For most of you, Week 14 is the last week before the playoffs start. Sure there are teams out there that have already clinched a spot, but we know there are teams out there that need a victory this week to get in. Well, the guys at Playbook are here to help. We have spent hours upon hours studying tape and have put together what we like to call The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Fantasy Edition. The Good are players who we think are poised for breakout weeks. We will tell you why the matchup they have this week will put them in a position to produce big time fantasy numbers. The Bad are players who are either going up against difficult matchups or are in challenging positions to succeed within their offense. The Ugly are guys who you want to stay away from, plain and simple. We have broken down a player from each matchup and will let you what about his matchup puts him in that specific category. Best of luck to everyone this week.
Good: Anquan Boldin, WR Baltimore
- The Colts are a Cover 2 team. Their CBs play close to the line of scrimmage, but are not physical with opposing WRs. Being unable to slow down a WR or at least re-direct his route makes the Cover 2 much more vulnerable to the pass game. Indy’s LBs are content with allowing completions of 5-7 yards in front of them.
- The Ravens are going to be able to run the ball against a poor Indy run defense. When they do throw, we expect them to utilize a lot of play-action and easy throws for Joe Flacco. They are not going to have to throw for big yardage to win, but simply have to be effective when they do pass. Boldin is a big target over the middle and should find a lot of space to work on short and intermediate routes.
Bad: Cedric Benson, RB Cincinnati
- The Texans have never given up more than 127 rushing yards to a team all season, and that was in Week 2. They have not given up 100 yards rushing since Week 6 and have not allowed a rushing touchdown since Week 8. The Texans are a swarming defense and it shows in how they play the run. Their LBs are extremely talented at holding the edge, but also attacking open running lanes to close them off.
- Houston is not going to have to change up much in their defense to stop the Bengals rushing attack because they have so much success stopping it with only their front 7. Cedric Benson is at his best when he can get north and south and is not forced to move laterally at the line of scrimmage. With Bernard Scott getting even more carries, this matchup does not bode well for Benson.
Good: Maurice Jones-Drew, RB Jacksonville
- The Bucs DL does not do a good job at holding their ground in the trenches. There were too many times last week against the Panthers where they were washed outside of a hole due to lack of gap discipline.
- The Jaguars simply give the ball to Maurice Jones-Drew too much for him not to produce. Their line seems to be gelling together much more as the season has continued. They utilize MJD’s cut-back ability by running a lot of counters and bend backs, which in turn helps their OL wash down opposing DL and get to the LBs. Combine that with this matchup against the Bucs 29th ranked run D and all things are pointing to MJD having a good day.
Bad: LeSean McCoy, RB Philadelphia
- The Dolphins DL has been one of the main reasons for their recent defensive success. As a unit they have been dominating at the point of attack, holding their ground and keeping opposing OL off their LBs. Last week the Dolphins were able to shut down a very talented Raiders run offense, out of 14 runs, the Raiders gained 3 yards or less on 12 of them.
- LeSean McCoy is a very challenging player to completely take out of a game. His physical tools combined with his involvement within the offense puts him in positions to put up good numbers each week. However, going up against such a physical DL will hurt McCoy’s ability to run the ball. By doing such a good job holding their ground, the Dolphins will limit McCoy’s lateral movement near the line of scrimmage. Combine that with such an active group of LBs and we think McCoy could struggle on the ground.
Ugly: Dwayne Bowe, WR Kansas City
- Darrelle Revis. You have to believe that he is going to be shadowing Bowe around the entire game and we would not be surprised if he had safety help or a LB running underneath the majority of the game as well. Bowe is the only threatening offensive weapon on the Chiefs and the Jets have the personnel to take him out of the game.
- Bowe has recorded 18 catches in the three games that Tyler Palko has started at QB. Palko clearly has looked Bowe’s way often, but going up against Revis and the Jets secondary we think that completions are going to be much harder to come by. If Cassel was still under center we think that Bowe’s route running and leaping ability would make him a good play, but with Palko we would stay away from this matchup this week.
Good: Chris Johnson, RB Tennessee
- The Saints are extremely inconsistent when it comes to stopping the run. They have shown flashes of penetrating the Line of Scrimmage, something that hurts a zone running team, but do not do it on a consistent basis. Their front 4 can be moved off of their spot, which helps the OL get to the 2nd level.
- Chris Johnson finally seems to be back to where he was last season. The OL seems to be gelling once again. They have been moving very well laterally, as a unit, which has helped them gain control of the edge of the defense. In turn, Chris Johnson has had bigger lanes to run through, but has shown the same elusiveness that makes him unique. His vision these past few games has helped him pick up big yardage on plays that were blown up from the start.
Bad: Eric Decker, WR Denver
- Chicago has the discipline on Defense to slow down the Broncos offense we’ve seen recently. In the secondary, Eric Decker, has been able to make big catches simply by Tim Tebow being able to extend plays with his feet. Opposing secondaries shift their attention from defending the pass to stopping Tebow, leaving players like Decker wide open. The Bears possess one of the most talented LBs corps in the NFL and we think that they will be able to slow down Tebow enough to allow the secondary to cover.
- Decker is too much of a hit or miss player to trust this late in the season. If he is unable to find the endzone he is practically fantasy irrelevant. With Demaryius Thomas emerging as a threat on the outside, Decker is going to see even less of the already small number of throws the Broncos attempt.
Good: Vincent Jackson, WR San Diego
- The Buffalo pass D has been one of the NFL’s worst in the past five weeks, giving up 8 touchdown passes in 4 games against the 18th (Jets), 20th (Titans) and 23rd (Dolphins) pass offenses in the league. There biggest struggles have been there inability to cover over the middle and their inability to attack passes in the air.
- Vincent Jackson conveniently thrives at two things the Bills struggle to defend. The Chargers have been running the ball much better which will bring the linebackers down closer to the line of scrimmage and open up a bigger window for Philip Rivers to throw over the middle of the field. The Chargers are finally healthy which will take some of the pressure off of Jackson and Rivers.
Bad: Jonathan Stewart, RB Carolina
- The Falcons front 7 has been extremely active in defending the run. They have allowed only 2 teams to rush for 100 yards all season. As a unit, they are very versatile. The DL has the strength to anchor at the point of attack, but also the athleticism to move laterally and penetrate up the field. In turn, their LB corps has had fewer blockers to deal with and have done a good job filling running lanes.
- The Panther’s OL is not overly physical, but really have had success this year because of their unorthodox scheme. A lot of the Panthers runs come out of the shotgun which allows them to utilize Cam Newton as well. The Falcons unit is simply too talented and disciplined to allow Stewart or Williams to have much success on the ground.
Good: Matthew Stafford, QB Detroit
- Last week was a perfect example of just how poor the Vikings secondary is. Tim Tebow and Demaryius Thomas were able to connect on multiple big plays along the sideline. Like the Colts, the Vikings play almost all Cover 2, but they do not attempt to make any contact at the line of scrimmage. Their CBs do not do a good job of anticipating go routes and fades so that they can carry with the WR and provide help to the Safety.
- The Lions have two players, in Calvin Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew, who will really be a challenge for the Vikings to cover. Both players have the speed, within their position, to stretch the field. You have to believe that the Lions saw the same tape we did and know that the Vikings can be beat deep with very little effort. Matthew Stafford should have no problems carving up this secondary.
Bad: Roy Helu, RB Washington
- Some clarity has finally emerged in the Washington backfield and the winner is Roy Helu. He has become this team’s workhorse on the ground, and has started to see an expanded role in the passing game. He is a very elusive runner around the line of scrimmage and in the open field. His combination of running and catching has resulted in two great weeks.
- The Patriots defend the run much better than they do the pass: 10th against the run and 32nd (or, last) against the pass. With Rex Grossman being so streaky, we think that the Patriots will stack the box and dare the Redskins to pass. The Patriots have some size up front on the DL and their LBs have a good combination of athleticism and size to run laterally but also fill open lanes up front. Helu is projected to put up big numbers this week, but we think he could disappoint.
Ugly: Beanie Wells, RB Arizona
- Being the #1 run defense and giving up a mere 71.8 yards on the ground should speak for itself. The next closest defense allows 17 yards per game more than the 49ers. Even without Patrick Willis, the 49ers should be lights out once again.
- The Cardinals simply aren’t strong enough up front to generate consistent running lanes for Wells. Last time these two teams faced off, Wells had a mere 33 yards. Against a more east to west rushing attack we would be more optimistic, but the Cards and Wells do their best work when they are moving north and south.
Good: Jermichael Finley, TE Green Bay
- The Raiders do not possess an extremely deep secondary. Injuries have put this team in difficult spots throughout the year. Their CBs are aggressive and do not hesitate to attack WRs at the line of scrimmage. The Safeties are extremely athletic and have helped out the CBs by showing an ability to cover WRs in the slot.
- The Packers simply have too many weapons for the Raiders to be able to cover. Last week against the Giants, towards the end of the game, the Packers utilized 3 WRs and Finley to spread the Giants secondary out and make them cover 1 on 1. This week we think that a lot of the attention will be put towards stopping the WRs. The Raiders are going to have to provide some help with their safeties because their CBs are not talented enough to cover the Packers WRs, on their own, the entire game. This has us believing Finley will be left in a lot of matchups with LBs, something that Aaron Rodgers will be sure to exploit.
Good: Victor Cruz, WR New York Giants
- The Cowboys have had the luxury this year of facing some of the weaker pass offenses in the league (Ari, Mia, Sea, Was, Stl). This means that they have not been faced with the challenge of covering a team with so many weapons. With so much blitzing up front, their DBs are often left on their own and have not been consistent with their coverage capabilities. Without any help over top they are unable to press at the line of scrimmage which allows a lot of clean releases and space for opposing WRs to work.
- With Hakeem Nicks back and healthy, Victor Cruz will have even less attention on him than he has had all year. Cruz has improved tremendously as a route runner and it has shown in his production. Eli Manning really has developed chemistry with him and trusts him enough to let him go up in the air and make plays, even when he might be well covered. Cruz’s versatility underneath and over the top of the defense should be on full display this weekend and help him put up good numbers.
Ugly: Steven Jackson, RB St. Louis
- The Seahawks are built to stop the run. Their DL is one of the strongest in the league, which makes them a handful to move off the ball. They do not lose ground against double teams which decreases the size of holes and allows their LBs more time to fill running lanes.
- The last time Steven Jackson faced these guys he ran for a mere 42 yards. Since then, the Rams offensive circumstances have gotten worse. They could be starting a 3rd string QB which means the threat of the pass has decreased even more. We expect the Seahawks to once again stack the box and force the Rams to beat them in the air, something they have yet to prove they can do this season.