If you're still alive in your fantasy playoffs, then you probably have a solid squad that's largely comprised of “must-start” players. In fact, your biggest problem might be deciding between three or four really good players at RB and WR.
But there are plenty of owners who rode the coattails of Peyton Manning or Calvin Johnson and have holes at a few positions. Tight end seems to be the most volatile offensive spot this year, so owners of guys not named Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski or Vernon Davis could be facing tough decisions (especially if Julius Thomas is out again). At the very least, you likely have questions at D/ST.
That's why we're focusing on TEs and D/STs this week, as mundane as that might seem. We offer plenty of tips for other positions, but fine tuning the “tough” spots could be the difference between going on and going home.
Here are some key numbers to know about every game, plus a stud, sleeper, stumbler or injury concern to watch for with a brief explanation why. Note that the “studs” are guys who are either better than most owners realize or established stars who owners might be foolishly thinking about benching.
Rams at Cardinals
Stat to know: The Rams' D/ST remains one of the hottest in the league, averaging 16 fantasy points per game (FPPG) over the past four weeks. Arizona allows 7.9 FPPG to D/STs (ninth most), making the Rams a great option once again.
Raiders at Jets
Stat to know: The Raiders D/ST ranks a respectable 14th in FPPG over the past four weeks, and the Jets have been giving up fantasy points at an alarming rate (at least 17 in each of the past three games). Oakland's a solid sleeper, even on the road.
Injury: RB Darren McFadden, ankle (Even if McFadden plays, he's not worth starting against the Jets' top-ranked run defense.)
Browns at Patriots
Stat to know: Shutdown corner Joe Haden has been scored against in each of the past two games, and this week, there's no obvious matchup for him. Chances are he'll man up against Julian Edelman or maybe even Shane Vereen when he's in the slot, but both are still decent plays. Edelman has averaged 11.5 targets over the past two games and rarely runs deep routes.
Sleeper: New England D/ST (Browns allowing fifth-most FPPG to D/STs.)
Chiefs at Redskins
Stat to know: The Chiefs' vaunted defense has been picked on in recent weeks. For the season, wide receivers are scoring the 12th-most FPPG against them (24.4). That number is inflated by facing Denver twice, but Pierre Garcon can still have success against them.
Injury: TE Jordan Reed, concussion (Expected to play, but as we saw last week, Reed owners need to have a backup ready.)
Colts at Bengals
Stat to know: Giovani Bernard can always hit a home run, but he's still the Bengals' secondary ball carrier and No. 2 goal-line option. Even worse, the Colts are allowing 21.3 receiving yards per game to RBs -- lowest in the league. Bernard is a risk.
Stud: WR T.Y. Hilton (Bengals allowing 14.1 FPPG to No. 1 receivers over the past six games.)
Vikings at Ravens
Stat to know: Ray Rice has been a disappointment this year, but he's had at least 17 touches in each of the past four games. Against the Vikings, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to RBs, that's enough for Rice to remain at least a flex.
Sleeper: Ravens' D/ST (Vikings tied for sixth-most FPPG allowed to D/STs.)
Falcons at Packers
Stat to know: Aaron Rodgers' status remains in limbo, but without Rodgers, the Packers' receivers are pretty much unplayable. If Rodgers plays, start him and at least Jordy Nelson, as the Falcons are allowing the fifth-most and 13th-most fantasy points to QBs and WRs, respectively.
Stud: RB Steven Jackson (Packers allowing 19.3 FPPG to starting RBs over the past five contests.)
Bills at Buccaneers
Stat to know: Fantasy owners have a tough call on whether to start Stevie Johnson against Darrelle Revis (I wouldn't), but another tough decision involves Bucs' TE Tim Wright. The Bills have limited to TEs to just 6.8 FPPG (tied for 24th), and Wright has scored fewer than two points in three of the past four games. He's a low-percentage play.
Sleeper: RB Bobby Rainey (Buffalo allowing 17.3 FPPG to starting RBs over the past three games.)
Dolphins at Steelers
Stat to Know: Bell has been cleared to play after his nasty blow to the head last Thursday, and he should take advantage of a generous Miami run defense. The Dolphins are allowing the ninth-most FPPG to RBs (20.9).
Sleeper: TE Heath Miller (Dolphins allowing fifth-most fantasy points to TEs.)
Lions at Eagles
Stat to know: This game figures to be a shootout, but don't expect the tight ends to be heavily involved. The Lions (6.2) and Eagles (6.1) rank 29th and 30th, respectively, in FPPG allowed to TEs.
Stud: QB Nick Foles (Lions are 13th in FPPG allowed to QBs; Foles has scored at least 22.6 points in all but one start.)
Titans at Broncos
Stat to know: It's tough to play two RBs from the same team, but this is a good week to start both Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball. Tennessee has allowed the third-most fantasy points to RBs, and Ball is averaging a respectable 10 touches per game over the past three weeks. He should get more against the Titans.
Sleeper: Broncos D/ST (Titans allowing 11th-most FPPG to D/STs.)
Seahawks at 49ers
Stat to know: This is a terrible matchup all the way around for fantasy owners. Each teams ranks 21st or lower in fantasy points allowed to QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs and D/STs. Marshawn Lynch, Frank Gore and Vernon Davis remain must-starts, but even the respective D/STs are questionable.
Stumblers: Everyone else.
Giants at Chargers
Stat to know: Antonio Gates has scored 2.1 fantasy points in each of the past two games, and he's currently hobbled by a sore hamstring. Meanwhile, Ladarius Green has had at least five targets in each of the past three games and seems to be everyone's sleeper pick. With the Giants allowing the ninth-most FPPG to TEs (9.3), both have major boom-or-bust potential.
Stumbler: QB Philip Rivers (Giants are 17th in fantasy points allowed to QBs; Rivers has been held under 17 points in three of the past four games.)
Panthers at Saints
Stat to know: Both teams have solid fantasy defenses (especially the Panthers), but neither team is ranked higher than 29th in fantasy points allowed to D/STs. Because this game is in New Orleans, both teams should be left on your bench.
Stumbler: RB Pierre Thomas (Panthers rank 29th in fantasy points allowed to RBs.)
Cowboys at Bears
Stat to know: With Jay Cutler (ankle) once again out, Josh McCown is suddenly in play as a legit starting fantasy QB. The Cowboys are allowing the second-most FPPG to quarterbacks (24.1).
Stud: TE Jason Witten (Bears allowing sixth-most FPPG to TEs.)