Fantasy football Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Top QBs facing tough matchups
We salute you, fantasy warrior, for making it into the playoffs -- for you are a winner. But since you're reading this, you likely didn't get a first-round bye. That's ok -- you just have a tougher road to bring home the fake football trophy.
Your goal during the regular season is to make the playoffs -- and now it's a completely different story. So here are a few things you want to remember during playoff time:
• If a player is questionable, it's probably safer to look elsewhere. The worst thing that could happen is that he plays one series and leaves the game.
• Don't overanalyze the situation. If this article (or any article) goes completely against your thought process, then go with your gut. Losing a game because you played based on a hunch is easier to swallow than losing a game because some fantasy writer told you differently.
• Don't sit stars just because they don't have an ideal matchup. They're stars for a reason, and they probably led you to the playoffs.
May the fantasy force be with you.
These Week 14 Start 'em, Sit 'em recommendations are based on standard scoring, non-PPR, 12-team leagues that start 1-QB, 2-RB, 2-WR, 1-TE, 1-FLEX, 1-K and 1-DST. I've tried to list most of the possible players at each position, but if you find one missing -- please comment below, and I'll share my recommendation.
Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Ravens
• Vikings: Adrian Peterson, Blair Walsh
Peterson remains a top-three fantasy player as we enter into the playoffs. The Ravens have only allowed a couple rushing touchdowns, so paying a heavy price for A.P. in weekly leagues might not be ideal. Walsh is averaging over 10 points per game in his last four outings.
• Ravens: Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Justin Tucker, Ravens DST
While the Vikings gave up 120 rushing yards to Matt Forte, Rice and the Ravens' offense are nowhere near as threatening. Even so, Rice remains a threat on the ground and in the passing game. Torrey Smith will face a Vikings team that gave up a Bears franchise record for receiving yards to Alshon Jeffery in Week 13. Tucker has nine field goals in his past two games, and three 50-yarders in his past five. The Minnesota offense, outside of Peterson, is just not good. The Ravens defense is a very good fantasy start this week.
• Vikings: Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, Toby Gerhart, Greg Jennings, Cordarelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright, John Carlson
Cassel wasn't horrible as Ponder's (concussion) replacement on Sunday, but the Bears defense is not what it once was. Patterson, coming off one of his best games of the season, was held to just one catch for four yards in Week 13. He's a rookie, however, and that means it'll be an up-and-down ride each week. Carlson has become a go-to receiver for the Vikings after he replaced TE Kyle Rudolph. He has 19 catches for 264 yards and a touchdown in his past four games, and he's a sleeper this week.
• Ravens: Joe Flacco, Bernard Pierce, Jacoby Jones, Marlon Brown, Dallas Clark, Dennis Pitta
Flacco should be a great start in weekly leagues, considering he should have a low salary once again, but not as much in traditional leagues. Pierce outrushed Rice in Week 13, but Rice saw more touches in the passing game. The Ravens are expected to activate Pitta (hip) from the short-term injured reserve this week, but you can't blindly rely on him in the fantasy playoff opener. If you have a bye this week and the roster space, maybe he's worth grabbing as a possibility after we see how the Ravens use him this week.
Kansas City Chiefs at Washington Redskins
• Chiefs: Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Ryan Succop, Chiefs DST
If fantasy drafts were taking place now, Charles would likely be the No. 1 pick over Adrian Peterson. Charles' quarterback is much better, which forces teams to respect the Chiefs' passing game a little more. All Charles owners should pick up Knile Davis as a safety precaution. Bowe was neutralized against the Broncos, catching just three passes for 56 yards in Week 13, although, he did have a touchdown called back for an illegal formation call.
• Redskins: Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon
RGIII's knee is finally good enough to let him run the read-option with greater success, and while his passing accuracy was better in Week 13, he has just one touchdown over the past two games. His running ability keeps him in the top 12 among fantasy quarterbacks for now, even against a tough Chiefs defense.
Morris scored his sixth touchdown in Week 13, but he had just 14 touches on the night. The Redskins will need his legs against the Chiefs, who are average against the run. Garcon has been a mild disappointment in recent weeks, especially against the Vikings, the Eagles and the Giants -- teams we expected him to throttle. However, he leads all NFL wide receivers with 84 catches on the season, and he's tied with Calvin Johnson with 133 targets.
• Chiefs: Alex Smith, Donnie Avery, Dexter McCluster, Anthony Fasano
Smith has played very well recently, and against a bad Redskins secondary, he's someone to consider if you're desperate, or playing a value QB in weekly leagues. Smith has seven touchdown passes in his past three games, with two interceptions, averaging about 270 yards.
• Redskins: Roy Helu, Santana Moss, Logan Paulsen, Jordan Reed, Kai Forbath, Redskins DST
Just eight touches for Helu against the Giants, and Morris doubled his season total, with three catches of his own. Helu isn't a bad handcuff for Morris' owners to have on board. But from week to week, he's a fantasy bench player. Reed was dealing with a concussion from Week 11, and had a setback before Sunday's game. He's too scary to rely on in the fantasy playoffs right now.
Buffalo Bills at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
• Bills: Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller
While Spiller doesn't look 100 percent, he certainly looks much more like the running back we grew accustomed to seeing run through defenses last season. Don't worry about the "tough" Tampa Bay rush defense, as that is a year-old stat that now has them giving up 4.1 yards per carry. More great news for Jackson/Spiller owners, the Bills face four below-average rush defenses in the final weeks of the regular season.
• Buccaneers: Bobby Rainey, Vincent Jackson
The Bills are not very good against the run, although they have allowed just four rushing touchdowns this season. Rainey's coming off a rough game against Carolina, which is understandable. Jackson should pick up where Roddy White left off, after the Falcons wide receiver caught 10 passes for 143 yards.
• Bills: E.J Manuel, Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Scott Chandler, Dan Carpenter, Bills DST
The Bills' passing game had some problems against the Falcons, and now it will face Darrelle Revis (chest) and company. Johnson should have his hands full, which could open up chances for Woods and Goodwin, making them cheap options. The Bills DST sacked Matt Ryan six times in Week 13, but it also gave up a ton of points and yards.
• Buccaneers: Mike Glennon, Brian Leonard, Tiquan Underwood, Tim Wright, Rian Lindell, Buccaneers DST
Glennon posted his worst game of the season against the Panthers, and the Bills pass defense had been playing really well until the Falcons game. The Bucs' defense has given up 25 or more points in six of its past eight games.
Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers
• Dolphins: Lamar Miller, Mike Wallace, Charles Clay
Now that Miller has the starting job to himself, he should be a safe fantasy play each week. Mike Gillislee is backing up Miller (and got a look at the goal line), but Miller is one of the team's main weapons now. Wallace is coming into this one with back-to-back big games, and now he'll face his former team for the first time. Cornerback Ike Taylor knows him better than anyone, but the veteran corner has not had great games recently. Clay is an underappreciated tight end in fantasy.
• Steelers: Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Heath Miller, Steelers DST
If Bell (concussion) is unable to play against the Dolphins, the Steelers will likely start Felix Jones this week. The Dolphins have been very tough on opposing wide receivers, but they give up yards on the ground, making Bell and Brown mediocre starts. Miller, meanwhile, is back to being one of Big Ben's favorite targets, and the Dolphins have allowed eight passing touchdowns to tight ends.
• Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, Brian Hartline, Rishard Matthews, Caleb Sturgis, Dolphins DST
Interesting note: Miami is the only offense to score fewer than 28 points in every game this season. Tannehill is coming off a big, 300-yard game against the Jets, but the Steelers defense still ranks among the top 10 against the pass. After Matthews' breakout performance on Monday Night Football against the Bucs, he has returned to obscurity, catching just nine passes for 75 yards in his past three games.
• Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, Felix Jones, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Shaun Suisham
Big Ben has eight touchdown passes in his past three games, but the Dolphins are actually one of the best defenses against quarterbacks, allowing just 13 touchdown passes this season. Sanders and Cotchery scored in Week 13, but the Dolphins have allowed an NFL-low one touchdown pass to receivers in 2013.
Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles
• Lions: Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson
Stafford has been a fantasy stalwart all season, and the Lions finally got off their Turkey Day losing streak with a win against the rudderless Packers. Bush had a big day, but it could have been even bigger if Joique Bell didn't take away so many touches in the second half of the blowout.
• Eagles: Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Alex Henery
Foles has been hot and cold during his last six games -- he has thrown zero touchdowns in two of them, and three or more touchdowns in the other four. His next three games are against the Lions, Vikings and Bears, who have all had some problems defending the pass at times this season.
• Lions: Joique Bell, Kris Durham, Nate Burleson, Brandon Pettigrew, David Akers, Lions DST
On Thanksgiving Day, Bell had his best game since Week 1, mostly because of the volume of touches he got in the second half as the Lions tried to wrap up the game. But it's doubtful the Lions will be running out the clock against the Eagles in Week 14. Burleson had just one target, despite playing most of the game -- reserve him until Stafford goes back to passing to him regularly. The Eagles are one of the toughest defenses on opposing tight ends, so avoid Pettigrew more than usual. Interesting insignificant note: There are only six wide receivers with more targets in the past three weeks than Durham's 22.
• Eagles: Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, Eagles DST
Both Celek and Ertz played well against Arizona, accounting for three touchdowns, but if you recall, we recommended Ertz in weekly leagues because of Arizona's inability to defend tight ends consistently. Don't go overboard and start Ertz over a more reliable tight end, but track the rookie's progress for later weeks.
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
Oakland Raiders at New York Jets
• Raiders: Rashad Jennings, Raiders DST
Jennings scored twice against Dallas, despite rushing for about two yards per carry, but the big story was out-of-nowhere WR Andre Holmes, who saw more action because Denarius Moore was sidelined with a shoulder injury. Holmes is a big, 6-foot-4 target, and he led the Raiders with seven catches on 10 targets for 136 yards. Let's not expect this again anytime soon, since he was going up against the worst pass defense in the NFL. Even so, if Moore is out again, Andre Holmes is worth a look, since he has built a rapport with his scout team partner, QB Matt McGloin. A weak Jets offense, gives you reason to use the Raiders defense.
• Jets: Chris Ivory
After their Week 13 performance, the Jets were looking like a fantasy wasteland. However, Ivory continues to get the most touches and is doing just enough to not make him useless. He hasn't gone over 65 rushing yards in any game over the past five weeks; although, he did score touchdowns in the two games previous to this one.
• Raiders: Matt McGloin, Darren McFadden, Denarius Moore, Andre Holmes, Rod Streater, Mychal Rivera, Sebastian Janikowski
McGloin started strong on Thanksgiving in Dallas, but the tryptophan kicked in, and he finished with 255 passing yards and no touchdown passes. Streater did very little against one of the worst defenses in the NFL, as Holmes took over.
• Jets: Geno Smith, Matt Simms, Bilal Powell, Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley, Greg Salas, Stephen Hill, Kellen Winslow, Nick Folk, Jets DST
No matter who's starting for the Jets, this is an offense to avoid in most fantasy formats. Smith has just one touchdown and 11 interceptions in his past seven games. Even Nick Folk, who had 15 field goals from Weeks 4-9, is no longer someone to consider in most leagues, as he has just three field goal attempts in the past three games. The Jets defense had a big opportunity at home against a below-average Dolphins offense, but it gave up 331 passing yards and 125 rushing yards.
Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals
• Colts: T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, Adam Vinatieri
Hilton has just 15 catches for 128 yards in his past three games, and he's been as disappointing as Andrew Luck. The difference here is Hilton is still worth starting as a flex, whereas Luck deserves a seat in Cincinnati.
• Bengals: Giovani Bernard, A.J. Green, Bengals DST
Bernard's quickness is undeniable, and it's just a matter of time before he puts together a three-touchdown day. But can his fantasy owners afford to be that patient? Green, meanwhile, scored his seventh touchdown of the season, but the fact that he has just 12 targets in the past two weeks is troubling. Not enough to do anything about it, but just enough to make his fantasy owners grumble, especially when you realize he had 34 targets in the previous two games.
• Colts: Andrew Luck, Donald Brown, Trent Richardson, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Colts DST
Luck has just one touchdown pass in his past three games, and fantasy owners have to make a move before their fantasy playoffs. The Bengals are a tough team to throw on (just 15 touchdown passes allowed) and Luck hasn't done anything recently to make you think things will turn around in Week 14. While Brown got the start over Richardson, it really was more of an official change than anything statistically. Fantasy owners had long been starting Brown in their heads over Richardson. Brown still isn't anything to be excited about, especially against the Bengals, but he's worth a look in a flex spot.
• Bengals: Andy Dalton, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Tyler Eifert, Jermaine Gresham, Mike Nugent
Dalton's a red-headed enigma, who has had both a 338-yard game with no touchdown passes, and a 93-yard game with three touchdown passes in the last four weeks. He threw nine interceptions in that span, compared to six touchdown passes. Green-Ellis had his best fantasy week of the season in Week 13, but we'd still rather rely on Bernard's potential than Green-Ellis inability to shine from one week to the next.
Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots
• Browns: Josh Gordon, Browns DST
For the first time in NFL history, a wide receiver had back-to-back 200-yard receiving games. Josh Gordon caught 10 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns against the Jaguars, and he's earned a spot among the top-five wide receivers going forward. No matter who's throwing the ball, he's succeeding, and is now a likely second-round fantasy pick next season.
• Patriots: Tom Brady, Shane Vereen, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots DST
Cleveland gave up 32 points in a loss to the Jaguars in Week 13, so starting any member of the Patriots offense is advisable. However, Vereen is the only Patriots running back to trust right now, and his presence certainly makes life easier for Brady. Edelman has proven to be the go-to guy for Brady, and Amendola could draw CB Joe Haden. Gronk has scored in each of the past four games, and isn't showing any signs of injury. The Patriots DST is a great start because the Browns have two banged up quarterbacks, two subpar running backs, a disappointing tight end and a superstar wide receiver that Belichick will plan for all week.
• Browns: Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell, Willis McGahee, Chris Ogbonnaya, Greg Little, Jordan Cameron, Billy Cundiff
Weeden had a big game against Jacksonville, but he suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter. So the Browns now have two quarterbacks dealing with head injuries, and whoever starts isn't someone fantasy owners should consider. The same can be said for the Browns running backs: they're not good or reliable. The Patriots give up a lot of rushing yards, though, so if you feel lucky, roll with the guy that scored in Week 13: McGahee.
• Patriots: Stevan Ridley, Legarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins
Ridley was benched and inactivated for Week 13, but that's just some head games played by head coach Bill Belichick. He's still their best ball carrier, even though Vereen is more dynamic in the passing game, but Ridley, of course, just fumbles a lot.
Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers
• Falcons: Matt Ryan, Steven Jackson, Roddy White, Harry Douglas, Tony Gonzalez
Ryan connected with 10 receivers in his first 300-yard game in five weeks. Jackson and White were rejuvenated in a game against the Bills, both coming through for their fantasy owners. White will be facing two weak pass defenses in the coming weeks (Green Bay and Washington), and Jackson remains a good start as well, going up against a Packers team that's allowing over 125 rushing yards per game and an improved Redskins team that has allowed an NFL-high 17 rushing touchdowns. White's 10-catch, 143-yard game is an indicator that he's ready to rejoin the top-20 WRs in the rankings. White's return to prominence didn't cost Douglas much either.
• Packers: Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, Mason Crosby
Lacy got stuffed on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit, but now he faces a porous Falcons' rush defense that allowed C.J. Spiller almost 150 yards in Week 13. The quarterback situation has adversely affected the Packers' receivers, specifically Nelson, who had just four targets on the day. Expect that number to double after coaches smarten up and go back to Scott Tolzien under center.
• Falcons: Jacquizz Rodgers, Antone Smith, Matt Bryant, Falcons DST
Antone Smith has six touches and two touchdowns in his past three games, but he needs an injury in front of him before you consider him in fantasy. Bryant is still a good kicker, but he just hasn't had as many opportunities as usual because of the team's offensive woes. He has home games in Weeks 15 and 17 in the Georgia Dome, which might make him a good fantasy start again.
• Packers: Scott Tolzien, Matt Flynn, James Starks, James Jones, Jarrett Boykin, Packers DST
Whether it's Tolzien or Flynn under center, they could both be on a short leash. The bad offensive line doesn't help matters either. Boykin's fantasy owners likely can't afford another zero-catch afternoon.
Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos
• Titans: Chris Johnson, Kendall Wright
Johnson remains a decent RB2 this week, as he's still one of Tennessee's best scoring threats. Once again, Wright posts a solid outing, and he remains one of the most consistent receivers in the game, with six or more catches in eight games this season.
• Broncos: Peyton Manning, Montee Ball, Knowshon Moreno, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, Matt Prater, Broncos DST
With TE Julius Thomas (knee) still sidelined, Manning targeted Eric Decker at the goal line, and picked on a rookie cornerback all afternoon. Wes Welker was the odd man out in Week 13, however, catching just three passes for 38 yards. We're also at a point where both Moreno and Ball are worth using, now that the rookie has stopped putting the ball on the ground.
The Broncos face a Titans defense that has allowed 16 rushing touchdowns, which is second-worst in the NFL. Tennessee is very good against the pass, but this Broncos offense is not made of mere mortals. Denver is averaging 38 points per game -- that's 10 points more than the second-place Cowboys (27.4).
• Titans: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Shonn Greene, Nate Washington, Delanie Walker, Rob Bironas, Titans DST
Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions against the Colts, and now he's likely going to be forced into throwing it a lot as they try to catch up to Manning and Friends. Many owners are likely considering using him this week over players like Tony Romo, or even Carson Palmer. Don't do it. Washington had a good Week 13, but is not a week-to-week player like Wright is. If Walker (concussion) is able to play, he's worth a look against a Broncos defense that allows a ton of passing yards as teams try to catch up. No team has allowed as many yards to tight ends as the Broncos (920).
• Broncos: Julius Thomas, Jacob Tamme
When Thomas is healthy, he's a top-five tight end, just after Gronk and Jimmy Graham. Tamme was expected to have a big day in his place, but those targets went to Decker instead.
St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals
• Rams: Zac Stacy, Jared Cook
Stacy's the only must-start Rams player, although the Cardinals inability to stop tight ends makes Cook intriguing as well. Stacy continues to work as their main ground threat, and while the Cardinals are tough against the run, he's one of a very small number of featured backs that get 20 touches regularly. The Cardinals defense has allowed 13 touchdown catches to tight ends this season, including three scores to the Eagles' tight ends. While Cook has been inconsistent, he does have two touchdown catches in his past four games.
• Cardinals: Carson Palmer, Rashard Mendenhall, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Cardinals DST
Palmer has seven touchdown passes and over 1,000 passing yards in his past three games. The Rams are mediocre against the pass, allowing an average of almost 330 passing yards in each of their past three games. Mendenhall saw over 15 touches for the first time since Week 5, mostly due to rookie Andre Ellington (knee) being inactive. If Ellington sits again, Mendenhall is worth a look, but if the rookie can play, sit them both against a defense that has allowed just 181 rushing yards in their past three games.
• Rams: Kellen Clemens, Benny Cunningham, Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Brian Quick, Stedman Bailey, Greg Zuerlein, Rams DST
In the fantasy playoffs, you want reliable players, and even though Austin led the team with four catches at San Francisco, he finished with just 25 yards. That was the fourth time he had fewer than 30 receiving yards in a game this season. The Rams defense is worth a look in larger leagues, despite how well the Cardinals passing game has played.
• Cardinals: Andre Ellington, Andre Roberts, Rob Housler, Jay Feely
Ellington's knee injury forced the Cardinals to scratch him in Week 13, which makes him a sketchy play in your fantasy playoffs. The Rams are tough on tight ends, and Housler's fantasy stats have dipped in each of the past four weeks.
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco
• Seahawks: Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Steven Hauschka, Seahawks DST
While the Niners have held Wilson under 175 passing yards in the three games they have faced him, he did throw for four touchdowns against them in December of last season. He's just a red-hot passer right now, with 14 touchdown passes in his past six games. While Lynch is coming off a quiet game against the Saints (the Seahawks rested him for much of the second half of the blowout), he did score two touchdowns against San Francisco in Week 2, and he has hit the 100-rushing yard mark twice in his past three games against them.
• 49ers: Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, 49ers DST
The Seahawks are tough against the run, and while Gore scored a rushing touchdown last week, he's more of a low-end RB2 running back this week. Davis scored also against the Rams, with his third touchdown in three games. The Seahawks held Davis to just three catches for 20 yards in Week 2, but only Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski have outscored him in the past three weeks.
• Seahawks: Percy Harvin, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Zach Miller
Harvin (hip) was inactive for Week 13, and fantasy owners have to be leery of starting him against the Niners. And since Harvin is questionable, that pretty much makes Tate and Baldwin recommended "sits," since Harvin's presence could cost them snaps. Even without Harvin, they're not great for Week 14. So pretend I never brought it up.
• 49ers: Colin Kaepernick, Kendall Hunter, Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Phil Dawson
Kaepernick was shut down against the Seahawks in Week 2, throwing three interceptions and totaling just 127 passing yards. He did, however, run for 87 yards in his best rushing game of the season. But after seeing the Seahawks hold Drew Brees to under 150 passing yards, most of the Niners' passing game is a recommended "sit" this week.
New York Giants at San Diego Chargers
• Giants: Andre Brown, Victor Cruz
Brown has been a huge boost in the arm for whoever was able to pick him up midseason, with three touchdowns in four games so far. The Chargers are giving up nearly 4.8 yards per carry to running backs, so we expect a top-10 week out of Brown again. Cruz hasn't scored since Week 4, but he seems to play better on the road this season, averaging 90 yards per game in six games away from home, compared to 65 yards in six games at home. He also hasn't scored at home yet this season.
• Chargers: Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Ladarius Green
Mathews doesn't have a great matchup against the Giants, but after scoring in seven straight games, he didn't score last week -- which means he's due. Besides that insignificant stat, Mathews looks like a better flex play than at RB2. Woodhead isn't as active in the passing game as he was earlier this season, but only four other teams have allowed more receiving yards to running backs this season. Use Woodhead in PPR formats this week. As far as tight ends, it's time to give Ladarius the Green light, along with Gates, too. Rivers targets both heavily.
• Giants: Eli Manning, Peyton Hillis, Rueben Randle, Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Myers, Josh Brown, Giants DST
Manning has a great matchup ahead of him -- against the team that traded his rights away! The Chargers are allowing the second-highest QB rating (101.59) in the NFL. He's bound to have another three- or four-touchdown game, but it's tough to trust him in the fantasy playoffs when he has thrown just seven touchdowns in his past seven games! Myers has scored in back-to-back games, totaling 100 yards in two weeks, but the Chargers are actually above average against tight ends.
• Chargers: Philip Rivers, Vincent Brown, Eddie Royal, Nick Novak, Chargers DST
The Giants have allowed under 210 passing yards in five of their past six games, and after a hot start, Rivers has thrown just one touchdown pass in five of his past seven contests. If you have another good option, like Tony Romo or Nick Foles, go that route instead.
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
• Panthers: Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Graham Gano
The Saints have allowed just 15 touchdowns to quarterbacks so far this season, but Newton is sizzling over the past three games. In that span, he has two rushing touchdowns and six passing touchdowns, with over 50 rushing yards in each game. Newton and Olsen are one of the best QB-TE combinations in fantasy right now, not too far behind Brees-Graham and Brady-Gronkowski. Olsen has four touchdown catches in his past six games.
• Saints: Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas, Jimmy Graham, Garrett Hartley
The Saints were held to seven points in Seattle last week, which is the lowest points total since Sean Payton was hired as their head coach back in 2006. And Brees goes from a Seahawks defense that has been the toughest against quarterbacks this season, to a Panthers defense that is second-best against quarterbacks. Carolina has allowed just nine touchdowns to quarterbacks this season, which is a league low. With that said -- you're obviously not sitting Brees in your fantasy playoffs. But hopefully, you have a bye week.
• Panthers: Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert, Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr., Panthers DST
Steve Smith is a 60-yard wide receiver these days, nothing more, nothing less. And while Tolbert seems like the best start of the three running backs, he's not a good enough option for your fantasy squad in the postseason. As good as the Panthers defense has been, going against the Saints offense two out of the next three weeks is like pulling on Superman's cape.
• Saints: Darren Sproles, Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Kenny Stills, Lance Moore, Saints DST
After notching his only 100-yard game of the season in Week 10 against Dallas, Colston has seen his fantasy stats drop each week over the past three games. He caught just four passes for 27 yards in Week 13 at Seattle. He should rebound somewhat against the Panthers, but he's outside of our top 30 this week.
Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears
• Cowboys: Tony Romo, Demarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Dan Bailey
While Romo gets a bad rap for his play in December (89.3 QB rating) throughout his career, he's actually worse in October (88.9), and his Novembers (105.5) are usually so great, December just looks bad by comparison. No team has allowed as many rushing yards to running backs as the Bears, and they're giving up 4.96 yards per carry (second-worst in the NFL). Murray's coming off a three-touchdown game against the Raiders, so a second huge game is certainly expected.
• Bears: Josh McCown, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett
While the Bears are horrible against the run, the Cowboys defense is horrible against the pass, allowing more yards (3,728) through the air than any other defense in the NFL. Alshon Jeffery broke his own franchise record for receiving yards in a game against the Vikings in Week 13. Bennett's not a bad play this week either, as he faces a Cowboys defense that ranks among the worst against tight ends.
• Cowboys: Terrance Williams, Miles Austin, Cole Beasley, Cowboys DST
Austin is being slowly reworked into the Cowboys offense, but remember that Romo has several other weapons at his disposal. Austin's presence also prevents Williams and Beasley from becoming recommended fantasy options in most formats, too.
• Bears: Jay Cutler, Michael Bush, Robbie Gould, Bears DST
Cutler (ankle) wants to get back out there, but Bears management is reluctant to clear him to play just yet. If he does play, he becomes a starting option against this defense, even though he's coming back from injury.
David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and over 100 fantasy football leagues. You can also follow him @davidgonos on Twitter. If you have some good Week 14 Start 'em, Sit 'em opinions, drop them in the comments below.