The fantasy football playoffs are barreling toward us like a fantasy freight train, and this is not the time to blindly fall back on the same tired roster you've fielded all season long.
You play to win the game, and these surprising selections are poised to score big this Sunday in Week 13. Examine the matchups and start these five surprisingly strong players to power your team to the fantasy postseason.
Josh McCown, QB, Chicago Bears
Josh McCown has been quite effective filling in for Jay Cutler and has cooked up a possible quarterback controversy in Chicago. McCown leads all passers—yes, including Peyton Manning—with a total quarterback rating of 81. The 34-year-old journeyman has completed better than 65 percent of his 148 pass attempts, and in five games he has over 1,100 yards with seven touchdowns to just one interception.
The Minnesota Vikings have yielded 281 passing yards per game and a league-high 24 scores through the air. McCown is a sneaky play with upside, and I like his matchup in Week 13 a lot better than, say, Andrew Luck against the Tennessee Titans.
With two dynamic receivers in Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, as well as a reliable run game, McCown is set up for success.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants
Hakeem Nicks takes on the Washington Redskins and he's primed for his first TD of the year. He was a surprising scratch for Week 12's narrow loss to the Dallas Cowboys with an abdominal strain, but he's back at practice this week.
Nicks has 42 receptions for 620 yards, giving him a respectable 14.8 yards per catch. But somehow he has been held out of the end zone so far in his contract year. With time wasting to show what he can do before free agency arrives, the injury-prone Nicks will take advantage of a Redskins D that has given up 22 passing touchdowns.
The Redskins are coming off a short week after playing on Monday Night Football, a game in which San Francisco wide receiver Anquan Boldin broke out for five catches, 94 yards and two touchdowns. Consider this Nicks' best chance at putting up his best fantasy line of the year.
Timothy Wright, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
While most people have been busy talking about when Greg Schiano will be fired, Tampa Bay rookie quarterback Mike Glennon has quietly put together a very solid eight games. He has tossed a touchdown in each of his starts and has thrown just one interception over his last six contests.
In Week 12, though Tiquan Underwood racked up huge yards on just three catches, Timothy Wright became Glennon's favorite target with eight receptions for 75 yards.
Wright has shown flashes of fantasy potential since Mike Williams was placed on IR. The Bucs will face the Carolina Panthers on Sunday and they are marauders on defense, especially against the run. Glennon will be looking for his possession receiver early and often, and Wright will look to surpass his totals from the Oct. 24 loss to the Panthers: five catches, 48 yards and a touchdown.
Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis Colts
It took longer than people thought, but the Stanford connection is finally starting to heat up between Coby Fleener and Andrew Luck.
Over the last three weeks, Fleener has seen 28 targets and piled up 195 yards with a touchdown. Since the Colts lost Reggie Wayne for the year, defenses have blanketed T.Y. Hilton and constrained Indy's passing game with the rushing attack struggling. These factors have combined to send more targets Fleener's way lately.
Fleener and the Colts get the Tennessee Titans this week, who have a pair of physical cornerbacks that love to beat up opposing wide receivers. But Fleener is a tight end, not a wideout, and Luck will be looking for his former Cardinal teammate down the seam and underneath when pressure gets to him.
Arizona Cardinals Defense
After holding Luck and the AFC North-leading Colts to just 11 points in Week 12, the Arizona Cardinals will lock talons with the Eagles on Sunday. Nick Foles now has the starting job all to himself and has done exceedingly well to the tune of 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
However, he failed to throw for a score against Washington's weak D in Week 11 and he hasn't faced an attack as vicious as Arizona's all year.
The 7-4 Cardinals are second in rushing yards allowed, and the 15 interceptions they've collected are tied for second. Their D-line can get after the QB, and they will give the Eagles a much tougher test than they're used to.
Expect the "Blur Offense" to fall back to earth as the rising Cardinals continue to prove their mettle with a stout defense.