Fantasy Cheat Sheet: Manning, Brady in the spotlight, more storylines
The main event, for both real-life and fantasy purposes takes place on Sunday night, when Peyton Manning and Tom Brady meet for the 14th time in their illustrious careers. The two are the defining superstars of their generation, and hopefully will treat us to another classic .
Moreover, that game could decide a number of Week 12 fantasy matchups in prime time. Regardless of your league parameters, the matchup between the Broncos and Patriots likely features at least 10 fantasy starters. While every matchup is a good one for Manning and company, Brady and the Pats could have a huge night against a Denver defense that allows the sixth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and tight ends, 12th-most to running backs, and 13th-highest to receivers.
We'll be updating here Sunday morning with important news as it breaks. Meanwhile, Alessandro Miglio and Eric Edholm will be taking your start/sit questions in The MMQB's live chat from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET.
10:49 a.m. update: Shane Vereen is a must-start this week:
I got a ton of questions about Shane Vereen in my weekly chat this morning. The short answer for all you Vereen owners is that you should start him with confidence. In just two games this year, he has 108 rushing yards, 21 targets and 123 receiving yards. He's a crucial part of the New England offense, and could be in for an even bigger role today if Stevan Ridley remains in Bill Belichick's doghouse after fumbling last week. Vereen is a strong RB2.
11:15 a.m. update: Believe it or not, it's a good week to trust Colin Kaepernick:
I was down on Colin Kaepernick before it was cool to be down on Colin Kaepernick, but he's as good a play this week as he has been in a long time. Washington allows the fourth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and even made Christian Ponder look like a viable fantasy quarterback. Consider Kaepernick a low-end QB1 this week.
11:54 a.m.: Emmanuel Sanders makes a good WR3
Emmanuel Sanders is active, as expected, despite a foot injury. Secondary receivers have done well against the Browns simply by virtue of avoiding Joe Haden. That makes Sanders a high-end WR3. With guys like A.J. Green, DeSean Jackson, Golden Tate and Riley Cooper on bye, Sanders could be a nice fallback option for fantasy owners.
12:20 p.m.: Don't start Willis McGahee under any circumstance:
Willis McGahee will play through a knee issue today, but he shouldn't be anywhere near your radar. He's averaging just 2.6 yards per carry this year, and has been outplayed in recent weeks by teammate Chris Ogbonnaya. The latter brings an added dimension to Cleveland's offense with his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and should be in line for more touches today. Ogbonnaya is a low-end RB2 option while McGahee should be stuck on your bench.
12:39 p.m.: Be careful with Hakeem Nicks
Hakeem Nicks looks like a true game-time decision because of a strained abdominal. The matchup with Dallas is great, but you need to make sure you have someone who plays late to plug into your lineup if Nicks can't give it a go this afternoon.
Chris Ogbonnaya giving the Browns some life in the backfield
Week 12 is the last one of the season in which fantasy owners have to deal with byes. This one hits the running back position particularly hard, with Marshawn Lynch, LeSean McCoy, Giovani Bernard, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson off. That's two stars, two reliable starters and two fringe players removed from the picture. If you're trying to replace one of them, the latest back to get a shot in Cleveland could be worth your attention.
Chris Ogbonnaya had his best game of the season last week, running for 69 yards on eight carries and adding another 30 on six receptions. Willis McGahee has been a total non-factor since signing with the Browns, running for just 2.6 yards per carry on 106 totes. Ogobonnaya has also proved himself as a receiver out of the backfieldwith 34 catches for 237 yards and two scores on the year. With the Browns needing more production on the ground, expect the fourth-year pro out of Texas to push up toward the 18-20-touch range against a Steelers defense that has allowed the ninth-highest fantasy points per game to running backs. If he gets there -- and ther's no reason for the team to keep Ogbonnaya in an understated role in their offense - he'll be worth of being started in all formats. He could be a major player in fantasy leagues this week, consider him a high-end RB3 for now.
Dealing with Julius Thomas this week
Thomas injured his knee against the Chiefs a week ago, and his practice participation has been spotty leading up to Sunday night's monster game with the Patriots. His status remains up in the air for this week, but you'll want him in your lineup if he plays. That means there's really only one way to deal with it if you own Thomas. Pick up Joel Dreessen right now, and start him in Thomas' place if the latter cannot go. The Patriots have done well against opposing tight ends this season, allowing the 11th-fewest points per game to the position, and that would likely keep Dreessen outside the top 10 or 12 options as a starter this week. Still, it's totally worth rolling the dice and hoping Thomas plays. Make sure you're near your lineup-setting device around 7 pm Eastern Sunday; that's when we'll learn whether or not Thomas is active.
Jarrett Boykin don't need no stinkin' Aaron Rodgers, and neither do fantasy owners this week
The Packers have understandably looked like a completely different team without Aaron Rodgers, but the effect hasn't quite trickled all the way down to wide receiver Boykin. In the two games since Rodgers broke his clavicle against the Bears, Boykin has 14 catches for 203 yards. He also has 21 targets in that stretch, and appears to have very solid on-field chemistry with new starter Scott Tolzien. Add it all up, and Boykin should be universally started this week.
Boykin and the rest of his Green Bay mates have a great matchup with the Vikings. They've allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game to receivers and the second-most to quarterbacks. Rodgers may still be on the sideline, but expect a big day from the Green Bay passing game. The Vikings have allowed every quarterback they've faced this season other than Eli Manning, Russell Wilson and Ben Roethlisberger to throw for at least 280 yards and two touchdowns. Wilson still managed 230 yards and a pair of scores, while Roethlisberger lit them up for 383 yards. In other words, they've been a welcome sight for nearly every single quarterback this season.
Not only will you want to start Boykin and Jordy Nelson, Tolzien is a low-end QB1 this week. He has five interceptions in his two games, but has managed to throw for 619 yards and 8.5 yards per attempt. This Vikings defense could be just the team he needs to face to get his first career win.
Donald Brown not the best play, but at least he saved the fantasy community from the scourge of Trent Richardson
When the Colts handed their starting running back gig to a former first-round pick, the entire football world seemed to believe that this offense would find a new gear. And when that former first-rounder, Donald Brown, busted an early carry against the Titans for 15 yards, that widespread belief came to fruition.
It is Brown, and not the once-highly-touted Richardson who gives the Colts a legitimate threat in the backfield. He ran for 80 yards and two touchdowns in the win over the Titans last week, and ran with the sort of decisiveness that Richardson has not shown this year. As we discussed in this week's film series column, the holes the Indianapolis line created for Brown were no larger than those for Richardson. Brown, though, took advantage of the tiniest hints at daylight, getting to and through holes with urgency. Richardson predictably tiptoed toward those same holes, allowing them to close before he could pick up any significant yardage. If Chuck Pagano and Pep Hamilton needed any more incentive to increase Brown's role in the offense, he gave it to them last week.
Having said that, you probably want to avoid Brown if you can on Sunday. The Colts go up against the Cardinals who have allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. Just one back, Frank Gore, has topped 100 yards against them this year, and just he and Marshawn Lynch, have scored double-digit fantasy points when playing the Cardinals. Reggie Bush, Doug Martin, Pierre Thomas, Steven Jackson and Ben Tate all had substandard games against the strong unit. You don't need to avoid Brown like the plague, but if you can to find a more reliable option this week, do so.
Delanie Walker becoming an every-week play
You've likely heard all about how the aforementioned Brown and Bobby Rainey could be two guys who swing fantasy championships in the next month. There's another one of those waiver-wire difference makers at the tight end position, as Walker has emerged for the Titans.
Walker has scored at least 11 fantasy points three times in the last four weeks. In those three games, he has a combined 17 catches for 205 yards and three touchdowns. Last week was easily his best of the season, when he hauled in all 10 of his targets for 91 yards and a score against a Colts defense that has allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points per game to tight ends.
With Walker playing a more important role in the Tennessee offense now that Ryan Fitzpatrick is under center, he looks like a safe TE1 for the remainder of the year. If he's somehow still available in your league, you'll want to rectify that right now. He's a great play against the Raiders, who have allowed 9.2 fantasy points per game to tight ends, the 10th-highest average in the league.
The Matt Forte Show could pre-empt the Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery Variety Hour
Let's get this out of the way first. If you own Marshall or Jeffery, you're starting them with supreme confidence. Understand, though, that they and Josh McCown might take a backseat to Matt Forte and the running game on Sunday.
The Rams have been terrible against the run this year, allowing 4.2 yards per carry and 11 rushing touchdowns. They've surrendered the third-most fantasy points per game to running backs, allowing 20-point games to DeMarco Murray, Frank Gore, Arian Foster and Chris Johnson. Foster, Donald Brown and Jason Snelling have all had big days as receivers against them, as well. That sounds like just the type of recipe that would convince Marc Trestman and Aaron Kromer to feed Forte all game.
Again, the matchup is not bad for Marshall and Jeffery. The Rams have allowed 8.4 YPA and 15 passing touchdowns this year. The matchup is just so good for Forte, though, that the Bears may end up running much of their offense through the multi-talented back on Sunday.
Injury wrap lightning round
• Trent Richardson is questionable with a calf injury. I hope you aren't considering him regardless of his injury status.
• Joique Bell (Achilles) was a full participant in practice Friday. He's a fringe flex option this week with a decent matchup against the Buccaneers.
• Jordan Reed has been ruled out to a concussion. Look elsewhere.
• Hakeem Nicks is questionable with an abdomen injury. The Cowboys allow the eighth-most fantasy points per game to receivers this year, but Nicks and the Giants passing game have been a wreck all season. Consider him a low-end WR3 this week.
• In that same game, the Cowboys expect to have Miles Austin (hamstring) back. He shouldn't be on your radar, and he could complicate matters for Terrance Williams.