Fantasy Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Week 14
One of the things that makes fantasy football so captivating is the variance. Even throughout Cooper Kupp's historic, unflappable season, he was the top wideout for the week just three times in 2021. That means, on individual weeks, some very strange players may pop in terms of fantasy points at their positions.
That opens the door for some room to be "spicy" and make some fun predictions. In a landscape increasingly set ablaze by "hot takes," it can be difficult to understand the difference between a bold prediction -- based on a particularly strong spot for a team or player -- and a senseless take with the prayer of becoming correct based on variance.
Let's shoot for the former with five interesting spots to target during this weekend's NFL games.
Note: All predictions are for half-PPR formats (and FanDuel scoring for quarterbacks).
1. Joe Cooled: Burrow Fails to Hit 275 Passing Yards Against Cleveland
We're all feeling Joe Burrow at the moment, right?
Burrow's hot streak extended last week against Kansas City. He posted 30.0 fantasy points on a three-touchdown day, and now, he gets a Browns defense that is numberFire's eighth-worst defense overall. What's the concern for him this week?
Well, Cleveland isn't nearly as poor against opposing passers. They're actually 16th in our nERD ranks there, and they've fared far worse (28th) against the rush. Plus, since Burrow arrived in Cincinnati, it's been anything but a walk on the beach against the Browns.
Earlier this year, Burrow was held to just 14.5 fantasy points in Week 8. In his only appearance against the Browns last year, he was held to an ugly 9.4 fantasy points in an ugly, two-interception affair.
You're starting "Joe Cool" in most superflex leagues, but I'd give serious pause in this matchup in my waiver wire included options like Kirk Cousins, Trevor Lawrence, or Jared Goff. They're in elite matchups that might make me want to stream -- just in case this Cleveland D/ST does have Joe's number.
2. Give and Jac-obs: Josh Falls Short of 100 Rushing Yards in Los Angeles
Here I am being "Negative Nancy" with a second straight fantasy darling.
"League winner" is tossed around far too often, but from the fourth-to-sixth round, Josh Jacobs has been one. He's emerged with an unquestioned top role for Las Vegas, and he's delivered at least 17 fantasy points in each of the last four weeks. I just am not sure this is his best spot of the season -- or even close.
On a short week, Jacobs has been dealing with a calf issue. He'll be rushed back into this Thursday affair, and that's concerning given he was an unknown up until gameday in Week 13. Don't be surprised if Jacobs can't turn it around, so I'd have Zamir White on hand as a manager.
Plus, this matchup is a bit concerning for fantasy points even if he plays. In a lost season for the Rams, their rush defense hasn't wavered. Per our nERD ranks, it's the fifth-best unit in football. However, I'm actually more concerned about an L.A. offense that's posted -0.04 Offensive Net Expected Points (NEP) per play in the past four weeks without Matthew Stafford.
If the Rams aren't competitive, White and Ameer Abdullah should mix in more often than usual to save Jacobs for when it matters. Combined with the matchup, it's easy to be a bit pessimistic about the star tailback.
3. Out of the Woods: Robert Ends His Cold Spell with Double-Digit Fantasy Points Against Jacksonville
In any other offense, Robert Woods wouldn't be rostered in just 34% of Yahoo! leagues.
Especially as Treylon Burks deals with a concussion, Woods is the unquestioned top wide receiver on the team. In the past four games with Ryan Tannehill back, Woods leads the wideout room in both snap rate (82.0%) and route rate (89.1%).
A number-one wideout can be overrated if the offense is run-heavy -- and the Titans are. But, Woods has still seen 6.3 targets per game in this time. His role seems very similar to that of DeVonta Smith in 2021, and Smith was rostered everywhere.
If there's a matchup where Woods can turn it around with actual fantasy points, it's this one. The Jaguars are numberFire's 10th-best rushing defense and 3rd-worst passing defense. That funnels work to quarterbacks and their targets, which is how we saw Jared Goff, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and D.J. Chark explode last week in Detroit.
If the Titans are in a position where they both need to pass and can do so effectively, Woods could broach double-digit targets and have a great fantasy day. He's one of my favorite sleepers with several teams on bye this week.
4. Hock's Revenge: T.J. Is a Top-Three Tight End in His Return to Detroit
It's been so wonderful to pick on the Lions with tight ends. This week will be no exception.
Evan Engram scored last week for Jacksonville, and now, an old face will look to do the same. T.J. Hockenson makes his first visit back to Detroit after being traded back in November, and Hockenson enters this game with a sizable role already carved out in the Vikings' target tree.
Hockenson has seen at least six targets in every game with Minnesota, and they've been high-value targets for a tight end. Hockenson has seen 1.5 downfield targets (at least 10 air yards) and 1.3 red-zone targets in this time.
Of course, the Lions figure to cede more. They're allowing the most adjusted fantasy points per target to the position. They've also allowed eight touchdowns to tight ends, which is second to only the Arizona Cardinals.
5. Santa Clara Stinker: Both the 49ers and Buccaneers D/STs Finish Top Eight
Garoppolo won't play again in 2022 following a broken foot last week against Miami. That's thrust Brock Purdy into the starting job, and "Mr. Irrelevant" out of Iowa State will be tasked with his first top-10 passing defense on Sunday. The Tampa Bay D/ST is numberFire's sixth-best passing unit.
Brady will still suit up -- though I'm not sure how much it matters. The Buccaneers are numberFire's ninth-worst offense overall amidst their 2022 struggles, and they needed more late heroics to reach 17 offensive points against New Orleans on Monday.
Like the Bucs' defense, the 49ers are a great pass defense (fifth overall, per our nERD ranks). These two are top-nine units against the rush, which won't make Purdy's -- or Brady's -- life any easier.
With just a 37.0-point total at FanDuel Sportsbook, this game figures to be an ugly slog. I'd love to have either defense from inside of it.