The NFL playoffs are still more than 5 weeks away, but in the fantasy football world, crunch time is already upon us. While the pressure to win is ratcheted up on fantasy owners, the good news is that we now have more information than ever to help us identify the most favorable, and brutal, upcoming schedules. So study hard -- your final exam is almost here.-- By Jeff Ritter,

Easy Road Ahead Tough Road Ahead
Kurt Warner, QB, ARI
Kurt Warner

Warner may miss one start while recovering from concussion-like symptoms, but given the upcoming slate of games, you could consider almost any member of the Cards' offense a must-start. In fact, even the 'Zona defense is a nice play in the fantasy homestretch. The dream back-to-back against St. Louis and Detroit in the fantasy playoffs is why trading for Cardinals this week this is a savvy idea. Those are the kinds of moves that win fantasy championships.Remaining games: @TEN, MIN, @SF, @DET, STL, GB

Matt Ryan, QB, ATL
Matt Ryan

Ryan's stats haven't blossomed in his sophomore season as much as some expected, and the final month of his schedule offers almost no room for optimism. The three defenses in the NFL that currently allow the fewest points to opposing quarterbacks are, in order, the Bills, the Jets, and the Saints. Ryan's fantasy owners might want to use this week to find a suitable replacement before it's too late. Remaining games: TB, PHI, NO, @NYJ, BUF, @TB

Thomas Jones, RB, NYJ
Thomas Jones

The Bills and Bucs are among the worst run defenses in the league ... and look who comes calling in the fantasy homestretch. With quarterback Mark Sanchez playing more and more like a rookie, the Jets will have to rely even more on their run game. It all adds up to great news for Jones' fantasy owners.Remaining games: CAR, @BUF, @TB, ATL, @IND, CIN

Ray Rice, RB, BAL
Ray Rice

There are a couple of softies on the December slate, but in between are some of the toughest matchups in the league. No team allows fewer RB fantasy points than the Steelers, a team Rice will face twice over the next five weeks. How does that kind of scheduling glitch even happen? Remaining games: PIT, @GB, DET, CHI, @PIT, @OAK

Andre Johnson, WR, HOU
Andre Johnson

He's been an elite receiver all year, and the playoff payoff promises to be even better. After a tough matchup next week at home against Indy, the Texans start a stretch against three of the league's worst pass defenses. It could be a monster month for both Johnson and his quarterback, Matt Schaub.Remaining games: IND, @JAX, SEA, @STL, @MIA, NE

Matt Forte, RB, CHI
Matt Forte

That upcoming Browns matchup is the one pleasant blip on an otherwise-ominous radar for the Ravens' passing attack. Mason (381 yards, 3 TDs) has been a solid WR2 in fantasy to this point, but it might be time to look for alternatives for the three non-Cleveland November matchups. (Lee Evans, anyone?) Remaining games: @MIN, STL, GB, @BAL, MIN, @DET

Greg Olsen, TE, CHI
Greg Olsen

Quarterback Jay Cutler has been erratic, but no one is allowing more fantasy points to tight ends this season than the Vikings. The Rams and Packers are also among the top-10 most tight-end friendly defenses.Remaining games: @MIN, STL, GB, @BAL, MIN, @DET

Brandon Marshall, WR, DEN
Brandon Marshall

The wheels are falling off the wagon in Denver. With Kyle Orton hobbled by an ankle injury, the Broncos were nothing short of inept last week vs. the Chargers. A gimpy Orton coupled with tough secondaries in Indy, Philly and Oakland spells bad news for the Broncos' No. 1 passing option.Remaining games: NYG, @KC, @IND, OAK, @PHI, KC

Who's Hot?

With Brian Westbrook sidelined after suffering two concussions, Eagles rookie running back LeSean McCoy is making the most of his opportunity. He ran for 99 yards and a score against the Bears, and looks like a pretty solid RB2 as long as he keeps the starting gig. ... Don't look now, but Steven Jackson has scored in three straight games. As the Rams' only legitimate offensive threat, he'll continue to should the load in St. Louis. ... It's safe to say the Sidney Rice is enjoying the Brett Favre experience in Minnesota. He's currently the No. 7 WR in standard-scoring leagues, and is showing no signs of slowing down. Keep riding the wave. ... Jason Snelling scored two touchdowns in his first start while filling in for the injured Michael Turner. Snelling is worth using until Turner returns.

Who's Not?

All of the sudden, Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Marion Barber and the rest of the Cowboys offense looks completely lost. Can they turn it around in time for the fantasy playoffs? Their Thanksgiving Day game at home against the Raiders may reveal the answer. ... A combination of injuries and ineffectiveness appears to have cost Correll Buckhalter some carries in Denver. With the Broncos struggling mightily, it's probably best to avoid all their offensive players if you can. ... Just when you think Pierre Thomas has a stranglehold on the featured role in the Saints backfield, Mike Bell jumps in, splits the carries and scores two touchdowns. It's tough to endorse Thomas as a top option the rest of the way.

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