1:00PM ET Games
San Diego @ Kansas City
Looking to bounce back from last Sunday night's 27-17 loss in Denver, expect the Chiefs to re-focus on the two things they do best: Feature Jamaal Charles and play attacking defense. In Week 12, Charles takes on a San Diego defense allowing the third highest YPC average (4.83) in football. The Bolts will also be minus edge-setting OLB Jarret Johnson (hand), who is a run-defense specialist. With LeSean McCoy and Marshawn Lynch on byes and Adrian Peterson not right physically, Charles is the No. 1 fantasy running back play this week. ... Rookie Knile Davis showed juice on gains of 7 and 11 yards against the Broncos and is a recommended stretch-run handcuff for Charles owners. Coach Andy Reid's offense has been decidedly running back-centric this season, and would likely stay that way in the event of a Charles injury due to Alex Smith's talent limitations. ... The Chargers' pass defense is pathetic. They lack impact edge rushers and cover corners, and only Atlanta and Jacksonville have allowed opponents to compile a higher combined passer rating (102.3). Checkdown machine Smith's ceiling is always capped by his inability/unwillingness to throw the football aggressively at the intermediate and vertical levels, but he's a quality two-QB-league play based on Week 12 matchup alone. I'd try aiming higher if in need of a QB1 streamer.
Smith's target distribution since Anthony Fasano returned from injury four games ago: Dwayne Bowe 37; Dexter McCluster 27; Charles 26; Donnie Avery 20; Fasano 13; Anthony Sherman 10; Sean McGrath 7. ... The Chiefs have made a more concerted effort recently to get the football to Bowe. He has at least a dozen targets in back-to-back games, converting stat lines of 7-67 and 4-57-1. Bowe is back on the mid-range to high-end WR3 radar in this favorable matchup. ... With over 50 receiving yards in three of his last four games, McCluster is worth consideration in return-yardage leagues. He leads the NFL in punt return yards. ... Avery could catch a touchdown bomb against the Chargers and still wouldn't be worthy of a roster spot in 12- or 14-team leagues. His role has diminished as McCluster's has increased. ... Fasano paid Week 11 dividends as a TE1 streamer with four receptions and a red-zone score. San Diego has allowed the 13th most fantasy points to tight ends, but Fasano has failed to clear 40 yards in each of his six appearances this season.
Philip Rivers' top-seven passing offense travels to Arrowhead for a meeting with a Kansas City defense ranked ninth against the pass and limiting enemy signal callers to a 10:12 TD-to-INT ratio. The Chiefs are second in sacks and permit a league-low 54.2% completion rate. It's difficult to justify Rivers as more than a back-end QB1. Although his on-field play hasn't noticeably slipped, it's worth noting Rivers has a 6:3 TD-to-INT ratio over his last five games, compared to 13:5 over his initial five. ... Rivers' counting stats are down because the Chargers are running the football more, and for good reason. With 432 yards and two touchdowns on his last 83 carries (5.20 YPC), Ryan Mathews has earned a commitment from San Diego's coaching staff. Springing some leaks in run defense, Kansas City has coughed up 297 yards and two touchdowns on 63 runs (4.71 YPC) to Fred Jackson/C.J. Spiller and Knowshon Moreno/Montee Ball over its past two games. The Chiefs will also be without LE Mike DeVito (knee). Per Pro Football Focus' charts, DeVito has been a top-five run-stopping 3-4 end this season. Mathews is an attractive flex play in Week 12. ... Rivers' target distribution over his last seven games: Antonio Gates 58; Keenan Allen 55; Danny Woodhead 44; Vincent Brown 39; Eddie Royal 29; Ladarius Green 12; Mathews 9.
Another reason for Rivers caution is Kansas City's ability to match up effectively with San Diego's pass-catching corps. Keyed by SS Eric Berry's shutdown coverage, the Chiefs are allowing the fewest fantasy points to tight ends. I'd play usual borderline TE1s Coby Fleener and Greg Olsen over Gates this week. ... Fine physically following last week's knee scare, Allen is a quality WR3 even in this difficult on-paper matchup. Allen's slippery route running should allow him to rack up catches in stiffer Chiefs RCB Sean Smith's coverage, particularly underneath and on crossing patterns. I like Allen's chances of leading San Diego in Week 12 receiving. ... With at least 80 total yards and/or a touchdown in seven of his last eight games, Woodhead has been the Chargers' steadiest fantasy producer. Expect him to be a critical component of Mike McCoy's Week 12 game plan as the Bolts look to get the ball out of Rivers' hands quickly in an effort to minimize the impact of Kansas City's edge rush. Woodhead is an every-week RB2 in PPR and respectable flex play in standard leagues. ... Brown hasn't scored a touchdown since the season opener and has failed to clear 40 receiving yards in five straight games. He's a fantasy WR5/6. ... A touchdown-dependent fantasy commodity, Royal is on pace for just 48 receptions and 636 yards. Royal will hurt you if you start him and he doesn't hit pay dirt. He's scored twice over his last eight games.
Score Prediction: Chiefs 23, Chargers 20
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $300,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 12. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the link.
Minnesota @ Green Bay
Eddie Lacy's per-play efficiency has taken a predictable hit with Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) out of the lineup, but the Packers won't stop feeding him. Lacy has 42 touches in two games since the Rodgers injury, compared to complementary back James Starks' seven. At home taking on a Christian Ponder-quarterbacked offense, the Packers are in little danger of falling behind big on the scoreboard and should have no trouble pounding out rushing attempts. Minnesota ranks 14th versus the run and has allowed 11 rushing touchdowns, tied for fifth most in the league. Keep riding Lacy as an RB1. ... Through two NFL appearances, Scott Tolzien has completed 48-of-73 throws (65.8%) for 619 yards (8.48 YPA), one touchdown, and five picks. The TD-to-INT ratio is poor, but Tolzien has shown an ability to keep the chains moving and hit a handful of shot plays, which is all owners of Green Bay pass catchers can ask of a quarterback signed off the practice squad three weeks ago. Tolzien isn't a standalone fantasy option, but he isn't killing his teammates' cause. ...Tolzien's 2013 target distribution: Jarrett Boykin 21; Jordy Nelson 18; James Jones 12; Andrew Quarless 7; John Kuhn 4; Lacy and Brandon Bostick 3; Myles White 1.
In spite of the Rodgers-to-Tolzien downgrade, Green Bay's wideouts have an appetizing Week 12 matchup versus a Vikings defense that ranks 29th versus the pass and has allowed a league-high 23 passing scores. ... With at least 80 yards and/or a touchdown in eight of his ten games this year, Nelson is the No. 5 overall receiver in fantasy football. Perhaps he's more WR2 than WR1 with Tolzien at the helm, but Jordy needs to be in fantasy lineups regardless. He's coming off an eight-catch, 117-yard game against the Giants. ... Tolzien's obvious rapport with Boykin has kept Green Bay's No. 3 wideout on the WR3 radar despite Boykin's somewhat limited playing time. Although he has played just 68% of the snaps compared to Jones' 94% the past two weeks, Boykin has registered stat lines of 8-112 and 6-91. Fantasy owners can't expect Jones to re-assume the clear-cut No. 2 wideout role before Rodgers comes back. Jones' stats over the two-week stretch are 4-44 and 2-55. Whereas Boykin seems to be a fairly stable back-end receiver play, Jones can only be viewed as a WR4 until something changes. ... Tolzien is making very little use of his tight ends. Quarless is blocking on most of his snaps. Bostick just isn't playing much.
A week after benching him for Matt Cassel early in the fourth quarter, the Vikings announced they will start Ponder against the Packers in Week 12. Quite possibly on a short leash again, Ponder has committed 13 turnovers through seven starts this season, losing all but one. I could see justifying Ponder as a Hail Mary two-quarterback-league start if Rodgers were healthy and this game had shootout potential. But with Tolzien engineering the opposing offense, this one projects as a low-scoring bore. ... Adrian Peterson's groin injury is likely a bigger problem than the Vikings are letting on, but isn't affecting his game-day availability or workloads. Peterson has averaged 23.7 touches over his last three games. Green Bay has allowed a combined 346 yards on 67 carries (5.16 YPC) to Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, and Andre Brown the past three weeks. Even if Peterson is no longer fantasy's consensus No. 1 back, he hasn't fallen out of the top five. ... Ponder's 2013 target distribution: Greg Jennings 35; Jerome Simpson 33; injured Kyle Rudolph 24; Peterson and Cordarrelle Patterson 23; John Carlson 22; Jarius Wright 18; Toby Gerhart 8.
From a fantasy perspective, Jennings' 2013 production hasn't been lofty enough to overcome concerns with the Achilles' injury that kept him out of Week 11 and limited him in practice this week. I'd just write off Jennings as a Week 12 fantasy option. ... Carlson is at least worth a matchup-based TE1 streamer look. Green Bay has allowed the 11th most fantasy points to tight ends. Through two starts in place of Rudolph, Carlson has dropped stat lines of 7-98-1 and 5-69. ... The Vikings benched Simpson for disciplinary reasons in Week 11, starting Patterson instead. It's unclear whether Simpson will get his job back. If forced to choose from Minnesota's wide receivers in fantasy this week, I'd aim high and try to hit a home run with Patterson's game-breaking talent. Jennings has injury and productivity concerns, Simpson's playing time is too uncertain, and Wright will be reduced to the Vikings' No. 4 wideout against the Packers.
Score Prediction: Packers 20, Vikings 17
Pittsburgh @ Cleveland
Seemingly certain to be a low-scoring battle between division foes in chilly Cleveland, Steelers-Browns pits against each other teams that have produced final scores of 24-10, 20-14, 13-9, and 14-3 in their last four meetings. The Steelers' defense isn't as good as it's been in past years, but the Browns' is much better. And Cleveland's offense is on its third quarterback of the season, who returns from a brutal performance in Week 11’s loss to Cincinnati. The 40-point over-under is second lowest of Week 12 and still seems generous. I wouldn't actively look for fantasy lineup filler in this game. ... Ben Roethlisberger will lock horns Sunday with Cleveland's top-five pass defense, a unit limiting enemy quarterbacks to a sub-60% completion rate and the second lowest yards-per-pass-attempt average (5.47) in football. The Browns are tied for eighth in sacks and have defensive front-seven personnel to terrorize Pittsburgh's below-average line. Big Ben is fine to start in two-quarterback leagues. Avoid streaming him. ... Le'Veon Bell is an every-week RB2 because he's handled 18-plus touches in each of his seven rookie-year appearances, but that reliable volume might not get him especially far against Cleveland's top-eight run defense. The Browns are holding opponents to 3.55 yards per carry, the third stingiest clip in the league. Le'Veon owners need to hope for a goal-line plunge or two, because the Browns probably aren't going to let him get loose for any big plays.
Roethlisberger's target distribution since Bell joined the lineup seven games ago: Antonio Brown 76; Emmanuel Sanders 46; Heath Miller 45; Le'Veon 34; Jerricho Cotchery 29; Markus Wheaton 11; Felix Jones 9. ... Brown is sixth in the NFL in targets (106), first in catches (74), and fifth in receiving yards (952). I'd resist worrying about Joe Haden and start Brown as a WR2. OC Todd Haley does a good job of getting Brown favorable coverage with pre-snap motion and formation diversity. ... Expected to play through a Week 11 foot scare, Sanders has the best matchup in Pittsburgh's pass-catching corps. He'll do battle with CBs Chris Owens and Buster Skrine while Haden tries to keep up with Brown. Sanders is worth a look as a cheap FanDuel play and WR3 in 14- and 16-team leagues. ... The Browns are 20th in receptions allowed to tight ends and 22nd in yards. Although Miller's Week 11 box score (8-67) appears promising, he averaged 21.3 yards over his previous four games and got an in-game target boost from Sanders' first-half foot injury. Lacking playmaking ability following last January's triple-knee ligament tear, Miller is averaging 10.3 yards per catch with one touchdown in eight games. ... Cotchery hit pay dirt for the third game in a row last Sunday versus Detroit. Start Cotchery if you think his scoring production is sustainable. I don't. ... Although it was due primarily to Sanders' injury, Wheaton played a year-high 49 snaps against the Lions, catching 3-of-5 targets for 38 yards. Don't be surprised if he has a blowup game before the season is up. Wheaton is Pittsburgh's version of Marquise Goodwin.
Week 11's Jason Campbell is precisely what I expected when the Browns sat Brandon Weeden and turned to their third quarterback of the season a month ago. Campbell kept the chains moving and got the ball out quickly in his first two starts. He reverted to true form against the Bengals, checking down relentlessly, completing under 50% of his throws, and taking four sacks in a 41-20 blowout defeat. Beyond a 74-yard bomb to Josh Gordon where he had all day to throw, Campbell's long completion was a 12-yard "strike" to backup TE Gary Barnidge. This is the real Campbell. He's just a two-QB-league option against Pittsburgh's No. 8 pass defense. ... Campbell's target distribution on the year: Gordon 32; Chris Ogbonnaya 22; Davone Bess 20; Greg Little 19; Jordan Cameron 17; Fozzy Whittaker 11; Willis McGahee 4. ... Inconsistency remains inevitable for Gordon as a deep-ball specialist with quarterback woes, but your best bet is always to start him because he's capable of winning fantasy weeks. With Steelers top cornerback Ike Taylor getting torched on a weekly basis, Gordon is a recommended WR2. ... Bess dropped another pass against the Bengals and now has a league-high ten drops on the season, per Pro Football Focus' charts. And he hasn't hit 30 yards in a game since Week 3. The Browns need to stop playing him.
Friday Update: Steelers top pass rusher LaMarr Woodley (calf) missed Friday's practice and is expected to be inactive for Week 12. Woodley's absence provides Cleveland's deep passing game with a matchup boost, as Campbell should have a cleaner pocket on Sunday. It's good news for Gordon's fantasy outlook.
Little followed up his pre-bye 122-yard fluke with a one-catch, six-yard clunker at Cincinnati. He saw six targets. Little is not a starting-caliber NFL receiver. ... Cameron's stat lines in Campbell's three starts: 4-81, 1-4, 6-29. Far removed from the bountiful Brian Hoyer era, Cameron is a low-end, dice-rollish TE1 against a Steelers defense that ranks 23rd in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. ... OC Norv Turner pledged during the Browns' Week 10 bye to increase Ogbonnaya's ball-handling role. Turner made good on the promise as Ogbonnaya led Cleveland in carries (8) and caught six passes from checkdown machine Campbell. Although Ogbonnaya is a timeshare back in a suspect offense, he has some low-ceiling flex appeal in PPR leagues. Pittsburgh ranks 26th in run defense and has allowed 13 rushing scores, fourth most in the NFL. ... With a declining role and evaporating ability, McGahee was droppable in 12-team fantasy leagues a few weeks back.
Score Prediction: Steelers 20, Browns 17
Jacksonville @ Houston
The Texans will turn back to Case Keenum after coach Gary Kubiak inexplicably benched him for Matt Schaub in last Sunday's humbling home loss to the Raiders. Although Keenum has struggled mightily with opposing blitz packages in each of his four starts, he remains Houston's best under-center option. Kubiak's odd affinity for Schaub could keep him on a short leash, but this matchup sets Keenum up for a bounce-back game. Jacksonville's No. 24 pass defense allows a 20:4 TD-to-INT ratio and AFC-high 105.4 passer rating to enemy signal callers. The Jaguars are last in the AFC in sacks (15). Keenum remains a locked-in two-quarterback-league starter. He's a gambling man's QB1 streamer. ... Ben Tate still has the premier fantasy matchup on Houston's side of the ball. Finally running with confidence again following a midseason rib injury, Tate has peeled off 112 yards on his last 22 carries (5.09 YPC) and set season highs in catches and receiving yards in Week 11. Jacksonville's last-ranked run defense has allowed league highs in rushing scores (15) and 20-plus-yard runs (12). ... Keenum's 2013 target distribution: Andre Johnson 39; Garrett Graham 27; DeAndre Hopkins 21; DeVier Posey 15; Tate 11; Lestar Jean 3; Dennis Johnson 1.
Andre's stat lines in Keenum's starts: 4-89, 9-229-3, 5-37-2, 10-116. That is elite WR1 production. Look for the squeaky wheel to get the grease after Johnson's sideline and post-game fits following the loss to Oakland. ... Hopkins was benched for Posey against the Raiders for what Kubiak later called "a lot of mistakes." It's possible those two will play in a rotation going forward. The Texans' offense has been unable to support more than two fantasy-viable pass catchers throughout the season. ... After five consecutive weeks of disappointing post-Owen Daniels production, Graham finally came to life last week, recording a season-high seven receptions for a career-high 136 yards. Getting the ball to Graham on seam routes was clearly a huge part of Houston's game plan. The Jaguars have allowed the second most fantasy points to tight ends, so in this instance chasing last week's points isn't discouraged. ... Dennis Johnson was a hot sleeper add after Tate ran poorly playing through cracked ribs against the Colts in Week 9. Tate has since seemingly moved beyond the injury, while Johnson's touch total has dropped in consecutive games. Johnson is just a lottery-ticket fantasy stash/handcuff at this point. He's barely worth owning in 12-team leagues.
Although Maurice Jones-Drew's running ability clearly isn't what it was two seasons ago, volume and goal-line carries have kept him in the every-week RB2/flex scoring range with 100-plus total yards and/or a touchdown in four of his last five games. MJD's increased pass-game involvement has been a major boon to his PPR value, with at least four receptions in three straight weeks. Jones-Drew has the best Week 12 fantasy matchup among Jacksonville skill-position players against a Texans defense that ranks 23rd versus the run and silver plattered a 22-150-1 rushing line to Rashad Jennings in Week 11. Fire up Jones-Drew as a low-ceiling but high-floor fantasy play. ... Chad Henne's passing game gets a tougher draw. The Texans rank No. 1 in the league versus the pass and lead the NFL in blitz percentage, where DC Wade Phillips is sending five-plus pass rushers on 50% of opposing pass plays, per PFF's Mike Clay. For the second straight week, coach Gus Bradley had to publicly re-anoint Henne the Jaguars' starting quarterback. Playing poorly, Henne is going to be at risk of an in-game benching sooner rather than later. Over his last two games, Henne has compiled a 1:4 TD-to-INT ratio with five sacks taken. Despite ranking 19th in the NFL in pass attempts, Henne is tied with Vikings backup Matt Cassel for 39th in passing touchdowns (4). Henne isn't even in the two-quarterback-league discussion this week.
Henne's target distribution since Justin Blackmon's year-ending suspension: Marcedes Lewis 13; Ace Sanders 11; Cecil Shorts 9; MJD 8; Mike Brown 7; Jordan Todman 2. ... Targeted just four and five times, respectively, in two games since Jacksonville's Week 9 bye, Shorts complained publicly following last week's loss to Arizona. With Henne at quarterback and Texans top CB Johnathan Joseph in coverage, getting the ball to Shorts could be easier said than done this week. Shorts is just a WR3 option. ... A total dud since Blackmon's ban, Brown is in danger of missing Week 12 with a shoulder injury. He would be replaced by some combination of Kerry Taylor and Sanders. Facing the league's top-rated pass defense, this is a fantasy situation to avoid. ... The Jaguars have clearly tried to make Lewis a bigger part of their passing attack since the Week 9 open date. Lewis has rewarded them with six catches for 62 scoreless yards and a dropped pass. Houston's defense is allowing the fewest receptions in the league to tight ends, and the ninth fewest yards. Lewis is just barely on the fantasy TE2 radar.
Score Prediction: Texans 21, Jaguars 13
NY Jets @ Baltimore
This game projects as a smash-mouth, low-scoring slugfest between top-13 defenses who each field bottom-dozen offenses. The Jets benched their rookie quarterback last week. The Ravens' rushing offense briefly came alive against Chicago's walkover front seven, but is a virtual lock to re-hit the skids against New York's league-best run defense. With a 39-point over-under -- lowest of Week 12 -- this is a game to avoid where possible in fantasy lineup decisions. ... The lone Jets skill player worth fantasy consideration is lead back Chris Ivory, who's amassed 394 yards on his last 80 runs (4.93 YPC), and is averaging 18.5 touches over his last four games. Ivory will struggle for similar production against Baltimore's No. 11 run defense on the road, but this is a game that should stay competitive throughout, allowing Jets OC Marty Mornhinweg to lean on his two-down banger. Ivory has the appearance of a low-ceiling Week 12 flex option. ... Change-of-pace and third-down back Bilal Powell's playing time won't spike unless the Ravens grab a big scoreboard lead and force the Jets into pass-happy comeback mode. The odds are against that scenario. Averaging just eight touches over his last four games, Powell is unworthy of flex consideration.
Geno Smith flopped in New York's Week 11 blowout loss to Buffalo, committing four turnovers en route to a fourth-quarter benching. While Geno has flashed franchise quarterback potential in clean pockets this season, his mechanics and decision making go to pieces under duress. The Ravens are tied for third in sacks, so expect another long day for Gang Green's passing attack. ... Geno's Week 11 target distribution with Santonio Holmes back from injury: Santonio 8; Stephen Hill 7; Jeff Cumberland and Tommy Bohanon 2; Greg Salas, David Nelson, Kellen Winslow, Ivory, and Powell 1. ... A frustratingly inconsistent player, Hill somehow managed to secure zero of his seven targets at Buffalo. Catch-less in two straight games, Hill is expected to be benched this week for Nelson. Hill has been far too ineffective and inefficient to be carried on 12- and 14-team fantasy league rosters. ... Holmes played just over 50% of the Jets' Week 11 snaps, but did flash his big-play ability on gains of 38 and 33 yards. Still not over the hump with his hamstring injury, Holmes is a boom-or-bust WR3 crapshoot. ... With Jeremy Kerley (elbow) on the shelf, the Jets used Salas in the slot against the Bills. New York's wideout corps has devolved into a four-way committee. With a struggling rookie quarterbacking the offense, it's become an obvious fantasy situation to avoid. ... Winslow played eight snaps in his Week 11 return from a PEDs suspension. Cumberland played 50, but blocked on 29, per Pro Football Focus. Baltimore has allowed the third fewest receptions in the league to tight ends.
It would be a resounding upset if Baltimore's Week 11 rushing-attack resurgence panned out as anything other than a one-game, matchup-based fluke. The Bears' defense has been trampled by opposing tailbacks, while the opposite can be said for the Jets. Tops in the league versus the run, New York is permitting NFL lows in rushing yards per game (73.2) and yards-per-carry average (2.94). The Jets suffocated C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson for 40 combined yards on 25 attempts in Week 11. My advice to Ray Rice owners would be to sell high ahead of Sunday's game. Last week will very likely go down as his best box score of the season. ... Bernard Pierce handled ten carries against Chicago, but mustered 18 yards and remains Rice's change-of-pace complement until further notice. ... Although the Jets' pass defense is quite vulnerable -- E.J. Manuel picked apart Dee Milliner and Antonio Cromartie despite missing both of his starting receivers last week -- Joe Flacco's 2013 performance inspires little confidence that he can be more than a two-QB-league option. Missing Dennis Pitta dearly, Flacco has consistently flopped in plus matchups this season and is on pace for career worsts in YPA (6.55), passer rating (75.3), and TD-to-INT ratio (21:21). In two career games against Rex Ryan defenses, Flacco has completed 30-of-69 throws (43.5%) for 411 yards (5.96 YPA), no touchdowns, two interceptions, and two fumbles lost.
Flacco's target distribution over his last five games: Torrey Smith 40; Rice and Jacoby Jones 24; Marlon Brown 23; Tandon Doss 18; Dallas Clark 17; Ed Dickson 12; Deonte Thompson 7; Pierce 6. ... Cromartie has played so poorly this season that starting fantasy wideouts against him is now recommended. "Cro" got torched on a 43-yard touchdown bomb to raw rookie Marquise Goodwin in Week 11 and has legitimately regressed into one of the Jets' worst players one year after being their best. Already on a two-game touchdown binge, fire up Smith. ... Slot receiver Brown is due back from the knee injury that cost him Week 11. Although Brown is an intriguing long-term talent and Dynasty hold, he isn't a trustworthy re-draft option amid injury and playing-time concerns. Brown is only worth a roster spot in 16- and 20-team leagues. His return to the lineup will send Thompson and Doss back to the bench. ... Situational deep threat Jones belongs on special teams only. He hasn't reached 50 receiving yards in a game all year. ... The Jets have allowed the seventh most fantasy points to tight ends, but Baltimore lacks a fantasy-viable player at the position. Clark has cleared 50 yards in 2-of-10 appearances and is obviously on his last legs at age 34. Though athletically gifted, drop-machine Dickson remains a massive underachiever.
Score Prediction: Ravens 17, Jets 14
Carolina @ Miami
The hottest team in football travels to Miami Sunday for a favorable-weather matchup with the Dolphins' No. 19 pass defense, one week after Cam Newton shredded New England's top-12 unit for three scores and 271 all-purpose yards. During Carolina's six-game win streak, Cam is 116-of-172 passing (67.4%) for 1,294 yards (7.52 YPA) and a 10:3 TD-to-INT ratio with three more rushing scores. Keep riding him as an elite QB1. ... Newton's target distribution during the six-game streak: Steve Smith 47; Brandon LaFell 38; Greg Olsen 28; Ted Ginn 21; DeAngelo Williams 16; Mike Tolbert 14; Jonathan Stewart 3. ... Similar to Seattle, Carolina does not support a big-time fantasy receiver because its dual-threat quarterback generally throws to the open man rather than force feeding a certain player. The Panthers are a run-based, defensive-dominant team that ranks 30th in the league in pass attempts. (The Seahawks are 31st.) So Smith is a fantasy WR3 even though he is the clear-cut top option in the passing game. Beginning to move usually stationary LCB Brent Grimes around the formation more to man up with opposing No. 1 wideouts, the Dolphins have contained Vincent Jackson (3-28) and Keenan Allen (3-45) over their last two games. Allen's slow Week 11 production is skewed slightly by an in-game knee injury, but he played into the fourth quarter and was simply not a big factor with 45 yards on six targets.
Olsen has the best matchup of Carolina pass catchers, taking on a Dolphins defense allowing the fourth most fantasy points to tight ends. Overcoming a midseason foot injury, Olsen looked as spry and fluid as he has all season in last week's win over the Patriots. He's back in the mid-range to low-end TE1 mix. ... On pace for 61 receptions and 735 yards, LaFell is a fantasy WR5 despite last week's red-zone touchdown. LaFell has reached 60 yards in 2-of-10 games. ... If there was any clarity in Carolina's backfield, this would be a matchup to exploit. Miami's floundering run defense has been gutted by Patriots, Bucs, Bengals, and Chargers tailbacks for 589 yards and five TDs on 120 carries (4.91 YPC) the past four weeks. Unfortunately, the Panthers have a three-headed timeshare that is always in danger of losing open-field and goal-line production to its mobile quarterback. Since Stewart returned from PUP three games ago, here are the snap counts of each Carolina back: Tolbert 111; Williams 72; Stewart 54. Here are their touch totals: Williams 32; Stewart 29; Tolbert 19. "Touch leader" Williams is averaging 10.7 touches a game. No thanks.
Whereas Carolina's offense has favorable Week 12 matchups across the board, Miami is at the opposite end of the spectrum. First in the NFL in points allowed and third in yards, the Panthers' ferocious front seven poses a mismatch for the Dolphins' talent-deficient and now depleted offensive line. There isn't a Miami skill player I'd feel comfortable starting this week. Carolina will control the line of scrimmage. ... Since losing two O-Line starters to the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito fiasco two games ago, Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller have combined for 74 yards on 25 runs (2.96 YPC). Thomas (10) handled more carries than Miller (4) for just the second time all season in last Sunday's win over San Diego. Throw in the additional absence C Mike Pouncey (food poisoning) and you have a true disaster scenario. Now facing the Panthers' top-three run defense, Miami's pathetic ground game is an obvious fantasy situation to avoid. ... Ryan Tannehill is quietly 13th in fantasy quarterback scoring on the season, but he's just a two-QB-league option against the Panthers' top-five pass defense. Carolina has held enemy passers to a combined 8:14 TD-to-INT ratio on the year and is tied for ninth in the NFL in sacks. The Dolphins' expansion-level pass protection has allowed Tannehill to absorb a league-high 41 sacks in 2013.
Tannehill's target distribution since Brandon Gibson tore his patellar tendon: Rishard Matthews and Brian Hartline 30; Mike Wallace 29; Charles Clay 23; Miller 11; Michael Egnew 5; Thomas 4. ... Simply not playing well, Tannehill missed an open Wallace on several throws against the Chargers. Tannehill's deep accuracy has taken a nosedive in '13, and the up-front collapse isn't helping. Lean away from Wallace in WR3 decisions. ... Matthews has turned in stat lines of 2-24, 11-120-2, and 4-52 in three games since replacing Gibson as Miami's slot receiver. Matthews will see Captain Munnerlyn in coverage this week. The Panthers' most consistent corner, Munnerlyn helped hold Danny Amendola to 45 scoreless yards on seven targets in Week 11. ... If I was going to take an ill-advised shot on a Dolphins wideout, I'd take it on Hartline, who led Miami in Week 11 targets (13) and projects to run most of his routes against Panthers undrafted rookie RCB Melvin White. ... An increasingly difficult player to predict, Clay averaged 21.8 receiving yards over his previous four games before resurfacing for a 6-90-1 number against San Diego. While chasing last-week points is never recommended in this space, there is some reason to believe Clay could be a big part of Miami's Week 12 game plan in a quick-hitting attempt to minimize Carolina's pass rush. Of course, that may be asking too much of the Dolphins' oft-overmatched coaching staff.
Score Prediction: Panthers 23, Dolphins 17
Chicago @ St. Louis
The Rams return from their Week 11 bye with a predictable if largely effective to-date offensive approach: Smack their opponent in the mouth with the run. Since taking over as St. Louis' feature back six games ago, Zac Stacy has 533 yards and three touchdowns on 128 carries. He's caught 15 passes. Over a full 16-game schedule, Stacy's stats would extrapolate to 382 touches, 1,691 yards, and 11 all-purpose scores. For perspective, Doug Martin finished his 2012 rookie year with 368 touches, 1,926 yards, and 12 TDs. Stacy is an RB1 against Chicago's pathetic run defense. Since Week 6, Alfred Morris/Roy Helu, washed-up Brandon Jacobs, Eddie Lacy/James Starks, Reggie Bush, and dead-legged Ray Rice have combined to paste the depleted Bears for 668 yards and eight TDs on 119 runs (5.61 YPC). Adding injury to insult, Chicago is now without run-clogging NT Stephen Paea (toe). ... Kellen Clemens' target distribution on the year: Chris Givens 18; Jared Cook 16; Stacy 13; Lance Kendricks 9; Austin Pettis and Tavon Austin 8; Brian Quick 5; Daryl Richardson 2. ... Despite Givens and Cook's reasonably high target counts, neither has cleared 60 receiving yards since Week 2. Givens and Cook do both possess big-play potential, but week in and week out the odds are against them realizing it with Clemens at the controls.
Before the bye, Austin broke out for 138 receiving yards and three all-purpose touchdowns in a Week 10, 38-8 rout of Indianapolis. Austin's receiving scores came on just three targets, while the third came via a 98-yard punt return. OC Brian Schottenheimer had the off week to dissect his previously ineffective usage of "Tavon Awesome," who is easily St. Louis' most explosive skill-position player. Austin has a chance to make stretch-run noise if the Rams commit to him as a major offensive piece. If St. Louis keeps using Tavon as it did before the open date, he'll go back to being essentially worthless in fantasy leagues. He's a boom-or-bust WR3 against the Bears, though ultimately I'd lean toward starting him. ... Red-zone specialist Pettis played a season-low 15 snaps against the Colts, appearing to be weeded out in favor of Quick (23 snaps), Austin (15), and Stedman Bailey (7), the former of whom got the Week 10 start. There's no telling how Schotty will distribute playing time following the rest week, but this is an obvious fantasy situation to avoid in Week 12. Keep an eye on talented Quick and rookie Bailey if you're in a Dynasty league.
Through four appearances in relief of Jay Cutler, Josh McCown has completed 61-of-101 passes (60.4%) for 754 yards (7.47 YPA), and a 5:0 TD-to-INT ratio. Getting rid of the football quickly in Quarterback Whisperer Marc Trestman's timing-based passing offense, McCown is playing in a manner that can minimize St. Louis' defensive strengths. The Rams bring edge heat via LE Chris Long (6.5 sacks) and RE Robert Quinn (12.0), but are vulnerable in second- and third-level pass coverage when the rush isn't getting home. St. Louis allows the NFL's seventh highest completion rate (65.7) and eighth highest passer rating (93.0) to enemy quarterbacks. View McCown as a top-end QB2 with some QB1 streamer appeal indoors at the Edward Jones Dome. ... The Rams are still weakest versus the run. DC Tim Walton's unit ranks 18th in run defense and has coughed up 11 rushing touchdowns through ten games. Only the Jags, Bills, and Saints have surrendered more 20-plus-yard runs than St. Louis. After blistering Baltimore's top-11 run defense for 125 total yards and a score last week, Matt Forte is a cinch top-five fantasy running back play in Week 12.
McCown's target distribution: Brandon Marshall 32; Alshon Jeffery 28; Forte 17; Martellus Bennett 13; Earl Bennett 6; Marquess Wilson 2; Michael Bush 1. ... Marshall remains a WR1 despite the theoretical quarterback downgrade. Noteworthy wideout stat lines given up by St. Louis' leaky secondary this season: Golden Tate 5-93-2; Justin Blackmon 5-136-1; Cecil Shorts 5-74-1; Larry Fitzgerald 8-80-2; Anquan Boldin 5-90-1; Dez Bryant 4-38-1; Julio Jones 11-182-1; Steve Smith 5-69-1; Andre Johnson 7-88; T.Y. Hilton 7-130. ... Jeffery has maintained WR2 value in the absence of Cutler. McCown peppered Jeffery with a team-high 11 targets in last Sunday's overtime win over Baltimore, and Jeffery secured seven for 83 yards. Start Jeffery every week. ... Martellus is a dicier Week 12 fantasy bet. His stats in the three games this year where McCown has attempted at least 20 throws: 2-48, 4-36, and 1-7-1. St. Louis is 29th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends.
Score Prediction: Bears 24, Rams 20
Tampa Bay @ Detroit
The Bucs opened Week 11 against the Falcons seeking to establish a "hot hand" by giving Bobby Rainey and Brian Leonard six early-game touches apiece. When Rainey clearly demonstrated superior first-quarter effectiveness, Tampa tabbed him as its feature back. Rainey went on to total 167 yards and three touchdowns on 32 touches, while Leonard finished with 37 yards on eight ball-handling chances. I was impressed by the Bucs' run game as a unit. Tampa's offensive line consistently sprung Rainey onto the second level, where he flashed tackle-breaking ability and quick feet to add yardage to runs. He reminded me of Ahmad Bradshaw. I'd be excited to fire up Rainey as a low-end RB2/flex with upside for more in Week 12. Detroit is quietly playing top-five run defense, but Rainey is a good bet for 20-plus touches behind increasingly superb run blocking. Don't forget: This same Bucs front five paved the way for Mike James to torch the Seahawks -- in Seattle -- for 158 yards on 28 carries (5.64 YPC) in Week 9. ... Expect Leonard to serve more as a fullback and third-down pass protector against a talented if underachieving Lions pass rush. In fantasy football, Leonard can be treated as no more than a low-ceiling handcuff.
Mike Glennon has completed 130 of his last 203 attempts (64.0%) for 1,342 yards and a 10:2 TD-to-INT ratio. Although he is generally utilized as a game manager, Glennon is playing efficiently enough to be squarely on two-quarterback-league radars in this date with Detroit's bottom-three pass defense. Despite limited mobility, Glennon has yet to take more than three sacks in any of his seven starts. ... Glennon's target distribution on the year: Vincent Jackson 84; Tim Wright 31; Leonard 25; Tiquan Underwood 19; Chris Owusu 7; Tom Crabtree 6; Rainey 3. ... Enemy No. 1 receiver stats versus the Lions over their last five games: Antonio Brown 7-147-2; Dez Bryant 3-72-2; Brandon Marshall 7-139-2; A.J. Green 6-155-1; Josh Gordon 7-126. V-Jax has a mouth-watering matchup. ... Underwood has made three starts since Mike Williams landed on I.R., registering box-score lines of 2-29-1, 3-64, and 1-20. He's waiver fodder in standard leagues. ... The Lions have permitted the seventh fewest fantasy points to tight ends, giving fading Wright an unfavorable Week 12 matchup. Wright has seen just three targets over the past two weeks, and his snaps are inexplicably down as well. Perhaps the Bucs are dialing back their usage of Wright due to increased reliance on fullbacks and blocking-oriented two-tight end "jumbo" formations.
Last week's league-wide weather scare is a reminder that starting fantasy players indoors should always be viewed as a positive during the winter months. This game will be played at domed Ford Field, where Detroit's top-four passing offense meets Tampa Bay's 18th-ranked pass defense. The Bucs will be without FS Dashon Goldson due to a one-game suspension for illegal hits. ... Matthew Stafford has a 13:5 TD-to-INT ratio over his last five games, adding a 14th score on a scramble. Dating back to Week 6, the Bucs have been picked apart by Nick Foles, receiver-depleted Matt Ryan (twice), Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, and Ryan Tannehill for a combined 130-of-193 passing (67.4%), 1,490 yards (7.72 YPA), and a 14:5 TD-to-INT ratio, with three more scores on quarterback runs. This is a plus matchup for Stafford in an ideal environment. He's a top-five QB1. ... Reggie Bush's fantasy owners are understandably frustrated after his Week 11 in-game benching for a lost fumble, but need to shake off the clunker and start him versus Tampa Bay. Bush continues to play at an extremely high level -- he's gained 228 yards on his last 47 carries (4.85 YPC) -- and the Lions need their run-game centerpiece to have any chance of staying atop the NFC North. Bush's importance is bolstered by Joique Bell's foot injury. Although the Bucs are playing top-nine run defense this season, Bush remains a locked-and-loaded RB1.
Stafford's target distribution over his last five games: Calvin Johnson 68, Kris Durham 37, Bush 31, Brandon Pettigrew 27, Joique Bell 12, Joseph Fauria 11, Jeremy Ross 9. ... The Bucs have been stifling opposing No. 1 wideouts since deciding to use Darrelle Revis in more press-man coverage three weeks ago. They've held Golden Tate (3-29), Mike Wallace (4-15), and Roddy White (3-36-1) in check. Johnson is a different animal, of course, and there are ways for Lions playcaller Scott Linehan to scheme him away from Revis, using "man-beating" stack and bunch concepts, and putting Megatron in pre-snap motion. Calvin can never be benched. ... Assuming Nate Burleson (arm) returns this week -- he's expected to -- he will throw a wrench into the fantasy stock of Durham. Burleson plays the slot in three-wide sets, where the Bucs are having a world of trouble in coverage. Opposing slot receiver stats versus Tampa the past three weeks: Doug Baldwin 6-75-1; Rishard Matthews 11-120-2; Harry Douglas 6-134-1. Douglas also unloaded on the Bucs for 7-140-1 in Week 7. Make sure Burleson is active on Sunday morning, and consider him a plug-and-play PPR WR3 if so. ... The Buccaneers are 20th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, giving Pettigrew a below-average matchup. With just one touchdown and one game over 60 yards on his 2013 resume, Pettigrew is unworthy of a Week 12 streamer start.
Score Prediction: Lions 27, Bucs 17
4:05PM ET Games
Tennessee @ Oakland
27th in the NFL in pass attempts, the Titans approach most every game with a run-based mindset and will likely stay with that approach in Sunday's trip to the Black Hole. Chris Johnson has 298 yards and four touchdowns on his last 59 carries (5.05 YPC), and has peeled off some of his most aggressive, physical runs since 2010 over his last three games. Whereas Pro Football Focus credited Johnson with just two broken tackles in Weeks 2-7 combined, Johnson has busted six in Weeks 9-11. His yards after contact have spiked dramatically. Johnson can be as good as he wants to be. Oakland is playing top-six run defense, but Johnson is an every-week RB2 when he's running like he is now. ... Since the Titans' Week 8 bye, Shonn Greene is averaging 8.3 touches for 36 yards per game. The impact of Greene's return from an early-season knee injury has been to seemingly light a fire in previously-uninspired CJ?K. Lacking flex value, Greene is a mere handcuff in 12-team leagues. ... Streaming Ryan Fitzpatrick as a QB1 is never recommended, but his matchup is favorable enough for mid-range QB2 appeal and locked-in starter status in two-quarterback leagues. The Raiders' No. 25 pass defense has allowed enemy signal callers to compile a 19:7 TD-to-INT ratio and 98.1 passer rating, the seventh highest clip in the league.
Fitzpatrick's 2013 target distribution: Kendall Wright 39; Delanie Walker 28; Nate Washington 20; Johnson 16; Justin Hunter 12; Kenny Britt and Damian Williams 8. ... Wright's stat lines in Fitz's four games of extensive play: 7-78, 5-69; 6-74; 9-80. Wright has led Tennessee in targets in each of those games and is a legit WR2 in PPR. Because Wright hasn't been a touchdown scorer and averages a modest 11.2 yards per reception, he's a WR3 in standard leagues. ... Walker has been the Titans' No. 2 pass-game option with Fitzpatrick under center, stringing together back-to-back box scores of 4-62-1 and 10-91-1. Now facing a Raiders defense that Garrett Graham creamed for 136 yards and a touchdown last Sunday, Walker has vaulted squarely into the back-end TE1 mix. Particularly with fellow possession target Williams nursing a quad injury, I'd start Walker over Charles Clay, Tim Wright, Rob Housler, John Carlson, and Brandon Pettigrew this week. ... Washington has topped 62 yards in 2-of-10 games and scored a touchdown in 1-of-10. Even in plus matchups, he hasn't been productive enough for WR3 consideration. ... Keep an eye on Hunter down the stretch. As the Titans' season unravels, the coaching staff may look to get its promising second-rounder more action. Hunter has flashed explosive ability on limited snaps.
Undrafted rookie Matt McGloin deserves a lot of credit for going to Reliant Stadium last week and throwing three touchdown passes with just two sacks taken against Texans DC Wade Phillips' blitz-heavy defense. McGloin faces another aggressive defensive mind this week in Tennessee's Gregg Williams, whose unit ranks No. 7 versus the pass with a league-low seven passing scores allowed. Raiders No. 1 receiver Denarius Moore is nursing a shoulder injury, and Tennessee CBs Alterraun Verner and Jason McCourty are both in the midst of career-best seasons. McGloin is a low-end two-quarterback-league option in Week 12. ... Despite McGloin's Week 11 success, the Raiders remain a run-based team with Rashad Jennings emerging as their offensive centerpiece. Jennings has an attractive matchup against a Titans defense that ranks 20th versus the run and has permitted 15 rushing touchdowns, tied with Washington and Jacksonville for most in the NFL. Averaging 22.7 touches over his last three games, Jennings is a high-end RB2 option versus Tennessee. The Raiders' coaching staff has been so pleased with Jennings' every-down work that he will likely remain Oakland's starting tailback when Darren McFadden (hamstring) returns.
McGloin's target distribution through two NFL appearances (one start): Moore 9; Rod Streater 8; Jennings 7; Mychal Rivera 6; Marcel Reece and Jacoby Ford 5; Juron Criner and Andre Holmes 3; Nick Kasa 1. ... Moore is tentatively expected to miss Week 12, forcing May waiver claim Holmes into the starting lineup. Holmes goes 6-foot-4, 210 and ran a 4.45 forty at his 2011 Pro Day coming out of tiny Hillsdale. He's worth Hail Mary WR3 consideration in 14- and 16-team leagues. ... Streater projects as Oakland's target leader against the Titans' stout secondary. A possession receiver, Streater can be used as bye-week filler coming off of a 6-84-1 line against the Texans. ... Rivera had been incredibly quiet before McGloin rejuvenated him in Week 11, as the rookie tight end secured 5-of-6 targets for 54 yards and a touchdown. The Titans are allowing the eighth most fantasy points to tight ends. Rivera is a higher-than-normal TE2 this week. On the season, he's playing a respectable 61.7% of the Raiders' offensive snaps. ... Playcaller Greg Olson seems to have very little interest in forcing the football to fullback Reece. Reece's six touches against Houston were a single-game high since Week 5. He gained 23 scoreless yards.
Friday Update: Moore has been ruled out for Week 12, thrusting wild card Holmes into the starting lineup and elevating Streater into Oakland's top wideout role against Tennessee's stingy pass defense.
Score Prediction: Titans 21, Raiders 17
Indianapolis @ Arizona
2013 Trent Richardson reminds me of 2012 Ryan Mathews in that his running is bereft of instincts and confidence to the extent you could say T-Rich "runs dumb" on a discouragingly high number of carries. Richardson isn't trusted by his team in critical situations, often yanked in favor of Donald Brown in the red zone and on crucial passing plays. (Norv Turner would pull Mathews last year for Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle.) The talent is there, but Richardson's game isn't. He's a weak flex option versus Arizona's top-two run defense. ... In three games since Indy's Week 8 bye, T-Rich has averaged 38 snaps played and 10.3 touches for 47 scoreless yards. Brown has averaged 29 snaps, turning 9.3 touches per game into 67 yards with three TDs. Even if his fantasy value has temporarily surpassed Richardson's, Brown's scoring rate is not sustainable on the minimal workloads he's getting. He's another low-end flex option in this difficult road test. ... With his fantasy ceiling continuing to be held hostage by rookie OC Pep Hamilton's conservative playcalling, Andrew Luck enters Sunday's date with the Cardinals' No. 20 pass defense as no better than a low-end QB1. Since high-impact ILB Daryl Washington returned from suspension in Week 5, Arizona has held Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Case Keenum, and Colin Kaepernick to a combined 9:8 TD-to-INT ratio. This isn't a great matchup for Luck.
Luck's target distribution since Reggie Wayne's Week 7 ACL tear: T.Y. Hilton 30; Coby Fleener 25; Griff Whalen 17; Darrius Heyward-Bey 16; T-Rich 13; Brown and LaVon Brazill 8; Stanley Havili 6. ... DHB has six drops over his last six games and has failed to reach 60 receiving yards in any week this season. Benched for Brazill during the Week 11 win over Tennessee, he's safe to drop in 14-team leagues. ... Through three starts as Indy's No. 1 receiver, Hilton is averaging six receptions for 99 yards per game. His blinding quickness will be difficult for 6-foot-1, 219-pound Patrick Peterson to handle whenever they square off, just as it was for Richard Sherman (6'3/195) when Hilton dropped a 5-140-2 line on Seattle in Week 5. Lock in Hilton as an every-week WR2 with WR1 upside. ... Fleener turned in a career-best game against the Titans, making tough grabs in traffic and putting his body on the line, things Fleener had done all too infrequently up until that point. His eight catches and 107 yards were both single-game career highs. Fleener is a top-12 TE1 against a Cardinals defense allowing the most fantasy points in the league to tight ends. ... Brazill has done little in the box score, but his snaps have risen in each of his five games since returning from suspension. Although Heyward-Bey's benching isn't permanent, Brazill's talent is worth stashing in 14-teamers and Dynasty leagues. This week's release of Whalen frees up third receiver duties for Brazill, who has flashed explosive vertical route-running ability in limited doses.
This game has sneaky high-scoring potential in the desert as Cardinals coach Bruce Arians faces off with his former team. Arians has Carson Palmer functioning at a high level, completing 79 of his last 110 throws (71.8%) for 952 yards (8.65 YPA) and a 7:2 TD-to-INT ratio. Palmer has taken only seven sacks over the past three weeks. Although Indianapolis opened the season playing stingy pass defense, it has fallen back to the pack since. The Colts now rank 16th versus the pass and 19th in sacks. Enemy quarterbacks have a combined 90.2 passer rating against Indy, the 13th highest clip in football. So this isn't a great matchup for Palmer, but it is certainly unimposing. He's a high-end QB2 with some QB1 streamer appeal if you're desperate. ... Palmer's target distribution during the Cards' three-game win streak: Larry Fitzgerald 22; Michael Floyd 17; Rob Housler 15; Andre Roberts 14; Andre Ellington 8; Rashard Mendenhall and Jim Dray 4; Jake Ballard 2. ... 22nd in fantasy receiver scoring despite recurring early-year hamstring woes, Fitzgerald is a strong WR2 play against the Colts. Fitzgerald is playing roughly 50% of his 2013 snaps in the slot, where Kendall Wright bum-rushed Indianapolis for nine receptions and 80 yards two Thursday nights ago. ... Coming off career highs in catches (6) and yards (193), Floyd also has a plus matchup against struggling LCB Cassius Vaughn, a special teamer filling in for injured Greg Toler. Floyd is an upside WR3/flex play against Indy.
Although Housler is coming off of a six-catch game, his weekly playing time and passing-game role have been too hit or miss to trust as a TE1. Owners tight end-needy enough to start Housler, however, can point to Delanie Walker's 10-91-1 line against the Colts from Week 11 as reason to think he's a quality play. Housler has superior tools to Walker. ... Reduced back to the Cardinals' third receiver with Floyd recovered from a Week 10 shoulder scare, Roberts lacks fantasy value behind Dynasty leagues. He's an impending free agent. ... Ellington is an enticing Week 12 flex option despite last week's scoreless, 13 total-yard disappointment. Indianapolis' primary defensive weakness is against the run, where it ranks 28th and coughs up 4.41 yards per carry, the league's seventh highest mark. The Colts will be without edge-setting OLB Erik Walden (suspension) in this game. Walden is an impact run defender. ... Mendenhall has managed 212 yards on his last 88 rushing attempts (2.41 YPC) and will pay fantasy flex dividends if and only if he scores a goal-line touchdown. Mendenhall has accomplished that feat three times over his last seven games.
Score Prediction: Cardinals 27, Colts 24
4:25PM ET Game
Dallas @ NY Giants
With 52 touches in two games since returning from short-term I.R, Andre Brown is being utilized as a true workhorse in the Giants' backfield. While losing a goal-line score last week to Brandon Jacobs was disappointing, there are brighter days ahead as Brown takes on Dallas' No. 29 run defense in Week 12. Not only are the Cowboys coughing up 4.86 yards per carry -- the second highest average allowed in football -- they'll be minus All Pro-caliber ILB Sean Lee (hamstring) this week. View Brown as a high-end RB2. The Giants are going to ride him until the wheels fall off. ... Throw out Jacobs' fluky Week 6 game against the Bears and he's gained a pathetic 57 yards on 27 carries (2.11 YPC) in 2013. He isn't worth rostering in 12- or 14-team leagues. ... The Peyton Hillis era appears over as he was a healthy scratch last week. ... Eli Manning simply hasn't played well enough to be considered a "trustworthy" fantasy start, but he's worth a long look as a QB1 streamer in this possible shootout. The 45.5-point over-under is third highest among Sunday's games and still seems conservative. Both the Giants and Cowboys rank in the NFL's bottom ten in points allowed, and Dallas is dead last in total yards permitted. The Cowboys are also 32nd against the pass and have surrendered 20 passing touchdowns, the fourth most in football.
Eli's 2013 target distribution: Cruz 98; Hakeem Nicks 76; Rueben Randle 51; Brandon Myers 43; Peyton Hillis 13; Brown 8. ... After a midseason lull, Cruz is creeping back toward WR1 territory with double-digit targets in three consecutive games. He racked up eight catches for 110 yards in Week 11 against the Packers, and had Green Bay's defense beaten for a would-be 35-yard score only for Eli to underthrow him. Start Cruz every week. ... Nicks owners can try to hang their hat on his 114 yards against Dallas' defense in Week 1, but he's still just a boom-or-bust WR3. Not remotely the player he was in 2009-2011, a significantly-less explosive Nicks has cleared 60 yards in 4-of-10 games with a 44.5-yard average over his last four. He still hasn't scored a touchdown on the season. So perhaps he's due. ... Randle's fantasy outlook reminds me of James Jones' in Green Bay a few years back. He's essentially a touchdown-dependent WR3 who tends to produce when you don't expect it, and flounder when you do. Randle hasn't seen more than five targets in any game since Week 5, yet he's still scored four TDs during that stretch. Use him at your own risk. ... The Cowboys have allowed the fifth most fantasy points to tight ends, giving Myers an attractive matchup. Unfortunately, Myers has been a total dud with the Giants, averaging under 20 yards over his last eight games with no touchdowns. Myers would be an extremely desperate play.
The Cowboys spent their Week 11 bye designing ways to free up Dez Bryant from the constant brackets and double coverage he drew before the open date. "He's one of those players you want to make sure you give him chances," said coach Jason Garrett. "You'll see what happens," added Bryant this week. "We’ve been working on it." Practicing fully following a midseason back scare, Dez is a candidate to take off over the final five fantasy weeks. ... Since Perry Fewell took over as Giants defensive coordinator in 2010, Tony Romo has completed 149-of-215 passes (69.3%) for 1,656 yards (7.7 YPA) and a 13:7 TD-to-INT ratio against New York in their six meetings. They're mid-range QB1 numbers. ... With Miles Austin returning from a five-week hamstring injury, Dallas' receiver group beyond Bryant will be a fantasy crapshoot. Look for Austin, Terrance Williams, and slot man Cole Beasley to form a rotation in two-, three-, and four-wideout packages. Austin is not expected to be limited from a playing-time standpoint and would be the best fantasy bet against the G-Men. Now a shaky WR4, Williams will play the old Laurent Robinson role. Beasley will give Austin breathers inside and isn't worth a roster spot beyond 16- and 20-team PPR leagues.
The Giants struggle in second-level pass coverage, which just so happens to be where Jason Witten butters his bread. Witten lit up Fewell's unit for an 8-70-2 line in these clubs' Week 1 meeting. Fire up Witten as a top-eight fantasy tight end play. ... One method of discouraging bracket coverage of Bryant would be to make a true commitment to the running game, forcing defenses to use eight defenders in the box. DeMarco Murray dropped 95 total yards and a touchdown on the Saints just before the bye, and will now lock horns with a Giants defense he touched up for 125 total yards in the opener. View Murray as a quality RB2 play in Week 12. In five career meetings with New York's NFC team, Murray has averaged 5.38 YPC on 45 carries with 11 receptions. The G-Men are playing top-seven run defense in 2013, but Murray's all-purpose, every-down back role makes him an every-week fantasy starter whenever healthy.
Score Prediction: Cowboys 27, Giants 21
Sunday Night Football
Denver @ New England
Peyton Manning is catching New England's defense at the right time. Although the Patriots have generally defended the pass stoutly this season, they're now dealing with injuries to four critical back-end components in CBs Alfonzo Dennard (knee), Kyle Arrington (groin), and Aqib Talib (hip), in addition to SS Steve Gregory (thumb). Among Sunday and Monday's games, there isn't a better fantasy quarterback play than Peyton Manning in Week 12. In these teams' meeting last October, Peyton lit up the Pats for 337 yards, three touchdowns, and no picks on 31-of-44 passing (70.5%). ... Talib's coverage would be a bigger concern for Demaryius Thomas were New England’s top corner 100%. Instead, Talib suffered an aggravation of his multi-week hip injury in last Monday night's loss to Carolina, and will now attempt to play on a short week. The No. 2 overall fantasy receiver behind Calvin Johnson, Demaryius is on pace for career highs in catches (96), yards (1,463), and touchdowns (15). ... Knowshon Moreno has the most favorable Week 12 matchup among Denver skill players. Depleted up front due to NT Vince Wilfork, DT Tommy Kelly, and WLB Jerod Mayo's year-ending injuries, the Patriots rank 27th in run defense and surrender 4.28 yards per carry, the ninth most generous clip in football. Although Moreno's upside is capped a bit by Montee Ball's goal-line usage, he maintains high-end RB2 fantasy value with at least 18 touches in six straight games.
Eric Decker hasn't found pay dirt in three games, but is coming off a five-catch, 71-yard effort against Kansas City and could be the primary box-score beneficiary if Julius Thomas (knee) is inactive or limited in Foxboro. Keep trotting out Decker as a WR2. He's 18th in fantasy wideout points on the season, and is facing a beat-up secondary in a potentially high-scoring game. ... Banking on designated goal-line backs is typically a low-floor recipe for fantasy failure. Ball is only on the radar in 14- and 16-team leagues as a desperation flex. Although he's scored three times over the past three weeks, Ball will get little to no work between the twenty-yard lines unless the Broncos surprisingly blow out the host Patriots. ... Orange Julius entered Week 12 tied with Jimmy Graham for the NFL lead in touchdowns (10) among tight ends. He's a must-start if he plays. Thomas owners worried about his availability can roster Joel Dreessen as game-day insurance. ... Wes Welker is expected to play Sunday night despite suffering an apparently mild concussion against the Chiefs. He dropped eight catches on Kansas City, relentlessly working over Brandon Flowers in the slot. New England's slot defenders are Arrington, who is nursing the aforementioned groin injury, and rookie Logan Ryan. Not only is Welker a good bet for a heavy dose of Manning targets against his old team, the Patriots are not well positioned to contain him. He's a WR1 in Week 12.
Friday Update: While Welker (concussion) practiced fully Friday and is listed as probable for Sunday night's game, Thomas is questionable after back-to-back limited workouts. Thomas is going to be a game-time decision against the Pats.
Tom Brady's fantasy outlook is pointing up with his pass-catching corps finally at full strength, but this matchup is hardly a cakewalk despite Denver's No. 28 pass defense ranking, which is badly skewed by the fact that DC Jack Del Rio's unit faces so many pass attempts because his team is always ahead. Over their last three games, the Broncos have limited Redskins, Chargers, and Chiefs quarterbacks to a combined 60-of-113 passing (53.1%) for 628 yards (5.56 YPA) and a 4:4 TD-to-INT ratio with ten sacks. Shootout potential keeps Brady in the mid-range to low-end QB1 range, but the matchup is tougher than meets the eye. Von Miller is beginning to catch fire. ... Brady's target distribution since Rob Gronkowski returned four games ago: Gronk 39; Aaron Dobson 28; Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola 17; Shane Vereen 11; Kenbrell Thompkins 8; Stevan Ridley 6; Brandon Bolden 5. ... The Broncos are coughing up the third most receptions and second most yards in the league to tight ends. Gronkowski is the cinch No. 1 fantasy tight end play of Week 12. ... Edelman's last four box-score lines when Amendola has played extensively this season: 1-11, 2-7, 2-35, 3-27. Edelman isn't worth rostering in 12- or 14-team fantasy leagues. ... Dobson has a difficult Week 12 draw versus red-hot RCB Dominique-Rodgers-Cromartie, who at 6-foot-2, 193 matches up nicely with New England's 6-foot-3, 210-pound rookie wideout. Dobson remains on the WR3 radar, but I would avoid him in daily leagues this week.
I would rather play Amendola than Dobson against the Broncos, but New England's slot receiver doesn't have a great matchup, either. Amendola will lock horns with feisty Denver slot defender Chris Harris in what could be the battle of the night. I'd still start Amendola based partially on the notion that the Patriots will want him to light up Welker's Broncos for egotistical reasons. I think Amendola will push for double-digit targets. ... Vereen showed rust in his Week 11 return from short-term I.R., dropping two passes and missing out on several big-play opportunities, but he led New England in targets (11), catches (8), and total yards (72). Lock in Vereen as an RB2 in PPR and every-week flex in standard leagues for the foreseeable future. In these teams' 2012 meeting, the Patriots went heavy on speed-no-huddle packages in an effort to prevent the Broncos from substituting whenever Miller went to the sideline for a breather. Vereen is the Pats' designated no-huddle specialist. ... Ridley's fumble in last Monday night's loss to Carolina is undoubtedly a concern, but his performance otherwise isn't. Ridley has turned his last 95 runs into 441 yards (4.64 YPC) and seven touchdowns. In the 2012 game, Ridley tagged the Broncos for a 28-151-1 rushing line. Bill Belichick clearly realizes Ridley is a superior option to LeGarrette Blount, or else he wouldn't keep turning back to him. View Ridley as a somewhat risky, but high-ceiling RB2.
Score Prediction: Broncos 31, Patriots 27
Monday Night Football
San Francisco @ Washington
The Redskins' Jekyll & Hyde offense enters Monday's date with San Francisco's No. 7 defense in injured disarray. Starting Z receiver Leonard Hankerson (LCL/ACL surgery) is done for the season. Dynamic rookie TE Jordan Reed is questionable with a concussion. The 49ers have held dual-threat quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Cam Newton this season to a combined 24-of-51 passing (47.1%) for 311 yards (6.10 YPA), one touchdown, and two picks. Neither Wilson nor Newton topped 33 rushing yards in their earlier-year meetings with the Niners. Robert Griffin III is eighth in fantasy quarterback scoring, but I'd rank him among the QB2s in Week 12. ... Although Alfred Morris is more RB2 than RB1 this week, the Redskins are more likely to have offensive success on the ground than through the air against a 49ers defense that ranks top ten versus the pass and 12th against the run. San Francisco's run defense has been strong but not suffocating, giving up nine rushing scores through ten games and a 3.87 yards-per-carry average, the ninth stingiest clip in the league. Morris has notched at least 93 rushing yards and/or a TD in six consecutive games.
Griffin's target distribution since the Skins' Week 5 bye: Pierre Garcon 65; Reed 44; Hankerson 26; Santana Moss 22; Roy Helu 18; Logan Paulsen 11; Aldrick Robinson 8. ... No member of Washington's offense has a truly favorable Week 12 matchup, but Garcon comes closest with 49ers RCB Tarell Brown (cracked ribs) not expected to play. With at least five catches in every game this year, Garcon is an every-week WR1/2. ... The Redskins will turn to some combination of Morgan, Robinson, and Moss to replace Hankerson in the lineup. Morgan's strength is blocking. Robinson is a situational deep threat. Moss is a 34-year-old slot receiver who hasn't cleared 50 receiving yards since Week 3. I wouldn't want to start any of them in a fantasy league, but would go with Moss if forced to choose from the three. ... Assuming Reed gets medical clearance by Monday night, he'll take on a 49ers defense allowing the fourth fewest fantasy points to tight ends. I'd still start Reed as a mid-range TE1. We should have a good read on his status by Saturday.
Friday Update: Reed missed Friday's practice and is now shaping up as a long shot to play. Check Rotoworld's Player News page on Saturday for another update, but fantasy owners need to be looking toward Sunday's game for a TE1 replacement.
Whereas Washington's offense is in for difficult Week 12 matchups across the board, the 49ers should be licking their chops. The Redskins are allowing the fifth most yards and third most points per game in football. ... Frank Gore's seven-game streak of 100 total yards and/or a touchdown came to an end in last Sunday's loss to New Orleans, but Gore continues to run at a highly effective clip with 688 yards and six touchdowns on his last 145 carries (4.74 YPC). Coach Jim Harbaugh fouled up by getting Gore one solitary fourth-quarter touch against the Saints despite entering the final frame with a 17-14 lead. Look for Harbaugh to feed Gore against Washington's 19th-ranked run defense, a unit that is tied for an NFL high in rushing touchdowns allowed (15). Gore's RB1 shine didn't wear off in one slow week. ... Colin Kaepernick's passing and rushing yardage have been season-long disappointments, but he's still accounted for eight touchdowns compared to three turnovers over his last five games. Kap is tied with Tom Brady and Carson Palmer for 15th in fantasy quarterback scoring. Washington's No. 26 pass defense has a 19:10 TD-to-INT ratio against and is permitting the fifth highest passer rating (99.2) in football. Due in large part to his cake matchup, Kaepernick should be squarely on low-end QB1 radars this week. I’d definitely start him over RG3.
The Redskins are allowing the ninth most fantasy points to tight ends. Third at his position in touchdown catches (8) behind only Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas (10), Vernon Davis is a cinch top-five TE1 on Monday night. ... Anquan Boldin dropped 78 yards and two TDs on the Redskins last December. Although he's cleared 60 yards just once over his last six games, Boldin is worthy of a WR3 start in this favorable matchup. ... In two games since coming off PUP, Mario Manningham has turned in stat lines of 3-30 and 1-8, starting both contests but playing just 62% of San Francisco's offensive snaps. He's essentially rotating with Jon Baldwin on a run-heavy team with a scuffling passing attack. Manningham's playing time could be further affected when Michael Crabtree (Achilles') and Quinton Patton (fractured foot) return to the Niners' lineup.
Score Prediction: 49ers 24, Redskins 17