So here we are - it’s crunchtime. Either it’s the last week of your league’s regular season or the first week of your playoffs. Here are my recommendations for Week 14:
Pittsburgh at Cleveland - Last week we learned that Brandon Jacobs hated the Cowboys as a kid. This week we learned that Browns’ QB Brady Quinn had similar feelings for the Steelers as a kid. Pyschologists would have a field day. Steelers to start include QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Rashard Mendenhall (Probable-ankle), TE Heath Miller, WR Santonio Holmes, K Jeff Reed, and the Defense. Add WR Hines Ward (Questionable-hamstring) to the list if he’s healthy enough to play; add WR Mike Wallace to the list if Ward is unable to play. There aren’t any Browns I’d consider “must starts”, but you can start Quinn and WR Mohamed Massaquoi if you’re in a deep league. Leave RBs Jerome Harrison & Chris Jennings (Probable-shoulder) and WRs Brian Robiskie (Probable-toe) & Josh Cribbs on the bench. Special kudos to the scheduling wizards who picked the Browns to host a late-season Thursday night game.
Carolina at New England - Say what you will about Patriots’ Head Coach Bill Belichick, but the man definitely doesn’t play favorites. Unfortunately, WR Randy Moss and several teammates found that out the hard way this week. The Panthers plan to show up on time Sunday in Foxboro, and assuming they do, RBs DeAngelo Williams (Probable-ankle) & Jonathan Stewart (Questionable-Achilles’) and WR Steve Smith should be started. Do not start the Panthers’ QB, whether it’s Jake Delhomme (Questionable-finger) or Matt Moore, or WRs Muhsin Muhammad (Questionable-knee) & Dwayne Jarrett (Probable-ankle). Patriots to start include new father QB Tom Brady (Questionable-shoulder/finger/lack of sleep), TE Ben Watson (Probable-knee), WRs Wes Welker & Moss, and K Stephen Gostkowski. Add RBs Laurence Maroney & Sammy Morris and the Defense to the list in deeper leagues. Leave WR Sam Aiken (Questionable-shoulder) out, and don’t assume that RB Fred Taylor (Questionable-ankle) will return this week.
Cincinnati at Minnesota - Vikings’ Head Coach Brad Childress has the opposite problem from his counterpart in New England. While several Patriots apparently drive too slowly in snowstorms for Bill Belichick’s liking, several Vikings apparently drive too fast under normal conditions for the police’s liking. Presumably, conditions will be normal inside the Metrodome on Sunday. Bengals to start include QB Carson Palmer, RB Cedric Benson, WRs Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles, & Andre Caldwell, and K Shayne Graham. Vikings to start include QB Brett Favre, RB Adrian Peterson (Questionable-foot/ankle/bad judgment), TE Visanthe Shiancoe (Questionable-ribs), WRs Bernard Berrian (Questionable-hamstring/bad judgment), Sidney Rice, & Percy Harvin, and K Ryan Longwell. Add RB Chester Taylor to the list in deeper leagues.
Seattle at Houston - In a move that will undoubtedly spark massive protests by fashionistas everywhere, the Seahawks have decided to scrap their
hideousgreen alternate jerseys after wearing them just once. In spite of this tragic news Seattle will still play this Sunday and have a number of players who should be started: TE John Carlson, WRs T.J. Houshmandzadeh & Nate Burleson, and K Olindo Mare. Add the Seahawks QB to the list, whether it’s Matt Hasselbeck (Questionable-shoulder) or Seneca Wallace. Add RBs Julius Jones & Justin Forsett to the list in deep leagues. Texans to start include QB Matt Schaub (Probable-shoulder), WRs Andre Johnson & Kevin Walter, and K Kris Brown. Add RBs Chris Brown & Ryan Moats and WR Jacoby Jones to the list in deep leagues. RB Steve Slaton (Out-neck) will miss the rest of the season.
Detroit at Baltimore - Ravens’ LB Terrell Suggs has had a bad last month. First, a knee injury kept him out of three consecutive games, and now he’s been hit with a huge lawsuit alleging some terrible things. Fortunately for the Ravens even if the lawsuit causes a distraction, it’s still unlikely to affect their ability to trounce their guests from the Motor City. The only Lion worth starting this week is WR Calvin Johnson, although QB Daunte Culpepper and TE Will Heller can also be started in deep leagues. Leave RB Kevin Smith and WR Bryant Johnson on the bench. Ravens to start include QB Joe Flacco (Probable-knee/hip), RB Ray Rice, TE Todd Heap, WR Derrick Mason, K Billy Cundiff (Questionable-concussion), and the Defense. Add WRs Mark Clayton (Probable-knee) and Kelley Washington to the list in deeper leagues. Leave RB Willis McGahee on the bench.
Miami at Jacksonville - How quickly things change. After the Jaguars started the season 0-2 most stories that were written about them focused either on the team’s lousy attendance or whether they should take Florida
supermanQB Tim Tebow in next April’s draft. Now, after winning seven of their last ten games, the Jaguars are in the driver’s seat for a playoff berth. The only Dolphin who must be started in this intrastate contest is RB Ricky Williams, but you can also start QB Chad Henne, TE Anthony Fasano, and WRs Greg Camarillo, Brian Hartline, & Davonne Bess if you’re in a deep league. Leave WR Ted Ginn on the bench. Jaguars to start include QB David Garrard, RB Maurice Jones-Drew (Questionable-knee), TE Marcedes Lewis, and WRs Mike Sims-Walker (Questionable-calf) & Torry Holt. If Sims-Walker is unable to play, add WR Mike Thomas to the list.
New York Jets at Tampa Bay - Jets’ Head Coach Rex Ryan doesn’t worry much about stepping on toes (although that must hurt), and this week he’s decided to bench starting QB Mark Sanchez (Out-knee) against the rookie’s wishes. Jets to start include RB Thomas Jones, TE Dustin Keller, WRs Braylon Edwards & Jerricho Cotchery, K Jay Feely, and the Defense. Add QB Kellen Clemens and RB Shonn Greene to the list in deep leagues. Assuming that he’s healthy enough to start, TE Kellen Winslow is the only Buccaneer who should be in your lineup this week, although RB Cadillac Williams can also be started in deep leagues. Leave QB Josh Freeman, RB Derrick Ward, and WRs Antonio Bryant, Maurice Stovall, & Michael Clayton (Questionable-knee) out of your lineup.
Buffalo at Kansas City - For the most part mercurial Bills’ WR Terrell Owens has been a model citizen this year with his new team. Now, he’s apparently decided that he wants to be just a model after his football playing days are over. His teammates will undoubtedly show restraint and refrain from commenting on or razzing him about his new career. Bills to start this week include RB Marshawn Lynch, WRs Owens & Lee Evans, and K Rian Lindell. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and RB Fred Jackson can also be started in deeper leagues. RB Jamaal Charles is the only Chief worth starting this week. Leave QB Matt Cassel and WR Chris Chambers out of your lineup. WR Dwayne Bowe (Out-suspension) will miss his fourth and final game.
Denver at Indianapolis - Two sad notes involving the teams in this game: long-time Bronco fan Tim McKernan (better known as “Barrel Man”) has passed away, and Colts’ reserve QB Jim Sorgi (who has often started in starting QB Peyton Manning’s place during the fantasy playoff weeks) has been placed on IR. In spite of these events the show must go on, and there will still be a game played Sunday afternoon. Broncos to start include RB Knowshon Moreno, WR Brandon Marshall, and the Defense. Add RB Correll Buckhalter to the list in deep leagues. Leave QB Kyle Orton (Probable-ankle) and WR Eddie Royal on the bench. Colts to start include TE Dallas Clark, WR Reggie Wayne, and the Defense. At the risk of saying something sacrilegious during the holiday season, you should leave QB Peyton Manning (Probable-glute) out of your lineup this week if you have another quarterback on your roster with a better matchup. Other Colts who should be absent from your lineup include RBs Joseph Addai & Donald Brown (Questionable-chest), and WRs Austin Collie & Pierre Garcon. Expect WR Anthony Gonzalez (Questionable-knee) to miss yet another game.
St. Louis at Tennessee - It’s been a bad week for football players named O.J. First, the
real killerformer Buffalo Bills’ great was apparently beaten in prison. Now comes word that Rams’ star S Oshiomogho “O.J.” Atogwe has been placed on IR with a season-ending shoulder injury. Sadly for St. Louis, Atogwe’s absence won’t affect the outcome of this game. RB Steven Jackson (Questionable-back) is the only Ram worth starting, and that’s assuming he’s healthy enough to play. Add QB Kyle Boller and WR Donnie Avery (Questionable-shoulder) to the list in deep leagues. QB Marc Bulger (Out-knee) will miss at least another week. Titans to start include QB Vince Young (Probable-knee), RB Chris Johnson, TE Bo Scaife, WR Kenny Britt, K Rob Bironas, and the Defense. Add WRs Justin Gage and Nate Washington (Questionable-ankle) to the list in deep leagues.
Green Bay at Chicago - Packers’ K Mason Crosby is renowned for his strong leg, but lately he’s been in a slump. A date with the Bears is just what the doctor ordered for this struggling kicker and his teammates. Packers to start include Crosby, QB Aaron Rodgers, RB Ryan Grant, WRs Greg Jennings & Donald Driver, and the Defense. The only Bear worth starting is TE Garrett Olsen. Leave QB Jay Cutler, RB Matt Forte, and WRs Devin Hester (Questionable-calf), Earl Bennett, & Johnny Knox on the bench against the underrated Packers’ defense.
New Orleans at Atlanta - The Saints have become such rock stars in New Orleans that the team now fears for the safety of its hard-core fans who come out to the airport to greet the team upon their arrival home after an away game. The Saints will most likely have another large crowd welcoming them back late Sunday from what should be another road victory. Saints to start include QB Drew Brees, RBs Pierre Thomas & Mike Bell, TE Jeremy Shockey, WR Marques Colston, and K Garrett Hartley. Add RB Reggie Bush (Questionable-knee), and WRs Robert Meachem & Devery Henderson to the list in deeper leagues. WR Lance Moore (Questionable-ankle/hamstring) figures to miss another game. For the Falcons RB Michael Turner (Questionable-ankle) should be started if he’s healthy enough to play; if not, start RB Jerrious Norwood. TE Tony Gonzalez and WR Roddy White (Questionable-knee) should also be started. Add the Falcons’ QB to the list in deeper leagues, whether it’s Matt Ryan (Questionable-toe) or Chris Redman. RB Jason Snelling and WR Michael Jenkins (Questionable-ankle) can also be started in deep leagues.
Washington at Oakland - Another week, another head-scratching event in Raiderland as former Assistant Coach Randy Hanson returned to work in the team’s personnel department. His impact there will probably be negligible, but it gives those in Raider Nation something to talk about other than the astonishing fact that their team has actually won four games this season. Redskins to start include QB Jason Campbell, TE Fred Davis, WR Santana Moss, newly-signed K Graham Gano, and the Defense. Add RB Quinton Ganther and WRs Devin Thomas & Antwaan Randle-El to the list in deep leagues. The Rock Cartwright Era is apparently over after just one game, so leave him out of your lineup. The only Raider who should be started is TE Zach Miller, although RBs Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas, & Michael Bush can be started in deep leagues. Keep QB Bruce Gradkowski and his wide receivers out of your lineup.
San Diego at Dallas - The big news out of Dallas this week was that QB Tony Romo has volunteered to be the holder again on placekicks. Just in case you’ve forgotten, here’s what happened the last time Romo tried to do that. Thanks, but no thanks. Chargers to start in this game include QB Philip Rivers, TE Antonio Gates, and WR Vincent Jackson. Add RBs LaDainian Tomlinson & Darren Sproles and WR Malcom Floyd to the list in deep leagues. Cowboys to start include RB Marion Barber and TE Jason Witten (Probable-foot). Add Romo, RBs Tashard Choice & Felix Jones, and WRs Roy Williams & Miles Austin to the list in deep leagues.
Philadelphia at New York Giants - As mentioned above, Giants’ RB Brandon Jacobs expressed his lifelong disdain for the Cowboys last week prior to last Sunday’s game. Fortunately for Jacobs, he was able to back up his talk with a long touchdown reception. The Giants face another must-win game this week if they want to remain in the NFC playoff hunt, but I don’t think they’ll be able to pull another rabbit out of the hat this week. Eagles to start include QB Donovan McNabb, TE Brent Celek (Probable-thumb), and WRs DeSean Jackson (Probable-concussion), Jeremy Maclin (Questionable-foot), & Jason Avant (Probable-hamstring). The only Giants I’d recommend starting against the Eagles’ defense are TE Kevin Boss and WR Steve Smith. Add QB Eli Manning and Jacobs to the list in deep leagues. Leave RB Ahmad Bradshaw (Questionable-ankle/foot) and WRs Mario Manningham & Hakeem Nicks on the bench.
Arizona at San Francisco - 49ers’ Head Coach Mike Singletary took the opportunity at his weekly press conference to discuss the “unfavorable calls” that he believes cost his team a victory last week in Seattle. Singletary probably won’t have to blame his team’s defeat on the referees this week; the Cardinals should win this game handily. Cardinals to start include QB Kurt Warner, RB Tim Hightower, and WRs Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, & Steve Breaston. Add RB Chris Wells to the list in deep leagues. 49ers to start include QB Alex Smith, RB Frank Gore, TE Vernon Davis, & WR Michael Crabtree. Add WR Josh Morgan to the list in deep leagues. WR Isaac Bruce (Questionable-ankle) shouldn’t be in your lineup even if he plays.
Good luck to your teams this weekend!
Until next time,
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