One. More. Week.
Bye weeks are the most agonizing aspect of fantasy football, and Week 12 presents the final slate of byes of the 2013 season. Four more teams, a handful of relevant fantasy options and a crucial week to continue your playoff push. Let’s get to the starts and sits, shall we?
Week 12 byes: BUF, CIN, PHI, SEA
Thumbs Up; Quarterbacks
Eli Manning vs Dallas Cowboys: It’s not everyday I recommend Eli, so pay attention. Yes, he’s been impossible to trust this season, but with the likes of Russell Wilson and Nick Foles on a bye, Manning is a top-10 option this week in a dream matchup. The last time Manning faced the Cowboys, he posted his only game with 20 or more fantasy points (36). Dallas is currently allowing the most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks with over 26 per game. This unit just recently surrendered over 600 yards of total offense the last time they stepped on the field, and the Giants are buzzing recently. In a huge divisional game, Manning could have his second big fantasy outing.
Mike Glennon @ Detroit Lions: I liked Glennon a lot last week, and even with game flow not going his way, Glennon’s fantasy upside was a bit capped. Still, Glennon was terrific, completing 20-of-23 passes for 231 yards and two scores. He looked very, very strong and gets another strong matchup this week. The high-powered Lions offense won’t fall behind like Atlanta did, which should force Glennon to throw far more than 23 times. Detroit is currently averaging 26.5 points per game, the sixth-most in football. They will score their fair share of points, so Glennon will have to keep up. He’ll have a shot, as the Lions are also allowing an average of 21.78 fantasy points per game to signal callers. Opposing quarterbacks are also averaging 39.6 pass attempts per game against the Lions, and considering Glennon was averaging 37.5 pass attempts per game prior to his last two, there should be volume here.
Colin Kaepernick @ Washington Redskins: Kaepernick hasn’t thrown for 200 yards in his last four games, and clearly hasn’t been the top tier fantasy quarterback we thought he would be this year. He isn’t running as much, which hurts his value, but he shouldn’t have to run this week. The Redskins lowly pass defense is allowing 23.04 fantasy points per game this season, the fifth-most in football. They are allowing 12.1 yards per completion, which is the second-most among defenses. I think you can trust him this week, and he’ll easily eclipse 200 passing yards.
Philip Rivers @ Kansas City Chiefs: After a scorching start, Rivers has tailed off quite a bit lately. He has just two 20-point games since Week 5, and while he is a safe weekly option, he may falter in Week 12. A Chiefs defense, at home, will be playing with fire after losing a tough rivalry game against Denver. Kansas City is allowing the seventh-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks, and held Peyton Manning to just one score last week, which is an accomplishment in itself. I see San Diego struggling to score, and Rivers’ offensive line has been struggling lately. That’s bad timing heading into Kansas City, who are second in the league in the sack department (36). Opposing signal callers are completing just 54.25 percent of passes, the lowest in football.
Robert Griffin III vs San Francisco 49ers: Man, RG3 has been so, so inconsistent this season, and it’s been tough to watch. I don’t think he is a must-start option right now, especially this week. The 49ers have dropped two straight games, need to get a win and their defense could pester Griffin all Monday night long. San Francisco is surrendering the 6th-fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, and have only allowed multiple passing scores three times all season long.
Thumbs Up; Running Backs
Zac Stacy vs Chicago Bears: The man crush is very, very real. I love Zac Stacy, and I don’t care who knows it. Arguably my best call of the season, Stacy has been awesome as of late. Over his last three games, he’s averaged 107.6 rushing yards per game and has scored three times. The Rams are feeding him the rock, as he’s seen at least 26 carries in each game during that span. He has a terrific matchup this week against a depleted Bears defense that has allowed more rushing yards than any team not named Jacksonville. In their last five games, the Bears have allowed at least 100 yards rushing in each, including a breakout game from Ray Rice and that atrocious offensive line. Opposing teams are running the ball 29.9 times per game against Chicago, which is the second-most in football. Stacy is a top-10 option this week.
Pierre Thomas @ Atlanta Falcons: Thomas continues to be arguably the most underrated fantasy back in both formats. Since Week 5, he is averaging 18.5 offensive touches per game, resulting in 90 total yards and four scores. During that span, he has totaled over 70 fantasy points, and is very quietly the number 12 running back in fantasy football this year. He has surpassed Darren Sproles as the Saints back to own, seeing 41 snaps per game, compared to 31.8 for Sproles. The Falcons host New Orleans on Thursday night, an evening where running backs tend to thrive. Atlanta is allowing 22.90 fantasy points per game to backs, placing them inside the bottom 10 on the year.
Shane Vereen vs Denver Broncos: If eight catches on 11 targets was “easing” Vereen in, I can’t wait to see what happens when they give him a full workload. Vereen was everything we thought he’d be in this offense in his return, seeing over 50 percent of snaps. He only carried the ball once, but if Stevan Ridley continues to cough up the football, that will change. A matchup against the Broncos isn’t favorable for him on the ground, but New England should have to throw the ball a ton to keep up in this game, which bodes will for Vereen, who is clearly this team’s pass-catching back.
Lamar Miller vs Carolina Panthers: Apparently Daniel Thomas is a better running back than Miller, so that’s just great. When Miami feeds Miller the ball, he’s great. But there’s just one problem. Those scenarios are hard to come by. Miller has carried the ball just 11 times over his last two games. He may need 30 carries to be productive against an elite Panthers defense that is allowing less than four rushing yards per attempt and 84.5 yards per game on the ground (third-fewest in football).
Trent Richardson @ Arizona Cardinals: Richardson is bad, Donald Brown is playing more. Need I say anything else? Okay, okay. In a key situation last week where they needed to run the football effectively to kill clock, it was Brown, not Richardson in the backfield. The last time Richardson posted more than nine fantasy points, it was September. Arizona’s defense won’t be kind to him, as they are allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing backs (15.53 per game).
Thumbs Up; Wide Receivers
Vincent Jackson @ Detroit Lions: Jackson is still a top flight wide receiver in this league, and needs to be thought of such in fantasy as well. I like Glennon this week, so I like Jackson as well. Coming off a monster game, Jackson is a top-seven option this week against Detroit. Jackson is getting targeted religiously, seeing the second-most looks in football this year (113). The Lions are friendly to wideouts, allowing a whopping 36.88 fantasy points per game, the second-most in football. Also, opposing number one wideouts have found the end zone in each of the last four games against Detroit (Antonio Brown, Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant, A.J. Green).
Marques Colston @ Atlanta Falcons: Colston got off to a slow start, but over his last two outings, he’s hauled in 12 passes for 187 yards and a score. He is getting the necessary looks from Drew Brees, especially in the red zone. I love him this week against a Falcons defense that is the fourth-friendliest to opposing receivers. Colston found the end zone in Week 1 against Atlanta, and in 14 career games against the Falcons, Colston is averaging almost 10 fantasy points.
Cecil Shorts @ Houston Texans: A bit of a gut call here, but I like Shorts after complaining about a lack of targets last week. He stated that the offensive gameplan was dumb, and needed to sit down with coaching staff. We’ve seen wideouts go off after complaining about lack of looks (see, Wallace, Mike and Brown, Antonio). Jacksonville will essentially have to throw in every game they play, and Shorts is the clear number one in the passing game. It’s a tough matchup against Houston, but they have surrendered six touchdowns through the air over the last three games.
Steve Smith @ Miami Dolphins: It’s Week 12, and the Dolphins still have allowed just one touchdown to a wide receiver this season. Despite starting Monday night’s game with a big 42-yard reception, Smith finished with just four catches for 62 yards. It’s hard to give up on a feisty player like Smith, but he just isn’t getting separation as easily anymore. Miami is also allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to receivers, coming in at 21.50 per game.
Mike Wallace vs Carolina Panthers: I will almost never suggest starting Wallace, and this week is no exception. His chemistry on the deep ball with Ryan Tannehill just hasn’t been there, and the struggling offensive line hasn’t given Wallace any time to fully run his routes (not that his route tree is great anyway). On deep balls, Wallace has hauled in just 53 percent of passes, and Tannehill is completing just 35.3 percent of passes traveling 20 yards or more. Tannehill has also been sacked a league-leading 46 times this season, and the Panthers defense comes to town, a unit that is averaging 3.1 sacks per game.
Thumbs Up; Tight Ends
Garrett Graham vs Jacksonville Jaguars: Coming off a 12-target game, Graham is a strong tight end option this week. We all know about the conundrum last week with the Texans signal callers, but Case Keenum will be under center this week. That’s good for Graham, as 9 of his 12 targets came from Keenum last week. It’s a terrific matchup against the Jags, who are allowing 14.58 fantasy points per contest, the second-most in football.
Coby Fleener @ Arizona Cardinals: Fleener is without a doubt the number two receiving option in Indianapolis. He’s seen 10 targets in each of his last two games, hauling in 12 balls for 140 yards during that span. Quarterback Andrew Luck loves him, and with the Cardinals up next, he may find him a lot. Arizona should get some pressure on a struggling Colts front, which could spell a ton of check downs to the tight end. It also helps that Arizona is allowing the most fantasy points to tight ends.
Jordan Cameron vs Pittsburgh Steelers: The tale of two halves. Cameron was a top-three tight end during the first portion of the season, but after that, it’s been ugly. He’s only scored one touchdown since Week 4, and since Brian Hoyer went down, he hasn’t been utilized correctly. In fact, with Jason Campbell under center, Cameron, a massive end zone man, has seen just one target in that area. One. That’s unreal. It’s difficult to trust his usage from here on out.
Thumbs Up; D/ST
Ravens defense vs New York Jets: Did you see what Buffalo did to the Jets on Sunday. Rookie Geno Smith turned the ball over four times, and is currently on pace to turn the ball over 30-plus times this year. The Ravens are tough at home, allowing less than 13 points per game. The Jets allow opposing fantasy defenses to post 12.70 fantasy points per game, the fourth-most in football.
Denver defense @ New England Patriots: It’s not that Denver’s defense will be bad, but this game has all the makings of a shootout. Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning games always feature a ton of points, and I don’t see that changing this year, especially with Brady’s weapons back for New England.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.