The NFL season is rolling right along. In Week 12, with only the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers on bye, we have lots of choices for our FanDuel, DraftKings, or other Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) salary cap game of choice lineups. Plus, this week we witness the eagerly anticipated return of a player many have been waiting on all year . . . Josh Gordon! Is he a good play this week? Take a look below and find out.
Aaron Rodgers, GB (Week 12 @ Minnesota)
A few weeks ago, the hottest quarterback was Tom Brady. Now, that is Aaron Rodgers. He just thumped a “what was thought to be” stout Philadelphia defense with 341 passing yards, three touchdowns and 32 rushing yards. He now goes against division rival Minnesota Vikings, who have a decent pass defense, but I expect another similar stat line from Rodgers.
Middle of the Road:
Jay Cutler, CHI (Week 12 vs Tampa Bay)
What an interesting game this should be: Marc Trestman and Jay Cutler against former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith and last year’s Chicago “savior” Josh McCown. I think Cutler plays an amazing game proving to all that he was the right choice over McCown. Also, don’t forget, Tampa Bay ranks fifth for most fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Cutler and the Bears should have a huge week.
Cheap, High Upside:
Matt Ryan, ATL (Week 12 vs Cleveland)
Since coming off their bye in Week 9, Atlanta has had two big back-to-back road victories, especially in Week 11 against division foe Carolina. Atlanta now comes home where they usually play at the top of their game. With Josh Gordon making his debut for Cleveland, Atlanta and Matt Ryan may have to throw a lot. At such a cheap price, Ryan is definitely worth plugging in for what should be a shootout.
DeMarco Murray, DAL (Week 12 @ New York Giants)
Dallas is coming off a bye, so they should be healthy. The best running back in the game, Murray, against a team that allows the second most fantasy points to opposing running backs, put your confidence in Murray. He will come out of the bye ready to go and will run all over the Giants.
Middle of the Road:
Terrance West, CLE (Week 12 @ Atlanta)
With teammate Ben Tate waived earlier this week, West and Isaiah Crowell are now the two main running backs for Cleveland. Regardless of who gets the starting slot, they have a hugely favorable matchup playing Atlanta, who allows most fantasy points to opposing running backs. West has been running strong, so I expect him to start and run all over Atlanta, especially with Josh Gordon stretching the field.
Cheap, High Upside:
Trent Richardson, IND (Week 12 vs Jacksonville)
With Ahmad Bradshaw placed on Injured Reserve this week due to a broken leg, Indianapolis Colts will turn to Richardson to lead the team. This is a great opportunity for Richardson to show that he still has plenty of gas left in his tank. Jacksonville is a weak run defense and has allowed the most receptions to opposing running backs. Richardson is a good start this week as he should get plenty of work since the Colts should crush Jacksonville and run a lot to kill time.
Demaryius Thomas, DEN (Week 12 vs Miami)
With Emmanuel Sanders unlikely to play due to a concussion and Julius Thomas banged up, Denver and Peyton Manning will turn to Thomas to carry the team. Thomas has been consistently producing solid games and he will continue to do so at home against Miami.
Middle of the Road:
Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, CHI (Week 12 vs Tampa Bay)
Both Chicago Bears wide receivers should have huge weeks. As mentioned earlier, Jay Cutler will likely make a statement to all fans and doubters this game against his old coach. I’d play both Jeffery and Marshall with confidence since both have great opportunities against a weak pass defense.
Cheap, High Upside:
Josh Gordon, CLE (Week 12 @ Atlanta)
This is the moment we’ve been waiting for all season: the return of Josh Gordon. He will spread the defense out by forcing double coverage, but Gordon still has enough abilities to thrive with a ton of attention from the defense. Hoyer has been winning and surviving this long and now he gets an early Christmas present as Cleveland continues to push for the playoffs. Gordon will be targeted heavily, early, and often – Play Him!
Rob Gronkowski, NE (Week 12 vs Detroit)
There is not much to say here. Gronkowski (Gronk) continues to thrive no matter what the matchup is. He is a machine. Play him and watch Brady connect with his favorite player.
Middle of the Road:
Coby Fleener, IND (Week 12 vs Jacksonville)
Fleener had an incredible game in Week 11 finishing with seven receptions for 144 yards. He stepped up for Dwayne Allen, who left the game with an injury. Prior to the injury, both Allen and Fleener were producing for the Colts. If Allen misses time, which is expected, Fleener will continue to produce at a high level.
Cheap, High Upside:
Charles Clay, MIA (Week 12 @ Denver)
In Week 11, Clay was targeted the second most from quarterback Ryan Tannehill, which means Clay is earning his quarterback’s trust. Denver allows the fifth most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Clay has an opportunity for many targets and probably a touchdown.
San Francisco 49ers (Week 12 vs Washington)
San Francisco’s defense is getting stronger every week as they make a playoff push. Coming into town in Week 12 is a bad Washington team. San Francisco should roll.
Philadelphia Eagles (Week 12 vs Tennessee)
Philadelphia ran into the buzz saw of the Green Bay Packers in Week 11. Prior to that though, they were a strong defense. Playing at home against a weak Tennessee team, I expect a big bounce back game from Philly.
The end of the season is in sight and teams are starting to make a push for playoffs. This is when the “cream rises to the top”. Players we rely on and expect big stats from will start to stand out above the rest. Week 11 has four teams on bye: Baltimore, Dallas, Jacksonville and New York Jets. Let’s get to it.
Elite, Expensive: Andrew Luck, IND (Week 11 vs New England)
This game is a battle of great quarterbacks: Luck vs Tom Brady. Luck is coming off a bye, so he and Indianapolis have been studying how to strategically best the New England Patriots. I expect a shootout in primetime on Sunday Night Football. Luck should easily have over 300 yards passing and 3 touchdowns.
Middle of the Road: Philip Rivers, SD (Week 11 vs Oakland)
Rivers and San Diego entered their Week 10 bye after a humiliating shutout in Miami in Week 9. I expect San Diego to come out in Week 11 against a very generous Oakland defense and prove that Week 9 was an anomaly. Rivers will get back on track and should be started with confidence.
Cheap, High Upside: Colin Kaepernick, SF (Week 11 @ New York Giants)
Kaepernick finished Week 10 with an decent day. He had 210 yards passing, one touchdown, and added 24 rushing yards. In Week 11, he faces the Giants who are among the top ten for most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks this season. As I expect this game to be high scoring, I see Kaepernick finishing with over 250 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, and adding at least another 30 yards rushing. That is a solid stat line for such a cheap option.
Elite, Expensive: Arian Foster, HOU (Week 11 @ Cleveland)
Arian Foster is having a great season. There is some question as to if he will play on Sunday, however, reports are saying he is good to go, so I expect him to handle the full workload. Cleveland does not have the strongest run defense this season. Foster comes out of the bye and silences the injury talk.
Middle of the Road: Mark Ingram, NO (Week 11 vs Cincinnati)
Ingram just ran for 120 yards against a pretty solid run defense. Ever since taking over as the primary back for New Orleans, he has been red hot. He now gets to play at home against the third-most generous run defense. I expect him to top 100 yards again and find the end zone at least once.
Cheap, High Upside: Steven Jackson, ATL (Week 11 @ Carolina)
Jackson finished Week 10 with a decent stat line: 81 yards, one touchdown and caught two passes for 14 yards. He is once again becoming a solid option for fantasy leagues. He now gets to play the fourth-most generous run defense in Carolina. Atlanta looks to continue to push for the playoffs in the weak NFC South, so Jackson should play a major role.
Elite, Expensive: Calvin Johnson, DET (Week 11 @ Arizona)
Johnson returned from injury in Week 10 and returned to his old ways. He had 15 targets, seven receptions, 113 yards, and one touchdown. Matthew Stafford must have loved having his stud wide receiver back. In Week 11, it is a battle of top NFC teams. Arizona is among the top ten teams for most fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. I expect Johnson to continue to shine.
Middle of the Road: Odell Beckham Jr., NYG (Week 11 vs San Francisco)
Beckham has turned into one of the better rookie wide receivers this year. He stepped in to fill a void left by the injury to Victor Cruz, and he hasn’t disappointed. He is proving to be Eli Manning’s go-to target. Even against a tough Seattle pass defense in Week 10, he posted seven catches for 108 yards. In Week 11, he is playing another tough pass defense, but those don’t seem to stop him. I will plug him in and watch him continue to outperform his price.
Cheap, High Upside: Kelvin Benjamin, CAR (Week 11 vs Atlanta)
Benjamin is among the top ten wide receivers in the league for fantasy points. Although it was not pretty, he finished Week 10 with three receptions for 70 yards and two touchdowns. He will go into Week 11 playing at home against Atlanta, who is generous to wide receivers. For the price, Benjamin is a must play.
Elite, Expensive: Rob Gronkowski, NE (Week 11 @ Indianapolis)
Gronkowski (Gronk) is the best tight end in the game. He is an integral part of the New England offense and it is hard to stop him because he is so big and physical. Indianapolis ranks sixth for fantasy points allowed to tight ends, so Gronk should continue to feast in this primetime matchup.
Middle of the Road: Travis Kelce, KC (Week 11 vs Seattle)
Kelce is among the top ten tight ends in 2014 for fantasy points scored. He now gets to play against Seattle who is fifth-most generous defense to opposing tight ends. Kansas City will need to utilize Kelce if they plan on winning this game.
Cheap, High Upside: Coby Fleener, IND (Week 11 vs New England)
Both Indianapolis tight ends seem to keep producing. As the primary tight end, Dwayne Allen, should steal most of the coverage from the Patriots. Fleener could possibly sneak around the field and gain the targets from Luck. Both tight ends have the potential to score, so why not take the cheaper option?
Denver Broncos (Week 11 @ St Louis)
This should be an easy matchup for the tough Denver defense. St. Louis is allowing the second most points to opposing defenses. Easy choice here.
San Diego Chargers (Week 11 vs Oakland)
San Diego is coming off a humiliating loss and a bye, and they want to get back on track by proving a point. Oakland ranks among the top ten for fantasy points allowed to opposing defenses. San Diego should roll in this game.
Mark Sanchez, Jets
He got the Moving Up treatment last week based on opportunity. He gets the Moving Up treatment this week based on production. With 332 passing yards and two touchdowns, Sanchez was the 5th ranked fantasy quarterback this week. Consider him a low end QB1 until Nick Folks returns to the lineup. Unfortunately, the schedule isn’t as friendly as it could be.
Cam Newton, Panthers
While it was nice that he padded his fantasy production this week with 306 passing yards and two touchdowns that came mostly in garbage time against the Eagles, it’s pretty clear that Newton is no longer QB1 material. He turns the ball over far too often, takes too many sacks and is an inconsistent running threat, at best.
Matt Ryan, Falcons
The decimation along the Falcons offensive line has put a serious dent in Ryan’s production. It’s that simple. He has one multiple touchdown game in the last five games. He hasn’t topped 275 passing yards in the last four games, a stretch where he is averaging 16.9 PPG.
Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
While Lynch hasn’t been horrible in 2014, he wasn’t exactly lighting the league on fire prior to Week 9. However, he has heated up over the past two weeks with a 143 total yard, two touchdown performance in Week 9 and a 163 total yard, four touchdown performance this week against the Giants. While the Seahawks schedule isn’t great between now and Week 16, Lynch has more than enough talent to produce like a high end RB1 over the balance of the season.
Steven Jackson, Falcons
Has he been all that impressive? No. However, SJax has touchdowns in two straight games and rushed for a season high 81 yards this week on 16 carries, giving him 34 carries over the Falcons last two games. He’s here for that reason and Atlanta’s upcoming schedule which features the Panthers 23rd ranked run defense this week, the Browns (28th) next week, a touch matchup against the Cardinals (3rd) and then the Packers (30th), Steelers (11th) and Saints (12th) from Weeks 14-16.
Charles Sims, Bucs
The rookie 3rd round pick wasn’t anything special in his pro debut this week with just 23 yards on eight carries although he did catch two passes for 17 yards. More importantly, he equalled Bobby Rainey in touches and with Doug Martin apparently in the doghouse, Sims has an opportunity to grab hold of the lead running back position in Tampa. With the Bucs out of the playoff picture, they have plenty of incentive to see if he can be that player.
C.J. Anderson, Broncos
Ronnie Hillman is likely going to miss a couple of weeks and Montee Ball has been ineffective and will return from injury in Week 11. That spells opportunity for Anderson who chalked up 163 total yards and a score this week against the sorry Raiders defense. Well, the Rams defense has been equally sorry at times this season and they are on tap for Anderson in Week 11.
Justin Forsett, Ravens
Forsett is averaging 13.5 PPG over his last seven games. His lowest total yardage output over that stretch is 85 yards. He has topped 90 total yards in six of those games. He is averaging 16.4 touches per game this season and is the 6th ranked fantasy running back in total points. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and acts like a duck then it’s a duck. This duck is an RB1.
Montee Ball, Broncos
Ronnie Hillman goes down with an injury and up steps C.J. Anderson. With Ball having done nothing to prove that he is capable of handling a workhorse role or even guaranteeing himself a spot in the starting lineup during his first year and a half in the league, he is nothing more than a low end flex option at this point.
Toby Gerhart, Jaguars
Pure handcuff at this point. Gerhart has 11 rushes and four receptions since returning to the lineup thee games ago.
Odell Beckham Jr., Giants
The rookie 1st round pick has shoved Rueben Randle aside as the Giants leading receiver. After his eight reception, 156 yard performance in Week 9, he posted seven receptions for 108 yards this week against the Seahawks as he squared off against Richard Sherman. Not bad for a player with just five games under his belt.
Jordan Matthews, Eagles
Touted as a pro ready receiver and a potential WR3 entering the season, the Eagles rookie 2nd round pick was merely okay during the first eight weeks of the season, chalking up just 32 receptions for 313 yards and three touchdowns despite being targeted a fairly healthy 52 times. However, he busted out on Monday night, catching seven of his nine targets for 138 yards and two touchdowns. With Riley Cooper failing to deliver the big plays that were a hallmark of his career year in 2013, Matthews could be primed for a big finish to the season.
Torrey Smith, Ravens
Steve Smith started out hot but it appears that it will be Torrey that finishes hot. After struggling mightily over the first five games of the season, he has 16 receptions for 270 yards and five touchdowns in the last five weeks. Look for the yardage totals to jump and for Torrey to finish the season as a low end WR2.
Anquan Boldin, 49ers
Boldin has easily emerged as the 49ers most consistent pass receiving threat, topping 60 receiving yards in five of the last six games, a stretch where he has been targeted at least seven times a game. During those six games, he has hauled in 35 receptions for 466 yards and three scores. That’s WR2 production, folks.
Marques Colston, Saints
You have to love 7th round picks that have forged out the type of solid career that Colston has. However, he is clearly a player in decline in his 9th year in the league or suffering from an undisclosed injury. With just 30 receptions for 480 yards and a score in nine games, he is on pace to finish with career lows in receptions, yards and touchdowns (removing his injury marred 2008 season). And he’s trending downward with just 12 targets, nine receptions, 121 yards and no scores in his last three games.
Andre Holmes, Raiders
After a nice little stretch where it appeared that Holmes might emerge as the Raiders top threat at wide receiver (17 receptions for 298 yards and four touchdowns in four games), he has cooled considerably with just two receptions for 28 yards last week and a 0-0-0 line this week with just one target. With Oakland’s offensive game plan spreading the wealth like peanut butter, Holmes’ fantasy prospects have nose dived.
Steve Smith, Ravens
Hasn’t scored in four games and has just 88 receiving yards on 24 targets over the last three weeks. It’s not hard to jump to the conclusion that his 35 year old legs are struggling after his extensive workload over the early part of the season.
Jason Witten, Cowboys
After being targeted just 22 times over a five game stretch, Witten has regained his status in the Cowboys offense and has been targeted 22 times in the last three games. And he’s producing, catching 16 of those targets for 165 yards and a pair of touchdowns. A good way to help protect your injured quarterback is to have him throw checkdowns to his tight end. Did I mention that the Cowboys face passing defenses ranked 21st or lower from Week 12-16?
Zach Ertz, Eagles
Probably late on this one. After totalling 163 receiving yards and a score in the first two weeks of the season, Ertz has been a non-factor in the Eagles offense. Over his past seven games, he has 212 yards and a score. Worse yet, he has five targets in the last two games.
In the NOT CONVINCED JUST YET category, we present:
Adrian Peterson, Vikings – Getting the vibe that there is at least a decent chance that he does not see the field over the rest of the season.
Drew Stanton, Cardinals – He’s in but I need to see more before he gets the Moving Up endorsement.