The Fantasy Hipsters are here to save you from being duped into starting these mainstream "must-starts" of Week 14. These players are sprinkled around the top of the consensus rankings for the week, but Matt Harmon and Matt Franciscovich (Franchise) have some underground knowledge to get you in the know and make you think twice before locking them into your starting lineups. So make sure your ripped skinny jeans are cuffed, because you're about to tread some contrarian waters. Dude, is that coffee you're drinking even coffee locally sourced? Folgers!? Are you kidding me? Ugh, whatever.
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Shocked? Good. Your life was too cushy and comfortable in your little box houses that look exactly like all the others on the market. Here's a dose of reality: Tom Brady won't be a Top-10 fantasy quarterback this week. Don't believe it? Time to get woke.
We all know Brady is missing his top weapon, Rob Gronkowski. In 18 games without Gronk since 2010 Brady averages 1.7 touchdowns per game compared to 2.2 with his well-dressed star tight end on the field. It's an indispensable loss.
Frankly, just like he did last year, Brady is starting to slip as the year goes on. He's scored 20 or more fantasy points just once over the last four weeks. That one game was against the San Francisco 49ers, who only have the 32nd-ranked defense in the NFL this season. So far this season Brady has been good for crushing his stadium tour shows to remain in the public good graces with big games against the bad defense Browns, Bengals and 49ers. However, his fantasy performances have been mediocre when he had to play a tougher show against the stiff Seahawks and Rams. There's no surer sign of a band that's sold out than when they go all out in the big spots but mail it in for the local coffee house shows.
Only 24.8 percent of the offensive drives against Ravens have ended in a score, which is the best mark in the NFL. With just 60.4 plays per game (third-fewest) the Ravens barely allow other teams to even have the ball on offense. Baltimore also ranks fourth in turnover percentage this year, and no one should know about the Ravens' ability to produce turnover better than Tom Brady.
If you're expecting a Top-10, heroic performance from Tom Brady to kick off your fantasy playoff run, you'll be let down. But hey, maybe Brady can lend you his Uggs to help keep warm after he posts a middling stat line on Monday night. Uggs? Come on. Talk about trying too hard. - Harmon
Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins
A few months ago, I handcrafted a totally stellar burnt sienna coffee table out of a vintage piece of reclaimed wood. Yeah, it was uber tight. Until I drove my old-school Saab way up into the Kipengere Mountains to camp for a few months with my crew. While we were finding ourselves up in the mountains, my sister-in-law decided to refinish the coffee table with some vivid pastels. Of course, that only made it totally lame and appealing. Ugh, what a bummer. It was the outright opposite of optimal, man. Kind of in the same way that Jay Ajayi is not an optimal running back to use in fantasy this week.
I mean, Miami is all swanky with their shiny new running back piece who they only realized was actually good after Arian Foster retired. But don't mess with Ajayi against the Cardinals in the fantasy playoffs.
Sure, having Ajayi on your fantasy squad was totally cool, you know, before he established himself on the mainstream radar with two consecutive 200-yard games earlier this season. His 15 minutes of fame in the lame-stream spotlight has obviously gone to his head. The Miami running back (who even your grandmother owns on her fantasy team) is averaging just 53 rushing yards per game in the last two weeks.
The Dolphins have been dealing with some offensive line issues which have contributed to Ajayi's less-than-basic results as a fantasy runner. But both Laremy Tunsil and Branden Albert were healthy enough to return and each played 100 percent of Miami's offensive snaps last week, and Ajayi still couldn't get rolling the way my '92 Saab still does. Okay, so he faced the Ravens who have the most deluxe run resistance in the league. Well this week, Ajayi faces the Cardinals who boast the second-best run-stopping unit. Arizona has allowed just 69.8 rush yards per game to running backs this season. He's got no chance, see what I'm saying? - Franchise
DeVante Parker, WR, Miami Dolphins
It's been a rough few weeks out there while all the mainstreamers rush to proclaim how smart they were to predict DeVante Parker was going to break out this season. A few acrobatic catches and you all want to pat yourself on the back because you bought the obvious window item from your local Kohl's? Excuse me if I continue to dig for the next hidden gem at the consignment store you're two years away from hearing about.
The second-year receiver has been on a mini-tear the last four weeks with 280 yards and a two touchdowns. His lowest fantasy output was a 64-yard day against the 49ers in Week 12, but he only played 22 passing snaps before going down with a back injury. Credit where credit is due: Parker is having a solid second season with some high highs, even if there have been some low moments.
That's fine. He's the trendy breakout receiver right now. A little peak behind the backstage curtain reveals that Parker's outlook is a bit cloudier this week. Yes, if you're wondering, Franchise and I always get backstage when we see shows.
DeVante Parker takes more snaps at right wide receiver than any other position and 51 percent of the targets he's garnered this year came when he lines up there. When Cardinals shutdown corner Patrick Peterson isn't shadowing top receivers around the field, he typically lines up on the defensive left side of the field. One way or another, the two will see plenty of each other.
Peterson is one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Sure, DeVante Parker has made some great highlight catches, we can give him that. But is he going to beat a player like that for big plays? No way. Not to mention Parker has beat up on teams when the running game is rolling, defenses load the box to stop it and Miami can stay in positive game scripts while using play action passes. The Cardinals travel to Miami this week, and bring along one of the NFL top defenses.
If Arizona is able to contain the Dolphins running game, as they certainly might. It is unlikely Parker will stand a chance at working free from Peterson. Parker only has eight or more targets in just three games this season. That's not enough reliable volume to overcome a tough cornerback matchup.
Honestly, Jarvis Landry is the receiver that is in line for a big game against the Cardinals. After collecting a season-high 14 targets against the Ravens in a 38-6 loss last week, he reminded us he needs that negative game script to produce. That should be coming against the Cardinals in this spot. Jamison Crowder saw seven targets from the slot last week and scored a touchdown, becoming just the latest interior receiver to post a solid line against the Cardinals. Jarvis Landry in Week 14 will be the next. - Harmon
Rishard Matthews, WR, Tennessee Titans
Dude, please tell me you're not even thinking about starting Rishard Matthews this week ... wait, you are? Do you have precisely no chill? Ugh, you must be so shook right now. Put down your Moleskine and let me talk you off this proverbial ledge.
You do deserve some street cred for picking Matthews up off the waiver wire back in Week 7, before his snap count sky-rocketed like the price of deconstructed coffee. Starting in Week 8, the Titans receiver went on a ferocious five-game run in which he scored five touchdowns and put up 350 yards on 25 receptions. Matthews solidified himself as Marcus Mariota's exclusive go-to guy and, in an unfortunate turn of events, conformed to societal WR2 tendencies. So right now you're probably all like "Yo, come on Franchise, how can I possibly sit this Jack in my fantasy playoffs?" And I hear you, but listen up brah. He ain't gonna do zippo in Week 14!
Look man, it's simple AF.
Most of Matthews' late-season fantasy appeal was dependent on his touchdown scoring; he collected fewer than 65 receiving yards in four games of that five-game run mentioned above and recorded just four or fewer receptions in three of those five.
This week, Matthews goes up against a Denver Broncos defense that has allowed six meaningless touchdowns to wide receivers this season, half of which came in the same game (which were also meaningless because Denver won that game). Wideouts have struggled mightily against the Broncos this year, it's all over the internet. Some of the most talented receivers in the league have been shut down by this unit: A.J. Green, 77 yards; Amari Cooper, 56 yards; DeAndre Hopkins, 36 yards: T.Y. Hilton, 41 yards. In fact, Denver's defense has yet to allow a 100-yard game to a receiver. So my point is, if you roll with Matthews this week don't expect to win. - Franchise
Martellus Bennett, TE, New England Patriots
Martellus Bennett is like this one wedge from a jar of artisanal, locally sourced pickles that I paid 22 bones for last week. On the outside, it looked like all of the rest. Crisp, clean, full of potential and doing its job for the most part. But for some reason, it tasted peculiar compared to the others. I spat that pickle out, man. When I went back to the underground bodega I bought the jar from, the clerk told me that somehow, a non-organic batch of cucumbers got in there. Absolutely heinous, man. Whatever, back to Bennett.
You're probably thinking that rolling Bennett out there in fantasy this week as your TE1 is a great idea. Rob Gronkowski is out. Bennett, after a slow Week 13, is due. Yeah, that's what they want you to think. Let me tell you about why you should bench Bennett this week. Only a few people know about this, you get me?
Bennett has been low-key dealing with some injuries the past few weeks including an ankle and shoulder. But the Patriots don't want you to know that because that's how Bill Belichick rolls. Anyway, these injuries have probably affected his production, and it's pretty clear that he's been less than 100 percent the past few games. His stats prove it. Bennett has just six catches for 40 yards over the last three weeks. And he's been on the field for 83 percent of the Patriots' offensive snaps during that span! That's entirely unnatural stuff right there.
This week, the "Black Unicorn" faces a Ravens defense that has allowed just three red zone touches to the position all season. Baltimore has only allowed one touchdown to tight ends and is surrendering an average of just 39.3 receiving yards per game. Aren't unicorns supposed to be rare and elusive or something? Yeah, that sounds about right considering the fantasy points Bennett has collected recently. Don't go there, man. Plus, like, scroll up and re-read that Tom Brady section. Duh. - Franchise