If you’re still reading our fantasy football weekly columns, you’ve advanced to the Finals. Congrats! We’re proud of your and all your effort, but the time for celebration is…still later. We’ve still got to “Win the whole fu**in thing” to take home the money and the bragging rights. Read our Week 16 Primer below – We’re going to try and help you make some crucial playoff decisions by discussing widely owned, but not auto-start players that have both excellent and poor matchups.

Excellent Matchups

Matthew Stafford DET @ CHI

If you survived Stafford’s epic hose-job last week, you have to stay the course this week. I didn’t survive it in two leagues, and how I have to be content to battle for third place. He’ soooooo hard to trust…but look at this matchup. Chicago has positively hemorrhaged points to opposing QBs, their team is in disarray, and rumors already have Marc Trestman headed out of town. I think the Lion win and win big here against a divisional opponent with the playoffs on the line.

Mark Sanchez PHI @ WAS

For you to consider this one, either your options are really bad, or your cojones are really big, and really brassy. And some of you are in this boat, so let’s have a look. Washington gives up the second most points to opposing QB, and just last week apparently didn’t care to cover Giants WR Odell Beckham, who obligingly destroyed them for 3 TD. The Eagles have a better running game, and two wideouts (Maclin and Matthews) who demand attention on every play. There’s just no way Washington will be able to stop this attack – The Eagles win here, and put up at least 30. For Sanchez, it’s a great chance to bounce back. I think he goes 300 yards, 2 TD, and 1 INT for 19ish fantasy points, which would put him in the back-end QB1 conversation.

Mark Ingram NO vs. ATL

I apologize, but I have to rant a minute here. You know that Ingram scored a TD in Week 15, I’m sure. What you don’t know, unless you were watching that brutal MNF game to the bitter end, was that the TD was a absolute and total garbage-time, unnecessary rushing TD against a Bears defense that simply gave up. It happened with about 1:15 or so left in the game, and it was the last offensive play the Saints bothered to run. That 15-yard TD run killed me in TWO LEAGUES. What a total kick in the sack. Anyway (deep breath…) I love Ingram this week, at home, against Atlanta. They stink at defending virtually everyone (and give up the most points to opposing RBs), and the Saints need this game badly to keep pace in the NFC South. He’ll pound away and eventually end up around 100 total yards and a TD.

Fred Jackson BUF @ OAK

The Raiders give up the second-most points to RBs. The Bills, fresh off a great win against the mighty Packers, should look to run the ball more than ever. Jackson handles most of the carries, screens, and dump-offs for the Buffalo offense, which is to say, he does most of the lifting. The matchup is dreamy – I expect low-end RB1 numbers from the ageless F-Jax this week.

Golden Tate DET @ CHI

Tate produced at a WR2 clip last week (10.30 fantasy points) and although I was personally expecting more, I’ll be running him out there one final time as an upside WR2 for my championship game this week. Chicago is generally atrocious defensively, and as I noted earlier relating to Matthew Stafford, I think the Lions will take the opportunity to give their division rivals a solid smackdown. I expect the #14 WR (standard scoring) to exceed expectations this week

Roddy White ATL @ NO

I’ve been so down on Roddy for the better part of this year, and I have to admit that he’s delivered the goods when it’s really counted – down the fantasy stretch. In games that he’s actually been active since Week 8, Roddy has failed to capture 10 fantasy points for his owners only once, which makes him reliable. I like the matchup in the Superdome where both offenses should thrive. Finally, it seems (somewhat) possible that the Falcons will get Julio Jones back this week. If that happens, it will take attention away from Roddy. If Julio sits, then both Harry Douglas and White should once again be target monsters. Roddy is a ready-to-roll WR1 for Week 16 in my book.

Antonio Gates SD @ SF

This is more about opportunity than matchup. The Chargers need a win here, and they’ve lost Keenan Allen for the year. Their other receiving options are Malcolm Floyd, Seyi Ajirotutu, and Eddie Royal. So you know there’s going to be a whole pile of targets to be had here for Gates. SF is a middling defense against TEs (17th) so that’s not really a positive or a negative, but the Rivers-Gates connection has been prolific throughout their tenure. It should be once again on Sunday.

Poor Matchups

Jay Cutler CHI vs. DET

Not only is the matchup terrible, but there’s no way I would consider starting Cutler in any format after the showing he put together on Monday night. He missed wide open WRs, showed terrible body language, and didn’t put up any stats until garbage time. The Bears are every bit of a dumpster fire, and I truly feel if you’ve made it this far it’s in spite of Cutler as opposed to because of him. Avoid at all costs – I’d rather play fringe guys like Dalton and Sanchez.

Update: The latest is that Cutler has been benched in favor of Jimmy Clausen for this Sunday’s tilt against the Lions.

Phillip Rivers SD @ SF

Again, if you’re still alive to read this, it certainly wasn’t on the back of Rivers during Week 15. It’s become a disturbing trend lately, however – Since Week 9, Rivers has scored over 15 fantasy points just once, which is a total killer from the QB position. The Chargers have also lost Keenan Allen for the rest of the season, leaving Rivers even fewer targets to throw to. Despite the 49ers general dysfunction, I’d definitely think twice before deploying Rivers during Championship Week.

Matt Forte CHI vs. DET

Man. One one hand, if you have Forte, I don’t see how you can really bench fantasy’s #4 RB on the year. On the other hand, Forte got a grand total of five carries for six total yards against Detroit on Thanksgiving. The Chicago offensive line, QB, and defense are a total disaster at this point, and the Lions are motivated to destroy the Bears on their turf. You probably don’t have better options and will have to pray, but I think guys like Joique Bell, Lamar Miller, and Mark Ingram will probably produce better point totals than Forte. Just an awful matchup at an awful time.

Jeremy Hill CIN vs. DEN

Hill blew up in Week 15, probably winning his owners their matchups single-handedly for the most part. After that type of a performance, it would be very difficult to consider benching him here, but the matchup must be considered. Denver gives up the 5th fewest points to opposing RBs already, and on top of that the Broncos have been playing a much more ball-control, rushing-oriented offensive style lately which means the Bengals will have the ball less. I think Hill is in for a mediocre fantasy day at best here – I’d consider him a RB2 instead of his usual lower-end RB1 status.

Alshon Jeffrey CHI vs. DET

I don’t trust Jay Cutler much, but with Brandon Marshall out, I do sorta trust Alshon. My trust was buoyed by his garbage-time TD on Monday night, which shows me that he’ll be the main target even if the game is out of hand. I feel like Detroit has a pretty dominant pass rush, so they’ll be in Cutlers grill all night long, but I still think that Jeffrey gets his here. That being said, the Lions are the eighth-best pass defense in the NFL, so adjust your expectations slightly. I’d count on Jeffrey for WR2 numbers with WR1 upside instead of his usual obvious guns-blazing WR1 status.

Update: The latest is that Cutler has been benched in favor of Jimmy Clausen for this Sunday’s tilt against the Lions. I believe this is a downgrade for Jeffrey, so consider your other options judiciously if you have them.

Emmanuel Sanders DEN @ CIN

Sanders has been an absolute stud-muffin for the vast majority of the 2014 campaign, and owners that are still reading are probably doing so in large part due to his contributions. That said, his last few weeks are troubling to me. The Broncos have gone more run-heavy lately over the last three games, and Sanders has not topped 10 fantasy points in any of them. He has averaged around seven targets per week, which isn’t terrible, but this week Denver squares off against the Bengals second-ranked pass defense. The way you kill the Bengals is the run, and I’m certain the Broncos know this and will ride C.J. Anderson mercilessly. I’m not sure you have better options than Sanders regardless, and he still contains considerable upside, but in my mind he’s not the slam-dunk start he has been for most of 2014.

Sammy Watkins BUF @ OAK

See Jackson, Fred above. The Raiders are extremely vulnerable to the run, and the Bills love to run, and if you love to run you’re successful, you don’t have to pass much. And when Kyle Orton is your QB, that’s probably a recipe for success. Since the Week 9 bye, Watkins has been over 10 fantasy points only once, and has absolutely killed owners other than that. He’s also dinged up, helping nobody. Look – if you’re in a championship game, you can’t start Watkins any longer because he’s a big name. Fantasy is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately game, and Watkins simply hasn’t produced.

Martellus Bennett CHI vs. DET

The unfortunate thing for Bennett, and by extension the Bears, is that the team and the organization have simply quit on coach Marc Trestman and QB Jay Cutler. The Black Unicorn has been pretty studly this year, but he’s trended down lately including a dismal performance on Monday night. I watched every moment of this game, and Bennett didn’t seem to be giving it his all, and I felt he ran more than a few routes at about 50%. Chicago is entrenched in last place in the NFC North, and I simply don’t think that I could trust my championship TE hopes to Bennett unless I had zero better options. I’d consider starting Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Jason Witten, Travis Kelce, and Delanie Walker over Bennett.

Update: The latest is that Cutler has been benched in favor of Jimmy Clausen for this Sunday’s tilt against the Lions. I believe this is an even further downgrade for Bennett. We’ve seen the Clausen show before, and it wasn’t pretty. I doubt he’s gotten better with age.