There are also a good number of players you know you should sit each week, such as a fringe player going up against a tough rush D like Ronnie Brown this Sunday against the New York Jets.
And then there are those players with whom you have no idea whether you should start 'em or sit 'em.
Here are a few not-so-obvious guys at each major fantasy position that you might not know what to do with, but the stats and information we’ve found say otherwise.
Carson Palmer (vs. Cleveland Browns)
Palmer started his new job at the local downtown Cincinnati Wendy’s this week, but the word on the street is that he still cares more about studying the playbook in his office than making sure every burger comes out square. Earlier this year against the Cleveland Browns, Palmer threw for 371 yards and two TDs in Cleveland en route to a 23-20 loss, so you can be sure that he’ll be doing everything he can this Sunday to make amends for the intrastate embarrassment.
Josh Freeman (vs. Detroit Lions)
The only game Freeman didn’t throw for a touchdown pass in this year was against the Pittsburgh Steelers back in Week 3. That said, he also hasn’t thrown for three TDs on the year, either. If you start him, you’re taking a bit of a gamble, but against the Lions down south in Tampa, where the weather runs warm and doesn’t affect the receivers or the passing game, you might do well in taking a chance on him.
Darren McFadden (vs. Denver Broncos)
McFadden is one of the more dynamic RBs in the league right now and will get to use all his various skills against this woeful Donkeys D on Sunday. He’s not the biggest back around (6’2” 210 pounds), but his work in the offseason learning how to stay on his feet after first contact seems to have done wonders. It has allowed him to finally use his ridiculous 4.33 speed on a more regular basis and it’s really showing off in the stat column. Play him as your first RB with confidence against a Denver defense that just gave up 148 yards and two TDs to Tim Hightower last week.
Jonathan Stewart (vs. Arizona Cardinals)
Stewart has been on a roll lately, putting up an average of 107.7 rushing yards/game over the last three weeks, and now he gets to face off against the third-worst defense in the league at defending the run. He hasn’t done much yet this year, but you can expect a solid 100 yards and maybe a TD out of him right when you need it this week.
Felix Jones (vs. Washington Redskins)
Felix has averaged over 20 touches a game the last few weeks, which has led to him putting up 95.7 total yards/game in that time. These numbers look to continue on Sunday against a Redskins defense that has a tough time stopping, well, pretty much anything teams throw at them.
Terrell Owens (vs. Cleveland Browns)
Terrell Me-O Owens went absolutely ballistic in their first showdown to the tune of 10 catches, 222 yards and a 78-yard TD. Those numbers won’t be repeated this weekend, but then again, hell, they just might! T.O. has been nearly invisible lately, but he's a prideful guy who will most certainly want to boost his end-of-the-year stats. Go ahead and take the chance that his massive ego comes out to play.
Pierre Garcon (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars)
Manning has been passing the ball a ton lately, and I don’t expect the Colts to all of the sudden turn to the run at this point in the season. Garcon’s numbers have been steadily increasing since he was called out for his butterfingers problem over a month ago, culminating in a two-TD, 93-yard effort last week against the Tennessee Titans. Both Pierre AND Reggie Wayne have a chance to put up first wide receiver numbers this weekend.
Nate Washington (vs. Houston Texans)
With Kenny Britt back, Nate will likely be facing off against the Texans' second-best corner this Sunday. If that happens, Washington could be in for a very nice game against this woeful Houston pass D.
Arrelious Benn (vs. Detroit Lions)
The big rookie out of Illinois is starting to turn some heads down in Tampa. He was a well-known rookie coming into the season, but has been completely overshadowed by the play of fellow rookie Mike Williams for the greater part of the season. Last game, he came up with four catches for 122 yards and was one yard short of adding a TD to that line. With Tampa playing Detroit this weekend, Benn deserves a look.
Owen Daniels (@ Tennessee Titans)
Owen dropped his fair share of balls and didn't look quite in sync during his return last Monday night, but Matt Schaub did target him 11 times, with Owen putting up 91 yards on five catches in the process. Looks like the Texans are committed to him over Joel Dreessen, too, as Dreessen was targeted just three times and came away with zero catches in the game.
Mark Sanchez (@ Pittsburgh Steelers)
Your best reason for not throwing out a Dirty Sanchez this week is that he plays terrible in the cold weather (supposed to be in the lower 20's with a chance of snow in Pittsburgh on Sunday). Another reason would be that Sanchize has the worst passer rating of any QB in the league who has started the last three games (46.8) with just one TD and a 47.6 completion % during that time. Avoid him at all costs.
David Garrard (@ Indianapolis Colts)
The Jaguars will look to run the hell out of Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashad Jennings in order to slow down the Colts offense. It’s a plan that has worked in the past, and did so in these teams' first meeting this year. With Garrard averaging just 149 yards passing and one TD a game over the last three weeks and Jones-Drew pretty much owning the Colts throughout his career, I’d suggest finding another QB to lead your fantasy squad this week, especially with David being a bit banged up.
Fred Jackson (@ Miami Dolphins)
Freddy went back up over 100 yards against the Browns last weekend, but the Dolphins defense is a whole different animal to contend with. He’ll get his fair share of touches in this one, but temper your expectations of FJax against a seventh-ranked Miami rush D that’s allowed just six rushing TDs on the season.
Just stay away from the Jets' backfield for the rest of the season. The carries are split too far down the middle for either of these RBs to get on a roll, and this week they happen to face by far the toughest rush D in the league. Other than that, neither Tomlinson nor Greene has scored a touchdown of any kind since way back in Week 6.
Chris Ivory (@ Baltimore Ravens)
There are a myriad of reasons to stay away from Ivory this week. First, he’s banged up. Second, Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush are both back and healthy. Third, the Saints are playing one of the best rush defenses in the league in Baltimore. ‘Nuff said.
Brandon Lloyd (@ Oakland Raiders)
Lloyd wasn’t expected to do anything at all this year, so it sort of feels wrong saying that he’s been one of the guys who killed owners' fantasy playoff dreams these past couple of games. That said, you really can’t blame Lloyd personally, as Kyle Orton has been absolutely horrendous, which is partly the reason he’s ranked so low this week. The other part is that Nnamdi Asomugha might be guarding him this Sunday. Stay away if you can.
Mike Wallace (vs. New York Jets)
Wallace’s production has been slowed since the initial onslaught that took place when Roethlisberger returned to the lineup earlier this year. It doesn’t look like it’s going to pick back up this week, either, with Revis Island in his hip pocket all game long. You might have to play him, but don’t expect too much.
Steve Johnson (@ Miami Dolphins)
Ever since his embarrassing drop in the endzone in OT against Pittsburgh three weeks ago, Stevie J has pretty much fallen off the fantasy map. He’s still a touchdown waiting to happen, but the Dolphins don’t allow too many of those (15, sixth in the NFL) so temper your expectations a bit and find another third wide receiver if you can.
Mike Williams - Sea (vs. Atlanta Falcons)
It’s looking like BMW will be back on the field this weekend, but I’d be amazed if he returned anywhere close to his previous form. His size makes him a nice target for Hasselbeck to throw to, sure, but he was slow as molasses before his recent ankle/foot injuries, so I can’t imagine his game will have improved with not being 100% at this point.
Ben Watson (@ Cincinnati Bengals)
Watson puts together a really nice game every once in awhile, but he’s completely unreliable and has more of a chance of hurting your fantasy team than helping it. With the Bengals tied for fifth-best in the league in allowing the fewest fantasy points to tight ends this year, you might want to look elsewhere for some production.