This week is crunch-time for many 12-team and deeper leagues that have six teams going into the playoffs (the 10-teamers and shallower will be next week). And you’re either in, out, or on the bubble. Those of you who are already in might be fighting for a first-round bye. No more fooling around here. I want to talk about a guy that you’ve probably rode all the way here but cannot in good conscience be started this week.
I’m talking about RG3.
The 49ers exposed him for what he really is, and that’s a shell of his former self. His offensive line stinks, and he can’t run the ball anymore. The games I’ve seen from him lately, he’s taken an absolute pounding. Those 20+ point games in Weeks 10 and 11 are a mirage. The Week 10 game was against Minnesota, who is one of the more generous pass defenses in the league, and the Week 11 game against Philly was a very efficient performance, but an egregious mistake at the end of the game soured what would otherwise be a big win. The Giants have feasted on backup QBs and didn’t look so hot against a competent QB like Tony Romo last week, but I’d throw RG3 down there among the backups with the way he played against San Francisco.
Here is a list of QBs I would start over RG3 this week that I wouldn’t think about starting over him other weeks: Josh McCown (who I picked up and will start), Matt Flynn, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and yes, even McGLOVIN: Matt McGloin.
Don’t put your playoff hopes in the hands of a man who looks like he wants to be anywhere but on that field. You’ve been warned.
Also note that starting with Week 13, now that byes are over, there are no more sleepers. I will mention a player’s breakout potential in the analysis, but for the most part, if you’re still alive at this point, you’re going to want to dance with the girls you brought, so to speak (except RG3).
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.
Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions
Comfortables: Matt Flynn, Matthew Stafford, Eddie Lacy, Reggie Bush, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Calvin Johnson, Green Bay Defense
Cautions: Joique Bell, Jarrett Boykin, Nate Burleson, Brandon Pettigrew
Casualties: Jonathan Franklin, Kris Durham, Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Joseph Fauria
Interesting to note that the last time Matt Flynn faced the Detroit Lions as a member of the Green Bay Packers, he threw for six touchdowns and conned his way into a ridiculously big contract before outright losing his starting job on two separate teams. That, combined with the fact that the Lions have been destroyed in the passing game, means that I’m willing to roll the dice on Flynn this week as a starter over RG3 (if I can’t get Josh McCown…more on him later). Eddie Lacy gave his owners a scare last week, but it was only an asthma attack. Get that man an inhaler! He should be good to go on Turkey Day. And finally, Nate Burleson looked good in his game back from his pizza delivery fiasco. He’s good to roll in PPR formats, but Stafford will look to feed Megatron early and often, so I wouldn’t feel completely comfortable starting Burleson in standard formats. Aside from those three notables, it should be business as usual.
Prediction: Stafford to Megatron is a highlight of this Turkey Day matchup and the Lions get their first Thanksgiving home win in 10 years.
Oakland Raiders vs. Dallas Cowboys
Comfortables: Tony Romo, Rashad Jennings, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Dallas Defense
Cautions: Matt McGloin or Terrelle Pryor, Darren McFadden (if active), Rod Streater, Denarius Moore (if active), Terrence Williams
Casualties: Marcel Reese, Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar, Miles Austin, Cole Beasley, Mychal Rivera (if active), Oakland Defense
After an impressive win where Tony Romo shut up the critics who said he’s not clutch (for now), Dallas gets to go home and feast on an inferior opponent. Even with the swirling rumors that Darren McFadden is coming back in a change-of-pace role, I still would only roll with Rashad Jennings for Oakland. Otherwise, all of the starting options for Dallas are in play (although I’d downgrade any Cowboys receiver other than Dez, now that Miles Austin is back in the mix).
Prediction: Cowboys win again.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens
Comfortables: Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Torrey Smith, Pittsburgh Defense, Baltimore Defense
Cautions: Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Heath Miller
Casualties: Felix Jones, Jonathan Dwyer, Bernard Pierce, Marlon Brown, Tandon Doss, Jacoby Jones, Marcus Wheaton, Dallas Clark, Dennis Pitta (if active)
Anytime you deal with any combination of Steelers, Ravens or Browns in an AFC North divisional game, low-scoring defensive slugfests are sure to follow. You can’t trust Ray Rice unless it’s a great matchup, so I’d be wary of starting him here against Pittsburgh. Antonio Brown had a great showing against Joe Haden last week, so he’s matchup-proof and an every week start. The only offensive player I’d feel okay about starting is Torrey Smith, and even then, he’ll be shadowed by Ike Taylor, so temper your expectations.
Prediction: The Steelers pull it out on the road against the Ravens.
Miami Dolphins vs. New York Jets
Comfortables: Bilal Powell (if Chris Ivory is inactive), Mike Wallace, Miami Defense, New York Jets Defense
Cautions: Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller, Chris Ivory (if active), Brian Hartline, Charles Clay
Casualties: All Jets Offensive Players Except Powell and Ivory, Mike Gillisle, Rishard Matthews
If Ivory is inactive, Powell becomes an interesting sleeper at RB. I’m strongly considering him in a league where they give out a half point per carry over a guy like Fred Jackson. Even being the main option with the pesky Daniel Thomas out of the way with an injury, it’s hard to trust Lamar Miller going behind that shaky Dolphins offensive line. They’re finally getting Mike Wallace involved, so ride the hot hand. Otherwise, start both defenses. I expect this one to be bowling-shoe ugly.
Prediction: Wallace finds paydirt again and the Dolphins smother the Jets.
New England Patriots vs. Houston Texans
Comfortables: Tom Brady, Shane Vereen, Danny Amendola, Andre Johnson, Rob Gronkowski, New England Defense
Cautions: Case Keenum, Brandon Bolden, Ben Tate, Dennis Johnson (if starting), Aaron Dobson, Julian Edelman, DeAndre Hopkins, Garrett Graham
Casualties: Stevan Ridley, LeGarrette Blount, Dennis Johnson (if Tate starts), Kenbrell Thompkins, Houston Defense
The only Patriots running back you can start is Shane Vereen. We have no idea what Bill Belichick will do with Stevan Ridley. Maybe all is forgiven, or maybe he’ll form a timeshare with LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden. If you’ve got a playoff spot at stake, you can’t pin your hopes on Ridley. The fumbling problem will not go away. All Vereen, all the time. Case Keenum has cooled off, but his rapport with Andre Johnson is still strong, so you can start Andre 3000 easily, but that’s about it from the Texans.
Prediction: Pats roll and the booing continues.
Chicago Bears vs. Minnesota Vikings
Comfortables: Josh McCown, Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Defense
Cautions: Cordarelle Patterson, Martellus Bennett
Casualties: All Vikings Except Peterson and Patterson, Michael Bush
The Bears can’t defend the run at all. Woe be unto those who have to face off against Adrian Peterson this week. But the Vikes can’t defend anything, so I really like Josh McCown this week, and as I said earlier, I’m planning on picking up McCown and I’m going to play him over RG3. Matt Forte hyperextended his knee last week, giving all of his owners (coughcough) a heart attack, so if you own Forte, grab Bush as a handcuff NOW.
Prediction: Bears bounce back from last week’s embarrassment and put Minnesota down for the count.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers
Comfortables: Cam Newton, Vincent Jackson, Steve Smith, Greg Olsen, Carolina Defense
Cautions: Mike Glennon, Bobby Rainey, DeAngelo Williams, Taiquan Underwood, Brandon LaFell, Timothy Wright, Tampa Bay Defense
Casualties: Brian Leonard, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, Ted Ginn
Mike Glennon’s been fantastic over the past couple of weeks as a streamed quarterback, but against the stifling Panthers D, the clock might strike midnight for Napoleon Dynamite. Only V-Jax can comfortably be started; I’m not sold on Taiquan Underwood’s performance last week. I’ve made that mistake chasing after Eddie Royal and Marvin Jones in the past. Also, stay away from the Carolina backfield. Too many mouths to feed. Tolbert would be good on the goal line but he’s hobbled.
Prediction: Panthers stay hot and win their eighth straight.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Cleveland Browns
Comfortables: Maurice Jones-Drew, Cecil Shorts, Josh Gordon, Cleveland Defense
Cautions: Mike Brown (if active), Jordan Cameron, Jacksonville Defense
Casualties: Chad Henne, Brandon Weeden, All Cleveland Running Backs, Ace Sanders, Greg Little, Davone Bess
Yuck. Why would anybody want to watch this game? Jordan Cameron has been demoted to a caution for the first time since Week 2. He misses Brian Hoyer desperately. MJD has been running better as of late and is finding the end zone, so keep riding him. Cecil Shorts will continue to see the targets, and Josh Gordon is unbenchable.
Prediction: Weeden-to-Gordon. Browns win at home.
Tennessee Titans vs. Indianapolis Colts
Comfortables: Andrew Luck, Chris Johnson, Kendall Wright, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, Tennessee Defense, Indianapolis Defense
Cautions: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Donald Brown, Justin Hunter, Delaine Walker
Casualties: Shonn Greene, Trent Richardson, Nate Washington, Darius Heyward-Bey, LaVon Brazill
This matchup happened two weeks ago in Tennessee on Thursday night so we can identify trends. Andrew Luck got shut down for the most part but was efficient with the short passes, finding T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener on the regular (where the passes didn’t go for much, but were acceptable for PPR purposes) while DHB dropped passes. Donald Brown also outperformed Trent Richardson immensely. This week, I’m not willing to go with the trends. I think Luck learns from his mistakes and busts out a big game, to the benefit of Hilton. I think Brown takes a backseat. I do think that T-Rich continues to suck. I can’t imagine a scenario where the dude should be on a roster, let alone started.
Prediction: At home, Indy bounces back with a huge division win.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Comfortables: Carson Palmer, Nick Foles, Andre Ellington, LeSean McCoy, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper
Cautions: Rashard Mendenhall, Rob Housler, Arizona Defense, Philadelphia Defense
Casualties: Stephan Taylor, Bryce Brown, Andre Roberts, Jason Avant, Brent Celek, Zach Ertz
Out of nowhere, the Cardinals got good. When the hell did that happen? You have to continue to ride the hot hand but realize that in Philly, blustery conditions may affect the passing game. I’m giving Carson Palmer the vote of confidence here, and he’s a good replacement for burned RG3 owners, but a stinker is certainly in the realm of possibility. Michael Floyd has earned his way to the comfortable section, and Fitz is finding the end zone, so continue to ride them until they give you a reason not to. For the Iggles, I think Nick Foles’s interception-less streak gets snapped when he gets cute and throws toward Patrick Peterson, but otherwise he should have another good day. I think Riley Cooper bounces back from two weeks ago. Don’t be afraid to roll him out.
Prediction: The Eagles fly.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Buffalo Bills
Comfortables: Steven Jackson, Fred Jackson, Harry Douglas, Stevie Johnson, Tony Gonzalez
Cautions: Matt Ryan, EJ Manuel, Jacquizz Rodgers, CJ Spiller, Roddy White, Atlanta Defense, Buffalo Defense
Casualties: Jason Snelling, Marquise Goodwin, TJ Graham, Robert Woods, Scott Chandler
Snow is in the forecast for this game. Lean on the ground game. S-Jax and F-Jax are good plays. I have no idea what CJ Spiller is going to do in this game. He could bust out or do nothing. I went halfway and listed him as a caution. I put Douglas, Stevie Johnson and Gonzo in the comfortable list because the QBs are going to have to throw it eventually, and these guys have been the beneficiaries of multiple targets.
Prediction: F-Jax leads the Bills to a victory on the ground.
St. Louis Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers
Comfortables: Zac Stacy (if active), Frank Gore, Tavon Austin, Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, St. Louis Defense, San Francisco Defense
Cautions: Colin Kaepernick, Benny Cunningham (if Stacy is inactive), Michael Crabtree (if active), Mario Manningham
Casualties: All Rams Offensive Players Except Stacy, Austin, and Cunningham; All 49ers Backup Running Backs; Vance McDonald
Hopefully all those who were smart enough to start Kaepernick against the Redskins last week (hehe) are also smart enough to know he’s NOT a great play against a St. Louis defense who has made life hell for QBs over the past few weeks. Zac Stacy as of this writing has not passed concussion tests, so scoop up Benny Cunningham if you’re a Stacy owner. The matchup isn’t great, and the Rams aren’t going to be able to run all over the Niners the way they did on the Bears last week, but volume is good. Tavon Austin is the ultimate boom or bust, but he said the game has slowed down for him, so I think he’s going to break another big one. Start with confidence.
Prediction: The Niners squeak by the Rams at home.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. San Diego Chargers
Comfortables: Philip Rivers, Giovani Bernard, Danny Woodhead, AJ Green, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Cincinnati Defense
Cautions: Andy Dalton, BenJarvis Green-Ellis, Ryan Mathews (if active), Mohammad Sanu, Eddie Royal, Tyler Eifert, San Diego Defense
Casualties: Ronnie Brown, Marvin Jones, Andrew Hawkins, Vincent Brown, Jermaine Gresham, Ledarius Green
Ryan Mathews pulled a hammy last week, and given the brittle nature of the back, I’d be pretty worried if I’m an owner (which I am). Danny Woodhead looks to benefit, although I think the Chargers are going to test the Bengals through the air rather than on the ground (although Woodhead still has value there). I wouldn’t think too much about Ledarius Green’s big game last week, but he’s an intriguing name to watch, especially if Gates goes down for whatever reason. This guy is the TE of the future for the Chargers. For the Bengals, I’ve given up on waiting for another Marvin Jones breakout, so you just know it’s going to happen this week after I’ve already cut bait. I expect a big bounce-back game from AJ Green.
Prediction: Rivers will throw, throw, throw and the Chargers will win.
Denver Broncos vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Comfortables: Peyton Manning, Knowshon Moreno (if active), Montee Ball (if Moreno is inactive), Jamaal Charles, Demariyus Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, Dwayne Bowe, Julius Thomas (if active)
Cautions: Alex Smith, Montee Ball (if Moreno is active), Donnie Avery
Casualties: CJ Anderson, Knile Davis, Andre Caldwell, Anthony Fasano, Shaun McGrath, Denver Defense, Kansas City Defense
I don’t think Julius Thomas’s absence can be overstated enough as to why the Broncos’ passing attack failed against New England last week. Orange Julius should be back for this game, and I expect the passing to bounce back. All starting options are in play, even Montee Ball if Knowshon ends up being inactive. I’m willing to bet he doesn’t get the Ridley treatment after his fumbling and totes the rock for Denver.
Prediction: Broncos bounce back with another big win to separate themselves from the Chiefs.
New York Giants vs. Washington Redskins
Comfortables: Eli Manning, Andre Brown, Alfred Morris, Victor Cruz, Reuben Randle, Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed (if active), New York Giants Defense
Cautions: Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Myers
Casualties: Robert Griffin III, Brandon Jacobs, Roy Helu, Darrell Young (if active), Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson, Logan Paulsen (if Reed is inactive), Fred Davis (if Reed is inactive), Washington Defense
As I explained in the intro, I don’t care if it’s the Giants. RG3 is unstartable in standard leagues. Alfred Morris is still good to use though, and Garcon and Reed should get some good action in PPR leagues. I love the Giants here. Washington seriously has the worst defense in the league. They made Christian Ponder look like an all-pro. They made Colin Kaepernick into a superstar last week. Start everybody. I’m even considering Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Myers if I have them (I picked Myers up as a backup for Jordan Reed if he can’t go).
Prediction: Giants steamroll the Redskins.
New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks
Comfortables: Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Pierre Thomas, Marshawn Lynch, Percy Harvin, Golden Tate, Jimmy Graham, Seattle Defense
Cautions: Darren Sproles (if active), Marques Colston, Doug Baldwin, New Orleans Defense
Casualties: Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson, Kenny Stills, Lance Moore, Robert Meachem, Jermaine Kearse, Zach Miller
This is the game of the week. This is the game where we find out if New Orleans has a Superbowl run in them, because to get there, they’re most likely going to have to go into Seattle. The suspensions to the Seahawk secondary shouldn’t be overlooked. I think Drew Brees can check it down to Pierre and find Jimmy Graham for some scores. I’m not as high on Marques Colston. He’ll draw Richard Sherman, the only member of the Legion of Boom seemingly left. I don’t know what’s in store for Percy Harvin, but the shackles have apparently been removed, and if you sat on him this long, you have to roll him out. I’m nervous about how this will cut into Golden Tate’s production, but I’m willing to roll with him one more time.
Prediction: Seahawks sneak by the Saints at home.
Good luck in Week 13! Get that playoff spot!