Ten things to watch for as fantasy playoffs start in Week 14

Los Angeles Chargers receiver Keenan Allen is going for his fourth straight 10-catch game. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Los Angeles Chargers receiver Keenan Allen is going for his fourth straight 10-catch game. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Here’s my top 10 for Week 14. Good luck in the playoffs and, if you are lucky enough to have a bye, here are some viewing recommendations.

1. Peyton Barber last week averaged 4.43 yards in extensive action and 2.04 yards before and 2.39 yards after contact. Doug Martin for the year is 1.49 and 1.67 — terrible. Barber was certainly good enough for another start. But there’s no indication through Thursday that coach Doug Koetter will stick with Barber, who was undrafted in 2016. Koetter’s fondness for Martin, who has been historically bad in consecutive seasons and who has also been suspended, is downright bizarre.

2. Similarly Tion Green brought life to the moribund Detroit running game with 2.91 yards before and 1.73 yards after contact last week. Of course, there are sample size issues. But where are you going with Abdullah: 1.92 and 1.45. Theo Riddick adds up to the same 3.37 per carry. Yet Green if he’s even active apparently will be the team’s No. 3 running back. Yes, he timed very slow, 4.79, according to NFLDraftScout but results have to matter and the Ravens are an elite defense.

3. There are questions about benching fantasy football’s top-scoring quarterback Russell Wilson given the strength of the Jaguars pass defense. But the data advises against benching top players because of matchups. We’re talking about two or three expected points, according to research by the Harvard Sports Analytics Cooperative. So Yahoo’s Wilson projection of 19.9 is very solid.

4. Alex Smith is QB No. 3 on the year and you assume there’s a lot of volatility there given 14 of his 23 TD passes have come in four games. But he’s had only one stinker, against the Giants. In the prior meeting vs. the Raiders, he rolled up 25.7 points. Smith should not be available for you to stream and you shouldn’t be playing anyone else ahead of him unless it’s Wilson or Wentz.

[Week 14 rankings: Overall | PPR | QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | FLEX | DST | Ks]

5A. I wrote this week at The Wall Street Journal how Case Keenum is making a run at least at recent NFL history when it comes to a streak of elite quarterback play. The last four games, each of which have ended with Keenum having a rating of at least 100, Keenum is sixth in QB fantasy scoring, between Josh McCown and Kirk Cousins.

5B. One more point from the Vikings-Panthers game. Christian McCaffrey just can’t consistently generate positive plays. That’s why he has a paltry 785 scrimmage yards. The rookie has two yards or less on 37 of his 82 carries and, somehow, 11 of his 64 catches.

6. Josh Gordon is a better bet when a team thinks they can shadow him with one man. Many are bullish on Brown, but Green Bay will likely double team him. And they may have a triple team if you count the 19 mph winds in the forecast for Cleveland on Sunday. That’s right at the 20-mph level where the physics of football say you should consider benching passing games. So monitor this as game-time approaches. (Never worry too much about weather forecasts before the day of the game.)

7. People are circling the Niners matchup for their Texans but seem to be forgetting that Houston’s pass defense is worst per play and per game. So Jimmy Garoppolo is likely to be a top 12 QB this week. And Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor are both in play as top 30 wide receivers; last week, each caught all their targets (for 99 and 92 yards, respectively). And that was against a significantly better Chicago pass defense. While we don’t know for sure if Garappolo is good all the data thus far is positive.

8. Keenan Allen has three-straight games with at least 10 catches. Since the merger, only Calvin Johnson has a longer streak of four games (Dec. 2 to Dec. 22, 2012), according to Pro-Football-Reference. And only three others have streaks of three games in the same season (Brandon Marshall, Andre Johnson and Brett Perriman). This week, he faces Josh Norman. But Norman doesn’t really shadow very often. And he generally does not venture into the slot, where Allen has 34 catches this year and 15 in the last three weeks.

9. Kerwynn Williams should be the feature back for the Cardinals based on just last week. Adrian Peterson is finished. For the year, Peterson is 3.4 yards per carry. And we think he’s had a resurgence in Arizona, but there he’s been just 3.5. And since Week 10, he’s averaging 2.4 per carry (no advanced stats necessary).

10. Alfred Morris is 2.63 and 2.79 yards before and after contact. Ezekiel Elliott was 2.23 and 1.87. The only backs with an after-contact rate better than Morris are Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry and LeGarrette Blount. If we just go since Elliott’s absence, Morris is still 2.69 and 2.11, before and after. Rod Smith in about half as many carries as Morris is 1.60 and 1.50. So Smith is well below replacement level, it seems. Morris is actually good back and basically Elliott without the catches, which is what anyone looking at his career yards per rush should have expected. I projected 11.25 points per game from Morris, who has scored only 9.5 but that’s due mostly to Dak Prescott and the Cowboys passing game going completely into the tank for three of his four games. Expect something closer to Week 13 (18.7) this week at the Giants — let’s call it 13.5 points for Morris.

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