Looking back at week thirteen, we almost saw another tie game in the NFL, this time between the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings. There was the late comeback from the Jacksonville Jaguars to snatch a victory in Cleveland, the Geno Smith experience getting benched in New York after another horrid performance on offense, and the New England Patriots found another way to come back and win on the road in Houston. There were also two big time wide receiver performances from Josh Gordon (10 receptions for 261 yards and two scores) and Eric Decker (Eight receptions for 174 yards and four scores).
Week thirteen meant a chance to clinch a playoff spot or just cement a spot on the couch for the playoffs. Also, another week of fantasy football means another week of hits and misses from this column. The hits: Jordan Cameron, Josh McCown, the Miami Dolphins defense, Brandon LaFell, Michael Crabtree, Stevie Johnson, Montee Ball, Ladarius Green, Justin Tucker and Rod Streater. 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.
Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals
Donald Brown (Indianapolis Colts) – Brown has ascended to the starting role for the Colts as Trent Richardson has been benched due to ineffectiveness. Brown ran the ball 14 times for 54 yard and a score against the Titans a week ago. Now, Brown faces a Bengals defense that has not allowed a running back to score on the ground since week three. That is a pretty impressive number for the Bengals, but one that could change this week as Brown could sneak in a red zone score as the Bengals focus on the pass game. Brown has looked good in the small samples we have seen from him this season and I expect him to step up to keep the role of starting running back. Brown gets 70 yards rushing and a score.
Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers
Roddy White (Atlanta Falcons) – Roddy surprised most of the nation by actually looking like the Roddy White of old last week up in Canada. He had his best performance of the season by snagging 10 for 143 yards. Putting this in context, he had 125 yards on 10 catches over his prior four games. Granted, he has been dealing with the injury bug throughout the entire season. But, he has toughed it out to get out on the field and not found a way to produce until last Sunday. This may be a sign that White is back to his old self, but it may be a flash in the pan against a poor defense (Buffalo). I think it is more of a sign towards a return to a WR1 slot. I’d place him as a high WR 3/low WR2 for this week as a tempered prediction. White puts up five catches for 75 yards against a Green Bay secondary coming off of a bashing at the hands of Matthew Stafford.
Cleveland Browns at New England Patriots
LeGarrette Blount (New England Patriots) – It’s time for that fun game that has been sweeping the fantasy football nation: Guess the New England Running Back that Plays! Last week, I put up Brandon Bolden after his great performance the week before. This prediction only saw him get three carries for two yards … and he did not even fumble to get that few carries. While Stevan Ridley seems to be done in New England (as he is not even active), Blount (who deals with fumbling as well) has taken over as the bruising inside back. Against the Texans, Blount had 12 carries for 44 yards and a score. It seems that the Patriots’ coaching staff wants to keep going with Blount, no matter the amount of fumbles he gets throughout the year. Blount gets 50 yards and a goal-line score, unless he fumbles … then all bets are off.
Oakland Raiders at New York Jets
Andre Holmes (Oakland Raiders) – Holmes seems to have taken advantage of his chance in the NFL and produced big numbers on Thanksgiving Day, while Denarius Moore is healing up from his injuries. Holmes was targeted 11 times and converted those to seven catches for 136 yards in a breakout performance in Dallas. While Rod Streater is the number one option and Holmes will be the number two, there is a good chance at another big performance this week. Running backs Rashad Jennings, Darren McFadden and Jeremy Stewart are all banged up with various injuries. This could leave the Raiders with Taiwan Jones as the starting running back this week. If Jones starts, there will most likely be a dependence on the passing game as the main way of moving the ball. This should give Holmes plenty of targets on the day. He gets five catches for 65 yards on Sunday.
Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles
Nate Burleson (Detroit Lions) – Burleson was shutout against the Packers on Thanksgiving Day after a big return from injury a week before. Against the Buccaneers, Burleson caught seven for 77 yards and a score. With the offense he is a part of, Burleson should be putting up good PPR numbers out of the slot position. The Eagles are one of the worst defenses in the NFL against the pass and the Lions should be able to pick apart their secondary. Burleson will get his plays out of the slot this week and total five catches for 55 yards.
Miami Dolphins at Pittsburgh Steelers
Lamar Miller (Miami Dolphins) – Daniel Thomas is out with injury and this means that Miller is now the sole ball carrier in Miami. While this may not mean much given that the Dolphins average 89 yards per game in the rushing department, a starting running back in the NFL is at least a flex play in most leagues. Miller had 22 carries for 72 yards in New York last week, but there was one big problem … the lack of a punch from Miller to get the ball into the end zone. The Dolphins just could not get the ball into the end zone with Miller from inside the five and this could bring some concern as fantasy owners needs touchdown scorers in the playoffs. The Steelers have been susceptible to giving up rushing scores throughout the year so there is some hope that Miller gets a score this week. I think he does get into the end zone with 80 yards on the ground.
Buffalo Bills at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bobby Rainey (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) – While Bobby Rainey has not put up the same type of numbers that he had in his breakout performance against the Falcons a few weeks ago, he put up some nice numbers over the past two weeks against two tough run defenses. He is getting at least 17 carries a game as a starter so there is the fact that you are getting volume when he is in your lineup. Then, let me add in the fact that the Bills are giving up 122 yards rushing per game and you get a solid RB2 this Sunday. Rainey gets 18 carries for 80 yards and a score against Buffalo.
Kansas City Chiefs at Washington Redskins
Dexter McCluster (Kansas City Chiefs) – McCluster is a PPR must play at the flex spot right now. Last week, he grabbed five balls for 43 yards and, the week before, seven balls for 59 yards. He is getting volume at the receiving position in an offense that is throwing the ball more as the season progresses. This volume is something that is invaluable in the playoffs. He now gets to face a Redskins defense that is porous to say the least. Washington gives up 265 passing yards per game and McCluster should be able to exploit the weak secondary with quite a few catches. He gets six catches for 55 yards and a possible score.
Minnesota Vikings at Baltimore Ravens
John Carlson (Minnesota Vikings) – A mainstay in this column, John Carlson keeps producing week after week while Kyle Rudolph is out. He grabbed another four balls for 61 yards against the Bears and continues to be a low-end TE1 against most competition. Whether it is Matt Cassel or Christian Ponder, the quarterback is looking for Carlson throughout the course of the game. The Ravens present a tough test, but one that Carlson can find holes against and have another solid day. Carlson gets four catches for 65 yards.
Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos
Nate Washington (Tennessee Titans) – While Kendall Wright is getting the most catches in Tennessee, Nate Washington is putting up some quiet, but solid numbers over the past two weeks. Last week, Washington had five catches for 81 yards against the Colts. While it is a risky play to go with Washington in playoff time given his lack of touchdowns, I feel that he will be a solid flex play as the Titans try to keep up with the Broncos’ scoring machine by throwing it over and over and over some more. Washington is sure to get some looks from Ryan Fitzpatrick, especially late in the game. He gets six catches for 75 yards and a possible garbage touchdown.
St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals
Rashard Mendenhall (Arizona Cardinals) – With Andre Ellington most likely out, the running load will be back to Mendenhall’s shoulders. He ran for 76 yards on 18 carries against the Eagles last Sunday. While he may be a featured back in a primarily throwing offense, there is hope for Mendenhall owners this Sunday. The Rams give up 109 yards rushing per game and will be focused on stopping Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd in the receiving game. This will open up the ground game for Mendenhall as he gets 90 yards and a score.
New York Giants at San Diego Chargers
Brandon Myers (New York Giants) – Myers may have seemingly realized his potential production level in what has historically been a tight end dominant offense under Eli Manning in New York as he scored the past two games. Last week, he totaled five catches for 61 yards and a score. Looking at his past production in Oakland gave many hope of a monster season in New York (including myself). It had been quite disappointing until these past two games. I think that Manning has finally realized that Myers can be a big target for him in the red zone, one that can be trusted week after week. Myers gets four catches for 50 yards and a score to help repay all those that have invested in him this year.
Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers
Michael Crabtree (San Francisco 49ers) – I liked what I saw from Crabtree in his return to the 49ers lineup. He got two catches for 68 yards against the Rams and will look to build upon that against the Seahawks. The good news this time against the Seahawks is that the 49ers are at home and will be looking for payback after the embarrassment up in Seattle earlier this season. I think that the home field will help the 49ers offense and Crabtree will look to make his mark against their rival. Crabtree gets four catches for 60 yards and a score.
Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Marques Colston (New Orleans Saints) – While he is a name you will most likely start anyways, I think he has started to fall into the WR3 range as this season has progressed. He had 27 yards on four catches up in Seattle and four catches for 40 yards the week before at Atlanta. There have been quite a few down stat lines this season for Colston and it has been hard to trust him from week to week. I really like his potential this Sunday night at home. The Saints will be fuming after their humiliation up in Seattle and will benefit from the crowd noise in the dome. Drew Brees will have a tough test in Carolina’s defense, but one that he will pass by finding Colston early and often. He gets six catches for 80 yards and a score.
Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears
Josh McCown (Chicago Bears) – I think we all have seen what opposing quarterbacks have done to the Dallas secondary this season. Matt McGloin even put up 255 yards against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. McCown has a much better array of options surrounding him than what McGloin had. He has Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery on the outside, Matt Forte catching the screens and check downs, and Martellus Bennett hitting those seams. He put up 355 yards and two touchdowns against another porous secondary, that one in Minnesota. I think a similar type of day is in line for McCown. This time he gets 300 yards and two scores at home on Monday night.
As you head out into the rest of week fourteen 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 fourteenth week of the season and hope your team starts the playoffs with a dominating performance.