Week 16 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: All the marbles? But can’t I just keep at least one?

I really hope that the scoring change on Kurt Warner’s touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin didn’t burn you. That has to be the worst kind of pain in the world.

It’s exciting to pull out your semifinal game by just a few points, and it’s exciting to have a chance at the championship. Having that pulled out from under you by a scoring change on a Wednesday, two days after scores are supposed to be final, is rough. Too rough for most mortal fantasy footballers to handle.

So let’s move on and not dwell on it? Okay?

I’ve already said how I feel about starting studs and sleepers in last week’s Fourth & 1 debate fantasy football roundtable. You can only reasonably take a chance on a sleeper if your stud is in a bad spot and if the sleeper has proven himself on more than one occasion in the recent past.

That’s when you do it. Otherwise, start your studs.

But I find myself in a situation this week — and no, not that kind of situation. I have Ray Rice and Steven Jackson at running back but could potentially play Jamaal Charles and/or Beanie Wells in their place. Considering Steven Jackson’s health and Ray Rice’s challenging matchup, I’m tempted to put Beanie Wells in for one of the two, probably Jackson. But it’s hard to put a guy I haven’t started all year in for the championship game.

I’ve watched Wells strengthen his role in the Cardinals offense late in the season, but…is he ready to be trusted in a championship game? Tell me what you would do in the comments.

For your more pressing playoff questions, you should read up at the FF Librarian for plenty of start or sit opinions. She’s got plenty of goods for you and your post-holiday needs.

Jason Snelling, Cedric Benson, and Jonathan Stewart are all looking good in Fantasy Joe’s studs and duds this week. I like Snelling’s chance to take advantage of a good matchup, and Benson should get back on track against the Chiefs. Even the Browns were able to do that.

KFFL offers some potential help on the waiver wire for you this week, but I’d only sub in Alex Smith and Mike Sims-Walker into your rosters if you’re in a critical playoff game. Both of them are likely to already be on a roster in your leagues this week unless someone gave up on Sims-Walker already or unless no one took any interest in Alex Smith’s schedule to end the season.

I like Alex Smith quite a bit this week. Actually, I like all the 49ers against the Lions. In this week’s Fourth & 1 debate fantasy football roundtable, I selected Alex Smith as my sleeper.

My bust in that debate is a little more out there, Jerome Harrison. You’ll have to read my input in the debate to see why I doubt the Week 15 fantasy football superstar.

I know many of you may be afraid of your players sitting this week, especially your Colts, but Reggie Wayne is the only player I’m very worried about. He might sit at halftime if the Colts are able to put up a lead, and even when he is on the field, he’ll be blanketed by Darrelle Revis.

I’m considering starting Josh Morgan over Wayne, but I haven’t made the call just yet. Me thinks a half of Wayne facing Revis might still be better than taking a chance on the third receiving option in San Francisco, but I could be wrong. The aggressive player in me wants to make the switch.

The FF Geek Blog adds to be my reasoning behind benching Jamaal Charles this week in their Hits & Misses. They also hit on most of the other possible sits this week. Alongside ESPN’s rankings, they just might have me convinced the Steven Jackson is my best start.

But there’s still the matter of Beanie Wells. The TMR is a Beanie Wells lover this week, and it’s hard not to side with him against the St. Louis Rams.

So I’m still torn. I wish you all the best of luck this week as you set your lineups. Please feel free to weigh in on my dilemma in the comments below. Pick two: Steven Jackson, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, or Beanie Wells?

As your set your rosters this week, you can enjoy the smooth jams of the holiday season: the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Christmas Canon Rock

I just like to say that name. I like to imagine they live in some sort of strange compound in Siberia, only emerging to play music at Christmas in large orchestral settings.

It makes every YouTube video of them so much more interesting to watch.

Week 14 Hot Hands and Cold Shoulders: You Know Where This is Going

I thought we’d do things a little differently this week. By this point, I expect that most of you know who you are starting and sitting during these critical weeks of the fantasy playoffs. As such, I don’t think you’ll need as much help deciding which players to start and sit.

Trust is as important a factor as any, and you have to go with your trustworthy guys.

So rather than give you a few players with good games and a few players with bad games this week, we’d be better served just talking about what you can expect from those studs this week and what chances are worth taking for the playoffs.

For starters, the Fourth & 1 Debate fantasy football roundtable covered a few players who, while under the radar most of the season, could make a big splash in the fantasy playoffs. My pick is San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith, but you’ll have to go and read the full debate to see my reasoning. It’s good. Promise.

And it’s especially good if you need a sub for Peyton Manning in Week 16, when he is likely to sit out the second half, denying you those fantasy points you need in the championship.

Fanhouse lays out a very strategic plan to attack the playoffs, and a nice set of players to help you do so. I agree with most of their adds, but don’t jump all over the young guns they recommend. Sure, they look good now, but will they really be trustworthy enough to start? I doubt it. Fantasy Joe’s Mike Gilbert doubts waiver wire studs Devin Thomas and Louis Murphy, too.

So if you need the depth or just want to keep them out of the hands of your opponent, go get ‘em. Otherwise, keep your most trusted fantasy cogs close at hand and on your roster.

As FF Toolbox points out, Joe Flacco gets the Lions, Mike Wallace may get a chance to start against the Browns tonight (Joy!), and Kevin Boss faces the tight-end-friendly Philadelphia Eagles defense. On the other hand, dark days look to continue for Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. I wouldn’t want to trust DeAngelo Williams if he plays this week either after what Michael Turner did to fantasy owners in his first game back (He immediately got hurt again, as if you didn’t know).

Fantasy Football Xtreme’s Smitty cautions against Kevin Smith and Steven Jackson, and I would agree. As great as Jackson’s been on a bad, horrible, terrible, and atrocious St. Louis Rams (did I mention they were bad?), he may hit the wall this week with Kyle Boller at quarterback against the Titans.

Not a lot of surprises from Fantasy Joe in their start or sit recommendations this week. Among the names, Chris Johnson and Ray Rice look poised and ready to do some damage. I’m sure many of their fantasy owners would appreciate it in the first rounds of the playoffs, me included.

Also noted, Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson would seem like good starts if it weren’t for Matt Cassel’s struggles and Jackson’s recent cooling off period. I’d hate to have to rely on them, but you may be forced to start them.

Unlike Fantasy Joe, I’m not as afraid of Donovan McNabb against the Giants. He may be able to put two good games together against them this year, especially if he gets top target DeSean Jackson back this week.

By the way, in one of my leagues, the owner of Chris Johnson didn’t make the playoffs… in a 10-team league in which six, and let me say that twice, SIX teams made the cut. Do you realize how bad you have to be to not make the playoffs with Chris Johnson? Bad. So very, very bad. Rams bad.

Davone Bess and Chris Brown are two intriguing names in the sleeper pool. I’d pass on starting them over someone who got you to the playoffs, but they aren’t bad flex plays this week. Brown more so than Bess. Fanhouse likes Bess as well.

The FF Geek Blog predicts some struggle for the Land Baron and some promising returns on Jamaal Charles as he goes in against Buffalo, but my favorite note thus far was their take on Antonio Bryant’s bad situation this week: “Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers vs NYJ — Darrelle Revis.” That pretty much says it all.

In keeping with the theme of starting the guys who got you there, ESPN’s rankings look pretty familiar. Fanhouse doesn’t stray from the path of the studly either.

If you’re current options are a little sketchy, Fantasy Joe recommends trying the Titans and Cardinals defenses over the Steelers this week, but I can’t fully support the Cardinals defense as an option when they are facing my pick to be an explosive fantasy force this week, Alex Smith. I’m just glad I have the Saints D/ST to set and forget.

Song to Ease Your Pain While Setting Lineups

Now, since I know you can’t set your rosters without musical accompaniment, I give you your very own “Choose Your Own Adventure” of songs to set your roster to this week.

If you’re awesome: Three Days Grace – Animal I Have Become

Rage? Yes. Awesomeness? Completely. Playoff-worthy? Most definitely.

But if you’re hurting and little worried about your game this week, I offer the more melodious but still awesome:  Kings of Leon – Use Somebody

If only your stud players were still showing up. Will that one waiver wire claim you picked up this week save your team? Alex Smith? Jamaal Charles? Only time will tell. Good luck with that one.

And with that, I leave you to your games this week. Best of luck to those of you in the playoffs, and sorry to hear about those of you who are not. If you have any questions, you know what to do. Hit us up in the comments or get in touch.

Fourth & 1 Debate: Waiver wire stashes for the fantasy playoffs

So you’re prepping your team for the final push, but you’re worried you need a couple more warm bodies? Well, that’s not a problem. That’s what a fantasy football roundtable is for.

This week’s Fourth & 1 Debate topic came from Hatty Waiver Wire Guru. He asked:

Waivers are about to close in some leagues for the playoffs; who should we be grabbing for the final push?

My entry to the fantasy football roundtable:

Two players that I’d grab for the final playoff push are Mike Bell and Mohamed Massaquoi. There are far better options out there if you’re making a playoff push, but I’m assuming that both of these players would be available in most leagues right now as free agents.

Bell has been vulturing touchdowns from Pierre Thomas throughout the season, and while I’d hate to rely on him in a critical playoff week, if you were forced to start him, I wouldn’t consider it the end of the world. Bell has a chance to score in every game the Saints play from now until the end of the season, and he’s been the closer for the Saints in games they put away early.

Massaquoi is part of one of the most miserable offenses in the NFL. Luckily, he gets to play two of the most miserable defenses in the NFL in Weeks 15-16, the Chiefs and the Raiders. If you need a desperation play wide receiver for Week 15 or 16 due to injuries, Massaquoi might just do the trick. In deeper leagues, he’s worth considering for a WR3 spot those two weeks.

For all this week’s entries to the Fourth & 1 Debate, check out the complete fantasy football roundtable at Hatty Waiver Wire Guru.

Fourth & 1 Debate: How to avoid fantasy disappointments next season

Ah, the sadness comes in larger puddles of tears every week as we approach the fantasy playoffs. That first-round pick sure screwed you, didn’t he? But how, oh how, do you keep it from happening again next year? (Like it always does?)

Last week’s fantasy football roundtable covered that and covered it well. The question:

Thinking back to the players that you targeted in drafts at the beginning of the season, which one or two players have been the biggest disappointments? What kind of additional information do you think you could use to avoid selecting this type of underachieving player in 2010?

My answer:

The biggest two disappointments in my book are Matt Forte and Calvin Johnson. Both were drafted in among the top-three at their position, and both have been miserable for most of the season.

In Forte’s case, there was good reason to believe his role in the offense might be threatened. Chicago traded for Jay Cutler, bringing an arm to Chicago and taking away Kyle Orton’s compulsive checkdown passes. But that alone was not enough to scare off fantasy owners.

The decline of the Chicago defense, an unexpected factor this season, has also hurt Forte’s value. When the Bears get behind, they have put the game in Cutler’s hands and reduced Forte’s chances. Forte’s turned it around in recent weeks, but the damage has, for the most part, already been done to the owners who drafted him and their fantasy hopes.

Calvin Johnson was regarded as “quarterback-proof” coming into this season. No matter who was throwing the ball, he would get his yards and probably a score. He still ranked as one of the elite wide receivers in fantasy despite news that a rookie quarterback, Matthew Stafford would start for the Lions. With no legitimate threat on the other side of the field, defenses tried to take Megatron out of games, and a few times early in the season, they were successful. Even if you’re quarterback-proof, you can’t be “team-proof,” and the Lions were doing him no favors.

A knee injury prevented Johnson from seeing the field for several weeks. Now that he’s back to full health, he is contributing, but with only one touchdown and one 100+ yard game this season, it’s safe to say owners were hoping to get more out of him by this point in the season.

What info could prevent us from making these same drafting mistakes in the future? We must pay close attention to change in the offseason, and give special attention to teams with new quarterbacks. The quarterback runs the offense, and changes at that position can often mean big swings in fantasy. In their first year with a new team, quarterbacks must spend time learning the playbook and finding their rhythm with the receivers and running back. There are many variables in play there, and it creates risks in fantasy.

In Chicago’s case, Cutler brought that “gunslinger” mentality and a powerful arm to Chicago, which has allowed the passing game to be more of a focus on offense. He didn’t avoid using Forte, but Cutler had to understand how and when he could use Forte, which led to Forte’s slow start.

A rookie quarterback always has a big learning curve in coming to the NFL, and Matthew Stafford was no different. Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco’s exceptional rookie seasons may have warmed fantasy football players up to the idea of starting rookies, but the Lions were not nearly as complete a team as the Falcons and Ravens were last season. Stafford’s rookie struggles have held Calvin Johnson back, and an unexpected knee injury did the rest.

It’s unfortunate that new quarterbacks impact a team so much. Avoiding them as a rule can prevent you from finding some real value in your fantasy football draft (see: Vikings receivers like Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin), but taking a risk on teams with new signal callers can also cost you big, as we saw this year with Forte and Megatron.

The secret is to do your homework on them.

For the complete discussion and the rest of the debate’s answers, check out the full fantasy football roundtable on Junkyard Jake’s blog.

Fourth & 1 Debate: Strategy adjustments for Thursday Night Football

Last week’s question for the Fourth & 1 Debate was an interesting one from Eric Stashin of Rotoprofessor, and since I didn’t get a chance to share it last week, it’s worth sharing this week before our second Thursday Night Football game of the season. The question:

What adjustments do you make to your fantasy strategy in the second half with games now being played on Thursdays?

My answer:

Well, for starters, I set my lineups on Thursdays rather than Fridays or Saturdays. I find that helps.

But more to the point, by the time that Thursday play rolls around, my fantasy football roster has become almost set. Extra defenses and tight ends have been moved through trades or waivers because there’s no need to carry them. Starters and bench depth has been established, and I’m going with a pretty core group every week that’s performing at a high level.

There won’t be too many more waiver wire adds or trades to shake up my roster, so it makes it easy to have it set and ready to go on Wednesday or Thursday. My roster has been simplified.

Though having fantasy points accumulated on Friday morning does add some extra layers of strategy to the decisions I make on Fridays and Saturdays.

Say my Thursday night starter failed me completely. I may sub out a more reliable starter with little chance of a big day like Matt Forte for a more boom-bust guy who could save my week like Steve Slaton. It just depends on how deep I am in the hole.

It also works the other way. If Devin Hester locks up 30 points for me on Thursday, I may sub out Robert Meachem for a reliable guy like Muhsin Muhammed. Nothing flashy, but he gets the job done. It’s not as likely that I make a conservative play like this. Why show mercy? But I could see it as a possibility if I was just looking to make sure I had that 8-10 points of padding necessary to stay ahead of my opponent.

For the complete fantasy football roundtable, visit Rotoprofessor’s compilation post of the debate.

And if you missed the question from two weeks ago, when I asked what players to target for your playoff run, be sure to read up on those tips from the fantasy football roundtable as well.

Fourth & 1 Debate: Nine Moves to Make for the Fantasy Football Playoffs

At this point in the season, you might be more concerned with getting to the playoffs than succeeding once you get there. That’s okay. Take it one week at a time. I’ll wait…

But if you have the true heart of a champion, some good luck, and if you’ve been doing your research, you’ve probably go a nice spot on the mantel dusted and ready for this year’s fantasy football championship trophy. It’s okay if we block this photo of the in-laws, right?

In that case, it’s best to start planning for your future, and we’re not talking about your kids’ college funds or your financial plan to navigate this tough economy.

It’s even better. I give you a fantasy football roundtable of epic proportions. This week’s Fourth & 1 Debate was mine to rule, and I chose to look ahead at who might blow up or sink your battleship during Weeks 14-17.

By the way, if you have a playoff schedule that puts your championship game in Week 17, slap your commissioner, reschedule that game immediately, slap your commish again, and never, never speak of playing in Week 17 again. Week 17 isn’t NFL football. It’s just not right to win your league with Jim Sorgi. Not right at all.

This week’s Fourth & 1 Debate roundtable question:

Looking ahead at the fantasy football playoffs (Weeks 14-17), what one player would you want to own during those weeks and what one player would you want to unload before Week 14?

My answer:

Trade deadlines are approaching. Playoffs spots will be locked up soon. The chances to acquire players through “sell high” or “buy low” opportunities are few are far between. That being the case, I’ve chosen to focus on a couple of guys who might still be easily moved. You wouldn’t have to break the bank, and you might end up with a stud on your hands in Weeks 14 through 16.

First, I’d look to acquire Tim Hightower.

Kurt Warner has been fond of the check-down passes thus far this season, and Hightower has been the beneficiary. Even against tough rushing defenses, Hightower never fails to stay involved in the passing game and take advantage of short-yardage and goal line opportunities.

It’d be great to have both Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower on your roster to hedge your bets against any late-season shifts in Beanie’s favor, but I believe Hightower will remain the primary receiving back on passing plays, which the Cardinals should be running plenty of in the fantasy playoffs.

The Cardinals face San Francisco, Detroit and St. Louis in the fantasy playoffs. In Week 1 against the 49ers, Hightower ran just eight times for 15 yards, but he caught 12 passes for 121 yards. A similar performance in Week 14 wouldn’t surprise me, and, well, the Lions and Rams are what they are, great matchups for a team with a powerful offense. By the end of this season, one or both of those squads could have already given up for the year.

If you can’t get Hightower, Beanie Wells, Jamaal Charles and Jerome Harrison aren’t bad substitutions. All have a chance to succeed late in the season, and they all carry a fairly low price tag at this point. Bargain bin!

And, for those of you playing at home, I would try to unload DeAngelo Williams before the fantasy playoffs.

Williams finished the year as the No. 1 fantasy running back after a slow start, and he’s once again been inconsistent to start the year in 2009. It’s not just Jonathan Stewart stealing time and touches from him. This year, Jake Delhomme has developed a bad habit of throwing to players in other jerseys.

While Williams is come on strong the past three weeks, he should hit a slump starting in Week 11 against Miami and continuing, outside of a brief practice session against the Bucs in Week 13, into the fantasy playoffs. In Week 14, Williams faces the Patriots in New England, followed by the Vikings at home and the Giants in New York for the Giants’ last home game of the season.

If you’re a proud Williams owner, you should deal him away to the highest bidder this week or next before you get stuck in the dumps with him during the playoffs.

Smitty from Fantasy Football Xtreme says:

Every season, a grip of players step up during Weeks 14-16, while others shockingly disappoint. It’s a tough business predicting either, but I have come up with two names. I have talked a lot about running backs and wide receivers over the past few weeks, so this week I’m going to focus on quarterbacks.

One quarterback worth talking about before we even sniff Weeks 14-16 is Kurt Warner. The aging quarterback has been hit or miss this season, and he has thrown 7 interceptions over the past three games putting him at 11 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the year. He has also fumbled the football twice over the last three weeks.

You’re probably guessing that Warner is my “unload” recommendation for Weeks 14-16, right? Wrong.

While I will admit that I have concerns about the aging quarterback staying healthy long enough to see Week 14, he has a fantastic fantasy playoff schedule. The Cardinals face the 49ers (28th) in Week 14, the Lions (29th) in Week 15 and Rams (24th) in Week 16. If healthy, Warner should have a fantastic finish to the fantasy season.

As for my top quarterback to unload before we hit Week 14, I have to go with Carson Palmer.

The Bengals passing schedule isn’t impossible, as they have two decent match-ups in Weeks 14 and 16 in the Vikings (23rd) and Chiefs (29th), but they do have a rough contest against the Chargers (6th) in Week 15. I know Palmer had a monster 5-touchdown performance before his Week 8 bye, where he completed 20-of-24 passes, but before that Week 7 outing, Palmer’s completion percentage was under 60 and he had almost as many interceptions (7) as he had touchdowns (8).

On the year, Palmer has yet to pass for over 300 yards. His Week 7 stats are making him look strong, but I’m predicting that he and the Bengals struggle down the stretch. I say unload Palmer now and take a lateral step into a quarterback with less risk.

Trade Palmer for a Ben Roethlisberger or a Matt Ryan. Both quarterbacks probably have similar perceived value, yet I like both better than Palmer down the stretch (especially in Weeks 14-16).

Junkyard Jake from Junkyard Jake says:

Glancing ahead to the fantasy playoff weeks this year, it appears that Drew Brees and the Saints’ passing game could benefit from a very favorable set of defensive matchups. During Weeks 14 through 16, the Saints face Atlanta on the road and then Dallas and Tampa Bay at home.

As if Brees needed an additional advantage, all three of these games will be in a dome. Moreover, all three of these defenses currently rank in the bottom third of the league in terms of points allowed by opposing quarterbacks.

In contrast to Brees’s favorable playoff schedule, it looks like the Bears’ Matt Forte could have a tougher time. Forte is already having a slightly disappointing season, and it doesn’t appear that he will catch a break during the fantasy playoff Weeks of 14, 15 and 16 when he is slated to face Green Bay, Baltimore and then Minnesota.

Green Bay has been allowing only 91 rush yards per game, and they have yielded just 3 rushing touchdowns so far. Forte’s Week 15 opponent, Baltimore, has allowed just 79 yards per game on the ground. Forte then faces the Vikings in Week 16, a team that touts the No. 2 run defense in the league.

Hatty from Hatty Waiver Wire Guru says:

So essentially we are looking at a buy low/sell high for the playoff run. Having the right RB for the playoffs is a huge key to victory and health is a major consideration for playoff runs.

My sell high right now would be LaDainian Tomlinson. He is coming off a two-touchdown performance, but again is a huge injury concern. You just can’t afford to go into playoffs with one of your top running backs leaving due to injury.

The running back I would work hard to obtain for the playoffs would be a running back who receives a major workload on a team making a run for the playoffs. Cedric Benson helped me to win a fantasy championship in the past and is a stellar running back to go into playoffs with.  He is not prone to injury, doesn’t play in an RBBC situation and is on a team that has a solid chance at making the playoffs.

Ryan Lester from Lester’s Legends says:

Looking ahead to the fantasy playoffs, there are a couple of wide receivers that I would love to own and one that I want no part of.

The wide receivers that I love for the fantasy playoffs are Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. Aside from being two of the best wide receivers in the game, there are some other reasons that make them so valuable when fantasy owners need them the most.

First of all, neither team is running away with their division meaning they will likely go full tilt the whole season as they vie for a playoff spot. While wide receivers like Reggie Wayne and Marques Colston are in the driver’s seat of their respective divisions, Fitz and A.J. are not. It’s conceivable that Wayne and Colston get a reduced workload in your league’s championship game. You don’t have to worry about that with Fitz or A.J.

They also have favorable schedules in the fantasy playoffs. Fitz plays at San Francisco, at Detroit and finishes at home against St. Louis. Week 14 could be tough for him, but the final two games could bring the monster performances you expected out of Fitz when you drafted him.

Andre Johnson’s schedule is also a breeze. He starts off at home against Seattle, travels to St. Louis and finishes at Miami. Obviously, I don’t like his championship opponent as much as Fitz, but if he leads you to the title game, you’re in the money anyway.

On the flip side, the player I don’t want on my team come fantasy playoffs time is Carolina’s Steve Smith.

The Panthers start off on the road at New England. Weather is very much a factor in New England in December, which doesn’t bode well for members of the passing game. Next up is Minnesota at home. The pressure that Jared Allen and company put on opposing quarterbacks could make for a long day. Finally, he finishes up against the Giants on the road in the swirling winds.

Smith faces three of the best teams in the league, two in what are likely to be bad-weather games, during the fantasy playoffs. Not to mention he plays in a run-first offense. If I were a Steve Smith owner and had championship aspirations, I’d try to move him now that he’s coming off a pair of good games.

Eric Stashin of Rotoprofessor says:

One of the players I would like to own down the stretch is Michael Turner of the Atlanta Falcons.

Fantasy football playoffs are tough because if you have a player who is on a team that is coasting into the playoffs, you just don’t know how much they are going to play. With the Falcons, they are three games behind the division lead already, but they are primed for a dogfight to take home the wild card.

In addition, the Falcons take on the New Orleans Saints (middle of the road in rushing defense), New York Jets (sans their big run stuffer, Kris Jenkins), the Buffalo Bills (currently allowing the most rushing yards per game in the league) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (need I say anymore).

That seems like the perfect set-up for a big way to close the season. He’s one of the best backs in the league, and if you are in a position to acquire him for the stretch drive, there is no reason to hesitate.

As for players to avoid, you almost have to look at the flip side: Which team appears to be ready to coast into the playoffs as well as having a tough schedule?

The Minnesota Vikings could be that team, as they have a lead in the division and have the Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears and New York Giants on the schedule over the final four weeks. Three of those four teams are likely to be in contention for a playoff spot. The easiest game (Panthers) is on the road, as is the game in Chicago, so you don’t know what will happen there.

The likelihood is that the team focuses on the run, as they’ve already shown that they will do, meaning Brett Favre and the Vikings receivers may struggle down the stretch.

Paul Greco from Fantasy Pros 911 says:

I love looking ahead. Why you ask? Well, if I’m looking ahead to Weeks 14 through 17, that means I have a shot at the playoff. Yup, I’m about to make it rain in the Greco household.

The one player that I’d like to unload, not only during the Weeks 14 through 17, but right now, is Carolina Panther’s running back DeAngelo Williams. Coming off a huge game on the ground in Week 8, right now is the time to look to unload Williams.

Starting Week 11, Williams has the toughest Strength-of-Schedule (SOS) the rest of the season. With games against the Miami Dolphins (Week 11), New York Jets (Week 12), New England Patriots (Week 14) and the Minnesota Vikings (Week 15), all four teams are currently ranked in the top 10 for rush defense.

Cedric Benson, running back for the Cincinnati Bengals, is a player you must look to add to your team now. C.B. has the easiest SOS of any running back starting Week 11.

With games against the Oakland Raiders (Week 11), Cleveland Browns (Week 12), Detroit Lions (Week 13), San Diego Chargers (Week 15) and the Kansas City Chiefs (Week 16), all five teams give up an average of 117 rushing yards a game or worse.

C.B. has shown he can carry the load for the Bengals, so why not your team? Look to make a move for CB now, and enjoy big gains the rest of the season.

Bryce McRae from KFFL says:

My pickup for the playoffs: the Kansas City Chiefs’ Kolby Smith (knee). He’s a deep sleeper, yes, but it shouldn’t cost much to get him, and he could pay huge dividends.

Starter Larry Johnson’s suspension ends after Week 9, but the team has given some thought to releasing him. At some point, they have to start looking toward the future.

Jamaal Charles, a third-round pick last year, is expected to shoulder most of the load this week. He’s more of a speedy change-of-pace back, however, and the Chiefs have utilized him as a rusher only 23 times this year. A lot of that has come out of passing downs, too.

This leads us to Smith; the third-year back has carried a full workload in the past (Weeks 12 through 16 in 2007: 100 carries for 387 yards and two scores), and he says he has confidence in his rehabilitated knee. Head coach Todd Haley says Smith is moving around well in practice, too. Smith has the bulk (5-foot-11, 219 pounds) that could help him hold up as a primary back over the speedier Charles.

Kansas City faces the Buffalo Bills (most rushing yards allowed per game to backs this year), the Cleveland Browns (third most) and the Cincinnati Bengals in Weeks 14 through 16, respectively. Cincy isn’t a great matchup, but Smith could be a beast during those two first games.

On the flip side, one player I’m looking to unload before the playoffs is the San Francisco 49ers’ Michael Crabtree. I don’t have much faith in Alex Smith behind center for the long term. I feel defenses might be able to shut down Crabtree, too, once they have more film on him and how the 49ers are using him. Remember: This is still a run-first offense.

Also, I don’t believe his value will be any higher after his first three games. Wait for him to burn the Tennessee Titans, a generous defense to this position, in Week 9 and then sell high on the former Texas Tech wideout.

The defenses Crabtree will face in the traditional playoffs weeks: the Detroit Lions (Week 14), the Arizona Cardinals (Week 15) and the Philadelphia Eagles (Week 16). Philly’s D has been one of the top against this position all season while the other two have shown improvement in the last month. Plus, Detroit’s run D has been bad enough that San Fran might opt to pound the ball.

Kurt Turner from Top-Fantasy-Football says:

Strength of schedule is key when planning for the fantasy football playoffs. Teams like Arizona, San Diego and Miami all have juicy matchups. FFToolbox.com has a nice tool you can use found here that analyzes matchups by position for you.

Here are my picks to own and unload: Kurt Warner and Roddy White.

Snatch up Kurt Warner. He should be a beast in the playoffs. Trade for him now and don’t be afraid to overpay, especially if you’re hurting at quarterback.

A guy I don’t like for the playoffs is Roddy White. White faces some tough pass defenses weeks 14, 15 and 16. If you can get Warner for White (and some change) and still have some other good options at wide receiver, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Good Luck!

That’s all for this week’s Fourth & 1 Debate. While I am largely a fan of riding hot hands into the ground rather than trading them away because of perceived slumps on the horizon, preparing for the fantasy football playoffs is a necessity.

Oh, and if you have a championship game in Week 17, slap your commish again for me.

As always, the comments are yours. Have a player you’re concerned about for the fantasy playoffs? Would you like to add more names to the hat of players to add/drop? Leave a comment to let us know.