Each week, Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com previews all the NFL games from a fantasy perspective.
The Colts are operating in a short week, and will not have the optimum time to get their better running backs healthy. The unfortunate effect is that Peyton Manning will have to lead a one-dimensional offense again, and with Austin Collie possibly out again, there is also less diversity in his weaponry. Manning's owners could be in for another frustrating performance, and should be ready for another week of high yardage with two or more turnovers. Manning will have to throw often to give the offense any hope of moving, and that does bode well for the production of Reggie Wayne and Jacob Tamme, and both players are must-starts. Pierre Garcon is a viable WR3 play, as he at least will provide his owners with respectable totals. Javarris James is the only useful Colts RB in a larger or TD-only league for possible short-yardage scores. It is becoming easy for Tennessee's opponents to defend their running game, as no real major threats have existed via the pass recently. The return of Kenny Britt, however, could help, as the Colts may need to be respectful of the passing game. Plus, Indianapolis' struggles this year against the run are well-documented. So deploy Chris Johnson as usual and look for at least adequate totals. Britt should be reserved until you get an opportunity to see how he looks in his return, and Randy Moss is no longer useful, so avoid any Tennessee players other than Johnson.
Cleveland at Buffalo
The Bills have the lowest-ranked run defense in the league, which means Peyton Hillis could very well be the top fantasy start at RB for Week 14. Look for Hillis to easily soar past the century mark in combined yardage. He should score more than once. Jake Delhomme's job will simply be to limit mistakes, and he will make safe throws to Ben Watson. If you are desperate for WR help, consider Mohamed Massaquio, as Delhomme has a solid on-field relationship with him. Cleveland has allowed four rushing TDs from scrimmage, but Fred Jackson should still post adequate yardage totals even if he does not get in the end zone. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been statistically erratic in recent weeks and cannot be counted on for an above-average fantasy performance. Steve Johnson, however, is a consistent threat and should get loose frequently on his way to a 100-yard outing.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
The Steelers defense will stuff Cedric Benson early and often, putting the Cincinnati offense fully on the shoulders of Carson Palmer. The Bengals QB has been up and down this year, and the results will be mixed. Expect more than one interception even if Palmer does complete some key passes and keeps the game close for awhile. Terrell Owens is a regular TD producer and should remain in fantasy lineups, and Chad Ochocinco should finish with decent yardage totals. Cincinnati allows 124.9 rushing yards per game, and you should bank on a strong performance from Rashard Mendenhall. Ben Roethlisberger will take shots downfield at a shaky Bengals pass defense with some success. Roethlisberger should throw more than one TD pass, and Mike Wallace will beat the DBs for a deep score. Hines Ward has been unreliable this year, but expect him to show up this week with some good numbers against a vulnerable divisional rival.
Oakland at Jacksonville
This should be an exciting matchup between standout running backs. Darren McFadden rebounded as hoped last week and should be a successful focal point of the Oakland offense again. Michael Bush, though, is unreliable and is a risky flex play. Look for the Jason Campbell/Jacoby Ford connection to click against the Jacksonville secondary. Ford is a quality start, although Campbell should only finish with solid, but not outstanding numbers. Still, you can do worse than the Oakland QB this week. The Raiders' 23rd-ranked run defense will surrender big numbers to Maurice Jones-Drew, who is coming on strong at fantasy playoff time. David Garrard's numbers will be scaled back as the Jaguars run the ball very often. Marcedes Lewis will be targeted on many key downs, though, and is a strong start. If you have to reach deep for RB help, consider Rashad Jennings, who should get a few opportunities to score.
Tampa Bay at Washington
LeGarrette Blount has been openly challenged by the Tampa Bay braintrust to run more effectively in short space near the goal line. Blount will accept, and should score at least once while rolling up fine numbers against a rush defense that allows 137 rushing yards per game. Josh Freeman will not see much of a pass rush and will have time to pick his spots against the Redskins secondary. Freeman will throw more than one TD pass while keeping his mistakes to a minimum again. WR Mike Williams should stack up some good yardage numbers and will get some red zone targets. The Redskins rank 29th against the pass and will surrender several key completions to Williams and TE Kellen Winslow. The Washington running picture is muddled right now and all of their RBs should be avoided, even if Ryan Torain can play. Putting Donovan McNabb into adverse passing situations is a model for failure, and he will be pressured and hit often. You cannot rely on any of the Washington WRs right now, and Chris Cooley may only deliver adequate totals at best.
New York Giants at Minnesota
The Giants' game plan will be apparent, as they will look to run the ball and take pressure off Eli Manning, who has a depleted receiving corps and has suffered through bad outings in Minnesota in the past. Brandon Jacobs' straight-ahead approach will be much less effective than the elusive style of Ahmad Bradshaw. Manning will not post outstanding numbers with Mario Manningham and Derek Hagan being unreliable performers against a Vikings team that seemed to have a renewed spark last week under Leslie Frazier. Reserve Manning and Manningham if you have other choices of similar value. Hagan cannot be relied on at this important time of year. Kevin Boss should haul in some important completions, and you can look for Vikings TE Visanthe Shiancoe to find the end zone against his former team. Sidney Rice's statistical ceiling should be higher if Tarvaris Jackson gets some field time. He is a quality WR3 start this week. Adrian Peterson will have to work harder for his yardage than he did against Buffalo last week, yet you can still expect him to score.
Atlanta at Carolina
It does not take a fantasy expert to point out the obvious mismatch here. The best way to put the Panthers away is run the ball, and Michael Turner should be one of the most productive fantasy players of the week. Matt Ryan is underrated and ready to take fantasy teams through their playoffs, and will connect consistently with Tony Gonzalez over the middle. Ryan is a highly recommended starter, and you should also see Roddy White sail past the 100-yard mark. Jonathan Stewart has been looking better recently, but the Falcons can load up against the run very effectively. Stewart will only post mediocre fantasy totals, and Mike Goodson is a much less attractive fantasy option than he was a few weeks ago. Steve Smith should not be anywhere near fantasy lineups by now, and if you need to clear extra roster space at this time of the year, cut him loose.
Green Bay at Detroit
The Packers should be able to score at will against the Detroit defense. James Starks is a quality flex choice, although he needs to show us a bit more before you can start using him over more established or consistent performers. Aaron Rodgers has been carrying the offense for some time now with few hiccups, and will torch the Lions secondary for more than 300 yards and three scores. Greg Jennings will deliver another spectacular fantasy line, and Donald Driver is re-emerging as an effective fantasy contributor. James Jones is also worth a roll of the dice in deeper leagues this week. The Detroit running game will not be able to mount much of a challenge against Green Bay's defensive front. Drew Stanton will find himself in many challenging situations. He'll use Brandon Pettigrew as a safety valve, and no secondary can fully contain Calvin Johnson. Stanton will play respectably for a half or so, but the Pack will eventually distance themselves and force Stanton to play catch-up. The Lions offense is not built for a comeback, and do not expect any numbers to be padded after some early fantasy contributions by Johnson and Pettigrew.
St. Louis at New Orleans
Steven Jackson will play a major role in this game, as controlling the ball and the clock will be a prime objective for the Rams. Jackson looks like he is settling into a grove as the Rams make a push for the NFC West title, and you should expect a strong fantasy performance. Sam Bradford will have to pick his spots carefully against an aggressive New Orleans pass defense, and will not come through with impressive fantasy totals. Bradford will have to take what the defense gives him. Danny Amendola figures to be his best possession target, but with the way Bradford spreads the ball around, no Rams WR appears dependable enough to start in a very crucial week. Drew Brees should get into a quick rhythm against the Rams' 19th-ranked pass defense. St. Louis can get pressure on the passer, so Brees must get rid of the ball quickly. Expect Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Jimmy Graham to be top participants as Brees operates a high percentage passing attack. The New Orleans offense will be very efficient, and expect balanced fantasy production overall from the Saints. A smooth-running passing game will open up room for Chris Ivory as a runner and put him into position to convert some short-yardage scoring opportunities.
Seattle at San Francisco
Marshawn Lynch was able to tear through the Panthers for his best game as a Seahawk, but the 49ers front seven will prove to be much more formidable. Seattle's offensive line has been in a state of flux for much of the season, and will not be able to open many holes for Lynch. Matt Hasselbeck could be without some primary pass-catchers this week, and will not be able to get into a rhythm. Hasselbeck will struggle, and it appears to be wise to bench all Seahawks this week and take a chance on the 49ers defense. Anthony Dixon's physical style will wear on the Seattle front seven, and he should score to finish off a drive. Dixon is a quality flex option, and Brian Westbrook should compile some decent all-around yardage totals. Alex Smith should move the offense well enough to keep Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis involved in the flow often. Crabtree should be considered a sleeper performer for Week 14, and Davis will land in the end zone yet again.
New England at Chicago
The Bears defense is strong against the run and certainly solid against the pass quite often. None of that matters against New England. Tom Brady is in a groove, and should get the requisite amount of time to throw against a potentially damaging defensive line. Look for New England to go all out to protect the passer, and Brady will get rid of the ball quickly on high percentage passes. Wes Welker and Deion Branch will be very busy, although TEs Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski may be needed to help more as blockers and will not be recommended fantasy options. Brady may not approach the 300-yard mark, yet he should still be good for at least two TD passes. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has become a regular TD producer and should be locked in as a No. 2 fantasy RB regardless of opponent. Jay Cutler is a risky start against a pass defense that forces regular turnovers. Earl Bennett should produce well for PPR purposes, and expect pretty good yardage totals from Johnny Knox. Cutler could be prone to turnovers, though, and Greg Olsen will be hit-or-miss in scoring situations. Matt Forte will be a big part of the effort to keep Brady off the field as much as possible while easing pressure on Cutler. He will definitely come through with more than 100 yards of combined production.
Denver at Arizona
Knowshon Moreno seems to be playing his best brand of football at a great time for his owners, and matched up against Arizona's 30th-ranked run defense. Moreno is obviously one of the best RB2 starts of Week 14. Arizona's defense will spend a lot of time on the field this week, and Kyle Orton should rebound from a quiet outing. Even if the Broncos lean heavily on the run, Orton will throw more than one TD pass. Brandon Lloyd will also bounce back and will be at the receiving end of one of Orton's scoring tosses. Arizona also ranks 25th against the pass, so do not hesitate to deploy Jabar Gaffney for PPR purposes or Eddie Royal for a possible TD. Royal has been a disappointment again this year, yet could be useful if you are scrambling for a plug-in WR in a larger league. Larry Fitzgerald will have to deal with inexperience at the QB position and the presence of Champ Bailey. He could always catch a TD pass late when the Cardinals are clearly out of the game, though. Look for Denver to load up against the running game early, instantly quieting the mediocre Cardinals running game. The Denver defense, which has been nowhere near most fantasy rosters for much of this year, is actually a solid Week 14 starting choice.
Kansas City at San Diego
With Brodie Croyle likely to start, the Chiefs offense apparently looks much less formidable. Dwayne Bowe may disappoint again. Do not expect him to get shut out, but with Croyle running the offense and Quentin Jammer likely shadowing him, Bowe will not post WR1 numbers this week. Tony Moeaki should post adequate numbers as a safety valve for Croyle. Jamaal Charles can pull off some escape acts even if the Chargers stack their fronts against the run, and should remain in lineups. Thomas Jones, however, is not elusive and will be stoned often. Mike Tolbert should leap back near 100 yards after a quiet Week 13, and look for him to revisit the end zone. The Chiefs offense will sputter frequently, allowing the Chargers to opportunities to mount some well-constructed drives. Philip Rivers should throw two TD passes, with one going to Malcom Floyd. The Chargers offense will not be overly explosive, but will get the job done. Three offensive TDs should certainly be enough to beat the Croyle-led Chiefs.
Miami at New York Jets
The arch-rival Dolphins will pay dearly for the beating the Jets endured in New England, and you should consider avoiding all Miami players in Week 14. The New York defense will come out determined to dominate, and Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown will be limited to mediocre fantasy totals at best. The Dolphins have little chance of challenging the Jets pass defense. Even if Brandon Marshall can play, he has been a major disappointment this season and should not be used. Davone Bess offers little statistical upside this week. The book on defending the Jets is to control the running game, and Miami's defense can keep LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene from posting anything more than adequate numbers. The New York defense, however, will berate and harass Chad Henne all day, giving Mark Sanchez optimum field position. Expect the New York QB to rebound from an awful performance and lead a sound passing game that includes scoring strikes to Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards.
Philadelphia at Dallas
The Cowboys are ranked 28th against the pass, and has little chance of containing Michael Vick. The Philadelphia QB should be good for at least two TD passes. Moving the offense into scoring position regularly, of course, will make Vick a major threat to score as a runner. He could certainly be one of the very best fantasy performers of Week 14. Whenever Vick is in line to perform well, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are must-starts as WRs 1 and 2, respectively. Brent Celek has come on recently and is a quality starting option as well. With the Dallas defense highly concerned about Vick, LeSean McCoy will have a lot of open running room, and his versatility and role as a flat pass-catcher for Vick makes him a top start again this week. Jon Kitna will attempt to keep up with Vick and will sling the ball often. Expect more than one TD pass, but also more than one turnover. Miles Austin will be a primary scoring target for Kitna, and Jason Witten has re-emerged as a regular contributor and top-level fantasy TE. Roy Williams has some upside now that he returns to the lineup, but has been inconsistent in the past as a starter. With both teams poised to put a lot of points on the board, Tashard Choice and Felix Jones should be in the flow of the Dallas offense as well, and will be quality flex options. Choice's fresher legs and TD potential makes him a slightly better option than Jones.
Baltimore at Houston
Arian Foster heads into the fantasy playoff portion of the schedule as the No. 1 RB in the game. Do not consider the reputation of the Baltimore defense as any remote reason to consider reserving Foster, even if your other options are of similar value. Foster has done the job for fantasy owners against all levels of opposition this season. The Ravens pass defense also has little chance of completely shutting Andre Johnson down. Baltimore ranks 11th against the pass, and not as formidable in the secondary as some may believe. Still, you can find other passers with more upside this week. The Joe Flacco/Anquan Boldin duo against the weak Texans pass defense will be the featured attraction, and the two may hook up for more than one score. Derrick Mason should also be stronglky considered as a WR3 on many fantasy teams. Ray Rice's versatility, especially as a receiver out of the backfield, makes him another significant weapon for Baltimore. Even if he does not score, Rice should roll up some pretty impressive all-around yardage numbers.
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