Before I get into the column this week, I’d like to express my thanks to you all for partaking in the reading of this column each week. It is a blast to do and hope it has helped just a bit in your fantasy football selections. Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, we move onto Black Friday. I find it appropriate that this column comes out on this day of finding the sales and deals in stores nationwide as that is what I try to do for you each week (find those diamonds). Like the deals in the stores, these fantasy diamonds will not last long on the free agent wire. Thus, some of these options could be a useful bench option/spot starter in the playoffs.
Looking back at week twelve, we saw another tie game in the NFL, this time between the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. It is reported that some of the Green Bay Packers did not know a game could end in a tie. This lends to the real question coming from the weekend: Where’s Donovan McNabb when you need him? There was also a massive choke job by the Denver Broncos after being up 24-0 at halftime (there was no way I thought that Tom Brady would pull out that win). And lastly there was the emergence of the passing game in San Francisco … a deep passing game!
Week twelve meant a chance to cement your team as playoff team or one that may just play spoiler down the stretch. Also, another week of fantasy football means another week of hits and misses from this column. The hits: Mike Glennon, John Carlson, Ryan Succop, Delanie Walker, the Arizona Cardinals defense, and Colin Kaepernick. The rest are classified as misses.
Remember: This column is not designed to spotlight the top options at each position. If you are looking for advice on start/sit options or top players at a specific position, check out our rankings and other columns throughout the week. This is going to be a weekly spotlight of one player from each game this weekend that has a shot to be a nice flex or last starting option (a WR3 or RB3 for example). Will they all produce a large number of points? No. These are nice lottery tickets to fill in on your team and give you a chance to steal the win.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns
No one … wait I have to pick a player so I’ll go with …
Jordan Cameron (Cleveland Browns) – It has been a major struggle for Cameron recently as Jason Campbell has not been able to get the ball to the extremely talented tight end. But there is good news as Brandon Weeden is now the starter once again. While you may think this is a bad thing for the Browns and it probably is, it is a great thing for Cameron as these two have a great connection in the passing game. According to ESPN.com, “Brandon Weeden starting this week might actually be a boon to Cameron, as he’s averaged 12.6 yards per reception and nearly six targets per game with Weeden compared to just 10 YPC and 3.6 targets per game with Jason Campbell behind center.” This is a major development for Cameron fantasy owners (myself included) as the difference will be felt, especially for PPR leagues. Add in the fact that the Browns get the porous Jaguars defense that struggles covering the tight end position and you will have a top five tight end this Sunday. Cameron gets six catches for 70 yards and a score as he busts out of his slump.
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts
Ryan Fitzpatrick (Tennessee Titans) – The Colts have been atrocious on the defensive end over their past few games, especially against the pass game. This poor stretch has brought them pack to the pack in the AFC South and into a key matchup against the current six seed in the AFC. Fitzpatrick has drawn the ire of my wrath in the past as a guy that does not make good decisions or does not have the talent to produce as a starter in the NFL. Thus, I have been surprised by his recent performance as the starting quarterback with the Tennessee Titans. He has actually done a respectable job in the place of Jake Locker and has been a nice QB2 in most leagues. He threw for 320 yards and tossed in two scores at Oakland last Sunday and has the chance to put up similar numbers this week against the Colts. Two weeks ago, he threw for 222 yards and a score against the Colts. This week he throws for 265 yards and two scores with 25 yards rushing thrown in.
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
Josh McCown (Chicago Bears) – All you need to say is “Minnesota Vikings defense” and you have me on the side of the opposing quarterback. McCown gets the Vikings this week and has the weapons that will make it a long day for Minnesota. With Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery on the outside, Matt Forte catching the screens and check downs, and Martellus Bennett hitting those seams, McCown will have a great day spreading the wealth around. The Vikings give up an average of 282 pass yards per game and made Matt Flynn look amazing in his return to Green Bay last week (yeah the guy that was cut by the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders). McCown throws 315 yards and three scores on Sunday.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
The Miami Dolphins defense – I think I can boil this down to one name: Geno Smith. While the Dolphins have been an above-average fantasy defense this year, it is a visit to see Geno Smith and the dreadful Jets’ offense that has the defense of the Dolphins becoming a top play this week. Smith has not thrown for more than 200 yards in his past four games and has thrown at least two interceptions in three of those four games. Thus, there will no surprise that there will be an emphasis on the running game and the Dolphins will be ready for this. The defense gives up 7-10 points and gets three sacks and three takeaways with a possible touchdown included.
Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles
Andre Roberts (Arizona Cardinals) – No team has been worse against opposing wide receivers than the Eagles and the Cardinals explosive receivers will love the matchup this Sunday. While Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd will receive the majority of the receptions, I believe Roberts will get his production as well. Roberts gets around three to four targets a game and this could increase as the Cardinals will be passing to exploit the weak Eagles’ secondary. This is purely speculation, but I believe Roberts could be in line to be a good flex play by getting four catches for 55 yards.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers
Brandon LaFell (Carolina Panthers) – It has been a pretty good rule to play the second wide receiver on the depth chart of the team playing against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the one not defended by “Revis Island.” LaFell falls into that category this week and could be in line for a solid day of production. He has had an up-and-down season with some really good days and some bad ones. He has averaged around four catches a game for 45 to 50 yards. While Steve Smith is locked up by Revis, LaFell will benefit from less coverage to get five catches for 65 yards and a score.
New England Patriots at Houston Texans
Brandon Bolden (New England Patriots) – Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount have now been eliminated from the race to get any carries in the Patriots backfield after fumbling again in the overtime win at home against the Denver Broncos. Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden are the two left standing for now (because if one of them fumbles then he will be benched too). This always brings about the question of: “If they keep making mistakes, will they run out of running backs and be in no-back sets?” The answer to that is no (but who knows with “The Hoodie” running the show). Bolden looked really good in his action on Sunday night and actually led the team in rushing yards and carries with 13 carries for 58 yards and a score. While Vereen will be the lead back due to his versatility as a runner and pass catcher, Bolden seems to have taken control of the role of the inside runner and dependable back. I see Bolden as a nice flex play as he will get 12 carries for 45 yards and a score against the Texans on Sunday.
St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers
Michael Crabtree (San Francisco 49ers) – He’s back and has the chance to return to the WR1 spot on your fantasy team as the playoffs start soon. Crabtree has been out all season with a torn Achilles that happened in May. The last time we saw him was in the Super Bowl as he was being held by the Ravens on the fourth down attempt and received no call. According to ESPN.com, Crabtree was “targeted on 34 percent of the 49ers’ total plays last season.” While that is a ridiculous amount of targets and it will not be matched with his return, Crabtree will be the number one wide receiver for the 49ers and the constant target of the passing attack. While he will work his way back slowly, I still see some value in the next few weeks for Crabtree. He needs to get back on the same page with the rest of the offense in game action, not just practice. He gets three catches for 40 yards in his return and will grow those game totals as time progresses.
Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills
Stevie Johnson (Buffalo Bills) – Johnson is set to return to the lineup of the Buffalo Bills this week as the NFL goes international once again. This time in Toronto, Canada and the reports are that there will be no rouges again this year (a single point play that is in the CFL). The good news is that the game is indoors and not in the snowy and windy weather that is typical here in Western New York this time of year. This will allow the passing offense to go off without a hitch. EJ Manuel like to find Johnson throughout the entirety of the game, giving him around 8-10 targets in most games. While the conversion of targets to catches is not a great percentage, Johnson usually gets around five or six catches a game. The Atlanta Falcons are the opponent this week and cannot be feeling great after their elimination for playoff contention. It has been a horrible year on the defensive end as injuries have plagued the popular Super Bowl pick. A road trip to Canada is not going to help them out and Johnson should be in line for a big day. Johnson gets seven catches for 85 yards and a major (what a touchdown is called in the CFL).
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
Montee Ball (Denver Broncos) – Broncos interim coach Jack Del Rio is hopeful that Knowshon Moreno will be able to play this Sunday, but as of Wednesday, he has not practiced and has been seen in a walking boot after the game in New England. While Moreno is a tough guy and may make an appearance in the game on Sunday, I expect Ball to receive a majority of the carries. This is due to the fact that he is healthy and has been producing at a high level over the past few games. Ball had seven carries for 40 yards and three catches for 17 yards a week ago. This would of course expand if Moreno is limited in any way. The Chiefs have a tough defense so I don’t expect a huge game, but instead one that will make a nice flex/low-end RB2 play. Ball gets 65 yards rushing and a score with three receptions for 15 yards.
Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers
Ladarius Green (San Diego Chargers) – The future replacement to Antonio Gates in San Diego broke into the national spotlight with his performance a week ago against the Kansas City Chiefs. He caught three balls for 80 yards (back to back games with at least 80 yards) and a 60 yard touchdown. He’s a great athlete at 6’6″ and 240 pounds, so there is no doubt that he can be a mismatch to the opposing defense. He kind of reminds me of Julius Thomas in Denver in the way that he can be explosive at the tight end position despite being such a big guy. The problem is that he is behind Gates and will not receive the looks that Gates gets unless there is an injury. Expect a major breakout season when he does assume the starting role, but it is tempered expectations for now. I see him getting three receptions for 45 yards this week, but he is a name to watch out for in the future (especially dynasty leagues).
New York Giants at Washington Redskins
Rueben Randle (New York Giants) – The Redskins defense keeps showing why they are among the porous in the NFL and this game reads like a Giants’ thrashing of the Redskins’ secondary. Eli Manning will have a field day carving up the opposing defense and will spotlight not only Victor Cruz, but Rueben Randle as well. Randle has hit pay dirt in five of his last seven games and looks like he has some good rapport with Eli Manning. Randle has been consistently getting three catches each week, but, with the health of Hakeem Nicks in question, I think Randle will step up and produce more. Randle gets four catches for 55 yards and a score.
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
Lance Moore (New Orleans Saints) – This is a very speculative play here with Lance Moore. The Seattle Seahawks’ secondary will be missing cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond against the multitude of options of the New Orleans Saints. I expect Richard Sherman to take Marques Colston and Earl Thomas to take on the challenge of Jimmy Graham. This leaves Moore a matchup against the fill-ins in the Seattle secondary. I went with Moore over Kenny Stills due to the veteran’s rapport with Drew Brees. He is a trusted member of the team and one that can put up a big game every now and again. Moore gets four catches for 45 yards in the Great Northwest.
As you head out into the rest of week thirteen in the NFL, take these suggestions with a grain of salt. This is all about filling that last flex spot in your starting lineup with a guy that has a good matchup or a solid chance of production. These guys are my best options for that to occur. I wish everyone luck in their thirteenth week of the season and hope your team finishes the stretch run of the season with a dominating performance.