It's Week 14 of the 2012 NFL season, and that means it's time for the fantasy football playoffs.
Just like the real NFL postseason, one defeat is all it takes to end your championship aspirations, so every lineup decision that were once no-brainers must be given the same consideration as the most puzzling of head-scratchers.
That lack of a safety net also makes risky fantasy plays that much more daunting, but for the following studs and matchups, the reward that stands to be reaped is worth rolling the dice.
Robert Griffin, QB, Washington Redskins (vs. BAL)
The most valuable player of the 2012 fantasy football season may well be Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin, who has taken both the NFL and fantasy football by storm en route to throwing for over 2,600 yards and 17 scores while setting a rookie rushing record for quarterbacks.
That production has been good enough to place Griffin fourth among fantasy quarterbacks after 13 games, but after leading the Redskins to a 17-16 victory over the New York Giants on Monday Night Football, Griffin told Dave Sheinin of The Washington Post that he's just trying to keep everything in perspective.
“The guys in that locker room know what we’ve been through,” Griffin said. “They know how hard we’ve worked. . . . It feels good. [But] we’ve got more goals we want to accomplish.”
This week's matchup with a Baltimore defense allowing the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks is far from a favorable one, but as Griffin showed in carving up the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving, the youngster is effectively matchup-proof.
Shonn Greene, RB, New York Jets (at JAX)
To say that the 2012 season hasn't gone exactly as planned for the New York Jets would be something of an understatement, as the 5-7 Jets are now staring down the barrel of yet more controversy after an ineffective Mark Sanchez was benched at quarterback last week in favor of Greg McElroy.
However, not everything has gone badly for Gang Green. Running back Shonn Greene gained 104 yards on 24 carries in the game, and the fourth-year pro has averaged over 80 total yards a game over the past three weeks.
Granted, those numbers are far from eye-popping, and Greene will cede touches to Bilal Powell in the New York backfield; but if McElroy draws the start under center again this week, then the Jets will all but certainly lean heavily on the ground game against a Jacksonville Jaguars defense allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs this season.
Dwayne Bowe, WR, Kansas City Chiefs (at CLE)
The last week was an absolute whirlwind for the Kansas City Chiefs, as the murder/suicide involving linebacker Jovan Belcher was followed by the team rallying around one another to secure their second win of the season against the Carolina Panthers.
Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe had four catches for 64 yards in the win, and although the sixth-year veteran has struggled through one of the worst years of his career this season, Bowe recently told Will Brinson of CBS Sports that the rumors that he wants out of Kansas City are just that.
"When I heard that, I was like, 'Where did that come from?' I never said I wanted out. Please clear that up for me. Do I play like I don't want to be here? I just keep my mouth closed and play the game. That's what I do. Please tell everybody to stop saying I'm a bad guy. I just don't talk (to the media much)."
Counting on a wide receiver catching passes from Brady Quinn carries with it significant risk, but Quinn is coming off one of the best starts of his professional career and the Cleveland Browns have given up the third-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts this season.
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