The Fantasy Cover 4 – Week 12
While everyone drafts to pick the best available players at a position for the entire year, week-to-week there are always matchups to exploit and matchups to avoid. I’ve got you covered. Welcome to Start ‘Em Up and Shut ‘Em Down.
This is where you find out what matchups to jump on and which ones you may want to pass on.
(General Rule: ALWAYS start your stud players*. For everyone outside of that, follow the matchups)
Start ‘Em Up
Tony Romo: After another week off, courtesy of the bye, Romo should be feeling much better with his back injury. However, just in case he isn’t, he gets to face the Giants toothless pass rush ( 17 sacks, T 25th in NFL). Jersey/A is not only giving up 253 YPG in the air (22nd) but a staggering 8.1 YPA! (30th) Romo should have a comfortable pocket to pick apart the Giants woeful D.
Jay Cutler: Cutler faces off against the Bucs this week and former head coach Lovie Smith. His 2 big WRs, Marshall and Jeffery, are getting healthier (somewhat) and the Bucs pass D(isaster) allows 266 YPG (30th), 7.8 YPA (28th) and allow opposing QBs to complete 68.3% of their passes (31st). This could be a high scoring affair.
Josh McCown: There was a time last season when people wanted McCown, then with the Bears, to replace Cutler permanently. McCown isn’t the QB Cutler is, but later in his career he’s found a way to be successful. Since returning to the lineup Week 10, he’s thrown for 589 yards and 4 TDs, and Mike Evans is being fed. Oh, and he plays the Bears embarrassing pass D – which is allowing opposing QBs to complete 66.3% of passes (27th), allowing 256 YPG (25th) and a whopping 8.2 YPA (T- Dead Last). Fantasy heaven.
Denard Robinson: I can hear myself imitating Doc Brown from “Back to the Future” – “THE QUARTERBACK??” as if I just said Ronald Reagan was president. However, Robinson has been a hidden fantasy gem for 4 weeks now. Over his last 4 games, he is averaging 97 YPG and has scored 4 TDs. He’s averaging 4.8 YPC as well. The Colts run D isn’t terrible, but it’s far from good, ranking 17th allowing 113 YPG, and the 12 rushing TDs they have allowed this year are 2nd most in the NFL.
Jeremy Hill: Hill has been terrific filling in for an injured Gio Bernard. In 3 games, he 2x went over 150 yds and scored 2x. For the season, he’s averaging 4.9 YPC. The Texans are a middle-of-the-pack Run D (16th at 111.4 YPG) but with AJ Green back to stretch the field for Andy Dalton, Houston won’t be able to pack the box against the very physical Hill, who is expected to still get a larger share of the carries even with Bernard returning.
Justin Forsett: Forsett is coming off a strong game against the Titans where he ran for 112 yds and 2 TDs, and this week gets a Saints team that was annihilated by the above Jeremy Hill last week for 152 yards on the ground. The Saints run D is 19th in the league and falling(114.7 YPG) as they try to hold on to a season that is quickly slipping away from them. Look for the Ravens to try to pound early and often with Forsett against the Saints reeling D.
Josh Gordon: The prodigal son returns (in a cloud of smoke?) and he’s apparently very motivated. The Browns will finally get their top weapon back for the stretch run. Gordon could scorch Atlanta like the second coming of General Sherman this weekend. Atlanta’s pass D is DEAD LAST giving up 281 yards per game. It’s almost like waving a red flag in front of an angry bull. The Falcons also generate no pass rush, with only 13 sacks all year, 2nd fewest in the league. If you’ve held on to Gordon this long, congratulations. You’re about to be rewarded.
Mike Evans: Guess who’s back on the list again? How did Evans top back to back 120+ yard weeks? With a 209 yard game of course! Evans is totally unstoppable right now, and the Bears pass D won’t have the luxury of facing a rookie QB with limited weapons this week. Bears had given up a minimum of 270 yds passing in their 4 games previous to last week (Atl, Mia, NE, GB) and got torched by Brady & Rodgers for over 300+. They have no one to match up with Evans, who should continue his massive surge.
Wes Welker: he’s been a forgotten man in Denver since getting caught popping the Molly, but with both Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas banged up, he should see a big increase in targets this week, because it’s not like Peyton Manning is going to throw it less. Even though Miami is a very tough pass D (2nd in NFL allowing only 208 YPG) Welker has PEYTON MANNING, and the chances of 2 bad games for that offense in a row – and this one in their own building – with a division dogfight going on – I wouldn’t think so. Look for Wes to gobble up a bunch of targets.
Martellus Bennett: he’s only had 1 big week since opening the season with 4 straight terrific games, but Tampa’s D is that bad. If you’re looking for a potential replacement for Julius Thomas, he’s a solid bet to produce.
Coby Fleener: With fellow TE Dwayne Allen still not on the practice field, Fleener is looking like a plug-in TE1 this week. He was terrific last week, hauling in all 7 targets he saw for 144 yards. He should see another big batch of targets again this week against the Jaguars lowly D, which is 27th in the league, allowing 263 YPG.
Jason Witten: He’s not the Witten of old, but with the Giants all but rolling over and playing dead defensively (see stats in Tony Romo’s blurb) he should have plenty of opportunity to score.
Shut ‘Em Down
Drew Stanton: It’s bad enough the Cardinals had to replace their starting QB with Drew Stanton, don’t make the same mistake. Thankfully he had a big 1st quarter last week because the Cardinals offense was never heard from for the final 54 mins of that game. Arizona’s resurgent D is going to carry them, not Stanton. Despite the Seahawks not being as good as were last year defensively, playing in Seattle is still a big challenge. Pass.
Alex Smith: There’s a big difference between winning real games and winning fantasy games. Smith is a terrible fantasy QB. They guy has thrown for 250 yards in a game this season only 1 time. ONE! And hasn’t topped 200 yards in a game since Week 8! Even though the Raiders are bad, stay away from Alex Smith. Fantasy Plague.
Robert Griffin III: Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden all but threw RG3 under the bus when he agreed with comments made by former 49ers QB and Hall of Famer Steve Young that Griffin doesn’t put in the necessary time to be successful in the league. It’s a damning accusation for the former Baylor star, who has yet to recapture the magic of his rookie season. Whether it’s health, scheme, personality, it doesn’t matter. What matters is he’s facing the Niners in San Francisco, who are one of the fiercest defenses in football (4th vs Pass, 6th vs run) and have Aldon Smith back. No thank you.
Jonas Gray: Gray was brilliant against the Colts last week, racking up 201 yards and 4 TDs. Don’t expect that to happen again when the Patriots have to face a real defense in the Lions. Detroit is numero uno vs the run this year. They allow less than 69 YPG and only 3.0 YPC, both tops in the league. The encore will have to wait until the face the Packers Week 13.
Ryan Mathews: he was decent in his return to the lineup last week, but only carried 16 times for 70 yards. Those aren’t awful numbers, but they were against Oakland. This week, the Chargers face the Rams, who while statistically are a middle of the pack run D (18th/ 114.6 YPG) their confidence is high after shutting down what was left of the Broncos. He was in a virtual time share with Branden Oliver last week, not worth the risk as an RB2.
Alfred Morris: Morris is doing his best not to make fantasy owners pay the price for his team’s inconsistent QB performances, but he has yet to go over 100 yards in a game this season. Plus, he’s facing the Niners. Find a better matchup.
Rueben Randle: Was “Wrong Route Reuben” the intended receiver on every single one of Eli Manning’s 5 INTs last week, or did it just seem that way? Somehow he still went over 100 yards receiving last week, but to date, it’s the only time this year it’s happened. He’s definitely not trustworthy if you are fighting for your fantasy playoff life. The Cowboys D, vastly underrated all year, is 14th against the pass, allowing 240 YPG and their 14 pass TDs allowed is the 3rd fewest in the NFL.
Michael Floyd: He scored 2 TDs in the first qtr last week, and didn’t catch another pass. That’s some serious boom or bust stuff right there. To be fair, chances are far more likely he doesn’t catch 2 more 1st qtr TDs than that he repeats that feat. He hasn’t seen more than 5 targets in a game since Week 6. Last week was the first time he went over 50 yards receiving (he had 54) since Week 3! Not who I want to rely on against the Seahawks D.
Doug Baldwin: being the Number 1 WR is Seattle isn’t all it’s cracked up to be these days. 3 straight games under 50 yards receiving despite a minimum 6 targets a game make him far too risky a play, especially with a rejuvenated Cardinals secondary.
Zach Ertz: Ertz had his best week in a month Week 11 vs Green Bay. 4/55 is decent, but he hasn’t scored since Week 6 and did I just say that 55 yards receiving was his BEST in a month? Yes. Yes I did.
Eric Ebron: caught a career high 4 passes last week for a massive 22 yards in his first action since Week 6. Perhaps we should look at the fact he had 4 catches as progress, the Matthew Stafford actually knows who he is now? More likely, we look at it as unacceptable production for the fantasy stretch run. His high Rec yards this year is 38. With Megatron and Golden Tate, he’s an afterthought.
Jordan Reed: Reed still isn’t practicing after pulling his right hamstring vs Tampa. He previously hurt his left hamstring and missed 4 games. Someone needs to get this man running backwards. Even if he starts, the Niners D is a lot to overcome when healthy, let alone under 100%. Niles Paul, his backup, is a serviceable emergency starter.
Week 12 Top 5’s
Andrew Luck – Ind (vs Jax)
Aaron Rodgers – GB (@ Min)
Tony Romo – Dal (@ NYG)
Drew Brees – NO (vs Bal)
Peyton Manning – Den (vs Mia)
Matt Forte – Chi (vs TB)
DeMarco Murray – Dal (@ NYG)
Arian Foster – Hou (vs Cin)
Jamaal Charles – KC (@ Oak)
Eddie Lacy – GB (@ Min)
Brandon Marshall – Chi (vs TB)
AJ Green – Cin (@ Hou)
Jordy Nelson – GB (@ Min)
Demaryius Thomas – Den (vs Mia)
Julio Jones – Atl (vs Cle)
Rob Gronkowski – NE (vs Det)
Jimmy Graham – NO (vs Bal)
Martellus Bennett – Chi (vs TB)
Jason Witten – Dal (@ NYG)
Coby Fleener – Ind (vs Jax)
QB: Brees, P. Manning, Rodgers, Luck
RB: Charles, McCoy, Forte, Lynch, Murray, Bell, Foster
WR: A. Brown, Bryant, AJ Green, C. Johnson, Marshall, Nelson, D. Thomas, Julio Jones
TE: Graham, Gronkowski, J. Thomas, Gates
Patrick Creighton is the host of “Nate & Creight” on Sportsradio 610 Houston. Follow him on Twitter: @PCreighton1