It seems like it happens every year.  Just before the fantasy playoffs, a big-time player goes down with a major injury.  For the second year in a row, it happened to one of the best dual-threat running backs in the league.  Last year Frank Gore’s injury killed his owners’ chances in the playoffs.  This year, the focal point of the Bears’ offense, Matt Forte, will miss 2 to 6 weeks with an MCL injury.  While this isn’t nearly as bad as what was faced by Gore owners last year, as he was guaranteed to miss the rest of the season, it certainly isn’t going to be easy for those owners to advance.  It looks like Marion Barber will get the bulk of the carries for the Bears, but he just isn’t the dynamic runner or the receiving threat out of the backfield that Forte is.  He may be a solid stop-gap for Forte owners going into the playoffs, but that’s really all that he is.  It may actually be a good idea for Forte owners to scour their league’s waiver wire to find as many viable backs as possible and hoard them.  That way you can at least try to play matchups as best as possible going forward.  Beyond that, all that I have to say is good luck.  Now, on to week 14.

Quarterback

BEST:      Carson Palmer, OAK

-He’s going to throw interceptions against the Packers, it’s just in his blood.  He only has 1 game so far this season with no interceptions.  However, he’s been throwing for very good yardage totals lately, and Green Bay has been giving up passing yards in bunches this year.  Green Bay is averaging 292.8 passing yards per game given up and 1.83 touchdowns per game.  Sure, the Pack are also averaging 1.92 interceptions per game, which doesn’t bode well for Palmer, but I don’t think it will be too much of an issue.  Let’s look at it this way, if he hits the Packers averages, which I expect him to actually slightly exceed, he’ll end up with around 300 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.  That would be good for 20 fantasy points in a standard scoring system.  However, I think he’ll throw for 3 touchdowns, so mark him down for 26 points, and a sure=fire start this week.

WORST:  Cam Newton, CAR

-His fantasy stats have been pretty good lately, but really only because of his rushing touchdowns.  His passing numbers have actually been very pedestrian in the last 4 weeks, averaging only .5 touchdowns per game to go along with 226 yards per game over that span.  I have a feeling that the Falcons, despite their only average defense, will figure out that if you want to stop Newton you stop his legs.  His athleticism will always allow him to make some plays, but I think the Falcons can contain him just enough to force him into some mistakes, in the same way the Lions did in week 11.  Look for Newton to throw for 200 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions, and rush for 35 yards with no scores on the ground.  Not great numbers for a guy who has earned fantasy starter status for most of this season.

Running Back

BEST:    Ray Rice, BAL

-He had a huge week last week, and this week get’s another very soft matchup against the hapless Colts.  So far this season the Colts have been giving up 144.2 yards per game to go along with 1.42 touchdowns per game rushing.  Those are some pretty horrendous numbers, and I expect Rice to take advantage of that in a big way.  It’s unreasonable to expect another 200 yard game like he had last week, but I really think he’ll end up with similarly huge yardage totals this week.  He should exceed what the Colts generally give up and rush for about 170 yards and 2 touchdowns.  I also see him grabbing 4 balls for 40 yards to tack on to his rushing totals.  All in all, a very big day for Rice.

WORST:  DeMarco Murray, DAL

-Honestly, this matchup warrants not putting him here, he SHOULD be fine.  But frankly, I just don’t get Jason Garrett.  I can’t understand how Murray can only get 12 carries against a below average rush defense in the Cardinals last week.  Clearly Garrett isn’t going to be predictable in how he uses his young back.  The trends are also especially troubling, because Murray has not been getting enough goal line looks to be the truly viable number 1 fantasy option that I think he has the talent to be.  You should keep him in your lineup, because it’s possible he’ll see 20 carries this week, but it’s also possible he’ll see around 10 carries.  Temper your expectations, and you won’t be too disappointed.

Wide Receiver

BEST:      Calvin Johnson, DET

-In his last 4 games he’s been very quiet by his standards.  Going for yardage of 81, 89, 49 and 69 in his last 4 weeks.  He also only has 1 touchdown over that span.  Those numbers are mostly due to teams trying to double cover him and take him away from the Lions.  That will turn around this week, as I don’t think the Vikings have the horses to keep up with Megatron.  Look for him to end up with 100 yards, 2 touchdowns, and at least 2 plays of over 35 yards.  Heck, playing in Minnesota in week 3 Johnson went for almost exactly those numbers.  Sure, you may call that lazy prognosticating, but I just have a feeling his numbers will closely mirror what he did last time around.

WORST:  Dwayne Bowe, KC

-The quarterback troubles in Kansas City continue, and this week they travel to the Meadowlands to face the Jets.  I don’t think I have to explain to you what the Jets and their top 10 pass defense should be able to do to Tyler Palko, or whatever quarterback the Chiefs decide to throw out there this week.  I see the Chiefs only throwing for 175 yards total this week, with only 50 of those going to Bowe.  I also don’t think Bowe will be able to find the end zone.  So to put it bluntly, he’s a terrible play this week, and if you have a better option and feel like tinkering with your lineup this week, now’s your chance.

Tight End

BEST:    Antonio Gates, SD

-He’s getting plenty of targets since his return, just not a ton of yardage.  I have a feeling that will change this week as get’s a shot at the Buffalo Bills, whose defense is quickly falling apart.  They haven’t been getting turnovers the way they did in the early season, and that has really bit them.  I think Philip Rivers will find his talented tight end early, often, and most importantly in the end zone.  I think that he’ll end up with 85 yards and 2 scores as the Chargers get their offense back on track in a big way.

WORST:  Germaine Gresham, CIN

-His numbers have been up and down this season, and his bad weeks have mostly coincided with facing tough pass defenses.  This week he matches up against a very good secondary in the Houston Texans who are only giving up 183.4 yards per game.  Andy Dalton and the Bengals have been better than expected this year, but I don’t think they’ll be able to put up big passing stats against the Texans.  I think Gresham will end up with similar numbers to what he put up against an equally tough Pittsburgh pass defense last week.  So expect him to rack up only about 4 catches for 30 yards and no scores.  Keep him on your bench if you can.

Defense

BEST:   Baltimore Ravens

-The second best defense in all of fantasy football facing the 4th worst offense in the league.  This one was such a no-brainer that I had to put it here.  Unfortunately, these no-brainers leave me with very little to write.  So instead, I’ll just give you Ravens owners time to do a little celebration dance.  Done?  Ok, let’s move on.

WORST:  Tennessee Titans

-They’ve been very good this year, and quietly, they’re only owned in 28% of fantasy leagues.  So far this season the Titans D has been good enough to put them into the top 10 fantasy defenses in nearly all scoring formats.  However, this week won’t be so kind to them.  They take on the Saints who are on the hottest offensive streak in the NFL.  I wouldn’t start any defense facing Drew Brees and company right now, and that goes for the surprisingly good Titans’ defense as well.  You should pick them up if they’re still available in your league, but still don’t start them this week.

SLEEPER OF THE WEEK

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo Bills

With Fred Jackson out, the carries will likely fall to Spiller.  Some were down on him due to his performance against the Jets, but that’s a good defense, and his matchup this week is far more favorable.  He looked good with limited carries last week, and I think if he sees 20 or more touches this week he’ll be a monster.  Seriously, for all of you Matt Forte owners who have stuck around, this is the guy you want to pick up if at all possible.  He’s probably not on your waiver wire, but if he his, grab him right now.  I think he should end up with 85 yards and a score with potential for a much higher ceiling.  Take a shot, I don’t think you’ll regret it.

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