Congrats to those of you participating in your championship game this week. Don’t overthink your decisions during this crucial time. Your studs have gotten you this far, let them take you all the way. The New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be particularly friendly to fantasy owners this week. Happy Holidays!
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.
Philip Rivers, San Diego at Cincinnati
Drew Brees, New Orleans at Atlanta
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis at Oakland
Tom Brady, New England at Buffalo
Michael Vick, Philadelphia vs. Minnesota
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay vs. N.Y. Giants
Matt Schaub, Houston at Denver
Eli Manning, N.Y. Giants at Green Bay
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh vs. Carolina
Rex Grossman, Washington at Jacksonville: Grossman took full advantage of receiving the starting nod against the Dallas Cowboys last week, throwing for 322 yards and four touchdowns. Granted he threw two picks and completed only 58 percent of his passes, but I’ll take those numbers any day. Look for Grossman to continue his success against the Jaguars, who have allowed an average of 276.5 passing yards over the last two games. John Beck is the No. 2 quarterback in Washington. I hope Donovan McNabb doesn’t drop the clipboard with less than two minutes to play.
David Garrard, Jacksonville vs. Washington: Despite only throwing for more than 165 yards once in the past four games, Garrard has tossed five touchdowns to just two interceptions over the last two games. Garrard should have plenty of success passing against the Redskins, who have allowed the second-most passing yards this season averaging 263.3 yards. Garrard’s fingers have passed the X-rays and they’ll be put into good use against Washington. Start him with confidence.
Palmer, Cincinnati vs. San Diego: Palmer has averaged just 192.8 passing yards over the past four games with five touchdowns and seven interceptions during that span. Terrell Owens is done for the season and the Bengals must face the Chargers, who have allowed the fewest passing yards in the league this season. Sorry Carson, it’s time to ride some pine.
Mark Sanchez, N.Y. Jets at Chicago: Sanchez was turnover-free last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which was the first time that had happened since way back in Week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings. Sanchez has had a tough stretch of games facing the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, and now the Chicago Bears this week. Even though the Bears clinched the NFC North, don’t expect them to take it easy on Sanchez and the Jets. Sanchez will struggle again on the road as the Bears’ pass defense is playoff ready.
Arian Foster, Houston at Denver
Peyton Hillis, Cleveland vs. Baltimore
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia vs. Minnesota
Darren McFadden, Oakland vs. Indianapolis
Chris Johnson, Tennessee at Kansas City
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota at Philadelphia
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville vs. Washington
Ray Rice, Baltimore at Cleveland
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City vs. Tennessee
Ahmad Bradshaw, N.Y. Giants at Green Bay
Michael Turner, Atlanta vs. New Orleans
Matt Forte, Chicago vs. N.Y. Jets
Steven Jackson, St. Louis vs. San Francisco
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, New England at Buffalo: Green-Ellis had his fewest carries (six) last week against the Green Bay Packers since Week 1 when he carried the ball only five times against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Patriots emphasized the passing game last week as they needed to keep pace with Green Bay, which increased playing time for Danny Woodhead. I’m not expecting New England to be playing from behind much this week in Buffalo. Oh by the way, the Bills have allowed the most rushing yards in the league this season. Straighten that tie “Law Firm,” it’s time to go to work.
LeGarrette Blount, Tampa Bay vs. Seattle: Blount surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark last week for the third time this season. Not surprisingly, Blount has also scored a touchdown in each game that he’s ran for at least 100 yards. Look for Tampa Bay to have no problem moving the ball in the ground against Seattle, who have allowed an average of just over 100 yards per game to opposing running backs in the past five games.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh vs. Carolina: Mendenhall has rushed for more than 100 yards in two of his past four games and last week’s performance (17 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown) against a stellar New York Jets defense was very impressive. Mendenhall should eclipse the 100-yard mark on the ground again along with a score this week against the Panthers, who have allowed the second-most rushing touchdowns (17) in the league this season.
Cedric Benson, Cincinnati vs. San Diego: Benson had his best game of the season last week, rushing for 150 yards against the Cleveland Browns. Without Terrell Owens, the Bengals must emphasize the run more these last two weeks, but unfortunately for Cincinnati, their last two opponents are the Chargers and the Baltimore Ravens. Your Bengals will do you no good in the fantasy playoffs. Keep them as far away from your starting lineup as possible.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina at Pittsburgh: “Stew-beef” has rushed for 270 yards in the last two games, but that was against the Atlanta Falcons and Arizona Cardinals, who are ranked 12th and 30th in rushing yards allowed. The Steelers have allowed a league-low 63.4 yards per game on the ground this season. Sorry “Stew-beef,” your impressive run is coming to an end this week.
LaDainian Tomlinson, N.Y. Jets at Chicago: At least Tomlinson has been consistent as of late. Here are his rushing totals over the past four games: 49, 47, 49 and 49 yards. The other consistency: no touchdowns. In fact, Tomlinson hasn’t scored since Week 6. In this running back by committee, Shonn Greene is the preferred option at this stage of the season.
Roddy White, Atlanta vs. New Orleans
Andre Johnson, Houston at Denver
Calvin Johnson, Detroit at Miami
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis at Oakland
Brandon Lloyd, Denver vs. Houston
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City vs. Tennessee
Greg Jennings, Green Bay vs. N.Y. Giants
Hakeem Nicks, N.Y. Giants at Green Bay
Marques Colston, New Orleans at Atlanta
Wes Welker, New England at Buffalo
Miles Austin, Dallas at Arizona
Stevie Johnson, Buffalo vs. New England: Johnson has been quiet as of late, but his six-catch, 69-yard, one-touchdown performance against Miami is just a sampling of what he’ll bring to the table this week. Johnson caught three passes for 66 yards and a touchdown the last time he faced New England back in Week 3. Since then, the Patriots have been giving up passing yards by the bushel. It hasn’t helped their defense that the Patriots have scored so many points, opposing teams have been scrapping the running game as early as the second quarter. Expect the Bills to be in the shotgun formation for most of the afternoon on Sunday, which should translate into big numbers for Johnson.
Mike Williams, Tampa Bay vs. Seattle: While Williams has been hit-or-miss this season, he has caught at least six passes and a touchdown in two of the last three games. I’m expecting this game against Seattle to be a hit for Williams as the Seahawks have allowed an opposing receiver to surpass 100 yards three times in their previous four road games.
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona vs. Dallas: Don’t look now, but Fitzgerald is just 14 receiving yards away from another 1,000-yard season. It’s still a far cry from where owners were hoping he would be at this stage of the season, but his nine catches for 125 yards against the Carolina Panthers last week is a very encouraging sign that he’s clicking with rookie quarterback John Skelton. Expect another big day from Fitzgerald as fantasy owners can only dream of what might have been if this duo had started hooking up earlier in the season.
Kenny Britt, Tennessee at Kansas City: As expected, Britt returned with a bang last week, catching six passes for 128 yards against the Houston Texans defense. While the Chiefs will give Britt more of a challenge than Houston provided last week, expect the Titans to pass more often without the luxury of a quick 21-0 lead at their disposal. Look for back-to-back 100-yard receiving games from Britt, who should also find the end zone for the first time since week seven.
Donald Driver, Green Bay vs. N.Y. Giants: Without Aaron Rodgers, Driver has caught just five passes for 43 yards over the past two games. While Rodgers may return this week, he’ll face a Giants pass defense that is second in the league in sacks and has allowed the second-fewest passing yards this year. Temper your expectations on the Green Bay passing attack if Rodgers does play as one good hit may force him back to the sidelines.
Mario Manningham, N.Y. Giants at Green Bay: Manningham had his best game of the season last week, catching eight passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Green Bay defense gave Tom Brady all he could handle last week and that was in New England. The cheese heads will be very happy to get their team back home and Manningham has struggled on the road, catching just four passes for 25 yards in his last three games away from the Meadowlands. With Hakeem Nicks finally healthy, he’ll be Eli Manning’s top weapon on Sunday, keeping Manningham’s chances to a minimum.
Hines Ward, Pittsburgh vs. Carolina: The emergence of Mike Wallace has certainly cut into Ward’s productivity. Ward was held to just two catches for 34 yards last week against the New York Jets, and the Panthers have defended the pass better than New York thus far. Carolina has allowed fewer yards and they have 10 more interceptions than the Jets. Look for Carolina to pressure Ben Roethlisberger, which will make them susceptible to the run. Rashard Mendenhall will be the Steeler with the most stats when this one is all said and done.
Johnny Knox, Chicago vs. N.Y. Jets: Knox caught a 67-yard touchdown on Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings, but his stats have been subpar the last four games. Knox hasn’t had more than three catches in any of his past four games and has only surpassed 75 yards receiving once in that span. The Jets will challenge the Bears’ offensive line, which has been disappointing to say the least this season. Look for an extra large dose of Matt Forte both running the ball and receiving out of the backfield, but there won’t be much for Knox or the rest of the Chicago receivers in terms of offense in this one.
Jason Witten, Dallas at Arizona
Antonio Gates, San Diego at Cincinnati
Vernon Davis, San Francisco at St. Louis
Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville vs. Washington
Chris Cooley, Washington at Jacksonville
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta vs. New Orleans
Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit at Miami
Dustin Keller, N.Y. Jets at Chicago
Jacob Tamme, Indianapolis at Oakland
Jeremy Shockey, New Orleans at Atlanta: Shockey hasn’t done much lately, averaging just three catches for 28 yards and no scores over the past three games, but he caught eight passes for 78 yards and a touchdown the last time he faced the Falcons back in Week 3. With the Saints passing game hitting its stride late in the season, look for another big performance from Shockey against the Falcons as New Orleans sends a message to the division-leading Falcons about who is the defending Super Bowl champions.
Owen Daniels, Houston at Denver: While Daniels didn’t quite perform well enough last week to make it to the Studs list (four catches, 45 yards), I am expecting him to be as productive if not better than at least half the players listed up there this week. The Broncos’ pass defense has the second-fewest interceptions (eight) and the fewest sacks (18) in the league. With Arian Foster questionable with an ankle injury, Matt Schaub should have a fine day in Denver with enough to go around for both Andre Johnson and Daniels to make their fantasy owners quite proud this week.
Ben Watson, Cleveland vs. Baltimore: There is no middle ground for Watson. He either catches seven passes for 92 yards as he did last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, or one pass for eight yards as he did two weeks ago against the Buffalo Bills. Given the fact that the Browns are facing the Ravens’ defense, who are still battling for a shot at the AFC title, I will err on the side of caution and bet that Watson is held in check this week.
Zach Miller, Oakland vs. Indianapolis: Miller has posted back-to-back games with four catches totaling 107 yards. While his production may tempt you into considering him as a starter this week, think again. The Colts are fighting for their playoff lives right now and the defense will have trouble containing Darren McFadden as they have struggled defending the run all season. However, the Colts have played well against the pass, and the speed rushing of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis will require Miller to be blocking more than receiving this week.