By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer
RealTime Fantasy Sports
Every game is important during the season because they all count the same but for most, this week's game might be the most crucial. And we all know the reason for this - many leagues end their season in Week 13. So that means several teams are fighting for their playoff lives this week. Win and you're in or lose and you're out. It is pretty simple. So do your research and get all your eggs lined up for this week. It should be a fun ride. Now for my random thoughts. . . .
I don't think he'll do a whole lot to end this season but I'm encouraged by the progress of Browns receiver Greg Little. I think he could be a big-time fantasy receiver in 2012. He has at least five receptions three straight games and is emerging as the No. 1 in this offense. Little is a very talented player but was raw coming into this season. I expect him to take a big leap forward next season.
Alright, Mike Shanahan is at it again. Can you trust any of these backs? Well, I think Roy Helu has some value for the rest of the season. It really makes no sense for the Redskins to give any other back the starting job. Helu is the future at the position and provides the most upside. I think he is worth some starts at the flex spot from here on out. Again, it is a risk because Shanahan changes his tune often but I think this one might stick after Helu's big showing in Week 12.
I'll be the first to admit I offered two really bad pieces of advice last week. The first came in this column, calling Beanie Wells a "cold" start for the week. Wow, he was far from cold, setting a career high rushing mark. He finally got going after some down weeks and torched a bad Rams rush defense that shut him down a few weeks back. Ouch. That was as bad as it gets for me. My other erroneous call was telling an emailer to start Cam Newton over Drew Brees. This was obviously a close call but I felt his matchup against the Colts provided more upside for that big game. What happens? Well, Brees had one of the best games of his career while Newton produced but nothing near Brees. So why am I telling you this? Well, it just goes to show you can do your research and come to an educated decision and be totally wrong. I wish I was right every week but that just won't be the case. If it were, I would be in Vegas expanding my bankroll.
You have to feel for Steven Jackson some, playing on such a bad team for so many years. He has been a really good back in this league and produced well for fantasy teams but his best days are likely behind him. He has a ton of carries under his belt and is nearing that magical age of 30. I expect a big drop off in production next season. His finish to this season hasn't been too encouraging. Jackson still runs hard and has some burst but he doesn't make tacklers miss and as his speed goes a little, his yards will continue to dwindle with his running style.
As a Andre Johnson owner in a couple leagues, I'm very concerned about him going forward. He finally returns to the lineup but has a third-string rookie throwing him passes now. Not good. Johnson should do better than last week going forward but I'm not expecting past production from him in this offense going forward. I'm also bracing for him to be a low-end No. 2 or solid No. 3 the rest of the way - not what I envisioned come draft day. It is almost a fitting end to his injury-plagued season.
I have mentioned this before but teams that have Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham are winning a lot of games this year. These guys are carrying many fantasy teams, which normally isn't the case for the tight end spot. But they are getting almost 6 points more per game than the No. 3 rated tight end (Tony Gonzalez). So they are producing about a touchdown more per game than the third-rated guy, which is a huge number for position that hasn't been quite as deep as expected. Most tight ends are getting about 11 points per game while Graham and Gronk are around 20.
For me, I think Philip Rivers has been the biggest surprise this season. Just didn't see that one coming. Rivers keeps denying he is hurt but he just doesn't look right. We all remember when he played through a pretty serious knee injury a few seasons back so I wouldn't be surprised if something is revealed after the season. Rivers is still capable of the big game any week in this offense but I don't see a huge turnaround here late in the season. That said, I think he can return to previous form in the seasons to come. He is too talented and has too good of a track record to continue his current play.
As Darren McFadden nears a return, most Michael Bush owners are hoping he doesn't come back. Bush has the second most fantasy points at running back the last three weeks with McFadden out. Bush continues to show he can be a solid starter in this league. Here is to hoping he gets that chance from day one in 2012. He has a ton of upside in a starting role.
So Victor Cruz is now fourth in receiver scoring this season. This is a guy that wasn't drafted in nearly every league. He has been the waiver-wire gem of the season. Well, Cam Newton is another great waiver-wire addition but Newton was drafted in some leagues. Cruz was out there for nearly everyone early in the season. And I don't think he is a flash in the pan. He has the trust of Eli Manning and has clearly outplayed Mario Manningham, who was expected to be the one to breakout this season. Cruz should continue got more chances than Manningham going forward. Cruz just makes plays.
News and Notes: Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was suspended two games without pay for stomping an opponent in Week 12. He is appealing the suspension, so it isn't known when he'll start serving the suspension. . . . .The Colts have benched quarterback Curtis Painter, giving Dan Orlovsky the start in Week 13. It isn't a surprise with Painter really struggling of late. Orlovsky has some starting experience but hasn't started since 2008. . . . .Jacksonville fired coach Jack Del Rio on Tuesday. He'll be replaced by defensive coordinator Mel Tucker for the rest of the season. . . . .Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson was benched at the end of last week's game but head coach Andy Reid said Jackson will get the start in Week 13. The benching was temporary for Jackson. . . . . .The Texans signed veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme on Tuesday. He becomes the top backup to T.J. Yates and could take over at some point before the season is over if the rookie shows signs of struggle.
Eli Manning, QB, Giants. The Giants' defense might be a mess but Manning isn't. He is playing at a high level right now, carrying the offense most weeks. Manning has thrown for at least 250 yards in all but a game this year. He has multiple touchdowns four of the last five games and 21 total touchdowns for the season. He also is doing a better job of cutting down on the turnovers, throwing 10 interceptions this season. Manning should be involved in a shootout this week, facing the Packers. He is a must start in Week 13, getting a team 31st against the pass.
Laurent Robinson, WR, Cowboys. Robinson has been as big of a surprise as any this year. He has played at a very high level since joining the Cowboys. He has touchdowns five straight games and seven total during that stretch. Robinson has been the top red-zone target in the passing game. Miles Austin has a chance to return this week but it isn't certain right now. Either way, Robinson will play a big role in the game because of his play of late. And Robinson should do well in a matchup against the Cardinals, team 25th against the pass. Robinson is a must start with his play of late.
LeGarrette Blount, RB, Bucs. Blount really has it going at the moment, having back-to-back 100-yard games. He has three 100-yard games this season despite missing a few games this season because of injury. Blount should get a very heavy workload this week against a Panthers defense that can't stop anyone on the ground. Carolina allows the most fantasy points to running backs this season and give up 137.5-rushing yards per game.
Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts. Tough to ever consider Wayne a hot play with his quarterback play a mess but last week was encouraging for Wayne. He hit the 100-yard mark and scored a touchdown for the first time since Week 1. If he were ever to build on that game, it would be this week against the Patriots. The Colts are likely to get down big in this game, having to throw often in the second half. Wayne should get plenty of targets against a Patriots team that allowed 400-passing yards last week and continue to rank dead last against the pass.
Frank Gore, RB, 49ers. Gore has been a little up and down of late since returning from his knee injury. He hasn't scored a touchdown in four games while being held under the 100-yard mark in three straight. But we think this is the week Gore gets going again. He plays the Rams, a team that allowed Beanie Wells to rush for 228 yards last week. The Rams are dead last against the rush, allowing 159 yards per game. Gore should get a ton of work in this matchup, making him a top fantasy play.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Steelers. Roethlisberger didn't look quite as sharp in his first game with a broken thumb, going 21-of-31 for 191 yards and a touchdown with an interception. It was his first game with fewer than 200 yards. He still has plenty of upside in a good offense so don't totally discount him but playing against the Bengals in Week 13 is a concern. He had just a touchdown against them a few weeks back and Cincy allows the fifth fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. He could have more struggles in this one.
Steven Jackson, RB, Rams. Jackson continues to get plenty of work and produce pretty consistently for fantasy teams but has cooled some with the Rams really struggling. Jackson has fewer than 65-rushing yards each of the last two games. He will get his touches in Week 13 but don't expect big numbers once again. Jackson plays the 49ers, the only team in all of football to not allow a rushing touchdown. San Francisco ranks first overall against the rush, giving up just 75.5 yards per game. If you have better options, go with them this week.
Santana Moss, WR, Redskins. Moss returned from his broken hand last week and looked just fine in the game. He caught just four passes, though, for 29 yards. Moss has been getting the catches this season but has fewer than 40 yards in each of the last four games he has played. Plus, his season high in receiving is just 76. He isn't a great fantasy option right now, especially in Week 13 against the Jets. New York allows the third fewest fantasy points to receivers and Darrelle Revis should draw Moss in coverage, which is bad news for Moss.
Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns. Hillis looked just fine last week, getting about all the work at running back and coming out of the game healthy. He also looked pretty good in the game, gaining 65-rushing yards. It was his second highest rushing total of the season. We think Hillis could be a factor down the stretch, especially with the motivation of a new contract on the table. But he isn't likely to do much in Week 13, playing the Ravens. Baltimore allows the second fewest fantasy points to running backs and rank third overall against the rush.
Alex Smith, QB, 49ers. On paper, there probably are several owners thinking Smith should do well against the lowly Rams in Week 13. St. Louis has been dreadful of late and allows 24.5 points per game. The problem is the Rams can't stop the run. Teams focus on running the ball against them, limiting the pass some. The Rams are eighth against the pass but 32nd against the pass. We just don't see Smith getting a ton of chances in this one, making him a shaky fantasy play.
Matt Moore, QB, Dolphins. Moore continues to play well in a starting role for the Dolphins. He had a season-high 288-passing yards last week and three-touchdown games two of the last four. Moore is gaining steam in the Dolphins' offense. He is worth some fantasy consideration, especially in the right matchup. And a matchup against the Raiders could be the time to use him. Oakland allows the 11th most fantasy points to quarterbacks and rank 19th against the pass. Moore is a good injury fill-in for Week 13.
Eric Decker, WR, Broncos. Decker is a scary play because the Broncos just don't throw much but it seems when they throw, Decker is most targeted. Decker has touchdowns four of the last five games and is the top red-zone target in the passing game. And Decker has a good chance to find the end zone again this week against the Vikings. Minnesota has allowed the most passing touchdowns (22) in all of football this season. He is a solid No. 3 for Week 13.
C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills. Spiller looked good in his first start of the season last week, gaining 70 total yards against a very good Jets' defense. He showed some potential in the game for fantasy teams. Spiller should only get better in more favorable matchups, which including this week's game against the Titans. Tennessee is 22nd against the rush and has allowed 100-plus rushing yards seven straight games. They started the season well against the rush but have really struggled lately. Spiller has value as a flex option or low-end No. 2 back in Week 13.
Damian Williams, WR, Titans. Williams is another scary proposition because his production can be erratic but he is emerging as a top red-zone target for the Titans. Williams has touchdowns three of the last four games. He has five touchdowns for the season, which is impressive if you consider he played very little the first few weeks of the season. He is worth another flier in Week 13, facing the Bills. Buffalo is reeling defensively, allowing 25.5 points per game and ranking 22nd against the pass.
Shane Vereen, RB, Patriots. Vereen didn't have a carry the first nine games of the season but has 15 the last two games. He is getting a few more chances, especially when the Patriots are up big late in the game. We think that could be the case in Week 13, getting a bad Colts' team. Vereen could get some garbage yards with the Patriots winning big. He is worth a look in deeper leagues against the winless Colts, a team that allows 29.7 points per game.
WAIVER WIRE POSSIBILITIES
T.J. Yates, QB, Texans. The Texans are down to their third quarterback. Yates takes over as starter with Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart both out. The Texans could be even more run first with Yates at the helm, but still have plenty of weapons for the passing game and Yates could get some chances to makes some plays. Yates could be worth a spot start in the right matchup. He could surprise but using him down the stretch probably won't win many fantasy championships.
Roy Helu, RB, Redskins. Helu goes back to relevant again this week, getting the start at running back for the Redskins and producing big in the process. He had his first 100-yard rushing game of the season. The Redskins stated a few weeks back Helu couldn't handle the pressure to start - it seems they have changed their tune. Helu should be the starter from here on out. He brings the most upside to the Redskins rushing attack. Again, you never know with the Redskins and their running back situation, but for the 33 percent of leagues that have Helu available, he is worth grabbing.
Rex Grossman, QB, Redskins. Grossman will make some bad decisions and probably turn the ball over more than most, but he makes plays and produces in the end. He has 250-plus passing yards five times this season. Grossman also has five touchdowns the last two games. He has some fantasy value as long as he is starting. And Grossman is owned in just 21 percent of leagues, so if you are looking for a spark at quarterback, Grossman is worth a look.
Johnny Knox, WR, Bears. Knox is starting to gain some steam in the Bears' offense. He has touchdowns back-to-back games, catching seven passes for 242 yards in those games. He is the most talented and dependable receiver on the Bears' roster but needs the playing time, which he hasn't been getting consistently. But that seems to be changing now, especially with new quarterback Caleb Hanie looking like he is forming a nice rapport with him. Knox could be a factor down the stretch for fantasy teams, worth some looks as a No. 3 receiver.
Donald Brown, RB, Colts. Brown has touchdowns two of four games and double-digit carries four straight games. He is the best back in the Colts' offense right now, which isn't saying much, but still gives him some fantasy value. He had a season-high 80-rushing yards last week and at least 65 total yards three straight games. He might be worth a look at the flex spot the last few games of the season.
Others to consider: Kyle Orton, QB, Chiefs; Marion Barber, RB, Bears; Dan Orlovsky, QB, Colts; Maurice Morris, RB, Lions; Greg Little, WR, Browns.
High/Low Scoring Games
Each week we will take a look at some of the high and low scoring games for the coming week. In high scoring affairs, get your marginal players on those teams in your lineup to take advantage of the possible points barrage. And in the low scoring games, keep those marginal players on the bench and make sure to have your defenses involved in those contests.
High Scoring Games: Raiders/Dolphins, Titans/Bills, Packers/Giants, Lions/Saints.
Low Scoring Games: Bengals/Steelers, Jets/Redskins, Chiefs/Bears, Ravens/Browns.
If you have any questions or comments, please email Jeff Paur at email@example.com