Welcome to the fantasy playoffs and the most exciting time of the year. It’s a series of one- or two-week seasons from here on out and every decision is magnified. Weather is a concern, matchups are a bigger factors than they’ve been all season and there is no margin for error. In deep leagues there are plenty of tough decisions to be made in Week 14. Here are a handful of players available in the vast majority of leagues that can help you win this week.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins
What if I told you there was a quarterback sitting on benches and waiver wires that ranks as a Top 10 player at his position since the start of November, has six touchdowns in his last two games and put up 288 yards and three touchdowns against the team he faces this week earlier in the season? Sounds like someone you might consider starting in Week 14, right? That hypothetical player is very real and his name is Fitzpatrick. Since Week 9, Fitzpatrick is the No. 8 QB in fantasy with an average of 20.7 points per game and has a trio of three-touchdown games. As mentioned already, one of them came against the very same Jets team he’ll face this weekend. You know the volume will be there, as Fitzpatrick hasn’t thrown fewer than 33 times in a game since re-taking the starting QB role from Josh Rosen. Although they’ve played better over the last two weeks, the matchup with New York’s secondary isn’t anything to fear. Sam Darnold should be able to put up points on this Miami defense, forcing Fitzpatrick and Co. to respond in kind. He’ll throw a pick or two, but there’s no reason he can’t put up another 20-point game this Sunday.
RB Darwin Thompson, Kansas City Chiefs
Opportunity knocks for the rookie out of Utah State. Damien Williams has missed practice all week with a rib injury and seems unlikely to play against the Patriots on Sunday. Darrel Williams was placed on IR Thursday. That leaves Thompson, LeSean McCoy and the recently signed familiar face of Spencer Ware as the only healthy running backs on the roster. After Darrel Williams left last week’s game, Thompson was featured fairly heavily. He finished with 44 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. He and McCoy each played 24 snaps, meaning we could see a true 50-50 split of the workload this week. McCoy was used more in the passing game, so if that trend holds it’s reasonable to assume Thompson will get the majority of the carries. The Patriots are a bad matchup for fantasy RBs, but have allowed at least 105 yards on the ground to the position in three of their last five games. This is the third-best offense the Patriots have faced, behind the Ravens and Cowboys. The former team’s RBs ran for 149 yards and a score. The latter’s ran for 105 yards on 25 carries. Thompson should flirt with flex territory this week, even if scoring another touchdown isn’t super likely.
RB Patrick Laird, Miami Dolphins
Remember how I expect the Dolphins to throw a lot (and score) on the Jets this week? That thought process is why the new starting running back for Miami makes the cut here. The unbelievably inefficient Kalen Ballage was placed on IR this week, opening up the door for Laird to get more playing time. He was quite frankly terrible on the ground last week (10 carries for five yards and a score) but he’ll be a valuable asset in the receiving game. He has 10 catches for 94 yards in his last three games (there was a 0 for 0 in the middle, though). The Jets have a tough run defense, so expect short dump-offs and screens to serve as Miami’s “run game” for this matchup. Laird outsnaped Myles Gaskin 43-16 last week and should get a similar share of the workload again this week. Anything Laird gives you on the ground is a bonus, but he should give you double-digit points in the receiving game in PPR formats.
WR Russell Gage, Atlanta Falcons
Gage has been a solid play over the last couple weeks with his expanded role. He followed up his eight-catch, 10-target game against the Buccaneers in Week 11 with nine targets and a 5/52/1 performance against the Saints on Thanksgiving. One of those games was with Julio Jones on the field and the other was not so the star receiver’s status for Sunday shouldn’t factor into Gage’s value too much, although one less player for Matt Ryan to throw to should raise his upside. The return of Austin Hooper would be the biggest potential negative for Gage, but the tight end’s status for Sunday is also unclear. Jones, Hooper and Calvin Ridley are all banged up and limited at practice. Gage really just needs one of those players to be out to continue in the role he’s had for the past two weeks. The Panthers allow the 11th-most points to fantasy WRs this season but they’re actually worse than that. They shut down the Redskins’ passing attack last week (not exactly a major feat), but were shellacked by the Titans, Packers, Saints and these same Falcons over the prior four weeks.
WR Danny Amendola, Detroit Lions
It’s been awhile since we’ve gone to the Amendola well, so it’s time to head back with the Vikings on tap. Amendola had a big game against them in Week 7, catching eight of his 11 targets for 105 yards. Minnesota has struggled against slot receivers as a whole this season, ranking in the bottom 10 in yards allowed to the position. The concern is that Amendola hasn’t had more than 8.7 fantasy points in a game since Week 8 and hasn’t been very effective without Matthew Stafford, who last played in Week 9. What is encouraging, though, is that third string QB David Blough showed a willingness to look Amendola’s way in his first career start. After averaging 5.7 targets per game in three games with Jeff Driskel, Amendola was targeted eight times on Thanksgiving. He only caught three passes for 32 yards, but that was against the best team in the NFL at defending slot receivers. If Amendola gets eight targets against this defense, he should score 15 or more fantasy points.
WR Parris Campbell, Indianapolis Colts
This is purely a gut call, but I believe Campbell is in line for a potential monster game this week. He’s a high-risk, high-reward play this week that should be reserved for those who are underdogs in their matchups. No team gives up more points to fantasy WRs than the Buccaneers. T.Y. Hilton appears unlikely to play again this week and Chester Rogers was placed on IR. In the meantime, Campbell practiced in full on Wednesday and Thursday and may not even have an injury designation heading into Sunday’s game. I’m not fully ready to buy into Zach Pascal after one big performance. Many did that after Week 9 and were rewarded with three straight duds before last week. Frank Reich made a concerted effort to get the ball into Campbell’s hands in different ways when he was last on the field in Week 9. He had five catches for 53 yards and three rushes for 27 yards. He should be leaned on heavily this week in the best matchup possible.
TE Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins
Hey, remember how I expect the Dolph… alright, I won’t repeat myself again. Gesicki is in the midst of a breakout season that is starting to come to light after scoring touchdowns in back-to-back games, the first two scores of his young career. The volume of looks he’s getting lately is what makes him an intriguing play. He has at least six targets in each of his past five games, and 14 in the last two weeks. The Jets have been really good against tight ends this season by pretty much every measure, but Gesicki played well against them in Week 9. He didn’t score, but his six catches and 95 yards were the best marks of any tight end against New York this season. There’s no reason to believe he can’t come close to those totals again this week.