Every week we'll break down the movers, shakers, winners and losers in fantasy football, and keep an eye out for the players you should be eyeing for your fantasy rosters.
Week 12 of the NFL season brings Thanksgiving and all its attendant joys -- the family get-togethers, sitting round the TV with turkey for the traditional football games involving the Cowboys and Lions -- but it's also the time of year that most teams' fantasy seasons, as well as most turkeys in the country, meet untimely ends. So whether you're on the way to the playoffs in your league, competing to the wire for a ticket to the Big Dance, or raising a final toast to the ashes of your 2012 fantasy football season, let's have a feast of fantasy together this week, with predictions aplenty...
The Week 11 Debrief:
1. MFFF's picks last week = Second-string QB struggles. We weren't incredibly high on any of the backup QBs starting in place of injured first-stringers last week, and for the most part, we were right. Pick a disastrous performance, and more than likely a backup QB was responsible, from Philadelphia QB Nick Foles' 2 INTs and scattered play to the sad sight of Pittsburgh QB Byron Leftwich limping up and down the field as he led his team to a paltry 10 points. The exception to the rule? San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick, who pretty much had his way with the Chicago D (but to pat ourselves on the back, we did like him as a fill-in starter).
Results for our other picks were a mixed bag -- Oakland RB Marcel Reece piled up over 200 total yards, and San Diego WR Danario Alexander continued his hot streak with 96 yards and 2 TDs, but Arizona TE Rob Housler wasn't targeted once, teammate RB Beanie Wells was held on the IR for one more week, and New Orleans RB Chris Ivory was lost amid the Saints' RB rotation (which should probably be called the Saints' Russian Roulette RB rotation, in honor of fantasy owners who have continually been burned by it over the past few years).
2. AFC: Is it really over already? While the playoff picture in the NFC is very much up in the air, the AFC playoff chase is (dare we say it?) kinda boring. All four division leaders (New England, Houston, Denver, Baltimore) have solid leads and look to cruise down the stretch. The wild-card chase is slightly more interesting, with the Colts, Steelers, and Bengals vying for two slots, with Buffalo and Miami potential darkhorses. With the exception of the Patriots (who have a habit of playing their starters even after the division is sewn up) you may have to start making contingency plans for division leaders like Houston, who will probably resort to playing more second-stringers late in the year, if they sew up the division early (RB Arian Foster owners, take note -- RB Ben Tate is ready and waiting to take more carries late in the year). On the other hand, teams vying for a wild card will probably go out guns blazing for a late push for the playoffs, which should ensure fantasy riches for starters on those teams (i.e., Bills RB C.J. Spiller, as he did last year, is poised for a big December).
3. Turkey Day Trifecta: This year on Thanksgiving we have another trio of games to masticate over (Houston at Detroit, Washington at Dallas, Patriots at Jets), and in the spirit of giving thanks, we're giving you three potential sleepers to fill in on your roster.
Detroit WR Ryan Broyles: Starting Lions WR Titus Young was sent home this week for bad behavior (it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without at least one Detroit Lion getting in trouble), and while QB Matthew Stafford's erratic play this season and overreliance on All-World WR Calvin Johnson doesn't make this a slam dunk, Houston will no doubt focus their attention on Megatron, so the time is ripe for Broyles to step up.
Dallas WR Dez Bryant: Maybe Dez has flown beneath the radar in your league up to now, but it's a good time to snap him up, as he's gone over 200 yards in his past two games and is shaping up to be QB Tony Romo's main playmaker, with hobbled WR Miles Austin continuing to underperform. He should get good looks against the suspect Redskin pass D.
New England WR Julian Edelman: With TE Rob Gronkowski out with a broken forearm, TE Aaron Hernandez coming off a long layoff, and WR Brandon Lloyd getting demoted for underperformance, Edelman steps into an unlikely position as New England's top deep threat. With WR Wes Welker taking the heat opposite him, Edelman should follow up his eye-opening 100+ yard, 1-TD performance (including a 47-yard run) last week with more yummy goodness on Turkey Day.
Bonus pick: New York Jets RB Bilial Powell: He only gained 42 yards last Sunday against the Rams, but his two close-range TDs indicate that he might be the decisive goal-line runner the Jets have lacked since Thomas Jones dressed in green.
Pittsburgh QB Charlie Batch
Okay, we just got done telling you how backup QBs aren't much to speak of, so how come we're picking Batch? Because he's a savvy vet who can manage a game, and has a history of sparkling performances as a pinch-hitter. He also has a favorable matchup this week against a Cleveland secondary that was torched by big plays and penalties against Dallas last week. And just to show you we're still sour about most backup QBs, don't be fooled by Jacksonville QB Chad Henne's performance last week -- he might have taken Houston off-guard last Sunday with his 4-TD passing performance, but history shows that his play levels off once teams get a good look at him, and he plays a tough Tennessee D this Sunday.
Jacksonville RB Jalen Parmele
In the wake of RB Maurice Jones-Drew's injury, it was expected that RB Rashad Jennings would rise up to take the bulk of carries, but after a pathetic -1 yards rushing last week, he was replaced with Parmele, who promptly picked up 80 yards and cemented himself as a starter this weekend.
Green Bay RB James Starks
Green Bay's rushing attack has been nothing to write home about this year, but the soft middle of the Giants' run D has been an inviting target for rushers the entire season, and Starks will get every opportunity for a breakout game.
Green Bay WR James Jones
Speaking of breakouts, Jones may not see a lot of targets against the Giants, but with a banged-up Giants secondary only sporadically aided by an inconsistent pass rush, we're counting on him to score a close-range TD or two.
Tampa Bay TE Dallas Clark
It's taken a while, but Peyton Manning's former favorite TE from Indy is now catching TDs in Tampa Bay, enjoying his best game of the year last Sunday (58 yards, 1 TD). With teams committing themselves to bottle up RB Doug Martin and WR Vincent Jackson, Clark has the chance to continue his renaissance down the stretch.
Best Offensive Matchup of the Week:
Green Bay at New York Giants: The G-men may be the defending champs, but the rest of the league has caught onto the fact that they're just not the same team that caught fire down the stretch last year. We expect this will look awfully similar to the last two times these teams played in the regular season, with Green Bay averaging over 40 points a game against New York.
Best Defensive Matchup of the Week:
Oakland Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals: It's homecoming week for Raiders QB Carson Palmer, who has had an up-and-down year. Unfortunately for him he faces a Bengal D that is coming off two superlative performances, and he'll likely be without prime RB Darren McFadden for at least one more week. MFFF looks for the men in the funny tiger stripes to continue their dominating play.
Got a specific question or need advice on fantasy football this week? Sound off in the comments section below.