The fantasy football playoffs are starting for most of us, and it’s time to perfect your roster. Normally, during the playoffs, you don’t take many risks. You go with the safest plays to ensure that you get some solid fantasy points.
But it’s never that easy. There are usually no safe plays. Chris Johnson is generally a safe play, and has frustrated fantasy owners on a few different occasions this season.
I’m a risk taker regardless of what week I play in. From Week 1 through Week 17, I take risks and am ready to handle the repercussions of a player failing if I took that risk.
Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee
Manning owners have been disappointed ever since the bye week. While he’s still putting points on the board, he’s throwing a lot of interceptions, and has lost three straight games.
But Manning owners need not worry about him the rest of the season. Manning’s biggest troubles come against teams that run the 3-4 defense. While he succeeded earlier in the year against the Broncos and Redskins, he’s failed to produce well against the likes of Kansas City, New England, San Diego and most recently Dallas. Eleven of his last 13 interceptions have been against teams that run the 3-4.
Manning doesn’t face a 3-4 defense the rest of the season, and has a very favorable schedule the rest of the way. Some will worry about him, but I think he’s more than worth the risk in Week 14.
Steve Johnson, WR, Buffalo Bills vs. Cleveland
Why so serious? Stevie Johnson blew up in Week 11 against the Bengals. But in the other three matchups in his last four weeks, he’s been held under 40 yards twice, and under 70 all three games. He hasn’t scored in those three games, against the likes of Detroit, Pittsburghand Minnesota.
All three of those teams have mediocre secondary play, and Johnson won’t have an easy matchup going against November’s Defensive Rookie of the Month in Joe Haden of the Browns. Johnson is a threat down the field, and could make a few plays, but Haden has a pick in each of his four last matchups.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, Carolina Panthers vs. Atlanta
Stewart is finally living up to that fifth or sixth round draft pick you took him with prior to the season. Unfortunately for you, he most likely hasn’t been in your lineup.
Atlanta’s defense is tough against the run, however, LeGarrette Blount made them look somewhat silly in Week 13. Stewart should see more carries with his solid play, and with Mike Goodson suffering with a nagging AC joint sprain in his shoulder.
Stewart hasn’t been reliable, but last year at this time he saved a lot of fantasy owners in the playoffs, including myself.
Matt Cassel, QB, Kansas City Chiefs @ San Diego
Cassel has had quite the season. He now has 23 touchdowns with just four interceptions. Cassel didn’t light up the Broncos like we thought he would, but he still played a solid game.
But in the Chiefs' home and season opener against the Chargers, Cassel was held to just 68 yards passing. He was shut down all game, and really had a tough time finding his receivers. I think he’ll more than double those numbers as he finally has developed some sync with wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, and the Chiefs are running the ball very well.
However, the Chargers pass defense is among the tops in the NFL, and it’s not an easy matchup for Cassel. Start at your own risk.
Malcom Floyd, WR, San Diego Chargers vs. Kansas City
Floyd has had an up and down season, and has battled through injuries. But he appears to be back and ready for action. Floyd had just a mediocre Week 1 performance against the Chiefs.
But Floyd will be the No. 1 receiver again and Philip Rivers finds ways to get his receivers the football no matter who is running routes.
With injuries to Patrick Crayton, Legedu Naanee and Vincent Jackson, Floyd and Antonio Gates will be called on heavily in a must win game against the Chiefs.
Brian Westbrook, RB, San Francisco 49ers vs. Seattle
You have to love the matchup for Brian Westbrook. Seattle is giving up around 5.0 yards per carry since losing defensive end Red Bryant. What once was a very respectable run defense, has turned into a yardage manufacturer.
But there’s no guarantee how many carries Westbrook will receive. He and Anthony Dixon could both split carries down the middle, or one of the backs could run away with a significantly larger number of touches.
Westbrook is still the starter and should be a solid start, but it’s risky.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, New England Patriots @ Chicago
Green-Ellis is a great option in touchdown only leagues. However, in standard leagues, his value is shaky at times. He doesn’t get the consistent yardage you want to see from a starting running back in the NFL.
The matchup doesn’t play to his favor as well. However, the Pittsburgh matchup and Minnesota game earlier in the season didn’t seem to play in his favor either, and he made plays.
Chicago’s rush defense is very solid, and they are stingy giving up yardage. But The Law Firm seems to get into the end zone weekly. Start with caution.
Chad Henne, QB, Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets
Chad Henne has thrown an interception in all but his first two starts of the season. That’s never a good sign out of a fantasy quarterback. But he does still have value as he can throw for a good amount of yardage, and knows how to find the end zone.
Henne’s Sunday Night matchup against the Jets was his best of the season, as he threw for 363 yards and two touchdowns. The Jets just got torched for four touchdowns by Tom Brady in Monday Night Football, and haven’t been as great as people advertise.
Still, Henne is a risky start because of his poor decision making and inconsistency. He can easily throw for 250+ yards and two touchdowns, but the interceptions are what can be scary.
Roy E. Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia
Since Tony Romo went down, Roy E. Williams has been virtually invisible. He’s got just 13 catches in his last six matchups, with his highest receiving total being 83 yards. Other than that 83-yard game, he failed to catch for more than 33 yards in the other five matchups.
But, with Dez Bryant out, Williams could see more opportunities and targets. He had five total touchdowns between Week 3 and Week 5, even with Bryant in the lineup, so we know he’s capable of making plays.
The matchup against Philadelphia isn’t bad as they have young inexperienced corners after Asante Samuel, who will be matched up against Miles Austin, if he’s healthy. You be the judge.
Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans vs. Baltimore
Foster just seems to produce no matter what, and while he’s a guy you should be putting in weekly, he could still be somewhat of a risk in Week 14.
Foster has rushed for under 100 yards in three of his last four matchups. Jacksonville’s mediocre rush defense held him to just 56 yards on the ground. But, he does continue to score touchdowns.
Baltimore can be run on. Peyton Hillis proved that earlier in the season. However, it’s never easy. The good news is that Foster scores a lot, and also makes plays in the passing game. He should be a solid start, but it’s very possible he gets held under 90 yards.
Don't forget to check out our 2011 NFL Draft coverage as well!