NFL Grind Down: Week 14

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Welcome to the RotoGrinders NFL Grind Down, an all-encompassing preview of the week ahead in the NFL from a daily fantasy sports perspective. We’ll provide all the statistics, insights and analysis you need to set your lineups for this week’s contests.

Every game will be broken down statistically, with several key elements highlighted in our charts. Vegas lines are broken down to show projected team totals, to give you an idea of who is favored to win, and often more importantly, how many points they’re expected to score. We also provide a look at how each team fares against opposing offenses from a fantasy points allowed perspective and include some statistics for key players on each team as well.

Each contest is then analyzed team-by-team, with a focus on finding matchups to exploit and trends to follow. These breakdowns now feature “Matchup Rating,” which factors in projected point totals, pace, and offense versus defense data to compile an all-around rating that helps determine how favorable of a fantasy matchup each team has this week.

Note: As always, if you want to try a new DFS site, be sure to click through a RotoGrinders link and use our DraftKings promo code, FanDuel promo code, and FantasyDraft promo code to receive the best perks in the industry.

INJURIES – I will update all notable injuries/suspensions on Saturday morning after we have final injury reports

New Orleans Saints Atlanta Falcons
Vegas Odds Spread Total Proj.Pts Vegas Odds Spread Total Proj.Pts
-2 53 27.5 2 53 25.5
Tm Stats PPG Scoring Pass Rush Tm Stats PPG Scoring Pass Rush
Offense 29.4 3 4 3 Offense 22.8 14 12 11
Opp. Defense 20.3 13 7 18 Opp. Defense 20.3 12 12 17
Opp. Def vs. Pos QB RB WR TE Opp. Def vs. Pos QB RB WR TE
Atlanta Falcons 14 18 5 11 New Orleans Saints 15 15 16 9
Rec. Stats Targets Receptions TDs Yards Rec. Stats Targets Receptions TDs Yards
Thomas 111 75 3 875 Jones 107 68 3 1,063
Ginn 57 44 3 668 Sanu 66 48 4 495
Coleman 28 18 3 316 Gabriel 43 29 1 332
Hill 12 10 1 70 Hooper 52 39 3 438

Notable injuries and suspensions: Mark Ingram (NO RB) – Questionable but likely to play (Toe)

NO Matchup Rating: 7.0
ATL Matchup Rating: 6.5

New Orleans Saints

Quarterback: We get things started with what should be one of the more exciting Thursday night games of the year. This game has the highest Vegas total of the week by a full four points, so this is a difficult game to avoid if you generally roll with the “Thursday night fade” DFS strategy. However, if this game happens to be lower scoring, it could be a real boost to your odds, as the Thursday players will undoubtedly be very highly owned this week. I wouldn’t expect a total defensive slugfest, though. Despite the high total, this isn’t necessarily a great spot for Drew Brees. Atlanta will likely be healthier in the secondary in Week 14, as Desmond Trufant has already been cleared to return from his concussion, and Brian Poole looks to be on the right track to return as well. In addition, New Orleans has found success with a new ground and pound game approach this year. Brees could almost certainly throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns in a game with such a high total, but he doesn’t come without risk. I prefer him in GPP formats as opposed to cash games.

Running Backs: I can only shrug my shoulders and say “wow” at Alvin Kamara these days. He continues to parlay 13 or 14 weekly touches into monster performances. While I will continue to personally beat the drum that I don’t believe a 14 touch guy can sustain status as the top overall fantasy running back, I’m done arguing against him in this space. He’s proven me wrong far too often already. If you want to play Kamara in the hopes that he can keep this up, who am I to argue with you at this point? Mark Ingram appears to be a little banged up right now, but he will also continue to serve his role as a primary runner on a team that doesn’t mind running the ball 30 times a game. The Saints are averaging 143 rushing yards per game, they have a great offensive line, and they lead the league at 5.0 yards per carry as a team. That’s efficiency at its finest, and this is far from a daunting matchup.

Pass Catchers: Even though Trufant will likely be returning for the Falcons this week, that doesn’t necessarily mean that this is a stay-away matchup for Michael Thomas. Trufant has not been used as a shadow corner this year, and I would not expect that to be the case here. Thomas found the end zone for the first time since Week 4 last week, and he should be leaned on in what is a very important game in the NFC playoff race. While I wouldn’t prioritize rostering him by any means, there’s nothing wrong with Thomas here. Ted Ginn remains a boom-or-bust WR #3 or FLEX play. Both are viable, as New Orleans hasn’t utilized the tight end much this year and has now lost Coby Fleener to injury.

The Takeaway: New Orleans has been revitalized with a new run-focused approach, and the tandem of Kamara and Ingram has been dominating opposing defenses. That makes Drew Brees and the passing game a little more risky as a DFS plays these days, but this whole offense is certainly in play, as New Orleans has a 27 point implied team total that places them at the top of the list in Week 14. This should be a fun Thursday contest.

Atlanta Falcons

Quarterback: The situation on the Atlanta side of the ball is eerily parallel to what we see with New Orleans. Like Atlanta, New Orleans will likely be getting its top cornerback to return for this game, and it sounds like Marshon Lattimore was close to suiting up last week. When healthy, the Saints have shown a remarkably strong pass defense this year, but the entire secondary has been banged up lately. With this being a Thursday game on a short week, this spot is a bit of a wild card. I could see Matt Ryan turning back the clock with a 300+ yard day, or I could see him under-performing like he has for much of this season. As with Brees, Ryan makes more sense as a GPP play than as a cash game option.

Running Backs: Devonta Freeman returned from his concussion last week, making it tough to shake out things in the Atlanta backfield right now. Freeman handled a few more touches in his return and looked much better than Tevin Coleman. Freeman garnered 6.2 yards per carry against the Vikings, while Coleman logged just 2.8. It’s a small sample size of course, but Freeman should eventually get back to playing on about 65-70% of the snaps. He’s my pick between the two, and the Saints can be exploited on the ground. While they rank fifth in the league in DVOA against the pass, they rank just 27th against the run.

Pass Catchers: Julio Jones doesn’t have to face Xavier Rhodes this week, but Lattimore is a tough draw assuming the New Orleans corner is healthy. Jones is capable of dominating in any matchup, but this certainly isn’t a cakewalk. You might see a few more targets head toward Mohamed Sanu in this one, and Sanu is a reasonable cost-effective option. However, Sanu isn’t dripping with upside, so I might look elsewhere for GPP upside. Austin Hooper has disappeared since his early season buzz and is off my radar right now. If you need a tight end from this game to round out a Monday/Thursday lineup, good luck.

The Takeaway: With this game expected to be a close, high-scoring affair, it’s tough to avoid entirely. However, it’s harder to pin down options with the Falcons. Matt Ryan has disappointed this year, Julio Jones has a tough draw, and the running backs continue to split time. An affordable Devonta Freeman is a solid option after he looked good in his return last week, and the Saints defense can be run on. Pegging the right Atlanta player could be a big key to success if you start your week with Thursday contests.

Indianapolis Colts Buffalo Bills
Vegas Odds Spread Total Proj.Pts Vegas Odds Spread Total Proj.Pts
** ** ** ** ** **
Tm Stats PPG Scoring Pass Rush Tm Stats PPG Scoring Pass Rush
Offense 17.1 28 22 24 Offense 18.9 23 30 8
Opp. Defense 23.6 19 22 25 Opp. Defense 27.5 32 32 13
Opp. Def vs. Pos QB RB WR TE Opp. Def vs. Pos QB RB WR TE
Buffalo Bills 6 32 9 22 Indianapolis Colts 25 28 28 24
Rec. Stats Targets Receptions TDs Yards Rec. Stats Targets Receptions TDs Yards
Hilton 80 41 4 791 Benjamin 58 36 2 537
Moncrief 47 26 2 391 Jones 68 25 2 291
Rogers 22 18 1 220 Matthews 36 25 1 282
Doyle 82 62 2 560 Clay 42 32 2 378

Notable injuries and suspensions: Donte Moncrief (IND WR) – Out (Ankle) / Tyrod Taylor (BUF QB) – Questionable (Knee)

IND Matchup Rating: 3.5
BUF Matchup Rating: 6.0

Indianapolis Colts

Quarterback: The second half of the season hasn’t been kind to Jacoby Brissett, and it seems like opposing teams have him figured out for the most part. He has been held below 200 passing yards in each of his last two starts, and the floor is very low on a weekly basis. Although Buffalo hasn’t been playing as solid defensively over the most recent stretch of games, they are still a decent unit that has the potential to play well at home. If you are choosing a value quarterback in Week 14, there are better options than Brissett.

Running Backs: Frank Gore hasn’t really looked all that bad lately, but the ceiling has been extremely limited all year long. His season high in rushing yards for a single game is just 82 yards. This is a good matchup against a Buffalo rush defense that has been absolutely gashed lately, but that’s not going to be enough to get me onto Gore. The Colts are not an explosive offense, and it’s hard to envision him having a massive day even in a good matchup. There are better options.

Pass Catchers: T.Y. Hilton salvaged something of a fantasy day against the Jaguars by finding the end zone for the Colts’ only touchdown, but he has had seven relatively quiet yardage games over the past nine weeks. This can be classified as a neutral matchup, at best, and there’s zero point to even considering Hilton in cash games. I suppose you can make a case for him in tournaments, but the price tag really isn’t cheap enough this week to entice me to bite. Donte Moncrief saw a team high eight targets in that game, but he came into that one with just five catches over the previous five games combined. He is not a fantasy option. Jacoby Brissett does like throwing the ball to Jack Doyle, but his numbers have also sagged a bit of late. Buffalo has been solid against tight ends this year, so this doesn’t feel like the best of spots. I do expect one of the two primary pass catchers to get some work, but both are massive risk/reward options at best.

The Takeaway: This is a tough road spot for the Colts in a game against a Bills team that desperately needs a win to stay in the playoff hunt. Assuming the Colts fall behind in this game, you could give T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle a look in GPPs, but they aren’t without plenty of risk. The Buffalo defense is also squarely in play here.

Buffalo Bills

Quarterback: Tyrod Taylor is dealing with a minor knee contusion, but it sounds like his availability is in question for this week. It’s tough to trust him even if he starts, though this is a fantastic matchup. Nathan Peterman was a disaster in his first start and will not be a fantasy option if he gets the call. Despite the matchup, this isn’t an ideal situation to target for fantasy purposes.

Running Backs: The Bills should give LeSean McCoy every chance to dominate the offense in a positive game script at home against the Colts. The Bills have gotten blown out in three of their last four games, which has affected his workloads, but the game flow should not be a concern here. The Indianapolis defense does grade out a lot better against the run than the pass, but McCoy should be involved in all facets of the offense. The $9,000 price tag on FanDuel is tough to stomach, but he is more palatable on DraftKings at $7,200. The FantasyDraft price tag is a little steep, too. I prefer him on DraftKings if you are playing on multiple sites, and I will probably only play him there.

Pass Catchers: With arguably the least talented group of receivers in the league and uncertain quarterback play, the conclusion here is about the same as it always is. Don’t bother with this group.

SATURDAY UPDATE – Taylor is shaping up as a true game-time decision. There’s not much that changes here.

The Takeaway: Even in a favorable matchup, there’s not much to love here outside of a possible look at LeSean McCoy. He’s priced almost out of consideration on FanDuel and FantasyDraft, but he is a strong play at $7,200 on DraftKings. If Tyrod Taylor is cleared to return this week, I could see rolling him out on a few lineups, but he cannot be counted on at this point.

Minnesota Vikings Carolina Panthers
Vegas Odds Spread Total Proj.Pts Vegas Odds Spread Total Proj.Pts
-3 41 22 3 41 19
Tm Stats PPG Scoring Pass Rush Tm Stats PPG Scoring Pass Rush
Offense 23.8 11 13 6 Offense 22.4 16 26 5
Opp. Defense 19.8 10 6 4 Opp. Defense 17.0 2 9 2
Opp. Def vs. Pos QB RB WR TE Opp. Def vs. Pos QB RB WR TE
Carolina Panthers 10 6 21 2 Minnesota Vikings 4 1 14 8
Rec. Stats Targets Receptions TDs Yards Rec. Stats Targets Receptions TDs Yards
Thielen 112 74 3 1,057 Funchess 91 54 6 703
Diggs 65 42 5 630 Shepard 32 17 1 202
Treadwell 26 15 0 161 Clay 11 3 0 46
Rudolph 70 50 6 465 Olsen 10 4 0 38

Notable injuries and suspensions: Devin Funchess (CAR WR) – Questionable but likely to play (Shoulder)

MIN Matchup Rating: 4.5
CAR Matchup Rating: 3.5

Minnesota Vikings

Quarterback: Case Keenum continues to help lead this Vikings team to one of their best seasons, and the Vikings now sit comfortably atop the NFC North at 10-2. While he didn’t blow the world away with his performance last week, he did throw for a solid 227 yards and two scores while continuing to take good care of the football. He has not thrown an interception in any of the last three games. This isn’t a cakewalk of a matchup against a good Carolina defense, but Keenum has almost become matchup-proof. I prefer other options in Week 14, especially with Keenum playing on the road, but there’s no reason he can’t be considered in DFS formats with the way he is locked in right now.

Running Backs: It feels like a regression game is coming for Latavius Murray, and this might be the matchup where that happens. He’s still splitting snaps with Jerick McKinnon, and the latter is the more explosive player. Murray is going to rely on getting goal line touches and finding the end zone, and that is by no means a given in this one. However, the good news is that Murray has logged at least 15 carries in six straight games. That’s very steady volume for a guy who splits snaps. I just can’t trust him here. McKinnon is a risk/reward asset that can be considered for tournaments in PPR formats, but his touch count is more volatile than Murray’s. He carries more value if you think the Vikings will fall behind early.

Pass Catchers: Carolina has been elite at defending the tight end position this year, but they have not been great at shutting down other receiving positions. Both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are in play here, but we have not seen an explosive game from Diggs in quite some time. This could be the random spot where he goes off at 3% ownership, making him a perfectly viable GPP option. Thielen, as usual, carries more value in PPR formats. He should rebound after a difficult game in Week 13. With Carolina’s strength at defending tight ends, Kyle Rudolph is not in play for me this week.

The Takeaway: The Vikings have been rolling, but this is their second straight difficult road game, and this could be the spot where it finally catches up with them. It’s hard to trust anyone 100% against a very strong defensive unit, but this offense has earned some respect. The primary options are solid GPP plays, but I will be fading Latavius Murray this week. This feels like the regression spot. Stefon Diggs is the most intriguing GPP option, and he is going to break out one of these days.

Carolina Panthers

Quarterback: Cam Newton continues to have his ups and downs in the 2017 season, and his passing production has been very shaky of late. This doesn’t project to be the matchup to fix those woes, as Minnesota carries one of the better pass defenses in the league. While Newton is always somewhat viable because of his rushing ability, there’s a bit too much risk for my liking. Take a shot in GPPs if you like and if you think he can find the end zone with his legs, as this isn’t the spot to expect him to hit 300 passing yards.

Running Backs: Jonathan Stewart found the end zone for the second straight game in Week 13, but he only has 71 total yards on 26 carries over those two contests. He is not a reliable fantasy option, as there is no way he is hitting value without scoring. Christian McCaffrey is a reasonable PPR option, but he struggled last week and doesn’t have the safest floor out there. McCaffrey is the one guy you could consider from this group.

Pass Catchers: Part of the reason why we can expect Cam Newton to struggle in this game is because he really doesn’t have much for receivers. Who is he going to throw the ball to? Devin Funchess will be locked down by top corner Xavier Rhodes, and the rest of the receivers are nothing short of a disaster. Steer clear.

The Takeaway: This is a sneaky good spot for the Minnesota defense, even though they are on the road. I can’t really endorse anyone from the Carolina offense in this contest.

Chicago Bears Cincinnati Bengals
Vegas Odds Spread Total Proj.Pts Vegas Odds Spread Total Proj.Pts
6 38 16 -6 38 22
Tm Stats PPG Scoring Pass Rush Tm Stats PPG Scoring Pass Rush
Offense 15.9 30 32 13 Offense 18.3 24 25 30
Opp. Defense 19.8 10 8 28 Opp. Defense 22.3 14 13 15
Opp. Def vs. Pos QB RB WR TE Opp. Def vs. Pos QB RB WR TE
Cincinnati Bengals 12 22 3 16 Chicago Bears 8 12 20 12
Rec. Stats Targets Receptions TDs Yards Rec. Stats Targets Receptions TDs Yards
Inman 28 17 1 225 Green 107 60 8 886
Wright 53 33 1 370 LaFell 67 41 2 428
Bellamy 26 13 1 175 Malone 12 6 1 63
Sims 21 11 1 115 Kroft 44 33 5 347

Notable injuries and suspensions: Joe Mixon (CIN RB) – Out (Concussion)

CHI Matchup Rating: 2.5
CIN Matchup Rating: 4.0

Chicago Bears

Quarterback: This is almost certainly the least exciting game of the week. The Bears have major issues sustaining drives, and they ran just 36 offensive plays last week against the 49ers. Mitchell Trubisky has been held to 179, 147, and 102 passing yards over the last three games. He is one of the worst quarterback options on the slate and has a very low floor at this point. Don’t bother.

Running Backs: Jordan Howard has always been game flow dependent, and his touches have been limited by Chicago’s inability to move the football. The fact that he is one of the worst pass catching backs in the league doesn’t help, either. Until this team shows some offensive firepower, there’s no reason to go here.

Pass Catchers: See the quarterback section above. The volume just isn’t there. Pass.

The Takeaway: Play the Cincinnati defense. Chicago’s 16 point implied team total is the lowest of the week.

Cincinnati Bengals

Quarterback: Cincinnati’s offense got off to a blazing start on Monday against the Steelers, but they faded quickly in the rain in the second half. The Bears have been a little more vulnerable on defense of late, primarily because the offense doesn’t stay on the field. This isn’t enough ammunition for me to consider Andy Dalton in DFS, though. This profiles as a very boring game.

Running Backs: This might be the best spot to target in this game. Joe Mixon is in the concussion protocol after leaving Monday’s game early, and it’s tough to see him getting cleared in time to play on a short week. Giovani Bernard played on every single snap after Mixon exited on Monday, and he didn’t look all that bad in the process. With Jeremy Hill also on injured reserve, the Bengals simply have no depth at the position. Keep an eye on the news wires. If Mixon is out for this game, you can expect Bernard to be the chalkiest value play of the week, and with good reason. Opportunity like this is hard to pass up with cheap running backs, and look at what Kenyan Drake did for the Dolphins in Week 13.

SATURDAY UPDATE – Mixon is officially out. Bernard is a lock and load value play in all formats.

Pass Catchers: The Cincinnati offense certainly runs in, around, and through A.J. Green. He saw a whopping 16 targets last week against the Steelers, securing seven of them for 77 yards and two scores. He was shut down after halftime, but he had another long touchdown called back thanks to a very questionable holding penalty. As a volume-driven WR #1, Green is certainly in play despite the difficult matchup. As usual, the rest of Cincinnati’s pass catchers are not viable options in really any DFS format.

The Takeaway: If Joe Mixon can’t suit up for this game, Giovani Bernard instantly becomes one of the top value plays of the week. Keep an eye on the news wires and plan accordingly. Outside of that, A.J. Green is the only fantasy relevant player on this roster. Green is a fine play, though he is certainly not a must play in a game that could very well become a low-scoring slugfest.


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About the Author

  • Justin Van Zuiden (stlcardinals84)

  • Justin Van Zuiden (fantasy alias STLCardinals84) is a leading RG contributor for NFL, NBA, MLB, CFB and golf. One of the game’s best, he is currently in the Top 10 in the 2015/16 Tournament Player of the Year race and has six live final appearances to his name, as well as a second place finish in the 2015 FantasyAces College Football Championship..

    STLCardinals84

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