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 your “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.” If you prefer, you can access our down-n-dirty Quick Hit list of the players who should be On the Gridiron, a Coach’s Decision, or 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 11th
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, Sunday Night, and Monday Night games, 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., Sunday Night, or Monday Night game to insert into your active line-up.
BEARS (7-5) v. BRONCOS (7-5)
This was supposed to be a game featuring old Bear Kyle Orton pitted against his former team, and old Bronco Jay Cutler pitted against his former team. Yet, this is not the case. Still, both teams are in a position to make the playoffs, and for the Broncos, an opportunity to win their division too. The Bears injury issues couldn’t come at a worse time, with a potential playoff run looming. This is, of course, disconcerting with the two losses they have sustained in their past five games coming with Jay Cutler out of the line-up. The Bears also have a 2-3 road record. For the Broncos, they are on a roll, having won their last five games with an offense that no team has had a defensive answer for. The Broncos are 2-3 at home. The Fantasy Greek expects a hard-fought, defensive-special teams battle which could come down to which defense makes the big play. While The Fantasy Greek feels the Bears will have an answer for Tim Tebow, it may not be enough for the win. No question the Bears can win this game, but right now, The Fantasy Greeks is seeing a Broncos win in a close game.
ON THE GRIDIRON: As the Broncos are right in the middle of all teams defending the rush, and the Bears should make an effort to establish a running game, RB Marion Barber can be on gridirons as an RB3 or solid flex-play. The Broncos have had issues protecting their quarterback. The Bears DST is a solid play this week. The Bears rank towards the middle of teams defending opposing quarterbacks. As such, QB Tim Tebow can be considered a low QB1 option to be considered with your other QB for the start. The Bears defend the rush well, ranking sixth in fantasy. Still, RB Willis McGahee is a low RB2 option this week wtih the way he has been playing. The Broncos DST has been playing tough for the last several weeks and can be on gridirons with the recent offensive difficulties the Bears have had.
COACH’S DECISION: Even though some would say the Bears’ passing game has struggled, WR Johnny Knox is playing his best football to date in the offense. If you need the help, Knox is a WR3 option this week. Likewise, WR Eric Decker has been the best passing option in the Broncos’ offense. Still, while you could consider him for a WR3 start, consider Decker with your other receivers before placing him on the fantasy gridiron.
ON THE PINE: QB Caleb Hanie can play better than he has. Until he does though, keep him on fantasy pines. WR Earl Bennett is still a playmaker on the Bears, but he hasn’t had a good game in a couple of weeks. Keep him on fantasy pines this week and hope the Bears’ passing game takes flight as they enter into a pass-friendly fantasy playoff schedule. RB Lance Ball is an option only if anything were to happen to McGahee. WR Demaryius Thomas had an outstanding performance last weekend. While the temptation could be to start him this week, this is a week to see if he can have another good performance before considering him for a fantasy start.
FORTY-NINERS (10-2) v. CARDINALS (5-7)
If you want to pay the Forty-Niners a compliment, call them “Amazing.” Under first year coach Jim Harbaugh, the Forty-Niners boast one of the best defenses in the league and they sport an offense that is efficient, but not flashy. Besides, they clinched their first division title in years. Having won four of their last five games, and being a strong road team at 4-1, the Forty-Niners look like a team destined to do well even into the post-season. This is not to say that the Cardinals aren’t a good team too, as they have won four of their last five games and are a decent home team at 3-2. While their defense has played some good ball this season, their offense has sputtered at times. This is a game the Forty-Niners should win.
ON THE GRIDIRON: The Cardinals have one of the better rush defenses in the league, ranked thirteenth in fantasy. Still, with a Forty-Niners offense built to run, RB Frank Gore remains a solid RB2 start this week. With the Cardinals having their share of issues defending the pass, ranked ninth in most fantasy points allowed, WR Michael Crabtree makes for a solid WR3 start. The Cardinals can defend tight-ends well, but not well enough to keep TE Vernon Davis off fantasy gridirons given his ability to catch the ball. The 49ers DST remains a must-start, especially because the Cardinals give up the sixth most fantasy points to defensive units. The only Cardinals player that should be on fantasy gridirons is WR Larry Fitzgerald. The Forty-Niners’ weakness is their pass defense, so Fitzgerald makes for a solid WR2 start.
COACH’S DECISION: With the Cardinals ranked right in the middle of all teams defending opposing quarterbacks (ranked fifteenth), QB Alex Smith is an option if your other quarterback has drawn a difficult match-up. RB Beanie Wells has had a break-through season even against some of the tougher rush defense in the league. Yet, the Forty-Niners are number one defending the rush, and have allowed the least number of rushing TDs in thirteen games. If you must play Wells, it is as a low-end flex-play. This week, Wells is better suited for the pine.
ON THE PINE: With the struggles QB Kevin Kolb has had this season, he should be avoided in fantasy. The Cardinals DST has been playing well, but the Forty-Niners protect the ball and their quarterback well enough that they allow the fifth least fantasy points to their opponents.
Sunday, December 11th
4:15 p.m. EST
RAIDERS (7-5) v. PACKERS (12-0)
The Raiders are a team that has persevered despite the adversity it has experienced this season. Unfortunately, the Raiders have hit a few bumps in the road, playing some pretty good teams these past few weeks. Still, the Raiders are 3-2 in their last five games and are a strong road team at 4-2. Nonetheless, traveling to wintry Lambeau Field against the best team in the NFL poses significant challenges that even the next best team would have a tough time overcoming. This should be a high scoring game. In the end, the Packers win.
ON THE GRIDIRON: This is a good week to get QB Carson Palmer on the fantasy gridiron, with the Packers allowing the fourth most fantasy points to the position. Expect a similar game to last week’s, where Palmer should be able to toss for about 250-300 yards, 2 TDs, but a couple of interceptions. As the season has progressed, the Packers’ rush defense has gotten worse and worse. Besides this, RB Michael Bush is the centerpiece of the Raiders’ offense and should be expected to have a good game this week. The Raiders are ranked right in the middle of all pass defenses but have an even more difficult time defending opposing quarterbacks. Regardless, QB Aaron Rogers, WR Greg Jennings, WR Jordy Nelson, and TE Jermichael Finley are all must-starts this week. Even though having a tough time defending the pass, the Packers DST can be on the gridiron, as it is too opportunistic to bench this week, especially against an offense giving up the thirteenth most fantasy points to their defensive opponents.
COACH’S DECISION: With the Packers’ pass defense the second worst in fantasy, and the Raiders missing two of their key wide receivers, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey makes for a good play this week as a WR3, as does WR Chaz Schillens as a low-end WR3. Likewise, if you have WR James Jones on your roster, he makes for a good WR3 play. The Fantasy Greek notes Jones as a “Coach’s Decision” because there have been games that Jones has posted no stats and others that he has “blown up” for some outstanding performances. So, The Fantasy Greek leaves it to you fantasy footballers who have him on their teams to make the call based on the risk at hand.
ON THE PINE: RB Darren McFadden, WR Jacoby Ford, and WR Denarius Moore have all been ruled out of this game. The Raiders DST is not an option against a high-powered Packers’ offense that allows the least amount of fantasy points. Even after last week’s outstanding performance, WR Donald Driver is difficult to play unless his role in the offense becomes more regular.
BILLS (5-7) v. CHARGERS (5-7)
The Bills’ skid this season from the darling of the league to a team that is 0-5 in its past five games has been tough to watch. Fortunately, they are still playing well, but just not well enough to pull out some wins. The Chargers, who were in a tail-spin for several weeks, finally pulled out a much-needed win last week that will hopefully help them build some momentum as they try to win their remaining games, with the hope of landing a wild card playoff birth. The Chargers are a better home team than the Bills are a road team. The Fantasy Greek expects a Chargers win before the hometown crowd.
ON THE GRIDIRON: RB C.J. Spiller had an outstanding performance last weekend and seems to have settled into the Bills’ offense. This week, against an average Chargers’ rush defense, Spiller makes for a WR3 or flex-play. While the Chargers’ pass defense can be tough, WR Steve Johnson is too good to keep off fantasy gridirons. Consider Johnson a low-end WR2 or solid WR3 this week. The Bills are anywhere from average, to one of the more favorable fantasy defenses, against the respective offensive positions (especially running back and tight-end). So, QB Philip Rivers, TE Antonio Gates, WR Vincent Jackson, and RB Ryan Mathews should all be started this week in fantasy football.
COACH’S DECISION: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick makes for a decent option against the thirteenth ranked fantasy defense giving up the most fantasy points. In the past two weeks, QB-WR Brad Smith has been used in the passing game and posted some solid stats, making him a low-end WR3 option this week. With the Bills struggling in rush defense, RB Mike Tolbert makes for a low-end flex-play. If you have WR Malcolm Floyd on your roster, and need the help, consider Floyd a low-end WR3 this week, but a solid flex-play. WR Vincent Brown has a chance to do something this week. However, given all the other offensive options ahead of him in this offense, consider him a candidate for the pine unless you have no better options.
ON THE PINE: The Bills DST has struggled since shortly after the beginning of the season. The Chargers DST might not be a bad play but for the fact the Bills are top-ten in least fantasy points allowed to defenses/special teams.
Sunday, December 11th
8:20 p.m. EST
GIANTS (6-6) v. COWBOYS (7-5)
This is a great Sunday night game between NFC East foes fighting for the division title. Neither team has had an easy road to this point in the season, but both have had their share of good games. The Giants are the team between the two that has been struggling, having only won one of their last five games, but the Giants are 3-3 as visitors. The Cowboys, on the other hand, are riding the hot hand, having won four of their last five games, and they are a strong home team at 5-1. There is no question that this should be a battle. Yet, The Fantasy Greek feels that the Cowboys are the better team right now, but not by much. The Cowboys should win this game through their strong passing game and slightly better defense.
ON THE GRIDIRON: This is not the most ideal start for QB Eli Manning, WR Hakeem Nicks, and WR Victor Cruz because the Cowboys’ pass defense is ranked thirteenth and twelfth in least amount of fantasy points allowed to the positions, respectively. Yet, the Giants’ stout passing game is a compelling enough reason that all three should be on fantasy gridirons. The Giants’ defense has, at times, played well against lesser offensive opponents, but their weakness remains in defending the pass. The passing game is the strong suit of the Cowboys’ offense. As such, QB Tony Romo makes for a solid start this week, as does WR Dez Bryant as a strong WR2, and TE Jason Witten as a solid TE1. With WR Miles Austin expected back this week, Austin and WR Laurent Robinson are best viewed as a high-end WR3 and a low-end WR3, respectively. Both should be involved in the passing game but it is possible that both of their touches are split evenly between them. The Giants’ rush defense has had its own struggles, so RB DeMarco Murray still makes for a good RB2 start this week.
COACH’S DECISION: The Cowboys are much better defending the rush, which makes RB Ahmad Bradshaw at best a low-end RB2 or flex-play for this weekend’s tilt with the Cowboys. As for RB Brandon Jacobs, while still a low-end flex-play, Jacobs is a better candidate for the pine. By comparison, the Cowboys are top-twelve in most fantasy points allowed to tight-ends. So, if you need the help, TE Jake Ballard is an option if your other tight-end has drawn a more difficult match-up. With the Cowboys playing much better in protecting the ball, the Giants DST makes for a shaky start this week, so fantasy footballers should consider their other options. Likewise, the Giants have been doing a better job protecting the ball, so if there is a week to get the Cowboys DST on fantasy pines, this is it.
ON THE PINE: There is a possibility that WR Mario Manningham makes it back to the gridiron from injury. However, this is still a week to avoid him until he reestablishes himself in the offense. RB Felix Jones had a bigger role than was expected last week. Until his role is more clearly defined than anything more than a change-of-pace back, Jones should be avoided in fantasy.
Monday, December 12th
8:30 p.m. EST
RAMS (2-10) v. SEAHAWKS (5-7)
Not only have the Rams been playing poorly, they have been mired by injuries too. The Seahawks, on the other hand, while having sustained their share of injuries, continue to persevere. The Seahawks seem like a team that believes in themselves. This shouldn’t even be a close game, even though the Rams should have some highlights to speak of on the offensive side of the ball. The Seahawks should win this game and continue their march to the playoffs.
ON THE GRIDIRON: WR Brandon Lloyd is the most consistent playmaker on the Rams. and there is nothing about this match-up which should keep him off fantasy gridirons. Lloyd makes for a strong WR3 against a strong Seahawks’ pass defense ranked tenth in fantasy in terms of least points allowed. With the way RB Marshawn Lynch has been playing, he is a must-start regardless of the opponent. In this game, it so happens that the Rams allow the sixth-most fantasy points to running backs. The Seahawks DST is a must-start against a Rams team giving up the league’s worst fantasy points. This is a distinction the Rams have had for most, if not all of the season.
COACH’S DECISION: The Seahawks’ rush defense has been good, too, but RB Steven Jackson can still be on fantasy gridirons as a low-end RB2. Out of all the other Seahawks offensive players, The Fantasy Greek likes WR Golden Tate as a strong WR3 option, as the Rams allow the sixth most fantasy points to the WR position.
ON THE PINE: QB Sam Bradford is expected to miss this game, but even if he played, he would not be a fantasy consideration. While the Rams DST has played well, there are just too many better options available in fantasy, and this is not a week to test them against a Seahawks team that is on a tear. QB Tavaris Jackson could have a good game this week but let him do that from the pine.
Good luck this week!