By Jesse Carrajat
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Week 14 is significant for two very distinct reasons. For some, it represents the second week of the second trimester, which, of course, marks the beginning of the “plate-tectonic” stage of a pregnancy (clearly I have no internet connection right now). For others, Week 14 marks the beginning of something far more significant and exciting than embryonic development or the circle of life: The 2010 Fantasy Football Playoffs.
If you have proven your gridiron genius by earning one of your league’s coveted playoff spots, then congratulations to you. However, the road ahead to a fantasy championship is a difficult one. In the post-season, every add/drop is amplified, every start and sit more substantial, every matchup more magnified, and… I… have… run out of alliterations. In Week 14, as the real NFL season nears closer to a close, teams begin to alter their strategies and personnel packages. Fantasy Champions know that they must do the same. In the column that follows, WFANtasy will help to guide you through this tumultuous terrain, so that at the end of the day, you can look yourself in the mirror knowing that you gave it your absolute best, from the comfort of your desk, in no physical danger whatsoever, relying completely on luck, while expending absolute minimal energy.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, BUF – In week 14, Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and his Harvard University diploma will match wits with Cleveland Browns’ defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and his Cluck University Chicken gift certificate. At times this season, Fitzpatrick has been a fantasy stud, racking in 37 FP and 33 FP in weeks seven and eleven, respectively. In week 14, the unpredictable Bills offense matches up against the predictably average Cleveland Browns defense.
Jon Kitna, QB, DAL – In seven games as the starting QB for the Dallas Cowboys, Kitna is averaging roughly 19 FP per game. The Boys are averaging 33 points-per-game over the past four weeks. Last year, in three wins against the Eagles, Jason Garrett’s offense put up a combined 78 points, and 9 out of 11 of those offensive players return to face the Eagles young defense on Sunday night.
Alex Smith, QB, SF – The Smith that began the year as the Niners’ starting QB finally returns to take back his job from the one who had taken it, QB Troy Smith. In Week 14, the Niners take on the Seattle Seahawks and their 30th ranked pass defense. Without stud RB Frank Gore and with talented and healthy pass-catchers, TE Vernon Davis and WR Michael Crabtree, look for Smith to stand out this week.
Tashard Choice, RB, DAL – In Week 13, Dallas RB Tashard Choice was chosen by chosen interim Coach Jason Garrett to rush the ball 19 times. Choice chose to make the most of his chosen opportunity by choosing to run the ball for 100 yards and a TD. With RB Marion Barber out again this week, look for Choice’s number to be chosen by Garrett yet again. You should choose to insert Choice into your lineup, if he hasn’t been chosen already.
James Starks, RB, GB – If you would have told me 14 weeks ago that I would be recommending a guy named James Starks (not John) for the fantasy football playoffs (not as a selection in the original NBA Jam), I would have responded with the question, “Who the heck is James Starks?” Now, after rushing 18 times for 73 yards in week 13, and after hearing Packers Coach Mike McCarthy declare Starks a goal-line back and timeshare recipient with RB Brandon Jackson, not only am I recommending Starks, and I am still wondering who the heck he is.
Jonathan Stewart, RB, CAR – With starting RB DeAngelo Williams out for the year and breakout backup RB Mike Goodson dinged-up, look for Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart to finish the year extremely strong. He now has rushed for 190 yards over the last two games, and should continue his success against a Falcons D that struggled against the run last week.
Roy Williams, WR, DAL – Before Dallas breakout rookie and future problem-child Dez Bryant burst onto the fantasy scene, veteran WR Roy Williams caught 5 TD passes over a three week period. Now, with Bryant on injured reserve for the remainder of the year, look for Williams to regain his stride in a Cowboys offense that is averaging just over 33 points per game over the last four weeks.
Earl Bennett, WR, CHI – His name is Earl, and it’d behoove you to add em’ to your lineup this week. Similar to last season when Bennett closed out the year strong, the third-year receiver and college teammate of QB Jay Cutler has 11 catches, 160 yards, and two TDs over the last two weeks. Speedster Bears WR Johnny Knox will be blanketed by former Rutgers Scarlet Knight standout CB Devin McCourty, so look for Earl to keep rolling. Also, it’d surprise you to know that spellchecker has no beef with the word it’d.
Seyi Ajirotutu, WR, SD – With three of the Chargers’ top-four WRs listed as doubtful entering Week 14, Seyi Ajirotutu may break into the starting lineup by default. When given an opportunity this year, Mr. Tutu has excelled, catching 4 passes for 111 yards and 2 touchdowns in week nine. If Tutu is the number two-two WR in San Diego on Sunday (man I wish it was Tue-Tuesday), make sure he is in your lineup.
San Diego Police Department Patrolmen – As a field sobriety test, SDPD patrolmen are now requiring drivers who are believed to be intoxicated to read and pronounce the name Seyi Ajirotutu five times fast while standing on one foot.
Jay Cutler, QB, CHI – Jay Cutler’s football career closely mirrors that off an alcoholic’s on-again/off-again drinking career: even when things are going great, everyone around Cutler knows that sooner or later he will fall into a downward spiral of binge pick-throwing and self-destructive decision making. To keep this analogy going, in Week 14, you can consider the surging Patriots to be a barrel of 200-proof moonshine.
Carson Palmer, QB, PIT – Have you ever heard the expression, “Well, they just had his number today?” That expression was created to describe the relationship between the Pittsburgh Steelers defense and Carson Palmer’s productivity. I am convinced that the Steelers literally have ALL of Palmer’s numbers: they harass him on the phone at night, they order Dominoes using his debit card, they order obscure magazine subscriptions to his household address, and they return his numerous pass attempts for pick-sixes.
Ronnie Brown, RB, MIA – What can Brown do for you this week against the Jets and their stellar run defense? The guy is averaging 3.8 yards per carry, which is .1 yards less than all-world Jacksonville running back Deji Karim (he’s real, I swear to God). Ronnie is averaging just 8.7 fantasy points in 2010. Keep him far from your fantasy roster.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, ARI – Can you guess the NFL players? Of the following five names, two are current Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks, one of which will start in week 14. The other three are actors from the hit BBC children’s television show, The Teletubbies: Dave Thompson, John Skelton, Richard Bartel, Mark Heenahan, and John Simmit. That’s what I thought. Sit Fitz.
Brian Westbrook, RB, SF – Two weeks ago, while owned in just 4% of fantasy leagues, Brian West-broken broke back onto the fantasy radar by rushing for 136 yards and a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals. Big deal: Abraham Simpson rushed for 397 yards against the Cardinals back in Week 3. In Week 13, while owned in 90% of fantasy leagues, West-broken followed up his performance with a 30 yard, zero TD stinker. Going forward, Anthony Dixon will be the red-zone back in San Fran. Keep West-broken benched in Week 14.
Cedric Benson, RB, CIN – In Week 14, Benson brings his 3.5 YPC against a Steelers D that is number one in the NFL against the rush. Benson has been productive as of late, but against top-tier rush defenses such as the Ravens and the Jets, Benson has scored 7 and 5 points, respectively. Let Cedric entertain your bench in Week 14 (waa waa waaaa).
Brandon Marshall, WR, MIA – The big man has been a bit of a big disappointment for fantasy owners lately, and with a Week 14 matchup against all-pro Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, things aren’t getting much easier for Marshall. Throw in the fact that Marshall is battling injuries, and Dolphins QB Chad Henne can only hit the broad side of the wrong barns, and things look dim for the brightest spot on the Dolphins’ roster.
Funny Caption Only a Football Fan Will Get
Coach Bill Belichick
Saying: “Great effort, Rex.”
Thinking: “Could that sweater be any tighter.”
Coach Rex Ryan
Saying: “Great game, Bill.”
Thinking: “Could that sweater be any looser.”