Hello again Razzball readers! I’ve really been enjoying contributing to Razzball so far and I look forward to answering more questions and helping more fantasy teams. Asher Molk and I will be working as a team and editing each other’s columns so feel free to ask either of us any questions; we’d love to help! And check us out on Twitter at @BraudeM and @AsherMolk.
Before you read my matchups column I would like to give you some advice:
Be sure all your players are active and ready to roll on game day. If your player is a game-time decision, check 30 minutes before game day – if he’s active, check what kind of role he is going to have in the game and make sure he’s not just an emergency option.
This article is written early in the week so it doesn’t always have perfect accuracy for who’s playing. I just wanted to go over those because getting a goose egg out of someone is detrimental to your team. Good luck in your fantasy leagues!
Tennessee at Buffalo
Chris Johnson looked fantastic last week – totaling 190 yards with 23 carries. I watched the game and he looked like 2009 Chris Johnson except for the breakaway speed. This game showed us Johnson still has the ability to dominate bad run defenses. Buffalo has the 22nd ranked run defense – he’s a RB1 this week. Matt Hasselbeck had his second-straight sub-200 yard passing game last week. Even against Buffalo, he’s just a low-end QB2. After a 9 catch, 115 yard, two-touchdown breakout performance, Nate Washington disappointed last week with just one reception for 12 yards. Both Damian Williams and Washington will struggle to produce consistently in a run-dominated offensive approach. I prefer Williams because he doesn’t draw the defenses best corner. That said, he’s still just a low-end WR3. No other pass-catchers are on the fantasy radar on this team.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had an impressive performance against the Jets last week – throwing for 264 yards and three touchdowns. The problem is there’s no reason to expect consistency – that as just his first game over 250 yards since Week 8. Against the Titans 13th ranked pass defense, he’s a QB2. Fred Jackson’s injury drastically hurt the Bills offense – C.J. Spiller has taken over the feature back role. As evidenced by last week’s number, 19 carries for 55 yards, Spiller struggles to run inside. I don’t expect much difference this week but he still has the goal-line carries – making him a solid flex-play, especially in PPR formats. Stevie Johnson was in the headlines this week for two things: dominating Revis and his touchdown celebration mocking Plaxico Burress. If you watched the game, you would’ve seen that he could’ve had a much bigger game without some drops. He’ll draw Cortland Finnegan this week, who has been very good against opposing wide receivers – he’s high-end WR2. David Nelson hasn’t topped 50 yards in his last five games and if you’re playing him, you’re betting on a touchdown for production. He has three touchdowns in those five games but I wouldn’t bet on him finding the end zone against the Titans surprisingly solid pass defense. Don’t expect consistency from Brad Smith either… With all the Bills injuries at WR, Scott Chandler been split out wide and used as a slot receiver. He hasn’t stayed in to block like he did early in the season. This is a nice matchup for him as a TE2.
Indianapolis at New England
Usually this game is circled on both teams’ schedules and it’s a shame that without Peyton Manning, it goes from a great game to no contest. Dan Orlovsky will draw the start but isn’t much of an upgrade over Curtis Painter – expect more of the same for the Colts at football’s most important position. Donald Brown had a very solid game last week but won’t get to face Carolina’s run defense again this week. He’ll lead the backfield in carries but expect this game to be blowout in which the Colts abandon the run. Joseph Addai and Delone Carter are not options. Reggie Wayne had his best game of the year last week and is a viable WR3 against the league’s worst secondary – however the quarterback problem is one he can’t fix. Pierre Garcon loses some value with the insertion of Orlovsky because Painter consistently targeted him – he’s got a great matchup but it’s tough to trust he’ll produce. I’m calling him a low-end WR3. Do yourself a favor and start a better tight end than Jacob Tamme.
Tom Brady dazzled last week against the Eagles, consistently making the quarterback position look far too simple. Aaron Rodgers is the only quarterback I would sit Brady for this week. This is a plus-matchup for Benjarvus Green-Ellis as this is a likely blowout – in games the Patriots win by a TD or more; he has 7 touchdowns and a 72-yard average. When the Patriots win a tight game or lose, Green-Ellis has 0 touchdowns and a 40-yard average. He’s a solid RB2 in this one. Danny Woodhead plays more in heavy-passing game plans, sit him. Wes Welker exploded last week and is an elite WR1 as usual. Deion Branch has great chemistry with Brady and is a WR3. Since the Patriots had their bye, Rob Gronkowski is averaging 6.2 catches for 92.6 yards and 1.2 touchdowns per game in five games – don’t sit the elite fantasy option. Aaron Hernandez is a TE1 – he’s a consistent part of the Patriots offense and the breakout game is coming.
Denver at Minnesota
There two things we can draw from Tim Tebow: he’s a winner and a fantasy monster – if he ever learned how to throw, he could really be a special asset. Still struggling with only 94.7 passing yards per game, Tebow has had consistent production through touchdowns, with an 8:1 TD-to-INT ratio and 3 rushing touchdowns – his yardage totals need to increase. That said, he’s still a low-end QB1 against the Vikings. Willis McGahee looks rejuvenated this season and the insertion of Tebow has given him more open running lanes. With Denver’s heavy running attack, he’s a high-end RB2. While Eric Decker is a risky-fantasy option because of their lack of pass attempts, he continues to produce weekly. The Vikings secondary has struggled with injuries so he’s a solid WR3. Don’t trust any other Bronco pass-catchers because of their lack of a solid passing attack.
Without Adrian Peterson in the lineup, the Vikings struggled to move the ball – shows you how good he really is. Christian Ponder has been impressive for a rookie quarterback, showing poise and confidence in his first year. Still, he’s just a low-end QB2 playing against Denver’s inspired defense. Toby Gerhart will draw the start again and showed little upside in his first start – rushing 17 times for just 44 yards, a 2.6 yards per carry average. He’ll receive the goal-line carries but will need a touchdown for solid production. He’s not very talented and looks slow; I don’t see him having a long NFL career… Percy Harvin had been one of my favorite breakout candidates during the pre-season and the Peterson injury seems to be just what he needed. Over the last two weeks, he’s amassed 14 catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing 10 times for 31 yards. And there was potential for a much bigger game. He’ll be the Vikings featured playmaker once again but could draw Champ Bailey, however Vikings coaches do a good job of moving Harvin around the formation. Major upside here – he’s a high-end WR2. Don’t waste your time starting any of the Vikings other pass-catches.
N.Y. Jets at Washington
After a big performance against a terrible Buffalo defense Mark Sanchez and the Jets head into the nation’s capital against a Washington defense ranked 11th in the league in yards allowed. Sanchez found major success against Buffalo, posting four TD’s and 180 yards. While he remains a scoring threat as long as he keeps up his red zone consistency, Sanchez still remains a QB2 against the Redskins in Week 13. Sanchez’s inability to throw accurately downfield limits his fantasy value. Santonio Holmes has been shaky all year and will continue to be. He remains a high-upside WR3 due to his explosive ability to make plays after the catch. Plaxico Burress will continue to eat up red zone targets and is emerging as a good bet to find pay dirt every week. His role in the offense will always limit his catches and yardage numbers but Burress is playable as a WR3, with much lower upside than Holmes. Dustin Keller exploded last week displaying his athletic ability as the Jets number one TE. As electrifying as the performance was, Buffalos defense has been torched by TE’s all year. Keller faces a much stiffer pass defense this week in Washington, making him a low-end TE1.
While trusting Mike Shanahan is as aggravating as dry turkey on Thanksgiving, Roy Helu showed he has the talent to carry the Redskins running game after posting 108 yards and a TD rushing as well as 54 yards receiving. Helu is by far the main feature of the offense and his 23-carry workload in Week 12 was a very promising sign of his value. Barring any setback from Coach Shanny, Helu is a solid RB2 against the NFL’s 15th ranked run defense. Ryan Torain has once again shrunk into mediocrity with rookie Evan Royster replacing him as Washington’s number two back. As crazy as Shanahan is, Torain will be useless in fantasy the rest of the year unless an injury happens. Santana Moss had a disappointing comeback in Week 12, and his outlook doesn’t look much better facing Revis island. In Week 13 he is a low upside WR3. Expect a castaway performance as Moss will be stranded from interception prone QB Rex Grossman, who remains a low-end QB2 against a strong Jets passing defense. Jabar Gaffney has been listed as questionable, and if healthy is the only other viable receiver on Washington. Gaffney has had good performances in his last two games, but against the league’s 7th ranked pass defense he’s merely a WR3/Flex. Fred Davis has shown glimpses of TE1 potential all year, but they have all been against run of the mill defenses. He’ll still remain a solid TE2 in Week 13, but with Grossman at the helm his upside is limited.
Carolina at Tampa Bay
Get your RBs going in this one- these teams give up the first and second most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. Cam Newton’s arm has slowed down a little bit- he hasn’t passed for over 290 yards since week 4. But the production he was putting up was unsustainable, especially for a rookie. Luckily, he’s rushed for 3 scores in the past two games, making him a very good QB1 with upside. The Buccaneers have the 5th worst pass defense in the NFL, so this may be when Newton breaks out of his passing game funk. Smith will be shadowed by Aqib Talib: that particular matchup isn’t great on paper, but I can’t imagine ever sitting the explosiveness and upside Smith brings to the table. Start ‘em. Brandon LaFell would be a very interesting WR3 if he got the proper snaps, but he and Legedu Naanee cancel each other out. It’s the right week to use them in a desperation spot though- Ronde Barber has been atrocious thus far. Greg Olsen has really slowed down the past 3 games, and needs to be sat until he gets back on track. With the amount of TE depth in fantasy this year, that shouldn’t be a problem. Deangelo Williams has gotten double digit carries for two straight weeks now, but don’t get your hopes up too much- he is the 1B to Jonathan Stewart’s 1A. They are both low upside options, but are very decent flex plays against an awful Buccaneers rush defense. Stewart is the preferred play though, especially in PPR. Just don’t expect a TD from either of them.
Josh Freeman is being considered a game-time decision. His play has been poor all year though, and hopefully you have moved on from him. Josh Johnson wouldn’t be an option if Freeman sat. Even if he does play, the Bucs will go run heavy against a porous Carolina rush defense that has been a goldmine for opposing RBs. This means a heavy dose of LeGarrette Blount, who is definitely an RB1 this week. He should be considered almost a lock for 100 yards, a score, and yet another hurdling leap over a defender. He was even more involved in the passing game last week too, catching three passes for 56 yards. I’d get him in lineups at almost any cost. The only passing game options in Tampa Bay are Kellen Winslow and Mike Williams. They have both really turned it on the past two games, but should probably be relegated to benches even if Freeman starts. They’ll likely limit his pass attempts if he goes, and consider the entire passing game completely off limits if he sits. It’s a low upside situation for those two- it’s a 0 upside situation for Preston Parker, Dezmon Briscoe, and Arrelious Benn. Get them off your roster. If possible, get all Buccaneers out of lineups except for Blount until Freeman is fully healthy.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
This rematch of division rivals has the Bengals vying for a wildcard berth under rookie QB Andy Dalton. The last time these two teams met, Dalton threw for 170 yards with 2 TD’s and 2 INT’s in a close game at home in Cincinnati. Traveling to Pittsburgh to face the league’s 3rd best passing defense in a tough environment, Dalton remains a QB2. AJ Green has been phenomenal this year, but in the last meeting with the Steelers he only managed one reception, although it was for a TD. Green is a must start every week, but going against the Steel Curtain his value in Week 13 is a WR2. However with the Bengals looking to get the ball in their top playmakers hands, his ceiling is high. Jerome Simpson is merely a Flex this week even with the Steelers defense focused on the talented Mr. Green. Simpson was unable to capitalize on CB Haden shadowing Green in Week 12’s matchup against Cleveland. TE Jermaine Gresham proved to be the beneficiary racking up 5 receptions for 68 yards and a TD. Gresham has been listed as questionable all week, but could prove to be a strong TE2 this week if healthy. RB Cedric Benson, listed as probable, is looking like he’ll get the nod against Pittsburgh on Sunday. Coming off a tasty matchup against the Browns, Benson hasn’t played well against the NFL’s top run defenses this season. However as his 2 TD performance against Baltimore indicated, Cincinnati will turn to him in scoring situations when struggling with the pass. If healthy, Benson is a solid RB2.
The Steelers have transformed into a pass-dominant offense behind the helm of QB Ben Roethlisberger and OC Bruce Arians. Cincinnati has a solid defense this year in both the passing and running game, but Big Ben should still see solid QB1 production in his Week 13 matchup. Speed demon Mike Wallace has only averaged 52.2 yards receiving in the last four games. With Bengals CB Leon Hall on the injured reserve, there’s no one on Cincinnati capable of containing Wallace’s blazing speed. Wallace has the capability to go absolutely nuts, making him a high-end WR1 in Week 13 with Big Ben owners reaping the benefits. RB Rashard Mendenhall has seen a cut in his production since the schematic changes in the Steelers offense. Mendenhall will still get his carries and is still the goal line back in Pittsburgh. Regardless of emphasis on passing, Mendenhall is still a RB2 against the Bengals 5th ranked rushing defense. Mendenhall’s Week 13 production will come from TD’s not yards, like the last time these two teams faced off. Antonio Brown has been a solid WR3 since making his way as a starter on Pittsburgh. Even with the entire Steelers offense struggling in Week 12, Brown still managed 81 yards on 4 receptions. In Week 13 and for the rest of the season Brown is a WR3 with the potential of WR2 status with tasty playoff matchups like St. Louis and Cleveland. Heath Miller has been up and down all season with a few good games. He hasn’t showed any promise of being a top 10 TE this season, but in Pittsburgh’s pass-dominant offense he remains a TE2.
Kansas City at Chicago
Honestly, it would be best if you didn’t have anyone from this matchup in your lineup, save Matt Forte. This has the potential to be an ugly, ugly game. Tyler Palko has lived down to expectations – strangely, he remains the starter over Kyle Orton at least for this week. Please don’t use him. There’s a chance Orton replaces him in-game though… Dwayne Bowe has caught 7 passes in each of the past two games, but I wouldn’t want to trust him as anything more than a WR3 until Orton is the starter. Steve Breaston is a low upside if steady WR3 option- don’t ever expect fireworks from him. Jonathan Baldwin isn’t even close to being an option, and will likely be nothing more than a WR4 even if Orton takes over. The Chiefs three headed rushing “attack” possess 0 upside- Jackie Battle, Thomas Jones and Dexter McCluster have a combined 1 touchdown on the season. Battle and Jones cannot be trusted against a top 8 Bears rush defense, and McCluster is a low upside PPR flex, per usual. In conclusion, get excited if any member of this team is playing against you.
The fantasy situation in Chicago is slightly better than the one in Kansas City, although that isn’t saying much. Caleb Hanie made some pretty ugly mistakes, throwing three picks in his first start. But at least he isn’t afraid to throw downfield- he isn’t close to startable in fantasy though. The Chiefs have a pretty solid pass defense. Matt Forte is the lone strong start in this entire game, and is likely in for a bounce-back game against the 26th ranked Kansas City rush defense. They will heavily lean on him, and he will definitely be involved in the passing game. Marion Barber is more of a problem for Forte owners than he is a standard league fantasy option, but he’s scored in 5 of the past 7 contests, making him a TD-only league option. The only member of the receiving corps I’d come close to starting is Johnny Knox. He is by far the most explosive wideout on the team, and Hanie wasn’t afraid to chuck it up to him. That said, the Chiefs have pretty good cornerbacks, and Knox is a boom or bust WR3 who isn’t a recommended option. Roy Williams, Devin Hester and even Earl Bennett need to be on benches until they prove they can be productive without Jay Cutler. Don’t hold your breath.
Atlanta at Houston
Matt Ryan has really been coming on as of late- the past 4 games he has a 9:2 TD to INT ratio, while passing for at least 262 yards in each of those contests. The matchup is pretty tough here though, as the Texans have allowed the 2nd least fantasy points per game to opposing QBs. Their pass defense is for real- if you use Ryan in a QB by committee approach, it may be a good week to sit him. Roddy White has been what owners had hoped for when they took him in the 2nd round of drafts for the past two weeks, but he will be covered in this game by shutdown corner Jonathan Joseph. You don’t want to sit him, but I’d consider him more of a WR2 in this matchup. Julio Jones is questionable, but expected to play- he’s a risky but high upside play in this game- he is prone to re-aggravation of his hamstring, but may draw a lot of targets with Joseph covering White. Sit him if you have better options, but have some cautious optimism if he’s in your lineup. The dude can play. Harry Douglas goes back to WR4/5 status with the return of Jones. He should be relegated to benches. Michael Turner hasn’t averaged 5 yards per carry in a game since Week 6, but his sheer volume of carries buoys him. He is in RB2 territory against a very good Texans rush defense that doesn’t need 8 men in the box to shut down rushing attacks. He’s always a good bet for a goal line score though. Tony Gonzalez continues to be Matt Ryan’s safety blanket and red zone target- rumors of his decline have proven unfounded. He hasn’t had 100 yards receiving in a game this year and isn’t at all explosive anymore, but he’s caught a score in 3 of the past 4 games- he’s a decent TE1.
There aren’t too many fantasy options on the offensive side of the ball for the Texans. It’s all about Arian Foster, who can’t ever be on benches. He has a very tough matchup against a top 2 rushing defense, but does it in all facets of the game – he’s averaging 4.5 catches per game since returning from injury. He’s pretty much matchup proof, and is still a top 3 RB. Ben Tate shouldn’t be in lineups this week. He produces the most in blowouts- something that won’t figure to happen against a decent Atlanta offense and TJ Yates at the helm. He’s a risky flex option who will more likely deliver a clunker than a solid fantasy performance. Yates is a rookie QB making his first NFL start – he simply cannot be trusted from a fantasy point of view. Andre Johnson is a full go, and won’t face Atlanta’s shutdown corner Brent Grimes, who is injured. I’m calling him a high end WR2 until Yates proves he can really get him the ball. Owen Daniels has become just a borderline top 12 option, and is best relegated to benches. But he may benefit if Yates proves to be apprehensive to throw the ball down field. Jacoby Jones, and Kevin Walter are once again off the radar.
Oakland at Miami
The Raiders are in the midst of a three game winning streak and will look to continue in their matchup with the Dolphins. Michael Bush will look to rebound after a tough game against the Bears, rushing 24 times for only 69 yards but he did manage to salvage his day with a touchdown. With Darren McFadden out over the last four weeks, Bush has 114 touches for 593 yards and four touchdowns, making him the No. 1 fantasy running back over that span. Although the Dolphins are allowing just 97.3 yards per game, the monster workloads will continue with McFadden still not healthy. He’s a borderline RB1 in this tough matchup. The Raiders will likely stick to the ground game with their depleted receiving corps. With Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore both out, Darrius Heyward-Bey is the best bet for receiving production but he’s been prone to let downs in the past – I’m calling him a WR3. If you’re desperate you could play Chaz Schilens, but he’s not recommended and doesn’t deserve consideration unless you’re in a very deep league.
Matt Moore continued his mediocre production with 288 passing yards and a touchdown on Thanksgiving. He’s not recommended in QB1 leagues but is a solid QB2 based on his consistent pass attempts and an average Oakland defensive unit. This is a plus matchup for Reggie Bush, who saw his touchdown streak end last week but still racked up 19 touches for 96 yards. He’s seeing 15-20 touches a week and with his big-play potential must be considered a RB2 – but his lack of inside rushing ability limits him to a low-end RB2. Daniel Thomas isn’t currently an option for starting lineups. Brandon Marshall has played very well recently with at least 5 catches for 98 yards in three of his last four games. Moore targets him heavily and there’s no reason to believe he can’t perform like a borderline WR1 against Oakland’s secondary. The rest of the Dolphins pass-catchers don’t perform consistently enough to be trusted in fantasy leagues.
Baltimore at Cleveland
After a big win in Thanksgiving’s Harbaugh Bowl, Baltimore heads to Cleveland seeking a key division win. Joe Flacco will remain a sub-par fantasy option going against Cleveland’s number one ranked passing defense – he’s a QB2. Raven’s WR Anquan Boldin will most likely be pitted against emerging top CB Joe Haden, making him a borderline WR2 this week. Torrey Smith retains his deep threat WR3 value with no threat of veteran Lee Evans reacquiring the second WR position on the depth chart. Even with the top passing defense, Cleveland’s run defense ranks at an abysmal 29th in the league. For those of you starting Ray Rice in the playoffs this week, get excited for some solid RB1 production. As the number two back in fantasy Rice is more than capable of going ballistic in this matchup. While Ed Dickson remains the number one TE on the Raven’s depth chart, Baltimore’s use of two TE sets has increased the fantasy value of backup Dennis Pitta. Neither is a highly viable option in Week 13, Pitta remains borderline start-able as a low-end TE2. With only 36 yards in the past two games, Dickson should stay on the bench.
Peyton Hillis made a surprising start in Week 12 with the pregame injury of Montario Hardesty. Hardesty may play this week, stealing touches from Hillis. Managing only 65 yards on 19 carries against the Bengals defense in Week 12, Hillis is only a RB3/Flex play in Week 13 against the monstrous Ravens defense. Unfortunately for Hillis owners dealing with a disappointing season, Hillis will remain an RB3/Flex until Week 15 when Cleveland plays Arizona. Hopefully no one is relying on production from QB Colt McCoy, a borderline QB2 at best. Browns WR Greg Little is eating up targets at the request of head coach Pat Shurmur but isn’t reaping in huge dividends. Little has the capability to prove his fantasy worth, but until then and against the Raven’s 5th ranked pass defense he remains a WR3. Joshua Cribbs has the potential for some big plays and TD’s but his inconsistency leaves him as a WR4/5. The TE situation in Cleveland isn’t something to be invested in. Starter Ben Watson hasn’t recorded over 30 yards in the last four games and backup Evan Moore has only 5 catches in his last five games – neither should be started.
Green Bay at New York Giants
As I say every week in this column: there’s no better player in football than Aaron Rodgers. After another 300-yard, multiple touchdown performance, it’s hard to imagine him not winning the MVP award this season. James Starks tweaked his ankle against the Lions on Thanksgiving but looks like a sure-bet to play this week. He’s just a flex option because of limited touches and the possibility of re-aggravation. Averaging 75.9 yards per game with 8 touchdowns, Greg Jennings is a rock-solid WR1 on one of the league’s best offenses. Jordy Nelson had a down-week against the Lions but owners should expect a bounce-back performance. He’s drawing single coverage from opposing defenses because of the constant attention to Jermichael Finley and Greg Jennings. With nine touchdowns and 71.1 yards per game, Nelson is a quality WR2 in a game that has the looks of a shootout. James Jones had a big play last week but can’t be counted on consistently. There’s no doubt he’s talented but he isn’t on the field enough because he’s only the No. 4 passing option on offense. Expect more random breakouts but only play him if you’re desperate because Jones doesn’t have a chance to produce consistently without an injury. Jermichael Finley has been a disappointment this season but still produces consistently enough to be considered a solid TE1.
Eli Manning was fantastic on Monday Night Football against the Saints, throwing for 406 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. He is a rock-solid QB1 in this matchup for several reasons: the Giants will likely fall behind against the Packers (everyone does) and he’ll be forced to attempt over 40 passes… Ahmad Bradshaw may return this week but can’t be considered an option in his first game back against the Packers. There won’t be enough rushing attempts for him to produce solid numbers. Brandon Jacobs hasn’t been able to produce even with Bradshaw out because he’s not part of the Giants passing attack – the only consistent part of their offense. He’ll have a similar performance to the last week with the Giants needing to pass to stay in the game; he’s only a flex play because of his heavy reliance on a rushing touchdown for production. There’s a chance Mario Manningham misses the rest of the season after reports that his knee feels unstable when running. This is great news for Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks owners. Victor Cruz has emerged as a must-start fantasy option – leading receivers in fantasy points since Week 5. He’s stunning and currently knocking at the door of WR1 consideration… Cruz’s breakout has had a negative impact on Hakeem Nicks’ value – he hasn’t broken 100 yards since Week 4. Manningham’s injury will help him receive more targets – he’s a high-end WR2 this week. Keep an eye on Ramses Barden but he can’t be trusted yet. Jake Ballard has struggled to accrue consistent production this season, struggling with drops recently; he’s still just a TE2.
Dallas at Arizona
Dallas has a favorable matchup in Week 13 against the NFL’s 26th defense. DeMarco Murray has been an absolute stud since the injury of Felix Jones. In last week’s matchup against the Dolphins Jones only had one carry, reassuring Murray’s role as a top 10 RB for the last weeks of the season. Against a Cardinals defense allowing 123.5 rushing yards per game, Murray is a high-end RB1 and should have great success in Week 13. QB Tony Romo continued to show his excellence in the month of November. Against what some consider to be the best CB combo in the league, Romo still managed to throw for 226 yards and 2 TD’s with 2 INT’s, his first in the last four games. In this week’s juicy matchup Romo is a solid QB1. Miles Austin is once again out with a hamstring injury and is looking towards Week 14 to return. In his absence Laurent Robinson has been a beast, salvaging Fantasy seasons as a waiver wire gem. His value will significantly decrease with the return of Austin, but until then Robinson is a WR2. In Week 12 Dez Bryant faced off against top CB Vontae Davis, who limited him to 35 yards on 3 receptions. Bryant will bounce back in Week 13 against a terrible Cardinals secondary, making him a solid WR2. TE Jason Witten will take advantage of this matchup as well – he’s a high end TE1.
The Cardinals only viable options in fantasy all year have been Larry Fitzgerald and Beanie Wells. Fitzgerald gets a boost with the return of QB Kevin Kolb, and is too talented to not be WR1 in Week 13 against the Cowboys. Kolb is a low-end QB2 and will continue to be with tough matchups in the coming weeks. After demolishing the Rams, Wells is a RB2 against a much better Dallas team. He should still see solid production, but his upside is limited by the league’s 10th ranked rushing defense. Arizona’s other receivers are barely worthy of WR3 consideration. Andre Roberts and Early Doucet have seen mediocre production regardless of the Cardinals starting QB. In Week 13 they are dicey flex options. The Cardinals TE’s are nonfactors in fantasy. Period.
St. Louis at San Francisco
This is a game that will likely be tough to watch from a sheer entertainment value standpoint. St. Louis has failed miserably to meet expectations due to incompetence and injuries, and this game figures to be very frustrating for their offense. Sam Bradford is headed for a game time decision, but even if he’s a go he isn’t much of a fantasy option. He’s averaging a measly 6 yards per attempt and has thrown just 6 touchdowns on the year. If AJ Feely were to draw the start, he would be completely off the radar. Brandon Lloyd has lived up to fantasy expectations since joining the Rams, getting a plethora of targets and catching a score in 4 of his last 5 games and being held under 5 catches just once since going to St. Louis. Even if Feely starts, he is still a pretty solid WR2. Austin Pettis has yet to catch more than 4 passes in a game with a high of 45 receiving yards this season. Move on. Danario Alexander is expected to return in this matchup, but it would be optimal to wait and see this week before putting him back into lineups. He’s a WR4/5. Steven Jackson has begun to hit his rough stretch of the schedule- he’s been held to 106 rushing yards the last two games, and the matchup is nearly impossible against a number one ranked 49ers defense that has yet to give up a rushing score. He’s a low end, low upside RB2 in this matchup. Keep expectations pretty darn low- the 49ers will load up the box just like the Cardinals did, but will be even more effective.
The 49ers offense begins and ends with Frank Gore, who has cooled off over the past 3 weeks. But just as Beanie Wells proved, nothing gets an RB going like a matchup with the Rams. He is a very high end RB1 this week, and needs to be in lineups at almost any cost. How bad has their run defense been? They’ve given up the 4th most rushing attempts in the NFL, and STILL allow over 5 yards per carry. Alex Smith is usually good for around 200 yards and a score, and that’s about what you can expect in this matchup. There will be very little need to pass, and the 49ers will run more than usual considering the opponent. He’s a low upside QB2. This may not be a bad week to use Vernon Davis. There won’t be much volume, but he’ll certainly be the primary read on most dropbacks, and he wont have to block as much considering the Rams pass rush is relatively poor. Michael Crabtree has limited upside due to the offensive system, but he’ll go against a laughable secondary that has been simply decimated with injuries. He’s not a bad WR3, and should be good for at least 4-5 catches. I wouldn’t touch Braylon Edwards with a 10-foot pole.
Detroit at New Orleans
Matthew Stafford has been a little shaky recently, throwing 9 picks in his last three games. But have no fear- this game should be a big one for him. He is playing in a dome in a potential shootout against a team that gave up 400+ yards to Eli Manning last week. Confidently trot him out there as a strong QB1 candidate. Rumor has it that Kevin Smith is going to be on the field come Sunday. If he indeed does suit up, he can be considered a top-25 option at running back. He isn’t a very explosive player, but he is in a great situation and is definitely a better option than both Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams. Those two would all but lose their value if Smith plays, and even if he doesn’t Morris is the only one worth playing- he would be a weak PPR flex play with little upside. The premier fantasy play on this team is wide receiver Calvin Johnson. He has been in a “slump” recently, having scored only one touchdown in his last three games (gasp!). However, the man is literally uncoverable and still salvages plenty of fantasy value even when he sees triple teams. There are plenty of big games left for him, and this is very likely to be one of them. At worst, he is a top 3 WR this week. Nate Burleson has been a low-upside guy the whole year. That doesn’t figure to change at all, but he isn’t a terrible desperation play in PPR leagues as a WR3 in this game. Just don’t expect consistency. Titus Young will likely be a solid fantasy receiver someday, but that day isn’t coming anytime this year. Leave him on the waiver wire. Brandon Pettigrew puts up Burleson-like stats at TE – there are much better options out there. But he is nothing if not reliable – he’s caught at least 4 passes in every game except two. He’s a very low-end TE1, while Scheffler is deep in TE2 territory.
Drew Brees needs to average about 280 yards per game from here in out in order to break Dan Marino’s single season record. I’m betting he does it. His season low for passing yards on the year? 258, with only 3 games under 322 yards. Him, Rodgers, and Brady are on a different level than the other QBs, in real life and in fantasy. You aren’t benching him, especially when Detroit will be missing Ndamukong Suh. The three-prong RB attack isn’t going away anytime soon, so fantasy owners will just have to get used to it. Mark Ingram will likely receive the most carries and has the best to score a goal line TD – he’s a high-end flex play here. Darren Sproles will see around 8-10 carries and at least 4 catches, and is still an RB2 in PPR leagues. Pierre Thomas will be third in line for touches, but you could do worse at your flex position. These backs will also be boosted by Suh’s absence. Jimmy Graham continues to challenge Rob Gronkowski for the “best fantasy TE” crown- they simply refuse to have off games. Graham will have a tough matchup on paper against a Lions team that is stingy against TEs, but he is matchup-proof once he steps onto the field. The man is simply unstoppable… The only other safe Saints pass catcher to play is Marques Colston. He is one of the best in the business at catching the ball in traffic, and is a fantastic red-zone threat in his own right. He hasn’t been held under 50 yards since returning from injury, and is a top-16 play at WR. Lance Moore had a big game last week, but played a very few amount of snaps- his production was pretty fluky. Him, Robert Meachem, and Devery Henderson are incredibly risky WR3 plays. Plug them in at your own risk, and know that a sub 50-yard performance is likely.
San Diego at Jacksonville
This Monday night “marquee” features two teams circling the drain in the AFC. We are getting to the point where putting Philip Rivers on fantasy benches is an option. His offense line is in complete shambles and he possesses no mobility- a bad combination for a QB who was already struggling. He is smack in the middle of being a QB1 and a QB2, especially against a Jacksonville team that has the 4th best pass defense in the NFL. As far as the backfield goes, the roles of Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert will probably remain the way they are for the rest of the season, with Mathews serving as the primary runner and Tolbert coming in, in short yardage and passing down situations. Consider Tolbert more of a fantasy parasite to Mathews than a real fantasy play- he’s a weak flex option while Mathews is an RB2 in a matchup where the Chargers probably won’t be playing catch up, leading to a decent dose of carries. Antonio Gates is a top 3-4 TE as long as he’s healthy. He is an absolute beast in the red zone, scoring in 4 of his 6 games since returning from injury. Vincent Jackson has been incredibly polarizing so far this season- he has had ONE game in which he’s scored between 4.9 and 16.8 standard league fantasy points. But the booms can sometimes singlehandedly win fantasy games, and he can’t be out of your lineup ever. He’s a low-end WR1 who would catapult up the rankings if he ever found consistency. Malcolm Floyd will be making his return this week, but he’s no better than a WR4 – the man is incapable of staying healthy. This renders Vincent Brown back to fantasy irrelevance.
The blurbs about the Jaguars have been pretty short and sweet in this column, and for good reason- they have one player who is worth a spot on your fantasy roster, and his name is Maurice Jones-Drew. He has a very good matchup here, as the Chargers have been soft against the run all year, ranking 25th against opposing ground attacks. He’s at least a low-end RB1, and should be in lineups. The rest of the Jaguars offense is simply laughable: Blaine Gabbert got benched last week for Luke McCown, Mike Thomas hasn’t topped 24 yards since week 6, and Marcedes Lewis hasn’t scored a touchdown all season. Keep them far, far away from your fantasy rosters if you want a shot at winning your title.
Feel free to ask for any necessary advice!