It’s fantasy playoff time for most of you, so the stakes are getting higher. Make sure to settle in front of the TV on Sunday and follow your fantasy team’s quest for a title. You can always shop for gifts in January.
Remember that both this column and the accompanying weekly video are posted on Thursdays, so please make sure to check your players’ status as close to kickoff as possible. My morning blog is published on Fridays, and I’ll tweet lineup-related news all weekend as I hear it. The last thing you want is to set your lineups with dated information.
Read on for your Week 14 fantasy football recommendations. If you have any questions, comments or insults, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, don’t forget that there’s a Thursday night game – set your lineups early if you own any Steelers or Browns.
As always, all this week’s recommendations aren’t included below. There will always be a few more players you need to know about, and to find out who they are, you’ll need to watch the weekly Wide Write video blog.
Start him: Alex Smith, 49ers
Sorry if I’m boring you by including Smith here every week lately, but he’s actually still available to be picked up in some leagues, so I assume that not all of you are starting him. And if you’re not, you’re making a HUGE mistake.
In the two games since the Niners converted to their spread offense – featuring a shotgun formation more often than not – Smith has completed 54 of 86 passes (62.8 percent) for 542 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. This week, the 49ers host the Cardinals, who defend the run a lot better than they defend the pass. And as we’ve noted before, the Lions come to San Francisco in Week 16. Repeat after me: Alex Smith can help me win a fantasy championship.
Sit him: Donovan McNabb, Eagles
My dad likes to call McNabb an “in-and-outer,” and I’ll vote OUT for this week. The Giants’ pass defense has been inconsistent, but they’re still ranked ninth in the NFL. Maybe I’m a biased Giant fan – all right, I’m definitely a biased Giant fan – but I think they’ll step up on Sunday night and harass McNabb into some turnovers.
Pick him up: Brady Quinn, Browns
No, I originally couldn’t believe this selection, either. But did you know that Quinn threw for four touchdowns in Week 11 and three more in Week 13? I’m not saying he’s turned into a star or anything, but if your backup QB spot is an issue, and you’re not feeling good about your starter in Week 15 – when Quinn and the Browns visit the terrible Chiefs – then he’s worth a look.
Start him: Justin Fargas, Raiders
With 27 carries over the last two weeks, Fargas has emerged as the leader in Oakland’s three-headed running back monster, ahead of Michael Bush and Darren McFadden. Maybe it’s not really a monster, but there are three guys involved.
Fargas isn’t bad, and this week the Redskins bring their 24th-ranked run defense to the Black Hole. I can’t say Im looking for Fargas to break out, but another solid game seems likely. Seventy-five yards sounds about right, and we can cross our fingers for a TD.
Sit him: Kevin Smith, Lions
I suggested sitting Smith in last week’s video blog, and he burned anyone who listened with 104 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. Maybe the desire to spite me brings out the best in fantasy players.
This week, Smith and the Lions travel to Baltimore, and that means trouble. QB Matthew Stafford isn’t expected to play, so the Ravens will likely dare Daunte Culpepper to throw and stack the box against Smith. The Ravens held Green Bay’s Ryan Grant to 41 yards on 18 carries last week, and Grant is a lot better than Smith (and also has a really good quarterback to keep defenses honest). Wide Write’s sophisticated analysis tools project Smith for negative-24 yards rushing.
Pick him up: Sammy Morris, Patriots
I wouldn’t start Sammy the Bull yet, but I’d stash him if I could. Morris finally got a decent workload last week, with nine carries for 40 yards to Laurence Maroney’s 13-for-41. It says here that Maroney only got the job because Morris was hurt in Week 6 – remember, Morris had 17 carries for 68 yards at Denver in Week 5. Maroney has been getting into the end zone a lot lately, but his 3.9 yards-per-carry average isn’t reminding anyone of Barry Sanders. There are only a few weeks left in the season, but this situation could definitely change.
Start him: Mike Sims-Walker, Jaguars
This one might seem obvious to some, but after seeing MSW catch just five passes for 58 yards in the last two weeks, others might be getting impatient. He was targeted nine times in Week 12, and eight times in Week 13. He’ll be fine, and he goes up against a soft Miami pass defense this week.
Sit him: Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers
Terrell Owens was in this space last week, and here’s what I wrote: “This is more about Jets all-world CB Darrelle Revis than Owens. Revis has shut down some of the best in the business this season, with his most recent conquest a one-catch, five-yard throttling of Carolina’s Steve Smith.”
Revis put another notch on his belt by holding T.O. to 31 yards on three catches in a suffocating performance. Bryant has 207 yards receiving in his last two games, and looks like he might finally be ready to earn his fantasy money. But this week, he takes his trip to Revis Island. He probably won’t have a good time.
Pick him up: Davone Bess, Dolphins
Chad Henne’s favorite receiver in Miami. He had career highs of 10 receptions and 117 yards last week, and has been targeted 46 times in the last five games, with 29 catches for 342 yards and a TD. The Dolphins’ next three games are at Jacksonville, at Tennessee and home for Houston, and none of those teams exactly strike fear in opposing receivers. Bess can be a decent WR3 if you’re looking for one.
Also: The Redskins have placed Clinton Portis on injured reserve, ending his season … The ‘Skins announced Wednesday that Quinton Ganther, and not Rock Cartwright, will start at running back this week. Any starter is worth a pickup, but don’t expect miracles … This week’s video blog was taped before DeAngelo Williams fully participated in practice for the Panthers on Wednesday. That means he’s not a “wait-and-see” guy, and that the “bench” recommendation for Jonathan Stewart is even stronger … Kellen Clemens will start in place of the injured Mark Sanchez for the Jets. Would you rather watch Jets-Bucs this week, or a Christmas movie marathon on Lifetime?
Thanks for reading, and once again, make sure to watch this week’s edition of the Wide Write video blog by clicking here. Share it with your friends, post it on your Facebook page – really, I’d like to be just about everywhere if it’s OK with you.
John Halpin writes Wide Write and hosts an accompanying video blog every week throughout the NFL season. He also writes fantasy columns and early-morning blogs four days a week at FOXSports.com/fantasy. You can receive more fantasy news and contact John by following him on Twitter (@jhalpin37).