Dec 3, 2011
With the playoff fantasy season upon us, this is no time to get cute with lineup decisions. You should not feel the need to shake things up just for the hell of it and I implore you not to try to be a hero. Here are my thoughts on Week Thirteen.
Tennessee Titans at Buffalo Bills
Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bill offense came back to life last week against the Jets of all teams. Lost in Stevie Johnson’s controversial TD celebration was one of the best performances we’ve ever seen against Darrelle Revis. Unfortunately, we didn’t see much from C.J. Spiller, although that really should be that surprising considering how little Spiller had been used before Fred Jackson landed on the IR. Speaking of coming back to life, Chris Johnson emerged from the fantasy graveyard yet again last week with a huge performance against the weak Buccaneer run defense. Johnson could be in for another product game this week with the Bills struggling to stop the run and both Johnson and the Titans seem to understand that Johnson needs a high volume of carries to get going and he should get that in this game.
Kansas City Chiefs at Chicago Bears
Who’s excited for Tyler Palko vs. Caleb Hanie? This looked like the week Kyle Orton would get the start for the Chiefs, but Todd Haley has stuck by Palko, so it looks like he’ll at least start, although it wouldn’t shock me to see Orton. Either way, we’ve been pleasantly surprised with how Dwayne Bowe has stayed involved despite losing Matt Cassel. The Bear defense could make that a little tougher this week, and they continue to have pressure on them with little margin for error now that Hanie is under center. I hate to admit it, but it looks like Marion Barber will be more involved since the Bears will probably run more because, you guessed it, they don’t want to put too much on Hanie. Johnny Knox has flashed in recent weeks, but trusting any Bear WR at this point is very risky.
Atlanta Falcons at Houston Texans
Jason Snelling might be the most valuable handcuff outside of Michael Bush because if you have to use him, he’s not much of a drop off from Michael Turner, who is questionable with a groin injury. However, no matter who is running the ball for the Falcons, you have to lower expectations going against a very good Texan run defense. I have to give Matt Ryan and the Falcon passing game credit for stepping it up in recent weeks, and with the tough matchup on the ground, they’ll need to come through yet again to win this game. Andre Johnson was quiet in his return last week, but it’s tough to get a good gauge of where he’s at since he’ll be playing with his third different QB this season in rookie T.J. Yates. You have to believe Johnson will see more than the 3 targets he got last week since the Falcons are without CB Brent Grimes, who has been the best player in an otherwise vulnerable Falcon secondary. I also give the Texan run game props for carrying their offense for most of the season, but they will also face a tough matchup against Atlanta’s run defense, which has been fantastic.
Oakland Raiders at Miami Dolphins
The Raiders are surviving without three of their playmakers in Darren McFadden, Denarius Moore, and Jacoby Ford. Michael Bush has done a great job stepping in for McFadden, but as we saw last week, it wasn’t Darrius Heyward-Bey or Chaz Schilens stepping up in the passing game. Instead, it was do-it-all FB Marcel Reece who made the biggest impact with 5/92. You don’t think of a FB in the current NFL system to be a versatile player, but Reece has been called the team’s secret weapon by teammates because he can make plays thanks to his multi-dimensional skill set. Without Moore and Ford again this week, Reece could be an interesting flex option if you’re looking for some upside. Matt Moore has become a decent starting fantasy option and he’s done a fine job of getting Brandon Marshall the ball. Say what you will about Marshall’s off-field issues, but he remains one of the most dangerous receivers when his head is in the game.
Denver Broncos at Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings being without Adrian Peterson is already a huge blow, but if they don’t have Percy Harvin, they may not score a point in this game. Toby Gerhart might have scored last week to make him a viable fantasy option, but I don’t see him doing much against the most underrated defense in the league. I am of course talking about the Bronco defense, which has been overshadowed by Tim Tebow’s winning ways. Let’s hope LB Von Miller is able to play, as he’s been an absolute force for them and should be in the running for not only Defensive Rookie of the Year, but maybe even Defensive Player of the Year. You know what the Broncos do on offense and that’s not going to change. Can Eric Decker do it again against one of the worst secondaries in the league? At this point, I’m pretty much expecting him to catch a long TD.
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots
The Colts will try to “Erase the Egg” by turning to Dan Orlovsky, a player who has never taken a snap in a game his team ended up winning. He’s the Anti-Tim Tebow. If you thought things couldn’t get any worse than with Curtis Painter, Orlovsky might surprise you. The Patriots should really be able to do whatever they want in this game since the Colts can’t top the run or the pass. You already know to start anyone involved in the Patriot passing attack, but what about BenJarvus Green-Ellis? This certainly looks like a game he can “close” for them, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see either of their rookie RBs get time in that role. As we know, Bill Belichick doesn’t care ‘bout cho fantasy team.
Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
In this rematch, the matchup isn’t looking good for either Cedric Benson or Rashard Mendenhall. The weather looks to be unseasonable warm and there isn’t expected to be any precipitation of any kind that would impede passing the ball, so at least when it comes to the Steelers, you can’t be very confident in Mendenhall since you know the Steelers want to throw it, even if Ben Roethlisberger is dealing with a thumb injury. I have a hard time believing the Bengals will be able to handle Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown considering their best CB, Leon Hall is on the IR. Heath Miller has started to fade as a viable fantasy option, but I can’t say that surprises me since Emmanuel Sanders is back in the mix. A.J. Green must remain in your lineup, but the Bengals will need their other receivers to step up if they are going to win this game.
Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Two of the worst rushing defenses in the league meet in this game, which is great news for the DeAngelo Williams-Jonathan Stewart duo in Carolina and LeGarrette Blount for Tampa Bay. The Panthers seem to be more open to running when the matchup is in their favor instead of asking Cam Newton to do everything with his arm. The Buccaneers will really need Blount to come through for them since Josh Freeman is a gametime decision with his bad shoulder that should limit him even if he does play. Unfortunately, that’s probably bad news for Mike Williams, who has finally started to string together some nice performances after what’s been a pretty disappointing season.
New York Jets at Washington Redskins
Mark Sanchez had another 4th-quarter comeback and threw 4 TDs, but if you can look past the numbers, you know he didn’t play a very good game. This Redskin defense won’t make things any easier this week, and even though DeAngelo Hall and the secondary has done a solid job, Hall can be burned deep and the Redskins won’t have S LaRon Landry yet again. The Jets should try to set up some deep shots, but not rely on them. Dustin Keller has been a solid fantasy performer over the last month and we hope that continues with Landry out of the lineup. Shonn Greene has been noticeably limited by his rib injury and with LaDainian Tomlinson back from his knee issue, OC Brian Schottenheimer acknowledge Tomlinson’s role could be a little bigger this week. That probably hurt Joe McKnight’s value somewhat significantly. It’s tough not to ignore all the praise and positive words Mike Shanahan has heaped on Roy Helu, the player he has made the starter, but it won’t be easy for Helu to live up to all that hype against the Jets. Let’s just hope for no Shanahanigans.
Baltimore Ravens at Cleveland Browns
The Brown offense continues to struggle even with Peyton Hillis back in the lineup. Hillis looked decent last week, but we know he doesn’t have any upside in a good matchup and probably won’t do much in this tough one, especially if the Browns want to get Montario Hardesty involved, if he’s able to play through his calf injury. Cleveland has done an awesome job against the pass and obviously a big part of that is due to the play of top corner Joe Haden. We don’t expect Haden to be locked onto Anquan Boldin since Torrey Smith is a dangerous downfield threat. Boldin will probably be Haden’s primary assignment, but we could see him moved around if Smith becomes a problem. It might not mean much for fantasy, but with Lee Evans back, we’ve heard John Harbaugh say his role could increase down the stretch. Ray Rice should get right back on track against the very beatable Brown run defense after facing the great 49er unit in Week Twelve.
Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals
Miles Austin owners will have to wait another week for him to return from a hamstring injury, but he did seem to indicate that he’ll be playing against the Giants in Week Fourteen. This is a smart move by the Cowboys and Laurent Robinson owners are thrilled they can continue to roll with him for another week without any worry. We’ll see how things change next week. DeMarco Murray hasn’t been as productive without FB Tony Fiammetta in the lineup, and there’s a chance Fiammetta won’t return this season as he continues to battle an unknown illness. Beanie Wells had a career day last week playing through a knee injury that looked like it might take him out of the game. He’s far from healthy, so even though he went off against a terrible Ram run defense, I’m not letting expectations get too high when it comes to him, especially against a better Cowboy run defense this week. Kevin Kolb appears to be ready to return to the lineup and it would be nice to see him finish the season strong so he has something to build on for next season, but I wouldn’t count on it behind his terrible OL.
Green Bay Packers at New York Giants
The Giants will try to derail the Packers’ quest for an undefeated season, but they’ll have to do it with DE Osi Umenyiora and a banged up Justin Tuck. The Giant secondary or any secondary for that matter doesn’t have a group of players that can slow down the deep Packer receiving corps, so knocking Aaron Rodgers around is the only way you can at least have a chance of beating this team. The Giants have a good enough passing game to hang in with the Packers, especially with the way Victor Cruz is playing. He’ll face stiffer competition with Mario Manningham not likely to play, so we’ll see if Cruz’s hot streak continues. Ahmad Bradshaw has a chance to return and you have to believe if he’s on the field, the Giants believe he can be a reliable contributor to their offense. If he plays, I’d only treat him a flex option.
St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers
Sam Bradford is still having ankle problems stemming from his high sprain from earlier this season and that’s trouble because the Rams will need to rely on their passing attack since we don’t expect Steven Jackson to do very much against the fantastic 49er run defense. In fact, their entire defense is going to cause trouble for a Ram team that has seen their OL decimated by injuries. Frank Gore hasn’t really been rested despite playing through a knee injury, but this could be a week we see him and possible other prominent 49er players get some rest if this game is well in hand and it should be.
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints
Primetime games haven’t been very kind to us this season, but we certainly have all the ingredients for a fantasy bonanza in this Sunday night affair. Matthew Stafford has shed the gloves and splint from his broken finger, so hopefully his accuracy returns after it came and went against the Packers on Thanksgiving. He’s still putting up numbers due to volume and that should continue in this game, especially since he’s facing a beatable Saint defense and will need to throw to keep pace with Drew Brees. Besides Calvin Johnson, I expect the Lion TEs, Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler, to play prominent roles in this game since the Saints don’t really have anyone to cover those big, athletic TEs. As we’ve learned many times, the Saints are a very deep offense that can cause headaches for fantasy. Lance Moore’s 2 TDs didn’t exactly help guys like Marques Colston and Darren Sproles very much last week. Luckily, Jimmy Graham continues to get it done and we saw Mark Ingram put up solid numbers, as he continues to be involved near the goal line and has made Chris Ivory expendable. With the Lions already without DT Ndamukong Suh and possibly FS Louis Delmas and CB Chris Houston, the Saints should be able to move the ball at will.
San Diego Chargers at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have Maurice Jones-Drew and no one else for fantasy purposes, but you already knew that. Their defense has injuries up front, in their LB corps, and especially in the secondary with both starting CBs on the IR. If there was ever a matchup to feel good about the 2011 Chargers, this is the one. Ryan Mathews is coming off a great day against the Broncos, but it would be nice to see him build on that this week. Philip Rivers might be playing behind a makeshift OL, but he doesn’t have to worry about a pass rush and Vincent Jackson shouldn’t be tested by the Jaguar backups forced into starting roles. Plus, the Chargers get Malcom Floyd back from a hip injury, at least until he goes down with something else. San Diego may be clearing house within the next month, but they should at least be able to give you some good fantasy output this week.
I’ll be answering any questions you have in the comments below or on Twitter (@TheMattCamp). With the high drama of crunch time in the fantasy season underway, I wish you all the best of luck in Week Thirteen.