For many fantasy football players, it's the best time of the season. It's playoff time. All of the research, trades and waiver-wire moves you did will be put to the test this weekend—that is, unless you have a first-round bye.
This is also the most stressful time of the season as well. Whether you snuck in the playoffs by the skin of your teeth or fell short by a point, fantasy football is a roller coaster of emotions. So much drama, so much heartbreak and so much joy when your team wins. You develop completely fictional relationship with players, and by the end of the season, the odds are you either love them or hate them.
With the playoffs starting, which players can advance you to the next round? I've got you covered. At least, I think I do.
Andrew Luck (vs. Tennessee)
I'll be the first to admit that I have a bit of a man-crush on Andrew Luck. The rookie out of Stanford looks mature beyond his years and has put the Indianapolis Colts back on the map.
In addition, he's also been a fantasy stud in 2012. He currently ranks third in points per game for quarterbacks, averaging 25 fantasy points a game. He's thrown for more than 300 yards five times and more than 400 yards once.
The Colts have given him the keys to the offense, and he has responded beautifully. Coming off a 391-yard, four-touchdown, three-interception game, Luck gets another tasty matchup in Week 14. He gets a Titans team that is giving up the ninth-most points to opposing quarterbacks, with an average of 22.53 points per game.
Expect the Colts to throw it a lot here and for Luck to keep his mojo going.
Fearless Forecast: 23-38, 327 yards, 3 TD (1 Rush), 1 INT.
Josh Freeman (vs. Philadelphia)
For Josh Freeman owners, 2012 has been a pleasant surprise. Through 13 games, Freeman has thrown for 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions, including four games with three touchdown passes.
In their last three games, the Eagles are giving up an average of 36.7 points to fantasy quarterbacks. It's been ugly in Philadelphia. Josh Freeman should feast on a defense that is reeling big time.
Fearless Forecast: 21-31, 278 yards, 3 TDs.
Matt Schaub (at New England)
It's no secret that the Patriots secondary has some holes. It's giving up the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in 2012 but has been pretty solid as of late.
This is a huge game for AFC playoff positioning, and I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a shootout. Matt Schaub has thrown for 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions this season and has been pretty solid for fantasy owners.
I'd expect Schaub to have a decent day here, and you can count on at least two touchdowns from him. I wouldn't be surprised if he threw for more.
Fearless Forecast: 25-42, 309 yards, 2 TDs.
Philip Rivers (at Pittsburgh)
It's gotten to the point in Philip Rivers' career where he cannot be trusted as a fantasy football quarterback. In fact, he cannot be trusted as a quarterback in general.
After a terrible 2011, Rivers has been equally bad, if not worse. He's thrown for 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. With the Chargers on a four-game losing streak, their season is over, and changes had better be coming in San Diego after this season.
This week, Rivers plays a Steelers defense that is giving up the fewest points to opposing fantasy quarterbacks. They haven't a multi-TD game from a quarterback since Week 5. Please, I beg you—do not start Rivers this week.
Fearless Forecast: 20-43, 256 yards, TD, 2 INT.
Carson Palmer (vs. Denver)
With his late-game heroics this season, Carson Palmer has officially become the fantasy garbage-time stud of 2012. As the Raiders are seemingly getting blown out every game, Palmer continues to throw, padding his fantasy stats. As a Palmer owner, it's gotten to the point where I expect this to happen.
The Raiders are currently on a five-game losing streak with an average margin of defeat of 18.6 points. This week, I expect the Raiders to get blown out yet again. The last time these two teams met was in Week 4, with the Broncos winning easily 37-6.
I think Palmer struggles in this one and doesn't pad his stats at the end of the game. He's thrown at least one interception in eight straight games, and I don't think that streak is in any danger of ending here.
Fearless Forecast: 24-46, 217 yards, TD, 2 INT.
Christian Ponder (vs. Chicago)
At this point in the season, the odds are you aren't starting Christian Ponder. At least, I hope not, for your sake. After a hot start to the season in which Ponder did not throw an interception through his first four games, it's been rough ever since.
Ponder's thrown 11 interceptions, including four multi-interception games in his last eight. He gets a Bears defense that has been vulnerable lately, but I get the sense they will be angry following their loss at the hands of Russell Wilson and the Seahawks last week.
Two weeks ago, the Vikings played the Bears in Chicago, and Ponder threw for just 159 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Don't be surprised if he puts up a similar stat line on Sunday.
Fearless Forecast: 18-37, 213 yards, 2 INT.
Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. New Orleans)
After getting a full workload on Monday night against the Redskins, Ahmad Bradshaw looked good, running for 103 yards on 24 carries. While he did not find the end zone, this has to be promising for Bradshaw owners, as David Wilson saw just four carries.
With no Andre Brown to vulture Bradshaw's touchdowns anymore, it's his backfield. He has another good matchup this week against a Saints team giving up the most points to opposing fantasy running backs with 23.97 points per game.
In a game where the Giants will score points, expect Bradshaw to find the end zone.
Fearless Forecast: 19 carries, 102 yards, TD.
Steven Jackson (at Buffalo)
With two 100-yard games in his past four games, Steven Jackson could be on his way to salvaging what has been a rough season for fantasy owners. He only ran for 48 yards against the 49ers last week, but he saved his day with an impressive five catches for 69 yards.
Next, he draws a Bills team that is banged up on defense and has struggled to stop the run all year. Jackson has only found the end zone twice this season, but don't lose hope. He should have a nice game in Buffalo.
Fearless Forecast: 22 carries, 96 yards, TD.
Bryce Brown (at Tampa Bay)
After just two starts in the NFL, Bryce Brown has already become must-start material. In his first two games, Brown has exploded, running for 178 and 169 yards, respectively. In each of those games, Brown also found the end zone twice.
With no Michael Vick or LeSean McCoy, it's clear that the seventh-rounder out of Kansas State has become the focal point of the offense. While the Buccaneers have been good against the run, it's almost impossible to sit Bryce Brown after his first two games, even with his fumble problem. Expect him to find the end zone again this week.
Fearless Forecast: 18-84, TD.
Jacquizz Rodgers (at Carolina), Knowshon Moreno (at Oakland), Jonathan Dwyer (vs. San Diego)
Reggie Bush (at San Francisco)
After four straight 100-yard games to end the season in 2011, no player was hotter than Reggie Bush. Coming off of a career year, Bush owners had high hopes.
Aside from his monster Week 2 performance of 172 yards and two touchdowns, Reggie has been relatively quiet this season. He has yet to hit the century mark since then and is averaging just 12.5 rushing attempts per game.
He's got a nightmare matchup this weekend in San Francisco against a 49ers team that is giving up the second-fewest points to opposing fantasy running backs. They've given up just two rushing touchdowns this season, and it's hard to believe Reggie Bush will be the third.
Fearless Forecast: 15 carries, 44 yards.
Ryan Mathews (at Pittsburgh)
2012 was supposed to be Ryan Mathews' big breakout season. The Chargers had gotten rid of Mike Tolbert and were ready to give the keys to the third-year product out of Fresno State.
If there's one thing I've learned in having Ryan Mathews on my team during his first two seasons, it's that he is impossible to trust. This season has been no exception. On his first carry of the preseason, Mathews broke his clavicle, which forced him to miss the first two games of the season.
Since returning from injury, Mathews has just one touchdown and hasn't shown many signs of being ready to be a featured running back. After totaling just 26 yards on nine carries a week ago against the Bengals, don't expect Mathews to shine against the Steelers. The slump will continue.
Fearless Forecast: 14 carries, 37 yards.
Beanie Wells (at Seattle)
At this point in your fantasy season, you pretty much want to avoid starting any player on the offense of the Arizona Cardinals. With Ryan Lindley starting, the Cardinals scored just six points a week ago against the Jets.
Beanie Wells rushed a disgusting 15 times for 22 yards, a whopping 1.5 yards per carry. Next, the Cardinals play a Seahawks team that is a perfect 5-0 at home. If you are desperate, you can start Beanie and hope he rumbles in for a touchdown. Don't hold your breath, though.
Fearless Forecast: 18 carries, 52 yards.
Greg Jennings (vs. Detroit)
For Greg Jennings owners, 2012 has been a frustrating season, to say the least. Jennings returned last week against the Vikings after a seven-game absence and was targeted eight times, catching four balls for 46 yards.
The Lions have struggled on defense all season long, giving up more than 30 points in three of their last four games. Jennings showed promise last week, and I would start him with confidence in Week 14. He will put the team on his back.
Fearless Forecast: 8-87, TD.
Dez Bryant (at Cincinnati)
Is Dez Bryant finally playing up to his potential? After a somewhat slow start to 2012, Bryant has hit his stride in the Cowboys' past four games, as he's got a touchdown pass in each game, netting six total.
Bryant has been on an absolute tear as of late, and it doesn't appear there is anything slowing him down. The Bengals have been good against the pass lately, but with the way Bryant is playing, it's impossible to sit him. Don't be surprised if it's the Bryant-AJ Green show Sunday in Cincinnati.
Fearless Forecast: 9-104, TD.
Eric Decker (at Oakland)
Decker was quiet last week against the Buccaneers, catching both of his two targets for 17 yards. Don't lose hope yet, Decker owners. The third-year receiver out of Minnesota has been a fantasy stud in 2012, with 56 catches for 702 yards and eight touchdowns.
There was a stretch this season from Weeks 4-9 in which Decker caught at least one touchdown in each game. The last time he played the Raiders, Decker put up an impressive seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. Look for him to have a similar game on Thursday against the Raiders. Start Decker with confidence.
Fearless Forecast: 8-97, TD.
Josh Gordon (vs. Kansas City), Chris Givens (at Buffalo), Kendall Wright (at Indianapolis)
Larry Fitzgerald (at Seattle)
As I said before, you want to avoid players on the Arizona Cardinals. Unfortunately, that includes Larry Fitzgerald, who has been a fantasy staple ever since joining the Cardinals in 2004.
As a Fitzgerald owner, it's frustrating, and you can't blame him, as the Cardinals are on an eight-game losing streak, rotating between Ryan Lindley and John Skelton.
In his last three games, Fitzgerald has totaled just five catches for 65 yards and zero touchdowns. Playing in Seattle, the Cardinals will turn back to John Skelton, and that's a plus for Fitzgerald. I'm not sure how big a difference it will make though.
He is not a reliable fantasy option at this point in the season. It sounds weird to say that.
Fearless Forecast: 3-38.
Brian Hartline (at San Francisco)
Unless you are in a PPR league, odds are you aren't relying on Brian Hartline. Aside from his Week 4 explosion in Arizona, in which Hartline reeled in 12 catches for 253 yards and a touchdown, the fourth-year receiver out of Ohio State has looked pretty average—he hasn't scored a touchdown or hit the century mark since.
Last week against the Patriots, Hartline put up a decent five catches for 84 yards and just missed on a touchdown overthrown by Ryan Tannehill. Playing in San Francisco this week, I expect Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins to struggle.
Hartline is no more than a WR3 this week, and unless you are desperate, he's not someone to start in Week 14.
Fearless Forecast: 4-30.
Dwayne Bowe (at Cleveland)
After a hot start to the season, Dwayne Bowe has been in a touchdown slump since Week 4. Granted, his three touchdowns all came in garbage time and with Matt Cassel, who loves throwing to Bowe.
Brady Quinn doesn't appear to have that type of relationship with Bowe, who's been relatively quiet as of late. The Chiefs snapped an eight-game losing streak a week ago against the Panthers, and Bowe was decent, putting up a four-catch, 64-yard line.
The Browns have been good against the pass lately, and Brady Quinn has been inconsistent. I'd sit Bowe if you have a better option.
Fearless Forecast: 5-47.
Owen Daniels (at New England)
With six touchdowns on the season, Owen Daniels has emerged as a nice fantasy option. He's a threat to score every week, and Week 14 is no exception.
On Monday night, the Texans get a Patriots team that is giving up the third-most points to opposing fantasy tight ends. In a game where I expect the Texans to score points, I think Daniels finds the end zone for the seventh time this season.
Fearless Forecast: 5-52, TD.
Brandon Myers (vs. Denver)
It's time to take Brandon Myers seriously as a fantasy option. After putting up an insane 14 catches, 130 yards and a touchdown a week ago against the Browns, Myers gets another nice matchup in Week 14.
The Broncos are giving up the fourth-most points to opposing fantasy tight ends and gave one up to Dallas Clark a week ago. Myers has become Palmer's main safety blanket and ranks fifth in tight ends in fantasy points. He's a good bet to find the end zone again on Thursday.
Fearless Forecast: 4-43, TD.
Jermaine Gresham (vs. Dallas):
With three touchdowns in his past five weeks, Jermaine Gresham has been one of the hottest fantasy tight ends as of late. He's scored in two straight weeks and is Andy Dalton's main red-zone target along with A.J. Green.
The Cowboys gave up two touchdowns to Benjamin Watson in Week 11 and one to Niles Paul a week later. Brent Celek found success against them last week, posting a seven-catch, 73-yard line. I like Gresham to score for a third straight week here.
Fearless Forecast: 5-62, TD.
Dennis Pitta (at Washington), Coby Fleener (vs. Tennessee), Marcedes Lewis (vs. NYJ)
Antonio Gates (at Pittsburgh)
Has Antonio Gates lost a step? It's been a quiet season for Gates through Week 13, as he's caught just 38 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns.
He currently ranks 17th in points among fantasy tight ends, and the Steelers are giving up the third-fewest points to opposing tight ends. They gave one up last week on somewhat of a fluke to Dennis Pitta, and Gates has been pretty quiet the past three weeks. I don't think he breaks his silence here.
Fearless Forecast: 3-27.
Jared Cook (at Indianapolis)
You probably aren't starting Jared Cook, and if you are, I'm sorry. The fourth-year tight end has been wildly inconsistent this season, with 41 catches and three touchdowns.
The Titans should be trailing in this one, so there's a chance he scores, but don't count on it. The Colts are giving up the fifth-fewest points to opposing fantasy tight ends.
Fearless Forecast: 2-24.
- Lawrence Tynes (vs. New Orleans)
- Adam Vinatieri (vs. Tennessee)
- Connor Barth (vs. Philadelphia)
- Seattle Seahawks (vs. Arizona)
- Denver Broncos (at Oakland)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. San Diego)
- Jay Feely (at Seattle)
- Ryan Succop (at Cleveland)
- Baltimore Ravens (at Washington)
- New York Giants (vs. New Orleans)