Photo: Getty Images/Gregory Shamus
Week 14 marks the must-win portion of the season and it gets underway when the Denver Broncos square off against the Oakland Raiders Thursday.As NFL teams fight to secure their own playoff berths, you’re likely already fighting to inch closer to a championship too.
So we’ve established a list of the players you should feel comfortable or nervous about starting in this crucial week.
The advice is based on standard 10-team leagues.
Manning has been hot since the Giants bye week, throwing for 529 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in the last two weeks.
As we know, Manning tends to come up strong in big moments and the Giants need a win this week. Going against the worst defence in the league should help his fantasy value too.
Season Total: 3,170 yards, 16 TDs, 11 INTs
Kaepernick has had a respectable start to his NFL career, but he hasn't put up big enough numbers to warrant a start at this critical point in the fantasy season.
There's little doubt he has potential, but we need to see more consistency. A matchup with the Dolphins should be a good barometer for him.
Season Total (4 gms.): 69/106, 888 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
40 carries, 298 yards, 4 TDs
Head coach John Fox has made Moreno a crucial part of the Broncos offence since he became starter, giving him 20 carries the last two weeks. Moreno has been average, but he's also due for a breakout week.
This week, Moreno goes up against the Raiders run defence, which allows one touchdown and more than 100 rushing yards per game to opposing running backs.
Season Total: 48 carries, 169 yards, 1 TD
9 catches, 59 yards
Bush hasn't been what we've come to expect the last few weeks. He has run for more than 65 yards just once over his last five games and has caught only six passes out of the backfield for 47 yards during that span.
A struggling running back is not a good option against the 49ers run defence.
Season Total: 165 carries, 725 yards,
There hasn't been a more consistent option to score a rushing touchdown lately than Leshoure. He has six touchdowns in the last five weeks and Green Bay has given up four in its last three games.
He's a strong candidate for a No. 2 starting running back or flex start in your league this week.
Season Total: 157 carries, 591 yards, 7 TDs
26 catches, 170 yards
We haven't seen anything that's gotten us excited about starting Mathews over these last few weeks, especially last week against Cincinnati when he only got nine carries and mustered 29 yards.
He goes up against the formidable Steelers defence this week, which is among the best fantasy defenses against running backs.
Season Total: 155 carries, 620 yards, 1 TD
36 catches, 244 yards
While early in the season, Andrew Luck seemed to be fixated on Reggie Wayne, he's started spreading the ball around more and Hilton and Donnie Avery have both benefitted greatly. Hilton has three 100-yard games and four touchdowns over the last five weeks.
He has a high ceiling this weekend against the middling Titans secondary.
Season Total: 39 catches, 588 yards, 5 TD
On a blistery, rainy day in Buffalo, which is what it's expected to be like on Sunday, the run game normally reigns supreme.
Last week, a drab performance from Johnson was saved by a touchdown reception. He had just two catches for 18 yards. Things aren't stacked in his favour this weekend.
Season Total: 55 catches, 705 yards, 5 TDs
Smith is coming off a difficult game against the Steelers, but if there's an opponent you'd like to see following a tough performance it's the Washington Redskins. The Redskins have given up the second-most yards to opposing wide receivers this season.
Season Total: 42 catches, 732 yards, 7 TDs
Moore will likely have his hands full going against Champ Bailey on Thursday. Opposing team's No. 1 receivers have averaged just 56.2 yards receiving against the Broncos in the last five weeks. AJ Green was the only one able to find the end zone.
Season Total: 38 catches, 635 yards, 6 touchdowns
Gresham has been arguably the most consistent tight end in the latter half of this season. When he's not scoring touchdowns, he's racking up chunks of yards and vice versa.
Dalton has been excellent at spreading the ball around to his top three receiving options, Gresham, AJ Green and Andrew Hawkins.
Season Total: 51 catches, 593 yards, 5 TDs
Gates is on pace to have the worst season of his career, which does not bode well for fantasy owners. Gates has eight games this season where he finished with three catches or less, and on top of that, the Steelers have stifled tight ends this season.
Season Total: 38 catches, 417 yards, 4 TD
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