Sneaky Starts: Week 14

Sneaky Starts: Week 14

By John Paulsen (Director of Forecasting), last update Dec 9, 2018

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John was named the Most Accurate Fantasy Football Expert by FantasyPros for the 2010 and 2014 seasons, and has finished in the Top 6 in seven of the last eight years. Cumulatively, John has been the most accurate expert from 2010-17 while also winning the 2011 Fantasy Sports Trade Association award for the most accurate draft rankings. 

Follow John Paulsen on Twitter: @4for4_John.

Welcome to Week 14! Most leagues are starting their fantasy playoffs this week and owners who have A.J. Green, James Conner, Matt Breida and Greg Olsen will be without their services in Week 14. Melvin Gordon may be out too. So more than a few owners will be scrambling for spot starts in a crucial week.

A great 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.

Last week, I discussed Lamar Jackson, Marcus Mariota, Tarik Cohen, T.J. Yeldon, Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, Adam Humphries, Chris Godwin and Curtis Samuel in this space.

Let’s see if we can dig up a few more gems for Week 14. There are a lot of names here so I’m going to run through them quickly.

Quarterbacks

Baker Mayfield, Browns (vs. CAR, 29)
Mayfield struggled last week in his first semi-tough matchup since Week 8. He’s set up for success at home against the Panthers, who have yielded 249/2 to Jameis Winston, 339/2 to Russell Wilson and 328/5 to Ben Roethlisberger in recent weeks.

Josh Allen, Bills (vs. NYJ, 26)
Allen’s passing production has been all over the map, but over the last two weeks, he has shown some serious upside as a runner, posting 234 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries against the Jaguars and the Dolphins. The Jets aren’t particularly good against the quarterback position, so Allen should be able to score through the air as well.

Marcus Mariota, Titans (vs. JAX, 13)
Since his Week 8 bye, which allowed his throwing elbow to fully heal, Mariota has scored at least 21.3 fantasy points in four of five games. This week’s matchup against the Jaguars is a little daunting, but the Jacksonville defense has been spotty of late.

Note: Eli Manning was orginally listed as a Sneaky Start, but given Odell Beckham's surprise absence this week, I can no longer recommend him. Over the past two seasons, Manning's splits in 16 games with Beckham in the lineup (274 yards, 1.44 pass TD, 7.30 YPA) are far, far better than his splits in 11 games without Beckham (214 yards, 1.0 pass TD, 5.77 YPA).

Running Backs

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2018