Week 14 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Who Are Fantasy Football's Smart Matchup Plays?
As Week 13 of the 2011 National Football League season winds down, it also brings with it the end of the regular season in many football leagues, which means it's almost that most wonderful time of the year.
No, not Christmas, silly...the fantasy football playoffs!
Most fantasy playoff squads feature a number of the Top 10 Players at Each Position, but for those fantasy owners forced to look outside that esteemed group when setting their lineups, here's a look at 10 players who have the sort of favorable fantasy matchup that's a gift in and of itself.
1. Joe Flacco: QB, Baltimore Ravens (vs. IND)
It's been an up-and-down season for Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, and Week 13 was a down one against the NFL's best pass defense, with the fourth-year veteran failing to complete half his passes or throw a touchdown pass in a win over the Cleveland Browns.
The stage is set for a rebound this week when Flacco and the Ravens face the winless Indianapolis Colts, who rank a mediocre 22nd in the NFL against the pass and have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season.
2. Rex Grossman: QB, Washington Redskins (vs. NE)
To say that Rex Grossman struggled in last week's loss to the New York Jets last week would be something of an understatement, as the Washington Redskins quarterback completed only 19 of 46 passes for 221 yards with an interception.
As bad as Grossman looked last week, he could still be a sneaky fantasy play for brave owners this week with a need at quarterback against the league's worst pass defense in the New England Patriots, who are the second-friendliest fantasy matchup in the NFL for opposing signal-callers.
3. Shonn Greene: RB, New York Jets
Running back Shonn Greene of the New York Jets scored more touchdowns in last week's victory over the Washington Redskins than he had in the 11 games preceding it, crossing the stripe three times in a 34-19 win for Gang Green.
The third-year pro has a solid shot at finding pay dirt again this week when the Jets face the Chiefs, as only four teams in the National Football League surrender more fantasy points per game to opposing running backs than Kansas City.
4. Ryan Mathews: RB, San Diego Chargers (vs. BUF)
San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews has battled nagging injuries on and off throughout the 2011 season, but the second-year pro has still managed to average 4.7 yards a carry and score three touchdowns for the disappointing Chargers.
Mathews should find the going a bit easier this week against the Buffalo Bills, who are 24th in the National Football League in run defense and who have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs.
5. Michael Turner: RB, Atlanta Falcons (at CAR)
Whether it was due to his groin injury or the stout Houston Texans defense, Michael Turner struggled in Week 13, with the Atlanta Falcons running back gaining just 44 yards on 14 carries and remaining just short of 1,000 rushing yards for the season.
The eighth-year veteran should surpass that milestone and then some this week when the Falcons face the Carolina Panthers, who have been the friendliest fantasy matchup in the NFL for opposing running backs this year by a fair margin.
6. Anquan Boldin: WR, Baltimore Ravens
It's been some time since Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Anquan Boldin made much of a dent in the box score, as the ninth-year pro hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 11 and has only two 100-yard receiving games this season.
If there was ever a time for a breakout performance from Boldin, it's likely this week against the Indianapolis Colts, who have given up the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts and who just lost two more defensive backs to season-ending injuries.
7. Santana Moss: WR, Washington Redskins (vs. NE)
Since returning to the Washington Redskins lineup after missing four games due to injury, wide receiver Santana Moss has been relatively quiet, managing only nine receptions for 71 yards in the two contests since he came back.
Moss may beat those two games combined Sunday when the Redskins play host to the New England Patriots, who "boast" the National Football League's worst pass defense and who allow the most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers.
8. Laurent Robinson: WR, Dallas Cowboys
I just can't help myself.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Laurent Robinson was held out of the end zone for the first time in six weeks in Sunday's surprising loss to the Arizona Cardinals, but the fifth-year veteran still had a respectable day statistically speaking, hauling in four catches for 72 yards.
Miles Austin is potentially set to return to action this week, which could mean fewer snaps for Robinson, but given the rapport that Robinson has developed with Dallas quarterback Tony Romo and the do-or-die nature of this week's tilt with the New York Giants, I'm willing to give Robinson one more shot.
9. Jacob Tamme: TE, Indianapolis Colts (at BAL)
Since starting tight end Dallas Clark went down with a leg injury, Jacob Tamme has filled in well for the Indianapolis Colts, catching five or more passes in two of three games and emerging as a preferred target of "new" Colts quarterback Dan Orlovsky.
The Colts are likely in for a rough go of it this week against the Baltimore Ravens, which should mean plenty of passing and loads of targets for Tamme, and garbage-time stats count the same on fantasy scoreboards as any other.
10. Seattle Seahawks Defense/Special Teams
The Seattle Seahawks played one of their best games of the season in last week's 31-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, with the game's backbreaking play a 77-yard interception return for a touchdown by Seahawks linebacker David Hawthorne.
The Seahawks have an excellent matchup this week with a St. Louis Rams team that has allowed the most fantasy points per game to opposing defenses this year, and the fact that Seattle also possesses one of the league's most dangerous return men in Leon Washington is just icing on the cake.