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WEEI NFL Power Rankings, Week 16: Patriots fall to No. 6, third in AFC 12.17.13 at 12:46 pm ET
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As the regular season nears its conclusion, the NFL continues to be unpredictable. Opportunities to gain ground in the conference, clinch divisions and secure playoff spots were present in Week 15, but the Broncos (4), Patriots (6), Saints (7), Bengals (9), Eagles (16), Lions (18) and Cowboys (20) squandered those chances.

One thing of which we can be certain is that the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will go through the 12th man in Seattle. One more win clinches home-field advantage for the No. 1 ranked Seahawks. The Niners (2) and Panthers (3) are right behind in a top-heavy NFC.

Meanwhile, the AFC has never been this wide open. The Broncos and Patriots both fall two spots after disappointing losses, while the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens move all the way up to the No. 5 spot.

As we head into the final two weeks there still is much to be decided across the league. Which teams will lock up first-round byes? Can the Patriots actually miss the playoffs? An exciting conclusion to the season is upon us.

Seattle Seahawks1. (1) Seahawks (12-2) – Injuries and suspensions to starters can’t even slow down this Seahawks defense. Brandon Browner, Walter Thurmond, K.J. Wright and Tony McDaniel all were out of commission on Sunday, but Seattle’s D still was able to force five turnovers and get a shutout win over the Giants.

San Francisco 49ers 2. (5) 49ers (10-4) — The Niners are heating up at just the right time. San Fran has won four straight and is second only to Seattle in point differential in the NFC at plus-121.

Carolina Panthers3. (6) Panthers (10-4) — Cam Newton and the Panthers control their own destiny in the NFC South. If they win their final two games, the Panthers will be division champs for the first time since 2008 and will enjoy a first-round bye.

Denver Broncos 4. (2) Broncos (11-3) — The Broncos are allowing an average of 29 points in their last four games. This team has looked vulnerable of late but still has a firm grip on the No. 1 seed in the AFC with the Texans and Raiders left on the schedule.

5. (14) Ravens (8-6) — The Ravens have just as good a shot to reach the Super Bowl as the Broncos and Patriots.

New England Patriots 6. (4) Patriots (10-4) — It’s difficult to win in this league if your offense can’t convert in the red zone. The Patriots go from one of the best teams in the red zone to one of the worst without Rob Gronkowski. If Tom Brady and Bill Belichick can lead this team to the Super Bowl it will go down as one of the tandem’s best accomplishments of their career.

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Fantasy Football: Week 15 starts, sits 12.13.13 at 10:35 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 15 starts and sits! If you are reading this, then congratulations are probably in order. It’s semifinal week in most leagues, so you are one win away from a bowl appearance and a shot at glory. Hopefully these recommendations will help you maximize your lineup, but if you need more, then head over to Rotobahn and check out our full lineup rankings. Additionally, you can attend our weekly Sunday chat right here at WEEI. You’ll find a link to the chat Sunday on the home page under “This Just In.” I hope to see you all there.

QUARTERBACKS

START

Matt Stafford, Lions vs. Ravens

Stafford had a rough Week 14 due to the weather, but if you survived the storm, you should stick with him. He’ll be much better at home, even in a tough matchup. The Lions probably will lose, but Stafford will get his stats.

Andrew Luck, Colts vs. Texans

He’ll be solid this week at home vs. a pretty good defense. Luck now has enough weapons to get the job done. Da’Rick Rogers is a big upgrade over Darrius Heyward-Bey. Luck may not give you a big number, but he’ll produce like a top-10 quarterback.

Tom Brady, Patriots at Dolphins

Brady owners must feel cursed at this point. The rug got pulled out from under them this past Sunday when Rob Gronkowski was lost again, with perhaps his worst injury so far, and that is saying something. Giving up on Brady is a logical move, but I think even with significant missing parts, the Patriots offense as a unit is clicking now. Brady should be good for a few scores and 250-plus yards.

Jay Cutler, Bears at Browns

He should be the starter, but just to be clear, this recommendation goes for whomever starts for the Bears this week. If Cutler has another setback, go ahead and start Josh McCown, who has been astoundingly good this year in Marc Trestman’s offense.

Matt Ryan, Falcons vs. Redskins

Yes, the Falcons already are toast, but they have most of their offense back on the field and probably will cut through the Washington defense like a hot knife through butter. Ryan is a viable option this week in any format.

Jason Campbell, Browns vs. Bears

The one thing to keep on top of here is the weather. There is some snow in the forecast, and if it gets really ugly, you’ll want to have a backup plan. Still, Campbell can help you if you are in a jam. The Bears have few answers for what the Browns will be throwing at them, namely Josh Gordon. The second-year receiver has been a one-man wrecking crew lately.

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Fantasy Football: Week 10 starts, sits 11.08.13 at 10:29 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 10 starts and sits. Just to clarify, these are not the top-rated players at their positions this week. Rather, they are players who are on the edge in terms of the weekly value. If you want my top ranked players at every position, go to Rotobahn.com for our full lineup rankings. Jim Hackett and I will back later Friday with our weekly podcast, and please join us for a Sunday morning chat, as I’ll be here at 11 a.m. to answer all of your lineup questions.

QUARTERBACKS

STARTS

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers vs. Bills

I’m sticking with Big Ben after he came through for me last week. His matchup gets better going from the Patriots at Foxboro to the Bills on his home field. The Steelers also have a full complement of weapons for the first time in a while with the return of WR Markus Wheaton, who we like a lot. Roethlisberger can help in any league this week.

Terrelle Pryor, Raiders at Giants

He’s the fulcrum of the Oakland offense. Nothing happens without him involved. Pryor should be good for a few big plays against the Giants, who have been giving up plays all year. Pryor is a good option, especially in bigger leagues, and he has big-game potential if things break right.

Eli Manning, Giants vs. Raiders

Yes, there’s risk, but if you are hurting for options, he looks like a good start to me this week. The Giants have slowly become functional on offense, and I think the return of tailback Andre Brown will be another boost — giving Manning another way to make plays in passing situations. He can help you in most formats this week.

Jake Locker, Titans vs. Jaguars

He is playing better, and he should perform well in a sweet home matchup this week. His running game has kicked in, and that opens things up downfield. Plus, Locker can get you extra points with his feet. He can help you this week if you need an option in a big league.

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Fantasy Football: Week 7 starts, sits 10.18.13 at 10:37 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 7 starts and sits. I’ll be back later today with Jim Hackett for the Fantasy Football Podcast. Check it out in our audio on demand section. For those of you looking for further lineup clarity, feel free to head over to Rotobahn, where we do full weekly positional rankings and update them every Saturday. And, don’t forget to join me here at WEEI on Sunday mornings for our weekly chat for all of your lineup questions.

QUARTERBACKS

STARTS

Jay Cutler, Bears at Redskins

Cutler is becoming a weekly play, and his offense is supporting him well. The pass protection is the key, but so is the play of his receivers. With Alshon Jeffery stepping up and with the excellent play of new tight end Martellus Bennett, the Bears offense has more than just Brandon Marshall. Cutler should do well this weekend in Washington.

Nick Foles, Eagles vs. Cowboys

He may or may not have the starting gig for the remainder of the season, but he is a very strong play at home vs. Dallas. The Cowboys are giving up consistent fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.

Eli Manning, Giants vs. Vikings 

Yes, I know. The idea of playing Eli Manning right now is unsettling. I get it. The thing is, he should do very well at home vs. a Vikings team that has been a get-well matchup for  passers all year, including Cam Newton in Week 6. Manning may not be a QB1 in 12-team leagues this week, but he’s a solid option if you are looking for answers. He’s going to have a lot of open receivers.

Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins vs. Bills

He’s a playable option in 12-team leagues if you are looking for an option. The Bills should be a bit better vs. the pass this week as they are finally getting healthy on the back end, but Miami throws the ball getting off the team bus, so you’ll have volume on your side. Make Miami’s refusal to run the ball work for you.

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers vs. Ravens

If you are in need this week, Big Ben makes a serviceable option, even in a tough matchup. Roethlisberger’s teammates have taken their games up a notch and the Steelers have welcomed back both tight end Heath Miller and starting tailback Le’Veon Bell. That has helped out a lot.

SITS

Geno Smith, Jets vs. Patriots

Smith has shown to have some moxie and some fantasy upside when the matchup is right. That being said, I don’t think the matchup is good enough to bet on this weekend. The Patriots have injury issues on defense, but it’s going to set up more opportunities on the ground than through the air.

Alex Smith, Chiefs vs. Texans

Smith is a system guy and he’s doing a nice job, but he is unlikely to post the kind of fantasy numbers that will help your team, especially against a stingy pass defense like the Texans.

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Fantasy Football: Week 4 starts, sits 09.27.13 at 9:48 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 4 starts and sits. It’s a tough week, with the byes finally upon us. We lose Green Bay and Carolina this week, so I have some options if you are looking to replace Aaron Rodgers or Cam Newton. Later Friday, Jim Hackett and I will be doing our weekly podcast sponsored by Mohegan Sun. Check back for that. We’ll be talking about Thursday night’s game, and we’ll take a look at this week’s matchups. If you have more lineup questions, check out our full lineup rankings at Rotobahn.com.  I’ll be updating them in full Saturday.  Finally, as always, I’ll be here at 11 a.m. on Sunday to take all of your lineup questions. I hope to see as many of you there as we had last week.

QUARTERBACKS

STARTS

Tom Brady, Patriots at Falcons 

He should never be on this list, but I hear people talking about benching Brady these days, so it seemed appropriate. I’m not benching Brady. The youngsters are coming around, and they seem to have found an old weapon in Brandon Bolden. Brady may not be posting any huge games until the lineup is closer to full, but he can still be your QB1 this week.

Jay Cutler, Bears at Lions

The Bears are playing very good football and Cutler is getting pass protection that he’s never gotten in the past. That and his new weapons make him a weekly option. The Lions won’t be able to shut the Bears or Cutler down. He’s a solid QB1 option in Week 4.

Andy Dalton, Bengals at Browns

It’s a tough matchup on the road, but Dalton and company have handled the Browns well in the past. Dalton can be used as a QB1 in 12-team leagues. His top receiver, A.J. Green, has a solid history against CB Joe Haden and the Browns defense.

Michael Vick, Eagles at Broncos

There’s some risk in this tough road matchup, but Vick will need to pull out all the stops and use his feet, which means points for you. My big concern with Vick is his week-to-week availability, but he’s ready for this one. He has plenty of upside and is a solid QB1 if you need him.

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Fantasy Football: Week 3 starts, sits 09.20.13 at 10:48 am ET
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Welcome to the Week 3 starts and sits. I have added a few extra running backs with all of the injuries at the position. If you require further assistance, check out my complete lineup rankings at Rotobahn.com, which are posted on Thursdays and updated on Saturdays. As always, I’ll be back at WEEI on Sunday morning for a chat to answer all of your lineup questions. Check back later Friday for the WEEI Fantasy Football Podcast sponsored by our friends at Mohegan Sun.

QUARTERBACKS

STARTS

Sam Bradford, Rams at Cowboys

Ride him while he’s rolling. As I have said many times, the weaponry in St. Louis is outstanding, and Bradford is playing well enough to exploit his matchup advantages. He makes a solid start in any format this week.

Andy Dalton, Bengals vs. Packers

This is the best matchup he’s had so far this year, and he hasn’t really posted a stinker yet by fantasy standards. Dalton, like Bradford, has matchup advantages all over the field. He may not be pretty, but the numbers should be there at the end of the day. He can play for you in any format this week.

Eli Manning, Giants at Panthers

There’s some risk here, but Manning is going to throw the ball a lot. You can bank on that being the case when you look at the state of the New York backfield. Fringe QB1 numbers are expected for those in 12-team leagues.

Philip Rivers, Chargers at Titans

Rivers is rolling right now, and his offensive line has played far better than we projected it to. Though the Chargers have lost some significant weapons, Rivers still has a healthy Antonio Gates and a smoldering Eddie Royal. I also expect more production from Vincent Brown, who is playing better than his statistics show. Rivers is a viable play this week in larger formats.

SITS

Terrelle Pryor, Raiders at Broncos

We like his fantasy potential, but this is a brutal road matchup. You should have a better option available to you. If not, you can roll with Pryor, but temper expectations this week.

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers vs. Bears

Big Ben is just fine. It’s what surrounds him that is giving me pause and giving Steelers fans indigestion. His offensive line is falling apart at the seams and his receivers are not winning enough battles outside, but most of all, there is no ground game until Pittsburgh gets Le’Veon Bell up to speed. He’s close, having practiced in full Thursday, but his return is unlikely to be this week. Oh, and the Bears are a nasty matchup.

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Fantasy Football: Week 2 starts, sits 09.13.13 at 2:08 pm ET
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Welcome to the Week 2 starts and sits. I’ve got a solid list of suggestions this week, and for those of you who have further questions, please feel free to join me for a Sunday morning chat right here at WEEI.com where we’ll discuss all of the Week 2 injury situations as well as your key lineup choices. For those of you looking for updates on our content at Rotobahn.com and here are WEEI, I strongly suggest that you follow us on Twitter. I tweet links to our fresh content every day as well as key injury information on game days. Good luck to all this week.

QUARTERBACKS

STARTS

Eli Manning, Giants vs. Broncos

The younger Manning will have no choice but to throw and throw often in this game. With his trio of quality receivers, that should point to a good fantasy day.

Terrelle Pryor, Raiders vs. Jaguars

The matchup is solid, and Pryor’s style of play is fantasy gold, as we’ve been saying for years. Unlike a lot of the other read-option-style quarterbacks, Pryor is not being saved for later. The Raiders are letting it all hang out with the young QB and will let him get first downs by any means necessary. That’s good for you if you start him.

Sam Bradford, Rams at Falcons

It’s a road matchup against a quality opponent, but it’s indoors, which is good for all the Rams’ speed weapons, of which there are many. Look for Bradford to have another solid day. The Rams have more quality options than the Falcons can cover.

Jay Cutler, Bears vs. Vikings

The offense looked good last week, and Cutler will have some good one-on-one matchups in this game. The new Bears system is a very good change for Cutler, who seemed comfortable last week against a quality Bengals defense. He should provide QB1 level production in this plus home matchup.

SITS

Josh Freeman, Buccaneers vs. Saints

There’s just too much bad karma in Tampa right now. Freeman always has upside in this matchup because the Saints will post some points, but you should have at least one stronger option on your roster. Freeman could go either way this week. You can do better.

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers at Bengals

It’s very rare that I’d even consider Big Ben on a sits list, but he’s lost his best offensive lineman and has a broken backfield and still no healthy Heath Miller. If you factor in the road matchup against a very formidable defense, you have a player to avoid in Week 2.

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