The fantasy football playoffs are in full swing, and this week is what separates the winners from the guys who accidentally start a guy with the flu. Be sure to check out which players are good to go, and the ones that won't be suited up this week.
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Start – Unless Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts want to get a loss under their belts before the playoffs, there’s no reason to think that their offense won’t roll this week. The Jaguars have one of the absolute worst pass defense in the NFL so watch for Manning, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, and Joseph Adai (14 receptions in his last three games) to score big. Maurice Jones-Drew was a full participant in Tuesday’s practice and has over 100 total yards and a touchdown the last time these two teams met.
Sit – Even though Pierre Garcon is cleared to play, the Colts won’t want to risk him getting further injured – as evidenced by his limited number of catches last week. Austin Collie had a chance to step up last Sunday, but failed and is just too risky in such a crucial week. David Garrard is also a tad risky given the 122 yards and zero touchdowns he had last time he played the Colts. Mike Sims-Walker has just two receptions in his past two games and Torry Holt has yet to score a touchdown this year.
Start – The Cowboys are right on cue for their December collapse and there’s nobody better to put the final nail in their divisional championship coffin than the Saints. Drew Brees has 10 touchdowns in his last three games which means Robert Meachem and Marques Colston all have a great shot at snagging one. And now that Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas have become receiving threats (12 combined receptions last week) – the passing game should help neutralize a tough Cowboys run defense on the turf. Tony Romo (seven touchdowns in his last three games) has received help from his top targets Jason Witten and Miles Austin and should rely on them while playing catch-up this week.
Sit – Devery Henderson struggled a lot last week with dropped passes and may have lost the c,onfidence of his quarterback. In a week where smart, conservative play usually wins, Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Roy Williams are simply too tough to predict. None of them have had consistent production over the past month and all three will face tough match-ups in week 15. Jeremy Shockey will not play due to injury.
Start – Oddly enough, Laurence Maroney may become the fantasy football stud of the week thanks to his match-up with the league’s worst run defense. He has had lead back duties for quite some time now, and should excel here. Tom Brady is a start as he’s been cleared medically to play, but don’t expect a massive day. The Bills’ secondary is one of the best in the NFL and shut down the Patriots for three quarters the last time they faced New England. Wes Welker is a point-per-reception God and now that Randy Moss has some motivation to prove the critics wrong, this is not the week to bet against him. The only person more motivated than Moss may be Terrell Owens (four touchdowns in his past three games), who’s spent his career trying to break free of the quiet superstar’s shadow.
Sit – Ryan Fitzpatrick has less than 100 yards passing in each of his last two games, while Lee Evans hasn’t had multiple receptions in either of his last two performances. With Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson still splitting carries, it appears that both will need to average nearly 10 yards per carry to be effective.
Start – The last time Kurt Warner committed more than five turnovers in a single game he railed off a barrage of touchdowns over the next three outings. Expect him to bounce back in a similar fashion against one of the league’s worst scoring defenses. With Larry Fitzgerald likely less than 100 percent (and a risky start at this point if you have better options) Anquan Boldin should step up and have a monster day. He had over 98 yards in three of his past four games prior to the team’s debacle in San Francisco and has had 33 receptions in his past five starts. Calvin Johnson is finally recovered from injury and is expected to play at 100 percent. As the only threat Detroit has – like, at all – he should be targeted throughout the game.
Sit – Tim Hightower has just eight rushes in his past two games, while Steve Breaston has less than five receptions over that time. Beanie Wells is becoming a consistent threat, but is still not a solid option considering he has yet to break 15 carries in a single game. Kevin Smith is officially out for the year and with the Daunte Culpepper/Matthew Stafford revolving door at quarterback it doesn’t seem like the Lions’ passing game is going anywhere.
Start – If you love running backs (or teams with mediocre passing games) this one may be the game of the week. Chris Johnson and Ricky Williams have been two of the most consistent fantasy players in the NFL over the past eight weeks and will once again be called upon by their respective teams to carry the load. For deeper leagues or teams trying to fill a void Kenny Britt is getting more and more passes his way and may snag a deep one this week. And for teams really looking to make up for underproduction, Chad Henne is worth a look against the Titans 31st-ranked pass defense. He completed 17 straight passes and barely broke 200 yards last week, but he may be able to have a receiver break free for some big touchdown scores against this unit.
Sit – Henne may be worth the risk, but the lack of touchdown receptions from his receiving core is too glaring to ignore. Davone Bess, Greg Camarillo, and Brian Hartline have not put up consistent fantasy numbers – and, much like Vince Young, are too risky to start in such a crucial week.
Start – Jamal Charles is finally starting to get some love from the Chiefs coaching staff and isn’t disappointing. He had 143 yards against the Bills in week 14 and should dominate against the Browns in this week’s match-up.
Sit- The Chiefs pass defense was able to hold a similar Bills offense to under 100 yards last week, so don’t expect Brady Quinn and the Browns passing game (under 100 yards in week 14) to do much better. Matt Cassel is having his own problems, having thrown zero touchdowns in his past two starts.
Start – The Rams have a really relaxed approach to the whole “defense” thing, so expect Matt Schaub (365 yards last week) and Andre Johnson to go wild. Kevin Walter, despite his disappointing season, is also a nice start simply based on the match-up. Steven Jackson has been dealing with back pain and the swine flu (yep, the swine flu), but is apparently slated to start and, in turn, carry the offensive load for the Rams. Check the injury reports Sunday, as illness is a tricky beast to predict.
Sit – Ryan Moats and Chris Brown simply don’t have the carries to justify a start at this point. Kyle Boller and Donnie Avery also don’t have the numbers to indicate any sort of promise.
Start – Thomas Jones has been the closest thing to a sure bet all year and will be facing Atlanta’s 23rd-ranked rush defense. Expect he and Tony Gonzalez (at least six receptions in each of his last five games) to be the top fantasy performers here.
Sit – With Matt Ryan questionable to start after missing practice most of the week, and the New York Jets' outstanding secondary, this is the week to sit Roddy White. Against Darrelle Revis – he doesn’t stand much of a shot to excel. And after holding opposing running backs to single digit fantasy points in three of the last six weeks, it’s too risky to start an ailing Michael Turner or Jason Snelling. Michael Jenkins has been getting hotter, but against this secondary he should have a set-back. Now that the Jets have become a conservative, run-first team Jerricho Cotchery, Kellen Clemens/Mark Sanchez and Dustin Keller have suffered. Braylon Edwards isn’t immune to the offensive shift, as the newest Jet hasn’t cracked 45 yard in any of his last three starts.
Start – The Eagles could essentially clinch a playoff birth this week with a home win over the 49ers. They’ll likely rely on Donavan McNabb against San Francisco’s 27th-ranked pass defense, so look for DeSean Jackson (178 yards last week and three straight games with a touchdown) to excel. Alex Smith (multiple touchdowns in four straight games), Frank Gore (over 150 yards last week), and touchdown prodigy Vernon Davis should help put points on the board against an Eagles defense that has not been great lately. Michael Crabtree is also a decent option at this point for deeper leagues, after two straight 60-yard games and a touchdown in his last start.
Sit – Jeremy Maclin is likely out for the game, and LeSean McCoy (who’s struggled in the past couple games) will not have a big day against the 49ers tough run defense. Brent Celek is listed as questionable and sat out of practice Thursday.
Start – Ray Rice is reportedly healthy and is coming off of a monster 166-yard game. Expect him to keep that momentum going against a Bears unit that struggle against the run. Derrick Mason practiced Wednesday and should play, so look for him to be the go-to receiver, but be sure to keep a close eye on the injury report.
Sit – Early year studs Joe Flacco (zero multiple touchdown performances since week six) and Todd Heap have been fantasy busts of late – a fate that shouldn’t change with a gameplan geared towards the run. For people who drafted Matt Forte in the top seven this year, give him a seat in the playoffs. He’s has one nice week in his last six starts and will face a talented Ravens run defense. Sadly Jay Cutler, Devin Hester, and Greg Olsen won’t fair much better against the league’s fourth-ranked scoring defense.
Start – Against a talented Raiders secondary, Brandon Marshal shouldn’t put up 200 yards again this week, but he will be able to bank a solid fantasy day. Kyle Orton is a tough call to make, but given how well he’s been playing and the potential loss of Knoshown Moreno, he should have an opportunity to produce against a team that gives up a lot of points.
Sit – With Zach Miller likely out with a concussion and the Broncos’ second-ranked passing defense on the schedule, it doesn’t seem like a good week to roll the dice on Charlie Frye, Louis Murphy, and the passing game. Justin Fargas should see a decent amount of carries, but he simply hasn’t put up any numbers that warrant a fantasy football playoff start. Same goes for Darren McFadden.
Start – Phillip Rivers has over 270 yards in each of his last three games (and five touchdowns over that span), so expect him to continue to roll against a Bengals team travelling cross country. Antonio Gates has had double digit fantasy points in each of his last three games and along with Vincent Jackson (120 yards) last week, so he should make his fantasy owners proud. The Bengals have dealt with tragedy this week and it seems like they’ll be playing with a little something extra after losing Chris Henry Thursday morning. Expect Cedric Benson to use the motivation against the Chargers’ poor rush defense. The same passion should show through Henry’s good friend Chad Ochocinco, who has touchdowns in each of his past two games.
Sit – LaDanian Tomlinson has scored touchdowns in his last four games, but hasn’t broken 75 yards in any performance over that span. Against the NFL’s third-ranked run defense this week, this may be the time that a late touchdown won’t save his fantasy owners. Darren Sproles has become a mild receiving threat, but not a big enough one to warrant a start. Carson Palmer hasn’t broken double digit fantasy points in four weeks, and should play conservatively against the Chargers’ talented secondary.
Start – With Troy Polamalu out, Aaron Rodgers should have an easier time putting points on the board, so expect Donald Driver and Greg Jennings to capitalize against a secondary that’s allowed nearly 80 fantasy points to opposing receivers in the past three weeks. Jermichael Finley (two straight solid performances) is a nice selection at tight end, while Ryan Grant (143 yards last week) will get to face a Steelers run defense that has given up a lot of fantasy points to opposing running backs over the last five weeks. Santonio Holmes has been one of the most consistent receivers in the NFL all year, and that’s what counts in the fantasy playoffs. He always finds a way to put up good yardage totals and is always an end zone threat.
Sit – Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t been a great fantasy option in weeks and is playing slightly injured against the NFC’s top defense. Along with Hines Ward, who missed Wednesday’s practice, this should be a rough week for Big Ben. It won’t be much better for Rashard Mendenhall against a run defense that surrenders a mere 85 yards on the ground per game.
Start – Matt Hasselbeck is back to feeling 100 percent and will be able to exploit a scoring defense that ranks 30th in the NFL. TJ Houshmandzadeh is also healthy and will be assuming the role as the team’s top receiver. Seahawks head coach Jim Mora said that he will be involving Justin Forsett more often this week, which is great news – as it comes against a Bucs run defense that ranks near the bottom of the league and has give up more than 20 fantasy points to opposing running backs in the past six weeks. Antonio Bryant and Kellen Winslow will be open a lot against a struggling Seahawks secondary – so they should be able to rack up a lot of yardage even if they don’t end up in the end zone.
Sit – Nate Burleson will be out of the game, but may still be more effective while standing on the sidelines than Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman, who has zero touchdowns and eight interceptions in his past two starts. Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward haven’t been fantasy-relevant all year and Julius Jones should continue to disappoint with a diminished workload.
Start – Adrian Peterson may not have been the top back all year, but he does have an amazing fantasy football playoff match-up against the lowly Panthers run defense. It’s tough to recommend sitting Brett Favre, even against a tough Panthers pass defense, since this week is all about consistency. He’s been one of the best all year, and even in his last two mediocre games, he’s still banked double digit points each week. Sidney Rice and Visanthe Shiancoe should be solid plays as well. Steve Smith seems to be doing better with a new, non-Jake Delhomme quarterback, and with the inevitable running struggles this may be the week the Carolina passing attack thrives.
Sit – DeAngelo Williams will face a Vikings defense that has shut down Frank Gore, Ryan Grant, and Cedric Benson – so don’t expect him to buck that trend. Matt Moore will make a lot of mistakes under the Vikings’ pass rush, so keep him on the bench with Jonathan Stewart (seven touches last week). Percy Harvin is also a risky play as he left practice Wednesday with severe illness and may not suit up.
Start – Brandon Jacobs has become a serious goal line threat again, and has banked touchdowns in each of his last two games. Eli Manning, who will face a depleted and distracted Redskins defense, should build on the 390-yard, three touchdown day he had last week. The always consistent Steve Smith and suddenly streaking Hakeem Nicks should capitalize. Kevin Boss (five touchdowns in his last six games) is also a nice start. Fred Davis is the only player worth starting for the Redskins. He has four touchdowns in his last three games and will be playing against a Giants team that gives up a lot of points to opposing tight ends.
Sit – Mario Manningham has been the odd man out the last few weeks, so give him a rest in this one. Earlier this year the Giants completely shut down Santana Moss, who has just one touchdown since week four. Jason Campbell is also too risky a start against a team he traditionally struggles against.