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Fantasy: Dak to the Future
December 12, 2017 01:58 PM | James Morris
Week 14 of the NFL season could begin, "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Just when fantasy owners get in to the playoffs, the fantasy gods exact their revenge by taking out one of the top QBs this season, Carson Wentz. Wentz suffered a torn ACL on a touchdown run that was called back due to a penalty. What is amazing, though, is that he stayed in the game for four plays and got the TD back on a pass to Alshon Jeffery. With Wentz done, the Eagles will now turn to Nick Foles at QB. Foles is a clear downgrade to all the WRs and TEs on the Eagles, and fantasy owners need to plan accordingly as we finish off the season.

As if one QB injury wasn't enough, Jets QB Josh McCown suffered a broken hand (left, non-throwing) on Sunday, and will need surgery. The surgery knocks him out for the remainder of the season, killing all fantasy value Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse had.

Aaron Rodgers is eligible to return in Week 15, so make sure he isn't on your waiver wire. Even if you are out of the championship hunt, pick him up and play spoiler. Remember, misery loves company! Yes... I'm petty like that.



Winners

Ben Roethlisberger - Steelers: Big Ben's clock struck 12 this week as the QB completed 44 of 66 passes for 506 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions. The yardage is clearly enough to smash any milestones needed for point bonuses, but it would have been nice to see a little more in the way of scoring with that many yards.

Not many people on the planet expected this kind of outburst from Roethlisberger in facing the Ravens. Clearly the loss of Jimmy Smith is going to be huge for the Ravens as Brandon Carr looked helpless in the secondary.

Keep Big Ben on the QB1 radar next week as the Steelers host the Patriots. If this were Weeks 1-5, he might be the #1 QB in my rankings. But the Patriots defense has found its stride by holding opponents to 9.7 PPG over their last 6 contests. Don't count your chickens before they hatch, Roethlisberger owners.

Dak Prescott - Cowboys: Just when we had given up hope on Prescott, we watched an episode of "Dak to the future" on Sunday as he racked up 332 passing yards, 13 rushing yards, and scored 3 touchdowns. Prescott avoided taking a single sack, and didn't throw an INT, making his day about as productive as anyone could have hoped for against the rival Giants.

The 332 yards were the most of the season for Prescott, and the touchdowns were his most since Week 7. He still has one more game with Ezekiel Elliot, but he gets a plus matchup against the Raiders in Week 15. Oakland is one of the more generous defenses in the NFL this season, so Prescott will be on the QB1 radar for Week 15.

Blake Bortles - Jaguars: Bortles is the QB the media loves to hate, but fantasy owners also know he is a sleeper they can stream in the right matchup. While I'll admit that this week wasn't a matchup I picked Bortles to do well in, the QB shocked the world by compiling 268 passing yards, 2 TDs, and no INTs against the Seahawks. What's more, the Jaguars handled the Seahawks for most of the game, beating them 30-24!

The Jaguars are opening eyes around the league, with an elite defense, an elite running back, and a passing game set up around making smart throws, not forced ones. With the Texans (22.2 PPG allowed to QBs, 2nd-most in NFL) up next at home, Bortles is a sleeper streamer that you'd be smart not to overlook.

Jonathan Stewart - Panthers: Stewart came out of the hiding he has been in for most of the season, running the ball 16 times for 103 yards, and scoring 3 touchdowns against the Vikings.

Minnesota normally has a stout run defense, giving up double-digit fantasy totals to just one RB in their last 6 games. Stewart was able to erase all that by putting up 28.30 fantasy points this weekend, 2nd-most in the NFL behind Le'Veon Bell.

The Panthers stay at home for Week 15 as they host the Packers. Even with the Packers giving up the 9th-most fantasy points to RBs this season (19.8 PPG), Stewart is more likely to disappear again rather than build on this momentum. Be aware, and beware.

Rod Smith - Cowboys: Rod Smith took a big step forward in his quest to make a name for himself in the NFL this weekend as he ran the ball 6 times for 47 yards, reeled in 5 catches for 115 yards, and scored 2 touchdowns against the Giants. One of the TDs came on an 81-yard catch-and-run for all you big-play fantasy leaguers out there.

Smith still has to split time with Alfred Morris, but as Biggie Smalls once said, "If you don't know, now you know!" The Cowboys RB job will go back to Zeke in Week 15, but this was encouraging for the Cowboys as they can feel a little better if they let Morris walk this offseason when he hits free agency.

Davante Adams - Packers: It was really no shock to me that Adams had a great fantasy game this week, as Brett Hundley pretty much treats him like a future Hall of Fame WR when he is out on the field. Adams saw a team-high 14 targets this week, hauling in 10 of them for 84 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Adams nearly doubled the next highest Packers players for targets, with Randall Cobb seeing 8 this weekend. It's not that Adams isn't a quality WR in the NFL, but Hundley has pretty much rendered Jordy Nelson (4 catches for 33 yards) useless since taking over as QB. If Aaron Rodgers is able to get cleared to play in Week 15, Adams and Nelson will likely switch spots in the box score going forward.

Tyrell Williams - Chargers: Williams must have hitched a ride with Jonathan Stewart this weekend, as the Chargers WR had his best game since Week 4, nabbing 4 of 4 targets for 132 yards and a touchdown against the Redskins.

While most of his yards came on a single play when he burned Josh Norman for a 75-yard touchdown, all we care about in fantasy sports is the end result. And in the end Williams was the #4-ranked WR for Week 14. Keenan Allen was also able to gain 111 yards on 6 catches, but failed to score. All in all, it was a good day for the Chargers passing offense.

Keelan Cole - Jaguars: Keelan Cole has been taking over at WR for Allen Hurns the last 5 games, and he came up big in Week 14 as he hauled in 3 catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. That line is good enough to put Cole in the #12 spot for fantasy WRs in Week 14, giving the rookie his first WR1 ranking of his career.

Cole finished Week 13 as a WR2 thanks to a 3/49/1 line, and stepped his game up once again this week. Hurns is week-to-week with a sprained ankle, but may just make it back for Week 15, making Cole hard to trust as anything more than a WR5.

Cole clearly has the skills to stick in the NFL, but is going to be buried on the depth chart behind Allen Robinson, Dede Westbrook, and Hurns next season. If the Jaguars resign Marqise Lee in the offseason, his road to snaps becomes even more precarious.

Trey Burton - Eagles: It seems like every week there is a TE that comes out of nowhere to post massive fantasy numbers, and this week it was Trey Burton. With Zach Ertz on the shelf due to a concussion, Burton got to stay on the field more than normal, and he rattled off 5 catches, 71 yards, and 2 touchdowns against the Rams.

Ertz is a lock to be back for Week 15, pushing Burton back to a No. 3 TE bench role behind Brent Celek. And even if Ertz was out again, the Eagles are now forced to use Foles at QB instead of Wentz, lowering everyone's prospects. Leave Burton on the waiver wire where he belongs.

Denver Broncos defense: The Broncos defense must have hitched a ride on Dak's time machine (the train, not the Delorean), as they racked up 4 sacks, 1 INT, 1 recovered fumble, and blanked the Jets on the scoreboard.

Week 14 marked the first time this season the Broncos held a team to under 10 points, and the first time in 7 games they have held a team under 20 points. To call the Broncos defense a bust this season would be an understatement. The Broncos are the 16th-best fantasy defense this season, despite being the #1-projected defense in almost all the fantasy rankings in the preseason.

With the Colts up next on the schedule, the Broncos defense will remain a top-end fantasy defense for Week 15.



Losers

Marcus Mariota - Titans: Speaking of busts, Marcus Mariota just might have his picture next to the term in the fantasy dictionary after this season. I fully expected Mariota to take the next step forward in his development this season, but that has yet to happen at the end of Week 14. This week he put up another dreadful line of 159 passing yards, 0 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions against the Cardinals.

Mariota has now failed to reach 185 yards passing in 3 straight games, and has thrown 4 INTs to just 2 TDs over that span. Mariota now has 10 TDs and 14 INTs this season, clearly taking a step backwards after amassing 26 TDs and just 9 INTs last season.

Matt Ryan - Falcons: Matt Ryan has gone ice cold, managing to throw for less than 225 yards in 4 of his last 5 games. This week he accounted for 221 passing yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 INTs against the Saints. Ryan completed just 15 of 27 passes, and single-handedly tried to lose the Falcons the game with his INTs.

If the Saints offense could have moved the ball without Alvin Kamara (concussion) as they do with him, the Falcons would have easily lost this one. Ryan will have 10 days off before he takes on a soft Buccaneers defense that gives up 20.8 PPG to fantasy QBs this season, 9th-most in the NFL. It may be just what he needs to get his groove back.

Latavius Murray - Vikings: Murray has been a decent RB2 this season, averaging 15.7 carries and 61.2 yards per game since taking over for Dalvin Cook in Week 5. He's also scored 5 touchdowns this season, often vulturing them from Jerick McKinnon.

This week Murray managed just 9 carries for 14 empty yards, and caught 2 rare passes for 6 more yards. The Panthers have given up the 3rd-fewest fantasy points to RBs this season, so it shouldn't really come as a shock that they shut Murray down this week.

With the Vikings heading home to take on the Bengals in Week 15, Murray will be a TD-dependent risk/reward play in Week 2 of the fantasy playoffs.

Alvin Kamara - Saints: Kamara was well on his way to a productive fantasy game against the Falcons, racking up 25 yards on 3 catches and gaining 2 yards on his lone carry. But the dual-threat rookie took a helmet-to-helmet hit and exited the game in the first series.

Kamara is expected to be cleared in time for the Saints to take on the now QB-less Jets at home. If he is cleared for Week 15, he has a real shot to finish with high-end RB1 numbers.

Sterling Shepard - Giants: With Eli Manning back under center for the Giants, I think a lot of people assumed Sterling Shepard would be a great sleeper pick at WR for Week 14. The only problem is, Shepard and the Giants offense apparently slept in on Sunday, losing to the Cowboys 30-10.

For his part, Shepard managed to account for just 2 catches and 16 yards receiving, but lost 9 yards on his lone carry, putting his game total at 7 yards. Thank goodness for me I don't own Shepard in a single league, but I know a lot of you suffered from this horrific game. With the Cardinals up next on the schedule, he'd be best left on the bench if at all possible.

Chris Hogan - Patriots: Hogan was a sleeper pick of mine in the preseason, and he did not disappoint. In Weeks 2-5, Hogan racked up 22 catches, 280 receiving yards, and scored 5 touchdowns! For a WR, those are monster fantasy numbers that even the elite WRs had to stop and look at.

Hogan was good in Weeks 6-8, but not great. He held onto WR2 value, keeping his owners happy. Then, Hogan had a bye in Week 9, and missed the next 4 games with a shoulder injury. His owners could only hold onto him and hope he regained that early-season form upon his return.

Week 14 was that return, and what an utter bomb it was for him. Hogan did manage to see 5 targets in the game, but he hauled just one of them in for one lonely yard. I guess Three Dog Night had it right when they said, "One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do."

Cameron Brate - Buccaneers: Brate is one of those TEs that has been riding his fantasy success in Weeks 3-6 for a while now, but hasn't been worth the hype people are giving him. Yes, he did score a TD in four straight games during those weeks. But in the eight games since then, his only end zone visits both came in Week 13, and he's accounted for fewer than 15 receiving yards in 5 of his last 6 games.

This week Brate caught just 1 pass for 11 yards, while O.J. Howard reeled in 4 catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. Brate seems to be taking a back seat to the Bucs rookie, making him a TE you could just cut. TEs are almost always TD-or-bust, so just stream someone like Ricky Seals-Jones or Marcedes Lewis in Week 15.

Baltimore Ravens & Pittsburgh Steelers defenses: The Ravens and Steelers defenses are normally worth starting in fantasy leagues, with the Ravens ranking as a top-3 fantasy defense this season, and the Steelers a top-12 defense. However, that was not the case this week as these two teams faced each other and combined for 958 total yards, and 77 points.

From a fantasy standpoint, the Ravens and Steelers both finished Week 14 with -1.00 points in standard scoring, meaning it would have been better to not play a defense at all rather than play them. The Ravens have the Browns next, putting them as an elite fantasy defense in Week 15. Meanwhile, the Steelers take on the Patriots, making them a defense to avoid.

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