By Stephen Johnson–
(CBS) “Sit ‘Em, Start ‘Em” is a breakdown of some of the best and worst fantasy football matchups to help you navigate setting your lineups for the week.
Queue up the Jim Mora rant, the fantasy football playoffs are upon us! And yes, we can’t forget about you four-team playoff leagues either. Regardless of your league’s setup, Week 14 offers some interesting twists as Rob Gronkowski and JuJu Smith-Schuster hit the bench with one-game suspensions, while fellow rookie Joe Mixon finds himself in danger of missing a great fantasy matchup against the Bears. This season has been full of twists and turns – so why not a few more to close out the year?
START – Derek Carr, Raiders (at Chiefs) What better way to prepare for a three-way dogfight for the AFC West than to suspend your top cornerback? The Chiefs did exactly that this week, announcing Marcus Peters won’t play against the Raiders this Sunday. Enter Carr, who torched Kansas City in Week 7 to the tune of 417 yards and three touchdowns. The Chiefs allow the fifth-most points to quarterbacks this season while surrendering more than 21 points per game over their last six contests. With Michael Crabtree back in tow following his one-game suspension, there’s little holding Carr back for a repeat performance against his divisional foe.
SIT – Russell Wilson, Seahawks (at Jaguars) Can you name the quarterbacks who have put up QB1 numbers against the Jaguars this year? If you said yes, you’re a liar. Jacksonville hasn’t allowed a single quarterback to place in the QB1 tier this season – the only team to do so. Allowing a miniscule 145 passing yards at home, the Jaguars defense has wreaked havoc on opposing signal callers this season. While Wilson’s career marks have shown little difference between home and away games, that hasn’t been the case in 2017, when he averages 33 fewer yards passing on the road and his rushing yards per game plummet from 49 to 22 per game. Facing off against a historically dominant passing defense, Wilson is a dangerous play this week.
START – Lamar Miller, Texans (vs. 49ers) Ranked 30th against points allowed to running backs, the 49ers have been a turnstile for opponents in 2017. Miller’s usage reached a season-high last week, seeing the field for 80 percent of Houston’s snaps, a number which should hold for the final stretch of the season with little competition behind him. San Francisco not only ranks among the worst against the run but also against pass-catching backs, as it allow 55 yards per game, the league’s second-highest total.
SIT – Derrick Henry, Titans (at Cardinals) Henry has quietly been siphoning snaps from Demarco Murray over the past two weeks, and while the second-year pro’s usage looks to be on the up and up, this week’s showdown with the Cardinals will make yards hard to come by. Allowing only 75 yards per game on the ground, Arizona allows just 11 points per game to running backs at home. While the Cardinals have stuffed running backs on the ground, through the air has been a different story. They’ve surrendered the fifth-most receiving yards to the position over the past four weeks. Unfortunately for Henry, the passing-down work has stayed with sure-handed Murray, who has reeled in 33 receptions to Henry’s seven.
START – Josh Gordon, Browns (vs. Packers) It didn’t take long for Gordon to shake three years of rust off his game, and the gift of the Packers defense now awaits the athletic 26-year old in Week 14. Green Bay has been especially generous against wide receivers, allowing 8.7 more points than their opponents’ per-game averages over the past five weeks. Much of this influx of fantasy points has come via the Packers’ WR1 opponents, as they rank 29th in DOVA in allowing 84 yards per game, third-most in the league.
SIT – Devin Funchess, Panthers (vs. Vikings) Funchess’ performances since the Kelvin Benjamin trade have been off the charts, placing him among the best options at wide receiver during that stretch. Those stats should hit a wall this week as Vikings shutdown cornerback Xavier Rhodes will more than likely be shadowing the Panthers’ top receiving option. Following a disastrous Thanksgiving Day tilt, Rhodes got back on track last week, allowing Julio Jones to catch only two balls when he was assigned to him. Knowing Funchess must deal with Rhodes, who has allowed his assignments to score in just one game all season, look for other options to plug into your lineup.
START – Cameron Brate, Buccaneers (vs. Lions) You will be hard-pressed to find someone happier than Brate that Jameis Winston is back under center for the Buccaneers. In games which Jameis finished, Brate has averaged 52 yards and a touchdown. Games in which Winston didn’t play or finish? Brate’s numbers dropp to 23 yards per game with a lone touchdown over five contests. Detroit’s ability to defend tight ends has been on a slow and steady decline, ranking 25th in the league. Over the last four weeks, only the Dolphins have surrendered more fantasy points to the position.
SIT – Kyle Rudolph, Vikings (at Panthers) Rudolph has been among the hotter players at the position as of late, scoring three touchdowns in the Vikings’ last two games. But heading to Carolina this weekend, Rudolph finds himself going against a stifling Panthers defense that’s allowed 30 yards or fewer to the position in nine of its 12 games. Looking at their recent stat lines, Carolina has given up a combined 10 receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown to tight ends over its last four contests.
Stephen Johnson is 670 The Score’s 2017 Fantasy Football Expert winner. He’s a weekly guest on “Chicago’s Fantasy Football Today,” every Sunday morning during football season from 8.a.m.-9 a.m. CT on WSCR-670 and 670thescore.com/listen. Follow him on Twitter @Stephen_Roto.