Jacksonville @ Houston
The Texans will turn back to Case Keenum after coach Gary Kubiak inexplicably benched him for Matt Schaub in last Sunday's humbling home loss to the Raiders. Although Keenum has struggled mightily with opposing blitz packages in each of his four starts, he remains Houston's best under-center option. Kubiak's odd affinity for Schaub could keep him on a short leash, but this matchup sets Keenum up for a bounce-back game. Jacksonville's No. 24 pass defense allows a 20:4 TD-to-INT ratio and AFC-high 105.4 passer rating to enemy signal callers. The Jaguars are last in the AFC in sacks (15). Keenum remains a locked-in two-quarterback-league starter. He's a gambling man's QB1 streamer. ... Ben Tate still has the premier fantasy matchup on Houston's side of the ball. Finally running with confidence again following a midseason rib injury, Tate has peeled off 112 yards on his last 22 carries (5.09 YPC) and set season highs in catches and receiving yards in Week 11. Jacksonville's last-ranked run defense has allowed league highs in rushing scores (15) and 20-plus-yard runs (12). ... Keenum's 2013 target distribution: Andre Johnson 39; Garrett Graham 27; DeAndre Hopkins 21; DeVier Posey 15; Tate 11; Lestar Jean 3; Dennis Johnson 1.
Andre's stat lines in Keenum's starts: 4-89, 9-229-3, 5-37-2, 10-116. That is elite WR1 production. Look for the squeaky wheel to get the grease after Johnson's sideline and post-game fits following the loss to Oakland. ... Hopkins was benched for Posey against the Raiders for what Kubiak later called "a lot of mistakes." It's possible those two will play in a rotation going forward. The Texans' offense has been unable to support more than two fantasy-viable pass catchers throughout the season. ... After five consecutive weeks of disappointing post-Owen Daniels production, Graham finally came to life last week, recording a season-high seven receptions for a career-high 136 yards. Getting the ball to Graham on seam routes was clearly a huge part of Houston's game plan. The Jaguars have allowed the second most fantasy points to tight ends, so in this instance chasing last week's points isn't discouraged. ... Dennis Johnson was a hot sleeper add after Tate ran poorly playing through cracked ribs against the Colts in Week 9. Tate has since seemingly moved beyond the injury, while Johnson's touch total has dropped in consecutive games. Johnson is just a lottery-ticket fantasy stash/handcuff at this point. He's barely worth owning in 12-team leagues.
Although Maurice Jones-Drew's running ability clearly isn't what it was two seasons ago, volume and goal-line carries have kept him in the every-week RB2/flex scoring range with 100-plus total yards and/or a touchdown in four of his last five games. MJD's increased pass-game involvement has been a major boon to his PPR value, with at least four receptions in three straight weeks. Jones-Drew has the best Week 12 fantasy matchup among Jacksonville skill-position players against a Texans defense that ranks 23rd versus the run and silver plattered a 22-150-1 rushing line to Rashad Jennings in Week 11. Fire up Jones-Drew as a low-ceiling but high-floor fantasy play. ... Chad Henne's passing game gets a tougher draw. The Texans rank No. 1 in the league versus the pass and lead the NFL in blitz percentage, where DC Wade Phillips is sending five-plus pass rushers on 50% of opposing pass plays, per PFF's Mike Clay. For the second straight week, coach Gus Bradley had to publicly re-anoint Henne the Jaguars' starting quarterback. Playing poorly, Henne is going to be at risk of an in-game benching sooner rather than later. Over his last two games, Henne has compiled a 1:4 TD-to-INT ratio with five sacks taken. Despite ranking 19th in the NFL in pass attempts, Henne is tied with Vikings backup Matt Cassel for 39th in passing touchdowns (4). Henne isn't even in the two-quarterback-league discussion this week.
Henne's target distribution since Justin Blackmon's year-ending suspension: Marcedes Lewis 13; Ace Sanders 11; Cecil Shorts 9; MJD 8; Mike Brown 7; Jordan Todman 2. ... Targeted just four and five times, respectively, in two games since Jacksonville's Week 9 bye, Shorts complained publicly following last week's loss to Arizona. With Henne at quarterback and Texans top CB Johnathan Joseph in coverage, getting the ball to Shorts could be easier said than done this week. Shorts is just a WR3 option. ... A total dud since Blackmon's ban, Brown is in danger of missing Week 12 with a shoulder injury. He would be replaced by some combination of Kerry Taylor and Sanders. Facing the league's top-rated pass defense, this is a fantasy situation to avoid. ... The Jaguars have clearly tried to make Lewis a bigger part of their passing attack since the Week 9 open date. Lewis has rewarded them with six catches for 62 scoreless yards and a dropped pass. Houston's defense is allowing the fewest receptions in the league to tight ends, and the ninth fewest yards. Lewis is just barely on the fantasy TE2 radar.
Score Prediction: Texans 21, Jaguars 13
NY Jets @ Baltimore
This game projects as a smash-mouth, low-scoring slugfest between top-13 defenses who each field bottom-dozen offenses. The Jets benched their rookie quarterback last week. The Ravens' rushing offense briefly came alive against Chicago's walkover front seven, but is a virtual lock to re-hit the skids against New York's league-best run defense. With a 39-point over-under -- lowest of Week 12 -- this is a game to avoid where possible in fantasy lineup decisions. ... The lone Jets skill player worth fantasy consideration is lead back Chris Ivory, who's amassed 394 yards on his last 80 runs (4.93 YPC), and is averaging 18.5 touches over his last four games. Ivory will struggle for similar production against Baltimore's No. 11 run defense on the road, but this is a game that should stay competitive throughout, allowing Jets OC Marty Mornhinweg to lean on his two-down banger. Ivory has the appearance of a low-ceiling Week 12 flex option. ... Change-of-pace and third-down back Bilal Powell's playing time won't spike unless the Ravens grab a big scoreboard lead and force the Jets into pass-happy comeback mode. The odds are against that scenario. Averaging just eight touches over his last four games, Powell is unworthy of flex consideration.
Geno Smith flopped in New York's Week 11 blowout loss to Buffalo, committing four turnovers en route to a fourth-quarter benching. While Geno has flashed franchise quarterback potential in clean pockets this season, his mechanics and decision making go to pieces under duress. The Ravens are tied for third in sacks, so expect another long day for Gang Green's passing attack. ... Geno's Week 11 target distribution with Santonio Holmes back from injury: Santonio 8; Stephen Hill 7; Jeff Cumberland and Tommy Bohanon 2; Greg Salas, David Nelson, Kellen Winslow, Ivory, and Powell 1. ... A frustratingly inconsistent player, Hill somehow managed to secure zero of his seven targets at Buffalo. Catch-less in two straight games, Hill is expected to be benched this week for Nelson. Hill has been far too ineffective and inefficient to be carried on 12- and 14-team fantasy league rosters. ... Holmes played just over 50% of the Jets' Week 11 snaps, but did flash his big-play ability on gains of 38 and 33 yards. Still not over the hump with his hamstring injury, Holmes is a boom-or-bust WR3 crapshoot. ... With Jeremy Kerley (elbow) on the shelf, the Jets used Salas in the slot against the Bills. New York's wideout corps has devolved into a four-way committee. With a struggling rookie quarterbacking the offense, it's become an obvious fantasy situation to avoid. ... Winslow played eight snaps in his Week 11 return from a PEDs suspension. Cumberland played 50, but blocked on 29, per Pro Football Focus. Baltimore has allowed the third fewest receptions in the league to tight ends.
It would be a resounding upset if Baltimore's Week 11 rushing-attack resurgence panned out as anything other than a one-game, matchup-based fluke. The Bears' defense has been trampled by opposing tailbacks, while the opposite can be said for the Jets. Tops in the league versus the run, New York is permitting NFL lows in rushing yards per game (73.2) and yards-per-carry average (2.94). The Jets suffocated C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson for 40 combined yards on 25 attempts in Week 11. My advice to Ray Rice owners would be to sell high ahead of Sunday's game. Last week will very likely go down as his best box score of the season. ... Bernard Pierce handled ten carries against Chicago, but mustered 18 yards and remains Rice's change-of-pace complement until further notice. ... Although the Jets' pass defense is quite vulnerable -- E.J. Manuel picked apart Dee Milliner and Antonio Cromartie despite missing both of his starting receivers last week -- Joe Flacco's 2013 performance inspires little confidence that he can be more than a two-QB-league option. Missing Dennis Pitta dearly, Flacco has consistently flopped in plus matchups this season and is on pace for career worsts in YPA (6.55), passer rating (75.3), and TD-to-INT ratio (21:21). In two career games against Rex Ryan defenses, Flacco has completed 30-of-69 throws (43.5%) for 411 yards (5.96 YPA), no touchdowns, two interceptions, and two fumbles lost.
Flacco's target distribution over his last five games: Torrey Smith 40; Rice and Jacoby Jones 24; Marlon Brown 23; Tandon Doss 18; Dallas Clark 17; Ed Dickson 12; Deonte Thompson 7; Pierce 6. ... Cromartie has played so poorly this season that starting fantasy wideouts against him is now recommended. "Cro" got torched on a 43-yard touchdown bomb to raw rookie Marquise Goodwin in Week 11 and has legitimately regressed into one of the Jets' worst players one year after being their best. Already on a two-game touchdown binge, fire up Smith. ... Slot receiver Brown is due back from the knee injury that cost him Week 11. Although Brown is an intriguing long-term talent and Dynasty hold, he isn't a trustworthy re-draft option amid injury and playing-time concerns. Brown is only worth a roster spot in 16- and 20-team leagues. His return to the lineup will send Thompson and Doss back to the bench. ... Situational deep threat Jones belongs on special teams only. He hasn't reached 50 receiving yards in a game all year. ... The Jets have allowed the seventh most fantasy points to tight ends, but Baltimore lacks a fantasy-viable player at the position. Clark has cleared 50 yards in 2-of-10 appearances and is obviously on his last legs at age 34. Though athletically gifted, drop-machine Dickson remains a massive underachiever.
Score Prediction: Ravens 17, Jets 14
Carolina @ Miami
The hottest team in football travels to Miami Sunday for a favorable-weather matchup with the Dolphins' No. 19 pass defense, one week after Cam Newton shredded New England's top-12 unit for three scores and 271 all-purpose yards. During Carolina's six-game win streak, Cam is 116-of-172 passing (67.4%) for 1,294 yards (7.52 YPA) and a 10:3 TD-to-INT ratio with three more rushing scores. Keep riding him as an elite QB1. ... Newton's target distribution during the six-game streak: Steve Smith 47; Brandon LaFell 38; Greg Olsen 28; Ted Ginn 21; DeAngelo Williams 16; Mike Tolbert 14; Jonathan Stewart 3. ... Similar to Seattle, Carolina does not support a big-time fantasy receiver because its dual-threat quarterback generally throws to the open man rather than force feeding a certain player. The Panthers are a run-based, defensive-dominant team that ranks 30th in the league in pass attempts. (The Seahawks are 31st.) So Smith is a fantasy WR3 even though he is the clear-cut top option in the passing game. Beginning to move usually stationary LCB Brent Grimes around the formation more to man up with opposing No. 1 wideouts, the Dolphins have contained Vincent Jackson (3-28) and Keenan Allen (3-45) over their last two games. Allen's slow Week 11 production is skewed slightly by an in-game knee injury, but he played into the fourth quarter and was simply not a big factor with 45 yards on six targets.
Olsen has the best matchup of Carolina pass catchers, taking on a Dolphins defense allowing the fourth most fantasy points to tight ends. Overcoming a midseason foot injury, Olsen looked as spry and fluid as he has all season in last week's win over the Patriots. He's back in the mid-range to low-end TE1 mix. ... On pace for 61 receptions and 735 yards, LaFell is a fantasy WR5 despite last week's red-zone touchdown. LaFell has reached 60 yards in 2-of-10 games. ... If there was any clarity in Carolina's backfield, this would be a matchup to exploit. Miami's floundering run defense has been gutted by Patriots, Bucs, Bengals, and Chargers tailbacks for 589 yards and five TDs on 120 carries (4.91 YPC) the past four weeks. Unfortunately, the Panthers have a three-headed timeshare that is always in danger of losing open-field and goal-line production to its mobile quarterback. Since Stewart returned from PUP three games ago, here are the snap counts of each Carolina back: Tolbert 111; Williams 72; Stewart 54. Here are their touch totals: Williams 32; Stewart 29; Tolbert 19. "Touch leader" Williams is averaging 10.7 touches a game. No thanks.
Whereas Carolina's offense has favorable Week 12 matchups across the board, Miami is at the opposite end of the spectrum. First in the NFL in points allowed and third in yards, the Panthers' ferocious front seven poses a mismatch for the Dolphins' talent-deficient and now depleted offensive line. There isn't a Miami skill player I'd feel comfortable starting this week. Carolina will control the line of scrimmage. ... Since losing two O-Line starters to the Jonathan Martin-Richie Incognito fiasco two games ago, Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller have combined for 74 yards on 25 runs (2.96 YPC). Thomas (10) handled more carries than Miller (4) for just the second time all season in last Sunday's win over San Diego. Throw in the additional absence C Mike Pouncey (food poisoning) and you have a true disaster scenario. Now facing the Panthers' top-three run defense, Miami's pathetic ground game is an obvious fantasy situation to avoid. ... Ryan Tannehill is quietly 13th in fantasy quarterback scoring on the season, but he's just a two-QB-league option against the Panthers' top-five pass defense. Carolina has held enemy passers to a combined 8:14 TD-to-INT ratio on the year and is tied for ninth in the NFL in sacks. The Dolphins' expansion-level pass protection has allowed Tannehill to absorb a league-high 41 sacks in 2013.
Tannehill's target distribution since Brandon Gibson tore his patellar tendon: Rishard Matthews and Brian Hartline 30; Mike Wallace 29; Charles Clay 23; Miller 11; Michael Egnew 5; Thomas 4. ... Simply not playing well, Tannehill missed an open Wallace on several throws against the Chargers. Tannehill's deep accuracy has taken a nosedive in '13, and the up-front collapse isn't helping. Lean away from Wallace in WR3 decisions. ... Matthews has turned in stat lines of 2-24, 11-120-2, and 4-52 in three games since replacing Gibson as Miami's slot receiver. Matthews will see Captain Munnerlyn in coverage this week. The Panthers' most consistent corner, Munnerlyn helped hold Danny Amendola to 45 scoreless yards on seven targets in Week 11. ... If I was going to take an ill-advised shot on a Dolphins wideout, I'd take it on Hartline, who led Miami in Week 11 targets (13) and projects to run most of his routes against Panthers undrafted rookie RCB Melvin White. ... An increasingly difficult player to predict, Clay averaged 21.8 receiving yards over his previous four games before resurfacing for a 6-90-1 number against San Diego. While chasing last-week points is never recommended in this space, there is some reason to believe Clay could be a big part of Miami's Week 12 game plan in a quick-hitting attempt to minimize Carolina's pass rush. Of course, that may be asking too much of the Dolphins' oft-overmatched coaching staff.
Score Prediction: Panthers 23, Dolphins 17