Eric Mack
Wednesday December 14th, 2011

For most of us, it is all over in fantasy. Only the stacked teams -- or really lucky ones -- are left standing in the playoffs.

It is the time of the year to watch the ones with the embarrassment of riches face off for the right to play in the title games. And for some of the rest to complain about how our opponents always seem to have huge weeks against us.

Those remaining have one thing working against them, though: Tough decisions remain. They are going to be agonizing over sitting their trustworthy star (Cam Newton and Maurice Jones-Drew) in a bad matchup or starting that one-week wonder and hoping it pans out (Demaryius Thomas).

At least most of us are out of it and don't have to deal with any more fantasy pain. For those still tormented with the tough decisions, we have the Week 15 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em.

Notice we don't suggest whether to start or sit Steelers receiver Antonio Brown. It really backfired on this writer suggesting he sit last week. You geniuses got that one figured out, even if he is facing the 49ers and might be without Ben Roethlisberger.

Ignoring Brown, here are our other fearless recommendations by position:

While it is the most important position to get right in fantasy crunch time, it should be the one with the easiest decisions. The best fantasy teams tend to be led by the elite quarterbacks. You should be starting the likes of Newton, Philip Rivers, Eli Manning and Matt Ryan as a matter of form. But if you're trying to get by with the scraps ...

Five starts

Tim Tebow, Broncos -- He was bad for three-plus quarters again against a very good defense in the Bears a week ago. Now, we should all feel confident in him against the worst team in fantasy against QBs and WRs. The Pats are the worst pass defense in the NFL and they figure to score at will themselves, which should take away the running game and put the game in Tebow's hands a lot earlier than late in the fourth quarter. This is a dream matchup for Tebow owners.

Rex Grossman, Redskins -- Say what you want about one of the more error-prone QBs in the NFL today, but he has had some big fantasy performances this season. The Giants have allowed over 300-plus yards passing with four TDs in each of the past three weeks. Sure, those QBs were Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo, but that Giants secondary cannot hang with anyone. The Giants are third-worst team in fantasy against QBs and it seems all the elite QBs in the NFL this season have defenses that give a lot back up through the air going the other way. Grossman is without his top tight ends, but he is going to pick up numbers in a shootout again here.

Carson Palmer, Raiders -- Hue Jackson is so fed up with the turnovers, there were reports Jason Campbell might be a consideration to play for the Raiders again. That doesn't say much for Palmer. The Raiders figure to get healthier at the receiver position, though, and Palmer is talented enough to avoid his picks and perform up to a fantasy starter's level against the Lions, who are in the bottom half of fantasy against QBs.

Andy Dalton, Bengals -- It is unlikely you need to count on this rookie in fantasy crunch time, particularly since he is facing a top-10 team in fantasy against QBs in the Rams (they are somewhat surprisingly good against QBs, perhaps because they give up so much on the ground). Dalton is going to perform like a starter in a must-win game here, though, throwing for 250 yards and at least a pair of touchdowns. Use him if you don't trust a star in a bad matchup, like say Big Ben.

Joe Flacco, Ravens -- He has proved, mostly because of a modest receiving corps, to be more of a fantasy backup. The Ravens are going to San Diego to face the resurgent Chargers, who are in the bottom half of fantasy against QBs. Also, Rivers figures to give his team at least some life by keeping it wide open through the air. That should force Flacco and the Ravens to get more aggressive, too. Flacco is a marginal start, but one that is better than many of the other marginal ones.

Five sits

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers -- It is still unclear if he is going to try to play with the high-ankle sprain, but if he does, he will be limited to the point you shouldn't trust him. The 49ers have a great defense and this game figures to be a low-scoring defensive struggle -- not the kind you want to be trusting a QB in at fantasy crunch time.

Michael Vick, Eagles -- Vick returned to action last week to mediocre results. It is nice to have this talent available to you in crunch time, but if you're still in the playoffs, you probably should go back to that guy that got you here when Vick was out. The Jets are the fifth-best team in fantasy against QBs and Vick just hasn't performed like a fantasy starter even when healthy this season.

Mark Sanchez, Jets -- He has played like a fantasy starter, if not a star, of late, but facing the Eagles on the road is a bad time to trust him. The Eagles have finally moved up into the top half of fantasy against QBs and they figure to give up enough on the ground to keep the Jets from having to put the game on Sanchez's shoulders.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills -- We had to do a double take to believe it, but Fitzy is still owned in 91 percent of fantasy leagues. What game have his fantasy owners been watching? He has been more terrible than good since his hot start. Sure, the Dolphins are in the bottom half of fantasy against QBs, but most of that damage was done in the early season, too. Fitzpatrick should not be owned in any one-quarterback formats, much less starting.

Alex Smith, 49ers -- This one is for the two-quarterback leagues. Smith shouldn't be owned in other formats. Smith is facing the Steelers and, like Big Ben, figures to be playing close to the vest in a defensive struggle. The Steelers are the third-best team in fantasy against QBs, so obviously trusting a below-average option like Smith in a terrible matchup is bad news.

Adrian Peterson might be making a comeback and is a start, if you don't have other great options. Otherwise, we do see a lot of elite backs facing bad matchups, but you still should be using LeSean McCoy, Maurice Jones-Drew, Marshawn Lynch and Ryan Mathews in all leagues, regardless. As for the ones you might be making a decision on ...

Five starts

Felix Jones, Cowboys -- DeMarco Murray's loss is Jones' gain. Similar to Murray, who began his reign of terror against the weak Rams run defense, Jones gets the worst team in fantasy against running backs, the Bucs. Jones is a must-start in all leagues in this matchup, particularly with absolutely no backup of note behind him.

Ben Tate, Texans -- Everyone is already starting Arian Foster, but Tate is a nice sleeper if you need a stopgap. The Panthers are the second-worst team in fantasy against RBs and the rookie third-string QB they are starting should give ample chances to the running game. With the division clinched, the Texans are going to work Foster a little less to save him for the postseason, too. It is a good week to consider Tate.

Chris Johnson, Titans -- After weeks of stardom, CJ2K failed many in the first week of the fantasy playoffs. If you made it through, you should keep running Johnson out there. Only the Browns and Rams have given up more rushing yards than the Colts, who are third-worst in fantasy against RBs. Johnson is going to have a big rebound and pay us back here, especially if rookie Jake Locker gets the start over Matt Hasselbeck. This could be a 200-yard week for Johnson.

Beanie Wells, Cardinals -- The Browns have given up the most rushing yards in the NFL this season, and after Wells got stuffed against the No. 1 rushing defense in the NFL, it is time to get him back in all lineups. This is a dream matchup that should get Wells over 100 yards and into the end zone at least once.

Cedric Benson, Bengals -- Benson has faced two of the toughest run defenses in the NFL in the past two weeks and now he will face the second worst. It is time to go back to him against the Rams. The Bengals are still just a game out of the wild-card chase, so expect them to give the Rams a heavy dose of the running game here.

Five(-plus) sits

Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers -- You might not be able to afford to sit Mendenhall in crunch time, but you probably should try. He is facing best team in fantasy against RBs in San Francisco. Not only have they not allowed a rushing TD to an RB all season, but they lead in rush yards against by over 250 yards. The Steelers figure to have to move the ball through the air, if at all, regardless of who their QB is this week.

C.J. Spiller, Bills -- He was supposed to be a poor man's Fred Jackson down the stretch for fantasy owners. Instead, he has merely been Spiller, the disappointment. Now he faces the Dolphins run defense that bottled up LeSean McCoy for a mere 38 yards on 27 carries. Spiller isn't going to get anywhere against that Dolphins run defense. The 'Fins are the fourth-best team in fantasy against RBs.

DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, Panthers -- Somehow, no one can figure out the Panthers RB situation. One week Stewart outperforms Williams and the next Williams rebounds, like he did with that 74-yard TD run against one of the best run defenses in the NFL in the Falcons. Now the Panthers face the Texans and they don't figure to get anywhere on the ground -- we promise this time. Sit both Panthers backs.

Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter, 49ers -- This is a team built on the running game, but they are facing a team built to stuff the run. It is a terrible time to take a chance on the banged-up Gore, particularly with the division title locked up. The 49ers are using Hunter more and will continue to save Gore's legs for the postseason. Both 49ers backs look like bad news against the Steelers, who are sixth-best in fantasy against RBs.

Brandon Jacobs, Giants -- Jacobs somehow looked four years younger in rushing for over 100 yards and two scores against the Cowboys, a top 10 team in fantasy against RBs. Jacobs did that with Ahmad Bradshaw healthy, too (albeit thanks to a first-half, team-imposed suspension). Bradshaw is the slightly better play between the two this week but neither is real advisable. Expect Jacobs to go back to 12 carries and 35 yards here.

This is by far the toughest position to peg week to week, particularly when the stakes are the highest. Guys like Calvin Johnson and Mike Wallace should be no-brainers, but they were no help last week. You should remain confident in the guys that have gotten you the most points over the course of the season. Going with the flavor of the week can set you back.

Five starts

Donald Driver, Packers -- The loss of Greg Jennings figures to force Aaron Rodgers to go elsewhere with the ball. Driver has been the second-most productive receiver to the must-start Jordy Nelson, so consider the veteran the first choice to fill in for Jennings.

James Jones, Packers -- Jones is the second choice. And both Driver and Jones are viable starts. The Chiefs are the sixth-best team in fantasy against WRs and in the top half against QBs, but there are just too many Packers weapons to cover, even without Jennings.

Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs -- He is dealing with QB uncertainty, but he is also facing the Packers, who figure to turn this game into a shootout like they do all of their games. Bowe hasn't been great since Matt Cassel went down, but this figures to be a good week to go back to him. The Packers are the third-worst team in fantasy against WRs. A move to Kyle Orton could really ignite him.

Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney, Redskins -- Grossman is going to be in a shootout with Eli Manning, so the Redskins receivers look like good plays. Even Donte' Stallworth is a decent sleeper in deeper leagues. The Giants have been ripped through the air of late and are second-worst in fantasy against WRs.

Demaryius Thomas, Broncos -- It is hard to figure whether it will be Thomas or Eric Decker getting the few completions Tebow connects on, but Thomas has been the better of the two in recent weeks, so use him over Decker. Frankly, both are useful. The Pats, as we said, are the worst pass defense in the NFL and the worst in fantasy against WRs. Consider Thomas and Decker to be solid third receivers.

Five sits

Michael Crabtree, 49ers -- He might be the 49ers' leading receiver, particularly of late, but he is facing a Steelers defense that is second-best in fantasy against WRs. Look elsewhere this week.

DeSean Jackson, Jets -- He has shown up more of late, but he will get stuck on Revis Island against the Jets. They are the fourth-best team in fantasy against WRs and it is not like Vick is setting the world on fire this season.

Vincent Jackson, Chargers -- He has run hot and cold all season, but starting him coming off a bad week in a good matchup is a bad time to trust him in a tough matchup. He is facing the Ravens, who are the seventh-best team in fantasy against WRs. If you're short on alternatives, he is a better option than the two above, though. He at least has desperation in his favor. The Chargers need a victory very badly and should have to open it up to do it.

Deion Branch, Patriots -- He was blanked last week before leaving with a groin injury. Even if he does play, the chances are likely we are going to see the tight ends and backs do the bulk of receiving for Brady. This should be more of a slower-paced game than the Pats are used to playing, too -- even if the Broncos are in the bottom 10 of fantasy against WRs.

Doug Baldwin, Seahawks -- He was great in prime time Monday against the Rams, but the Bears present far more of a challenge. Don't consider jumping on this bandwagon now. You have gotten far enough without him. Use your other guys. The Bears are a top 10 team in fantasy against WRs.

Save for the few elite options that always start, you probably want to just go with your regular guy at this position. Here are four guys that will surprise and four that will disappoint, though.

Four starts

Jermichael Finley, Packers -- This is a vote of confidence for one of the potential beasts at the position. He was blanked last week, but the loss of Jennings figures to boost Finley immensely. The Chiefs are also seventh-worst in fantasy vs. TEs.

Jake Ballard, Giants -- Save for a late TD last Sunday night, he hasn't been great, but Manning is hot and the Redskins are the third-worst team in fantasy against TEs.

Kellen Winslow, Buccaneers -- The Cowboys are in the bottom 10 of fantasy against TEs and the Bucs figure to be playing catch-up in this one. There should be some garbage time for Winslow in prime time.

Aaron Hernandez, Patriots -- The Broncos are the fourth-best team in fantasy against TEs, but Hernandez plays more like a receiver, especially with Deion Branch banged up. Keep Hernandez active.

Four sits

Vernon Davis, Niners -- He is coming off a bad week and facing the Steelers defense in what should be the lowest-scoring game of the week. You can't like him here.

Heath Miller, Steelers -- He had his moments earlier this season before falling off the radar. Expecting much out of him, no matter who is the Steelers QB, is a bad move. The 49ers are top five in fantasy against TEs.

Dallas Clark, Colts -- He returned to action last week -- quietly -- but he should not be considered against the Bengals defense that is top 10 of fantasy vs. TEs.

Brent Celek, Eagles -- The Jets defense is not the time to trust a marginal tight end who hasn't scoring double-digit fantasy points since October.

You should stick with your stud defenses in your fantasy postseason, but if you don't have one ...

Five starts

D/ST Bengals -- Their rigorous schedule has made them a bit less useful of a defense, but they now get the awful Rams, the worst team in fantasy against opposing D/STs. The Bengals are a must-start.

D/ST Cowboys -- The Giants shredded them a week ago and they didn't register a sack. They are a must-start against the woeful Bucs this week, especially since Tampa Bay is in the bottom 10 of fantasy against D/STs.

D/ST Cardinals -- They are red hot, at home and facing a Browns team that might be without Colt McCoy (concussion). They are a nice stopgap.

D/ST Titans -- The Colts are in the bottom 10 of fantasy against D/STs and the Titans have posted some big weeks this season.

D/ST Dolphins -- The Bills were embarrassed by the Chargers and the Dolphins cooled off against the Eagles. The Dolphins can rebound and match up well against the Bills.

Three sits

D/ST Broncos -- Their defense probably deserves just as much credit as Tebow, but against Tom Brady and the Pats offense: Forget it. The Pats put up a ton of yards and points, not to mention limiting turnovers more of late. The Pats are third-best in fantasy against opposing D/STs.

D/ST Chargers -- They are coming off a huge week against a team that hadn't allowed a lot of points to defenses. Don't trust them against the close-to-the-vest Ravens.

D/ST Jaguars -- The Jags unit had the biggest performance of Week 14, if not the season, but the Falcons are in the top 10 against opposing D/STs, Matt Ryan is hot and they don't turn the ball over.

You are unlikely to need to change your kicker, but here are three to consider and three to avoid, no explanations necessary ...

Three starts

John Kasay, Saints Mike Nugent, Bengals Matt Prater, Broncos

Three sits

David Akers, 49ers Nick Novak, Chargers Alex Henery, Eagles

Eric Mack writes fantasy for, including the Start 'Em, Sit 'Em, the Weekend Fantasy Watch List and his Sunday night staple: Fantasy Football Fast Forward. If you need a further clarification on lineups this week hit him up on Twitter. You can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy.

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