Once you get this deep into a season, a fantasy writer like myself starts to run out of things to write about. All of the trends of the season have either made themselves completely obvious, or I’ve already chosen to write about them. So that left me in an interesting place this week in trying to figure out what to write about in my intro this week. So as I was running ideas through my head I decided to settle on what the much hyped loss of Ndamukong Suh will do to the Lions’ defense, which despite some recent issues has been one of the better fantasy defenses this season. In short, not much. In fact, he’s not even the most important loss for that defense from a fantasy perspective this week. Sure, he’s a playmaker, and can generate pass rush, but his primary value is in stuffing the run. With the New Orleans Saints facing the Lions this Sunday night, the potential losses of Louis Delmas and Chris Houston will be much more significant. The Lions defensive backs would have been tested even with those two players in the lineup against the incredible Saints passing game, but with backups in the game, their fantasy value is next to zero. So in short, don’t start the Lions this week, but not because Suh isn’t there. Now, let’s take a deeper look at week 13.
BEST: Drew Brees, NO
-OK, so I already discussed the issues the Lions have with injuries, so this should be short. But even more than that, Brees is just unconscious right now. In his last three games he’s averaging 314.3 yards per game, 2.67 touchdowns per game, and only .33 interceptions. The depleted Lions secondary are fresh off of giving up a 300+ yard passing performance to another elite quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, and I find it hard to believe that they’ll hold Brees under that milestone. I have the Saints’ signal-caller pegged for 325 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. You don’t need me to tell you to start him, but do it anyway.
WORST: Matt Ryan, ATL
-I’m slightly wary of this pick. His opponent, the Texans, have been great against the pass this season, giving up a paltry 178.8 yards per game. However, my worry is that if the Texans can’t move the ball with their third string quarterback the defense will be forced to be on the field all day, and that will result in some big numbers from Ryan simply because he’ll be out there all day. Secondly, Ryan has been hot in the last two weeks, and most importantly for him, hasn’t thrown a pick in those 2 weeks. With that in mind, I’m going with the numbers this time and predicting a slow day for Ryan. I think he’ll be right around the Texans’ averages, so he’ll probably throw for 180 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 or 2 interceptions. If you have a decent backup option this may be a good week to look at inserting that player into your lineup.
BEST: Frank Gore, SF
-Oh man, his owners must be drooling right now. One week after a very difficult matchup with the Ravens, he gets a nice breather against the worst run defense in the league. The Rams are giving up a pitiful 159 yards per game this season. To put that in perspective, it really means that if you put ANY workhorse back (I’m defining a workhorse as a guy who gets at least 75% of his team’s carries) in against the Rams, odds are you’ll at least get somewhere around 12 fantasy point. If that workhorse back is as talented as Gore, you can expect a heck of a lot more. I think Gore has a monster bounce-back game and rushes for 135 yards and 2 touchdowns. I would expect more yards, but I think this will be a blowout and Kendall Hunter and the rest of the Niner backups should see more carries than Gore near the end of the game. Start him and enjoy the results.
WORST: Steven Jackson, STL
-And then there’s the flipside of that game….As I’ve mentioned so many times in this article that I’m sure all of you have it committed to memory: The 49ers have been absolutely ridiculous against the run this season. They’re only giving up 75.5 yards per game and STILL haven’t given up a touchdown on the ground this year. Jackson is a very good runner, but the rest of the team around him is just plain bad. With Sam Bradford having taken a step backward, partly due to injury, this season, defenses are able to concentrate more onJackson. He’s still been very good this year, rushing for 813 yards and 4 scores, but this week the 49ers will keep him quiet. Look for him to rush for about 65 yards and not find the end zone.
BEST: Wes Welker, NE
-Welker is quite possibly the most underrate receiver in all of football. He’s already over 1,100 yards this season, has 82 receptions (making him the undeniable king of PPR leagues by the way) and 8 scores through 11 games. So really, he’s earned this spot in nearly every week. But this week he faces the absolutely awful Colts. Indianapolis has given up 19 passing touchdowns so far this year, which is good for 6th worst in the league. However, that rank is deceptive, as 22 passing touchdowns is the league’s worst number, meaning the Colts actually have the 4th worst total if you pretend that ties don’t exist. I think this game will get out of hand very quickly, and Welker will have a big hand in that. Look for him to have 8 receptions, 105 yards, and at least 1 touchdown.
WORST: Anquan Boldin, BAL
-Boldin has really slowed down in the last three weeks. In weeks 8 and 9 he exploded for 145 yards and 88 yards respectively. However, after those two big weeks he’s fallen sharply, posting games of 22 yards, 35 yards, and 63 yards, all while only scoring 1 time in those three weeks. In week 13 he faces Cleveland who sport the best pass defense in the NFL. Worse yet, the Browns have an awful run defense. That means the Ravens are likely to employ a very run heavy attack, and Boldin will be underutilized as has become typical since his move to Baltimore. Look for Boldin to end up with only about 35 yards and no scores.
BEST: Rob Gronkowski, NE
-I’ve already said enough about the Colts in my write-up for his teammate Wes Welker, so we can skip that. He’ll find the end zone at least once, like he has in 2/3 of his games this season. He’ll also be a major target for Tom Brady in the intermediate passing game, so that means he should end up with quite a few targets and plenty of yardage to go along with it. Look for him to end up with 6 catches, 80 yards, and 2 scores this week. Another huge week for a player who is quickly becoming one of the top 2 or 3 tight ends in the NFL.
WORST: Antonio Gates, SD
-Injuries appear to have really slowed Gates this season. He has shown flashes of his former self, but just hasn’t looked quite right all year. You may be looking at his matchup right now and wondering why I would put a “worst” on a player who is playing the Jaguars. Well, what many people haven’t noticed is that the Jags have actually been pretty darn good against the pass in 2011. Currently Jacksonville ranks 4th in the NFL in pass defense, giving up only 183.4 yards per game. With the struggles the Chargers have had in the passing game this year, I smell a rough game for Gates, probably somewhere around 40 yards receiving and no touchdowns.
BEST: New England Patriots
-I’m going out on a major limb here with how bad the Patriots have been against the pass so far this season. I just have a feeling that the Colts starting Dan Orlovsky for the first time this season should lead to some big mistakes from the quarterback position, and some interceptions for the Pats. Sure, Orlovsky could provide the kind of spark that the Colts need, and lead them to their first win of the year. Or he could just as easily run clean out of the end zone and hand the Patriots a safety. I know, low lying fruit, but I just couldn’t resist. I think the Patriots will only give up 13 points this week, grab 2 or 3 interceptions, and tally 3 or 4 sacks to boot. You may be nervous to start them, but I have a really good feeling about them this week.
WORST: Detroit Lions
-Take a look at my intro. Hmmm, maybe I should have saved all that writing for down here and gone with a different intro…..oh well, it bears repeating. The Lions have been good on defense this year, so many players may still be tempted to start them without doing their homework. The injuries, Suh’s suspension (to a lesser degree) and the matchups are just brutal this week, and the Lions should be benched in every fantasy league for week 12, unless literally every other startable defense has been picked up in your league. Sit them, sit them, sit them.
SLEEPER OF THE WEEK
-Vince Young, Philadelphia Eagles
He can’t really throw the ball all that well in the intermediate range, and is really only a slightly above average runner. So why is he a sleeper? I think he has just enough weapons around him to make him a serviceable option for fantasy teams with quarterback troubles or for Michael Vick owners. His completion percentage will still probably only be around 50%, but the Eagles offense is predicated on the passing game, so he should see plenty of attempts. If he throws the ball 40 or more times expect big numbers to the tune of 250-300 yards, and at least 2 touchdowns. If he throws the ball fewer times than that, expect his total to shrink exponentially. He’s risky, but could pay big dividends if the rest of the Eagles’ offense plays up to their potential.
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