Approach of playoffs means time to start your studs

col-BuddhaWith playoff time upon us in fantasy football land, it’s time to bear down and get it right because there may not be another chance in 2013 if you don’t.

One of of the philosophies I’ve long preached is “Always start your studs.”  But what exactly is a stud?

Stud players are rare. They’re elite. Usually each team in your league will have two or three. Four at most. They’re the players who are always threats to carry you to fantasy glory on any given Sunday. They’re the guys who infuriate you when they fail to break double digit in scoring. Your studs are the foundation of your team. Players who exist within the upper echelon of their respective positions. You know them and if you have to make a case for one, then he doesn’t qualify.

Studs are not matchup proof. Nobody is. But they have higher ceilings versus top level competition than any others out there. These players are not only capable of neutralizing a tough matchup, but they can actually exploit one. You know the names. Adrian Peterson, Peyton Manning, Calvin Johnson, Jimmy Graham etc. Can you really ever consider benching these types of guys? Of course not. So don’t.

Around your studs, you want to build up a supporting cast based on need, talent, opportunity and matchup. Not all in equal parts, however. For example, Kendall Wright is a more reliable WR than Eric Decker but, as we saw in Week 13, Decker has a more explosive upside. C.J. Spiller is a very talented player who has largely been outperformed by lesser talents like Zac Stacy, Danny Woodhead and his Buffalo teammate Fred Jackson. Opportunistic fellows like Bobby Rainey have been exceptional when they faced soft competition and untouchable up against the Panthers of the world. It’s up to you to decide which of these independent factors mean the most, but I urge you to try to get players who check at least three of the boxes for you.

Here are a few supporting cast type players — and one burgeoning stud — to make sure you play in Week 14:

•    Nick Foles – The new Eagles quarterback has been nothing short of phenomenal this season. 19 touchdown passes against zero interceptions is a rare feat. And Foles has produced for fantasy owners, too, averaging 34 points per game over his last four starts. This week, he faces a Lions defense with a tough front four but a weak secondary unit. Expect Foles to keep his roll going and threaten to be a Top 5 QB at home against Detroit. Start Foles over everyone but Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford this week.

•    Eddie Lacy – Many of you probably consider Lacy to be a stud already. Not so fast, my friend. He is a borderline Top 10 RB, but his Thanksgiving Day game showed us that he is not a matchup proof player yet. The matchup shouldn’t any problem in Week 14  with Atlanta coming to Green Bay, though. The Falcons just got gashed by Fred Jackson and the aforementioned Mr. Spiller and are generally considered very bad against everything. I have Lacy as my number two running back — ahead of even the great Adrian Peterson — this week. Start him with no hesitation. Regardless of whether Aaron Rodgers gets cleared to return.

•    Wes Welker – Welker has been in a funk since Denver’s bye week all the way back in Week 9 and the Titans haven’t allowed a touchdown to a wide receiver since Week 2. Overall, Tennessee has only surrendered eight TD passes all season. So what am I thinking? Well, my thinking is that the Titans cornerbacks — Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty — are demons on the outside, but a masterful slot receiver like Welker can get loose. Let’s face it, there aren’t many slot guys the caliber of Welker and he’s due for a big one a la Eric Decker last week versus Kansas City. Okay, maybe not four touchdowns, but you get the point.

•    Jared Cook – Wait a minute. Didn’t I just write about him earlier this week in the waivers column? Yes I did. But his start against Arizona is so much better than anyone not named Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham that I felt compelled to hammer the point home once again. Everything about this matchup says must-start. All you have to do is listen. Besides, the TE position is far from a lock outside the Top 4 guys. Cook is a home run play you dream about.

•    Raiders D/ST – This is more about the Jets futility on offense — most notably the QB position — than it is about Oakland’s defense. Geno Smith hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in six weeks and has thrown eight interceptions over that span. Add in the fact that his competition percentage is 47% in those games and you have the makings of a very solid streaming defense option. I’d even go so far as to play the Raiders ahead of both the Panthers and the Bengals in Week 14.

Thanks for sticking with us all season and make sure to follow me on Twitter (@FantasyBuddha). Good luck. Hopefully, you’ll be back for more in Week 15.

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