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Fantasy football: Week 16 starters and benchwarmers

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler throws against ClevelBrowns during an NFL football game Sunday Dec. 15 2013 Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler throws against the Cleveland Browns during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

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Wondering whether or not to start Jamaal Charles and AJ Green, or to bench Geno Smith and Darrius Heyward-Bey? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 16 of the 2013 season.

WATCH ’EM ROLL

Jay Cutler, QB, Bears at Eagles. Let’s face it. Philly knows how to rack up the points, but their defense is equally adept at coughing them up. Once Cutler got in stride against the Browns last week, he was terrific. It’s hard to lose with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery on your side, especially when the matchup is so favorable. Cutler will exploit it.

DeMarco Murray, RB, Cowboys at Redskins. Unless Dallas’ offensive brain trust is the most tone-deaf bunch on the planet, there is zero chance they will turn away from a successful running game in Washington. Murray has been a true workhorse lately, when given the chance; and the Redskins are among the softest run defenders in the league.

Jordan Todman, RB, Jaguars vs. Titans. Despite the favorable matchup, starting Todman last weekend against the Bills would have been foolhardy. But now that we’ve seen what he can do against mediocre competition, the risk-reward ratio is less out-of-whack. The Titans have been gashed consistently by opposing runners; and with Cecil Shorts out of commission, the Jags’ running game is even more critical. If Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring) sits out as expected, Todman has significant upside.

Marvin Jones, WR, Bengals vs. Vikings. Everybody exploits the Minnesota secondary, including wideouts that play alongside studs. Jones will benefit not just from lax coverage, but from all the attention showered on A.J. Green. Andy Dalton should come up big in this game, giving Jones an excellent shot at his third consecutive week with a TD.

Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers vs. Raiders. Riding high after the big win in Denver and with a pair of TDs in consecutive games, Allen is poised for more greatness this week. The rookie will face the same secondary that gave him the first 100-yard game and touchdown of his career. Allen will have ample opportunity to soar while Philip Rivers has a field day.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Kirk Cousins, Tony Romo, Andy Dalton, Philip Rivers, Alex Smith, Russell Wilson; RBs Alfred Morris, Le’Veon Bell, Frank Gore, Gio Bernard, Ryan Mathews, Reggie Bush, Zac Stacy; WRs Michael Crabtree, Kendall Wright, Pierre Garcon, Andre Caldwell, Dwayne Bowe, Julian Edelman, Torrey Smith, Rod Streater.

ROLL ’EM BACK

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots at Ravens. If you have another solid option, such as Dalton or Rivers, you’d be wise to consider benching Brady this week. In addition to playing without Rob Gronkowski, he’ll be facing a Baltimore defense against which he has had scant success throughout his career. The weather could add another unfavorable wrinkle.

Andre Brown, RB, Giants at Lions. He ran into a brick wall against the Seahawks last week, and the going doesn’t get much easier when the imploding Giants visit Detroit. Put aside LeSean McCoy’s monster game in the snow, and the Lions are among the most formidable run stoppers in the league; especially when playing at home. It should be another rough day for Brown.

Pierre Thomas, RB, Saints at Panthers. Two weeks ago, Thomas was held to 28 combined yards at home against Carolina. Darren Sproles (61 total yards) didn’t fare much better. On the road against a tough defense looking for revenge, both backs are sporting red flags.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals at Seahawks. We all know the risk associated with sitting a player of Fitz’s caliber. But the risk in starting him seems even higher this week. He’s recovering from a concussion suffered on a nasty hit last Sunday, and he’ll be facing the fierce Seattle secondary that held him to just 17 yards on two receptions in Week 7. Caveat emptor.

Harry Douglas, WR, Falcons at 49ers. Matt Ryan is in another funk, despite facing favorable matchups over the last three weeks. Douglas has suffered as a result, while Roddy White has stepped up his game. The odds of a rebound are slim for Ryan and Douglas against the 49ers’ stingy defenders.

More thumbs down: QBs Matt Ryan, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Andrew Luck; RBs Rashard Mendenhall, Andre Ellington, Ray Rice, Steven Jackson; WRs Greg Jennings, Steve Smith, Hakeem Nicks, TY Hilton, Lance Moore, Tavon Austin, Nate Washington, Cordarrelle Patterson, Stevie Johnson, Michael Floyd.

TAKING A FLIER

Dennis Johnson, RB, Texans vs. Broncos. Ben Tate (ribs) has been placed on IR, leaving the Houston backfield in Johnson’s hands. The rookie is a capable runner and he’ll be facing a defense that surrenders a rushing TD, and plenty of yardage, virtually every game. If you were counting on Tate, or your RB2/flex has a poor matchup, give Johnson a chance.

DON’T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO … makes waiver wire claims when you’re no longer in contention. I’ve seen owners do that while playing in consolation brackets, with nothing but pride and fifth place on the line. That’s bad form, especially when you scoop up a player that a title contender was targeting.



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