It is crunch time in the world of fantasy football.
The initial draft in all leagues helped separate owners early in the season. Then the waiver wire sorted out how the playoff runs would shape up.
Now, it’s back to basics. Which owners know when to start or sit star players?
Through careful analysis of a variety of factors, the correct answers are easily obtainable. Below is a close look at some of the most difficult decisions on the minds of owners everywhere with the weekend on the horizon.
Note: All scoring info based on ESPN standard leagues. Points-against info courtesy of ESPN. Buffalo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Seattle are on a bye.
Start ‘Em: Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers (@ WAS)
Colin Kaepernick has been maddeningly erratic and undependable all season long.
It’s understandable if owners shy away from giving him a start with so much on the line, but now is the time to bank on Kaepernick.
Kaepernick was an afterthought last week, scoring 13 fantasy points. While he’s scored 20 points or more twice all season, he will surely make it a third Sunday when he takes on a Washington defense that ranks in the bottom five against the position in fantasy.
Whether it’s on the ground or with his legs, Kaepernick will put up top production.
Sit ‘Em: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (at CLE)
Ben Roethlisberger was the No. 1 quarterback scorer last week at 31 points thanks to his 367 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Don’t expect him to hit anywhere near that again.
That was Roethlisberger’s highest fantasy output of the season, and it came against a porous defense. Now, he’s faced with a top-five pass defense that allows just 15.5 points per game to the position.
Roethlisberger must sit.
Start ‘Em: Andre Brown, New York Giants (vs. DAL)
Ride the hot hand when it comes to running backs.
That would be New York’s Andre Brown. He exploded onto the scene in Week 10 off injured reserve and scored 17 fantasy points on 115 yards and a touchdown. While he was a bit quiet last week, with less than 10 points, Brown is in for a huge day come Sunday.
Last time we saw the Dallas defense, it was giving up over 600 yards of total offense to New Orleans, a team that had two running backs score in the top three in Week 10 as they combined for over 40 points.
Brown is guaranteed production and must be in all lineups.
Sit ‘Em: Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts (at ARI)
If for whatever reason Trent Richardson still has a home on fantasy rosters (surely someone is clinging to the hope that Donald Brown will stop producing), he must ride the pine in Week 12.
Arizona touts a top run defense that surrenders just over 80 yards per game. It also gives up the fewest points per game to the position, at a 10.4 average. Richardson himself has passed the 10-point threshold once this season.
Still not convinced? Richardson partakes in a committee approach with Brown, who has scored 12 or more points in consecutive weeks. Richardson is a fantasy wasteland.
Start ‘Em: Victor Cruz, New York Giants (vs. DAL)
Double dip on the Dallas defense.
The last time New York and Dallas met? Week 1, when Victor Cruz caught five passes for 118 yards and three touchdowns—his best fantasy output of the year, at a staggering 29 points.
On average, the Cowboys allow 23.2 points to the position per contest.
Cruz has not hit on a salsa dance since Week 4, but he’ll be doing plenty Sunday.
Sit ‘Em: Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers (at MIA)
Can we really classify Steve Smith as a fantasy star anymore?
Smith has failed to break the 100-yard barrier this year and has scored over 10 fantasy points just twice.
A stiff Miami Dolphins defense allows just 13.8 points to receivers per game and will have little issue stopping Smith from quality fantasy numbers against Carolina’s run-first approach.
Start ‘Em: Delanie Walker, Tennessee Titans (at OAK)
Don’t look now, but Delanie Walker is an elite fantasy option at a horrible position.
Walker has scored in the top three at the position the past two weeks. The common thread? Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick struggles to go down the field with the football and instead relies on his big-bodied tight end consistently.
The Raiders rank in the middle of the pack against fantasy tight ends, but Walker is a lock for production in the confines of his situation.
Sit ‘Em: Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers (at KC)
Ole reliable has had a nice season, but Antonio Gates is a must-sit option in Week 12.
Kansas City has the best mark in the fake football landscape against opposing tight ends, at just 3.6 points allowed per game.
On the road against a pass defense that ranks in the top 10, it’s unwise to give Gates the nod. He’s past the point of being a matchup-proof option, and this is one that simply doesn’t swing in his favor.