2017 Fantasy Football Week 14 Preview: Wentz Coast Offense

by Richard Savill
2017 Fantasy Football Week 14 Preview

I would like to see more re-imaginings of fantasy football for 2018. I don't mind the introduction of  first down counts, SuperFlex and other scoring methods, but I'm talking about things that are outside the box of point scoring.

Injuries always make an impact every season, but the volume and frequency in 2017 were a burden for fantasy interest. The loss of David Johnson immediately in Week 1 set the tone for a very hard fantasy year. Outside of a weekly draft solution, like DFS,  there seems little that can help redraft leagues from injury collapse.

If some kind of compensatory system is feasible, I'd like to hear it. I don't know how it would work without over-complicating the game, but I believe in time several revolutionary ideas will eventually find widespread acceptance. We already see leagues that omit kickers and defenses; still others with intricate scoring schemes.

The future of fantasy football needs to evolve, otherwise the game could stagnate and become a fringe interest. I remain optimistic that redraft fantasy will introduce some interesting refits in the next decade, making our current methods obsolete and unfashionable.

2017 Fantasy Football Week 14 Preview

For many this is the start of the fantasy playoffs and for others, next week. Good luck in your matchups and whatever happens, I hope you come away with a sharpened skill for next season.

Games to watch

Feature Game: Eagles (10-2) at Rams (9-3)

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Might as well call this column "The Weekend Rams Preview." In this current five game stretch, the Rams have met the Vikings, Saints, Cardinals; this week the Eagles and next week at Seattle against the Seahawks.

In contrast to recent years, the Rams play to their competition with strength. Thus, on the whole, the Rams fantasy players generally thrive well even in the statistically poor matchups. So you can play them every week without too much concern over the fantasy point distribution based on position. The team is averaging around 32 points per game.

The Eagles might just provide a harsh challenge that notion this week.

Carson Wentz will need all his smarts to beat these guys. The Eagles are off a loss against the Seahawks and need a win to maintain the initiative for a top seed first round bye in the playoffs. I would argue that the Eagles will discover the Rams a difficult opponent and among the most challenging they'll face this year.

Blount and Ajayi pressure

At least the Eagles may find more success in the running game this week against the Rams as compared to the Seahawks; so look for the Eagles backfield committee to open up and pound. I expect the beneficiary in all this to fall on Zach Ertz and should give him a strong fantasy day. This depends on Ertz clearing the concussion protocol which currently appears going in a positive direction. If not, Trey Burton is an upside sleeper.

With all that in mind, the Rams are capable of guiding a defensive game flow in their favor just as well as the Seahawks, so this game could easily have a similar flavor to their Saints game in Week 12.

The Eagles are tough against the run and Todd Gurley might find himself in a similar situation as he did in Week 11 with his season lows against Minnesota. This means Goff would have to patch a game together through the air with Sammy Watkins and Cooper Kupp.

I suspect that this game falls somewhere in between the Week 11 Vikings game and Week 12 Saints game from a Rams point of view. The initial script favors the Eagles; especially if they gain at least a 10 point advantage at the half.

Sleeper: Corey Clement, RB, Eagles

High OU Game: Raiders (6-6) at Chiefs (6-6)

It's still a playoff race - in the broadest sense of the term. In case you were wondering, there are scenarios where a 7-9 team could win the AFC West division and hold the 4th seed. Were it to occur, that team would be the Chargers in each case.

This game is the first of a three game home stand for Chiefs - currently on a four game slide. What is wrong with these Chiefs who started out so strong?

It turns out that the biggest drop of all the statistics is team rushing. So I have to ask myself a very stunning question. Where would the Chiefs be if Spencer Ware did not get injured in the preseason? Kareem Hunt started his career with a fumble and for the next four or five weeks was the toast of fantasy. Today, the decline is rapidly entering bust territory.

This is where statistics can skew our 2018 outlook. Despite Hunt's continuing slump, he's going to surpass 1000 rushing yards at some point; primarily on the bulk yardage from early in the season. Owing to the poor Oakland defense overall, this is yet another chance, and a good one, for Kareem Hunt to finally make a statement that he is there for your playoff run.

As for Oakland, Marshawn Lynch is doing the reverse of Hunt and coming to life at a very important stage. Since the start of November, he is scoring and piling up good yardage on sometimes less than 18 carries.

As with their first meeting in Week 7, this game has a good chance of repeating a similar score of 31-30. Things are different at Arrowhead. The temperature is forecast for the low 50s, so we're looking at great football weather in the glaring December sunshine.

Look for Tyreek Hill to get heavy work once again this week. If Amari Cooper is ready, he could make a stamp on this game, but I sense it is Michael Crabtree as the one ready to blow up on his return after a one game suspension. Angry players often juice up fantasy numbers in "making a statement" games. It's nothing the Chiefs did, but I think all the defenders will look like Aqib Talib to him on Sunday.

Sleeper: Albert Wilson, WR, Chiefs

Sunday Night Football: Ravens (7-5) at Steelers (10-2)

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From the frying pan and into fire for the Steelers. I never count on these encounters with the Ravens to play like the numbers suggest, so take away what you will from the following. The defensive struggles tend to happen when they play in Baltimore, but in Pittsburgh the game script tends to beat the Over. Especially when they meet in December, where the Over has a 5-1 record since 1999.

The forecast calls for below freezing temperatures for the evening in Pittsburgh, so expect to see a lot of vapor coming out of the helmets. Cold hands can lead to turnovers on both sides, so watch for these opportunistic defenses to take whatever advantage they can from that.

In order to avoid too much close contact, the passing games of both teams should feature some interesting plays. Antonio Brown will certainly get heavy looks, but Baltimore cannot focus too much on that with Martavis Bryant on the other side. Bryant is a good, if not great, fantasy start for this game.

Mike Wallace should feature more than Jeremy Maclin as he holds the offensive hot hand. I expect the Steelers to pressure Flacco all night to hopefully force sacks and turnovers.

The Ravens will try the same against Roethlisberger, who is always the prize the Ravens front seeks to sack.

Should be a great football game and even if you have no fantasy players involved, it's well worth watching.

Sleeper: Danny Woodhead, RB, Ravens

Monday Night Football: Patriots (10-2) at Dolphins (5-7)

The Dolphins ended a five game losing streak last week with a 35-9 pasting of the Broncos. Their playoff chances are alive, but amongst other things, they primarily need to win out and basically hold a better record than the Ravens and Raiders after Week 17.

No point avoiding the cynical. Winning out just isn't gonna happen because I don't see any pigs flying around. You already know that. The positive thing is that the Dolphins have really good fantasy starters for our "fake" playoff weeks. Their matchups after this game are against the Bills and Chiefs.

Kenyan Drake might be a key player for you down the stretch. Even in the current game against these Patriots, I am all in for starting Kenyan Drake. It's not just the volume, but Drake is showing signs as a very dependable RB2 running back capable of producing RB1 numbers in good matchups.

This matchup is probably one of those RB2/Flex types. That's good enough for Drake to fill up that spot.

As for the passing game of the Dolphins. When Cutler isn't throwing interceptions, he's getting big plays out of Kenny Stills. He's a bit boom or bust for standard leagues, but in PPR he's weekly Flex starter too. The Patriots always choose to shut down a big play guy, so he might get the same treatment as he did against the Patriots a couple of weeks ago posting a lacklustre 3-47-0 line. Jarvis Landry remains the best bet for fantasy in this game.

As for the Patriots offense, Chris Hogan returns; which oddly may affect the value of Rex Burkhead. We saw the increase of Burkhead's involvement when Hogan went out, so for some reason these players have parallel fantasy value. Since Hogan is the slot guy and used in the short game, that is probably why tempering expectations on Burkhead occurs.

Rob Gronkowski is on a one-game suspension, so that theory is put on hold this week. Filling the spot with Dwayne Allen or Jacob Hollister is too risky. If you need a better choice of sleeper tight end for this game...

Sleeper: Julius Thomas, TE, Dolphins

Players to Watch

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Eli Manning, QB, Giants (vs Cowboys)

I think we should watch every Eli game from here on in. We may be seeing the last stretch of him in a Giants uniform. He'll do everything he can to give Giants fans a beautiful swan song to cap his career in New York. Rumor also has Eli considering retirement after the season.

Josh Gordon, WR, Browns (vs Packers)

A good outing against the Chargers last week to resume his career leads us to wanting more. All eyes once again will train on number 12 to see if he takes it to the house for the first time.

Giovani Bernard, RB, Bengals (vs Bears)

A hot waiver fill this week while Joe Mixon is in the protocol. There is confidence Bernard can deliver RB1 numbers this week amongst those in the fantasy community. One of those rare moments when Cincinnati does not play a committee. Brian Hill is the relief back.

Tion Green, RB, Lions (at Buccaneers)

Jim Caldwell put this this rookie UDFA in last week and he turned a few heads with an 11-51-1 statline. If Abdullah isn't able to return, we might see this intriguing player again. With Caldwell, it might be best not to count on  it. The Lions seem to prefer going with stuff that doesn't work.

Kerwynn Williams, RB, (vs Tennessee)

One of the riskier fantasy fills. Once again Adrian Peterson sits out. Williams might be just too dependent on volume for getting solid production. Although he put together a fine statline last week, he has injury issues of his own and there is always the possibility of a fantasy bait and switch scheme with Arians and the Arizona backfield.

In The Booth on Sunday

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CBS Early

Vikings at Panthers: Jim Nantz, Tony Romo
Raiders at Chiefs: Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon
Colts at Bills: Spero Dedes, Adam Archuleta

CBS Late

Redskins at Chargers: Ian Eagle, Dan Fouts
Jets at Broncos: Greg Gumbel, Trent Green
Titans at Cardinals: Andrew Catalon, James Lofton

Fox Early

Cowboys at Giants: Kevin Burkhardt, Charles Davis
Bears at Bengals: Sam Rosen, Brady Quinn
Packers at Browns: Thom Brennaman, Chris Spielman
49ers at Texans: Dick Stockton, Mark Schlereth
Lions at Buccaneers: Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber

Fox Late

Eagles at Rams: Joe Buck, Troy Aikman
Seahawks at Jaguars: Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston

Check out the rest of our 2017 Fantasy Football content from our great team of writers.

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