Decision time: Playing matchups, keen hindsight keys to success

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Let's get right into it -- the good and the bad decisions that will make or break your fantasy football seasons. I'll leave out the ugly since the Vikings have that covered.

• Watching the wacky AFC West -- Fantasy owners have enjoyed this defensively-challenged division. Just look at the ridiculous stats coming out of the rivalry games:

Matt Cassel's 469 passing yards and 4 TDs at DenverKyle Orton's 296 passing yards and 4 TDs against Kansas CityDwayne Bowe's 186 receiving yards and two touchdowns at DenverDarren McFadden's 196 total yards and four TDs at DenverPhilip Rivers' 431 passing yards and 2 TDs at Oakland.

With only two games separating the last-place Broncos (3-6) from the first-place Raiders (5-4), this division is must-watch material. Up next: Denver at San Diego next Monday night.

• Embracing a coaching change -- The Wade Philips-led Cowboys were atrocious. At 1-7, Miles Austin was deemed worthless without an injured Tony Romo, Jon Kitna was past his prime, rookie Dez Bryant was inexperienced and running backs Felix Jones and Marion Barber were going nowhere fast. Yet with Jason Garrett now at the helm, there is renewed optimism in Dallas. In Sunday's upset win over the Giants, Kitna erupted for 327 yards and three scores against a usually hawking defense. Austin and Bryant each found the end zone, Jones had 136 total yards with a score and even Barber averaged 5.9 rushing yards on eight carries. Now, if only Minnesota followed suit and said goodbye to Brad Childress.

• Playing the pass in Cincy -- With megastar receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens constantly demanding the ball, the Bengals appear to have abandoned the run completely this season. That's not good news for Cedric Benson, who was limited to just 14 carries for 24 yards against the Colts Sunday. Benson has only broken 100 yards rushing once this season and he's averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. Meanwhile, the "Outlandish O's" have been entertaining both on the field (a combined 1,393 receiving yards and 10 TD celebrations) and off the field (check out their reality TV show "The T.Ocho Show" Tuesday nights on VH1).

• Ignoring Tampa Bay's quarterback -- In 2009, QB Josh Freeman started the final nine games for the Bucs and had moderate success for a rookie with 1,855 passing yards and 10 TDs, though he threw 18 interceptions. Fantasy owners largely ignored him going into this season, but after nine games, it's time they take notice. While leading his team to a surprising 6-3 record, Freeman already has thrown for 1,963 yards and vastly improved on his TD-INT ratio (12:5). The Bucs' passing schedule during the fantasy playoff weeks also looks inviting with matchups against Washington (ranked 31st in passing yards allowed per game), Detroit (22nd) and Seattle (27th).

• Drafting a tight-end not named Gates in an early round -- Sure, it would be been nice to have San Diego's Antonio Gates on your squad as he leads all tight ends in TDs (9) and receiving yards (663). But finding another reliable tight end from the rest of the bunch has been a crapshoot this season. From injured reserves Jermichael Finley and Dallas Clark to underachievers Brent Celek and John Carlson, you should make a mental note right now to never draft a tight end before, say, the eighth round. You're better off starting a goal-line specialist like Marcedes Lewis or a fortuitous substitute like Jacob Tamme (though Clarke's backup is now battling a back injury). Better yet, close your eyes and simply point when selecting your tight end each week -- maybe you'll get lucky with three touchdowns, a la New England's rookie Rob Gronkowski.

• Sleeping in on Thursdays -- Now that Thursday night football is more than a Thanksgiving tradition, fantasy owners have to set their lineups much earlier than usual. Last week's matchup between the Falcons and Ravens rewarded alert owners with must-start quarterbacks Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan each tossing three TDs while a "questionable" WR Roddy White caught 12 passes for 138 yards and two scores on one good knee.

Looking ahead to this Thursday, Chicago travels to Miami. The Dolphins QB situation is a mess with both Chad Pennington and Chad Henne suffering possible season-ending injuries Sunday. The only Dolphin worth starting is WR Brandon Marshall, even though his value takes a hit with QB Tyler Thigpen now throwing to him. On the Bears side, QB Jay Cutler still feels shaky despite back-to-back solid games while his top target WR Johnny Knox is racking up receiving yards (617) but only has one touchdown. RB Matt Forte is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry, and he's losing goal-line carries to RB Chester Taylor, but he still has value in PPR leagues.