Start 'Em, Sit 'Em for Week 17
By Michael Fabiano
Updated: Dec. 26, 2012 at 06:53 p.m.
Start 'Em & Sit 'Em is the ultimate look at the weekly NFL matchups and how they'll affect your fantasy football team. Sleeper alert features an under-the-radar player who could produce good numbers. Owners beware features a regular fantasy starter who could fail to meet expectations based on the strength of his opponent. Obvious fantasy starters like Aaron Rodgers and Arian Foster will not be featured in this column. For your final lineup decisions, check our lineup rankings.
Quarterbacks - Start of the week
Tony Romo at Washington Redskins: The last time the Cowboys and Redskins faced off, Romo put up 441 yards, three touchdowns and close to 30 fantasy points. While he might not reach that level this time around, Romo should still be solid in a must-win game for Dallas.
Russell Wilson vs. St. Louis Rams: Over the last four weeks, Wilson has scored more fantasy points than every player in the league not named Cam Newton. He's also been a solid and reliable fantasy option on his home field, so don't be afraid to start him against the Rams.
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Cleveland Browns: The Browns pass defense is night and day when it comes to fantasy points for quarterbacks based on venue. At home, this unit allows an average of fewer than 13 points. On the road, it swells to over 20. That makes Big Ben a nice option.
Sleeper alert - Eli Manning vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Manning isn't a traditional sleeper, but he's been mediocre at best in recent weeks. Still, the Giants have an outside chance to make the playoffs and the Eagles have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Sit of the week
Josh Freeman at Atlanta Falcons: Much like Manning, Freeman's numbers have been poor in recent weeks. And while the Falcons could decide to rest their starters in the second half, do you want to trust Freeman in your fantasy championship? I can't make that sort of move.
Quarterbacks - Sit 'em
Joe Flacco at Cincinnati Bengals: Flacco, listed as a start 'em last week, had one of his best stat lines. That was at home against the Giants, though. This week he's back on the road against a Bengals defense that has allowed the sixth-fewest points to quarterbacks at home.
Sam Bradford at Seattle Seahawks: Bradford has put up some nice numbers at times in recent weeks, but it's tough to trust him on the road against the Seahawks. No team has given up fewer fantasy points to quarterbacks at home, so keep the Oklahoma product on the sidelines.
Owners beware - Matt Ryan vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ryan is a top fantasy option and has a great matchup against the Buccaneers. So why is he a risk? Well, the Falcons have clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC and could rest their starters. Start Ryan with extreme caution.
Running backs - Start of the week
C.J. Spiller vs. New York Jets: Spiller has re-emerged into an elite fantasy back, and this week's matchup against the Jets is a favorable one. New York has one of the worst run units in the NFL, and Spiller scored close to 24 fantasy points against them back in Week 1.
Alfred Morris vs. Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys have allowed 29-plus fantasy points to backs in two of their last four games, so Morris should put up a nice stat line. Back in Week 12, he rushed for 113 yards with one touchdown and scored 17.30 points against them as well.
Shonn Greene at Buffalo Bills: The Men in Green have just one viable fantasy option on their roster, and it's Greene. He's worth at least a flex start against the Bills, who have surrendered the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs on their home field.
Sleeper alert - DeAngelo Williams at New Orleans Saints: Williams proved last week that he is still tough to trust in fantasy land, but he has flex-starter value against the Saints. Their defense has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to runners overall in 2012.
Running backs - Sit of the week
Mikel Leshoure vs. Chicago Bears: Leshoure is a tough runner to bench, as he's found the end zone in five of his last six games. Still, the Bears have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to backs overall and held Leshoure to a mere 6.30 points back in Week 7.
Michael Turner vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Buccaneers have the NFL's top-ranked run defense, and I'm concerned that Turner will be rested (at least for a half) this week so he'll be fresh for what could be a long postseason run for the Falcons. He's a risk-reward option.
Vick Ballard vs. Houston Texans: Ballard was a disappointment for owners last weekend against the Kansas City Chiefs, posting just 6.90 fantasy points. This week he faces the Texans, who have allowed the seventh-fewest points to opposing running backs on the road in 2012.
Owners beware - Steven Jackson at Seattle Seahawks: Jackson has been hot, posting 11-plus fantasy points in five straight games. So while it's tough to bench him, keep in mind that the Seahawks have allowed single-digit points to backs in their last three home games.
Wide receivers - Start of the week
Steve Smith at New Orleans Saints: Smith is on a roll, posting double-digit fantasy points in four straight games. He's also found the end zone in three of those contests. No team has allowed more fantasy points to wideouts than the Saints, so Smith remains a solid option.
Mike Wallace vs. Cleveland Browns: Wallace disappeared in the stat sheets in Week 16, but this week's matchup against the Browns is favorable. Even with CB Joe Haden in the mix, this unit has still allowed the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers on the road in 2012.
Greg Jennings at Minnesota Vikings: Regardless of the status of both Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, Jennings is a nice No. 3 option this weekend. He's had a lot of success in his career against the Vikings, scoring seven touchdowns in his last six games against them.
Sleeper alert - Jeremy Maclin at New York Giants: The G-Men have been awful against wideouts in recent weeks, allowing 24-plus fantasy points to the position in three of their last four games. That makes Maclin, who has 100-plus yards in two of three games, a nice starter.
Wide receivers - Sit of the week
Larry Fitzgerald at San Francisco 49ers: Who knew Brian Hoyer would save Fitzgerald's value? Alright, so it helped for one week - that doesn't mean you should start him against the Niners. Their defense has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers at home.
Steve Johnson vs. New York Jets: Johnson, who has scored eight-plus fantasy points in just one of his last four games, has a tough assignment up next against CB Antonio Cromartie and the Jets. This unit has given up the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing wideouts.
Josh Gordon at Pittsburgh Steelers: Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy are both banged up, so practice squadder Thaddeus Lewis could draw the start for the Browns. Regardless, you want nothing to do with Gordon in what is a pretty difficult matchup on paper at Heinz Field.
Owners beware - Torrey Smith at Cincinnati Bengals: Smith posted a nice stat line last week against the Giants, but he'll struggle to repeat the performance in Cincinnati. The Bengals have a tough pass defense and held Smith to just 57 receiving yards back in the season opener.
Tight ends - Start of the week
Greg Olsen at New Orleans Saints: Olsen has developed into one of the better tight ends in fantasy football, so keep him active in what could be a shootout against the Saints. Their defense has allowed the sixth-most yards and six touchdowns to tight ends in 2012.
Jason Witten at Washington Redskins: Witten might have just two touchdowns, but he's still a top-five player at his position. He's also had a lot of success in his career against the Redskins, who have allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends overall.
Antonio Gates vs. Oakland Raiders: Gates has been a disappointment, but he has scored nine-plus fantasy points in two straight games. That's enough to start him against the Raiders, who have allowed an average of close to nine fantasy points per game to tight ends overall.
Sleeper alert - Kyle Rudolph vs. Green Bay Packers: Listed in this space last week, Rudolph scored a touchdown and 9.90 fantasy points against the Houston Texans. Keep him in your lineup against the Packers, who surrendered a score and 11.10 points to him in Week 13.
Tight ends - Sit of the week
Vernon Davis vs. Arizona Cardinals: Even in the event that Davis (concussion) is able to suit up against the Cardinals, he should still be left on fantasy benches. He has scored four or more fantasy points once in his last 10 games and is no longer a viable starting option.
Brandon Myers at San Diego Chargers: Myers had been one of the hottest tight ends in fantasy land, but he's scored a combined 3.20 fantasy points in his last three contests. He has also failed to score a single touchdown on the road, so Myers is clearly a major fantasy risk.
Jacob Tamme vs. Kansas City Chiefs: Tamme has had an unimpressive first season with the Broncos, ranking 25th in fantasy points at his position. The Chiefs have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends on the road, so Tamme's fortunes likely won't improve.
Owners beware - Jermaine Gresham vs. Baltimore Ravens: It's tough to bench a player like Gresham due to the state of the tight end position, but temper your expectations against the Ravens. Their defense has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends on the road.
Kickers - Start of the week
Matt Prater vs. Kansas City Chiefs: Prater has been on fire in recent weeks, ranking third in fantasy points among kickers over the last four weeks. His statistical success should continue against the Chiefs, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to kickers overall.
Garrett Hartley vs. Carolina Panthers: Much like Prater, Hartley has been riding a hot streak with 39.00 fantasy points in his last four games. Owners should keep him active against the Panthers, who have surrendered the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing kickers in 2012.
Sleeper alert - Rob Bironas vs. Jacksonville Jaguars: Bironas has scored four or fewer fantasy points in three of his last four games, but that's what makes him a sleeper against the Jags. No team has allowed more fantasy points to opposing kickers on the road than Jacksonville.
Kickers - Sit of the week
Greg Zuerlein at Seattle Seahawks: "Legatron" has the skills to emerge into an elite fantasy kicker in the future, but you can't trust him right now. He's posted four or fewer points in three straight games and faces a tough matchup on the road against the Seahawks.
Phil Dawson at Pittsburgh Steelers: Dawson has had a nice fantasy season, but he's not someone to lean on if you're in your championship week. He next goes up against the Steelers, who have allowed an average of fewer than seven fantasy points per game to kickers at home.
Owners beware - Mason Crosby at Minnesota Vikings: Crosby has had a disappointing year in the stat sheets, ranking just 18th in fantasy points among kickers. He's a risk against the Vikes, who have given up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the position at home this season.
Defense - Start of the week
Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs: The Broncos defense has emerged into one of the better units in fantasy football, and this week's game against the Chiefs makes it a must-start. Home defenses facing this unit have combined to score the second-most fantasy points in 2012.
Giants defense vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Vick is back under center this week, but that doesn't change the fact that home defenses have combined to score the third-most fantasy points against the Eagles. That's good news for the Giants in a must-win situation.
Sleeper alert - Steelers defense vs. Cleveland Browns: The Browns could be forced to start a third-string quarterback, and stud running back Trent Richardson will be playing (and maybe even limited) at less than 100 percent. That makes the Steelers a terrific option in Week 17.
Defense - Sit of the week
Cowboys defense at Washington Redskins: There is likely to be a whole lot of offense in Sunday night's NFC East showdown, so neither defense is a good fantasy option. The Cowboys are the lesser option, as visiting defenses have struggled to score fantasy points at FedEx.
Cardinals defense at San Francisco 49ers: The Cardinals might be a top-10 fantasy unit based on points, but facing the Niners on the road (and after a loss) makes this a bad matchup. Visiting defenses have combined to average just 5.71 points when playing in San Francisco.
Owners beware - Rams defense at Seattle Seahawks: The Rams went off for 25 fantasy points last week, but that was against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, not the Seahawks. Visiting units have combined to score the second-fewest fantasy points when facing Seattle on their home field.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!