Rivers, Mathews have attractive Week 17 matchups

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Start 'Em & Sit 'Em is the ultimate look at the weekly NFL matchups and how they'll affect your fantasy team. Sleeper alert features a player who's under the radar and could produce good numbers. Owners beware features a player who's a regular fantasy starter but could fail to meet expectations based on the strength of his opponent. Obvious fantasy starters like Aaron Rodgers and Adrian Peterson are not featured. For your final lineup decisions, check our weekly lineup rankings.

Quarterbacks | Running backs | Wide receivers | Tight ends | Kickers | Defenses

Start of the week

Philip Rivers vs. Raiders: The Chargers have been eliminated from the postseason, but this team would love nothing more than to knock their rivals out of the mix. And when you consider how poorly the Raiders have been against quarterbacks, well, Rivers is a solid option.

Quarterbacks - start 'em

Matt Ryan vs. Buccaneers: Ryan has been on fire for most of the second half of the season, and this week's matchup against the Buccaneers couldn't be more favorable. In fact, their defense has allowed 33 total touchdowns and the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks overall.

Eli Manning vs. Cowboys: Manning has been dreadful over the last two games, but this week's matchup against the Cowboys makes him a viable option. The G-Men need this win to take the NFC East, and Manning has found a lot of statistical success against the Cowboys for most of his pro career.

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The NFL Fantasy LIVE crew discusses the best value QBs of 2011. (Click image for further analysis.)

Sleeper alert - Ryan Fitzpatrick at Patriots: Over their last five games, the Patriots have allowed an average of over 20 fantasy points to Matt Moore, Tim Tebow, Rex Grossman, Dan Orlovsky and Vince Young. That makes Fitzpatrick someone to start if you're in need at quarterback.

Quarterbacks - sit 'em

Ben Roethlisberger at Browns: There's a chance that Roethlisberger could return this week, but he's too much of a risk to start in fantasy land. He's still at less than 100 percent with a bum ankle, and the Browns have surrendered the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.

Joe Flacco at Bengals: Flacco has been a huge disappointment, scoring 15 or more fantasy points just once in his last five games. His fortunes aren't likely to be reversed against the Bengals, who have been tough on quarterbacks and will be fired up to earn a potential postseason berth.

Matt Moore vs. Jets: I've been a huge fan of Moore's in recent weeks, but it's tough to recommend him against the Jets. The Men in Green have allowed the second-fewest touchdown passes and the fifth-fewest fantasy points to signal-callers, so Moore is a real risk in this contest.

Owners beware - Aaron Rodgers vs. Lions: This has nothing to do with Rodgers' value, but the fact that the Packers have clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC and are likely to rest some of their stars. That means Rodgers could see a half or less of action.

Running backs - start 'em

Ryan Mathews at Raiders: Mathews has proven to be a nice asset for fantasy leaguers in his second NFL season, and this week's matchup against the Raiders makes him a borderline No. 1 option. The Silver & Black have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs.

Rashard Mendenhall at Browns: Mendenhall has been an inconsistent fantasy player in 2011, but he's still a viable option when the matchup is favorable. That's the case this week, as he goes up against a Browns unit that has surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points to runners.

C.J. Spiller at Patriots: New England has the league's worst-rated defense, and Spiller has been one of the hottest players in fantasy football over the last several weeks. In fact, the Clemson product has scored double-digit fantasy points in three of his last four games.

Sleeper alert - Khalil Bell at Vikings: Bell has been terrific in the absence of Matt Forte and Marion Barber, and there's no reason to bench him against the Vikings in Week 17. Their defense has given up an average of close to 19 fantasy points per game to opposing backs.

Running backs - sit 'em

Peyton Hillis vs. Steelers: Hillis has played well over the last two weeks, but it's still tough to start him with a lot of confidence against the Steelers. Their defense has allowed just seven rushing touchdowns and the sixth-fewest fantasy points to runners in 2011.

Shonn Greene at Dolphins: Greene was a fantasy monster in Weeks 13 and 14, but he's cooled off considerably in his last two games. Couple that with a tough matchup against the Dolphins, who rank third in the league in run defense, and Greene isn't so attractive an option.

Cedric Benson vs. Ravens: The Bengals will be fired up to earn a postseason spot, but that doesn't change the matchups -- and this one isn't good for Benson. The Ravens rank second against the run, and only the Texans and Niners have allowed fewer fantasy points to backs.

Owners beware - Steven Jackson vs. 49ers: The Niners allowed their first rushing touchdown of the season last week, but this unit is still the toughest to score on for fantasy backs. Just ask Jackson, who posted just three points against them in Week 13.

Wide receivers - start 'em

Steve Johnson at Patriots: To call the Patriots defense vulnerable against wide receivers would be an understatement -- no teams has allowed more points to the position -- so Johnson is a terrific option. He scored a solid 16.40 fantasy points against them back in Week 3.

Dez Bryant at Giants: Despite missing some time with injuries, Bryant still has a chance to finish in the top 15 at his position based on points. He scored 11 fantasy points earlier this season against the G-Men, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to wideouts.

Julio Jones vs. Buccaneers: Jones has been on absolute fire, posting over 50 fantasy points combined over his last three games. His success should continue against the Buccaneers, who field one of the league's worst defenses. Look for the rookie to make a nice impact in Week 17.

Sleeper alert - Malcom Floyd at Raiders: Floyd has been on fire since returning from injury, scoring 15-plus fantasy points in three of his last four games. Next on the docket is a great matchup against the Raiders, who he burned for 285 yards and a touchdown in two games last season.

Wide receivers - sit 'em

Dwayne Bowe at Broncos: Bowe hasn't put up great numbers against CB Champ Bailey and the Broncos in his career, averaging a mere 75.7 yards in seven contests. What's more, he's scored a mere two touchdowns in all of those games combined -- that makes Bowe a risk this week.

DeSean Jackson vs. Redskins: Jackson has three career touchdown catches in seven games against the Redskins, but he's also averaged a meager 2.1 receptions and 42.1 yards in those contests. Washington has been tough on wideouts in 2011, which makes Jackson less attractive.

Antonio Brown at Browns: Brown did post 21.10 fantasy points against the Browns in Week 14, but that was the lone game he's scored double-digits in his last six overall -- and that was with a healthy Roethlisberger at the helm. Consider him no more than a No. 3 option.

Owners beware - Brandon Marshall vs. Jets: It's tough to bench Marshall after he ripped the Patriots for 156 yards, a touchdown and 21.60 fantasy points, but he has a much tougher assignment this weekend against the Jets and CB Darrelle Revis.

Tight ends - start 'em

Aaron Hernandez vs. Bills: The Bills have allowed the second-most fantasy points to tight ends, which is great news for both Rob Gronkowski and Hernandez in Week 17. Assuming he sees a full compliment of snaps, it's tough to argue with starting the Florida product.

Brandon Pettigrew at Packers: Pettigrew has scored double-digit fantasy points in two of his last three games, and this week's matchup against the Packers makes him a viable starter. Their defense has allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than any other unit.

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The NFL Fantasy LIVE crew discusses the value of Bears RB Kahlil Bell. (Click image for further analysis.)

Sleeper alert - Brent Celek vs. Redskins: Celek has been on fire, catching at least four passes in eight of his last 10 games and a touchdown in two straight contests. The Redskins have struggled against tight ends, so look for Celek to continue to produce nice totals.

Tight ends - sit 'em

Kellen Winslow at Falcons: Winslow has more starting value in PPR leagues in championship week, but he's a much riskier option in standard formats. In fact, the former Miami Hurricanes standout has averaged an awful 4.62 fantasy points in his last five games in such leagues.

Jermaine Gresham vs. Ravens: Gresham posted 12.60 fantasy points last week, but he's no lock to duplicate that level of success against a tough Ravens defense. In fact, the Oklahoma product mustered a mere 4.80 fantasy points in his last game against the AFC North rival.

Owners beware - Vernon Davis at Rams: It's tough to bench Davis in championship week, but keep this in mind. The Rams (yes, those Rams) have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends -- Davis had just 32 yards against them in Week 13.

Kickers - start 'em

John Kasay vs. Panthers: Kasay has re-emerged into one of the top kickers in fantasy football, and this weekend's matchup against the Panthers makes him a must start. Carolina has allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to kickers, and gave up 12 points to Kasay in Week 5.

Robbie Gould at Vikings: Gould's numbers have tanked since the Bears lost Jay Cutler, but he's still worth a look based on this week's matchup against the Vikings. No team has allowed more fantasy points to kickers in 2011, and Gould kicked them for 15 earlier this season.

Sleeper alert - Alex Henery vs. Redskins: Henery has scored a combined 20 fantasy points over the last two weeks, and a matchup against the Redskins makes him a nice choice this week. Kickers have combined to scored the fourth-most fantasy points against Washington in 2011.

Kickers - sit 'em

Adam Vinatieri at Jaguars: Vinatieri had a huge 13-point performance last week, but he's still someone to bench against the Jaguars. Their defense has allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to kickers and held the former Super Bowl hero to three points back in Week 10.

Graham Gano at Eagles: Gano is coming off a monster performance against the Vikings, scoring an impressive 17.50 fantasy points. However, this week's game against the Eagles is a far tougher assigment -- Philadelphia has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to kickers.

Owners beware - Jason Hanson at Packers: The veteran out of Washington State ranks in the top 10 in fantasy points among kickers, but he's a risk against the Packers -- their defense has been tough on kickers, and held Hanson to one point in Week 12.

Defenses - start 'em

Falcons defense vs. Buccaneers: Opposing defenses that have faced the struggling Buccaneers have scored the second-most fantasy points at the position, so it's hard not to like the Falcons this weekend. Their defense is still available in close to 70 percent of NFL.com leagues.

Dolphins defense vs. Jets: The Jets rank fifth among fantasy defenses, but this offense has also allowed a ton of fantasy points for opposing units. In fact, defenses facing Mark Sanchez and his team have combined to score the fourth-most fantasy points at the position in 2011.

Sleeper alert - Jaguars defense vs. Colts: Owners in deeper leagues in need of a defense should look to the Jaguars, who have a great matchup against the Colts. Opposing defensive units have combined to score the third-most fantasy points when facing their average offense.

Defenses - sit 'em

Bills defense at Patriots: Buffalo scored an unreal 30 fantasy points in last week's win over the Broncos, but that won't happen against Tom Brady and the Patriots -- and it won't be close. Unless the P-Men rest their starters, the Bills won't be an attractive choice.

Bengals defense vs. Ravens: The Bengals posted a nice stat line against the Cardinals last week, but this unit has scored double-digit fantasy points just twice in its last eight contests. That includes a two-point dud against their next opponent, the Ravens, back in Week 11.

Owners beware - Cowboys defense at Giants: The Cowboys defense has been horrid in fantasy land lately, scoring a combined 32 fantasy points over its last six games. Couple that with a tough road matchup against the Giants, and this unit clearly becomes one to avoid in Week 17.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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