The fantasy football play-offs open this week. This means there are four teams who care about the Week 14 starts and two (the byes) who will be checking their rosters this morning to make sure something didn't change and somehow are playing this week and forgot to change their line-ups from Week 13.
The biggest name on the start/sit list are Washington Redskins' RB Clinton Portis, who has a very unfavorable match-up against the Wild Card contending Baltimore Ravens. The New York Giants game aside, the Ravens have not allowed an opposing team more than 86 yards rushing. Portis is banged up and the Redskins' passing game is mediocre. This game, in the first week of the fantasy football play-offs, sets up Portis owners to make a match-up decision at the most critical point in their season.
I believe Portis will be held under a 100 yards rushing and could very well be kept out of the end zone. However, that mediocre passing game could very well see Portis add another 50-75 yards receiving. Recall the Redskins faced a better overall defense in the Pittsburgh Steelers on November 3rd. Portis was held to just 51 yards on the ground, but caught seven passes for 73 yards.
Last week, Green Bay Packers' RB Ryan Grant left with an injured thumb and was replaced by 2nd-year back Brandon Jackson. Reports says Grant will carry his regular workload despite BJax's very effective 80 yards on 11 carries. The Packers' face a Houston Texans' rush defense that ranks 19th in RYA over the past three games and 23rd for the season. With just three TDs this year and eight receptions, I would not second-guess a favorable match-up decision if I had it to make i.e. Denver Bronco RB Peyton Hillis against Kansas City.
St. Louis Rams' RB Steven Jackson returned last week with 94 yards on 21 carries agaisnt an good Miami Dolphins' rush defense, 10th over the past three games and 11th for the season. He faces and Arizona Cardinals' defense ranked in the same area (9th and 13th respectively). If a repeat of last week's rushing yards plus a couple/three recpetions is what you want, start him.
In a situation similar to the one Clinton Portis faces, Philadelphia Eagles' RB Brian Westbrook goes up against the New York Giants' Top 5 rush defenses. However, the Giants do allow yards through the air ranking 25th in PYA over the past three games. Double however, though, has the Giants ranked 10th in PYA for the season, and a familarity with Brian Westbrook may negate whatever edge that 25th ranking would give him.
Since Westbrook entered the league, he has averaged 15 carries and 71 yards rushing and 4 receptions and 43 yards receiving against the Giants and scored 9 TDs over those ten games. Other than the Week 10 tilt this year, these averages are fairly representative. Starting Westbrook doesn't worry me.
Reggie Bush follows QB Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints against the Atlanta Falcons in the best fantasy game of the day. With RB Pierre Thomas considered the top rushing RB in N'Orleans, the decison to start Bush depends very heavily on how valuable your league considers 5-10 receptions. In a PPR, Bush is a good/great start. In yardage/TD leagues, he is merely another WR taking the spot of a RB. Since I never draft Bush because of that, I have never acquired real life fantasy experience integrating him into my squad. If you normally start him, do so.
Peyton Hillis has emerged as the top rookie RB from Arkansas in 2008. He plays on a Denver Broncos team who strikes fear in opposing passing defenses leaving the ground game open to eating clock (from the opposing team's POV). Over his past two games (2/3s of his starting experience), Hillis has 22 and 19 touches.
His team looks for a Week Four revenge win against the generous yardage defense of the Kansas City Chiefs. He is a gutsy start in the first round of the fantasy play-offs. Expect the Broncos to run more as the Chiefs react to the 361 yards passing it allowed in the first match-up.