This is it. Week 14 of the NFL season kicks off tonight, and with it, potentially the end of your Fantasy season. And unfortunately, it looks like you may not have Christian McCaffrey available, yet again. McCaffrey, who has played just three games this season due to a high-ankle sprain and then a shoulder injury, popped up on the injury report with a new malady Wednesday, a quad injury.
He was limited at practice Wednesday as a result of the injury and then wasn’t seen during the portion of Thursday’s practice open to the media. That’s not an official “DNP”, but it’s certainly not a good sign for his potential availability. That’s a major disappointment for McCaffrey, who suffered the injury working out during the team’s bye; he was expected to return from the bye following his three-game absence, just in time for a playoff run. That is in real jeopardy now.
Now, those of you with McCaffrey in your lineup who still have something to play for are left scrambling yet again. The obvious move is to make sure Mike Davis isn’t on waivers in your league, and to add him if he is, because he’ll continue to fill in for McCaffrey, though that hasn’t worked out great lately; heading into the bye, Davis had more than 11 PPR points just once in his previous five games. He’s in the low-end No. 2 RB discussion against the Broncos if he does get the start, though would likely rank behind someone like J.D. McKissic if you have him available as a fill-in.
The rest of today’s Fantasy Football Today Newsletter — subscribe here for the latest news and analysis sent right to your inbox every morning — focuses on Dave Richard’s Week 14 preview, with start and sit suggestions for every game on the NFL schedule, plus a roundup of all the rest of the news from around the league that you need to know about and a preview of Thursday’s Rams-Patriots game. Plus, you can check out Jamey Eisenberg’s Start ‘Em & Sit ‘Em column here for more lineup advice.
We can’t guarantee you’ll come out of this week with a win, but we’re going to do everything we can to make sure you do. Here’s everything else you need for Week 14: Start ‘Em & Hit ‘Em | Starts & Sits, Sleepers & Busts | Start ‘Em & Sit ‘Em: QB | Start ‘Em & Sit ‘Em: RB | Start ‘Em & Sit ‘Em: WR | Waiver Wire Priorities | Trade Values | QB Preview | RB Preview | WR Preview | TE Preview | Week 13 Winners | Losers | Believe It Or Not
Dave Richard has gone through every game on the Week 14 schedule, identifying his favorite plays and the biggest risks for the week. Here are some of his calls for this week, and you can check out the full column here:
- Kirk Cousins — “It’s scarier to roll with Cousins on the road against an aggressive defense like this one, but the Buccaneers have let up a minimum of 20 Fantasy points to six straight quarterbacks (including Daniel Jones, Derek Carr and Jared Goff). That’ll suit Cousins nicely as he’s managed at least 21 Fantasy points in five straight, including a tough road game at Chicago four weeks back. There are two more layers to consider: The matchup is actually tougher for Dalvin Cook than it is for Cousins, and the Buccaneers offense should have no problem matching the 27.4 points per game that the Vikings are allowing this season. That should push Cousins to have a higher-than-normal pass volume game script, a critical factor in his recent Fantasy success.”
- Keke Coutee — “Given the chance to see every-down work for the Texans, Coutee looked like a completely different player from when we last saw him. He thrashed the Colts zone defense with over routes, even finding soft spots and settling in for easy targets from Deshaun Watson. He even should have had a touchdown on a corner-post route but Watson was a little late with the football. Chicago plays zone coverage about two-thirds of the time and had a lackluster pass rush last week, affording a big game to Matthew Stafford and the Lions. If the defense plays like that again, Watson will have a smash-hit game and Coutee should see plenty of targets out of the slot. It helps that the Bears have allowed a pair of touchdowns to receivers in three straight games. Coutee is ranked as a flex, but I wouldn’t be the least surprised if he finished as a top-24 receiver in PPR.”
- Giovani Bernard — “There are massive trust issues with Bernard as a Fantasy starter since his past four games have been colossal duds (3.8 non-PPR/6.8 PPR points per game). But those past four matchups were against the Dolphins, the Giants, Washington and the Steelers, three of which rank in the top-seven of fewest Fantasy points allowed to running backs in the past five weeks (the Giants rank 16th). This week he gets the Cowboys, who have allowed the third-most Fantasy points to running backs in the past five weeks and the most over the past three weeks (five touchdowns, 5.9 yards per carry). And if that’s not enough to convince you that they’re convincingly terrible, keep in mind that the Cowboys are on the road for their second game on five days’ rest. Bernard is in the right place at the right time as a No. 2 Fantasy rusher and a dreamy DFS tournament option.”
- Jared Goff — “Goff’s predictability has been hard to deal with — he’s been much better in seven road games (five with well over 20 Fantasy points) than in five home games (one with exactly 20, four with under 20). He also seems to do well when his running backs do well — in the eight games when a Rams rusher amasses at least 10 Fantasy points, Goff has 20-plus in six. Goff finds himself on a short-week home game against a Patriots defense that’s rapidly improving against the run and the pass. If the Patriots found ways to stump Kyler Murray and Justin Herbert in consecutive weeks (they scored 11 Fantasy points combined!), then my money’s on them keeping Goff from having a big game.”
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire — “The Chiefs have gone full Mahomes. Over the past five weeks, the Chiefs rank in the bottom-five in running back touches per game (19.8) and running back carries per game (15.8). Only once in those games has a Kansas City running back managed 15 touches (Edwards-Helaire, Week 11 at Las Vegas). Also happening: The Chiefs aren’t consolidating their running backs at all. Le’Veon Bell and Darrel Williams have floated around a 26% snap rate each when Edwards-Helaire has been healthy, giving the rookie the rest of the playing time. It’s the three-headed monster CEH detractors feared back when the season started. He’s not even the preferred option at the goal line, playing just seven snaps on goal-to-go downs of 3 yards or closer in his past five with one carry converted for a score. Until Edwards-Helaire plays more (and plays better), Fantasy managers shouldn’t trust him. That goes double this week as the Dolphins have yielded just two rushing touchdowns to running backs in their past seven games with no 100-yard rush games allowed on the year.”
- Raheem Mostert — “Mostert is still a sleek, speedy running back who fits into the 49ers run scheme perfectly. But he’s also still seeing less than 50% of the snaps and, as last week proved, a candidate to be stuck around 10 touches per game. Having Jeff Wilson be used as a hammering power back hurts Mostert’s upside, but it’s the matchup against a legitimately good Washington front seven that really makes me nervous to start Mostert. In its past seven games, Washington has allowed just one rushing touchdown to a running back, holding the position to 3.7 yards per carry. Mostert has come through with 10-plus non-PPR points in four of six games this year, but if he’s going to lose touches to Wilson moving forward then he should probably only be used when matchups are better than this.”
We talk AFC starts & sits and if we’re trusting CEH, Gio, Herbert, Lamar this week on the Fantasy Football Today podcast. Listen below and subscribe at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts:
With the first day of practice around the league in the books, here are all the injury updates you need to know about:
- Daniel Jones (hamstring) — Limited at practice. It sounds like Jones has a pretty good chance of making his return in Week 14 against the Cardinals, though he’ll have to make it through practice without any setbacks. He’d just be a low-end starting option, especially if his mobility is limited.
- Drew Brees (ribs; IR) — Brees is reportedly aiming to return in Week 15, which makes sense. It would give him four games off to recover and would give the Saints their starting QB back for a key matchup against the Chiefs. Prepare for the possibility that Taysom Hill won’t be there for you if you advance to Week 15.
- Christian McCaffrey (shoulder/quad) — Limited at practice. Oh, come on. Apparently McCaffrey tweaked his quad working out on his own during the team’s bye, and that seems to be a bigger concern than the shoulder injury that had cost him the previous three games. McCaffrey just can’t find any luck right now. At this point, make sure you have a contingency plan in case he cannot make his return against the Broncos.
- Josh Jacobs (ankle) — Did not practice. It doesn’t sound like Jacobs is going to be able to play in this one. Devontae Booker was a disappointment in his start with Jacobs out in Week 13, but he’d still be a low-end starting option for Fantasy if Jacobs is out against the Colts.
- Antonio Gibson (toe) — Did not practice. Gibson is dealing with a turf toe injury and sure seems like he could miss Sunday’s game against the 49ers. That would push J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber into larger roles, with McKissic the much more interesting Fantasy option. You’d have to be pretty desperate to start Barber, who is averaging 2.7 yards per carry on the season and 2.9 dating back to last season.
- James Robinson (knee) — Limited at practice. It doesn’t sound like this is too big of a concern for Robinson at this point, but we’ll have to keep an eye on it for the next few days to make sure. He has been one of the true every-down backs as a rookie, and is a must-start Fantasy option against the Titans as long as he is healthy.
- D’Andre Swift (illness) — Limited at practice. That’s no guarantee Swift will play in Week 14 against the Packers, but it seems likelier than not at this point, assuming he can avoid any more complications. He should return as a starter, but may split work with Adrian Peterson for this one, given the illness.
- Joe Mixon (foot) — Mixon won’t be back for Week 14, coach Zac Taylor told reporters Wednesday, but he wouldn’t rule him out for the season just yet. There’s some hope, but it’s faint.
- James Conner (COVID-19) — Conner has been activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and will be back for Week 14 against the Bills Sunday. Given how poorly Benny Snell ran in Conner’s absence, Conner should have his usual role waiting for him, assuming he is not suffering from any after-effects from coronavirus that might impact his conditioning.
- Ezekiel Elliott (calf) — Limited at practice. It doesn’t sound like much to be concerned about, especially since this was an estimated practice report for the Cowboys. The only concern is that this is a short week before the Sunday game against the Bengals, however if Elliott is cleared to play, it would be pretty much impossible to sit him against such a juicy matchup.
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire (illness) — Full participant at practice. Edwards-Helaire was active but didn’t play last week, much to the chagrin of those Fantasy players who started him. He should be back at it this week against the Dolphins and is in the low-end No. 2 RB discussion for those of you who didn’t already lose your season last week.
- Todd Gurley (knee) — Limited at practice. The Rams are going to continue to limit Gurley’s exposure, and in Week 13 their plan was to use him in the red zone and on third downs. We could see a similar plan in place against the Chargers, which would make Gurley a touchdown-or-bust desperation play.
- Frank Gore (concussion) — Limited at practice. That’s a good sign for Gore after he was forced out of Sunday’s game. He’ll still need to be cleared, and would be just a low-end starting option against the Seahawks if he is. If not, Ty Johnson would be an even riskier starting option, given that he is likely to split time with Josh Adams.
- Rashaad Penny (knee; IR) — Penny has been designated for return from IR, meaning he is in the final stages of his return from a torn ACL suffered last Week 14. He probably won’t be able to play this week against the Jets, but he could have a role in the final games with Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde dealing with nagging injuries.
- Tyreek Hill (illness) — Did not practice. From what we know right now, this isn’t COVID-19 related, though as we learned with Edwards-Helaire and Swift last week, that doesn’t necessarily mean there is nothing to worry about. At the very least, have a contingency plan in place just for the possibility that Hill might be forced to sit out, though don’t start panicking right now.
- Chris Godwin (finger) — Did not practice. Godwin had 10 pins removed from his surgically repaired finger earlier in the week, a minor procedure that shouldn’t force him to miss this week’s game. Hopefully he gets back out there later in the week.
- Mike Evans (hamstring) — Limited at practice. I haven’t seen anything to suggest this is something to be concerned about beyond the fact that Evans is apparently dealing with a new injury coming off the bye. That is always at least a little bit concerning, especially for someone like Evans who has missed time or been limited due to hamstring injuries the past two seasons. We’ll watch it.
- A.J. Brown (ankle) — Did not practice. We’re used to Brown sitting out practice at this point, but usually it has been to rest his knee after his early-season injury. This is a new one, so we’ll have to see if it limits him the rest of the week. He has a dream matchup against the Jaguars, but Corey Davis could be an even better starting option if Brown is out or limited.
- Julio Jones (hamstring) — Did not practice. This will probably be the norm for Jones moving forward, though we’ll watch to see if there’s any sign of a setback this week. If he plays, he’ll be a must-start Fantasy option against the Chargers — he proved as much in going for 94 yards on six catches against a much tougher Saints defense in his return from the injury.
- Kenny Golladay (hip) — Did not practice. It’s been five weeks since Golladay played and two weeks since he was able to do anything at practice, so it seems like nothing has changed here, unfortunately. He would be a solid starting option against the Packers, but he’ll have to improve in a hurry.
- D.J. Moore/Curtis Samuel (Reserve/COVID-19) — There’s no new news here; Moore reportedly tested positive earlier in the week and is likely out for Sunday’s game against the Broncos, while Samuel has a chance to be cleared to play as a close contact if he tests negative for the rest of the week. We won’t know until the weekend, likely.
- Brandin Cooks (foot/neck)/Keke Coutee (knee) — Limited at practice. At this point, this doesn’t seem to be something to be concerned about, but we’ll watch these two. Both would be in the WR2 conversation against the Bears if they play.
- Deebo Samuel (foot) — Did not practice. This is concerning, but it may not be as bad as it seems — apparently this is not related to the fracture Samuel suffered in the offseason, but is just a bruise. Still, have a backup plan if you are planning on starting Samuel.
- Tee Higgins (hamstring) — Limited at practice. We’ll just want to watch this the rest of the week, but Higgins is still more like a low-end starting option even against the Cowboys.
- Denzel Mims (personal) — Mims is not with the team right now as he is dealing with a family emergency. Hopefully everything ends up all right, but Mims will likely not be able to return to the team in time to be cleared from the COVID-19 protocol to play in Week 14.
- Laviska Shenault (thumb) — Limited at practice. Shenault is a candidate to close the season out strong if he can get healthy, but first a hamstring injury and now this have really been a road block.
- Mark Andrews (COVID-19) — Andrews was activated off the Reserve/COVID-19 list and should be good to play Monday against the Browns, assuming he does not suffer from any lingering effects.
- Kyle Rudolph (foot) — Did not practice. This may explain why Rudolph was such a non-factor in Week 13. Even if he does play, it would be hard to trust him after he was held without a catch against the Jaguars.
- Jonnu Smith (knee) — Limited at practice. This is an improvement for Smith, who missed Week 13 with the injury. Even if he does play, it’s tough to trust someone who hasn’t had even 40 yards in a game since Week 5. However, he did have four catches for 84 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his previous matchup with the Jaguars.
TNF Preview: Patriots at Rams
This is one of those games where, if both sides could get away with running the ball 40 times, they probably would. The key for the Rams will be if they can scheme plays for Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods in space. If they can, they should be able to put up too many points for the Patriots to keep it close.
- Line: LAR -5.0; o/u 44.5
- Implied totals: Patriots 19.75, Rams 24.75
- What to watch for: With Cam Akers good to go despite the shoulder injury that limited him early in the week in practice, the obvious thing we want to see is whether he’ll be used as an every-down back again. He benefited from Darrell Henderson missing some time in Week 13, but he also played the second-most snaps of any Rams running back all season, split very evenly between rushing and passing downs, which is to say he looked more like a No. 1 RB than any Rams back has this season. Let’s hope that stays the same this week. He’s not a must-start back for Thursday, but he could be one for Week 15 if they use him that way.
- Toughest lineup dilemma: Cam Newton — Sit. Newton is always a risky sit because of his rushing ability — he could rack up 70 yards and a couple of touchdowns on the ground even if he isn’t throwing the ball well. However, right now, he really isn’t throwing the ball well, and that puts a lot of pressure on the rushing stats to carry a heavy load. Given that this is a tough matchup against a team that can get pressure up the middle, Newton could really struggle.
- Injuries: Cam Newton (abdomen) — Oh, and Newton isn’t 100% healthy right now and he’s playing on a short week. This is just a tough time to have to rely on him. Avoid it if you can.
So who should you start and sit this week? And which surprising quarterback could lead you to victory? Visit SportsLine now to get Week 14 rankings for every position, plus see which QB is going to come out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that out-performed experts big-time last season.