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Fantasy Football Fix: Decision time

The fantasy football playoffs are just around the corner. And considering the craziness we’ve seen around the NFL this season, there’s a good chance that very few — if any — of the teams in your league have already wrapped up a playoff spot. That means the next two weeks are absolutely pivotal. Put another way, fantasy football decisions should probably just move ahead of all real-life decisions you have to make in the next 10-14 days. It’s time to prioritize.

A fantasy owner’s toughest dilemma usually arises when a player you put a lot of stock in is being outperformed by the guys on your bench. That’s bound to happen every once in a while, but when it becomes a pattern you’re left with a real tough choice to make. What do you tell the guy who sat Mike Evans (209 yards and two TDs) last week… so he could start Julio Jones?

Those decisions are what separate the playoff teams from the teams that have nothing to play for by Week 15. Sure, there’s always one owner in your league who slaps together a weird roster of mediocre players that performs horribly every week, yet somehow still manages to squeak into the postseason because the schedule falls perfectly for them. They basically catch every opponent on their worst week due to byes or injuries, and routinely win 70-65 while you’re putting up 110 points and losing. And that’s OK. We just openly hate that individual and move on.

For the rest of us, it’s crunch time. Do you continue to roll with Drew Brees while Ben Roethlisberger is making defenses look silly from your bench? Does Andre Johnson really still deserve to start over Kelvin Benjamin or even Jordan Matthews? How much leeway does a player’s track record from a season or two ago earn him if he isn’t helping you now? Not to sound like a fortune cookie, but only you truly know the answer to that question. Watching the games helps. If you saw Jamaal Charles when he was “struggling” earlier this season, it was clear he’d start piling up points again — it was just a matter of time. Now look at him. Not so sure you can say the same for Cam Newton, though. And those are the tough calls that can make or break your season.

Or, you know, you could just happen to have Jonas Gray in your lineup for some reason when he randomly goes off for 199 yards and four touchdowns. Either way.

As always, the quickest path to fantasy success is to find the strongest players that are facing weak opposition and cash in. With that in mind, here are the Money Matchups for Week 12…

QB: Andrew Luck, IND (v JAX). Everything has fallen into place for Luck this season. He was already a top-tier quarterback in real life, but now he’s taken that next step to elite fantasy status as well. Prior to 2014, his career high for passing touchdowns was 23. He already has 28 with six games to go this year — and now he faces a Jacksonville team that he victimized for 370 yards and four scores back in Week 3. Not only does Luck torch the opposition on a weekly basis, he looks like he’s having fun doing it. Why? Because it comes easy to him. You don’t see Jay Cutler smiling all the time, do you?

Sleeper Pick: Jay Cutler, CHI (v TB). First we bash Jay Cutler, then we prop him up. That’s just how we do things on the Fantasy Football Fix. And, to be honest, that’s how I imagine Marc Trestman and the rest of the Bears handle Cutler as well. Chicago has a great matchup this week with a Tampa Bay defense that allows pretty much everyone (except Robert Griffin III) to pass all over them. And, for as bad as Cutler has looked at times this year, he still ranks No. 8 in fantasy scoring among QBs — just one point behind Drew Brees.

RB: DeMarco Murray, DAL (@ NYG). Yes, you’re using Murray every week. But you’re really leaning on him this week. The Giants give up more fantasy points to opposing running backs than everyone else in the league, meaning you should be starting pretty much any RB they face from here on out. On top of that, Murray a) leads the NFL in rushing and b) is coming off a bye. The biggest concern the Cowboys have had regarding their ground game this season has been how to keep Murray fresh. With a week off heading into this one, he should be rested and ready to go — to the point where it’s probably worth going all in on him in daily leagues this Sunday as well.

Sleeper: Denard Robinson, JAX (@ IND). In the four games since he’s taken over as the Jaguars’ No. 1 RB, the former Michigan quarterback has pounded out 389 yards and four TDs on the ground. Which begs the obvious question: why did Jacksonville spend the first six weeks of the season trying to convince us all that Toby Gerhart was a lead NFL back? Obviously, no one in their right mind can answer that. Either way though, Robinson has proven shifty and effective, faces a Colts’ D that just got shredded by Jonas Gray and brings the extra added bonus of being WR-eligible in a lot of leagues.

WR/TE: A.J. Green, CIN (@ HOU). I won’t lie to you — it’s not fun depending on a player who depends on Andy Dalton to get them the ball. And it’s probably not good for your health, either. Green certainly had a five-week stretch there where he was either missing time or simply ineffective due to injury, but his track record speaks for itself, and he’s coming off a solid 127-yard outing vs the Saints where he finally looked like the A.J. Green we used to know. Now he takes on the Texans, who have given up more fantasy points to wide receivers than every team in the league (well, except the Buccaneers).

Sleeper: Mike Evans, TB (@ CHI). He’s quickly shedding the “sleeper” label. And in the Year of the Rookie Receiver, he just might be the best of the bunch. Evans has put up 458 yards and five TDs over the last three weeks, moving him squarely into the conversation of guys you need to consider starting over bigger names like Julio Jones and Alshon Jeffery. At 6-foot-5 and 230-pounds, he’s difficult for most defensive backs to even think of matching up with physically — especially when those DBs are Chicago DBs.

D/ST: Buffalo Bills (v NYJ). The Bills lead the NFL with 39 sacks — arguably the most reliable stat to look at when gauging the value of a fantasy defense. And they’ve already shown what they can do against Rex Ryan’s group, registering four sacks and forcing six turnovers back in Week 8. Granted, Mike Vick is under center now, and he’s shown signs of being less self-destructive than Geno Smith. But that might be counteracted by the fact that the city of Buffalo is under about 93 feet of snow right now. Jets offense plus bad weather conditions equals happy defense.

Sleeper: Green Bay Packers (@ MIN). The Packers D quietly ranks No. 6 in standard fantasy scoring. Sure, they’ve benefited from facing the likes of Jay Cutler (twice) and Mark Sanchez this season. And that might be worth taking into consideration… if they weren’t facing Teddy Bridgewater and the Vikings this week.

The Fantasy Football Fix podcast is available on ArizonaSports.com every week during the NFL season, with Luke Lapinski, Jordan Byrd and Paige Dimakos giving you all the insight you need to rise to the top of your league. You can interact with the show by finding us on Twitter (@FantasyFBallFix) or on Facebook.