The fantasy playoffs start for many of you this week, so you must be pretty excited. If you win your first post-season game, just remember that when you go to the local club to celebrate, you should keep your gun safely and securely tucked into the waistband of your sweatpants.
As always, below are some players that are available in at least a decent number of fantasy leagues, and are often on the bench for the teams that own them already. Let’s get going.
Joe Flacco, Ravens – We had Flacco in this spot a few weeks ago, and he’s still a solid start. After struggling through the first five games of his rookie season, Flacco has averaged 205 yards passing over his last seven outings, with 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions over that span. The Ravens still like to run, but Flacco is keeping opponents honest. He’s owned in just 26 percent of FOXSports.com leagues, so he’s available if you need some QB help.
Chad Pennington, Dolphins – Pennington’s got a road game against the Bills, which is always tough in December – it’s cold up there. What’s that? The game is in a dome in Toronto? Fantastic. Pennington averages about 240 yards and a touchdown per game for the surprising Dolphins, and that’s not at all out of reach against the mediocre Toronto, er, Buffalo defense. Since the game is in Canada, maybe they’ll also let Pennington get one of those one-point “rouges” like in the CFL.
Matt Ryan, Falcons – Ryan’s been so good for the 8-4 Falcons that some people are talking him up for the league MVP award, but he started in just 30 percent of FOXSports.com leagues last week. Folks, it’s time to get over your jitters about starting a rookie QB. Ryan has averaged 252 yards passing with nine touchdowns over his last seven starts. He’s thrown just three interceptions during that stretch, and completed 65 percent of his passes. This week, he gets to air it out against the Saints and their 24th-ranked pass defense. If you play matchups with your quarterbacks, this one is a no-brainer.
Peyton Hillis, Broncos – We’re almost embarrassed to make the obvious decision of including Hillis here, but he’s still owned in less than half of leagues at FOXSports.com. We’re not sure if that’s a computer glitch or a sign of extreme stupidity, but what’s it gonna take for everyone to be all over this guy? We’re as spooked as the next fantasy owner about Mike Shanahan’s unpredictability with running backs, but it’s not like there are a ton of other options since every available back in the Mountain time zone is injured. Hillis had his best game yet against the Jets last week, notching 129 yards and a TD, and this week he gets the 31st-ranked Chiefs’ rushing D at home. If there’s a way for you to get Hillis and start him, you’ll be committing fantasy malpractice if you pass on the opportunity. Don’t make us report you to the fantasy authorities.
Mewelde Moore, Steelers – Moore had 12 carries last week to Willie Parker’s 16, as Parker continues to recover from a knee injury. On Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said the following of the two-back setup: "There is no doubt that that was a successful venture for us last week. Mewelde is a good player who has shown that he is capable of helping us win ... I am sure that we are going to continue to see both of those guys in some fashion. The minute details of the rotation just have not been worked out yet for this week."
Translation: Worry about Parker if you have him, and grab Moore if you can. A part-time back for the Steelers is better than a full-time back for a lot of teams.
Sammy Morris, Patriots – Morris seems to be healthy again, and that makes him the Patriots’ best back. He only ran 10 times last week because the Pats played from behind for the entire second half, but he gained 45 yards and a touchdown. He’s still unowned in about half of leagues, and with a road matchup against the struggling Seahawks in Week 14, he looks to be a really nice play.
Bonus items: Cowboys RB Marion Barber is expected to play through a toe injury, but he might have a plate in his shoe for support. That’s not good. Keep an eye on his status as Sunday approaches, and if things take a turn for the worse, grab backup Tashard Choice to fill in … Packers RB Ryan Grant sprained a thumb in Week 13, and his coaches are very concerned about his ability to protect the ball. It’s possible that they’ll decide to sit Grant this week, and if you hear that news over the weekend, grab backup Brandon Jackson, who looked great while rushing for 80 yards in Week 13.
Davone Bess, Dolphins – When scrappy Greg Camarillo went down for the season with an injury, it opened a spot for Bess, who filled it well against the Rams by catching six passes for 84 yards. Bess is available in more than 95 percent of leagues, and since we like Pennington against the Toronto Bills this week, we like Bess as well.
Domenik Hixon, Giants – This one is simple. Hixon has inherited Plaxico Burress’ starting spot. He’s started in Burress’ place three times so far, and in those games he has 15 receptions for 228 yards and a touchdown. He’d have more if Eli Manning didn’t overthrow him for an easy score last week. Hixon is a gamebreaking receiver in a top-notch offense, and he’s available in almost 90 percent of FOXSports.com leagues. We picked him up in a league over the weekend, and we’re pretty sure he’s staying in our starting lineup for the duration of the season. We LOVE Hixon.
Dustin Keller, Jets (TE) – Keller is there for the taking in plenty of leagues, and he’s suddenly become one of Brett Fav-ruh’s favorite targets, with a ridiculous 27 receptions for 313 yards and a touchdown in his last four games. Tight ends are generally a crapshoot, but Keller is as good a bet as anyone to post some solid fantasy numbers for the rest of the season.
Don’t forget about your Thursday game – it’s Raiders-Chargers. Yeah, we know it’s a bad matchup, but there are some decent players involved.
John Halpin covers fantasy sports for FOXSports.com, writing a morning fantasy blog Sundays through Fridays and baseball columns once or twice each week, depending on the season. His "Wide Write" appears every Thursday during the NFL season on FOXNews.com. Send him an e-mail at email@example.com.
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