NFL Skinny: Week 12 preview

Most of us are short on time this week as we make preparations for the holidays, so let's dive right into the meat of this column – dark meat for me, please. Happy Thanksgiving wishes to all, and make sure you stretch out properly for the Black Friday rush. There's enough hamstring injuries going around, we don't need any more. Sweet Tryptophan dreams!

Alright, let's jump into the Week 12 matchups, Skinny-style (players in parentheses are chartreuse plays, stuck somewhere between a green and yellow light):

Total Week 12 green-light plays by position: 12 QBs; 27 RBs; 25 WRs; 18 TEs; 8 Defenses

Kevin Smith(notes) was like a hot knife through butter against the Panthers last week. Kudos to Smith for the feel-good comeback story, but absolutely the matchup should downplay the results a bit, as Andy Behrens wrote on Monday. The Packers allow 4.7 YPC to RBs, so Smith, in theory, will face another soft run defense in Week 12, but Green Bay nets out well against RBs in fantasy because the opposition is rarely afforded the luxury of running often against the Packers – Green Bay has defended against the third-fewest rush attempts in the league. Smith may be able to equal the 20 touches he saw last week if the Lions can keep things close (I think they will), but lower expectations to something in the neighborhood of 80-100 YFS and a TD – you can bet he won't catch the Packers unawares. By the numbers, you have to love the matchup for the Lions passing game. All the key subjects (Stafford, Johnson, Pettigrew) are slam-dunk starts, and secondary weapons like Tony Scheffler(notes) (TD in three straight), Titus Young(notes) (51 ypg, 2 TDs in past three) and Nate Burleson(notes) (combined 15 catches for 146 yards in past two) are defensible flyers. … James Starks(notes) sprained his knee on Sunday, likely making him a game-time decision in Week 12, especially in a short week. His absence would make Ryan Grant(notes) interesting (not easy to do, BTW) as the Lions have allowed 4.8 YPC to RBs. The Lions are strong against the pass, but bench any of the key elements of the most vaunted passing attack in the league at your own peril.
Aaron Rodgers(notes); Matthew Stafford(notes); Kevin Smith; Calvin Johnson(notes); Greg Jennings(notes); Jordy Nelson(notes); Brandon Pettigrew(notes); Jermichael Finley(notes)
(Ryan Grant); (Nate Burleson); Green Bay Defense
Detroit Defense
Titus Young; Tony Scheffler
Pack: RB James Starks (knee)
Lions: RB Jahvid Best(notes) (concussion); WR Calvin Johnson (ankle)
Headline: Lions break seven-game Turkey Day losing streak, hand Packers first loss
Final score: Lions 35, Packers 34
The Dolphins are riding a three-game winning streak, averaging 29 points in the process, thanks to strong play from Reggie Bush(notes) and Matt Moore(notes). But their competition has been light fare, beating up on KC, Washington and Buffalo. The Dolphins will have a hard time topping 20 points in Dallas against a Cowboys defense that gets after the QB and is among the 10 best in QB Rating allowed (79.0). I see Moore as only a borderline top 20 QB play this week. That said, I do think Moore will probably end up having to throw at least 30 times, a number he hasn't eclipsed in his past four games. And I'd bet on Brandon Marshall(notes) rebounding to at least a serviceable level after his 1/5 dud last week – Moore only threw 20 times in Week 11 and he and Marshall just missed on their two incompletions that would have resulted in a fine fantasy effort for Marshall. I don't love Reggie Bush this week, but he's getting goal line work, he's running with some toughness, he's versatile and he's the No. 7 fantasy RB over the past month. I get it if you decide you have to use him. … Miami has not allowed a RB more than 81 rushing yards since Week 2. It is the No. 2 fantasy run defense, elite in its ability to keep RBs out of the end zone (just 2 TDs allowed to RBs). Figure DeMarco Murray(notes) for something close to last week's production (73 rushing yards, 32 receiving yards, 0 TDs). The Dolphins' obvious weakness is against the pass. They haven't allowed a TD pass in the past three games, but their 88.4 QB Rating allowed is seventh-highest in the league, and Tony Romo(notes) is locked in right now – QB Rating over 112.0 in three straight games. I'd use Romo, Laurent Robinson(notes) (5 TDs in past four), Dez Bryant(notes) (TD in two straight) and Jason Witten(notes) (5 TDs in past seven) as usual.
Tony Romo; (DeMarco Murray); (Reggie Bush); Laurent Robinson; Dez Bryant; Jason Witten; Dallas Defense
Matt Moore; (Brandon Marshall); Anthony Fasano(notes)
Daniel Thomas(notes); Davone Bess(notes); Miami Defense
None of significance
Dolphins: PK Dan Carpenter(notes) (groin)
Cowboys: WR Miles Austin(notes) (hamstring); SS Gerald Sensabaugh(notes) (foot)
Headline: Romo's 3 TD passes too much for Dolphins
Final score: Cowboys 24, Dolphins 16
Frank Gore(notes), hampered by a sore knee and ankle, survived 24 carries last week without further damage, although his results were less than dynamic (24/88/0). Against a Baltimore defense that has allowed only one run of 20-plus yards (lowest in the league), Gore has little upside and fantasy owners will have to hope he can take a goal line tote or two in for a score (like Cedric Benson(notes) last week) or grind out production with heavy volume in the running and passing games (like Marshawn Lynch(notes) two weeks ago). I do think that the 49ers will once again look to lean heavily on the run, with Gore and Kendall Hunter(notes) combining for somewhere between 30-40 (mostly lackluster) carries – the usual conservative approach, avoiding turnovers and hoping the defense or special teams can contribute with big plays. Vernon Davis(notes) has TDs in two straight, but the Ravens have been extremely tough against TEs. Use him if you need him, but he's a low-end top 12 TE this week. The Ravens are more generous to WRs, but I just can't get excited for Michael Crabtree(notes) despite him topping the century mark last week in yards. In this offensive environment, he lives in that 4-12 point fantasy bubble, which means you can never feel really strong about him. … Expect the Ravens to counter the 49ers with the same type of approach to this game – conservative, run emphasis, strong defense, etc. So, despite a shutdown 49ers run defense, the Ravens will try to get Ray Rice(notes) going – he's a good bet for 6-8 receptions this week. I'm not enamored with anyone in the passing game, but Anquan Boldin(notes) and Torrey Smith(notes) have been a pretty steady combo over the past month-plus, and I think both have a chance to be decent – after all, WRs have scored the ninth-most fantasy points against the 49ers.
Ray Rice; (Frank Gore); (Anquan Boldin); (Torrey Smith); (Vernon Davis)
Joe Flacco(notes); Michael Crabtree; Ed Dickson(notes); Baltimore Defense; San Francisco Defense
Alex Smith; Kendall Hunter; Braylon Edwards(notes)
None of significance
Niners: FB Bruce Miller(notes) (head)
Ravens: WR Lee Evans(notes) (ankle); LB Ray Lewis(notes) (toe); LB Dannell Ellerbe(notes) (groin); S Tom Zbikowski(notes) (leg)
Headline: John beats Jim in Harbaugh war of attrition
Final score: Ravens 20, 49ers 16
Obviously, the loss of Adrian Peterson is a huge blow to the Vikings offense. Toby Gerhart(notes) takes over the featured backfield role, but he lacks the imagination and speed to pose a serious threat to an Atlanta defense that are just about as good as it gets in fantasy (or reality) against the run. Not surprisingly, head coach Leslie Frazier is talking about elevating Percy Harvin's(notes) role sans Peterson. Expect Harvin to handle a handful of carries, either as a straight running back or on end-arounds, in addition to the variety of ways in which Christian Ponder(notes) will try to get him the ball in the passing game. Harvin is the only Vikings player I feel really good about. … The Vikings have been a bad pass defense and that was even before losing CB Antoine Winfield(notes) for the season with a collar bone injury. The Vikings allow the second-highest QB Rating behind only Indianapolis. Matt Ryan(notes), Roddy White(notes) and Tony Gonzalez(notes) are fine looking plays, as is Julio Jones(notes) if he can make it back from his hamstring injury (that's still looking iffy). If he can't go, Harry Douglas(notes) would again be a reasonable option. The matchup isn't great for Michael Turner(notes), but he pushes 20 carries nearly every week and is a better bet to score than not even in the toughest of matchups. The Vikings have allowed a ton of production to RBs in the passing game, so consider rookie Jacquizz Rodgers(notes) a sleeper in very deep leagues.
Matt Ryan; Michael Turner; Roddy White; Percy Harvin; Tony Gonzalez
Christian Ponder; Toby Gerhart; (Harry Douglas); Visanthe Shiancoe(notes)
Michael Jenkins(notes); Minnesota Defense
Jacquizz Rodgers
Vikings: Adrian Peterson (ankle)
Falcons: Julio Jones (hamstring)
Headline: Ryan rolls as Falcons route Vikings
Final score: Falcons 31, Vikings 17
This is a matchup made in heaven for running backs as Carolina ranks as the most generous in fantasy to the position while the Colts allow the third-most fantasy points to RBs. The problem for owners of RBs for both teams is that it's not clear who will be given the best opportunity to take advantage of this week's situation. I think Jonathan Stewart(notes) is more bankable than DeAngelo Williams(notes), but both are viable despite the likelihood of splitting roughly 25 touches fairly evenly. For the Colts, Joseph Addai(notes) hopes to return fully from a hamstring injury that has limited him to emergency duty the past few weeks, but the Colts aren't offering any clues as to how substantial his role will be. Figure Donald Brown(notes) gets at least a dozen touches even if Addai returns as Brown has stepped up his game with Addai out. But this could very well be a less-potent, but equally socialistic situation as that of the Saints backfield, so resist the temptation to overrate any of the Colts backs because of the matchup. As for the passing games, it's all-systems-go for Carolina, as the Colts allow the highest QB Rating in the league (109.7). As for the Colts, I can't advocate any of the aerial components. The Indy WR unit has been the worst in fantasy over the past five weeks. Perhaps Jacob Tamme(notes) has some use, as he's coming off 6/75 outing and has been targeted a combined 15 times in his past two games. The Panthers have been generous to tight ends, but the Chris Gamble(notes)-led secondary has been much tougher on receivers.
Cam Newton(notes); (Jonathan Stewart); (DeAngelo Williams); (Donald Brown); Steve Smith
Joseph Addai; Delone Carter(notes); Pierre Garcon(notes); Legedu Naanee(notes); (Greg Olsen(notes)); (Jacob Tamme)
Indy QB; Reggie Wayne(notes)
Brandon LaFell(notes)
Panthers: DE Charles Johnson(notes) (shoulder); LB Dan Connor(notes) (shoulder)
Colts: RB Joseph Addai (hamstring); TE Dallas Clark(notes) (leg)
Headline: Newton puts on show as Panthers keep Colts in the lead for Luck
Final score: Panthers 30, Colts 19
The Titans have been generous to the RB and TE positions in fantasy. Those two positions stood out for the Bucs last week in a loss to the Packers as LeGarrette Blount(notes) ran 18 times for 107 yards and a TD and Kellen Winslow(notes) hauled in nine passes for 132 yards. Mike Williams also netted out well for the Bucs with a line of 7/83/1, but he'll likely see a lot of Cortland Finnegan(notes) this week, and he's a big reason why the Titans have allowed just the sixth-fewest fantasy points to WRs. In fact, Finnegan and Alterraun Verner(notes) both rank among the top 12 in pass coverage among CBs according to, so Williams will find things tough no matter who guards him. I'd stick to Blount and Winslow this week. … Matt Hasselbeck(notes) is expected to play after injuring his elbow last week and opening the door for a little QB controversy in Tennessee as backup Jake Locker(notes) came on to rally the Titans with two TD passes late against the Falcons. Given Hasselbeck's health, I'd expect the Titans to lean on Chris Johnson and Javon Ringer(notes) against a Bucs defense that allows 4.7 YPC and has given up 12 rushing plays of 20-plus yards (third-most). Nate Washington(notes) got most of his big production last week with Locker in the game, so I'm not thinking he's any better or worse a play than Damian Williams(notes), who has been more of Hasselbeck's guy in the past several weeks. But I have a hunch that Jared Cook(notes) outshines both of them this week.
Chris Johnson; LeGarrette Blount; Kellen Winslow; (Jared Cook)
Josh Freeman(notes); Matt Hasselbeck (health ?); (Nate Washington); (Damian Williams); Mike Williams; Tennessee Defense
Arrelious Benn(notes); Tampa Bay Defense
Javon Ringer; Jake Locker
Bucs: OT Jeremy Trueblood(notes) (ankle)
Titans: QB Matt Hasselbeck (elbow); OT David Stewart(notes) (calf); DE Derrick Morgan(notes) (leg); LB Barrett Ruud(notes) (groin)
Headline: Blount tops century mark for second straight game as Bucs pick up tough road win
Final score: Bucs 24, Titans 23
Matt Leinart(notes) makes his first start in place of the injured Matt Schaub(notes) this week. He has just 3 TD passes in his past 218 passing attempts, with 8 INTs in that span. Luckily, he won't be asked to throw the ball too often thanks to the Texans' backfield machine – Arian Foster(notes) and Ben Tate(notes) combined for 38 carries and 154 rushing yards in a 24-14 victory over the Jags in Week 8. Plan on a similar run-heavy approach, with Leinart limited to short, conservative throws, even with Andre Johnson(notes) back in the fold after sitting since Week 4 with a hamstring injury. Temper your enthusiasm for Johnson's return. I see his upside as 60-70 yards. … You know better than to fish for fantasy production from Jacksonville outside of Maurice Jones-Drew(notes) (18/63/1 in Week 8 vs. Houston). The Texans defense is elite this season, so don't try to get cute this week. It's again MoJo or no-go for the Jags.
Arian Foster; Maurice Jones-Drew; (Andre Johnson); (Owen Daniels(notes)); Houston Defense
Matt Leinart; (Ben Tate)
Blaine Gabbert(notes); Jacksonville Wide Receivers; Kevin Walter(notes); Jacoby Jones(notes); Marcedes Lewis(notes); Jacksonville Defense
None of significance
Texans: QB Matt Schaub (foot); WR Andre Johnson (hamstring); FS Danieal Manning(notes) (fibula)
Jaguars: DE Matt Roth(notes) (head); LB Clint Session(notes) (head)
Headline: Texans struggle for offensive rhythm under Leinart, but do enough to down Jags
Final score: Texans 20, Jaguars 13
Kevin Kolb(notes) is still working through his turf toe injury and is unlikely to play in Week 12, so John Skelton(notes), who was abysmal at San Francisco in Week 11, will get another start. He was 20-for-35 for 222 yards and a passing TD along with 38 rushing yards against the Rams in Week 9. That's probably not a bad place to start expectations for Skelton this week, though I'd be inclined to hedge the direction of less than that. Beanie Wells(notes) was 10/20 in that Week 9 contest, and he's amidst a three-week swoon in which he hasn't scored and has combined for just 113 yards on 41 carries. The Rams are a nice matchup, but that only makes Wells a cautionary play with some upside potential. Larry Fitzgerald(notes) continues to show that he's QB indifferent – he'll find a way to help fantasy owners even in the worst of scenarios. Early Doucet(notes) is also picking up on Fitzgerald's survival skills, and is a top 30 fantasy WR in PPR and non-PPR leagues for the season, and is borderline top 20 for the past five weeks. He went 6/78 against the Rams in Week 9. … Sam Bradford(notes) has a 1:5 TD-to-INT ratio in three career games against Arizona, and he was held out of the end zone in Week 9. Arizona has actually stepped things up in recent weeks against the pass and overall its 82.0 QB Rating allowed is tied with Pittsburgh for 13th-best in the league. Bradford's avoidable – stick with the obvious for the Rams in Steven Jackson (29/130 in Week 9) and Brandon Lloyd(notes) (5/80 in Week 9).
Steven Jackson; Larry Fitzgerald; Brandon Lloyd; (Early Doucet); Arizona Defense
Sam Bradford; John Skelton; (Beanie Wells); Brandon Gibson(notes); (St. Louis Defense)
St. Louis Tight Ends; Arizona Tight Ends
Andre Roberts(notes)
Cards: QB Kevin Kolb (toe, foot); RB Beanie Wells (knee); RT Brandon Keith(notes) (concussion); NT Dan Williams(notes) (arm)
Rams: CB Marquis Johnson(notes) (abdominal); WR Austin Pettis(notes) (knee); WR Danario Alexander(notes) (hamstring); TE Lance Kendricks(notes) (concussion); OT Mark LeVoir(notes) (pectoral); RT Jason Smith(notes) (concussion); OT Roger Saffold (pectoral)
Headline: Cardinals special teams the difference in another close win over St. Louis
Final score: Cards 23, Rams 19
The Bills offense has gone in the tank the past three games, starting with an 11-point effort in a loss to the Jets back in Week 9. They've scored a combined 15 points in back-to-back losses since then. Ryan Fitzpatrick(notes) has looked terrible since signing his new contract (2:7 TD-to-INT ratio in past three), and the only player worth strong consideration in this contest is Fred Jackson(notes), who has managed to turn out solid YFS numbers even as he's being shut out of the end zone. Jackson had 120 YFS against the Jets in the previous meeting, but he' s dealing with a calf injury and is being called day-to-day. If he misses the game on Sunday, I'm not going to be singing the praises of C.J. Spiller(notes) all that much. He'd offer some upside in PPR leagues, but I wouldn't expect much from him on the ground. In fact, rookie Johnny White(notes) could end up seeing more carries if Jackson sits. … Shonn Greene(notes) expects to be fine this week after sitting most of last Thursday's game with Denver because of sore ribs. The Bills allow the seventh-most fantasy points to RBs, so Greene is a solid option. The Jets passing game remains frustrating (read: limited). The WRs still haven't produced a 100-yard game and rank just 26th as a unit in receiving yards. Santonio Holmes(notes) and Plaxico Burress(notes) are serviceable options against a Bills defense that lost CB Terrence McGee(notes) last week to a knee injury, but they have taken up permanent residence in WR3 territory. The matchup is good for Dustin Keller(notes), and he went 4/64 against the Bills in Week 9, but he hasn't scored since Week 2. You can't really hope for much more than 6-8 fantasy points from him with Plaxico Burress (No. 3 among WRs with 16 red zone targets) stealing all the attention at the goal line. Mark Sanchez(notes) completed 20-of-28 passes against Buffalo in Week 9. He's top 15 worthy, but you probably won't get rich with him in this one.
Shonn Greene; Fred Jackson (health ?); (Santonio Holmes); (Plaxico Burress); (Dustin Keller); NY Jets Defense
(Mark Sanchez); Stevie Johnson(notes); David Nelson(notes)
Ryan Fitzpatrick; C.J. Spiller; Scott Chandler(notes); Buffalo Defense
Johnny White; Joe McKnight(notes)
Bills: RB Fred Jackson (calf); WR Donald Jones(notes) (ankle); CB Terrence McGee (knee)
Jets: RB Shonn Greene (rib); RB LaDainian Tomlinson(notes) (knee); WR James Kerley (knee)
Headline: Jets latest defense to stymie Bills, end two-game slide
Final score: Jets 26, Bills 13
Just as Chris Ogbonnaya(notes) has given us something to talk about in the Browns offense (No. 9 fantasy RB for past two weeks), now there's a threat of a Montario Hardesty(notes) (calf) return. Hardesty will practice this week, but he won't likely return to more than a minor role on Sunday. Ogbonnaya should still see something in the neighborhood of 15-20 touches and, given the way he's produced of late (including a 21/115/1 line last week against a Jaguars run defense that has been tougher to score on in fantasy than Cincy), Ogbonnaya is still worth considering in an RB2 kind of way. Joshua Cribbs(notes) has scored in three of his past four games and Greg Little(notes) sees a ton of passes (10th-most targets at WR since Week 4) even if the production doesn't indicate so. I suppose for deep leaguers, both offer a little something to believe in, but not much. … The Browns are the No. 1 fantasy defense against QBs and WRs. Jerome Simpson(notes) looked great playing the go-to role without A.J. Green(notes) last week, but he won't sneak up on the Browns, especially if Green sits again (which is likely). CB Joe Haden(notes) is a top 5 cover corner, and he makes a Simpson start perilous. Jermaine Gresham(notes) was the top receiving entity when the Bengals beat the Browns 27-17 in Week 1, going for 6/58/1. He just missed a TD last week and I wouldn't be surprised if he scored this week and once again led the receiving charge for the Bengals. The Browns can be run on (ninth-most fantasy points to RBs) and the Bengals did just that in Week 1, as Cedric Benson went for 121 yards and a TD on 25 carries. He should get another big load if the Bengals can maintain a lead. I don't expect Andy Dalton(notes) to throw much more than 30 times.
Cedric Benson; Jermaine Gresham; Cincinnati Defense
Andy Dalton; (Chris Ogbonnaya); (Jerome Simpson); Andre Caldwell(notes); Joshua Cribbs; Greg Little
Colt McCoy(notes); Cleveland Tight Ends; Cleveland Defense
Bernard Scott(notes)
Browns: QB Colt McCoy (shoulder); RB Montario Hardesty (calf); RB Peyton Hillis(notes) (hamstring); FB Owen Marecic(notes) (concussion)
Bengals: WR A.J. Green (knee)
Headline: Benson bulls over Browns as Bengals stay in playoff hunt
Final score: Bengals 23, Browns 12
This is a good week to not think at all about the Redskins backfield. Seattle is extremely tough at home, and it hasn't allowed more than 70 rushing yards to a RB at Century Link Field this season – only the Bengals and Ravens allow fewer yards per carry. Seattle has been good against the pass, as well, although the Redskins could get Santana Moss(notes) back this week. That'll help, but Fred Davis(notes) is Washington's best hope through the air. Seattle has given up big production to several tight ends this year and ranks as the 10th-most generous in fantasy to the TE position. … Tom Cable's influence has started to resonate in the Seattle running game as Marshawn Lynch is getting it done against all comers. With a TD in six straight and a combined 82 carries in his past three games, Beast-Mode is unbenchable right now. Considering that the Redskins lead the league in QB sacks and Seattle has allowed the second-most QB sacks, which makes it even easier to bet on another heavy dose of Lynch. Realistically, Jackson probably doesn't throw much more than 25 times. That said, the Redskins have allowed 40 pass plays of 20-plus yards, fifth-most in the league, and Jackson likes to take several deep shots a game, so don't be surprised if he and Doug Baldwin(notes) (fifth in the league with 13 catches of 20-plus yards) hook up on a big play or two.
Marshawn Lynch; Fred Davis; Seattle Defense
(Doug Baldwin); (Sidney Rice(notes)); Jabar Gaffney(notes); Santana Moss (health ?); Washington Defense
Tarvaris Jackson(notes); Rex Grossman(notes); Washington Running Backs; Mike Williams; Zach Miller
Justin Forsett(notes)
Redskins: WR Santana Moss (hand); OT Trent Williams(notes) (knee); CB Josh Wilson(notes) (hamstring)
Seahawks: WR Ben Obomanu(notes) (knee, ankle)
Headline: Grossman turnovers prove fatal in loss to Seahawks
Final score: Seahawks 20, Redskins 17
Caleb Hanie(notes) takes over for the injured Jay Cutler(notes) (thumb) this week, and that definitely clouds the hopes of the Bears passing game. Oakland has allowed a lot of TD passes, but it actually has held opposing QBs to the sixth-lowest QB Rating in the league. Hanie tossed a TD pass to Earl Bennett(notes) against Green Bay in the playoffs last year and Bennett has been the one reliable WR for the Bears the past three weeks, so he's still worth a dice roll if you have limited options at WR. But with the Raiders giving up 5.2 YPC, you can bet on heavy dose of Matt Forte(notes) and seconds of Marion Barber(notes). I'd expect Forte to touch the ball north of 25 times with Barber getting double-digit touches, as well. … With Michael Bush(notes) stepping up in a huge way with Darren McFadden(notes) out, the Raiders are intent to take their time and let Run-DMC's foot fully heal. So McFadden is expected to sit again this week and Bush, who has handled 30 carries in each of his past two games, remains a must-play even against a staunch Bears run defense. Since Week 5, Chicago has been among the best at limiting QB fantasy points – funny how games against Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees(notes) and Cam Newton early can skew things. Carson Palmer(notes) has 6 TD passes in his past three games, but he's really just a game manager, throwing 23 times or less in each of the past two games. Ideally, the Raiders can get a lead and lean on Bush heavily. But Chicago has forced QBs to the air more often than any other team in the league, so Palmer and the Raiders may have a hard time dictating their tempo in this one. My guess is that Hanie slows down the Bears offense a bit and the Raiders aren't pushed too heavily into an aerial pursuit situation. Week 10 was Denarius Moore's(notes) seventh game with 34 yards or less and, after two strong weeks prior working with Palmer, we're back to the same old crapshoot feeling about the Raiders receiving corps where it's hard to get a bead on who will step up in a given week. But Darrius Heyward-Bey(notes) and Jacoby Ford(notes) could both be Week 12 casualties, so it's worth testing the waters with Moore again this week if you are operating without an embarrassment of riches at WR. That said, the Bears have allowed the second-most receptions to RBs and the most fantasy points to TEs, so it could be Bush, Marcel Reece(notes) and Kevin Boss(notes) making the biggest impact through the air for the Raiders.
Matt Forte; Michael Bush; Chicago Defense
Carson Palmer; (Denarius Moore); (Earl Bennett); Johnny Knox(notes); (Kevin Boss); Oakland Defense
Caleb Hanie; Roy Williams; T.J. Houshmandzadeh(notes); Chaz Schilens(notes); Kellen Davis(notes)
Marion Barber; Marcel Reece
Bears: QB Jay Cutler (thumb)
Raiders: RB Darren McFadden (foot); RB Taiwan Jones(notes) (hamstring); WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (head/neck); WR Jacoby Ford (foot); PK Sebastian Janikowski(notes) (hamstring); C Samson Satele(notes) (concussion); DT Richard Seymour(notes) (knee); DE Jarvis Moss(notes) (hamstring)
Headline: Bush vs. Forte show favors Raiders in the end as Oakland downs Chicago
Final score: Raiders 23, Bears 21
Wes Welker(notes) hasn't scored in four straight games and has had 45 yards or less in four of the past five games. His slide is probably a combination of a sore knee, tough matchups and Tom Brady(notes) feeling a lot of pass rush pressure the past month or so. I know you can't really bench Welker, but you certainly have to lower your expectations if you haven't already. Obviously, Tom Brady and his dynamic tight end duo need to be in your lineup. And if you knew for sure that BenJarvus Green-Ellis(notes) was going to get 20 carries like he did last week, he'd be a very reasonable play. But trying to figure out BJGE's role from week to week makes my head hurt. I'm putting him down for 14/70/0 this week, as I don't think the Pats will be able to lean on him because of a cushy lead like in the Monday night game. … Michael Vick(notes) (ribs) hopes to play this week but he's a big-time question mark. Obviously, that ups the potency level of the Eagles offense if he does play. LeSean McCoy(notes) is a must-start either way, but the Eagles WRs face the most generous fantasy pass defense, so Vick's big-strike potential could go a long ways in this one. Stay tuned and give everyone an upgrade if Vick gets back on the field this week. If Vince Young(notes) plays, the passing game is still viable, but it's more of a conservative approach.
Tom Brady; Michael Vick (health ?); LeSean McCoy; (Wes Welker); Jeremy Maclin(notes) (health ?); (DeSean Jackson(notes)); Rob Gronkowski(notes); (Aaron Hernandez(notes)); (Brent Celek(notes))
(Vince Young – if Vick out); (BenJarvus Green-Ellis);
Deion Branch(notes); New England Defense; Philadelphia Defense
Riley Cooper(notes); Jason Avant(notes); Shane Vereen(notes)
Patriots: WR Deion Branch (hamstring); LT Matt Light(notes) (ankle); C Dan Connolly(notes) (groin); CB Devin McCourty(notes) (shoulder)
Eagles: QB Michael Vick (ribs); WR DeSean Jackson (foot); WR Jeremy Maclin (shoulder)
Headline: Brady survives close call in Philly
Final score: Patriots 27, Eagles 24
I don't expect it to be pretty (I never do), but I think Tim Tebow(notes) will represent exceptionally well for fantasy owners this week. The Chargers allow the sixth-highest QB Rating (96.2), have a fairly anemic pass rush and have been burned often by big plays – 12th in pass plays of 20-plus yards allowed and sixth in rush plays of 20-plus yards allowed. Remember, Tebow took over for Kyle Orton(notes) against the Chargers in Week 5 and posted more than 17 fantasy points in two quarters. Willis McGahee(notes) rushed 16 times for 125 yards in the Week 5 contest and the extended week off should have his hamstring feeling much better – he said that it felt no worse after playing against the Jets last Thursday night. Feel good about McGahee, but don't trust anyone else for the Broncos. I said I liked Tebow, but if, and to who, he gets it done with in the passing game is a major question mark. … Philip Rivers(notes) wasn't all that impressive throwing the ball against Denver in the Week 5 meeting, but he salvaged his fantasy line with a rushing TD. The Broncos allow the fourth-highest QB Rating, so Rivers certainly merits top 12 QB consideration this week. I want to caution against Vincent Jackson(notes), but he seems to go off every time I do. Just know that he has a very lackluster history against Denver in recent years (just 3/34/0 in Week 5) and, while he's gone for more than 100 yards and a TD four times this year, he's also finished with 34 yards or less and no touchdown four times. So, he's a crapshoot and, frankly, I'm happy to not be invested. WR Malcom Floyd(notes) is a decent gamble if he can come back from his hip injury. He's gone for 100 yards in two of his past three games, one of them in Week 5 against the Broncos. Because of his fumbling and durability issue, hoping for another 24 carries from Ryan Mathews(notes) like he had against Denver in Week 5 (125 yards) is wishful thinking. Figure 15-18 touches for Mathews and something like a dozen for Mike Tolbert(notes), including the goal-line work.
Tim Tebow; Philip Rivers; Willis McGahee; (Ryan Mathews); (Mike Tolbert); (Vincent Jackson); Antonio Gates(notes)
(Malcom Floyd – health ?); Eric Decker(notes); San Diego Defense; Denver Defense
Eddie Royal(notes); Denver tight ends
Vincent Brown(notes); Jeremiah Johnson(notes)
Broncos: None of significance
Chargers: LT Marcus McNeill(notes) (neck); LG Scott Mruczkowski(notes) (concussion); DE Jacques Cesaire(notes) (knee); WR Malcom Floyd (hip)
Headline: QBs shine in AFC West tilt, but Tebow gets last laugh
Final score: Broncos 28, Chargers 27
The Chiefs managed just 3 points in Week 11 against a Pats defense that allows the fourth-most yards per play (6.1). Now they get a Pittsburgh defense rested (and they needed it) coming off a bye and allowing just 4.7 yards per play (tied with Baltimore and Houston for the best mark in the league). Dwayne Bowe(notes) salvaged respectability last Monday night with a 7/87 line but, again, the Pats secondary is terrible (worst in fantasy against WRs). Bowe will likely face a whole lot of stud CB Ike Taylor(notes) with the Steelers breathing down Tyler Palko's(notes) neck. I don't like anyone on the Chiefs this week, and especially that backfield, where Jackie Battle(notes), Dexter McCluster(notes) and Thomas Jones(notes) split 24 carries evenly last week. … Although Tamba Hali(notes) is a force to be reckoned with, fact remains that KC employs the worst pass rush in the league (12 sacks in 10 games). Ben Roethlisberger(notes) will have time to throw, and he'll operate more out of the shotgun to protect his injured thumb, and that means that all his receiving options look as good as or better than usual. The Chiefs run defense is not terrible, but their offense is, and that means the defense gets run on a lot (third-most rush attempts against). Rashard Mendenhall(notes) should get volume in this contest, so you can reasonably expect something like 23/90/1 from him. And Isaac Redman(notes) typically pushes double-digit touches in games when Pittsburgh holds a commanding lead, so he's a thought for deep leaguers.
Ben Roethlisberger; Rashard Mendenhall; Mike Wallace(notes); Antonio Brown(notes); (Heath Miller(notes)); Pittsburgh Defense
Dwayne Bowe
Tyler Palko; KC running backs; Steve Breaston(notes); KC tight ends; KC defense
Isaac Redman
Steelers: QB Ben Roethlisberger (thumb); SS Troy Polamalu(notes) (rib)
Chiefs: LG Ryan Lilja(notes) (neck)
Headline: Curtain drops on Palko and Chiefs
Final score: Steelers 31, Chiefs 7
It looks like Ahmad Bradshaw(notes) (foot) very well could miss this week's game, and with Danny Ware suffering a concussion last week, expect Brandon Jacobs(notes) to shoulder another heavy load. The Saints allow an insane 5.5 YPC to RBs, but he faced an Eagles defense last week also allowing a hefty clip to RBs and he managed just a 12/21/0 line. Consider Jacobs a low-end RB2 this week as there's a good chance Eli Manning(notes) will have to throw a lot in this game – the Saints really dial up the offense at home. I'd start the usual suspects in the Giants passing game, though I will say that TE Jake Ballard(notes) was horrible last week. He caught just one of seven passes against the Eagles, and I can think of at least three of those passes that he should have caught. The good news is that Manning likes to throw to him and the Saints have been generous to TEs. It's worth giving him a mulligan. … With the exception of their elite ability to get to the QB, the Giants defense is average in all ways. Neither a matchup to seek or avoid. The usual caveats apply for the Saints offense this week. Roll the dice on Pierre Thomas(notes) and Mark Ingram(notes) at your own risk, though the PT Bruiser has been far better at making something out of very little touches. And Darren Sproles(notes) can no longer be considered "evergreen" as he is just 29th among RBs in fantasy PPG in the past month. And one thing to note is that the Giants have been outstanding at limiting RBs in the passing game, thwarting versatile stalwarts like LeSean McCoy (twice), Tim Hightower(notes), Frank Gore and pretty much everyone else (no RB has tacked on more than four fantasy points to his bottom line via the pass against NYG). In the passing game, it's really just Drew Brees, Marques Colston(notes) and Jimmy Graham(notes) these days. Brees has targeted a WR other than Colston more than four times in a game just once since Week 5 (Lance Moore(notes) had nine targets in Week 8).
Drew Brees; Eli Manning; (Darren Sproles); (Brandon Jacobs); Marques Colston; Hakeem Nicks(notes); Victor Cruz(notes); Jimmy Graham; (Jake Ballard)
(Pierre Thomas); Mark Ingram; Lance Moore; Mario Manningham(notes); New Orleans Defense
Robert Meachem(notes); Devery Henderson(notes); NY Giants Defense
Da'Rel Scott(notes)
Giants: RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot); RB D.J. Ware(notes) (concussion); TE Jake Ballard (elbow)
Saints: RB Chris Ivory (hamstring); Jonathan Vilma(notes) (knee)
Headline: Brees to Graham too much as Giants drop third straight
Final score: Saints 31, Giants 26