The fantasy football playoffs are just over a month away, and things are just about to get interesting. With injuries looming and top flight players struggling, now is the time to make the final roster adjustments for a championship run. Be sure to take a look at which players are ready for a big week, and always check back Sunday morning for the Spike breaking fantasy news report.
Source: Joe Robbins/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
Tampa Bay WR Antonio Bryant is out.
Arizona Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin is expected to play.
Buffalo Bills' WR Terrell Owens will be in the line-up.
New York Giants - Sit Eli Manning, Mario Manningham, Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, Hakeem Nicks, Kevin Boss, and Steve Smith
Houston Texans - Give Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton, Ryan Moats, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, and Kevin Walter a seat.
Start – Whoever picks the NFL’s nationally televised games should be fired. Between the Browns-Ravens Monday Night game that boasts the intrigue of a Sex and the City movie sequel (though with slightly less manliness) and this Thursday night battle between a team riding a four game losing streak and a franchise that hasn’t been a Super Bowl contender since Mike Singletary was still playing – the programmer responsible has entered the Matt Millen realm of incompetence. The Bears are three games out of first and will need Jay Cutler, who was born in a town called Santa Claus (seriously), to put together another big performance (369 yards, three touchdowns last week) against the Niners 24th-ranked pass defense. His top receiver Devin Hester (80 yards in four straight games), Greg Olsen (three touchdowns last week) should be able to help him do so. Frank Gore (two straight solid games) should do some damage against a Bears rush defense surrendering nearly 120 yards per game, while Vernon Davis has had five straight starts with double digit fantasy points.
Sit – If Steve Slaton wasn’t circling the drain of mediocrity in Houston, Matt Forte may be regarded as the fantasy bust of the year. He’s rushed for less than 40 yards in half of his games and will be trying to bounce back this week against a 49ers rush defense that is allowing 3.2 yards per carry and 93.3 total yards per game on the ground. San Francisco QB Alex Smith needed 46 pass attempts to collect 286 yards and a pair of touchdowns last week and likely won’t see similar numbers against a Bears defense looking to avenge their Kurt Warner ass-kicking. Earl Bennett, Johnny Knox, Isaac Bruce, and Josh Morgan will once again be too risky to start.
Start – The Washington Redskins sure aren’t being patriotic! Daniel Snyder has done the most American thing he could (throwing tons of money at his problems), yet his team hasn’t been coming through on the field. What kind of message is this sending to children? Money can’t by everything? Sometimes intelligence trumps trust funds? Take that crap back to Russia. For the sake of Uncle Sam, someone on the Redskins better have a good game, because if this ends badly, Snyder may sob gently into the pillow the NFLPA gave him as a “thanks for giving some obscene salaries to over-the-hill players” present.
Sit – The initial Kyle Orton Pro Bowl talk has shockingly subsided over the past couple losses, and against the Redskins top ranked pass defense, the Manning-Orton-Brady debate may finally be settled. With Knoshown Moreno and Correll Buckhalter battling uselessness and his “non-Brandon Marshall receivers” refusing to show consistency, this is not a great week for Denver’s offense. Jason Campbell’s girlfriend recently denied that she was looking to upgrade in her relationship, meaning that two Alzheimer’s patients and his grandmother are the only people supporting the beleaguered quarterback. With Clinton Portis likely out, the passing game will struggle even more – so keep Santana Moss and Fred Davis out of the line-up. Brandon Marshall is listed as questionable.
Start – Matt Ryan threw for three touchdowns the last time he played against the Carolina Panthers, and with the playoffs on the line in the coming weeks, this will be his time to prove what type of player he is. His top targets Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez (20 fantasy points against the Panthers in week 2) should help Michael Turner light up an unusually weak Panthers defense. The only counterpunch the Panthers will have is DeAngelo Williams (over 300 yards in his past two games) and Steve Smith (three straight double digit fantasy weeks) against the Falcons’ 23rd ranked defense.
Sit – Jonathan Stewart, listed as probable, has looked a tad on the horrible side lately with a 13 carries for 24 yards and a special needs looking fumble. Granted, he’s helping take some of the “I don’t remember you being so awful” media attention off of Jake Delhomme (fantasy black hole) – but it’s still disappointing for his owners. Dante Rosario and Mushin Muhammad are both still on the injured reserve with a great view of one of the worst collapses a division champion has ever seen.
Start – With apologies to anybody who’s facing Drew Brees on Sunday, this is going to be the most embarrassing thing to happen to St. Louis without involving the words “Mark” or “McGwire” – remember Bulger spells his name with a “c.” Brees, along with top targets Jeremy Shockey, Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, and running backs Reggie Bush/Pierre Thomas should all have the chance to take advantage of the Rams 29th-ranked scoring defense. The only weapon the Rams can respond with is Steven Jackson (over 275 yards and a touchdown in his last two starts), but with an anemic pass attack and inability to get first downs, St. Louis should give New Orleans enough offensive series to put at least 35 points on the board. (Also look for Robert Meachem to fill in as a third receiver or in case of injury).
Sit – The Rams passing attack hasn’t scored a touchdown since week 6, so sit anybody associated with it until they can prove that they still remember where the end zone is located. For New Orleans, Lance Moore is still hurting, but even if healthy he is still battling consistency issues.
Start – The battle of two teams that actually have a chance of remaining in Florida (sorry, Jacksonville) face off in a game that would've been really interesting in 2002. Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams should have banner days running against the Buccaneers’ 27th-ranked rush defense that is surrendering over 160 yards per game. Tampa Bay will try to add to their season best one game winning streak by letting Josh Freeman (three touchdowns in his debut) work with Kellen Winslow (playing against a Dolphins team that has given up the fifth most fantasy points to opposing tight ends). Winslow hasn’t begun hating his quarterback yet and seems to have some nice chemistry thus far.
Sit – The fact that Ted Ginn Jr. is listed as an NFL wide receiver must be some sort of typo. He’s only caught five passes in his last four games and is mostly being used as a special teams weapon. Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo may be suitable for teams looking to make up for injuries, but with the Dolphins run-first attack this week, it’s not a good idea to put too much faith into the passing game. As for the Bucs, sit Cadillac Williams (less than 100 combined yards and no touchdowns in his last two starts) and Derrick Ward against the Dolphins fifth-ranked rush defense. Antonio Bryant is still battling a knee injury. Sammie Stroughter has looked good lately, but still not worth a start.
Start – Just before they get ready to answer “Can we seriously start putting a better team on television for Thanksgiving” questions next week, the Lions will get the chance to embarrass themselves one more time when they travel to Minnesota to take on the Vikings. Adrian Peterson, Brett Favre, Sidney Rice, and Visanthe Shiancoe should all have a nice chance to get in the end zone against the Detroit’s 31st-ranked scoring defense. Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin may be worth starting for teams looking to fill the flex position or plug an injury hole. As per usual, Calvin Johnson is the only Lion worth starting. He had 16 fantasy points against the Vikings in September, is reportedly feeling healthy, and facing a team that has surrendered 25 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers in their last three games.
Sit – Kevin Smith won’t have an opportunity to contribute while playing from behind against the NFL’s sixth best rush defense. He and Matthew Stafford (who took the "five interception baton" from Kurt Warner last week) may struggle in this one along with Brandon Pettigrew and Bryant Johnson.
Start – The New York Jets are doing an excellent job of playing themselves right out of the playoffs. Maybe Braylon Edwards forgot to wash the smell of failure from Cleveland off when he got there, because both teams in the Big Apple have lost a combined seven of their last eight games since the trade (coincidence?). Edwards, however, will get a chance to make up for contaminating the city’s championship water against the Jaguars' 26th-ranked pass defense, along with Mark Sanchez (coming off of a great fantasy performance against the Dolphins) and Jerricho Cotchery (double digit fantasy points last Sunday). Thomas Jones has three straight 100-yard rushing games, so keep him rolling against a struggling Jags’ defense. His counterpart, Maurice Jones-Drew has six touchdowns in his past three games and will be the only chance Jacksonville has for a win. Mike Sims-Walker will also be entering the game hot after his 147-yard, one touchdown game last week.
Sit – David Garrard has been erratic this year and will be playing a Rex Ryan defense that had two weeks to prepare for him. He, Torry Holt, and Marcedes Lewis (only one catch in each of his last three games) should struggle.
Start – This game has 13-10 written all over it. Both teams are in the top six of scoring defense and know that the division may be decided in this one. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati will both try to control the game through the run, so expect Cedric Benson (76 yards and a touchdown earlier this year against the Steelers) and Rashard Mendenhall to see a lot of carries. Chad Ochocinco is the only Bengals receiver worth starting against Pittsburgh’s defense, but don’t expect huge numbers (or adorable bribe-related touchdown dances). The other big name receiver, Hines Ward, lives for hard-nosed games like this so give him (and a consistently productive Santonio Holmes) the start with their quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who is coming on very strong. Heath Miller should also contribute at tight end.
Sit – Carson Palmer has multiple touchdowns in just three of his eight starts this season. He is an efficient quarterback, but not a great fantasy one – unless he’s facing lesser opponents. For Pittsburgh, there may not be enough throws to go around for Mike Wallace despite his impressive Monday Night Performance against the Broncos.
Start – One of the least interesting games this week may actually turn out to be a very impactful fantasy one. Chris Johnson will be facing the league’s worst rush defense, Lee Evans will be taking on the NFL’s worst pass defense with Terrell Owens potentially out of the line-up, and Marshawn Lynch will get the chance to have his first monster game against a Titans’ team that has a pretty loose policy on keeping people out of the end zone.
Sit – Vince Young is still too unpredictable to start, which means his receivers (including an injured Justin Gage) will suffer as well. And whoever the Bills are rolling out at quarterback this week (might even be a random fan contest at this point) won’t have a great day either.
Start – For some unexplained reason, this game is not being nationally televised. It’s almost like CBS doesn’t appreciate a battle of two teams that won’t be playoff threats till 2016. Zach Miller is the absolute only option to start in this entire game – a tight end!
Sit – The Raiders’ secondary has actually played surprisingly well this year, so Matt Cassel and the passing game should struggle. The fact that as the featured back last week Jamaal Charles received just six carries while filling in for now-expelled hate monger Larry Johnson isn’t encouraging, either. The Raiders’ backfield should have a nice day against the Chiefs’ sub-par rush defense, but with Tom Cable still using his Stalin-inspired running back by committee approach it’s unclear who will emerge with the best stats. JaMarcus Russell and his rag tag bunch of receivers (Darrius Heyward-Bey, Louis Murphy and company) remain poor choices to start.
Start – What are the odds that this becomes a throwback jersey game? Two of the most storied franchises in pro sports going head-to-head with what might be a future Wild Card at stake? If it wasn’t scheduled opposite of ESPN’s Sunday bowling coverage this would be must-watch television. Tony Romo and Miles Austin have suddenly become the top quarterback-receiver duo in the league, while Jason Witten (playing against a Packers team that gives up a lot of fantasy points to opposing tight ends). It will be an interesting aerial battle with Aaron Rodgers (eight touchdowns in his last three games), Greg Jennings (double digit fantasy points in his last four games) and Donald Driver on the other sideline. Expect a high scoring game.
Sit – Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton have become afterthoughts in the Cowboys offense, and even with Marion Barber and the run game prepared to struggle against an exceptional Packers rush defense – they still won’t see consistent action their way. Ryan Grant tends to struggle against better defenses, so sitting him against the Cowboys 12th ranked unit is a smart move. JerMichael Finley is still questionable with a knee injury.
Start – LeSean McCoy is coming off of a 100-yard game last week, and with Brian Westbrook nursing a sore ankle and post-concussion symptoms he should have another nice day against the Chargers’ 26th-ranked rush defense. DeSean Jackson may help out with one or two big plays in the passing game with the help of a six-to-seven reception day from Brett Celek, but the Eagles’ rush attack should be the focus here. Conversely, Phillip Rivers has seven touchdowns in his last three starts and will have to once again carry the load with Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates.
Sit – Donavan McNabb has not been getting into the end zone very much lately and will face one of the best pass defenses in the NFL in San Diego. Expect him and Jason Avant to struggle. With LaDanian Tomlinson unable to break 75 yards all season and Darren Sproles struggling this season, it seems unlikely that the Chargers will use the ground against the Eagle’s top 10 rush defense.
Start – In an effort to give their fans the losing style of play they’re used to seeing, the Cardinals have gone 1-3 in Glendale this season, despite an undefeated road record. They’ve saved their best football for opposing fans and played their worst in their own backyard. This week, however, the Cardinals are going to have to try very hard to lose. With Kurt Warner coming off of a five touchdown day, Larry Fitzgerald (123 yards, two touchdowns last week), and Tim Hightower playing against a Seahawks defense that gave up 27 points to them earlier in the year – this should be a victory for the 47,000 people in the stands pretending that they’ve been fans of Arizona for years. The only guys that will make Seahawks fans walk away less suicidal than usual will be Nate Burleson (averaging five receptions per game in his last five starts) and John Carlson.
Sit – Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston are still nursing injuries and are not guaranteed to start on Sunday, giving Boldin ample time to complain about his contract on the sidelines. Beanie Wells keeps getting better each week, but still hasn’t received more than 15 carries in any game. For Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck will be playing with a sore shoulder against a team that previously held him to 112 yards and no touchdowns. Not a great time to start Hasselback or an inconsistent TJ Houshmandzadeh. In case anyone was wondering, Julius Jones is still as ineffective as ever.
Start – Are you ready to spend Sunday night listening to a booth filled with questionably motivated broadcasters praising Tom Brady and Peyton Manning in a self-professed hetero-sexual manner? Both quarterbacks love “one-upping” each other, so expect big aerial days from both teams. Randy Moss and Wes Welker each had 15-plus fantasy points last week, while Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark have nine touchdowns in eight games this season. This will be a back-and-forth battle between two of the NFL’s premiere passing teams. Joseph Adai should also excel against the Patriots’ 20th-ranked rush defense, while Laurence Maroney (touchdowns in three straight games) should be good for at least one goal line score.
Sit – Austin Collie has struggled in two straight games and is now battling injuries. Along with Patriots tight end Benjamin Watson (five catches in his last three starts), Collie will be the odd man out. Pierre Garcon is probable for the game, and Anthony Gonzalez is still injured.
Start – Nope, this is not a joke. The brilliant schedulers who put a Bears-Niners game on the Thursday night time slot decided to bookend the weekend by pissing all over the fantasy world with a Ravens-Browns game. Ray Rice (four touchdowns in his last three starts) should have his best game of the year against Cleveland’s 31st-ranked rush defense and Joe Flacco (342 yards against the Browns in week 3) will take advantage of a defense that is actually getting worse – meaning that Todd Heap and Derrick Mason should benefit as well. Kelly Washington is also an option for the flex position or anybody looking to make up for an injury.
Sit – Looks like its Brady Quinn’s turn to humiliate his franchise at quarterback. The Irish alum has been given the starting nod in the Browns’ game of musical quarterbacks, so better sit anybody associated with that passing game. (It’s always good to go by the old adage of "If you can’t name a single receiver on Cleveland, it’s a bad idea to think about starting one.") Jamal Lewis, who they may try to rely on, won’t get much going against the Ravens’ seventh-ranked rush defense. In Baltimore sit Willis McGahee. He has negative one yard over his last two games.