Fantasy football Week 14 lineups: Start Drew Brees and sit Matthew Stafford

This is it.

In most season-long leagues, teams are either starting their first week of the playoffs or — as is the case on most schedules — making a last push for a playoff spot or positioning.

So be smart about your picks; it’s no time to get cute. That calls for trusting your best players, even if some matchup don’t look great on paper.

And if the postseason’s out of the picture, the following recommendations contains some good daily fantasy bargains, too.

START

Drew Brees, QB, Saints at Buccaneers

Tampa Bay has rolled to a modest two straight wins, but don’t expect them to catch Brees and company by surprise, especially coming off the Saints’ shocking Thursday night loss to the Cowboys that was marked by an uncharacteristic late interception.

New Orleans’ only other loss came to these same Bucs in Week 1, but Brees still tossed for 439 yards and three scores. There are playoff implications for the Saints, so expect Brees to look sharp

Sony Michel, RB, Patriots at Dolphins

Michel disappointed fantasy GMs hoping for a fourth 100-yard rushing game, but the Vikings haven’t allowed any rushers to reach that mark. The Dolphins have allowed four such games, including Michel’s 112-yard effort (with a rushing TD) in Week 4.

Gus Edwards, RB, Ravens at Chiefs

Alex Collins’ placement on injured reserve clarifies Baltimore’s backfield in favor of Edwards. In fact, since Edwards and Lamar Jackson took over at running back and quarterback, respectively, it seems the Ravens can’t do anything but run.

In those three games, they’ve run for 716 yards and passed for 469, favoring the ground game by a 60 percent clip. That’s a complete flip from the previous nine games, which split this way: 2,465 passing (75 percent) and 834 rushing. The Chiefs have stiffened against the run recently but nothing’s going to move the Ravens off this track.

Tyler Lockett, WR, Seahawks vs. Vikings

Lockett only had one catch versus the 49ers but he made it count: a 52-yard score. Doug Baldwin’s return has had little effect on Lockett, who has only had three games with a touchdowns and ties for third among receivers with eight. It’s also notable that Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes (hamstring) and Trae Waynes (concussion) are dealing with injuries.

Jarvis Landry, WR, Browns vs. Panthers

Landry has 60 catches but ranks seventh with 112 targets. Chalk that up to the growing pains of this offense and rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Panthers allow the 11th most points to receivers and the ninth most yards.

Vance McDonald, TE, Steelers at Raiders

Not only did the Chiefs’ Travis Kelce abuse Oakland’s secondary (168 yards, 2 TDs), but even Demetrius Harris scored. McDonald has been targeted at least five times in seven games this season and is always a threat to bulldoze his way to a score.

Brett Maher, K, Cowboys vs. Eagles

This game ticks off all of my favorite boxes: division matchup — NFC East’s a bonus — at home, in a dome, playing for a middling to above-average offense, against an accommodating defense (tied for third in points allowed to kickers).

Titans defense vs. Jaguars

Cody Kessler didn’t make any major mistakes in his starting debut against the Colts but the Jaguars still allowed three sacks and lost a fumble for 12 fantasy points. Kessler can try to play game manager but there’s something about road games on a short week that lends themselves to these lopsided Thursday night affairs.

SIT

Matt Stafford, QB, Lions at Cardinals

Stafford has slowed since losing both Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. And he has struggled to hook up with Kenny Golladay on shots in the end zone. It doesn’t get any easier, against fantasy’s third toughest defense on quarterbacks.

Stafford will probably reach at least 12 fantasy points, but you probably have better options.

Marlon Mack, RB, Colts at Texans

You never know when Mack might break a long one, but if you can avoid this matchup, do it. Houston is in the bottom 10 in points to running backs and ranks No. 1 in defending backs in the passing game, according to footballoutsiders.com.

Rashaad Penny, RB, Seahawks vs. Vikings

Penny took advantage of Chris Carson’s absence (dislocated finger) by rushing for 65 yards and a touchdown. Carson may play, but either way, the Vikings are a tall order. Since Alvin Kamara’s two scores in Week 8, they’ve yielded three touchdowns rushing or receiving — and two of those came on a pair of James Develin’s plunges for the Patriots.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Eagles at Cowboys

Byron Jones, regarded by many as the league’s top cornerback, would likely face off against Jeffery, who has flatlined since Week 7 against the Panthers. Jeffery had just 48 yards against the Cowboys in Week 10.

Jermaine Kearse, WR, Jets at Bills

Kearse went from six catches and a touchdown on 12 targets versus the Patriots to zippo, but that shouldn’t be a surprise for one of fantasy’s most inconsistent receivers. And no team is harder on receivers than the Bills.

Cameron Brate, TE, Buccaneers vs. Saints

With or without Jameis Winston, Brate is touchdown-dependent (except minimal value in PPR leagues). He was flat against the Panthers, the Saints have shut him down over the past two seasons, and they’ve locked down most tight ends this year (second fewest points per game).

Randy Bullock, K, Bengals at Chargers

Bullock hasn’t had more than 4 points in a game since the Week 9 bye, and his prospects don’t look much better against a stingy Chargers team that may run up the score and force Cincinnati to abandon the kicking game.

Ravens defense at Chiefs

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the high-powered Chiefs have only given a defense/special teams negative points twice, and both were in the first month. But they have stuck DSTs with one point or fewer eight times. Yes, the Ravens are coming off back-to-back monster games, but the Raiders and Falcons are a far cry from the Chiefs.

SLEEPERS

Mitch Trubisky, QB, Bears vs. Rams

Tribusky has been “feeling better,” according to a Tribune report, but fantasy fans will need monitor his status throughout the week. If he can go, Trubisky will test the Rams problematic secondary, which given up two 30-point games and a 20-pointer over last four games.

I’m speculating that Trubisky may run a lot, both to spare his shoulder and to negate L.A.’s pass rush. Also, he may look for Tarik Cohen against defense that has coughed up three touchdown receptions to running backs over the last four games.

Jeff Wilson JR., RB, 49ers vs. Broncos

Matt Breida (ankle) has been shelved for this game and the 49ers are hopeful Wilson (foot) will be healthy enough to play.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said Wilson “hits the hole and runs hard. I think he’s a very good zone runner. He doesn’t mess around. He sets his track and when he sees an open gap, he puts his foot down and goes north and south.”

The Broncos are right in the middle (16th) in fantasy points to running backs.

Jaylen Samuels, RB, Steelers at Raiders

James Conner (ankle sprain) will miss Sunday’s game in Oakland, giving a shot to Samuels or Stevan Ridley. Coach Mike Tomlin said via ESPN that a pecking order will shake out of this week’s practices, but he seemed to favor Samuels. “We’ve got a great deal of confidence in Ridley; we’ve got a great deal of confidence in Jaylen -- particularly as of late with Jaylen. He’s a guy that’s been on the rise in recent weeks.”

Samuels has been both dismissed as tweener and held up as “versatile” hybrid player – Bleacher Report compared the rookie to the Bears’ Trey Burton – but if the Steelers can play to skills, in this offense he can become more than just a consolation prize for disappointed Conner owners.

Josh Gordon, WR, Patriots at Dolphins

The Dolphins’ 20th ranking in points allowed to wide receivers feels like a paper tiger. They’ve given up big numbers (100 yards or at least one touchdown) to big-bodied wideouts such as A.J. Green, Allen Robinson, DeAndre Hopkins and Davante Adams. They even let Zay Jones put two tubs on them last week.

Courtland Sutton, WR, Broncos at 49ers

The Broncos were gushing about the new level of confidence Sutton displayed against the Bengals, winning jump balls, running crisp routes and racking up a season-high 85 yards and a touchdown.

“I feel like I’m always on that edge to breakout ... and take over a game at any point,” he said via timescall.com. The Niners are even more of a patsy than the Bengals; they’re third in points allowed to receivers, per fantasydata.com.

Ian Thomas, TE, Panthers at Browns

The Panthers’ backs are against the wall, and we’ll see how they respond after an embarrassing loss to Tampa Bay. Thomas stepped up when Carolina lost Greg Olsen for the season, and Cam Newton likely will count on him against a Cleveland defense that gives the 10th most points to tight ends.

Dustin Hopkins, K, Redskins vs. Giants

G-men lead fantasy in points allowed to kickers; the only opponent, in fact, to allow a double-digit average (10.92, per fantasydata.com).

Bills defense vs. Jets

What the Bills lack in consistency they make up for in aggressiveness. I really like their chances against an aimless offense that has only held two DSTs to fewer than 5 points.

plthompson@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @_phil_thompson

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