START: Andrew Luck ($9700)-If you’re going to pay the big bucks for a quarterback this week, you might as well pay for Luck. He is the second most expensive quarterback this week, and has a favorable matchup at home against the Jaguars. This will be the second time he faces the Jags this season. In their first meeting, Luck threw for 370 yards and four touchdowns. He absolutely crushed them. He is averaging 28.9 fantasy points per game, has thrown for more than 300 yards in every game besides one, and has thrown three or more touchdown passes in six games this season. Last week, he threw two touchdowns passes against the Patriots. The reason I bring that up is because; Luck has not gone back-to-back games this season throwing fewer than three touchdown passes. Basically whenever he throws fewer than three touchdowns in a game, he’s thrown three or more in the following game. Not to mention, the Jaguars have allowed two or more passing touchdown in their last two games. Luck is as consistent as you will find, and should have no problem picking apart this Jaguars defense.
I’d start him over: All quarterbacks.
SIT: Russell Wilson ($7600)-Wilson had a decent game against the Chiefs in Week 11. This week, he has another tough matchup against his division rivals, the Cardinals. In four career games against the Cardinals, Wilson has only had one good one. In three of those games, he threw for less than 200 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. He has never run for more than 32 yards against them. Wilson has thrown fewer than 200 yards in his last four games. He’s been producing fantasy points with his legs and also with a pair of touchdowns he threw last week. However, that’s going to be hard to come by this week. The Cardinals have only allowed 82 rushing yards to quarterbacks this year, and despite a shaky start to the season, they’ve been relatively good against containing quarterbacks in the last five games. Only one quarterback has scored double digit fantasy points against this defense unit in the last five weeks. This is likely going to be a defensive battle in Seattle, so I want nothing to do with Wilson, especially at this price.
I’d rather start: Jay Cutler $7700, Tony Romo $7500, and Josh McCown $6600
START: Jay Cutler ($7700)-Cutler is coming off of a nice game against the Vikings. It was a much needed performance as he was getting a lot of heat from his previous stinker in Green Bay. Last week against the Vikings, he threw for 330 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. It was only the third time this season that he’s thrown for over two touchdowns. The good news is that there’s a big chance he does it again this week. He’s playing the Bucs who have allowed 20 passing touchdowns this year. They are giving up 17.5 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. In four of five road games, the Bucs have allowed the opposing quarterback to throw for two or more touchdowns. Cutler has had his ups and downs since Week 6, but there’s no reason why this should be a down week. He’s at home, has a great matchup, and should be able to sling it. He’s the mid-level quarterback I’m most comfortable playing based on ceiling and matchup.
I’d start him over: Russell Wilson $7600, Ryan Tannenhill $7200, and Mark Sanchez $6800
SIT: Matthew Stafford ($6900)-Stafford has played below expectations this season. Granted, he was without Calvin Johnson for a few games, and has banged up running backs in his backfield. Last week he was nowhere to be found against the Cardinals. He threw for 183 yards and one interception. This week’s matchup is also a tough one on the road. The Patriots have only allowed two quarterbacks to throw for over 300 yards, and that was Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. The Pats defense is allowing 15.5 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. They’ve picked off the ball 11 times, which is sixth most in the NFL. Stafford has only thrown over 300 yards in two games this season and has thrown at least one interception in all but three games. He’s also thrown for one or fewer touchdowns in five games this year. When a quarterback who is playing below par, faces a defense that is playing really well, it usually doesn’t bode well for that quarterback. The price is cheaper than it was in the previous two weeks, but it’s not low enough for me to consider him.
I’d rather start: Philip Rivers $6600, Colin Kaepernick $6500, and Matt Ryan $6300
SNEAKY START: Zach Mettenberger ($5300)-Initially I was going to have Kyle Orton in this spot, but due the postponing of the game, and the fact that it’s being played in Detroit, I’ve decided to go with the second quarterback I had in mind. Since becoming the starter, Mettenberger has thrown for 741 yards, five touchdowns, and three picks. This week he faces the Eagles who have been very vulnerable against quarterbacks. They have allowed two or more passing touchdowns in all but one game this season. They are giving up 19.5 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks and have surrendered 22 passing touchdowns. Their defense has yielded over 300 passing yards in 50 percent of the games. This could be the week that Mettenberger comes out of his shell and has a big game. The matchup is right in every aspect, because the Eagles will likely take an early lead and they can’t stop the pass. If you’re looking for a cheap flier this week, look into Mettenberger.
START: LeSean McCoy ($6200)-I find myself liking McCoy’s price every week, and this week is no different. He’s been far from impressive, but the thing about him is that in any given week, McCoy can bust out and give you a huge game. This would be a great week to do so since he’s facing the league’s worst run defense. The Titans are allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing backs (21.6). They’ve allowed opposing backs to rush for 100+ yards in 70 percent of the games this year, and have allowed the second most rushing touchdowns (11). In their last three games, they have allowed over 150 rushing yards in each game and have given up five touchdowns. McCoy, has rushed for over 80 yards in three of his last four games, has one touchdown, and went over the century mark once. What’s keeping McCoy from having a bigger impact is the lack in the receiving department. He’s not catching as many passes as he did last season. He’s only scored over 20 fantasy points twice this season, but I think he’ll make it a third this week. This would be the ideal price to pay and find out.
I’d start him over: Mark Ingram $6800, Giovani Bernard $6400, and C.J. Anderson $6000
SIT: Marshawn Lynch ($6700)-Lynch had his way against fifth best defense in Week 11, as he rushed for 124 yards on 24 attempts against the Chiefs. This week however, he faces the league’s second best run defense. The Cardinals have made life tough to opposing running backs. They have not allowed a 100 yard rusher this season. In fact, they haven’t allowed more the 96 rushing yards in a game to opposing running backs. The Cardinals are the only defense that has held DeMarco Murray under 100 rushing yards in a game this season. He will also be playing at less than 100 percent this week, due to an injured back. Lynch has put together three consecutive solid games, but prior to that, he had scored fewer than 10 fantasy points in three games in a row. Lynch is currently the sixth most expensive running back this week. That’s a bit too steep for me considering how tough of a matchup this is going to be. I rather spend less on backs with better matchups and similar or higher ceilings.
I’d rather start: Eddie Lacy $7300, Justin Forsett $6500, and Andre Ellington $5800
START: Rashad Jennings ($5100)-Jennings who was dealing with a knee injury, got back on the field last week for the first time since Week 5. He carried the ball 18 times for 59 yards and caught four passes for eight yards. The good news is that he didn’t suffer any setbacks and appears to be healthy. Jennings should be able to handle a full workload this week. He will face the Cowboys, a defense that is giving up 15.5 fantasy points per game to opposing backs. However, in the last three games, theyvve allowed five touchdowns and over 18 fantasy points in each of those games. Jennings started off the season with three solid performances, and then cooled off the following two weeks before going down with his knee injury. He was solid in his first week back, and has another favorable matchup. This is a great price for Jennings this week, when you consider the volume he could get and the defense he’s playing. I’d sprinkle him in a couple of lineups this week.
I’d start him over: Jonas Gray $5600, Shane Vereen $5300, and Fred Jackson $5000
SIT: Alfred Morris ($5000)-Morris is coming off consecutive 90+ rushing yard games, but has a tough matchup ahead of him. He will travel to San Francisco to face the Niners who have allowed just one rushing touchdown at home this season. They kept Matt Forte and LeSean McCoy out of the end zone earlier this season. In fact, the only back that has scored a touchdown at San Francisco is Jamal Charles. I think it’s safe to say that the Niners have a stout run defense. They are giving up just 12.2 fantasy points per game to opposing backs, which is the fourth fewest of all defenses. Since returning from their bye week, they have not allowed a rushing touchdown. The last time he faced a top five rushing defense, he ran for 41 yards. The price isn’t that bad, but the matchup is. Therefore this would be a week that I fade Morris and go with another back in his salary range, but with a better matchup.
I’d rather start: Frank Gore $4900, Lamar Miller $4700, Steven Jackson $4000
SNEAKY START: Isaiah Crowell ($3800)-Last week, Crowell led the team in carries, and this week he’s expected to be the team’s starting running back. They released Ben Tate earlier this week, so it’s apparent that they are comfortable with Crowell and Terrence West in their backfield moving forward. The Falcons are very vulnerable against the run. They have allowed the most rushing touchdowns this season (12) and are allowing the second most fantasy points to opposing running backs (21.5). Crowell rushed for 61 yards on 14 carries last week, and could see even more carries this week. So long as he remains the starting back for the Browns, he’s a great start. You’re getting a starting running back against an awful run defense at an ultimately low price. What is there not to like?
START: Brandon Marshall ($7100)-Marshall is the twelfth most expensive receiver this week. However, he has one of the better matchups of all of the receivers. The Bucs are the second worst in the NFL when it comes to defending receivers. They allow 26.4 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers and have given up the second most touchdowns (14). In the last four games, Marshall has been targeted 40 times. It has been exactly 10 targets in each game. He has 24 catches for 285 yards and three touchdowns in that span. He has scored a touchdown in each of his last two games and has scored over 20 fantasy points in three of his last five games. Despite dealing with an ankle injury, Marshall continues to play through it and produce solid numbers. He has been targeted 16 times in the red zone this year, which is the sixth most of all receivers, and he’s tied for most in the Bears with Martellus Bennett. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Marshall score 20+ points for the third consecutive game, for the first time this season.
I’d start him over: Jeremy Maclin $7900, Alshon Jeffery $7200, and Julio Jones $7000
SIT: Calvin Johnson ($7800)-I usually say this when I have such a high caliber player as a sit, so I’ll say it again. Sitting him in a yearly is never an option, but in daily leagues, it can be. Johnson is the sixth most expensive receiver this week, but has the toughest matchup of all receivers in the top twelve. Not to mention, he hasn’t played like the Johnson we are used to seeing, and he suffered a shoulder injury last week, so he’ll likely be playing at less than 100 percent healthy. The Patriots have only allowed seven touchdowns in ten games this season. They are giving up the third fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers (16.5) and have only allowed three touchdowns to receivers in Foxboro this year. Johnson has not scored a touchdown on the road this year. This is not the matchup you want to pay top six salary in, when there are other options at a better price and even better matchup.
I’d rather start: T.Y. Hilton $7600, Randall Cobb $7600, and A.J. Green $7300
START: Josh Gordon ($6300)-Gordon will be playing in his first game of the season, and it’s a favorable matchup. Not to mention, as Bob Barker would say, “the price is right.” Gordon put on a clinic last season. He led the league in receiving yards and didn’t even play a complete season. This week he faces the Falcons defense that is giving up 24.2 fantasy points per game and has allowed at least one touchdown catch by a receiver in all but one game. Opposing receivers have scored over 20 fantasy point in every game besides one against the Falcons. In their last three games, the Falcons have surrendered over 200 receiving yards on average. There were some reports that Gordon could be eased in, but the Browns are in the playoff hunt and could use any help they can get to win games. Remember, Gordon was out because of a suspension, not due to injury. Consider this a welcome back party for Josh Gordon, in a good matchup and at an economical price.
I’d start him over: Golden Tate $6900, DeSean Jackson $6500, Julian Edelman $6000
SIT: Larry Fitzgerald ($5700)-This is the second week in a row that Fitzgerald is a sit. He has struggled against the Seahawks in the last two seasons. He has a total of 10 catches for 103 yards and no touchdowns in the last of his last four meetings against them. The Seahawks are giving up the fewest fantasy points per game to receivers (15.6). They have only allowed four touchdowns to receivers, and only two of those were at home. Fitzgerald is coming off of a two catch for 33 yards performance and is a bit banged up, which makes this decision a tad easier. Another thing to consider is that Drew Stanton is now under center for the Cardinals. There are just too many red flags here, and even though he’s cheaper than he was last week, he is still not appealing. There is better value at this position, no need to settle for him this week.
I’d rather start: Sammy Watkins $5600, Jordan Mathews $5500, and Torrey Smith $5400
SNEAKY START: Justin Hunter ($3800)-It’s like I don’t learn my lesson. Hunter has been a sneaky start for me numerous times this season, and has yet lived up to my expectations. However, once again the price on Hunter is very intriguing to me. This is also as good of a matchup as Hunter has had and will have this season. The Eagles have surrendered the most touchdowns to receivers this season (15). There are allowing 26.2 fantasy points per game, and have been burned for more the 30 fantasy points by receivers in five games this year. The Eagles will likely have an early lead in this game, which means more passing plays drawn up for the Titans. I would only recommend Hunter in tournaments, and not in a cash game, because truthfully he is hit or miss.
START: Jimmy Graham ($7000)-Graham is the second most expensive tight end behind Rob Gronkowski, so if you’re thinking of paying the big bucks on a tight end this week, save the $900 and roll with Graham. The Ravens by no means have been susceptible to opposing tight ends, but who are we kidding, Graham is matchup proof. One thing to note is that the Ravens have allowed two touchdowns to opposing tight ends this season, and both have been in road games. Jimmy was on a three game scoring streak that came to an end last week, but in the last three home games he has three touchdowns. In a week where there are several injuries to tight ends, and a couple of uncertainties, it may be worth your while dishing out some money on Graham.
I’d start him over: All tight ends.
SIT: Coby Fleener ($5200)-Much like Calvin Johnson, this decision to sit Fleener has much to do with pricing. He’s the fourth most expensive tight end this week. If you look at some of the tight ends listed below, they all have good matchups and are at least $1200 cheaper. Fleener is expected to see an increase in targets with injuries to Ahmad Bradshaw and Dwayne Allen, but this price is inflation at its finest. This is by far the most expensive that Fleener has been all season. Just two weeks ago he was in the low $3000 range. I’m more comfortable going the cheaper route than to pay for Fleener.
I’d rather start: Martellus Bennett $4000, Charles Clay $4000, and Larry Donnell $3900
SNEAKY START: Owen Daniels ($3100)-If you’re looking for a cheap flier at tight end, Daniels is someone to look in to. He’s been targeted 22 times in the last three games he’s played and is second in the team with 10 red zone targets, only one behind Steve Smith. At $3100 what more can you ask for? Not to mention, The Saints just surrendered two touchdowns last week to the Bengals tight ends. The risk/reward factor is just about right here. Like I mentioned above, there are several injured tight ends, and some odd prices on others. When in doubt, take the cheap route, with a player who has been targeted plenty of times in recent games.
I’ve provided you with low-risk, high-reward players for each position. If you’re drafting a lineup that’s top heavy in salaries and need to find some inexpensive players to plug in, then my sneaky starts can be useful.