As we head into the first round of the fantasy playoffs, it's more important than ever to examine pertinent numbers and see if and how they apply to your strategies and outlooks. Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com features hot and cold performers of note for Week 14.
Playoff payoffs?: These players have positive statistics following them into their matchups for this week.
Anquan Boldin, WR, Baltimore
Stat: Boldin has 14 catches for 164 yards and a TD in his past two games vs. the Colts.
Analysis: While the Ravens will run the ball very effectively, you cannot overlook the fact the Colts also rank 30th against the pass and have allowed an NFL-high 17 TD passes. Boldin's size will give the Colts DBs a lot of trouble, and he is a strong WR2 start this week.
Owen Daniels, TE, Houston
Stat: Daniels tied a career high with two TDs in his last game against the Bengals.
Analysis: Daniels has been a big disappointment this year and many fantasy owners believe they cannot trust him entering the postseason. But do keep in mind that young quarterbacks often turn to TEs as "safety" pass-catchers. Take a shot on Daniels again if other options are very scarce.
Nate Burleson, WR, Detroit
Stat: Burleson is aiming for his fifth consecutive game with five-plus receptions.
Analysis: Burleson has 25 catches in his past four games. The Vikings rank 26th against the pass and will be ripe for the picking by Matthew Stafford. Burleson is coming on and is a terrific WR3 start as he faces his former team.
Reggie Bush, RB, Miami
Stat: Bush has five rushing TDs in his past five games.
Analysis: Bush has a career-best 667 rushing yards this season. Philadelphia has allowed 115.6 rushing yards per game with 11 rushing scores. Bush is in tune with his offensive line and looks to be in an excellent rhythm right now. He'll help you advance to the next round if you start him this week.
Santonio Holmes, WR, New York Jets
Stat: Holmes is looking to catch a TD pass in his third consecutive game.
Analysis: The Chiefs have been playing solid defense recently, and their cornerbacks are capable of staring down top opposing WRs and winning many battles. Holmes is no lock as a fantasy starter this week and could disappoint.
Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans
Stat: Colston has a TD reception in seven of his past eight games against AFC teams.
Analysis: Colston has not scored since Week 7. Drew Brees is finding other targets near the goal line, and Colston is a risky play in standard leagues. In PPR leagues, though, he remains a good starting choice, as he has caught 22 balls in his past four games. Use him as a WR3 in PPR leagues if you have him.
Roy Helu, RB, Washington
Stat: Helu is gunning for his third straight game with 100-plus yards and a score.
Analysis: The Redskins may fall behind quickly against the Patriots, but that potential situation bodes well for Helu as a pass-catcher. He leads all NFL rookie RBs with 42 receptions. Helu is a must-start as a flex player in Week 14.
Beanie Wells, RB, Arizona
Stat: Wells has five rushing TDs in his past five home games.
Analysis: The 49ers still have yet to allow a rushing TD this year, but they will be without star LB Patrick Willis this week. We boldly say the scoring shutout run for 2011 ends this week. Wells will get in the end zone, as he is performing with a lot of tenacity recently. Start Wells for the score even if the yardage production is somewhat limited.
Postseason rebounds?: These players have some negative trends following them into the new week.
Steven Jackson, RB, St. Louis
Stat: Jackson has not rushed for a TD in his past five games.
Analysis: Jackson has rushed for a total of 125 yards in his past three games, and the Rams have serious QB issues heading into Monday night's game at Seattle. The Seahawks simply have to load up against Jackson at home, making the Rams RB a player to avoid if you can this week.
Frank Gore, RB, San Francisco
Stat: Gore has not rushed for a TD in his past five games.
Analysis: Gore's last 100-yard game came in Week 9. Still, you must stick with him, as he is capable of delivering an outstanding performance at any time. The Cardinals rank 19th against the run, so a good Gore performance is certainly not far-fetched.
Steve Smith, WR, Carolina
Stat: Smith has 174 receiving yards over his past four games.
Analysis: Opposing defenses have effectively shut down Smith in recent weeks. Cam Newton has found other ways to hurt opponents, though, so Smith cannot be held down for too much longer. Keep the faith and expect at least a respectable outing.
Santana Moss, WR, Washington
Stat: Moss has not reached the 80-yard mark yet this year.
Analysis: Moss has not scored since Week 4. Yet you can start him with confidence in the first round of your fantasy playoffs. Moss faces the Patriots, who have the worst pass defense in the NFL and can make nearly any competent WR look productive. Moss will show he still has considerable playmaking skills and is a nifty Week 14 starter.
Michael Turner, RB, Atlanta
Stat: Turner has rushed for 104 yards in the past two games.
Analysis: Turner is working through a groin problem, yet he can overcome the issue once he warms up and gets loose. Turner has rushed for 100 yards in five of his past six meetings with Carolina and should certainly perform well again if he has no further setbacks.
Miles Austin, WR, Dallas
Stat: Austin has not scored since Week 2.
Analysis: Austin has battled hamstring problems this year, but looks ready to go for Week 14. With Laurent Robinson ailing, Austin can step back into a primary role in the Dallas passing game and is worth a WR3 start in a big game against the Giants.
Marion Barber, RB, Chicago
Stat: Barber has one TD run in his past four games.
Analysis: Barber's best asset as a fantasy player is his scoring ability when he gets near the goal line. But with Caleb Hanie at QB, Barber is not going to see many opportunities. Extra reps will not necessarily lead to improved fantasy output this week, either. Consider other options unless you are scraping for a plug-in player.
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