RotoWire NFL Players to Watch

December 9, 2011

After going three of four with my top picks last week with the same matchup-based considerations, I've selected Rex Grossman (matchup), LeGarrette Blount (matchup/talent), C.J. Spiller (matchup/talent) and Michael Crabtree (matchup/talent) as my four favorites for Week 14. Don't be afraid to start these names over your usual better players. I never thought I'd say it, but I love Grossman this week if you've got Ben Roethlisberger or Michael Vick.

That obviously doesn't mean get cute and bench a stud like LeSean McCoy because of a tough matchup, but it is meant to emphasize the importance of studying your matchups closely this week. So take advantage of those bad defenses and survive one more week. Finally, as a bonus recommendation, roll with Toby Gerhart again if Adrian Peterson remains out.


Kansas City at New York Jets


Thomas Jones, RB, Chiefs - The Chiefs physical defense will keep it close for at least three quarters and allow them to keep handing the ball off instead of risking Tyler Palko turnovers versus the Jets elite pass defense. Jones, who has been getting more carries recently, will find a one-week fountain of youth to stick it to his old team.

Dustin Keller, TE, Jets - The Chiefs have allowed five touchdown passes to tight ends in their last five games. Though Keller has struggled to consistently put up respectable yardage numbers, he's stayed one of Mark Sanchez's favorite targets all year and should be a go-to this week in the red zone.

Tampa Bay at Jacksonville

Mike Williams, WR, Buccaneers - At long last Williams is back to his rookie form. It only took 61.74 percent of the season for him to get there. He's now racked up at least 80 yards in three straight games and against a Jags defense that is beaten up, he'll keep right on along that path.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Buccaneers - The Jaguars don't have the offensive firepower to put Tampa into any kind of hole, so the Bucs will re-establish the ground game early and Blount will bounce back versus a defense that's allowed four rushing scores and two 100-yard rushers in the past three weeks.

New England at Washington

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots - I said it last week, but after Shonn Greene trashed them for three scores it bears repeating. The Redskins have allowed an opposing back to hit either 100 total yards or punch in a score in EVERY SINGLE game this season.

Rex Grossman, QB, Redskins - Sexy Rexy struggled against the Jets, but that was to be expected. Things will be much different for him versus the downright dreadful New England pass D. If Dan Orlovsky can torch the Pats, I'm willing to back Grossman for a big week.

Atlanta at Carolina

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons - Last week I said regarding Ryan "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Well the Texans defense really is that good because they broke Ryan's 4-game streak of posting at least 18 fantasy points. Against a suspect Carolina defense, Ryan will begin a new streak.

Jonathan Stewart, RB, Panthers - Stewart has averaged 5.5 yards per carry in seven career matchups with the Falcons, including a meeting in Week 6 in which he racked up 72 total yards and a score at 6.9 yards a rush. So despite the strong Atlanta run defense, Stewart is a good bet this week.

Indianapolis at Baltimore

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens - The Colts have allowed 22 passing scores so far this year and are allowing a ridiculous 109.2 passer rating to opposing QB's. So even though they're worse stopping the run, don't be surprised when Baltimore decides to give Flacco a confidence boost with the playoffs just around the corner.

Anquan Boldin, WR, Ravens - See Flacco, Joe. After a great stretch of games in October, Boldin has really slowed down. Fortunately for him, a great cure for the receiver blues is coming to town in the form of a Colts defense that just bleeds yards and points to all positions.

Philadelphia at Miami

Brent Celek, TE, Eagles - Celek had a streak of five straight games with at least 50 yards broken in Seattle. He's been one of the few Eagles not named LeSean McCoy that has consistently shown up. With Vince Young expected to return to the bench, Celek should get back on track in Miami.

Matt Moore, QB, Dolphins - With room for only one "Dream Team" in South Beach, Moore will send the Eagles back to Philly after another nightmare performance.

Minnesota at Detroit

Christian Ponder, QB, Vikings - With six scores in his past three games, Ponder is finally coming into his own as a passer and leader. Despite the tough road atmosphere, a sore hip and a Detroit team with its back against the wall, Ponder will continue to put up strong numbers.

Maurice Morris, RB, Lions - Even if his opportunities are limited in the running game, Morris has been strong enough in the passing game with nearly 130 receiving yards and a score in his last two games to warrant a flex play.

New Orleans at Tennessee

Lance Moore, WR, Saints - With five touchdowns in the past five games, Moore has clearly become one of Drew Brees' favorite targets in the red zone once again. Working out of the slot and running crisp routes, those scoring opportunities should only continue in the Music City.

Damian Williams, WR, Titans - The Saints have quietly become one of the worst pass defenses in the league, giving up the third most yards in the league behind only Green Bay and New England. That could spell a nice day for Williams once the Saints get a lead and force Matt Hasselbeck to start slinging it.

Houston at Cincinnati

Ben Tate, RB, Texans - The Bengals' defense has weakened recently versus the run and allowed six rushing scores in their last four games. With the best tandem running duo in the league coming to town, that trend should continue. Don't sweat Tate's recent slump. Houston will need him to win this tough road game.

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals - Gresham has found pay dirt in four of seven games and he would have added another last week versus Pittsburgh had it not been called back. While he's not likely to net big yards, his prowess in the red zone makes him a strong start despite the tough Houston defense.

Chicago at Denver

Marion Barber, RB, Bears - The Broncos have allowed over 100 total yards to a running back in three straight weeks. If the Bears lean on Barber to carry its aching offense, he'll become the fourth.

Eric Decker, WR, Broncos - There is only enough love in a Tim Tebow passing attack for one receiver a week. After Demaryius Thomas opened eyes last week, Tebow will return to the steadier Decker, who will resume his roll as the top Bronco target.

San Francisco at Arizona

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers - Crabtree has a good history versus the Cardinals, including the season-high 120-yard game he posted against them just last month. His recently stepped-up play warrants at least flex use in all formats and this week is no exception.

Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals - Few backs in the league have been better than Wells when it comes to punching in the short score. All nine of his rushing touchdowns have come from within seven yards. I'm not saying he'll break the Niners' streak of not allowing a rushing score, but this might be the best chance all year of that going down.

Buffalo at San Diego

C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills - On sheer speed alone, Spiller will be a good source of total yards each week provided he's not facing an elite defense. Last I checked, San Diego's D is pretty average and particularly bad against the run, giving up 131 yards per game on the ground.

Malcom Floyd, WR, Chargers - Floyd hasn't been very healthy this year but when he's managed to make it on the field he's been pretty effective. In his last four games he's had three 100-yard efforts and two scores. And with the Bills' horrendous defense coming to town, he has a good shot to make it 4-of-5.

Oakland at Green Bay

Carson Palmer, QB, Raiders - Palmer is a better-than-average quarterback facing a far-more-generous-than-average pass defense. Don't be surprise when he throws one or two picks, but don't be surprised either when he puts up over 300 yards and at least one score.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders - See Palmer, Carson. With the foot issues going on for Jacoby Ford, Denarius Moore and Chaz Schilens, DHB could be the top Raider receiver once again.

New York Giants at Dallas

Brandon Jacobs, RB, Giants - Jacobs has stepped up the past two weeks in each of New York's big games. And with his team falling short of a W in those matchups, this week is do-or-die for the Giants' playoff hopes. Expect Jacobs to continue his bullish ways, particularly once the end zone is in sight.

Miles Austin, WR, Cowboys - Coming off his second hammy injury of the year, Austin is certainly a risky start. But with Laurent Robinson (shoulder) banged up and Dez Bryant rather hit or miss, it could easily be Austin that leads the team in receiving in this must-win divisional matchup.


St. Louis at Seattle

Brandon Lloyd, WR, Rams - Chalk last week's miserable outing up to the Niners' defense being just that good. Lloyd will resume his regular solid numbers this week against a Seahawks defense he recently posted 67 yards and a score against.

Golden Tate, WR, Seahawks - Tate flashed the ability that made him the Biletnikoff winner and a second round pick with an impressive touchdown catch against the Eagles. Against the league's second-worst team, he'll continue his ascension in the Seahawks offense.

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