If you didn’t know the name Jonas Gray before 8pm Eastern Sunday night, nobody would blame you. If you forget his name when you’re putting in your waiver claims for the week, you’ll never forget it. Gray went off in huge fashion this past week with 199 yards and four rushing touchdowns against the Colts. It took him from fantasy afterthought to fantasy pick-up of the week status, and he certainly is that for us. Gray has managed to supplant Shane Vereen as the top man in the New England backfield and should be getting the majority of the work going forward.
You’ll have to put up with a tough week this week, as Gray and the Patriots take on a stiff Detroit defense. The defense held Arizona running back Andre Ellington to less than 50 rushing yards last week. After Week 12, Gray’s schedule turns much easier with games at Green Bay, at San Diego, Miami, at the Jets, and Buffalo to close out the season. (Keep in mind we put the full 17-game schedule out there when we talk about remaining games, since some leagues go the full distance.) Excluding the Dolphins, you’re looking at four of the top-12 rush defenses in the NFL for Gray. The match-ups are going to be tough, so you could pick him up now, let him go off against Green Bay, and try for a late sell-high deal depending on your league’s trade deadline. (Yes, most deadlines will pass in the near future but it’s still worth mentioning.) These games should be winnable for New England so Gray should get carries to keep the clock and the chains moving. Eventually, he will find the end zone, but don’t expect anything close to his output against Indianapolis.
This is also the final week of byes with Carolina and Pittsburgh sitting out this week. This is key for one reason. It’s time to get rid of the guys on your team who are non-producers and/or have poor match-ups the rest of the way. This is the time of year when you want your decisions on who to start to be incredibly tough since you have to pick from talent, talent or talent.
Josh McCown of the Buccaneers is a decent one-week option if you need someone to fill in for Ben Roethlisberger or Cam Newton. McCown takes on his former team, the Bears, and should be motivated to take them on. They’re a great match-up for opposing quarterbacks since the Chicago defense stinks. He threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns in the upset over Washington and he might pull another one this week to complete the Bears’ freefall into oblivion.
Drew Stanton of Arizona looked okay in the Cardinals’ win over Detroit. Stanton threw for 306 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions to move Arizona to 9-1. The downside is that Stanton goes to Seattle this week in a tough NFC West game. Last time up there, Arizona won that game 15-9 so this could be another low-scoring affair. That signals it’s time to pass on him for now.
Shaun Hill got a surprise start for the Rams and he wound up being on the winning side against Peyton Manning and Denver last week. Hill threw for 220 yards and a long touchdown pass to Kenny Britt in the upset of the Broncos. The Rams also have a favorable schedule with San Diego, Oakland, Washington, Arizona on a short week, the New York Giants and Seattle to close out the season. Hill is a guy to keep in the back of your mind and perhaps flag on your league’s waiver wire in case of a late-season injury.
It’s time to look for Trent Richardson again. Ahmad Bradshaw suffered a broken ankle against New England and is done for the season. This leaves Richardson to shoulder the load and Dan Herron to back him up right now. The Colts might make a move to bring a third running back in but for now it’s Richardson’s chance to shine. His schedule is favorable with games against Jacksonville, Washington, Cleveland, Houston, Dallas and Tennessee to end the season. If you can’t get Jonas, Richardson could be the shot in the arm your team needs late in the season. He hasn’t rushed for more than 80 yards in a game this season and is due to break out.
Of course whether you get 2012 Richardson or 2013 Richardson is where you have the risk on a move like this.
Adrian Peterson is expected to find out his fate Wednesday. [Jay’s Note: This broke after this post was submitted. Peterson will be out the remainder of the year as stated here.] This is where you check your lineup for that one guy you could dump if he was available. Find that guy, set up the claim and wait. If nothing else, you should be able to get your guy back if it doesn’t pan out.
Alfred Blue of the Texans made a big splash this week with a franchise-record 36 carries and 156 rushing yards in the Texans’ road win at Cleveland. His value is directly tied in to Arian Foster’s groin. (That’s a sentence I thought I would never type.) Foster, as of press time, was pointing towards playing in Week 12. Monitor this situation through the week and be ready to pounce on Blue if Foster has a setback.
Tre Mason of the Rams is a sneaky running back to pick up if you can. We broke down the Rams schedule above and it features teams that can’t stop the run for anything. That applies to teams outside the NFC West and the Rams play four such teams. Mason ran for 113 yards on 29 carries which makes him the bell cow for now in St. Louis. Benny Cunningham is more of a threat on passing downs and Zac Stacy is virtually non-existent for the Rams.
C.J. Anderson should be owned in all leagues with the situation in Denver at the running back position.
This is your final chance to get Josh Gordon if you haven’t done so already.
Cecil Shorts III of Jacksonville makes for an interesting acquisition if you’re thin at the wide receiver spot. Shorts looks like the only healthy wide receiver left on the Jaguars roster. The Jags travel to Indy this week and are about a two-touchdown underdog. They should be passing a lot and Shorts looks to be the primary target. He’s put up 26-315-0 on 47 targets over his last five games and figures to be a key part of the offense.
Kenny Britt of the Rams had a good day with 4-128-1 and most of his yards came on a 63-yard touchdown catch. Maybe he’s finally tapping into his potential. Or maybe he got lucky. It’s too tough to tell what’s going on with him, so we pass on Britt for now.
It’s worth taking a look for Michael Floyd of the Cardinals. He had two catches for 54 yards and two scores against Detroit. He might see more chances with Larry Fitzgerald a little hobbled with a grade two MCL sprain. People dropped Floyd after a couple of virtually absentee games and it’s time to pick him back up.
Jacob Tamme should be on your radar just in case Julius Thomas of the Broncos has a setback with his ankle. Thomas is day-to-day and Tamme would get the nod if Thomas can’t go. Tamme and Peyton Manning used to have a solid relationship on the field and Tamme makes a good sleeper.
Coby Fleener of the Colts bears some consideration. Dwayne Allen suffered a sprained ankle against New England and Fleener looked solid while Allen was out. Allen was spotted in the locker room as walking around with a limp so this is a situation to watch play out over the course of the week.
Look and see if Dan Bailey or Justin Tucker were dropped while their teams were on bye. Both are top-notch kickers with excellent range.
Defense & Special Teams
The Colts DST looks like a solid choice against Jacksonville. Chicago’s DST has a favorable match-up with Tampa but can’t be trusted.
As always, keep your eyes and ears open for the late news. Right now, one move can make or break your playoff dreams.