The Baltimore Ravens and Detroit Lions have the same record and similar point differentials. Of course, their routes to get here have been wildly different. The Lions have scored 346 points and allowed 321; the Ravens have scored only 278, but held opponents to 261. The Ravens bottomed out at 3-5 before winning four of their last five games; the Lions sat at 6-3 before losing three of their last four. Monday should go a long way toward clarifying which team is what, as the Ravens travel to Detroit for an 8:30 p.m. ET game. Take a look at the fantasy players that matter:
Start in every league: Justin Tucker
Start if you're desperate: Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Dennis Pitta
Bench: Joe Flacco, Marlon Brown, Jacoby Jones, Defense/special teams
Before being held field-goal-less in the snow last Sunday, Tucker has averaged almost 15 a game over the preceding three games. He's had double-digit fantasy points six times on the season and comes into the weekend as the No. 5 fantasy kicker.
It's just been an awful season for Rice, who has had nine games of six or fewer fantasy points. He has had the occasional bigger game, but by and large he's not been the Rice fantasy players expected. ... Smith followed up his 15-point performance in Week 13 with only three in Week 14, though some of that can be forgiven by virtue of the weather. He's a low-end WR2 right now, so you're probably using him. ... Pitta has top-five tight end upside, and he's probably the biggest waiver-wire addition of the week. Still, it's been only one game in his injury return, and before the game-ending crazy run of points, he was sitting at four or so points. He's got upside, but there's a significant floor, too.
Flacco has only topped 20 fantasy points once all season, while scored in the single-digits four times. Part of that is attributable to his reduced weapons, but he's also thrown 17 interceptions on the year. ... Both Brown and Jones have had their moments, but if you think they're worth relying on in the fantasy playoffs, that seems foolhardy. ... The Ravens' defense has been a fringe starting unit for most of the season, but against a tough offense like the Lions, it might be a good week to look elsewhere.
Start in every league: Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson
Start if you're desperate: ...
Bench: Reggie Bush, Joique Bell, Nate Burleson, Brandon Pettigrew, David Akers, Defense/special teams
Go ahead and give Stafford a pass for his season-worst six-point performance Sunday in the blizzard in Philadelphia. He hasn't scored fewer than 14 in any other game. ... Johnson is a must-start, don't ask silly questions.
The only way you should start Bush or Bell is if you own both, and even then it's iffy. With all the questions surrounding Bush's health and the fact that this is a Monday night game, you run the risk of having no running back at all if you start Bush and he's scratched, and if you start Bell and Bush isn't scratched, you are similarly screwed. Between the possibility that Bush starts the game and limps off and the fact that the Ravens are stout against the run, this is a good week to try really hard to find an alternative. ... After his big first game back from injury, Burleson has one total point in his last two outings. ... Despite playing all season, Pettigrew actually has fewer catches than fellow tight end Joseph Fauria, and Fauria has only caught 11 passes all season. ... Akers hasn't had a fantasy-helpful game since Week 4. He's not worth much as a fantasy kicker. ... Without the big game by the Lions' defense against the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving, it would be a bottom-of-the-barrel unit; even with those 21 points, it barely cracks top 20. Stay away.