Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the fantasy playoffs. For those who are only a few games away from hoisting the championship, we hope you find the remaining Sit 'Em/Start 'Em articles your ticket to the gold. Of course, for those who failed to make the tournament, your league may still allows its players to finish out the season. And if that's the case, finish strong and begin preparing for next season. That's what a good GM does, right?
To say it's been an interesting fantasy season is a vast understatement. Few had any idea the tight end position would mostly flop. Most expected guys like Kyle Rudolph and Zach Ertz to have breakout years. But even fewer expected the rookie wide receiver class to have such an incredible impact. Sure, we knew the draft stock was deep, but it was impossible to think that a player like Dolphins' receiver Jarvis Landry would emerge so late in the season or that Martavis Bryant would rip off six touchdowns in four games.
We're going to skip our usual accountability check this week (let's just assume we did somewhere between good and awesome, as usual) and instead jump right into what's important, helping you win it all. We'll include our accountability check in next week's column.
Per usual, all projections are based on Yahoo! Fantasy.
20 Buffalo Bills' Defense – SIT
The Bills have owned one of the league's best and most consistent fantasy defenses this year. The last time they put forth a bad performance was back in week six against the Patriots, who were at the beginning of their angry run of dismantling opponents. This week, it's easy to believe the Bills will finally struggle against a similarly high octane offense in Denver. Instead of using the Bills' defense, we suggest picking up the next defense on our list...
19 Minnesota Vikings' Defense – START
Sure, Minnesota's defense has been inconsistent, but when they've produced fantasy points, they've impressed. They racked up 22, 15, 19 and 26 points in weeks one, seven, eight, and 13 respectively. They have a chance to put up similar numbers this week against a Jets' team that is in disarray. Start them with confidence. Did I just say that?
18 Heath Miller – TE, Pittsburgh Steelers – SIT
If you're in the playoffs, would you really want to lose because you decided to take a risk and start Heath Miller? We didn't think so, but we'll still explain why you should sit him, just in case you have second thoughts. Although Miller had a good 12-point game last week, he's been spotty all year. More so, he's put forth a number of lousy performances playing the Bengals and has scored only once against them in Cincinnati.
17 Jason Witten – TE, Dallas Cowboys – START
Because tight ends have been hit or miss all season, fantasy owners have likely struggled deciding whether or not to go with the matchup or trust their tight end's overall production. That's why we'll go with Witten this week against a Bears' secondary that has surrendered the most fantasy points to the position. Witten has also produced fairly well this season and the Bears have mainly struggled to stop tight ends. That's a good enough combination for us.
16 Keenan Allen – WR, San Diego Chargers – SIT
Allen was on fire last week, scoring twice and putting up 121 yards on 11 receptions. Those are WR 1 numbers, but there is reason to believe he won't be able to sustain those numbers against the Patriots. He'll have his hands full with either Darrelle Revis or Brandon Browner, as well as Devin McCourty at safety. The Patriots actually kept Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson in check last week. Subtract Nelson's 45 yard touchdown catch and run and he only totaled eight yards on one reception.
15 Jarvis Landry – WR, Miami Dolphins – START
Landry has become Ryan Tannehill's go-to target, but he is still owned in only 44 percent of Yahoo! leagues. That is shocking, but similar to how fantasy owners treated Mohamad Sanu earlier this year. Dalton was targeting Sanu a ton with A.J. Green limping around, and the former began to put up a wealth of numbers before anyone noticed. Landry is a sleeper who has a juicy matchup this week against a Ravens' secondary that has surrendered the most fantasy points to the position. He's likely to make a huge impact, and your opponent won't even see it coming.
14 Martavis Bryant – WR, Pittsburgh Steelers – SIT
After scoring six touchdowns in a four game span, Bryant's sudden surge into stardom appears all, but short lived. In saying that, we still recommend you hold onto him for a little while longer. Roethlisberger still looks to the 6' 5" receiver in the red zone, and the latter will have a good matchup against Atlanta next week.
However, we are talking about this week, and starting Bryant is like throwing an 80-yard Hail Mary with zero seconds left on the clock. Can your quarterback even throw that far? Exactly. The answer is, no. It's best to sit him.
13 Kelvin Benjamin – WR, Carolina Panthers – START
This start could be a head scratcher, if it weren't for the Saints' poor defense and Benjamin's heavy involvement in Carolina's offensive game plan. First, the Saints lack a defense. They rank 28th against the pass, and over the past three games, New Orleans has surrendered the fifth most total passing yards. Second, Benjamin is a target machine. Over the past two weeks, he's racked up 14 catches on 25 targets. He failed to produce when he played the Saints in week nine, but give this guy a second chance. If you don't, he could make both New Orleans and your fantasy season pay dearly.
12 Reggie Wayne – WR, Indianapolis Colts – SIT
I traded for Wayne during his week 9 to 11 fantasy outbursts. Those were good weeks, and then I dropped him for wide receiver Jarvis Landry. Both appear like good moves. Wayne gave me what I needed, which is probably all the 35-year old could muster, and now the younger Landry is ready to take the reins.
If Wayne is still on your roster, the outcome of my strategy might inspire you to drop him too. While Luck still targets Wayne, he just doesn't seem capable of turning his catches into meaningful fantasy points. He also hasn't scored a touchdown since week nine.
11 Josh Gordon – WR, Cleveland Browns – START
This is a no brainer, but some fantasy owners may look at the matchup and wonder whether he's even worth a WR 2 look this week. Short answer: Start him.
With the amount of targets Gordon is receiving, as well as ability to turn those targets into WR 1 numbers, the Browns' receiver is locked in as a sure start. The only player that could have held Gordon back is Johnny Manziel, but the quarterback won't start this week.
For those still skeptical, you have to remember he faced a Bills' team last week that owns one of the best defenses in the league. They rank fifth in total yards allowed and fifth in passing yard allowed. Gordon should fare much better at home this weekend.
10 Ryan Mathews – RB, San Diego Chargers – SIT
It's nice to see that Mathews is still the feature back in San Diego's offense, but he didn't do much in that role last Sunday against Baltimore, who own one of the league's best run defenses. While the Patriots have giving up 110 yards per game on average this season, they are only surrendering 80 yards per game during their past four games. That is seventh best in the league over that time span, which is actually three spots better than Baltimore.
Mathews also didn't improve his stock through the passing game. Against the Ravens, he caught only one ball for six yards. It's usually tough to sit such a talented back, but it's not all that difficult when you consider how well the Patriots' run defense is playing.
9 Frank Gore – RB, San Francisco 49ers – START
The 49ers sit just outside the top 10 in most rushing yards a game, and the Raiders rank sixth worst in rushing yards allowed a game. The only real issue is that San Francisco has averaged only 93 rushing yards per game over their last three games, which is eighth worst. But we believe they'll snap that trend against a Raiders' defense that allowed 164 total yards and three touchdowns to Tre Mason last Sunday.
8 Lamar Miller – RB, Miami Dolphins – SIT
While Miller has put up a nice fantasy season, he stills struggles against tough matchups. See the Broncos and Detroit as prime examples. This week it doesn't get easier. He'll face the Ravens, who rank 10th in fewest rushing yards allowed over their last three games and who are just as stingy in rushing touchdowns allowed. More so, they are ranked third in fewest rushing attempts against, meaning teams just don't run against them. Who are the teams that rank better than the Ravens in the same categories? Denver and Detroit, which are two teams Miller struggled with earlier in the year. It's best to start another back.
7 Rashad Jennings – RB, New York Giants – START
While Jennings has been putting up border line RB 1 numbers all year, many critics still peg him as a clear RB 2. And usually fantasy owners bench RB 2 players depending on the match up. Our advice is to not bench Jennings. Since the Titans week nine bye, they have surrendered approximately 22 points per game to running backs. He's a solid start from here on out, although, we might suggest handcuffing Andre Williams because Jennings is injury prone.
6 Tre Mason – RB, St. Louis Rams – SIT
Don't chase the numbers. Just keep telling yourself that when you sit Mason against the Redskins this week. At first glance, it might seem like a decent matchup because the Redskins are a mess, but delve deeper into the numbers and you'll see why it's best Mason takes a seat. Washington has not only surrendered the fourth fewest fantasy points to backs, but they've only allowed 80 rushing yards per game over their past three games. That's is ranked sixth and that is a good enough reason to look elsewhere at the position.
5 Joique Bell – RB, Detroit Lions – START
Have the Lions finally begun to emerge on offense? Maybe. Or maybe they just shredded an easy Chicago defense last week. In any case, if we are basing Bell's production on matchups, he'll get another shot at a generally giving Tampa Bay squad. Their defense has allowed at least 13 fantasy points to running backs all year and over 24 fantasy points to home backs in 2014. I'd expect the Lions to feast on Tampa Bay and for Bell to receive his fair share of productive carries.
4 Philip Rivers – QB, San Diego Chargers – SIT
While the Patriots just surrendered 25 fantasy points to Aaron Rodgers last week, they have actually played home quarterbacks pretty tough this season. Rivers will be at Qualcomm Stadium and coming off a great win against the Ravens, but the Patriots are 34-6 when coming off a loss since 2003. It's always risky to bet your hand against Belichick and this might not be the week to do it. Play Rivers with caution.
3 Tony Romo – QB, Dallas Cowboys – START
Along with the Cowboys, Romo served up a burnt turkey on Thanksgiving, completing only 18 of 29 passes for 199 yards. He also dished out two beefy interceptions to an Eagles' team that had given up 345 yards to Zach Mettenberger the week before. Yikes. However, Romo is still a solid play against a Bears' secondary that was torched last week by the Matt Stafford. Consider Romo a QB 1.
2 Mark Sanchez – QB, Philadelphia Eagles – SIT
It should be a given to sit pretty much any player when they face Seattle's defense. It's too risky. But some fantasy owners may lack depth at quarterback. They might only own Sanchez, for example, and be unwilling to grab a guy off the waiver wire for a spot start. We suggest benching Sanchez for that other quarterback on your roster or look to the wire for help. Zach Mettenberger comes to mind. He's facing a Giants' team that has surrendered the seventh most fantasy points to quarterbacks.
1 Zach Mettenberger – QB, Tennessee Titans – START
And speaking about that Mettenberger guy. As predicted, he struggled last week against J.J. Watt and an aggressive Houston Texans' defense. He also left the game with a shoulder injury. The good news is that he's likely to start this weekend. Mettenberger was throwing the ball well in practice, and Jake Locker did nothing, but inspire doubt after he turned the ball over after he replaced the starter. Mettenberger will be a strong start against a New York Giants' defense that bleeds points to quarterbacks.