Hello again Razzball readers! I’ve really been enjoying contributing to Razzball so far and I look forward to answering more questions and helping more fantasy teams. Asher Molk and I will be working as a team and editing each other’s columns so feel free to ask either of us any questions; we’d love to help! And check us out on Twitter at @BraudeM and @AsherMolk.
Before you read my matchups column I would like to give you some advice:
Be sure all your players are active and ready to roll on game day. If your player is a game-time decision, check 30 minutes before game day – if he’s active, check what kind of role he is going to have in the game and make sure he’s not just an emergency option.
This article is written every Wednesday so it doesn’t always have perfect accuracy for who’s playing. I just wanted to go over those because getting a goose egg out of someone is detrimental to your team.
Before I speak about the this week’s games I would like to leave a personal note for my fans and supporters. I am competing in the National Fantasy Football Championship Primetime league as part of a group including my father and two friends. We call ourselves the Braintrust. Last week, we not only clinched our league but also finished first in points during the regular season, out of all 360 teams. Now only 60 teams remain but if we can finish first again – we’ll have a grand prize of $100,00 coming our way. After one week, we are 11th out of 60. On that note, good luck to everyone on their quest for a championship.
Dallas at Tampa Bay
Since Week 9, Tony Romo has a 15:2 TD-to-INT ratio. He’s been fantastic down the stretch and this week against the Bucs should be no different – he’s a solid QB1. DeMarco Murray went down with a broken leg against the Giants and Felix Jones once again took over as the lead back. Jones looked fresh, totaling 137 yards on 22 touches. The Bucs provide Jones with an ample opportunity to explode – he’s a low-end RB1 in this juicy matchup. Dez Bryant will draw the toughest matchup this week against Tampa’s top corner Aqib Talib. He’ll still be a solid WR2 but I prefer Miles Austin because he’ll draw easier coverage. Laurent Robinson continues to produce weekly and opposing teams will continue to pay more attention to Austin and Bryant, leaving Robinson with an exploitable matchup. For those reasons he will continue to produce as a low-end WR2. With the emerging wide receivers, Jason Witten has cooled off the last three weeks. That said, you can’t sit him unless you have Gronkowski, Graham, Gates or Finley.
Josh Freeman returned last week and continued his lackluster season, completing 16 of 30 passes for 181 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s a low-end QB2 in this one. LeGarrette Blount had a solid performance but likely won’t have as many attempts this week because of the Cowboys high-scoring offense. When teams have a big lead on the Bucs, Blount is fazed out of the game and doesn’t receive the touches he needs to be productive. This week could be troublesome because of how much better the Cowboys are than the Bucs – he’s just a low-end RB2/flex play. Mike Williams returned to mediocrity last week, catching just three passes for 35 yards. He’s been unreliable and inconsistent but can serve as a solid WR3 for in a game that the Bucs will play catch-up. The only other Tampa Bay pass-catcher I would consider is Kellen Winslow – but he’s just a low-end TE1 with limited upside.
Carolina at Houston
Don’t sit Cam Newton unless you have Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, or Tony Romo. It’s that simple, this guy is the real deal and will be a star in this league for years to come. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart will struggle to find rushing room against the Texans – they’re ranked four against the run, allowing just 91.5 rushing yards per game. Also, these two running backs rarely score because Newton serves as the team’s goal-line back. Stewart is the preferred option because of his involvement in the passing game; he’ll serve as a low-end RB2, while DeAngelo is just a risky flex option. Steve Smith trails only Wes Welker with 1,217 receiving yards and has been elite this year. He’ll draw arguably his most difficult matchup of the year this week against shutdown corner Jonathan Joseph – he’s not sit-able but he’s more of a high-end WR2 this week than his usual elite self. The rest of the Carolina pass-catchers aren’t worth consideration this week especially because of Houston’s elite defense.
T.J. Yates led the Texans to a come-from-behind win last week, passing for 300 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He’s impressed many while showing he undoubtedly capable of leading this team. For fantasy purposes, he won’t be passing 44 times most weeks on this run-dominated offense – he’s just a low-end QB2. Arian Foster had one of his worst performances of the season last week but should recover this week due to a perfect matchup. The Panthers rank 24th against the run but have showed their extremely vulnerable. Foster is an elite option in any league. Even Ben Tate will be a solid option in a game that the Texans will run Carolina into the ground. With Andre Johnson out, I have difficulty recommending the Texans WRs to anyone, especially in the fantasy playoffs. Owen Daniels seems to be Yates’ favorite target, catching seven balls for 100 yards last week – keep him rolling as a solid TE1.
Tennessee at Indianapolis
Matt Hasselbeck will draw the start this week, which is a shame because of Jake Locker’s potential. For this week, Hasselbeck has a great matchup but the Titans will pace the Colts with heavy doses of Chris Johnson – leaving Hasselbeck as just a mid to low-end QB2. Chris Johnson is an elite RB1 this week; he’s shown that he’s capable of destroying bad defenses. The Colts are prone to getting beat by big receivers – making Damian Williams an intriguing option. Nate Washington had a solid week but the Colts are best at stopping small fast receivers. Also keep in mind that Washington exploded with Locker in the game, Williams has been targeted more recently from Hasselbeck. Either way, both are low-end WR3/flex plays.
After playing the worst passing defense and one of the best passing defenses, you can see how much matchups matter from Dan Orlovsky’s schedule. Against New England, Orlovsky completed 30 of 37 passes for 353 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Against Baltimore, Orlovsky completed just 17 of 37 passes for 136 yards, one touchdown and an interception. In both games he attempted the same number of passes, but was only play-able in one. The Titans are a respectable so I would advise against starting Orlovsky this week. You’ll also want to bench Donald Brown and Joseph Addai – they split carries on arguably the league’s worst offense. The only start-able Colts players are WRs Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne. Garcon is fine to start as a WR3; Wayne is a lower-end WR3 play.
Green Bay at Kansas City
Aaron Rodgers had his worst game of the season last week, not passing for over 300 yards or throwing for three touchdowns for the first time this year. That said, there’s no quarterback I’d rather start in fantasy. Ryan Grant broke out for the first time all season last week – showing great burst on his long touchdown run. He’ll be a RB2 if Starks sits. James Starks expects to return this week but can’t be an option after sitting out last week – I don’t think he’ll see enough touches to make an impact and there’s always the chance of re-injury. Greg Jennings will miss this week – making Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley more valuable. Nelson moves into WR1 territory and Finley should be started unless you have Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham or Gates. I’m expecting James Jones to be more involved in the offense as well – Donald Driver is too old to pick up all of Jennings’ snaps – Jones is an intriguing flex play this week. Keep an eye on Randall Cobb too.
Kyle Orton will likely start for the Chiefs this week – don’t rely on Orton as more than a low-end QB2 with the firing of Todd Haley. Don’t trust Jackie Battle, Dexter McCluster or Thomas Jones. The Packers are going to dismantle the Chiefs this week and it’s not going to be pretty. The only offensive player I would take a flier on is Dwayne Bowe – the switch to Orton could definitely help him, as Orton was Brandon Lloyd’s quarterback last year when he led the league in fantasy points. Bowe is a high-end WR3. Don’t trust anyone else on this team.
Seattle at Chicago
Taravis Jackson played well for the Seahawks against the Rams last week but didn’t supply sufficient fantasy numbers – and he hasn’t all season. This week against the Bears is definitely not a time to start Jackson – he shouldn’t even be relied on as a QB2. Marshawn Lynch has been fantastic recently and although he has a tough matchup against a stingy Bears defense – he must be in fantasy lineups. He’s averaging 25.6 carries over the last five weeks – guys who get that many touches don’t belong on your bench. Doug Baldwin had a solid showing last week and clearly looked like Seattle’s top WR. He’s been solid and therefore can be relied on as a WR3 but I would advise you to stay away because he lacks upside. Jackson and the Seahawks offense will limit his numbers, especially against the Bears. Continue to watch Golden Tate because Pete Carroll continues to talk him up.
Without Jay Cutler and Matt Forte the Bears have been horrible on offense. Obviously Mike Martz doesn’t like what he’s seeing from Caleb Hanie because his pass attempts have decreased the last three weeks: from 36 to 24, and then 19 last week – in overtime. The Bears have realized that their strength currently is running the ball. Although Marion Barber made two crucial mistakes against the Broncos, he played very well – rushing for 100+ yards and a touchdown. Seattle has a solid run defense but Barber will be relied on heavily by the Bears and is a RB2 play this week. With the decreasing number of pass attempts, none of the Bears receivers can be trusted. If you must go with one, make it Johnny Knox.
Miami at Buffalo
Matt Moore has been solid for the Dolphins in relief of Chad Henne but hasn’t been great in terms of fantasy numbers. There are better QB2 options out there – especially because he’s expected to be without his best lineman, Jake Long. Moore has a juicy matchup so I’ll call him a mid-QB2. Reggie Bush continues to thrive as Miami’s lead back; he has had back-to-back 100-yard performances and will look to make it three against the Bills. Bush is a solid RB2. Averaging 72.1 yards per game, you’ll want Brandon Marshall has and will continue to produce as a solid WR2. He has game changing ability and there’s no Bills corner capable of shutting him down. Anthony Fasano has become one of the more consistent borderline options at TE. He’s been limited in practice but if healthy, he’s fine to start at TE if you don’t have anyone else.
Miami has been a surprisingly strong defense this year, so this isn’t an attractive matchup for Ryan Fitzpatrick. He struggled mightily last week against the Chargers and is a low-end QB2 in this matchup. Since taking over for the injured Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller has averaged 76 total yards in his three starts, with just one touchdown. Their offense simply isn’t great and he isn’t a special talent either. That said, Spiller can always break a long one and will see plenty of touches – he’s a low-end RB2. Stevie Johnson has benefited from Jackson’s injury and has averaged 5.6 catches for 81 yards with two touchdowns in the last three. Johnson is a solid WR2 this week. I wouldn’t feel comfortable starting David Nelson unless you’re in an extremely deep league… Scott Chandler has already been ruled out.
New Orleans at Minnesota
Drew Brees’ matchup this week almost isn’t even fair. He’s an elite quarterback that is red hot with an 11:0 TD-to-INT ratio in his last four games and Minnesota’s secondary has been absolutely miserable. Expect Brees to destroy them and lead all Week 15 quarterbacks in points. Mark Ingram has been ruled out for this week. Darren Sproles continues to be a PPR beast with seven catches last week and is a solid RB2. Pierre Thomas will continue to be a risky flex play but did see the goal-line carries last week – giving him a chance at some short scores. Chris Ivory is a good bet to rush for around 50 yards but can’t provide significant value without scoring – avoid him. Marques Colston is a high-end WR2 in this juicy matchup. Lance Moore and Robert Meachem have been too inconsistent to trust this week – they’re not seeing enough targets weekly with the other playmakers on this team. Jimmy Graham is the league’s second best tight end – start him if you have him.
Christian Ponder is practicing fully and will start this week – I like him as a QB2 because the Saints will likely have a large lead and he’ll be forced to pass early and often – not to mention only the Packers and Patriots are giving up more passing yards per game. Adrian Peterson will start this week and as always is an elite option. Don’t over think this one – AP is just too good. As I’ve been saying all year for this column, Percy Harvin is extremely talented… it’s about time the Vikings have noticed. He’s scored in his last four games and topped 100 yards from scrimmage in his last three. Harvin is a borderline WR1 play this week – don’t leave him on your bench. None of the other Vikings pass-catchers can be trusted in standard fantasy leagues.
Cincinnati at St. Louis
After facing one of the best defenses in the league last week, Andy Dalton will face the weak St. Louis defense this week. He’s still an attractive QB2 option if you need one. Cedric Benson will benefit from this matchup as much as anyone – as the Rams rank worst in football against the run, giving up an average of 156.8 rushing yards per game. Benson is a high-end RB2 this week. A.J. Green will be one of the best receivers in football for years to come – he has elite ball skills and is extraordinary when going up for jump balls. His owners should be excited for this matchup, as he is a borderline WR1 against arguably the weakest defense the rookie has faced all year. Jerome Simpson is strictly a desperation play because of his inconsistency. Jermaine Gresham is just a low-end TE2.
You’d be better off without any players on the St. Louis offense. Sam Bradford is sitting out so Kellen Clemens will draw the start – he’s off the fantasy radar. Steven Jackson was great last week but will struggle to find running room or goal-line carries with the Bengals defense keying in on him. Clemens will be forced to throw – not a good thing for the Rams – leaving Jackson as a sub-par RB2. The only pass-catcher worth talking about is Brandon Lloyd, but without Bradford he’s just a mediocre WR3.
Washington at New York Giants
This Redskins team was given a serious setback when Trent Williams and Fred Davis going down with suspensions, and thus only feature four relevant fantasy players. Rex Grossman may have to run away from Jason Pierre-Paul all game, but gets a Giants team with the 4th worst pass defense in the NFL. For those of you who lost Jay Cutler or Matt Schaub or for 2QB leaguers using a committee approach, Grossman is an intriguing option. Its tough to count on a guy in the fantasy playoffs who can implode at any moment, but sometimes the best choice is the best choice…Roy Helu has gotten a whopping 86 touches over the last three games, going for over 100 rushing yards in each one. The Giants allow the 10th most fantasy points per game to opposing RBs, and Helu is looking like a potential superstar. Start him for sure. Santana Moss caught his long touchdown on a gadget play, but will be targeted heavily due to the absence of Fred Davis. Someone is going to have to get all of Grossman’s yards, and Moss is the best bet for that. He is a pretty safe, if high-end WR3. Jabar Gaffney doesn’t possess any after the catch ability, but has shown a habit of producing with Grossman– over the last three games he’s played, he’s averaged 6 catches for 93 yards with two scores. I wouldn’t want to trust him, but you could do worse as a plug-in WR3. Moss is the superior option though…
Eli Manning deserves a lot of credit. He has taken his game to a whole different level this year, willing his team into playoff contention without the benefit of a running game or defense while mounting several 4th quarter comebacks. He is matchup-proof at this point, and has passed for 400+ yards in two of his past three games. He’s a QB1, and I’m sure he’s on quite a few playoff teams. Ahmad Bradshaw will likely retake the lead back role on Sunday, but Brandon Jacobs will still siphon away 12 or so carries and possibly a goal line score. Bradshaw is the preferred standard and PPR league option against this middling Redskins rush defense, while Jacobs is the favorite for a touchdown. Neither of them are RB2s, though. Hakeem Nicks has been absolutely on fire recently, showing why he was a top 30 draft pick in many fantasy leagues. Keep him and the unstoppably consistent Victor Cruz going as WR1s. Mario Manningham was an early season/fantasy draft darling, but is now almost an afterthought. He’s a middle of the pack WR3, but with some sneaky upside. Jake Ballard has been a good chain mover and safety valve for Manning, but just doesn’t possess any athleticism. Against a Redskins defense giving up the 3rd most fantasy points per game to TEs this year though, he’s on the border of TE1 status.
Detroit at Oakland
Matthew Stafford has been playing really well ever since his finger has been healed, and could really light up the Raiders’ secondary who are giving up the 5th most fantasy points per game to opposing QBs. He is easily a QB1. Ever thought it was possible that someone was so good that their production suffered? Ladies and gentlemen, Calvin Johnson. Defenses are doing nearly unheard of things to stop him, even putting two guys at the line of scrimmage in front of him at the goal line. The Raiders secondary is pathetic though, and you are kidding yourself if you are considering sitting him. Nate Burleson and Titus Young aren’t quality options, but will see one on one coverage. Nate Burleson is the lower upside, safer fantasy play while Young is the more explosive and risky desperation option. Brandon Pettigrew surpassed 39 yards for the first time since Week 4 last week, but is a worthwhile desperation play in this matchup. Kevin Smith is due back from injury, and is an incredibly interesting fantasy option. He has a dream matchup against a Raiders defense giving up the 4th most fantasy points per game to opposing RBs, and has proven he is the feature back when healthy. He carries some risk because of his propensity to aggravate his ankle injury, but oozes with upside. Rendering Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams to fantasy irrelevance, Smith is an RB2 with upside who gets a bump in PPR leagues.
Carson Palmer desperately needs his weapons back, and at least gets Denarius Moore to return for this contest. Sadly, that’s where the good news ends. The Lions get Ndamukong Suh back to collapse the pocket, and rank 9th against the pass. He is a high-end QB2, but carries plenty of risk- see last week against the Packers for evidence. Speaking of Moore, he carries WR3 status. He is a boom-or-bust kind of player, but is by far the best playmaker in the passing game and should see plenty of targets. Darrius Heyward-Bey has returned to his poor performing ways, but is a desperation option due to the opportunity. Michael Bush, has recently proven that he clearly isn’t the playmaker of a Darren McFadden, but is a three down back who will get all the touches against the 27th ranked rush defense. He isn’t an RB1 anymore, but certainly warrants RB2 consideration.
Cleveland at Arizona
Is it possible for the Browns offense to get uglier? Seneca Wallace will have the answer to that dubious question come Sunday, with Colt McCoy nursing a concussion. The Cardinals defense has been playing lights out recently, which makes all of the Browns offense bad flex plays at best. If you’ve made it to the fantasy playoffs, you don’t need to count on Wallace as your starter. Greg Little has topped 59 yards twice on the year and 0 times since Week 10. Mohammed Massaquoi has 7 catches since Week 6. Josh Cribbs has some scores, but hasn’t topped 56 yards in a game yet. Evan Moore will fill in for the injured Ben Watson, and is a possible deep league desperation play. Peyton Hillis isn’t close to 100%, and Montario Hardesty is likely going to be active, taking away from Hillis’s value. Hardesty is off the radar, while Hillis is a poor fantasy bet against a suddenly stout Cardinals front seven. As you can see, no one on this offense belongs in a championship contender’s offense.
John Skelton has been a God-send for Larry Fitzgerald. While Skelton isn’t an option against a good Browns pass defense, he knows Fitzgerald needs the ball and will target even though he’s covered. Joe Haden is good, but Fitz is on another level. He’s a WR1. Early Doucet and Andre Roberts would be worth fantasy consideration if they were one player, but they take away each other’s value. Roberts flashed two weeks ago, but needs to be on benches. Doucet isn’t a great bet either, but I’d prefer him to Roberts– just keep expectations low. The Cardinals will likely feature Beanie Wells against a pathetic Browns rushing offense. I’d venture to call him an RB1 this week- he’s shown he can tear bad rush defenses to pieces (see his 228 yard effort vs. the Rams), and only the Rams have a worse rush defense than the Browns. He needs to be in lineups.
New England at Denver
Tom Brady has thrown for at least two scores in every game but one this year, and faces a Broncos defense giving up the 7th most fantasy points per game to QBs. You don’t need me to tell you to start him. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez face a Broncos defense giving up the 4th least fantasy points per game to TEs, but the Broncos defense will likely gear up to stop Gronk. Odds are they prove unsuccessful while giving Aaron Hernandez room to roam. They are both TE1s, and I’m going to bet Hernandez outproduces Gronk for once, who may see some of Champ Bailey. Deion Branch is questionable and the 4th option in the passing game. I hope you can do better. Wes Welker is likely going to see double digit targets- get your WR1 in lineups. In short, this offense is full of studs that have carried you to the playoffs. You’re going to continue to start them.
The most talked about and polarizing figure in sports is going to face the worst secondary in football that is starting wide receivers at nickelback. Tim Tebow is a borderline top-10 option this week, as he gets to answer a major question about his progress in the passing game. He will be throwing to Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, two talented receivers who have benefitted from Tebow’s rise to starter. Both are likely to be open all day, and are borderline WR2s with monster upside. I’d start them over guys like Denarius Moore and Desean Jackson for sure. The Patriots give up the most fantasy points per game to QBs and WRs. Willis McGahee will be the feature back against a middling Patriots defense. He had a bump in the road last week, but could be in for a pretty big day and a shot at at least one goal line score.
New York Jets at Philadelphia
Shonn Greene has really been turning it around recently, and the matchup doesn’t get much better than this. He has been punishing defenders and scoring way more than usual, and should be in lineups against a weak Eagles team that has likely packed it in. It doesn’t hurt they give up the 9th most fantasy points to RBs. He’s a rock solid RB2…Nothing has changed for Mark Sanchez. He still hasn’t made the leap to quality QB, and that goes for fantasy as well. He’s a QB2 on a run first team. Santonio Holmes has gone to waste all year, and many owners are beyond frustrated. He hasn’t cleared 100 yards on the season, and is a WR3 in every sense of the word. The Eagles’ strength is pass defense, and will likely aim to stop him. Plaxico Burress showed why he is a risky play last week. He’s a high risk WR3 in what should be a low-volume passing attack from the Jets. Dustin Keller isn’t a terrible desperation start at TE- the Eagles don’t defend TEs well at all.
Michael Vick is no longer a must start. The matchup is slightly prohibitive, as the Jets also struggle against the ground game, and the Eagles will likely lean on LeSean McCoy. He looked really bad last week against an inferior pass defense compared to the Jets, and you may be better suited starting someone like Tim Tebow in his place. That said, I’d still put him ahead of people like Carson Palmer. McCoy always needs to be in lineups- he had a rough going against one of the hottest run defenses you’ll ever see in Miami last week, but the Jets aren’t nearly as good. Jeremy Maclin is coming off an injury, and still isn’t at 100%. He is more of a risky WR2/3 than a high end WR2, especially with his QB struggling. DeSean Jackson will likely see most of Darrelle Revis, meaning he should unequivocally be on benches. Don’t bother with this drama queen. Brent Celek is back to TE2 territory and will likely be called to help block more often than not. Move along.
Baltimore at San Diego
Ray Rice is going to make a lot of people a lot of money in the next two weeks. Second in line of the Holy Grail of Playoff Schedules for him are the Chargers, who have suffered a lot of injuries to their front seven and rank 23rd against the run- a ranking that doesn’t do their struggles justice. The Ravens and Cam Cameron have showed in the past few games that they are going to ride Rice relentlessly, and that isn’t going to stop here. He’s at worst a top 3 RB this week. The man is unstoppable… The matchup for Joe Flacco isn’t favorable, but even if it were he’s fallen into the Alex Smith game manager category- which means a low upside QB2. He’s averaging only 26 pass attempts per game over the past four contests. Anquan Boldin is really showing his age, and the matchup is tough. He cannot separate, so he needs to face up against smaller corners to use his body. That isn’t the case this week, and is a mere WR3 due to his age and the change in offensive scheme. Torrey Smith is probably the only player in the passing game I’d use. At least he has some upside, and gets open deep once or twice per game. He’s a risky, high upside WR3. Beware though. Ed Dickson has fallen back to Earth. Hopefully you can do better, he is far from TE1 territory. Dennis Pitta, Ricky Williams and Lee Evans belong on benches and waiver wires.
I’m being cautious about the recent reemergence of Philip Rivers- for the past two games. He was facing two bad defenses who couldn’t rush the passer, and the Ravens are the antithesis of those two things, plus his offensive line is still decimated. That said, all his receivers are healthy, and he has been throwing the ball with confidence. He’s still on the QB1 radar. Vincent Jackson played better than his stats showed last week, and hopefully he’s on his “every other week I explode” schedule. As usual, he can put up some stinkers, but do you really want him on your bench in the playoffs if he goes for 6-135-1? Malcolm Floyd is a poor man’s VJax- he is a large deep threat who puts up boom-or-bust kind of outings, but is less talented and even more injury prone. He’s a WR3 who I’d be wary of counting on during the most important time of the year. I’d rather use him them than Vincent Brown, who is a WR4/5 with Floyd back. Ryan Mathews has been knocking on the door of RB1 status, but will likely fall short of that billing this week facing a Ravens defense giving up the 2nd least fantasy points per game to RBs. He’s talented enough to make up for it, but with Mike Tolbert (please do not use him as anything more than a deep league flex option) vulturing up goal line scores Mathews may be in for a tough day. Antonio Gates is back, and looks 100% healthy somehow. He is separating and dragging defenders down with him, and is still the number one red zone target. The Ravens shut down opposing TEs, but he needs to be in your lineup if you don’t have Gronkowski or Graham.
Pittsburgh at San Francisco
Needless to say, the status of Ben Roethlisberger has a lot of impact in fantasy as well as real life. If he goes, he’ll be a dicey and low-end QB1- the stats may be there due to the impossible running matchup, but who knows how mobile and susceptible to aggravation of his high ankle sprain he will be. Mike Wallace and Antonio Browns’ fantasy outlooks greatly depend on their starting QB. If Charlie Batch were to get the call, Wallace and Brown would both be risky plays- Batch is that bad at this stage in his career. If Big Ben plays, they are both top 15 options though. Rashard Mendenhall has an impossible matchup against a team that ranks first in rush defense and hasn’t allowed a score all year. Not at all involved in the passing game this year, he isn’t on the RB2 radar in this one. He’s a flex play who is unlikely to get you more than 6 fantasy points. Heath Miller is a strict TE2 against a team giving up the 5th least fantasy points per game to TEs. Good luck if you are counting on Jerricho Cotchery, Mewelde Moore, or Isaac Redman to win your championships…
The 49ers showed last week why they may not be one of the elite teams in the NFL- the defense is for real, but the offense just cannot move the ball through the air effectively. Alex Smith is a poor option this week against a Steelers defense really beginning to click- even with James Harrison sitting out, Smith will resume ultra-conservative game manager mode. He is a low upside QB2 in a tough matchup. I’m not buying that Frank Gore is suddenly all healthy. The 49ers will lean on him, but Gore will constantly face 8+ men in the box as the Steelers dare them to throw. Calling him a good RB2 is a stretch- if you have other viable options I’d bench him- this makes Kendall Hunter hands off as well. Michael Crabtree has quietly been a very solid fantasy contributor over the past two months. He’s probably the best fantasy play on this team. Although he may see a lot of Ike Taylor, he’s a high end WR3 with WR2 potential. Vernon Davis may spend a large portion of the game blocking, but with the sudden lack of depth at the position he may be your best option. Trot him out there if you must, but keep in mind the Steelers only give up the 21st most fantasy points per game to TEs.