Unless you have a direct conduit into the minds of all 32 NFL coaches, you have to rely on depth charts, past game plans, and the extensive numerical data we have available to us in order to determine which players are expected to see the majority of work each week and who the best fantasy plays may be. While the numbers present you with tangible, empirical evidence to help guide you towards the right decisions, often there is a lot of speculation and supposition employed as you have to assume that if you know a particular team’s strengths and weaknesses, then so do the coaches. More often than not, a coach will look to exploit the weakness, but knowing that the other team is well aware of their own personal shortcomings, that team’s coach will look to bulk up and fix the issue before the other team has a chance to profit off of it.
Clear as mud?
It’s very difficult to guess exactly which way a team will alter its game plan or even if they will, so it’s the numbers that tend to guide you the most. If a defense gives up a lot of passing yards, then you have to assume that the opposing quarterback will try to exploit that. If their run defense is weak, then you want to start the running back going up against them. It’s as simple as that. Unfortunately though,. It doesn’t always work that way and we as fantasy owners suffer the most.
Take the match-up between Pittsburgh and Cleveland, for example. With Joe Haden, the NFL’s top cover corner right now, covering Antonio Brown all game, the likelihood of Brown having a big day was pretty slim. Haden and the Browns ranked first in the league against opposing No. 1 receivers and were holding them to a mere 36.7 yards per game. Sounded like doom and gloom for Brown and his owners, right? Apparently not as Brown snuck behind Haden in the second quarter for a 41-yard touchdown catch and finished the game with 92 yards and the score, likely sending those who benched him into a frenzy.
Or how about that Chiefs defense? So strong, so dominant and sure to capitalize on a series of mistakes committed by Philip Rivers, right? Doh! The Chiefs coughed up 41 points in this one and made Rivers look like a superstar, en route to a 392-yard, three-touchdown day. I’ll be heading to my inbox with a certain amount of trepidation as one of the more popular questions this week was, “Should I start Rivers or Case Keenum?”
And speaking of Keenum, what about that soft Jaguars defense? Not only did Keenum look terrible, but so did Ben Tate and the rest of the Houston offense. We even saw it on Thursday night when the nightmare that is normally the Atlanta defense managed to hold Drew Brees and the Saints in check for just 17 points on the day.
You hate to reach back and use the old “any given Sunday” cliché, but really, there’s no other way around it. Sometimes teams just don’t show up. There is really no rhyme or reason as to why. It just happens. So before you think about sitting your better players for less-proven talent with a tastier looking match-up, keep these moments in mind. It will certainly save you from leaving points on your bench and losing your game at the worst possible time.
Here’s what else has my mind buzzing from Week 12…
Trust in Tiquan
It took a little time for everyone to buy into Mike Glennon, but after a few weeks of quality performance, he’s more than just ‘on the fantasy radar’. Well, it about time we started putting that same trust into wide receiver Tiquan Underwood who is finally blossoming as the Buccaneers No. 2 wide receiver. It took a little time to adjust after Mike Williams went down for the season, but Underwood has done the best with what he’s been given and took it to another level with his first 100-yard and multi-touchdown game. Glennon has increased his targets in two of the last three games and you can bet he’ll continue to do so in the future. If he’s still available, you’re going to want to pick him up, not just for the talent, but also because you’ll be able to boats the top hairdo in the NFL. Kid n Play, Bel Biv DeVoe and Grace Jones are all seeking comebacks in the Florida area.
Knowshon Knows Running
Seeing a hobbled Knowshon Moreno leave the field after a 37-carry, 234-yard performance conjured up images of the 1982 Epic in Miami when Chargers teammates carried off Kellen Winslow, Sr. after a 13-catch, 166-yard game performance. For those of you so quick to trade or bench Moreno because of Montee Ball stealing a little bit of thunder recently, let this be a lesson to you. Touchdown poaching totally sucks, especially when it’s your guy on the short end off the stick, but it doesn’t mean that it’s happening every week and it’s not something on which you can rely upon. What you can rely on is the guy touching the ball 20-odd times a game. He’s the one you trust. He’s the one you play. Sure, he may lose a goal-line carry every now and again, but he’ll also be doing some end zone dancing of his own at times as well.
Cameron on the Rise?
While Jordan Cameron's production seemed to decline a few weeks prior to the Browns’ switch to Jason Campbell, it comes as no surprise that it stayed down with Campbell at the helm. Campbell loves to air it out and find his receivers downfield, so looking for the tight end underneath isn’t something he commits to often. However, with Brandon Weeden set to take over for the now-concussed Campbell, we could be looking at a return to the top of the stat sheets for the second-year tight end. The two connected in Week 1, and while his numbers weren’t so hot during their time together in Weeks 5 through 7, Cameron still saw a strong number of targets; more than he saw with Campbell at the helm.
Living Like Dogs
Well, if there’s one thing that is a certainty in football, it’s that the quickest way into Bill Belichick’s doghouse is via the fumble. Not many were surprised that Stevan Ridley was given a chance to redeem himself at the onset of Week 12’s match-up with the Broncos after last week’s fumble/benching. In truth, he really is the better back out of their collection of runners. But when he coughed it up immediately, you could see Belichick rolling up the proverbial newspaper to whack him on the nose and Ridley never saw another carry. When LeGarrette Blount coughed it up shortly thereafter, it was a doghouse built for two. Again, the fact that Belichick gave Ridley another shot didn’t come as a shock, but it will if he’s given a third chance (fourth or fifth really) with Shane Vereen now available. Ridley owners are going to need to run to the waiver wire to grab Brandon Bolden as Vereen is likely already gone and their guy isn’t going to see consistent carries for some time now.
Key Injuries to Watch
Ryan Mathews, RB SD – Just when he starts getting good, his hamstring frays like the nerves of a mob snitch.
Zac Stacy, RB STL – Second concussion opens door for Benny Cunningham and Isaiah Pead.
Hakeem Nicks, WR NYG – Is the abdominal issue legit or is Tom Coughlin just looking to replace him for good?
Julius Thomas, TE DEN – How long will the knee keep him on the sidelines?