Posted: Thursday December 6, 2012 11:26AM ; Updated: Thursday December 6, 2012 7:21PM
Eric Mack

Week 14 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Rams' Jackson set for playoff stardom

Story Highlights

Steven Jackson faces Bills defense that has allowed most TDs to running backs

Cowboys' playoff push, solid Bengals offense promises to spur Dallas offense

Colin Kaepernick's poor Week 13 makes him a risky start against the Dolphins

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Steven Jackson
Steven Jackson has scored only two touchdowns this season, but has averaged 92 yards rushing over his past four games.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

You have made it this far this season -- into the fantasy playoffs -- so you should be congratulated. You know exactly what you're doing. You played the right matchups. You made the right roster moves. And, most importantly, you received the right kind of luck.

It is going to take even better fortune to navigate the minefield know as the fantasy postseason. It can be as dicey as having too much spiked punch at your holiday parties.

Week 13 reminded us how random results can be. We'll try to help you reduce some of the luck needed with our game-by-game analysis in's eminently important Week 14 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em:

Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders (Thursday night)


Broncos -- Peyton Manning, Knowshon Moreno, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Jacob Tamme, Matt Prater, Broncos D/ST: This is a start-all game for the Broncos, especially Moreno. He has taken over the feature-back role and might be in for the best game of his career against a Raiders defense that has been the second-worst team in fantasy versus running backs. Tamme is also a nice sleeper after taking over as Manning's leading tight end target and facing a game against the sixth-worst team in fantasy against the position.

Raiders -- Darren McFadden, Brandon Myers: Run DMC is a risk against seventh-best team in fantasy versus running backs, especially coming off injury, but he has been held out until healthy and reports are he has a burst in practice now. This start recommendation is based on the fact DeMarco Murray came back so impressively last week. McFadden rates as one of the top-25 running backs to start in fantasy crunch time, no matter the difficulty of the matchup. Myers, meanwhile, is scorching and faces the second-worst team in fantasy versus tight ends, a dream matchup.


Broncos -- Ronnie Hillman, Lance Ball, Brandon Stokley, Joel Dreessen: These fringe options just aren't getting enough touches to trust even in such a favorable matchup.

Raiders -- Carson Palmer, Marcel Reece, Mike Goodson, Denarius Moore, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Rod Streater, Juron Criner, Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders D/ST: Reece is a bit banged up and should be affected adversely by McFadden's expected return. The receivers are a crapshoot right now, particularly with Moore's recent disciplinary issues. Finally, SeaBass is a bad play against a defense that has allowed the sixth-fewest field-goal attempts.

St. Louis Rams at Buffalo Bills


Rams -- Steven Jackson: The Bills' defense has improved after an awful start, but Jackson is the only sure starter for the Rams in the fantasy playoffs, especially against a Bills defense that has allowed the most touchdowns to running backs (and ranks fourth-worst overall in fantasy versus running backs).

Bills -- C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson: The Rams' defense hasn't been an especially vulnerable one, but it is still bottom 10 in fantasy versus running backs. Spiller and Jackson remain in a timeshare, but both will get plenty of touches in a running back-first offense. Johnson (hamstring) says he's going to play and he should still rate as a top-25 option this week, even if the Rams rate among the top-10 defenses against wide receivers.


Rams -- Sam Bradford, Daryl Richardson, Danny Amendola, Chris Givens, Brandon Gibson, Lance Kendricks, Greg Zuerlein, Rams D/ST: Amendola's (foot) uncertainty makes the receiving distribution a guess. Avoid the St. Louis pass catchers unless you have concrete, late information on Amendola's availability and health. Zuerlein has been top 10 most of the season among fantasy kickers, but the Bills have allowed a league-low 14 field goals this season.

Bills -- Ryan Fitzpatrick, Donald Jones, T.J. Graham, Scott Chandler, Rian Lindell, Bills D/ST: Lindell is likely the only viable option here, but it's impossible to be sure of the Bills' offense in December.

Baltimore Ravens at Washington Redskins


Ravens -- Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta, Justin Tucker: This is almost a start-all game for the Ravens in a local rivalry game. The Redskins, despite slowing down the Giants on Monday night, are third-worst versus quarterbacks, second-worst versus wide receivers, the worst versus tight ends and 10th-worst versus kickers. These numbers make Smith a must-start, while Flacco, Anquan Boldin and Pitta are sleeper starts.

Redskins -- Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon: Garcon's strong return has brought some clarity to the Redskins' options. After the above-mentioned trio, owners might even consider kicker Kai Forbath against a Ravens team that is sixth-worst against kickers. Only the Panthers have allowed more field goals than the bend-but-don't-break Ravens defense.


Ravens -- Ravens D/ST: The Baltimore unit is an option only if you have a viable alternative. The Ravens still rate as a top-12 option for their consistency, but the Redskins are the third-best team in fantasy versus D/STs because they don't allow turnovers or return scores. The Packers and Redskins are the only teams to have not allowed a return touchdown this season.

Redskins -- Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, Aldrick Robinson, Leonard Hankerson, Logan Paulsen, Redskins D/ST: Garcon has made all of the Redskins receivers a big risk in fantasy, because the targets are so inconsistent to the fringe receivers. Washington runs a limited passing offense with RGIII, even if he executes it to near flawless perfection.

Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers


Eagles -- Bryce Brown: Brown is facing the No. 1 run defense in the NFL, but the Bucs also have given up 10 touchdowns to running backs. It is expected LeSean McCoy (concussion) will sit, but even if he didn't, it would be hard to not start someone as hot as Brown, no matter if he fumbles multiple times a game. If you need a sleeper at wide receiver, consider Jeremy Maclin or perhaps even Riley Cooper. The Bucs are the worst team in fantasy versus wide receivers and second-worst against quarterbacks.

Buccaneers -- Josh Freeman, Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, Connor Barth: The Eagles are a lost cause, so this quartet is likely to be very productive. You might even consider Mike Williams (The Eagles are 10th-worst versus wide receivers.), and the Buccaneers D/ST (Eagles rank dead last against D/STs).


Eagles -- Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, Jason Avant, Brent Celek, Alex Henery, Eagles D/ST: Foles has a good matchup, but he's far too inconsistent to trust in crunch time. Also, even if McCoy plays, he will be limited. The best option here -- Henery -- is facing a team that has given up the second-fewest field goals in the NFL this season, so avoid him.

Buccaneers -- None: There is no reason to fear the Eagles as a fantasy matchup. Even Dallas Clark has been productive enough to consider if you need a fill-in tight end. That position has been inconsistent top to bottom. At least Clark is trending up.

San Diego Chargers at Pittsburgh Steelers


Chargers -- Danario Alexander: We had to stretch to even mention D.A. as a start against a Steelers defense that is first versus quarterbacks, sixth versus running backs, first versus wide receivers and second versus tight ends. Alexander has at least proven to be the team's go-to target in recent weeks. Start him as a top-30 option at his position. There could be some garbage-time numbers coming his way.

Steelers -- Jonathan Dwyer, Heath Miller, Steelers D/ST: The uncertainty at the quarterback position ruins most of Pittsburgh's receivers, except Miller. He will be the featured target in what will be a "dink-and-dunk" attack, regardless of who is at quarterback. The Chargers are mostly a neutral matchup in fantasy, save for opposing D/STs (eighth-worst). San Diego has allowed the second-fewest field-goal attempts, so that might be a reason to look beyond Shaun Suisham for a kicker, especially with the offense in a bit of disarray.


Chargers -- Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews, Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates, Nick Novak, Chargers D/ST: This is about as awful of a matchup as the Chargers can face right now. Considering how they have already failed you in the most favorable of matchups, don't dare trust them here.

Steelers -- Ben Roethlisberger, Isaac Redman, Rashard Mendenhall, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders: Until Big Ben proves healthy and productive, you are mostly taking risks with the Steelers. They are risks best not taken right now.

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings


Bears -- Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Robbie Gould, Bears D/ST: The Vikings have a decent run defense, but Forte remains a must-start as he dominates the snaps in the backfield. The other three options here are potential top-five plays at their positions.

Vikings -- Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph: The Bears figure to rebound this week, but Peterson and Rudolph have emerged as must-start fantasy stars no matter the opponent.


Bears -- Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffrey, Earl Bennett, Kellen Davis: The Vikings are a neutral matchup, but Cutler is just too reliant on Marshall to consider him or his secondary targets as fantasy-caliber starters.

Vikings -- Christian Ponder, Percy Harvin, Jarius Wright, Jerome Simpson, Michael Jenkins, Blair Walsh, Vikings D/ST: Ponder's sophomore struggles have hurt the Vikings' attack as much as A.P. has helped it -- which is quite a bit. Ponder and company just won't have the success the Seahawks surprisingly had a week ago in Chicago.

Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers


Falcons -- Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Matt Bryant: The only question mark among Atlanta's top options is Turner, but he faces the sixth-worst team in fantasy versus running backs. That makes Turner a must-start and backup Jacquizz Rodgers a potential sleeper as a flex. Ryan has slowed of late, but he remains too important to any team's chances. Let him win things for you.

Panthers -- Cam Newton, Steve Smith, Greg Olsen: Newton's revival figures to continue even in a tough matchup. You might even consider DeAngelo Williams an option as a flex in deeper leagues. Jonathan Stewart (ankle) likely is out, and the Falcons have been the ninth-worst team in fantasy versus running backs to date.


Falcons -- Falcons D/ST: This unit just isn't among the top-12 options to start this week, but the matchup shouldn't scare you much if the unit is needed.

Panthers -- Brandon LaFell, Louis Murphy, Graham Gano, Panthers D/ST: Smith is good enough to rely on, but the Falcons are the seventh-best team in fantasy versus wide receivers. They are also ninth against kickers and fifth versus D/STs.

Dallas Cowboys at Cincinnati Bengals


Cowboys -- Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Jason Witten: The Bengals are hot right now, but the Cowboys figure to be fighting for their playoff lives and a solid Bengals team can push the pace and force Romo to throw from behind. That makes all of the primary Cowboys must-starts, including the now-healthy Murray.

Bengals -- BenJarvus Green-Ellis, A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham, Bengals D/ST: These guys are just going too well to sit in any format right now. The defense is particularly intriguing against an error-prone quarterback and a team that has been sixth-worst in fantasy versus D/STs.


Cowboys -- Felix Jones, Cole Beasley, Kevin Ogletree, Dan Bailey, Cowboys D/ST: Jones is not worth owning with Murray healthy again. For those scraping for a kicker or defense, Bailey and the Cowboys' D/ST are facing a marginally favorable matchup here.

Bengals -- Andy Dalton, Andrew Hawkins, Mike Nugent: The Cowboys' defense is better than it has shown, so be more wary of Dalton than you have been in weeks. Dallas has been top 10 in fantasy versus quarterbacks and wide receivers for most of the season.
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