Championship lineup questions on the minds of fantasy owners

I just won the first playoff game, and my reserves actually scored more points than my starters! Anyways, should I start Philip Rivers and Matt Schaub? The Chargers have clinched their division, and I'm a little worried that Norv Turner might rest his starters. -- B. Brown, Macon, Ga.

Michael Fabiano: The Chargers can clinch a first-round bye in the AFC postseason with a win or tie against the Titans or a Patriots loss or tie against the Jaguars, so I don't expect Turner to rest his starters. With that said, I'd start Schaub ahead of Rivers based on the matchups. The Texans quarterback faces a Dolphins defense that has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Rivers is a nice fantasy option as well, but he has a less favorable opponent in Tennessee.

I made it through Week 15, but now I have a quandary at the quarterback position. Do I start Ben Roethlisberger or Vince Young? I also need to start two of the following four players: Percy Harvin, Mario Manningham, Dwayne Bowe or Justin Forsett? Any help would be greatly appreciated. -- J. Wilson, Indianapolis, Ind.

M.F.: Young was fantastic last week against the Dolphins, throwing for three touchdowns in an overtime win. But based on the matchups, start Big Ben. The Steelers quarterback is coming off a 503-yard performance against the Packers. Now he faces the Ravens, who have allowed an average of 21.7 points and 244.5 passing yards per game on the road. Pittsburgh has become a passing team in recent seasons, so look for Roethlisberger to air it out in this important AFC North contest. Start Harvin against the Bears and Forsett against the Packers. However, starting Forsett depends on the health of Julius Jones. He suffered a rib injury in Week 15, so be sure to monitor his status throughout the week. If Jones is active and starts, Forsett would of course be a bit less attractive in fantasy circles.

In our league, we are able to keep one player from the previous year's lineup. Here's my question. How much does Jamaal Charles warrant consideration as a keeper at this point? My other options are Steven Jackson and Reggie Wayne. -- B. Mull, Grand Rapids, Mich.

M.F.: Charles is without question a viable fantasy keeper. He's been an absolute star since taking over the top spot on the Chiefs depth chart, not to mention a hero to the lucky fantasy owners who grabbed him off the waiver wire. His coach, Todd Haley, told the Kansas City Star that Charles is "pushing ... to be one of the top guys in the league" at the running back position. With that said, I still think Jackson is the better keeper at this time. He's been the lone star in an awful Rams offense that should have a new look in 2010. There's a lot that can happen between now and when you need to make a final decision, but for now I'd still keep Jackson over Charles.

I have Peyton Manning and Vince Young at the quarterback position. I've been riding Manning all season, but now I'm afraid I'll lost him in Week 16. So the question is: Should I bench Manning in favor of Young? -- J. Jefferson, Laurel, Md.

M.F.:Colts coach Jim Caldwell was a bit vague in his Monday press conference when asked about resting his players, saying that "for a guy to be excluded from the game, it will be a health issue." However, he also added that he "could not tell you exactly ... whether a guy is going to play one series or the entire game." This of course makes the decision to start or sit Manning a difficult one. In your case, I'd be checking NFL.com for updates and further quotes from Caldwell the rest of the week. If he commits to starting Manning and using him for at least a half, I'd start him over Young. Remember, the Colts still have a chance at a perfect regular-season record, so this is not the same sort of scenario as in past seasons when Manning and the starters were rested. One player I would bench, however, is Reggie Wayne. If you have a legitimate option to use, it's a good idea to sit him against Jets CB Darrelle Revis. I'd also beware of Joseph Addai, who's dealing with a few nagging injuries and could be rested as a result.

Hey Michael! What are your thoughts on having players earn points when they return kicks and punts for touchdowns, rather than reward the team's defense and special teams? Our league does the latter, and it cost me because I started Joshua Cribbs as a flex player. I didn't get those points and lost in the process. Bah humbug! -- P. Wheeling, Sarasota, Fla.

M.F.: I am all for it. I touched on this subject earlier in the season, when Ted Ginn scored two touchdowns on returns against the Jets and didn't receive those points in standard leagues. The NFL is all about the players, right? So why should someone like Cribbs not be rewarded for all of his skills and abilities? If it were up to me, I'd eliminate return touchdowns from defense and special teams scoring and reward one point for every 25 return yards and six points for all return touchdowns. Fantasy football has evolved to include points for catches, yardage bonuses, etc., and now it needs to evolve again to allow owners to get points for all of their player's talents.

Hey Michael, I need to start either Frank Gore or Jerome Harrison alongside Ray Rice this week. I'm really wavering because Harrison was lights out last week! What would you do? This is for all the marbles! -- G. Jackson, Pittsburgh, Pa.

M.F.: This might have been a more difficult decision if Gore didn't have such a favorable matchup, but he's really hard to bench against the Lions. Their defense has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points (24.8 PPG) to running backs this season, so Gore should find statistical success. I think Gore is also a safer option overall. While it appears that Harrison is the Browns featured back after his huge performance, Eric Mangini has burned us with that in the past and used Chris Jennings (Week 14 vs. Steelers) at times.

Thank God I listened to you last week and started Vince Young over Brett Favre! You're not always right, Fabiano, but you helped me reach my league's finals and for that I thank you. So should I continue to ride Young or go back to Favre in Week 16? Also, should I start Cedric Benson ahead of Ryan Grant? -- A. Dorsey, Littleton, Colo.

M.F.: Thanks, I think. Glad to help. Anyways, I think you have to stick with the hot hand and use Young. I know Favre has a great matchup against the Bears, but hear me out. First, he's been terrible for fantasy owners over the last two weeks with a combined 17 fantasy points. Second, this game will be played in front of a national audience. The Bears won't want to be embarrassed like the Redskins were in Week 15, so you can expect their best effort against an NFC North rival. Third, it looks like coach Brad Childress is of the mindset that he wants to rest Favre on the final two weeks if at all possible. So if the Vikings take a lead late or the game gets out of hand, Favre could be sidelined. Also consider that Young has been on fire in recent weeks, and the Titans need to play well in order to keep their AFC postseason hopes and dreams alive.

It's my second season playing fantasy football and my second year in the finals, but I'm smart enough to know that I can always use advice! I plan to start Marques Colston and DeSean Jackson at wide receiver, but I need to choose one more from Dwayne Bowe and Santana Moss. I'll also start Chris Johnson at running back, but I need to choose one more back from Ryan Grant and Beanie Wells. Right now, I'm leaning toward Wells. What would Fabiano do? -- S. Walker, Memphis, Tenn.

M.F.: I don't trust either Moss nor Bowe to be honest, but the matchups dictate that you should start the former. Moss has had a lot of success against the Cowboys in his career in Washington, while Bowe faces a Bengals defense that has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to wide receiver this season. On the flip side, I like both of the running backs you've mentioned. Wells has emerged into a solid fantasy option in recent weeks, and his upcoming matchup against the Rams makes him a very attractive No. 2 back. With that said, I'd stick with Grant. While Wells is still losing some work to Tim Hightower, Grant will see the full workload against Seattle. The Seahawks have given up an average of 30.3 points and 132.4 rushing yards per game on the road, so Grant should post a nice stat line. Wells is a solid choice, but Grant gets the call for me.

Merry Christmas Michael! I have a burning question for Week 16. Last week I started Eli Manning over Ben Roethlisberger, and it worked out for me (luckily). Now I have to make the same choice of the championship. Do I stick with Manning? He's been on fire! Also, is it time to drop Greg Olsen? Jermichael Finley is a free agent. Enjoy the holidays. -- J. Sauve, Canada

M.F.: Merry Christmas to you as well! I have to admit, Manning has made me look bad the past two weeks. He's been a great fantasy option, as the Giants have become a passing team (like the rest of the league) and allowed him a chance to post huge numbers. With that said, I'm still sitting him in favor of Roethlisberger. As I explained earlier, Big Ben has a good matchup against the Ravens. Manning, on the other hand, faces a Panthers defense that has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. At tight end, I would dump Olsen and add Finley. Olsen does have a good matchup this week, but Finley's been more consistent and a far better fantasy option in recent weeks.

I got knocked out of the fantasy postseason by Joe Flacco of all people, and I lost by just two points! Yes, I'm a little bitter about it! Anyways, I'm already thinking ahead to 2010. What do you think the top five overall picks will be in a seasonal league? Thanks! -- F. Davidson, Twin Cities, Minn.

M.F.: There are a lot of hard luck stories out there! Facing Flacco was one of them -- he had four touchdowns passes in seven combined games before lighting up the Bears like a Christmas tree in Week 15. To answer your question, my top five for next season is as follows: 1. Chris Johnson, 2. Maurice Jones-Drew, 3. Drew Brees, 4. Adrian Peterson, 5. Aaron Rodgers. Mark my words, you're going to see a ton of quarterbacks going much earlier in drafts. If you look at things right now, the list of running backs worth a first-round pick next season are limited to Johnson, Jones-Drew, Peterson, Ray Rice, Steven Jackson, DeAngelo Williams and maybe Frank Gore and Michael Turner.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Leave it in our comments section or send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com!

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