Fantasy football: Who to start — and sit — in Week 14

The Atlanta Falcons host the New Orleans Saints to kick off Week 14 and the first week of the fantasy football playoffs. The Saints backfield is in the midst of a historic run as the tandem of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara continue to produce big numbers. They’ve each scored more than five touchdowns and gained 95+ yards from scrimmage per game. If they finish the season that way, they’ll be the first duo to do that since Bo Jackson and Marcus Allen in 1987.

It looks like they’ll both finish with an RB1 designation for the season so they’re obvious starts on Thursday. That is, of course, if Mark Ingram is healthy enough after not practicing Wednesday. Michael Thomas has been solid all year and is a nice safe play, though he may not score very high. Julio Jones, on the other side of the field, is likely to bounce back from a tough matchup with the Vikings last week. Matt Ryan should be a safe play, but picking between Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman is a tougher call. Here’s who else you should start and sit in Week 14.

RELATED: Fantasy football Week 14 rankings.

START THESE GUYS

Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs: He finally started to look like the quarterback that started the season. Smith has a nice matchup this week, facing the Raiders who he torched last time around.

Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers: Winston can make you pull your hair out with the types of decisions he makes. That said, he did well last week as he returned from a shoulder injury. Winston has a decent matchup with the Lions.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals: Unless he’s facing a top-tier pass defense, he’s a productive fantasy quarterback. He has 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions in his last six games.

Lamar Miller, RB, Texans: Running against the 49ers has been pretty easy this season. Miller should have a nice performance.

Alfred Morris, RB, Cowboys: When the Cowboys stick to the game plan that they use when Ezekiel Elliott is playing, they have success. They did that last week, giving Morris the ball 27 times as he gained 127 yards and scored. The Giants are in the bottom third in fantasy points allowed to running backs.

Peyton Barber, RB, Buccaneers: He rushed for over 100 yards last week and Doug Martin is still in the concussion protocol. Even if Martin plays, Barber has done well enough to warrant a flex start in a nice matchup against the Lions. Add to that, the Bucs are out of the playoff hunt and may want to see what they’ve got in Barber as a featured runner.

Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: Don’t worry about a tough matchup with the Redskins pass defense. Allen is playing like he can when fully healthy. Don’t sit him now.

Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers: Goodwin has put together a few solid games in a row and with Jimmy Garoppolo now starting, his value gets a boost. The Texans have a tough time stopping wide receivers.

Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders: He caught a touchdown the last time he faced the Chiefs, but he had just 24 yards receiving. I expect him to do better than that against a weak pass defense. Amari Cooper might even be out this game, as he is currently in the concussion protocol.

Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys: The Giants are the worst team when it comes to defending tight ends. The last time Witten faced the Giants he caught seven passes for 59 yards and a touchdown.

Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers: Henry has a wide scoring range, in that he can get you zero points or he could get you double digits. This week he should do well against the Redskins who are in bottom five in points allowed to tight ends.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Jets: Seferian-Jenkins should do well against the Broncos who have given up eight touchdowns to tight ends so far this season.

Cameron Brate, TE, Buccaneers: Winston is back, giving Brate newfound relevance.

SIT THESE GUYS

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: He’s coming off a great game against the Lions and has had success with Mike Wallace, but he faces the Steelers this week. They’re too good for Flacco to have fantasy success.

Jared Goff, QB, Rams: I just haven’t seen him play that well against really good defenses. He’s struggled against the Seahawks, Jaguars and Vikings. Goff faces the Eagles next.

Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars: If you streamed him last week against the Colts you were rewarded. Don’t try it this week against the Seahawks.

Eagles running backs: It’s a shame, since they have such a good matchup as they face the Rams. They give up 122.8 yards rushing per game, but divided evenly among three rushers does not make for a good fantasy performance.

Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers: The Texans aren’t that good against the pass, but they try to make up for it with their run defense. They’re in the top-10 in rush defense. The 49ers will possibly let Jimmy Garoppolo loose on a weaker pass defense.

Jerick McKinnon, RB, Vikings: He has a tough matchup with the Panthers, who are one of the top teams in points allowed to running backs. Plus, Latavius Murray has at least 15 rushes in seven straight weeks.

Mike Wallace, WR, Ravens: Wallace has been good in spots this season, better than Jeremy Maclin. I don’t expect him to have much success against the Steelers this time around.

DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins: Kenny Stills has surpassed Parker as the No. 2 receiver on the team. Even with a decent matchup against the Patriots, there’s no reason to think he’ll break out this week.

Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots: Amendola hasn’t produced when he’s had favorable matchups and Chris Hogan may return this week.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings: He’s been a minor disappointment and he has a tough draw, taking on the Panthers this week.

Tyler Kroft, TE, Bengals: Kroft has been a nice surprise, but he has a tough matchup against the Bears this week. They’ve only allowed three touchdowns to tight ends this season.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football Week 13 recap and top waiver wire picks

Week 13 was the regular season finale for most fantasy leagues around the country and the story lines were abundant.

For one, the Chief offense returned after Andy Reid handed over play-calling duties. Alex Smith had a monster game, playing even better than his season debut. He threw for 366 yards and four touchdowns and even had a single carry that went 70 yards. How’s that for a rushing average?

The only problem with this offensive explosion by Smith is that he was probably on many benches this week after a couple of poor performances after the Week 10 bye.

Alex Smith #11 throws to Tyreek Hill #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 3, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Tyreek Hill was the biggest beneficiary of Smith’s performance. Hill caught six passes for 185 yards—a 30.8-yard average—and scored twice.

Travis Kelce also got in on the action, catching four passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns. That gave him the best performance by a tight end this week.

A Chief who continues to trend in the wrong direction is Kareem Hunt. The early rookie of the year candidate has had a rough go in recent weeks. Hunt tied a season-low in rushing attempts with nine as he gained 40 yards. He caught three passes for 23 yards to avoid a disastrous week.

The current rookie of the year candidate, Alvin Kamara, continued to impress. At this point he looks to be a sure first-round pick in redraft leagues next season as he’s currently in the top-3 in standard scoring at his position. He totaled 126 yards from scrimmage and scored two rushing touchdowns.

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) his touchdown front of Carolina Panthers cornerback James Bradberry (24) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Mark Ingram had a great game as well, rushing for 85 yards and a touchdown. He also caught six passes for 37 yards. The Saints backfield is how you want a running back tandem to work out. Their successful coexistence is rare and tough to duplicate.

As a result, you have backfields like the Titans’. There are two quality backs in Tennessee but it’s so hard to predict which one will go off in a given week. This week Derrick Henry was the big performer. He rushed 11 times for 109 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown. DeMarco Murray had a decent game, but you get the impression that if Henry was the featured back, he’d dominate.

Derrick Henry #22 of the Tennessee Titans runs for a touchdown against the Houston Texans during the second half at Nissan Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Someone who seemingly dominates week in and week out is the ageless Tom Brady. So it was odd to see he and Brandin Cooks struggle against the Bills. Brady threw for 258 yards and an interception. He failed to throw a TD for the first time since the first game of the season. Cooks caught just two passes for 17 yards.

Rob Gronkowski led the way for the Patriots’ passing attack, catching nine passes for 147 yards. They’re good numbers, but he will miss the first week of the fantasy playoffs after a personal foul penalty he committed. He was frustrated but could have caused serious injury when he dove on a prone Tre’Davious White. He was suspended Monday for one game.

Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots talks with back judge Dino Paganelli #105 during the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills on December 3, 2017 at New Era Field in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Other big receiving numbers were put up by Keenan Allen, Nelson Agholor and Larry Fitzgerald.

Allen is on fire, as are the Chargers, as he caught 10 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. He’s the only player in NFL history to catch at least 10 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown in three straight games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Agholor caught seven passes for 141 yards and scored for the second game in a row.

Fitzgerald caught all 10 of the passes that came his way for 98 yards and scored. That’s three out of four games in which he’s caught passes for at least 90 yards.

Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals reacts after scoring a second quarter touchdown during the NFL game against the Los Angeles Rams at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 3, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)

The Jets’ top receivers both had big games in a somewhat surprising win for the Jets over the Chiefs. Josh McCown continued to hook up well with Robby Anderson, who caught eight passes for 107 yards. McCown finished with 331 yards and a touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse.

Someone who kind of reminds me of McCown is Case Keenum. He hasn’t been on anyone’s short list for quality quarterbacks during his career, but he’s putting up solid performances week after week. He was a top-12 QB once again in Week 13, throwing for 227 yards and two scores.

Some surprising performances this week were turned in by Kenny Stills and Mike Wallace. Stills seemed to play a bigger roll than DeVante Parker while Wallace turned in a quality performance for the third time in four games.

The biggest disappointment this week was Julio Jones, who caught just two passes for 24 yards. It was a jarring result after his 250-plus yard performance in Week 12.

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is tackled by Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes during the second half on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Atlanta, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Demaryius Thomas and Mike Evans were also bad this week. Unfortunately, it’s not too surprising at this point. Both have unstable quarterback situations and have been up-and-down all season.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the return of Josh Gordon. I didn’t suggest you add him until we saw what he looked like in game action. Well, he looks pretty good. If he’s somehow still available, put in a bid or make the claim.

Top waiver wire picks

Josh Gordon, WR, Browns: 4 rec., 85 yards.

Peyton Barber, RB, Buccaneers: 23 rushes, 102 yards. Rather than going with Jacquizz Rodgers, the Bucs leaned on Barber who added 41 yards receiving as well. He should still get decent action when Doug Martin returns.

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers: Fantasy owners will see he had a bad fantasy game and may avoid him, but he threw for 293 yards on 26-of-37 passing.

Josh McCown, QB, Jets: 331 yards passing, TD, 2 rushing TDs. If you’ve gone with a QB-zero roster, consider McCown as a streaming option. He’s been very productive two weeks in a row.

Mike Davis, RB, Seahawks: 101 total yards. He put on some great moves as the lead back, something the Seahawks have desperately needed.

Rex Burkhead, RB, Patriots: 78 yards, 2 TDs. He’s been productive in four out of the six games he’s played in and is available in a lot of leagues.

Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers: 8 rec., 99 yards. Goodwin is still available in a lot of leagues. Jimmy Garoppolo looks like the real deal.

Trent Taylor, WR, 49ers: 6 rec. 92 yards. Even the diminutive Taylor benefited with the addition of Garoppolo to the starting lineup.

David Njoku, TE, Browns: 4 rec., 74 yards, TD. It’s been two straight games that the rookie has caught at least four passed. Josh Gordon’s return opens things up for other pass catchers.

Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars: 309 yards passing, 2 TDs. He’s always been a better fantasy quarterback than a real-life quarterback. After next week’s tough matchup against the Seahawks, he has nice opponents in the fantasy semifinal and championship week.

Jermaine Kearse, WR, Jets: 9 rec. 157 yards. It’s his second straight big game after missing the bye week. He could be a decent addition for depth, though he faces the Broncos next week.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.