Now is the time of year where you can take advantage of teams getting desperate to make the playoffs who will pull out all the stops and post huge offensive numbers. This week’s teams to watch that fall under this category include the Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and New Orleans Saints. Look for plenty of passing yards from those teams with enough rushing yards to keep the opposing team honest.
When using this list, try and remember a couple basic rules:
1) Studs – Always play your studs. Each position will include a list of players that are considered studs and should not be benched. If you have the luxury of needing to decide between studs, check out the matchups or feel free to let the shark tank assist you in your decisions.
2) Depth – Every fantasy team is different and some have more depth than others. Only follow the recommended moves if your team depth allows you to make such a move.
Tom Brady, New England vs. Green Bay
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis vs. Jacksonville
Philip Rivers, San Diego vs. San Francisco
Drew Brees, New Orleans at Baltimore
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay at New England *Questionable: Concussion*
Michael Vick, Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants
Eli Manning, N.Y. Giants vs. Philadelphia
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh vs. N.Y. Jets
Matt Schaub, Houston at Tennessee: Schaub had his best game of the season last Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens, throwing for 393 yards and three touchdowns in an overtime loss. His reward is facing the Titans, who are ranked 26th in the league in passing yards allowed. With the return of Owen Daniels, the Texans have another weapon in their offense that Schaub will certainly take advantage of this week.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta at Seattle: After a stretch of five games without an interception, Ryan has thrown three picks in the past two weeks. He should have an easier time throwing the ball against the Seahawks this week, who have only 10 interceptions and have allowed an average of 266 passing yards per game this season. “Matty Ice” should have no problem posting big numbers this week which will include his second time eclipsing the 300-yard passing mark this year.
Jay Cutler, Chicago at Minnesota: Yes, the weather was horrible last week in Chicago, but it wasn’t as horrible as the offensive line of the Bears. The New England Patriots were all over Cutler last week, forcing him to complete just 12-of-26 passes for 152 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Regardless of where this week’s game against the Minnesota Vikings takes place, the offensive line struggles will continue to plague Cutler. Expect a heavy dose of Matt Forte as Cutler extends his streak of six straight games without throwing for more than 250 yards.
Kyle Orton, Denver at Oakland: From the Studs list to the Bench list in one week. Ouch! Orton has struggled mightily the last two weeks, averaging only 142 yards passing with no touchdowns and three interceptions during that stretch. Combine those struggles with a new coach and facing an Oakland pass defense that held Orton to just 198 passing yards back in Week 7, and you have yourself plenty of reasons to keep this former stud on your bench.
Arian Foster, Houston at Tennessee
Peyton Hillis, Cleveland at Cincinnati
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota vs. Chicago
Darren McFadden, Oakland vs. Denver
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville at Indianapolis
Chris Johnson, Tennessee vs. Houston
Ahmad Bradshaw, N.Y. Giants vs. Philadelphia *Questionable: Wrist*
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City at St. Louis
Michael Turner, Atlanta at Seattle
Matt Forte, Chicago at Minnesota
Ray Rice, Baltimore vs. New Orleans
Steven Jackson, St. Louis vs. Kansas City
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina vs. Arizona: Even though Mike Goodson has stolen some carries from Stewart, he’s rushed for at least 90 yards in the last three games and he faces the Cardinals this week, who are ranked 30th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed this season. Expect another big game from a healthy Stewart as Goodson gets less and less touches.
Felix Jones, Dallas vs. Washington: After Tashard Choice was dubbed as giving the Cowboys the best chance to win, he responded with seven carries for 16 yards against the Philadelphia Eagles. Jones posted 41 yards on 13 carries including a touchdown against Philadelphia and should have even more success against the Redskins this week, who allow an average of 134.4 rushing yards per game. Choice will still get some carries, but Jones will lead the way in the Dallas backfield this week.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, New England vs. Green Bay: Even though Green-Ellis was held out of the end zone for the first time in four weeks against the Chicago Bears last week, he still posted 81 yards rushing against a stout Chicago run defense. Expect Green-Ellis to return to the end zone this week against the Packers, who allow an average of close to 30 more rushing yards per game than the Bears and this week’s game will be in the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.
Pierre Thomas, New Orleans at Baltimore: In Thomas’ first game back from an ankle injury, he was less than impressive rushing for only 39 yards on 12 carries. With Christopher Ivory likely to return this week and the Ravens’ defense on the docket, temper your expectations on Thomas as the Saints are in no rush to have Thomas be the workhorse of the Saints’ backfield.
LaDainian Tomlinson, N.Y. Jets at Pittsburgh: That late-season letdown that all the experts were predicting from Tomlinson is starting to show itself. Here are the combined totals for Tomlinson over the past three weeks: 145 yards rushing, six catches for 33 yards, no touchdowns. I think Darren McFadden had those stats in the first half last week! Tomlinson won’t find much room to run against the Steelers this week as the Jets try to get back on track after back-to-back crushing division losses.
Brian Westbrook, San Francisco at San Diego: Don’t be fooled by Westbrook’s six catches for 87 yards and a score last week thinking that he’s finally returned to the dangerous running back he was in Philadelphia. Westbrook posted one big play which inflated his numbers to a place where they would be noticed. Look for Westbrook to struggle this week against the Chargers in San Diego, who are fourth in the NFL in fewest rushing yards allowed.
Roddy White, Atlanta at Seattle
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis vs. Jacksonville
Andre Johnson, Houston at Tennessee
Brandon Lloyd, Denver at Oakland
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City at St. Louis
Calvin Johnson, Detroit at Tampa Bay
Terrell Owens, Cincinnati vs. Cleveland
Greg Jennings, Green Bay at New England
Marques Colston, New Orleans at Baltimore
Wes Welker, New England vs. Green Bay
Miles Austin, Dallas vs. Washington
Pierre Garcon, Indianapolis vs. Jacksonville: Don’t look now, but Garcon has finally returned to the dangerous threat he was last season in the Colts offense. In the last three games, Garcon has caught 19 passes for 221 yards and three touchdowns. In a must-win game for the Colts against their division foes who allow 258.3 yards passing per game, look for Garcon and the Colts’ passing attack to come up big at home.
, Washington at Dallas: Just when you think you can count out Moss, he catches seven passes for 82 yards and a touchdown like he did last week against Tampa Bay. This week, Moss faces the Cowboys, who he caught six passes for 77 yards against back in Week 1. The Cowboys offense should have success moving the ball this week which will put the Redskins in a position to throw often to keep pace. Start your Redskins as points will be easy to come by in “Big D” this week.
DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants: Is there anything this guy can’t do? Jackson had 210 receiving yards, two rushes and 27 yards on punt returns against the Dallas Cowboys, who just had no answer for him. The Eagles have a huge game against the Giants this week and you know Michael Vick will be doing whatever he can to get the ball into Jackson’s hands as much as possible. Jackson had five catches for 50 yards the last time he faced the Giants, but I expect those numbers to increase as the Eagles running game struggles which will mean plenty of chances for Jackson to shine in the Meadowlands.
Kenny Britt, Tennessee vs. Houston: Britt caught four passes for 39 yards in his return from a hamstring injury that forced him to miss the previous five games. This week, Britt has gotten the nod of confidence from the coaching staff saying he’ll be starting this week and as luck would have it, he’s facing the Texans who give up a league-worst 279.9 passing yards per game. If you’ve hung on to Britt for this long, your patience is about to pay off. Start Britt with confidence this week as he sparks up memories of his nine-catch, 225-yard performance against the Philadelphia Eagles back in Week 7.
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco at San Diego: Crabtree had a total of one catch for one yard last week against the Seahawks. One catch? For one yard? Come on Michael, you’ve got to do better than that. The Chargers have a much better passing defense than do the Seahawks, so it’s highly unlikely that Crabtree will do anything this week other than disappoint you once again.
Brandon Marshall, Miami vs. Buffalo: Marshall faced a tough New York Jets defense last week that held him to two catches for 16 yards and a touchdown. The inconsistent play of Chad Henne is the real reason why Marshall hasn’t lived up to expectations in Miami this season. Marshall has done the best he can with a below-average quarterback and an unreliable running game. Marshall had eight catches for 53 yards the last time he faced the Bills back in Week 1. Those numbers would be on the high end of what you can expect from Marshall as Buffalo is ranked fourth in the NFL in passing yards allowed, averaging just 197.5 per game. Look for another defensive battle which doesn’t bode well for fantasy purposes.
Derrick Mason, Baltimore vs. New Orleans: Mason had his first two-touchdown game of the season last week, but it was against the Houston Texans. The Saints’ pass defense is much better than the Texans, and in the last two games that Mason has faced a pass defense the caliber of the Saints (Week 7 vs. Buffalo, Weelk 9 vs. Miami) he averaged only three catches for 45 yards. Look elsewhere for your starter this week as Mason is way too risky of a start this late in the season.
Stevie Johnson, Buffalo at Miami: With Lee Evans out with a high ankle sprain, Johnson becomes the No. 1 receiver in Buffalo. Unfortunately for Johnson, teams will key in on him, reducing his chances for big numbers down the stretch. Miami kept Johnson in check the last time they played holding him to just three catches for 40 yards. The way the Miami defense is playing lately, Johnson would be lucky to post those kinds of numbers this week.
Antonio Gates, San Diego vs. San Francisco *Questionable: foot*
Jason Witten, Dallas vs. Washington
Vernon Davis, San Francisco at San Diego
Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville at Indianapolis
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta at Seattle
Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit at Tampa Bay
Dustin Keller, N.Y. Jets at Pittsburgh
Jacob Tamme, Indianapolis vs. Jacksonville
Chris Cooley, Washington at Dallas: Cooley has at least five catches in three of his past four games and he caught six passes for 80 yards the last time he faced the Cowboys back in Week 1. Expect lots of offense in this one and Cooley will play a big part in the Redskins game plan. Look for Cooley to find the end zone for the first time since Week 4 along with 5-7 catches for 60-80 yards. Sounds like a start to me.
Owen Daniels, Houston at Tennessee: Daniels returned from a hamstring injury to catch five passes for 91 yards on Monday night. Matt Schaub loves throwing to Daniels and the combo will excel again this week in Tennessee, who have allowed an opposing tight end to surpass 100 yards receiving in two of their six games.
Ben Watson, Cleveland at Cincinnati: Watson went from 10 catches in Week 13 to one catch in Week 14. You can’t gamble on that type of inconsistency in the fantasy playoffs. I’ll take a guaranteed five catches from Cooley over the potential of a big game or bust from Watson any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
Greg Olsen, Chicago at Minnesota: Olsen may be the best blocker the Bears have on the offensive line right now which doesn’t say much. Olsen hasn’t had more than one catch in three weeks. Keep him on your bench where he belongs.