Well, if it’s Week 12 of the NFL and you’re still engrossed in these articles, then either you’re just a really big fan or your fantasy football team is still in the mix for the playoffs. Whichever the case may be, congratulations are definitely in order. It’s been some grind this season and fro you to still be in the hunt, it means you’ve been a dedicated soldier every week, done your homework, did your waiver hunting and have endured numerous weeks of aggravation as this season was filled with a number of lefts when you were looking for a right. But here we are now and it’s Week 12; it’s the final week of byes and, for many, the last or second to last game of the regular season. It’s win or go home. Not many people got off to the start they were hoping for when the Saints and Falcons played to a 17-13 finish, so now your choices for this weekend’s games are all the more crucial. So let’s not waste any more time and let’s get right to it.

Quarterbacks

Start ‘Em

Eli Manning, NYG – The Giants are winners of four straight games and Eli is finally starting to feel his swagger again. The return of Andre Brown and a reborn ground game has made him feel a whole lot more comfortable and he’s gotten a little bit better each week during this run. Matching up against Dallas could be just what the doctor ordered here. The Cowboys have allowed the second most passing yards in the NFL, 313 yards per game, and have allowed 20 touchdowns through the air this season. He’ll still have to deal with DeMarcus Ware and the pass rush, but if he keeps his head together and doesn’t try to force things, he’ll be able to hit his targets downfield with ease.

Mike Glennon, TB – While I’m never one to sit proven talent in favor of what appears to be a soft match-up (that’s always how you get burned in this game), I have no concerns if, say you’ve been riding the Nick Foles train the last few weeks and are now stuck without a quarterback, you look to Tampa Bay for the answers. Glennon is facing a struggling, 27th ranked, Detroit pass defense that is allowing 284 passing yards per game and has coughed up 19 passing touchdowns this season. He’ll have to watch the interceptions, as the Lions have 11 on the year, but he should have no problem hitting Vincent Jackson with his usual regularity.

Alex Smith, KC –After throwing just two touchdowns in a five-game span, Smith has now thrown four over his last three and is looking a little bit better now that he and Dwayne Bowe have reconnected on the field. The Chiefs need a big statement game after suffering their only defeat at the hands of the Broncos, and beating up on San Diego is just what the doctor ordered. The Chargers have given up and average of 274 passing yards per game with 15 touchdowns on the year and opposing quarterbacks have a 102.3 passer rating against them. With a big game here, Smith can prove to the NFL that the Chiefs are more than just Jamaal Charles.

Sit ‘Em

Ben Roethlisberger, PIT – People hardly mention the Cleveland pass defense outside of the obligatory Joe Haden mention, but overall, they have been a formidable unit this season and have allowed an average of just 208 passing yards per game while their pass rush has produced 31 sacks on the year. Add in the fact that the Browns stout run defense will contain the Steelers ground game, and Big Ben is going to have his difficulties in this one. That four-touchdown performance from last week is going to be nothing but a distant memory.

Robert Griffin III, WAS – Fantasy owners have been banging their heads against the wall dealing with Griffin’s recent struggles and they’re not getting a reprieve this week facing an improving 49ers defense that is going to fully add Aldon Smith to the mix again. Opposing quarterbacks are stuck on a 74.8 passer rating against them and they’ve allowed an average of just 220 passing yards per game and only 11 touchdowns. With Jordan Reed concussed and Pierre Garcon dealing with a bum ankle, RG3 will not be your fantasy savior this week.

Philip Rivers, SD – Through the first four games of the season, Rivers was everyone’s favorite golden boy having thrown 11 touchdown passes to just two interceptions. Well, he’s still enjoying a decent season, but his stat total has certainly calmed down a lot since then. Now he faces a Chiefs defense looking to rebound from last week’s first loss of the season and they will not be kind. The Chiefs are allowing an average of 220 passing yards per game, have allowed just 12 touchdowns through the air and are holding opposing quarterbacks to a 70.7 passes rating this season. Arrowhead Stadium has never been a kind place to play for opposing teams and Rivers won’t be the exception this week.

Running Backs

Start ‘Em

Ben Tate, HOU – Critics can say what they want, but this guy has my respect for coming out and berating the fans in Houston for booing the team. It was Gary Kubiak who deserved the chorus of Bronx cheers, not the players. But let’s talk clean slate now and look at the fact that Tate has a super-tasty match-up this week against Jacksonville, the softest defense in the league. The Jags have allowed an average of 139.1 rushing yards per game and have given up a league-worst 15 rushing touchdowns. The ribs don’t seem to be an issue at all so make sure he’s active for you this week.

Zac Stacy, STL – The only thing better than watching an up-and-coming beast of a running back like Stacy is watching him face a Bears defense that gives up 133.9 and has allowed 11 rushing touchdowns on the season. Stacy looks like an absolute beast out there; like a boulder that is rolling downhill and has been gaining momentum for at least 100 yards. He’s averaging 107.7 yards over his last three games, has three rushing touchdowns in that span and is well-rested after his bye week. This one is gonna get ugly for Chicago.

Andre Brown, NYG – While Brown failed to rush for 100 yards last week, as he did in his season debut the week before, he still managed to rack up 95 all-purpose yards by getting more active in the passing game. This week, he should put it all together as not only do the Cowboys give up 126.8 rushing yards per game (11 touchdowns), but they also rank just 21st in the league against running back screen passes, giving up an average of 56.9 yards to them. Eli is going to want to take his share of the glory, but that’s the beauty of the Dallas defense; they can both get a big slice of the pie.

Sit ‘Em

DeMarco Murray, DAL – He’s coming off a restful bye we week and the week before that he was very productive, rushing for 89 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. But now Murray faces a tough challenge in a Giants defense that is allowing an average of just 98 yards per game and has given up just seven touchdowns on the ground this year. In addition to that, there’s the fact that Tony Romo simply loves to air it out when he plays the Giants. While Murray might not be the worst choice for your team this week, he’s hardly going to be even close to the best.

Ray Rice, BAL – OK, the week is over and Rice owners can come back down to Earth this week. Your party is coming to an end here. While Rice may be feeling his swagger after running all over a weak Chicago defensive line, he’s going to get smacked back down when he faces a much more formidable opponent in the Jets. Rex Ryan is a defense-first coach and he’s got his boys in green working overtime this season. The Jets have allowed the fewest rushing yards this season and are holding the opposition to an average of just 73.2 yards per game with a feeble 2.9 yards per carry. They’ve given up just six rushing touchdowns on the year and are going to want to do their coach proud while facing his former team. We hope you enjoyed Rice’s game last week, because that was probably the only good one you’ll get out of him.

Bobby Rainey, TB – Another golden boy from last week who’s going to get a big dose of reality this time around is Rainey, who now faces Detroit, one week after annihilating the Falcons and racking up 167 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. While the Lions pass defense may be one of the worst in the league, their run defense happens to be one of the best. They are allowing an average of just 94.6 yards per game this season and have given up just five rushing touchdowns all year. Rainey is going to have some serious difficulty pushing through that defensive line this time and those who though they just landed their fantasy savior with a Week 11 waiver claim are due for a very rude awakening.

Wide Receivers

Start ‘Em

Dwayne Bowe, KC – Time to queue up those Cheech and Chong references; or maybe a few quotes from the movie Friday, right? He may have gone from struggling, disgruntled receiver to the cover boy for High Times magazine but the fact remains that Bowe has broken out of the doldrums and is fantasy relevant once again. Maybe his vision on the field has improved now that his glaucoma is being treated, but whatever the case may be, coaches and teammates are saying that the arrest has spurred change in Bowe’s attitude and his on-field performance is only going to get better. With a new attitude and a match-up with the Chargers who rank 30th in the league against opposing No. 1 wideouts and are allowing an average of 90.9 yards per game to them, Bowe is going to continue his ascent up the fantasy rankings.

Torrey Smith, BAL – While the Jets may be the best against the run, their pass defense is starting to look like a piece of Swiss cheese lately. The Jets rank just 20th in the league against opposing No. 1 receivers and are allowing an average of 86.3 yards per game to them this season. Smith may not have been racking up the yardage lately, but with touchdowns in each of his last two games, he’s looking pretty fierce out there on the field. Look for him to burn the Jets corners on the deep ball this week at least once. At least.

Kendall Wright, TEN – He’s always been a solid play in PPR leagues as both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jake Locker have leaned on him often this year. But his value in standard leagues drops due to the fact that he has just one touchdown this year. Well, that’s all about to change as he faces the Raiders, proud givers of 19 passing touchdowns this year. Oakland ranks 19th against opposing No. 1 receivers this season and give up an average of 86 yards per game to them. With 21 targets over his last two games, you can expect to see Wright as a very active part of the Tennessee game plan.

Sit ‘Em

Antonio Brown, PIT – Joe Haden. Do we really need to say much more than that? I mean, the guy is a beast. Full shut down mode every time he lines up against a wide receiver and Brown won’t be the exception to the rule here. Thanks to Haden, the Browns rank first in the league against opposing No. 1 wideouts and they’re being held to a woeful average of 36.7 yards per game. It’s a tough week to be without him but it looks like you’re going to need a replacement. 

T.Y. Hilton, IND – Here’s another big name about to get a big slap this week as the Arizona pass defense is no joke, my friend. The Cardinals rank second in the league against opposing No. 1 receivers and are holding them to 58.4 yards per game this season. While Hilton has four 100-yard games this season, he’s also been held out of the end zone eight times out of 10 games. The Cardinals are about to make it nine out of 11.

Denarius Moore, OAK – It actually doesn’t matter who is under center for the Raiders this week as neither Terrelle Pryor nor Matt McGloin is the answer to Moore’s owners’ prayers. While Moore found his way into the end zone last week, he still has just five catches for 56 yards over his last two games and now faces a Titans secondary that ranks third in the league against No. 1 receivers and is holding them to just 41 yards per game.

Tight Ends

Start ‘Em

Garrett Graham, HOU – The Texans’ tight end had a monster game last week, racking up 136 yards and a touchdown against the Raiders and gets an even softer match-up this week when he faces a Jaguars team that ranks 29th in the league against opposing tight ends and has given up an average of 67 yards per game to them. With Case Keenum staying under center, you can expect another strong performance.

Greg Olsen, CAR – He’s been one of the most targeted players in the league over the last three seasons and that trend will obviously continue when the Panthers take on the Dolphins this week. The match-up looks good for Olsen as the Fins rank 31st in the league against the position and are giving up an average of 65.9 yards per game to tight ends.

Jared Cook, STL –Three weeks ago against Tennessee, Cook finally found the end zone for the first time since Week 1 and he’s hoping that this week’s match-up against a beleaguered Bears defense brings about the same fortune. Chicago is ranked 30th against the tight end and is giving up an average of 79.5 yards per game to them, so look for pay-dirt once again.

Sit ‘Em

Antonio Gates, SD – So here’s one of those tough situations as you never really want to sit a guy like Gates. If your back-up tight end is weak, then you just might have to pain through it here and hope for the best. But Gates is facing a tough Chiefs defense that ranks second in the league against opposing tight ends and is limiting them to an average of just 37.9 yards per game this season.  If you have to roll with him, then keep your fingers crossed, but keep your expectations real low.

Martellus Bennett, CHI – Sometimes the Rams defense just doesn’t get enough credit. But Bennett owners should show some respect this week and keep their guy on the bench as the Rams rank first in the league against the tight end and are holding the opposition to a meager 38.4 yards per game. The speed of the linebackers here is just too much to overcome.

Tim Wright, TB – So while the Detroit pass defense is a mess, they seem to be able to keep it together enough to shut down the tight end position. They rank seventh in the league and give up an average of 61.3 yards per game to the position, but they have also allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends in the league since Week 8.




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About Howard Bender

Howard Bender is a Managing Editor at Fantasy Alarm, Co-Host of the Fantasy Alarm podcast and Co-Host of Fantasy Sports Tonight on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio. Follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy and on the RotobuzzGuy Facebook page. You can also email him directly at rotobuzzguy@gmail.com.

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