Fantasy football Risers, Sliders: Smith, Spiller emerge for playoffs
Week 13 marked the end of the regular fantasy football season, and to those owners who advanced to the postseason, congratulations! Here's a look at players whose stock is rising or sliding heading into the final weeks of the season, giving you a better idea of who to start when finalizing your playoff roster.
• Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs -- Smith has played at the level of a fantasy starter the past two weeks. He threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns against the Chargers in Week 12. Sunday against the Broncos, he went 26-for-42 for 293 yards and two touchdowns, and he also rushed for 46 yards. The Chiefs take on the Redskins, Raiders and Colts during fantasy football playoffs.
• Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts -- Luck's strong first half of the season likely helped owners clinch a playoff spot, but recently, his play has been spotty. Yesterday against the Titans, Luck went 17-for-32 for 200 yards and one interception, and the Bengals defense next week won't be any easier. He's thrown just one touchdown in the last three weeks, and that won't help owners make a deep run in the playoffs.
• C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills -- Spiller turned in his best performance of the season at an ideal time for his owners. While battling a high-ankle sprain, Spiller rushed 15 times for 149 yards and a touchdown in the Bills' 34-31 OT loss to Atlanta. Additionally, the Bills get the Buccaneers and Jaguars the next two weeks, which should provide him huge opportunities.
• Montee Ball, Denver Broncos -- The Broncos put their faith in Ball, with Knowshon Moreno proving to be ineffective (15 carries for 18 yards), and he didn't disappoint. Ball had the best performance of his rookie season, rushing 13 times for 117 yards -- a whopping 9.0 yard-per-carry average -- in a 35-28 win over the Chiefs on Sunday. He's probably not someone you can consider starting yet, but he could be a good guy for a spot start in Weeks 15 (vs. Chargers) or 16 (at Texans).
• Steven Jackson, Atlanta Falcons -- Jackson has not performed the way many imagined when he signed with Atlanta in the offseason, but he's finally starting to put up some solid fantasy numbers. A week after scoring his first rushing touchdown of the year, Jackson rushed for 84 yards on 23 carries and scored twice in the Falcons' win Sunday.
• Danny Woodhead, San Diego Chargers -- Woodhead has been a legit fantasy starter in PPR leagues the past few weeks, but didn't do much against the Bengals' defense, rushing just seven times for 22 yards and catching two passes for 13 yards. It's going to be boom-or-bust if owners are stuck starting him in the playoffs.
• Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams -- The 49ers' defense held Stacy to just 72 yards on 19 carries -- under four yards a carry. This is the time of year when rookie running backs start to break down under the wear of a long season.
• Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers -- The rookie rushed just 10 times for 16 yards in the loss to the Lions on Thanksgiving. Just like Stacy, the season is beginning to wear on him.
• Eric Decker, Denver Broncos -- Seemingly the forgotten man in the Broncos' explosive offense, Decker had the best game of his career against the Chiefs on Sunday. Decker started the game with three touchdowns this season, and finished with more than twice that number, catching eight balls for 174 yards and four touchdowns. Clearly the Chiefs just couldn't cover Decker on Sunday, but it's a good sign for fantasy owners if he's being worked back into the offense.
• Roddy White, Atlanta Falcons -- White had his first game over 100 yards this season Sunday, catching 10 passes for 143 yards on 14 targets. Harry Douglas got one more look from Matt Ryan, but it looks like White could be rounding into shape just as the fantasy playoffs are about to begin.
• Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins -- Miami's No. 2 wideout put up a good showing, catching nine passes for 127 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets. (Mike Wallace, Miami's No. 1, had a second-straight solid game, catching seven passes for 82 yards and a score on nine targets.) Miami's offense was a mess a few weeks ago -- for obvious reasons -- but it appears to have turned a corner.
• Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals -- Floyd was just a yard away from his third straight game at 100 yards or more; he caught 5 passes for 99 yards (10 targets) and a TD on Sunday. The Eagles' secondary is shaky, but he's had three solid games in a row and Arizona has the middle-of-the-pack Rams on Sunday.
• Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers -- If Aaron Rodgers doesn't come back this season, Nelson's fantasy value for the playoffs takes a huge hit -- neither Matt Flynn nor Scott Tolzien has been able to reliably get him the ball, and he hasn't scored since October. He caught just two passes for 14 yards on four targets Thursday.
• Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles -- Ertz received six targets, tying his season high, catching three for 68 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday's win over the Cardinals. The Eagles face the Lions next week, who guard tight ends well, but Ertz should put up good numbers against the Vikings in two weeks, if you're looking ahead that far.
• Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers -- Though he was dealing with a "tricky" injury, Gates caught five passes for 41 yards (on nine targets) and lost a fumble against the Bengals Sunday. Gates has scored just once since Week 4.
• Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts -- Fleener actually led the Colts in receiving with 50 yards on three receptions, but that only gave him single-digit fantasy points in a decent matchup against the Titans. He can't be trusted as Indianapolis continues to struggle when throwing the ball.
• Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens -- Tucker went five-for-five on field goals against the Steelers Thanksgiving night, and three of the field goals were over 40 yards.
• Robbie Gould, Chicago Bears -- Gould is one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, but he missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt in overtime that would have won it for the Bears. He was two-for-four on the day; if your league deducts points for his missed 66-yard field goal at the end of regulation, change that rule in the offseason.
• Miami Dolphins -- On the road, the Dolphins held the Jets to just three points, sacked New York quarterbacks three times and forced three turnovers.
• Buffalo Bills -- Though they did sack Matt Ryan four times and force two late fumbles, Buffalo gave up 34 points to the Falcons. It's the most Atlanta's scored all season.
MORE WEEK 14 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
BELLER: Analyzing the fantasy implications of a 9:30 a.m. ET kickoff in 2014
EDHOLM, MIGLIO: Bold Strategies -- Rod Streater faces strong matchup
SI STAFF: Weekly Roundtable -- Revealing our fantasy MVPs and LVPs
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Underwood, Green could add depth for the playoffs
BELLER: Early Week 14 Fantasy Advice -- Making sense of huge performances