We’re past the bye week storm and fantasy skies are clear. There will be no more talk of storms and if you’re still here reading along then congratulations my friend, you’ve surviving the fantasy-life threatening catastrophe that has been the last three weeks. With only a mini bye week (Pittsburgh/Carolina) owners should be at or near full strength this week and throughout the rest of the season. There are still owners of Big Ben, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Cam Newton, Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen that could be left scrambling but after this week we’re all officially done with these bye week inconveniences.
We’ve now reached that point in the season that we will all remember quite well, and that point we will use to define our season as a success or failure. For some reason, the memory of fantasy owners improves ten-fold at about this time of the year. We all have our stories about how we got to this point but we sum it up by saying something like “well, earlier this season my team was great led by those couple of big games that (fill in QB/RB/WR/TE) had but then (QB/RB/WR/TE) struggled and I find myself here in week 12 fighting for my playoff life”. For those of us still alive, weeks 1-11 tend to be muddled into one group of games and performances. Then week 12 gets here and the part of the season that we will remember vividly begins and our memories become very specific: “I remember it like it was yesterday. Ryan Mathews was my hero in weeks 14-16 when he plowed through the Giants, Broncos and Raiders racking up 382 yards and a 3 TDs, one in each game. His TDs were from 1, 9, and 23 yards out…ahhhhh the memories.” This is not my memory. I will admit I looked this up, but someone out there does have this clear and fond memory of Ryan Mathews 2013 fantasy playoff performance. The team playing against these performances will remember these things just as vividly. Which brings me to one of my many clear and precise memories….in Week 14 2008 I played against Santana Moss vs. Baltimore on Monday Night Football. Right before halftime on 3rd and 15 from their own 5 yard line, the Redskins’ Jason Campbell threw a WR screen to Moss who broke a tackle and ran up the sideline for 25 yards. From that moment on, I led by .74 points all the way up until the Redskins’ last offensive play of their last drive…a meaningless Santana Moss 4 yard catch…I lost my playoff matchup by .16. Since then I’ve had hypnotists and psychiatrists do their best to repress this memory but it isn’t going anywhere. But now I don’t want them to make me forget. That loss is a part of me. It motivates me every year and the memories that this time of the year brings, both good and bad is what fantasy football is all about.
Although I’ve listed two examples of playoff heroics, the memories begin with how we made the playoffs or how we were eliminated. For the teams still battling for playoff position, it’s time for you to determine what your first real fantasy football memory of 2014 will be, and you should use the following sleepers and busts advice for Week 12 to help you succeed in creating happy memories.
Without further ado, your week 12 Sleepers and Busts:
DISCLAIMER: A sleeper is not a must start and a bust is not a must bench, they are merely indications that a player will have a better or worse game this week than they normally do. It all really depends on your alternatives. I will give an example of a few players for whom I personally would start the sleeper over or bench the bust for. These players are simply there as an indication of how good or bad I think the sleepers/busts will perform so you have a comparison in mind when applying it to your actual lineup. For example if I am comparing a QB to a stud like Andrew Luck, I am not necessarily saying you need to start him over Luck (even if I would) but it will imply that I feel really good about him.
· Eli Manning vs. Dallas. Eli Manning is coming off one of the worst games of his life, a game in which he threw 5 INTs, so obviously those in the fantasy world will be down on him. The 49ers returned Pro Bowl defensive lineman Aldon Smith to the lineup last week and their pass rush was predictably much improved. The Giants have huge holes on the offensive line and a team with that kind of pass rush is going to give Eli and the Giants major problems. Dallas comes into New York off a London vacation where they also got to play a football game against the Jaguars. The Cowboys only have 16 sacks on the season and only have one player with more than 2 sacks. They came into the Jaguars game on a two-game slide and they took a step back defensively with the loss of LB Justin Durant and DT Tyrone Crawford. In these two games, they allowed Colt McCoy to throw for nearly 300 yards and they allowed a 249 yard, 3 TD game to Carson Palmer. The Giants should be able to protect Manning enough to free Odell Beckham, Reuben Randle and Larry Donnell who all match up well with the Cowboys who will attempt to cover them (Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick, Rolondo McClain/Barry Church). In Eli’s last three matchups against the Cowboys, he’s had multiple TDs in each game, a total of 9 TDs vs. 4 INTs. Prior to last week Manning had been a low end QB1. In fantasy football sometimes, we have to let a week like last week against the 49ers go, and not let it sway our opinions too much. I see a shootout in a matchup where neither team will be playing effective defense.
I’d Start Eli Manning over: Russell Wilson, Andy Dalton, Ryan Tannehill, Josh McCown, Matthew Stafford
· Josh McCown at Chicago. Former Bears QB Josh McCown comes into week 12 having thrown 4 TD in his last two games. The experts are ready to anoint him as a QB1 in his return to Chicago. I think it’s a nice story, but anyone giving McCown QB1 status on the road is just over reacting. McCown comes off back to back games against two of the worst defenses in the NFL, the Falcons and Redskins. The Bears are another of the league’s worst, ranking 31st against fantasy QBs, but much of that ranking is due to the 11 TD assault put on them by Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers in weeks 8 and 10. Head Coach, Mark Trestman, and Bears defensive coordinator, Mel Tucker, know what McCown has in his arsenal and should be able to develop a game plan to limit breakout WR Mike Evans and veteran WR Vincent Jackson. If the coaches’ familiarity with McCown were the only issue I wouldn’t list him here. The forecast in Chicago calls for 100% chance of steady rain with winds up to 20 MPH. A combination of the Bears’ coaching staff and mother nature will ensure that McCown’s return to Chicago will come in a sloppy game, not a shootout between two poor defenses. Keep him benched.
I’d Start the following players over Josh McCown: Mark Sanchez, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson
· Bishop Sankey at Philadelphia. Until last week most of what we’ve heard from Ken Whisenhunt about Bishop Sankey is that his footwork hasn’t been right. Sankey owners were left frustrated by this for weeks as he was losing touches to Shonn Greene and Dexter McCluster. Finally, this week we heard Whisenhunt say something normal and complementary about his 1st round running back. His exact words were, "I thought he was physical, I thought he was decisive, he was better with his reads…Those are things where you’ve seen improvement." Sankey only had 45 total yards, but he did score a TD and more importantly his coach came away impressed. Zach Mettenberger has provided a spark to this offense and they should be able to move the ball against an opportunistic yet poor Eagles defense. Sankey is the featured back and the Eagles have allowed RBs to hit pay dirt at least once in four straight weeks (Ellington, Foster, Stewart, Lacy). It's no coincidence that this stretch coincides with the season ending injury to starting LB DeMeco Ryans. Sankey has finally caught the coach’s eye, he’ll get redzone opportunities and he’ll continue to dominate snaps and touches in the backfield. He’s being listed as a mid RB3 but in this matchup I see him as a mid-low RB2 or at worst a flex.
I’d start Bishop Sankey over: Joique Bell, Chris Ivory, Tre Mason, Shane Vereen, Lamar Miller
· Alfred Morris at San Francisco. This may be an obvious choice but Alfred Morris is still being listed being listed in the RB2 realm, too high for my liking this week. The 49ers are at home and on the season are the second best team against fantasy RBs. The Redskins, coming off a home game against TB where they couldn’t move the ball, will have a hard time sustaining drives on the road in San Francisco. If Colin Kaepernick doesn’t screw it up, the 49ers should be able to jump out to a lead early and we’ll be seeing a lot of Roy Helu in the backfield (Helu is a nice flex option this week). In addition, we’re coming off a week where RG3 threw his team under the bus while talking to the media. His act has grown tired to his coaches and I wouldn’t be shocked to see an uninspired Redskins team who won’t fully have the back of their over-rated outspoken QB, leading to a disastrous overall offensive performance from the Skins. It’s going to be a tough go this week and from here on out for Alfred Morris.
I’d start the following players over Alfred Morris: Tre Mason, Isaiah Crowell, Bishop Sankey, Ryan Mathews
· Marques Colston v. Baltimore. Brandin Cooks is lost for the season with a broken thumb. The immediate reaction is to assume that his targets will go to Kenny Stills, the young big play WR oozing with upside. We talked a little bit about the Cooks injury and Kenny Stills on our podcast earlier this week. However, while I do see Stills getting more targets, I think the biggest beneficiary could be the old reliable Marques Colston. Cooks did provide some big plays on deep balls, but he had been mostly running a lot of short to intermediate routes, routes that Colston had run in the past. Colston (34 receptions) had moved down to 3A or 3B in the pecking order behind Jimmy Graham and Cooks, and was even with Stills (31 receptions). It’s weird to say, but the Saints are having a tough year offensively and they may want to simplify things by going with what they know has worked in the past, short and intermediate routes to Colston. This week they’ll host a Baltimore team starting a secondary that has played exactly one game together. They played just fine at home against Zach Mettenberger and the Titans, but playing in the Superdome against Drew Brees with his back against the wall is a totally different story. Expect the Saints to have a bounce back game and be led by Drew Brees’s main men for the last few years, Jimmy Graham and Marques Colston. I see Colston as a solid WR3 moving forward in PPR leagues.
I’d Start Marques Colston over: Malcolm Floyd, John Brown, Eric Decker, Jarvis Landry, Cecil Shorts
· Golden Tate at New England. Golden Tate enjoyed his first game with Megatron in the lineup, but last week in Arizona we witnessed what can happen when a struggling offense (yes Detroit has been struggling despite winning games) goes on the road against a top defense. Tate only received two targets in the midst of Matthew Stafford’s putrid day. This week the Lions once again go on the road to face a pass defense that just shut down Andrew Luck. Word is that Tate will take a trip to Revis island, while Calvin Johnson gets double teamed by Brandon Browner and a safety. New England is the best team in the NFL and they sport the 2nd best ranking against opposing WRs in .5 PPR leagues. Matthew Stafford will have trouble getting anything going and if he does, it will be to his main man Calvin. Tate’s trip to his island destination will not be enjoyable. I’d remove him from all 2 WR lineups and most 3 WR lineups.
I’d start the following players over Golden Tate: Vincent Jackson, DeSean Jackson, Mike Wallace, Steve Smith, Reggie Wayne
· Marcedes Lewis at Indianapolis. Many fantasy players forget that Marcedes Lewis began the season in kind of a big way with 8 catches, 106 yards, and a TD in his first two weeks. Lewis may be rusty in his first week back but he couldn’t be returning for a much better matchup. Indianapolis ranks 29th against opposing TEs in .5 PPR leagues. The Colts should be leading throughout the game which could result in a high volume of throws from Blake Bortles and ample opportunities for Lewis to catch passes. Lewis is also returning at the same time that news was revealed that possession WR, Allen Robinson, would not be returning this season. Robinson was used a security blanket and racked up targets and receptions. Lewis should be able to take over the security blanket role. Look for Lewis to receive 7+ targets and get 5+ receptions. He's a fine streaming TE for Greg Olsen owners or teams who are just looking to play the matchups.
I’d start Marcedes Lewis over: Owen Daniels, Kyle Rudolph, Eric Ebron, Vernon Davis, Jacob Tamme
· Jacob Tamme/Julius Thomas vs. Miami. Julius Thomas has been reported as a game time decision but John Fox admitted that he wasn’t able to do much on the practice field. If Thomas is out, many fantasy owners will salivate at the thought of being able to pick up Jacob Tamme, the man who would be the Broncos starting TE. I’m warning you against doing so. Miami is the 3rd ranked team against TEs and has been especially stingy since their week 5 bye. Since then they have shut down each and every TE they have faced including every week fantasy starters, Martellus Bennett and Antonio Gates. I’d choose other streaming TEs if Tamme is on your radar.
If Julius Thomas does play, you have to start him, but I’d expect him to play a limited role and to struggle like we’ve seen him do a few times earlier this season in between monster performances. I won’t list any replacements for him since he’ll need to be in your lineup.
I’d start the following players over Jacob Tamme: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Antonio Gates, Marcedes Lewis, Niles Paul
That’ll do it for week 12. I hope this week is the beginning of a memory that will last a lifetime and not one that will haunt you for years to come. Good Luck!
Puzzled on who to start for you team this week? Check out our weekly rankings here.
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