led the Seahawks with 47 yards on the ground. With St. Louis on the schedule next week, Wallace is a decent start if Hasselbeck is out again. Deion Branch torched his old team for 88 yards and two touchdowns. The touchdowns were Branch's first two scores of the season. Branch can be started as a WR3 or flex play. John Carlson caught a career-high eight passes for 69 yards and a touchdown. Carlson has become a must-start tight end and has 14 receptions his last two games. Bobby Engram caught four passes for 27 yards. Engram should not be started in any format. The Seahawks were ineffective on the ground, with Maurice Morris rushing 14 times for 39 yards. Leonard Weaver rushed for 32 yards, while T.J. Duckett added 16 yards. -- B.R.
Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger were pressured and harassed all afternoon. Romo passed for 210 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions against the Steelers' No. 1 pass defense. With the Giants and Ravens coming up, Romo has his work cut out for him. Jason Witten caught six passes for 62 yards, despite leaving briefly with an injury. Terrell Owens caught three passes for 32 yards and a touchdown. With the tough schedule coming up, Owens should provide adequate, but unimpressive numbers. Tashard Choice started for the injured Marion Barber III and made a name for himself. Choice totaled 166 yards, although he didn't find the end zone. These numbers are even more impressive considering they came against the Steelers. Choice is a solid flex play if Barber is out. Roy Williams caught two passes for 16 yards and clearly isn't a fantasy option.
Roethlisberger was sacked five times, but managed to pass for 204 yards and a touchdown. Roethlisberger faces Baltimore next week in what does not shape up as a good matchup. Santonio Holmes led the Steelers' receivers with three catches for 82 yards. The threat of Holmes as a deep-ball threat makes him a WR2. Hines Ward was held to only one catch for two yards. Ward has been effective all year, so chalk this up as an off game. Heath Miller caught three passes for 20 yards and a touchdown. Miller is a low-end TE start. Nate Washington caught four passes for 58 yards, but shouldn't be started. Willie Parker rushed for only 25 yards on 12 carries. Parker hasn't scored since Week 9 and his lingering injuries make him a flex play at best. -- B.R.