I had a first-round bye in the postseason, and now I have to face a team that has Drew Brees and Chris Johnson. My question to you is this: Should I start Donovan McNabb over Tom Brady at quarterback? What about Vincent Jackson over Randy Moss at wide receiver? Thanks, Michael. I hope you can help me to my first championship game in over five years of playing fantasy football! -- A. Galgoci, Manville, N.J.
Michael Fabiano: I don't know about you, but I have a feeling that Patriots coach Bill Belichick will intentionally look to get Moss more targets this week to put to rest the reports of his recent "displeasures." And while Jackson is coming off a great game against the Cowboys, he's been unproductive overall in his last five starts. With that said, I'd stick with Moss. The same mindset applies at quarterback, where I'd continue to start Brady. McNabb has been solid in recent weeks, but he faces a tough matchup at home against a 49ers defense that held Kurt Warner to just one fantasy point on NFL.com in Week 14. Brady also scored 25 fantasy points against the Bills in Week 1.
You have a natural talent for picking the best players to start, and I'm in dire need of your help this week. It's the first week of playoffs and I must choose two running backs from Ryan Grant, Maurice Jones-Drew and Jamaal Charles. Charles seems like a lock, but Grant has a tough matchup and MJD continues to play at a sub-par level. Please help! -- S. Amin, West Lafayette, Ind.
M.F.: I don't know about having a natural talent for picking the best players, but thanks! It's all about research and the matchups. Anyways, let's talk about your conundrum. I know Jones-Drew hasn't been great in recent weeks, but I'd still continue to start him in Week 15. In his last three games against the Colts, Jones-Drew has put up a combined 451 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns. Those are impressive numbers, I'd also start Charles ahead of Grant. Sure, the Packers running back was tremendous in last week's win over the Bears, but a matchup against the Ravens makes him a risk. What's more, Charles has become one of the top running backs in fantasy football in recent weeks. In his last five games, he's averaged an impressive 15.6 fantasy points per game. Next on the slate, a game against the Browns and their vulnerable run defense.
M.F.: Peterson is a must-start option against the Panthers, who have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs this season. I would also go with Charles ahead of Gore this week, for the reasons I listed in the aforementioned answer. I know that Gore is coming off one of his best games of 2009, but his matchup in Philadelphia is a tough one. The Eagles are allowing an average of just 102.7 rushing yards per game on their home field, so Gore could be in for a mediocre afternoon. At wide receiver, I would bench Jennings. It's a close call between him and Smith, but the Giants wideout has been a better option for fantasy owners in both standard and PPR leagues this season.
I have Chris Johnson and need to pick a No. 2 running back from Knowshon Moreno and Beanie Wells. I also have Andre Johnson and need a second receiver from Hines Ward, Michael Crabtree, Kenny Britt, Antonio Bryant and Pierre Garcon. I haven't been to the second round of the playoff in a few years, so I need your help! -- R. Grieco, Buffalo, N.Y.
M.F.: I like both Moreno and Wells this week, based on their respective matchups against the Raiders and Lions. But I'd go with Moreno out of this duo. The rookie running back is seeing most of the carries in the Broncos backfield, and the questionable status of Correll Buckhalter (ankle) could make him a featured back against the Raiders. The Silver & Black have allowed the third-most fantasy points to running backs, so Moreno should find success. At wide receiver, I would start Garcon. He's facing a Jaguars defense that has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to wideouts. On a seperate note, I also like Bryant a lot this week. I know that sounds a little odd based on his lack of success last week, but that was against the human wideout eraser, Jets CB Darrelle Revis. This week Bryant faces a Seahawks defense that has surrendered the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. While I'd use Garcon ahead of Bryant, the Buccaneers wideout is a high-end No. 3 fantasy option in Week 15.
Hey Michael! Thanks for your help getting me the No. 1 seed in my league. Now it's crunch time! I have DeAngelo Williams, Frank Gore and Rashard Mendenhall as my top running backs and flex starter, but I'm worried about their matchups this week. Do I dare start Arian Foster over one of these guys? And a quick one, should I roll with Kellen Winslow or pick up Jermichael Finley? -- Ryan, South Korea
M.F.: My pleasure, glad to help! I understand your concerns about Williams, Gore and Mendenhall, but I think you need to run with your stars in the case. As much as I like Foster as a sleeper based on a matchup against the Rams, I can't in good faith advise you to start him ahead of any of the aforementioned three backs. At tight end, it's time to add Finley and start him in most leagues (even ahead of Winslow).
Hey Michael, love your advice I have a tough choice for this week. I made the playoffs and need one running back to go with Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice. It's a standard league with bonus points for touchdowns of 40-plus yards I need to start one of these backs: Brandon Jacobs, Quinton Ganther, Arian Foster or Justin Forsett. My gut says Jacobs is the sensible choice, but Ganther won me a game last week. What do you think? Also, Greg Olsen or Fred Davis this week? -- A. Bolgiano, Canton, Ohio
M.F.: I'd agree with your gut and start Jacobs. I don't like the matchup very much, but I'm not sure I trust Ganther, Foster or Forsett ahead of him. I would like the Seahawks runner more if he weren't sharing carries with Julius Jones, especially with a game against the Buccaneers. But because of questions about the workload, it's hard to trust Forsett. At tight end, I would start Davis ahead of Olsen. Over the last three weeks, the Redskins tight end has scored a combined 38 fantasy points on NFL.com. Davis also faces a Giants defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to tight ends, so this is a great week to start him. I see Davis as a surefire top-10 option.
Mike, I need your help! I have to start two of these four running backs in Week 15: DeAngelo Williams, Frank Gore, Ricky Williams and Tim Hightower. Both of my studs, Gore and DeAngelo Williams, have horrible matchups. Now Hightower might be benched due to fumbling on Monday night. What do I do? -- J. Greenwood, Canada
M.F.: Hightower has the best matchup of these four backs, but it's hard to trust him right now. As you mentioned, he lost work to Beanie Wells in Week 14 after he lost another fumble. Based on the matchups, I think you have to bench Gore. Here's the reasoning behind that decision: First, Gore has a tough matchup on the road against the Eagles. Second, Ricky Williams has been too good to bench in recent weeks. Third, DeAngelo Williams is playing at home and on national television against the Vikings. I know that Minnesota's run defense is stout, but teams playing the "spoiler" role on their home field in front of the nation tend to step up. Just ask the Pittsburgh Steelers.
M.F.: I agree with starting Owens against the Patriots, but I'd go with Smith ahead of Holmes. The Steelers wide receiver will have to contend with Packers CB Charles Woodson, who's been almost as good as Revis in terms of shutting down opposing receivers. That makes me side with Smith, who's been the better fantasy option all season and will face a Redskins defense that's dealing with several injuries. I also think you're smart to bench White, who faces the aforementioned Jets defender in Week 15.
This week I have a tough quarterback question. I have Vince Young, Joe Flacco and Matt Hasselbeck. I have durability concerns about Young and Hasselbeck, but Hasselbeck has the best matchup. However, Young and Flacco have more to play for this week. Thoughts? -- E. Davis, Detroit, Mich.
M.F.: If Young is active against the Dolphins, I think he's the quarterback to start. Miami has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to signal-callers this season, so Young should find success. Just be sure to check his status, as he left last week's win over the Rams with an injured hamstring. If Young is unavailable, start Hasselbeck.
M.F.: As much as I've touted Smith over the last few weeks (and will tout him against the Lions in Week 16), I'd start Campbell ahead of him. Over the last three weeks, only Drew Brees and Tony Romo have scored more fantasy points than Campbell at the quarterback position. He also has a great matchup against the Giants. In their last six games, only Kyle Orton has failed to score at least 21 fantasy points against the G-Men. What's more, the last two quarterbacks to face them scored a combined 56 points.