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I ask one question when setting a fantasy playoff lineup: Do I trust the player?
Give me the quarterback that I know
will score at least 12-15 points rather than the one that may score 28, but could also score –4. (Donovan McNabb
owners nod silently.) Avoiding score-crushing duds is more important than finding a few players who will explode.
Knowing whom to trust is especially tricky this season, especially at running back. Many of the thoroughbreds that were drafted early or have carried teams all season look shaky. With that in mind, and with apologies to Stephen Colbert
, let's take a quick look at some player's trustiness:Frank Gore: He's coming off two poor games and is facing a tough rush defense. But he's healthy, he's getting all the carries, and he's still the Inconvenient Truth. If Peyton Hillis can do it, so can Gore. Stick with him.
Clinton Portis: He hurts a new body part every week and is facing the Ravens. His offense can't score. He's at his low point of the season on the rankings by far. I don't trust him, so you can look at alternatives.
Brandon Jacobs: He looked like the same 'ol Train against the Redskins after a one-game absence. The matchup looks tough, but he tore up the Eagles. Despite the fact he has fewer yards from scrimmage than Derrick Ward on the season, Jacobs is highly trustworthy.
Brian Westbrook: He averaged 55 total yards with zero scores for four weeks before his four score Thanksgiving feats. One of those games was a 59-yard effort against the Giants, who just made Clinton Portis look like Cedric Benson. I'm terrified to play Westbrook, and I'm terrified to bench him. The trust factor isn't there, but Westbrooks gets the benefit of the doubt on most rosters. He's still Brian Westbrook.
Reggie Bush: He totaled 32 yards last week after a long layoff, although he was facing the Bucs. His value greatly depends on your scoring system, as he's a no-doubt start in a PPR format. After watching the tape, Bush looked plenty explosive last week. He was just rusty. He's returning to turf in a better matchup. Pierre Thomas is a factor, but Bush surprisingly scores high on the trustiness scale.
Marion Barber: One of the four most trustworthy backs all season, along with Portis, Matt Forte, and Adrian Peterson, Barber is suddenly iffy at the wrong time. Toe injuries can change everything; ask Darren McFadden or LaDainian Tomlinson. Barber is facing a Steelers defense that hasn't allowed a single rusher to top 70 yards in Pittsburgh all season. It's possible his workload could be lessened. You can look at other options; he's out of our top-15.
LaDainian Tomlinson: I trust him to get 80-100 total yards because he has a great matchup. He's an upper level RB2 that racks up yards. Nothing more, nothing less.
Ronnie Brown: He's still splitting carries and not catching passes. He's talented, but not that trustworthy.
Larry Johnson: Oddly trustworthy. He's doing a great imitation of Larry Johnson. The poor man's L.J., yes, but he's running decisively and breaking tackles. He's competent again, with a big assist from Tyler Thigpen. The big plays aren't there, but the holes will be against Denver.
Ryan Grant: He had successfully earned the confidence of his owner's again only to hurt his thumb right before the playoffs. His ranking below depends largely on the practice reports, but the early ones are good. The concern that Brandon Jackson will split the carries is waning.
Steven Jackson: Jump back on board.
Peyton Manning: He's not a running back, but his two-point effort last week has surviving owners spooked. Don't be; the Bengals and Lions are up next. The Colts offense works a lot better on turf.
Many of you will disagree with who I don't trust in the rankings below, as you should. It's your team and there is no worse feeling than losing because you went against your gut feeling. That stings all winter. One of the great things about fantasy football is that we still don't really know anything before it happens; that's why we play. May all your lineup decisions look brilliant in the cold light of Monday morning.
Week 14 Quarterbacks
|1||Kurt Warner||vs. STL|| - |
|2||Drew Brees||vs. ATL|| - |
|3||Jay Cutler||vs. KC|| - |
|4||Aaron Rodgers||vs. HOU|| - |
|5||Peyton Manning||vs. CIN|| - |
|6||Matt Cassel||at SEA|| - |
|7||Matt Ryan||at NO|| - |
|8||Brett Favre||at SF|| - |
|9||Tyler Thigpen||at DEN||No Bradley, no problem |
|10||Shaun Hill||vs. NYJ||Moving on up |
|11||Tony Romo||at PIT|| - |
|12||Donovan McNabb||at NYG||Weather could be an issue|
|13||Eli Manning||vs. PHI|| - |
|14||Philip Rivers||vs. OAK|| - |
|15||Gus Frerotte||at DET|| - |
|16||Ben Roethlisberger||vs. DAL||Probable(knee)|
|17||Matt Schaub||at GB||Probable(knee)|
|18||Chad Pennington||at BUF|| - |
|19||David Garrard||at CHI|| - |
|20||J.P. Losman||vs. MIA|| - |
|21||Kerry Collins||vs. CLE|| - |
|22||Marc Bulger||at ARZ|| - |
|23||Kyle Orton||vs. JAC|| - |
|24||JaMarcus Russell||at SD|
|25||Jake Delhomme||vs. TB|| - |
|26||Jeff Garcia||at CAR|| - |
|27||Seneca Wallace||vs. NE|| - |
|28||Jason Campbell||at BAL|| - |
|29||Joe Flacco||vs. WAS|| - |
|30||Daunte Culpepper||vs. MIN|| - |
|31||Ryan Fitzpatrick||at IND|| - |
|32||Ken Dorsey||at TEN|| - |
QB Notes: Kurt Warner survived the NFC East gauntlet intact. It was a great sign he only took one sack in two games against the Giants and Cardinals. Since the early disaster against the Jets, Warner has been sacked only seven times in eight games. That bodes well for a healthy finish as a top-two quarterback. … Ridiculous cherry picked stat o' the week: Tyler Thigpen is the second highest scoring quarterback since he took over the starting job for good in Week 8. (Joe Flacco is somehow fifth!) Thigpen is largely ranked so high because he has 288 rush/receiving yards with two scores over that time. He's the closest thing we have right now to Michael Vick. The Raiders game was his worst in a while, so I checked the Shortcuts to see if there was cause for concern. There wasn't. His YPA remained high the last two weeks. He just didn't have the ball that much against Oakland. Thigpen is making a few more mistakes, but that's because he's so confident in his surprising accuracy. He's not great throwing it deep, but no one expects him to be Jay Cutler. I do expect him to throw more than 30 passes to keep up with Cutler this week. I would feel confident starting Thigpen.
The G-Men's running game sets up Eli Manning. Washington and Arizona sold out to stop the run, which allowed Eli to go deep against single coverage on the outside. He has a tough matchup against Philly, but he's a borderline QB1 anyway. … After such a promising start, Jason Campbell and the Redskins just can't score. Their one touchdown against the Giants was on an end-around. Over the last half-season, Campbell is producing fantasy points at the same rate as Ryan Fitzpatrick. Only Marc Bulger and JaMarcus Russell have been worse among true regulars over that span. … I like Shaun Hill to have a sneaky good game against a Jets secondary that still has problems. In games where Hill hasn't been affected by Buffalo weather, he's been a remarkably consistent scorer. This is a game plan where Mike Martz should throw plenty. … Jay Cutler is wildly up-and-down, but his owners just have to live with it. Especially against the Chiefs. … The Patriots moved the ball well against Pittsburgh until the five straight turnovers. That sounds like a silly statement, but their offense can rack up yards with the best of them against soft defenses. Seattle qualifies, making Cassel an excellent play.
Tony Romo and Ben Roethlisberger are similar options this week because of the matchup difference. Dallas is much easier to attack through the air than on the ground. Don't ditch Romo, though, for a second-tier option. He's still better than the QB2s with good matchups like Gus Frerotte and Matt Hasselbeck. Rough weather looms. … Philip Rivers is admittedly low on the rankings. He's so streaky and the Raiders have allowed only one touchdown through the air to go with six interceptions in the last four weeks. … It doesn't get much safer than Matt Ryan against the Saints. Ryan has topped 200 yards for seven straight weeks. The Falcons should have to throw to win this week, which isn't always the case. … I'm a huge Matt Schaub fan, but it takes serious cajones to start him in his first game back in Lambeau. … If J.P. Losman starts, he'll be ranked a few spots below where Edwards is. … Jake Delhomme and Jeff Garcia are too inconsistent to count on. They are an advertisement for quarterback play being overrated to a team's success. Look for a defensive struggle on Monday night. … Aaron Rodgers is coming off one of the most impressive games of his career and faces a weak Houston secondary. He's a must-start.
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