Fantasy Football Bust Candidates: QBs and RBs who could disappoint in Week 14

Editor’s note: The players listed below are NFL stars who were drafted in virtually every Yahoo Fantasy league. That said, this column is not an endorsement to bench them in Week 14. You’re in control of your roster; every league size and shape is different. What we are trying to explain is that expectations should be lowered this week compared to usual for some of the NFL’s biggest stars. Aside from examining this week’s matchups, this can also serve as a reminder not to overreact if one of your high draft picks disappoints in Week 14.

Deshaun Watson @ Cincinnati Bengals

Watson struggled mightily during his first action since 2020, finishing as fantasy’s QB30 last week with an ugly -13.5 completion percentage over expectation (7th percentile) against a shaky Houston defense. He was also lucky a possible (unforced) fumble returned for a touchdown was ruled an incomplete pass. Watson will likely improve the more he plays, but he travels again this week to face a Cincinnati run defense that’s allowed the lowest success with D.J. Reader on the field this season. In other words, Nick Chubb may struggle Sunday in a matchup in which the Browns are near-touchdown underdogs.

The Bengals haven’t allowed a quarterback to throw for 300 yards against them and only once all season have they given up multiple TD passes in a game.

With Watson asked to throw far more than he was during his season debut (and in obvious passing situations), you’ll want the Bengals D/ST in your fantasy lineup this week — and Watson on your bench.

Tom Brady @ San Francisco 49ers

Brady tossed two late touchdowns Monday night (including the latest go-ahead TD pass of his career), but he mostly struggled while failing to surpass 5.7 YPA for the third time over the past four games. It’s not necessarily Brady’s fault, as Tampa Bay’s coaching and inability to run the ball have been big problems. Brady’s average depth of target was also possibly historically low Monday night. Either way, he now travels during a short week to face a 49ers defense that’s allowed seven points total after halftime over the last five games and leads the league in most categories over the last six weeks.

Brady’s production drops on the road, and this week he gets an extremely tough defense in a matchup that projects to be low-scoring thanks in part to Brock Purdy starting for San Francisco. Brady has been in the NFL for as long as BCB has been alive. Remarkably, only the Texans have a lower implied team total than the Buccaneers this week.

Buccaneers QB Tom Brady has certainly faced more favorable fantasy matchups than the one he gets this week.
Bucs quarterback Tom Brady has certainly faced more favorable fantasy matchups than the one he gets this week. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Dameon Pierce @ Dallas Cowboys

Dallas has one of the highest implied team totals (31.0 points) of the season, while Houston has one of the lowest (14.0). Pierce has a bright future and should be targeted in 2023 fantasy drafts, but he’s a bench candidate in a matchup that’s likely to produce a poor game script. Kyle Allen was so bad the Texans have turned back to Davis Mills, and backup RB Dare Ogunbowale has stolen goal-line touchdowns in each of the last two games. The Cowboys enter with the No. 1-ranked defense in DVOA, making Pierce a shaky fantasy start in Week 14.

Devin Singletary vs. New York Jets

Singletary saw a season-low 44% of the snaps last week and five fewer opportunities than rookie James Cook, who may have surpassed him on Buffalo’s depth chart. Even if the carries remain divided equally, Cook is clearly the better receiving option. Moreover, the Bills get a stingy Jets defense this week that’s allowed just one running back to reach 90 rushing yards in a game all season. Given their roles and difference in explosive ability, Cook looks like the superior fantasy start moving forward.

Travis Etienne Jr. @ Tennessee Titans

Etienne remains a borderline top-15 RB after seeing a career-high in snap rate last week, but he’s still playing through a foot injury and gets one of the league’s toughest rush defenses Sunday. The Titans rank first in run defense DVOA and haven’t allowed a running back to reach 70 rushing yards in a game since Week 1. Trevor Lawrence also ranks toward the bottom among QBs in target% to running backs (and the QB is questionable Sunday with a sprained toe).

You’re not benching ETN, but realize that the Rams and Panthers both have higher implied team totals than Jacksonville this week.

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