The pivotal lineup decisions you make this week could make or break your journey to a fantasy championship. For example, owners who started Mitchell Trubisky or Carson Wentz over Drew Brees last week may have won in Week 13 due to a risky or bold call. It might even be the only reason your season is still alive. However, if you decided to play Christian Kirk or Will Fuller over Alshon Jeffery or Devante Parker, the decision may have cost you a playoff berth.
It’s small lineup decisions like those that can leave fantasy owners saying the dreaded words: “My bench outscored my starters.” Well in order for that not to happen, it’s vital to be aware of players drawing tough matchups who pose a significant risk to your fantasy success. Let’s take a look at several players who check that box in Week 14.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders (vs TEN)
Carr, owned in 76% of leagues, has struggled over the last month and things don’t get any easier in Week 14 against the Titans. The veteran quarterback has thrown more interceptions (4) than touchdown passes (2) over the last three games, while failing to top 222 yards passing in three of his last four. With everything on the line in the fantasy playoffs, my model identifies Carr as a fade against a Tennessee defense that has been on fire of late, recording 14 sacks and 10 turnovers, and scoring two defensive touchdowns over their last five games. Carr falls out of my model’s top 20 quarterback rankings in a do-or-die Week 14.
Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs IND)
Jones, who was non-existent in Week 13 posting 0.8 PPR fantasy points, has become a player fantasy owners should not trust in the playoffs. It was learned after the game that head coach Bruce Arians benched the young running back after he failed to pick up his blitz assignment that led to a big hit on QB Jameis Wintson. Owned in 89% of leagues, many owners were intending on starting Jones, who seemed to have taken over as the lead back prior to last week. In Week 14, in addition to possibly being relegated to back-up duties behind Peyton Barber, he will be facing a ninth-ranked Colts run defense that has only allowed one rushing touchdown to opposing running backs over the last five games.
LeSean McCoy, Kansas City Chiefs (at NE)
Fantasy owners were saved from a disastrous stat line when the veteran back scored a late second-half touchdown against Oakland. McCoy (owned in 83% of leagues) had a plus match-up against a struggling Raiders defense and was expected to post big numbers with starting RB Damien Williams sitting out due to a rib injury. The aging back has fewer than 29 rushing yards in each of his last three games and has become completely touchdown dependent in fantasy football. In Week 14 against the Patriots, in addition to William’s expected return, he will face the league’s fifth-best run defense that has only surrendered five rushing touchdowns all season.
Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals (vs PIT)
Outside of a big performance back in Week 10 against Tampa Bay, the star wideout has disappointed immensely over the last month, posting fewer than 41 receiving yards in three of his last four games, despite a large share of targets (31). Kirk, owned in 94% of leagues, has been on the field for 97% of the snaps over that span but has struggled to get on the same page with rookie QB Kyler Murray. The second-year wide receiver produced only three receptions for 23 yards against the Rams, and has become a huge liability going forward in the fantasy playoffs. When everything is on the line, trusting the promising wideout in Week 14 against a Steelers pass defense that just limited Browns WR Odell Beckam to 29 receiving yards is just too risky.
Sammy Watkins, Kansas City Chiefs (at NE)
Watkins, who had posted double-digit PPR fantasy points in two of his previous three games heading into Week 13, failed to haul in any of his three targets in Kansas City’s 40-9 win over Oakland. In Week 14, the veteran wideout (owned in 91% of leagues) will draw a New England defense that has surrendered the fewest touchdown passes (8) and is allowing the second-fewest passing yards to opposing offenses at a paltry 164 yards per game. Although he will be running routes for arguably the best quarterback in the NFL, the sixth-year pro should be avoided at all costs.
Don’t Even Think About It. Your Fantasy Life Is On The Line!
Eli Manning, NY Giants (at MIA)
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals (at CLE)
Jonathan Williams, Indianapolis Colts (vs TB)
Latavius Murray, New Orleans Saints (vs SF)
Brandin Cooks, Los Angeles Rams (vs SEA)
Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens (at BUF)
As one great legend once said, “There is no tomorrow,” and that certainly applies to fantasy owners in the opening round of the fantasy playoffs. Best of luck to everyone this week and may all your lineup decisions be winning ones!
More Advice From SI Fantasy
—Jamie Eisner’s Waiver Wire highlights the players you should be picking up
—Dr. Roto’s Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em can help with your tougher lineup decisions
—Frankie Taddeo’s Week 14 Injury Report on the players who got hurt in Week 13
—Frankie Taddeo’s Streaming Options could make or break your playoff run.
—Jamie Eisner’s Stock Watch on players trending up and down
—Mark Deming’s Target and Snap Report pulls fantasy nuggets out of the Week 13 data