A short memory is the best friend of a goalie or a defensive back, and it's also something you want as a fantasy owner. Players improve or regress, some schemes jell while others fall apart, adjustments are made, roles change. And this point really gets hammered home when we look at all the Week 12 results that defied the historical trends between player and opponent.
Remember Week 4, when Ronnie Brown struck the Patriots with the Wildcat while Matt Cassel and Randy Moss looked like a couple of schmucks? It all reversed in Miami Sunday. The Dolphins single-covering Moss was an unexpected bonus for the Pats, but Cassel's improved significantly since September. And the Patriots, to their credit, have tightened up their run-stopping after a messy first month.
Michael Turner couldn't do a thing against the Panthers the first time around. Sunday he almost tore a rotator cuff from all the end zone spiking. Eddie Royal abused the Raiders on the first Monday of the year. Sunday, you couldn't even tell he was on the field. Hines Ward had a history of success against the Bengals into Week 12. Thursday night, he wasn't a factor (though he did lose one big catch on a penalty). DeAngelo Williams didn't get much in Carolina's earlier win over Atlanta. Sunday, he went off in a loss.
I'm not suggesting that you should completely blow off matchups as you make your fantasy decisions, but make sure you're staying in the here and now. Games played two years ago or even two months ago just don't matter very much for projection purposes (the 2007 Patriots and Giants can tell you that). And looking back to previous seasons might be the biggest waste of time in this fantasy racket; the teams might not change uniforms, but just about anything else is in a state of flux. Look back 3-4 weeks at most, and use that as the foundation for your projections.
With that rant off my chest, let's look around the Week 12 landscape and talk some football:
• Leon Washington has hit double-digit touches just once in the last two months, and he had just nine at Tennessee, albeit two touchdowns followed. Would 4-5 more touches a game be too much to ask, New York? It's so difficult to flex-start a player who sees the ball this infrequently, but Washington's explosive skills can't be ignored. He's the type of player who should give Denver fits next week.
Sticking with the Jets, it would be nice if they'd drop the coy act on their kickers so we could roll with Jay Feely (51 points in four weeks) and not have to worry about it. Mike Nugent seems healthy enough to kick now, but how can the team go away from Feely while he's dialed in? Unfortunately, they refuse to say much about it until game day.• Imagine the day when Calvin Johnson plays with a star quarterback, or heck, an average one. He's basically had one no-show all year, no matter that he's doubled all over the field and his teammates can't deliver the ball to him accurately.
• I'm all for Chris Johnson and he'll go off against Detroit Thursday, and Steve Slaton is a nifty player, but it's time to concede that Matt Forte is the best rookie back for fantasy purposes. It doesn't mean he's the best player, mind you, but he's definitely got the best setup.
• Kevin Walter can play on my team anytime. He understands how to set up defenders, and he catches the ball in stride just very well.
• Accept that the LaDainian Tomlinson we saw Sunday night is who he'll be for the rest of the year. Still a useful, handy, solid player, someone you start every week. But the second gear is gone, the ability to plant a foot and embarrass a defender, the ability to turn 11-yard runs into 50-yard runs. Between the career workload and the dings of this year, he's not at full throttle. To say anything else at this point is closing both of your eyes and taking a leap of faith.
• Shaun Hill won't overwhelm anyone with his physical gifts, but he understands what's going on out there. A shame he's not a little taller, or the arm couldn't be a little stronger. But there's a playmaker here.
• The Giants don't need Plaxico Burress, and I'll be surprised if he's there next year.
• Jamal Lewis probably had a big game coming if the Browns didn't lose their way against the Texans. Still, it's funny that a back that's used as much as Lewis can still be without a 90-yard rushing game as we hit Thanksgiving week.
• I never had a problem with Maurice Jones-Drew, it was more an issue with the team's play calling and the spotty play of the line. It's great to see the first concern no longer applies.• They don't come any tougher than Clinton Portis, who's willing himself to yardage these days while he's clearly not 100 percent healthy. In a lot of cities the running back spot is fungible, but if you take Portis away from this Redskins team, they're going nowhere.
• You have a better chance hitting Powerball than you do figuring out the matrix that is the Baltimore backfield. Willis McGahee and Ray Rice got their chances Sunday and couldn't get it done; they left the door wide open for Le'Ron McClain.
• I don't blame Andy Reid for wanting to see Kevin Kolb play eventually, but asking the unproven kid to enter a hornet's nest at Baltimore, that didn't make any sense.
• A tip of the cap to my buddy Brad Evans, who keeps finding production for you, buried at the bottom of the barrel. Another hit this week, as Fred Jackson collected 76 yards on 11 touches. Anyone can tell you the obvious in this numbers racket, but it takes skill to find hidden stats in the trenches.
• Tyler Thigpen's numbers were a lot better than his actual play. We can live with that from a fantasy perspective, but he definitely took a step back against Buffalo.
• Josh McDaniels is going places. And if I'm Cassell, I want to be in the same city.
• It's hard to go wrong with Buffalo Tom. Enjoy today's musical selection.
Photos via Getty Images (Moss, Johnson) and US Presswire (crushed Kolb)