Fantasy football: Time to prepare for the playoffs

With byes wrapping up next week and the playoffs on the horizon, now is the time to start building your team for those crucial final weeks of the season when fantasy championships are won.
Last week, when discussing a few potential quarterback solutions if you lost Aaron Rodgers, I noted the strength of schedule rankings on fftoolbox.com in picking players off the waiver wire. I'd suggest giving that database a look when it comes to making decisions on who you will carry into the playoffs, especially if you are streaming defenses or looking for back-ups at certain positions where you may not have carried a back-up most of the year (quarterback and tight end, for example) just in case of injury.
The remaining schedules are also a good tool if you are considering making a trade at your league's deadline. Perhaps you can trade a player who has been overachieving lately because of his schedule about to hit a rough spot for a player with upside and an easier schedule during weeks 14 to 16.
While depth is nice, the key to the playoffs is having the best possible starting roster. Look ahead and set different lineups for playoff weeks based on match-ups to see which players might be expendable in a trade and where you need help.
When considering trades, make sure to consider your situation and the situation of your trading partner. If you're one of the league leaders and a lock to make the playoffs, and have depth at one position but would like to bolster your team at another, try to find a team on the fringe who has a player that can not only bolster your roster but might be in need of your depth. If you're a team desperately trying to make the playoffs and are weak in several areas, consider trading a stud for multiple players to a team that has depth across the board.
Now is also a good time to start considering handcuffs to your running backs. While I don't advise dropping usable players for the sake of getting a handcuff, if you have the room, it couldn't hurt for LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte owners, for example, to pick up Bryce Brown and Michael Bush. And if you don't have one of those elite runners, but have the room to add their back-up, it could play huge dividends if the starter goes down. Just look at Brown a year ago. (Read more about running backs to handcuff and who to target at http://www.carrollcountytimes.com/blogs/sports/fantasysports.

Start 'em if you got 'em
QB Case Keenum. Oakland's defense hasn't been that bad against opposing quarterbacks lately when you get rid of the Nick Foles masterpiece, but Keenum is on a roll right now and the Raiders aren't exactly an intimidating foe either.
QB Ben Roethlisberger. I've got the feeling the Steelers are going to be playing catch-up in this one and Big Ben will likely have to chuck it a lot. Detriot is giving up a lot of yards through the air.
RB Knowshon Moreno. Kansas City has been tough against the run overall, but they give up 5 yards per carry and Moreno has done a lot of damage in the passing game too. Manning won't be afraid to check down as the Chiefs pass rush bears down on him.
RB Andre Brown. Easily the Giants most talented running back, he might not match last week's numbers but should have another solid workload against a shaky Packers defense.
RB Andre Ellington. Bruce Arians is keeping his touches in check, but his explosiveness should be enough to make him a solid RB2 against Jacksonville.
WR Riley Cooper. For all his faults (on-field and off), the chemistry he's developed with QB Nick Foles and his recent production can't be overlooked especially with a great match-up this week vs. Washington.
WR Vincent Jackson. He's been slumping as of late, but facing a lame Falcons defense should cure what ails him.
WR Josh Gordon. A bad game before the bye and a so-so outing in previous meeting with the Bengals, play Gordon with confidence against Cincy defense without Leon Hall.
D/ST Buffalo Bills. I'm not usually one to recommend defenses, but I feel pretty strongly about the Bills unit having a bounce-back at home against the turnover and sack-prone Geno Smith.


Scale 'em back
QB Colin Kaepernick. The Saints defense is brutal. Vernon Davis is banged up. Michael Crabtree isn't back yet. And Kap isn't running much. Need I say more?
RB Fred Jackson and RB CJ Spiller. Jets are already tough on fantasy RBs, plus E.J. Manuel is still trying to find his groove with a bang-up receiving corp, meaning the defensive focus will be on the running game.
RB Maurice Jones-Drew. Has found his MoJo in recent weeks, but it doesn't get much more difficult than the Arizona Cardinals front seven versus opposing fantasy running backs.
WR Marques Colston. Looked great against Dallas, but who hasn't really? Facing a much tougher San Francisco defense, Colston is likely to revert to his frustrating 2013 self this week.
WR Roddy White. He seems to be getting healthy, but can you trust him with his lingering injuries and facing Darrell Revis? I don't.
TE Martellus Bennett. Josh McCown just doesn't seem to want to look his way.

Taking a flier
QB Mike Glennon. Every quarterback has a good game against the Falcons. Glennon poste 256 yards and a pair of TDs last time they played.
RB Shane Vereen. Obviously make sure he's playing (tricky since Patriots play Monday night so you'll likely need to make a decision Sunday), but he could be a stud since Carolina is tough against the run, but quite suspectible to short passes to RBs - Vereen's specialty.
RB Chris Ivory. Irresistible force versus immovable object? Not quite, but Ivory has two 100-plus yard days in last three games versus a Buffalo defense that ranks high, but has been suscepitble lately.
WR Percy Harvin. Making his season debut against his former team? That's a combination for a huge game. I'd rather start known commodoties, but if you need a big upside play and have been stashing him this long, roll him out.
WR Dwayne Bowe. He's one of my least favorite players in fantasy because he's so inconsistent. But there's a good chance the Chiefs are going to have to throw it quite a bit to keep pace with Denver. Bowe has to be the recipient of some of that, right?
TE Rob Housler. You've got to be pretty desperate at the position to start Housler, but he did score his first TD last week and has a great match-up against Jacksonville.