This week is all about statement games. Can the Ravens break their pattern of losing to bad teams after big losses? Can the Bears stay on path to the playoffs? Can the Texans win against a solid opponent without Schaub? Find out in Week 13's Sit or Start what players will stand tall for their team, and which will crumble under the pressure.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Seattle Seahawks (THURS, 8:20 ET)
START: RB Marshawn Lynch, TE Brent Celek
SIT: QB Vince Young, WR Doug Baldwin, PHI Defense
The people over on the NFL Network sure know how to pick ‘em. Last week, it was the defense struggle of a game between the Niners and Ravens. This time, we have the out-of-contention Eagles versus one team in the worst division in the NFL, the Seahawks. Either way, the game has to be played and we have to give you some insight on whom to sit and start. Now that we’re finished venting, Marshawn Lynch is a must-start against this middle-of-the-pack Philadelphia rush defense. Even though the season numbers don’t tell the entire story, Lynch has been a straight-up beast recently. With a touchdown in each of his last seven games played and 100 total yards in three of his last four, how could you not feel comfortable putting Seattle’s starting running back in your starting lineup?
As for the Eagles’ offense, Vince Young has looked okay. Yes, we realize he threw for 400 yards last week against the Patriots, but most of that was in garbage time when New England wasn’t really playing hard and all Philly could do was pass the ball. In a more competitive match against the Giants, VY had 258 passing yards with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. That may look like the norm for Young. Not a good spot-start option here.
Tennessee Titans @ Buffalo Bills (SUN, 1:00 ET)
START: RB Chris Johnson, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Stevie Johnson,
SIT: TEN Defense
Sometimes, it seems like it’s a better gamble playing Russian Roulette than deciding what Chris Johnson will show up on a week-to-week basis. But hell, we’re going to say start CJ this Sunday against the Bills who give up, on average, 124 rushing yards per game. It’s not a secret but if Ryan Fitzpatrick shows up, then Stevie Johnson will follow suit. Stevie is Fitzpatrick’s number one target, so you should expect to see good numbers when the Bills quarterback is on the top of his game. Buffalo will be playing at home after an encouraging loss that could’ve gone the other way if it weren’t for that pivotal drop by Johnson, so start Fitz with confidence.
Kansas City Chiefs @ Chicago Bears (1:00 ET)
START: WR Johnny Knox
SIT: QB Caleb Hanie, QB Tyler Palko, Any Chiefs RB
Are we starting to see the makings of a budding bromance between Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie and wide receiver Johnny Knox? In his first full game of the 2011 season, Hanie primarily looked in Forte’s direction and stared long and hard (II) at Knox to the tune of a team-high 10 targets. You should expect to see more of the same as Hanie looks for his most reliable receiver while he continues to get more comfortable working under center in Chicago.
Houston Texans @ Atlanta Falcons (1:00 ET)
START: HOU Defense, RB Arian Foster
SIT: QB Matt Ryan, WR Julio Jones, RB Ben Tate
We said it last week and we’ll say it again, the Falcons have yet to give up 100 rushing yards in a game to a starting running back. But fear not Arian Foster owners, Houston’s dire QB situation will give Foster enough of an opportunity to make up for it on the receiving end. Check downs FTW!
When mulling over what to do with Matt Ryan, our thinking is that the Texans pass defense barely outweighs Ryan’s effectiveness at home. However, we would not be the least bit shocked to see the Falcons quarterback make us look like fools on Sunday afternoon. Either way, we’re still going with our gut on this one.
Oakland Raiders @ Miami Dolphins (1:00 ET)
START: RB Michael Bush, RB Reggie Bush, QB Carson Palmer
SIT: OAK Defense
This match-up is all Bush, er, Michael and Reggie Bush. Last week, Reggie couldn’t extend his 10+ fantasy points streak to five games but that’s not going to stop us from telling you to start him on Sunday. Here’s some random bar trivia for you: The Raiders give up 5.3 yards per carry to opposing backs. Trust us, throwing out that odd fact has a purpose, because the Dolphins starting running back is a big-play RB who needs some carries that go for big gains to balance out the ones that net a yard or two. If the Oakland D is susceptible to giving up 5 yards per rush, then Miami’s Bush should be a good flex option.
Denver Broncos @ Minnesota Vikings (1:00 ET)
START: QB Tim Tebow, DEN Defense, RB Toby Gerhart
SIT: RB Adrian Peterson
Never thought we’d see the day that Adrian Peterson would be on the SIT portion, but this suggestion is not even based on his performance on the field. Instead, AP is there because of the high ankle sprain that looks like it will sideline him for a second week and maybe even longer. For the time being, the Vikings will have Toby Gerhart working out the backfield and it could be a lot worse. The Broncos aren’t as tough to run on as the Falcons, so Gerhart should be able to find space and put up some solid numbers. Also, expect another Tebow game. We’re not sure what that exactly means, because you can never assume what you’re gonna get from Timmy. Just start him and try not to look at the game, because it isn’t going to be pretty.
Indianapolis Colts @ New England Patriots (1:00 ET)
START: RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, NE Defense
SIT: Any Colts player
Oh, how we used to look forward to this game. Nowadays the suggestions are real simple. You know you’re going to start the best Patriots players (Brady, Welker, Gronkowski and Hernandez). New England will give BenJarvus Green-Ellis the ball plenty of times to keep the clock running, so start him as well. Don’t start any Colts players. We’re calling that game Reggie Wayne had last week a fluke.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers (1:00 ET)
START: QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR A.J. Green
SIT: CIN Defense, TE Jermaine Gresham
A.J. Green is match-up proof. It’s not the boldest of predictions but it needs to be said. The Bengals rookie wide receiver has created quite the tandem with Andy Dalton, and they will need to have one hell of a game to match up with the Steelers. Even though Ben Roethlisberger didn’t look great against Cincinnati two games ago (245 passing yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception), there will be a couple of differences between that match and this one. Most notably, the game will take place in Pittsburgh which was where Big Ben posted his most successful numbers against Tennessee and New England. Secondly, the absence of Cincy’s Leon Hall will open up the field even more. This is a statement game for the Steelers. Expect them to make a huge one here.
START: RB LeGarrette Blount, RB DeAngelo Williams
SIT: QB Josh Freeman
How bad is the Panthers’ run defense? The Colts’ Donald Brown easily registered his best game of the season with 80 yards on only 14 carries, and that was without a run bigger than 17 yards. Get Blount in your lineup at all costs. Josh Freeman is a different story. The Bucs have lost five straight, and Freeman has been a major part of that as he has thrown 10 interceptions over that span. Additionally, he is battling a right shoulder injury, putting his status in flux.
DeAngelo Williams was finally able to please his fantasy owners last week with two touchdowns, and against the horrific Bucs defense, we imagine he’ll put a smile on their faces again this week.
New York Jets @ Washington Redskins (1:00 ET)
START: RB Roy Helu
SIT: QB Mark Sanchez, Rex Grossman
Despite just breaking a six-game losing streak last week, the Redskins have a solid pass defense and are only allowing 212 passing yards through the air. They also have 33 sacks this year. If you are feeling good about Sanchez and his four touchdowns last week, please do yourself a favor and put that out of your head. We don’t see big numbers here.
In similar capacity, we don’t see Rex Grossman throwing for over 300 yards again against the Jets. For once, Mike Shanahan actually made his running back situation clear by naming Helu his starter for this week after the kid ran for 108 yards and a touchdown.
Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns (4:05 ET)
START: RB Ray Rice
SIT: All Browns, QB Joe Flacco, QB Colt McCoy, RB Peyton Hillis
Don’t even think about starting McCoy. He is 0-6 in his career against the AFC North, and the Ravens have won six straight against the Browns. So far this season, Baltimore has gained a reputation for putting up underwhelming performances against bad teams, and Flacco isn’t the most flashy quarterback. Against the No. 1 passing D in the league, we hope you have a better option with your backup.
Dallas Cowboys @ Arizona Cardinals (4:15 ET)
START: RB DeMarco Murray, WR Laurent Robinson
SIT: QB Kevin Kolb, WR Miles Austin
The Cowboys have been using Murray to his full extent, and so should you. The kid is averaging 5.7 yards per carry, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. This offense runs best when the ground game is effective, so you know they’ll continue to give him a lot of touches. As for Austin, it doesn’t look good. He didn’t practice Wednesday, so keep Robinson in line.
Green Bay Packers @ New York Giants (4:15 ET)
START: RB Brandon Jacobs
SIT: RB Ahmad Bradshaw, WR Mario Manningham, Packers RBs
The Giants are tumbling, wait, make that crashing down the mountain right now. Ahmad Bradshaw said he is planning on playing, but he still hasn’t practiced this week, which is a bad sign. To make things worse, Manningham continued to see swelling in his knee, making him doubtful for Sunday as well. The Packers continue to fire on all cylinders, and you should continue to keep all players involved in the passing game in your lineup.
St. Louis Rams @ San Francisco 49ers (4:15 ET)
START: RB Steven Jackson, WR Brandon Lloyd, any offensive 49er weapon
SIT: QB Sam Bradford
Nothing like a game against the Rams to make the sting from only the second loss of the season go away. The 49ers should have no trouble in San Fran against the two-win St. Louis team, and Frank Gore should be able to bounce back from his disappointing showing. Lloyd continued to show that he’s the only guy next to Jackson worth a look by scoring his third consecutive touchdown. The Rams won’t score much, but when they do, it’ll be one of those two.
Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints (8:20 ET)
START: Saints RBs
SIT: Detroit Defense
Aside from the obvious weapons on the Saints, it’s probably acceptable to put any of their running backs in your flex spot. With Brees airing it out, there is always going to be space down low to dump the ball, and defenders constantly have to worry about the play-action pass. Thomas and Sproles have big catch-and-run potential, while Ingram is usually the man in the redzone.
Over the past three weeks, the Lions defense has had it rough. With the loss of Suh and trip to the Superdome, it’s not going to get any easier. This team has been solid against the pass all season, but without their best pass rusher and a dwindling team spirit, it’s hard to imagine that they’ll be able to contain Brees.
San Diego Chargers @ Jacksonville Jaguars (MON, 8:30 ET)
START: RB Maurice-Jones Drew
SIT: QB Philip Rivers
First Blaine Gabbert was benched, then Jack Del Rio was fired, then it was announced that the team was being sold, and now the Jags are involved in possibly the worst Monday night game of the season. Talk about a rough week! Surprisingly enough, the Jags are ranked sixth-best against fantasy football quarterbacks in ESPN leagues, meaning it might actually be time to sit Mr. Rivers. He finally had an interception-free game last weekend, but it came with the cost of him throwing for only 188 yards. If you can’t afford to, we understand, but if you picked up a guy like Tebow or Palmer, they might be better plays this week.