If you've clinched a playoff spot or are at the very least still in contention, it's time to look over your roster and get yourself fully prepared for the stretch run. Depending on how deep your league is and how rosters are constructed, there might be some handcuff type of situations that you need to address. Marshawn Lynch owners better have Fred Jackson. Jamal Lewis owners, do you have Jerome Harrison? Is Ricky Williams somehow on the waiver wire? Many leagues freeze pickups once the playoffs begin, so if you don't have adequate depth and handcuffs, your successful season can go up in smoke with one hit (pardon the pun). Be a boy scout and be prepared.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
Ryan completed 20-of-33 passes for 250 yards and an interception last week against the Broncos. Surely you expected more, but Roddy White did drop a sure touchdown in the fourth quarter. Things won't get easier with Carolina and their fifth-ranked passing defense. I'd say don't expect much, but Ryan has been defying the odds all season.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Against the Giants defense, 164 yards and a touchdown plus 57 yards rushing has to be considered a big victory. He did throw two interceptions, but one of them was a pass that bounced off Derrick Mason's facemask. You'd think a veteran receiver would actually try to use his hands to catch the ball? Novel idea, right? The Eagles are up next, so Flacco will one again be facing a ton of pressure. Not a great start this week.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis, New England Patriots
I said he was a bad start last week, but I honestly didn't imagine a scenario where he'd garner zero fantasy points. Fantasy owners who used him might want to file suit against "Lawfirm." Serves you right for trusting a rookie under Bill Belichick. Sammy Morris is making his way back into the lineup, so make sure Green-Ellis is making his way out of yours.
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
Forte carried the ball 16 times for 64 yards against the Packers. While 4.0 yards per carry is solid, you'd have expected more against a porous rush defense. Perhaps it's the start of the rookie wall? Doesn't seem like it, since he did catch six passes for 40 yards. There's definitely some concern that the burst is gone, but Forte is basically the entire Bears offense right now. He should be a beast against St. Louis this week.
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
The Jaguars played the Titans tough, as Johnson gained 64 yards on 17 carries. He also had four catches and gained 24 yards. He's extremely useful in PPR formats. Johnson faces the Jets this week, which is a daunting matchup with Kris Jenkins clogging the middle. He's someone I usually recommend as an every week starter, but without PPR scoring, you might want to consider another option if you're deep at running back.
Steve Slaton, Houston Texans
Nothing cures running back woes like the Colts defense. Slaton ran for 156 yards and a touchdown on a mere 14 carries. For those of you mathematically challenged, that's 11.1 yards per carry. The bad news was he had two short touchdowns vultured away by Ahman Green. He has a nice matchup this week against Cleveland, but you're hoping he gets more than 14 carries. A reduced workload requires a long run for success. Cleveland's 28th-ranked rush defense certainly provides that chance.
Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
Three carries for 11 yards. Not a fantasy asset at this time.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
Last week I said Stewart would need an injury to Williams to regain relevance. Apparently all he needed was to face the Detroit Lions. Fifteen carries for 130 yards and a touchdown later, Stewart is back on the map. Don't get too excited. DeAngelo Williams is still the featured back and not all teams will lie down and play dead like the Lions. Make Stewart prove it to you again before starting him.
Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys
Jones is done for the season. Do not count on him for this week or any week hereafter.
Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions
With 24 carries for 112 yards, Smith is finally getting the credit and carries he deserves. He's averaged 104 yards the last two weeks. Hopefully any thoughts of giving the ball to Rudi Johnson are dead and buried in Detroit. The problem is, just as the train gets rolling, the Tampa Bay defense comes to town. The Bucs are 12th in the league, giving up 99.3 yards per game on the ground but the big statistic is they surrender only 16 points per game. Culpepper is going to have to be really sharp early on for Smith to have any room to run. Don't expect big things this weekend.
Tim Hightower, Arizona Cardinals
Hightower is probably a cause of male pattern baldness from Week 11. Against the lowly Seahawks he had 11 carries for 35 yards and zero catches out of the backfield. I wish I could truly blame it on Hightower, but even early in the game, the Cardinals were in shotgun on first down. Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin simply abused the Seahawks all over the field. The real problem was seeing J.J. Arrington outperform Hightower. The Cardinals are in the playoff hunt, so they're not going to just blindly hand the rock to Hightower. They are going to do whatever it takes to win. The Giants are up this week, which is a bad matchup.
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
It's backseat to Willis McGahee time. Rice rushed eight times for 19 yards last week. It had more to do with the Giants stuffing the run all day. He did catch four passes for 18 yards. McGahee left the game but the report is he didn't return simply because the Ravens were behind and the game plan had changed. Rice is the third-down receiving option. Look for him to get another four or five catches against an aggressive Eagles defense, but don't expect much in the way of rushing totals.
Peyton Hillis, Denver Broncos
The fullback who's now a tailback ran 10 times for 44 yards and two touchdowns last week. He added three receptions for 26 yards. With defenses constantly worried about Jay Cutler to Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal or Tony Scheffler, there'll be room to run if the Broncos hand off. Hillis took advantage of that situation in Week 11. Life only gets rosier, as Oakland's 30th-ranked rush defense is up next. You could do worse than Hillis. Expect at least one touchdown.
Donnie Avery, St. Louis Rams
Nine catches for 93 yards is a nice day for PPR owners. However, he caught seven of them after the Rams were trailing 35-3 at halftime. The good news is the Rams are so bad they will likely be trailing at halftime the rest of the year and therefore, facing prevent defenses allowing underneath passes. Look for more of the same this week against Chicago.
DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
Against the Bengals, and especially in a close game that lasted 75 minutes, you'd have expected more than four catches for 66 yards. Jackson was targeted deep on a couple occasions, but Donovan McNabb was not terribly sharp. He's still the focal point of the passing game, but a tough matchup against the Ravens' eigthth-ranked passing defense is up next. You shoulder figure that the Ravens to be awfully angry after getting steamrolled by the Giants this past week. However, the Eagles will likely deploy a quick passing game, so Jackson could see a large number of receptions. The question will be if he can make the first tackler miss. He's probably still a solid start this week in PPR formats.
Josh Morgan, San Francisco 49ers
Morgan missed Week 11 with a groin injury and has yet to practice this week. Don't count on him for Week 12.
Eddie Royal, Denver Broncos
Royal caught four passes for 34 yards against the Falcons in Week 11, definitely a disappointing day, but the Broncos' entire passing game was a disappointment. Royal has a tough matchup against Oakland this week, but we shouldn't forget he burned them for nine catches for 146 and a touchdown in Week 1. Sure, Marshall was suspended that game, but he still put up great stats. Look for the Broncos to put Royal in motion often, trying to get him away from Nnamdi Asomugha. However, don't think Royal will be a monster because Asomugha will cover Marshall. Asomugha usually just sticks to his right cornerback spot. Therefore, Royal will face off against him often. You can start him, but don't expect a repeat of Week 1.
John Carlson, Seattle Seahawks
Five targets resulted in three catches for 39 yards. He had a huge drop and that won't endear him to Matt Hasselbeck. Then again, the Seattle offensive line is so bad, and Hasselbeck took so many shots to the head that he might not remember anything from last week's game. Carlson is a TE2 at this point. Again, you're praying for the short touchdown on most occasions.
Dustin Keller, New York Jets
I purposely did NOT recommend Keller last week (didn't knock him, either) since it seems the moment you praise a rookie tight end, you've jinxed them. Therefore, for the sake of Keller owners worldwide, I'll simply say he had eight catches for 87 yards last week and looks to have found a rhythm with Brett Favre. You can figure out if you want to continue playing him.