For many leagues out there, the regular season is over and the playoffs have arrived. Hopefully, you are still in the hunt and have something to play for the next few weeks and hopefully we have played a small part in helping you get there. If you are lucky enough to still be playing meaningful games, hopefully you have a strong enough core that you can now dedicate some of your extra roster spots to either securing more handcuffs for your studs, or maybe taking a shot on a player who could really make a splash during the playoffs. Take a good look at the schedules your key players face again and make sure you like what you see, not only for this week, but also beyond. Drew Brees' dreadful day against the Seahawks is a reminder of exactly the type of game that can ruin a successful fantasy season, so mitigate the risk where you can and don't be afraid to cut guys you will never start for those you might be more inclined to turn to in a pinch. You've made it this far, so now is no time to get lazy or complacent. And now, here is my usual list of players for you to consider adding this week.
Jay Cutler, CHI – Cutler hopes to be back on the field this week for the Bears, and if he gets cleared for action he would be a solid QB1 in the now dynamic Bears offense against the porous Cowboys pass defense. Josh McCown was our top choice a week ago, and if Cutler has a setback this week, then he will look to continue his hot play until Cutler is fully ready to take over again.
Joe Flacco, BAL – Last year’s Super Bowl MVP has basically been a QB2 for most of the year, but a date with Minnesota at least makes him an enticing option for anyone scrambling or playing matchups this week. Weather could be a factor in Baltimore this weekend, but even in the rain he should be able to make plays downfield on the Vikings secondary.
Ryan Tannehill, MIA – Don’t look now, but another one of our preseason sleepers seems to be hitting his stride right in time for the fantasy playoffs. Tannehill has posted two straight 300-yard games and finally seems to have found the connection with Mike Wallace. It at least has vaulted the Dolphins QB back up the QB2 ranks, with the Patriots and Bills on deck after Wallace’s return to Pittsburgh this week.
Case Keenum, HOU – Keenum has clearly lost some of his luster since his back-to-back three touchdown days in Weeks 9 and 10, and while the matchup against the Jaguars looks great on paper, the rookie flopped against them just two weeks back. Still, it might be tough for those in two-quarterback leagues to pass up the upside this week.
Mike Glennon, TB – Glennon is past the predictably tough matchup against the Panthers, and should be able to get back on track against the Bills at home this week. With the Niners and Rams on deck, he might only be a one-week plug-n-play for two-quarterback leagues.
Matt McGloin, OAK – McGloin would be a “Hail Mary” start this week, but a meeting with the reeling Jets defense, and a potentially full complement of weapons could make for a surprisingly solid day.
Week 13 Updates
Alex Smith, KC – I wanted to highlight the Chiefs signal-caller again heading into the playoffs. He reeled off his third strong start in a row and has a nice schedule (@Was, @Oak, IND) the rest of the way. Honestly, if you don’t currently have an elite option as your QB, or have been counting on Aaron Rodgers to make it back, Smith might be my pick as the best guy to pin your hopes to the rest of the way.
Carson Palmer, ARZ – Palmer delivered against the generous Eagles defense last week and is on a roll heading into the fantasy playoffs. However, if he is your emergency backup or you are in a two-quarterback league, you may want to think about a contingency plan to avoid having to use him in Week 16 against the Seahawks.
Brandon Weeden, CLE – Weeden actually put up some numbers last week that would have looked even better if he hadn’t turned the ball over three times. However, he suffered a concussion, and is questionable for this week’s game against the Patriots. Jason Campbell is the better bet to make it back this week, and Josh Gordon owners are praying it happens.
Donald Brown, IND – We talked about Brown in Week 12, coming off his two touchdown day against the Titans, and he promptly went out and did nothing against the Cardinals the following week. The performance very well may have prompted some to jump ship in shallower formats, while those who waited were rewarded as Brown finally was elevated to the starting job over Trent Richardson. He’ll likely keep the starting job the rest of the way and at worst projects as a solid flex option going forward.
Joique Bell, DET – It has been awhile since we called Bell’s name here, but he has been making his presence felt again the last few weeks and took advantage of the blowout in Green Bay to log his most carries (19) since way back in Week 3. He was dropped in one of my leagues by an angry owner after Week 12, and is worth grabbing since he still plays behind the oft-injured Reggie Bush.
Jonathan Dwyer, PIT – Le’Veon Bell got his bell rung at the goal-line at the end of the Steelers Thanksgiving Day game, and apparently suffered memory loss after the devastating hit that sent his helmet flying (and cost him a second touchdown). The extra days off may get him cleared in time to play this week, but if he is a regular cog in your lineup, then Dwyer is the handcuff to get this week to cover your backfield.
Willis McGahee, CLE – He hadn’t topped 50 yards or scored a touchdown since Week 5, but he was back last week as the top rusher for the Browns, which of course isn’t saying much these days. You can grab him if you like for depth, but hopefully you can avoid it. If you are forced to choose a running back wearing an orange helmet, then at least grab the one who will be getting any goal-line touches that magically appear.
LeGarrette Blount, NE – Last week, we talked about Brandon Bolden. This week, I have to mention Blount again, and of course we can’t forget Stevan Ridley could be back in the mix again after getting banished for at least one week. If Ridley is active, then he is more than likely the guy. Otherwise, Blount will likely be called on again this week. The Browns are tough against the run, but the offense turns the ball over multiple times every week, leading to short drives and extra red-zone opportunities. If he starts, he isn’t a bad bet to score this week.
Antone Smith, ATL – Smith is still third in the pecking order for the Falcons, but he is making the most of the limited opportunities he has been getting. He exploded for a 38-yard touchdown on his only carry last week, his second long touchdown in three weeks. With the season lost, the coaching staff may opt to increase his workload, especially considering the results so far.
Week 13 Updates
Montee Ball, DEN – I feel like I have written about the Broncos rookie enough, and his ownership numbers keep rising weekly, but he showed last week that he is settling into his role in the Broncos offense as we enter the fantasy playoffs. He is ideally a flex option for you, because he is still in a timeshare with Knowshon Moreno, but he could get the bulk of the carries in an all important Week 16 game as the team looks to make sure Moreno is completely healthy for the playoff run.
Dennis Johnson, HOU – I think Johnson’s effective play a week ago helped snap Ben Tate back to life, as does the fact that he still has something to prove heading into free agency. He is merely insurance for Tate owners now, so feel free to drop him if you aren’t among that group.
Julian Edelman, NE – I had muted excitement for Edelman last week, mainly because his reemergence as Tom Brady’s favorite target was surprising, and the two touchdowns seemed a tad fluky. However, after gobbling up another nine catches last week, and with injuries to both Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson, he has earned his way back up to the top of the receiver list for the second time this year. If we have learned anything about Tom Brady over the years, it is that he will stick with what is working, and right now that is Edelman. Danny Amendola owners don’t want to hear it, but Edelman is the guy to own until further notice. In PPR leagues, he could be someone’s key to a championship.
Michael Crabtree, SF – Crabtree gets a little bump this week after finally suiting up and proving that he could actually still make plays, even though he still is working his way back into game shape. We said last week that the best time to trust him would likely be a Week 16 game against the Falcons, and we are going to stick with that for at least another week since he gets to face the Seahawks bruising secondary this week.
Doug Baldwin, SEA – Percy Harvin’s hip is still acting up, and with the Seahawks playoff ticket already punched, they have no reason to rush him back now. It means that Baldwin should get to continue his run as a starter in an offense that is humming along. He is worth a grab if you are looking to solidify your bench in deeper leagues for your playoff run. He is a threat to score as long as he is playing starter’s snaps.
Brian Hartline, MIA – I was a fan of Hartline’s coming into the season, because I thought he could flourish as a PPR option opposite Mike Wallace. He started out really strong in Week 1 with nine catches for 114 yards and a touchdown, but failed to build on what looked like a breakout game. He’s been basically producing the same scoreless five catches and 60 yards ever since until last week, when he flashed that Week 1 form again with nine catches, 127 yards and his third touchdown of the year. It once again gives us some hope thanks in part to the improved play of his quarterback and the upcoming schedule. He at least has earned a spot on fantasy benches again heading into the playoffs.
Jacoby Jones, BAL – Jones is far from trustworthy, but he has been getting involved the last two weeks and showed against the Jets that he can make some big plays when the matchup is right. The Vikings fit the bill, enough to make Jones a reasonable “Hail Mary” play this week.
Andre Holmes, OAK – Holmes took advantage of the injury to Denarius Moore, as well as Matt McGloin’s willingness to chuck it his way, to grab seven balls for 136 yards last week. Granted, it came against the Cowboys, but he is big (6-4) and fast enough to give smaller cornerbacks headaches and his ability to win jump balls is an asset to an average quarterback like McGloin. It has yet to be determined if he is a one-week wonder or truly a breakout talent, but history has given us plenty of players who have arrived just in time to make a difference in the fantasy playoffs.
Week 13 Updates
Nate Burleson, DET – Burleson didn’t make any friends with his disappearing act on Thanksgiving, a week after his promising return to the lineup last week. The Lions have some favorable matchups the next few weeks, so my advice is to hang onto him for depth even if you are leery of starting him this week. He has two weather-proof games at home in Weeks 15 and 16, meaning he could be a valuable option if bad weather or injury strikes one of your other options.
Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN – Last week’s game is a pretty good example of what we should expect from Patterson the rest of the year. He has a chance to make explosive plays any time the Vikings put the ball into his hands, as evidenced by his exciting 33-yard touchdown run. He also is still an unpolished player, prone to drops and mistakes. Next week against the Eagles at home might be your best chance to take advantage of his natural ability. If you can afford to hide him on your bench, I say that’s the way to go for at least another week.
Ladarius Green, SD – I have been running with Green in this space since I first mentioned him back in Week 11, and every week the arrow keeps pointing a little further in the right direction. The freakishly good TE flashed his skills again last week and scored for the second straight week. He played a season- high 61 snaps last week, thanks in part to Antonio Gates being limited by a hamstring injury and Eddie Royal also being injured. The game at home against the Giants provides a great chance for the Chargers' new weapon to find the end-zone yet again. If I was playing matchups, I might just roll with Green, and hope that he can take another long pass to the house.
Zach Ertz, PHI – There was some decent buzz surrounding the rookie entering the year, and while it was nice to see him finally make an impact in the passing game, the fact is he is still splitting time and targets with Brent Celek. He is worth a look in deeper and dynasty leagues, but the real breakout will likely come next year.
Garrett Graham, HOU – Graham is getting a boatload of targets (33) the last three weeks, and will get to work against the Jaguars this week. The increased attention hasn’t amounted to much the last two weeks, but the favorable matchup could be enough to entice you to take a chance that he can pull another Week 11 (7/136/1) rabbit out of his bag of tricks.
Week 13 Updates
Jared Cook, STL – Cook couldn’t follow up his solid Week 12, but gets another chance against the same Cardinals defense that he torched in Week 1 for 141 yards and two touchdowns.
Dennis Pitta, BAL – We should have word on Pitta’s availability sometime later this week. Even a limited return would be a huge help to the passing offense.
Raiders – The Jets and Geno Smith have been giving out early Christmas presents to fantasy defenses the last few weeks, so we shouldn’t get too complicated here this week. If you are streaming defenses, then picking on the Jets right now is your best bet.
Alex Henery, PHI – Henery likely hit a lot of wires with the Week 12 bye and this week gets a tasty matchup against the Lions.
Finally, the bye weeks are behind us and the fantasy regular season is coming to a close in most leagues this week. Hopefully, you have already locked up a spot in the playoffs, and if so, then continue to focus on bolstering your roster for your run. That means checking the schedules of your starters, and continuing to bolster your bench to give you options should adversity strike at the wrong time. For those of you on the brink this week, you may have no choice but to throw caution to the wind and take a chance on a long-shot or two this week, since injuries or ineffectiveness may have you scrambling for answers this week. Get you moves in tomorrow, set your lineups early and then have a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Josh McCown, CHI – Jay Cutler will remain sidelined for at least one more week, which extends McCown’s fantasy relevance for at least one more week. He passed for 352 yards and two touchdowns last week and gets to face the fading Vikings defense this week, indoors at the Metrodome. It is quite possible you are still fighting for the playoffs this week, and in a do-or-die situation. If you don’t like the matchup for your current starter or are still waiting for an injured player to return, then McCown might be your best bet as a plug-in option for yet another week. And despite what Jay Cutler hopes, there is still a chance he doesn’t make it back for Week 14 against Dallas.
Matt Flynn, GB –The Packers weren’t winning football games with Scott Tolzien under center, so when he got off to a rough start, the team turned to the former Packer, who was re-signed two weeks ago to basically replace Seneca Wallace. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been cleared for action yet, and will most likely miss the tasty matchup against the Lions on Thanksgiving. Flynn is no Rodgers, but he showed last week he is far more poised that Tolzien, and even without Randall Cobb, still has three very good receivers as well as a quality running game at his disposal. While all Rodgers owners are still hoping he makes it back for the start of the fantasy playoffs, the fact remains that as the team’s playoff hopes dwindle, the chances that the team shuts their franchise quarterback down for the year grows.
Carson Palmer, ARI – I don’t think I have mentioned Palmer at all in the Report since tabbing him as a sleeper late in the pre-season. That fact has a lot to do with the fact that his play this season has been generally disappointing, as he has thrown 15 interceptions against only 17 touchdowns. Larry Fitzgerald’s nagging leg injuries haven’t helped, but there is no denying Palmer is playing his best football of the year when it counts. Weather could be a factor in Philadelphia this weekend, but the Eagles are still giving up a ton of yardage through the air. The Cards have tough sledding after that (StL, @Ten, @Sea) but two dome games make him a solid backup behind your cold-weather QB1.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, BUF – We mentioned back in Week 11 that we liked Fitzpatrick as a depth QB in deeper leagues, since he would have his job the rest of the season and a nice schedule to boot. He has been performing quite well the last three weeks, and gets another crack at a Colts team that has been very generous to opposing QB’s lately.
EJ Manuel, BUF – Manuel gets to face the Falcons in a dome this week, and should come out of the bye healthy and energized after a strong showing against the Jets in Week 11. He will also welcome back Steve Johnson, and possibly Robert Woods, and could be ready to tap into some of his potential down the stretch.
Brandon Weeden, CLE – For the second time this year, the deposed quarterback has reclaimed the position due to injury. Jason Campbell suffered a concussion, so Weeden gets a home game against the lowly Jaguars, and Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron make him worth a spot-start for someone in two-quarterback leagues this week. Hopefully, your opponent has to make this choice and not you.
Kirk Cousins, WAS – The Redskins season is done, and it seems likely that Cousins will see the field at some point in the near future. Robert Griffin clearly is still hampered by his injured knee, and at this point it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to keep sending him out there. Cousins would arguably be an upgrade to the offense going forward, making the case to keep starting Griffin even weaker. If RGIII is your starter, it is time to grab the rare QB handcuff.
Week 12 Updates
Alex Smith, KC – Smith should be owned in all leagues the rest of the way. That’s two solid weeks in a row, and now it’s home for a rematch with the Broncos that will call on him again to make plays with his arm. He has a nice playoff schedule (@Was, @Oak, Ind) that you might actually like better than your current starter. This is a sleeper that is starting to pay off at the perfect time.
Eli Manning, NYG – Manning wasn’t terrible last week, but the high winds grounded the passing attack enough to dampen the payoff. The Redskins keep his floor intact for another week, but you aren’t starting him outside of two-quarterback leagues unless you have to.
Mike Glennon, TB – Glennon turned in another solid performance against the Lions but can’t be trusted against the Panthers this week.
Dennis Johnson, HOU – Ben Tate was ineffective running the ball last week, and that opened the door for the diminutive Johnson to see his most significant action of the year. He responded with 74 yards on 13 carries, and should continue to at least share the load with Tate going forward, and the team will look to run the ball against a Patriots team that got gashed by the Broncos for 280 yards last week. He tops my list at running back this week, since he has earned more touches and his team will be playing out the string, making it more likely they start auditioning guys for next year. I’m not saying start him this week, but he is worth owning heading into the fantasy playoffs.
Benny Cunningham, STL – Cunningham came on in relief against the Bears after Zac Stacy was sidelined with a concussion. He opened some eyes by dropping 109 yards and a touchdown in the second half, and since Isaiah Pead didn’t even get a carry, would surely get the start this week if Stacy can’t go. Here’s the problem. Stacy could very well make it back this week, and even if he doesn’t, a date with the Niners defense caps Cunningham’s upside this week. He is more valuable to the Stacy owner in your league as a handcuff, but if you are in a jam, make the grab and hope you get to use him this week.
Brandon Jacobs, NYG – We talked about Jacobs' return to the lineup last week, but we didn’t expect him to look as good as he did last week, even against a thin Dallas defense. Still, he looked healthy and spry, and Andre Brown has a long history of not staying healthy. Jacobs has some desperation flex appeal this week against the Redskins thanks to his goal-line looks.
Brandon Bolden, NE – Stevan Ridley’s fumbling problems have returned at the worst possible time for fantasy owners. Making matters worse is the fact that he fumbled so early in the game last week that his benching meant you likely got negative points from him. LeGarrette Blount was next in line, and he fumbled on his second carry. That opened the door for Bolden to take over as the primary ball-carrier for the rest of the contest. He rushed for 58 yards and a touchdown, and is back on the radar as he could very well get the start this week, and if he runs well, could keep Ridley in the doghouse. Shane Vereen also gets a big boost, and is the only Patriot RB I feel confident starting at this point.
Ronnie Brown, SD – Ryan Mathews' latest hamstring injury was a tough blow since he was finally running well. Instead, he’s out for this week and possibly longer. It gets Danny Woodhead back into fantasy lineups and puts Brown on the radar again. He will only be used to spell Woodhead and perhaps get a goal-line carry, making him the ultimate desperation play this week.
Mike Gillislee, MIA – Meet your new No. 2 RB in Miami. He hasn’t played a down yet this year, but the season-ending injury to Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller’s struggles at least makes him worth grabbing in deeper leagues this week.
Week 12 Updates
Montee Ball, DEN – We have been preaching for weeks that Ball was just a Knowshon Moreno injury away from making a splash. Moreno’s injury isn’t that serious, but it looks like it will be enough to keep him out of this week’s game. That would seem to put Ball in the catbird seat, except his fumbling resurfaced last week, which could mean he will merely lead a committee. The Broncos also face the Chiefs defense, which could lead to a pass-heavy scheme. C.J. Anderson came on for Ball after he fumbled and would be the backup if Moreno can’t go. If Ball continues to struggle with ball-control, Anderson could see more carries down the stretch.
Toby Gerhart, MIN – We told you last week Gerhart was a must-have for any AP owner, and he cemented that point after tallying 91 yards on just nine carries. If AP gets shut down, Gerhart is more than capable of putting up quality numbers in his stead.
Bobby Rainey, TB – Last week’s waiver darling flopped in his encore and gets another stiff test against the Panthers this week. He still got the bulk of the work, so a modest rebound this week should be in the cards.
Chris Ogbonnaya, CLE – Ogbonnaya fumbled for the second week in a row and ceded those extra touches that were supposed to be coming his way to Fozzy Whittaker instead. He could bounce back this week against the Jaguars if given the chance, but you won’t feel confident about starting him.
Nate Burleson, DET – Burleson’s return to action was a success, as he picked right up where he left off as the Lions No. 2 option, catching seven passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. He topped our list last week, and the performance keeps him there again, since many took a wait-and-see approach on the veteran. While you can’t count on him finding the end-zone regularly, he is almost a lock for 6-8 catches, making him a very strong PPR start going forward. His solid floor makes him worthy of a roster spot everywhere.
Cordarrelle Patterson, MIN – The highly touted rookie has been a tease for much of the season, but the team has finally started to slowly take the wraps off of their first-round pick. You don’t grab Patterson to necessarily start him this week, you grab him because he has true game-breaking ability and with the season lost in Minnesota, it’s time to take the training wheels off and get him some much needed experience for next season. There aren’t many players with his talent hanging around the wire this time of year.
Rod Streater, OAK – We had Streater in the DD section a week ago, based on his chemistry with new Raiders QB Matt McGloin and the anticipation of this week’s game against the Cowboys. Streater should be able to provide solid WR3 numbers, with the upside for more on Thanksgiving.
Michael Crabtree, SF – Crabtree has finally been activated, and will reportedly make his season debut this week against the Rams. The time to pick him up ends this week, but the time to insert him in your lineup will have to wait for now, until he shows us that he is ready to make plays. Just stash and hope he gets back up to speed by the time the Falcons come to town in Week 16.
Julian Edelman and Kenbrell Thompkins, NE – Running back wasn’t the only position where the Patriots left fantasy owners scratching their heads last week. Edelman re-emerged as the star of the day with 110 yards and two touchdowns on nine catches. Danny Amendola, meanwhile, was very quiet, and it’s no stretch to say that both Tom Brady and the coaching staff noticed. Thompkins (6-56) took over for a benched Aaron Dobson after halftime and made some key plays in the comeback. He looks like he is back in the lineup, which gives him deep league appeal again.
Justin Hunter, TEN – We have mentioned Hunter earlier in the year, but the rookie finally had a breakout game, catching all six of his targets for a team-leading 109 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders. He has serious big-play ability and Fitzpatrick isn’t afraid to put the ball up there and let his receivers go and get it. The Titans have been lacking this dynamic all season long, so hopefully they will continue to increase Hunter's role as the season comes to a close. There is plenty of upside here, and that is worth at least a reserve spot on fantasy playoff rosters.
Tiquan Underwood, TB – I briefly thought about grabbing Underwood for a spot start against the Lions last week, but in the end went another way. I of course missed his 108-yard, two touchdown explosion, and won’t overreact to his big game. He is a starter for the Bucs now, but he is still a true boom-or-bust option most weeks. I will let you guess what I feel about a matchup against the Panthers.
Week 12 Updates
Miles Austin, DAL – The best thing we can say about Austin’s return was that he stayed healthy. He didn’t really show much otherwise, so I don’t blame anyone switching him out for another flier this week.
Jerricho Cotchery, PIT – Well, Cotchery came up empty last week, and likely burned plenty of owners who plugged him in. That’s how these things go sometimes. Time to look for magic somewhere else.
Ladarius Green, SD – We have been advocating Dynasty players snap up Green before it was too late for the last couple of weeks, because he is clearly the next big thing at the position. Guess what, after last week’s game, in which he caught three balls for 80 yards and a touchdown, he now needs to be owned in standard leagues as well. His talent is too great for the Chargers to deny, and even though Antonio Gates still caps his true upside, Green is coming on strong enough that you might even consider starting him since he has such game-breaking ability that he only needs a few touches to make an impact. I’m grabbing him everywhere I can this week.
Jared Cook, STL – Cook scored for the second time in three weeks against the Bears, and could be a factor again, especially if Zac Stacy can’t go this week. It’s not a great matchup, but with some key options struggling lately, he is worth a look in deeper leagues.
Jacob Tamme, DEN – Tamme seems to have emerged as the clear backup TE in Denver. Julius Thomas should be back this week, but his owners may want to get his backup on board heading into the fantasy playoffs.
Dennis Pitta, BAL – Pitta is still just a playoff stash, but one that could pay off once he gets back in action.
Week 12 Updates
Delanie Walker, TEN – Walker’s production sagged last week, but he’s still going to see the ball and gets another crack at the Colts, who put him on the map in Week 11 when he ripped them for 10 catches and a score.
Dolphins – Geno Smith has been a turnover machine all season long, and Chris Ivory is banged up as well. Those two facts, along with potential lousy conditions in New Jersey this weekend, make the Dolphins a very solid streaming option this week.
Browns – The Browns laid a dud last week against the Steelers, but in reality the defense didn’t play that poorly. Four bad turnovers put the defense in a tough spot, and obscured an otherwise solid effort. They failed to record any sacks for the second straight week, which is troubling, but the Jaguars are coming to the shores of Lake Erie in what figures to be a sloppy, error-filled game. They aren’t the safest play this week, since Brandon Weeden likes to give out gifts, but the Jags haven’t been very good on the road all year, so there's no reason not to go to this well again if you need the upside play.
Dan Carpenter, BUF – The kicker wheel spins and this week lands on Carpenter. He is available in tons of leagues and plays indoors this week against a Falcons team giving up plenty of scoring chances to opposing kickers.
We have officially entered crunch time in the fantasy football season. Week 11 means there are only three or four weeks left before the fantasy playoffs. If your teams are like most of mine this year, you are sitting at 6-4 or 5-5, firmly on the bubble for the post-season. There isn't any more time left to wait for underachieving players to turn their seasons around and you might suddenly be feeling shaky about your starting quarterback as well. Hopefully, you have built enough depth and grabbed some emerging talents along the way that your roster is solid heading into this critical stretch. Now is the time to take a look at how your playoff schedule breaks down, and see if you like what you see. There are more than a couple players making waves this week that could become real difference makers come playoff time as well as others who are just an injury away from making a splash. Cut loose the dead weight and try to bolster your core with a few lottery tickets if you have the luxury. More injuries are coming, and if they come to an elite player, history has shown that their backups can often step in and power teams to fantasy titles. Look on your wire and if you see someone who fits the description, like a Christine Michael for example, scoop them up and wait. You just might strike fantasy gold when it matters most. Better than hanging onto a guy you'll never start.
Bye Weeks: Dallas and St. Louis
Case Keenum, HOU – Keenum rates another mention this week, and a bump to the top of the report after another exciting and gutsy performance against the Cardinals last week. He once again tossed three touchdown passes and continues to throw the ball deep. The schedule is very fantasy friendly going forward, with home games against the Raiders and Jaguars the next two weeks and a return engagement with the Jags in Week 14. He will be an intriguing guy to watch down the stretch, and with some of his matchups he makes for a tempting option for spot-start duty as long as he keeps making plays. If you have a solid backup you want to trade away, Keenum is a great replacement QB2 in any sized league.
Josh McCown, CHI – McCown performed pretty well in his start at Green Bay, as well as in both his relief appearances. Jay Cutler’s latest injury will likely keep him out multiple weeks. The system and the weapons are good enough to allow the veteran to put up solid numbers, even against a good defense like the Ravens. Much like Week 9, I would rather take a chance on McCown the next two weeks than many of the likely options out there at this point.
Scott Tolzien, GB – For a guy who was on the practice squad just days before last week’s game, Tolzien acquitted himself pretty well after relieving an injured Seneca Wallace on Sunday. He brought much more life to the offense than Wallace did the week before, and gives the team a better chance to hang in there until Aaron Rodgers is ready to return. He showed enough that he is worth owning in two-quarterback leagues and will have a chance to put up some numbers against the Giants and Vikings shaky defenses the next two weeks.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, TEN - Jake Locker will miss the rest of the season with a foot injury, so Fitzpatrick will now have the job the rest of the way for the TItans. Locker had been a regular on the list the last few weeks thanks in part to a very favorable schedule down the stretch. Fitzpatrick could be the top target in deep two-quarterback leagues, since unlike McCown and Tolzien, he will still be starting once the fantasy playoffs arise. The Colts just made Kellen Clemens look good, and Fitzpatrick can have similar success on a short week.
Jason Campbell, CLE – You have to give the veteran Campbell a lot of credit. He was signed by Cleveland in the off-season, and when Brandon Weeden got hurt, the team bypassed the veteran for the younger Brian Hoyer. Campbell never complained, and when his chance came he went out and played better than anyone in the organization could have hoped for. Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron give him two elite weapons and the lack of a consistent running game will help him maintain decent backup value for deeper leagues.
Week 10 Updates
Nick Foles, PHI – Okay, so we knew he wasn’t going to throw for seven touchdowns again, but Foles had another stellar fantasy performance despite only completing 12 passes on the day.
E.J. Manuel, BUF – The Bills rookie was rusty in his first game back from injury, and this week’s game against the Jets doesn’t set him up for much success. With a bye in Week 12, you should look at other options if available.
Shane Vereen, NE - We have been reminding you about Vereen for weeks, and he is likely gone in all but the most shallow of leagues at this point. Vereen, if he is ready for action, will slip right back into his role as the pass-catching back for the Patriots and will get some carries as well when the team goes to their hurry-up offense. You may want to give him a week before you can comfortably start him, but he needs to be owned everywhere after this week so I can stop writing about the need to pick him up for your playoff push.
Brian Leonard, TB – Mike James fractured his ankle on Monday night, which thrust Leonard into the lead-back role. He received 20 carries, and although he didn’t do much with them (57 yards), he still projects to be the primary ball-carrier for a team that will run the ball a lot. Leonard is not a special talent, but he is a solid football player who can protect the quarterback and catch the ball out of the backfield. He’s worth a grab this week as a potential flex-play going forward.
Chris Ogbonnaya, CLE - We have mentioned Ogbonnaya previously in the report, but after a solid Week 7, he faded back into the fantasy shadows. Willis McGahee looks finished and the team has said they intend the two running backs to at least split the carries the rest of the way. Ogbonnaya has shown the ability to catch passes out of the backfield, and if his workload increases, he is back on the map as a sneaky grab for PPR owners.
Bernard Pierce, BAL – The nightmare season continues for Ray Rice, as he just can’t get anything going on the ground this year. He has still been active in the passing game, but even there he has lacked his usual explosiveness. Maybe the Bears defense will be the elixir for the team’s rushing woes, but Rice’s struggles may have finally opened the door for Pierce to get more carries going forward. He’s worth grabbing and stashing in hopes that he forces the Ravens hand for more playing time.
Bobby Rainey, TB – While Leonard will do most of the heavy lifting in the Bucs new backfield, Rainey is the more explosive player, and it is entirely possible that he will be able to carve out some consistent low-end PPR value as the change-of-pace back in Tampa Bay.
Dennis Johnson, HOU - Johnson didn’t do much as the backup to Ben Tate last week, but we will list him again here for deeper leagues since Arian Foster is now done for the year and Ben Tate is playing through four broken ribs. If Tate aggravates the injury, Johnson could be the last man standing.
Mark Ingram, NO – I have Ingram buried way down here at the end of the list despite his career-best 145 yard, 1 TD game on Sunday. Is he worth a spot on a fantasy bench again after his big day? Sure. Will he be worth starting again anytime soon? I doubt it very much. For that reason, I simply can’t advocate buying him at an inflated price this week. If you own him anywhere, you need to try and sell this week if you can.
Week 10 Updates
Andre Brown, NYG - The Giants wasted no time feeding Brown the ball, and thanks to a Peyton Hillis fumble, he got 30 carries on Sunday, which he converted into 115 yards and a touchdown. I ranked Brown above Vereen as a stash mainly because he had the opportunity to become a workhorse for the G-Men. The fact that it occurred right out of the gate means you can start him with confidence or sell him if you are already deep at RB.
Rashad Jennings, OAK - Jennings didn’t let down anyone who invested in him again last week and will continue to carry the load as long as Darren McFadden is sidelined. The Texans are tough on defense, but Jennings will touch the ball enough to deliver RB2 numbers yet again.
Shonn Greene, TEN – If you flexed Greene last week against the Jaguars, it was with hopes that multiple short touchdown dives would materialize. They didn’t, but Chris Johnson took a step back, and Greene still got 12 touches on the day. He’s worth holding onto, but you might think twice about forcing him into your lineup over safer options.
Montee Ball, DEN – Ball didn’t see the ball a lot last week, but he was on the field plenty, as the team continues to monitor Knowshon Moreno’s workload as well as get their prized rookie into more key situations. It is the time of year to cut loose some of the flotsam at the end of your bench and replace it with players who are an injury away from dominating. Ball would be near the top of my list of such players.
Tavon Austin, STL - I feel obligated to list the electric Rams rookie in the wake of his monster game against the Colts last week. It is obviously the type of performance that we all dreamed about as we drafted him before the season started. It was a little bit of a fluky performance, since he only played 15 snaps and only got three targets in the passing game. Still, the talent is there and he is worth a grab to see if he can build on the breakout. That said, he will be hard to trust until the Rams show that they are committed to getting the ball into his hands more often.
Jarrett Boykin, GB - It is quite possible that Boykin was cut loose by an impatient owner after Week 9. The injury to Rodgers and a lousy one-catch game against the Bears may have convinced many to jump ship. With Tolzien taking over, Boykin had a great game, hauling in eight passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. The two looked like they had a great connection all night, so he again looks like a solid WR3 with upside.
Rishard Matthews, MIA – Matthews returns to the report two weeks after ascending into the lineup in the wake of Brandon Gibson’s injury. Last week, he exploded for 11 catches, 120 yards and two touchdowns on a team-high 14 targets. While he may not come close to duplicating this game all year, he is locked in as the slot receiver, which at the very least gives him some PPR value right away. You could make the switch from a Lance Moore or Nate Washington and hope that this is really a sign of more good things to come.
Mario Manningham, SF - Manningham made it back on the field as expected last week, and while the results weren’t there in the first game back, the entire offense struggled against the Panthers. With Vernon Davis banged up, and a week of rust banged off his game, Manningham will be asked to make plays down the field as the team tries to keep pace with the Saints this week.
Santonio Holmes, NYJ – The enigmatic Holmes is slated to return to the field this week for a Jets team making a playoff push. He was playing pretty well before getting hurt and can be picked up for depth heading into the stretch drive.
Michael Crabtree, SF – Crabtree finally made it back onto the practice field this week, and could be back on the field in time for the fantasy playoffs. He is a viable stash for playoff depth, and the Niners need him back in their offense, but be aware he is no sure bet to deliver even after he makes it back.
Jermaine Kearse, SEA - Kearse scored for the second straight week, and has emerged as another weapon at Russell Wilson’s disposal. He is a true boom-or-bust play who could fade a bit with Percy Harvin’s return looming.
Week 10 Updates
Riley Cooper, PHI – Cooper once again delivered a big game with 102 yards and two touchdowns against the Packers. At this point, we have to accept that the Foles-to-Cooper connection is real. He has locked down the No. 2 job opposite DeSean Jackson, and there is no reason to think Foles will stop chucking it his way. If you have him as a WR3, then keep riding him, since he has shown that he can deliver WR1 numbers, giving you a nice edge when he delivers.
Aaron Dobson, NE - I wanted to list Dobson again, since he had a bye coming off of his breakout Week 9 performance. If he is unowned, make a strong bid to get this emerging piece of the Patriots passing attack.
Percy Harvin, SEA - Since it looks like he will finally make it back on the field this week, this is likely your last chance to either grab him or buy low. He’s poised to make some major noise in the fantasy playoffs.
Tyler Eifert, CIN – Eifert took advantage of the injury to Jermaine Gresham to rack up 10 targets, which due in large part to Andy Dalton’s struggles, only translated to three catches for 55 yards. Still, Gresham could miss this week as well with the bye on tap, so Eifert could get another game to strut his stuff. With Joe Haden blanketing A.J. Green, Eifert could get another bushel of balls thrown his way this week.
John Carlson, MIN – Carlson gets a solid bump up from the DD section after turning in a very solid game in his first start of the year. He caught seven balls for 98 yards and a touchdown, and looks like a solid TE2 the rest of the way.
Brandon Bostick, GB – Back in Week 8, we zeroed in on Bostick as being the guy who would eventually emerge to take Jermichael Finley’s place as the TE to own in Green Bay. It took a couple weeks, and a change at QB, but Bostick showed that he can make plays when asked while Andrew Quarless can’t. Expect Bostick's role to grow as the season progresses.
Vance McDonald, SF – McDonald is an athletic receiver who could be pressed into action if Vernon Davis can’t go this week. If he draws the start, he can be a reasonable plug-n-play in deeper formats.
Ladarius Green, SD - Green is a physical beast who would be starting on a ton of teams in the league. As it is, he is blocked for the time being by Antonio Gates. He is a great dynasty target, and keep the name on speed-dial, because if Gates goes down, Green will be a revelation.
Week 10 Updates
Dennis Pitta, BAL – Pitta’s status didn't really change since last week. He is still a playoff stash at this point.
Tim Wright, TB – Wright took another step back last week, and will be hard to trust in the playoffs if he can’t show more consistency this week.
Cardinals – The Cards were one of my picks last week, and for the most part they delivered against the Texans. They get the Jaguars this week, so you could do worse than just roll with them for another week.
Browns - Cleveland returns from the bye to meet a banged up Bengals squad, with turnover prone Andy Dalton under center. The Browns are tough against the run, so Dalton will need to throw at some point. They are somewhat of a longshot, but Travis Benjamin gives them a home run hitter on returns.
Ryan Succop, KC - Succop is coming off two very productive games and this week heads with the Chiefs to Denver. There will be plenty of scoring and Succop is a good bet for another double-digit points day.
Week 12 signals the final call for trades prior to the playoffs, and it has been my experience that often making the right free agent moves this week can often help tip the scales in your negotiations and get you the guy you are targeting. Take a look around your league at the teams who are squarely on the bubble for a postseason berth and see if they need any help to cover byes or injuries this week. If they do, don’t be afraid to grab a free agent that can get them through this week and try to flip them for an upgrade for your own squad in the playoffs. Likewise, if you are battling those teams for a spot, don’t be afraid to grab emerging talent just to keep it off their rosters. Most of all, explore your options, but don’t make trades just to make trades, especially if you are out of the running this year. There is nothing worse than throwing in the towel and pissing everyone else in your league off just because you were bored. If you are going to make a trade, do your league a favor, and make sure it makes sense. Now onto this week’s report.
Bye Weeks – Bills, Bengals, Eagles, Seahawks
Eli Manning, NYG – There is no way to sugarcoat the rocky season Peyton’s little brother has had this year. He has thrown 17 interceptions against a measly 12 touchdowns and has struggled all year with his decision-making. But if you are in a bind this week, you would do well to give the two-time Super Bowl champ a look thanks to a home game against the generous Cowboys pass defense. Manning had his best game of the season in Week 1 against Dallas, when he torched them for 450 yards and four touchdowns. The rest of the schedule also has enough nice matchups, including a Week 16 game against the Lions, to at least make him a viable backup in case your regular starter goes down.
Josh McCown, CHI – I have given McCown his props here as a plug-and-play option the last few weeks, and hopefully you weren’t forced to rely upon him last week, when he was forced to try and make plays in horrible weather conditions. With Jay Cutler sidelined, McCown will face the Rams on the road this week and possibly will get the Vikings in Week 13. Weather won’t be an issue the next two weeks, and McCown will get the passing offense back on track. Give him a pass for last week and feel confident using him this week.
Alex Smith, KC – Smith has had an up and down year for sure, with five separate weeks in which he failed to throw a touchdown pass. But for the most part, he has had more success at home, and the Chiefs will play host to a Chargers team that can be thrown on and then get the Broncos again in Week 13. Smith is not going to win your game for you, but with his team headed to the postseason, his floor is about as solid as any QB2 out there the rest of the way.
Scott Tolzien, GB – Aaron Rodgers will miss one more week, making Tolzien relevant for anyone with bye or injury issues. He actually played better than the numbers from last week’s game against the Giants might indicate, and does get the advantage of facing a Minnesota Vikings defense that is ranked 31st in the league.
Mike Glennon, TB – We haven’t checked in on the surprising rookie since Week 7, but overall he has continued to impress in the face of adversity surrounding him. He showed moxie in losses to the Panthers and Seahawks, and last week proved he could take advantage of a struggling defense like the Falcons. This week, he is indoors against a Lions team that gives up plenty of passing yards, so Glennon has some deep-league appeal, at least for this week.
Matt McGloin, OAK – I will give the undrafted rookie props for his mistake-free play in the win against the reeling Texans last week. He took advantage of generous field position early to toss two of his three touchdowns on the day, and likely earned himself at least one more start this week. I don’t love the matchup against the Titans, but if he’s starting, he’ll have some value in two-quarterback leagues.
Week 11 Updates
Case Keenum, HOU – A week after it looked like he had arrived as a rock-solid QB2, Gary Kubiak threw a wrench into the works by benching the rookie in the third quarter in favor of Matt Schaub. I personally was intending on starting Keenum this week in one league, thanks to the tasty matchup against the Jaguars, but in a must win game, with other options available I might rethink those plans. I still think he can get back to his gun-slinging ways this week, but Kubiak has introduced a layer of doubt and risk that shouldn’t have been there.
Jason Campbell, CLE – Just when Campbell was starting to make believers of people, he laid an egg against the Bengals, throwing three interceptions against one touchdown. He definitely took a step back, and a game against the Steelers never instills a ton of confidence in starting a Browns QB.
Bobby Rainey, TB – Rather than focus on what I got wrong in analyzing the Tampa Bay backfield last week, I’ll revisit what I got right. I was correct in pointing out that of the two players in question, Rainey was the more explosive option. I was wrong in expecting that Greg Schiano would continue to feed the ball on early downs to the bigger and more experienced Brian Leonard. While I did think that the diminutive Rainey (5’8", 210) would carve out a role as a third-down back, I in no way expected him to explode for 163 yards and three touchdowns on a crazy 32 touches. He is obviously the top target this week in all leagues, and should make a decent start again this week against the Lions. As long as he is getting the bulk of the work, he will be a viable flex behind Tampa’s excellent offensive line, but temper you expectations since this monster game came against a Falcons defense that is regressing weekly. Feel free to break the bank in any leagues where he is available.
Donald Brown, IND – Brown has been outplaying Trent Richardson for weeks, and the coaching staff finally relented and put the ball in his hands when things counted last week against the Titans. Brown responded with his best game of the year statistically (14/80/2) and once again easily outplayed Richardson. If the Colts hadn’t traded a number one pick to the Browns for their “franchise” back, then it wouldn’t have taken Brown this long to make an impact. Richardson still will be the starter and the Colts will continue to try and figure out how to get him the ball (he did catch five passes), but Brown is the better start until further notice.
Chris Ogbonnaya, CLE – We had the Browns leading rusher in this same spot a week ago, as the Browns were making noise about getting him more touches as a ball carrier. They followed through on that, and he responded with 99 yards on 14 touches. Campbell targeted him 12 times on Sunday, which hints at his PPR upside for the next few weeks. He did have a costly fumble, but the Browns have only scat-back Fozzy Whittaker and washed-up Willis McGahee as alternatives, meaning he will continue to get enough touches to merit owning, with potential spot-start duty in PPR leagues.
Toby Gerhart, MIN – Gerhart received his most playing time of the season late in last week’s blowout by the Seahawks. The game was out of reach, and Adrian Peterson was bothered by a groin injury, giving his backup enough work to remind everyone to pick him back up as a handcuff, just in case Peterson is hurt worse than he is letting on or aggravates it in future weeks. No AP owner wants to think the worst, but do yourself a favor and at least be prepared for it. In fact, heading into the playoffs, that goes for all indispensible RB1's on your various rosters.
Brandon Jacobs, NYG – Jacobs is back on the fantasy radar after reclaiming his role as the backup to Andre Brown from Peyton Hillis. The fact that he vultured a goal-line carry in his first game back takes a little steam out of Brown’s value, and makes Jacobs worth a bench spot in deeper leagues heading into the playoffs.
Week 11 Updates
Shane Vereen, NE – Vereen finally made it back on the field and looked great in his first action since Week 1. While he only carried the ball once on Sunday, his eight receptions led the team and showed he is ready to be a factor for PPR owners going forward. Stevan Ridley is one more fumble away from Vereen taking on an even bigger role in the offense. If you took a wait-and-see approach last week, start him with confidence against the Broncos this week.
Brian Leonard, TB – We covered the emergence of Rainey above, which basically shoves Leonard back into his old backup role. Deep leaguers might want to hold him, since Rainey could be a one-week wonder or get hurt if he gets too many touches.
Nate Burleson, DET – Burleson looks on track to finally get back on the field this week as the Lions' main slot receiver. The team is playing the Bucs, who made Rishard Matthews a hot property out of the slot in Week 10. He is likely the most reliable name out there in a so-so group this week, and it’s time to lock him up as he returns to action.
Miles Austin, DAL – The fact that I am listing the oft-injured Austin this high is a testament to the somewhat uninspiring options at WR this week. As it is, he is supposedly fully recovered from his latest hamstring injury, and while Terrence Williams has played well in his absence, Austin is the better receiver and a trusted weapon of Tony Romo. It doesn’t hurt that the Cowboys face the Giants in his first game back, which usually translates to plenty of passing on both sides. If you are looking for some lightning in a bottle, then take a flier on Austin in all leagues.
Santonio Holmes, NYJ – Holmes made it back as expected, and quickly emerged as Geno Smith’s top target. Hopefully, you don’t have to plug him in your lineup, since the Jets offense is very unpredictable and he’s no sure bet to score. That said, he’s going to get plenty of targets and has a very solid floor as a flex play in all leagues.
Jerricho Cotchery, PIT – Cotchery has continued to sustain his value in the wake of his three-touchdown Week 9, finding the end zone the last two weeks as well. Joe Haden showed us again that he knows how to shut down No. 1 receivers, meaning Big Ben may have to turn to the veteran yet again this week. It doesn’t hurt that Emmanuel Sanders has been struggling and injured his foot last week.
Rod Streater, OAK – Matt McGloin looked Streater’s way a lot, and the connection translated to six catches for 84 yards and a touchdown on a team-high eight targets. He’s worth a grab in deep leagues to see if he can build on this performance in anticipation of a Week 13 tilt against the Cowboys.
Michael Crabtree, SF – Crabtree is another week closer to activation, and makes a viable stash for any team headed to the playoffs.
Week 11 Updates
Rishard Matthews, MIA – Matthews predictably fell back to earth last week, but he didn’t fall off it. As the slot receiver, he caught four balls for 54 yards, for a respectable PPR showing.
Marquise Goodwin, BUF – Goodwin (6/81/1) didn’t disappoint in his first career start, and should continue to be a factor in the Bills passing game after the team’s bye this week. He will likely be more prominently featured in this space next week, so if you are in a deep league, get the jump on your opponents and lock him up this week.
Jarrett Boykin, GB – Boykin had another solid day thanks to Scott Tolzien’s affinity for him. He looks like a safe start this week against the Vikings.
Delanie Walker, TEN – We have been slow to mention Walker this year, mainly because the Titans didn’t seem that interested in feeding him the ball. But Ryan Fitzpatrick clearly trusts him and the increased attention resulted in 10 catches, 91 yards and a touchdown against the Colts last Thursday. Walker gets another TE-friendly game versus the Raiders this week and is the TE to get to cover a bye or fill in for an injured starter.
Rob Housler, ARZ – Housler was a popular sleeper who took awhile to wake up this season. He’s no great shakes, but at least he is finally being targeted by Carson Palmer and gets to face the very same Colts team that put Walker at the top of this week’s list.
Garrett Graham, HOU – Graham will get plenty of attention after his own breakout game (7/136/1) and gets the benefit of facing the Jaguars this week. Still, he hadn’t done much up until last week and Owen Daniels could return soon to cut into his touches. He should be a good option this week, but be wary of thinking he’s a long-term fix.
Week 11 Updates
John Carlson, MIN – Carlson had another solid week, and you may need to rely on him again this week with so many tight ends hurting or on bye.
Ladarius Green, SD – Happy I picked the right week to finally list Green in the report as he showed what he can do if given the chance. Maybe the coaching staff will look at the tape and realize he has to be on the field more than he has been. Deep and Dynasty owners could do worse than clear a spot for Green at the end of their bench.
Saints – The Saints are an intriguing streaming option this week as they head to Atlanta to face the Falcons on Thursday night. The Saints haven’t been especially good on the road this year, but it is a dome game, which will help. The Falcons made the Bucs a great option a week ago, so Rob Ryan’s bunch could follow suit this week.
David Akers, DET – It’s that time of year to at least let weather come into the equation when selecting a kicker off the wire. Akers is at home against Tampa Bay, which should translate into solid production this week.
We have seen a slew of major injuries over the last few weeks and this week was no different, as Aaron Rodgers suffered a small fracture in the collarbone of his non-throwing shoulder. While it does appear as though he has avoided serious injury, there is little doubt he will miss this week’s game and could be sidelined until the fantasy playoffs arrive. It is a tough blow to not only the Packers playoff hopes, but also to fantasy owners who were counting on all the players involved in the passing game. All you can do if you are invested here is muddle through and hope that Rodgers makes it back ahead of schedule. At least there are more than a few options at quarterback to keep you going the next few weeks.
Nick Foles, PHI – Foles was the headliner of the Week 7 report, then promptly went out and had a terrible performance against the Cowboys, before leaving with a concussion. He was in the Digging Deeper section last week, as he was poised to get another chance at the controls of Chip Kelly’s offense. Hopefully, if you spent big on him in Week 7, you stashed him on your bench, or at the very least speculated again on the cheap last week, because Foles will be highly sought after in any leagues he is available coming off a record-tying seven touchdown day. If you just lost Aaron Rodgers or Matt Ryan, Foles has the upside to help you survive. With trading deadlines coming up in most leagues the next two weeks, Foles is a great investment, since you can try to spin him off to fill holes elsewhere. He’s worth an aggressive bid this week in hopes that he really keeps the job this time.
Jay Cutler, CHI – The word is that Cutler is planning on playing this week against the Lions, which puts his recovery from a groin injury ahead of schedule. The Bears have a dream schedule down the stretch and Cutler was putting up great numbers prior to his injury. If he doesn’t make it back this week, it will still provide a buying opportunity for a potential fantasy playoff stud.
Case Keenum, HOU – Keenum has been a blast to watch and has breathed life into the Texans aerial attack. Andre Johnson owners were singing his praises and were thrilled watching the rookie throw three scoring strikes to his top wideout. Keenum is still raw, but he looks fearless on the field. The Texans have a favorable schedule, which includes two meetings with the Jaguars. Keenum is going to be a difference-maker in all two-quarterback leagues.
EJ Manuel, BUF – Manuel is getting closer to returning from his knee injury, possibly as soon as this week against the Steelers. I for one am interested to see how this offense will look with Manuel and Spiller healthy at the same time. He has some extra value in keeper or dynasty leagues, and should be a QB2 with upside down the stretch.
Seneca Wallace, GB – The journeyman quarterback was pressed into action for the Packers on Monday night, and promptly poured ice water on the entire passing game. I will admit, I am bitter, as I barley lost in two important leagues where I needed Jordy Nelson to deliver bigger numbers. That just wasn’t in the cards with Wallace in his first action since 2011. The offense obviously will be scaled back with Wallace in charge, but he should improve with a full week of practice reps, at least to the point of being usable in two-quarterback leagues.
Week 9 Updates
Jake Locker, TEN – Locker was my top QB last week, and he didn’t quite live up to the hype. The Titans had success on the ground, and the passing game never really got untracked all day. Locker did salvage the day with a rushing touchdown, and he still has a great schedule the rest of the way. If I grabbed him for depth, I would hang on at least for this week’s game against the Jaguars before deciding whether to cut bait.
Jason Campbell, CLE – Campbell made me look smarter than Locker did, having another solid performance in a victory against the hated Ravens. It was an emotional victory for the team, since it broke an 11-game losing streak against the former Cleveland franchise. Even more impressive was the veteran’s ability to get it done by relying on secondary targets Greg Little and Davone Bess.
Rashad Jennings, OAK – The last time we wrote about Jennings here, it was Week 5 and Darren McFadden was out with a hamstring injury. We were pretty lukewarm on that week’s hot RB target, and sure enough he went out and injured his own hammy in his one week as the starter. McFadden is down again, with an aggravation of the very same hamstring, a week after looking great in a two-touchdown game against the Steelers. Jennings played well in relief last week, rushing for 102 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries along with seven receptions for an additional 74 yards. Much of his production came is garbage time, so his big day should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s not often that players make two big FAAB splashes in the same year, but that’s what can happen when the guy in front of you can’t stay healthy. This late in the season, you have to take a shot on a RB who could keep the job the rest of the way.
Shonn Greene, TEN – We wrote about Greene’s eventual return in both Weeks 7 and 8, and then read the quote from Mike Munchak that he would get around 15 carries a game. Well, he got nine carries (38 yards) and even caught a pass that he took for an additional 28. Most importantly, he converted a goal-line carry early in the game. The Titans may very well ground-and-pound it going forward, and he should be a solid flex play with a soft schedule ahead.
Montee Ball, DEN – We had Ball a little further down the list last week, but since he was on bye, we will mention him again. The Broncos finally turned him loose in Week 8, and it looks like they will continue to let him split time with Knowshon Moreno as they gear up for the playoffs. He got the bulk of the goal-line work in his last game, and might finally be worthy of a flex start for those that have been holding onto him. If he’s un-owned in your league, you should rectify that situation. It’s all about upside, and if Ball ever gets this job to himself, he could dominate.
Dennis Johnson, HOU – We tabbed Ray Graham as the player to speculate on in the Texans backfield last week, but instead the Texans signed the undrafted Johnson back off the Browns practice squad and inserted him into the lineup. He got eight carries for 36 yards in relief of Ben Tate, and should continue to fill the change-of-pace role for as long as Arian Foster is sidelined.
Rashard Mendenhall, ARZ – Mendenhall should return this week from his toe injury, and it will be interesting to see how much run Bruce Arians gives him. He was averaging about 12-18 touches prior to the injury, so it’s possible he eats into Andre Ellington’s upside going forward. He has very little upside himself, and I personally wouldn’t waste a roster spot on him if I could avoid it.
Denard Robinson, JCK – The Jaguars have promoted Robinson, a former quarterback from Michigan, to the number two spot behind Maurice Jones-Drew. The Jaguars are going to continue to play out the string, and Jones-Drew is both injury-prone and a pending free agent. It is quite likely that the team will want to get a look at what Robinson can do as they play out the string, and if Jones-Drew gets hurt, he could be a starting RB by the time the playoffs arrive. He’s worth speculating on in deeper leagues and dynasty owners should see if they have some room at the end of their bench.
Week 9 Updates
Shane Vereen, NE /Andre Brown, NYG – I’ve been reminding you about the scheduled returns of both injured running backs for awhile now, and both are owned in all of my really competitive leagues at this point. Brown will hit the field first this week, then the more explosive Vereen follows in Week 11. Brown will get more consistent touches but Vereen is more explosive, and potentially more valuable in PPR formats.
Mike James, TAM – James rewarded those that spent a bundle to get him in Week 8 by rumbling for 158 yards on 28 carries. He also padded his numbers with a touchdown pass on a little gimmick play at the goal-line. There are rumblings that Doug Martin may make it back on the field after all, but James proved that as long as he is starting and the team can stay close, he’s more than capable of carrying the load.
James Starks, GB – We had Starks in the Digging Deeper section last week, as he returned from injury and quickly established himself as the clear handcuff/change-of-pace option behind Eddie Lacy. For the second straight week, he took advantage of Lacy taking a breather to explode for a long touchdown run; this week’s being a 32-yard gallop into the end zone. In the wake of Aaron Rodgers' injury, the Packers are going to lean heavy on the running game, which should ensure Starks 5-10 touches at a minimum, which should be enough to give him some flex-appeal in deeper leagues. He’s a must-have handcuff for Lacy owners heading into the playoffs.
Aaron Dobson, NE – We last talked about Dobson in Week 7, when we highlighted the fact that he was playing more snaps than any other Patriots WR and had the chance to finally emerge as a key contributor to fantasy teams again. Fast-forward to last weekend, and the Pats second round choice finally lived up to expectations with a 130-yard, two touchdown day, while playing almost the entire game. Dobson has the skills and size to become a force in the red-zone, and Tom Brady has to like what he saw last week. He is on bye this week, so he could be floating around in shallow leagues. He makes a nice trade target if his owner has bye-week issues this week.
Mike Brown, JCK – We had Brown in the DD section last week, based solely on what he was producing as the WR3 for the Jaguars. Now that Justin Blackmon has been suspended for the remainder of the year, he becomes a starter and has a ton more upside than he did a week ago. He should now be acquired in all leagues and will benefit from the Jaguars' weekly garbage-time parade of passing stats.
Riley Cooper, PHI – I should have mentioned Cooper last week, since his best games of the season came when Foles was under center. The last time we wrote about him, we actually were calling him a sell-high product, and obviously that is the case again this week coming off his three-touchdown explosion. Still, if you don’t like the return, there is nothing wrong with sticking with Cooper as a flex option with great upside.
Doug Baldwin, SEA – Percy Harvin has had a hiccup in his recovery, which will give Baldwin at least one more week. He had a solid game last week filling in for the injured Sidney Rice, and if the Seahawks don’t rush Harvin back, Baldwin has a chance to continue to take advantage at the increased attention.
Mario Manningham, SF – Manningham has finally been activated from the PUP list, and will slowly work his way back into the starting lineup for the 49ers. The team has been lacking a deep threat all season, and Manningham can stretch the field when healthy. He is worth a deep-league stash, but his greatest contribution might be simply helping Anquan Boldin see more space to operate.
Cole Beasley, DAL – Beasley makes another appearance in this section after a six catch, 68-yard effort against the Vikings. Miles Austin is as good as done for the season, leaving the scrappy Beasley plenty of work out of the slot going forward. That should be enough to make him a reliable flex-option in PPR leagues, albeit one without a ton of scoring upside.
Jerricho Cotchery, PIT – Cotchery had his best fantasy day since, well, since forever, as he never tallied three touchdowns in a game before. And of course he likely never will again. I guess he could be worth a bench spot in some deeper formats, but there is no way you can expect more days like this.
Greg Little, CLE – Uh-oh, Little is teasing us again with his seven catch, 122-yard day against the Ravens. I watched much of the film, and have to admit he looked good on many of the plays he made, but once again showed his immaturity, drawing two silly unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. If other teams are going to try and take away Gordon and Cameron, then Little will get his looks, and the team has zero rushing attack. I can’t in good faith give Little a strong endorsement, but deep leaguers can get him cheap on a bye week and see if this is more than a one-game fluke.
Griff Whalen, IND – Whalen is yet another of Andrew Luck’s old college teammates from Stanford. He got his first start last week, and was the second most targeted (9) receiver last week. He only caught three passes for 32 yards, but Luck obviously knows him well, and won’t be afraid to look his way. He is an intriguing stash in PPR leagues.
Week 9 Updates
Marvin Jones, CIN – If you just look at the final numbers, it looks like Jones had a huge letdown after his four touchdown game a week ago. But closer inspection reveals that he actually had a 50-yard TD called back due to penalty and also was targeted in the red-zone on Dalton’s pick-six, on a ball thrown behind him. He also saw a big increase in his snap count from previous weeks and watched Mohamed Sanu drop two key passes, one that led to an interception. Don’t sell Jones low based on this game.
Darrius Heyward-Bey – Heyward-Bey didn’t exactly seize his opportunity to lock down the WR2 role for the Colts, and will be hard to trust as long as he is dropping passes. The lackluster showing and the fact that he got his bell rung near the end of the game means you might want to toss him back and take a different long-shot this week.
Rueben Randle, NYG – Randle really let his owners down in Week 8, and comes out of the bye needing to re-establish himself as a reliable flex option. He still has the upside in this offense, but he has to gain more consistency to regain Eli Manning and the coaching staff’s confidence.
Lance Moore, NO – Moore caught six passes for 70 yards on Sunday, but I personally was expecting more from him in a game where Marques Colston didn’t play and Darren Sproles got knocked out with a concussion. He’s bench depth at this point and time.
Nate Washington, TEN – Are you kidding me? I know that Cortland Finnegan is good, but I still thought something was coming this week. Lesson learned. When choosing your bye week WR replacement, consider the cornerback they will be facing. I think he can follow Locker and get back on track, but it will be tough for owners to trust him again this week. I’m just not sure I would jump ship just yet. Hold him for one more week if you can.
Timothy Wright, TAM – Wright is continuing the trend at tight end for the report this year of moving up the ranks each week until finally claiming the top spot. Wright has been one of Mike Glennon’s favorite targets since taking over for the Bucs, and he isn’t a traditional TE. He is a converted wide receiver and now has scored in two straight weeks. Go get him.
Garrett Graham, HOU – Graham hasn’t really made anyone forget about Owen Daniels since the latter was lost to injury, but the play of Case Keenum at least makes it worth considering him as a stop-gap option once again. You have to think teams will be blanketing Andre Johnson in the red-zone after his monster game, which could force Keenum to look Graham’s way again.
John Carlson, MIN – Kyle Rudolph will be sidelined for multiple weeks with a broken foot. That elevates Carlson into the starting lineup, where he will have a chance to try and shed the bust label he has carried around since the Vikings signed him to a big free-agent deal a year ago. The best thing he has going for him is that the job is his for the time being, so while we don’t expect big numbers, he at least will be on the field with an opportunity to make plays. That will be enough to get him on someone’s roster in deeper leagues.
Andrew Quarless, GB – Quarless will benefit from the Rodgers injury, since Seneca Wallace will use him as an outlet and chain-mover much more frequently than Rodgers ever would have. Not much value, but some value in two-TE formats while Rodgers is out.
Dennis Pitta, BAL – Pitta could return to the Ravens by the end of the month, and it can’t come soon enough for the Ravens, who have sorely missed an option to work the middle of the field. If you have been reading the column all year, you know that we are big advocates of stashing injured players, particularly if you have the need and the roster space. Pitta has been the premier stash candidate at the TE position since the season began. All we have been waiting for is for his return date to come into view. It’s always cheaper to grab injured players a couple weeks ahead of time, so if you are just getting by at TE, grab and stash Pitta now and hope he’s ready to take over by the time the fantasy playoffs roll around.
Week 9 Updates
Coby Fleener, IND – I’ve been a big Fleener supporter all year, and like the rest of you I keep waiting for the real breakout performance. He had a solid game last week, but he still dropped a key pass and kind of disappeared late in the game. Still, he looks like the second best option in the passing game behind T.Y. Hilton, so my advice is to stay the course with Fleener, even if it means he stays on the bench for perhaps another week.
Joel Dreessen, DEN – We wanted to mention Dreessen again this week, since the Broncos were on bye, and it is still possible Julius Thomas isn’t ready to play this week. If that happens, the veteran Dreessen could be a sneaky plug-and-play option this week.
Titans – Zac Stacy played last week, and took a little steam out of my prediction for the Titans. But, this week they get the Jaguars, which makes them a must-start in all leagues. If you are playing the streaming game, here’s this week’s ticket.
Cardinals – The Cards are coming out of a bye, playing at home and facing a young, gun-slinging QB. They are an opportunistic and aggressive unit and should be well rested and ready to roll. Oh yeah, they get the Jags in Week 11, so they could provide a nice multi-week option.
Giants – The Giants are also at home coming out of their bye, and they will catch a banged-up Raiders squad that has been turning the ball over a ton lately.
Shaun Suisham, PIT – The Bills give up a ton of points every week and Suisham is a bargain basement bye week replacement option at home this week.