It’s playoff time and it’s natural to agonize over every waiver wire add, lineup change and piece of injury news. Quite frankly, you should. It’s a one-week season right now and every decision is magnified. For those in deeper leagues—or those top heavy at one position and weak in another—it can be incredibly difficult to parse through the middle class at a given position with so much on the line. We’re here to help. Here are some players who are sneaky starts in Week 14.
Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
Don’t be scared off by Ryan Tannehill’s meh fantasy day against the Colts last week. He had a strong real life game, completing 17 of 22 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns against a solid Indianapolis defense. He gets a really juicy matchup this week in Oakland against the Raiders. Oakland allows the third-most points to fantasy QBs this season. They’ve allowed 16 passing touchdowns in the their seven post-bye games. Meanwhile, Tannehill has been a top-five QB in average fantasy points (21.6) since becoming a starter and has multiple touchdowns in every start this season. He’s a safe fill-in option with the potential to spike into QB1 range in this great matchup.
Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams
No, I’m not buying into any false hype coming off his 25-point game against the Cardinals. Arizona has the worst secondary in the NFL in real life and is allowing 3.5 more fantasy points per game (!) to the position than the next worst team (Texans). However, there is a reasonable takeaway: Goff has fantasy success in good matchups. That may be damning with faint praise, but we’re not going for style points here. All we need is fantasy points. Goff’s seven best performances of the season are against teams that are currently ranked in the Top 13 for most points allowed to the position. His worst performance of that bunch was 14.1 points in Cleveland, but his three turnovers is what really sunk an otherwise solid 268-yard, two-touchdown day. His other performances are 19.1 points vs. New Orleans, 20.7 points vs. Tampa Bay, 25 points at Atlanta, 22.9 points vs. Cincinnati, 25 points at Arizona and 17.9 points against this week’s opponent, the Seahawks, in Seattle. The Seahawks are giving up an average of 19 fantasy points per game to the position this season and Goff threw for 395 yards and a touchdown against them in Week 5. With his full complement of weapons healthy (save for maybe Gerald Everett), there’s no reason Goff can’t get you 18-20 points this week. Keep in mind that the season-long average point total for the current QB12 is 18.0 fantasy points.
Bo Scarbrough, Detroit Lions
This is a case of trusting the volume. Scarbrough has 39 carries over the last two weeks and there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue to get that sort of volume again in Week 14. The matchup with Minnesota might scare some off, but it’s not quite as daunting as it looks on the surface. The Vikings are giving up the sixth-fewest fantasy points to RBs this season, but have been a little shaky in the last month or so. They gave up huge games to both Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny on Monday Night Football last week, the Broncos found some success on the ground the week prior, albeit with a few different backs, and Damien Williams carved them up in Week 9. They did shut down Ezekiel Elliott in Week 10, but have given up at least 81 rushing yards in every other game since Week 6 and four rushing touchdowns in the last four weeks. That’s all to say that while it’s not an ideal matchup for Scarbrough, it’s not a must-sit scenario either. Scarbrough is a high-floor, low-ceiling play for those who are heavy favorites in their matchup or for those who just need a safe option in their flex spot. Expect around 8-9 fantasy points with a decent chance at a touchdown to make it a really nice fantasy day.
Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings
I’m assuming Dalvin Cook plays on Sunday and I still think Mattison is a sneaky start. For starters, and this is not something fantasy managers want to hear, there’s a strong chance Cook is limited in some capacity in this game. Limited for him might be 18-20 touches, but when you’re used to getting 25-30 that’s a notable downgrade. That also means we could see Mattison get 15-20 touches of his own in a game in which the Vikings should have a late lead they can salt away on the ground. The idea floating around that Mattison isn’t much of a downgrade from Cook is just wrong, but Mattison is averaging nearly five yards per carry this season and showed on Monday night that he can be a weapon in the passing game if called upon. There’s some risk because he only has two double-digit fantasy games all season, but he’s never had more than 15 touches in a game. He has a good chance to surpass that number against a Lions team that’s allowed the third-most points to RBs this season.
Benny Snell, Pittsburgh Steelers
There’s value here regardless of whether or not James Conner makes his return in Week 14. If he does, Snell should still receive about a dozen touches as part of a timeshare. If Conner sits out again, Snell should flirt with 20 touches in a favorable matchup against the Cardinals. Snell had 23 touches for 103 total yards in a similar matchup with the Bengals two weeks ago. He had 17 touches, 67 total yards and a touchdown in a slightly tougher matchup against the Browns last week. So that 11-14 point range he’s shown over the last two weeks is right in line with what expectations should be this week. If Conner is out, Snell is a low-end RB2. If Conner is active, Snell is a mid-level flex option.
Nyheim Hines, Indianapolis Colts
It’s understandable if you want to avoid the entire Colts backfield this week. Marlon Mack may or may not be back, but that decision ultimately affects Jordan Wilkins and Jonathan Williams more than it does Hines. You can’t run on the Buccaneers, so Jacoby Brissett is going to have to attempt to win this game with his arm, especially with how many points Jameis Winston and Co. typically put up. Hines is a major weapon in the Colts’ passing game and could easily outsnap every other Colts back just because of the game script. His two rushing touchdowns in the last three games are a nice bonus, but expect Hines to have a 5-6 catch game with a handful of carries as a small supplement. He’s a flex play for those in full-PPR formats.
Robby Anderson, New York Jets
Anderson is coming off back-to-back strong games against the Raiders and Bengals and gets to face a Dolphins defense allowing the sixth-most points to fantasy WRs this season. Anderson is always a boom-or-bust play, even in strong matchups, but things are lining up nicely for a third consecutive game above the 15-point threshold. The Jets are at home, where Sam Darnold has historically performed better in his career, the matchup is strong and the weather is fair (temperature in the 40s with no wind or precipitation). This game also has the makings of an under-the-radar shootout since Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins never seem to go away late in games anymore. Plus, Adam Gase has shown an aversion to sticking with the run this season. I don’t expect Anderson to get 10 targets again, but he should get 6-8 in a game that’s setting up for him to finish as a high-end WR3.
James Washington, Pittsburgh Steelers
Washington is really coming on as of late and showed that he has as much chemistry with new quarterback Devlin Hodges on the field as he does when duck hunting with him. Washington caught four passes for 111 yards and a touchdown in a much more difficult matchup than he’ll face this week. However, this isn’t so one-week deal. This trend has been coming for some time. Washington has only one game with fewer than 10.9 fantasy points since Week 9. He’s averaging 5.4 targets and 15.5 fantasy points per game in that time frame. He’s the WR18 (minimum three games played) since Week 9 and has a glorious matchup against the Cardinals this week. Arizona allows the second-most fantasy points to WRs this season. Washington is a legit WR3 this week with much higher upside.
Cole Beasley, Buffalo Bills
Ol’ reliable could be just what you need to fill out your lineup this week. Beasley isn’t a sexy name and he won’t strike fear into the heart of your opponent, but as I mentioned earlier style points don’t matter. Beasley has actually been significantly better than just reliable lately, with 6/76/1 against the Broncos in Week 12 and 6/110/1 against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. Even so, many are leaving him on the waiver wire or at the end of their bench because they fear the matchup against the Ravens. That’s understandable but keep in mind that the game is in Buffalo and that the Ravens are a below average team when it comes to covering slot receivers. Both Dallas and Denver were much tougher matchups for Beasley and he had a ton of success. Don’t run away from him this week, especially since he’s averaging 6.5 targets and five catches per game over the last four weeks. He also has a touchdown in five of his last seven games. He’s a borderline WR3 this week.
Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
I’m not fading Samuel to the extent the rest of the fantasy community is this week. The Saints are not as strong of a fantasy defense as people perceive. They rank as the ninth-best team for fantasy WRs to face this season. Samuel has at least 13 fantasy points in each of his last four games, and hasn’t had fewer than eight points in a game since mid-October. His drop in targets the last two weeks is concerning (he had only six combined targets over the last two weeks) but saved his fantasy value with touchdowns in each of those games. Since Week 8, Samuel has scored a touchdown in every game that he didn’t receive at least seven targets. One could argue that the bottom could drop out in one of these games. Another could counter that he finds a way to be productive one way or another. Samuel is more of a borderline Top 40 WR than a must-start, but it’s going to be difficult to leave a player averaging 14.9 fantasy points per game over the last six weeks (the WR21 in that span) on your bench.
Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh Steelers
McDonald being on this list is 100% unequivocally about the matchup against the Cardinals. You may have heard that Arizona is absolutely brutal against tight ends. They are the worst team in the NFL when it comes to defending them and it’s not even close. The allow an average of 20.2 fantasy points per game to the position, a whopping 4.1 points per game more than the second-worst team (Seahawks). For context, the No. 1 TE in fantasy this season on a per-game basis is Austin Hooper at 17.2 points. No. 2 is Travis Kelce at 15.4 points. The Cardinals allow just any old group of tight ends to score significantly more than that. Players like T.J. Hockenson, O.J. Howard, Ross Dwelley and Tyler Higbee have had monster games against them and have been completely fantasy irrelevant otherwise. McDonald has a strong chance to join that list this weekend.
Ryan Griffin, New York Jets
Griffin missed Wednesday’s practice with an illness but should be good to go against Miami on Sunday. He didn’t have a big game against the Bengals (5/30/0), but the seven targets were certainly nice to see. He caught a touchdown in each of his last two games and had five total over the seven weeks prior to Week 13. The Dolphins are just below league average when it comes to defending tight ends, but Griffin did have six catches for 50 yards against them in Miami back in Week 9. It should’ve been a bigger game as his touchdown was taken off the board after replays showed the ball moving after he hit the ground. Darnold has shown a willingness to target Griffin in the red zone and, as mentioned in the Anderson section, the Jets should be in a position to throw a lot this week. Griffin is a borderline TE1.
More Advice from SI Fantasy:
—Dr. Roto’s Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em for some of your tougher lineup decisions
—Jaime Eisner’s waiver wire pickups: James Washington, Patrick Laird and more
—Frankie Taddeo’s streaming options for Week 14
—Jaime Eisner’s stock watch on players trending up or down
—Frankie Taddeo's injury report takes a look at who is out how long