Another game down and another week closer to your fantasy playoffs. By now, some owners have already clinched playoff spots and have begun positioning themselves for the long haul. For them, picking up the correct waiver-wire players could be the difference between a championship and a first-round exit. For others hoping to sneak into the playoffs, this is their last chance to make a push.
There were some surprise fantasy contributors last week, as well as a couple of stiff performances, which made owners shake their heads. For example, raise your hand if you decided to start Robert Griffin III over Josh McCown because it appeared like Griffin was ready to take a big step forward and McCown plays for the Buccaneers? (I didn't, but almost did). If last week taught owners anything, it's that one shouldn't judge a book by its awful cover (insert other cliches here). RGIII flopped and McCown went crazy, posting 20.32 fantasy points.
On the bright side, we did suggest you start Jordan Matthews and Jeremy Hill who both performed as expected. Matthews put up 16.7 fantasy points and Hill continued to shine in the absence of Giovani Bernard,posting a solid 16.5 fantasy points on the scoreboard.
So, all great (and some not so great stuff) from last week. In saying that, let's move on to week 12 of the NFL season. (Note: All projections are based on Yahoo! Fantasy)
20 20. Minnesota Vikings' Defense – SIT
I'd stay clear of the red hot Packers' offense, which has scored 108 points in the past two games. Rodgers and company won't be able to sustain those video-game numbers, but their offense will continue to click and, therefore, it's a huge risk to start a Vikings' defense against an offense that has given up the fifth fewest fantasy points to opposing defenses. Starting the Vikings D wouldn't even be a desperation move, it would be fantasy suicide.
19 19. Cleveland Browns' Defense – START
Who exactly are the Cleveland Browns? Just two weeks ago their defense posts 17 fantasy points because of their four turnover performance against the Bengals. And the next week they lose 23-7 to Ryan Mallett and the Texans, while only giving owners a paltry 2 points. This week, they go up against the Falcons and their weak offensive line. If you're stuck looking for a defense, the Browns are a decent reach.
18 Owen Daniels – TE, Baltimore Ravens – SIT
Based on volume alone, Daniels can be a solid fantasy option. He's had good fantasy games, but has also been widely inconsistent. For example, against the Steelers two weeks ago, Flacco targeted Daniels nine times, but then only went to him four times during the next game. This week, Daniels faces the Saints, and they've been stingy against tight ends allowing the fewest points to the position in the league. Don't drop Daniels, but find a replacement for this week.
17 Charles Clay – TE, Miami Dolphins – START
A few weeks back, TheSportster featured some tight end by the name of Mychal Rivera, and he put up 12.4 fantasy points against the Broncos. That's one reason to start Clay, who also faces the Broncos in week 12. Want another reason to start him? Denver surrendered 12.8 fantasy points to rookie Jace Amaro, the highest of the season for the young tight end, and 17.4 fantasy points to Antonio Gates, the third highest of the season for the veteran. The most telling fantasy stat for pass catchers is the amount of targets they receive, and Clay has been seeing the ball come his way recently.
16 Kenny Britt – WR, St. Louis Rams – SIT
Temper your expectations. Prior to week 11, the most yards Britt put up was 69 back in week three. That was the same week he also posted the most receptions in a game, with 5. It wasn't that long ago the Rams' receiver was on the verge of being a big-time receiver, but that was, well, long ago. It's hard to rely on him, and that's especially true this week. He'll face the Chargers who own the league's number six defense. San Diego is surrendering the 13th fewest fantasy points to receivers.
15 Josh Gordon – WR, Cleveland Browns – START
You've been waiting all year for Gordon to make his debut. In fact, some of you have probably been stashing him on the bench since the NFL first announced his reinstatement date. So, why wouldn't you start him? This isn't week three, four or five. We are nearing the end of the season and there is no time to wait and see if Gordon has his football legs back. Take the risk. Have some fun and watch Hoyer use his new toy. We'd be shocked if Gordon failed to receive targets, especially in the red zone. Also, he's playing the Falcons, who aren't exactly the Cardinals on defense.
14 Michael Floyd – WR, Arizona Cardinals – SIT
The Seahawks' secondary has regressed, but they still surrender a mere 215 passing yards a game. In the last three games, they also rank third in terms of opponent yards per pass attempt, and overall yield the third fewest amount of big plays in the league. (According to Sporting Charts, big plays include rushing plays of 10 + yards and passing plays of 25 + yards.) Floyd feeds off big plays and touchdowns, which the Seahawks can limit. Don't chase the points with Floyd, find a safer option for the week.
13 A.J. Green – WR, Cincinnati Bengals – START
Green is the healthiest he's been all season, and he showed it last week by posting his second best game of the season. During the last three weeks, Dalton has thrown to Green 24 times and connected on 12 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns. This week Dalton and Green go up against a Houston defense which has allowed the third most passing yards per game over the last three games. Also, on the season, the Texans surrender 279 passing yards per game at home, which is ranked third in the league.
12 Golden Tate – WR, Detroit Lions – SIT
Last week in Arizona, Tate and Stafford were never in sync. He caught the only two passes thrown to him for 41 yards. That's shocking considering most thought Tate would still post big numbers even when Johnson returned. He has that kind of ability. Hopefully this isn't a sign of things to come.
This week, many expect Darrelle Revis to match up against Calvin Johnson. However, the better matchup might be against the quicker, shifter Golden Tate, which would put Brandon Browner on Johnson. If that's the case, Tate may struggle again.
11 Alshon Jeffery – WR, Chicago Bears – START
Last week against the Vikings, Jeffery exploded, posting 11 receptions on 17 targets for 135 yards and a touchdown. Cutler had his way with Minnessotta, also putting up solid numbers against an overmatched Vikings' squad. More of the same could be in store this week, when Jeffery faces a Tampa Bay team that has surrendered the second most fantasy points to opposing receivers.
10 Reggie Bush – RB, Detroit Lions – SIT
Honestly, at the moment, just stay away from starting any running backs against the Patriots. While the Patriots have given up the tenth most fantasy points to running backs this season, their run defense has been dominating the pass few weeks. They completely shut down Denver and Indianapolis' running game, holding the Broncos to 43 total rushing yards and the Colts to 19 total rushing yards. While Bush isn't much of a between-the-tackles runner, the Patriots have shown a knack to shut down any running back at the moment and Reggie Bush isn't matchup proof.
9 Latavius Murray – RB, Oakland Raiders – START
Here is our flier of the week. Are you thin at running back? Starting Murray might not be the worst thing to happen in your fantasy season. We get it, the 0-10 Raiders are a complete mess and choose to have a slumping Darren McFadden handle more carries than a freak like Murray. However, this could be the week the Raiders turn on the light bulb and realize that handing the ball off to Murray might be their best chance to beat Kansas City. While the Chiefs have surrendered the fifth fewest fantasy points to running backs, they have also given up over 150 rushing yards per game in their last three games. That is ranked third worst behind only Jacksonville, Tennessee and the Giants. On just 4 carries last week, Murray went for 43 yards. Wake up Oakland!
8 Jonas Gray – RB, New England Patriots – SIT
Sometimes I feel like we cop out by stating the obvious such as, DON'T START JONAS GRAY AGAINST THE LIONS. However, then I realize we'll say that, look at the stat sheet after the game has concluded, and notice there are always a handful of people who started the player anyways.
Fantasy owners chase points and many will pick up Gray up and make the conscious choice to insert him into their lineups hoping lighting strikes twice. That storm has passed my friends, at least for this week. We'd be absolutely shocked if he put up even a good fantasy game against a Detroit team that has the best rushing defense in the league.
7 Trent Richardson – RB, Indianapolis Colts – START
Let's also add Colts' Dan Herron to the mix. Richardson should receive the majority of the carries against Jacksonville, but if he fails to impress, the Colts could turn to Herron sooner rather than later. Many consider Herron a better north/south runner than Richardson. While Richardson, the former first-round pick, is a risk, the Colts have to hand the ball off to someone this week, and volume alone should allow Richardson to put up decent fantasy points.
6 Alfred Morris – RB, Washington Redskins – SIT
Morris has posted good fantasy numbers the past three weeks and two of those games were on the road. However, the 49ers are a whole other beast he'll have to contend with. They've only allowed three running backs to exceed 13 fantasy points this year and are solid at home against road running backs. They allow the fourth fewest fantasy points to the position. With no passing game to relieve pressure on the run game, expect Morris to underwhelm this week.
5 Jeremy Hill – RB, Cincinnati Bengals – START
While we've already featured Hill in some of our more recent columns, we have to do it again. If anything, this acts as a reminder for you to keep watch over how Giovani Bernard responds during his first full week of practice. If Bernard can't go, Hill is a must start against a Texans' defense that has been relatively soft in the run game, surrendering over 100 yards a game to running backs. If Bernard plays, Hill is still a solid start. Reports indicate that Hill will see a major uptick in carries going forward.
4 Robert Griffin III – QB, Washington Redskins – SIT
In need of a quarterback last week, I almost traded Jeremy Hill for Robert Griffin III. I pulled out and instead opted to start Josh McCown who put up 20.32 fantasy points to Griffin's 14.38. That was the difference between a week 11 fantasy win and a loss.
So, in saying that, I hope you took something from that brief story. Like, don't start Griffin this week against a team has given up the fourth fewest points to quarterbacks. And also, Griffin is a major risk going forward. If he couldn't put up solid stats against Tampa Bay, why should we trust that he can do the same against the 49ers?
3 Colin Kaepernick – QB, San Francisco 49ers – START
Kaepernick has definitely failed to live up to the high standards many set for him prior to the season. However, he has still put up relatively consistent fantasy numbers this year. They aren't QB1 statistics, but he hasn't really had any clunkers. This week Kaepernick has the opportunity to feast on a Redskins' team that has surrendered the fourth most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Plus, Kaep has had his best game at home.
2 Matthew Stafford – QB, Detroit Lions – SIT
While the Patriots have surrendered at least 15 fantasy points a game to quarterbacks since week four, they are a scary unit on the rise and will be playing at home this weekend. In the past three games, the unit has four interceptions and currently rank third in pass coverage according to Pro Football Focus. Want further proof the Pats' defense is getting better each week? They held Indianapolis' top receiver T.Y. Hilton to only 2.4 fantasy points in week 11. They could do the same to Tate or Johnson this week, and, in turn, Stafford might have a weak performance.
1 Josh McCown – QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – START
If you are thin at quarterback, ride the hot hand. We featured McCown last week as a potential start and he didn't disappoint, putting up 20.32 fantasy points. In the three full games he has started for the Buccaneers this year, McCown has posted 19.4 fantasy points on average. This week he faces his former team, the Bears, which has surrendered the most fantasy points to quarterbacks. If you believe in revenge games, then McCown is a safe start.