[Insert overused Jim Mora Sr. video or sound byte reference.] Yup, it’s that time of year. Hopefully you’ve made the playoffs in at least one of your leagues, and let’s face it, if you didn’t and you’re still keeping up with fantasy you’re a god among men.

It’s going to be a big, big weekend for a lot of players.  I just had a dream last night my Panthers beat the Packers 24-0.  I know they already played, but just the fact that my subconscious actually kept me asleep during that farce means anything is possible.  So if you’re a low seed against a juggernaut or you’re in a two–week playoff and had an abysmal first week, don’t lose hope!  Anything can happen.

Now, for this week’s picks don’t forget it’s the playoffs.  If you’re stuck between a big-name guy and an upside play, I would generally recommend sticking with the safe starts.  If you’re in a tight matchup or feel you probably will win, definitely go with the steady option.  But if you’re already down or feel you’re in an uphill struggle, some of these starts and sits might give you an edge of upside.

Here are some guys that I like that aren’t getting started enough and guys I think you should bench (along with their starting percentages in ESPN and Yahoo respectively):

Possible Starters

Michael Vick (57.6%, 50%): As discussed on this week’s podcast, I think Michael Vick has a solid game tomorrow.  I know it’s tough to play him, he’s got worse baby back ribs than Chili’s and even though he returned last week, he didn’t play like a fantasy first-rounder.  I know the Jets matchup looks bad on paper, but remember, they got shredded by a struggling Ryan Fitzpatrick three weeks ago, and since then faced Rex Grossman and the immortal Tyler Palko to help keep their numbers high.  They’re now without Jim Leonhard who’s done for the season so the Eagles will have a much easier secondary to exploit.  I would (am I’m going to in one league) start Vick with confidence and hope his first round ticket will be starting to look about worth the price.

Marion Barber (38.4%, 31%): You know, this is fantasy football and not real football, and even though the magic of Tebow seemed to kill the Barbarian’s brain cells, he’s still going to get a lot of work this Sunday against the Seahawks.  The Seahawks have given up 20+ points to opposing running backs in non-PPR the past 3 weeks, and while I do think Khalil Bell will get an uptick in work, Barber will get touches as well and I think will be playing hungry for redemption.  He’s a very, very risky play because if he fumbles early he might get benched the remainder of the game, but I think he has good upside if you need it.  Especially in non-PPR leagues, his prospect for a score and probable workload make him at least a flex option.

Donald Brown (5.1%, 5%): I know I’m in a minority, but I think the Colts win their first game this week against the Titans at home.  Brown had double-digit points the past two weeks before unsurprisingly getting stuffed at the Ravens, and he’s consistently getting more work than the ghost of Joseph Addai.  The Titans run D hasn’t been great and Brown is pretty talented runner who unfortunately plays for a team that doesn’t have the ability to showcase a run game.  Still, I think he has a solid game this time out though and is a great swing-for-the-fences play tomorrow.

Eric Decker (30.5%, 23%): I know Demaryious Thomas is getting all the targets lately for the Denver Tebows, but pretty much everyone can agree Decker is the more talented receiver, and going against the league’s worst secondary at home against New England, I think Decker breaks out again.  He’s a tough play if you’re in a 2 WR league or if you have 3 studs in a 3 WR league, but I think he has tremendous upside as a flex or WR3.  Thomas is a big, lumbering dude, and while he definitely is talented, looks more like a Tight End to me.  New England gives up the most points to opposing WRs but the 6th least against opposing TEs, so I just have a suspicion this will be Decker’s game rather than Thomas’.  I would start Decker over the two even though I know he hasn’t gotten the targets as of late.

Donald Driver (8.5%, 9%): Greg Jennings’ injury has left a lot of playoff teams scrambling, and I think Donald Driver fills the void more than James Jones or Randall Cobb.  He’s had solid outings the past two weeks, he hasn’t be used all that often this season to wear down his veteran legs, and has numerous reps with both Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn if the game gets out of control right away against the Chiefs and Rodgers gets an early bench.  Driver is the safer player over Jones or Cobb, and I think a better bet for a score in what will probably be a semi-conservative game plan to assure a quick lead early rather than going deep and possibly playing in a close game in the second half.

Son of a Bench

Antonio Brown (33.6%, 62%): Big Ben has been in a boot, he’s not practicing, and while he might go out there and gut it out, it’s going to be ugly against a tough 49ers D.  We all saw how poor Sam Bradford looked trying to plant and throw off his bum ankle, and while they’re completely different QBs, I think it’s going to be tough to start Brown this week even though he’s been a stud since week 7.  I love Brown, he’s been a start for me a few times this season as he was slow to proliferate into lineups, but the QB situation has me feeling it’s way too risky to play him.

Frank Gore (82%, 75%): It’s hard to recommend benching your stud RB, your first round pick, and if you’re in the playoffs, one of the reasons you got in.  But he had single digit points the four weeks before last week and only had 10 carries last time out, his second lowest on the year.  The 49ers really limited his work as he averaged 7.2 yards a carry on those 10 carriers while Alex Smith chucked the ball 37 times and averaged only 4.7 yards per attempt.  You look at those disparaging numbers in a two point loss that stayed close throughout and wonder why Gore wasn’t given the ball more… You’ve got to conclude Jim Harbaugh is already starting to slow him down for the playoffs.  Against a tough Steelers D in which will probably be a very low scoring game, I don’t see how Gore will get the workload or the success, so he’s a bench for me.

DeSean Jackson (70.1%, 58%):  He breathed a little bit of life last week, but I think Revis is going to put his island on Jackson more than the ailing Maclin this week.  I do like Vick to have a solid game (see above), but Jackson has been too inconsistent to start comfortably in your playoffs.  Even with Leonhard out, Revis alone should limit Jackson who could easily have a 3 for 33-type game.

Shonn Greene (66%, 75%): Like a broken record, I’m gonna start with my love for Vick, which I think makes this game pass-heavy early on.  The Eagles run D has been anything but consistent (or good for that matter), but they have held opposing running backs to under 86 yards in 5 of the past 8 weeks, while playing with the inconsistent “3-and-out” Vince Young during some of that time.  Ok, Young wasn’t that bad, but I just have a feeling the Eagles really put the pedal to the medal this week after seeing how easily they could beat the Dolphins.  I don’t think Greene gets the work and the Sanchize goes into overdrive.


  1. Robert says:

    Hey JB…so, I’ve made into the final four…and while I hate when people ask about their WHOLE damn lineup, I’m desperate to get into the finals…and desperate times call for annoyingly desperate measures. So, what would you change about this lineup?

    QB Tim Tebow
    WR Roddy White (glad I didn’t pull him against that JAX secondary)
    WR Antonio Brown (+ return yds)
    RB Reggie Bush
    RB Kevin Smith
    FLEX Rob Gronkowski
    FLEX Willis McGahee
    DEF Chicago (+ return yds)
    BENCH Michael Vick
    BENCH Steven Jackson
    BENCH Vincent Jackson
    BENCH Antonio Gates
    BENCH Santana Moss
    BENCH Arizona DEF (+ return yds)

    BTW, thanks for all of the help this season. You made some really great calls for me.

  2. DANgerous says:

    Playoffs?!? need some help. I have Percy, AP, Reggie Bush, Nicks, and colston. I already rolled with Turner….so I have 4 spots and 5 players…..My heart says to go with AP, Percy, Nicks & Colston…..but then my gut says Ap, Nicks, Colston & Bush! Im torn, something doesn’t feel right. Although it could be from the pacman quesadila i had from the kogi truck. Needless to say I am defending champ and would love to take out my own flesh and blood this week! We played last year in finals, the reason I won was because Turner fumbled at the goal line! I win by 1 point!!! Thanks in advance

  3. JB Gilpin says:

    @Robert: Yo Rob! Glad you made it! Gronk’s been a beast for us, huh? What a pickup for a deep keeper league for me! Few things for your line-up: I’m way, way down on Kevin Smith. I don’t think he’ll get much work much less stay healthy a whole game. Like Steven Jackson a lot more. I’m also a little scared about McGahee, I actually have him benched for Barber and J Stew, but that might change… Either way, I think I like Gates a smidge more, but it’s so close I wouldn’t fault it either way. So glad I could help out man! And thanks for reading!

  4. JB Gilpin says:

    @DANgerous: Oh man, that’s got to be an ultimate win right there… I won my league once like 5 or 6 years ago down 6 to Akers and Brian Westbrook with only my kicker left. Because the Eagles benched their players and Akers only had one extra point and my kicker got 7, I won by actually (fractional points league) less than 1. Anywho, my leaning is go with your gut and not your heart. I know, I know, Percy has gone off lately, but Ponder getting benched for fantasy position flip-flopper Joe Webb is a little scurry. I think Percy will do fine, but you have 4 steady-as-they-come players with decent-to-great matchups above him. Hope you win it all again this year!

  5. squad-deep says:

    Jb does your picture come from Gattaca? In other news, know what im sayyyyyyyyyyyyin?

  6. Rocky says:

    Gore is worrying me as well, but he had a full practice this week. I have Mendenhall and Crabtree as my other possible starters at my flex, so would you stick with Gore anyways? (Lost Best and Murray so not many options left haha)

  7. needhelp says:

    Need to start 3 WR in a 0.5 PPR.

    Percy Harvin
    Victor Cruz
    Mike Wallace
    Laurent Robinson

    Harvin and Cruz are pretty obvious starts to me but I’m split between Robinson and Wallace for the final spot. The Big Ben situation makes Wallace really dicey. My hesitation with Robinson comes from the fact that I have Romo, F Jones, and Bailey starting and I hate having all of my eggs in one basket. The Cowboys have shown up and sleep walked through games too many times for me to feel very confident in starting their whole O…

  8. Blain Train says:

    Hey, I’d love to get some advice for my Final Four match-up. I need an RB & a Flex in a standard league. I’m choosing between R. Mathews vs. BAL, Blount vs. DAL, L. Robinson @ TB, & S. Moss @ NYG. Right now, I’m leaning towards Mathews and L-Rob. I just can’t trust Blount if TB falls way behind. Although I’m not thrilled about Mathews facing the BAL run defense, at least I know he’ll be on the field and he’s been huge the last 3 weeks. I usually go with an RB in my flex spot but I think I like L-Rob there over Blount or Moss because he’s been so good recently. Still, I’m a little worried about the other weapons in DAL offense stealing targets. Also, Moss against a soft NYG secondary is intriguing. Any help would be hugely appreciated. Thanks!

  9. Jeff says:

    Well written article, thanks. I have a QB 2 conundrum. Alex Smith, Yates, or Orton (opposite Stafford)? TDs are worth 6, 1 point per 20 yards, bonuses @ 300, 400, and TDs longer than 40.

    I’m already sitting Miles Austin tonight to save room for Beanie in my flex. With Ray Rick, Shady, Percy, and AJ in the pimp spots I’m hopefully loaded for bear. Any QB thoughts appreciated. For what it’s worth, I’m leaning Smith AKA dance with the one who brung ya. Thanks.

  10. Jeff says:

    Ray RICE, of course.

  11. Haley Joe Osmond says:

    Help me pick 3 WRs in a Nonppr.


  12. Josh says:

    The fact that you’re a fellow panthers fan makes me feel safe asking for your advice on this.
    Steve Smith or Larry Fitzgerald?
    Greg Olsen or Anthony Fasano?

    I’ve played Smith over Fitzgerald the past few weeks but I’m hesitant this week against a tough Texans D. Not to mention Fitzgerald has been doing work with Skelton at QB. Who do I start?

  13. JB Gilpin says:

    @squad-deep: Of course it does, Errrrwwww Errrwwww, Erw, Erw, know what im sayyyyyyyyyyyin

  14. blueblazzer says:

    Do you go with Steelers or Seahawks defense?

  15. EK says:

    Grossman over Rivers this week?

  16. JB Gilpin says:

    @Rocky: Man, kudos for making the playoffs! Haha. I actually would go with Mendenhall, I know the 49ers run D has been awesome, but Patrick Willis is still iffy and I think Mendenhall has the best shot for a score.

  17. JB Gilpin says:

    @needhelp: I’d bench Wallace. I know it’s tough putting faith in all the Cowboys, but Robinson has been their best receiver since Austin’s first injury, and while I know he’s a little hurt and played less snaps, he’s still quickly becoming Romo’s safety blanket.

  18. JB Gilpin says:

    @Blain Train: Well, I don’t know how much help I’d be because I think you picked the right two guys. Starting and Buc in the playoffs is near impossible right now if you want a sure thing, and L-Rob is just in a class above Santana. Even though he isn’t seeing every snap, he’s getting the big targets. Good luck this week man!

  19. JB Gilpin says:

    @Jeff: Thanks for reading man, I appreciate it! Yea, I think you stick with Smith as well for the same reasons I wrote about above regarding benching Gore because I think he gets a lightened workload. Yates is a close second, and even though my Panthers can’t play defense worth anything, it still is TJ Yates and I think Foster and Tate will keep Houston ahead comfortably.

  20. JB Gilpin says:

    @Haley Joe Osmond: Marshall, Robinson, Decker. Decker over Wallace is sure gutsy (I think those first two are locks), but he’s got so much upside against the worst secondary.

  21. JB Gilpin says:

    @Josh: Haha, I feel your pain man. At least we fixed our QB situation. I like Fitzy and Fasano… I know it’s benching our Panthers, but Fitz is a tough bench, even though he’s going against my boy Joe Haden. Olsen had that screen pass TD last week, but it was a little flukey, and we’ve not been going to our TEs downfield as much as we used to. However, if Moore ends up being out and it’s JP Losman out there, I’d go back to Olsen. Let’s get a big upset tomorrow! It could happen.

  22. Timmy riggins says:

    Hi, who would you start @ flex, .5PPR: D-Jax, garcon, Driver, Donald brown, Ben Tate, cj spiller? Thanks

  23. Random Collmenter says:

    dude, shonn greene has KILLED it the last two weeks – how can you bench him now? LT is clearly in the twilight of his career, and rex has said they’re fully committed to grounding and pounding. philly’s d is better than KC and washington, sure, but shonn greene is really coming alive these days.

    i’m dismayed to say i agree with all of your other picks.

    need some help. in one league, i’m starting barber and kevin smith over blount and vincent jackson. is that crazy to bench v-jax? he’s just so inconsistent (as is blount) and they might get stuffed by the ravens. what do you think?

    in another league, i’m playing bowe over antonio brown as my WR2 and in the flex, i’m playing brandon marshall over blount and kevin smith. would u agree with this?

    thanks man.

  24. Robert says:

    Thoroughly confused about which DST to start.

    Have Cincy facing the Samuel Clemens led Rams, Tennessee going to face the awful Colts and Seattle going to face the Forte-less and Cutler-less Bears.

    Every web site has a different recommendation. I’ve not seen either Cincinnatti or Tenn this year – have seen Seattle and they look good.


  25. John says:

    need 2 in a return yard league: r cobb, antonio brown, nicks , l robinson or miles austin.

    I’m projected as a big underdog but to me looks pretty even

    any thoughts?

  26. shiva ring says:

    I think my playoff din ends here. If you have to pick two out of Lloyd, Ant Brown and Doug Baldwin, who do you like? Also:
    Ballard or Owen Daniels
    Cincy or Pitt def?

  27. Cheeeeeze says:

    My opponent just had Matt Ryan tear it up… i’ve been trying to decide between vick and tebow this week, I was leaning toward tebow but with the points to now overcome I’m leaning towards vick for the upside. What do you think, vick or tebow?

    Also, it looks like big ben is out and I have to choose between these 5 receivers: Dez Bryant, Fitzgerald, Wallace, Antonio Brown, and Steve Smith… I can start 3 of them.

  28. Hot Rod says:

    PPR – Pick 1 – DeAngelo, Chris Ivory, or Gerhart(knowing AP will play, but how much… when the Saints get ahead early do they pull him?)

    Defense…DET @ Oakland, NYG vs. Wash or TEN @ IND

    Thanks for the help!!

  29. Corey says:

    Need some help in a PPR league – need 1
    Marion Barber, Brandon Jacobs, Donald Brown, Brandon Lloyd, or Damian Williams.
    I’m leaning Marion Barber but am hesitant.

    Thanks for your help

  30. JB Gilpin says:

    @Timmy riggins: Ya know, I’m going way out of the box, but I’d say Brown… Just have a feeling!

  31. JB Gilpin says:

    @Random Collmenter: Haha, glad you like my picks this time, Greene was literally my last addition and a very gutsy pick. Blount is sure inconsistent (as is proving right now with only 20 yards in the 3rd…) but I like VJax over Smith. Smith playing a whole game is more inconsistent than VJax and he’s way too scary for me. I like your other move though, Marshall and Bowe over Brown makes sense to me. Thanks so much for reading man, I hope you come back next year to give me some hate! :)

  32. JB Gilpin says:

    @Robert: Cincy has a few injuries, but they make plays and I like them the most. I think Indy plays relatively mistake free and beat the Titans tomorrow and I like Seattle a ton, but I like the Bengals a tad more. It’s a toss up, and all 3 are great plays. Throwing a dart might give you the best play haha.

  33. JB Gilpin says:

    @John: Sorry I’m a little late with the Dallas guys playing right now. but I woulda gone Nicks and LRob. Been saying LRob all along and he has a TD already and Nicks is too good to bench even with return yardage playing a factor with the other guys.

  34. JB Gilpin says:

    @shiva ring: Baldwin is not in the class of Brown even though I don’t like him, so I’d still go Brown and Lloyd. Like Ballard and Pit D.

  35. JB Gilpin says:

    @Cheeeeeze: I’m with ya, Vick for the upside is a nice play. He’s a little riskier, but I don’t think you go wrong either way. Sorry I’m a little behind, but I would bench both PIT guys and go with your other options. Fitz, Smith and Bryant are all pretty elite, and while the PIT guys are as well, the QB question mark is too big, and Dez already has a TD today if you stuck with him.

  36. Cole says:


    For RB2:

    Sproles vs Minny

    K.smith vs Oak.

    I can’t bench Wallace for DHB or Driver can I??

    Thank you!

  37. JB Gilpin says:

    @Hot Rod: I know it’s the Texans tough, tough D< but DeAngelo is just so much better than those other options…. I'd stick with him… I have a feeling the Giants D makes some big plays and this Jason Pierre-Paul guy bursting onto the scene is a game changer. I'd go with them in a divisional game where I see the D or special teams making a difference.

  38. JB Gilpin says:

    @Cole: I think Sproles and you stand pat with Wallace. The other two WRs scare me too much and I’ve been pretty firm on my Kevin Smith thoughts. He’s too brittle to trust in the playoffs.

  39. bryan says:

    need 2 receivers. I have maclin, stevie.johnson, antonio brown, and james jones, also would you start roy helu over chris johnson? thanks

  40. Howard says:

    @JB I would have a tough time replacing Antonio Brown this week. The only options are: Demarius Moore, Malcolm Floyd, Breaston, Titus Young, Randall Cobb. Unfortunately I missed out on Julio Jones (sonofabench!) and Bryant and Robinson were fair to middlin’ with only their TDs to redeem them. Do I roll with Brown or insert on of the other schmohawks? Thanks!

  41. I’m trying to figure out my RB2 and flex spot. Standard league, 12 teams. I got Mendanhall, Lynch, K.smith, Manningham, and Holmes. My roster has Lynch and Manningham in it, but I’m leaning towards Lynch and either Mendenhall or smith (Earlier in the week I was worried about both players, but I usually prefer to start RB over WR when expecting similar production.) With Roth injured, I’m thinking Pit might rely a bit more on the run/short pass plays. Could add upside to a situation i might other wise sit him in. Smith looks like he could be promising as well, assuming he doesn’t get re-injured.

    What would you do?

  42. JB Gilpin says:

    @bryan: I think you go Maclin and Stevie… I know Brown has been better, I’m just stickin to my guns he has a bad Monday Night. I would stay with CJ, I know Helu has been goo, but CJ has a soft matchup.

  43. JB Gilpin says:

    @Howard: Yea, I’d stick with Brown against those other ‘hawks. I’m down on him but not to the point where I’d risk a total scrubber of a play over him.

  44. JB Gilpin says:

    @Dollabill: First off, I’m staying on my avoid Kevin Smith at all costs mountain. Way, way too risky for me. I would indeed go Mendenhall and Lynch, Lynch is pretty unbenchable right now even though he’s going agianst the Bears, and the 49ers for Mendy is a tough matchup as well, but I like your logic, he’ll get touches to support Batch or a one-legged Big Ben, not to mention Patrick Willis is very very questionable.

  45. paulzone says:

    in the playoff semi’s with a rb mess. which two running backs would you start this week out of:

    gore, jacobs, bradshaw, ivory, pierre thomas

    while i have you: cam or stafford?


  46. JB Gilpin says:

    @paulzone: I’d still stick with Gore and go with Jacobs… Bradshaw has some home-run potential, but he just hasn’t done anything in so long it’s hard to play him and I’d avoid any NO RB not named Sproles. I still think you go with Cam as well, as I said on the podcast, the matchup doesn’t scare me as much, I think my Panthers will be limited on the ground and Cam’s arm and legs will dictate the offense. Good luck today!

  47. Zandercage says:

    Big Ben or Rex Grossman?


  48. paulzone says:

    @JB Gilpin: thanks for the input! i’ll need some luck today…

  49. Gnick says:

    Also scared of KSmith, but my only other options are Jacobs, Tolbert and Ivory. Do I roll the dice with Smith? If I wait till 4, I risk leaving Tolbert as my only fallback plan if Smith doesn’t go…

  50. Zero says:

    In my superbowl.
    Starting Foster. Would u start Gore, Tate, D.Williams as ur #2?

    Also, cincy, seattle, niners, or cardinals D?


  51. JB Gilpin says:

    @Zandercage: Unless you have Alex Smith, I would say there’s no way you risk Big Ben, even if you can pickup Batch. So I’d go Sexy Rexy and hope he’s sexy.

  52. JB Gilpin says:

    @Gnick: I’d go with Jacobs, I think he gets a score today, and definitely like him over Smith.

  53. JB Gilpin says:

    @Zero: Ya know, I might actually go with Tate to go along with Foster. Houston is going to want to limit a reliance on Yates and we all know how bad my Panthers run D is. I’d go with Cincy on defense, I think they make some big plays against a terrible Rams offense.

  54. EK says:

    Grossman or Rivers?

  55. Cheeeeeze says:

    thank you! one more for defense… it’s a little sketchy. Jets @ Eagles, Texans @ panthers, arizona @ cleveland, or giants @ redskins????? thanks again.

  56. JB Gilpin says:

    @EK: I’d go Rivers, I think they’ll have to throw to have any offensive momentum.

  57. JB Gilpin says:

    @Cheeeeeze: No problem! Kinda like the Giants there, divisional game, Rex Grossman opposing QB, and Pierre-Paul playing like a beast…. I think they make some plays

  58. Greg says:

    Hey – looking for some advice. I have to chose from manningham or Antonio brown. I can also sit shonn Greene and play both manningham and brown. What do you think? Thanks for the great article.

  59. JB Gilpin says:

    @Greg: Thanks for reading man! Yea, I’d go with Manningham, who is still a bit rusty, has a red hot passing offense working for him. I’d still go with Greene and leave Brown on the bench. Good luck today!

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