Now before we get into the actual starts and sits, let me just say one thing about these recommendations. And it’s something I’ve said before, so if you’ve heard it already, just bear with me for a moment. I’m not in the habit of recommending players who should be in your starting lineup already. If Drew Brees or Tom Brady has a favorable match-up, then duh….of course you start them. If they have a tough match-up, I may put them in the sit column, but that’s more for you to understand that you shouldn’t expect their normal point totals; not to bench them for some crappy guy who has a soft match-up.
Case in point: I just received an email where a guy asked me if he should bench Cam Newton against the Saints this week in favor of Joe Flacco who faces the Vikings. Now while Newton’s match-up isn’t ideal, why the hell would you sit a guy who’s been plenty productive this year (especially lately) in favor of a guy who has sucked for, pretty much, the entire season? He’s had a nice game or two here and there, but nothing that would blow you or Newton’s numbers away. Flacco’s upside is nowhere near Newton’s upside, so remember that when you’re thinking about benching one of your productive top guns. Flacco’s the type of guy you stream in if you had Aaron Rodgers and lost him; not the type of guy for whom you bench a stud with a tough match-up.
Now let’s get to it…
Matt Ryan, ATL – So many fantasy owners were quick to jump ship on Ryan during that stretch betweens Weeks 8 and 10 as he struggled his way through some pretty rough match-ups. Everyone cited his lack of receivers as the root of the problem yet no one mentioned that he faced three straight top-five pass defenses as they discarded him in favor of the Mike Glennons and Jason Campbells sitting on the waiver wire. Well, the rough patch in the schedule is over, Roddy White is back and up this week are the Packers and their 30th-ranked pass defense. Ryan showed he can still sling the rock with 613 passing yards in his last two games and the touchdowns are en route right now. The Packers have given up 22 passing touchdowns this season and have allowed an average of 29.7 points per game over their last six. The cold of Green Bay won’t be an issue because ain’t nothin’ colder than what’s runnin’ through Matty Ice’s veins.
Colin Kaepernick, SF – Here’s where I really deviate from the pack as there are few fantasy pundits putting their faith in Kaepernick this week against the vaunted Seattle defense. But I’m telling you right now, this game isn’t going the way the masses think it’s going. Kaepernick, at home and with a new arsenal of weapons at his disposal, is not Drew Brees on the road in crappy weather. Frank Gore may find running room tight, but he continues to lend strong support and will keep the Seahawks honest up front. The addition of Michael Crabtree to a group of receivers that already included Anquan Boldin, Mario Manningham and tight end Vernon Davis is going to give that short-handed secondary a run for its money this week. And if you look at Kaepernick’s numbers over the last three games, he’s got six touchdowns to just one interception and continues to show improvement. I’m going twith the upside this week and starting him in two playoff match-ups of my own.
Alex Smith, KC – For the fourth straight week I am putting Smith in my recommended start section and you know what…? I haven’t been wrong yet. The match-ups have been awesome and the return of High Times’ Man of the Year Dwayne Bowe has revitalized Smith’s passing attack. He’s averaging 272.3 passing yards per game over his last three and has seven touchdowns to just two interceptions. This week he gets the Redskins who have given up 23 touchdowns through the air this season and an average of 265 passing yards per game. Not to mention, opposing quarterbacks have a 101.5 cumulative passer rating against them. Look for another strong week.
Andrew Luck, IND – Has anyone reminded him that this isn’t college anymore and the regular season is 17 weeks long? He’s looked awful over these last four weeks, averaging just 237 passing yards per game (200 or fewer in last two) and throwing just two touchdowns to five interceptions. Now he’s facing a Cincinnati defense that ranks second against the pass, allows an average of just 214 passing yards per game and is limiting opposing quarterbacks to a 74.5 passer rating for the entire season. While we’d all like to see a kid like Luck get his mojo back, it sure isn’t going to be this week.
Russell Wilson, SEA – Well, if I’m going to sit here and fluff Kaepernick, I may as well dog Wilson in the same article, right? Again, bucking the trend of the pundits here and disregarding the fact that he’s averaged 236.3 yards with 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions over his last six games. I don’t even care what his rushing totals in that span were. I’m pissing on those numbers. Because he’s headed to San Francisco, where there is new life in this team and an already strong defense, I’m steering clear of him this week. The speed of the linebackers – Aldon Smith, Novarro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks and Patrick Willis – will help contain the read-option and the outside runs, and the secondary will more than handle the receivers. I think the 49ers avenge their Week 2 drubbing and turn this into a statement game.
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT – It’s that pesky Miami defense again that still seems to get very little respect. They’ve held the opposition to an average of just 222 passing yards per game, they’ve given up just 12 passing touchdowns all year and opposing quarterbacks have a collective 72.7 passer rating against them. That does not bode well for Big Ben’s overall numbers. Could he hit his tight end for a quick score? Sure. Could he hit Antonio Brown for a dozen receptions? Of course he could. But the ass rush he is facing, the one with 37 sacks for a total of 238 yards lost, will keep him on the run, keep the yards down, and seriously limit the scoring. There are days when I really like Big Ben but this is not one of them.