As you should know, whether you should play the players on your rosters in any given week should be contingent in part on the match-up. This is not about making the perfect choice because we don’t know how players will really do on a week-to-week basis. Rather, this is about making a sensible and reasonable choice on which player to play. So, to assist in being you’re “Second Opinion for Your Fantasy Football Instinct,” the goal in “Fantasy Football Weekly Choices” is to provide you, the fantasy football owner, with enough information to make sensible and reasonable choices in setting your line-up this week by reviewing the weekly match-ups and identifying which players are “On the Gridiron,” a “Coach’s Decision,” or “On the Pine.” We also provide down-n-dirty listings of those players who shoudl be considered On the Gridiron, a Coach’s Decision, and On the Pine. For many of you, the information provided simply provides affirmation to the decisions you have already made. If you like, skip the fluff, and find your player’s match-up for analysis. If you are looking for a waiver wire pick-up, then look for those players still on your waiver wire, and you can read that analysis too.
ON THE GRIDIRON: Identifies players you should play because of their match-up or because of their role on their team’s offense.
COACH’S DECISION: Identifies players who you normally would play but whose match-up this week is not very good; identifies players who you normally would not play but whose match-up this week is good; or identifies players who are injured that you, the fantasy coach, will need to make the call on whether or not to play.
ON THE PINE: Identifies players who you should likely avoid unless there is no one else on your roster or on the waiver wire that can help your team win.
NOTE: Since kickers’ weekly performances are difficult to predict, kickers will not be categorized but defenses (DST) will. As to kickers, just get a good one on a team that will give the kicker an opportunity to score points.
Onto the fantasy match-up and your choices!
Sunday, December 4th
4:05 p.m. EST
NOTE: For fantasy purposes, while several players will be highlighted below that could have good games this week for owners, some of these players may not be able to be used in fantasy due to injury, their game status being questionable. As this is the Sunday afternoon games, Sunday night game, and Monday night game, owners may not want to start a player that could become inactive by these games’ kickoffs without that player’s back-up on the roster or without another player who has a 4:15 p.m. game, the Sunday Night game, or the Monday Night game to insert into your active line-up.
BRONCOS (6-5) v. VIKINGS (2-9)
The Broncos are likely the Cinderella story of the league this season – a team on a winning streak, having won four of their last five games, since handing the reins of the offense over to Tim Tebow. Indeed, while very unorthodox, the offense is playing well enough to win with a defense that has been playing at a high level, keeping their opponents out of the end zone. Besides, the Broncos have a strong road record of 4-2. The Vikings are a better team with Christian Ponder under center but they are still missing that “something” that separates the good teams from the great teams. Whether it is a lack of playmakers on offense, or a defense not playing well, it’s enough for the Vikings to be 1-4 at home and winners of only one of their last five games. The Broncos are second in the AFC West and look hungry to win the division and make the playoffs. That hunger, and the opportunity to win, is what should drive the Broncos to a victory this week.
ON THE GRIDIRON: The Vikings have allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, and the fourth most to wide receivers. With that, QB Tim Tebow is a must-start and WR Eric Decker makes for a low-end WR2 or high-end WR3. The Vikings’ rush defense is better, but still ranks in the middle of all defenses. So, RB Willis McGahee is a solid RB2 play this week.
COACH’S DECISION: If you are a fantasy footballer with the Broncos DST, you can start them this week not because the Vikings turn the ball over much, but because the unit has been playing at a high level the last several weeks against what seems to be better teams. QB Christian Ponder has a favorable match-up on paper against a Broncos’ pass defense that has been torched in the past. Yet, as mentioned, the Broncos defense is playing at a high level and The Fantasy Greek has to think you have better options. Of course, WR Percy Harvin is an option in this game and should be more involved in the offense this week. Harvin makes for a solid WR3 or flex-play. RB Toby Gerhart will be making his second start and can be considered a solid flex-play against a Broncos’ rush defense that has had its share of problems defending the position. The Broncos have had their share of problems protecting their quarterback. Still, they did a much better job last week. So, while the Vikings DST is a viable option, you should consider your other plays first.
ON THE PINE: RB Adrian Peterson has been ruled out for the game. Among other reasons, TE Visanthe Shiancoe should be avoided as the Broncos allow the fourth-least fantasy points to the position.
RAVENS (8-3) v. BROWNS (4-7)
The Ravens are starting to play at a high-level again after losing a couple of winnable games this season. Indeed, their defense is looking fierce regardless of how their offense performs. Even though the Ravens have struggled on the road at 2-3, they have won four of their last five games. The Browns started strong but haven’t been able to muster enough offense to keep up with the great job the team’s defense has done this season. So, while the Browns are 3-3 at home, they are on a skid, having won one of their last five games. The Fantasy Greek can see the Browns making a game of this, but can’t see the Browns overcoming a more dominant Ravens team. Ravens win.
ON THE GRIDIRON: The Browns greatest weakness is their rush defense, which makes RB Ray Rice a usual must-start. With the Browns struggles on offense, and the Ravens exploits on defense, the Ravens DST is also a must-start.
COACH’S DECISION: This is genuinely a week to avoid QB Joe Flacco, WR Anquan Boldin, and WR Torrey Smith, as the Browns are one of the top-two fantasy defenses against the pass. Indeed, among the three, Smith likely has the best bet of doing something even though The Fantasy Greek thinks he should still be avoided. It’s unclear what the Browns rushing attack will look like with the possibility that Montario Hardesty potentially returns to action this week. Regardless, RB Peyton Hillis will likely be the featured back. The Ravens have the fourth-best rushing defense in fantasy which makes Hillis no better than a low-end flex-play, or otherwise, a candidate for the pine. The Browns DST is a decent, not great, option this week against a Ravens’ offense giving up the twelfth-most fantasy points to defenses and special teams.
ON THE PINE: Even though there is nothing bad about the match-up, TE Ed Dickson has been inconsistent. QB Colt McCoy is not a bad quarterback, but certainly not a great one. It doesn’t help playing against the number one fantasy defense against quarterbacks. If RB Montario Hardesty makes it back to the gridiron from injury, this is a week to avoid him. The Ravens have given up a fair amount of yards to wide receivers, but in fantasy “what have you done for me lately” football, WR Greg Little should be avoided. Do not even consider TE Ben Watson against the second-best defense against tight-ends in fantasy.
Sunday, December 4th
4:15 p.m. EST
COWBOYS (7-4) v. CARDINALS (4-7)
The Cowboys are playing great football right now with an offense that is gelling and a defense playing well enough to keep their team winning. The Cowboys have struggled a bit on the road at 2-3 but have four wins in their last five games. The Cardinals aren’t any better at home (2-2) than on the road (2-5) and have won three of their last five games. The Fantasy Greek by no means thinks this will be an easy win for the Cowboys, but with the Cowboys offense playing well, it looks like the Cardinals will not be able to keep up. The Cowboys should win this game.
ON THE GRIDIRON: The Cardinals defense has, at times, played well against lesser offensive opponents, but their weakness remains in defending the pass. The passing game is an aspect of the Cowboys’ offense that has been thriving since Miles Austin has been out due to injury. As such, QB Tony Romo makes for a solid start this week, as does WR Dez Bryant as a strong WR2, TE Jason Witten as a solid TE1, and WR Laurent Robinson as a high-end WR2. Even though the Cardinals’ rush defense is a little stronger than its pass defense, RB DeMarco Murray still makes for a great RB1 start this week. With all the issues the Cardinals’ offense has had, the Cowboys DST is a strong play. Out of the Cardinals playmakers, WR Larry Fitzgerald remains a must-start, even against a good but not great Cowboys’ pass defense.
COACH’S DECISION: As for RB Beanie Wells, even if active, this could be a tough week against the sixth-best fantasy rush defense. Treat Wells like a low-RB2.
ON THE PINE: QB Kevin Kolb should make it back to the gridiron this week. However, even before he was injured, Kolb struggled in the passing game. The Cowboys have been tough against opposing QBs. The Cowboys have steadily improved their play, and protection of the ball and their quarterback. While the Cardinals DST has shown flashes of being good, it seems to be against lesser opponents.
PACKERS (11-0) v. GIANTS (6-5)
It goes without saying the Packers are the best team in football. The Giants have played well with their passing game coming alive. And, while the Giants have a strong home record at 3-2, they should be no match for the Packers’ who should win this game in a track meet.
ON THE GRIDIRON: The Giants do not have one of the best pass defenses in the league. Therefore, QB Aaron Rogers, WR Greg Jennings, WR Jordy Nelson, and TE Jermichael Finley are all must-starts this week. Likewise, if you have WR James Jones on your roster, he makes for a good WR3 play this week. Also, if you have RB James Starks on your roster, he makes for a good play as a low-end RB2 with the Giants giving up the seventh-most fantasy points to the position. The Giants will have to pass the ball to keep up with the Packers. Besides, the Packers allow the sixth-most fantasy points to the quarterback position, the second-most fantasy points to the wide receiver position, and the fifth-most fantasy points to the tight-end position. With that, QB Eli Manning, WR Hakeem Nicks, WR Victor Cruz, and TE Jake Ballard should all be on fantasy gridirons.
COACH’S DECISION: Even though having a tough time defending the pass, the Packers DST can be on the gridiron as it is opportunistic. But note, you should consider your other options as the Giants have steadily improved protecting the ball. If you have RB Brandon Jacobs, he makes for a solid start as a low-RB2 or flex-play so long as RB Ahmad Bradshaw does not play this week. If Bradshaw should play, Bradshaw makes for a low-end flex-play and Jacobs should likely be avoided.
ON THE PINE: WR Mario Manningham is expected to miss this game. You would have to be crazy to start the Giants DST against the number one offense in the NFL, and an offense that allows the least fantasy points to opposing defenses.
RAMS (2-9) v. FORTY-NINERS (9-2)
The Rams are obviously a team that is struggling, even though their two wins have come in the last five games. In part, this is due to a defense that, while banged up, is playing better. The Forty-Niners are coming off an awful loss to the Ravens. And, as one of the best teams in the league, the Forty-Niners should win this game with what is arguably the league’s best defense.
ON THE GRIDIRON: If there is any aspect of the Forty-Niners’ offense that struggles, it’s their pass defense, which is ranked in the middle of all teams defending wide receivers. WR Brandon Lloyd has been match-up proof, scoring consecutive touchdowns in multiple games since joining the team. Consider Lloyd a solid WR2, with upside, this week. With the Rams boasting the third-worse fantasy rush defense in the league, RB Frank Gore is a must-start. If you have WR Michael Crabtree on your roster, he makes for a good WR3 against a Rams’ pass defense allowing the sixth most fantasy points to the position. The 49ers DST as one of the best in the league, is a must-start against a Rams team giving up the most fantasy points to opposing defenses.
COACH’S DECISION: While RB Steven Jackson is the Rams’ main playmaker, this is a week where he should be on fantasy pines because of playing the number one rushing defense in the league. At best, if you must consider playing Jackson, he makes for a very low-end RB2, or flex-play. The Rams’ defense has been pretty good against opposing QBs lately, but these are quarterbacks like John Skelton and Tarvaris Jackson. The Fantasy Greek thinks QB Alex Smith could have a good game this week, but the preference is to avoid him until there is a more certain, better match-up. Notably, with all of the Rams problems, they allow the least fantasy points to opposing tight-ends. While this could be because many of their opponents do not feature tight-ends in their offensive packages, it is something to keep in mind as to whether to play TE Vernon Davis. The Fantasy Greek feels that Davis should only be on pines if you definitely have a better option. Otherwise, Davis is still worth the look.
ON THE PINE: QB Sam Bradford is banged up again, and regardless of who plays quarterback for the Rams, they should not be active in fantasy. The Rams DST had a good stretch of games where they played well, but this is a week where its time to get them back on fantasy pines with the Forty-Niners giving up the eighth-least fantasy points to DSTs.
Sunday, December 4th
8:20 p.m. EST
COLTS (0-11) v. PATRIOTS (8-3)
It goes without saying that the Colts are the worst team in football, and the Patriots are one of the best. Because the Patriots’ defense has struggled in certain respects, one would like to think the Colts could do something on offense, but that is simply academic at this point. The Fantasy Greek expects the Patriots to win the game handily. From a fantasy perspective, it would just be nice to see the Colts generate some good offensive numbers.
ON THE GRIDIRON: As usual, fantasy footballers are starting the entire Patriots’ passing offense, including QB Tom Brady, WR Wes Welker, TE Rob Gronkowski (high TE1), and TE Aaron Hernandez (low TE1). Also, WR Deion Branch makes for a solid WR3 start this week. The Colts allow the third-most fantasy points to opposing RBs. And with the Patriots to likely turn to the run when this game gets out of reach, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis should put up some solid numbers and makes for a solid RB2 play. With an unproven quarterback under center, the Patriots DST makes for a solid fantasy start too.
COACH’S DECISION: It seems pretty obvious to The Fantasy Greek that RB Donald Brown is likely the Colts best rusher right now. With a rush defense ranked in the middle of most teams, Brown could make for a decent flex-play but consider your other options first.
ON THE PINE: QB Dan Orlovsky is supposed to get the start this week. And, while this is a favorable match-up for the quarterback position, this is no week to get cute with your fantasy line-up decisions. The Patriots give up the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. However, The Fantasy Greek would be remiss to even suggest that owners consider playing WR Reggie Wayne or WR Pierre Garcon with how the Colts’ offense has played, and how inconsistent their playmakers have been used in the offense. TE Jacob Tamme has a tough match-up against a defense allowing the seventh-least fantasy points to the position. Avoid all other Colts at this time until further notice.
Monday, December 5th
8:30 p.m. EST
CHARGERS (4-7) v. JAGUARS (3-8)
This is a hard game to call fantasy-wise, in terms of what players to play or not to play, because it’s hard to gauge how the firing of Jack Del Rio and the selling of the team will affect the Jaguars. Still, you have to assume they will play as they have. With that, the Jaguars are a poor home team at 1-4, and have lost their last five games. The Chargers are making the long road trip from the West Coast to the East Coast, and are a decent road team at 2-3, having won two of the last five games. No question the Jaguars will put up a fight. The Chargers have been a tough read because of how poorly they have played too. Still, The Fantasy Greek has to think the Chargers offense will carry the day over the Jaguars defense. In what could be a low-scoring game, The Fantasy Greek sees the Chargers winning on Monday night.
ON THE GRIDIRON: This week, against a pretty good rush defense, RB Ryan Mathews can be on fantasy gridirons as low RB2. If the Jaguars struggle at anything, it’s defending opposing tight-ends where they are the seventh-worst in fantasy. TE Antonio Gates is a must-start. Speaking of must-starts, the Chargers DST should play better than it has against an offense that is allowing the third-most fantasy points. If there is one Jaguars’ player to play, it’s obviously RB Maurice Jones-Drew, who has played well regardless of the opponent. The Chargers’ rush defense is ranked towards the middle of all defenses.
COACH’S DECISION: QB Philip Rivers and WR Vincent Jackson are a Coach’s Decisions only because up until this week, the Jaguars were ranked sixth and second in the fewest fantasy points allowed to the position. Fantasy footballers would be hard-pressed to bench either, but recognizing this could be another off week for both is worth mentioning when you make your line-up choices. Rivers is more of a low QB1 and Jackson more of a low-WR2. The Jaguars DST is a decent option given the fact that the Chargers have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing defenses.
ON THE PINE: WR Vincent Brown has had his moments, but he just doesn’t look like he should be on the gridiron this week.
Good luck this week!