Fantasy football Risers, Sliders: Rivers, Jones-Drew turn it on
It's officially fantasy football crunch time. With only one or two weeks left in the season, it's time to start preparing your team for the playoffs. While things are a little light on the running back front, there are plenty of wide receivers making their mark, who could start for your team in the fantasy playoffs Let's see which players' stock rose or fell in Week 12.
• Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers -- After several weeks of disappointing performances, Rivers bounced back against one of the league's top defenses, going 27-for-39 for 392 yards and three touchdowns in Kansas City. Keep in mind that the Chargers face the Bengals, the Giants and the Broncos next -- they could all pose problems for Rivers.
• Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts -- Luck went 23-for-39 for 163 yards and one passing touchdown, making that three underwhelming games in a row for Indianapolis' second-year quarterback. It's been a weird month for Luck. Against the Texans in Week 9, he completed just 18 of 40 passes, but still managed 271 yards and three touchdowns. He started to slide against the Rams, when he thre for 353 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions in a 38-8 loss, and followed that up by throwing for 232 yards and no touchdowns on Thursday night. Indy faces the Titans and the Bengals next, and neither will be an easy matchup.
• Case Keenum, Houson Texans -- After three strong weeks in a row, Keenum has come back to earth. The Houston quarterback was just 18-for-34 for 169 yards and one interception against the lowly Jaguars in Week 12. With no more bye weeks, there shouldn't be any reason to start him.
• Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars -- Jones-Drew is finally starting to turn it on, as the eighth-year running back has now scored in three straight games. The Jaguars, who lost their first eight games, have also won two of those last three games. Coincidence? I think not. Jacksonville faces the Browns, the Texans again and the Bills over the next three weeks.
• Brandon Bolden, New England Patriots -- Bolden stepped up and rushed 13 times for 58 yards and a touchdown after Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount were benched for fumbling. There's a chance Bolden could see more touches later in the season, if the Patriots mount a big lead.
• Dennis Johnson, Houston Texans -- The undrafted rookie free agent took most of the work away from Ben Tate on Sunday, rushing 13 times for 74 yards and catching two passes for 13 yards. Gary Kubiak said post-game he expected to work Johnson in, but not that much. Johnson did well in the preseason for Houston but was just recently signed to the Texans active roster; it remains to be seen if he will continue to get this much work the rest of the year.
• Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots -- Ridley fumbled for the second straight week -- the fourth time this year -- and was benched by Bill Belichick. He's gotten other chances before, but with Bolden's strong performance in last night's comeback win over the Broncos, it was clear he wasn't needed.
• Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams -- Stacy was emerging as an end-of-season fantasy star, but he left the Rams' 42-21 win over the Bears with a concussion. We've seen players recover from a concussion without missing any time -- Wes Welker played Sunday night -- but it's never a good sign, especially with a rookie running back.
• Ben Tate, Houston Texans -- Owners expected Tate to explode against the lowly Jaguars, but instead, he rushed seven times for just a yard, and caught five passes for 26 yards. Dennis Johnson received most of the carries for Houston, rushing 13 times for 74 yards.
• Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans -- Johnson continued his recent boom-or-bust streak. Last week, he scored two touchdowns, and this week he was held out of the end zone. Fantasy owners need more than sub-10-point fantasy efforts at this time of the season.
• Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers -- Allen was targeted a team-high 12 times on Sunday, catching nine passes for 124 yards (tying his season high for catches); the second-most targeted player, Antonio Gates, received eight looks. Allen did this against one of the stronger defenses in the NFL, though the Chiefs lost several players to injury on Sunday. He'll get another chance to go against a tough defense next week against the Bengals.
• Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans -- Wright had been seeing a high number of targets the past few weeks, but finally got into the end zone for the first time since Week 2 on Sunday. He caught six passes for 103 yards and the score on Sunday. Wright has been targeted 28 times in the past three games and has 261 yards receiving.
• Nate Burleson, Detroit Lions -- Burleson played his first game since breaking his arm in a post-Week 3 pizza-induced car accident, and caught seven passes for 77 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets. The Lions threw 46 times on Sunday, but Burleson stepped right in as the No. 2 receiver behind Calvin Johnson. He's a guy likely to be available in your leagues, too.
• Julian Edelman, New England Patriots -- Edelman had his first big game since Week 4, catching nine passes (on 11 targets) for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Edelman did all his damage in the second half against a banged-up Denver defense, but he was tied with Shane Vereen for the team lead in targets.
• Mike Wallace, Miami Dolphins -- Sure, he dropped a potential game-winning touchdown in the final minute, but Wallace scored for the first time since Week 2, catching five passes for 127 yards and the touchdown on 10 targets.
• Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams -- Yes, most of his value came on just one play -- a 65-yard touchdown run in the first quarter -- just like the Rams previous game, when most of his damage came on two catches. However, Austin tied for the team lead in targets, which is encouraging for fantasy owners. Kellen Clemens threw only five passes his way, but the Rams were ahead big early and ran the ball most of the day.
• Victor Cruz, New York Giants -- Cruz hasn't scored since Week 4, but he had put up big numbers in catches and yardage the last few weeks -- including an eight-catch, 110-yard game just last week. But on Sunday he caught just two passes for 27 yards on four targets.
• Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns -- Jason Campbell left with a head injury midway through the Browns' 27-11 loss to the Steelers on Sunday. Brandon Weeden came in at quarterback, and Jordan Cameron finished with 10 targets. That's the most he's had since Week 4. Cameron only had three catches for 32 yards, but the Browns face the Jaguars -- a team that doesn't defend the tight end well -- next week.
• Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons -- Gonzalez caught four passes for 43 yards last Thursday. He has scored just one touchdown in the last seven weeks and hasn't cracked 100 yards receiving since Week 4.
• Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens -- Tucker has eight field goals the last three weeks. He hit four, including a 53-yarder, against the Jets on Sunday.
• Sebastian Janikowski, Oakland Raiders -- Janikowski, known mainly for his big leg and usually as one of the league's more reliable kickers, missed twice in Sunday's 23-19 loss to the Titans. Janikowski has now missed seven field goals on the season.
• New Orleans Saints -- The Saints, who have allowed more than 20 points just twice this year, held Atlanta to 13 points and sacked Matt Ryan five times in last Thursday night's win.
• Kansas City Chiefs -- Kansas City lost both of its outside linebackers on Sunday: Tamba Hali to an ankle injury and Justin Houston to an elbow. The defense then gave up a season-high 41 points (at home) against the Chargers. San Diego's offense is no slouch, but the Chiefs play the Broncos again this week.