My Week 14 list features under-the-radar players that are not being started in a majority of fantasy football leagues. These players could produce good fantasy numbers this week due to a favorable matchup, injury, or other circumstances. With that in mind, here are our top fantasy football sleepers for Week 14.
Anytime an NFL team agrees to go on HBO’s “Hardknocks,” there’s a certain level of visibility that often heightens or limits expectations accordingly. After the show’s viewers saw Jameis Winston up-close and personal, it’s safe to say there were resounding high expectations for the third-year signal-caller. On a whole, the Buccaneers have been immensely disappointing, as they sit in the basement of the NFC South with a record of 4-8. Unfortunately for Winston, a sprained AC joint marred his season, forcing him to miss three consecutive contests before returning to action last week against the Packers. While it’s clear Winston still isn’t one-hundred percent healthy, he was more than serviceable, as he threw for 270 yards and a pair of touchdowns. This week, Winston gets a Lions defense that ranks 27th against the pass as he looks to improve upon the solid Week 13 performance. He should be more comfortable returning to NFL game speed and he’ll have a great opportunity to post similar numbers to last week.
Alright, I understand the skepticism and fully accept the hesitancy on buying-into this one. Let’s start with the bad. The Denver Broncos quarterback position this season has been nothing short of abysmal. Neither Brock Osweiler, Paxton Lynch, or Trevor Siemian have looked the part of a starting quarterback, which understandably makes this one a tough sell. If we focus specifically on Siemian, we see a case of Jekyll and Hyde. This is a guy who lit up the Cowboys to the tune of 231 yards and four touchdowns in Week 2 of this season, but as recently as Sunday, was responsible for three interceptions against the Dolphins. That said, something’s got to give this weekend in Denver, when the Broncos welcome the Jets to town. The Broncos offense has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing defenses this season, while the Jets defense has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this year. Despite grabbing a victory over the Chiefs last weekend in the Meadowlands, Gang Green assisted in the resurrection of Alex Smith in the process, allowing the struggling qb to throw for 366 yards and four touchdowns. Quite the accomplishment for a Jets defense that has now allowed 66 points over the last two contests.
Playing time is the biggest risk fantasy owners are faced with while pondering the erratic Siemian as a viable fantasy play this week. With the Broncos season a lost cause, it’s conceivable Siemian will have a short leash from Head Coach Vance Joseph on Sunday, as the team looks towards the future. That said, it’s important to note that the Broncos still possess a potent pair of receivers, in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, and the duo has demonstrated a rapport with Siemian in the past. It’s not out of the question that the Broncos passing game gets on the same page against one of the most vulnerable secondaries in football. I’m not saying to start Siemian over a proven quarterback commodity, but for those of you in dire straits, he’s a possible dart throw that could hit. He could also pay big dividends for DFS players willing to take a chance on his low price tag. The ‘contrarian’ Siemian is certainly one of my boldest calls of the season.
When it was determined Joe Mixon would not return to Monday Night’s game against the Steelers due to a concussion, Giovani Bernard immediately became an intriguing candidate for Week 14. As we’ve seen with a number of players this season, it’s difficult to gain clearance from concussion protocol within a one-week time frame. Mixon has not yet practiced this week and remains on the doubtful side of questionable in terms of this week’s matchup against the Bears. That would leave Bernard with the Bengals backfield all to himself. Coming on in relief of Mixon on Monday Night, Gio made the most of his touches, totaling 77 yards on 13 carries, while adding another 19 yards on two receptions. With Mixon a long shot to play this week, Bernard will be as busy as any back in football. With Jeremy Hill on season-ending I.R. the Bengals don’t have any other viable backs to present a threat to an imminent heavy workload for Bernard. If Gio is the team’s starting running back for four quarters this week, he should eclipse 100 yards from scrimmage and will be squarely entrenched in the RB2 conversation. He’ll also be one of the week’s most popular DFS plays given the cheap price tag.
Isaiah Crowell has been a major disappointment to fantasy owners this season. After being drafted in the vast majority of leagues between rounds three and four, the fourth-year running back has struggled to find running room in a revamped Browns offensive line, even before Joe Thomas was lost for the season to a torn triceps injury. With the Packers focusing on preventing Josh Gordon and Corey Coleman from getting loose in the secondary this week, that should soften up the front-seven and provide Crowell with more running room. In a game that I actually can see the Browns winning, I expect a balanced offensive approach this weekend from Hue Jackson and the Browns offense. The Alabama State product had been more adept over the last few weeks before stuttering out last week against the Chargers. I think he possesses a fantastic chance to find the end zone this week at home and am going to record to predict something to the effect of 15 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown for the Browns bell cow.
To double-down on the bold prediction of Trevor Siemian returning to fantasy relevancy this weekend, I had to turn to Denver’s best wide receiver. While Demaryius Thomas remains one of the more talented receivers in the game, the mediocre quarterback play in Denver has squandered his opportunity to establish himself as one of the game’s most elite receivers. Despite the handicap and the downturn in the touchdowns department over the past few seasons, Thomas has a solid chance to get over the 1,000 yard receiving plateau for the sixth consecutive season. An undeniably impressive accomplishment for a receiver set to turn thirty-years-old on Christmas Day. Thomas gets an early Christmas gift this week, as he prepares to feast on a meager Jets secondary fresh off their embarrassing performance against Alex Smith and the Chiefs. After compiling a three-game-touchdown-streak, Thomas has posted back-to-back clunkers. I fully expect that to change this week as the Broncos will do their best to expose a weak New York secondary. Thomas should have no problem posting top 15 numbers at the position for Week 14.
With Zach Ertz missing from the practice field this week for, he’ll be hard-pressed to gain clearance in time for Sunday afternoon’s slate against the Rams in Los Angeles. That said, Carson Wentz and the Philadelphia offense shouldn’t miss a beat from a would-be Ertz absence. Ertz’s backup Trey Burton has proven to be dependable when called upon in the past and we all know how much Wentz likes to spread the ball around. After Ertz was forced from last week’s game against the Seahawks, Burton was able to post productive numbers by reeling in four of seven targets for 42 yards. In a game that could very well result in a shootout, the team will rely on Burton to inherit a more prominent role within the confines of the Philly offense. If you own Rob Gronkowski, Burton will be a solid replacement for Week 1 of the fantasy playoffs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With Matthew Stafford banged-up for the Detroit Lions, it’s anyone’s guess if he’ll be under center for the Week 14 clash against the Buccaneers. That variable immediately catapults the Tampa Bay defense up in the rankings on the week. Stafford’s backup is Jake Rudock who played sparingly last week against the Ravens, attempting only five passes on the day, but still managing to throw an interception. Even if Stafford is able to play, his effectiveness will likely be compromised by the bad bruise on his throwing hand. It’s a winning formula for fantasy owners looking for a Week 14 streamer, as Tampa Bay’s defense will have a nice opportunity to create some turnovers on Sunday.