For most fantasy owners, this is the last week of the regular season. If you've already clinched a playoff spot, well, then, congratulations. If you're fighting for one of the final postseason berths in your league, good luck. But if you're relegated to the role of spoiler, it's never too early to look ahead to 2013.
It's fun to consider who might comprise the first round, but you don't need me to sit here and tell you eight months in advance that mainstays Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice and Aaron Rodgers will be in the mix, joined by new faces such as Robert Griffin III, C.J. Spiller and A.J. Green. Instead, let's take an early look at the guys you'll be selecting in the middle and late rounds of drafts next year or throwing a few bucks at around an auction table who will unexpectedly (at least to your league mates) drive you to a title. Put another way, who can be next year's Alfred Morris in the same way Morris was this year's Victor Cruz?
Jacquizz Rodgers, Falcons -- The Rodgers takeover in Atlanta has seemingly already started. However, it should be in full force next year, whether or not Michael Turner is still in town. It's clear that Turner's days as a workhorse back have passed. While the Falcons will likely want a complementary back to limit the damage absorbed by his smallish frame, Rodgers should be in a feature role next season. We've seen flashes of what he can do when given enough touches to make an impact this season. Despite touching the ball 95 times thus far, he has 519 total yards and two touchdowns. With Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White, Atlanta should have a dynamic offense again next year. Rodgers will be the beneficiary, especially because of his ability as a pass-catcher out of the backfield.
Mohamed Sanu, Bengals -- A.J. Green and Andy Dalton have helped turn Cincinnati into a strong passing offense. When a team has a receiver as talented as Green, opportunities are bound to trickle down to the next receiver on the depth chart. We can call it Calvinomics. With so much attention paid to the No. 1 option, a talented second banana can make defenses pay. That's where Sanu comes in for the Bengals. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Rutgers product was a matchup nightmare in the red zone before a stress fracture in his left foot sidelined him this week. He's not much of a deep threat, but he doesn't need to be. Sanu can play the role of possession receiver on this Bengals team to perfection. Think of him as Anquan Boldin to Green's Larry Fitzgerald. That will mean quite a profit for his owners in 2013.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers -- Alex Smith, meet Wally Pipp. No, Kaepernick is not Lou Gehrig, but if the last two weeks are any indication, he is San Francisco's quarterback of the present and future. It's an insult to small sample sizes to call his two-game run as the Niners' starter a small sample size, so I can tell you that isn't even a consideration here. No, Kaepernick simply looks like the type of dual-threat quarterback who can be a strong fantasy player. That is, he's a throw-first quarterback who happens to have the ability to tuck the ball and run. He also can have an entire package of run plays designed specifically for him. With Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis and one of the league's better lines in front of him, Kaepernick could launch to stardom next season.
Dwayne Allen, Colts -- Coby Fleener may have been Andrew Luck's college teammate and he may have been selected earlier in last April's draft, but it's Allen who looks like he could be the Colts' starting tight end for years to come. In limited duty this year, Allen has 34 receptions for 385 yards and two touchdowns. Allen fits the mold of the new age tight end, with speed that belies his 6-3, 255-pound frame. Being Luck's starting tight end will be a very lucrative position for as long as you can hold it. Allen will ride that to a breakout year in 2013.
That's what I think. Here's what I think about what other people think for Week 13.
• Just one of ESPN's fantasy writers has Marshawn Lynch as a top-10 running back this week. I'm a Bears fan, so I hope they're right, but I think Lynch will have a big game this week. The Bears have allowed some gaudy rushing numbers this year. Chris Johnson went for 141 yards. Arian Foster racked up 102. Adrian Peterson pounded out 108. Frank Gore had 78 on 17 carries, Mikel Leshoure had 63 on 12 carries and Maurice Jones-Drew had 56 on 12 carries. Heck, even Cedric Benson went for 80 yards on 21 carries. The Bears can be run on, especially up the middle of the defense, just the way Lynch runs.
• Brad Evans at Yahoo! believes the other starting running back in that game, Michael Bush, will fill in admirably for the injured Matt Forte. Just like I was loath to disagree with the ESPN guys, I love agreeing with Evans here. The Seahawks have been ripped apart by backs in the last five weeks, allowing 6.3 yards per carry in that stretch (hat tip to Evans' math). Bush is the type of runner who can beat down a battered defense, and the perfect back to protect a lead. He's a must-start this week.
• Michael Fabiano at NFL.com has Cecil Shorts among the players he recommends to pick up this week. I'm not sure how widely available Shorts is in leagues that pay attention, but if you can add him, do so now. Not only is he someone you want to start every week, I've got him as my No. 14 receiver this week. Chad Henne may just be a league-average quarterback, but that represents a major upgrade over Blaine Gabbert. All the Jacksonville receivers are reaping the awards, Shorts chief among them.
• Finally, I agree with a lot of what's inJamey Eisenberg's start/sit column for this week, but we've had enough agreement already. One spot where I do disagree is his labeling of Andrew Luck as a bust this week. I know he has struggled on the road, but I like him to have a big game at Detroit. The Lions have allowed multiple passing touchdowns in four of the last five weeks, and the indoor environment in Detroit should be familiar for Luck. Moreover, I can't understand why he'd continue to struggle on the road just because he has thus far. This is the week he exorcises his road demons.
Chat with me on Twitter, @MBeller.