Two weeks ago I undersold Vincent Brown. Last week I way oversold him. But I've regained control of my rookie hype meter, so that mistake shouldn't be made again this season. My running back that's returned from the dead hype meter however has never been more difficult to control after watching Kevin Smith shred the Panthers defense a mere two weeks after going from the streets back to Motown. And (spoiler alert!) I think he should be started in all leagues this week.
Last week's results were solid for the most part, as I followed up my first two weeks on the plus side of 0.500 with a respectable 12-17 showing. Some surprise flops included Brown, Denarius Moore and Damian Williams. On the bright side, I was right for the third straight week about a running back producing a strong day against the Baltimore defense, with Cedric Benson punching in two scores. So much for that Ravens defense causing fantasy devastation. As for my four favorites, three lived up to their billing while Williams somehow failed to produce despite seeing a whopping 11 targets.
With the bye weeks finally out of the way, we're into crucial playoff push time when every decision is amplified. That being said, the only way to be successful this time of year is to be shrewd when considering the matchups and the backups that can best replace injured starters, of which there are many. It's with that in mind that I've selected Smith, Chris Ogbonnaya, Donald Brown and Antonio Brown as my four favorites this week. They could all have big games and should all have solid floors given their matchups.
If you're already in, start thinking of those playoff matchups and who you may want to pick up or trade for; if you're on the cusp, play it one week at a time and be smart but not crazy with your starting decisions; if you're flat out finished, do your best to play the spoiler and make those risky plays. But most of all, be thankful for this wonderful time of year.
Finally, as a bonus recommendation, play Mr. Vince Young if Michael Vick (ribs) continues to sit. That arm of his should be plenty busy against the Patriots porous secondary.
Green Bay @ Detroit
Ryan Grant (RB) for Packers - With a sprained knee ailing James Starks and a short week staring them in the face, the Packers likely won't be giving thanks for two starting running backs. That opens the door for Grant to see double figure carries, and against a Detroit defense allowing 5.0 yards per attempt that should make for a tasty holiday.
Kevin Smith (RB) for Lions - He won't exactly catch the Packers off guard, but I can't wait to see what Smith does for an encore in this classic Turkey Day matchup, particularly with Green Bay having given up 100 total yards or a touchdown to opposing running backs in seven straight weeks.
Miami @ Dallas
Reggie Bush (RB) for Dolphins - Bush has 100 yards or a score in four straight with four TD's in his past three games. Don't get cute and bench him just because Dallas has been stingy against the run most of the year. Give thanks that he's on your team and show it by playing him.
Laurent Robinson (WR) for Cowboys - Robinson has piled up five touchdowns in the past four games. With Miles Austin out, he has been playing like a top-10 receiver. Bench him at your own risk.
San Francisco @ Baltimore
Michael Crabtree (WR) for 49ers - The Brother Bowl will be a slugfest. Running room will be tough to find, so both teams could turn to the air early and often. Crabtree will benefit the most for San Fran, cashing in against a defense that has allowed a receiver to post at least 90 yards in three of four games.
Torrey Smith (WR) for Ravens - While the Niners' top-ranked run defense has been sensational, they've struggled against the pass, having given up a score to a receiver in five straight games. And the closest thing San Fran has faced to a speedster like Smith was DeSean Jackson who racked up 171 yards while often beating them deep. Just food for thought.
Houston @ Jacksonville
Matt Leinart (QB) for Texans - Okay. So Leinart hasn't started a game since 2009 and hasn't thrown a score since 2008. And he now takes over the reigns of a running team. Call it a hunch but I say he uses the weapons around him (cue Andre Johnson return) well en route to a strong Texans regular season debut.
Ben Tate (RB) for Texans - Even though I see a nice game from Leinart I'm not foolish enough to think the Texans are about to abandon the run. Tate will flourish once again in mop-up time while Arian Foster rests and the Texans win another game handily.
Buffalo @ New York Jets
Plaxico Burress (WR) for Jets - In a crucial matchup that will all but kill the wild card hopes of one team, the Jets will show just why Buffalo has collapsed by moving the ball up and down the field against their sieve of a defense. That will equal plenty of red zone looks for Burress.
Joe McKnight (RB) for Jets - Even if Shonn Greene (ribs) is able to suit up, look for the Jets to involve McKnight heavily in the offense after he showed off his dual-threat skills versus Denver. With his speed against a Buffalo team that struggles to fill lanes and wrap up, expect some big plays.
Cleveland @ Cincinnati
Chris Ogbonnaya (RB) for Browns - The Bengals defense has allowed an opposing running back to total 100 yards or notch a score in every game since they faced Cleveland in Week 1. That version of the Browns lacked Ogbonnaya, who has had 100 total yards in each of the past two weeks with one score as well. Just saying.
Cedric Benson (RB) for Bengals - Benson will look to take advantage of a miserable Browns rush defense that he torched for 121 yards and a score in Week 1. And as the league's only back to receive at least 15 carries in every game in which he's played, he should have plenty of opportunities to do so.
Minnesota @ Atlanta
Percy Harvin (WR) for Vikings - Since the Vikings will likely be without Adrian Peterson this week, they will be forced to throw and throw a lot, particularly once they've gotten into a hole against a talented Atlanta team. Harvin will benefit the most, as he'll also pick up some slack in the run game.
Matt Ryan (QB) for Falcons - Ryan finally looks like Matty Ice again. After struggling over the first half of the season, he's averaged more than 300 yards and two scores per game the past three weeks. Against a Minnesota defense tied for the most touchdown passes allowed to opposing quarterbacks he should continue to thrive.
Arizona @ St. Louis
Early Doucet (WR) for Cardinals - Doucet has posted at least 50 yards or a score in six straight games and all but two on the season. Though his upside is very limited, that solid floor makes him a reliable flex start most weeks and in particular against a Rams defense that's given up 16 passing scores.
Brandon Lloyd (WR) for Rams - If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Lloyd has 80 yards or a score in each of his last four games. Against a weak Cardinals secondary, this could be his first 100-yard game since Week 4.
Carolina @ Indianapolis
Jonathan Stewart (RB) for Panthers - A week after posting over 100 total yards against the Lions, Stewart and the Panthers get a much worse Colts defense to feast on. The Carolina offense as a whole should post good numbers and Stewart will look to lead the way out of the backfield.
Donald Brown (RB) for Colts - Kevin Smith. Chris Johnson. Adrian Peterson. Michael Turner. Those four names combined to rack up eight scores and 681 yards on the Panthers. Start Brown against this fantasy goldmine defense.
Tampa Bay @ Tennessee
LeGarrette Blount (RB) for Buccaneers - Beast Mode II, return of the Blount Train. After displaying his best Marshawn Lynch impression versus the Packers, Blount appears to have broken out of his midseason slump in a big way. Get him going for what could be a monster stretch run for this monster back.
Chris Johnson (RB) for Titans - The Buccaneers have allowed at least 90 total yards to an opposing running back in four straight games, all losses. Look for each of those streaks to continue with CJ bouncing back from his worst week of the year.
Chicago @ Oakland
Carson Palmer (QB) for Raiders - Palmer has totaled seven touchdowns in his three starts as a Raider, with at least two in every game. Against a Bears defense ranked 30th in the league versus the pass he should have no trouble continuing that trend.
Marion Barber (RB) for Bears - Barber is the quintessential touchdown vulture. He owns the short-yardage and goal line role for the Bears offense and has notched a touchdown in five of his last seven games. If you're hurting at the running back spot, roll the dice and hope for a six.
Washington @ Seattle
Fred Davis (TE) for Redskins - The Seahawks recently gave up a combined 150 yards and three scores to Jason Witten and Ed Dickson. Clearly, they struggle against talented tight ends. So even though Davis has slumped of late, I'm calling it. Get ready for one of his best games of the year.
Sidney Rice (WR) for Seahawks - In five games in which Rice started and finished the game with Tarvaris Jackson doing likewise, he's posted at least 69 yards or a touchdown in each, with two 100-yard games. That kind of consistency is definitely worth a flex start.
Denver @ San Diego
Tim Tebow (QB) for Broncos - Tebow is awesome. He simply gets the job done. One way or another, he'll get you those points.
Vincent Brown (WR) for Chargers - Throw last week's miserable performance out the window. Brown's real talent was displayed the two previous weeks when he totaled 176 yards and a score. With Champ Bailey locking down Vincent Jackson, the other Vincent will step up again.
New England @ Philadelphia
BenJarvus Green-Ellis (RB) for Patriots - The toe injury that had been slowing the Law Firm appeared to be a non-factor in Monday night's thrashing of Kansas City. And now that he's a candidate for a heavy workload again, Green-Ellis should have a strong outing against an Eagles defense that's still learning to tackle.
Brent Celek (TE) for Eagles - Celek now has at least 50 yards or a score in five straight games. His solid floor has made him one of the better tight end options in the league and in a face-off with the Patriots' dead-last pass defense, his upside makes him a must-start this week.
Pittsburgh @ Kansas City
Antonio Brown (WR) for Steelers - Brown has become a favorite of Ben Roethlisberger's over his past four games, with 41 targets in that stretch. His consistency makes him a great flex start any week, and versus a Chiefs defense that's given up 18 scores, he could produce like a No. 1 this time out.
Heath Miller (TE) for Steelers - In two of the last three weeks the Chiefs have given up two scores to a tight end. Miller has 70 yards or a score in three of his last four games. I'm no mathematician but I figure that gives Miller pretty good odds for a big day.
New York Giants @ New Orleans
Brandon Jacobs (RB) for Giants - With Ahmad Bradshaw likely out again, look for Jacobs to get back on track against a Saints run defense that is tied for giving up the most yards per carry (5.2) in the league. Assuming the Giants would like to keep the Saints explosive offense off the field, expect to see a lot of Jacobs.
Darren Sproles (RB) for Saints - Sproles has had only one game all year under 60 total yards. It was the last time he stepped on the field. It won't happen again this week against a Giants team ranked 21st in total defense.