Joyner: Best/worst Week 14 receiver matchups
They say to "play it safe" in the fantasy playoffs and to not take any chances. But what if you are lacking studs at a few key positions and are facing a powerhouse fantasy squad? That might be a good time to use a risk-reward guy who has a tendency for the occasional big game. You shouldn't roll the dice with all your selections, but it never hurts to throw one of those guys into the mix.
Santana Moss, Redskins: Moss is owned in 73 percent of ESPN.com leagues even though he has posted four or fewer points in three of his past five games. The reason fantasy owners are keeping him around is because when he is on, Moss can put up dominant numbers. That could happen any given week. Case in point would be his 18-point game against Dallas in Week 11.
Moss' prospects for a dominant game are quite good in Week 14. With Nathan Vasher likely to miss another start -- he is currently listed as doubtful -- because of a groin injury, Moss will be matched up against Ricky Manning Jr. Manning is quite poor in coverage (I have him rated as an F), so Moss has an excellent chance to score on a deep ball -- or two.
Amani Toomer, Giants: Toomer has been an up-and-down fantasy player this year. His point totals over the past seven weeks have been as follows: 14, 9, 1, 3, 3, 8 and 12. He's worth starting during the big weeks, but he is just as likely to hurt your team if you play him in the bad weeks.
In Week 14, he has a good chance of having one of his big weeks. First of all, Toomer is facing Lito Sheppard, who has been struggling this year (I have him graded in the C/C-plus range). Add to this the difficulties Plaxico Burress is likely to have (see below), and it means Toomer should see a lot of passes thrown his way.
Kevin Curtis, Eagles: Curtis is on a big-time roll, with 30 fantasy points over his past three games. He is also becoming the centerpiece of the Eagles' passing game, as his performance against Seattle last week clearly indicates. In that game, Curtis had 13 passes thrown his way, which is very high. The league leaders average about 10 targets per game.
Curtis' matchup is also fairly favorable. Sam Madison has had more cold than hot games this season (I have him rated as a C-plus). Combine these factors, and you have surefire "reward" upside from Curtis.
Donald Driver, Packers: After a midseason slump, Driver has been putting up consistently good fantasy points of late. He has 34 fantasy points over the past four weeks, and his 26 receptions over that span have made him a fantasy-points monster in point-per-reception leagues.
Despite his hot play, Driver will have more than a bit of trouble Sunday with Nnamdi Asomugha. Asomugha is playing at a Pro Bowl level, and Green Bay likely will throw away from Driver and target the rest of the Raiders' secondary.
Calvin Johnson, Lions: The general consensus is that Johnson will see the ball a lot more now that Roy Williams (knee) is out indefinitely. Driver's 10- and 14-point fantasy games in Weeks 12 and 13, respectively, also give fantasy coaches a lot of faith in his upside.
As good as those omens are, the omen that makes me suggest sitting Johnson this week is his matchup against Terence Newman. Offenses tend to avoid Newman (he is rated as a B-plus in my charts), so Johnson likely won't be the primary passing target this week.
Plaxico Burress, Giants: Burress owners keep hoping he will return to his early-season form. He posted touchdowns in each of the Giants' first six games and never had fewer than eight fantasy points during that span. Since then, Burress has regressed badly and has totaled more than eight fantasy points in only one game.
That might normally keep Burress from appearing on this list, but two factors made me include him: (1) He is owned in 100 percent of ESPN leagues, so there are lot of owners still counting on him; and (2) given the difficulties the Eagles have had in defending the pass of late, Burress looks to be a safe starting option.
The bad news for Burress owners is that he is all set to face off against Sheldon Brown, who has been the only Eagles pass defender playing well (I have him listed as a B-minus/B). Burress' ankle injury has also been slowing him more each week, so that doesn't bode well for him either.
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Sidney Rice, Vikings: Fantasy owners already know what this guy can do -- he has 25 fantasy points in the past two weeks -- yet he is owned in only 4.0 percent of ESPN leagues. It might sound crazy to consider starting a No. 3 wide receiver on the Vikings, but Rice's production, and his matchup against Shawntae Spencer (rated as an F-plus in my charts), both suggest he is a solid play in Week 14.
Bryant Johnson, Cardinals: The Cardinals' passing game has been on fire of late, and Johnson has been a beneficiary of that. His 19 fantasy points the past two games are nearly double his fantasy total (10) in the previous five games.
Part of his production burst is because he played against the weak 49ers and Browns secondaries. The Seahawks' secondary isn't as bad off as those secondaries, but they do have some coverage weaknesses. Jordan Babineaux, Seattle's nickle back, would qualify as one of those (I have him rated as a C-minus/D-plus in my charts). Johnson has some upside because of that.
KC Joyner, aka The Football Scientist, is a regular contributor to ESPN Insider.
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