Thanksgiving is now in the rearview mirror as we get ready to turn the calendar to December. You would never know it here in the northeast with temperatures in the 60’s. Many fantasy leagues have seen their trade deadlines come and go, so now it will take some clever maneuvering and savvy roster management to better your team as you prepare for the playoffs. So without further adieu, here are the top ten fantasy football headlines heading into Week 13.
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10. Hanging with Mr. Cooper. The self-proclaimed “Dream Team” known as the Philadelphia Eagles had their playoff aspirations unofficially officially ended after last week’s pounding by the Patriots. With Jeremy Maclin’s health a question mark and DeSean Jackson’s heart and brain on vacation, the Eagles are turning to other options at wide receiver. Riley Cooper has looked impressive running deep routes and making catches all over the field. Whether Michael Vick comes back or Vince Young stays at the helm, Cooper is a solid pickup for the fantasy football playoff stretch as the Eagles now don’t have anything to play for except pride (if they have any).
9. Master Yates. With the Houston Texans on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time in their franchise history, they will have to rely on 3rd string quarterback T.J. Yates to get them to the Promised Land. Matt Schaub is out for the season with a foot injury, and backup Matt Leinart was injured in Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He allegedly sustained a fractured collarbone which means he is done for the year as well. Yates is now the man with Kellen Clemens serving as his backup. Fortunately for Yates, he has Arian Foster and Ben Tate to hand the ball off to. But he has other weapons at his disposal, especially when Andre Johnson comes back. If you need a quarterback heading into the fantasy playoffs, Yates is certainly a better option than Tyler Palko of the Chiefs.
8. T.O. version 4.5. There have been rumors about the New England Patriots possibly signing free agent Terrell Owens. Granted the Patriots lack a deep threat in their explosive offense, but it is questionable what Owens can bring to the table at this stage of his career. Owens’ former teammate in Cincinnati, Chad Ochocinco, has been practically invisible all season. Perhaps Owens could merely be a decoy to help open things up even more for Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez over the middle. If you have a spot on your roster, then Owens is worth stashing just in case Tom Brady can find a way to use him. But don’t hold your breath because T.O. is too focused on his crappy VH-1 reality show.
7. Under the Sea. That is a reference to the song from Disney’s “Little Mermaid.” How does that tie into fantasy football headlines? The crab that sang that song was named Sebastian, and this entry is about the Oakland Raiders’ kicker. So there you go. Normally kickers are not talked about in any capacity, but Sebastian Janikowski is a rarity. He has the ability to win a fantasy game for you because of how accurate he is and how long he can kick field goals. The Raiders have looked better with Carson Palmer at quarterback, but with Darren McFadden still out and their receiving core depleted, Oakland has had a difficult time scoring seven points when they reach the red zone. That is why Janikowski is so valuable, as evidenced by his six field goals in last week’s win against the Bears.
6. Can Hillis or Willis fulfill us? Peyton Hillis made his long-awaited return to the field for the Browns and looked pretty good overall. He certainly doesn’t appear to be the running back you wasted an early round draft pick on, but if he can stay in the lineup the rest of the way he will almost be like a mid-season acquisition for you. Willis McGehee of the Broncos has been great as Denver’s second best runner behind Tim Tebow. Both Hillis and McGehee are solid options the rest of the way, but just keep monitoring their injury status because they are both very fragile (emotionally and physically).
5. Devin Hester Clone. Arizona Cardinals special teams guru Patrick Peterson has developed a reputation for returning punts for touchdowns. He has quickly become one of the league’s most dangerous special teams players who can break off a big return at any time. He now enters the conversation with Devin Hester and DeSean Jackson as the league’s premier return men and should make you consider adding Arizona’s team defense/special teams for your fantasy team.
4. Raising Arizona. The Cardinals are making a lot of fantasy news this week with the potential return of starting quarterback Kevin Kolb. Ironically, this does not bode well for star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald who never developed a rapport with Kolb before he got injured. Fitzgerald saw his best production with the backup QB. Also, Beanie Wells is coming off his best game ever but is a big risk for next week as he injured his knee. Keep a close eye on his status. But even if he is healthy, he cannot be counted on for that type of production on a consistent basis.
3. Matty Ice, Ice Baby. It has taken awhile, but the Atlanta Falcons are finally playing like a legitimate playoff contender. Matt Ryan has been on fire as his offensive arsenal is clicking on all cylinders. With Roddy White and Julio Jones, he has two terrific wide receivers. Tony Gonzalez is the best tight end in NFL history (apologies to Tony Battaglia). Plus, Atlanta has a very favorable schedule down the stretch as they compete for the NFC South and Wild Card spots. Look for Ryan to keep lighting it up while some other elite quarterbacks may hold back a bit in the latter part of the season.
2. Pain in the Neck. It would be the understatement of the year to say the Colts have had a miserable season. They have been so bad that arguments could be made that Peyton Manning should be the MVP because we can all see how much he means to his team. Reports out of Indianapolis are that Manning is continuing his rehab and will try and return to the practice field in December with an outside chance of playing before the end of the season. This would be foolish for a few reasons – Manning’s health and the fact the Colts are in prime position to get the #1 overall pick in the 2012 draft. The “Suck for Luck” campaign seems to be all theirs, so there is no reason to jeopardize it. Plus, Manning has nothing to prove in terms of what he is capable of, so why risk his health by putting him in meaningless games. Even if the Colts do end up with Andrew Luck, they still have Manning under contract for several years and they plan on returning to the playoffs in 2012.
1. Vintage CJ2K – After a horrendous season that started with an ugly holdout and almost a demotion, Chris Johnson had a vintage game this past weekend with 190 yards rushing. This doesn’t mean he is officially back and like his old self, but it is reassuring for fantasy owners to see that he is still capable of such a performance. He has been terribly inconsistent and unproductive all year that starting him in your lineup is not a sure thing. But his 190 yards against Tampa Bay are a good sign that he will finish 2011 strong as the Titans fight to make the AFC playoffs.
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