Patrick Daugherty

Goal Line Stand

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Week 12 Rankings

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Updated 11/24/2013 at 12:05 PM ET. Mike Brown removed. Hakeem Nicks dropped, Rueben Randle bumped up slightly. Julius Thomas dropped to No. 17 ahead of likely removal this afternoon/evening. 

Updated 11/24/2013 at 1:00 PM ET. Julius Thomas officially removed after FOX's Jay Glazer reported it would "have to be a miracle" for him to play. 

Updated 11/24/2013 at 3:00 PM ET. No. 39 receiver Hakeem Nicks removed. No. 84 receiver Da'Rick Rogers removed. No change for Rueben Randle, who was already ranked as if Nicks would be inactive/highly limited.  

As we enter the season’s stretch run, just nine running backs are averaging more weekly fantasy points than Zac Stacy. Alfred Morris, Chris Johnson and Stevan Ridley are a few of the names behind Stacy. The numbers are even more impressive when you quarantine them to the past five weeks, where Stacy’s weekly 17.6 points are behind only Matt Forte and CJ?K. Since taking over as the Rams’ lead back in Week 5, Stacy is averaging 21 carries for 88.8 yards, and has four total touchdowns in six games.

How did we get here?

It wasn’t easy. Despite being a favorite of the draftnik community, Stacy was No. 4 on the depth chart by Week 2. A healthy scratch for Weeks 2 and 3, Stacy finished the first month of his NFL career with exactly one carry. But as Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead and Benny Cunningham all struggled, the Rams found themselves in a “well, why not?” situation by Week 5. When Sam Bradford went down in Week 7, Stacy was elevated from “de facto back” to “focal point of the offense.” Since Bradford’s injury, Stacy has taken the rock 79 times for 323 yards and two scores in three games. He’s averaged “just” 4.1 yards per carry since taking the keys to the car from Bradford, but those numbers are skewed by the Rams’ 38-8 Week 10 rout of the Colts. With St. Louis racing out to a 21-0 lead just four minutes into the second quarter, Stacy was slammed into a brick wall in predictable running situations 20 times over the game’s final 41 minutes.

Why has Stacy had so much success? Because he carries himself like a runner who expects it. Stacy is extremely decisive, typically making his first cut before the hole is even opened, and then hitting it as soon as it does. Stacy is not the speediest guy — he doesn’t look as fast as even his 4.55 40-yard dash would suggest — but makes up for it with lightning quick feet. Stacy knows he can’t simply explode into the second level of the defense, so instead he ping pongs his way into it with a series of quick cuts. As we’ve established, Stacy lacks the home run speed to pull away from the second level — his longest run this season is all of 32 yards — but he runs with a toughness and forward lean befitting of his 5-foot-8, 216-pound frame. He uses his size and exceptional balance to create missed tackles, 22 in six games by Pro Football Focus’ count. That’s 3.6 per game, which is on par with LeSean McCoy (3.6) and Alfred Morris (3.4).   

Now Stacy gets a Bears defense that’s been getting positively eaten alive by opposing running backs over its past seven games, silver plattering 1,053 yards (150 per game) and 10 touchdowns. This is a unit that made Ray Rice look like Ray Rice last weekend. It all adds up to a No. 4 Week 12 ranking for a player who didn’t even have a job when the Bears’ cold streak began.

In the end, Stacy is unlikely to emerge as one of the league’s elite runners. That’s typically the case for backs who lack truly special qualities. But Stacy is a smart, decisive runner who knows his limitations. His run of success has been unexpected, but hardly a fluke. He’s a player who can produce in good and bad matchups alike, and has a dream one for Week 12.

Week 12 Quarterbacks

Rank Player Name Opponent Notes
1 Drew Brees at ATL -
2 Peyton Manning at NE Probable (ankle)
3 Matthew Stafford vs. TB -
4 Tom Brady vs. DEN -
5 Cam Newton at MIA -
6 Tony Romo at NYG -
7 Andrew Luck at ARZ -
8 Colin Kaepernick at WAS Probable (back)
9 Case Keenum vs. JAC -
10 Philip Rivers at KC -
11 Robert Griffin III vs. SF -
12 Ben Roethlisberger at CLE -
13 Eli Manning vs. DAL -
14 Matt Ryan vs. NO -
15 Alex Smith vs. SD -
16 Carson Palmer vs. IND Probable (hand)
17 Josh McCown at STL -
18 Scott Tolzien vs. MIN -
19 Mike Glennon at DET -
20 Joe Flacco vs. NYJ -
21 Ryan Fitzpatrick at OAK -
22 Ryan Tannehill vs. CAR -
23 Jason Campbell vs. PIT -
24 Christian Ponder at GB -
25 Kellen Clemens vs. CHI -
26 Chad Henne at HOU -
27 Geno Smith at BAL -
28 Matt McGloin vs. TEN -

QB Notes: Drew Brees had his worst game of 2012 in the Georgia Dome, but history is highly unlikely to repeat itself. The Falcons are allowing the eighth most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, while Brees has been held below 300 yards just twice in 10 starts. He’s averaging a weekly 337, compared to 357 for Peyton Manning. Helming an unstoppable offense, Brees has played Manning to a draw over the past five weeks. … As for Manning, this will be his 15th meeting with the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady era Patriots. Manning boasts a 5-9 career mark against his archrivals, and is the owner of a 29:19 TD:INT ratio. He’s averaged a healthy 291 yards against Belichick’s defenses, but his 62.9 completion percentage and 7.4 yards per attempt are both below his overall career marks (65.4 and 7.7, respectively). Manning is going to have a good game Sunday. This is a man who can only be slowed down, not stopped. But few have had better success at slowing Manning down than Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots. … Matthew Stafford had a sorry second half against the Steelers, but is still fantasy’s No. 3 quarterback by a comfortable (three weekly points) margin.

If Tom Brady’s not “back,” he’s as close as you could possibly get. Brady bookended New England’s bye week with his first and third best performances, the latter coming against Carolina’s nearly impenetrable defense. Brady threw for 296 yards against a unit allowing a weekly 199.8 coming into Week 11. Playing with a full deck on offense for literally the first time all season — Monday was the first time each of Shane Vereen, Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski all suited up at the same time — Brady can be counted on down the stretch as the elite QB1 fantasy owners drafted him as. … Although he lacks for weapons, Cam Newton has not lacked for fantasy points. His weekly 23.0 places him behind only Manning, Brees, Stafford and Philip Rivers. … When last we saw Tony Romo, he was throwing for his fewest yards (128) in a non-injury shortened game since Week 2, 2009. Romo has been highly inconsistent this season, but will be getting back Miles Austin against the Giants, and almost certainly making a point of throwing to Dez Bryant coming off the Cowboys’ bye week. Romo has been a part of the almost unprecedented volatility at quarterback this season, but remains an every-week QB1.        

The matchups are tough for Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers, but what are you going to do, start Scott Tolzien? Very few owners should be in position to bench their QB1s. … Case Keenum is a tough sell at No. 9 following his Week 11 benching, but coach Gary Kubiak has realized the error of his ways, while Keenum has a dream matchup in the Jaguars. Opposing quarterbacks sport a 65.9 completion percentage and 8.0 YPA against the Jags, while only Dallas has allowed more fantasy points to rival signal callers. Kubiak claimed he benched Keenum because he was struggling to recognize Oakland’s pass rush, but as’s Marc Sessler points out, Keenum has posted an 4:1 TD:INT against the blitz despite being pressured more than any quarterback in the league. The kid has done just fine, and is going to have fun chucking it deep to an angry Andre Johnson against one of the league’s worst defenses. … As is the case with Keenum, Colin Kaepernick’s ranking is very generous considering his recent performance, but facing a defense that’s absolutely porous in every phase of the game, he can’t be dropped any lower. Kaepernick is just a month removed from averaging 24.9 points in Weeks 6-8, and has mostly taken advantage of his good matchups this season. He’s a leap of faith, but one you should take if the alternative is among the Jason Campbells of the world.

Fantasy’s No. 7 quarterback over the past five weeks, Ben Roethlisberger gets a Browns team he’s 15-1 lifetime against. The Steelers want to be a run-first offense, but with Le’Veon Bell averaging a woeful 3.1 yards per carry, they’re going to have to keep relying on Big Ben’s big arm. … Eli Manning’s role has been dramatically dialed back during the Giants’ four-game winning streak, but he should get no shortage of opportunities to uncork the ball against a Cowboys defense allowing the most fantasy points to opposing QBs. The Cowboys are permitting a mind-boggling 313 passing yards per game, and let Manning drop 450 on them in Week 1. “The Book of Eli” has been one of pain and regret for most of 2013, but Week 12 should offer a respite to beleaguered fantasy owners. … Not a whole lot has gone right for Matt Ryan in 2013, but Harry Douglas has continued to shine in the slot, while Tony Gonzalez (toe) looked no worse for the wear in Week 11. At home in his beloved Georgia Dome with Roddy White finally through the Darrelle Revis and Richard Sherman portion of his schedule, Ryan is a decent bet for top-15 numbers against his archrival.

Alex Smith is a man of little upside, but has an excellent matchup in the Chargers’ league-worst secondary. It doesn’t hurt that only four teams have allowed more rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks than the Bolts. … Carson Palmer has come alive since getting torn apart by the Seahawks in Week 7, but has been aided by plus matchups, and surpassed 241 yards in only one of his past three starts. He’s still very much a QB2. … The matchup is right for Scott Tolzien in a Vikings defense allowing the third most fantasy points to quarterbacks, but he’s still a low-end QB2 that only truly desperate Nick Foles, Andy Dalton and Russell Wilson owners should consider. … Two-QB league owners could do worse than Mike Glennon and Joe Flacco. For Glennon, the Lions continue to spring leaks against the pass. For Flacco, the Jets are a different team on the road than they are at home. … It’s a good matchup for Ryan Fitzpatrick. … It’s a terrible matchup for Ryan Tannehill. … Matt McGloin showed some nice things in his first NFL start, but only three teams are allowing fewer fantasy points to quarterbacks than Tennessee. Avoid.

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Patrick Daugherty is a football and baseball writer for He can be found on Twitter .
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