This is it, pretend football players: the final push. Playoffs are beginning in leagues across the fake sport next week, making Sunday—and Monday—integral to many of our championship hopes. Whether you’re firmly planted in the playoffs, fighting for a spot or simply trying to play spoiler, this week will be filled with a lot of stress, but also a lot of fun. So put on your finest suit, grab a six-pack of your favorite beer, and make a boatload of fried food your body wishes so desperately you wouldn’t eat. Then sit in front of your computer and refresh the screen frantically every eight seconds, hoping upon hope one of your fake superstars did something worthwhile.

Same deal as usual here: these aren’t player you necessarily wanted to start this week, but due to injury, byes or general suckery, you have to. It’s your backup plan. Here’s a rundown of some of the top widely available fill-ins by position and which guys they’ll be better than this week.

Quarterbacks

Matt Moore vs. Oakland

Yahoo: 15 percent owned, ESPN: 5 percent owned

At this point, I really hope you haven’t been put in the position where you need to use any of these quarterbacks. I mean, if your team is fighting for a spot or is already in the playoffs, shouldn’t this position already be solidified? No? Ok, then let me present you Matt Moore. He’s uninspiring and boring, but he’s producing, so if you’re still in a position where you need a quarterback, he’s not a bad option.

Guys he’s better than this week: Joe Flacco, Ryan Fitzpatrick

Carson Palmer vs. Miami

Yahoo: 62 percent owned, ESPN: 59 percent owned

Like the stock market, Carson Palmer is trending down. His fantasy total has decreased in each of the past four weeks since he started his first game for the Raiders, and it doesn’t figure to get better that quickly against a Dolphins’ defense that has been surprisingly stingy recently. But Carson has red hair. So that must mean he has some strange, ginger voodoo power that will help him turn his play around. Take a chance if you need to.

Guys he’s better than this week: Josh Freeman, Mark Sanchez

Matt Hasselbeck vs. Buffalo

Yahoo: 53 percent owned, ESPN: 52 percent owned

Hasselbeck’s numbers have been down in recent contests. This is true. But Mark Sanchez—yes, that Mark Sanchez—threw four touchdowns against the Bills last week. When my fantasy quarterback is getting me four touchdowns, he could throw for like 10 yards. I don’t care. Touchdowns are the lifeblood of fantasy. It seems unlikely that Buffalo would have turned a defensive corner or something, so I like Matty-Hass to post a few scores this week.

Guys he’s better than this week: Andy Dalton, Kyle Orton

Running Backs

Toby Gerhart vs. Denver

Yahoo: 35 percent owned, ESPN: 27 percent owned

Peyton Hillis without the awful attitude and Madden cover appearance, Gerhart had a solid week in his first start in place of the injured Adrian Peterson, totaling 44 yards and a touchdown against a tough Atlanta rush defense. The Denver defense has been very good as of late, but the Vikings will likely give Gerhart plenty of touches in what could end up being another close game for the Broncos. Look for 60+ and a score from Toby this week.

Guys he’s better than this week: Stephen Jackson, Peyton Hillis

Donald Brown vs. New England

Yahoo: 19 percent owned, ESPN: 19 percent owned

He’s clearly the best back in Indianapolis right now, which isn’t that different from kindest ex-convict in a prison of fantasy football failure. But opportunity begets a distinct lack of talent or team success, so if you’re desperate, you can definitely role with the Donald. Just hope he gets his carries early, because there’s a good chance the Colts trail by 40 midway through the first quarter.

Guys he’s better than this week: Roy Helu, Brandon Jacobs

Maurice Morris vs. New Orleans

Yahoo: 44 percent owned, ESPN: 47 percent owned

There’s a good chance Kevin Smith won’t play this week. And if he does play, there’s a good chance he’ll break his wrist on his first carry, because that’s just the kind of fantasy tease he is. So if he does end up sitting out, Mo Mo is an excellent play. Detroit will likely have to throw the ball around often to keep up with the Saints, so Morris should see plenty of catches and yards out of the backfield.

Guys he’s better than this week: Mark Ingram, James Starks

Wide Receivers

Damian Williams vs. Buffalo

Yahoo: 23 percent owned, ESPN: 9 percent owned

The Bills’ defense has allowed seven receiving touchdowns in the past four weeks. Damian Williams has four touchdowns by himself in that span. This is a match made in Heaven—or North Dakota, or Canada, or some other imaginary place. Williams has seven red zone targets and five touchdowns on the season, and he should get a few more looks from Matty-Hass this weekend against a defense that has looked a hot mess near the end zone recently.

Guys he’s better than this week: Julio Jones, Mario Manningham

David Nelson vs. Tennessee

Yahoo: 44 percent owned, ESPN: 28 percent owned

David Nelson has gotten no more than five catches and 50 yards in the past four weeks. But he’s got three touchdowns in that span. Good enough by me. Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t thrown him as many balls since he moved back into the slot, but he’s clearly getting red zone looks. And with Stevie Johnson attracting the attention of the opposing defenses, the media and Roger Goodell’s empty wallet, Nelson might be able to sneak in for another score this week.

Guys he’s better than this week: Johnny Knox, Lance Moore

Jabar Gaffney vs. New York

Yahoo: 50 percent owned, ESPN: 42 percent owned

In real football, there’s about as much to like about Rex Grossman as there is about doing your taxes. But he does love to throw the ball around, so he does benefit his receivers on the pretend playing field. Gaffney has seen a lot of that love in recent games, and should continue even with Santana Moss returning to the lineup. Moss will likely draw the Island of Revis this week, leaving Jab-Jab to run rampant opposite him.

Guys he’s better than this week: Santana Moss, Darrius Heyward-Bey

Tight Ends

Marcedes Lewis vs. San Diego

Yahoo: 17 percent owned, ESPN: 53 percent owned

Though he plays in black hole of a fantasy offense, Marcedes Lewis is finally starting to produce after a season-long slumber. With 11 catches for 111 yards in the past two weeks (number alliteration!), Lewis is finally getting the looks he got in his breakout season last year. Here’s hoping that the numbers continue to increase, especially in the scoring department.

Guys he’s better than this week: Owen Daniels, Fred Davis

Scott Chandler vs. Tennessee

Yahoo: 36 percent owned, ESPN: 28 percent owned

If all Tim Tebow does is win, then all Scott Chandler does is score. Chandler scores on nearly 20 percent of catches, catching six touchdowns on just 32 receptions. That made him a bit of a wildcard to start, but he’s made his presence much more known to the Bills’ offense recently, catching 11 passes for 121 passes in the past two weeks. The looks are there, so maybe the touchdowns start flowing again this week.

Guys he’s better than this week: Heath Miller, Jermaine Gresham

Defense/Special Teams

Denver vs. Minnesota

Yahoo: 31 percent owned, ESPN: 8 percent owned

One word: VonDoom. Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil have been absolute monsters this season for the Broncos, racking up sacks at an impressive rate. The sacks alone make the Denver defense decent in fantasy, but add in the fact it has allowed 13 points or less in each of its past three games and the Broncos’ defense looks like a stud play. This week the Broncos gets a Vikings team missing its only true offensive threat. Even if Miller doesn’t play, Denver should feast this weekend.

Defenses they’re better than this week: Pittsburgh, Houston

San Diego vs. Jacksonville

Yahoo: 38 percent owned, ESPN: 55 percent owned

If the Jaguars didn’t have Maurice Jones-Drew on their team, there’s a legitimate chance they’d have zero touchdowns on the season. I’m going to pause for a moment while you come to the realization of how possible that actually is. Yeah, it’s bad in northern Florida right now. San Diego’s defense isn’t anything to write home about, especially since it’s much easier to send emails nowadays, but they should be an excellent play against a tepid Jacksonville offense this week.

Defenses they’re better than this week: Green Bay, Detroit

Follow me on Twitter: @JoshVitale.

  1. Jay says:
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    Just dropped DWilliams for Gerhart. You like Williams ROS more than Burleson? And Williams over Jones this week really?

  2. Timetoriseup says:
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    TE Help: Brandon Pettigrew or Jermaine Gresham?

  3. Ryan s says:
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    Flex option… Cj. Spiller or johnny knox?
    T.E j. Finley or fred davis?

  4. Josh Vitale says:
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    @Jay: I like Williams more than Burleson. He’s way too inconsistent. And I love Julio Jones, but he does nothing, week in and week out. Zero catches last week and hasn’t practiced this week. Don’t trust him as far as I can throw him, which admittedly isn’t that far.

    @Timetoriseup: Pettigrew. Should be a lot of offense against the Saints, so he’ll get his.

  5. Chris says:
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    “But Carson has red hair. So that must mean he has some strange, ginger voodoo power that will help him turn his play around. Take a chance if you need to.”

    I like the way you think!

    It’s just too bad that I already played Vince Young instead. *sad trombone*

  6. SDPete says:
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    I picked up Maurice Morris off waivers in case Smith sits (my opponent owns Smith). If I start Morris, he would replace Jerome Simpson at flex. The issue is the Lions game is late, so we probably won’t even know if MoMo is starting until after the Bengals game. Do you think I should stick with Simpson or risk starting Morris? I have no other late/Monday alternatives if Morris doesn’t start. Thanks!

  7. Chris says:
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    @SDPete:

    If MoMo isn’t the confirmed starter before Sunday (and it doesn’t look like he will be, since Smith will probably play), I wouldn’t risk waiting on him….

    Simpson isn’t great, but at least he’s gonna get solid PT and a decent chance of a TD.

  8. Josh Vitale says:
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    @Chris: Thanks Chris. And I know your pain. Vince Young ripped out my heart and stomped on it yesterday as well. VY and I are no longer on speaking terms. We never were in the first place, but still.

    @SDPete: If it looks like Smith is playing Sunday afternoon, then Simpson is the better play. I think Mo Mo would be the better player between the two, but he won’t get the opportunity if Smith is playing.

    @Chris: I DOLE OUT THE FANTASY ADVICE HERE. Just kidding. I just felt like writing in all-caps. Carry on.

  9. Commish Cauda (formerly Mike) says:
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    12-team, 0.5 ppr

    Benson or DeAngelo Williams this week?

  10. Commish Cauda (formerly Mike) says:
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    12-team, 0.5 ppr

    Little, Knox or Vincent Jackson this week?

  11. Robert says:
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    Hey Josh, looking to take 3 of these 5 guys…

    SJax, McGahee, Reggie Bush, Kevin Smith (if he goes), Antonio Gates.

    Notes: I really dislike SJax’s matchup (though he’s one of the few backs I can see breaking through the SF defense). I really like Smith’s matchup, and normally I would go for broke with him, but I’m up against the #1 team in need of a win to make the playoffs. Thoughts?

  12. Josh Vitale says:
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    @Robert: I think you have to go SJax and McGahee, for sure. And Smith makes me nervous because of his injury, so I might roll with Bush because he’s been producing recently.

  13. Frank Rizzo says:
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    I need help in picking a rb, wr and a flex for week 13……

    My options are Roy Helu, Ryan Matthews, McGahee,
    Percy Harvin, Andre Johnson, Plaxico?

    Also if you had to play a QB out of Fitzpatrick, Rivers, and Palmer?

    Thanks for all your help.

  14. Frank Rizzo says:
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    Oh yeah and I forgot to mention I am in a PPR league.

  15. Josh Vitale says:
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    @Frank Rizzo: P-Riv. Gotta roll with your studs, even if they suck. And I like Ryan Mathews, McGahee and Plaxico. Percy will draw Champ Bailey, so that’s no good, and AJ can;t be trusted with T.J. Yates. So McGahee, Mathews and Plax, plus P-Riv.

  16. Ryan s says:
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    Sure hope he went with percy harvin

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