Fantasy Football: It's crunch time in your league

DAN BILICKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:05 PM ET

TORONTO - Regardless of what type of league you are in, this is a pretty important week in fantasy football. It’s either the last week of your regular season or the first week of your playoffs, so now is the time to step up your game.

Examine matchups a little bit more closely, but don’t abandon your gut. Don’t “ride the players that got you here” if they have a terrible matchup. And certainly don’t forget to check and double check your players who may be game-time decisions. Starting a questionable call only to see him on the sidelines could make a huge difference on whether or not you’re in the proverbial money this year.

It might also be time to jettison some players that have terrible fantasy playoff matchups. There’s no point holding onto a guy that’s facing stout defences for the next few weeks when a decent alternative is on the waiver wire.

Also, remember the weather. This is December after all and a high number of teams aren’t going to be playing in domes of the balmy southern states. If you see snow in the forecast, don’t be afraid to slide some receivers and QBs down a few notches and certainly look into a new kicker.

- While I’m sure that Matt Cassel’s appendectomy can’t be blamed for his less-than-stellar performance last week against Denver, it could be blamed for having him miss this week’s game if he’s forced to sit. Prior to last week, Cassel had scored at least 16 fantasy points in each of the past four games. But facing San Diego, even if he was 100%, he’d be a hard sell to start. The Chargers are the No. 1-ranked defence after all.

- If Champ Bailey taught us anything with his shutout of the red-hot Dwayne Bowe last week, it’s that Larry Fitzgerald should be stapled to your bench this week. The Cardinals receiver has one TD in his past five games and has only four catches in each of his past two. Also, don’t forget that John Skelton is starting this week at QB and has only thrown a mere six passes in his NFL career.

- Has Green Bay found its answer to Ryan Grant’s injury at RB? It’s quite possible that James Starks could be the man for the Packers. In his first career game, he lead the Pack in carries with 18 — 14 more than Brandon Jackson — and had 73 yards against the Niners, who are no slouches. Green Bay has stashed this guy all season so there’s little reason to think this is a one-off deal.

- It turns out that losing their starting running back was the best thing that could happen to the Cowboys’ running game. Well, that and facing the Colts subpar defence. But what should be taken away from last Sunday’s performance is that the Felix Jones/Tashard Choice combo is a lot more productive with Marion Barber not around. Both players should at least be owned in your league and against an average defence like Philly’s could be rewarding starters.

- But all is not rosy in the land of the Dallas Cowboys — rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant broke his fibula during last week’s game and will miss the rest of the season. This not only gives backup wideouts Sam Hurd and Kevin Ogletree a chance to get some reps in this high-powered offence, but also Roy Williams, Miles Austin and Jason Witten, and to a lesser extent Martellus Bennett, more looks on passing downs.

- How unexpected was running back Marshawn Lynch’s surprise day? Well, he was averaging less than 10 carries per game and less than 3 yards per carry in the past five games. His three touchdowns were one more than he previously had all season and his 100-total yards were also a season high. So don’t be expecting another breakout from the former Buffalo Bill.

dan.bilicki@sunmedia.ca

STAT CORNER

Jamaal Charles has only eight carries all year inside his opponents’ 10-yard line.

MISFIRING MANNING

Before Thursday, Peyton Manning has thrown as many TDs to teammates as he has to opponents in his past two games.

VERSUS — WHICH ONE TO CHOOSE

Kyle Orton

QB, Denver Broncos

The evidence: Coming off his worst game of the season, with only 9 completions. Ranks seventh in QBs in fantasy points. Excluding last week, has thrown a TD in every game this season. Facing the Cardinals, the Broncos could be running a lot while holding a lead.

Jay Cutler

QB, Chicago Bears

The evidence: The Patriots have allowed the second-most passing yards in the league. In his past five games, Cutler has a 10-3

TD-to-INT ratio. Has completed 74% of his passes in past two games. 60% possibility of snow and cold weather forecasted for Chicago on Sunday.

THE VERDICT:

I wouldn’t bet against an interim coach boost for the Broncos — go with Orton.

START OR SIT — Our man Dan makes the tough calls — so you don’t have to

- Start Josh Freeman, QB, TB at WAS: After three rough fantasy weeks, gets to face a creampuff defence.

- Sit Matt Cassel, QB, KC at SD: Would you play a game of pro football days after having internal surgery?

- Sit Mike Goodson, RB, CAR vs. ATL: The Falcons are quite solid at shutting down opposing running backs.

- Start LaGarrette Blount, TB at WAS: The Redskins allow an astonishing 5 yards per carry, worst in the league.

- Start Chris Ivory, RB, NO vs. STL: Was a wrecking ball at the goal line last week and should get his touches in.

- Sit Jahvid Best, RB, DET vs. GB: Best is sporting a league-worst 3.0 YPC on 127 carries.

- Sit Brandon Marshall, WR, MIA at NYJ: Welcome to Revis Island, Mr. Marshall. The lockdown corner was hurt in first Jets-Dolphins first matchup.

- Sit Hines Ward, WR, PIT vs. CIN: Just a few weeks ago, had 3 catches for 10 yards against the Bengals.

- Start Anthony Armstrong, WR, WAS vs. TB: With Aqib Talib out for Tampa Bay, they’ll be more vulnerable to the pass.


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