FANTASY PLAYS: It's time to trust the replacement runners
It's time to fire up those backfield replacements. And there sure are plenty to go around.
The injuries that have claimed several big-name players this season have opened the door for some lesser-known guys to get a shot in Week 12, just in time to be a potential factor in your league's playoff chase.
My colleague, Denver-based sports writer Pat Graham, led off Tuesday's edition of ''Fantasy Plays'' with the case of Baltimore rookie runner Javorius ''Buck'' Allen, who is expected to take over with Justin Forsett lost to a broken arm. There's also Seattle rookie Thomas Rawls - who had a win-a-week-by-himself outing in Week 11 - Atlanta's Tevin Coleman and Kansas City's Spencer Ware.
Rawls finished with 255 total yards and two touchdowns with Marshawn Lynch out with an abdominal injury that required surgery earlier this week, setting him up to be a legit workhorse for the stretch run. Coleman looks likely to take the lead in Atlanta with Devonta Freeman recovering from a concussion.
Each guy has the potential to go from being little more than bench fodder or roster stash to a potential lottery ticket. Cash them in this week if those inactives come out as expected.
THOUGHTS ENTERING WEEK(END) 12
- New England's receiving corps is awfully dinged up. After losing Julian Edelman, now Danny Amendola is in question due to a knee injury. Brandon LaFell is still getting targets, but he's a dicey play against Denver if it's just him and Rob Gronkowski catching balls from Tom Brady.
- Can you really feel comfortable starting anyone from San Diego against Jacksonville? (No.) Philip Rivers is playing behind a shoddy offensive line, and that trickles down to Danny Woodhead and Antonio Gates, too. And forget about disappointing rookie runner Melvin Gordon, while you're at it.
- Tampa Bay's Doug Martin ran for 235 yards last week, his fourth 100-yard game this season. He's also been up and down with four other games in which he failed to crack 80 total yards. Keep starting him, just never be surprised by any line he posts.
- New Orleans is coming out of the bye, so will wideout Brandin Cooks pick up where he left off? After a disappointing start, he's had three straight games with at least 13 points entering the trip to Houston.
- Cleveland tight end Gary Barnidge became a top-notch starter with Josh McCown at quarterback, then lost some of his mojo with Johnny Manziel's promotion. With McCown back as starter, go back to Barnidge with optimism against Baltimore on Monday night.
Many leagues have trade deadlines this week. And if you're in an auction keeper league with a team going nowhere and a deadline still approaching, it's probably worth looking to next year.
As an example, I made a deadline deal in one league that I clearly wouldn't make in a redraft league: parting with Eddie Lacy and Demaryius Thomas in exchange for the injured Julian Edelman and Travis Kelce (with a few spare parts thrown in on both sides). The buyer was looking for help in a playoff push, while the acquisitions of Edelman ($20) and Kelce ($13) are affordable keeper options in a half-point PPR league.
The point is, don't be afraid to cut bait on the season and look at some moves if your deadline is still ahead. You might take losses now, but what's a few more if you're already out of the playoff hunt? It might give you a head start on 2016.
Aaron Beard is an Associated Press sports writer based in Raleigh, North Carolina. He's in his 14th season of obsessing over lineup decisions in fantasy football. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap and the AP's NFL site at http://pro32.ap.org