By Zac Bellman
Special to the Tribune
Start: Peyton Manning (Broncos) vs. Raiders – The Raiders passing defense got lit up by the Browns for 364 yards last week. If that’s not enough, Manning’s best game this season in terms of fantasy point was also against the Raiders in their first meeting. He threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns in that game, and the Raiders will have little time this week to make adjustments before Thursday night.
Sit: Russell Wilson (Seahawks) vs. Cardinals – Wilson has had some impressive games the last couple weeks, but he struggled in his first matchup against the Cardinals. Also, the Cardinals are a much different team since that game, and the Seahawks will not need to pass and put up a ton of points to beat them.
Sleeper Start: Tony Romo (Cowboys) vs. Bengals – Romo can be a bit of a wild card, but in December over the last four years he has been anything but, throwing 18 touchdowns and only one interception. He has also topped 300 yards in five of his last six games. The Bengals defense is also hot, but Romo has been nearly unstoppable.
Start: Michael Turner (Falcons) vs. Panthers – Turner’s best game of the season came against Carolina in their first meeting in Week 4. He rushed for 103 yards on 13 carries, as well as catching three passes for 68 yards and a touchdown. Carolina has also given up massive ground performances to Jamaal Charles, Bryce Brown and Doug Martin the last three weeks, giving up at least 140 yards rushing in each contest.
Sit: Reggie Bush (Dolphins) vs. 49ers – Bush is only getting about 10-15 touches a game, which is hardly enough to have a breakout game to begin with. The 49ers are also giving up the third-fewest rushing yards per game, so the Dolphins may look to the short passing game to move the ball.
Sleeper Start: Darren McFadden (Raiders) vs. Broncos – His status is still up in the air but there is a reasonable expectation that he will play on Thursday. As long as the Raiders don’t get too far behind early, he should see the majority of the touches in a crowded backfield. Not worthy of more than a flex play though unless you’re desperate for running backs.
Start: Pierre Garcon (Redskins) vs. Ravens – Garcon showed no lingering signs of his foot injury last week, catching eight passes for 106 yards and a touchdown. His targets from Robert Griffin III are rising steadily and there is no reason to think that won’t continue against a Ravens secondary that can be beat. RG3 also has the ability to escape the pocket and still have his eyes downfield, which should provide opportunities for Garcon.
Sit: Eric Decker (Broncos) vs. Raiders – Although Peyton Manning is definitely worth a start this week, he is not targeting Decker nearly as much as some of his other options. Demaryius Thomas gets a majority of the balls thrown his way, while Decker only caught two balls on two targets for 17 yards last week. Especially now that the fantasy playoffs are here, find a more reliable option.
Sleeper Start: Kenny Britt (Titans) vs. Colts – Britt got a late start to the season after returning from an ACL tear that cost him consistent playing time for the majority of the season. He is almost completely back into the Titans offensive game plan, seeing more targets and catching a touchdown each of the last two weeks. The yardage hasn’t been there, but against the weak Colts secondary there is a chance he could find separation.
Add: Steelers RB Jonathan Dwyer (Owned in 47 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – Dwyer earned himself the starting role for the foreseeable future with a touchdown and 49 yards last week. Pickings are very slim at running back right now, but he is an alternative for a flex play.
Add: Lions WR Mike Thomas (Owned in 2 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – With Ryan Broyles lost for the year with an ACL tear and Titus Young also done, it’s next man up for the Lions. Thomas will be the number two guy behind Calvin Johnson, and boy this sounds familiar.
Drop: Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (Owned in 99 percent of Yahoo! Leagues) – By no fault of his own, Fitzgerald’s fantasy value his tanked the last couple weeks. Quarterback Ryan Lindley just could not get him the ball even though he was wide open at times against the Jets. It’s unlikely that chemistry will develop before the season is over.