Life is tough this week as most leagues wind down the fantasy version of a regular season, with the playoffs in plain view either next week or the week after. That means many of you are just like me, playing for something this week, and with so many timeshares at running back who can you really trust? Is it Charcandrick West or Spencer Ware? Jeremy Langford or Matt Forte? C.J. Anderson or Ronnie Hillman? Is my head spinning yet?
And for the record: the backs to trust from that group are West, Forte, and Hillman. West proved his worth and mettle before getting hurt, and Andy Reid likes to stick with “his guys,” and he has a great matchup to exploit. Matt Forte was eased back into things last week, and even in a timeshare he has the better potential for getting goal line carries (despite Langford scoring the touchdown last week). And Hillman has played well the past several weeks. He’s the more versatile back, and he should play a big role in the passing game against San Diego.
With that being said, if you have other number 1 running options you might want to try and avoid all of the above backs or you’ll be tearing your hair out if the “other one” goes off on your bench. It’s tough times here at the end of the fantasy regular season. But that’s what I’m here for, to help you in Setting Your Lineup…
QBs to PLAY
RYAN FITZPATRICK @ NY Giants – That was some game last week, and almost no one started Fitz, but he tossed four touchdowns, and now he gets to go home again (even though it’s “on the road”) against a Giants team that can be burned in the secondary. He keeps it going in this one.
ALEX SMITH @ Oakland – I accidentally typed “Alex Sith,” which makes sense because Smith is like a Sith lord, drawing his energy from those around him. And guess what? This team is playing well around him, especially on offense. Whether it’s West or Ware, the running game will help keep him clean in the pocket on pass plays. Big day for Smith.
BROCK OSWEILER @ San Diego – For the second week out of three I’m touting Osweiler as someone to target for points in a critical situation. San Diego has a poor defense, and QBs can get the ball deep down the field on them. Besides, Demaryius Thomas can’t possibly drop most balls thrown to him. Look for those two to hook up early and often in this one.
QB to AVOID
BRIAN HOYER @ Buffalo – It’s not that the Bills defense is all that great, but Houston’s defense has been all that and a bag of chips lately. They continue their dominance here, which means Hoyer won’t be playing from behind, and the run game will thrive instead. Keep him on your bench.
RBs to PLAY
DAVID JOHNSON @ St. Louis – This isn’t the same Rams D that started the season on fire. There are too many holes, and Johnson should be able to find them this week as the lead back for a high-powered Cardinals offense.
SHAUN DRAUGHN @ Chicago – You can run on the Bears, which is unfortunate considering their rich history of being a run-stopping crew, but it’s fortunate if you grabbed Draughn off the waiver wire this week because he should have an all-world day. Do you think the 49ers are going to let Gabbert throw it all day against a poor run defense? Exactly.
RONNIE HILLMAN @ San Diego – All the hullabaloo last week was about Anderson and his 48-yard romp, which was great, but he’s not the definitive number 1 option in the Denver backfield, and Hillman also scored a nifty TD in that same matchup. He’s more of the pass-catching back so he will thrive in this one. Play both if you have both, because both should do well.
RB to AVOID
T.J. YELDON @ Tennessee – If he got the volume, then Yeldon would be a top back, but he doesn’t, and he won’t in this one either, simply because Mariota will be lighting up the Jaguars’ secondary, so they’ll have to throw to keep up. Sit him on your bench.
WRs to PLAY
DONTE MONCRIEF @ Pittsburgh – Remember when Moncrief was a great option early in the season? Well, he’s starting to make a resurgence of late, and this week will be dynamic for him. You can obviously throw on the Pittsburgh defense, and Hasselbeck will find all of his receivers in this one. Moncrief will have at least 60 yards and a TD.
JEREMY MACLIN @ Oakland – I’m all in on Alex Smith in this one, so I’m high on his top two receivers too (Maclin and TRAVIS KELCE). This should be a back and forth contest, so Smith will be airing it out deep for Maclin a few times, and in the red zone. Get him active.
MICHAEL CRABTREE vs. Kansas City – As I just said, this should be back and forth, so how will Oakland keep up? Carr to Crabtree and AMARI COOPER. Cooper is a must-start, and so is Crabtree in this matchup, if just for him being the Raiders’ WR2 and not facing the top KC cornerback.
WR to AVOID
SAMMY WATKINS vs. Houston – The Texans have been excellent of late, particularly in limiting WR1s from being productive. I think they continue that here, pressuring Tyrod Taylor into making some bad decisions and keeping him from getting the ball to his top wideout. After that great week Watkins just had it’s hard to bench him, but you should.
TEs to PLAY
JULIUS THOMAS @ Tennessee – The man formerly known as Orange Julius is back, and he’s in mid-season form, which is good for Blake Bortles, and it’s good for Thomas’ fantasy football owners. Tennessee is not great against TEs, and Thomas has shown he is still a force to be reckoned with. Besides, Hurns is out of this game, so Bortles will need Thomas to lean on.
COBY FLEENER @ Pittsburgh – Jimmy Graham exposed that Pittsburgh defense last week before he got hurt, and Fleener has similar possibilities this week. While he’s not Graham, he’s a solid enough target, especially in the red zone, for Hasselbeck. Count on him for a TD in this one.
MARTELLUS BENNETT vs. San Francisco – He’s baaaaaack. Yes, Bennett is back, and even though he was giving up a few touches to Zach Miller (a few TD touches) before he went down with injury, he’s still the man in Chicago. Count on Cutler finding him in this game and him finding the end zone.
TE to AVOID
GARY BARNIDGE vs. Cincinnati – The Barn Door — I mean Barnidge — has been on fire when Josh McCown has been throwing him the ball, and just mediocre when he hasn’t. Well, with McCown out for the season, temper your expectations for Gary with Austin Davis at the helm. It could be a long game.
FLEX to PLAY
LAMAR MILLER vs. Baltimore – Sure, sure, Miller has been pitiful of late, AND he’s losing touches to Jay Ajayi, but this is a prime matchup and a chance to reassert himself in this offense. If he gets the touches he will make things happen with them. Sneaky play here that should pay dividends in the FLEX spot.
EMMANUEL SANDERS @ San Diego – He was splendid last week and he will pick up where he left off, this time against a porous San Diego secondary. I like him for over 100 yards and at least one TD, possibly 2. He shouldn’t be sitting on anyone’s bench.
GIOVANI BERNARD @ Cleveland – Yes, I saw how poorly both he and Jeremy Hill played the last time around against a bad run defense, but they’ll make up for it, and then some, this week. Count on him and his backfield mate to light the field on fire in this one. Bernard is the man in PPR leagues too.
FLEX to AVOID
LATAVIUS MURRAY vs. Kansas City – The KC defense is good inside. If you’re going to beat them you’re going to do it through the air, and Murray hasn’t been a good play in those kinds of games. He won’t be here either. Sit him down and watch Derek Carr light it up instead.
K to PLAY
CHANDLER CATANZARO @ St. Louis
ANDREW FRANKS vs. Baltimore
CONNOR BARTH vs. Atlanta
K to AVOID
CHRIS BOSWELL vs. Indianapolis
D/ST to PLAY
DENVER @ Chargers
DALLAS @ Redskins
CAROLINA @ Saints
D/ST to AVOID
PHILADELPHIA @ Patriots