For most of us this is the most important week of the regular season of Fantasy Football. It is the week that can make or break whether or not you get into the playoffs. Some people have already sewn up their positions in their leagues but for those of you who are on the bubble with a record of 6-6 or so, you will need a big week to push you over the top perhaps at the expense of a very good friend. Always remember, that there is no crying in Fantasy Football unless you owned Darren McFadden in the first round. Many of us have to have large Fantasy production to lead us into a secured spot in the playoffs and hopefully I can guide you into the dance.
PEYTON MANNING VS. TAMPA BAY
Conceivably this is the best matchup of the year for Manning as the Broncos face the worst ranked pass defense in the NFL. Tampa has given up 315.5 yards per game via the pass on 8.4 yards per completion which is 2nd worst in the league. They have allowed opposing QB’s to complete 66% of their passes and have allowed 51 passes of 20+ and 10 passes of 40+ both of which are at least 2nd worst in the league. Factor in the Manning Factor, and he’ll post some mega Fantasy Points Sunday.
ELI MANNING VS. WASHINGTON
The Manning Brothers get to play the 32nd and 31st ranked pass defenses on the week before your Fantasy playoffs. Crazy coincidence… Washington has the 31st ranked pass defense giving up 301.4 yards per game with 23 passing TD’s which is tied for the mark of futility in the NFL. They give up 42 passes against per game which is the most passing attempts allowed. They have also surrendered 9 passes of 40+ yards which is not too great. Eli laid a beatdown on the Green Bay Packers last week so he might be getting tuned up for the NFL playoffs which will benefit you.
MATT RYAN VS. NEW ORLEANS
They just played the Saints a few weeks back and it ended up in the Falcons first and only loss of the year 26-23. Matt Ryan versus Drew Brees is a Fantasy Owner’s dream. Expect big point production out of Ryan who is facing the Saints 3oth ranked pass D. The Saints are permitting 8.5 yards per completion which is the worst mark in the league. They have also given up and average of 4 passes of 20+ yards per game to be caught.
JOE FLACCO VS. PITTSBURGH
Flacco has always had his struggles against his division rival and this game won’t be a cakewalk as usual. The Pittsburgh Steelers are ranked 1st in the league against the pass allowing 165.7 yards per game on 5.9 yards per completion which is a league best mark. They have only given up 20 passes of 20+ yards which is the best mark in the NFL as is their 2 passes of 40+ they’ve given up.
SAM BRADFORD VS. SAN FRANCISCO
In the words of Donovan McNabb “I didn’t realize we could have a tie game.” That was exactly what happened 2 weeks ago when the Rams and 49ers met for the first of their two divisional games. Bradford played a bit above his head and the 49ers had a less than stellar defensive performance. Can the Rams catch lightning in a bottle twice? Probably not against the #2 ranked Niners pass defense.
JAY CUTLER VS. SEATTLE
Cutler hasn’t been a Fantasy stud as it is and this week he has to contend with the extremely competent Seahawks pass defense who is currently ranked 3rd in the league. The Seahawks will be double teaming the Bears lone big threat Brandon Marshall so it will be a tough day for Marshall owners too. Cutler needs to have a big game to solidify the Bears hold on a Wildcard spot but he won’t get any cupcake completions against the Seattle secondary who is big, strong and physical.
RUNNING BACK STARTS
CJ SPILLER AND FRED JACKSON VS. JACKSONVILLE
Coach Chan Gailey has indicated that this two headed monster will get a 60-40 split in favor of Spiller but both guys have excellent Fantasy value against the Jags run defense who is ranked 29th. They have allowed 14 rushing TD’s and teams are not scared to run on them to the tune of 32.7 rush attempts allowed which is most in the NFL.
TRENT RICHARDSON VS. OAKLAND
The Raiders are ranked 28th in the league against the run. They have allowed opposing RB’s to gain 4.7 yards per carry and have surrendered 15 rushing TD’s which is 2nd worst. They have also been torched for 12 runs of 20+ yards and 5 of 40+ which is tied for 2nd worst. Richardson is running with reckless abandon even though he still suffers from a very painful rib injury.
JAMAAL CHARLES VS. CAROLINA
The Chiefs hired Marty Schottenheimer to be a consultant for the team and I bet his first words to Head Coach Romeo Crennel was “GET CHARLES THE BALL!” Charles was underutilized in ex HC Todd Haley’s offense and he again is a very explosive and mismanaged player. He had 107 yards last week and should continue to be the KC offense with the terrible QB situation he has to contend with.
RUNNING BACK SITS
CHRIS JOHNSON VS. HOUSTON
Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips has been spending a ton of time in the last two games shaking his head at the increase in points and yards allowed by the vaunted Texans defense and he won’t put up with much more of that. Expect the Texans to be working on a scheme to neutralize the most major weapon in the Titans offense. Houston hadn’t allowed a rushing TD until Thanksgiving when they let Detroit’s Mikel Leshoure gallop for two. Johnson won’t get much running room this week.
AHMAD BRADSHAW VS. WASHINGTON
Washington has steadily crept up the run defense rankings to peak at #3. Bradshaw is again a very fragile runner who will have to battle the physical Redskins defense this week. Washington is only allowing 21.8 rushing attempts per game which is tied for the least in the league. Expect Giants QB Eli Manning to exploit the swiss cheese pass defense and just run to keep the Skins honest.
STEVEN JACKSON VS. SAN FRANCISCO
The Niners had a surprising letdown against Jackson 2 weeks ago but they will be a tighter unit this weekend. They only give up 3.6 yards per carry which is tied for 2nd best and only see their opponents run 21.8 times per game on average which ties the Redskins for the least rushing attempts. Jackson is a big physical runner but the Niners will be hitting the line with their two major tackling machines, Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis. Expect a regression for Jackson.
WIDE RECEIVER STARTS
DEMARYIUS THOMAS VS. TAMPA BAY
Considering Peyton Manning will be throwing the ball against the 32nd ranked pass defense, he’ll have to throw it to someone. Thomas is the most logical choice as he will get a few prime matchups he can exploit. He is getting much better at route running and is a very sneaky deep threat who is a master of the double move. Peyton will find him in space a few times Sunday.
HAKEEM NICKS VS. WASHINGTON
Having Nicks mostly healthy really helps the New York Giants progression. Nicks is the possession receiver who is an overall better route runner than the diminutive Victor Cruz. Cruz has the explosiveness that he’ll draw the premium coverage and that should be beneficial to Nicks. Nicks had a very decent game last week and found the end zone against the Packers. This week he faces a team that has given up 23 passing TD’s which is tied for worst in the NFL.
STEVIE JOHNSON VS. JACKSONVILLE
Normally I would not state to start a Buffalo WR and a Buffalo RB on the same week but the Jaguars have been markedly better since going back to ex-Dolphin Chad Henne, who has thrown for a pile of yards and kept the Jags in contention the last two weeks. If he can keep the Jags in the game, Johnson will have a great opportunity to have back to back very productive Fantasy performances. The Jags have given up 22 passing TD’s which is very delicious to Johnson owners.
WIDE RECEIVER SITS
TORREY SMITH VS. PITTSBURGH
Smith had a whopping statline of 1 catch for 7 yards in the first meeting between the Steelers and the Ravens back in week 11. He was under constant watch by the very capable Pittsburgh secondary and he’ll experience the same level of blanketing this week. The Steelers are ranked as the number 1 passing defense for good reason, they have great situational and positional schemes.
BRANDON MARSHALL VS. SEATTLE
Marshall continues to be the main man in the Bears passing offense and he normally gets to roam free and catch a jump ball or two. Don’t expect that this week against the very physical Seahawks secondary. Marshall is 6’4 and he has the advantage over most of the league’s smaller Cornerbacks. This week he’ll be going up against guys who are as tall as him and just as willing to smack him around a bit. It’s probably not possible to sit Marshall, but be cautioned about less than normal production.
VINCENT JACKSON VS. DENVER
V Jax is once again the key weapon in a passing game, except this year it is in Tampa Bay. Jackson is a big receiver with a huge catching radius. Just throw the ball around him and he’ll haul it in right? Well maybe most weeks but he has to go up against the capable Broncos pass defense who is ranked #5 in the league. Champ Bailey and company will be watching lots of tape and they’ll be ready for him. Mike Williams should be a better option this week.
TIGHT END START
GREG OLSEN VS. KANSAS CITY
Kansas City has a surprising top 10 pass defense but they’ll get stretched out a bit more than usual this week by the mobility of the Carolina QB Cam Newton. When Linebackers chase Newton, that draws the coverage off guys like Olsen and he should be able to take advantage of the Chiefs D who has given up 8.3 yards per completion which is 3rd worst in the league. The Chiefs are also very susceptible to the passing TD as they’ve allowed 22. Olsen should have a big day.
TIGHT END SIT
JERMICHAEL FINLEY VS. MINNESOTA
Finley has been an exercise in frustration once again this season for Fantasy Owner’s and he’ll continue to be a talented enigma. He has criticized the offense in Green Bay for not getting him the ball enough but he hasn’t warranted getting more targets due to his propensity to drop even the most routine throw. The Vikings are one of the absolute best teams in the NFL at neutralizing the TE so if you have other options and I’m sure you do, use one.