Mark Sanchez

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) calls a play at the line of scrimmage against the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter of an NFL football game in San Francisco, Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

This week is stacked with great matchups, including several division rivalry games. The environment of these games is sure to be electric and players will be looking to elevate their performances against hated foes. With plenty at stake Sunday, be aware of who will be a smart fantasy start:

Players to start:

1) Eli Manning, QB
New York Giants

Outside of an opening-day dud against the Cowboys and last week’s blowout of the 49ers, Manning has been a reliable fantasy player.  Expect him to air it out this week against a Redskins defense that makes every quarterback it faces look like a fantasy all-star. Considering he has been sacked the least number of times in the NFL, Manning should have plenty of time and plenty of opportunities Sunday against Washington.

2) Mark Sanchez, QB
New York Jets

Although the whispers for Tim Tebow to start continue to haunt Sanchez, he played an efficient game against the Colts last Sunday, albeit throwing for a laughable 82 yards. Still, he tossed two touchdowns and surrendered zero turnovers, which should give him some confidence heading into Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Since he is facing a defense that has allowed at least three touchdown passes in each of its last four games, Sanchez is a good sleeper pick this week.

3) Chris Johnson, RB
Tennessee Titans

Though Johnson’s disappointing season has devastated many fantasy owners, he has looked improved in two of the past three weeks and is seeing a larger workload with backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck under center. Johnson should be in store for a strong game against the Buffalo Bills, who have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing running backs.

Players to sit:

1) Russell Wilson, QB
Seattle Seahawks

Wilson had a huge game Sunday against the Patriots, throwing for 293 passing yards and three touchdowns in what was his best performance of the season. That being said, he was playing in the friendly confines of Qwest Field against an awful secondary. Don’t expect Wilson to duplicate this performance Thursday in San Francisco against a strong 49ers defense looking to rebound from a loss to the Giants.

2) Matthew Stafford, QB
Detroit Lions

Stafford is faced with a tough task this week, facing a Chicago defense that has allowed the least amount of fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Considering the Bears are coming off their bye week and the game will be played in Chicago, their defense is sure to be well rested and prepared for the game. Pairing these conditions with the fact that Stafford’s only thrown four touchdowns in five games this year, it would be wise to avoid him this week.

3) Jermichael Finley, TE
Green Bay Packers

Finley was a non-factor in the Packers’ 42-24 blowout of the Texans on Sunday night due to a shoulder injury, playing only 24 snaps the entire game. Although he should be expected to play more this week versus the Rams, Finley’s lack of production cannot be blamed solely on his health; the former Longhorn hasn’t had more than four catches in a game or scored since a week-one loss to San Francisco.

Printed on Thursday, October 18, 2012 as: Manning due for a giant day against Redskins

Another week and another group of players have shocked the fantasy football world, for better or for worse. Although fantasy owners no doubt wish they could have predicted these performances, that is impossible. In case you missed them, here are the fantasy football studs and duds for the NFL’s fourth week of games:

Studs:

1) Brian Hartline, WR, Miami Dolphins
With the help of rookie Ryan Tannehill, Hartline exploded against the Arizona Cardinals, breaking Miami’s previous single-game receiving record with 253 receiving yards. Hartline was active throughout the game, gathering 12 catches, including a go-ahead 80-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Despite being labeled by his critics as only a possession receiver, Hartline proved Sunday that he is more than capable of taking over a game with his speed.

2) Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
After consecutive losses to the Cardinals and Ravens, some people around the NFL were beginning to doubt Tom Terrific and the Patriots’ status among the league’s elite. Seriously? Brady made sure to quiet any naysayers, torching the Buffalo Bills on Sunday to ensure everybody knows the Patriots are still the team to beat in the AFC East. Led by Brady’s 340 passing yards and four total touchdowns, the Pats erupted for 45 second-half points, routing the Bills, 52-28.

3) San Francisco 49ers Defense
The 49ers fielded a defense full of studs Sunday afternoon against the Jets, outscoring New York’s offense 7-0 while holding Mark Sanchez and company to just 145 total yards in a 34-0 shutout. Along with sacking Sanchez three times and intercepting one of his passes, San Francisco’s defense forced three fumbles, one of which cornerback Carlos Rogers returned for a touchdown.

Duds:

1) Jeremy Maclin, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Maclin was a no-show Sunday night against the Giants, registering just one catch for seven yards despite playing the entire game. Although his performance was hindered by a lingering hip injury, which kept him out of the Eagles’ last game, Maclin’s inability to get open on struggling Giants cornerback Prince Amukamara came as a surprise.

2) Mark Sanchez, QB, New York Jets
Sanchez looked awful against the 49ers on Sunday, completing just 13 of his 29 passes for 103 yards. Along with completing less than half of his passes, Sanchez also fumbled and was intercepted. If Sanchez continues to struggle, expect the chants for Tim Tebow to get louder and louder as each week passes.

3) Russell Wilson, QB, Seattle Seahawks
Six days after throwing the infamous last-play “touchdown” against the Packers, even the officials would not have been able to save Wilson from himself. The Seahawks’ signal-caller struggled against the Rams’ improved defense, passing for 160 yards and three interceptions while failing to throw a touchdown for the first time this season.

Aaron Rodgers is the only player to ever have 400 passing yards, throw for four touchdowns, and run for two more in the same game.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Week 4 of the fantasy football season has come and gone. Here are a few of the outstanding fantasy performances and some of the duds.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
This guy was a fantasy god this week: 408 yards, four touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns. Rodgers literally scored more points than half the players on most people’s rosters. What a week for those who own him and what a killer for those that had the misfortune to play him.

Beanie Wells, Arizona
So much for not playing this week. Wells broke out against a banged-up Giants front seven, rushing for 138 yards and three touchdowns, making him the top fantasy runner for the week. Wells should continue to see plenty of carries the rest of the year as the Cardinals have trouble airing it out. He could be snagged in a trade if owners in your league aren’t paying attention.

Arian Foster, Houston
Finally fully healthy after his hamstring injury, Foster showed why he was the No. 1 overall pick in many drafts this year. He rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown against a stingy Pittsburgh defense. His owners can breathe a sigh of relief.

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
This guy isn’t starting in many leagues and Sunday night was a perfect example why. Sanchez only had 119 yards passing and on top of that pathetic performance, he threw a pick and surrendered three fumbles against the Ravens. Quarterback is the easiest position to rack up fantasy points at but Sanchez couldn’t even manage to do that, coming away with -2 points this week. “Sanchise” should ride your bench unless you’re desperate.

Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh
Mendenhall was a top-10 pick in many leagues coming off a breakout season in which he rushed for 1273 and 13 touchdowns. But this season, he just can’t get it started, rushing for only 148 yards in four games. His fantasy owners might need to start looking elsewhere for a while until Mendenhall starts picking it up.

Dexter McCluster, Kansas City
After Jamaal Charles got hurt many people, including McCluster, thought the former Longhorn star might break out with increased touches, but so far that isn’t the case. Since JC went down, McCluster has yet to put up more than five fantasy points. At best, he should be a flex option in a deep league. 

Printed on October 4, 2011, as: Rodgers has record-setting day, scores 6 TD