It's one of fantasy football's trickiest quandaries. Come playoff time, do you tinker based on matchups, or do you stick with what got you this far?
There's evidence supporting both sides, but I usually prefer to play the matchups. Maybe it's because Billy Volek and Drew Bennett won me a title in 2004—I don't know. But come playoff time, I feel no allegiance to the superstars who performed for me all season. All I care about is the here and now.
If you still need fantasy advice, that means, in all likelihood, you're playing in your league's championship. And if that's the case, feel free to take my word with a grain of salt; I was eliminated from mine weeks ago.
But if any of these guys put up a stinker and cost you your season? Just don't say I didn't warn you.
Here are four fantasy superstars who you might not want to start in Week 16:
RB Marshawn Lynch – Seattle Seahawks
Lynch has taken "beast mode" to a new level this season, defying even his own lofty expectations. He's been the fourth-best fantasy running back in ESPN.com's scoring system, and for many, he's the reason they're playing for a title this weekend.
But if you have better options, you'd be well-advised to bench him on Sunday.
Because even in Seattle, where Lynch has topped 100 yards with a touchdown in four of six games, you never want to start a running back against the San Francisco 49ers.
According to Football Outsiders, San Francisco has the best run defense in the league. You probably didn't need advanced metrics to tell you that—the eye test suffices just fine—but they certainly don't hurt.
Lynch defenders will point to the 19-carry, 103-yard game he had in San Francisco this season as proof that he is capable of moving the ball against the Niners. But I say the ghosts of that game will just piss off Patrick Willis and Co. even more.
Start Lynch at your own risk.
RB C.J. Spiller – Buffalo Bills
Spiller has enjoyed a breakout season in 2012, despite the adverse, lingering presence of Fred Jackson. He's carried the ball less than 10 times on six occasions this year, and still ranks ninth in ESPN.com's fantasy running back rankings.
But he could be in trouble against the Dolphins this weekend. Miami boast one of the strongest—and most criminally underrated—front sevens in the NFL. They've struggled, at times, defending the pass, but they have the seventh-best run defense in the league (h/t Football Outsiders).
Spiller has made a name for himself as the league's premier yards-per-carry back, averaging a league-best 6.5 per attempt. He's only been held below five yards-per-carry four times this season, but one of those games came against Miami in Week 11. On his home turf in Buffalo, Spiller could only manage 91 yards on a season-high 22 carries.
Owners are eager to let Spiller loose now that Fred Jackson is out of the way. But this weekend, the Miami defense will still be in his way. Temper your expectations.
WR A.J. Green – Cincinnati Bengals
A.J. Green has been infallible this season, emerging as one of the best real-life and fantasy receivers on the planet. And after watching the Steelers' secondary look vulnerable in Dallas last week, owners are counting on him to have a big game against them on Sunday.
That could be a mistake.
This isn't your daddy's Pittsburgh Steelers, especially defending the pass, where Football Outsiders ranks them 17th in the NFL. However, a closer look at those stats reveals an interesting trichotomy. Pittsburgh is 29th against opposing tight ends, 24th against "other" receivers, but fourth in the league against opposing No. 1 receivers.
Back in Week 7, the Steelers held Green to season lows in receptions (1) and yards (8). His one catch was a touchdown, sure, but that's a serendipitous consolation.
The Bengals might be able to move the ball in Pittsburgh, but look for guys like Jermaine Gresham and Andrew Hawkins to be the ones responsible. A.J. Green could sadly be used as more of a decoy.
WR Michael Crabtree – San Francisco 49ers***
The asterisks are there for obvious reasons. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman will learn the fate of his suspension appeal on Friday, and Crabtree's status hangs in the balance.
If Sherman is deemed ineligible, start Crabtree with confidence. He'll be going against a Seahawks secondary that is missing both Sherman and fellow shutdown corner Brandon Browner.
If Sherman is allowed to suit up on Sunday, though, Crabtree's recent run of success could come to an untimely halt. By every reliable account, he's been the best shutdown corner in the league since Darrelle Revis' injury, and he held Crabtree to six catches, 31 yards in the teams' first meeting.
Keep a close eye on this one.
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