Week 14 Fantasy Football Sneaky Starts
All but the luckiest fantasy owners at some point need to find the proverbial diamond in the rough—a waiver wire or bench player capable of putting up some points in a pinch. This weekly feature is dedicated to that part of fantasy football. It's not pretty, but it's part of the game.
A good way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA). Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. So if a defense has seen a murderer’s row of running backs, it will be reflected in the defense’s aFPA. As a ranker, I use this metric weekly when putting together our award-winning projections.
In many leagues, Week 14 marks the beginning of the fantasy playoffs. With the byes behind us, teams should be near full strength, relatively speaking. However, there are several key injuries—Matthew Stafford, Tyrod Taylor, Amari Cooper, Doug Martin, Joe Mixon, Greg Olsen, and Zach Ertz, to name a few—along with a one-game suspension for a dirty, boneheaded play (Rob Gronkowski) that may have owners scrambling to fill holes in their lineups.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top Sneaky Starts for Week 14.
Note: I’ve added the defense’s aFPA rank next to the matchup in parenthesis. The higher the number, the better the matchup for the offensive player.
Jameis Winston, Buccaneers (vs. DET, 28)
Winston returned last week to throw for 270 yards and 2 touchdowns in a great matchup against the Packers. He has another good matchup against the Lions, who have yielded an average of 276 yards and 2.0 touchdowns to Joe Flacco and Case Keenum in the last two weeks.
Case Keenum, Vikings (@ CAR, 14)
Since Week 8, Keenum is the No. 6 fantasy quarterback, throwing for an average of 276 yards and accounting for 2.4 total touchdowns per game in that span. The Panthers are tougher against the run than they are against the pass, so Keenum will have to stay active and involved if the Vikings hope to win on the road.
Derek Carr, Raiders (@ KC, 32)
Carr has had a rough season, but he has posted back-to-back usable fantasy lines despite an injury to Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree’s suspension. This week, he faces the Chiefs, who are last in the league in QB aFPA. The last time Carr faced Kansas City, he threw for 417 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers (@ HOU, 30)
Garoppolo acquitted himself well against the Bears, completing 26-of-37 (70.3%) of his passes for 293 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown and was intercepted once, but that’s not a bad showing in a tough matchup on the road. Now he’ll face the Texans in Houston, and should find the going easier. The Texans’ pass defense hasn’t been bad the last two weeks, but in Weeks 10-11, Houston yielded 612 yards and 6 touchdowns to Blaine Gabbert and Jared Goff.
Brett Hundley, Packers (@ CLE, 22)
It’s a very small sample, but Hundley has been much better on the road than at Lambeau. In two away starts, Hundley has averaged 229 yards (8.96 YPA) and 2.0 touchdowns (with no interceptions) against the Bears and the Steelers. In four home starts, he’s averaged 164 passing yards and he hasn’t thrown a touchdown. He has run for a couple of touchdowns at home, but the young quarterback seems more comfortable on the road. The Browns have yielded an average of 240 yards and 1.8 touchdowns over the last four weeks, and Hundley is capable of putting up points with his legs.
Blaine Gabbert, Cardinals (vs. TEN, 18)
After a pair of tough matchups, Gabbert has a pretty favorable home matchup against the Titans, who just gave up 365 yards and a touchdown to Tom Savage. Gabbert is averaging 240 passing yards and 2.0 touchdowns, and he’s even adding 12–17 yards in the running game.
DeShone Kizer, Browns (vs. GB, 31)
Kizer is always a dicey start because he could throw two picks in the first quarter and get benched, but the matchup doesn’t get much better in Week 14. Over the last four weeks, the Packers have yielded an average of 275 yards and 2.0 touchdowns to Jameis Winston, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, and Mitch Trubisky. As frosting on the cake, Kizer is always a threat to score a dozen points as a runner.