Start 'em & sit 'em is the ultimate look at weekly 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. For your final lineup decisions, check our lineup rankings.
Start of the week
Matt Cassel vs. Broncos: Cassel has been putting up enormous fantasy numbers in recent weeks, throwing multiple touchdown passes in six of his last seven games. That includes a four-touchdown performance against the Broncos in Week 10. Unless you have an elite quarterback, Cassel should be under center for your fantasy team.
Quarterbacks - start 'em
Michael Vick vs. Texans (Thurs.): How much do I like Vick this week? Well, I would start him over every other quarterback including Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. The matchup against the Texans is just too good to pass on, as their defense has allowed more fantasy points to signal-callers than any other team. If you have Vick, start him.
Kyle Orton at Chiefs: Orton has been one of the biggest surprises in fantasy football this season, ranking fourth in points among all players on NFL.com. He should continue to put up huge numbers in what promises to be a shootout at Arrowhead Stadium. In his last start against the Chiefs, Orton threw for 296 yards and four touchdowns.
Jay Cutler at Lions: Cutler has been hot in recent weeks, throwing for multiple touchdowns in three of his last four starts. Furthermore, he has posted a combined 789 yards and eight touchdowns in his last three games against the Lions. That includes a 372-yard, two-touchdown performance against them in the regular-season opener.
Eli Manning vs. Redskins: Manning wasn't very good for the first three quarters of last week's game against the Jaguars, but he still finished with 226 yards and two touchdowns (even without receivers Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith). This week Manning faces a Redskins defense that's been bad against the pass, so he's worth using as a low-end option.
Mark Sanchez at Patriots (Mon.): If you're in need of a quarterback this week, Sanchez is well worth a look. He's scored multiple touchdowns in three of his last four starts and posted a trio of scores in his last game against the Patriots. The P-Men have also allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing signal-callers in 2010.
Sleeper alert - Josh Freeman vs. Falcons: Freeman, who is destined to be a fantasy breakout candidate next season, has recorded some good stat lines in his first full year as an NFL starter. He's a viable option in deeper leagues against the Falcons, who have surrendered an average of over 15 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks.
Quarterbacks - sit 'em
Matt Schaub at Eagles: Schaub is coming off a nice statistical performance against the Titans, but Thursday night's contest against the Eagles won't have the same results. In their five home games of 2010, these Birds from the City of Brotherly Love have surrendered an average of just 11.5 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.
Carson Palmer vs. Saints: Palmer is on pace to throw for 28 touchdowns based on his current numbers, but he's also in line to record 25 total turnovers as well. That makes him a far less attractive option against a tough pass defense like the Saints, who have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.
Joe Flacco vs. Steelers: Flacco is in the midst of his best statistical season at the NFL level, but he's still not a recommended option against the Steelers. In his five career starts against them, Flacco has averaged a mere 204 passing yards with five touchdown passes and four interceptions. That makes him a risk for owners in Week 13.
Donovan McNabb at Giants: McNabb might be on pace for the first 4,000-yard season of his career, but he's still not having a great fantasy season. In fact, he's put up multiple touchdown passes in just one of his 11 starts. With a road matchup against a tough Giants defense next on the docket, McNabb's fortunes aren't likely to improve.
Brett Favre vs. Bills: If Favre can't put up a good stat line against a porous Redskins pass defense, then he can't be trusted to produce against anyone. This week he faces a Bills defense that has allowed an average of just 13.02 fantasy points on NFL.com to the last two quarterbacks they've faced, so keep Favre on the sidelines.
Owners beware - Tom Brady vs. Jets: It's hard to bench Brady right now, as he's been on absolute fire over his last four games. But if you have a solid alternative, someone like Vick or Cassel, he should be reserved in Week 13. In his last three games against the Jets, he's thrown for a combined three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Running backs - start 'em
Jamaal Charles vs. Broncos: The Broncos defense has been atrocious against the run this season, allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing backs. That makes Charles a very solid option in Week 13. In his last two games against this AFC West opponent, he's compiled six catches, 383 scrimmage yards and three total touchdowns.
Matt Forte at Lions: Forte has been inconsistent in 2010, but his value is trending upward after two straight solid stat lines. His success should continue against the Lions, who have allowed the third-most fantasy points to runners. Forte has also recorded 465 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns in his last three games against them.
Fred Jackson at Vikings: Jackson proved last week that he's somewhat matchup proof right now, scoring an impressive 22.30 fantasy points on NFL.com against the Steelers. He has now averaged 24.7 fantasy points in his last three games and is simply too hot to bench, even against the Vikings and their fifth-ranked run defense.
Felix Jones at Colts: The Cowboys will be without Marion Barber this week due to a calf ailment, so Jones should see more than his share of the workload against the Colts and their porous run defense. After 11 weeks, this unit has surrendered an average of over 18 fantasy points per game to running backs. That makes Jones a nice option.
Mike Tolbert vs. Raiders: Tolbert has been an absolute godsend for fantasy leaguers in recent weeks, rushing for a combined 214 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games. He should remain active this week against the Raiders, who have surrendered 13 total touchdowns and the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing runners.
Sleeper alert - Mike Goodson at Seahawks: Despite the return of Jonathan Stewart, Goodson still started and posted solid fantasy totals last week against the Browns. While he's destined to share part of the workload with his veteran backfield mate, Goodson has flex-starter value against the Seahawks and their dreadful defensive unit.
Running backs - sit 'em
Jahvid Best vs. Bears: After a fast start to the season, Best has done a Houdini act in the stat sheets. He's scored double-digit fantasy points just once since Week 2 and was held without a single point on Thanksgiving Day. The rookie is dealing with a problematic case of turf toe too, so you simply can't trust him in a prominent role.
Benjarvus Green-Ellis vs. Jets (Mon.): Green-Ellis has been a great find off the waiver wire this season, rushing for 627 yards and an impressive nine touchdowns. However, fantasy leaguers would still be wise to bench him against the Jets -- their defense has allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs in 2010.
Brian Westbrook at Packers: Westbrook is coming off a monster game on Monday night, rushing for 136 yards and one touchdown in a win over the Cardinals. However, he is going to struggle to post similar numbers against the Packers. Their defense has allowed an average of just 81.4 rushing yards per game to opposing backs in 2010.
LeGarrette Blount vs. Falcons: Blount has been relatively quiet in fantasy circles the last two weeks, rushing for a combined 137 yards with no touchdowns. Next on the schedule is a date with the Falcons, who held him to a mere 4.6 fantasy points in Week 9. Unless you're desperate for a flex starter, Blount should be benched.
Beanie Wells vs. Rams: The Cardinals backfield rotation is one of the most confusing and frustrating in all of fantasy football. Wells hasn't separated himself from Tim Hightower, who is still seeing his share of the workload. Until (or if) this situation clears up, Wells simply can't be trusted to produce solid numbers for fantasy owners.
Owners beware - Ray Rice vs. Steelers: It's hard to bench Rice unless you have major depth at the running back position, but this week's matchup against the Steelers is anything but favorable. In his last three games against them, the Rutgers product has averaged just 83 rushing yards. Rice has also never scored a touchdown against them.
Wide receivers - start 'em
Marques Colston at Bengals: Colston had a slow start to the season, but he has been an absolute fantasy football monster in his last four games. With a nice matchup against the Bengals next on the schedule, Colston should continue to make noise for owners. Their defense has allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to wide receivers.
**Steve Johnson**at Vikings: Johnson, one of the best waiver-wire pickups in fantasy football this season, should remain active for owners despite his terrible drop in the end zone against the Steelers. He should put up nice totals against the Vikings, who have allowed an average of 152.1 receiving yards to opposing wideouts in 2010.
Mario Manningham vs. Redskins: The Giants will be without Nicks and Smith once again, so Manningham will remain the No. 1 wide receiver in the pass attack. That makes him a great option against the Redskins, who have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to wideout. Consider Manningham a solid No. 2 option.
Jeremy Maclin vs. Texans (Thurs.): Believe it or not, but Maclin ranks 10th in fantasy points among wide receivers on NFL.com. He's even scored more points than his teammate, DeSean Jackson. The Texans have been awful against the pass for most of 2010, so look for Maclin and Jackson to both have solid games on Thursday night.
**Mike Williams**vs. Falcons Williams, a talented rookie out of Syracuse, is on pace to finish with an impressive 65 receptions for 1,020 yards and nine touchdowns. He should remain active in fantasy leagues this week against the Falcons -- their defense has allowed the third-most fantasy points to wideouts this season.
Sleeper alert - Steve Smith at Seahawks: Smith has been an absolute disaster this season, due in large part to the team's lack of a legitimate quarterback. But if you're in need of a No. 3 wideout in a larger league, he's worth a roll of the dice against the Seahawks. Their defense has allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers.
Wide receivers - sit 'em
Chad Ochocinco vs. Saints: Ochocinco is all over the television, both for reality shows and commercials. Unfortunately, that does nothing to help his lagging fantasy value. He's currently on pace to finish the season with a mere 913 yards and six touchdowns, and this week's matchup against the Saints makes him even less of an option.
Santana Moss at Giants: Moss is having a nice statistical season, at least in the reception and yardage categories, so it's hard to sit him in most leagues. However, his lack of success against the Giants in recent seasons should be noted. In his last four games against them, Moss has averaged a mere 38 yards with just one touchdown.
Michael Crabtree at Packers: Crabtree isn't putting up huge yardage totals, but he has scored a touchdown in five of his last seven games. Still, he's a risk this week based on a tough road matchup against the Packers. Their defense has surrendered the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wideouts, so Crabtree could struggle.
Deion Branch vs. Jets (Mon.): Branch is coming off a huge game against the Lions, posting 113 yards and two touchdowns against the Lions. Unfortunately, he has little chance to duplicate those totals against CBs Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and the Jets. Their defense has allowed just 11 touchdown catches to wideouts in 2010.
Randy Moss vs. Jaguars: I'm hoping that putting Moss in the sit 'em section of this column will cause some sort of jinx and he'll put up a huge stat line against a bad Jaguars pass defense. But even with Kerry Collins expected to start ahead of rookie Rusty Smith, Moss is a huge fantasy risk with the postseason just a week away.
Owners beware - Calvin Johnson vs. Bears: It's close to impossible for most owners to bench a player of Megatron's value, but don't be shocked if he has a rough time in Week 13. Not only does he face a Bears defense that held him to just 4.5 fantasy points in Week 1, but Johnson also has the inexperienced Drew Stanton at quarterback.
Tight ends - start 'em
Jacob Tamme at Cowboys: Tamme has been one of the unsung heroes in fantasy leagues. Since the loss of Dallas Clark, he's hauled 38 catches for 369 yards with three touchdowns in just five games. Those are impressive totals from a relatively unknown player. Look for Tamme's success to continue against a porous Cowboys pass defense.
Brandon Pettigrew vs. Bears: Pettigrew doesn't have a very favorable matchup, as the Bears have allowed an average of just 5.1 fantasy points per game to tight ends. But with a quarterback like Stanton under center, Pettigrew is certain to see a pile of targets as a safety net. He should remain active in most fantasy leagues as a result.
Marcedes Lewis at Titans: Lewis does not have a very positive career track record against the Titans, but he's still tough to bench based on his overall level of production. He's scored the second-most fantasy points at his position, and the Titans have surrendered the third-most receiving yards to opposing tight ends.
Kevin Boss vs. Redskins: With Nicks and Smith out of action for at least one more week, Boss is well worth starting in most fantasy leagues. He led the Giants in receiving yards last week and scored his third touchdown in the last four games, so the numbers support his increased value. Consider Boss if you lack a prominent tight end.
Visanthe Shiancoe vs. Bills: Shiancoe's numbers have been weak over his last three games, and that's putting it lightly. Since Week 10, he's scored a combined 8.9 fantasy points on NFL.com. Still, he's worth a look against the Bills if you're in need at the position -- their defense has struggled to stop tight ends all season long.
Sleeper alert - Brent Celek vs. Texans (Thurs.): Celek had been statistically invisible with Vick at the helm of the offense, but he did re-appear during last week's loss to the Bears with 50 yards and a touchdown. The Texans have allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than any team in the league, so Celek is worth a roll of the dice.
Tight ends - sit 'em
Chris Cooley at Giants: Cooley is going to be tough to bench, but he could be in for a difficult weekend in the Big Apple. The veteran tight has struggled severely when facing the Giants, averaging a meager 41.2 yards with two touchdowns in his last seven games against them. If you have another viable option, Cooley should be sidelined.
Todd Heap vs. Steelers: Heap is having one of the best statistical seasons of his career, ranking third in fantasy points among tight ends on NFL.com. But in his last five games against this week's opponent, the Steelers, Heap has recorded a combined seven catches for 102 yards. He had just 3.5 fantasy points against them in Week 4.
Greg Olsen at Lions: Olsen is in the midst of the best statistical season from a tight end in a Mike Martz offense, and he's not even on pace to record 50 catches or 500 yards. And while this week's matchup against the Lions looks good on paper, their defense has actually allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends in 2010.
Benjamin Watson at Dolphins: After a fast start, Watson has posted just 17.4 fantasy points on NFL.com in his last four games combined. That includes a four-point stinker last week against the Panthers. The Dolphins have allowed an average of fewer than five fantasy points per game to tight ends, so Watson's struggles should continue.
Heath Miller vs. Ravens: Despite the return of Ben Roethlisberger, Miller has still failed to produce in the stat sheets. In fact, he's averaged a mere 37.5 yards with no touchdowns in his last six games. His fortunes aren't likely to change against the Ravens, who have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Owners beware - Zach Miller at Chargers: Earlier in the season, Miller had emerged into one of the top tight ends in fantasy football. Unfortunately, an injured foot has really hurt his production in recent weeks. In fact, Miller has scored just 2.3 fantasy points on NFL.com since Week 8. That makes him hard for owners to start him.
Kickers - start 'em
Josh Brown at Cardinals: Brown is quietly putting up decent fantasy numbers behind an improved Rams offense. In fact, he's in the top 10 in fantasy points among kickers on NFL.com. Brown is a solid option against the Cardinals, who have allowed the most fantasy points to kickers. He's still a free agent in a lot of NFL.com leagues.
Adam Vinatieri at Cowboys: Vinatieri has posted some disappointing fantasy numbers with the Colts in recent seasons, but he's back on the radar and producing well in 2010. The veteran should remain a solid fantasy starter this week against the Cowboys, who have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing kickers this season.
Olindo Mare vs. Panthers: Mare has been on fire over the last three weeks, scoring a combined 37 fantasy points on NFL.com. Owners should ride him while he's hot, especially when facing a favorable matchup. That's the case this week against the Panthers, who have allowed an average of over nine fantasy points per game to kickers.
Sleeper alert - Josh Scobee at Titans: Scobee has been quite unreliable this season from a fantasy perspective, but he's worth a look in deeper leagues based on this week's matchup against the Titans. The Cardinals are the lone team to surrender more fantasy points to kickers, so Scobee should be able to compile a nice stat line.
Kickers - sit 'em
Nick Folk at Patriots (Mon.): Folk has scored the fifth-most fantasy points among kickers, but the Jets have little faith in him right now. In fact, reports came out that the team tried out alternative kickers this week. That's a bad sign for Folk, both on the field and in fantasy circles. Keep him reserved against the Patriots.
Robbie Gould at Lions: A veteran out of Penn State, Gould has failed to make much of an impact for owners. In fact, he's scored double-digit fantasy points just once in his last six games. Gould was also held to just seven fantasy points in his last game against the Lions. Keep him on the fantasy waiver for the foreseeable future.
Matt Prater at Chiefs: The battle between the Broncos and Chiefs figures to be a high-scoring affair, but that's not always good news for kickers. In fact, Prater scored just seven fantasy points in Week 10 despite the fact that his team scored 49 points. He's also just 19th in fantasy points among kickers, so Prater's a risky pick.
Owners beware - Rob Bironas vs. Jaguars: Bironas gave fantasy leaguers a big fat zero last week, as the Titans offense struggled to move the ball against the Texans. He's also scored double-digit fantasy points just once in his last four games, so his value has taken a hit. Even with Collins under center, Bironas could have a tough week.
Defenses - start 'em
Packers defense vs. 49ers: The top-scoring fantasy defense on NFL.com, the Packers have posted double-digit point totals in four of their last five games. This unit should continue to find success at Lambeau Field against Troy Smith and the 49ers, who have been a very favorable matchup for opposing defenses from a fantasy perspective.
Chargers defense vs. Raiders: The Bolts are coming off a huge performance against Peyton Manning and the Colts, scoring an impressive 24 fantasy points on NFL.com. While duplicating that total will be difficult, the Chargers should still post solid numbers against a Raiders offense that has struggled to score in recent weeks.
Saints defense at Bengals: The Saints defense hasn't been nearly as productive as it was last season, but this unit can still be useful when the matchup is right. That is the case this week against Palmer and the Bengals, who have been one of the more vulnerable offenses in terms of defenses scoring fantasy points.
Sleeper alert - Rams defense at Cardinals: If you watched the debacle that is the Cardinals offense on Monday night, you know exactly why the Rams are a nice sleeper defense this week. This unit scored 11 fantasy points against the Cards in their first meeting of the season, and I think they can improve on that total the second time around.
Defenses - sit 'em
Patriots defense vs. Jets (Mon.): The last time the Patriots played the Jets, their defense scored a meager two fantasy points on NFL.com. Couple that with the fact that opposing defenses have combined to score the third-fewest fantasy points against the Men in Green, and it's pretty obvious why the P-Men need to be avoided this week.
49ers defense at Packers: The Niners scored a respectable 12 fantasy points on NFL.com against the Cardinals last Monday night, but this week's matchup against an explosive Packers offense is far less favorable. Look for the Rodgers to throw it a ton and score a pile of points against San Francisco's mediocre pass defense.
Cowboys defense vs. Colts: After posting attractive fantasy totals in their previous two games, the Cowboys defense scored just five points against the Saints on Thanksgiving. Despite Manning's recent increase in turnovers, trusting the Cowboys against a quarterback of his caliber is not a smart move in fantasy leagues.
Owners beware - Ravens defense vs. Steelers: The Ravens defense had long been an elite unit in fantasy leagues, but this season has told a different tale. In fact, they rank an unimpressive 22nd in fantasy points on NFL.com. That makes it hard to trust the Purple and Black against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers on Sunday night.