Your palms are sweaty. Knees weak. Arms are heavy. While these physical reactions may describe someone heading into a rap battle, they can also speak to the many fantasy football owners that debate who will be in their final starting lineup when they embark on their first win-or-go home playoff game of the season. So just relax, take a deep breath and after you finish cleaning up the remnants of Mom's spaghetti on your sweater, check out our suggestions in this "postseason edition" of Start or Sit? Complex Sports Fantasy Football Tips (Week 14).
Cleveland Browns @ Pittsburgh Steelers (THURS, 8:20 ET)
START: RB Rashard Mendenhall
SIT: QB Ben Roethlisberger, Any Browns player
Sitting Ben Roethlisberger may sound crazy, but hear us out. Big Ben hasn’t looked the same in the last two weeks. It’s widely believed that the thumb injury that he’s currently dealing with has a lot to do with it. In a game where the Browns defense clearly struggles against the run, expect a lot of Mendenhall and very little Roethlisberger. Yeah, you might get the redzone touchdowns, but is it worth the risk if you have a decent QB on your bench?
Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens (SUN, 1:00 ET)
START: RB Ray Rice, WR Anquan Boldin
SIT: Any Colts player
The Colts showed a lot of fight last week against the Patriots and while Dan Orlovsky did a great imitation of Peyton Manning, let’s put things into perspective. New England’s defense isn’t on the same level as the Ravens’ D. Remember, the Pats D can’t stop a nosebleed. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to know that Baltimore linebacker Terrell Suggs isn’t taking this match-up lightly. Expect a cheap touchdown or two from either Pierre Garcon or Reggie Wayne but when it comes to who will be the one hitting paydirt, your guess is as good as ours.
Atlanta Falcons @ Carolina Panthers (1:00 ET)
START: QB Cam Newton, WR Steve Smith, WR Roddy White
SIT: RB Jonathan Stewart, RB DeAngelo Williams
In his last four games, Steve Smith had 174 receiving yards on 15 receptions with only 1 touchdown. Has the Smith of the South regressed back to his old self? Probably not. With the Panthers facing an Atlanta team that will shut down the running game, look for Carolina to air it out and Cam to try hitting his favorite target quite often. While we’re on the topic of performances over the past couple of weeks, Roddy White is starting to pull out of nearly season-long slump. In his last three games, Roddy has 318 receiving yards on 21 receptions and 2 touchdowns. Hopefully this is a sign of greater things to come from the Falcons wide receiver.
Houston Texans @ Cincinnati Bengals (1:00 ET)
START: RB Arian Foster, RB Ben Tate
SIT: RB Cedric Benson, CIN Defense
The Bengals defense just ain’t what it used to be. Cincinnati has given up 86 points in the last three games. Without Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub, we still cannot trust Cincy’s D because of their running back tandem of Arian Foster and Ben Tate. Whether on the ground or through their short pass game, Foster and Tate will expose their opponent’s weakness one way or another. Start Arian as a RB1 and Tate in the flex.
Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions (1:00 ET)
START: RB Toby Gerhart, QB Matthew Stafford, TE Brandon Pettigrew
SIT: QB Christian Ponder, RB Kevin Smith, RB Maurice Morris
Suggesting that you start Toby Gerhart comes with a couple of caveats. We’re assuming that Adrian Peterson doesn’t play this week and that you start Gerhart in your flex spot, at best. The Lions could very well run up the score on the Vikings, and if they do, Toby showed that he can handle the receiving duties as well (last week: 42 receiving yards on 8 receptions). As for Detroit’s offense, expect a big game from Stafford, Megatron and Pettigrew, but avoid using any of their running backs since Minnesota’s strength is in their rush defense.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Jacksonville Jaguars (1:00 ET)
START: WR Mike Williams, RB Maurice Jones-Drew
SIT: Everyone else
What an ugly game between two Florida teams. Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams is riding a hot streak right now that even a quarterback change couldn’t falter. In each of the last three games, Williams has given his owners at least 9 fantasy points. Last week against the Panthers, the Buccaneers wide receiver had his best game of the season. Things should keep getting better as he faces a Jaguars secondary riddled by injuries.
Philadelphia Eagles @ Miami Dolphins (1:00 ET)
START: QB Michael Vick, RB Reggie Bush
SIT: WR Brandon Marshall, WR DeSean Jackson
The regular season may be over for the Eagles, but this is a very important game for Michael Vick. After missing a couple of games due to a rib injury, Vick looks like he will be starting this Sunday against the Dolphins. It’s a favorable match-up given Miami’s trouble at stopping the pass and a game plan focused on making MV throw more often than run. If you need further convincing as to why you should be starting Reggie, look no further than last week’s Start or Sit. We’ve been on this bandwagon for a while now. Care to join?
Kansas City Chiefs @ New York Jets (1:00 ET)
START: WR Plaxico Burress, RB Shonn Greene, NYJ Defense
SIT: KC Defense, Any Chiefs player
Last Sunday, Shonn Greene had a coming out party, of sorts, with 88 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. Now before we whole-heartedly say that Greene is back, let’s remind you that the last 25-yard touchdown came when the Redskins were pretty much left for dead. We’re not saying that the game was a fluke, but what you saw last week may be the best fantasy game the Jets running back has all season. Kansas City, however, gives up an average of 130 rushing yards per game, so continue starting Greene. Just make sure you temper your expectations.
START: RB Roy Helu
SIT: TE Fred Davis, QB Rex Grossman
Fun fact of the day: Washington is the only city where the Patriots have never won. Unless there is a Christmas miracle in the capital, that will change. That miracle would be even more impressive without Davis, as the Redskins lost him to suspension after crossing the substance abuse policy one too many times. During the regular season, we might actually consider starting Grossman against the horrible Patriots defense, but as a direct address to fantasy playoff owners, find somebody more reliable. As for New England’s offensive players, do we really even need to go over this?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Jacksonville Jaguars (1:00 ET)
START: Jacksonville Defense, RB LeGarrette Blount
SIT: QB Josh Freeman
We’re sure we sound like a broken record, but there just aren’t any individuals of value on the Jags besides Maurice Jones-Drew. The defense has been about the only other highlight, as it has held opponents under 200 yards passing on average. After missing last week and the poor performances he’s put up this year, Freeman isn’t a good choice.
Oakland Raiders @ Green Bay Packers (4:15 ET)
Chicago Bears @ Denver Broncos (4:05 ET)
START: RB Willis McGahee,
SIT: RB Matt Forte, WR Demaryius Thomas
These teams both sit at 7-5 but couldn’t be more distant in the directions they are headed. It should be obvious to start Tim Tebow at this point, even when he’s going against one of the toughest defenses in the league. If you’re unaware that Forte is out with an injury, then you’ll probably need more help than this column, but just as a reminder, get him out of your lineup stat. Thomas put up a big show last week and might come out as a second option for Tebow, but don’t forget, this is a run-first offense. Last week was a bit of an anomaly for Tebow, and Thomas’ numbers will likely be far lower this week.
San Francisco 49ers @ Arizona Cardinals (4:05 ET)
START: QB Alex Smith
SIT: QB Kevin Kolb, RB Beanie Wells
All lights are green for the 49ers. Coming off one of the most meaningful wins in the past decade, they are certainly going into Arizona expecting to steamroll a team that won on a bit of luck last week. The Niners are only allowing 71.8 yards to rushing attacks, and even though Beanie Wells is pretty much Arizona’s most significant offensive player at the moment, we can’t justify that start. Kolb returned last week and played a statistically sound game with 247 yards and a touchdown, but again, when you’re in these crucial weeks, he is not somebody to be looking to.
Buffalo Bills @ San Diego Chargers (4:15 ET)
START: QB Philip Rivers, WR Malcom Floyd, RB Ryan Mathews, WR C.J. Spiller
SIT: QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Philip tore up a pretty solid Jags defense last week and actually looked like the player we had grown accustomed to the past few years. That might be in part because his boy Floyd was back in the lineup. Floyd grabbed four catches for 108 yards and a touchdown in his first game since Week 8. The Chargers have proven this year that they are pretty solid against the pass, but are horrible against the run. Plan accordingly.
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys (8:20 ET)
START: WR Miles Austin, WR Laurent Robinson, RB Ahmad Bradshaw (Flex),
SIT: TE Jake Ballard
Let the NFC East fun begin! The first meeting of two left this season has finally arrived and plays a major role in which team will be representing its division in the playoffs. Miles Austin returned to practice this week and looks set to start, while Laurent Robinson also looks to play after a slight shoulder separation. Each player will cut into the other’s fantasy value, but against a Giants’ defense that has allowed 260.3 yards passing per game, we believe both should be in your lineup. Similarly both Giants running backs have been dealing with nagging injuries but are slated to start. With the way this team has been passing, though, we see them as flex starts at best.
St. Louis Rams Rams @ Seattle Seahawks (8:30 ET)
START: RB Marshawn Lynch
SIT: RB Steven Jackson
Wait, I thought we had the world’s worst Monday Night Football game last week? We kid. In actuality, the Seahawks hold one of the year’s biggest fantasy surprises in Skittle-addict Marshawn Lynch, who is an easy lock to start the rest of the season. Aside from him, this field is looking pretty bleak for fantasy pickings. Even Steven Jackson has been a major disappointment for fantasy owners lately, only compiling 125 yards over the past three games. With a terrible offensive line, no quarterback to take the attention away, and a relatively decent Seattle defense, he’s a flex start at best.