Hurt Locker chock-full of stars as fantasy playoffs begin

It's here. The playoffs. Week 14. The time of year you wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is open your laptop, which you kept next to the bed, just so you can get on-line and check to see if one of your injured players' status has changed for the week. So let us not delay. We break to The Hurt Locker.

Miles Austin: Back at practice and assumingly ready to go. Hold on a second. I know this is Giants-Cowboys, where every game is a shootout, but think about it. Austin was losing targets to Laurent Robinson when he was healthy, now Robinson has evolved even further. I think Tony Romo spreads the ball around a bunch this week - and a big day for Jason Witten is in the cards - so it's going to be hard for any one WR to have a huge game. If you have a WR you're confident can get you more than seven points, play him over Austin.

Ahmad Bradshaw/Brandon Jacobs: I think Bradshaw is going to play Sunday, especially after Giants head coach Tom Coughlin said when Bradshaw comes back he won't practice to help save wear and tear on his foot. Bradshaw is good to get back into your lineup as a No. 2 if he goes Sunday against Dallas. Jacobs is a very low-end flex who may get in the end zone - then again he may not. Jacobs' only value is if Bradshaw is out again, then he can be a flex play.

Sam Bradford/A.J. Feeley: This means more for Steven Jackson and Brandon Lloyd than anyone else. If it's Tom Brandstater at QB Monday night against an improving Seattle defense, please sit Jackson and Lloyd. You won't be able to count on them for any sort of production. Even Feeley starting makes both of them viable again, since Lloyd has had pretty good chemistry with both he and Bradford.

Josh Freeman: No matter his status, do you really want to put your playoff eggs in Freeman's basket? There are much better plays out there than Freeman (Carson Palmer, Tim Tebow, Tony Romo, and even Matt Moore).

Mark Ingram: He was back in a walking boot this week and said he may have to sit Sunday against the Titans. If he doesn't go, Chris Ivory would get back in the mix at RB for the Saints. Here's how you deal with this: you play Sproles regardless. If Ingram can play, you play him and sit Pierre Thomas. If Ingram is out, play Thomas. Ivory is intriguing on the surface but I can't suggest to start him as Sean Payton will still go with his three-headed RB monster.

Andre Johnson: He's out this week, meaning you need a replacement but please don't look to Texans WRs like Kevin Walter or Jacoby Jones. They're not reliable enough for you to start in the playoffs. Head elsewhere for a Heyward-Bey or a Brad Smith or a Malcom Floyd.

Denarius Moore/Jacoby Ford: Both are out again, but the Raiders are still going to throw the football, which makes Darrius Heyward-Bey a must start. I think Fred Biletnikoff is the only other healthy Raiders WR. The Packers are awful against the pass. The only QB Green Bay has held to under 275 yards passing in recent weeks has been Christian Ponder. No matter what happens, Heyward-Bey is a must start as a No. 2 WR or your flex.

Adrian Peterson: Well, this is simple. If he plays, you start him. To quote Elliot Harrison, I'd rather have 12 carries from All Day than 24 from Ryan Grant. Toby Gerhart is a terrific flex play in your lineup if Peterson can't go on Sunday. If Peterson plays, Gerhart has no fantasy value.

Kevin Smith: Both he and the Lions seem optimistic he'll be able to play Sunday despite his dinged-up ankle. If he suits up, play him as he's averaging nearly seven yards a touch since coming off his couch and into the starting backfield.

James Starks: He hurt his ankle in the third straight game last week, and now it looks like Ryan Grant is going to get more responsibility. Or is he? Rookie Brandon Saine saw a lot of crunch-time reps against the Giants and he could cut into touches for both players as a result. Bottom line is this: no Packers RB is worth starting right now because Green Bay still hasn't shown they'll commit to running the football more than once every six plays.

Michael Vick/Jeremy Maclin: Vick's back. That's all you need to know. Did you hold onto him the entire season only to sit him in the first round of the playoffs? Of course not. I think he has a big day and re-energizes the Eagles as we get a glimpse of what they should have been in 2011. I know Maclin has been hard to figure out, but I don't think there's better options out there than starting him as a No. 2 or your flex. Go with him as well.

See Jason Smith on NFL Fantasy Live, airing Sundays at 11:30 a.m. ET on the Red Zone Channel, and Tuesday-Friday on NFL Network at 2 p.m. ET and midnight ET. PT. He writes fantasy and other NFL pith on NFL.com daily. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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