With fantasy football playoffs starting in a handful of formats this week, there's no room for owners to screw around. And in terms of being screwed, there isn't a position more responsible for doing so than tight end. It's been a fantasy wasteland this season with rare exceptions, and if you've made it this far in the season without having a reliable option then that's to be commended.
But this week, even aside from the usual suspects, there are a few matchups that will have owners' eyes light up. Let's take a look at a couple:
WEEK 14 BREAKOUTS
Jared Cook, St. Louis Rams (vs. Arizona Cardinals):
Let's play a little game of "Would You Rather" and take a look at the following numbers. Tell me which tight end you would rather have this season:
Player A: 68 catches, 988 yards, 12 touchdowns
Player B: 73 catches, 939 yards, 13 touchdowns
Pretty much a toss up, but a slight edge can be given to Player B, right? Well, Player A is Jimmy Graham, who is far and away the best tight end in fantasy football this season. Player B? That's every tight end who has faced the Arizona Cardinals through 12 games. Granted, those numbers are a bit padded since that's every tight end's numbers and not a compilation of the top scoring tight ends in each game versus them. But even in that case, it's pretty obvious that the Cardinals present a premium matchup for TEs.
It's Jared Cook's turn in Week 14. Fantasy owners have been burned by Cook this season, and one of the main reasons they put up with him for so long is because of what he did to the Cardinals in Week 1. Cook had his best game of the season by far, posting a quarter of his entire year's receiving total in that game.
However, Cook has hardly built off of that 141-yard performance until recently, when he came to life with a 4/80/1 line against the Bears in Week 12. It was a cushy matchup, but Cook showed that he can at least produce when there are yards there for the taking, and there will be plenty this week. Cook is a boom-or-bust tight end in Week 14, but he will surprise no one if he finishes in the top five.
Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys (vs. Chicago Bears):
Fantasy owners aren't getting what they thought they were in Jason Witten this season when they made him one of the first tight ends off of the board. He has returned to life in recent weeks with a 102-yard game versus the Minnesota Vikings, and then two touchdowns in Week 12 against the New York Giants. But Witten's pace of 72 catches for 829 yards is worlds away from his 2012 season where he posted 110 catches and 1,039 yards, although he has already doubled his previous season's touchdown total.
This Monday, Witten has a chance to pick up the pace versus a Chicago Bears defense that has been generous to tight ends all season. The Bears have given up the ninth-most points to TEs despite only allowing them to cross the goal line three times. That means there are points to be had even in the event Witten does not cash in with a score, and at a position that has been a fantasy football nightmare, the high floor is something his fantasy owners will gladly take. Fantasy owners should start Witten with confidence, as he is a top-five option this week.
Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers (vs. Seattle Seahawks):
It's rare that a player going up against the Seattle Seahawks gets a ringing endorsement, especially after that defense held said player in check for just 20 yards in their last meeting. But Vernon Davis has come on strong over the past few weeks, recording touchdowns in three of his last four games and upping his total to 10 on the season. The yardage has also become more consistent, as quarterback Colin Kaepernick seems to finally be getting into a groove throwing the ball, and Davis now has 152 yards over his past two games.
As for Seattle's performance against tight ends this season, they've been what even the most casual fans can assume. That is, they've been pretty darn good. However, while there's hardly any room for say, a quarterback, wide receiver or running back to capitalize, tight ends have a bit more wiggle room.
The 595 yards they've given up to players at the position ranks 18th in the league, which is a fine number but it's a mark that shows the Seahawks defense can be had at times by players at the position. That much has been demonstrated by the likes of Garrett Graham, Owen Daniels and even John Carlson. Vernon Davis makes his money by ripping off big gains, which won't come by as easily this week. But if he can continue to build on his recent hot streak, there's plenty that his fantasy owners can be excited about.
Let's take a look at the top 25 tight ends for Week 14: