Indianapolis @ Arizona
2013 Trent Richardson reminds me of 2012 Ryan Mathews in that his running is bereft of instincts and confidence to the extent you could say T-Rich "runs dumb" on a discouragingly high number of carries. Richardson isn't trusted by his team in critical situations, often yanked in favor of Donald Brown in the red zone and on crucial passing plays. (Norv Turner would pull Mathews last year for Ronnie Brown and Jackie Battle.) The talent is there, but Richardson's game isn't. He's a weak flex option versus Arizona's top-two run defense. ... In three games since Indy's Week 8 bye, T-Rich has averaged 38 snaps played and 10.3 touches for 47 scoreless yards. Brown has averaged 29 snaps, turning 9.3 touches per game into 67 yards with three TDs. Even if his fantasy value has temporarily surpassed Richardson's, Brown's scoring rate is not sustainable on the minimal workloads he's getting. He's another low-end flex option in this difficult road test. ... With his fantasy ceiling continuing to be held hostage by rookie OC Pep Hamilton's conservative playcalling, Andrew Luck enters Sunday's date with the Cardinals' No. 20 pass defense as no better than a low-end QB1. Since high-impact ILB Daryl Washington returned from suspension in Week 5, Arizona has held Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, Case Keenum, and Colin Kaepernick to a combined 9:8 TD-to-INT ratio. This isn't a great matchup for Luck.
Luck's target distribution since Reggie Wayne's Week 7 ACL tear: T.Y. Hilton 30; Coby Fleener 25; Griff Whalen 17; Darrius Heyward-Bey 16; T-Rich 13; Brown and LaVon Brazill 8; Stanley Havili 6. ... DHB has six drops over his last six games and has failed to reach 60 receiving yards in any week this season. Benched for Brazill during the Week 11 win over Tennessee, he's safe to drop in 14-team leagues. ... Through three starts as Indy's No. 1 receiver, Hilton is averaging six receptions for 99 yards per game. His blinding quickness will be difficult for 6-foot-1, 219-pound Patrick Peterson to handle whenever they square off, just as it was for Richard Sherman (6'3/195) when Hilton dropped a 5-140-2 line on Seattle in Week 5. Lock in Hilton as an every-week WR2 with WR1 upside. ... Fleener turned in a career-best game against the Titans, making tough grabs in traffic and putting his body on the line, things Fleener had done all too infrequently up until that point. His eight catches and 107 yards were both single-game career highs. Fleener is a top-12 TE1 against a Cardinals defense allowing the most fantasy points in the league to tight ends. ... Brazill has done little in the box score, but his snaps have risen in each of his five games since returning from suspension. Although Heyward-Bey's benching isn't permanent, Brazill's talent is worth stashing in 14-teamers and Dynasty leagues. This week's release of Whalen frees up third receiver duties for Brazill, who has flashed explosive vertical route-running ability in limited doses.
This game has sneaky high-scoring potential in the desert as Cardinals coach Bruce Arians faces off with his former team. Arians has Carson Palmer functioning at a high level, completing 79 of his last 110 throws (71.8%) for 952 yards (8.65 YPA) and a 7:2 TD-to-INT ratio. Palmer has taken only seven sacks over the past three weeks. Although Indianapolis opened the season playing stingy pass defense, it has fallen back to the pack since. The Colts now rank 16th versus the pass and 19th in sacks. Enemy quarterbacks have a combined 90.2 passer rating against Indy, the 13th highest clip in football. So this isn't a great matchup for Palmer, but it is certainly unimposing. He's a high-end QB2 with some QB1 streamer appeal if you're desperate. ... Palmer's target distribution during the Cards' three-game win streak: Larry Fitzgerald 22; Michael Floyd 17; Rob Housler 15; Andre Roberts 14; Andre Ellington 8; Rashard Mendenhall and Jim Dray 4; Jake Ballard 2. ... 22nd in fantasy receiver scoring despite recurring early-year hamstring woes, Fitzgerald is a strong WR2 play against the Colts. Fitzgerald is playing roughly 50% of his 2013 snaps in the slot, where Kendall Wright bum-rushed Indianapolis for nine receptions and 80 yards two Thursday nights ago. ... Coming off career highs in catches (6) and yards (193), Floyd also has a plus matchup against struggling LCB Cassius Vaughn, a special teamer filling in for injured Greg Toler. Floyd is an upside WR3/flex play against Indy.
Although Housler is coming off of a six-catch game, his weekly playing time and passing-game role have been too hit or miss to trust as a TE1. Owners tight end-needy enough to start Housler, however, can point to Delanie Walker's 10-91-1 line against the Colts from Week 11 as reason to think he's a quality play. Housler has superior tools to Walker. ... Reduced back to the Cardinals' third receiver with Floyd recovered from a Week 10 shoulder scare, Roberts lacks fantasy value behind Dynasty leagues. He's an impending free agent. ... Ellington is an enticing Week 12 flex option despite last week's scoreless, 13 total-yard disappointment. Indianapolis' primary defensive weakness is against the run, where it ranks 28th and coughs up 4.41 yards per carry, the league's seventh highest mark. The Colts will be without edge-setting OLB Erik Walden (suspension) in this game. Walden is an impact run defender. ... Mendenhall has managed 212 yards on his last 88 rushing attempts (2.41 YPC) and will pay fantasy flex dividends if and only if he scores a goal-line touchdown. Mendenhall has accomplished that feat three times over his last seven games.
Score Prediction: Cardinals 27, Colts 24
4:25PM ET Game
Dallas @ NY Giants
With 52 touches in two games since returning from short-term I.R, Andre Brown is being utilized as a true workhorse in the Giants' backfield. While losing a goal-line score last week to Brandon Jacobs was disappointing, there are brighter days ahead as Brown takes on Dallas' No. 29 run defense in Week 12. Not only are the Cowboys coughing up 4.86 yards per carry -- the second highest average allowed in football -- they'll be minus All Pro-caliber ILB Sean Lee (hamstring) this week. View Brown as a high-end RB2. The Giants are going to ride him until the wheels fall off. ... Throw out Jacobs' fluky Week 6 game against the Bears and he's gained a pathetic 57 yards on 27 carries (2.11 YPC) in 2013. He isn't worth rostering in 12- or 14-team leagues. ... The Peyton Hillis era appears over as he was a healthy scratch last week. ... Eli Manning simply hasn't played well enough to be considered a "trustworthy" fantasy start, but he's worth a long look as a QB1 streamer in this possible shootout. The 45.5-point over-under is third highest among Sunday's games and still seems conservative. Both the Giants and Cowboys rank in the NFL's bottom ten in points allowed, and Dallas is dead last in total yards permitted. The Cowboys are also 32nd against the pass and have surrendered 20 passing touchdowns, the fourth most in football.
Eli's 2013 target distribution: Cruz 98; Hakeem Nicks 76; Rueben Randle 51; Brandon Myers 43; Peyton Hillis 13; Brown 8. ... After a midseason lull, Cruz is creeping back toward WR1 territory with double-digit targets in three consecutive games. He racked up eight catches for 110 yards in Week 11 against the Packers, and had Green Bay's defense beaten for a would-be 35-yard score only for Eli to underthrow him. Start Cruz every week. ... Nicks owners can try to hang their hat on his 114 yards against Dallas' defense in Week 1, but he's still just a boom-or-bust WR3. Not remotely the player he was in 2009-2011, a significantly-less explosive Nicks has cleared 60 yards in 4-of-10 games with a 44.5-yard average over his last four. He still hasn't scored a touchdown on the season. So perhaps he's due. ... Randle's fantasy outlook reminds me of James Jones' in Green Bay a few years back. He's essentially a touchdown-dependent WR3 who tends to produce when you don't expect it, and flounder when you do. Randle hasn't seen more than five targets in any game since Week 5, yet he's still scored four TDs during that stretch. Use him at your own risk. ... The Cowboys have allowed the fifth most fantasy points to tight ends, giving Myers an attractive matchup. Unfortunately, Myers has been a total dud with the Giants, averaging under 20 yards over his last eight games with no touchdowns. Myers would be an extremely desperate play.
The Cowboys spent their Week 11 bye designing ways to free up Dez Bryant from the constant brackets and double coverage he drew before the open date. "He's one of those players you want to make sure you give him chances," said coach Jason Garrett. "You'll see what happens," added Bryant this week. "We’ve been working on it." Practicing fully following a midseason back scare, Dez is a candidate to take off over the final five fantasy weeks. ... Since Perry Fewell took over as Giants defensive coordinator in 2010, Tony Romo has completed 149-of-215 passes (69.3%) for 1,656 yards (7.7 YPA) and a 13:7 TD-to-INT ratio against New York in their six meetings. They're mid-range QB1 numbers. ... With Miles Austin returning from a five-week hamstring injury, Dallas' receiver group beyond Bryant will be a fantasy crapshoot. Look for Austin, Terrance Williams, and slot man Cole Beasley to form a rotation in two-, three-, and four-wideout packages. Austin is not expected to be limited from a playing-time standpoint and would be the best fantasy bet against the G-Men. Now a shaky WR4, Williams will play the old Laurent Robinson role. Beasley will give Austin breathers inside and isn't worth a roster spot beyond 16- and 20-team PPR leagues.
The Giants struggle in second-level pass coverage, which just so happens to be where Jason Witten butters his bread. Witten lit up Fewell's unit for an 8-70-2 line in these clubs' Week 1 meeting. Fire up Witten as a top-eight fantasy tight end play. ... One method of discouraging bracket coverage of Bryant would be to make a true commitment to the running game, forcing defenses to use eight defenders in the box. DeMarco Murray dropped 95 total yards and a touchdown on the Saints just before the bye, and will now lock horns with a Giants defense he touched up for 125 total yards in the opener. View Murray as a quality RB2 play in Week 12. In five career meetings with New York's NFC team, Murray has averaged 5.38 YPC on 45 carries with 11 receptions. The G-Men are playing top-seven run defense in 2013, but Murray's all-purpose, every-down back role makes him an every-week fantasy starter whenever healthy.
Score Prediction: Cowboys 27, Giants 21
Sunday Night Football
Denver @ New England
Peyton Manning is catching New England's defense at the right time. Although the Patriots have generally defended the pass stoutly this season, they're now dealing with injuries to four critical back-end components in CBs Alfonzo Dennard (knee), Kyle Arrington (groin), and Aqib Talib (hip), in addition to SS Steve Gregory (thumb). Among Sunday and Monday's games, there isn't a better fantasy quarterback play than Peyton Manning in Week 12. In these teams' meeting last October, Peyton lit up the Pats for 337 yards, three touchdowns, and no picks on 31-of-44 passing (70.5%). ... Talib's coverage would be a bigger concern for Demaryius Thomas were New England’s top corner 100%. Instead, Talib suffered an aggravation of his multi-week hip injury in last Monday night's loss to Carolina, and will now attempt to play on a short week. The No. 2 overall fantasy receiver behind Calvin Johnson, Demaryius is on pace for career highs in catches (96), yards (1,463), and touchdowns (15). ... Knowshon Moreno has the most favorable Week 12 matchup among Denver skill players. Depleted up front due to NT Vince Wilfork, DT Tommy Kelly, and WLB Jerod Mayo's year-ending injuries, the Patriots rank 27th in run defense and surrender 4.28 yards per carry, the ninth most generous clip in football. Although Moreno's upside is capped a bit by Montee Ball's goal-line usage, he maintains high-end RB2 fantasy value with at least 18 touches in six straight games.
Eric Decker hasn't found pay dirt in three games, but is coming off a five-catch, 71-yard effort against Kansas City and could be the primary box-score beneficiary if Julius Thomas (knee) is inactive or limited in Foxboro. Keep trotting out Decker as a WR2. He's 18th in fantasy wideout points on the season, and is facing a beat-up secondary in a potentially high-scoring game. ... Banking on designated goal-line backs is typically a low-floor recipe for fantasy failure. Ball is only on the radar in 14- and 16-team leagues as a desperation flex. Although he's scored three times over the past three weeks, Ball will get little to no work between the twenty-yard lines unless the Broncos surprisingly blow out the host Patriots. ... Orange Julius entered Week 12 tied with Jimmy Graham for the NFL lead in touchdowns (10) among tight ends. He's a must-start if he plays. Thomas owners worried about his availability can roster Joel Dreessen as game-day insurance. ... Wes Welker is expected to play Sunday night despite suffering an apparently mild concussion against the Chiefs. He dropped eight catches on Kansas City, relentlessly working over Brandon Flowers in the slot. New England's slot defenders are Arrington, who is nursing the aforementioned groin injury, and rookie Logan Ryan. Not only is Welker a good bet for a heavy dose of Manning targets against his old team, the Patriots are not well positioned to contain him. He's a WR1 in Week 12.
Friday Update: While Welker (concussion) practiced fully Friday and is listed as probable for Sunday night's game, Thomas is questionable after back-to-back limited workouts. Thomas is going to be a game-time decision against the Pats.
Tom Brady's fantasy outlook is pointing up with his pass-catching corps finally at full strength, but this matchup is hardly a cakewalk despite Denver's No. 28 pass defense ranking, which is badly skewed by the fact that DC Jack Del Rio's unit faces so many pass attempts because his team is always ahead. Over their last three games, the Broncos have limited Redskins, Chargers, and Chiefs quarterbacks to a combined 60-of-113 passing (53.1%) for 628 yards (5.56 YPA) and a 4:4 TD-to-INT ratio with ten sacks. Shootout potential keeps Brady in the mid-range to low-end QB1 range, but the matchup is tougher than meets the eye. Von Miller is beginning to catch fire. ... Brady's target distribution since Rob Gronkowski returned four games ago: Gronk 39; Aaron Dobson 28; Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola 17; Shane Vereen 11; Kenbrell Thompkins 8; Stevan Ridley 6; Brandon Bolden 5. ... The Broncos are coughing up the third most receptions and second most yards in the league to tight ends. Gronkowski is the cinch No. 1 fantasy tight end play of Week 12. ... Edelman's last four box-score lines when Amendola has played extensively this season: 1-11, 2-7, 2-35, 3-27. Edelman isn't worth rostering in 12- or 14-team fantasy leagues. ... Dobson has a difficult Week 12 draw versus red-hot RCB Dominique-Rodgers-Cromartie, who at 6-foot-2, 193 matches up nicely with New England's 6-foot-3, 210-pound rookie wideout. Dobson remains on the WR3 radar, but I would avoid him in daily leagues this week.
I would rather play Amendola than Dobson against the Broncos, but New England's slot receiver doesn't have a great matchup, either. Amendola will lock horns with feisty Denver slot defender Chris Harris in what could be the battle of the night. I'd still start Amendola based partially on the notion that the Patriots will want him to light up Welker's Broncos for egotistical reasons. I think Amendola will push for double-digit targets. ... Vereen showed rust in his Week 11 return from short-term I.R., dropping two passes and missing out on several big-play opportunities, but he led New England in targets (11), catches (8), and total yards (72). Lock in Vereen as an RB2 in PPR and every-week flex in standard leagues for the foreseeable future. In these teams' 2012 meeting, the Patriots went heavy on speed-no-huddle packages in an effort to prevent the Broncos from substituting whenever Miller went to the sideline for a breather. Vereen is the Pats' designated no-huddle specialist. ... Ridley's fumble in last Monday night's loss to Carolina is undoubtedly a concern, but his performance otherwise isn't. Ridley has turned his last 95 runs into 441 yards (4.64 YPC) and seven touchdowns. In the 2012 game, Ridley tagged the Broncos for a 28-151-1 rushing line. Bill Belichick clearly realizes Ridley is a superior option to LeGarrette Blount, or else he wouldn't keep turning back to him. View Ridley as a somewhat risky, but high-ceiling RB2.
Score Prediction: Broncos 31, Patriots 27
Monday Night Football
San Francisco @ Washington
The Redskins' Jekyll & Hyde offense enters Monday's date with San Francisco's No. 7 defense in injured disarray. Starting Z receiver Leonard Hankerson (LCL/ACL surgery) is done for the season. Dynamic rookie TE Jordan Reed is questionable with a concussion. The 49ers have held dual-threat quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Cam Newton this season to a combined 24-of-51 passing (47.1%) for 311 yards (6.10 YPA), one touchdown, and two picks. Neither Wilson nor Newton topped 33 rushing yards in their earlier-year meetings with the Niners. Robert Griffin III is eighth in fantasy quarterback scoring, but I'd rank him among the QB2s in Week 12. ... Although Alfred Morris is more RB2 than RB1 this week, the Redskins are more likely to have offensive success on the ground than through the air against a 49ers defense that ranks top ten versus the pass and 12th against the run. San Francisco's run defense has been strong but not suffocating, giving up nine rushing scores through ten games and a 3.87 yards-per-carry average, the ninth stingiest clip in the league. Morris has notched at least 93 rushing yards and/or a TD in six consecutive games.
Griffin's target distribution since the Skins' Week 5 bye: Pierre Garcon 65; Reed 44; Hankerson 26; Santana Moss 22; Roy Helu 18; Logan Paulsen 11; Aldrick Robinson 8. ... No member of Washington's offense has a truly favorable Week 12 matchup, but Garcon comes closest with 49ers RCB Tarell Brown (cracked ribs) not expected to play. With at least five catches in every game this year, Garcon is an every-week WR1/2. ... The Redskins will turn to some combination of Morgan, Robinson, and Moss to replace Hankerson in the lineup. Morgan's strength is blocking. Robinson is a situational deep threat. Moss is a 34-year-old slot receiver who hasn't cleared 50 receiving yards since Week 3. I wouldn't want to start any of them in a fantasy league, but would go with Moss if forced to choose from the three. ... Assuming Reed gets medical clearance by Monday night, he'll take on a 49ers defense allowing the fourth fewest fantasy points to tight ends. I'd still start Reed as a mid-range TE1. We should have a good read on his status by Saturday.
Friday Update: Reed missed Friday's practice and is now shaping up as a long shot to play. Check Rotoworld's Player News page on Saturday for another update, but fantasy owners need to be looking toward Sunday's game for a TE1 replacement.
Whereas Washington's offense is in for difficult Week 12 matchups across the board, the 49ers should be licking their chops. The Redskins are allowing the fifth most yards and third most points per game in football. ... Frank Gore's seven-game streak of 100 total yards and/or a touchdown came to an end in last Sunday's loss to New Orleans, but Gore continues to run at a highly effective clip with 688 yards and six touchdowns on his last 145 carries (4.74 YPC). Coach Jim Harbaugh fouled up by getting Gore one solitary fourth-quarter touch against the Saints despite entering the final frame with a 17-14 lead. Look for Harbaugh to feed Gore against Washington's 19th-ranked run defense, a unit that is tied for an NFL high in rushing touchdowns allowed (15). Gore's RB1 shine didn't wear off in one slow week. ... Colin Kaepernick's passing and rushing yardage have been season-long disappointments, but he's still accounted for eight touchdowns compared to three turnovers over his last five games. Kap is tied with Tom Brady and Carson Palmer for 15th in fantasy quarterback scoring. Washington's No. 26 pass defense has a 19:10 TD-to-INT ratio against and is permitting the fifth highest passer rating (99.2) in football. Due in large part to his cake matchup, Kaepernick should be squarely on low-end QB1 radars this week. I’d definitely start him over RG3.
The Redskins are allowing the ninth most fantasy points to tight ends. Third at his position in touchdown catches (8) behind only Jimmy Graham and Julius Thomas (10), Vernon Davis is a cinch top-five TE1 on Monday night. ... Anquan Boldin dropped 78 yards and two TDs on the Redskins last December. Although he's cleared 60 yards just once over his last six games, Boldin is worthy of a WR3 start in this favorable matchup. ... In two games since coming off PUP, Mario Manningham has turned in stat lines of 3-30 and 1-8, starting both contests but playing just 62% of San Francisco's offensive snaps. He's essentially rotating with Jon Baldwin on a run-heavy team with a scuffling passing attack. Manningham's playing time could be further affected when Michael Crabtree (Achilles') and Quinton Patton (fractured foot) return to the Niners' lineup.
Score Prediction: 49ers 24, Redskins 17