Either this week or next week, your fantasy league's playoffs will begin. You'll spend Sunday afternoons with one eye on the TV and the other on your computer, and it'll be a fantastically enjoyable experience - as long as you win, of course.
We're not going to overanalyze what you should do in the playoffs; if you got this far, you probably know what you're doing. Our only recommendation, other than the weekly lineup suggestions we offer, is that you try not to overthink. Last week at our blog over at FOXSports.com, we had a surprising number of people post comments with questions like, "Should I bench Peyton Manning for Derek Anderson," or "I'm thinking about sitting LaDainian Tomlinson for some guy I never heard of until a week ago. Is that a good idea?" No, it isn't.
Courtesy of our FOXSports.com colleague Roger Rotter, here's a sampling of players you should keep in your starting lineup unless they're injured (players marked with an * are in danger of falling off the list):
QB: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo
RB: Joseph Addai, Reggie Bush*, Steven Jackson, Willis McGahee, Willie Parker, Adrian Peterson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Brian Westbrook
WR: Anquan Boldin, Plaxico Burress*, Laveranues Coles, Donald Driver, Braylon Edwards, Larry Fitzgerald, Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Andre Johnson, Chad Johnson, Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Steve Smith, Hines Ward, Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker
Quarterbacks (non-Brady division)
GOOD: Gus Frerotte, St. Louis
Like anyone saw this coming. The 36-year-old Frerotte, who threw five interceptions in his last start in October, completed 23 of 35 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns in the Rams' 28-16 win over the Falcons. Frerotte's success may not last much longer, as he injured his shoulder on Sunday, and starting QB Marc Bulger (concussion) hopes to return this week.
Frerotte, as you might remember, injured his neck in 1997 while intentionally butting his head into a stadium wall to celebrate a touchdown. Despite a spirited three-minute Internet search, Wide Write was unable to locate video of Frerotte's wall-butting incident. Here's the Washington Post story if you'd like to take a trip down Memory Lane. Make sure to check out the groovy page design on the old Post Web site while you're there.
(Sorry, Tony Romo. You didn't get the nod because you're almost in the Brady category. One more week like this and you're out.)
Honorable mention: Luke McCown, Tampa Bay (29-37, 313 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT)); Tony Romo, Dallas (19-30, 309 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT)
BAD: Philip Rivers, San Diego
Rivers - who was 10-for-21 with 157 yards, a TD and a pick against the Chiefs on Sunday - might be the most infuriating fantasy quarterback around. After a breakout 2006, big things were expected from him in 2007. With the best running back and tight end in the NFL at his disposal, along with some halfway decent receivers and a new, offensive-minded head coach, Rivers was going to have to trip over his own feet to post a subpar 2007.
It hasn't been all bad for Rivers this season - he's just maddeningly inconsistent, like his underachieving teammates. In three blowout wins over the Broncos, Texans and Ravens, Rivers had eight TDs and no interceptions. In the other nine games, he's thrown seven TDs and 13 interceptions. You really can't start him anymore, because you have NO idea what to expect. Damn you, Philip Rivers.
THIS WEEK'S PLAY: Carson Palmer, Cincinnati
This one may seem obvious as referenced by the must-start list above, but in Week 13 Palmer was active in just 60 percent of FOXSports.com leagues. Palmer is fourth in the NFL with 3,259 passing yards, and seventh with 21 touchdown passes. This week, he faces the visiting Rams, who are 20th in the league in pass defense and have allowed an average of 25 points in six road contests. This is the perfect spot for Palmer to put up some big numbers.
GOOD: Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
LaDainian Tomlinson isn't on the Wide Write banned list like Tom Brady and Randy Moss, but since he was the consensus top pick in fantasy drafts, we think games like the one he had Sunday are, well, what he's supposed to do. Instead, we decided to recognize our favorite purple-clad rookie, who has probably carried your fantasy team to a playoff berth, and is poised to inflict more damage on your opponents in the coming weeks.
Peterson returned Sunday from two weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury, and didn't miss a beat. Despite wearing a knee brace, he carried 15 times for 116 yards and two scores before being taken out early in the third quarter. You want to spend a very enjoyable three minutes and 49 seconds? Check out Peterson's highlights from Sunday's game on NFL.com. The 12-yard TD run at the three-minute mark is especially entertaining.
Honorable mention: LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego (23 carries, 177 yards, 2 TD; 3 receptions, 20 yards); Derrick Ward, New York Giants (24 carries, 154 yards, 1 TD; 2 receptions, 29 yards); Justin Fargas, Oakland (33 carries, 146 yards, 1 TD; 2 receptions, 18 yards)
BAD: Warrick Dunn, Atlanta
Want some up-and-down numbers? Over the last six games, Dunn has gained 28, 100, 89, 32, 70 and 17 yards rushing. In Week 13, the 17 yards came on 10 carries - ugh. Dunn is averaging exactly 50 yards per game, and he's a dicey start for your team unless you use three running backs or a flex player.
THIS WEEK'S PLAY: Ryan Grant, Green Bay
Apparently there are still some non-believers out there, as Grant is available in 36 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, and is starting in only 36 percent of them. Since becoming a starter six games ago, Grant has averaged 93 yards per outing, and scored four times. This week, Grant and the Packers host the Raiders, whose rushing defense is ranked 30th in the NFL. Get him in there, people!
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends (non-Moss division)
GOOD: Hines Ward, Pittsburgh
Ward has been a solid if unspectacular possession receiver over his 10-year career, and this season is no different. He has 607 yarda and six touchdowns in 10 games, which is just fine for a No. 2 fantasy wideout.
On Sunday night, Ward caught 11 balls for 90 yards and a pair of scores against the toothless Bengals' defense. With Ben Roethlisberger maturing into one of the NFL's best quarterbacks, Ward's numbers should remain solid.
Honorable mention: Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis (8 receptions, 158 yards, 1 TD); Terrell Owens, Dallas (7 receptions, 156 yards, 1 TD)
BAD: Antonio Gates, San Diego
Team Wide Write drafted Gates in the second round (20th overall) of a draft this year. We strenuously congratulated ourselves for this bold move, as we knew someone else would grab the fantasy Hall of Famer in the third round. When the draft came back to us in Round 3, it worked out just like we expected, and we were able to grab our sure-thing running back - the Jets' Thomas Jones. OK, so we didn't pat ourselves on the back so much for that one.
Anyway, we went on with that long-winded story to avoid spending too much time on the fact that Gates caught one pass for minus-one yard against the Chiefs. Is "minus-one yard" even the way to write that? Let's just move on and forget the whole thing ever happened.
THIS WEEK'S PLAY: Bobby Engram, Seattle
In last week's Wide Write, we tabbed Seahawks' receiver Deion Branch in this spot, and he disappointed with five receptions for 40 yards against the Eagles. This week, we'll move down the Seahawks' line of scrimmage to the underrated Engram, who had five catches for 60 yards and a touchdown Sunday. Honestly, our choice here was basically a coin flip between Engram and Branch, and we just wanted to mix things up.
Engram is on track for a career year, with 72 receptions, 874 yards and four touchdowns through 12 games. With the so-so Cardinals' pass defense headed to the Pacific Northwest to face the red-hot Seahawks' offense (28 ppg in their last six), Engram should see plenty of action in Week 14.
John Halpin covers fantasy sports for FOXSports.com, writing a morning football blog Sundays through Thursdays and baseball columns once or twice each week, depending on the season. His "Wide Write" will appear every Tuesday during the NFL season on FOXNews.com. Send him an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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