Lineup questions on the minds of fantasy owners in Week 13

Hi Michael, who do I start this week between Brandon Jacobs and Knowshon Moreno? Also, should I consider starting Alex Smith over Eli Manning? Go Saints! -- P. Schlinger, New Orleans, La.

Michael Fabiano: I don't trust Jacobs as far as I can throw him after his five-point dud last week against the Broncos. He's just not running with much of a purpose and has been an extreme disappointment for fantasy owners. Since Week 9, Jacobs is averaging just seven fantasy points on NFL.com. Facing the Dallas Cowboys, who have been very tough against the run, makes him even less attractive. I'd side with Moreno, who faces a Chiefs defense that has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to running backs. At quarterback, I would start Smith over Manning without question. The 49ers signal-caller has been solid for owners in recent weeks, and facing the Seahawks makes him a very nice sleeper candidate. Seattle has allowed an average of 19.1 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, so I'd look for Smith's fantasy success to continue in Week 13.

Hi Mike, this is the last week of the regular season and I'm in first place. My opponent is in second place, and whoever wins will get a first-round bye in the playoffs. My opponent also happens to be my wife, so I really need this win! With that said, which two wideouts would you start from Steve Smith (CAR), Calvin Johnson, Percy Harvin, Chris Chambers and Mike Wallace? -- A. Cohen, Philadelphia, Pa.

M.F.: I know Johnson has been a disappointment, but at least he's had time to rest from his injuries after a Thanksgiving Day loss to the Packers. Unless he has some sort of setback, I'd continue to start him in Week 13. The second wideout to use boils down to Smith or Harvin. I know Smith has a great matchup against the Buccaneers, but I'd still side with Harvin. Smith has been so inconsistent, and I expect the Panthers to run the ball a ton. It also looks like Matt Moore could be starting at quarterback over Jake Delhomme. What's more, Harvin is averaging 15 fantasy points on NFL.com in his last two games, and that Sunday night contest in Arizona could be a real barnburner.

I need to win my next game to get into the playoffs. Who should I start at quarterback between Brett Favre and Peyton Manning? -- Casey, Tucson, Ariz.

M.F.: This is an absolute toss up between two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, in both fantasy football or reality. Believe it or not, but Favre is a mere eight fantasy points behind Manning among all players on NFL.com. The old gunslinger has been a serious find for fantasy leaguers, and he's become a must-start in most formats. But in this case, I would side with Manning. He's playing at home and has a more favorable matchup, facing a Titans defense that ranks 31st against the pass. While it's true that Tennessee has been much better in recent weeks, this defensive unit has still allowed an average of close to 24 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks.

Hi Mike, hope you had a good Thanksgiving! I'm having some running back troubles heading into Week 13. Right now, I have Maurice Jones-Drew and Tim Hightower as my top starters. I'm definitely going to start MJD, but Hightower has a tough matchup against the Vikings. Who can I add off the waiver wire to replace him? Justin Forsett, Fred Jackson and Jason Snelling are available. Thanks for the help! -- F. Lu, Dallas, Texas

M.F.: I had a nice Thanksgiving, thanks! Hope yours was good as well. If you can add Forsett, I'd do so now. Unless Julius Jones returns to action, Forsett would be a better option than Hightower. In fact, I like Jackson better than Hightower as well. He's re-claimed the top spot on the depth chart in Buffalo and is a much more attractive choice in fantasy circles. Be sure to make one of these moves soon, though, as Jackson and the Bills face the New York Jets on Thursday Night Football (NFL Network, 8 pm EST).

Tom Brady killed me last week! I also have Matt Schaub on my fantasy team, and he has a great matchup against the Jaguars. Would you do the unthinkable and bench Brady in the final week of the fantasy regular season? -- S. Whalen, Little Rock, Ark.

M.F.: I was shocked to see Brady score a mere five fantasy points on Monday night! I was even more shocked to see coach Bill Belichick pull his all-world quarterback in the fourth quarter. With that said, I would still start Brady over Schaub in Week 13. While I do like Schaub based on what is an attractive matchup against the Jaguars, I think Brady will bounce back and produce a monster stat line against Miami. The Dolphins rank 23rd against the pass and have allowed an average of 20 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season. Furthermore, Brady has also thrown for a combined 901 yards and 10 touchdown passes in his last three games against this AFC East rival.

Thanks to you I started Philip Rivers over Donovan McNabb last week! After that win, I'm one more win from a postseason berth. Do I stick with Rivers again, or should I use McNabb instead? Also, should I start Jason Witten or Kellen Winslow? Thanks! -- C. Blanton, Austin, Texas

M.F.: I like McNabb this week against the Falcons, even if he's without his top wide receiver, DeSean Jackson. But Rivers has been a far more consistent and reliable option for fantasy owners. He's also facing the Cleveland Browns, who are allowing an average of close to 19 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season. While it is true that the Browns have been better at home, the loss of DT Shaun Rogers could decimate their line and should leave Rivers with plenty of time to pick apart their backfield. At tight end, I would go with Witten. He's coming off his best game of the season, had extra time to rest his injured foot and has a great matchup against the Giants. The Men in Blue have lost arguably their top linebacker, Antonio Pierce, for the season. Their defense has also allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to tight ends in 2009.

Which running back should I bench this week from Thomas Jones, Rashard Mendenhall, Pierre Thomas and LaDainian Tomlinson? I need to start three this week. Also, should I stick with the Steelers defense or go with the Jets? The Steelers aren't the same without SS Troy Polamalu. -- D. Lungarini, New Hyde Park, N.Y.

M.F.: I would start Jones, Mendenhall and Tomlinson and bench Thomas. Jones is a must-start against the Bills, who have allowed more fantasy points than any other team. I also like Mendenhall against the Raiders and L.T. against the Browns. Those defenses rank 31st and 29th against the run, respectively. While it's true that the Steel Curtain is less formidable without Polamalu, I still like them against Bruce Gradkowski and the Oakland offense. They're averaging fewer than 10 points per game on the road.

I have a very difficult decision in my keeper league. Which three players should I retain from Drew Brees, Ray Rice, Rashard Mendenhall, Knowshon Moreno, Calvin Johnson and DeSean Jackson? Thanks! -- A. Lundy, England

M.F.: I would keep Brees, Rice and Johnson. The Saints quarterback has proven time and time again that he's an elite fantasy option, and Rice has become one of the best running backs in the league this season. He's versatile, durable and is one of the few featured backs left in the NFL. Johnson has taken a step back in terms of points and production in 2009, but he's still one of the most talented wideouts in the entire league. He's also been injured for much of the season, but that won't alter his keeper stock going forward. With quarterback Matthew Stafford continuing to develop at the NFL level, Johnson's future remains bright despite this current bump in the road.

I am in serious need of quarterback help this week. I've lost Matt Ryan and I don't have a backup quarterback on my roster. This is 12-team standard league, and there isn't much left on the waiver wire. Help! -- C. Thorn, Reno, Nev.

M.F.: In order, I would add Alex Smith, Vince Young or Kyle Boller for this week. Smith has a great matchup against the Seahawks, and he'll be worth keeping with a game against the Lions slated for fantasy's championship week. Young is also a nice option. He's not putting up huge fantasy numbers, but he's also good for at least 14-16 points week in and week out. If Smith and Young are off the board, take a one-week chance on Boller. He's facing a Bears defense that ranks 24th in the NFL against the pass.

I am officially on the Justin Forsett bandwagon! I stashed him away weeks ago when you had him on your waiver-wire report, and he's led me to two straight wins. But here is the question. Will he lose this starting job to Julius Jones? If so, should I start Forsett or Laurence Maroney? Thanks! -- P. Lindbrook, Nashville, Tenn.

M.F.: Reports out of Seattle indicate Jones will re-gain his starting role once he's 100 percent. While the majority of fantasy owners would disagree with the decision, it looks like coach Jim Mora is about to alter the value of his backfield. With that said, there are no guarantees that Jones will return to action in Week 13. In fact, Mora himself isn't even sure about the status of his veteran back. If Jones is out and Forsett starts, I'd continue to use him against the 49ers. But if Jones returns and starts, I would then side with the suddenly-valuable Maroney.

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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