Let the fantasy playoffs begin! Week 14 sees the playoffs start for many leagues. Hopefully, your team doesn’t desperately need help this week and is in good shape for this week. But just in case it isn’t, there are a handful guys available this week that I think can make an impact. I will keep the focus on players playing this week but if the odd gem to hold onto for next year comes through, I will slip him in.
It was a hit and miss week for the report last week. Stephen Tulloch rewarded owners who started him with 6 total tackles and a sack. Rey Maualuga returned from a knee injury with a monstrous game (9 solo tackles, 1 assist and a sack). Sio Moore was around the ball all afternoon, narrowly missing two interceptions. That said, he was beaten to the ballcarrier by Nick Roach all day and failed to make the scoresheet. I was correct on a Pittsburgh OLB scoring well against Baltimore but it was Jason Worilds (10 total tackles, 2 sacks and a forced fumble) not Jarvis Jones (2 total tackles) who was productive.
Mason Foster TBB LB – MLB 4-3
Mason Foster hasn’t been the solid LB2 start that he was last season. He has given up tackle opportunity to both a further-emerging sophomore Lavonte David as well as free-agent pickup Jonathan Casillas who has taken some 3rd down snaps as strong-side linebacker. With Casillas out for the season with a knee injury, look for Foster to re-emerge as a viable LB2 down the stretch. While his playoff schedule isn’t the greatest (Bills, 49ers, Rams and Saints), his disappointing stretch of games after week 2 may has left him free for pickup.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Audie Cole MIN LB – MLB 4-3
I admit, I am about two weeks late to the party on Audie Cole. Two weeks ago, Audie Cole drew the start over Erin Henderson because of personal reasons. Not many details were available as to the nature of what those personal reasons were so I did not include Cole in the report as a potential pickup as I assumed that Henderson would return to the lineup. News broke last week that the personal reason that saw Henderson get the week off was a DUI arrest and a subsequent lawsuit being filed by Henderson against the police detachment who pulled him over. Long story short, Cole is now the fulltime middle linebacker for the Vikings and should be a decent LB2 through the rest of the year.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Mid LB3
Sean Lee DAL LB – MLB 4-3
Sidelined with a hamstring injury in week 10 against the Saints, Sean Lee missed two more games with the injury after Dallas’ week 11 bye. An elite LB by any stretch, Lee instantly makes both his team and your fantasy team better. Lee isn’t going to be a free agent in a ton of leagues but shallow leaguers might have seen the former Nittany Lion hit the waiver wire. He is expected to return against the Bears and has a pretty good playoff schedule with the Bears, Packers, Redskins and Eagles due up for the rest of the season.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB1 to Low-end LB2
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Craig Robertson CLE LB – Cleveland gets the New England Patriots in week 14. Robertson seems to pile up the stats against teams that blow out the Browns. I think the Patriots make Robertson look great for IDP owners this week. Robertson has missed some time with a knee injury as of late so make sure to check the injury report.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Welcome back to elite scoring Justin Tuck! Tuck only managed 4 sacks throughout all of last year. He rewarded patient owners this week with 4 sacks against the Redskins. Robert Griffin is emerging as a cure-all for talented ends in a bit of the scoring drought. It was a sack-filled week with 7 defensive lineman with 2 or more sacks in their respective games. Notables joining Tuck were column-favorite Julius Peppers and rookie Ezekiel Ansah.
It wasn’t a terrible week for the column as defensive line. Marcell Dareus made me look smart by posting 8 total tackles, a sack and a PD against the Falcons in Toronto. Kyle Williams didn’t make an impact (3 total tackles) but fellow end/tackle hybrid Alan Branch posted a solid 9 total tackle outing. Atlanta’s interior line seems to be very exploitable. Ricky Jean-Francois injured his foot and failed to contribute in his game as much as expected (2 total tackles). Andre Branch also fell below expectation (3 total tackles) as teammate Sen’Derrick Marks and Jason Babin supplied the sacks. Cleveland also seems to be an exploitable matchup down the stretch for sack production.
Olivier Vernon MIA DE – DE 4-3
Vernon is in the midst of a breakout season. The second year end former Hurricane, Vernon posted 2.5 sacks on Sunday against the Jets. That performance raised Vernon’s yearly total to 10 and 5.5 over his last 3 games. He benefits from a Pro Bowl-caliber end in Cameron Wake on the other side but Vernon is a guy that is getting close to every week startability. Dynasty leaguers take notice.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL2 to High-end DL3 (Stash opportunity)
Michael Brockers/Chris Long – 4-3 DT/DE
Carson “Pocket Statue” Palmer is slated to deal with a remarkable St Louis defense in week 14. Brockers is coming off of a 7 total tackle, 2 sack performance against the 49ers in week 13. I think that the Rams defensive linemen will be too much for the Cardinals offensive line to handle.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Mid DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Osi Umenyiora/Jonathan Massaquoi ATL DE – Early reports are that Aaron Rodgers may not see the field again this year after the Lions pretty much ended the Packers’ playoff hopes. That is good news for an Atlanta Falcon team coming off of a big win in Canada against the Bills. Matt Flynn showed his cement feet against the Lions and Scott Tolzien isn’t close to NFL caliber. If Umenyiora is free, he is the better option. If he’s not, I can almost guarantee that Massaquoi is.
Defensive Back Plays
Tackles were again the story in week 13. There were 21 defensive backs that logged at least 8 total tackles. Sprinkle in a couple splash plays and the obligatory PDs and you have another DB dominated scoring week.
Tough week for the report in week 13. Quintin Demps logged 2 solo tackles, an interception and a kick return for 31 yards. TJ McDonald returned to the Rams’ lineup and posted 5 total tackles and a PD. Winfield did not sign with the Seahawks as I had thought. Byron Maxwell took starting snaps at CB opposite Richard Sherman and was remarkably effective. Duron Harmon disappointed with 2 total tackles.
Craig Steltz/Chris Conte CHI S – 4-3 SS/FS
Steltz took over for starter Major Wright who was injured in practice on Friday (hamstring). The Chicago strong safety spot is rock solid IDP performer with Major Wright being a top 5 prior to this freak injury. Steltz answered the bell with a 12 total tackle performance (9 solo). The splash play potential isn’t going to be there for Steltz as it was with Wright but owners will take that production any day. Chicago gets Dallas in week 14 which is a great matchup for him as well. Chris Conte is also a quality pickup given the matchup. Conte piled up 9 total tackle himself (8 solo). Look for Dallas to throw the ball around to move the sticks. With Peanut Tillman still out, both safeties may be on cleanup duty on all routes towards the middle of the field.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to Mid DB3
Buster Skrine CLE CB –3-4 CB
It doesn’t seem to matter what team the Browns are playing, Buster Skrine always seems to log at least 3 solo tackles and a PD. In fact, he has done that in every game this year except for one. With that floor, he seems like great stream play against the New England Patriots who cannot seem to run the ball with any kind of consistency. Skrine should be good for 5-6 solos and 1-2 PDs.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Jason McCourty/Alteraun Verner TEN CB – 4-3 CB
McCourty and Verner are among the better tackling corners in the league. Queue up the Denver Broncos and their high volume passing offense and you have a recipe for a big game. Look to nab these guys as a good stream option if you need a high ceiling play. Both McCourty and Verner have 10 tackle potential depending on which receiver Manning gets the ball to.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Will Hill NYG S – The Giants get a pass-friendly San Diego Chargers in week 14. Hill has been a solid contributor with Ryan Mundy injured and inconsistent this year. He also gets some special teams tackles if your league counts those. Sneak the former Gator into your lineup if you need to fill a hole. He should be good for 10 points as a floor.