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.
TAKING A FLIER
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.