Fantasy Football Forecast: T-Day on Turkey Day
For most fantasy football players, it's come down to this week: either you've clinched a playoff spot (congratulations) and you need to make some tweaks to your roster for the playoffs, or you're on the bubble and must put everything on the line for a win this weekend (we here at the Military.com Fantasy Football Forecast empathize with you if you're in the latter category -- we find ourselves in just such a position heading into Week 13, and lest you judge us too harshly, the fact that we're even here with a team that started the season with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Ray Rice and Jermichael Finley says something). In honor of Turkey Day, let's call this weekend of NFL action T-Day -- as in TDs, as in it would be nice to have 'em.
So let's cut straight to the playoff chase, shall we? Here's our picks that can either help you get over the hump or provide solid depth for this week and beyond:
Chicago QB Josh McNown: We keep getting tantalized with hints that Jay Cutler may return soon, but until an official announcement is made, you can do worse than going with McNown as a fill-in starter. The matchup this week (against a defense-poor Minnesota squad) is favorable too.
Buffalo QB E.J. Manuel: The big question mark with the electric rookie is health, but as long as he stays on the field his contributions as a passer and a runner make him a sneaky good play.
Arizona QB Carson Palmer: The results are undeniable -- after some early-season struggles, Palmer has been lighting up defenses over the last month as he's acclimated himself to Bruce Arians' offense. More importantly, he's about to face two defenses that are vulnerable to the pass (Philadelphia and St. Louis).
Denver RB Montee Ball: He hasn't lit the fantasy world on fire, but with starter Knowshon Moreno looking iffy for this week's tilt, he steps up as a viable starter.
Atlanta RB Steven Jackson: Almost every Atlanta offensive player has been fantasy poison this season, and Jackson has been no exception, with a string of lackluster performances, but he came through with a better stat-line versus the Saints last Thursday, and the Falcons seem intent on feeding him the ball, which is useful if you need steady (if unspectacular) production. This Sunday he figures to get a lot more touches in a road game at Buffalo.
Tennessee WR Justin Hunter: Was his 6 catch, 109 yards and 1 TD performance against Oakland last Sunday a breakout game, or a flash in the pan? Given that he's up against the sieve-like Colt D this week, he's not a bad gamble if your WR corps needs resuscitation.
Oakland WR Rod Streater: With the emergence of Matt McGloin as the Raider QB of the present, Streater's fantasy value has shot up, with 11 catches and almost 200 yards the past two weeks.
Minnesota WR Cordarrelle Patterson: The rookie receiver hasn't set the world on fire, but with a total of 18 targets the last two weeks, he's starting to get more chances. He's worth a gamble if you need a fill-in, and the match-up (versus a battered Bears D) is good.
Pittsburgh Defense: Maybe the current Steeler D doesn't match up to the fabled Steel Curtain defenses of yore, but its improved play in recent weeks has been a major contributor to the team's resurgence this month. This week Pittsburgh faces blood rival Baltimore in a divisional showdown, and with the Ravens' offense sputtering this year (they've even resorted to playing Wildcat and spreading their $120-million QB out as a WR, which is as sure a sign of desperation as any), the Steeler defense has a positive matchup.
Players to avoid:
St. Louis RB Benny Cunningham: Hey, he torched the Bears last weekend and with starter Zac Stacy looking questionable for next week, he's a shoo-in right? Except that the Rams are playing the Niners, whose run defense has been sterling in recent weeks.
Houston RB Dennis Johnson: Johnson came out of nowhere to give a strong performance against the Jaguars last Sunday, stealing time and carries from presumptive starter Ben Tate. But that was the Jaguars, and this week the fading Texans play the Patriots, who sliced and diced them the last time they met. We foresee a similar outcome this time, and if the Texans fall behind early, chances are Johnson won't see much of the ball.
New England WR Julian Edelman: Surely Mr. Edelman is a hot ticket after his 110 yards and 2 TDs last weekend, right? Well, if the Patriots' topsy-tervy offensive performances have proven anything this year, it's that Tom Brady will go with whichever hand is hot any given week, which means that starting Edelman is a roll of the dice.
New England RB Brandon Bolden: See Mr. Edelman above.