QB: Tony Romo vs. NO – Coming off an impressive 341-yard, two-touchdown, no-interception performance against the Steelers’ top-ranked pass defense, Romo draws a matchup against one of the worst pass defenses in football. Coming in 31st against the pass, New Orleans presents Romo with a highly exploitable matchup. Over the last four weeks, Romo has compiled a 9:3 TD-to-INT ratio and is averaging 338.3 passing yards per game. With Dez Bryant looking plenty healthy last week, I wouldn’t have any qualms about starting Romo.
RB: Stevan Ridley at JAC – With his dud against the 49ers and concerns about being benched for his fumble, it’s easy to forget that Ridley is 10th out of running backs in standard league scoring. Already having topped 1,000 rushing yards, Ridley had found the end zone in six straight before facing the 49ers. By now owners should know the drill with Ridley – when the Patriots face bad teams, he’s used consistently as a clock-killer and typically finds the end zone (he’s currently tied for 4th in rushing touchdowns with 10). This week, he not only faces a bad team that the Patriots will jump out to a hefty lead against, but he also draws the worst run defense in football. The Jaguars are allowing a league worst 148.1 yards on the ground per game. This isn’t a week to leave Ridley on your bench.
DeMarco Murray vs. NO – Another beneficiary of the Saints porous defense is Cowboys’ running back DeMarco Murray. Murray looked fresh against the Steelers stout run defense last week and has scored in each of his last three games. This week, he’ll draw arguably his most exploitable matchup of the season. Ranked 31st, only the Jaguars have been less effective than the Saints against the run. The Saints are also one of two teams that allow opposing ball carriers to run for at least 5 YPC. This is Murray’s last chance to salvage his disappointing fantasy season.
Vick Ballard at KC – Following his best performance of the season, Vick Ballard drew heaps of praise from interim coach Bruce Arians. “He had the ability to make people miss and he found some great holes. He ran the ball extremely well.” Arians expressed regret for not giving Ballard a goal line carry that Mewelde Moore received and fumbled away. Ballard will continue to serve as the Colts’ every-down back and has now had two solid rushing performances back to back. No team has allowed more 20+ yard runs than Kansas City’s 27th ranked run defense – start Ballard in this attractive matchup.
DeAngelo Williams vs. OAK – With two long receiving touchdowns over his last two games, DeAngelo Williams has made his mark during the fantasy playoffs. In the three games since Jonathan Stewart sprained his ankle, Williams’ touches have gone from 13 to 19 to 24. As the Panthers only true healthy running back, they’ll continue to get him the ball. The Raiders are below average against the run and allow a league-worst 28.7 points per game.
WR: Demaryius Thomas vs. CLE – In only four out of Demaryius Thomas’ 14 games this season, he has finished without 100 receiving yards or a touchdown. Despite the fact that two of those four have come in his last two games, Thomas is still a must-start. I know Joe Haden is likely to shadow him, but Thomas is one of the most physically dominant receivers in football. His size and speed combination that has lead to a 78/1,210/8 stat line so far this season cannot be left stranded on the bench.
Cecil Shorts vs. NE – No one is more deserving of the ‘Most Improved Player’ award than Cecil Shorts. Coming into this season, Shorts had just two career catches and went undrafted in the vast majority of fantasy football drafts, registering an undrafted ADP. Spectacularly, despite missing a game, Shorts is currently 17th in standard league scoring and has proven to be a WR2 in fantasy circles. Over his last five games, Shorts is red-hot – averaging 5.2/93.8/0.8. This week he faces a Patriots’ secondary that is ranked 29th against the pass and allows the 4th most points to opposing wide receivers. Doesn’t hurt that Shorts is a special playmaker and the Pats have allowed a league worst 68 passes of 20+ yards.
Danny Amendola at TB – When healthy Danny Amendola continues to draw consistent targets from Sam Bradford, finishing last week with 6/58/1. He’s certainly more valuable in PPR leagues, but this week Amendola is a solid start in all formats. Amendola faces the Buccaneers’ last-ranked pass defense that is allowing the most points to opposing wide receivers.
Brandon Lloyd at JAX – Despite being one of my favorite preseason breakout players, Brandon Lloyd was a huge disappointment for the majority of the season. Gronkowski’s injury has proven to be a huge boost for Lloyd, who has caught 17 catches for 279 yards and a touchdown over his last two games. Desperate owners should have no qualms about playing the Patriots hottest wide receiver.
TE: Greg Olsen vs. OAK – Even if Brandon LaFell does play, his turf toe has rendered him ineffective. That leaves Olsen as the Panthers’ 2nd option through the air behind Steve Smith. Olsen has an above average matchup against the Raiders’ woeful pass defense.
QB: Colin Kaepernick at SEA – I’m a big Colin Kaepernick fan but it’s risky starting a rookie quarterback at Seattle during the final week of the fantasy playoffs. Seattle is ranked 3rd against the pass and allows a league fewest 15.6 points per game. Kaepernick could always make up for it with a good rushing day, but this isn’t the best week to bet on him.
RB: Jackie Battle at NYJ – While Battle is likely to replace Ryan Mathews as the lead-back for the Chargers; he’s hardly someone worth starting this week. The lifelong plodder won’t be playing passing downs and the Chargers have struggled to score consistently this season. I know the Jets have a weak run defense but with Curtis Brinkley receiving most of the carries last week, I’m not sure this is even Battle’s job.
Beanie Wells vs. CHI – Despite Beanie Wells’ three-touchdown eruption last week, he isn’t someone to trust in the fantasy finals. During the previous two weeks, Wells rushed for a total of 40 yards. He has just one catch during the season and it took place in Week 2. Wells is averaging a pathetic 2.8 yards per carry and has topped 50 total yards just twice in seven games this season. Don’t trust him against the Bears’ 12th ranked run defense.
Montell Owens vs. NE – Although he’s the Jaguars’ lead-back, Montell Owens is another player that can’t be trusted. With just 46 career rushes, Owens is simply a lifelong backup that has been thrust into a starting role because of injuries suffered by Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashad Jennings, and Jalen Parmele. The Patriots defense is ranked 11th against the run and will likely come out angry after a frustrating loss to the 49ers.
WR: Larry Fitzgerald vs. CHI – Among the most disappointing fantasy players this season, Larry Fitzgerald has been held back by his quarterbacks. Although Fitzgerald is in his prime and is likely destined to join the hall of fame in the future, he’s averaging just 48.1 receiving yards per game and has scored only four touchdowns. Prior to this season, Fitzgerald had a career average of 77.5 receiving yards per game and over nine touchdowns a season. The Bears are 6th against the pass this season and will surely do their best to take Fitzgerald out of the game.
Golden Tate vs. SF – Golden Tate is the perfect example of a matchup play. When he has a possible shootout on the horizon, he’s worth consideration. When he’s facing the 49ers 5th ranked pass defense, he belongs on the bench.
Denarius Moore at CAR – Despite his special talent, it’s another mediocre year for Denarius Moore. He hasn’t topped 46 yards since Week 10 and it no longer appears that the Raiders are making a special effort to get him the ball. Rod Streater has out-produced Moore in each of the last three weeks.
TE: Dallas Clark vs. STL – There are many options at tight end but Dallas Clark is one I wouldn’t consider. Considering he’s the Bucs’ 4th option at best, behind Vincent Jackson, Doug Martin, and Mike Williams – he isn’t a big part of the game plan. This is why he doesn’t have consistent production. Don’t chase after last week’s fluky eight-catch game.
Thanks for reading! Hit me up on Twitter @BraudeM or post below for any lineup questions you guys have!