Frank Gore, RB, SF – Not many teams have as strong of a commitment to the run as the 49ers do. Colin Kaepernick didn’t have his best game passing the ball against the Rams this past week and in order to get back on track, I anticipate a heavy dose of Gore. Don’t sweat the match-up either because the Dolphins are not the stout run defense that they were in the first half of the season. I blame the offensive for this as their inability to convert on third downs has led to a tired defense late in games and they simply get over run. Expect more of the same this week when the east coast team travels west.
Victor Cruz, WR, NYG – I expect both Cruz and Nicks to do very well in this game. Let’s be honest about their opponent… Brees is NOT going to lay another egg like last week and the Saints defense is NOT going to be able to stop this Giants offense that really turned a corner last week on offense. Manning certainly played better than before the bye week but the timing was just a shade off against the Skins and I expect the throws to be right on time the rest of the way. New York always finishes the season strong and because of that, I love their players during the fantasy playoffs.
Matthew Stafford, QB, DET –There are a lot of negatives surrounding the Lions right now. They dropped too many winnable games early in the season to be fighting for a playoff spot and injuries have decimated the receiving corps but Calvin Johnson remains healthy and that is enough for me. The Packers secondary is their weak spot and with Clay Matthews looking to miss this game as well, Stafford will have plenty of time to let Megatron get open before he dumps it off to Pettigrew and Mike Thomas. If somehow Stafford DIDN’T cost you your playoff spot, you can confidently start him this week.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, CIN – The Bengals lost an offensive weapon (Mohammed Sanu) to IR this week and while it won’t have a big impact on the game plan, it could lead to a few extra run plays. Given that the Law Firm has been playing by and far his best football of the season over the past three games, I am able to start him with as much confidence as I’ve ever been able to all year. Dallas isn’t a good match-up but after what Bryce Brown did to them last week, I am far from scared of playing a quality running back against them.
Browns, D/ST, CLE – It takes a lot for me to step up and stake a claim to a defensive unit for my love list but here it is. And it’s the Browns of all teams. Everyone has been so surprised by the production of Trent Richardson, Josh Gordon and Brandon Weeden that they don’t notice that it is the defense keeping them a competitive ball club. The wins haven’t come but they also haven’t played any games against Brady Quinn yet. Jamaal Charles will be productive but the Browns have as much value this week as they ever will and at 6 in my rankings, they are the defense that I am looking to on free agency this week.
Pierre Garcon, WR, WAS – A TON of owners bailed on this guy after a few too many weeks on the inactive list. I scooped him up in a few leagues and I have to say, he’s a great addition so late in the year. This is the unquestioned top threat for RGIII, who is going to make plays regardless of who is on the field. Given the elite level of play that Griffen has been displaying on a weekly basis, it’s hard to imagine there being very many under-whelming games for Garcon. He didn’t crack my top 20 quite yet but if he can find the end zone again this week, he’ll be there for sure for week 15.
Tony Romo, QB, DAL – Throw away all the stats about what month it is because they are irrelevant, albeit fun to talk about. Tony Romo has been awful all year. The team sits at .500 and yet it’s been in spite of the play of Romo. He is making poor decisions and turning the ball over far more consistently in years past and I can’t trust him to be a starter in anything but the deepest of leagues.
Josh Gordon, WR, CLE – I had written some positive things about Gordon leading up to my rankings and then, quite frankly, I wussed out. I just can’t list a Cleveland Browns receiver inside my top 20 inside the playoffs. He fell to 28 in my ranks because I am not supremely confident that I can expect him to score a TD, even if it IS against the Chiefs. There is even a decent chance that Richardson runs away with the game and the Browns aren’t focused on the vertical passing game.
Stevan Ridley, RB, NE – I am fully aware of how good he has been for you thus far but a lot of owners would be wise to sit him down this week against the Texans. Houston can move the ball on offense however they chose, especially against such a weak defense. This leads me to believe that they game plan will be heavy on Andre Johnson and Owen Daniels and a little lighter for Arian Foster. The Patriots on the other hand, won’t have free reign on offense as they play host to one of the best defenses in the AFC. Brady will need to be slinging the ball around and Ridley’s value will be too dependent on goal line work for me to call him a must-start, which I think most people would do.
Antonio Brown, WR, PIT – This is more so a cautionary warning for Brown owners with a bad memory. He was AWFUL so far this season prior to the injury and when you add in the fact that Big Ben’s performance will likely be less than 100%, there isn’t a lot of faith that starting Brown won’t mean my season is over.
Michael Turner, RB, ATL – I saw his game last week and I still can’t get myself to want to start this aging running back. He even has a decent match-up against Carolina who I expect to lose by a fair margin, which would usually mean a fair amount of work to run clock and put the game on ice. I am just too worried about the prospect of a 13 carry 45 yard performance with Rodgers and Snelling seeing a little bit more work to ensure the healthy of Turner in the post season.