User-friendly Ds, Week 14: Special playoff double issue

In the image above, you'll find what's left of Lions Nation: A few sullen faces, one dude in a Cory Schlesinger jersey (possibly Cory himself), and thousands of empty seats.

Detroit will not win a game this year, in all likelihood. The team is currently 0-12 and the remaining opponents are all playoff contenders: Minnesota, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Green Bay.

Rod Marinelli has told his players, "We're not going 0-16," but that's just crazy talk. The Lions have all the necessary ingredients for a winless season. Their offense is 29th in points per game (16.9) and 30th in yards (260.8). The defense allows a league-worst 8.7 yards per pass attempt and a league-worst 5.1 yards per rush. Their opponents' quarterback rating is 110.2.

Just for perspective, only six players in NFL history have posted a 110 passer rating over a full season. No quarterback is doing it this year -- not Drew Brees, not Kurt Warner, not Tony Romo. According to passer rating, the best quarterback in today's NFL is whoever gets to face Detroit.

Thus, Gus Frerotte (14 percent owned) is a reasonable fantasy play in Week 14. Running back Chester Taylor (32 percent) isn't a bad option, either. All Vikings deserve consideration right now, and all available Colts are worth a look in Week 15.

Let's review the league's most user-friendly defenses, while appreciating the fact that the Lions have really separated from the pack...

Three more Ds that can't stop the run: Oakland Raiders (158.8 yards/game), Green Bay Packers (141.8), Cleveland Browns (141.3).

Three that can't stop the pass: San Diego Chargers (260.6 yards/game), New York Jets (249.2), Chicago Bears (240.5).

It's never a bad week to start Kurt Warner and Jay Cutler, obviously. Those two are likely to be our top-ranked quarterbacks for Week 14. You can also expect to find Matt Ryan (at NO), Tyler Thigpen (at DEN) and Matt Cassel (at SEA) in the top 12, and Shaun Hill (vs. NYJ) won't be too far behind.

Ryan Grant injured his right thumb against Carolina, and Brandon Jackson was productive in relief (11 carries, 80 yards). Those two should split carries against Houston.

LaDainian Tomlinson will face the Raiders on Thursday night, then he'll get the Chiefs in Week 15. If the numbers are disappointing, you can't blame the matchups.

Note the end-of-season schedule for Steven Jackson: at Arizona, vs. Seattle, vs. San Francisco.

Tim Hightower gets a great matchup in Week 14 (vs. STL), but he hasn't seen 20 carries since...well, since he carried 22 times for 109 yards and a touchdown against the Rams in Week 9.

Peyton Hillis will be productive again this week vs. KC, and Larry Johnson should deliver another useful line. LJ rushed for 92 yards and a TD against Oakland in Week 13.

Steve Slaton produced 19 fantasy points in the final 10 minutes of the Monday night game. As a result, we can feel good about America again. Thank you, Mr. Slaton. Thank you.

And please keep Ryan Moats off the field in Week 14.

To further assist your playoff prep, today we'll also take a look at the NFL's elite defenses and their end-of-season opponents. We've done this before (here and here), but it's worth revisiting, since we've reached the must-win portion of the fantasy schedule.

Six teams continue to limit opponents to fewer than 300 yards and 20 points per game. Here they are...

The Steelers defense is the league's best, without question. They've held opponents to 10 points or less in five of their last seven games. You can't reasonably expect another 300 yards and three TDs from Romo, although he's posted that line five times this season. If we offered you 200 yards, two TDs and two INTs right now, you'd be crazy not to take it.

Also, I'm sitting Marion Barber and his dislocated toe in two leagues this week. (Slaton gets the nod in one, Joseph Addai in the other).

Brian Westbrook and Donovan McNabb face the Giants, so don't expect a huge bump in the rankings for that pair. But yes, they were great against an overmatched Cardinals D in Week 13.

In fact, I felt like we learned a lot more about Arizona on Thursday -- dreadful, not ready to head east and face a serious opponent -- than we learned about any of the Eagles. Westbrook was especially tough to judge because he went untouched so often. The Eagles blocked the Cardinals into submission, no cutting required. (Highlights here). It was a dominant team performance, and Westbrook's fantasy line was outstanding. Is he completely recovered from his various injuries? I doubt it.

When asked about his health after the game, Westbrook said, "I'm a little bit more healthy. All glory to God."

Clinton Portis is dealing with knee, hip and neck injuries, he isn't likely to practice this week, and he'll face the Ravens on Sunday. Baltimore hasn't allowed any player to rush for 100 yards in their last 31 games.

DeAngelo Williams will face the Bucs on Monday night, and they've allowed just one rushing touchdown this season. That's right, one rushing TD.

Williams is a tough player to sit right now -- he has 541 rushing yards and nine TDs over his last five games -- but his fantasy playoff schedule isn't ideal. The Week 15 matchup is great (DEN), but Week 16 is rough (NYG).

Williams' biggest games have involved four of the NFL's worst run defenses: 32 fantasy points vs. KC, 20 points vs. Oakland, 24 points vs. Detroit, and 32 points vs. Green Bay. He carried 11 times for just 27 yards against Tampa in Week 6.


Photos via Getty Images (Lions fans) and AP (Slaton, Williams)

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