Fantasy Football

Maclin set to fly versus Tampa

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John Halpin

John Halpin has been a fantasy contributor for FOXSports.com since 2007. He has written and co-hosted webcasts about fantasy football for FOXNews.com, and managed websites for the NHL, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Network. Listen to his "Fantasy 15 Podcast" on FOXSportsRadio.com and follow him on Twitter.

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It’s fantasy playoff time for many of you, and our Position vs. Fantasy Defensive Points Allowed tool can help.

As always, please remember that the players listed are mostly meant to be borderline guys, who need reasons for you to play or bench them. You won’t see recommendations to start Arian Foster, Calvin Johnson and Drew Brees, because you should always start Arian Foster, Calvin Johnson and Drew Brees. Make sense? Good.

Notes:

1. The fantasy points per game (FPPG) referenced below are from FOXSports.com standard leagues.

2. At tight end, the difference between the best and worst defenses is just 5.3 FPPG. The points-based recommendations for that position likely aren’t as helpful as they are for QB, RB and WR.

Thursday game: Broncos at Raiders

Quarterbacks

Stay away: Philip Rivers, Chargers (at Steelers)

Is playing Rivers still a thing? Apparently so, from the leagues I’m seeing. Rivers’ matchup this week is with a Steelers’ D that is the league’s stingiest against opposing quarterbacks, allowing just 12.7 FPPG. Even without CB Ike Taylor, the Steel Curtain figures to give Rivers lots of problems.

Also:

There are some weeks when Carson Palmer just chucks and chucks and chucks – he’s had six games with 45 or more passing attempts. I guess that’ll happen when your team is horrible. Tonight, with the return of Darren McFadden and against a Broncos’ defense that ranks 12th with 17.4 FPPG allowed to opposing quarterbacks, Palmer isn’t in a great spot to post big numbers.

Play, play, play: Matt Schaub, Texans (at Patriots)

Schaub took a step back last week after his two-game, 842-yard outburst against the Jaguars and Lions in Weeks 11 and 12. Still, he threw for 207 yards with two scores, and goes up against a Patriots’ defense that ranks 23rd with 20.9 FPPG allowed to opposing quarterbacks, and 29th in real-life pass defense (279.9 passing yards per game). Schaub is a borderline QB1 – start him if you’re worried about your other passer’s matchup.

Also:

The Eagles rank 30th with 23.2 FPPG allowed to opposing quarterbacks, and have given up 16 touchdowns through the air in six games since making their seemingly ill-advised change at defensive coordinator. Josh Freeman looks to be a solid, low-end QB1 against them.

Running Backs

Stay away: Reggie Bush, Dolphins (at 49ers)

Bush appears to have reclaimed his role as the Dolphins’ primary back after a few weeks of timesharitude with Daniel Thomas. Unfortunately, the Niner D is ferocious, ranking second with 12 FPPG allowed to opposing runners, and giving up just three touchdowns on the ground all year. Find a better option than Bush for your first-round playoff clash.

Also:

Jonathan Dwyer carried 16 times for 49 yards and a touchdown against the Ravens, and has a fairly firm hold on the Steelers’ lead back role. However, you should consider keeping Dwyer on the bench against the Chargers, who rank 12th with 16.2 FPPG allowed to opposing runners, and are one of just eight NFL teams to hold opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards per game.

Play, play, play: Vick Ballard, Colts (vs. Titans)

Sometimes, I feel like I’m the only person who likes Ballard. Yeah, he’s just a low-end RB2 or flex option in most cases, but everyone can’t be Adrian Peterson. Ballard’s Week 14 opponent is a Titans’ defense that ranks 31st with 23.6 FPPG allowed to opposing backs. Donald Brown is out due to an ankle injury, so Ballard should get close to a full load, with Delone Carter possibly vulturing some goal-line carries. Andrew Luck can’t throw ALL the time, right?

Also:

Shonn Greene isn’t here because he surpassed 100 yards for the second time all season in Week 13. He’s here because the Jaguars’ defense ranks 29th with 23.2 FPPG allowed to opposing runners. Greene is a tough week-to-week decision because teammate Bilal Powell plays on third downs and steals many of his goal-line chances, but this game should provide Greene with enough work (and open holes) to be useful.

Maurice Jones-Drew will miss another week with his foot injury. Rashad Jennings was concussed against the Bills, and seems unlikely to play. Jalen Parmele (groin) is done for the season. That pretty much leaves Montell Owens as the last man standing in the Jaguars’ backfield, and even though Owens has just 112 rushing yards in seven NFL seasons, you can consider him if you’re scrambling to fill an RB2 slot. The Jets rank 24th with 20 FPPG allowed to opposing backs, and if Owens gets 15 touches, your gamble on him could pay off. It is a gamble, though.

Wide Receivers

Stay away: Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (at Seahawks)

Does the QB switch from Ryan Lindley to John Skelton make a difference here? Perhaps, as Skelton averaged 252 yards in his three full games earlier this season. But Fitzgerald still gets a matchup against elite CB Richard Sherman, who’s part of a defense that ranks third with 17.4 FPPG allowed to opposing wide receivers. Also, while Skelton is pretty clearly better than Lindley, it’s not like he’s Tom Brady. If you’ve been waiting for Fitz’s breakout, I can see the temptation to start him, but wouldn’t risk my season on it if I had a solid alternative.

Also:

Miles Austin has become the third wheel in a Cowboy receiving corps that sees Dez Bryant and Jason Witten hog all of Tony Romo’s attention. Austin scored a TD in Week 13, but has been targeted just four times in his last two games, and faces a Bengals’ defense that ranks fourth with 17.6 FPPG allowed to opposing wideouts. You can do better than Austin this week.

Play, play, play: Jeremy Maclin, Eagles (at Buccaneers)

Maclin has been a huge disappointment this season, but if you’re ever going to start him again, it’s in Week 14 against the fantasy-worst Bucs’ defense (28.5 FPPG allowed to opposing WRs). Should you have complete faith in Maclin? No, as he’s been targeted just 15 times over the past three games, catching eight passes for 93 yards. However, this friendly matchup has Maclin in WR3 territory. He’s worth flexing if your starters aren’t no-doubters.

Also:

Lance Moore can be inconsistent, but against the 29th-ranked Giants’ fantasy defense (25.6 FPPG allowed to opposing WRs), you can strongly consider him. Did you know that he’s been a top-20 wideout in many formats this season?

Tight Ends

Stay away: Antonio Gates, Chargers (at Steelers)

Gates has a bad matchup, facing a Steeler D that ranks third with 6.2 FPPG allowed to opposing tight ends. He’s also a shadow of his former self, which you probably already knew. Sure, Gates woke up with six catches in Week 13, but for the season he ranks 18th among tight ends in receptions (38) and 19th in yardage (417). There’s no good reason to have Gates active for your first fantasy playoff game.

Also:

Jared Cook has better numbers than Gates, and has caught 10 passes over the past two weeks while being targeted more frequently by Jake Locker. However, against a Colts’ defense that gives up just 3.5 receptions and 6.8 FPPG to opposing tight ends, you should find a better option. Cook might not crack my top 20 this week, so I think you should be able to upgrade.

Play, play, play: Jacob Tamme, Broncos (at Raiders)

WR Brandon Stokley is expected to miss Thursday’s game. While Stokley was out in Week 13, Tamme ran routes out of the slot, and caught nine passes for 89 yards on 13 targets. With the Oakland defense ranking 27th against fantasy tight ends (9.1 FPPG allowed) and 22nd against opposing wide receivers (if you’d like to figure Tamme’s targets from a different position), Tamme is a terrific Week 14 play. He’s available in 48.3 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, so check your free-agent pool.

Also:

Martellus Bennett scored for the first time since Week 3 on Monday night against the Redskins, and caught five passes for 82 yards. This week, he’ll face a Saints’ defense that ranks 26th with 8.6 FPPG allowed to opposing tight ends. Bennett isn’t a must start, but you can consider him as a low-end TE1. I have Bennett ranked ahead of early draftees like Gates, Jermichael Finley and Vernon Davis.

Good luck in Week 14!

Tagged: Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Titans, Colts, Raiders, Dolphins, Patriots, Saints, Giants, Jets, Eagles, Seahawks, Jaguars, Cardinals, Steelers, Chargers, Texans, Drew Brees, Ike Taylor, Antonio Gates, Matt Schaub, Philip Rivers, Reggie Bush, Montell Owens, Miles Austin, Calvin Johnson, Martellus Bennett, Jacob Tamme, Shonn Greene, Jeremy Maclin, Arian Foster, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley, Vick Ballard

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