Patrick Daugherty

Goal Line Stand

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Week 14 Rankings

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Updated 12/8/3:15 PM ET. Eddie Royal added as the No. 72 receiver. 

Updated 12/8/2013 at 12:45 PM ET. Moved Reggie Bush down after reports indicated he re-injured calf in pre-game warmups. Joique Bell moved up. Delanie Walker removed. 

Updated 12/8/2013 at 12:15 PM ET. Rashad Jennings and Jordan Reed removed. Lots of minor moves at running back. Stevan Ridley ticked slightly upward. 

There are many ways to make the fantasy playoffs. Drafting the best team. Having the most injury fortune. Being smiled upon by the gods of sheer, dumb luck. Calvin Johnson. Typically, it’s a mixture of the first three.

One easy way to get bounced? Getting cute. In many ways, getting cute is understandable. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and the competition couldn’t be better. The margin for error is somewhere between Tim Tebow’s 2013 starts and Trent Richardson’s yards per carry. In the human brain, this creates a desire to out-fox, to out-maneuver. To search for Jesus’ face on the toast. Somewhere, there’s an edge, and it must be found and exploited.

Only most of the time, the answer is staring you straight in the face: Start your studs. It’s one of fantasy’s most oft-repeated clichés, but perhaps also its most ignored. That’s because there’s a certain banality to starting your studs, to trusting the process. Who wants to settle for a double to the gap when there’s a triple to be legged out?

But it’s most certainly the way to go for anyone who’d rather chase a title than a whim. This isn’t always an option, of course. It’s possible many of your studs have long since torn their ACLs. If you’ve waved goodbye to Julio Jones and Reggie Wayne, then by all means, start Cordarrelle Patterson over Jerricho Cotchery. But say you’ve got Patterson in your lineup simply because you “don’t like the way Wes Welker has been looking lately,” or have heard vaguely ominous things about the weather Riley Cooper will be playing through in Philadelphia. Then it’s kind of gamble that will backfire nine times out of 10.

There’s not a lot of glory in playing Frank Gore over Montee Ball when Gore is coming off three straight rough games and Ball is getting goal-line chances and facing one of the league’s softest run defenses. But it’s absolutely the right call, and the kind that usually ensures you will be advancing instead of packing. The safe decision doesn’t always equal a win, but it rarely equals an inexplicable exit. Resist the urge to overthink, and trust common sense instead of your gut.     


Week 14 Quarterbacks

Rank Player Name Opponent Notes
1 Peyton Manning vs. TEN Probable (ankle)
2 Matthew Stafford at PHI -
3 Nick Foles vs. DET -
4 Drew Brees vs. CAR -
5 Tom Brady vs. CLE -
6 Cam Newton at NO -
7 Josh McCown vs. DAL -
8 Tony Romo at CHI -
9 Philip Rivers vs. NYG -
10 Matt Ryan at GB -
11 Russell Wilson at SF -
12 Alex Smith at WAS -
13 Robert Griffin III vs. KC -
14 Ryan Fitzpatrick at DEN -
15 Andrew Luck at CIN -
16 Joe Flacco vs. MIN -
17 Carson Palmer vs. STL Questionable (elbow)
18 Andy Dalton vs. IND -
19 Colin Kaepernick vs. SEA -
20 Ryan Tannehill at PIT Probable (thumb)
21 Ben Roethlisberger vs. MIA -
22 E.J. Manuel at TB -
23 Eli Manning at SD -
24 Mike Glennon vs. BUF -
25 Case Keenum at JAC -
26 Jason Campbell at NE -
27 Matt McGloin at NYJ -
28 Chad Henne vs. HOU -
29 Matt Cassel at BAL -
30 Kellen Clemens at ARZ -
31 Matt Flynn vs. ATL -
32 Geno Smith vs. OAK -

QB Notes: Your weekly “Peyton Manning remains on pace to shatter the game’s most cherished passing records” update: With 75 percent of the season in the books, Manning is on track for 5,500 yards and 55 touchdowns. Aside from being a nice bit of supersymmetry, that’s, you know, categorically insane for a 37-year-old player with a bad neck. The Titans are allowing the fourth fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, but that’s not going to remain the case after Week 14. … Right behind Manning is Matthew Stafford, who’s on pace for 5,100 yards and 36 touchdowns. Stafford is a veritable lock to clear 4,900 yards for the third consecutive season, while the scores would be 16 more than he posted in his fluky 2012. Stafford has the most sheer arm talent in the league, and is still three months shy of his 26th birthday. Although Stafford thrives on Ford Field’s turf, he actually owns a better TD:INT ratio away from home (14:4 to 13:10), and has posted a higher QB rating (91.5 to 87.9). He’s going to have a fun day picking on Cary Williams and the Eagles’ secondary, which is allowing the most passing yards in the NFL, and the sixth most fantasy points to enemy quarterbacks.

Anyone who’s seen Nick Foles play this season knows that his 19:0 TD:INT ratio comes with a few caveats. Namely, two of his scores against the Packers should have been picks, and that another would-be INT against the Cardinals was overturned by a dubious defensive-holding penalty. Foles is not immune to bad throws. But by almost any metric, his stats are not smoke-and-mirrors. Foles’ 9.14 YPA leads the NFL, as does his 100.07 Pro Football Focus quarterback rating. His 75.6 Total QBR, if you’re into that sort of thing, is third. Yes, Foles has benefitted from some seriously bad competition of late (Oakland, a Rodgers-less Green Bay and Washington), but he more than held his own against Arizona’s fearsome D on Sunday. Nevermind that his 6.97 YPA was nearly six yards lower than the 12.94 mark he averaged in Weeks 9-11. Even if Foles is getting pumped up by bad Ds, he gets another one in the Lions on Sunday, who are allowing the seventh most passing yards per game. Is Foles one of the three, or even 10, best quarterbacks in the league? It’s doubtful. Is he a wave that’s yet to crest and must be ridden for the fantasy playoffs? Absolutely.

Could things have gone any worse for Drew Brees against the Seahawks? His 3.87 yards per attempt was his worst mark since Week 17 2003, when he was still a member of the Chargers. It was the first time in 43 games that Brees failed to eclipse 200 yards. Any way you slice it, it was a nightmare performance against an imposing defense. Now Brees gets another imposing D in the Panthers, who are allowing the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. The difference this week, however? Brees is at home, where his stats blow away what he’s accomplished on the road. In six games at the Superdome, Brees has managed a 73.5 completion percentage, 9.00 YPA, 19:3 TD:INT ratio and 357 yards per game. On the road? 61.9, 6.92, 10:5 and 276, respectively. The Panthers are not your run-of-the-mill Pass D, but Brees is not your run-of-the-mill QB on artificial turf. Keep him locked and loaded for Week 14. … Tom Brady over his past four starts, where he’s faced the league’s No. 11 (Pittsburgh), No. 6 (Carolina), No. 29 (Denver) and No. 2 (Houston) pass defenses: 70.1 completion percentage, 8.79 yards per attempt, 361 yards per game and a 10:2 TD:INT ratio. Good luck, Cleveland.

Feasting on shaky secondaries the past two weeks, Josh McCown now gets a Cowboys defense allowing the second most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Even Matt McGloin dropped 255 yards on Big D on Thanksgiving. McCown is playing over his head under quarterback whisperer Marc Trestman (I just paid Evan Silva royalties), but should continue to do so for at least another week with Jay Cutler (ankle) yet to be cleared. … Is Matt Ryan “back”? No, but with Roddy White finally looking like Roddy White, and the Packers on deck for Week 14, he’s close enough. Despite lacking the services of Julio Jones for the past seven weeks, Ryan is still averaging a respectable 21.3 fantasy points on the year. … Russell Wilson is fantasy’s No. 5 quarterback over the past five weeks, but his journey to San Francisco is a forbidding one. The 49ers are third in both passing yards against (206) and QB fantasy points allowed (15.8). With multiple passing touchdowns in six straight games, Wilson’s Week 14 floor is high, but his ceiling is lower than we’ve grown accustomed to. … Feasting on solid fantasy matchups the past three weeks, Alex Smith has averaged 26.1 points. That should play just fine against a Redskins defense allowing 23.0 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks.

Joe Flacco has posted more than 17.7 fantasy points only once in his past six starts, but will square off with the Vikings on Sunday, who are allowing the most points to enemy QBs. Just the No. 27 quarterback on the season, Flacco is still more two-QB league option than one-QB league streamer, but he’s never going to get a better matchup. … Fantasy’s No. 15 quarterback over the past five weeks, Andrew Luck has only one passing touchdown over his past three games, and zero total scores over his past two. Luck’s lack of weapons, terrible offensive line, nonexistent running game and questionable coaching is looking like too much to overcome for the fantasy playoffs. … Colin Kaepernick is coming off one of his better two-game stretches of the season, but even in the friendly confines of Candlestick Park, the Seahawks are a no-go of a matchup. … Eli Manning has yet another favorable matchup, but favorable matchups haven’t meant a whole lot for a quarterback averaging fewer points than Joe Flacco and Terrelle Pryor, among many others. … Case Keenum is coming off a good start, but on the road on a short week, will likely be in for a long night against a Jaguars defense that rocked his world in Week 12.

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Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for He can be found on Twitter .
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