Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 14: Last-Minute Advice for Fantasy Owners
As Jim Mora would say, "Playoffs? Playoffs?!"
That's right, the fantasy football playoffs are here, so who to start and sit will be the first thing on our minds when we wake up and the last thing on our minds before we fall asleep.
Some teams are starting to look to 2013 and give younger players a longer look. Others are surging toward the playoffs, already in must-win mode.
Add in a dash of bad weather to skew passing game results, and the moving target of fantasy football weekly prognostication is getting even more difficult as we break down Week 14.
Read on for some last-minute fantasy advice on who to start and who to sit.
START: Josh Freeman, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Josh Freeman has already been a high-ceiling quarterback for over a month, but he hasn't gotten a matchup as easy as these Philadelphia Eagles at any point during that stretch.
In the last three weeks, the Eagles have allowed 809 passing yards and nine touchdowns on only 70 passing attempts.
As long as quarterbacks are allowed to put up Arena League numbers against the Eagles defense, you'll want to play the quarterback facing them (unless you have an elite quarterback like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers that you never bench).
SIT: Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Russell Wilson has had two tremendous fantasy games in a row, and he goes home to Seattle this week where he has played his best football of the season so far.
This all sounds like a good recipe for fantasy production, except that Wilson's biggest games this season have come when the Seahawks have fallen behind, forcing him to put the team on his back.
This week, they should have the game easily in hand against the reeling Cardinals, which should lead to modest fantasy numbers.
START: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Most Drew Brees owners are breathing a sigh of relief that his five-interception performance came in the last week of the fantasy regular season instead of the first week of the fantasy playoffs.
They might be tempted to play any number of quarterbacks who outproduced Brees last week instead of risking another dud from their No. 1 quarterback.
When Brees threw three interceptions against the Bucs in a road loss last season, he followed up with a five-touchdown game in a 62-7 win. Don't expect him to stay down for long.
SIT: Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore Ravens
The Redskins have been a terrific fantasy football matchup for quarterbacks all season, with only Nick Foles getting shut down by the anemic secondary and pass rush. While that would seem to set Joe Flacco up for a big game this week, some of the other prevailing factors go against the Baltimore quarterback.
The Ravens lost last week in part because they put the game in Flacco's hands instead of their stud running back, Ray Rice. They will also want to keep Robert Griffin III off of the field with a ball-control offense.
Flacco also had plenty of opportunities to complete big-play passes downfield last week and misfired most of the time. This is one case where you shouldn't trust the matchup to come through for you.
START: Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots
Did you know that Stevan Ridley has scored a touchdown in each of the last five games? He's also averaged over 74 rushing yards a game over that span.
Without tight end Rob Gronkowski, they should rely on a heavy dose of Ridley to control the game versus the Houston Texans on Monday night. This is a game with major implications for playoff byes and seeding in the AFC.
Count on Ridley to extend his scoring streak to six games as a high-floor RB2 this week.
SIT: Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Just a little over two months ago, Michael Turner ran over 100 yards against the Panthers and also took a screen pass to the house, giving him 171 total yards in the 30-28 victory.
Turner has 181 total yards in his last four games, including two contests where he barely averaged over one yard per carry.
The 30-year-old back wore down as the season went on last year, so it's likely that he is nowhere near the level he was at when he ran roughshod over Carolina's defense in Week 4. There are better options to plug in as your RB2 or flex this week.
START: Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Jonathan Dwyer isn't necessarily a must-start player, but he could be in line for a big day against the Chargers.
He had over 100 yards in his first two starts, and Dwyer was able to notch a touchdown with some tough running last week versus the Ravens. This week, he gets a San Diego Chargers team that has never won a regular-season game in Pittsburgh in 14 tries.
Winning is always a good recipe for a fantasy running back, and the Chargers just surrendered a 100-plus-yard game to another stubborn straight-line back, BenJarvus Green-Ellis. This may be the best week to play Dwyer for the rest of the season.
SIT: Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers
It may be time to give up on Ryan Mathews for 2012. He hasn't had a game with over 100 total yards since Week 8, and he has only scored one touchdown all season, in Week 5.
Even if you were expecting Mathews to turn it around before the end of the season, facing the No. 5 run defense in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers, on the road at Heinz Field is not exactly the most conducive environment for a bounce-back week.
Mathews has been a letdown all season, but he doesn't have to be this week. The poor performance coming up can be seen from a mile away.
START: Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vincent Jackson hasn't topped the 100-yard receiving mark since Oct. 21, though he has come close, but the 216-yard performance he had against New Orleans in Week 7 should remind us just what he is capable of heading into a matchup against the listless Philadelphia Eagles pass defense.
They gave up three touchdowns to wide receivers last week and three more in the previous two games before the Week 13 tilt with the Dallas Cowboys.
Jackson is Josh Freeman's favorite deep-ball receiver, and he has also been prominent in the red zone. That should be a place where the Buccaneers offense spends a lot of time this week.
SIT: Brandon Lloyd, WR, New England Patriots
Brandon Lloyd has been a disappointment this year despite a reunion with New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who helped him become the No. 1 receiver in fantasy football in 2010.
Lloyd appears to have a newfound opportunity with Julian Edelman out for the year, but Edelman was out for most of the second half last week against Miami, and Lloyd still only caught one pass.
He and Tom Brady just never got on the same page this season, and you shouldn't expect it to happen out of necessity versus Houston.
START: Miles Austin, WR, Dallas Cowboys
Miles Austin was blanked on Thanksgiving when he got hurt, and not much was expected of him last week because he was limited by hip and hamstring injuries. He only caught two balls, but he ran well and had a touchdown.
Now that Dez Bryant has emerged as the team's clear No. 1 receiver, look for defenses to shift their focus to him and allow Austin to flourish in one-on-one coverage.
A full-speed Austin was one of the most dangerous receivers in the league until last year, but he should get back to that form against the Bengals.
SIT: Justin Blackmon, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Justin Blackmon broke out with a 236-yard game three weeks ago, followed it with a solid five catches for 62 yards and a score two weeks ago, and then saw his production dwindle to one catch for nine yards last week.
This week he won't have Cecil Shorts in the lineup to draw coverage to the other side of the field, and he'll also have to contend with Antonio Cromartie, who might be the toughest corner Blackmon has had to face all season.
It's beginning to look like Blackmon's massive game versus the Texans was just a one-hit wonder.
START: Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco 49ers
Colin Kaepernick isn't the most prolific passer in the league, but he did lean on Michael Crabtree last week. With Mario Manningham likely out, he'll be doing it again against the Dolphins.
Crabtree has been doing great work in the red zone, with four touchdowns in his last five games, and he's facing a Dolphins defense that is much more generous against the pass than the run.
Vernon Davis has faded as a target in the passing game, which leaves Crabtree as the primary means for the 49ers to move the ball through the air this week.
SIT: Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
Brady Quinn had arguably his best game as a pro last week against the Panthers, and Dwayne Bowe managed four catches for 64 yards.
This week, the Chiefs may experience a bit of an emotional letdown as they visit the Browns, who also have one of the top shutdown corners in the league in Joe Haden.
Quinn just isn't consistent enough for Chiefs receivers to be trusted to put up big games, much like Larry Fitzgerald's situation in Arizona. Bowe will be a startable fantasy receiver again, but probably not this season.
START: Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota Vikings
Percy Harvin's loss is Kyle Rudolph's gain, as the Vikings seem to have no one else to turn to with Harvin now on injured reserve. Rudolph has at least five catches and 51 yards in each of the games Harvin has missed, with a score in all three.
Even the woeful play of Christian Ponder hasn't slowed down Rudolph. If you are wondering whether he can get it done against the stiff Bears defense, he had five catches for 55 yards and a score against them two weeks ago, and that was with middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who is out this week.
Let Rudolph the red-zone reindeer guide your team to victory this week.
SIT: Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
If you drafted Antonio Gates, it has become painfully clear that he is not going to come close to returning the investment you put into him. But you can still stop the ongoing pain by pulling him out of your lineup against the No. 1 pass defense in the NFL.
The Steelers haven't let any tight end go over 68 yards against them this year, and only one tight end has scored against them in the last eight games.
Gates has no momentum going into this game, and there is likely a better option on the waiver wire.