Week 14 is upon us, and as always, there’s a ton of appealing matchups on paper for fantasy purposes. Some of them stand head and shoulders above the rest, and the narrative quickly forms to present us with the chalk players of the week. Sometimes it makes sense to go along with the crowd and include these players on our rosters, while other times there may be equally appealing options that will be owned at a lesser percentage. That’s what this column aims to help you sort through on a weekly basis. Before we dig into the week’s top chalk selections and how to approach them, let’s take a look at the games that everyone will have on their radar this week.
Chalk Games Of The Week
New Orleans Saints @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It looks like there’s a shootout a brewin’ down in Tampa this week. The Saints hit the road to take on an improved Buccaneers squad, and there’s plenty of fantasy worthy selections on both sidelines. This tilt features the highest projected total of the week, so we’ll definitely want to include the relevant players on our short lists for Week 14.
Drew Brees was completely held in check at home last week against the Lions, and we can be confident that the future Hall of Famer will be chomping at the bit to take out some frustration against the Buccaneers. He’s a solid fantasy play almost every time he takes the field, but we like him to come out with a big chip on his shoulder this week. Brees will be fairly popular this week, but he makes a solid anchor for your lineups.
For stacking purposes, Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas are the top options and should see similar ownership percentages. Willie Snead will fly slightly under the radar, but he’s also targeted a bit less than the other two. We’ll give Cooks a slight edge due to his coming in at a lower price point. The Buccaneers have been pretty stingy against the run, so we’re not overly enthusiastic about Mark Ingram’s prospects for this week.
Jameis Winston will be another popular choice this week, as will top target Mike Evans. There will be plenty of stacks featuring this dynamic duo - but it’s going to cost you if you’re looking this way. Winston checks in at an affordable $6,700, but Evans is the most expensive wideout on the Sunday slate at $8,900. People will pay it due to the possibility of a multiple-touchdown outing from Evans, but there may be better bang for your buck elsewhere.
Outside of Winston and Evans, there’s not a ton to get excited about on the Buccaneers side. The running game has not been too productive this season, and there’s a lack of a solid WR2 to slot in opposite Evans. Cameron Brate has been a serviceable option at tight end, and he has delivered a few solid performances this year, including last week against the Chargers. He could make it happen again if the Saints devote a ton of attention to Evans as expected, so you can keep him in mind for an alternative stack with Winston.
Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants
The schedule makers have delivered us a good one for the nightcap on Sunday, and the matchup is peaking plenty of interest in DFS circles as well. There are points to be found when the Cowboys meet up with the Giants, and we can expect varying levels of ownership percentages for the relevant fantasy players.
Enthusiasm will be high for the Cowboys young guns, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, but we’ll consider one a wise choice and the other as a slightly riskier proposition. Elliott is a flat out stud that produces, and we like him to hammer that point home in a prime time affair. The Giants were burned pretty bad by LeVeon Bell last week in the yardage department, and we see no reason why Elliott can’t do the same.
Prescott may find the going a bit rougher, as the Giants have been pretty strong against the pass this season. That also leads us to be slightly down on Dez Bryant, but we’ll also keep in mind that this matchup of divisional foes could devolve into a shootout. Jason Witten is a solid low-cost tight end option, as the Giants have struggled to defend against the position.
For the Giants, the opposite scenario applies. The club is in a good spot to produce through the air, but they may have some difficulties moving the ball on the ground. We’ll take a pass on Rashad Jennings, but Eli Manning and company could deliver some nice value. Manning is definitely a selection of the boom-bust variety. We’ll look for the big game version to show up for this high pressure tilt. Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard make for appealing options against a beatable secondary, and we can expect Beckham to be the more popular choice of the two.
Let’s take a look at this week’s top chalk plays and how we can approach them for our lineups, starting with the quarterback position.
QB Andrew Luck, $6,900. When a player lights the scoreboard up in a prime time matchup, you can expect interest to be high in that player the following week. That’s the situation we have at hand for Luck this week, as he absolutely torched the Jets on Monday Night. He also happens to be very affordable this week, so there’s a seriously good chance he winds up as the week’s highest-owned quarterback.
That’s ok in our book, and we won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on Luck. His play has been improving, and the Colts may be hitting their stride as the season gets long in the tooth. The Texans also happen to have allowed 10 passing touchdowns over their past four games, and there’s a good possibility that Luck will find the end zone a few times in this one.
If you’re looking to mix things up a bit at quarterback, you can save $100 and look towards Matthew Stafford, who also happens to be in a good spot this week against the Bears. If you’re willing to spend up, Drew Brees and Cam Newton are both solid choices this week as well. On the lower-owned quarterback front, there’s a good possibility that many will be scared off of Aaron Rodgers due to his matchup with the Seahawks. Don’t be. He’s playing at a high level of late, so we won’t think twice at pulling the trigger on him against a beatable secondary.
RB David Johnson, $9,800. It doesn’t seem to matter how much Johnson costs each week, as users continue to flock to him. There’s a good reason for that, as he delivers elite-level production at an impressive clip. In fact, he’s riding a three-game streak of 33+ points on DraftKings. There doesn’t appear to be any stopping Johnson at the moment, but we’ll throw out the caveat that all good things must come to an end.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t roster him this week against the Dolphins. In fact, he looks like the top running back play of the week yet again. However, that’s also a ton of salary to tie up into one player, and it’s an even more painful expenditure if he cools off. Will it happen this week? Tough to say, but an East Coast trip can be rough for teams on Pacific Time, and it’s not out of the question for the Cardinals to come out a little sluggish.
In short, hedge your bets if you’re rolling with multiple lineups. A lineup or two that’s Johnson-free on his down week can pay huge dividends if everything else breaks correctly for that lineup. For single lineups, let the remainder of your roster be the guide. If you’re finding it impossible to fit him in, save a little money and expand your horizons to other possibilities. There’s plenty of viable pivots that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, including Ezekiel Elliott and DeMarco Murray.
WR T.Y. Hilton, $7,500. If we’re expecting Luck’s ownership percentage to be through the roof, then there’s a good chance his top pass catcher will be just as popular. Hilton came to life along with the rest of the Colts against the Jets, and he has a good matchup on his plate this week against the Texans. There’s a good chance he’ll see his usual high volume of targets, and the Texans have been giving up plenty of scores through the air.
There’s no glaring reason to fade Hilton, but he’s also not in must play territory. If Luck is your man at quarterback, then you’ll likely want to pair him up with Hilton, but you could also pivot over to Donte Moncrief. Hilton’s a fine play with or without Luck, but there’s plenty of other value at the position - and at cheaper price points to boot. Jordy Nelson, Larry Fitzgerald, Golden Tate and Brandin Cooks come in at lower prices in Week 14, but they all offer the same upside as Hilton.
TE Greg Olsen, $5,000. Tight end is a bit confusing this week as there’s no clear-cut top play, so that will lead to a mish mosh of ownership percentages among the upper tier players. We’ll look for Olsen to find plenty of support this week as the cheapest of the higher-end options. He’s been very quiet for fantasy purposes over the past few weeks, but he continues to see a high volume of targets.
The game between the Chargers and Panthers has one of the highest projected totals of the week, and there’s a good chance that Philip Rivers and Cam Newton will be filling the air with footballs. Olsen will see plenty of targets headed in his direction, but we’re a little concerned by his lack of production of late. We won’t consider him an all out fade, but we’ll definitely closely examine other options. Jimmy Graham and Tyler Eifert are two viable options that will cost you more than Olsen, while those looking to save some greenbacks can consider Jason Witten or Vance McDonald.
D Detroit Lions, $3,600. The Lions are a big favorite at home against a team that has very little to play for, and they also happen to be playing quite well defensively. That makes them the chalk play of the week at defense, and we’re not seeing too many compelling reasons to look elsewhere. There’s other defenses in good spots to produce as well, namely the Vikings, Bengals and Falcons, but all three of those clubs happen to be on the road. We’ll go with the safety of the huge favorite in a home matchup that’s playing well, and consider this one of those situations where it’s wise to go along with the crowd.
Thanks for reading The Chalk for Week 14. Enjoy the games this weekend, and best of luck with your lineups. Feel free to hit me up anytime on Twitter - @cm_feery - or email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with questions or comments.