Editor's note: Our bullet point articles are written to better explain our weekly rankings, which you can find here.
Start of the week
Le'Veon Bell at Cincinnati
Bell has been one of the biggest surprises of this season. Yeah, he was expected to be a solid RB2, but the numbers he's putting up are reminiscent of Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles. Like Charles, Bell managed to string together an eight catch, 159 yard receiving effort that was similar to Charles' eight catch, 195 yards receiving against Oakland in 2013. The major difference between those two games were the touchdowns though, as Charles found the end zone four times while Bell didn't score once.
Scoring shouldn't be an issue for Bell this week though. The Bengals give up the sixth most points to fantasy running backs (19.6 per game) and Bell has rushed for a touchdown in last two contests. He's on pace for 2,000 total yards this season, making him one of the most versatile fantasy backs of the 2014 season. He's as good a bet as any to rush for 100 yards and score two touchdowns this week.
Joique Bell vs. Tampa Bay
From one Bell to another, Joique is coming off his best game of the season where he rushed for two touchdowns and 91 yards against the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving. He's been somewhat inconsistent when finding the end zone as he hadn't scored four weeks prior to his two-touchdown effort. Even with that, he's been the most reliable running back on the Detroit Lions, averaging 52 yards per game. He also has a good matchup against a bad Tampa Bay rushing defense that gives up 18.1 fantasy points to running backs.
The Buccaneers defense has played a little better since the start of the season, with Gerald McCoy being a plug up the middle. But while the Buccaneer front four has given Tampa an edge, teams can still run the ball on them with reasonable success on the edges. Matt Forte rushed for 89 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries (3.9 ypc) and the Bengals dual threat of Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill combined for 109 yards. Tampa's secondary ranks among the worst in the league as well, so Bell's receiving ability in the flat and on short routes could be equally effective. He's a good flex play this week.
Tre Mason at Washington
Mason has a lot going for him in this matchup, and it starts with all the problems going on in Washington. The Redskins have been a mess in the locker room, with reports that Jay Gruden wants quarterback Robert Griffin III off the team after this season. It's so bad that even one of his own teammates blasted him over the weekend. When your team has lost confidence and seemingly the will to play hard because of negative vibes, it's never a good situation. And that's not just some woo-woo speculative armchair analysis (ok maybe a little) but it really does impact a team's performance on the field.
Defensively, The Redskins have been very stout against the run this season but injuries are starting to take a toll. Starting linebacker and leading tackler Keenan Robinson has been battling a sprained MCL and hasn't practiced all week. Sack leader Brandon Meriweather (also a prolific tackler) is battling a sprained toe and hasn't practiced either. Meriweather is listed as doubtful while Robinson is questionable. Key pass rusher and run stopper Jason Hatcher is also questionable as is Chris Baker. On offense, DeSean Jackson is dealing with a shin injury and didn't practice Friday, he may be a scratch as well which could limit the offense since he's Washington's leading receiver.
Now on to the Rams. Mason had his coming out party against the Raiders last week, rushing for 117 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. He's become one of the key factors in the Rams' success. When Mason rushes for at least 60 yards, the Rams are 4-1 and when he rushes for over 100 yards, the Rams are 2-0. Expect St. Louis to ride Mason once again and while he might not explode for the big yardage he did against Oakland, he should still hover around the 70-90 yard mark and one touchdown.
Denard Robinson vs. Houston
Shoelace will need to double knot this Sunday after falling back to earth over the last few weeks. After several strong performances that included back-to-back 100 yard games in relief of starter Toby Gerhart earlier in the year, defenses are gearing up for him better. Teams are stacking the box since they know Robinson is perhaps the biggest offensive threat with Blake Bortles still going through growing pains as a rookie. All of that planning has really limited Robinson's value.
Another reason for caution could be Robinson's struggles in pass blocking. The Jaguars surrendered seven sacks to the New York Giants last week, and two of those were a result of Robinson's blown coverage. Dealing with a pass rush that includes J.J. Watt this week won't make it any easier. If the Jaguars elect to pass more and go after Houston's weak secondary, Robinson could see a smaller portion of the snaps.
The Jaguars have also been experimenting a lot since they know they're no longer in the playoff chase. Bortles will continue to get his reps so the staff can evaluate him and while the rookie quarterback is nursing shoulder and ankle injuries, expect the Jaguars' staff to keep testing out his skills so they can help him improve next season. If they pass a lot against Houston and Robinson is forced to come out due to his pass protection liabilities, then Shoelace could get lost in the shuffle.
On this weeks' diagnosis edition, the Helpers discuss playoff sleepers for the teams lucky enough to make the playoffs. If you're worried about your flex, WR3, QB1 or RB1/2, then hopefully we can help guide you with some guys we think are bound for success in Week 14.
Sleeper quarterbacks (listen to podcast for more)
Alex Smith (owned in 36% of leagues)
If quarterback is your weakness, then you might consider starting Smith this week against an Arizona team that's struggling on offense. The Cardinals' woes when it comes to moving the ball are wearing down their defense, as evidenced by the team giving up 19 and 20 points in the last two games to quarterbacks. Over the last five games, Smith has totaled 16, 21, 4, 15, 19 fantasy points. His one dud in that sequence came against the Seattle Seahawks, and the Arizona Cardinals are a far cry from Seattle on defense right now. Their best cornerback in Patrick Peterson was torched last week by Julio Jones.
Zach Mettenberger (owned in 5% of leagues)
Mettenberger is lucky to get a Giants team that struggled to stop Jacksonville and rookie quarterback Blake Bortles last week. Mettenberger has demonstrated the ability to score points, and this matchup should help him come close to multiple touchdowns.
Sleeper running backs
Andre Williams (owned in 51% of leagues)
We mentioned Williams earlier in the week, so we won't go into too much detail. But he's a worthy flex play if you have him on your bench. You probably can't pick him up as he's owned in over half the leagues currently.
Matt Asiata (owned in 35% of leagues)
Jerick McKinnon may be out after not practicing for the second straight day. Asiata will likely be the head running back against a New York Jets team that's without one of its best defenders in Muhammad Wilkerson.
Sleeper wide receivers
Donte Moncrief (owned in 25% of leagues)
It's surprising to see Moncrief only owned in 25% of leagues and yet it's also not. He can pile up yardage when he gets targets, but he's often overshadowed by the likes of Hakeem Nicks and Reggie Wayne. Well, he played in more snaps than Nicks for the first all season last week, a game where he flourished with over 100 yards receiving. The Indianapolis Colts play the Cleveland Browns this week, and All-Pro cornerback Joe Haden will likely match up with Indy's top WR in T.Y. Hilton. There's a dropoff after Haden in terms of talent at the corner position, meaning Moncrief may have a chance to flourish with Hilton drawing so much attention. Luck could target him on the under route, which is where Moncrief can do a lot of damage after the catch.
Nate Washington (owned in 2% of leagues)
With Kendall Wright's status in jeopardy, Washington could see time in the No. 1 role for the Titans this week. He's among the most available players on the waiver wire this week and has posted fantasy totals of 14, 6 and 12 over his last three games. He's been reliable and could be a nice flex play if you feel like your current guy isn't good enough.
If you were lucky enough to make the fantasy playoffs in your league this season, chances are your lineup is already set. It's easy to know which guys to start for Week 14 right? You simply go with the guys that got you there. Your QB1, RB1, RB2, WR1, WR2, TE, DEF are all ready to go.
This idea of sticking with your studs is a philosophy we will endorse to the death. Advanced fantasy football people don't think twice about it, while beginners may get too cute and bench somebody because of a bad matchup or just a bad gut feeling. Word to the wise, your best players are matchup proof, so start them.
But even though your studs are set in stone, there are last-second tweaks that you can make to your flex spot that can often make the difference between a good week and a great one. Since flex players often aren't the most electric guys, their chances of success boil down to favorable matchups and a good situation. If you can find the right guy in the right matchup who's peaking at the right time, you can really give yourself an edge over an opponent that's probably just a good as you are because he's in the playoffs as well.
Here are five running backs who we would trust as flex options for your first playoff matchup in Week 14.
Carlos Hyde (owned in 36% of leagues) @ Oakland
Hyde has been one of the top fantasy handcuffs all season. He doesn't get a whole lot of opportunities but when he does, he runs hard and usually sees touches around the goal line. The 49ers have a good matchup against a Raiders team that's given up the most fantasy points to running backs (22 points per game) this season. It's likely the 49ers utilize Hyde and Frank Gore as a one-two punch and Hyde sees some production as a result.
Over the past three games, Hyde has recorded carry averages of 9, 7, and 5, respectively. He hasn't rushed for many yards in those games, but he has scored a touchdown against the New Orleans Saints, a bottom-five team in fantasy points allowed to running backs (20.4 points per game) on average. It's likely the Raiders could allow a similar result.
If you really don't know who to start in the flex spot and don't want to leave things up to a boom-or-bust receiver, Hyde is a good bet to give you some kind of production because of the matchup. San Francisco also ranks 8th in the league in rushing attempts (347), so the opportunities should be there for Hyde.
Jonathan Stewart (owned in 27% of leagues) @ New Orleans Saints
For the same reasons as we just mentioned for Hyde, Stewart could also benefit from a good matchup against the New Orleans Saints. With DeAngelo Williams likely out with a hand injury, Stewart steps in as the best running back option on a Panthers team in desperate need of offensive firepower.
Last week against Minnesota, Stewart averaged 7.1 yards per carry on his way to 85 yards on 12 attempts. It was Stewart's best game in over a month.
When it comes to the New Orleans Saints' defense, they've allowed 95 yards from Le'Veon Bell, 182 yards from Justin Forsett and 152 yards from Jeremy Hill over the last three weeks. Their defense hasn't shown any signs of improvement so expect the Panthers to go at them with the run game.
Isaiah Crowell (owned in 67% of leagues) vs. Indianapolis
Ok, so it's unlikely you'll snag the Crow off the waiver wire this week as he's owned in the majority of leagues. This advice is more for the people who already have him and are wondering if they should start him in this week. Well, we didn't like Crowell last week against Buffalo and we were vindicated, as he ended up rushing for just 29 yards on 17 carries (1.9 yards per carry) against a tough Buffalo run defense that swarmed him on nearly every play. It was like watching a guy repeatedly run into a brick wall at times.
But the key number in Crowell's stats is '17.' Crowell's 17 carries are a good indicator that the Browns will continue to run the ball even if the end result isn't positive yardage. They still used him around the goal line plenty as well, so a touchdown could be play. The Browns were also trailing in that game throughout and still committed to the run game, which is a good sign gameflow won't affect Crowell's numbers. Also, fellow rookie Terrance West gave up a costly fumble which could limit his workload going forward.
As for the matchup, the Colts rank in the bottom five against running backs (19.9 points per game) and their offense hasn't taken good care of the ball all season long. Newly starting running back Dan 'Boom' Herron's has had issues with fumbles early on and quarterback Andrew Luck has thrown at least one interception in eight games this season. Add in the fact that the Browns have at least one takeaway in 8 straight games and this could be a game where we see Cleveland get a chance to turn mistakes into points.
Andre Williams (owned in 40% of leagues) @ Tennessee
Starter Rashad Jennings injured his ankle last week against Jacksonville but the injury is not considered to be serious. Even if Jennings is healthy, Williams is likely going to see some carries against a Titans team that ranks second worst in the league against running backs (21.8 fantasy points allowed per game).
Williams has not been very effective in his rookie year, as he's averaging just 2.9 yards per carry this season. Still, he's received a respectable 134 carries in 12 games. The Giants like to mix it up in the run game and Williams has the right matchup to at least snipe a touchdown and rush for 40-60 yards, making him a candidate for a solid 12-15 point game which is a great number for a flex spot.
LeGarrette Blount (owned in 63% of leagues) @ San Diego
Blount received the bulk of the workload against Green Bay with 10 carries and should be the Patriots No. 1 running back with Jonas Gray in the doghouse. San Diego has been OK against the run (15th overall) but they still surrendered over 100 yards to Justin Forsett last week and also gave up over 100 total rushing yards to both Miami and St. Louis.
It's likely Blount sees around 12-15 carries, rushes for 70 yards and scores a touchdown. You just have to take the risk that Shane Vereen or Brandon Bolden won't snipe one here or there. Even if they do, there's no reason to expect Blount to not see the majority of the carries in Week 14.
Due to some odd scheduling with the holiday, the usual Monday edition of First Aid was moved to Tuesday. The Helpers discuss the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots, why LeGarrette Blount is a good fantasy option for the playoffs and why those with Jimmy Graham should be excited rather than fearful after his zero target performance against Pittsburgh. Plus weekly awards and some talk about Johnny Manziel.
New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers: 24-for-38, 368 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions (24 fantasy points)
Rank among fantasy QBs for Week 13: 7th
Quarterbacks who did better: R. Fitzpatrick, A. Luck, D. Brees, P. Rivers, C. McCoy, B. Roethlisberger
Rodgers plays great against bad teams. But more importantly, he plays great against good teams too. Granted, he had the added bonus of a raucous crowd at Lambeau Field, but his talent was on full display here against one of the better secondaries in the league.
Rodgers has been a monster these past five games, with fantasy point totals of 48, 34, 23, and 28. He's as matchup proof as it gets when it comes to fantasy quarterbacks, and will likely be a No. 1 guy heading into a matchup against a bad Atlanta team in Week 14.
Tom Brady: 22-for-35, 245 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions (17 fantasy points)
Rank among fantasy QBs for Week 13: 13th
Quarterbacks who did better: R. Fitzpatrick, A. Luck, D. Brees, P. Rivers, C. McCoy, B. Roethlisberger, A. Rodgers, J. Flacco, S. Hill, M. Stafford, M. Ryan, M. Sanchez
Brady continues to be one of the most reliable fantasy options. His last five fantasy point totals have been 44, 35, 18, 23, and 21. He's locked in as a QB1 but the San Diego Chargers have played well against quarterbacks this season.
LeGarrette Blount: 10 carries for 58 yards, zero touchdowns (5 fantasy points)
Rank among RBs: 31st
Blount looks like the guy in New England. His 10 carries led the Patriots and out carried Brandon Bolden, Shane Vereen, and Jonas Gray. The Patriots like him, and he's a steady flex option if you want to add him to your team. He'll likely have a touchdown or two now that he's getting the most carries.
Eddie Lacy: 21 carries for 98 yards, 2 catches for 17 yards (10 fantasy points)
Rank among RBs: 22th
Lacy continues to be among the most reliable RBs and for those who traded for him or stuck with him during his dark weeks early in the season will be rewarded with a great playoff matchup against Atlanta in Week 14.
Davante Adams: 6 receptions for 121 yards, 11 targets (12 fantasy points)
Rank among WRs: 18th
Adams played well, but don't consider adding him or starting him. He benefited from Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb drawing coverage from Brandon Browner and Darrelle Revis. Plus, he dropped a potential touchdown pass.
Rob Gronkowski: 7 catches, 98 yards, zero touchdowns (9 fantasy points)
Rank among TEs: 4th
Gronkowski remains the toughest matchup for any defense at the tight end position. His 12-yard run where he trucked three defenders on his way to a near touchdown is an example.
Editor's note: Our bullet point articles are written to better explain our weekly rankings, which you can find here.
Week 13 is like...totally...one of the most important weeks of the year for fantasy owners. All the players who compelled you to draft them are finally going to make or break your season. Some of you will leave footmarks on your ceiling ten feet high as Week 13 concludes, while others will be left dismayed and swear off fantasy football forever only to return like a coke addict the following year.
The running back picture this week is an interesting one. There are several mid-level backs with tough matchups. Take Isaiah Crowell for example, a guy who Casey Bass covered in his Sleepers/Busts piece this week. Crowell is driving a lot of fantasy owners crazy since he's talented but not exactly matchup proof. Well, he's got a tough matchup against Buffalo and is one of our toughest calls this week. Here's a few more notable running backs and their situations for one of the biggest weeks in fantasy football.
Start of the week
Arian Foster at Tennessee — #5 in weekly rankings
Foster owners can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that his groin injury won't sideline him for Sunday's matchup against Tennessee.
Foster owners should also be also be giddy like a bull who just saw red. Just three weeks ago in Houston's first matchup with Tennessee, Foster torched the Titans to the tune of 151 rushing yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns while also adding a receiving touchdown and four catches for 22 yards. It was one of his most dominating performances of the year and it's not out of the question he repeats the feat. The Titans rank dead last in rushing yards allowed per game (145.2) and have surrendered 13 rushing touchdowns.
The Texans will also return former starter Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback after losing Ryan Mallett for the season. More of a check-down QB than Mallet, Foster should benefit on short passes from Fitzmagic in the screen game and on wheel routes. There's a lot to like about this matchup, and Foster should have a monster game.
Denard Robinson at New York Giants— #17 in weekly rankings
The once-ferocious front seven of the New York Giants that doesn't get enough credit in helping Big Blue win two Super Bowls seems to be a thing of the past. The Giants rank second to last in rushing yards allowed (142 per game) and have given up 13 rushing touchdowns, which ranks second to last as well.
Robinson is coming off his worst game of the season against Indianapolis, where he rushed for 25 yards on 14 carries (1.8 YPC). The Colts did a good job bottling him up, plus Toby Gerhart was used on some screens which limited Robinson's value a bit. Still, his 14 carries is a sizeable enough workload and he managed to make up for his lack of production in the run game with four catches for 47 yards.
Robinson could be in for one of his best weeks of the season. The Jaguars defense has been playing well and if they continue to pressure the quarterback like they did Andrew Luck last week, expect this week's game to swing Jacksonville's way.
Alfred Morris at Indianapolis — # 7 in weekly rankings
We ranked Morris high with the assumption that Robert Griffin III would still be playing quarterback. Well, that's not the case anymore.
The Redskins surprised many when they announced RG3 would be benched in favor of third stringer Colt McCoy earlier this week. While McCoy has played well as a spot starter for the Redskins, Alfred Morris has always been more effective on zone read plays due to the threat of an RG3 taking off for a big run. McCoy doesn't possess that same athleticism at the QB spot, so defenses won't have to deal with that annoying 'wait and see which is guy is going to run' dilemma which should help them key in on Morris more.
Here's a quick breakdown of Morris with and without RG3:
Morris with RG3 (last 3 games): 313 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns, five catches, 58 receiving yards
Morris without RG3 (last 3 games before RG3's return): 168 rushing yards, one touchdown, two catches for 12 yards.
This really is a great matchup for the Colts overall as well. Physical corners in Vontae Davis will be trouble for smaller receivers like DeSean Jackson, plus McCoy's weaker arm will be limit Jackson's ability in the deep game and allow the Colts to stack the box even more to stop Morris. Morris is still a worthy starter, but you may want to consider benching him for another option if you can.
Bishop Sankey @ Houston — #14 in weekly rankings
Sankey isn't the most explosive running back, but the matchup with Houston is now a bit more intriguing since the Texans will again be without Jadeveon Clowney. But even with Clowney out, Sankey hasn't proven to be much more than a weak flex option this season. He rushed for just 39 yards the last time these two teams played (and that was without Clowney as well) and he's rushed for more than 3.9 yard per carry in just three times this season.
Don't start him but hang on to him
Latavius Murray (out) at St. Louis — #10 in weekly rankings
We talked about Latavius Murray on our 'firm acts of conviction' podcast back in the preseason. Just fast forward to the 07:05 mark and check out our reasoning and you'll realize everything we said is coming to fruition. I know it's annoying to click on a link and fast forward it yourself! But unfortunately this web site isn't Grantland and I haven't figured out how Bill Simmoms does those links where I can send you to exactly that 07:05 spot within the link itself. But just do it anyway, it's a great flashback moment.
Anyway, if you watch him on film, you forget that this guy is actually 6'3, 225 lbs until you see him running along side a defensive back in the open field. You just don't see running backs of his size very often. Not since Brandon Jacobs (who was 6'4) have we seen a running back as tall as Murray with that kind of speed.
Unfortunately, Murray failed his final concussion test and won't be playing against the St. Louis Rams today. Instead, you'll have to deal with Darren 'fall down every time the offensive line doesn't give me a huge hole' McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew. None of those running backs are startable in 12-team leagues. Murray will be a great flex option in Week 14 against the 49ers, a team that has been off and on when stopping the run this season.
On a special Thanksgiving edition of Diagnosis, the Helpers break down each game on the Thanksgiving slate including the Eagles/Cowboys, 49ers/Seahawks and Bears/Lions. They talk about every relevant fantasy player in those matchups and finish the podcast by sending out love letters of thanks to the players who have helped them throughout the fantasy season on their own fantasy teams. Also, check out our weekly rankings here.
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys
Mark Sanchez — Sanchez has been playing adequately in replacement of Nick Foles, and is a solid QB1 option against a bad Dallas secondary. While Sanchez is prone to turnovers (he's averaging about two interceptions per game) the high octane offense of the Philadelphia Eagles combined with the good matchup should keep him in the 15-20 point range.
Tony Romo — Romo is in line for a big week. The Eagles have one of the worst defenses against the quarterback, surrendering 19.5 points per game. Only the New York Jets allow more. He's a must-start for Week 12.
DeMarco Murray — Obviously a must start, Eagles are better against the run than the pass, but the offensive line of Dallas is far and away the best in the league right now. Expect another 100 yard rushing day.
LeSean McCoy — McCoy is finally starting to recapture the elusiveness that helped him claim the rushing title last season. When he makes guys miss in the open field, he rattles off big gains. McCoy found the end zone last week and recorded his first game of 100-plus rushing and a score. He's a must start this week.
Jeremy Maclin — A must-start WR1 as always. With 980 receiving yards on the season, Maclin is ready to eclipse the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the first time in his career. He remains one of the best ADP draft bargains of 2014.
Jordan Matthews — Continues to thrive as the No. 2 receiver with Sanchez under center. It's impossible for Matthews not to be productive based on Sanchez's strengths in the intermediate game.
Dez Bryant — Clear cut WR1 in a great matchup. Bryant should near 100 yards and find the end zone at least once this week.
Terrance Williams — Not startable due to a low volume of targets, but the Eagles do give up quite a few points to receivers. If you're very desperate, there's some upside to this matchup.
Zach Ertz (sleeper*) — The Cowboys are one of the worst teams in the league at defending the tight end, giving up 10.1 fantasy points per week to tight ends on average. They've also given up a league-worst 72 receptions to tight ends on the year. Vernon Davis, Larry Donnell and Jimmy Graham have all carved them up.
Jason Witten — Remains a very solid TE2 against a defense that hasn't fared well against tight ends with DeMeco Ryans out.
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Matthew Stafford — We know he's played bad recently, but Stafford has a great matchup at home against a bad defense. He's a great option this week.
Jay Cutler — Rated our No.17 QB in our weekly rankings, Cutler continues to struggle with turnovers and overall poor production. The only upside is the Bears will likely be down in this game early which could mean plenty of garbage time yards. He's a QB2.
Reggie Bush — He's expected to start today, and is a desperate play even with a good matchup. Still, the Lions could use some help at running back as they're one of the worst rushing teams in the league. There's some element of home run potential here.
Joique Bell — Still a great flex play in PPR leagues.
Matt Forte — Don't be scared off by the tough matchup even for a second, Forte's one of the best receivers out of the backfield in the league right now. Any rushing yards negated by a tough Lions run defense should be made up for in the passing game.
Brandon Marshall — Played much better lately, he's got 8 touchdowns on the year but three of those came in one game against San Francisco. He's still a must start in 12-team leagues.
Alshon Jeffery — Wide receiver who is always a must start. He's scored three touchdowns in the last four games.
Calvin Johnson — Megatron could be in line for his best game of the season. The Bears will be without their top defensive back in Kyle Fuller and Johnson has seen target numbers of 15,12, and 10 in his last three games.
Golden Tate — Tate is a solid WR2 in a plus matchup. His 97 receiving yards were a lone bright spot against New England last week, and he's already eclipsed the 1,000 yard receiving mark for the first time in his career.
Martellus Bennett — A guy who doesn't get enough credit. Bennett struggled last week but also strung together a 134-yard effort against the Green Bay Packers. The Lions one weak spot comes in defending tight ends, so Bennett has upside in this matchup.
Eric Ebron (sleeper*) — Injuries have slowed what was expected to be a good rookie season for one of the top tight ends of the 2014 draft. Ebron has a great matchup against the Bears, who rank dead last against the tight end (10.9 fantasy points per game). Expect Stafford to look for him in the red zone.
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On Monday's weekly First Aid podcast, the Helpers discuss the dreadful Lions offense from a fantasy perspective. They also discuss RG3's problems in the passing game and pump up the fantasy playoff value of the San Francisco 49ers in Week 14 against Oakland. And yes, Carlos Hyde is somebody should you look to pickup for that game. Plus, weekly awards and a brief preview of tonight's game between New Orleans and Baltimore.
Washington Redskins at San Francisco 49ers
Colin Kaepernick: 20-for-29, 256 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception (13 fantasy points)
Rank among fantasy QBs for Week 12: 13th
Quarterbacks that did better: P. Manning, R. Tannehill, T. Romo, E. Manning, T. Brady, A. Rodgers, R. Wilson, T. Bridgewater, Z. Mettenberger, A. Smith, M. Ryan, A. Luck, P. Rivers
Chances are, a few of the quarterbacks listed above are available on your waiver wire (Mettenberger, Bridgewater anyone?) and Kaepernick remains a tough guy to start if you're chasing a fantasy championship. I applaud you if you've managed to be a competitive team with him as your QB1, but it's time you start looking elsewhere for fantasy points.
After a quick start where he found Anquan Boldin in the end zone, Kaepernick struggled. He lacks the ability to finish drives which hurts his fantasy value.
Robert Griffin III: 11-for-19, 106 yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 1 fumble (3 fantasy points)
Rank among fantasy QBs for Week 12: 25th
Quarterbacks that did better: P. Manning, R. Tannehill, T. Romo, E. Manning, T. Brady, A. Rodgers, R. Wilson, T. Bridgewater, Z. Mettenberger, A. Smith, M. Ryan, A. Luck, P. Rivers, C. Kaepernick, J. McCown, M. Sanchez, A. Dalton, D. Carr, M. Stafford, J. Cutler, B. Hoyer, D. Stanton, R. Mallett, B. Bortles
RG3 continues to struggle. He's been reduced to a game manager at this point, not taking any shots down the field and instead handing the ball off to Alfred Morris and checking down to tight ends. He's lost his confidence, the coaches seem to be out on him, and his future with the franchise is in doubt. He's dropable in all leagues.
Alfred Morris: 21 carries for 125 yards, 1 touchdown (18 fantasy points)
Rank among RBs for Week 12: 9th
Running backs that did better: E. Lacy, C.J. Anderson, L. Murray, M. Forte, I. Crowell, L. McCoy, L. Blount, J. Charles
Morris put together his best fantasy performance of the season despite playing against a good defense. He's among the most consistent running backs in fantasy as of now, with at least 7 points in his last four games. The Redskins will continue to rely on him with their struggles at quarterback, and that could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how well the defense keys in on Morris.
Frank Gore: 13 carries for 36 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 fumble (1 fantasy point)
Rank among RBs for Week 12: 50th
Gore was held largely in check by a Redskins' front seven that has answered quite a few tests this season. Carlos Hyde fared a little better with one goal line touchdown, but even he finished with just 16 yards on the ground. Gore started off hot enough with two 100 yard rushing games in his first five games, but he's tapered off substantially as the season winds down. He's averaging 3.2 yards per carry over his last six games, and it may be time to pull the plug on him as the 49ers get Seattle twice in the next three weeks. He might be a good start against Oakland in Week 14 though.
Our bullet points articles are written to help better highlight our weekly rankings and explain our rationale behind ranking certain guys in certain places.
Week 12 is a gut check week for all fantasy teams. If you plan on advancing to the playoffs, you likely need a win this week. Just remember, running backs are often the most consistent fantasy scorers and will likely make the difference in a win or loss. Here are some running back rankings explained further.
Key start this week
Justin Forsett @ New Orleans — #4 in weekly rankings
Who called a castoff like Forsett putting together the best sleeper season of any fantasy running back in 2014? This g-- just kidding I didn't see it. If 751 rushing yards and five touchdowns weren't already enough value for a guy that didn't even have an ADP this season, Forsett is coming off his best game as a pro where he rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns against Tennessee. It was the second 100-yard rushing game of the year for Forsett.
This week may be even better. He's dealt a weak New Orleans defense that allows 115 rushing yards per game. They've also surrendered 10 rushing touchdowns, which ranks 26th in the league. The Saints were also unloaded on just a week ago by Jeremy Hill and the Bengals, a team that put up 186 rushing yards on the Saints. The 49ers posted 144 rushing yards against New Orleans a week earlier and even the lowly Panthers rushed for 105 yards and allowed Jonathan Stewart to rattle off over five yards per carry. It's almost impossible to think Forsett could struggle this week.
Ryan Mathews vs. St. Louis — #13 in weekly rankings
Mathews looked fresh when he returned to the San Diego lineup last week after an injury sidelined him for over a month. He rushed for 70 yards on 16 attempts (4.4 yards per carry) against Oakland and while St. Louis has played better defensively, they're still giving up an average of 4.3 yards per carry to running backs.
In his first week back last Sunday, it looked like the Chargers were easing Mathews in a bit. He only played 43 percent of the Chargers' offensive snaps, but that shouldn't be the case this week. Expect Mathews to come closer to 20 carries and hover around the 100-yard mark. He'll also add more catches with more time on the field. He's a dual threat who can get you PPR numbers and cross the 100 total yardage mark. Mathews' one big problem is his history of ineptitude around the goal line, as he has never rushed for more than seven touchdowns in a season. So you'll kind of have to hope he gets points with a lot of yardage instead.
Eddie Lacy @ Minnesota — #7 in weekly rankings
Lacy has really rewarded his fantasy owners who stuck with him after a shaky start. In his last six games, he's posted point totals of 11, 24, 4, 13, 17, 17 and 22. Those were the kind of numbers fantasy owners expected of Lacy, and he's really come through in a big way.
This week, Green Bay travels to Minnesota where they have dominated the Vikings. According to Pro Football Reference, Rodgers' average numbers against the Vikings look like this...
21/29, 252 yards, 2.2 touchdowns, 0.3 interceptions
Rodgers hasn't thrown a pick against the Vikings since 2012, and Eddie Lacy should benefit once again from the Packers' high-powered passing offense. 17 of Lacy's 27 catches have come on the last four games, and he's also added two receiving touchdowns in that span. He's one of the most potent backs in fantasy right now.
Minnesota is giving up 115 rushing yards per game, which ranks 21st. They've surrendered eight rushing touchdowns on the season.
Giovani Bernard @ Houston — #21 in weekly rankings
Bernard is coming off a hip injury that derailed what looked like a promising sophomore campaign and his opponent likely won't make it any easier on him in Week 12. The Houston defense has been playing the run much better with the addition of rookie Jadeveon Clowney on the outside. Last week against the Browns, Houston held Cleveland to just 58 yards rushing, with Clowney's explosiveness allowing him to get into the backfield to stifle running backs. Clowney recorded one tackle for loss in that game.
With the way Jeremy Hill has been excelling in Bernard's absence (two 150-plus yard games in his last three) expect Bernard to be eased into the fold. There's no denying Bernard is talented and he's still a flex guy in deep leagues, but there's not a lot of hope for him to put up good fantasy numbers in his first week back due to the matchup and Hill's success as the starter. Hip injuries are also stingy, and we've seen other players like Percy Harvin aggravate them in the past. Bernard should be benched in 10-to-12 team leagues this week.
On Friday's episode of diagnosis, the Helpers discuss Jonas Gray and have mixed reactions regarding whether or not he's startable this week against Detroit. They give you four players who nobody is talking about who could help you in the playoffs. Plus, they talk about sleepers for this week, Brandin Cooks' injury and the Ben Tate signing
On Monday's weekly First Aid podcast, the Helpers discuss the St. Louis Rams and their emerging defense, the white hot Aaron Rodgers and the rest of the Green Bay Packers and whether or not Mark Sanchez is an every week QB1 going forward. Plus weekly awards and a preview for tonight's game with the Pittsburgh Steelers/Tennessee Titans.