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Week 13: Start ‘Em/Sit ‘Em

Donald Brown

How many times have you heard that it’s important to handcuff your star running backs? In the literal sense, you would think I was some whack job who you would never let around your kids, but I’m not talking about actually handcuffing an athlete. The term means picking up their backup so in the case of an injury, you will still have the team’s top running back. A lot of fantasy owners believe that handcuffing is essential in the draft, but I am not one of them. Carrying a backup who doesn’t produce for an entire season is not worth it because during bye weeks that roster spot is much more valuable.

However as the playoffs near, it becomes much more important to acquire your top running back’s backups. For example, it’s very possible that you could have Maurice Jones-Drew, Kevin Smith, Cedric Benson and Ray Rice on your team. With the bye weeks gone, you would definitely not be starting Kevin Smith for the rest of the season because MJD, Benson and Rice are much better. Would you be crazy to drop Smith for MJD’s backup, Rashad Jennings? Not in the least. I believe that it is much more important to insure your best player rather than hold onto a player that will not see your starting lineup. So be sure to pick up your star player’s backup whether that be Chester Taylor or Shonne Greene.

For what it’s worth, here are my top 5 handcuffs for the playoffs:

  • Donald Brown, RB, Indianapolis Colts (Joseph Addai)
  • Chester Taylor, RB, Minnesota Vikings (Adrian Peterson)
  • Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets (Thomas Jones)
  • Bernard Scott, RB, Cincinnati Bengals (Cedric Benson)
  • Mike Bell, RB, New Orleans Saints (Pierre Thomas)


Rank Player (Opponent) Comment
1 Peyton Manning (vs. TEN) Peyton is up against the league’s second-worst pass defense.
2 Tom Brady (@ MIA) Brady was held without a touchdown for the first time since week 2; expect him to get back on track against the young Miami secondary.
3 Matt Schaub (@ JAC) Last time against the Jaguars defense Schaub threw for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns; Jaguars defense ranks 26th against the pass.
4 Phillip Rivers (@ CLE) Rivers has scored in single digits just once this year and that was against Denver; this is Cleveland.
5 Aaron Rodgers (vs. BAL) Rodgers is the top-scoring QB this season and gets to face a Baltimore defense that has let up an average of 15.1 points to QBs on the road; that includes a -1 point performance by Brady Quinn.
6 Drew Brees (@ WAS) Brees will have a tough time following up Monday night’s performance against the league’s best pass defense; then again, being ranked 6th isn’t bad either.
7 Brett Favre (@ ARI) The Cardinals just let up 387 yards to Vince Young and Favre is a just a little better than him.
8 Carson Palmer (vs. DET) No team has let up more points to opposing QBs than the Lions so Palmer should have an easy time tallying up fantasy points.
9 Donovan McNabb (@ ATL) The Falcons’ pass defense has been atrocious recently and the Eagles don’t have Westbrook so they will be throwing it often.
10 Ben Roethlisberger (vs. OAK) Big Ben’s return will be a pleasant one seeing as he is facing the Raiders.
11 Kurt Warner (vs. MIN) Warner isn’t a lock to start on Sunday, but if he does, the Vikings defense isn’t very good against the pass and Warner has the receiving options many QBs drool over.
12 Tony Romo (@ NYG) The Giants’ defense is just a shell of what it was at the beginning of the season so Romo should fare better than he did in their first matchup (127 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT).
13 Jay Cutler (vs. STL) What’s the best remedy for someone in a funk? Playing the Rams’ defense of course.
14 Joe Flacco (@ GB) Flacco finally had a good week after three stinkers and it was against a tough Steelers’ defense; this week he faces a banged up Packers defense so expect him to build on last week’s performance.
15 Alex Smith (@ SEA) Smith has been on a roll in his last 2 weeks (19, 17 fantasy points) and could be useful if Warner is a late scratch on Sunday.
16 Matt Hasselbeck (vs. SF) The 49ers have let up just 10 passing TDs and forced 11 INTs this season so Hasselbeck may find it tough to throw against them this weekend.
17 David Garrard (vs. HOU) Garrard has been better at home than on the road this season, but I would like to see him get out of this funk before throwing him out there.
18 Vince Young (@ IND) Young has been on fire, but it’s hard to trust a QB in fantasy who doesn’t crack the 200-yard mark often.
19 Eli Manning (vs. DAL) Manning is headed in the wrong direction and with two ailing feet he might be up for a rough outing.
20 Matt Cassel (vs. DEN) Cassel has 7 INT and 11 fumbles this season, is without Dwayne Bowe and is facing the 4th-toughest defense against opposing QBs; doesn’t sound like a winning combination.

Running Backs

Rank Player (Opponent) Comment
1 Chris Johnson (@ IND) Chris Johnson has been the best back in fantasy this year and by a good 30 points.
2 Maurice Jones-Drew (vs. HOU) MJD scorched the Texans’ defense for 3 TDs; the same Texans’ defense that has given up the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing RBs.
3 Thomas Jones (@ BUF) Jones had a career day (210 yards, 1 TD) against the Bills earlier this season and now he doesn’t have Leon Washington stealing touches.
4 Cedric Benson (vs. DET) Benson will return to the field and it will be business as usual; doesn’t hurt that the Lions have let up the 8th-most fantasy points to opposing RBs this season.
5 Steven Jackson (@ CHI) Jackson is all the Rams have on offense, which is why he has 20+ carries in all but 4 games this season.
6 Adrian Peterson (@ ARI) Peterson sees his lowest rank since his bye week, but it’s more because it seems that Favre isn’t slowing down and there happen to be five better matchups.
7 DeAngelo Williams (vs. TB) Last week, Williams hit a speed bump known as the Jets defense; think of the Bucs’ defense as more of a highway.
8 Rashard Mendenhall (vs. OAK) The Raiders’ 31st-ranked run defense will get a steady dose of Mendenhall, especially with Big Ben not 100% healthy.
9 LaDainian Tomlinson (@ CLE) LT is saving his season with touchdowns, but he is still just averaging 3.4 yards per carry; luckily the Browns’ defense has let up 13 rushing TDs and 4.5 yards per carry this season.
10 Frank Gore (@ SEA) I can’t ignore the 207 rushing yards and 2 TDs Gore had in his first game against the Seahawks; expect him to end his 2-game scoring drought.
11 Ray Rice (@ GB) Rice has emerged as a clear top-10 back and with the Packers struggling with injuries, Rice should have himself a nice day.
12 Matt Forte (vs. STL) Enjoy Forte’s friendly matchup this week because it gets pretty ugly (GB, @MIN, BAL) in the next three weeks.
13 Ryan Grant (vs. BAL) Grant has been scoring a TD every other game since week 6 and he didn’t score last week so…
14 Ricky Williams (vs. NE) Ricky is the lone back in Miami, but the Patriots are pretty tough on opposing running backs as they’ve let up just 3 rushing TDs all year.
15 Marion Barber (@ NYG) Oddly enough, Barber had his best game of the season in week 2 against a Giants defense that was playing much better than it is now; also, he has totaled over 100 yards in two consecutive games.
16 Jamal Charles (vs. DEN) Charles has  been on a roll (17, 17, 18 fantasy points) and is facing a Broncos’ defense that has really struggled against the run recently.
17 Kevin Smith (@ CIN) The Bengals have given up the 7th-most (62) receptions to running backs this season, which is how the Lions like to use Smith.
18 Joseph Addai (vs. TEN) Now that the Colts have a playoff spot locked up, expect them to protect the fragile Addai as the season winds down.
19 Knowshon Moreno (@ KC) Just when you thought Moreno was hitting a rookie wall…BOOM! He totals 107 yards and a score; the Chiefs rank 27th against the run.
20 Pierre Thomas (@ WAS) Thomas hasn’t scored a rushing TD since week 9 and the Redskins are especially tough on the run at home; only one running back (Steven Jackson)  has more than 10 fantasy points on this defense at home.
21 LeSean McCoy (@ ATL) McCoy has not failed to score in double digits in any one of his 5 starts; Falcons’ defense won’t be much of a problem as they rank 23rd against the run.
22 Justin Forsett (vs. SF) Even with Julius Jones back, Forsett has more than proven that he is the better option in the backfield so expect him to not only be the 3rd-down back, but to split carries as well.
23 Jonathan Stewart (vs. TB) Williams is a little banged up and if something were to happen during the game, Stewart could have a huge day against the Bucs’ defense.
24 Brandon Jacobs (vs. DAL) Much like Fruit Stripe Gum, Jacobs has been a major disappointment; Dallas is 7th-toughest on opposing running backs so don’t look for a breakout game this week.
25 Laurence Maroney (@ MIA) Maroney has scored in six straight games, but he hasn’t been putting up huge rushing yards and has fumbled in three straight games; if Miami keeps him out of the end zone, he could put up a real stinker.
26 Jerious Norwood (vs. PHI) With Turner likely out, Norwood is in line to receive the bulk 0f the work and while he will get a lot of work, the matchup will make it tough for him to have a nice fantasy day.
27 Rock Cartwright (vs. NO) Cartwright failed in his first start for the Redskins, but it was against a tough Eagles defense; this week he gets a Saints defense that can be run on as they have let up the 9th-most points to opposing RBs this season.
28 Julius Jones (vs. SF) Jones is slated to return after a cracked rib and bruised lung; his role will be more limited than usual and he will have Forsett cutting into his workload so don’t expect much from him in his first game back.
29 Steve Slaton (@ JAC) It’s clear that the Texans are using Slaton strictly as a pass-catching back and until he starts getting the majority of the catches he is nothing more than a flex play.
30 Tim Hightower (vs. MIN) Hightower will face a tough Vikings’ run defense so don’t expect the Cardinals to win this game on the ground; he could catch some passes out of the backfield, but the Vikings have let up just three total touchdowns to RBs this season.
31 Fred Jackson (vs. NYJ) New coach + injured Lynch = good; Facing the Jets defense = bad idea.
32 Felix Jones (@ NYG) The Giants’ defense hasn’t been very good as of late and Jones is seeing more work so don’t be surprised if he breaks off a 30+ yard touchdown run.
33 Cadillac Williams (@ CAR) The Panthers’ run defense is pretty bad and Williams did have his 2nd-best fantasy game of the season against the same team in week 6.
34 Donald Brown (vs. TEN) Brown is going to see more work because the Colts will lock up home field relatively soon; if the matchup was better this week, he would have cracked the top 30.
35 Beanie Wells (vs. MIN) For the same reasons Hightower was ranked in the low 20’s, Wells doesn’t crack the top 30; at least Hightower is a threat to get some receiving yards.
36 Chris Brown (@ JAC) Brown is the main guy getting carries for the Texans and until that changes you have to take notice, especially when he’s facing a defense that lets up 4.3 yards per carry; unfortunately Brown doesn’t get close to the 15-20 carries you would need to consider starting him.
37 Mike Bell (@ WAS) Bell does his damage when the Saints are up big; while the Redskins are a terrible team, their defense should keep this one close enough to keep Bell’s role limited.
38 Correll Buckhalter (@ KC) Buckhalter is clearly the backup to Moreno and if you want to take a gamble, he could have a monster game against the Chiefs if Moreno’s wrist injury acts up.
39 Justin Fargas (@ PIT) The Raiders’ backfield is a mess, but Fargas is definitely the best of the bunch; that being said, the Steelers will completely shut them down.
40 Jason Snelling (vs. PHI) With Turner out, Snelling will be No. 2 behind Norwood so that means he has some value, but it’s not enough to make me want to even think of starting him on my fantasy team.

Wide Receivers

Rank Player (Opponent) Comment
1 Andre Johnson (@ JAC) The emergence of fellow WR Kevin Walter will only help Johnson; psh, like he needs help.
2 Reggie Wayne (vs. TEN) While Wayne is famous for making impossible catches, the Titans defense is famous for letting up a lot of very possible catches.
3 Randy Moss (@ MIA) Randy had a disappointing Monday night so expect him to get revenge at the expense of the Dolphins’ young secondary.
4 Chad Ochocinco (vs. DET) Ochocinco hasn’t showcased one of his infamous TD celebrations since week 7, but the Lions have let up 14 TDs to WRs so get your DVRs ready.
5 Larry Fitzgerald (vs. MIN) If Warner plays, Fitzgerald will be a beast; if Leinart plays, Fitzgerald will be…a beast.
6 Vincent Jackson (@ CLE) Jackson has churned out three straight bad performances (1, 5, 3 fantasy points), but he can’t get stopped by the Browns can he?
7 Sidney Rice (@ ARI) Rice has emerged as Favre’s favorite target and until Favre turns back into the 40-year old that he is, you have to love Rice.
8 Donald Driver (vs. BAL) Driver has outperformed Jennings nearly every week, especially when he is under pressure; the Ravens tend to blitz the QB often so expect many balls thrown Driver’s way.
9 Wes Welker (@ MIA) Welker has recorded at least six receptions in 32 of his 41 games played as a Patriot.
10 Mike Sims-Walker (vs. HOU) MSW is much better at home (16.8 pts/gm) than on the road (5 pts/gm); his next three games are at home.
11 Miles Austin (@ NYG) It’s shocking that Miles Austin has scored the fourth-most fantasy points among WRs and most of them have been scored after week 4.
12 Brandon Marshall (@ KC) The Chiefs allow an average of 16.8 yards per catch to WRs so there is a lot of big-play potential for Marshall.
13 Calvin Johnson (@ CIN) Johnson has been hampered by injuries for almost the entire season, but he is the Lions’ only deep threat so if he is practicing, he should be in your lineup.
14 Roddy White (vs. PHI) White’s value takes a hit with Ryan out this week, but he’s still Roddy White and should get plenty of targets.
15 Hines Ward (vs. OAK) Ward will be happy to see his general in the huddle again this week, but Nnamdi Asmougha will limit Ward’s production somewhat.
16 Marques Colston (@ WAS) Colston had a huge day against the Patriots on Monday night, but the Redskins’ pass defense is much better than that; that said, Colston is still a good bet for 70 yards and a TD.
17 Jeremy Maclin (@ ATL) With Jackson out this week, Maclin will be McNabb’s #1 target in a game where the Eagles might air it out often.
18 Anquan Boldin (vs. MIN) The way to beat the Vikings’ defense is through the air so if Warner is in the game, expect decent numbers from Boldin; if it’s Leinart, Boldin’s value takes a hit, but he is still start-worthy.
19 Steve Smith (vs. TB) Maybe Delhomme’s injury is a blessing in disguise for Steve Smith, but it’s hard to predict a  monster day when Matt Moore is making his first career start.
20 Greg Jennings (vs. BAL) Jennings will have trouble catching deep balls if Rodgers doesn’t have time to air them out, but it only takes one to go from a 5-point day to a 18-point day.
21 Nate Burleson (vs. SF) Burleson, more often than not, gets more catches and yards than Houshmanzadeh, but it’s the TDs that have been eluding him; he’s a safe bet for five catches and 60 yards so if you’re in a PPR league he is definitely worth a start in your flex spot.
22 Derrick Mason (@ GB) The Packers have let up a TD to a WR in five straight games and Mason has scored in the double digits in two straight games.
23 Jason Avant (@ ATL) Avant has quietly put up good numbers in recent weeks with 17 catches for 276 yards and a score in his last three games; with Jackson out and a weak Falcons secondary, look for Avant to have himself a nice day.
24 Devin Hester (vs. STL) Hester has been disappointing recently (4, 1, 2 fantasy points), but I can’t see him being held to under five fantasy points against the Rams’ defense.
25 Michael Crabtree (@ SEA) The Seahawks have let up 17 TDs to WRs this season so expect Crabtree to have a nice bounce back game.
26 Donnie Avery (@ CHI) Avery has the skills to beat teams deep and the Bears have struggled against the pass recently; boom or bust candidate.
27 Percy Harvin (@ ARI) Harvin has had two straight great games so expect the Cardinals to focus more on him this week and keep him from burning their defense too often.
28 Santonio Holmes (vs. OAK) Holmes has the luxury of not facing Nnamdi Asmougha so if the Steelers decide to throw on the Raiders, Holmes could have a nice game.
29 Pierre Garcon (vs. TEN) Garcon has been getting more looks from Manning recently and with the Titans’ secondary woes, he could become a nice flex play; hopefully the game doesn’t get out of control so the Colts throw the ball in the second half.
30 Chris Chambers (vs. DEN) Chambers has emerged as a nice wideout for the Chiefs in Bowe’s absence with two straight double-digit games; he has always been a tease so I’m weary of this little hot streak.
31 T.J. Houshmandzadeh (vs. SF) T.J. falls way down in my rankings because he has scored just four points in his last two games (@MIN, @ STL), both very nice matchups; he only caught four passes for 62 yards against the 49ers in week 2 so don’t expect big things this week.
32 Jerricho Cotchery (@ BUF) The Bills let up the fewest points to opposing WRs, but that is more because teams run all over the Bills’ defense rather than the Bills have a good defense.
33 Lee Evans (vs. NYJ) Evans won’t have to face Darrelle Revis so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him outperform Owens in this game; the catch is that it might only take five fantasy points to accomplish that.
34 Robert Meachem (@ WAS) Meachem has scored five TDs in his last four games; unfortunately the Redskins defense has allowed just nine TDs to opposing WRs all season.
35 Laveranues Coles (vs. DET) Coles should get some targets against a bad Lions defense, but he does have some injury issues so he could be limited.
36 Kenny Britt (@ IND) Britt made an amazing catch in the end zone to beat the Cardinals last week and has become Young’s favorite target; I just can’t see Young throwing for more than 200 yards very often.
37 Terrel Owens (vs. NYJ) R! E! V! I! S! IS! GOOD!
38 Antonio Bryant (@ CAR) Bryant could be on the verge of a hot streak, but until I see Freeman play well on a consistent basis I can’t trust Bryant to be a reliable fantasy receiver.
39 Mario Manningham (vs. DAL) A shoulder injury may limit him in this important game vs. the Cowboys.
40 Santana Moss (vs. NO) Moss could connect on a deep ball or he could connect four in the locker room in a game of Connect Four. Who knows?

Tight Ends

Rank Player (Opponent) Comment
1 Antonio Gates (@ CLE) Until last week, Gates was having trouble finding the end zone; the Browns have let up six TDs to opposing TEs this year.
2 Dallas Clark (vs. TEN) The Titans have been able to contain opposing TEs for the most part this season; one that got away? Dallas Clark (9 rec, 77 yards).
3 Tony Gonzalez (vs. PHI) You have to love the tight end on an offense that has a rookie QB making his first start against a defense that lets up the most points to opposing TEs.
4 Vernon Davis (@ SEA) The man is not slowing down and has caught a TD pass in his last two games.
5 Brent Celek (@ ATL) Celek is banged up, but if he’s well enough to play his owner will be rewarded; the Falcons give up the 5th-most points to opposing TEs.
6 Greg Olsen (vs. STL) Cutler is finally relying on Olsen as the TE has caught at least five passes in his last four games.
7 Jason Witten (@ NYG) Witten finally broke out of his season-long slump with five catches for 107 yards; here’s to hoping that Romo keeps looking for him!
8 Visanthe Shianoe (@ ARI) Shiancoe has benefited greatly from Favre’s resurgence with 8 TDs this season, which ranks second among all TEs.
9 Kellen Winslow (@ CAR) The Panthers only let up an average of 5.4 points per game to opposing TEs, but Winslow is a soldier and is Freeman’s main target in the passing game.
10 Jermichael Finley (vs. BAL) Rodgers should be under a lot of pressure against the Ravens so he should check down to the  TE more often, which is good news for Finley owners.
11 Kevin Boss (vs. DAL) “The Boss” had a disappointing Thursday night, but the Cowboys’ defense is much friendlier on opposing TEs than the Broncos’ defense.
12 Heath Miller (vs. OAK) The Raiders have yet to let up a TD to a TE this season so Miller owners beware.
13 Dustin Keller (@ BUF) While the Bills have been tough on WRs, they have let up 50 receptions for 611 yards and 4 TDs to opposing TEs.
14 Fred Davis (vs. NO) Davis caught a fluke TD pass last week so don’t think you will be getting much production from him anytime soon.
15 Bo Scaife (@ IND) With Young under center, Scaife has been getting more looks than normal, but he still hasn’t scored a TD this season.

Defense/Special Teams

Rank Player (Opponent)
1 New York Jets (@ BUF)
2 San Diego Chargers (@ CLE)
3 Cincinnati Bengals (vs. DET)
4 Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. OAK
5 Denver Broncos (@ KC)
6 Philadelphia Eagles (@ ATL)
7 New Orleans (@ WAS)
8 Minnesota Vikings (@ ARI)
9 Chicago Bears (vs. STL)
10 New England (@ MIA)
11 Indianapolis Colts (vs. TEN)
12 Baltimore Ravens (@ GB)
13 New York Giants (vs. DAL)
14 Green Bay Packers (vs. BAL)
15 Carolina Panthers (vs. TB)

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