Cliff Notes - Week 12
by Jeff Haseley
November 21st, 2012

Get yourself caught up on what's going on around the league. This weekly column offers a look into my thoughts, visions and expectations for each team, particularly focusing on each team's fantasy outlook.

Arizona

The only positive for Arizona that came from Sunday's loss is the play of LaRod Stephens-Howling. Well, that and the five interceptions on Matt Ryan. Arizona's passing game struggled mightily. John Skelton was benched in favor of a less experienced Ryan Lindley. The move did the exact opposite of paying off. Kevin Kolb (ribs) is not quite ready to come back yet, which means we will see another week of Skelton/Lindley. My gut says we will see Skelton start next week vs. STL. Either way, the value of Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Roberts, takes a hit. Chris Wells is scheduled to come off IR this week, making him eligible for week 12. Despite Stephens-Howling's 22-127-1 game last week, Wells is expected to be named the starter, relegating Stephens-Howling to a third down back.

Atlanta

Atlanta managed to squeak out victory number nine, despite five interceptions by Arizona on Matt Ryan. The bigger news is that of Julio Jones, who re-injured his troublesome ankle last week. Do not be surprised if Jones sits out this week at TB, if not the next as well. Atlanta has their sights set on advancing far in the playoffs. You can bet they want a healthy Julio Jones for the stretch run. Jones has had injury issues in both years of his young career. Last year it was his hamstring, this yeah his ankle. From a fantasy perspective - Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez get a bump, especially this week against the Buccaneers pass defense. Harry Douglas (5-48 last week), is a flex option consideration, if Jones is a no-go.

Baltimore

Ray Rice has scored in three of the last five games. That's not great, but enough to keep you afloat, if you have him as your RB1. This week Rice and the Ravens travel to San Diego, where the Chargers have not allowed a rushing touchdown in the last two games (TB, DEN). Baltimore is a much better team at home than on the road, so there may be some concern with Rice reaching his potential. Torrey Smith continues to fall further and further below sub-50% reception percentage. He had one reception on 7 targets last week. In the last three games, he has a 31% reception percentage. Ouch! He's still a threat to score every week, but if he doesn't score, he won't make you happy.

Buffalo

Early indications suggest Fred Jackson will finish his concussion protocols and resume practicing on Wednesday with the intent of playing in week 12 at IND. CJ Spiller's value will take a dip with Jackson's return, but he's still capable of breaking a big play and coming through for his fantasy owners. I would place Spiller as a high RB2 this week with Jackson (if he plays) as a low end RB2. Steve Johnson has not scored in three games, however he has back to back six-catch games and remains a decent WR start.

Carolina

The Panthers managed to secure another come from ahead loss, making Ron Rivera (and Cam Newton) 1-12 in games decided by 6 points or less (most of those being less) in their brief time in the league. This week, the Panthers play the Eagles in Philly on Monday night. The Eagles have allowed 11 touchdown passes in the last four games, which bodes well for the Panthers offense. Carolina has struggled with prime time games in the past, but mostly at home, as a favorite. There's a decent chance that Carolina will be able to move the ball well and have good scoring opportunities for Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Greg Olsen. The running game could struggle if Jonathan Stewart (ankle) is limited this week. DeAngelo Williams would see the majority of the carries, if Stewart is out.

Chicago

The Bears got punched in the mouth last week at San Francisco. Jason Campbell did not look prepared to handle the strong pass rush of the 49ers. His pre-snap reads and decisions, combined with the poor effort from the Bears offensive line, was the main culprit in the Bears undoing. Jay Cutler (head) hopefully will be able to return for the week 12 home game vs. the Vikings. His teammates will benefit greatly, especially Brandon Marshall. Don't count on much from Marshall if Cutler is forced to miss another game.

Cincinnati

Andy Dalton recorded his sixth multiple touchdown game of the year (in ten games) last week. He is entering QB1 status, especially with a favorable schedule coming up in the next few games OAK, @SD, DAL, @PHI. Jermaine Gresham is also rising up the tight end ranks (now 9th overall). He has 15 receptions on 20 targets in the last three games, with one score. I touched on Mohammed Sanu as a rising WR to be aware of as a waiver wire pick up. Last week he continued to put forth a strong effort, displacing Andrew Hawkins (knee) as the Bengals third receiving option behind AJ Green and Jermaine Gresham. Sanu has scored in back to back games and can be considered a flex option in deeper leagues this week.

Cleveland

Trent Richardson has three straight games of 24 carries or more, including back to back 6-reception games. He has a tough match up against Pittsburgh this week, but is still definitely worth a start. Ben Watson had a big game last week with 4-47-2, but don't expect that this week, if you were entertaining him as a free agent pick up. Josh Gordon and Greg Little are marginal flex options to consider this week, but the tough match up against the Steelers may be enough to lead you in a different direction.

Dallas

Dallas has a good match up on paper vs. the Redskins this week, however these two teams know each other well and usually stats and trends are out the window for the game. Not to mention that this rivalry continues on Thanksgiving Day. Tony Romo is a good start this week and maybe, just maybe Dez Bryant's big game last week (12-145-1) will be a start of things to come. I mentioned earlier in the season that Bryant needs a jump start to get him going. Perhaps last week was the spark? Felix Jones (knee) could be limited in the early game this week. If so, look for Lance Dunbar and maybe Phillip Tanner to see some reps. DeMarco Murray (foot) is still expected to be out this week, barring a sudden change.

Denver

The big news in Denver is the health of Willis McGahee, who suffered a torn MCL in his knee that will shelve him for 6-8 weeks, thus ending his fantasy season. He may be able to return for the playoffs, if all goes well. In his absence, Ronnie Hillman is expected to fill in at RB, but I think we will see some reps from Lance Ball as well. Hillman has shown he can do well when given a chance, however I don't see John Fox turning the reins over to him as the main back just yet. Fantasy wise - Hillman is a decent flex play and potential RB2 down the road.

Detroit

Those of you battling over whether or not to start Titus Young have a little more clarity. Last week, Young was pulled from the game, because he was "just not getting it." It appears as if the young wide receiver, who has faced immaturity issues on and off the field, apparently is not quite ready to be the team's WR2 behind Calvin Johnson. As a result, Ryan Broyles will see more action this week and beyond. Head Coach Jim Schwartz has even gone on to say Young will be inactive this week. This news solidifies Broyles as an excellent WR3 play on Thanksgiving vs. HOU, who just allowed Chad Henne and the Jaguars receiving corps to run all over them. I expect a back and forth battle that should feature plenty of offense. Granted I expected that last week too vs. Green Bay and it didn't necessarily come to fruition. Even still, Broyles looks like he will see more action going forward. Brandon Pettigrew is also someone who should benefit. The big winner is most likely Calvin Johnson. Matthew Stafford knows he can count on his big receiver to come through in the clutch. Johnson has three straight 100-yard games with scores in two consecutive contests. One other mention - WR Mike Thomas will also see increased snaps this week with Young a healthy scratch.

Green Bay

The Packers, winners of five straight, play at NYG this week, who are coming off a bye week. Greg Jennings (sports hernia) is not expected to be back until next week at the earliest. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb will continue to be the main cogs of the Packers receiving game. James Starks has overtaken Alex Green as the starting running back. Cedric Benson (foot) is looking at a week 15 return date as a possibility, but as of now, he still cannot practice. Starks is a marginal flex option in my opinion, however he did total 25 carries last week against the Lions, for only 74 yards (2.9 YPC).

Houston

I don't know if the Texans overlooked the struggling Jaguars or not, but they had a scare last week for sure. They will face a tough opponent this week at Detroit on Thanksgiving. Detroit managed to keep Aaron Rodgers in check for most of the game, with the exception of late minute heroics that snatched the victory away from Detroit. Last week, we saw what Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson can do when trailing. I would say the success of Houston's running game in recent years is the main reason for Johnson's decline in yardage and overall production. If this is a back and forth battle, or if Houston finds themselves trailing again, we could see another strong game from Johnson. We may see it again regardless, however the main threat will be Arian Foster. Look for Houston to look Foster's way early and often to establish the ground attack and control the game.

Indianapolis

You can bet that Andrew Luck learned a thing or two from the humiliating loss at New England last week. This week's match up vs. Buffalo is another strong looking match up on paper, however Buffalo's defense looked pretty good at home last week against Miami. Whether or not they can bring that same defense on the road is another story. TY Hilton had a great game last week 6-100-2. There is no reason to think he won't be a solid fantasy contributor the rest of the year. Reggie Wayne's numbers could suffer some, but we didn't expect Wayne to produce such huge numbers all year. Hilton is evolving into a WR3 at worst and is an excellent play this week. Vick Ballard is currently ahead of Donald Brown in the pecking order, but I just can't get myself to believe he'll be the team's primary rusher going forward. I still think it's a RBBC approach in Indianapolis, if both rushers are healthy.

Jacksonville

The Jaguars receiving unit is an absolute shot in the dark. Laurent Robinson had 15 catches over the last two games, only to get a goose egg against Houston last week. Justin Blackmon, who was thought to be a major WR3 option this year, struggled up until his breakout game last week. Cecil Shorts has been the most consistent receiving threat and is therefore a decent flex option or WR3 start this week vs. Tennessee. Chad Henne has replaced Blaine Gabbert as the team's starter, which is good news for the team in general, but I imagine Justin Blackmon is thrilled. Those looking to chase points with Blackmon may be in for disappointment, but then again, the light could have finally turned on for young receiver. He's a risky flex option, but it may be worth the risk.

Kansas City

We all know anything can happen in the NFL - look at Jacksonville last week, but the Chiefs are a disaster this year. Brady Quinn will likely get the start this week against his former team (Denver), but will it really matter? The Broncos are one of the best teams in the AFC and their defense is a big reason why. Quinn will have trouble finding receivers down field, especially if Dwayne Bowe (neck), is unable to go this week. Dexter McCluster could actually be an interesting flex option, if the Chiefs offensive line can hold up long enough for Quinn to make short, accurate throws. My advice is to load up on your Broncos and keep any Chiefs on your bench, including Jamaal Charles.

Miami

Miami is another team that is struggling to stay afloat, after such a promising start. Reggie Bush is losing carries to Daniel Thomas, however Thomas is not doing much either. I would not be surprised to see Lamar Miller get some looks at some point this year. He's not a bad waiver wire pick up, if you are absolutely struggling at RB. This week the Seahawks come to town, coming off their bye week, which is not a great match up. Reggie Bush has not had a game with more than 10 carries since week eight.

Minnesota

Adrian Peterson could very well be in the running for fantasy MVP this year. He was virtually forgotten by some (myself included) in drafts this year, due to his ACL surgery in the off season. Less than a year later he's the first running back to reach 1,000 yards. The Vikings have a hellacious schedule coming off their bye, starting with a game at CHI followed by @GB, CHI, @STL, @HOU, GB. Percy Harvin (ankle) is looking like he may be a game time decision this week. If he cannot go, consider Jarius Wright as a decent flex option. It's also very possible that Kyle Rudolph will continue to see more targets, especially if Harvin is out another week.

New England

Firs the bad news - Rob Gronkowski (broken forearm) looks like he may be out for the remainder of the fantasy season. It's possible that he could come back in week 16 or 17, but New England may want to play it safe and not risk further injury for the playoffs. With no Gronkowski, what should we expect? It's possible that Aaron Hernandez (ankle) could be back this week and return as the in-line tight end (Gronkowski's spot), which would then open things up for another receiver to see more action - likely Brandon Lloyd or Julian Edelman. Another possibility is for Visanthe Shiancoe to occupy Gronkowski's role and Hernandez would keep his "move" tight end role. Either way, we should see an increase from Julian Edelman, who is a great waiver pick up this week.

New Orleans

We are getting to the point where Darren Sproles may be able to return to practice this week and therefore play in a crucial home game against the 49ers. If Sproles is back, we will see less of Chris Ivory, who may even be a healthy scratch. The 49ers are a very tough match up for Drew Brees and the Saints - especially without Sean Payton. I don't think they will shut down Brees and company like they did Jason Campbell and the Bears, but points won't come easily. The way the Saints usually handle a strong pass rush is to call a lot of shorter routes, which benefits Sproles for sure, but also Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham. I would stay away from Mark Ingram this week, despite the impressive game last week.

NY Giants

The news of Ahmad Bradshaw (neck, foot) feeling much better, puts a crimp in my thought process of Andre Brown being a solid fantasy play for the playoffs. Bradshaw is expected to start against the Packers this week, but Brown could come in and steal some goal line plays and a possible score. Hakeem Nicks (knee, foot) also benefited from the bye week and is expected to start this week in much better shape.

NY Jets

The Jets managed to stymie many people last week with a road win against the Rams. This week they will host the Patriots, who they narrowly lost to 29-26 in week 7. The match up favors the Jets passing game and Mark Sanchez. As a result, Jeremy Kerley should put forth a decent effort this week and is worth a flex or WR3 start. The Patriots have given up six 300-yard passing games to opposing quarterbacks this year, including Sanchez in week 7.

Oakland

The 3-7 Raiders may be on a three game losing streak, however they are not underwhelming in terms of fantasy production. Carson Palmer is coming off three straight 300+ yard passing games, Marcel Reece has shown he can be a reliable flex option, even when Darren McFadden (ankle) returns, which could be this week. The receiving game, that includes Denarius Moore, Brandon Myers and even Darrius Heyward-Bey are all legit fantasy starts. In short, Oakland has several fantasy options with KC and @CAR on the schedule for weeks 15 and 16.

Philadelphia

There is no joy in Mudville, with Mudville playing the role of the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles, have not won a game since week four and are struggling as an offense with Nick Foles under center, behind a makeshift offensive line. The defense has allowed 30, 28, 38 and 31 points over the last four games. It's nearly a foregone conclusion that Andy Reid will be released at the end of the season. To make matters worse, LeSean McCoy suffered a concussion against the Redskins and may not be cleared to play this Monday night against Carolina. If McCoy is unable to play, look for Bryce Brown to see the majority of the carries. Brown is good waiver wire addition, if you need a replacement for McCoy or if you're struggling at running back in general.

Pittsburgh

The Steelers are down to their third string quarterback after Byron Leftwich suffered a shoulder injury and two broken ribs last week vs. Baltimore. Charlie Batch will be the Steelers signal caller, for at least the week 12 game, possibly longer. There is no timetable yet for Ben Roethlisberger's (rib, shoulder) return. From what I understand, the injury could keep him shelved for awhile due to the implications and further injury it could cause, if he returns too soon. The Steelers also lost Jerricho Cotchery (ribs) last week and replaced him with free agent WR Plaxico Burress. At this time, Burress is not expected to be much of a fantasy threat, especially not without Roethlisberger under center.

San Diego

I think it's time to realize that Antonio Gates, for whatever reason, is not producing the way he has in the past. Could Gates come back and be a threat in the next few weeks - sure, but his inconsistency is enough to consider other options like Kyle Rudolph or Brandon Myers, if either of those two are on your roster, but you've been unsuccessfully been relying on Gates to come through. Danario Alexander continues to make waves in the Chargers offense and is worth a WR3 start this week against Baltimore. Ryan Mathews has also been a disappointment, but the match up this week vs. Baltimore is in his favor. He is a low end RB2 with upside this week.

Seattle

Russell Wilson has seven touchdown passes over the last three games. Quietly, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate have six touchdowns apiece. Also starting to get some looks is tight end Zach Miller. Rice and Tate are quickly becoming must start, WR3 options or flex plays at the least. The Seahawks return from their bye to play at Miami and at Chicago, followed by ARI, at BUF and home for SF and STL.

San Francisco

The big story on Monday night was the calm, confident execution of second year quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He looked like a seasoned veteran, looking off defenders, making reads, finding his open man, even if it meant rolling out of the pocket to do so. He displayed great touch and zip when needed. He looked like a legit complete quarterback or at least one with a lot of promise. I would be surprised if Jim Harbaugh elects to bring Alex Smith back after that performance. Kaepernick is a definite waiver wire pick up this week. He and the 49ers have a juicy match up this week at New Orleans. If he can put forth a repeat performance this week, he could supplant Alex Smith as the 49ers optimum choice for their playoff run.

St. Louis

Steven Jackson has been playing well recently and should be in your lineups this week at Arizona. Danny Amendola suffered an injury to his foot (heel) last week, but he later returned and seemed OK, catching several more passes, totaling 7 for the day. He is being used mostly as a short-ranged target out of the slot, however it is paying dividends. He has 18 receptions over the last two games, since his return from a broken clavicle. Start him as a WR2 or WR3 this week.

Tampa Bay

Josh Freeman has 16 touchdown passes in the last six games. He is a good start this week at home vs. Atlanta in a pivotal division match up with the first place Falcons. Doug Martin should have another strong outing. Keep in mind, Atlanta just gave up 22-127-1 to LaRod Stephens-Howling. Both Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are good receiving options this week. Jackson is a high WR3 or low end WR2, while Williams is a low end WR3 or flex option.

Tennessee

Chris Johnson has earn some respect around the league once again. The Titans are coming off a bye and play at JAC, HOU, at IND, NYJ, at GB, JAC to finish the season. Jake Locker's return before the bye is a good sign that he is not suffering any discomfort in his injured shoulder. Johnson has been the focal point of the offense in the last few games. His success means Jake Locker won't have to be forced to win games with his arm. That's not exactly good news for Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright and Nate Washington, but for Chris Johnson owners, who held onto him during the slow period, it's music to their ears.

Washington

The Redskins were able to pick apart the Eagles defense last week. Robert Griffin was impressive as both a passer and rusher, which keeps his fantasy value among the top quarterbacks in the league. This week, Griffin and the Redskins will face Dallas on Thanksgiving Day in a tough match up for the passing game. This could be a game that features Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin as the main rushing threat. Pierre Garcon (foot) is still expected to be out this week, which doesn't help the Redskins passing game. If Griffin is going to be an effective passer this week, he will have to make key passes against a strong Cowboys secondary. Josh Morgan has shown some signs of life recently, but Washington is a team that spreads the ball around very well, usually resulting in no particular wide receiver standout. The real fantasy value here through the running game led by Alfred Morris and Griffin. If you stop that, you stop Washington.

Questions, suggestions and comments are always welcome to haseley@footballguys.com.

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