Sometimes it seems like every week is weirder than the last. Week 11 was full of as many twists and turns as have been commonplace, so take an early look at the Week 12 prices while all of it is still fresh in your mind. Good luck.
Drew Brees @ HOU ($7,300) – While Houston’s defense has been playing better lately, most of that has been their ability to shut down teams that rely on the run to set up their entire game plan, whereas the Saints, of course, approach the game differently. Brees is coming off a down game against the Redskins and then a bye, but he threw for almost 900 yards on 89 attempts in the two games prior to the matchup with Washington, and he will look to get back to that pace starting now.
Carson Palmer @ SF ($7,100) – Remember when Palmer was the hot young QB, poised to finally lead the Bengals to the promised land, and we all actually thought he could do it? He was a phenom, a top pick who actually worked out, a Heisman Trophy winner who had skills that translated to the pro game. And then the injury happened, and years of playing on crappy teams and more injuries. And then came this year – and the QB we’re watching doesn’t remind me of Palmer from two years ago, or four years ago. He all of a sudden reminds me of the Palmer who looked like the next great QB in the NFL a decade or more ago. He is moving around in the pocket, throwing with pinpoint accuracy, making the receivers around him better instead of the other way around. He is reading defenses and throwing to the open spots, and this week, he is playing the 49ers. After throwing 11 TDs in the past three weeks, including seven against the Bengals and Seahawks, what in the world would slow him down against SF? The Cards don’t even have a running game that might limit his opportunities right now – instead, they have backs like Ellington, who are more apt to score on a 700-yard screen pass than they are to chew up 150 yards and most of the clock on the ground. To me, he is the best combination of value and upside at his position on the board this week.
Matt Hasselbeck vs. TB ($5,400) – Hasselbeck does not throw deep down the field anymore, but he is a good QB. And clearly, his game is suited to this team, because they’ve played their best football of the year with him under center. I don’t think Andrew Luck or anyone in the Colts front office wants to hear that, but it’s true. I would not count on Hasselbeck to win you a million bucks – but if you’re looking to cash in a 5050, he is an obvious choice at this price. They don’t have the running game to limit his passing chances too much, and he is efficient enough to make them count. He is completing just over 65% of his passes for the year, for five TDs against just two picks so far in his three starts. The Bucs are just the kind of defense to let him keep that up, without the personnel to put a ton of pressure on him or to bump guys off their routes close to the line of scrimmage. He should be able to get in rhythm and stay there in this one.
Brock Osweiler vs. NE ($5,300) – Osweiler didn’t look amazing, but he looked smart. He found his best WR and he peppered him, targeting Demaryius Thomas a team-high eight times. And once, it paid off. The Patriots are going to come to play in this one, regardless of the outcome of this MNF game, looking to test themselves against the best defense in the league. If they can get on a roll and put up even just a couple of scores early, the Broncos are going to be forced into letting him throw a lot more than they might want, and with quality receiving options running around and the Pats likely focused at least somewhat on stopping the run, that could lead to some good opportunities for fantasy production out of the young QB.
Adrian Peterson @ ATL ($7,300) – The Vikings never seemed to get on track yesterday in their loss to Green Bay. The Packers needed that win badly, and the Vikings caught the brunt of that emotion. But now it’s the Vikings’ turn to need a W, and this matchup couldn’t possibly look better on paper. The Falcons strength on defense is guarding against outside receivers, through a combo of a decent pass rush and above-average corners – exactly the kind of thing the Vikings don’t do anyway. It’s kind of a useless “strength” in this matchup, and AP is just the guy to take advantage. He streak of 100-yard games ended yesterday, but he still managed to score. He has the highest floor AND the highest ceiling of all running backs this weekend.
Chris Ivory vs. MIA ($5,800) – The Cowboys put more than 160 rushing yards on the Dolphins yesterday, and McFadden, a back who has been consistently catching passes all year, had only 3 catches for 20 yards. Ivory and the Jets fell behind yesterday, and Powell got some play on passing downs, so Ivory never got going, but the best way to attack this Dolphins defense is to run straight downhill at them – Ivory’s specialty. I think you could see 100+ yards and a score in this one from the Jets’ primary back.
Eddie Lacy vs. CHI ($4,700) – Has the price dropped low enough? You will have to get in on the early action this week if you want to use him, with the Packers facing off against the Bears on Thanksgiving night. We know that Eddie Lacy can be a dominant fantasy RB – we’ve seen it. We’ve also seen him turn it on down the stretch, so the slow start (maybe not this slow) isn’t even unprecedented. And, if you look at the box score, you’ll see he had 22 carries for 100 yards, but if you watched the game, you know he was a big reason why the Packers looked as good as they did against Minnesota. He’s better than James Starks, and his playing well is what allowed Starks to make a few big plays here, as a change of pace. This was a model of what a Jordy-less Green Bay offense could look like and still have success against the elite defenses of the NFC.
Tevin Coleman vs. MIN ($4,300) – Sometimes, it is all about opportunity. We don’t know a lot here: we don’t know if Freeman’s concussion will keep him out next week, and we don’t know if Coleman is an above-average running back or not. We do know Minnesota has a good defense, and that Coleman got 17 carries as a fill-in this past week. For $4,300, you are getting (potentially), a work-horse running back with no track record and a tough matchup, but with a ton of upside.
DeAndre Hopkins vs. NO ($9,100) – I am going to go on the record as saying that, while I do not think Rob Ryan was a great defensive coordinator, I also do not believe the Saints are suddenly going to morph into the Steel Curtain. The Saints’ players are bad at defense too. And while the Texans QB play looked shaky yesterday, it has been shaky all season long, and Hopkins has still managed to assert himself out there, making plays and bringing in balls he had no business securing. He is the only player worth playing on the Texans unless you play in a IDP league, and he keeps making it worth it even thought every opponent is game-planning specifically to make his life difficult. And most of those teams have a lot more talent than the Saints on defense.
Larry Fitzgerald @ SF ($7,400) – Well, I love Carson Palmer, and the rest of his weapons are all banged up. This week it was J.J. Nelson, other weeks it has been Jaron Brown, or Michael Floyd. But it has always been Fitz. He is the most targeted, and that is in part because he is also the most versatile. He can give the Cards a possession receiver or a home run threat, depending on what they need. So, if you can predict game-flow and think they will need some big plays to win, then he’s an upside play. If you think maybe they handle the 49ers easily, but still need someone to keep the chains moving on occasion, then he’s more of a high-floor, low-risk kind of play. And both of those are valuable.
Stevie Johnson @ JAX ($4,500) – The Chargers are just perpetually worse than you think they should be. I am pretty sure just about everyone would have expected more than 3 points out of this squad yesterday, no matter how well the Chiefs have looked over the past one or two weeks. That might not have happened, but Stevie Johnson did lead them in targets, and the injuries that got him the job aren’t healing up anytime soon. Maybe I am a fool for letting the Chargers pull me back in, but once again I will be looking at them for at least a couple of touchdowns, and I think Stevie is one of the two or three primary options to score on this offense every week from here on out (along with Gates and Woodhead).
Dwayne Harris @ WAS ($3,800) – The Giants have been able to move the ball over the past few weeks, and you could say that Harris has been a beneficiary, or you could be kinder and say that he has helped them get there. He has had three games with five or more catches since starting his season off in Week 4 against Buffalo. Over that stretch he has been over a dozen fantasy points in five out of seven games, and came on strong against NE, going for 80+ yards and a score. Against this secondary, with their focus on the other side of the field, Harris could turn up as a secret weapon why really makes Eli look good.
Greg Olsen @ DAL ($6,200) – Dallas is good against tight ends on paper, but I really hate that stat. Teams don’t revolve their defenses around the tight end position very often, but here is one of the two teams that will actually see that approach. Gronk gets concentrated on because he is such a beast, and Olsen because – while maybe not quite such an intimidating figure – IS his team’s best receiver. Cam is coming off a huge game, and walking right into a buzzsaw that is a Cowboys’ team and fan base suddenly rejuvenated and hopeful – if their savior can run the table, they actually could make the playoffs, even after 7 straight losses. If this game doesn’t feel like a Panthers romp early, Cam is going to want to turn to his safety blanket, and that is going to give Olsen a chance at ten catches, even if he doesn’t score.
Delanie Walker vs. OAK ($5,400) – Every week someone gets to play the Raiders, by far the worst team in the league at defending tight ends, to such a huge extent and so consistently that even I can’t ignore it as a possible indicator. And this week they’re actually playing a tight end who is good in Delanie Walker. Walker has fewer than six catches only once since six three, so don’t think he is big-play dependent. He is just big-play capable, but more more dependable than dependent. It’s not as if the Titans have a ton of pass-catching options, and yet he keeps finding open spaces and making plays to try to get his squad in a position to score. He will be a linup staple for me this weekend.
Kyle Rudolph @ ATL ($3,400) – Did you see that catch he made? He made a great catch last night – take my word for it. Fighting off a defended while running up the seam, Rudolph made an athletic play look like a cinch, and I feel like that is a microcosm of his career. He occasionally makes plays that have you thinking he might be the best tight end in football if he could just harness that more often… but he can’t. But against a Falcons team that defends from the outside-in and has no linebackers, this could be one of the weeks he does bring it all together and gets you more than just one or two catches AND at least one of them goes for a big gain. AP and Rudolph could let the Vikes get all the offense they want right through the middle of this defense.
Zach Miller @ GB ($2,900) – Going on Turkey Day, Miller is the kind of bargain you sometimes need to employ in a contest without too many options. In other words, the kind of bargain that might just be cheap for a reason. High risk, risk-reward – whatever you want to call it. But he has been getting targets over the past few weeks, and the Bears are going to need all the offense they can muster if the Packers come out on fire like they did yesterday. With ten catches for three scores and almost 180 yards in just the last three games, he is all of a sudden playing like a very usable threat to rack up some fantasy points, always a welcome relief at this position.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. STL ($3,000) – This is what is called a confluence. The Bengals saw the best game of the year from Geno Atkins this weekend, and the Rams saw… Case Keenum. At this point, the assumption is that Keenum will be back out there next weekend, but frankly, it doesn’t seem to matter much. The Rams just don’t have a QB who helps the team move the ball. Their success this year has been in spite of their QB play, and if the Bengals D is going to start playing up to it’s potential down the stretch here, they have the players who can hinder the Rams’ running attack and grind this offense to a halt.
Minnesota Vikings @ ATL ($2,300) – The Falcons haven’t scored more than 21 points since October 11th against the Redskins. The best defense they played over that stretch was – by far – the Bucs. Their opponents over that period also included the Saints, the 49ers and the Colts – absolute gimmies on most team’s schedules. They do a decent job of limiting sacks and turnovers, so maybe the Vikings don’t have the highest ceiling on the board. But in what could end up being a low-scoring affair on both sides of the ball, I feel like the Vikes are a great play in any kind of cash tournament at this price.