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Fantasy football owners face decisions on the eve of the season's most important weekend

Week 14 of the NFL season is arguably the biggest week of the fantasy football season. Leagues with 16-week schedules open their playoffs this week, while leagues with 17-week schedules are playing their regular-season finales and vying for playoff position.

About a year ago at this time I aired my disdain for 16-week fantasy leagues. Then about a month later, some of the air went out of my argument when San Diego, having secured its division and position in the AFC playoffs, sat LaDainian Tomlinson for Week 17.

Nevertheless, I still prefer 17-week fantasy leagues. Yes, fantasy leagues that play the full NFL schedule run a greater risk of losing top players when their teams need them most. But luck, good and bad, will always be a part of fantasy football. And besides, teams clinch early, sometimes before Week 17. Look at Philadelphia last year, which retsed Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook from Week 16 on. And look at the Colts this year. If we're to believe Tony Dungy's claims of indifference toward regular-season perfection, Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison could all be part-timers by next week.

But I don't want to belabor the point -- visit my website and read the belabored points I made on this topic last year if you're so inclined. Instead, I'll get to my original point, which is to offer some lineup suggestions for this huge week of fantasy football.

The names that follow aren't necessarily the most promising fantasy plays for Week 14. That's because you don't need me to tell you to start Shaun Alexander, Carson Palmer or even Anquan Boldin. My goal is to single out some guys who may be on your bench, or even on your league's waiver wire, who could step up big.

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Quarterbacks On fire: Steve McNair, Tennessee vs. Houston -- The perpetually questionable McNair is unquestionably a good start against the Texans.

Worth a flyer: Brad Johnson, Minnesota vs. St. Louis -- Brad's steady, whereas the Rams defense is steadily disintegrating.

Running Backs On fire: Mike Anderson, Denver vs. Baltimore -- This isn't the Ravens defense you remember. The past two weeks, both Rudi Johnson and Domanick Davis topped 100 yards rushing against Baltimore.

Worth a flyer: Corey Dillon, New England vs. Buffalo -- Dillon's back in form. The same can't be said for Buffalo's rush defense.

Wide Receivers On fire: Lee Evans, Buffalo vs. New England -- Evans is hot and Eric Moulds is suspended, so J.P. Losman literally has nowhere else to go against a weak Patriots pass defense.

Worth a flyer: Antonio Bryant, Cleveland vs. Cincinnati -- With Braylon Edwards out, Bryant could be decent against a defense that's in the bottom third of the league in receiving yardage allowed.

Tight Ends On fire: Zachary Hilton, New Orleans vs. Atlanta -- Hilton, who's replaced the sidelined Ernie Conwell, has 13 catches and a touchdown in his last three games.

Worth a flyer: Bryan Fletcher, Indianapolis vs. Jacksonville -- Fletcher's scored in three straight weeks.

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Kickers On fire: Nate Kaeding, San Diego vs. Miami -- Great weather, great offense. Kaeding's got it all.

Worth a flyer: Nick Novak, Arizona vs. Washington -- Neil Rackers went down, and Novak made three field goals last week. Those goofy knock-off soccer uniforms the Cardinals wear must be conducive to kicking.

Neil Tardy is the Post-Bulletin's fantasy football columnist. His columns run every Friday during the NFL season. Visit his Web site, www.PunditSports.com, and send him your fantasy football questions.

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