Associated Press Writer
Just like in real football, the cluttered NFC East is gumming up the fantasy football playoff picture.
The postseason begins in many fantasy leagues this week, and many ulcer-inducing decisions loom regarding big-time players in one of the NFL's toughest divisions.
Do you start Dallas' Tony Romo against the Steelers' ferocious defense?
Is Washington's Clinton Portis healthy? If so, do you dare start him at Baltimore?
Will Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb look superhuman again or amazingly unskilled again at the Giants?
Can Eli Manning put up nice numbers for three straight weeks? And who's going to catch his passes?
The answer to all of those nagging questions - OK, so maybe they're more like educated guesses - can be found below, as well as other suggested players to start and players to avoid in Week 14:
tsburgh, but you never take him out of your lineup and the Steelers don't always spell statistical doom. (Just ask all those owners who benched Peyton Manning before his 3-TD visit to Pittsburgh.)
-Speaking of Mannings, Eli should be good for at least a couple scores. The Eagles may well forget about the Super Bowl MVP while focusing on Brandon Jacobs, who shredded them for 126 yards and two scores last month.
-New England's Matt Cassel let loose his inner career backup last week, but could get back to his 400-yard ways against Seattle's NFL-worst pass defense built to give up giant chunks of passing yardage.
-What's gotten into that Joe Flacco? The designated caretaker of the Ravens' traditionally timid offense has looked really quarterbacky, with two touchdown passes in four of his past five games.
Please, in the name of Ken Dorsey, don't start these guys:
-Despite McNabb's four-score game against the Cardinals, it's hard to imagine even half of that against the Giants. He was shut out at New York last year, and has a combined one TD in his two previous games there.
-The Texans get Matt Schaub back, meaning he'll make a couple nice throws and maybe have an interception before limping off hurt again. (Someone that brittle is probably even more breakable in icy Green Bay.)
ase, avoid any and all Rams including Marc Bulger - even against an Arizona team that's yielded an NFL-high 26 TD passes.
-Overthinker Alert: Start Carolina touchdown machine DeAngelo Williams without the tiniest concern that the Bucs have allowed just one scoring run. Williams has scored in five straight games, including seven TDs in the past three weeks.
-The Cardinals haven't even bothered trying to run in their two straight losses, but Tim Hightower should get the second 100-yard game of his career against the Rams (who allowed his first one).
-With Deuce McAllister suspended and Reggie Bush injured and/or ineffective, Pierre Thomas could be in for a big day for the Saints. Thomas has scored in three straight games.
-Are the stars aligning for a Lions win? The Vikings, alone in first place in the NFC North, have a rich history of blowing golden opportunities. And if the Williams Wall stays torn down by NFL suspensions, Detroit's Kevin Smith could be in for a big day.
-Healthy or not, forget Portis this week. The Ravens defense isn't good for a nicked up back in what's become a really boring offense. (The Redskins are averaging just over 10 points a game in their last four games, and the Ravens have allowed one TD in their last two games.)
hough several months later. Even though he's feeling better, the Steelers plan to give a bunch of his carries to Mewelde Moore. Parker has 30 carries the past two weeks, Moore has 27.
-Speaking of time shares, Miami's Ronnie Brown may be a bit dicey in the playoffs now that former Toronto Argonaut Ricky Williams is getting nearly half the carries. The Bills held Brown to just 43 yards in their first meeting this year.
-The Giants' Domenik Hixon is already in a groove with Eli Manning as he takes over as Giants starter, with 11 catches the past two games. He also makes for a nice big target when the Eagles are blitzing.
-Facing the Bengals at home after the Colts' first touchdown-less game since 2003 should mean a major bounce-back for what's become the harmless duo of Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison. Each has one TD in the past seven games.
-The Broncos may be in first place, but that doesn't mean they play defense. Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe has three touchdowns in his past three games and faces Denver's 27th-ranked pass defense.
-San Francisco's 36-year-old Isaac Bruce is feeling awfully spry lately, with 13 catches for 192 yards and two scores the past two weeks.
ive games.
-Likewise, Baltimore's Mark Clayton should see his streak of good games end at one now that he's recorded his yearly 100-yard outing.
-The Patriots' pass defense is really slipping (21 TDs allowed), but not so far that you should consider starting whoever plays receiver for Seattle these days.
Pick up these guys if they're available in your league: Giants WR Domenik Hixon (starting, not arrested), Packers RB Brandon Jackson (80 yards), Cowboys RB Tashard Choice (starter if Barber's hurt), Giants WR Amani Toomer (maybe more catches?), Ravens WR Mark Clayton (164 yards, TD, TD pass), Dolphins WR Davone Bess (11 catches past 2 weeks), Bills QB J.P. Losman (possible starter).
Here's the best and worst of last week's projections:
Big Hits: I predicted LenDale White (106 yards, 2 TDs) would bounce back from a one-carry game. I expected good things for Matt Ryan (2 TDs), Matt Forte (125 total yards, TD), Eddie Royal (84 yards, TD), Larry Johnson (92 yards, TD) and Justin Fargas (82 yards, TD). I also suggested a seasonlong ban on starts for Braylon Edwards (36 yards) and bad things for Dwayne Bowe (27 yards)
rre Thomas (TD) and Eli Manning (305 yards, TD). I expected good things for Ryan Grant (39 yards, hand injury), Joseph Addai (57 yards), Wes Welker (30 yards, head injury) and Chad Pennington (166 yards, 0 TDs).

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