Kyle Orton vs. DEN
Despite two interceptions last week, Orton threw for 300 yards and a touchdown and gave an overall solid performance against the Raiders. This week, Orton has great motivation to play well against the Broncos, and, fortunately for him, he has the matchup to do it. The Broncos rank as the fifth easiest fantasy pass defense for quarterbacks this season and only have two interceptions in their last five games. Orton might not ruin the Broncos season, but he should have the numbers to make it a possibility.
Kahlil Bell vs. MIN
Bell is a definite starter this week as he is coming off a strong 121-yard performance in a loss to the Packers. There is no question Bell will get the ball as he has 38 carries the last two weeks, and the Bears passing game has gone south since Jay Cutler went out. Bell has a solid matchup this week against a Vikings run defense that has given up almost 147 yards a game on the ground the last two weeks. Bell could be that unknown player who could lift your team to a championship this week.
Chris Ivory vs. CAR
The Saints can only get the NFC's No. 2 seed with a win and a 49ers' loss to the Rams. New Orleans could end up resting their starters if the 49ers go up huge on the Rams. If so, Ivory appears to be the beneficiary. Drew Brees might play a limited number of snaps anyway, so Ivory has the opportunity to have a big game against a Panthers run defense that is among the worst in the league. The Panthers rank 31st in the league against the run and struggled mightily in their first matchup against the Saints. Keep tabs on this situation as Week 17 is always tricky, but if Ivory starts, he could produce strong numbers.
Miles Austin vs. NYG
Injuries have plagued Austin's 2011 season, but he has been strong lately, scoring touchdowns the last three weeks. This week, he has a strong matchup in the biggest game of the year for the Cowboys in New York. The Giants rank as the fourth easiest pass defense for fantasy receivers and gave up 250 yards and three touchdowns to the position in their earlier matchup against Dallas. While the Giants might be better this time around, Austin is a must play for championship week.
Steve Johnson vs. NE
Johnson has had a very up-and-down season, but the last five weeks have been up as he has either had at least 82 yards receiving or scored a touchdown in those five games. Johnson faces a great matchup in the Patriots, who have allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers. Johnson had eight catches for nearly 100 yards and a touchdown in his first matchup, so don't be surprised to see similar numbers this week.
Andy Dalton vs. BAL
Dalton threw for 373 yards in his first meeting with the Ravens but had three interceptions in a Week 11 loss. The stakes are raised this time as the Bengals are fighting for a playoff spot while the Ravens are fighting to get a bye and possibly home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. As the weather has turned colder, Dalton has thrown a lot less, failing to break 200 yards passing in each of his last four games. What's more, the Ravens rank as the top pass defense against fantasy quarterbacks this season. Look for the Ravens pass defense to play well and limit Dalton's output in this very big game for both teams.
Ben Roethlisberger vs. CLE
Roethlisberger (ankle) is expected to play, but just how much is the question. The Steelers are playing for the AFC North (but need the Ravens to lose) and possible home-field advantage in the playoffs (if the Patriots lose as well). If the Ravens are up big, Roethlisberger likely will sit in the second half. If Ravens are losing, though, Roethlisberger obviously has greater incentive to play. If home-field becomes a possibility, then it's hard to imagine Roethlisberger not playing the whole way. Obviously, there's no way of knowing beforehand how it will play out. The matchup, though, would have been tough anyway as the Browns rank as the fourth toughest fantasy pass defense this season. For Roethlisberger owners in championship games, it's better to play it safe. Look to your bench or maybe a pickup like Kyle Orton or Carson Palmer to lead your club this week.
Toby Gerhart vs. CHI
Gerhart is going to be a very popular late pickup with Adrian Peterson out. While he will get the carries and has played well, he has benefited from outstanding matchups in his big games. This week, he faces a Bears run defense that has been outstanding all season. The Bears rank as the fourth best fantasy run defense and haven't given up more than 80 yards in their last 10 games. Gerhart will get carries, but it is highly unlikely he will have the success he has had recently.
Chris Johnson vs. HOU
Johnson looked like he was out of his season-long funk a month ago but has had three consecutive poor games and is dealing with an ankle injury. While it looks like Johnson will suit up, he faces a Texans run defense ranked as the second toughest in the league and a unit that held Johnson to just 18 yards on 10 carries in Week 7. It would be tough to bench Johnson, but if you have depth or can pick up a player like Kahlil Bell, you will certainly want to think about it this week.
Brandon Marshall vs. NYJ
Marshall has had a very nice season, making the Pro Bowl and catching nearly 80 passes this year. Marshall has been in the endzone in each of the last three weeks and has been a very good player for fantasy owners down the stretch. This week, the matchup isn't as promising as the Jets are in a must-win situation and will more than likely have Darrelle Revis shadowing Marshall's every move. The Jets rank third in fewest fantasy points allowed to fantasy receivers on the season, and with the Dolphins' limited options at receiver should be able to limit Marshall's impact on the game.