Fantasy football Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Want a victory? Take some risks
Three powerful offenses (and the Buffalo Bills) are sitting on the couch this week. Owners will be missing out on the services of two top-five running backs (Marshawn Lynch and LeSean McCoy), two top-10 quarterbacks (Nick Foles and Russell Wilson), two top-10 wide receivers (A.J. Green and DeSean Jackson), several other fantasy regulars (Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Giovani Bernard, Riley Cooper and Golden Tate) and a few good defenses.
If your heart rate is rising, don't panic -- we've got you covered with solid replacement options.
Week 12 byes: Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks
These Week 12 Start 'em, Sit 'em recommendations are based on standard scoring, non-PPR, 12-team leagues that start 1-QB, 2-RB, 2-WR, 1-TE, 1-FLEX, 1-K and 1-DST. I've tried to list most of the possible players at each position, but if you find one missing -- please comment below, and I'll share my recommendation.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns
• Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Steelers DST
Big Ben threw for four touchdowns for the second time in three weeks, and now he'll face a division rival that allowed him to throw three touchdown passes against it in a game last December. Bell had a tough time getting going against the Lions in Week 11, averaging just 2.0 yards per carry, and the Browns defense is allowing fewer than 100 rushing yards per game. He gets plenty of goal-line touches, even though Jonathan Dwyer also got a chance in Week 11, so keep Bell active as an RB2 against the Browns. Antonio Brown is making PPR and non-PPR owners alike happy, as he has now scored three times in the past three games, catching 18 passes for 322 yards in that span. He'll be locked up against CB Joe Haden for much of the day, but the Steelers should be creative in getting the ball to him.
• Browns: Chris Ogbonnaya, Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron
Chris Ogbonnaya is proving to be a better runner than Willis McGahee at this stage of his career, and even better, he's getting used a lot in the passing game. The Steelers don't allow many receiving yards to running backs, but they aren't great against the run. Gordon should be considered a top-10 wide receiver going forward, which is impressive for a second-year player who missed much of training camp in his rookie season because he came in as a supplemental draft pick. He does, however, have a tricky game during fantasy championship Week 16, against the Jets. Cameron, meanwhile, has been hit or miss in recent weeks, but he's still seeing a good amount of targets.
• Steelers: Jerricho Cotchery, Emmanuel Sanders, Heath Miller, Shaun Suisham
Sanders left Week 11 with a foot injury, but that's not expected to keep him out of action in Week 12. If he does end up missing time, Cotchery makes for a nice play, considering he has five touchdown catches in the past three games. Miller hasn't scored in four weeks, but he did make a nice mark on the stat sheet, with eight catches for 67 yards against Detroit last week.
• Browns: Jason Campbell, Willis McGahee, Greg Little, Billy Cundiff, Browns DST
Campbell has thrown six touchdowns in three games, but really, his fantasy value lies in his ability to make Ogbonnaya, Gordon and Cameron fantasy worthy. It's doubtful he'll throw it 56 times again, though. Little had little effect on the stats sheet, as he caught one pass for four yards, one week after catching seven balls for 122. The Browns defense is a borderline option this week, going up against a division rival like Pittsburgh. Cleveland didn't record a sack against the Bengals, but it had 11 in its previous two games.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions
• Buccaneers: Bobby Rainey, Vincent Jackson
Rainey surprised everyone, including the teams that cut him or didn't sign him, with a career day against the Falcons and winning NFC Offensive Player of the Week. He rushed for 163 yards and scored three touchdowns, and will be viewed as an RB2 going forward. The Lions defense, meanwhile, held the Steelers to just 40 rushing yards in Week 11. Even so, Rainey had huge holes to run through, and the Bucs offensive line went from one of the worst in the first half of the NFL season to one of the best in the second half. Jackson finally had another big game after three mediocre outings. He caught 10 passes for the second time this season against Atlanta.
• Lions: Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson, Lions DST
Against tough pass defenses, like the Steelers or Bengals, Stafford and Friends seem to pick it up a bit. Against both of those top-10 pass defenses, he threw for over 350 yards each, totaling five touchdown passes. Now, enter the Buccaneers defense, a below-average unit, and you'll be happy with your Motown matchups. While the Bucs are good against the run, Bush is a special player who has been used all over the place, which Tampa Bay will find problematic. Cornerback Darrelle Revis shut down Megatron (one catch, 13 yards) the last time they played -- but that was in 2010. Both players are a bit different now. The Lions DST is strong against the run, but in this game it should see more success against rookie signal caller Mike Glennon.
• Buccaneers: Mike Glennon, Brian Leonard, Tiquan Underwood, Tim Wright, Rian Lindell, Buccaneers DST
Glennon has eight touchdown passes with just one interception in his past five games, and he's becoming a good bargain pick in weekly fantasy leagues. Even so, you should have more reliable quarterback options available to you in a 12-team league. The Lions defense has allowed just one touchdown catch to tight ends this season, and Wright has just two catches for 32 yards total in his past two games.
• Lions: Joique Bell, Nate Burleson, Kris Durham, Brandon Pettigrew, David Akers
Bell (ankle) scored for the second time in three games, but the Bucs are stout against the run, allowing just five rushing touchdowns this season. Nate Burleson (forearm) or Kris Durham will be intriguing as the Lions third receiver will be up against rookie CB Johnathan Banks.
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers
• Vikings: Adrian Peterson
The Packers are giving up 4.1 yards per rush, and the Vikings will have to continue to rely on Peterson week in and week out, until they figure out their passing attack. He's tied for the league lead with nine rushing touchdowns. He only has five catches in his past three games, but only four other running backs have more touches than A.P. in that span.
• Packers: Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Jarrett Boykin, Mason Crosby
Even without his regular All-Pro quarterback under center, Nelson led the Packers with eight receptions for 117 yards against the Giants. Boykin and Jones played well also, and now they're going up against a very bad pass defense.
• Vikings: Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder, Greg Jennings, Cordarelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright, John Carlson, Blair Walsh
Cassel took over for Ponder in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks in Week 11, but neither quarterback is worth a look in fantasy play -- even though the Packers have made just four interceptions this season. The same can be said for the Vikings pass catchers, as Jennings is dealing with an Achilles' injury that held him out for Week 11. Wright scored a pair of touchdowns, starting in Jennings' place, but neither he, nor this passing attack, is reliable. Carlson caught five passes for 69 yards for another decent outing, and the Packers have been below-average against tight ends. Consider him an option in weekly leagues if his price is right.
• Packers: Scott Tolzien, James Starks, Andrew Quarless, Packers DST
Tolzien, starting in place of Aaron Rodgers (collarbone), threw three interceptions in his first NFL start. He also threw for 339 yards, and made some decent plays. Tolzien should have an easier time against a Vikings team that has allowed an NFL-high 23 passing touchdowns this season. Even so, he's young and inexperienced, so taking a chance on his wide receivers might be a better idea.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans
• Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew, Cecil Shorts
Jones-Drew scored on a short touchdown run against the Cardinals, but his fantasy owners have to feel like they dodged a bullet by starting him. The Texans defense is much friendlier to runners, so MJD works as a top-25 running back again, but he's unlikely to stay there after this week. Sunday was the first game in which the Jaguars scored a touchdown at home this season!
• Texans: Ben Tate, Andre Johnson, Garrett Graham
Tate should be a top-12 fantasy running back going forward, now that he's the only dog to feed in that backfield. This veteran offensive line has had plenty of issues this season, but it should be able to get it together and get him three or four 100-yard games in the remaining games of 2013. Despite the problems at quarterback, Johnson continues to get his catches -- leading the team with 10 against the Raiders. Graham had a huge game -- finally -- in place of Owen Daniels, and he's a great play again in Week 11 against a Jaguars defense that is very bad against tight ends, allowing eight touchdowns to the position so far.
• Jaguars: Chad Henne, Mike Brown, Ace Sanders, Marcedes Lewis, Josh Scobee, Jaguars DST
The Texans allow an NFL-low 167 passing yards per game, which doesn't bode well for wide receivers other than Shorts. And even though the Texans offense is not what we expected it to be, the Jaguars defense is not in play.
• Texans: Case Keenum, Matt Schaub, Dennis Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Randy Bullock, Texans DST
Keenum was benched in the third quarter of Sunday's game against the Raiders, but it's hard to believe he was worse than what we've seen from Matt Schaub for a couple years now. Even so, the Texans aren't rock solid on their starter this week. While Johnson might not need stability at quarterback to excel, the rookie Hopkins definitely does.
New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens
• Jets: Chris Ivory, Santonio Holmes, Nick Folk
Ivory should pick up good yardage, but the Ravens have allowed just one rushing touchdown all season. While the Jets were only able to complete 12 passes at Buffalo, Holmes was still able to catch two long passes for a total of 71 yards. It was his first game back from a hamstring injury, and he appears to be in good shape once again. Despite Folk's streak of made field goals ending at 23 straight in Week 11, he remains a good fantasy kicker against Baltimore, which has allowed 24 field goals this season. That's the third-most in the NFL.
• Ravens: Torrey Smith, Justin Tucker, Ravens DST
The Jets still have one of the better cornerbacks in the league in Antonio Cromartie, but most teams have to go to the air because the Jets stuff their running games. Smith scored in Week 11 for the second consecutive week, but he was also held under 50 receiving yards in both games. A similar outing can be expected this week, as the Ravens will need to air it out. Tucker has at least two field goals in seven of 10 games so far this season. The Ravens defense will try to continue what the Bills defense did in Week 11, rattling rookie QB Geno Smith into several mistakes.
• Jets: Geno Smith, Bilal Powell, Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill, Kellen Winslow, Jets DST
Smith has just 377 passing yards, with no touchdowns and five interceptions in his past three games. Road games haven't been very kind to the rookie out of West Virginia, as he has thrown four touchdowns and nine interceptions in five road games. Cumberland and Winslow will continue to steal targets from each other. Since Week 1, the Jets defense has forced just one fumble, and intercepted four passes. This unit only has four sacks in the past three games.
• Ravens: Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Bernard Pierce, Marlon Brown, Dallas Clark, Dennis Pitta
Do not be misled -- Rice's 131-yard game against the Bears was more of a mark against the Bears' rushing defense than it was a resurrection of Rice's fantasy value. If you can still make trades, now's the time to move on the veteran out of Rutgers. The Ravens will continue to feed the hot hand, but Bernard Pierce will get carries as soon as Rice slows down again. The Jets are the best rushing defense in the league, allowing fewer than 75 rushing yards per game. For your fantasy lineup this week, maybe you should hold the Rice.
San Diego Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs
• Chargers: Ryan Mathews, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Nick Novak
Mathews is coming off a 147-yard rushing game against Miami, and even though the Chiefs defense is tough, this unit has allowed 345 rushing yards in its past two games. Gates has 14 catches for 167 yards and a touchdown in his past three games, and a matchup against safety Eric Berry might be a tough one, but he's the most likely pass receiver to succeed against the Chiefs. Allen has had two quiet games in back-to-back outings, and now he's going up against cornerback Brandon Flowers, so three quiet games is not a stretch of the imagination. I have him as a back-end WR2 this week.
• Chiefs: Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Ryan Succop, Chiefs DST
Charles is coming off his worst game of the season against the Broncos, but he should have an easier time against the Chargers. Denver stuffed him at the goal line, and he has just one 100-yard rushing game this season, but that should change against San Diego. Bowe scored against Denver for the first time since Week 4, and he had a season-high 14 targets in the game. Keep him active against a Chargers team that allowed him 15 catches for 187 yards and a touchdown in two games last season.
• Chargers: Philip Rivers, Danny Woodhead, Vincent Brown, Eddie Royal, Chargers DST
After throwing 13 touchdown passes in his first five games of the season, Rivers now has just six touchdowns in his past five games. And now he's about to face a ticked off Chiefs defense coming home after a bad divisional loss. Woodhead has two touchdowns in his past five games, but the Chargers should have some problems in this game and Mathews is running well.
• Chiefs: Alex Smith, Donnie Avery, Dexter McCluster, Anthony Fasano
Smith has just four touchdown passes in his past six games. Avery hasn't scored since Week 1, and he hasn't even been targeted more than five times since Week 4. McCluster is getting more looks and plays called for him in recent games. Fasano scored his first touchdown of the season in Week 11, but they just don't throw enough to him to warrant a start in most leagues.
Chicago Bears at St. Louis Rams
• Bears: Josh McCown, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery
McCown will get the start again, as Cutler's ankle injury keeps the veteran sidelined. McCown has five touchdown passes in his past four games, and he just has too many weapons in the air to sit him against the Rams. Marshall is coming off his worst outing of the season in Week 11. Remember, though, that inclement weather hurt his stats, and he caught a pass in the end zone, but was pushed out before he landed. Jeffery hasn't had a bad game since Week 6 against the Giants. While the Rams have a pretty good pass defense, the sophomore Jeffery has 39 targets in his past three games.
• Rams: Zac Stacy
While Stacy didn't rush for 100 yards his last time out, against the Colts in Week 10, he did score his fourth touchdown of the season, and in as many games. The Bears are one of the worst rush defenses in the league, making Stacy one of the best starts of the week.
• Bears: Jay Cutler, Michael Bush, Martellus Bennett, Robbie Gould, Bears DST
Bennett has been relatively quiet over the past three games, with no touchdowns and just 10 catches. The Rams are very tough on tight ends, and we like the Bears' superstar receivers to have better games this week. Gould has seven field goals in his past three games, but no team has allowed fewer field goals this season than the Rams' 10.
• Rams: Kellen Clemens, Daryl Richardson, Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Brian Quick, Austin Pettis, Jared Cook, Greg Zuerlein, Rams DST
While Clemens had a decent game against the Colts in Week 10, a lot of that was due to Austin's fleet feet. While Austin only caught two of three targets in Week 10, he did catch two long touchdown passes, to go with a punt return for a score. This is what everyone has been waiting for from the dynamic rookie, and four teams on byes should afford him a chance to start on many fantasy formats as a flex or WR3 this week. Cook is one of a half-dozen tight ends who could post anywhere from two points to eight points in any given week, but he has a good chance against a weak Bears defense. He's worth a look in a pinch. Givens seems to register 50 receiving yards each game, but he's averaging fewer than three catches per game over his past six outings.
Carolina Panthers at Miami Dolphins
• Panthers: Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Graham Gano, Panthers DST
Newton threw three touchdown passes against the Patriots Monday night, but he also was able to lead the Panthers in rushing in Week 11. While the Dolphins are tough on receivers, they can be had up the middle, which is why they have allowed seven touchdown catches to tight ends this season. The Panthers defense played well against Tom Brady and Co., which is still a little more threatening than Ryan Tannehill and friends. This Panthers defensive unit is one of the highest-scoring fantasy units over the past three weeks.
• Dolphins: Brian Hartline, Charles Clay
None of these Dolphins wide receivers excite me this week, but Hartline seems like the least volatile. Consider using Rishard Matthews in weekly fantasy leagues, though, since his price is probably quite low. Clay led the Dolphins in receiving, while also scoring for the fourth time in seven games. Tannehill will likely come back to him frequently against a team that's not expected to allow him much time to throw the ball.
• Panthers: Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert, Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr.
The Dolphins aren't great against the run, but Newton led the team with seven carries, and their three running backs totaled 16 carries between them. While Steve Smith has averaged 54 receiving yards in his past four games, he hasn't caught a touchdown pass in that span. And it's doubtful he'll catch one against a Dolphins team that has allowed just one receiving touchdown this season.
• Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas, Mike Wallace, Rishard Matthews, Caleb Sturgis, Dolphins DST
Tannehill will face a tough pass defense, a week after getting sacked four times against the Chargers. The Dolphins offensive line has allowed a league-high 41 sacks so far this season. Dol-Fun Fact: 25 years ago this season, the Dolphins offense set the NFL record for fewest sacks allowed in a season with eight.
Miller had just six touches against the Chargers, one week after getting just nine touches. The Dolphins are happy with Daniel Thomas' output recently, but really, that could change at any point. Remember that Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was the offensive coordinator for Green Bay from 2007 to 2011, when Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson and James Starks shared time, among others. Unfortunately, this offensive line is still subpar, and the Panthers are too good against the run. Sit both Miller and Thomas. Wallace has been a huge fantasy disappointment this season, and here are the cornerbacks he'll be facing in the next few weeks: Captain Munnerlyn, Antonio Cromartie, Ike Taylor and Aqib Talib. Oh, boy.
Indianapolis Colts at Arizona Cardinals
• Colts: Andrew Luck, Donald Brown, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, Adam Vinatieri
Luck hasn't been putting up great numbers recently, including no touchdown passes in Week 11 against the Titans. He's still someone to consider in Week 12, with Russell Wilson and Nick Foles on byes. Brown's two touchdowns last week convinced us that he has the better outlook for the remainder of this season over Richardson, who just can't find the holes right now. Hilton is coming off a quiet game against Tennessee, but he still had nine targets in the game. Fleener should have an even better game against the Cardinals, considering they're the worst team defending fantasy tight ends in the league. Vinatieri is 4-of-6 from 50 yards or more this season, tying his career-high for 50-yard field goals in a season.
• Cardinals: Andre Ellington, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd
The Cardinals pulled one over on fantasy players, using Rashard Mendenhall more than Ellington against a horrible Jaguars rushing defense. The rookie should have had a huge game, but now we expect him to do better against a Colts defense that's allowing over 125 rushing yards per game. The Colts defense is average against the pass, too, which is good news for Fitzgerald and Floyd, who are both coming off good games against the Jaguars. As a matter of fact, Floyd had the best game of any wide receiver in Week 11, with six catches for 193 yards and his third touchdown in five games. Actually, there are several sophomore receivers ramping up in the second half of this season, along with Floyd. Kendall Wright leads the Class of 2012 with 59 catches; Jeffery is on pace for 1,300 receiving yards; Josh Gordon is averaging nearly 95 receiving yards per game; Marvin Jones (7) and Rueben Randle (6) lead sophomores in receiving touchdowns.
• Colts: Trent Richardson, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Colts DST
Richardson hasn't had a good fantasy game since Week 4, and it's time owners (and writers like me) bench him until he puts something positive together. DHB has had one fantasy start-worthy game all season. The Cardinals aren't an offensive powerhouse, but the Colts DST just isn't very opportunistic. This unit has one interception since Week 5, and has allowed 33 points on average in its past three games.
• Cardinals: Carson Palmer, Rashard Mendenhall, Andre Roberts, Rob Housler, Jay Feely, Cardinals DST
Palmer is coming off his best game of the season, but don't get too excited, as it was against the Jaguars, who have a knack for allowing "best games of the season." Mendenhall has 13 carries in each of the past three games, but he hasn't rushed for over 50 yards since Week 2. Housler had a good game against one of the worst defenses against tight ends, but now he's facing one of the best.
Tennessee Titans at Oakland Raiders
• Titans: Chris Johnson, Kendall Wright, Delanie Walker, Titans DST
Chris Johnson started off strong in Week 11 against the Colts, with two touchdowns and 70 yards in the first quarter, and then he could only manage 16 more rushing yards after that. Even so, two of his past three games have been great, and while the Raiders defense is above average against the run, CJ2K still shows enough flash to warrant a start. Walker has already proven to be a great weapon for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, leading the team in catches and receiving yards last week. Kendall Wright, however, led the team in targets, and he has become a top 20 wide receiver in PPR leagues. He averaged seven catches for 81 yards over his past four games. The Raiders scored 28 points, with 197 passing yards and 165 rushing yards at Houston in Week 11, but the Titans defense should still be considered a sleeper play against undrafted rookie free agent Matt McGloin.
• Raiders: Rashad Jennings
Darren McFadden has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, and Jennings tore up the Texans for 150 rushing yards in Week 11. No team has given up more rushing touchdowns this season than the Titans, so things are looking up for Jennings' owners.
• Titans: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Shonn Greene, Nate Washington, Rob Bironas
Fitzpatrick just doesn't have enough weapons in the passing game to be useful in 12-team leagues. Only four players caught his 22 passes in Week 11, and Washington caught just two of those. He's the third receiving options these days.
• Raiders: Matt McGloin, Terrelle Pryor, Darren McFadden, Denarius Moore, Rod Streater, Mychal Rivera, Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders DST
McGloin played well enough in his first NFL start for the Raiders to consider keeping him under center over Terrelle Pryor. The Titans, however, are not a team to use anyone from the Raiders' passing game in fantasy lineups, considering they have allowed an NFL-low seven passing touchdowns this season.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants
• Cowboys: Tony Romo, Demarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Dan Bailey
Romo had two weeks to think about the rotten egg he posted against the Saints in Week 10, with just 128 passing yards and one touchdown pass. He started this season off with a good game against the Giants, so a bounce-back game is expected, along with Bryant. While Witten has been inconsistent this season, he did catch eight passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants in Week 1. Bailey ranks among the best kickers; he hasn't missed a kick since Week 4.
• Giants: Eli Manning, Andre Brown, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle
Manning hasn't thrown for multiple touchdowns in his past five games, but the Cowboys pass defense is here to the rescue! Dallas is allowing an NFL-high 313 passing yards per game, and Manning threw four touchdown passes against them in Week 1. Only a handful of defenses have allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Cowboys defense, so Andre Brown's owners should be happy to start him again. Cruz had his fourth 100-yard game of the season in Week 11, but it was his first since Week 4. He caught three of Manning's touchdown passes in Week 1. Randle doesn't get a ton of targets each week, but no one does more with them. He has four touchdown catches in his past 15 targets.
• Cowboys: Miles Austin, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Cowboys DST
The Cowboys defense already ranked among the worst against the run and the pass, and now they lose LB Sean Lee to a hamstring injury. Austin, who has missed the past three games with a nagging hamstring injury (that seems to date back to 2011), should return to the starting lineup this week. Williams' emergence, though, should affect his targets, rendering both of them questionable starts this week.
• Giants: Brandon Jacobs, Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Myers, Josh Brown, Giants DST
While Nicks is on pace to catch almost 1,000-yards worth of passes this season, he still hasn't scored a touchdown. Watch the waiver wire if he gets cut in your league, as the Giants have very favorable passing matchups coming up, including a game against San Diego and two games against Washington.
Denver Broncos at New England Patriots
• Broncos: Peyton Manning, Knowshon Moreno, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas, Matt Prater
Manning remains the highest scoring fantasy player of 2013, and has thrown for fewer than 300 yards just once, and for fewer than two touchdown passes just once. Moreno has improved in rushing yardage in each of the past four weeks, and now he goes up against a Patriots team that gives up a lot of rushing yards between the 20s. But the Patriots are tough on the goal line, allowing just four rushing touchdowns this season -- only the Ravens have allowed fewer.
It's tough to get a read on the Welker situation, since he is going through concussion protocol after suffering the head injury in the fourth quarter Monday night. It's possible he doesn't play against his former team -- but if he does, you have to figure Manning will feature him prominently, unless Welker is the one player Bill Belichick decides he's going to shut down. Decker hasn't scored since Week 7, but he still caught five passes for 71 yards against the Chiefs. If you're getting more than five targets per game, and Manning is your quarterback, you're a recommended fantasy starter. Thomas has scored in eight of 10 games this season and might have taken over Gronk's position as the second-best fantasy tight end behind Jimmy Graham. But like Gronk and Graham, he's dealing with an injury (knee).
• Patriots: Tom Brady, Shane Vereen, Danny Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski
Brady got a bad call to end the game Monday night, and now he comes home to face his old nemesis. With Gronk back in action, Brady has over 700 passing yards in his past two games -- against two very good pass defenses (Steelers and Panthers), after a rough middle stretch of four games. Vereen led the Pats in receiving with eight catches for 65 yards at Carolina, and he'll be a weapon against the Broncos, who are tougher against the run. Amendola and Gronk are must-starts every week they don't have "questionable" next to their names. Gostkowski might have half as many extra points as Prater, but he also has 10 more made field goals.
• Broncos: Montee Ball, Broncos DST
The Patriots defense is tough on the goal line, which makes Ball a tough play, even though he did score a pair of touchdowns in Week 11. It's probably smart to stay away from both of these defenses this week.
• Patriots: Stevan Ridley, Legarrette Blount, Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson, Patriots DST
The Patriots are looking into legally changing Ridley's name to Stevan "Fumbly." While the Broncos rush defense is pretty good, allowing under 95 rushing yards per game, it has given up nine rushing touchdowns. Ridley looks great between the tackles, when he holds onto the ball, but he's not as effective around the edge. With Blount getting a good chunk of touches, and Vereen getting tailback snaps, Ridley becomes a "sit" against the Broncos.
San Francisco 49ers at Washington Redskins
• 49ers: Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, Phil Dawson, 49ers DST
While Kaepernick has eclipsed 200 yards passing in just two games this season, he's still proving to be effective in other ways. He's averaging over 40 rushing yards in his past four games, and the Redskins defense is one of the most forgiving to opposing fantasy quarterbacks. Gore hasn't scored in a couple weeks, but he'll change that against Washington, which has allowed 15 rushing touchdowns so far -- tied for highest in the NFL. Boldin and Davis should also see success against a porous defense -- both scored in Week 11. The 49ers defense will have faced Cam Newton, Drew Brees and Robert Griffin III in back-to-back-to-back games, but it should have its best effort in a month against RGIII, who is still prone to errors.
• Redskins: Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed
RGIII is inconsistent, yes, but sometimes his inconsistency becomes a good thing for fantasy owners, like when he has to throw more passes to come from behind. Luckily, the sophomore is learning to slide more, which he'll realize is just a brilliant tactic to pick up yards without having to get his head rattled. Morris hasn't caught a pass since Week 2, so his fantasy value is directly related to his rushing game -- which is stellar. He's averaging 5.1 yards per carry, and the Redskins are feeding him the ball more than ever, with 73 carries in his past three games. It's also important to note that he seems to gain steam as the season progresses. Last December, he rushed for 631 yards in five games.
While the 49ers are tough on passing games, RGIII and Garcon are must-starts every week they are healthy, mostly because it only takes one or two plays to make their fantasy days a good one. Reed suffered a concussion in Week 11, so check the rookie's status. When he plays, he plays like another former Gator TE/WR.
• 49ers: Kendall Hunter, Mario Manningham
Hunter shares backup carries with LaMichael James, and could be seeing rookie RB Marcus Lattimore taking some snaps in future games, as well. Manningham has just four catches for 38 yards in his past two games.
• Redskins: Roy Helu, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Kai Forbath, Redskins DST
Hankerson is out for the year after suffering a knee injury in Week 11. The Redskins defense has allowed an average of 33 points in its past six games.
David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and over 100 fantasy football leagues. You can also follow him @davidgonos on Twitter. If you have some good Week 12 Start 'em, Sit 'em opinions, drop them in the comments below.