Thursday, December 10, 2009

Week 14 Starters & Benchwarmers

You don’t need me advising you to start Drew Brees and Chris Johnson, or to bench Josh Freeman and Brian Finneran. So I’ll leave the obvious recommendations to the network bozos and focus instead on players typically on the bubble of most fantasy lineups. Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 14.

Watch ‘em roll

Alex Smith, QB, 49ers vs. Cardinals. Last week’s “flier” is this week’s full-fledged recommendation, now that Smith has emerged as a legitimate fantasy passer. With 769 yards, 7 TDs and just one interception over the last three games, Smith has earned the confidence of his coach and his owners. He’ll undoubtedly be forced to air it out often against the high-flying Cards, so count on more happy returns Monday night.

Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs vs. Bills. He has quietly been performing at an elite level over the past four weeks against some formidable competitors, with 389 combined yards and 4 TDs over that span. And what do you know? Here comes the league’s worst run defense (172 yards-per-game average). Yahtzee!

Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints at Falcons. Reggie Bush is in the coach’s doghouse, and Mike Bell is dealing with a sore knee, so things are stacking up well for Thomas this week against Atlanta’s rapidly imploding defense. A minor quad injury won’t keep him from contributing as both a rusher and receiver, especially near the goal-line.

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers vs. Cardinals. If Smith (above) is going to come through, his top wideout will need to pitch in. What better time for the rookie to notch his first 100-yard game than at home, in front of a national audience? Arizona’s 30th-ranked pass defense coughs up 258 yards per game, and Vernon Davis can’t get all of them.

Terrell Owens, WR, Bills at Chiefs. Before the Jets’ Darrelle Revis shut him down last Thursday, Owens was on a nice roll, with 378 yards and 2 TDs over a three-game stretch. He should bounce back nicely against KC’s vulnerable secondary, provided the winds at Arrowhead aren’t blowing too strong.

More thumbs up: QBs Kurt Warner, Matt Schaub, Donovan McNabb; RBs Ray Rice, Thomas Jones, Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Grant, Laurence Maroney; WRs Roddy White, Robert Meachem, Jeremy Maclin, Davone Bess.

Roll ‘em back

Carson Palmer, QB, Bengals at Vikings. With just three multi-touchdown games and still looking for his first 300-yarder, Palmer has been a huge disappointment to his owners. That’s unlikely to change against a Vikings secondary eager for redemption after Sunday night’s fiasco. Palmer will be on his back too much to contribute.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears vs. Packers. I wasn’t kidding when I said last week would be his 2009 swan song. If you saw Green Bay’s 4th-ranked run defense shut down Ray Rice on Monday night, you understand why Forte should be nowhere near your starting lineup this Sunday. He’ll be lucky to replicate the 55-yard outing he had against them in the opener.

Chris Brown, RB, Texans vs. Seahawks. Though Steve Slaton has been placed on injured reserve, Brown must still share carries with Ryan Moats. Seattle’s run defense has been solid lately, as Frank Gore learned last week. If nothing else, at least Brown is unlikely to throw another pick this weekend.

Mario Manningham, WR, Giants vs. Eagles. Aside from a 126-yard outing against Atlanta in Week 11, he has been pretty mediocre lately. Philly’s top-ten pass defense has been playing well, so don’t expect much from Manningham this week either.

Antonio Bryant, WR, Buccaneers vs. Jets. His strong, two-week run (207 yards, 1 TD) will come to a screeching halt with Revis attached to his hip. The league’s best corner anchors its best pass defense, which is bad news for everyone associated with the Bucs’ passing game.

More thumbs down: QBs Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, Matt Cassel, Bruce Gradkowski; RBs Kevin Smith, Brandon Jacobs, Jerious Norwood, Jerome Harrison, Beanie Wells; WRs Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, Chris Chambers, Devin Hester, Austin Collie, Bernard Berrian, Jason Avant, Donnie Avery.


Quinton Ganther, RB, Redskins at Raiders. Despite his undistinguished four-year resume, Ganther merits fantasy consideration in light of his starting assignment against one of the league’s worst run defenses. No team has surrendered more rushing TDs (18) than Oakland, and only two average worse than their 159 rushing yards per game. Rock Cartwright will revert back to his change-of-pace and kick-return duties.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO…fails to gauge the winds. This time of year, frigid cold, snow and ice are prevalent around the NFL. But nothing can ground passing games like gusting winds, so be sure to check the weather reports (or my tweets) before finalizing your lineup. That's why I've recommended sitting Big Ben, Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward for tonight's game. And don’t forget that kickers hate the winds more than anybody.


  1. Ladd,
    Would you go with the hot hand in TE Finley or stay with Celek this week?

    And I'm going with P Thomas with one of my RB's. Who would you select with him from Moreno, Gore, Benson, or McCoy.

    On WR, which 2 would you go with: Fitz, Colston, Miles, or Ocho?

  2. craig,

    I'd have to stick with Celek. Finley is nice, but too uneven.

    I'd take my chances with Gore.

    Fitz and Colston

  3. Ladd,

    I have 4 candidates for the WR3 spot behind R. Moss and Meachem.... S. Moss, Berrian, Cotchery, and Avant. Who do you feel I should go with?



  4. Nevermind the 4 candidates. Maybe I should finish reading your blog before I ask a question. Since you say thumbs down to Berrian and Avant, who should I pick between S. Moss and Cotchery?

    Thanks (again!)


  5. Team defense to start: Minnesota or Arizona? Thanks!

  6. Ladd,
    I made the palyoffs! No bye though my guys stunk it up last week. I'm in the same situation this week as last. If I lose this week the consequences are much greater. I have Turner and have no idea what is going on with him. My other options are Forsett and Norwood. Or, I can pick up C.Brown, L.Johnson, J.Fargas, or Q.Ganther. What do you think?

  7. I love your blog - But I got some lineup calls - hope you get this and I would appreciate your thoughts - sorry for the length:

    I read how Marshawn Lynch looked so much better last week - and the Bills are playing such a weak defense - is the RB situation a 50/50 split in BUF where both can do well (last week I used Buckholter agaist the same KC team and he had 115 yards even with Moreno having a good game also). Is Lynch the goal line guy?

    Given that analysis - Can you tell me who you think - I need 2 RB's & best option for a flex from:

    Lynch (v KC)

    Cartwright (v OAK

    Felix Jones (v D)

    Buckholter (v IND)

    Fargas (v WAS

    Snelling (v NO)

    Moats (v SEA)

    All seem like good matchups (yes I have been stocking up on RB's because of this mess - I also started Mendenhall). Slaton is out and Moats got 12 touches (over Brown's 8) last week in a loss & SEA is weak run D. Fargas has been pretty good. IND rush defense is middle of the road and he does share carries, Cartwright still may get lots of work. Again - I kinda like Lynch. On a side note, my team is not that bad...I know your ;ike "how did this guy make the playoffs?" but I have Andre Johnson, Desean Jackson, Vincent Jackson, Dallas Clarke and Aaron Rodgers and lost Brian Westbrook and Clinton Portis to Concussions. It' been a shell game w/ my RB's here. I would appreciate your thoughts.

    Thanks - Ron - NYC

  8. Ladd,

    Can't figure out my Running Backs.

    I have Addai, Ricky Williams, and Pierre T.

    You Pierre as a watch em roll. I just don't want to be rolled out of the playoffs. Your thoughts on the best 2 starters?

    Thanks. Steve in Plano

  9. Ladd,
    After last nights performance, I would like your thoughts if any of the waivers pick ups of Cle RB) Jennings, Norwood, or LJ would be better than Chris Brown. I am hearing too much of the 50/50 workload in Houston.

  10. olzkool,

    I'd take my chances with Ganther. In fact, in one league, I am taking my chances with Ganther.

  11. Ladd,

    I have 2 teams in the playoffs (no bye weeks). For QB, I have Peyton Manning on each with Alex Smith and Kurt Warner as back ups. Thinking about an insurance move and starting Manning in one and Warner in the other. Can't see a significant difference between the 2 per my rankings. Your thoughts?

    Thanks, Bushwood

  12. ron,

    No kidding. That's quite a hodgepodge of mediocre RBs.

    Jackson has been declared the primary RB for the Bills, so Lynch's chances will be few. He's a risk, but you never know.

    Given your choices, I guess I'd have to roll with Fargas, Snelling (assuming Turner is out) and Lynch. Though I'd rather use Ganther than Lynch if he's available.

    Depending on your other WR options, you might be better off inserting a WR in your flex spot than one of those spare RBs.

    Good luck.

  13. steve,

    I like all 3 of your RBs. Addai has the worst matchup, but I don't think you can sit him. I also think you have to play Ricky since he's far and away Miami's top scoring option. So I guess that means sitting Thomas, even though I think he'll be great.

  14. craig,

    No, I think I'd stick with Brown. He has a sweet matchup in Week 15 vs. the Rams. Too much sharing going on in CLE (Cribbs is the best of the bunch!), and the Falcons RB situation is a mess.

  15. Bushwood,

    I like your strategy. With great options like Peyton and Warner, it makes sense to hedge your bets, especially since Peyton has a tough matchup (on paper, anyway). Good call.