I feel bad about recommending Vince Young last week. Not because it was a foolish recommendation though. It was fully justifiable at the time. But I do feel bad about nearly costing my brother a victory over the type of friend that never lets you forget who won even though his team is a pitiful 4-8. So I would like to issue a formal apology to my brother who left Tim Tebow, Philip Rivers and Carson Palmer on his bench for Young whom he added off waivers for a one-week start. My bad.
To anyone else that Young actually cost a victory, I am sorry to you as well. I am also sorry for the miserable calls I made on Caleb Hanie, Kendall Hunter and Early Doucet. I won't apologize for anything else though, as I ended Week 13 with a solid 18-15 record. But since I'm busy issuing things, I'd like to send a thank you out to the No. 2 team in my home league for benching my best two calls from the week, Shonn Greene and Percy Harvin, and allowing me to escape with a victory. His decisions and the Young mistake in my home league reminded me that simply playing your best players is the safest way to a win.
But simply playing your best players is much more difficult of a strategy to rely on this time of year when the stakes are the highest, the injuries are mounting and the defensive trends more defined. The playoffs start this week for many, and for those with one more week before them, it could be the chance to make the playoffs that is on the line. To be on the positive side of these one-week seasons playing the matchup is now equally important, if not more so, than playing your best guys.
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.
Cleveland @ Pittsburgh
Antonio Brown (WR) for Steelers - Cleveland's star corner Joe Haden will more than have his hands full with Mike Wallace threatening to burn him every snap. Assuming he slows down the speedster like he's done to everyone else this season, that should keep Brown busy as Roethlisberger's favorite target.
Isaac Redman (RB) for Steelers - The Browns have been utterly destroyed on the ground in their past six games and that trend is about to continue. After building a healthy lead, Redman will get in on the action just like old man Ricky Williams did last week when he piled on an extra 76 and a touch after Ray Rice warmed them up.
Kansas City @ New York Jets
Thomas Jones (RB) for 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) for 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 @ Jacksonville
Mike Williams (WR) for Buccaneers - At long last Williams is back to his rookie form. It only took 61.74% 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) for 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 @ Washington
BenJarvus Green-Ellis (RB) for 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) for 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 @ Carolina
Matt Ryan (QB) for 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) for 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 @ Baltimore
Joe Flacco (QB) for 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) for 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 @ Miami
Brent Celek (TE) for 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) for Dolphins - With room for only one "Dream Team" in South Beach, Moore will send the Eagles back to Philly after another nightmare performance.
Minnesota @ Detroit
Christian Ponder (QB) for 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) for 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 @ Tennessee
Lance Moore (WR) for 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) for 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 @ Cincinnati
Ben Tate (RB) for 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) for 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 @ Denver
Marion Barber (RB) for 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) for 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 @ Arizona
Michael Crabtree (WR) for 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) for 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 @ San Diego
C.J. Spiller (RB) for 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) for 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 @ Green Bay
Carson Palmer (QB) for 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) for 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 @ Dallas
Brandon Jacobs (RB) for 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) for 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 @ Seattle
Brandon Lloyd (WR) for 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) for 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.