Most fantasy football leagues have between three and five weeks left in their regular seasons, and your playoff odds are taking shape. My teams are a mixed bag; I have one leading the league, a few others scrapping for a playoff spot, and another one or two mired in a slump from which there is no recovery. In any case, you'll still want to earn some respect from your peers, and maybe shock the league and make a run to glory. Here's how to get started on that this week if you have Packers or Lions on your roster.
GB: QB Aaron Rodgers
DET: WR Calvin Johnson
Here are the combined numbers from Rodgers' last three games indoors: 74/106 (69.8%) for 915 yards, 12 touchdowns, and one interception. Yikes. When he plays at Detroit and doesn't get a concussion, he throws for 300 yards and at least two touchdowns. Look it up...it has happened every single time aside from that 2010 game. Now with Jordy Nelson hopefully back and the Lions secondary still banged up, he should go off again. Move on to tougher decisions.
As much as I believe in Optimus Prime (aka Tramon Williams), it will be a tough assignment for him to keep Calvin Johnson contained, especially if the Lions move him around the formations as they are expected to do this week. He'll have opportunities against several young defensive backs, and while I am confident in them, you aren't benching Johnson against anyone, let alone a Packers defense that showed some signs of weakness on the back end early on this season.
Start with confidence:
GB: WR Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson (if he plays); Defense/special teams
DET: QB Matthew Stafford
Cobb has been on fire lately, with six scores in his last five games. Last week, even though he didn't have a lot of catches, he scored twice and contributed with some rushing yardage. There's little depth in that Lions secondary, so put him in your lineup and he should get you double-digits. Nelson has the opportunity for a big game if his injuries will let him go - he had nine catches for 163 yards and three scores in week 17 last year. He's consistently in 8-9 catch per game territory when healthy, better than James Jones' 4-6 range. If he practices through the rest of the week, start him.
Remember that game against the Titans when Detroit gave up two return scores? That's all you need to remember to know why the Packers defense and special teams are worthy of a start. That and the fact that the Packers have forced a total of 13 turnovers in their last four games against the Lions.
Stafford should be throwing early and often this week, and he becomes a must-start if you're in a league that rewards passing yardage heavily. With the Packers' rushing defense being pretty stingy lately, Stafford will be the reason that the Lions are or aren't in the game, and will likely put up 300+ yards as well.
GB: WR James Jones
DET: RB Mikel LeShoure
Jones, as described earlier, is a solid bet for 4-6 catches and 50-70 yards. The big question is whether or not he'll get in the end zone. My guess is that he doesn't this week, but you could certainly do far worse. He'd be a decent, if not spectacular, option as a 3rd wideout or a flex. As usual, he gets racheted up a notch if Nelson can't play or appears to be significantly limited.
LeShoure is an interesting option. He's not likely to have a ton of yardage, but, like Jones, he's got a decent chance at a touchdown. The chance of a score looks good, since the Packers have given up four short rushing TDs (all 6 yards or shorter) over the past four weeks.
Start only if you're desperate:
GB: TE Jermichael Finley
DET: TE Brandon Pettigrew; WR Titus Young; Defense/special teams
We have here a pair of physically gifted tight ends who haven't been able to get much going this season. If for some reason you have to pick between the two, give Finley a shot, since the Lions' defense has been much more generous to tight ends in 2012 than the Packers have.
Nate Burleson is out for the season, so Titus Young gets the shot as the #2 wideout. He scored twice in week 17 last season, but has been dealing with a nagging knee injury lately. There's some upside there, but I'd stay away unless you have no other options though.
I'm not going to suggest you start the Lions' defense, but there are worse options. They did have some success forcing turnovers out of the Packers in 2010, and they got an interception and fumble recovery in week 17 last season. The points against will likely be a limiting factor here though, as I see the Packers scoring in the 30s this week.
Leave on the bench:
GB: RB James Starks, Alex Green
DET: WR Ryan Broyles
I don't trust either Packers running back at this point. Either one could get you 12 points, and either one could give you five carries for nine yards. There's just too much variability for me to possibly advocate starting either one.
As for Broyles, he's attractive because of his skill set and with how much the Lions pass, but he's behind the other three receivers (Johnson, Young, Pettigrew) in the pecking order right now. A score is possible, but unlikely.