Even though NFL teams are only reaching the halfway point, it's already crunch time for fantasy football owners. With the playoffs only a month away, lineup decisions made now are likely going to make or break a lot of seasons.
The toughest choices owners have to make is benching star players. The tendency is to stick with them for as long as possible since an early draft pick was used to get them, but waiting too long can have disastrous consequences.
With that in mind, let's take a look at three players who should ride the fantasy pine this week.
Which of these players is the riskiest fantasy play?
QB: Tony Romo
Romo has been unfairly bashed for the past handful of years. Fans often blamed the Cowboys' problems on him even though he was usually the least of the team's problems. This season, however, he deserves all the criticism he's getting.
Nobody understands that better than fantasy owners, who have endured a season in which Romo is averaging fewer points than Alex Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick, among others. His 13.6 average would barely be worth a roster spot if he weren't a big-name QB.
His fortunes aren't likely to change against the Atlanta Falcons this week. Atlanta ranks 10th in pass defense and has more interceptions than touchdowns allowed. That's not a promising combination for the mistake-prone Romo.
RB: Fred Jackson
Last season, Jackson was a fantasy superstar before getting injured; owners were probably expecting a return to form. Instead, they have watched C.J. Spiller taken on an even bigger role in the offense, limiting the upside of both Buffalo Bills backs.
Jackson scored 17 points in his last outing prior to the team's bye week, which probably has owners thinking about starting him. That would be a mistake. He still isn't getting touches on a consistent enough basis to trust he'll put up big numbers.
It also doesn't help that the Bills are facing the Houston Texans, who rank fourth against the run and haven't given up a single touchdown on the ground all season. His chances of having a big game are slim to none, and closer to none.
WR: Hakeem Nicks
Nicks has scored just 13 points in three games since returning from a knee injury. After two straight big seasons as the main option in the New York Giants passing attack, the sudden lack of productivity is frustrating for owners.
A combination of factors are in play. First and foremost, Eli Manning and Victor Cruz have developed incredible chemistry, thus nearly eliminating Nicks' role as the "go-to" receiver. Secondly, the Giants also have good receivers behind him on the depth chart who are stealing targets.
Until Nicks can reestablish himself as a reliable starter with a few good games in a row, he'll continue to be a risky fantasy option. The top-ranked Pittsburgh Steelers pass defense won't give him much room to operate on Sunday.