Fantasy football: Who to start — and sit — in Week 1

The first week of NFL action kicked off with a replay of last seaon’s NFC divisional playoff round. Once again it came down to a red zone possession for the Falcons, and once again they couldn’t get into the end zone to defeat the Eagles. At least this time Julio Jones caught the pass from Matt Ryan, though he was out of bounds. Jones was an easy start for fantasy owners this week, catching 10 passes for 169 yards. Here are more players you can be confident to start, and some you should avoid in Week 1.

START THESE GUYS

Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings—It will be his first start with his new team and I think it will be a good one. Cousins has developed a rapport with Stefon Diggs already and had a great game the last time he faced the 49ers.

RELATED: Fantasy football Week 1 rankings.

Update: Weather is having me second guessing Ben Roethlisberger and Tyrod Taylor this week. Plan accordingly as rain could be a big factor in Cleveland Sunday. If you have to play Big Ben, I’m a little more optimistic about him over Taylor in the bad weather. Two possible replacements are Marcus Mariota (at Miami) or Andy Dalton (at Indianapolis).

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers—The home-road disparity in Roethlisberger’s fantasy scoring has always been a concern, but it wasn’t that bad last season. He faces the Browns and without Le’Veon Bell he should utilize Antonio Brown a great deal.

Tyrod Taylor, QB, Browns—Call it Hard Knocks hype if you like, but all signs point to Taylor having a nice outing. He turned the ball over just six times last season and scored 18 touchdowns through the air and on the ground. The pass catchers he has in Cleveland are a big upgrade from what he had in Buffalo.

Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals—Mixon showed great athleticism in preseason that we all expected to see in his rookie campaign. He gets to face a weak Colts defense in the season opener.

Alex Collins, RB, Ravens—Collins is expected to be the workhorse for Baltimore and he faces a Buffalo defense that gave up the most fantasy points to running backs last year.

James Connor, RB, Steelers—With Bell out, Connor could give the Steelers a glimpse of life without the All Pro. He gets to face the Browns this week and Pittsburgh may have to run due to weather conditions.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals—He faces a Washington defense that was decent against the pass last year, but lost its slot corner Kendall Fuller in a trade with the Chiefs. Fitz feasts in the slot and Sam Bradford will want to get the ball to him.

Chris Hogan, WR, Patriots—I think this is the year Tom Brady and the Patriots drop off a bit, but I like Hogan in the first week. He faces the Texans, who were sixth worst in points allowed to wideouts last year.

Broncos receivers—Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are not facing the Legion of Boom. Richard Sherman is in San Francisco and Earl Thomas isn’t happy. Last season Seattle was merely middle of the road in limiting wide receivers. Case Keenum is a major QB upgrade as well.

Ricky Seals-Jones, TE, Cardinals—Washington was in the bottom six teams in defending the tight end. Seals-Jones has a big opportunity here with Jermaine Gresham recovering from last year’s Achilles injury.

SIT THESE GUYS

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers—The hype surrounding Garoppolo is based on a solid end to last season. He can turn in some QB1 weeks this year, but this shouldn’t be one of them as he faces the Vikings pass defense led by All-Pro Harrison Smith.

Eli Manning, QB, Giants—He has Odell Beckham Jr. back and three, maybe four, solid targets to throw to, but he faces a tough Jaguars defense. Jacksonville has possibly the best defensive backfield in the league.

Derek Carr, QB, Raiders—The Raiders have had a rough preseason and I see that carrying over to the opener against the Rams. Add to that, Carr is facing a defensive backfield comprised of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. Not to mention Aaron Donald joined the Rams in time to harrass the Raiders QB.

Rex Burkhead, RB, Patriots—I don’t really understand the hype around him, but it probably has to do with the eight touchdowns he scored last season and the fact that Dion Lewis is now in Tennesse. James White, a pass-catching maven, is still in town, though.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Redskins—Some owners can’t help but get excited about having Peterson on their team. They have to realize he’s not the same running back he was a few years ago. He faces the Cardinals this week and they were fifth best in limiting running backs’ fantasy scoring last season.

Chris Carson, RB, Seahawks—I do think he’ll have some weeks when he could be a solid start, but this most likely won’t be one of them. He faces the Broncos and the Seahawks’ offensive line isn’t much better than last year.

Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers—I like Goodwin over the course of the season, but Sunday’s matchup has him covered by Xavier Rhodes. That’s a tough matchup with a strong Vikings defense.

Buccaneers tight ends—This decision is based on not knowing which one will lead the team at the position, Cameron Brate or O.J. Howard. Wait until it’s clear which one becomes the favorite.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football: Who to start and who to avoid in Week 17

Most respectable yearlong fantasy football leagues have concluded their seasons. But I know there are still some owners out there that have to face Week 17 with a championship on the line. There are also daily fantasy sports competitions going on this week as well. This is probably the most volatile time to make calls for your lineup, given that a lot of teams have nothing to play for on Sunday. I’m here to help, however, so here’s who should start—and who you should avoid—in Week 17.

START THESE GUYS

Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins: Cousins doesn’t have much to play for, but he hasn’t for a while. Still, he tossed three touchdowns last week and has a great matchup against the Giants this week.

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers: The 49ers are looking to get things started on the right foot for next season. Garoppolo showed what he could do against a top defense last weekend and he should do it again against a disinterested Rams team this week.

Case Keenum, QB, Vikings: Though he has a tough matchup against a Bears defense that is good at limiting fantasy scoring for quarterbacks, I expect him to perform well. The Vikings need to win to guarantee a first-round bye and he’s been a model of consistency for most of the season.

Jamaal Williams, RB, Packers: He has a good matchup against the Lions and scored the last time he faced them. He’s getting a lot of carries, at least 10 in each of the last eight games.

Jamaal Williams #30 of the Green Bay Packers runs for yards during the second half against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field on December 23, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Vikings won the game 16-0. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins: The last time Drake faced the Bills he rushed 16 times for 78 yards and caught six passes for 35 yards. He also scored in the game, making him a solid start this week against a bad Bills defense.

Dion Lewis, RB, Patriots: The Patriots want home-field advantage and that means Lewis should perform well. Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead will both miss the game and James White is questionable.

Derrick Henry, RB, Titans: It’s unbelievable that the Titans still have a shot at the playoffs. With DeMarco Murray ruled out of action, Henry finally gets a turn to shine. I think he gets the job done against the Jaguars’ run defense.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers: With hope of gaining a No. 1 seed and Antonio Brown out, I expect Smith-Schuster to pick up the slack and put in a WR1 type of week against the Browns.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals: He faces a Seahawks defense that isn’t what it once was. The last time he faced them he caught 10 of his 14 targets for 113 yards.

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) during an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 23-0. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Lions receivers: Marvin Jones and Golden Tate should both do well against a Packers defense that gives up a lot of big pass plays.

Antonio Gates, TE, Chargers: Hunter Henry is out so Gates has another opportunity to pay off. With the Chargers needing a win for a shot at the playoffs, I expect him to be solid against the Raiders.

STARS WITH SOMETHING TO PLAY FOR

Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: He’s gunning for the No. 1 seed in the AFC so he’ll probably put up solid numbers and won’t sit unless the game gets out of hand.

Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin, Seahawks: The Seahawks need to win to get in. Wilson has been great late in the season the past few years and Doug Baldwin has been a big part of that.

Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers: If Pittsburgh wins, they have a shot at the No. 1 seed, but they need the Pats to lose to the Jets. Might be tough to start Big Ben if you’re worried he might be pulled at halftime, but a good first half against Cleveland may be just enough.

Falcons big three: It’s a must-win game for the Falcons. So Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and Julio Jones won’t see any rest.

Saints cornerback P.J. Williams upends Falcons running back Devonta Freeman during the second half Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in New Orleans. The Falcons won, 23-13. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen, Chargers: They’ll need to play well for the Chargers to have a chance at making the postseason.

Cam Newton, QB, Panthers: The Panthers are in, but they can clinch the NFC South title with a win and a Saints loss.

Saints running backs: The Saints are trying to take the NFC South title and both running backs, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram, should do well against the Bucs.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills: The Bills will need McCoy to put up a solid game against Miami if they hope to get into the playoffs.

Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers: Getting the No. 1 seed is a long shot, so Bell may sit if the Patriots pull away from the Jets and Mike Tomlin is scoreboard watching. But again, it’s a good matchup against the Browns.

Alex Collins, RB, Ravens: All the Ravens need to make the playoffs is a win. Collins has been solid and is just 105 yards from a 1,000-yard season.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: He’s in the same boat as Brady and should produce like he usually does.

Rob Gronkowski #87 of the New England Patriots catches a touchdown pass as he is defended by Micah Hyde #23 of the Buffalo Bills during the second quarter of a game at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) ***BESTPIX***

Vikings receivers: The Vikings need a win to get a first-round bye. Case Kenum will do his best to get Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs involved.

AVOID THESE GUYS

Nick Foles, QB, Eagles: Foles could use the reps, but the last thing the Eagles need is their quarterback to go down with injury. They already have have home-field advantage in the playoffs and a bye week to get him more reps. Even if he starts, he probably won’t stay in there for long.

Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys: To be honest, I don’t want to start anyone in that Cowboys-Eagles game. The season can’t end soon enough for Prescott, who is in much need of a reset button. He was terrible against the Eagles last time out and Tyron Smith won’t be there to help protect the quarterback.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals: The matchup with the Ravens is too tough and the Bengals have had a nightmare of a season. Dalton threw four picks the last time he faced Baltimore.

Lamar Miller, RB, Texans: Alfred Blue is getting most of the touches in Houston these days. Miller doesn’t look like an enticing play this week against a Colts defense that is decent against the run.

Houston Texans running back Lamar Miller (26) carries the ball as Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Sean Davis (28) defends during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 25, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/Mike Marshall)

Jay Ajayi, RB, Eagles: The Eagles have nothing to play for and should rest up their top running back.

Tevin Coleman, RB, Falcons: Atlanta is still fighting for a playoff spot, but Coleman has a tough matchup and Devonta Freeman will likely get the higher share of action.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Eagles: Same reason I wouldn’t start Ajayi, plus he hasn’t had the best chemistry with Foles so far.

Amari Cooper, WR, Raiders: He’s got a terrible matchup against the Chargers this week. The Raiders have been a major disappointment this season and Cooper has played a role in that. He had five catches for 28 yards the last time he faced the Chargers.

Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys: Why should he start playing well now? With the Cowboys out of playoff contention, it will be interesting to see how Jason Garrett handles playing time for Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott and Bryant. I don’t expect them to be in harms way for too long.

STARS WITH NOTHING TO PLAY FOR

Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs: He was given the week off in favor of Patrick Mahomes.

Rams offensive leaders: Jared Goff, Todd Gurley and the Rams receivers aren’t likely to play. Goff and Gurley are definitely resting. Cooper Kupp is dealing with a knee while Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins probably won’t see much action.

Kareem Hunt, RB, Chiefs: The Chiefs clinched the No. 4 seed and there’s no reason to put Hunt in danger after he’s found a grove once again.

Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt (27) runs against the Miami Dolphins during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jaguars: The Jaguars can’t improve their spot, so I think Fournette will use the time to heal up.

Antonio Brown, WR, Steelers: Sure, his team technically has a shot to win the No. 1 seed, but he’s still recovering from injury and Tomlin won’t risk him being unavailable for the playoffs.

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Texans: He’s nursing a calf injury and has no reason to risk playing on Sunday.

Davante Adams, WR, Packers: The newly re-signed Adams suffered two concussions this season and shouldn’t suit up against the Lions.

Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs: With a locked up seed for the playoffs and Patrick Mahomes starting at quarterback, the Chiefs would do well to sit Hill.

Fantasy football: Who to start — and sit — in Week 16

It all comes down to this. You’ve been locked in since August, very likely even before that. You followed all of the free agent action in March before turning your attention to the rookie draft about a month later. It’s time for all of your analysis and gut instincts to pay off.

Week 16 kicks off on Saturday instead of Thursday this week. The Colts take on the Ravens and the Vikings visit the Packers. One player you won’t be starting is Aaron Rodgers, who has been shut down since the Packers have been eliminated from the playoffs. Case Keenum should be pretty solid against Green Bay, however. Here’s a look at who else you should start, and sit, in Week 16.

RELATED: Fantasy football Week 16 rankings.

START THESE GUYS

Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers: Before his ugly game at Kansas City last week he was on a roll. I’m expecting him to bounce back against a bad Jets pass defense. He’ll be highly motivated as the Chargers need a win to stay alive for the playoffs.

Nick Foles, QB, Eagles: His first start in relief of Carson Wentz went as well as could be expected as he tossed four touchdowns against the Giants. He’ll face a disappointing Raiders team in Week 16 and if he can put up numbers close to the ones from Week 15 his owners will be satisfied.

Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars: I suggested Bortles as a strong start last week and I think he can come through again this week. His receivers Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook are playing really well right now. It’s a great matchup for Bortles as he faces the 49ers.

Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins: Drake’s had at least 16 carries in three straight weeks and has a nice matchup against the Chiefs this week.

Dion Lewis, RB, Patriots: Lewis gets to face the Bills this week, who are very bad at limiting running backs in fantasy scoring. Lewis has had double digit carries in eight of the nine last games.

C.J. Anderson, RB, Broncos: He’s coming off a game in which he rushed 30 times for 158 yards. Anderson has run the ball at least 15 times in three games in a row and has a good matchup against the Redskins.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers: With Antonio Brown out for a few weeks, Smith-Schuster is likely to get more targets. He caught six passes for 114 yards last week against the Patriots. He has a better matchup this week against the Texans.

Stefon Diggs, WR, Vikings: Diggs didn’t play the last time the Vikings took on the Packers, but he should have a nice outing against a bad Packers pass defense.

Robert Woods, WR, Rams: He scored a touchdown in his return in Week 15 and has been targeted at least seven times in the last three games that he’s played in. The Titans are in the middle third in fantasy points allowed to receivers.

Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks: This is a vote of confidence despite his last two games which have been terrible. If you drafted Graham, you have to start him. Sometimes you have to trust your stars even when they have tough matchups.

Evan Engram, TE, Giants: Engram’s been very impressive this year and it doesn’t look like the Giants are quitting. He’s had at least 54 yards receiving in three straight games.

Bears defense/special teams: They’re facing the Browns and that could end up helping you take the championship.

Lions defense/special teams: The Lions have a good matchup as they face a Bengals team that looks as disinterested as it looks bad.

SIT THESE GUYS

Derek Carr, QB, Raiders: He’s been a bust this season and his fumble through the end zone last week with the game on the line shows that he’s willing to make desperate plays. Carr has a tough matchup against the Eagles this week.

Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers: I think he’ll be really good next season. Heck, he’s been really good this season so far since coming over from New England. But facing the Jaguars and its two pro bowl defensive backs is too tall a task.

Tyrod Taylor, QB, Bills: Taylor was injured the last time he faced the Patriots and this time he has to go on the road. I can see him having a productive day if the game turns into a high-scoring affair, but I don’t expect a big day out of him.

Jamaal Williams, RB, Packers: He’ll be without his starting quarterback and he has to face a tough Vikings defense. Williams didn’t play against the Vikings in Week 6 but his team was held to just 72 yards rushing.

Buccaneers running backs: Peyton Barber underperformed in place of Doug Martin, who was a healthy scratch, on Monday night. Martin will likely return to the field against the Panthers. Neither is a good start this week.

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions: He returned to the field last week, but he had just one rushing attempt. He’s been a real bust this year and can’t be trusted in your lineup.

Robby Anderson, WR, Jets: Anderson was on a roll for a bit, but without Josh McCown in the lineup, he’s not a reliable starting option. He faces a tough Chargers defense this week.

Packers receivers: Davante Adams is in the concussion protocol, and it’s hard to predict whether Randall Cobb or Jordy Nelson will have a good day. Most likely, none of the Packers receivers will be very productive against the Vikings defense.

Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers: Like Garoppolo, Goodwin’s run of solid performances will likely come to an end against a dominating Jaguars secondary.

Buccaneers tight ends: O.J. Howard has been moved to injured reserve and it doesn’t help that Cameron Brate has to face the Panthers who are good at defending the position.

Seahawks defense/special teams: It’s not the same defense after all the injuries. They’ll have to face Ezekiel Elliott in his return to action after a six-game suspension.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Updated Fantasy Football Week 15 rankings

Week 15 kicked off Thursday, but there was action Saturday as well. Kareem Hunt had a big day while Philip Rivers was a real disappointment in the game on Saturday night. Other than the players that had games on Thursday and Saturday, the following rankings are updated through early Sunday morning.

RELATED: Who to start—and sitin Week 15. 

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Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football: Who to start — and sit — in Week 15

In fantasy football you just have to trust your best players. If you were a Tom Brady or Alvin Kamara owner in the first round of the playoffs, it may have been your last week in the postseason. If you survived, however, count your blessings. Either way, you can’t blame yourself for starting those guys.

Thursday’s action pits the Broncos against the Colts. You won’t want to start either quarterback and the running backs are low-end flex options at best. You might get lucky with C.J. Anderson or Frank Gore plunging into the end zone on a goal line situation. Otherwise, the only real decent players to start are T.Y. Hilton and Demaryius Thomas. Hilton is definitely a boom or bust type player. Like I said, though, sometimes you have to trust your best players. Here’s who else you should start, and sit, in Week 15.

START THESE GUYS

Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: He’s been fully cleared to return to action and if you held him on your team this whole time then now’s the time to insert him into your starting lineup. Don’t worry about rust. He has a tough matchup against the Panthers, but he was a QB1 in every week but the one in which he was injured. Relax.

Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars: The last time he faced the Texans he wasn’t very special. The Jaguars leaned on their running attack in that contest. In his last six games, however, Bortles has attempted at least 27 passes in each of those contests. He has six touchdowns and just one interception over his last three games.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins: He’s had to face tough pass rushes in each of his last three games and it’s shown up in the box score. Cousins should have a decent game against the Cardinals this week. He’s only had one game in which he didn’t throw a touchdown pass.

Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers: Hyde has been a consistent, although quiet, scorer all season long. The amount of touches he gets provides for a nice minimum score every week. Though he has a tough matchup against the Titans, the emergence of Jimmy Garoppolo can open things up for the running game.

Kenyan Drake, RB, Dolphins: He’s had two straight 100-yard games and has a great matchup against the Bills this week. Weather may be a factor, so he may end up with more carries than usual.

Mike Davis, RB, Seahawks: It looks like the Seahawks have finally found a running back they can trust. The Rams give up a lot of points to running backs. Davis has 36 touches over his last two games. He’s dealing with a rib issue, but if he practices near the end of the week, you should start him.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Packers: Nelson hasn’t been even a good flex option since Week 6. With the return of Rodgers, Nelson’s value get a big boost. The Panthers are tough, but Rodgers-to-Nelson is often matchup proof.

Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders: The Cowboys’ defensive backfield has started playing better lately, but Crabtree should have a decent game Sunday night. Amari Cooper is in danger of missing the game with an ankle injury so Crabtree could end up getting more targets than usual.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers: The rookie returns from his one-game suspension and Martavis Bryant didn’t do enough last week to supplant him as the No. 2 receiver on the team. Smith-Schuster has a nice matchup against the Patriots this week.

Ricky Seals-Jones, TE, Cardinals: He had just one catch last week, but it went for 20 yards. I’d expect him to continue to be targeted on deeper routes. Seals-Jones has a nice matchup with the Redskins.

Lions defense/special teams: The Lions are coming off a nice game and scored a touchdown the last time they faced the Bears.

SIT THESE GUYS

Jared Goff, QB, Rams: He had a tough time the last time he faced the Seahawks, throwing two interceptions and no touchdowns in Week 5. There are better options than Goff this week, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if he comes out with a decent game as Robert Woods returns.

Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans: Mariota has thrown for fewer than 200 yards in each of his last three games. His mobility may suffer as well as he deals with a minor knee sprain. With not a lot of reliable receiving weapons, I don’t like him in a good matchup with the 49ers.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals: The Bengals are in a tailspin so I probably don’t have to tell you to sit Dalton. Have no doubt that he’ll have a rough day against a very good Vikings defense.

Peyton Barber, RB, Buccaneers: He scored two touchdowns against the Falcons the last time he faced them. That was on just five carries. I wouldn’t bank on him having that kind of success again this week. The Falcons are in the top third in limiting running backs in fantasy scoring.

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Lions: Abdullah is still dealing with a neck injury, but it’s apparent that his poor play is part of the reason he’s not being rushed back into action. He may be active this week, but don’t insert him into your lineup with Theo Riddick having a bigger impact recently.

LeGarrette Blount, RB, Eagles: Though he has a good matchup this week, it’s starting to look like Jay Ajayi will be a bigger factor for Philly. Blount has 15 carries over his last two games while Ajayi had 15 last week.

DeSean Jackson, WR, Buccaneers: He hasn’t had a decent game since Week 11 and the Falcons are a tough matchup this week. If any receiver has a good game this week for the Bucs, it will be Mike Evans.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Rams: The Rams face the Seahawks and Robert Woods is likely returning to the field. With Cooper Kupp and Woods in the picture, I think Watkins will be the odd man out.

Mike Wallace, WR, Ravens: He’s been hot as of late, but the last time he faced the Browns he was targeted just three times and made one catch for seven yards.

Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers: Though he’s healthy enough to play, he hasn’t looked like the player we’re used to. He hasn’t had a good game all year, even before his injury.

Trey Burton, TE, Eagles: He was great with a healthy Carson Wentz and an injured Zach Ertz last week. Those circumstances have changed, obviously.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.

Fantasy football: Who to start — and sit — in Week 14

The Atlanta Falcons host the New Orleans Saints to kick off Week 14 and the first week of the fantasy football playoffs. The Saints backfield is in the midst of a historic run as the tandem of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara continue to produce big numbers. They’ve each scored more than five touchdowns and gained 95+ yards from scrimmage per game. If they finish the season that way, they’ll be the first duo to do that since Bo Jackson and Marcus Allen in 1987.

It looks like they’ll both finish with an RB1 designation for the season so they’re obvious starts on Thursday. That is, of course, if Mark Ingram is healthy enough after not practicing Wednesday. Michael Thomas has been solid all year and is a nice safe play, though he may not score very high. Julio Jones, on the other side of the field, is likely to bounce back from a tough matchup with the Vikings last week. Matt Ryan should be a safe play, but picking between Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman is a tougher call. Here’s who else you should start and sit in Week 14.

RELATED: Fantasy football Week 14 rankings.

START THESE GUYS

Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs: He finally started to look like the quarterback that started the season. Smith has a nice matchup this week, facing the Raiders who he torched last time around.

Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers: Winston can make you pull your hair out with the types of decisions he makes. That said, he did well last week as he returned from a shoulder injury. Winston has a decent matchup with the Lions.

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals: Unless he’s facing a top-tier pass defense, he’s a productive fantasy quarterback. He has 11 touchdown passes and no interceptions in his last six games.

Lamar Miller, RB, Texans: Running against the 49ers has been pretty easy this season. Miller should have a nice performance.

Alfred Morris, RB, Cowboys: When the Cowboys stick to the game plan that they use when Ezekiel Elliott is playing, they have success. They did that last week, giving Morris the ball 27 times as he gained 127 yards and scored. The Giants are in the bottom third in fantasy points allowed to running backs.

Peyton Barber, RB, Buccaneers: He rushed for over 100 yards last week and Doug Martin is still in the concussion protocol. Even if Martin plays, Barber has done well enough to warrant a flex start in a nice matchup against the Lions. Add to that, the Bucs are out of the playoff hunt and may want to see what they’ve got in Barber as a featured runner.

Keenan Allen, WR, Chargers: Don’t worry about a tough matchup with the Redskins pass defense. Allen is playing like he can when fully healthy. Don’t sit him now.

Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers: Goodwin has put together a few solid games in a row and with Jimmy Garoppolo now starting, his value gets a boost. The Texans have a tough time stopping wide receivers.

Michael Crabtree, WR, Raiders: He caught a touchdown the last time he faced the Chiefs, but he had just 24 yards receiving. I expect him to do better than that against a weak pass defense. Amari Cooper might even be out this game, as he is currently in the concussion protocol.

Jason Witten, TE, Cowboys: The Giants are the worst team when it comes to defending tight ends. The last time Witten faced the Giants he caught seven passes for 59 yards and a touchdown.

Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers: Henry has a wide scoring range, in that he can get you zero points or he could get you double digits. This week he should do well against the Redskins who are in bottom five in points allowed to tight ends.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Jets: Seferian-Jenkins should do well against the Broncos who have given up eight touchdowns to tight ends so far this season.

Cameron Brate, TE, Buccaneers: Winston is back, giving Brate newfound relevance.

SIT THESE GUYS

Joe Flacco, QB, Ravens: He’s coming off a great game against the Lions and has had success with Mike Wallace, but he faces the Steelers this week. They’re too good for Flacco to have fantasy success.

Jared Goff, QB, Rams: I just haven’t seen him play that well against really good defenses. He’s struggled against the Seahawks, Jaguars and Vikings. Goff faces the Eagles next.

Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars: If you streamed him last week against the Colts you were rewarded. Don’t try it this week against the Seahawks.

Eagles running backs: It’s a shame, since they have such a good matchup as they face the Rams. They give up 122.8 yards rushing per game, but divided evenly among three rushers does not make for a good fantasy performance.

Carlos Hyde, RB, 49ers: The Texans aren’t that good against the pass, but they try to make up for it with their run defense. They’re in the top-10 in rush defense. The 49ers will possibly let Jimmy Garoppolo loose on a weaker pass defense.

Jerick McKinnon, RB, Vikings: He has a tough matchup with the Panthers, who are one of the top teams in points allowed to running backs. Plus, Latavius Murray has at least 15 rushes in seven straight weeks.

Mike Wallace, WR, Ravens: Wallace has been good in spots this season, better than Jeremy Maclin. I don’t expect him to have much success against the Steelers this time around.

DeVante Parker, WR, Dolphins: Kenny Stills has surpassed Parker as the No. 2 receiver on the team. Even with a decent matchup against the Patriots, there’s no reason to think he’ll break out this week.

Danny Amendola, WR, Patriots: Amendola hasn’t produced when he’s had favorable matchups and Chris Hogan may return this week.

Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings: He’s been a minor disappointment and he has a tough draw, taking on the Panthers this week.

Tyler Kroft, TE, Bengals: Kroft has been a nice surprise, but he has a tough matchup against the Bears this week. They’ve only allowed three touchdowns to tight ends this season.

Contact Cat Vasquez at 512-445-3677. Email cvasquez@statesman.com. Twitter @AAS_Cat.