Here is a no huddle approach toward addressing this week's best starts, and most advisable sits at the QB, RB, WR and TE positions. It is designed to help with those difficult lineup decisions as you continue your drive toward the playoffs, or maintain the momentum for teams that are virtual locks to participate in the postseason. Your time won’t be wasted with recommendations that you start Drew Brees or LeSean McCoy. Nor will you be reading about the need to keep Trent Richardson or Mike Wallace affixed to your benches. Instead, there will be a focus on less obvious player evaluations as we enter Week 12. This is the final bye week, which is outstanding news for the entire fantasy community. Unfortunately, the four teams that will be off this week contain many important performers that have been helping their owners every week. If own any Eagles, Bills, Bengals, or Seahawks, you will need to utilize alternatives in their place. However, this column can assist you in accomplishing that. Since game time is approaching, we’ll launch into Week 12.
Ben Roethlisberger at Browns
He has now thrown four TD passes in two of Pittsburgh’s last three games, while averaging 342 YPG during November. While Cleveland’s fourth ranked pass defense should not be dismissed, the Browns have surrendered 16 TDs. Rushing yards will not be attainted easily, and the Steelers will rely heavily on Roethlisberger and the passing attack. While Antonio Brown will face the daunting of attempting to gain separation against Joe Haden, Big Ben has a sufficient number of alternative targets, and will accumulate significant yardage.
As scary as this idea might initially be, here are multiple reasons to trust him. Even if it is only for this one matchup due to limited options. Dallas is dead last against the pass, while permitting 313 YPG. They are also allowing 26 PPG. Plus, Eli threw for 450 yards and four TDs when these division rivals met in Week 1.
Philip Rivers at Chiefs
After generating 11 TDs in September, Rivers has only manufactured eight in his last six contests. This week’s visit to hostile Arrowhead Stadium is certainly not a matchup in which you should depend upon the 10-year veteran to improve his output. The Chiefs’ talented defense ranks second with 36 sacks, and is also second with 24 takeaways.
There are a whopping nine INTs on his resume over the past four contests, with just five TDs. As deficiencies along the offensive line have combined with devastating injuries and an ineffective ground game to negatively impact Ryan in recent weeks. More disappointment is on the horizon when the Saints march into Atlanta on Thursday night. The New Orleans defense currently ranks third against the pass, fifth in points allowed (18.3), and is also tied for sixth with 32 sacks.
He has been allotted at least 26 carries in each of the past three contests, and has averaged 89 YPG since Week 5. Given the fact that no St. Louis receiving options have displayed any consistency with Kellen Clemens, Stacy remains the teams’ most effective offensive weapon by a sizable margin. This week he should run roughshod through a depleted Chicago defense that ranks next to last against the rush. The Bears have suffered the embarrassment of being shredded by Ray Rice last Sunday, and even allowed Brandon Jacobs to deliver his best numbers since 2008 during their Week 6 matchup.
Ben Tate vs. Jaguars
Tate has persevered through broken ribs, while assembling 275 rushing yards in the past four weeks, and generating 117 total yards in Week 11. Now he will encounter Jacksonville’s overly charitable run defenders, who are dead last in that category, while yielding 139 YPG. The have also permitted a league worst 15 TDs, which should encourage Tate owners even further.
Pierre Thomas at Falcons
The P.T. Cruiser has been remained productive on a consistent basis thanks to Sean Payton's frequent deployment of the seventh-year back as a duel threat. With Darren Sproles operating at well less than 100% on a short week, Thomas should receive an extensive workload. And that should take place amid an exceptional matchup with Atlanta. The Falcons are a mere 30th against the run, while allowing 133 YPG.
Ray Rice vs. Jets
After averaging just 36 YPG heading into Week 11, his 131 yards last Sunday represented the level of production that owners had envisioned when they invested a first round selection in Rice. Unfortunately, that surge in production occurred primarily due to the shortcomings of Chicago’s 31st ranked run defense. This week, Rice faces the NFL’s premier run stoppers, and a return to paltry output is imminent.
Donald Brown at Cardinals
He established season highs in yardage (80) and TDs (two) in Week 11, while outperforming Trent Richardson once again. And since Colt OC Pep Hamilton is committed to running the ball extensively, Brown could deliver more satisfactory performances for his understandably hesitant owners. That makes it safe to employ him when the matchup is favorable. But that is not the case this week. Arizona’s miserly third ranked run defense is yielding just 87 YPG, and has only permitted three TDs on the ground all season.
After rumbling for 194 rushing yards in Weeks 8-9, he has managed an anemic 19 on 11 carries in Miami’s last two games. While it is conceivable that his production will improve, the continued presence of Daniel Thomas coupled with the sometimes questionable play calling make that unlikely. And it certainly won’t happen this week, as Carolina’s stingy rush defense ranks third, and allows just 84.5 YPG.
Marques Colston at Falcons
After failing to reach 20 yards in three consecutive contests, he has now amassed 187 in the past two weeks combined. He has also received eight targets in each of those games, which is great news for owners who might be concerned that the eight-year veteran was getting lost amid Drew Brees’ plethora of weapons. Now, he should excel once again versus a 22nd ranked Atlanta pass defense that has yielded 21 TDs.
Kendall Wright at Raiders
He has amassed at least 69 yards in each of his last six contests. Week after week he has remained Tennessee's primary target, while receiving at least eight targets in seven different contests. Plus, he has proven to be the team's most reliable option throughout that process. Ryan Fitzpatrick will need to find his options quickly before Oakland’s complex blitz packages engulf him, and he will attempt to locate Wright repeatedly. That should result in very favorable production, and enable Wright to generate his first TD since Week 2.
He overcame a sprained shoulder to generate the most prolific performance of his career in Week 11. He was targeted with a team high 11 passes, which enabled Floyd to assemble a season high six receptions, a career best 193 yards, and a memorable 91 yard- touchdown. While that degree of production will be difficult to match when he lines up against the Colts, he should remain an integral part of Bruce Arians’ game plan. That makes him a viable WR3 option. Particularly for owners who are contemplating potential bye week replacements.
After averaging 89 YPG from Weeks 3-6, Moore had risen to undisputed WR3 status. But after managing just 11 yards on two receptions in Week 11, he has now failed to surpass 45 yards in three of Oakland’s last four contests, That dubious output should continue this week, as it is likely that Alterraun Verner will be shadowing his every movement. That has not been good news for WRs this season because the Titan CB has yet to allow a TD, and has garnered five INTs.
He became an unquestioned starter for fantasy owners after he accumulated 11 receptions for 222 yards in Weeks 4-5. But he has been limited to two catches or less in four of the Cowboys’ past five contests, and has only amassed 54 yards on three receptions during the Cowboys’ two most recent games. Now, his stock appears destined to plunge further. Because Miles Austin’s return to the lineup creates a massive cloud of uncertainty surrounding Williams’ role going forward.
Lance Moore at Falcons
When Moore received a season high 10 targets in Week 9, it appeared plausible that he would continue to possess a vital within the New Orleans offense. But the disappointing numbers that he has attained during the Saints last two contests suggest just the opposite. A grand total of six targets have resulted in just four receptions for 37 yards. There are numerous options at Brees’ disposal, and Moore stuck too far down that list for you to entrust him with a starting slot.
Delanie Walker at Raiders
After being targeted 36 times in Tennessee’s first eight contests, Walker has received 18 in the last two. As a result of being utilized more extensively, he has assembled 153 yards and two TDs in the past two weeks, including 91 in Week 11. He will have an excellent opportunity to continue his recent scoring surge against a Raider pass defense that had yielded six TDs to TEs this season.
His Week 11 output was outstanding, after he was targeted a team high 13 times by Houston QBs Case Keenum and Matt Schaub. That enabled Graham to generate a season high seven receptions, a career best 136 yards, and his fourth TD of the season. While this lone performance does not vault Graham into unquestioned TE1 status on a weekly basis, his matchup with Jacksonville enables him to reside in that category this week. The Jaguars rank just 24th versus the pass, and have surrendered 20 TDs through the air.
This has been a difficult position for many owners this season, and you may not have the luxury of finding a more favorable option. Plus, it might be difficult for you to move beyond those early games with high quality production. But reality needs to be embraced: he has scored just once since Week 4, while averaging 42 YPG since that time.
His excellent production at the onset of the season is a very distant memory. He has just one TD since Week 2, and a 30 YPG average since Week 7. And considering that the Rams have permitted just two TDs to TEs this season, it is definitely in your best interests to employ a better option