Nick Mensio

Weekly Surprises

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Week 12 Sleepers

Friday, November 22, 2013


It’s the last week of the fantasy season before most leagues kick off their playoff schedules. Only four NFL teams have yet to experience their bye weeks, and they’ll get them this week. The Bills, Bengals, Eagles, and Seahawks have their open dates. Once Week 13 rolls around, the schedule will be jam-packed for the remainder of the year. You guys and gals know the drill with sleepers by now, so let’s get to them.

Quarterbacks

Giants QB Eli Manning vs. Cowboys: Eli is coming off one of his better games of the season. He picked apart a Packers secondary, completing 71.4 percent of his passes for 279 yards and one touchdown in an easy win. He now gets a Dallas defense that is surrendering over 300 yards passing per game and ranks dead last in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Manning torched the Cowboys for 450 yards and four touchdowns in the season opener. He’s a borderline QB1 this week.

Chiefs QB Alex Smith vs. Chargers: The Bolts are allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, field the league’s second-worst pass defense in Pro Football Focus’ ratings, and struggle to rush the passer. Smith is a quarterback who isn’t going to scare teams with his arm, but he can escape the pocket and use his legs to pick up yards. As Patrick Daugherty notes in his Week 12 rankings, only four teams have allowed more rushing yards to quarterbacks than the Chargers. This San Diego secondary is arguably the worst in the league. Smith won’t have many better matchups on paper than this one. He’s on the QB2 map for Week 12.

Packers QB Scott Tolzien vs. Vikings: Tolzien is your run-of-the-mill quarterback. He doesn’t have a big arm but has shown that he’s willing to take some chances. That has hurt Tolzien most of the time. He forced some throws last week against the Giants and was picked off three times. However, he did average a robust 10.0 YPA and displayed a willingness to chuck it deep. Tolzien has a very favorable matchup for his second career start. The Vikings are allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, and Tolzien gets them at home. He’ll be a mid-to-low QB2.

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Running Backs

Browns RB Chris Ogbonnaya vs. Steelers: Ogbonnaya totaled 99 yards on 14 touches in last week’s shootout loss to the Bengals. He also led the Cleveland backfield in snaps played with 48. Fozzy Whittaker played 23, while Willis McGahee saw his snaps dialed back considerably, playing just 13. Ogbonnaya now gets a bottom-ten run defense in the Steelers. Pittsburgh has given up the third-most rushing touchdowns in 2013. The Browns tend to lean on their passing game. Ogbonnaya is the preferred passing-down back, so he also has that going for him. He’s a decent flex option.

Panthers RB Mike Tolbert vs. Dolphins: The Panthers have a date with a terrible Miami defense this week. Unfortunately, Carolina employs a three-man committee in the backfield. Tolbert is the top red-zone back in this offense and also plays third downs, making him the guy to start if you have to pick one of Tolbert, DeAngelo Williams, or Jonathan Stewart. The Dolphins are one of eight teams to allow double-digit rushing touchdowns this season, so Tolbert has a decent chance to find pay dirt for an offense that seems to be finding a groove. Tolbert has some flex appeal.

Packers RB James Starks vs. Vikings: Starks hasn’t seen much action since Aaron Rodgers went down with his broken collarbone. Over the past two games, Starks has rushed for just four yards on six carries. That’s been against two underrated run defenses in the Giants and Eagles. Starks and Eddie Lacy get the Vikings’ bottom-feeding defense at home this week. Last time Starks saw these Vikings, he rushed for 57 yards and one touchdown on seven carries in Week 8. Look for the Packers to try and lean on their rushing attack more this week. Starks, however, is really only a start-able fantasy flex option in deeper leagues.

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Wide Receivers

Ravens WR Marlon Brown vs. Jets: After missing last week’s game with a knee injury, Brown is practicing in full this week and gets a Jets defense that is really struggling to cover on the back end. Pro Football Focus grades Gang Green out as the fourth-worst pass defense, while they’ve surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers. Brown will be reinserted as the No. 2 receiver and will see plenty of rookie Dee Milliner, who continues to struggle with his transition to the NFL. Brown is on the WR4 map.

Lions WR Nate Burleson vs. Bucs: Burleson was averaging 6.3 catches for 79.6 yards per game before going down with a broken arm. He’s fully expected to make his return this week and immediately take over as the No. 2 receiver opposite Calvin Johnson. Burleson will shift to the slot in three-wide sets. The Bucs have had massive issues covering slot receivers in recent weeks. Rishard Matthews caught 11 passes and two touchdowns against Tampa in Week 10 before Harry Douglas burned the Bucs for 134 yards and a score last week. Burleson has WR3 upside in his first game back.

Chiefs WR Donnie Avery vs. Chargers: After seeing 6.5 targets per game the first four weeks of the season, Avery has averaged four targets the past six games. He hasn’t done much with them against some tougher pass defenses. This week, Avery gets to go up against a weak Chargers secondary that is giving up the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers. He has a decent shot at visiting the end zone for the first time since the season opener. Avery is a WR5 with a touch of upside this week.

Tight Ends

Rams TE Jared Cook vs. Bears: I believe Cook has found his way on this list more times than any other player. He’s disappointed more times than not, but Cook has a very favorable matchup this week. He’s coming off a lousy one-catch effort in Week 10 against the Colts, but the Rams only dialed up 17 passes in that blowout win. The Bears can’t cover tight ends. They’ve allowed the third-most catches to the position this season. Kellen Clemens likes to pepper his backs and tight ends, leaving Cook as a mid-range TE2 play for Week 12.

Steelers TE Heath Miller vs. Browns: Miller is coming off one of his better games of the season stats-wise. He caught eight passes for 67 yards against the Lions but looked old and slow doing so. That doesn’t mean Miller can’t be a fantasy asset. Ben Roethlisberger trusts Miller. The Browns have held opposing tight ends in check for the most part this season, though they haven’t seen many good ones. Despite being in the middle of the pack in terms of fantasy points allowed to tight ends, Cleveland has given up the seventh-most touchdowns to the position. Miller will be a mid-to-high TE2.

Bucs TE Tim Wright vs. Lions: Wright has really disappointed fantasy owners the past two weeks. He’s secured just two passes for 32 yards. However, Wright is still playing over 50 percent of the snaps. The numbers will be back once the Bucs start falling behind on the scoreboard again. That could very well happen this week when Tampa Bay travels to Detroit in what could be a blowout. As I just mentioned above, Heath Miller shredded this Lions defense last week from the tight end spot. Wright catches the eye of Mike Glennon in the red zone as has definite TE2 appeal this week.



Nick Mensio is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. The 2014 NFL season marks his third with Rotoworld. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.
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