When I took to Twitter this afternoon to ask my followers for their biggest questions heading into the Fantasy Football playoffs, one stood out that seemed extra-necessary to cover: "Who are the best lottery tickets?"
And the first name I thought about was Samaje Perine, because we just got a proof of concept of what you're looking for from the answer to that question. Perine got two starts at a key point in the season and racked up 38 carries and 14 targets, en route to 40.8 PPR points -- not bad for a guy who cost you nothing but FAB dollars a few weeks back.
Now, Joe Mixon seems likely to make his return in Week 15, so Perine's time as a Fantasy must-start is likely at an end, unfortunately, but you should definitely still be hanging on to him. Not because Perine is such a special player that you just can't let a talent like him go. Of course not. It's because he's one injury away from being a focal point of an offense that is going to make him a must-start Fantasy option.
We couldn't predict Joe Mixon suffering a two-week concussion absence, obviously, but it wasn't hard to see Perine getting this kind of usage if the opportunity arose. Just like it wouldn't be hard to see someone like Zamir White getting a very healthy role if something happens to Josh Jacobs, or Jaylen Warren with Najee Harris. So, when you're talking about postseason lottery tickets, focusing on those kinds of running backs is the key for me.
You want to focus on good offenses, primarily, but also teams who are likely to use one lead back in a primary role, too. The Chargers have consistently featured one back when Austin Ekeler misses time, for example; in the past, that was Justin Jackson, but I think it would likely be Joshua Kelley this time around. Make sure he's not available in your leagues this week.
Here are the other backfields I would make sure I have covered if I can: Bills, Patriots, Bengals, Browns, Steelers, Titans, Colts, Raiders, Vikings, Saints, 49ers, Cardinals. That obviously doesn't include teams like the Cowboys, Dolphins, Commanders or Packers, where there is either some ambiguity about the lead role; nor does it include teams like the Rams, Seahawks, or Falcons, where I just don't think the juice is worth the squeeze. At least, not in anticipation.
Alright, now, let's get to the rest of today's newsletter. I have more of your biggest questions for the playoffs later on, but first, let's get to Heath Cummings' position previews for Week 14. And, of course, tonight we'll have Jamey Eisenberg's Start 'Em & Sit 'Em column right here for you, with Dave Richard's Start/Sit calls coming Thursday morning to make sure you're setting the best lineup possible for this all-important matchup.
🔍Week 14 Position Previews
Every Tuesday, Heath Cummings previews each position, providing injury insights, key stats to know, the best waiver-wire adds, DFS targets, and more for quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end. Here's a brief rundown of each position, along with some key details you need to know before you go read Heath's full breakdowns:
"It's the final week of byes and the final week of the regular season for most Fantasy Football leagues. At least at the quarterback position, it's not as painful as it could be. Justin Fields is the only top-12 quarterback we'll be without in Week 14. While Aaron Rodgers will be out as well, I'm not sure his Fantasy managers are going to miss him all that much.
"Incredibly, Rodgers does not have a 300-yard game this season and has only topped 255 yards once. He also has just one game with more than two touchdowns in a game and one game with more than 10 rushing yards. We're running out of ways he could conceivably score Fantasy points."
- On a bye: Aaron Rodgers, Justin Fields, Marcus Mariota, Matt Ryan, Andy Dalton, Taylor Heinicke
- Injuries: Lamar Jackson (knee), Tua Tagovailoa (ankle), Trevor Lawrence (foot), Jimmy Garoppolo (foot), Matthew Stafford (neck), Carson Wentz (finger) and John Wolford (neck).
- Matchup that matters: Mike White @BUF (8th vs. QB)
- Waiver add/streamer: "Tyler Huntley. Huntley averaged close to 14 Fantasy points on yardage alone in his four games as a starter last year with 193 passing yards and just under 60 rushing yards per game. If he protects the ball and gets one score, that makes him a borderline starter, with considerably more upside. Only a tough matchup keeps him out of my top-12 this week."
- Stash: "Jordan Love. Aaron Rodgers has talked openly about the possibility of sitting out if the Packers are eliminated. That could be right around the corner if the teams currently in the playoffs keep winning. At the very least, Love is a must-stash in two-QB leagues, but the Packers have a great closing schedule which could make Love a Fantasy starter late in the year if everything goes right."
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"The bye week and injury situation is such that it's difficult to get away from a running back solely because of a matchup in Week 14. James Conner faces the Patriots, but with his role he's still a borderline top-12 back. Both Rachaad White and Leonard Fournette rank inside my top 24 despite a matchup with the stingy 49ers. Even Dameon Pierce against the red-hot Cowboys finds himself in my top 20. There just aren't enough good running backs this week, but I'd still like to get away from Najee Harris."
- On a bye: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, David Montgomery, Cordarrelle Patterson, Tyler Allgeier, Jonathan Taylor, Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson.
- Injuries: Kenneth Walker III (ankle), DeeJay Dallas (ankle), Joe Mixon (concussion), Josh Jacobs (quad), Michael Carter (ankle), Damien Harris (thigh), Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle), Khalil Herbert (hip), J.K. Dobbins (knee), Darrell Henderson (illness), Mark Ingram (knee), Chase Edmonds (ankle), Ameer Abdullah (hamstring), Rex Burkhead (concussion), Darrel Williams (hip) and Damien Williams (ribs).
- Number to know: 6 -- Red-zone touches for Zonovan Knight in Week 13, he's a must-start back.
- Matchup that matters: D'Andre Swift vs. MIN (22nd vs. RB)
- Waiver add: "James Cook. Cook outplayed Devin Singletary in the Bills' most-recent game and he certainly has more upside. If the 20 touches he earned in Week 13 carries over for the rest of the season, he could be a must-start running back in the Fantasy playoffs. In Week 14, due to role uncertainty and a tough matchup, Cook is a high-end flex."
- Stash: "J.K. Dobbins. Dobbins returned to practice last week and is the top stash at running back right now. If he can get back to 100% before the Fantasy playoffs, he'd have league-winning upside against the Browns, Falcons, and Steelers down the stretch. Just don't expect any help getting you to the playoffs."
"When Russell Wilson left Seattle, it was supposed to be a problem for DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. And there have been periods of time where that looked like it might be true. Metcalf only had 71 yards in his first two games combined and went through a four-week stretch from Weeks 6-9 where he didn't top 55 yards once. Lockett only had one game with more than five catches from Weeks 5-12.
"But the problem wasn't what we thought it would be because there's been no drop-off from Russell Wilson to Geno Smith. Smith has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL and he's thrown nearly half of his passes to Lockett and Metcalf. The problem, earlier in the year, was just a lack of pass attempts. With Kenneth Walker likely out for Week 14, that shouldn't be a concern either."
- On a bye: Christian Watson, Allen Lazard, Chase Claypool, Michael Pittman, Parris Campbell, Drake London, Chris Olave, Terry McLaurin and Curtis Samuel.
- Injuries: Mike Williams (ankle), Courtland Sutton (hamstring), Jakobi Meyers (head), Cooper Kupp (ankle), Brandin Cooks (calf), Treylon Burks (concussion), Kadarius Toney (hamstring), Mecole Hardman (abdomen), Rondale Moore (groin), Greg Dortch (thumb), Romeo Doubs (ankle) and Hunter Renfrow (oblique).
- Number to know: 257 -- Garrett Wilson leads the NFL in receiving yards over the past two weeks since Mike White took over as the Jets' starting quarterback.
- Matchup that matters: Zay Jones @TEN (32nd vs. WR)
- Waiver add: "Nico Collins. Collins has a terrible matchup but he also has 36 targets over his past four games. That type of usage makes him a solid No. 3 wide receiver even with the terrible efficiency he's produced this season. He's much better in PPR, but he does have more upside than his stats suggest due to his downfield target profile."
- Stash: Michael Gallup. I don't love Gallup this week against the Texans because I'm not sure the pass volume will be enough to support him. But I do love that he's looked more like himself the past couple of weeks and see the potential for him to have a major impact in the Fantasy playoffs when the Cowboys are playing more competitive games."
"Last week I wrote about how you had to start George Kittle even through his down weeks because of his incredible upside. It's amazing how much that feels like it's changed after just one week. Jimmy Garoppolo's injury led to Brock Purdy taking over and throwing 37 passes, only two of them went to Kittle.
"It would be easy to look at that first game and think Kittle's no longer a starting option. Easier to think that Purdy will destroy any hope of Kittle having upside. It would be easy, but it would also be rash."
- On a bye: Robert Tonyan, Cole Kmet, Jelani Woods, Kylen Granson, Taysom Hill, Juwan Johnson and Logan Thomas.
- Injuries: David Njoku (knee), Hayden Hurst (calf), Dallas Goedert (shoulder), Darren Waller (hamstring), Juwan Johnson (ankle), Irv Smith (ankle) and Cameron Brate (illness).
- Number to know: 42% -- Air yardage share for Greg Dulcich in Week 13. He had six catches for 85 yards.
- Matchup that matters: Hunter Henry @ARI (32nd vs. TE)
- Waiver add: "Greg Dulcich. Feel like a yo-yo with Dulcich? It is. But the Broncos used him in a different way last week and said they plan on using him more like a wide receiver moving forward. With Courtland Sutton likely on the shelf, that's more believable. Once again, Dulcich looks like a must-start tight end."
Five big questions heading into the playoffs
What does Jimmy Garoppolo's injury mean for the 49ers offense?
Admittedly, Brock Purdy wasn't exactly helpless Sunday despite being thrown into the fire against a very aggressive Miami defense. At the risk of oversimplifying, he looked like he knew what he was doing -- he read the defense well before the snap, adjusted when he needed to, and was accurate enough on the easy throws. However, his 25 completions traveled an average of just 3.9 yards past the line of scrimmage, per the San Francisco Chronicle, and he was just 4 for 8 on passes 10-plus yards down the field. I don't think that's something we're going to see change too much if the 49ers can help it -- arm strength is probably Purdy's biggest limitation, and Kyle Shanahan is smart enough to try to cover up for that. I think that's good news for Christian McCaffrey, and it should lead to more short-area opportunities for Deebo Samuel. But I think it lowers the ceiling for the entire offense, which is especially problematic for the non-McCaffrey options, who are fighting for what is likely to be an increasingly small share of the downfield pie. Samuel is more like a low-end WR2 and Aiyuk is more of a low-end WR3; Kittle probably stays in your starting lineup because who else are you going to trust?
Is there any reason to have faith in Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers?
They're maybe the two best quarterbacks we've ever seen, but they're both obviously much nearer to their last touchdown than their first. I think Rodgers is probably a legitimate drop candidate for this week -- the schedule after the bye isn't bad (vs. LAR, @MIA, vs. MIN), but he's a dead roster spot for this week and has just one game with more than two passing touchdowns this season. There just isn't enough upside that we've seen here to hold through a bye.
Brady is a tougher call, because the Buccaneers have had some success of late turning to a hurry-up offense late. The biggest issue here is, Brady just hasn't been able to connect on deep balls this season -- he has no touchdowns thrown more than 15 yards down the field since Week 2. He's been around league average in terms of completion percentage on such throws -- and, notably, leads the league in both pass interferences drawn on pass attempts and yards gained as a result -- and the margin for error could be slim enough that he could turn it around very quickly. But he has the 49ers on the way in Week 14, and the way they just shut down Miami's high-flying offense makes it incredibly tough to trust him. He's QB15 for me this week, and probably won't rank much higher than that in the playoffs.
Can you trust Alvin Kamara?
Unless there's an injury here we haven't heard about, I just can't make sense of Kamara's usage. From Weeks 5-8, he averaged 145.3 yards per game, looking like his typically explosive self as both a runner and a receiver; he's averaging just 9.6 carries and 4.6 targets per game in five since. He's still played 60-80% of the snaps most weeks, but the Saints have just stopped giving him the ball as often -- he got a target or carry on 52% of his snaps from Weeks 5-8, compared to just 40% since. Maybe the bye week gives him a chance to get past some undisclosed injury, but right now, Kamara feels like a low-end RB2 at best, and I just don't have a good explanation for it.
Can you use both Buccaneers running backs?
Because he's the younger guy, I think there's some sense that the Buccaneers would be better off tilting more of the share to Rachaad White, but that's not what we saw in Leonard Fournette's return to action in Week 13. Despite White starting and playing the first eight snaps, Fournette played 60% of the snaps, including key opportunities near the goal line. White still got his opportunities, including the game-winning touchdown, and the touch split was very close to even -- 10 carries, seven targets for Fournette, nine and eight for White. I think that kind of split makes sense moving forward, and given how often the Buccaneers throw to their backs, that's probably enough to keep them both relevant -- I'd give the edge to Fournette, especially in touchdown potential, but both are low-end RB2s for PPR scoring, with top-10 upside for either if the other has to miss time.
Who are some playoff breakout candidates?
I'll focus on non-RBs here: Nico Collins is one I want to bet on. He's stuck in an awful offense, and might just not be up to the task of elevating it, but there's no question the opportunity is there -- he has 36 targets in four games since coming back from his groin injury. It's asking a lot of him to do it against Dallas, but matchups against the Chiefs, Titans, and Jaguars in the three games after that give Collins some real runway to close out the season strong. It wouldn't surprise me if he were in a bunch of championship lineups.
I'll also throw these names out as guys I'm interested in stashing with big potential: Rondale Moore (if he counts), Elijah Moore (still), Greg Dulcich, Alec Pierce, Skyy Moore, Jahan Dotson, Julio Jones, Jameson Williams, Terrace Marshall, Trey McBride, and Tutu Atwell.