Fantasy Fodder: Don't overthink your playoff lineup

Assuming you are in a six- or eight-team league -- and not one of those screwy leagues that ends in Week 17 -- the fantasy football playoffs have arrived. If your team made the playoffs, give yourself a loud slap on the back.

(If your team did not make the playoffs, why are you reading this and causing yourself additional agony?)

We will all scrutinize our lineups more than ever going forward, and that has less to do with us wanting to win our league and more to do with us not wanting to end up losing because we benched the wrong player.

It sounds simple, but this is the best advice I can give you: Always, always, always start your best players. No matter what.

I'm going to cause myself some agony by giving an example of this. Last year, in Week 15, I decided to get cute and bench Ray Rice in favor of Jonathan Stewart. Stewart ran for 137 yards, which was nice, but Rice piled up 233 total yards and two touchdowns in the Ravens' impressive home beatdown of the Saints.

That decision cost me my season (and, making it worse, I was ridiculed by the Ravens' public relations staff after each big play).

It's natural to feel anxious while deciding whether, for example, you should start Torrey Smith or Reggie Wayne as your third wide receiver this week. But always make sure the Ray Rices of the world are in your starting lineup. Losing always hurts, but it stings more when you outsmart yourself by leaving a guy like that on your bench.

Ray Rice, playoff superhero: If you own Rice, you were probably thrilled with the boost he gave you Sunday evening. His 200-yard performance against the Browns surely elevated quite a few Rice owners in the fantasy playoffs, and he is poised to save the day for fantasy owners in the playoffs. The Ravens' next three opponents -- the Colts, Chargers and Browns -- all rank in the bottom seven in the NFL in rushing yards allowed.

Matt Forte, playoff spectator: Forte owners have gotten bad news. Forte is out for the next two weeks and maybe longer after suffering a knee injury Sunday. Forte has been an unexpected fantasy stud this season, racking up more than 100 total yards a game for the Bears. Hopefully, if you own Forte, you own his backup, Marion Barber III. He will be hot on the waiver wire and is worth starting in Forte's unfortunate absence.

Fantasy penthouse: Cam Newton threw for 204 yards and a touchdown, ran for three touchdowns and even had a 27-yard reception. Shonn Greene outscored Ray Rice and Chris Johnson thanks to his three TDs. Percy Harvin had eight catches for 156 yards and two scores. Rob Gronkowski did his thing again.

Fantasy doghouse: With Rice running wild, Joe Flacco was good for just four fantasy points. LeGarrette Blount rushed for just 19 yards. DeSean Jackson mailed it in Thursday. Brandon Pettigrew had 13 receiving yards.

The wire: 1. Barber has fewer than 80 touches this season, so he should be rested and ready to rumble. … 2. Malcom Floyd is presumably healthy after catching four passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. … 3. We know about Mike Wallace, but Antonio Brown is worth starting, too. … 4. If you have a roster spot to burn, consider Ricky Williams, who would be very valuable if -- knock on wood -- Rice gets injured. … 5. Santana Moss should have a nice week as the Redskins try to keep up with the Patriots. … 6. Christian Ponder has looked good.

I'm here to help you: But I've been really swamped with the Ravens beat, so I haven't been checking the blog comments as much as I'd like. If you have a question, email me and I promise I will get back to you in a hurry.

Extra point: Fred Davis will miss the rest of the season as he serves a suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy. The waiver options at tight end in your league probably aren't all that enticing, but if you can get a player like Jermaine Gresham, Dustin Keller or Ed Dickson, you might luck into a decent performance.

Matt Vensel is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun who uses this column to tinker with his fantasy football team on the clock. Send your questions and comments to Matt.Vensel@baltsun.com or @mattvensel on Twitter.

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