November 30, 2009
Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Week 12 Revelations
Brett Favre: Elsa/Getty Images
Minnesota 36, Chicago 10
  • At the risk of repeating ourselves again (and again) ... we'll be extremely disappointed if Brett Favre plays another cat-and-mouse game with the media next year, while vacillating on a possible return to the Vikings. Whether you're 40 or 62, no right-minded and ultra-competitive quarterback should ever turn their back on Minnesota's embarrassment of playmaking riches, in the form of Adrian Peterson (103 total yards, 1 TD vs. Chicago), Percy Harvin (146 total yards, 1 TD), WRs Sidney Rice (6 catches, 89 yards) and Bernard Berrian (6 catches, 74 yards) and Visanthe Shiancoe, who became the first tight end in Vikings history to register eight TDs in one season. And we didn't even mention backup RB Chester Taylor (84 total yards, 1 TD), who could easily be starting for five other teams in 2010. Put it all together, and you have Favre throwing for a season-best 392 yards and three touchdowns, while boosting his team's record to 10-1.

    Now comes the blunt part: Do we even need to reinforce the notion that all of the above names, save Taylor, are automatic starts against Arizona in Week 13? And do we even need to repeat the following mea culpa: We're sorry for denigrating Favre's fantasy worth back in April ... and May ... and early August. He's redoubtably a top-7 QB in fantasyland (if not higher) and the salient choice for NFL MVP (unless Peyton Manning and/or Drew Brees go 16-0 in the regular season).

    As for the Bears, we'd love to spend a lot of time wading through the Sea of Mediocrity from Sunday -- involving Matt Forte (61 total yards), Greg Olsen (7 catches, 45 yards), Earl Bennett (3 catches, 14 yards), Devin Hester (1 catch, 20 yards) and QB Jay Cutler (163 total yards, 1 TD) -- but we have a feeling all will be forgiven this time next week. The reason: The sad-sack Rams visit Chicago ... setting up presumed greatness for Forte, Hester, Olsen, Cutler and maybe even Johnny Knox.

  • Buffalo 31, Miami 14
  • Isn't it amazing what Fred Jackson (116 total yards, 2 TDs) can do when bestowed the trust to carry an offense? And isn't it amazing what Terrell Owens (5 catches, 96 yards, 1 TD) can do when bestowed the trust to carry ... just himself (without the weight of the reality-TV world on his shoulders)? Yes, Sunday's results weren't all that surprising, given the Dolphins' young secondary and the newfound aggression of the Bills coaches, after Dick Jauron's departure. But we'd be lying if we thought QB Ryan Fitzpatrick would do his best Steve Young impression and rack up 296 total yards (including 50 on the run). All this begs the following questions: Can the aforementioned stars provide similarly stellar numbers next week against the Jets? Or will they lay an egg in Toronto (site of the game) -- not unlike last year's Canadian snoozefest against the Dolphins? We'll say 'yes' to Jackson -- as long as the Bills coaches realize that F-Jax has passed Marshawn Lynch (4 catches, 12 total yards) by a long shot; and 'no' to Owens, assuming Darrelle Revis goes toe-to-toe with T.O.

    On the flip side ... we have the painfully predictable Fins and their equal-opportunity approach to the passing game (although we could not have foreseen that ill-advised pass-turned-INT from Ricky Williams). Right here, right now, there is no discernible reason for starting any Miami wideout -- Ted Ginn Jr., Brian Hartline, Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess -- during the stretch run in fantasyland, and there's no tangible reason for adding TE Anthony Fasano to the mix either, despite his five catches for 74 yards in Week 12. As a general rule, we usually stay away from blocking tight ends who've had 20 or fewer receiving yards in seven games this year. Ouch!

  • Philadelphia 27, Washington 24
  • We've heard three explanations regarding Philly WR Jason Avant and his out-of-nowhere production in recent weeks. The first one involved the eye-popping decline of Avant's alma mater, the University of Michigan, as some sort of parallel-universe thing (more on that later). The second reason vaguely lumped Avant in with those killer blowfish in Asia (that's not to say Avant is bad for the eco-system). And the third one -- hatched by ESPN fantasy guru Matthew Berry -- simply attributes more opportunities (or Targets) for Avant when LeSean McCoy (and not Brian Westbrook) is the Eagles' primary ballcarrier (translation: McCoy hardly gets thrown to). While the first two explanations are certainly more humorous, we're inclined to agree with Berry here. We're also wont to believe Avant (5 catches, 94 yards vs. Washington) is a strong consideration in all PPR leagues from Weeks 13-16 (Atlanta, N.Y. Giants, San Francisco, Denver). The same holds true for Donovan McNabb (260 passing yards, 1 TD), McCoy (101 total yards), Jeremy Maclin (5 catches, 63 yards) and tight end Brent Celek -- assuming Celek's tweaked ankle is a garden-variety sprain.

    As for Washington, we'd love to conceive a comical anecdote here, in the name of masking the Redskins' fantasy foibles ... but we're just not feeling it. Oh sure, you could start QB Jason Campbell (233 total yards, 3 TDs) during the fantasy playoffs and hope/pray for good fortune during this crucial period; but do you really want to (indirectly) place your collective fate in the oft-incapable hands of Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly or Santana Moss (4 catches, 28 yards, 1 TD vs. Philly)? Heck, even the Raiders are licking their chops at playing the Redskins in Week 14.

  • Baltimore 20, Pittsburgh 17 (OT)
  • On Thursday afternoon, away from the media spotlight, Cowboys TE Jason Witten (5 catches, 107 yards, 1 TD) was unexpectedly released from the NFL's fantasy witness-relocation program. Three days later, in the dark of night, Ravens playmakers Joe Flacco, Mark Clayton and Willis McGahee were also released into the wild and made available for the Steelers game. The result: Flacco (289 passing yards, 1 TD), Clayton (7 catches, 129 yards) and McGahee (19 total yards, 1 TD) might have fantasy owners scrambling for their computers on Tuesday, gauging the trio's availability for the fantasy playoffs. Unlike Witten, who has devolved into a short-term blocking tight end to compensate for the Cowboys' O-line woes, Flacco and Clayton actually have a shot at sustained fantasy goodness -- starting with next week at Green Bay ... and ending with Pittsburgh in Week 16. (Oh, and did we mention the Ravens play the Lions and Bears in Weeks 14/15?) At the very least, RB Ray Rice (155 total yards) and WR Derrick Mason (7 catches, 62 yards, 1 TD) are automatic starts against Green Bay, Detroit, Chicago and Pittsubrgh -- even in bad weather, which is a distinct possibility for the Midwest/Northeast in December.

    The Steelers' fantasy prospects, on the other hand, aren't so concrete. Obviously, Hines Ward (3 catches, 47 yards), Santonio Holmes (6 catches, 74 yards, 1 TD) and RB Rashard Mendenhall (117 total yards) merit consideration in all leagues during the fantasy playoffs. But let's be honest: They're iffy starters, as long as Dennis Dixon is helming the Pittsburgh offense -- not Ben Roethlisberger (out with concussion-like symptoms). But we will credit Dixon (172 total yards, 2 TDs) for one thing: At this point, he's a better emergency start than Matt Leinart.

  • Revelations, Book II
    Vince Young: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
    Tennessee 20, Arizona 17
  • Five weeks from now, when Chris Johnson picks up his fake trophy for Fantasy Clicks Fantasy MVP (perhaps there's room in the budget for an actual award), he'll likely have fond memories of the Titans' Week 12 victory ... and the 186 total yards/1 TD that accompanied it. Maybe he'll even identify Sunday's performance as a top-5 outing (we say "maybe" because he's on a streak of five straight games of 151-plus total yards -- yikes!). But right now, Vince Young is commandeering all of the real-world and fantasy spotlight, for orchestrating a game-winning, 99-yard drive in the final minutes -- culminating with Kenny Britt's 10-yard TD reception with no time left. Against all odds, Young (395 total yards, 1 TD) led Tennessee to its fifth straight victory ... and against all standards of common sense (at least around Week 7), he's now a viable starting option in 12- to 14-team fantasy leagues! Of course, we also wouldn't be shocked if Young encounters Sloppy Seconds Syndrome in Week 13. As Matthew Stafford can attest, it's damn-near impossible to be all-world in back-to-back games -- unless you're Chris Johnson.

    One last note about the Titans: Britt pulled down seven catches for 128 yards and one touchdown. But fantasy owners should wait until Week 14 (St. Louis) before expecting similar greatness from Britt. Of course, Justin Gage may be back by then ... adding to the consternation of Britt owners who didn't start him in Week 12 and are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle one more time.

    As for the Cardinals, we're going on the assumption that Kurt Warner (DNP -- neck) will suit up against Favre and the Vikings in Week 13 ... so there's no use in breaking down Matt Leinart's so-so effort (220 passing yards, zero TDs). Along those lines, let's assume that Anquan Boldin (5 catches, 53 yards), Larry Fitzgerald (4 catches, 34 yards) and Steve Breaston will exceed 13 combined catches and 113 yards in subsequent contests -- like Week 13 (Minnesota), 14 (San Francisco), 15 (Detroit) and 16 (St. Louis). (Does Arizona have a great playoff-sked or not?) But we likely have enough data to make informed judgments on Tim Hightower (78 total yards, 1 TD) and Beanie Wells: Start 'em both!

  • Indianapolis 35, Houston 27
  • Wow! For a game that yielded 62 points and featured five combined TDs from Peyton Manning and Matt Schaub, our cavalcade of non-QB megastars fell woefully short of posting monster numbers. Don't get us wrong here: We're thrilled with Dallas Clark (9 catches, 63 yards, 1 TD), Pierre Garcon (5 catches, 63 yards, 1 TD), Joseph Addai (82 total yards), Steve Slaton (106 total yards) and Andre Johnson (5 catches, 67 yards) ... but no stud would've carried their teams to a fantasy title in Week 12. But then again, perhaps that's WHY championships aren't won in late November.

    In the short term, Manning (244 passing yards, 3 TDs), Addai, Garcon and Wayne are all superb plays in Week 13 against Tennessee. Heck, even Chad Simpson (2 carries, 20 yards, 1 TD) has a chance at finding the end zone again. As for the Texans, we're hoping they're not headed toward a week-to-week meltdown of epic proportions, after blowing two huge leads against Indy. But then again, it's rather easy to spot a club on the brink of implosion.

  • Seattle 27, St. Louis 17
  • Oh sure, Seahawks fans could care less about the precipitous decline of Matt Hasselbeck (120 total yards, zero TDs) as a week-in, week-out fantasy stud -- especially if he can lead Seattle past San Francisco in Week 13. But for the rest of us ... it's time to break out Taps and salute a legend who has finally reached his breaking point. This demise greatly affects the values of Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, John Carlson, Deion Branch, as well. Right here, right now, only Housh possesses some late-season trade value ... and only Burleson has a chance to recapture the flame that burned brightly in September. Bottom line: RB Justin Forsett (130 rushing yards, 2 TDs) is the only rubber-stamp starter in 12-team leagues down the stretch (San Francisco, Houston, Tampa Bay). In fact, he's a reasonable lock for 100 yards and/or one TD for all three games. (On a totally unrelated note, you can probably dump Julius Jones in 10- or 12-teamers.)

    The story hasn't changed much for Rams playmakers in recent weeks. Yes, Donnie Avery (4 catches, 48 yards, 1 TD) has looked solid of late. Yes, WR Brandon Gibson (3 catches, 18 yards) is the subject of much fantasy intrigue with deeper PPR leagues. And yes, QB Kyle Boller (308 total yards, 1 TD) actually looks somewhat competent in fantasyland when playing from behind. But when discussing this team, it begins and ends with RB Steven Jackson (116 total yards, 1 TD) ... and there's not a league on earth where he couldn't crack the starting lineup as a flex option. And with games against Chicago, Tennessee, Houston and Arizona on the immediate horizon, he's a shoo-in for 115 total yards and .5 TDs every week.

  • Atlanta 20, Tampa Bay 17
  • We could easily break down the unexpected fantasy goodness of Falcons backup QB Chris Redman (247 total yards, 2 TDs), RB Jerious Norwood (50 total yards, 1 TD) and WR Michael Jenkins (7 catches, 80 yards) ... but the unanswered questions surrounding Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Jason Snelling make for more interesting fantasy fare. Starting with Ryan (15 total yards), can a simple toe injury keep a highly competitive player out of the real-world playoff chase? With Turner (33 yards in limited action), how many times does someone need to re-aggravate a high-ankle sprain before the cartilage becomes loose and unbreakable, preventing any future maladies? And with Snelling, should we interpret the four touches (for 8 measly yards) as a clear sign that he's taking a backseat to Norwood -- or did 'game situations' play a larger role in his inactivity? No matter how you slice it, fantasy owners must tread very lightly on all Falcons in the next 12-14 days ... although Tony Gonzalez (9 catches, 83 yards) and Roddy White (5 catches, 57 yards, 1 TD) are probably unbenchable commodities at this point (when healthy, of course).

    Looking for a great fantasy pickup off the waiver wire, one who has a better-than-even shot at your starting lineup in the next three weeks? Look no further than Tampa Bay's Antonio Bryant (3 catches, 91 yards, 1 TD), who finally showed tangible signs of recapturing his fantasy greatness from '08. Granted, he's been battling injuries all season, and he's a real-world free agent this winter (playing through pain), but Bryant seems to have regained the patented burst that made him a solid Round 4 pick back in August -- while stuck on injured reserve. Of course, any Bryant goodness directly affects QB Josh Freeman (264 total yards, 2 TDs), which is fine with us. From our view in the nose-bleed seats, Freeman has legitimately passed Mark Sanchez as the second-best rookie QB in fantasyland (behind Matthew Stafford). And with a little help from his friends -- Bryant, Kellen Winslow, Derrick Ward, Cadillac Williams -- there's still time to catch him in the race.

  • Revelations, Book III
    Antonio Gates (85) and Philip Rivers: Harry How/Getty Images
    San Diego 43, Kansas City 14
  • Ever see the movie Sliding Doors starring Gwyneth Paltrow, or the TV adaptation of it from a classic Frasier episode? With that in mind, try to imagine how the Chargers might've fared against the Chiefs if they hadn't worn their classic powder-blue unis -- opting for the traditional blue duds instead. In the powder-blue world, TE Antonio Gates had seven catches for 118 yards and two touchdowns. In the club's parallel universe (aka, the traditional-unis world), he finished with one catch and 12 yards (coincidentally, that was Vincent Jackson's output on Sunday). In the powder-blue world, QB Philip Rivers ended up with 321 total yards (317 passing) and two TDs; in his parallel universe, he rang up only 15 passing yards (Billy Volek's Sunday output). As for RB LaDainian Tomlinson, he finished with 44 total yards and two TDs in the powder-blue world ... and 83 total yards but zero TDs in the alternate universe (Darren Sproles' Sunday numbers). What's our point to this? Frankly, there is none. We just love San Diego's fantasy karma when decked out in the old-school uniforms -- even if it calls for LT morphing into Jerome Bettis before our very eyes.

    Regarding the Chiefs, yes, they only scored two touchdowns against a defense that's notorious for surrendering yards and points in alarming chunks; and yes, Dwayne Bowe won't be back until Week 15 (drug supension). But we've finally reached the point in the season when patient fantasy owners shall be rewarded, as Kansas City salivates over a three-game homestand against Denver, Buffalo and Cleveland. QB Matt Cassel (200 total yards, 1 TD, 1 INT vs. San Diego) is a rock-solid starting consideration in all formats from Weeks 13-15; RB Jamaal Charles (147 total yards, 1 TD) is an absolute must-start in 12- or 14-team leagues; and WR Chris Chambers (7 catches, 70 yards, 1 TD) represents the perfect flex option for PPR and standard-scoring leagues. It goes without saying: Cassel, Chambers and Charles should not be affected by the Chiefs' choice of retro uniform over the next three weeks.

  • Cincinnati 16, Cleveland 7
  • As far as we can tell, no NFL team has ever had three 100-yard rushers in the same game. But if it were to happen at any point this season, who wouldn't place their bets on the Bengals' power trio of Cedric Benson, Bernard Scott and Larry Johnson? At the very least, either tailback is a reasonable threat for 110 yards and/or one touchdown every Sunday -- especially when the Browns are on the docket. And in a perfect world, each back could singlehandedly carry owners to a fantasy championship in Week 16 (vs. Kansas City). If we had to choose amongst the threesome, a fully healthy Benson would obviously get the nod. But it's a genuine dead-heat between Scott (87 rushing yards vs. Cleveland) and LJ (107 rushing yards) after that ... with Johnson getting a razor-thin edge (chalk it up to name-brand loyalty).

    Regarding the Browns, there's not really much to discuss for Week 12 -- unless you're a sadist. So, let's focus on Cleveland's home date with San Diego in Week 13: We're predicting -- with 95 percent confidence -- that WR Mohamed Massaquoi will catch five balls for 93 yards and one touchdown. What's the cause of such hubris, especially with a rookie from arguably the NFL's most inept offense? Throwing out Week 2's goose egg against the Broncos, Massaquoi averaged 93.5 receiving yards in games 4, 6, 8 and 10. And as luck would have it, Game No. 12 is on deck.

  • N.Y. Jets 17, Carolina 6
  • Can you believe it? We have a second straight game in Book III where both quarterbacks failed to throw for 160 yards; and in this case, neither Jake Delhomme (130 yards, 4 INTs) nor Mark Sanchez (154 passing yards, 1 INT) accounted for one touchdown. Thank goodness these squares aren't starting in 12- or 14-team leagues, huh? And as expected, the QB-inefficiency had a negative effect on WRs Steve Smith (1 catch, 5 yards), Jerricho Cotchery (1 catch, 12 yards), Braylon Edwards (3 catches, 40 yards), while creating decent chances for TEs Dustin Keller (4 catches, 68 yards) and Dante Rosario (4 catches, 62 yards). Of course, Keller's numbers would be noticeably higher if he hadn't fumbled while awkwardly reaching for the end zone against Carolina. Seriously, what possesses a player to work soooo hard to approach the goal line, only to casually stretch for the final few inches? Somewhere in the world, a fantasy owner won/lost his/her Week 12 matchup off Keller's blunder. Bummer.

    Staying with the 'disappointment' theme, DeAngelo Williams (50 total yards) and Jonathan Stewart (35 yards) brought nothing but heartache to Week 12, but it's not like they were destined to succeed, with eight or nine Jets defenders roaming the proverbial 'box' on nearly every snap (let's just call it The Delhomme Principle). But on the positive side, at least Williams escaped significant injury and should be a top-5 RB consideration next week against the Bucs at home. Thomas Jones (86 total yards, 1 TD) also has a tasty Week 13 matchup against the Bills ... and as a bonus, he won't have to worry about Buffalo's wintry weather -- unless the good people at Toronto's Rogers Centre keep the roof open. ("Look kids, CN Tower/SkyDome!")

  • San Francisco 20, Jacksonville 3
  • It's customary to start with the winning team in Revelations, but there's just something about David Garrard that leaves us screaming, How is it possible for a professional football team to score three measly points when its QB throws for 307 yards and ZERO interceptions? Seriously, how many clubs in NFL history have ever produced so little from so much passing goodness? Looking at the numbers, Garrard (25 of 36 passing) hit eight different receivers with at least one pass. His running backs averaged FIVE yards per carry against the 49ers. And Maurice Jones-Drew, for good measure, had 20 touches for 105 total yards. All told, and it made for typical, sneaky-good fantasy fare from the Jags -- except on the scoreboard. Now, ordinarily, we'd worry about Jacksonville's future prospects, coming off such a crunch-time clunker. But with Houston in the on-deck circle, there is ample evidence to suggest the queasy Texans are ripe for surrendering 30-40 points -- at Jacksonville. Not only does that portend great things for MJD, Garrard and WR Mike Sims-Walker (4 catches, 46 yards) ... we think WR Mike Thomas (4 catches, 62 yards) will finally crack the century mark in receiving yards. Boom!

    As for the 49ers, we like Frank Gore's 23 touches (for 47 yards and one TD), Vernon Davis' 6-catch, 69-yard, 1-TD outing and QB Alex Smith's coolly efficient 232 yards and two TDs. However, does this constitute as sufficient fantasy momentum for Week 13 at Seattle, with the Seahawks facing an absolute must-win scenario for playoff survival? We say 'no' ... unless the Seahawks defenders would sign an agreement not to harm Gore during running plays or well-timed screen passes -- just like they did back in Week 2.

  • Jay Clemons can be found on Twitter, day and night (@SI_JayClemons), accessing your fantasy questions and comments. You can also read his award-winning Revelations every Sunday and Monday during the NFL season.
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