We come to it at last. Playoffs are upon us. If you’ve made the playoffs while streaming quarterbacks, congratulations! If you made the playoffs while streaming tight end, then an even bigger congratulations to you! My goodness. What a headache tight ends are. Always have been, and always will be. Quarterbacks? Well, that’s a different story. Derek Carr, Nick Mullens, & Marcus Mariota all had QB1 performances in Week 13. TE1 finishes from Week 13 consisted of well known, highly coveted players such as: Anthony Firkser, Demetrius Harris, and Levine Toilolo. [Collective sigh]. But enough about the past. I can only complain about tight end performances so much. Let’s move on to Week 14: The Playoff Primer. As a brief reminder, the players featured in this article are all low owned players with that you can consider for both Season Long & DFS formats.
Josh Allen vs. New York Jets – FD: $7,400 | DK: $5,500
This is the new rule. Start quarterbacks against the Jets. If you started Mariota last week you were probably pretty worried after the first half, then ended up more than pleased with the result. The Jets allowed Mariota to complete 20 of 35 passes for 282 yards, two touchdowns and a pick-six. This was an absolutely gutting loss for the Jets that I expect they will carry with them to this week’s match-up against the Bills. Josh Allen, on the other hand, is trending upward. His passing is improving, but his rushing ability is giving him a solid floor. Last Sunday, Allen completed 18-33 attempts for 231 and two touchdowns, but two interceptions. He was able to salvage his day with a monstrous 135 yards on the ground on 9 runs. The Jets’ have had difficulty corralling mobile quarterbacks this season, so that should play well to Allen’s strength. Given how the Jets’ defense has looked down the stretch in games I feel confident starting Allen in all formats.
Dak Prescott vs. Philadelphia Eagles – FD: $7,400 | DK: $5,600
Dak Prescott & the Cowboys are coming off a monumental high of taking down the #1 team in the NFC last Thursday. Their defense was able to completely eliminate the Saints’ key playmakers, and their offense was able to get enough going to secure their victory. Dak completed an impressive 24 of 28 passes for 248 yards, with one touchdown, one interception, and one fumble. This week, Dak will be facing off against a weak Eagles secondary that looks better on paper than in reality. The Cowboys have been much better at home than on the road this season, and the last time Dak faced off against the Eagles he posted a QB #6 finish. Dak has a reasonable floor, and his ceiling is capped by his run game. If he manages to run the ball in, he will be a great start. Otherwise, he’s got a solid floor with average upside.
Derek Carr vs. Pittsburgh Steelers – FD: $6,600 | DK: $5,000
Like I said last week, Carr is much better at home than he is on the road. He showed that on Sunday when the Raiders really gave the Chiefs a run for their money. Despite the loss, Carr completed 29 of 38 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns. As a side note, the Raiders’ time management at the end of the game was simply embarrassing. Back to business. Carr does have the skill to take advantage of weaker defenses with the weapons at his disposal. The Steelers now come to Oakland as the 24th worst defense in points allowed to the quarterback position. They allowed Philip Rivers to throw for nearly 300 yards on 36 attempts with two touchdowns while in Pittsburgh. Carr should have a relatively safe floor with QB1 upside in Week 14.
Lamar Jackson @ Kansas City Chiefs – FD: $7,500 | DK: $5,700
Jackson’s proved thus far that his passing isn’t going to wow you or boost your fantasy score that much. No. It’s his rushing ability. As I’ve said over the past few weeks, and as I’m sure you’ve seen, his ability and utilization in the run game gives him a floor that is very intriguing across all formats. Since becoming the starter Jackson has 54 rushing attempts for 265 yards and two touchdowns. On Sunday Jackson will face off against the Chiefs’ defense that just allowed Carr to throw for 285 yards and 3 TDs. Clearly something is not clicking in Kansas City’s secondary. Their run defense is one of the worst in the league as well. Jackson stands to have a solid Week 14 start if he continues to run the ball as he has been while cutting down on the turnovers in the passing game.
Case Keenum @ San Francisco 49ers – FD: $6,800 | DK: $5,200
Hello darkness my old friend… Keenum has been extremely disappointing this season, and has let fantasy owners down week after week this season. Now give me a minute to tell you why you should at the very least consider him for Week 14. His performances haven’t won you weeks, but they haven’t exactly lost you weeks either. Last week he should have had a dominant performance against an atrocious Bengals’ secondary, but it was Philip Lindsay who showed up to put up the points for the Broncos. Keenum needs to take more chances downfield. This week is his best chance to leave it all on the field as the Broncos are in must win mode as we near the end of the season. The 49ers have a weak defense, but manage to stay competitive in games which will keep the quarterbacks throwing. Keenum is a safer play in Week 14 with minimal upside.
Hail Mary Quarterback for Week #14
Nick Mullens vs. Denver Broncos – FD: $6,400 | DK $4,600
Mullens had a pretty fantastic day on Sunday against a tougher Seahawks’ defense. He completed 30 of 48 pass attempts for 414 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. It was good enough to finish as the QB #7 on the week. The 49ers will be facing off against the Broncos at home in Week 14, and I (maybe foolishly) expect a similar game from Mullens. He’s going to be forced to throw this game, and the injury to Chris Harris Jr. will weaken the secondary enough to make some Mullens magic happen. He’s a hail mary play because he’s Nick Mullens. His fantasy finishes this year are indicative of that kind of production. Feast or famine. I have faith that he’s going to have a feast-type of game this week against the Broncos.
Vance McDonald @ Oakland Raiders – FD: $5,500 | DK: $3,800
Here’s the short story. It’s the Steelers vs. the Raiders. The long story reads a little differently but the result is the same. The Raiders have struggled all season against the tight end position. This past week they just allowed Kelce & Mahomes to connect 12 times for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 13 targets. Now, I’m not naive. I understand that there is a world of difference between McDonald & Kelce. Still, this is not a new occurrence for the Raiders’ defense. On the season they have given up the second most points to the tight end position. The absence of Connor also raises the possibility of an increase in dump-off passes to McDonald. We don’t know how the Steelers’ defense will adjust to his injury, but it’s not a wild leap to assume that McDonald will see a minor increase in targets. McDonald is just over 50% owned in Season Long formats, and could still be available in your leagues if you’re desperate (like many) for a tight end who can at the very least not lose you your weeks.
C.J. Uzomah @ Los Angeles Chargers – FD: $5,200 | DK: $3,500
This is purely a usage play. If you weren’t watching Bengals’ games you’d think that, based on fantasy production, that Uzomah isn’t getting involved in that offense. Well that’s just not the case. Over the past five games he’s averaged 6.6 targets. He’s just simply not finding the end zone. That’s an issue in and of itself, but his usage cannot be overstated. In the world of today’s tight end, a miserable landscape of disappointment and despair, utilizing a tight end who is getting consistent looks is all a player can do. The Chargers have an above average defense against the tight end position, but I think the targets will remain for Uzomah which should give you a baseline that won’t lose you your week. That’s right, we’re playing preventative fantasy football.
Chris Herndon vs. Buffalo Bills – FD: $5,500 | DK: $3,000
Though his stat-line was underwhelming against the Titans defense, Herndon actually had himself a nice game. He had two significant receptions called back due to holding which naturally dampened his yardage stats. Yes, all players at some time or another have to contend with penalties at the line, but it still goes to show that Herndon was able to put up points against the #1 tight end defense. This week the Jets face off against the Bills in Buffalo. I expect more of the same from the Jets, and for Herndon to remain a focal point in their passing game (though weak as it may be). Herndon should be a safe play this week in Buffalo as the Jets try to avoid going 3-12 on the season against their in-state rivals. (God help us)
Ian Thomas @ Carolina Panthers – FD: $4,900 | DK: $2,700
Greg Olsen has been placed on IR. His future in the league is questionable. It’s next man up in Carolina, and that is Ian Thomas. When the veteran went down on Sunday’s matchup against the Bucs, the rookie stepped in and posted 5 receptions for 46 yards. These aren’t ‘wow you’ numbers, but they are reassuring. Cam showed no reservation getting Thomas involved as the Panthers tried to claw their way back to a victory. Despite their loss it was a win for Thomas who showed improvement since the last time it was his show at the TE position earlier this season. The Panthers now head to Cleveland, and are desperate to make the playoffs. This game has the makings of a shootout. Thomas has yet to show he’s a safe start, but he does represent a higher ceiling than a good amount of his tight end peers just because of Panthers’ prolific offense.
Hail Mary Tight End for Week #14
Jordan Thomas vs. Indianapolis Colts – FD: $5,300 | DK: $3,000
Just as in real football, this hail mary play is looking for the end zone. Jordan Thomas is not gonna rack up the receptions and yards, but he does stand a decent chance of making it into the end zone. He’s found the end zone 4 times over the Texans’ last five games. That’s the play here. A hail mary start in the hopes of finding the endzone. I also expect this game to be high scoring, too. Yes, the Colts did struggle on the road against Jacksonville’s defense, but that’s just because the AFC South is the world’s greatest enigma. Luck & Co. will be putting up points, and you can be sure that Watson and the Texans will be answering. If this turns into a shootout, then Jordan has a good chance of securing his allotted touchdown.
QB/TE COMBO OF THE WEEK
So this week we’re going to break from tradition a little bit. If you haven’t noticed I didn’t feature a QB and TE from the same team. That was not by design. It was just the way the cookies crumbled. I’m here to help you win, and I could not in good faith recommend, say, a Lamar Jackson/Mark Andrews stack. Or a Keenum/LaCosse stack a week after the entire TE corps for the Broncos got a cumulative 1 target. No. Instead this week I’m going to suggest to you a strictly DFS stack based on the Projected Ownership on Fanduel/DraftKings. The goal here will be to get you the best ‘bang for your buck’. A projected low owned stack with high upside.
There is one stack that stands out above the rest, and it hails from the Windy City. Mitchell Trubisky has a projected ownership of 4.89%, and his TE, Trey Burton, has a projected ownership of just 2.44%. Now Burton has been a disappointment since Week 9, but I expect this week to be a bounce back week. The Rams have a great run defense, and the return of Aquib Talib to their secondary vastly improves their pass defense. Their primary weakness on the defensive side of the ball has been against opposing tight ends. I expect the Bears to exploit that, and to bring Burton back into the fold with Trubisky under center.