There are only four games left in the season, but the playoff picture is starting to take shape in the NFL. The Seattle Seahawks appear to be the front-runner in the NFC and unless they have an epic collapse, should earn home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Denver Broncos have the edge in the AFC, although they will need to avoid a slip up, otherwise they could lose their grip on the top seed to the New England Patriots. The New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers look to control the NFC South with the loser earning a Wild Card. The Indianapolis Colts are the clear-front runner in the AFC South. The San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs are entrenched as Wild Cards.
I hope that your fantasy season looks a lot like one of these teams. If not, hopefully you are like the Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys or Philadelphia Eagles. You may not have had the strongest season, but you still control your own destiny. If you are the Houston Texans or Atlanta Falcons, there is always next year.
For those of you that need some lineup help as we close the season, here are some players to consider starting and sitting this week.
Start of the Week
Dallas Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray – Opposing running backs have gashed the Chicago Bears the last few weeks. They made Vikings RB Adrian Peterson look like his old self; despite a bad hamstring, he topped 200 yards rushing. The St. Louis Rams had a committee of running backs that dominated the Chicago Bears for over 200 yards rushing. Even RB Ray Rice turned back the clock and looked like his old self against the Bears. Playing Chicago seems like a guarantee for a big week at this point.
Murray was not particularly impressive with 17 rushes for 63 yards on Thanksgiving, but he did have three rushing touchdowns, which turned an average day into a great one. If he sees the ball 17 times this week, he figures to top 100 yards rushing and score a rushing touchdown, at the least. He should be penciled in as a RB1 this week.
Players to Start
Denver Broncos RB Monte Ball – Ball had 117 yards rushing last week and he faces a Titans D that has allowed the second most points to fantasy backs this year. Ball should have flex value in this matchup, even if starting RB Knowshon Moreno is able to go on his bad foot.
Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith – Alex Smith has been heating up in recent weeks and plays a Washington Redskins team that has allowed the third most points to fantasy quarterbacks over the last five weeks. I would plug Smith into my lineup if I were having quarterback issues this week.
Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler – I am not sure that Cutler is going to be back this week, but there is talk that he might be. If he were playing this week, I would plug him into my lineup because the Dallas Cowboys have allowed the most points to fantasy quarterbacks over the last five weeks. If Cutler sits, confidently start his backup quarterback, Josh McCown.
Baltimore Ravens WR Torrey Smith – Smith has a dream matchup against a Vikings secondary that has been torched by fantasy receivers this season. The Vikings are currently allowing the fifth most points to fantasy receivers. I expect Smith to have a monster day; he has WR1 upside in this matchup.
Oakland Raiders WR Andre Holmes – Oakland plays a New York Jets secondary that has allowed the fourth most points to fantasy receivers over the last five weeks. At 6’ 4” and 210 lbs. with 4.53 speed, Holmes has a ton of athletic ability. If starting WR Denarius Moore is healthy, he figures to be a low WR2 to high WR3. If Holmes plays, he is a low WR3 to high WR4 with tremendous upside against a struggling Jets secondary.
St. Louis Rams TE Jared Cook – The Cardinals are the worst tight end defense in the NFL by a mile and Cook dominated the Cardinals in the opener. I would roll with Cook this week; he is a TE1 play in this dream matchup.
Sit of the Week
Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck – Luck has not been particularly good in recent weeks. He has not topped 250 yards passing in his last three contests, has only one passing touchdown in those three games and has thrown two interceptions. The only thing that has salvaged those bad games is his 103 yards rushing and one rushing touchdown in those three games.
This week, he plays a Cincinnati Bengals team that has allowed the fourth fewest points to fantasy quarterbacks over the last five weeks. Luck just is not playing well enough to warrant QB1 consideration. He will be an average QB2 in a terrible matchup.
Players to Sit
San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick – Kaepernick has not had much success the two times he has played the Seahawks and the Seahawks are allowing the fifth fewest points to fantasy quarterbacks. I would look elsewhere this week, even if the 49ers win the game, it is likely to be a low scoring affair.
St. Louis Rams RB Zac Stacy – Stacy rushed for 72 yards on 19 carries against the 49ers in Week 13, so the concussion seems to be a problem of the past. Keep in mind that Stacy takes on the toughest fantasy running back defense in the NFL this week. Stacy will have flex value , if you have other options though, I would start them. There is little to no upside in this matchup.
San Diego Chargers RB Ryan Matthews – Matthews plays a New York Giants defense that has allowed the fifth fewest points to fantasy backs over the last five weeks. Matthews is a poor flex play to RB4 this week in what figures to be a tough matchup.
San Francisco 49ers WR Anquan Boldin – Boldin had one reception for seven yards the last time he played the Hawks, there is not much upside for the 49ers offense in this matchup.
Indianapolis Colts WR T. Y. Hilton – Hilton has not topped 100 yards receiving in three weeks and has not scored a touchdown since his three-touchdown explosion against the Houston Texans. I would sit Hilton going against a Bengals secondary that allows the sixth fewest points to tight ends over the last five weeks.
Philadelphia Eagles TE Zach Ertz – I would not chase the points from last week’s two-touchdown performance. The Cardinals are not on the schedule again, this week the Eagles play a Detroit Lions D that has allowed the fourth fewest points to tight ends over the last five weeks. Ertz will go back to being a dicey TE2.