6 Fantasy Football Stars to Start or Sit for Week 14

Don't let the fantasy playoff jitters throw you off your game. We're here to help with some key players to know.

A little bit of language, but this is oh so necessary.

Don't let this be you. But it could be. Feeling a bit nervous, yet? Your opponent's not inside your head, are they? Maybe you should check your lineup one more time. Just one more. Go ahead, it'll be OK.

But maybe you want to feel assured and have a better advantage? That's where we can help. numberFire has beaten the projections given on your fantasy league's site 93% percent of the time this season, and as always, we're back for more. I've already written on many players this week in my Best Value Plays article including Peyton Manning, Andy Dalton, Vick Ballard, Knowshon Moreno, Danario Alexander, Josh Gordon, Heath Miller, and Brent Celek. I also touched on Carson Palmer this morning, and if he's anywhere near your starting lineup, you deserve to lose.

If you want our full projections, make sure to check out our Week 14 Projections page. But below is an expanded look at six key players for Week 14, with a heavy focus on tonight's AFC West battle between the Carson Palmers and Peyton Mannings.

Fantasy Football Best Starts/Must Sits Week 14

Darren McFadden - Oakland Raiders
Projected Standard League Fantasy Points: 7.84 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 27 Ranked RB (No. 93 Overall)
Percent of Leagues Started (ESPN): 42.0%
Week 14 Opponent: vs. Denver Broncos
Verdict: Sit Him

We've already touched on Knowshon and his must-start status in the link above, but what about his running back counterpart? For the first time in a while, it's not Marcel Reece stealing the show. But instead, it's the triumphant return of that borderline-first round draft pick Darren McFadden, set to save fantasy seasons just in the nick of time!

Yeah, don't start him.

It's not that we're projecting the Raiders won't trust him; his 14.17 projected carries is slightly above the mark for the average NFL starting back this week. It's that both the matchup and McFadden's past efficiency make him a boom-or-bust play, and the bust side is much, much more likely.

The Broncos come into tonight's game with numberFire's No. 4 opponent-adjusted defense, and although their third-ranked secondary is the star of the show, the run-stopping portion of the D has not been half bad either. So far this season, the Broncos have allowed 47.68 expected points less than the average team against the run so far this season, or an average of about four points less than expected per game. That's good for fourth in the league, behind only Miami, New England, and San Francisco.

And that's not good for Darren McFadden, who has not only been inefficient this season, but very nearly historically inefficient. numberFire has analyzed McFadden's personal NEP numbers, which measures the amount of expected points he has gained or lost the Raiders on plays where he has touched the ball. There are 525 NFL players who have touched the ball on at least one play this season. McFadden's NEP score ranks in 522nd; only Michael Turner, Blaine Gabbert, and Ryan Lindley are worse. Among backs with at least 100 carries, only Alex Green and Rashad Jennings have a worse NEP per rush average than McFadden's -0.25, and only 25.2% of McFadden's rushes have been successful in increasing the Raiders' chances of scoring this year.

Reggie Bush - Miami Dolphins
Projected Standard League Fantasy Points: 7.52 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 28 Ranked RB (No. 93 Overall)
Percent of Leagues Started (ESPN): 68.0%
Week 14 Opponent: at San Francisco 49ers
Verdict: Sit Him

Whatever Reggie Bush said at Thanksgiving dinner to get his carries back, it must have worked: he had 15 rushing attempts in Week 13 against Daniel Thomas's five. But just because he's getting slightly more touches (and I mean slightly; he hasn't had more than 15 carries since Week 5) doesn't necessarily mean they're going to be effective ones.

Remember in the Darren McFadden section where I said that very few teams have a better run defense than Denver? Well, the Boys by the Bay are one of them. San Francisco's 57.98 NEP less than expectation allowed this season is the single highest mark among all NFL teams, a good five points ahead of the No. 2 Miami Dolphins. They have only allowed three rushing touchdowns to opposing backs so far this season, and none of those have come in the past three games against the Bears, Saints, and Rams.

Reggie Bush, meanwhile, has only been slightly more efficient than Darren McFadden, averaging -0.18 NEP per rush this season. But that average is still worse than rushing luminaries such as Donald Brown, Shonn Greene, and Mikel LeShoure. Daniel Thomas isn't much better, but at least his -0.16 NEP per rush isn't soul-crushing. And to dig the hole deeper, Bush's 17.23 NEP below expectation ranks as the 20th-worst figure in the league as well, somewhere between Mark Sanchez and La'Rod Stephens-Howling. He's not even worth a second look this week except in the most extreme of circumstances; Fred Jackson, Beanie Wells, and Jonathan Dwyer would all be better plays.

DeMarco Murray - Dallas Cowboys
Projected Standard League Fantasy Points: 10.37 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 14 Ranked RB (No. 55 Overall)
Percent of Leagues Started (ESPN): 49.2%
Week 14 Opponent: at Cincinnati Bengals
Verdict: Start Him

Well, that didn't take long for Murray to get back to a full load, did it? The Cowboys ran the ball 33 times against the Eagles on Sunday night; 23 of those carries were by Murray, or 69.7% of all Dallas carries. That's actually better than the proportions Murray owners saw earlier on in the season, and his 23 carries were a season-high.

And there's a good reason for that: Murray is easily the most efficient runner the Cowboys have at their disposal. His -0.10 NEP per rush far outpaces Felix Jones (-0.14), Phillip Tanner (-0.28), or Lance Dunbar (-0.14). His 34% success rate on increasing the Cowboys' chance of scoring is much higher as well.

So while the Bengals may hold an above-average defense - numberFire has them as our No. 13 unit in opponent-adjusted efficiency - Murray should see enough looks and be efficient enough to be starting-back worthy. We like him even more than Stevan Ridley, the Law Firm, or Steven Jackson this week.

Eric Decker - Denver Broncos
Projected Standard League Fantasy Points: 11.77 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 12 Ranked WR (No. 48 Overall)
Percent of Leagues Started (ESPN): 56.4%
Week 14 Opponent: at Oakland Raiders
Verdict: Start Him

We have Peyton Manning as our number one overall fantasy player this week, and the Raiders have allowed a league-worst 124.29 points greater than expectation against opposing passing games so far this season. To answer a question nobody asked, yeah, I'd say there's enough room on the Broncos passing bandwagon for two receivers this week.

While Demaryius Thomas has gotten much of the praise (and rightfully so, we have him as the No. 2 WR in the NFL this season), his running mate on the other side hasn't been bad himself. With a catch rate at 63.4%, Decker is currently outpacing last season's total by over 16%. The magic of switching from Tebow Time to Manning Face is beautiful, isn't it Mr. Decker? And that increase in catching (or should I say, catchable balls) has helped him be a more productive member of society: Decker's 40.37 NEP including missed targets ranks 20th among all NFL receivers this season.

The only potential knock on Decker might be the targets he's received in comparison to Thomas, but even that knock may be more of a faint tap or two than a loud break-down-the-door-pounding. Thomas had 103 targets on the season, or 23.0% of Manning's throws. But Decker has 89 targets, or 19.9% of Manning's throws. And while last week's 10-to-2 split looks unfavorable to Decker, the gap between them had been much closer previously.

Denarius Moore - Oakland Raiders
Projected Standard League Fantasy Points: 6.82 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 43 Ranked WR (No. 122 Overall)
Percent of Leagues Started (ESPN): 37.6%
Week 14 Opponent: vs. Denver Broncos
Verdict: Sit Him

So I've thrown a few hints around here and there, but now is the time to explicitly say it: if you're still starting Denarius Moore and you're in the playoffs, then I'd actually like to argue you a hardy congratulations, because I have no idea how you managed to do it.

As I mentioned on Tuesday in my Waiver Article, Denarius Moore hasn't been the leading targeted receiver over the past couple of weeks; Juron Criner has. In fact, Moore hasn't even been close; he finished third on the team in targets in Week 13, fifth in Week 12, and second in Week 11. And while Moore is tied with Brandon Myers for the team lead with 88 targets on the season, those looks only represent 17.4% of Carson Palmer's throws.

Of course, that would be all well and good if he could be like Brandon Myers and actually convert those opportunities. But instead, half the guys in the Black Hole could probably catch a higher percentage of passes than Moore has this season. At 43.7%, Moore's catch rate is the single worst of any receiver with at least 40 targets on the season, a full percentage point lower than Torrey Smith. It sure seems that Carson Palmer has learned not to trust him recently, and you should follow suit.

Brandon Myers - Oakland Raiders
Projected Standard League Fantasy Points: 6.14 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 14 Ranked TE (No. 128 Overall)
Percent of Leagues Started (ESPN): 37.6%
Week 14 Opponent: vs. Denver Broncos
Verdict: Sit Him

So if we don't like Moore because of his comparatively low targets and cringe-inducing catch rate, what about his tight end teammate Brandon Myers? Myers has the high number of targets for a tight end at 88, and his 78.4% catch rate is one of the best in the league. Plus, he's coming off a breakout game that probably sent many of his owners into the playoffs himself.

Well, this one all comes down to the matchups, and the Broncos pass-defense should provide very little opportunity for Myers to shine. As much as this pains me to say, because he's been one of my favorites all year, Myers is not worth the start today.

As mentioned in our Thursday Night Football preview, the Denver secondary is good. Very good. In fact, they're the league's third best unit and have only allowed a single point over expectation to opposing passing attacks this season. And that doesn't bode well to the Raiders offense, numberFire's No. 23 opponent-adjusted unit entering this week.

Because of that ability to keep teams from scoring points, it's not the catches where Myers fails - his projected 4.61 receptions ranks fifth among all tight ends. Instead, it's the dreadful 0.19 projected touchdowns that have him plummeting down our charts. Jordan Cameron, Tom Crabtree, and Gary Barnidge are among the tight end names that we project with more touchdowns this week. Ouch. Overall, we see Brent Celek, Marcedes Lewis, Greg Olsen, and Kyle Rudolph as tight ends who could be available and have a better Week 14.