Don't Be Afraid To Look Ahead

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The leaves are changing colors, kids are getting their Halloween costumes together and a fresh batch of horrible new television shows are beginning to get canceled.

We are in the thick of fall season, so of course it is time to begin looking towards December.

For well-prepared individuals, this usually means the start of holiday shopping. This includes my wife, who from now until we start singing the "Twelve Days of Christmas" will begin filling my closets with various gifts for family members and friends.

I on the other hand will be "nerding up" big time and hitting the war room. To me, December isn't just about snow, Santa Claus and the complete inability to find a parking spot at the mall. It is about the fantasy football playoffs.

As we approach the season's eighth week, playoff teams are beginning to distance themselves from the duds. Trade talks should heat up and one way to better yourself in the long run is to keep an eye on favorable playoff matchups.

While making a run at Texans running back Arian Foster seems like a good idea now, watching him get stuffed by Ravens and Titans during the first two playoff rounds (typically NFL Weeks 14 and 15) will have you upchucking nutmeg in a hurry.

So who draws favorable postseason matchups?

My top team has to be the Broncos, who in Weeks 14-16 battle the Cardinals, Raiders and Texans. All three teams currently rank in the bottom seven in scoring defense, while Houston and Arizona are two of the six worst total defenses in the league.

Also looking good is the Ravens, whose playoff schedule includes the Texans, Saints and Browns, and the Cowboys seem to be in good shape too. Yes, they lost quarterback Tony Romo, but the offense won't stop completely and they draw the Eagles, Redskins and Cardinals in Weeks 14-16.

Other clubs to look at include the Packers (good matchups versus Lions and Patriots before a tough home game versus the Giants), Dolphins (play the Jets in Week 14 but then battle the Bills and Lions) and Colts (play the Titans before matchups with Jaguars and Raiders).

And much like I won't be giving out candy to any child who comes to my door dressed as Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift or any cast member of the "Jersey Shore," here are some likely players I'm going after with an eye towards December.

QB Kyle Orton and WR Brandon Lloyd, Denver Broncos: People still seem to want to sell high on Orton, but the worst of his schedule is over other than a Week 11 matchup in San Diego. He has thrown a touchdown pass in every game to just four interceptions and faces some weak opponents in the playoffs as previous mentioned. The big payoff for both Orton and Lloyd, currently one of the top fantasy wide receivers: a Week 16 game (and fantasy championship round) date with the league's worst-ranked defense, the Houston Texans.

Colts wide receivers: Reggie Wayne may be tough to pry away from another owner, but the Colts passing game features plenty of other options. The loss of tight end Dallas Clark opens up the field for the rest of the wide outs, including Pierre Garcon and Blair White. Austin Collie is also out due to a wrist injury, so Garcon gets a chance at becoming the permanent No. 2 behind Wayne. Indianapolis head coach Jim Caldwell has raved about White, so Anthony Gonzalez, set to return soon from an ankle injury is an x-factor. If you have room to stash, take a look at those three because the Colts aren't running away with the AFC South like season's past and neither the Titans (Week 14) or the Jaguars (Week 15) defend the pass well.

QB Joe Flacco and WR Anquan Boldin, Baltimore Ravens: If you want to pull off a blockbuster deal, look towards Flacco and Boldin. Both have done well so far and both the Texans (Week 14) and the Browns (Week 16) struggle against the pass. Houston and Cleveland are average versus the run, so you might want to stay away from going after running back Ray Rice, who has just two touchdowns while teammate Willis McGahee has vultured away four scores. Tight end Todd Heap could also perform well in December.

WR Miles Austin and TE Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys: Don't be too afraid of Jon Kitna being under center for the Cowboys. He has experience and has put up numbers before. That makes me a fan of Austin, who has been held to three catches or less in three of his team's last four games and might be available "on the cheap." In Week 14 he faces the Eagles, who just got tagged for over 200 yards receiving by the Titans' Kenny Britt, and sees the Redskins (31st- ranked defense) and the Cardinals (27th-ranked) the next two weeks. That could also mean big things for "safety net" Witten.

December isn't all gifts and cookies for every team and here are a few clubs that will have their hands full in the fantasy playoffs: the Texans (Ravens, Titans and Broncos), Chiefs (Chargers, Rams and Titans), Bengals (Steelers, Browns, Chargers) and Jets (Dolphins, Steelers, Bears).

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Michael Rushton at mrushton@sportsnetwork.com.

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