I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m starting to hate Monday Night Football. Unless your favorite team is playing, from a fantasy football perspective, one of three scenarios is likely: you are ahead but your opponent has players going; you’re behind and have players going; or the contest is already decided and the Monday night contest is meaningless. Because the fantasy gods had wroth me misfortune this year, not only did two of my opponents last week trade for Carolina Panthers which made me sweat out every Panther drive (Greg Olsen was one of them), but I also have Jordan Reed and Julius Thomas as my tight ends, both of whom got injured last week. This week, BOTH play night games with no guarantee that either will make it, which will force me to have to play inferior options for the earlier games, or hold onto both of them and cross my fingers that they’ll play.
Add to that the fact that I have to listen to Jon Gruden every week talk about THIS GUY and how he’s one of the best in the NFL at everything, I’ve been given yet another reason to loathe Mondays.
Here’s Week 12.
Note: “Comfortables” can be started in all leagues. “Cautions” may be started in 12-team leagues and should definitely be started in 14-team leagues, but might be bench considerations for 10-team leagues or lower. “Casualties” shouldn’t be started in any leagues. “Sleepers” are meant for FLEX spots in 12- and 14-team leagues
New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons
Comfortables: Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles (if active), Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Defense
Cautions: Matt Ryan, Mark Ingram, Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Kenny Stills, Harry Douglas, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez
Casualties: Jason Snelling, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem, Atlanta Defense
Sleeper: Khiry Robinson (if Sproles is inactive)
Can things get worse for the Falcons? You bet! I wouldn’t start any Falcon if I could help it. I might be forced to start Steven Jackson if Darren Sproles can’t go, but I won’t be happy about it. The Saints might be on the road, but it’s in a dome. Bet on the Brees. Start all your Saints, including Sproles if he’s cleared to play.
Prediction: Who dat?
Carolina Panthers vs. Miami Dolphins
Comfortables: Cam Newton, Steve Smith, Carolina Defense
Cautions: Ryan Tannehill, DeAngelo Williams, Lamar Miller, Ted Ginn, Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Rishard Matthews, Greg Olsen, Charles Clay, Miami Defense
Casualties: Mike Tolbert, Jonathan Stewart, Brandon LaFell
Sleeper: Daniel Thomas
Somehow, someway, the Dolphins managed to squeak out another victory. But it had nothing to do with fantasy production. The backfield situation is toxic. I’m forced to start Lamar Miller in a point-per-carry league with Fred Jackson on a bye, and I’m hoping that Joe Philbin decides to ride the hot hand. If I had to start any Dolphins receiver, it would be Rishard Matthews, especially in a PPR league, but you can’t feel good about Wallace or Hartline. Tannehill just doesn’t have the time to make the deep throws. Cam Newton is hot, but it’s not clear who he’s going to throw to other than Steve Smith. Against the Pats, it was Olsen, LaFell and Ginn who scored, but Smith saw the most targets. The running game also has too many mouths to feed. Frankly, you can only start Newton, Smith, and the Carolina D with any confidence based on how everything gets spread around. Call it “Drew Brees syndrome.”
Prediction: Panthers win on the road.
New York Jets vs. Baltimore Ravens
Comfortables: Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith, Baltimore Defense
Cautions: Chris Ivory, Ray Rice, Santonio Holmes, Marlon Brown (if active), New York Jets Defense
Casualties: Geno Smith (if starting), Bilal Powell, Mike Goodson, Bernard Pierce, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley (if active), Tandon Doss, Jeff Cumberland, Kellen Winslow, Dallas Clark
Sleeper: Matt Simms (if starting)
This game is going to be bowling-shoe ugly. Both teams have stingy run defenses, so you can’t feel good about either Ray Rice or Chris Ivory. Geno Smith can’t seem to throw it to anybody wearing a green jersey anymore (but seems to do just fine with other colors!). It’s possible he won’t even play against Baltimore, in which case, Matt Simms is worth a VERY deep look in some 14-team or two-QB leagues if you have Andy Dalton, EJ Manuel, Russell Wilson or Nick Foles on bye. I like Justin Tucker and Nick Folk the most personally. Otherwise, this game is just seven different levels of yuck from a fantasy perspective. Steer clear.
Prediction: The Jets’ yo-yo string gets cut and the Ravens win 9-3.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Houston Texans
Comfortables: Chad Henne, Case Keenum, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ben Tate, Cecil Shorts, Andre Johnson (if Keenum starts), Houston Defense
Cautions: Mike Brown (if active), Andre Johnson (if Schaub starts), DeAndre Hopkins, Garrett Graham, Jacksonville Defense
Casualties: Jordan Todman, Ace Sanders, Marcedes Lewis
Sleeper: Dennis Johnson
START CECIL SHORTS! SQUEAKY WHEEL ALERT! START CECIL SHORTS! As a guy who owns him in two leagues, I couldn’t be happier that he finally called out what we already know is true: his lack of use in the passing game is complete and utter bullshit. Chad Henne has to see what Matt McGloin did to the Texans last week and feed Shorts early and often. As for the Texans, I don’t know what Gary Kubiak was thinking benching Case Keenum. Despite the Texans’ losing streak, Keenum still gives them a better chance to win than Matt Schaub, and I think Gary Kubiak realizes that, because he’s committing to Keenum this week. Andre Johnson owners can breathe a sigh of relief. After scooping up Dennis Johnson when Arian Foster went down, I’ve found he’s done a big pile of nothing. But Ben Tate cannot sustain this workload. He’ll go down sooner or later, and when that happens, you’ll be happy you have Johnson stashed on your bench.
Prediction: Jaguars get their second win of the season and Houston riots.
Chicago Bears vs. St. Louis Rams
Comfortables: Matt Forte, Zac Stacy, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery
Cautions: Josh McCown, Tavon Austin, Martellus Bennett, Chicago Defense
Casualties: All Rams Except Stacy and Austin (including Defense), Michael Bush
What to make of Tavon Austin’s breakout game two weeks ago? As somebody who owned him in every league possible and cut bait, I’m willing to believe it was more of a fluke. Keep in mind that all of Austin’s production came on three targets. Plus, he’s now commanding extra attention. I don’t care that the Bears don’t have Peanut Tillman. I trust in their defense to key in on Austin. The only Ram I’m interested in starting is Zac Stacy. He’ll get over 100 yards on 30+ carries again, and will most likely find paydirt. I’m upset that I have no shares.
Prediction: Forte leads the Bears to another victory.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Detroit Lions
Comfortables: Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, Vincent Jackson, Calvin Johnson
Cautions: Mike Glennon, Bobby Rainey, Joique Bell (if active), Kris Durham, Nate Burleson (if active), Timothy Wright, Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Defense
Casualties: Brian Leonard, Taiquan Underwood, Joseph Fauria, Tampa Bay Defense
Sleeper: Theo Riddick (if Bell is inactive)
You gotta think that the Lions are pissed they let a game slip away last week. They’re home, and as good as the Bucs have been playing lately, it’s been over two below-average teams. For all their faults, the Lions are not below average. You can start the big three for Detroit, and that’s about it. Joique Bell might be out for the game, and if he is, Theo Riddick gets his carries, but I’d imagine it would just be to spell Reggie Bush. For the Bucs, I’m not buying Bobby Rainey’s breakout. Sorry. We’re going to have another Eddie Royal or Marvin Jones on our hands. Starting him after a big game only to see him do a big pile of nothing. Go ahead and pick Rainey up if he’s on your wire, but he’s a stash for this week.
Prediction: Lions bounce back win a home win.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cleveland Browns
Comfortables: Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Josh Gordon, Heath Miller, Jordan Cameron, Pittsburgh Defense
Cautions: Jason Campbell, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders (if active), Cleveland Defense
Casualties: Felix Jones, Jonathan Dwyer, All Cleveland Running Backs, Greg Little, Davone Bess
Sleeper: Jerricho Cotchery (if Sanders is inactive0
Jason Campbell is the worst thing to ever happen to Jordan Cameron. Cameron’s fantasy production hit the skids as soon as Campbell took the reins. I don’t know why JC is not looking JC’s way. This is the last week I’m listing Cameron as a comfortable (and I may have to put him in for Julius Thomas), but I can’t say I’m thrilled. One more bad game and down to a caution he goes! Ben Roethlisberger had a huge game against the Lions, who have a better defense than the Browns (though not by much). I don’t think you can start Antonio Brown comfortably this week based on what Joe Haden has done to #1 receivers. Sorry. And with Emmanuel Sanders not a lock to be active, I think Big Ben goes to his security blanket Heath Miller and Jerricho Cotchery. I’m starting to think the Cotchery TD streak may not be a fluke, and he becomes a very sneaky start if you’ve already grabbed him.
Prediction: Steelers continue their climb with a division win.
San Diego Chargers vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Comfortables: Philip Rivers (if Allen is active), Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Jamaal Charles, Keenan Allen (if active), Dwayne Bowe, Antonio Gates, Kansas City Defense
Cautions: Philip Rivers (if Allen is inactive), Alex Smith, Dexter McCluster, Eddie Royal, Donnie Avery, Anthony Fasano, San Diego Defense
Casualties: Ronnie Brown, Knile Davis, Shaun McGrath
Sleeper: Vincent Brown (if Allen is inactive)
The Chiefs are no longer undefeated, but they’re still a good team. Depending on whether Keenan Allen can play or not, you might want to consider benching Philip Rivers if you have a better option. The Chiefs held Peyton in check, and even with Manning hobbled, Rivers is still no Peyton. I still like both Chargers running backs, even though KC also held Knowshon Moreno as well (keep in mind, Montee Ball gashed them). I would rank Mathews slightly above Woodhead.
Prediction: Kansas City bounces back after their first loss and wins in Arrowhead.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Green Bay Packers
Comfortables: Adrian Peterson, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Green Bay Defense
Cautions: Scott Tolzien, Jarrett Boykin, John Carlson, Minnesota Defense
Casualties: All Viking Offensive Players Except Peterson and Carlson, Jonathan Franklin, Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick
Sleeper: James Starks
So who’s worse? The team with three awful quarterbacks or the team on its awful third quarterback? Rely on the running game. Peterson and Lacy seem to be the best bets in this game. I’m not putting too much stock in Greg Jennings returning home to Lambeau here. He was inactive last week and hasn’t exactly been the model of effectiveness the weeks prior either. I liked the fact that James Jones’s targets are increasing since returning from injury, even with Tolzien at the helm. I think Jones finds the end zone this week.
Prediction: Green Bay proves to be less worse than Minnesota and wins at Lambeau.
Tennessee Titans vs. Oakland Raiders
Comfortables: Chris Johnson, Rashad Jennings, Kendall Wright, Tennessee Defense
Cautions: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt McGloin, Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, Delaine Walker, Oakland Defense
Casualties: Shonn Greene, Marcel Reese, Nate Washington, Justin Hunter (if active)
Sleeper: Mychal Rivera
MCGLOVIN! Is he for real? Or did he catch a reeling Texans team on the downswing? This week, he faces a Titans team that for the most part kept Andrew Luck in check. You can’t start Denarius Moore with any confidence because Tennessee’s corners are legit. I wish Rashad Jennings would play for a team where the lead running back doesn’t get hurt so he can just get out of my life. But alas, he plays behind broken glass Darren McFadden, and he’s been above average the past two weeks, so you have to keep starting him until he gives you a reason not to. Ryan Fitzpatrick found Kendall Wright early and often last week, so he’s PPR gold, but you just wish he would find the end zone so he can have relevancy in standard leagues.
Prediction: Tennessee pulls out a big road win.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Arizona Cardinals
Comfortables: Andrew Luck, Donald Brown, Andre Ellington, T.Y. Hilton, Larry Fitzgerald
Cautions: Carson Palmer, Trent Richardson, Rashard Mendenhall, Michael Floyd, Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Defense
Casualties: Darius Heyward-Bey, LaVon Brazill, Andre Roberts, Rob Housler
Trent Richardson. The enigma. Not even his coach knows what’s wrong with him. I’ve seen a bunch of Colts games and he runs hard, but if you blow on him, he’ll fall down. One more bad game and one more game where Donald Brown overtakes him, and he’ll be a casualty. I think he’ll actually be serviceable down the stretch, but not this week, not against the Cardinals stingy run D. I think Andre Ellington’s down week last week was an aberration. You can start him with confidence this week. I’m not buying on Michael Floyd so easily. Banking on fluky plays is a risky proposition.
Prediction: The Colts win again on the road.
Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants
Comfortables: Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Andre Brown, Dez Bryant, Terrence Williams, Victor Cruz, Reuben Randle, Jason Witten, Dallas Defense
Cautions: Eli Manning, Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants Defense
Casualties: Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar, Peyton Hillis (if active), Brandon Jacobs, Cole Beasley, Dwayne Harris, Brandon Myers
Sleeper: Miles Austin (if active)
Truth be told the Giants have feasted on backup or less-than-100% quarterbacks during their four-game winning streak. This game against the Cowboys is put up or shut up time. I expect a shootout akin to their Week 1 matchup that will most likely come down to a late turnover to decide a close game. History states that it’s going to be Tony Romo who does it, but he’ll put up some fantastic stats in the meantime. Start all your Cowboys with confidence. I think Eli will also have a good game, but I can hardly classify him as “comfortable.” Another terrible performance is most certainly in the cards, but recall that Eli had his best fantasy day of this season against the ‘Boys in Week 1.
Prediction: The Giants force one late turnover to overtake the Cowboys and contend for first place in the NFC East. (Homer pick, I know)
Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots
Comfortables: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Knowshon Moreno, Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Demariyus Thomas, Wes Welker (if active), Eric Decker, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Julius Thomas (if active), Rob Gronkowski
Cautions: Montee Ball, Andre Caldwell (if Welker is inactive)
Casualties: Ronnie Hillman, CJ Anderson, Brandon Bolden, LeGarrette Blount, Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins, Denver Defense, New England Defense
Sleeper: Joel Dreessen (if Thomas is inactive)
The Patriots have right to be fuming after a pass interference penalty was overturned on the last play of the game. The fact that the Pats drove the field at the end with less than a minute remaining was ridiculous enough as it is. Still, they have no time to think about it, as Peyton and crew are coming to town. You have to believe Wes Welker is trying like hell to get his head right and pass the concussion protocols so he can play in this game against his old team. If he does, I expect Peyton to FEED WELKER CONSTANTLY to make the Pats pay for playing with his emotions. He and Julius Thomas will both unfortunately be game-time decisions for such a late game, so anybody who wants to roll the die with either should pick up Andre Caldwell and Joel Dreessen respectively as insurance. I face this problem in multiple leagues with Orange Julius, and may consider cutting my losses and starting Heath Miller and Tim Wright in his place. Keep monitoring the status later in the week. As for the Pats, Vereen went in full bore and is an excellent flex option against a pitiful Denver defense. All Stevan Ridley does is fumble and score 1-yard touchdowns. Keep riding the wave until it subsides.
Prediction: Broncos carve up the Pats and Peyton wins the shootout.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Washington Redskins
Comfortables: Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, Frank Gore, Alfred Morris, Anquan Boldin, Pierre Garcon, Vernon Davis, Jordan Reed (if active), San Francisco Defense
Cautions: Mario Manningham
Casualties: All backup RBs, Leonard Hankerson (if active), Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson, Vance McDonald, Logan Paulsen (if Reed is inactive), Fred Davis (if Reed is inactive), Washington Defense
Sleeper: Michael Crabtree (if active)
Colin Kaepernick, this is your last chance. If he can’t perform against a generous Washington defense, it’s time to cut bait. He may have Michael Crabtree back this week, but Crabtree will be on a Harvin-ian snap count. Plus, are you really going to wait until the Monday night game to see if he’s active? I’m facing the same problem with Jordan Reed that I’m facing with Julius Thomas. There are no good options to plug in if Reed can’t play, but hopefully you should know Reed’s status later this week, if he passed the concussion tests. If you held on, and he’s active, he has to start. Both starting RBs are good to go, and I wouldn’t mess around with any backup.
Prediction: The running game gets going for the Niners, and it’s officially time to panic in DC.
Good luck in Week 12!