The Fantasy Fool: Week 15 Starters & Benchwarmers

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Wondering whether or not to start Ray Rice and Calvin Johnson, or to bench Brady Quinn and Braylon Edwards? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you're looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

It's playoff time! Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 15 of the 2012 season.

Watch 'em roll

Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers at Saints. Freeman had his best game of the season in the first matchup between these division rivals (420 yards, 3 TDs), and he has continued to perform at a near-elite level since that Week 7 outburst. Meanwhile, no team has coughed up more passing TDs this year than New Orleans.

Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions at Cardinals. Though he's splitting carries nearly evenly with Joique Bell, Leshoure remains Detroit's lead tailback and best goal-line option. Facing an Arizona run defense that has been mauled by the Seahawks and Jets over the past two weeks, Leshoure could be headed for an epic outing on Sunday.

Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins at Browns. No one will be surprised if Robert Griffin III suits up for this contest, but Morris will inevitably be leaned upon more heavily than usual in either event. RG3's sprained knee will presumably limit his mobility, leading to

more carries for his fellow rookie against the subpar Cleveland run defense.

Lance Moore, WR, Saints vs. Buccaneers. He accumulated nine receptions for 121 yards in Tampa Bay in Week 7. Look for similar returns, including an end zone visit, for Moore against the league's most generous pass defense.

Josh Gordon, WR, Browns vs. Redskins. Cleveland is quietly riding a three-game win streak, and Gordon has accumulated 18 receptions for 262 yards and one TD during that span. The rookie speedster now faces a Washington secondary that has surrendered an NFL-worst 27 passing TDs (sharing the futility mark with New Orleans). Cha-ching!

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Cam Newton, Carson Palmer; RBs Steven Jackson, Reggie Bush, Doug Martin, Matt Forte, Trent Richardson, Knowshon Moreno, Darren McFadden, Chris Johnson; WRs Marques Colston, Steve Smith, Pierre Garcon, Mike Williams, Reggie Wayne, Eric Decker, Danario Alexander, Michael Crabtree, Randall Cobb.

Roll 'em back

Andrew Luck, QB, Colts at Texans. The rookie has had a stellar debut season, but he has not been a consistently reliable fantasy passer. He's coming off a mediocre outing against Tennessee's poor secondary, and now must take on a proud Texans defense with a chip on its shoulder. Advantage, Houston.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers vs. Panthers. Though Carolina's run defense is below average, Mathews has been equally unimpressive. With just one TD to date (way back in Week 5), he offers little upside to playoff teams gunning for a title.

Vick Ballard, RB, Colts at Texans. On the positive side, Ballard is no longer competing for touches with Donald Brown, who has been placed on injured reserve. But Andrew Luck is a capable TD poacher in his own right. Meanwhile, Ballard will be facing the league's second-ranked run defense that was just humiliated by the Patriots on national television. With playoff seeding on the line, expect the Texans to rebound strongly at home.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals vs. Lions. How bad are Arizona's QBs? Over the past four weeks, they have targeted their All Pro wideout 37 times, but have connected just six times for a pathetic 67 yards. This week, Ryan Lindley gets another opportunity to squander Fitzgerald's talents. Don't even think about it.

Cecil Shorts, WR, Jaguars at Dolphins. Shorts is on track to return from the concussion that sidelined him in Week 14, but he's a very risky start against a pass defense that has held up well against the likes of Tom Brady and Colin Kaepernick in recent weeks. Shorts won't be 100 percent, while Chad Henne has cooled off significantly since his Week 11 outburst.

More thumbs down: QBs Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Joe Flacco, Chad Henne; RBs Pierre Thomas, Mark Ingram, Beanie Wells, Montel Owens; WRs Stevie Johnson, Anquan Boldin, Sidney Rice, Brian Hartline, Malcom Floyd, Jon Baldwin.

TAKING A FLIER

Lions defense vs. Cardinals. Looking for a boost from your defense? It's hard to imagine a tastier matchup than the Lindley-led Cardinals, who made Seattle look like the Purple People Eaters last Sunday. Detroit has been a fantasy also-ran, but they have enough playmakers to do some damage against the NFL's JV squad.

DON'T BE THE BONEHEAD WHO ...

... Upsets your league's competitive balance by dumping star players after your season ends. That happened in one of my leagues, where a non-playoff-bound team replaced his entire roster with scrubs from the Jets. While I can appreciate the humor of a starting lineup featuring Tim Tebow, Bilal Powell, Joe McKnight, Chaz Schilens, Stephen Hill and others, waiving valuable starters that can materially affect postseason matchups is not in keeping with the spirit of the game.

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