Many of you began preparing for your 2015 fantasy football drafts immediately after the 2014 season ended. Months of planning included research, mock drafts, and any other tools that you could access, which eventually escorted you into the actual draft process. Then, you spent the past few months meticulously managing your rosters. All toward the goal of winning fantasy championships. Some of you have taken a critical step toward accomplishing that objective by qualifying for the playoffs, with many leagues beginning their postseason this week, while others will commence in Week 15. Congratulations to all of you who will be participating. These Week 14 quarterback rankings and matchups are designed to help you determine your best plan for this week’s contests. This is also the case if you who are in position to seize a spot in the postseason by winning this week.
With so much effort already expended, you do not want to unwittingly lay the foundation for your team’s demise by failing to continue the thorough preparation that you have undertaken for nearly a year. Which leads us to my ongoing recommendation that you closely examine your matchups this week even more than ever. Make sure that you are completely confident in starting any of your players that have difficult matchups this week. If there are more than two players in this category, it is unwise to underestimate the situation by deciding that they will still produce at a high level for you, simply because they have performed effectively during most weeks of the regular season. That in itself is not a guarantee that they will deliver the level of fantasy points that you have grown accustomed to. This is not a recommendation for you to panic and mindlessly bench your proven starters if they are facing formidable defensive units. But you should examine the matchups, and strongly consider avoiding lineups that consist of too many players who are dealing with these unfavorable situations.
Before we proceed to the Week 14 rankings, it is important to acknowledge those of you that will not have teams involved in the playoffs. You might easily have been negatively impacted by the inordinate number of injuries to critical performers that have occurred this season. Maybe your teams had the unwelcome distinction of leading your league in points allowed. Or possibly, you were a victim of other inexplicable developments that you could not control as an owner. If too many hurdles conspired to keep you from this year's fantasy postseason, thank you for reading this column. And know that remaining positive, and starting the process of preparing for 2016, could easily pay much larger dividends for you next year. Good luck to everyone this week. And remember to enjoy the experience, regardless of whether you are in playoff games, are one win away from the postseason, or are finishing your season this week.
Top 25 Rankings
1. Cam Newton vs. Falcons
Owners who were reliant upon Newton to help propel their drive into the postseason could not have asked for a more appealing matchup in Week 13. And Newton delivered sizably by manufacturing a season high 331 yards and five touchdowns through the air, along with 49 yards on the ground against the Saints highly exploitable defense. It was the second time in three weeks that he has passed for five touchdowns, which improved his season total to 25. He has also amassed 476 rushing yards, and only three players have exceeded his seven touchdowns on the ground. Newton will continue his MVP-like season by lining up against yet another NFC South rival on Sunday. This will be the first of two encounters with the Falcons during the fantasy postseason, and Newton should remain highly productive in both contests.
Upcoming schedule: Week 15 at Giants / Week 16 at Falcons
2. Carson Palmer vs. Vikings
Palmer has certainly assembled an exceptional season, and continues to reside among the league leaders in all primary categories. He is now third among all quarterbacks with 3,693 yards for the season, and is second overall with 29 touchdowns. He has already established a new career high by exceeding 300 yards in eight different contests. Plus, he is on the verge of surpassing his previous record of 32 touchdown passes in a season, after producing multiple scores in nine contests this year. In Week 13, he generated 356 yards and two touchdowns against division rival St. Louis, and would have generated even better numbers if the Rams had presented even a modest challenge to Arizona’s chances of winning the contest. It is unlikely that Palmer owners have been eagerly anticipating this week’s matchup with the Vikings. Although what had been a stout Minnesota pass defense that was exploited repeatedly by Russell Wilson in Week 13.
Upcoming schedule: Week 15 at Eagles / Week 16 vs. Packers
3. Ben Roethlisberger at Bengals
Roethlisberger has now successfully rebounded from knee, foot and concussion issues, after making his latest return to Pittsburgh’s lineup in Week 13. While those injuries forced him to leave contests in Week 3, 9, and 12 respectively, he has resumed high level production after each return, including his latest reappearance against Indianapolis. Roethlisberger shredded the Colts’ 27th ranked pass defense for 364 yards and a season high four scores, which was the third time that he has assembled at least three touchdowns in a game this season, and the fifth time that he has produced over 350 yards. His worst performance of the season occurred during his Week 8 matchup with the Bengals, when he manufactured 262 yards and one touchdown, while also throwing a season high three interceptions. That was also his first game back from a five week absence due to his first injury (knee), and Roethlisberger will attain better numbers during this week’s rematch.
Upcoming schedule: Week 15 vs. Broncos / Week 16 at Ravens
4. Russell Wilson at Ravens
Thomas Rawls’ proficiency since ascending into the starting role has ignited entire Seattle’s offense, and opened up opportunities for the Seahawk passing attack. As a result, Wilson has amassed 11 touchdowns through the air in his last three games, after managing just 10 in his previous nine games combined. That includes the three scores that he generated in Week 13, versus a Viking defense that entered the matchup ranked second against the pass. Wilson also accumulated 274 yards in Minnesota, and has now produced at least 260 in three straight contests, after attaining the number just once prior to that span. Wilson also rumbled for 51 yards and his first rushing touchdown of the season against the Vikings. His QB1 status has been restored, just in time for owners who had previously endured a discouraging season. This week Wilson should flourish when facing a Baltimore pass defense that has surrendered 22 touchdowns, and is dead last with just four interceptions.
Upcoming schedule: Week 15 vs. Browns / Week 16 vs. Rams
5. Tom Brady at Texans
The lethargic Philadelphia defense that had been thoroughly gashed in Weeks 11 and 12 appeared to be the perfect tonic for Brady during his first Gronk-less week of 2015. The 16-year veteran did burn the Eagles for 312 yards and four touchdowns, including a one-yard run. However, he also tossed two interceptions for the first time this season. Brady targeted Danny Amendola and James White 13 times, while manufacturing a sufficient number of fantasy points for owners. But he would benefit greatly from Gronkowski return to the lineup, whenever that occurs. He still leads the NFL with 3,912 yards, and his 31 touchdowns are also the most among all quarterbacks. This week, Brady will face a much more difficult assignment, as Houston's defense will perform with a higher level of proficiency and tenacity than Brady experienced with the Eagles.
Upcoming schedule: Week 15 vs. Titans / Week 16 at Jets
6. Aaron Rodgers vs. Cowboys
Rodgers owners were forced to endure another agonizingly slow start in Week 13. Not only did he only manufacture 80 yards in the first half, but he did not generate his first touchdown until four minutes remained in the third quarter. But even though his entire collection of wide receivers were seldom able to create space on their routes, Rodgers still rallied in the second half to produce 273 yards and two touchdowns. Plus, he scored on the ground for the first time in 2015. While he ultimately provided a satisfactory number of fantasy points, the Green Bay offense continues to function below the level that we have become familiar with. Rodgers is fourth overall with 26 touchdowns for the season, but has only assembled three 300-yard performances, after registering eight in 2014. He should produce 250 yards and several scores against a Dallas defense that has performed well, but will be victimized by frequent three-and-outs of the Matt Cassel-led offense.
Upcoming schedule: Week 15 at Raiders / Week 16 at Cardinals
7. Blake Bortles vs. Colts
Bortles maintains his appeal as a starter in great part due to the voluminous opportunities that he is allotted on a weekly basis. Only three signal callers have launched more passes than the 471 that Bortles has attempted. Having Allen Robinson as his primary target is also advantageous, as the tandem has now combined for multiple scores three times this season. That includes the three touchdowns that they generated against the Titans, which propelled Bortles to a career high of five. He has now assembled 27 touchdowns for the season, which is the NFL’s third highest total. He also located Robinson 10 times for 153 yards, which was nearly half of the 322 yards that he accrued at Tennessee. This week, he should exceed the production that he attained during his Week 4 matchup with Indianapolis, when he threw for 298 yards and a score against the Colts.
Upcoming schedule: Week 15 vs. Falcons / Week 16 at Saints
8. Andy Dalton vs. Steelers
Cincinnati’s fifth-year signal caller has maintained residence among the viable QB1 options this season, and will remain in that classification until his daunting Week 16 matchup. While a certain level of uneasiness still exists among some in the fantasy community, his proficiency throughout most of the year should alter any lingering perceptions from previous seasons. Dalton was extremely efficient in Week 13, by accumulating 220 yards and two scores on just 19 passes. It was the third consecutive week in which Dalton has delivered multiple touchdowns, and the ninth time this season. He is also tied for sixth among all quarterbacks in touchdowns for the year, while forging an impressive 25:6 TD/INT ratio. The Bengals will need their aerial attack to play a more expansive role this week, which will provide Dalton with a better opportunity to locate his collection of weapons. Owners should monitor the status of Tyler Eifert, as his return to the lineup would fortify Dalton’s options.
Upcoming schedule: Week 15 at 49ers / Week 16 at Broncos
9. Tyrod Taylor at Eagles
After generating six touchdowns in Week 2, and surpassing 270 yards in Weeks 3 and 4, Taylor was eviscerated from fantasy relevance in all but the deepest of leagues. However, he has reemerged as an excellent streamer this week, as a result of an exceptional matchup, and his most recent performances. In his last two contests, he has assembled seven touchdowns, including six through the air. All of this was accomplished against the defensive units of Kansas City and Houston, which have both been performing among the league's best in recent weeks. He has only thrown four interceptions, and none since Week 4. Plus, his floor elevates to a favorable level due to his prowess as a runner. He is averaging 32 YPG on the ground and has scored three times. This week he will line up against an Eagle defense that has been abused in their last three contests.
Upcoming schedule: Week 15 at Redskins / Week 16 vs. Cowboys
10. Drew Brees at Buccaneers
Brees owners found themselves in an unusual quandary heading into Week 13, as there was sizable justification for benching him. Even though he was fifth among all quarterbacks in yardage (3,200), ninth in touchdowns (20), and third with a 320 YPG average. The issue was substantial, and it came in the form of a Carolina defense that ranked fifth against the pass, led the NFL in interceptions, and was third in sacks. It certainly was an unfavorable matchup, although those who decided to start Brees ultimately benefited from his production. He nearly became the third quarterback to generate 300 yards against Carolina, by accumulating 282. The 15-year veteran also became just the second signal caller to navigate through the Panther defense for at least three touchdowns. He is now fourth among all signal callers with 3,482 yards, and ninth with 23 touchdowns. Brees generated 255 yards and one touchdown against Tampa Bay in Week 2, and his 6:6 TD/INT ratio away from home suggests that a high quality performance is not forthcoming this week.
Upcoming schedule: Week 15 vs. Lions / Week 16 vs. Jaguars
11. Eli Manning at Dolphins
Even though Manning’s overall numbers have kept him among the league leaders, it would be understandable for owners to have a trepidation about starting him during the fantasy playoffs. He has now thrown six interceptions in his last four games, after tossing just four in his first eight. Plus, attempting to find a dangerous weapon at his disposal beyond Odell Beckham Jr. is an exercise in futility. However, Manning and Beckham were given a reprieve from contending with Darrelle Revis in Week 13, and combined for 149 yards and a score against the Jets. That helped Manning amass 297 yards versus Gang Green, although that was his only touchdown of the contest. Manning is now fifth among all quarterbacks with 3,318 yards for the season, and is eighth with 24 touchdowns. There is sufficient reason to expect 300 yards and multiple scores from Manning this week. The Dolphins just allowed Matt Schaub to shred them for 308 yards, and will have extreme difficulty containing Beckham.
Upcoming schedule: Week 15 vs. Panthers / Week 16 at Vikings
12. Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Titans
Fitzpatrick has edged out Winston for the final slot in this week’s top 12, based upon his recent production, and the excellent matchup that awaits him on Sunday. The 11-year veteran has produced multiple touchdowns nine times this season, including six of his last eight contests. In his last two games alone, he has connected for six scores, and now somewhat quietly occupies the 11th spot among all quarterbacks with 22 touchdowns for the season. He also generated a season high 390 yards in Week 13 versus the Giants, which was the third time that he has amassed at least 270 in his last five games. It is not surprising that 142 of Fitzpatrick’s 273 completions this season have been collected by the proficient tandem of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, who have also garnered 18 of Fitzpatrick’s scoring throws. As a result, Marshall and Decker both reside within the top ten in receiving touchdowns, while Marshall is also sixth in yardage. Expect Fitzpatrick to locate both of his primary targets for touchdowns this week, and to accumulate 300 yards.
Upcoming schedule: Week 15 at Cowboys / Week 16 vs. Patriots
- Matthew Stafford at Rams
- Jameis Winston vs. Saints
- Jay Cutler vs. Redskins
- Alex Smith vs. Chargers
- Brock Osweiler vs. Raiders
- Marcus Mariota at Jets
- Kirk Cousins at Bears
- Matt Hasselbeck at Jaguars
- Derek Carr at Broncos
- Ryan Tannehill vs. Giants
- Brian Hoyer vs. Patriots
- Matt Ryan at Panthers
- Philip Rivers at Chiefs
Jameis Winston vs. Saints
His viability would normally be present only for owners in deeper leagues. But if you are reluctant to utilize your normal starter this week due to a difficult matchup, Winston supplies you with an outstanding option. The reason for this is readily apparent, since he will face a defensive unit that has provided 2015’s most appealing matchup throughout the season. New Orleans is dead last in total defense, and easily allows the most points to opponents (32 PPG). The Saints also rank 31st against the pass, and are permitting 287 YPG. Arguably the most unattractive statistic is the 35 touchdowns that they have surrendered through the air. That is a full seven more than any other team. The Saints have not been a threat to garner interceptions, as they have only picked off six in their first 13 contests. If your need a Week 14 streamer, there was never a better time to elevate Winston into your lineup.
Tyrod Taylor at Eagles
Taylor’s recent output has elevated him into this week’s group of QB1s. However, the undeniable enticement of this matchup provides another legitimate reason to start him during this critical week. The Eagle defense has undergone such a gargantuan decent in their last five contests, that what was once a respectable unit is now allowing the second most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Since Week 9, they have surrendered 18 touchdowns, including five each to Stafford and Winston, and three to both Brady and Matt Cassel. As a result, their season total of touchdowns allowed has soared to 28, which is the NFL’s second highest. While they did generate a trio of scores in Week 13 (two on special teams), the defense has often appeared to be performing without intensity and purpose during their recent collapse. Buffalo OC Greg Roman should also be inclined to allot Taylor numerous opportunities to launch downfield throws, given the recent deficiencies in Philadelphia’s level of resistance. Plus, his capabilities as a duel threat should provide owners in search of an alternative with a productive option.
Blake Bortles vs. Colts
The frequent opportunities that Bortles is allotted to launch passes at his preferred targets was mentioned previously. Yet it remains a critical element in assessing how favorable this week’s matchup will be for the second year signal caller. Only five teams have a higher percentage of passing plays than the 65% that Jacksonville is currently dialing up, and that number might increase this week. The Indianapolis pass defense has plummeted to a ranking of 30th, while there are only four teams that have yielded more touchdowns through the air. They were just shredded for 364 yards and four scores by Roethlisberger in Week 13, but that was just that latest game in which this unit has been exploited. Eight of the 12 opposing quarterbacks they have faced have generated multiple touchdowns. While the Jaguars do not have the same quantity of dangerous weaponry that Pittsburgh possesses, Bortles does have productive options. If Chuck Pagano chooses to leave Indy's corners in man coverage frequently throughout this game, it will be difficult for them to avoid giving up big plays. Which will result in a high quality outing for Bortles.
Tom Brady at Texans
This matchup may not contain the same degree of luster as the Week 12 encounter between New England and Denver. But Houston’s recent ascension into one of the top defenses will make this an intriguing clash between this forbidding unit and the NFL leader in passing yards and touchdowns. Houston has now risen to seventh in total defense, and is third against the pass. Even though they allowed three scores to Taylor in Week 13, they had surrendered just one in their previous four games combined, while pilfering five interceptions during that span. The Texans have bounced back significantly from disappointing performances through their first seven contests, and now execute with greater proficiency in all facets of defense. From swarming to the ball, to harassing enemy signal callers, to providing outstanding coverage throughout the secondary. All of which will place significant pressure on Brady, who is unlikely to provide one of his better fantasy point totals.
Derek Carr at Broncos
Carr has eclipsed 300 yards in six of his 12 contests this season, and has delivered multiple touchdowns in nine of them. However, he just delivered one of his worst performances of the year in Week 13, including a season high three interceptions. Now he must deal with Denver’s top ranked pass defense, which limited him to 249 yards, and only one touchdown during their Week 5 matchup in Oakland. In fact, the Broncos still have not allowed an opposing quarterback to reach 300 yards, and have limited six starters to less than 215. They have also surrendered multiple touchdowns only to Brady, Andrew Luck, and Josh McCown, while yielding a league low 11 all season. They are relinquishing the fewest fantasy points to enemy signal callers (16), while harassing them persistently with an NFL best 41 sacks. Carr will struggle in this encounter, and you should not count on him during this crucial week.
Matt Ryan at Panthers
Many of you who originally drafted Ryan as your starter, have benched him at some point during his disappointing season. Uncharacteristic mistakes, and his inability to produce more than two touchdowns in 12 of his 13 games have combined to form a highly disappointing 17:13 TD/INT ratio that has reduced the significance of his favorable yardage total (3,481). If you that have still been relying on the eight-year veteran, do not hesitate to find an alternative this week. As he will meet considerable resistance from division rival Carolina. While the Panthers did yield an atypical number of touchdowns to Brees in Week 13, only five teams have permitted fewer scores through the air. Carolina currently ranks seventh against the pass, and has allowed just two quarterbacks to produce 300 yards. The Panthers lead the NFL with 19 interceptions, and are tied for third with 35 sacks. Ryan owners can’t even rely on his usual connections with Julio Jones this week, as Josh Norman has arguably been the NFL’s preeminent cornerback in 2015. You can find a better option.