Change is good

Don't get conservative now.

With fantasy football playoffs starting this weekend or next for most leagues, that's the best general advice I can give to owners.


I've seen many fantasy players compile solid records by astutely playing week-to-week matchups only to freeze and decide they have to ride their most established guys in the playoffs.

In football, nothing is the same one week as it was the week before. A guy can look great running behind a healthy line against a shaky defensive front. But if the starting right tackle turns an ankle and the Minnesota Vikings' defense is up next, that all changes in a blink.


It's the simplest truth in the world, almost too obvious to require stating. But a lot of owners forget it come the end of the season. If you don't, you might have a leg up in the big games ahead.

That said, it seems the best service I can offer over the next several weeks is to take a careful look around the league for the best and worst matchups.

Starting options

Players you normally wouldn't start but should consider this week:

Jason Campbell, Redskins vs. Bears: Most top quarterbacks face decent matchups this weekend, so I wouldn't expect many radical lineup shifts. But if you're not comfortable with your usual starter, take a look at Campbell. He has averaged 270 passing yards over the past four weeks, and the Bears are vulnerable against the pass.

Fred Jackson, Bills vs. Dolphins: He was a nobody until he rushed for 82 yards against the Redskins on Sunday, but with Marshawn Lynch injured, Jackson is Buffalo's starting running back. More importantly, the Dolphins have allowed 149.7 rushing yards a game this season, worst in the league.

Reuben Droughns, Giants vs. Eagles: It's hard to decide what to do with the Giants' runners. Derrick Ward is out with a broken leg. Brandon Jacobs is supposed to be back Sunday but might not carry a full load. What we do know is that Droughns has scored three of the past four weeks. If you're in the playoffs, you probably have enough running depth to avoid starting him. If you don't, he's a decent bet to get you a touchdown.

Deion Branch, Seahawks vs. Cardinals: Branch has suffered through an injury-marred season. But he seems healthy again and will face an Arizona defense that's weak against the pass. Branch definitely could excel in a third receiver or flex spot Sunday.


Calvin Johnson, Lions vs. Cowboys: So he probably has been the biggest fantasy frustration among rookies. I get that. But Detroit's leading receiver, Roy Williams, is probably out for the season. And the Lions are likely to throw a lot Sunday as they try to keep up with Dallas' great offense. If Johnson's going to have a big game for you, this seems like the week.

Take a seat

Players you might usually start but shouldn't:

Philip Rivers, Chargers vs. Titans: I used to love Rivers, but he's not a consistent player right now, and Tennessee's pass defense is solid.

Jay Cutler, Broncos vs. Chiefs: Same story as Rivers. Cutler is a promising young passer who hasn't been consistent and will face a sound pass defense Sunday.

Frank Gore, 49ers vs. Vikings: It's hard to imagine sitting a guy who went No. 2 in some drafts. But Gore hasn't had many big games this season, and the Vikings are brutally tough against the run.


Shaun Alexander, Seahawks vs. Cardinals: He's another high pick who hasn't delivered. I expect the Seahawks to pass frequently against an Arizona defense that's stronger against the run. At least Alexander owners are used to working around him at this point.

Donald Driver, Packers vs. Raiders: Brett Favre favors Greg Jennings in the end zone, and the Raiders are excellent against the pass. I wouldn't sit Driver in leagues that use three receivers, but in those that use two, you probably have a better option.

Plaxico Burress, Giants vs. Eagles: He has played poorly four of the past five games, and Philadelphia showed what it could do to a lead receiver when it faced Randy Moss. Burress is a third receiver this week.

Note: As for injured guys, Favre and Donovan McNabb are expected to play, but neither faces a great matchup, so neither is an automatic start.

Defensive strategy

Among defenses, I like the Jaguars against the Panthers, the Packers against the Raiders and, if you're looking for a real long shot, the Bengals against the Rams' hapless offense.


This might be the only week that you should sit the Steelers' defense, because you can't bet against the Patriots' offense. And I know Detroit's defense has been surprisingly useful for much of the season, but you can't start the Lions when they're facing the Cowboys.