Fantasy Football 2012: Stars with Brutal Upcoming Schedules

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystNovember 19, 2012

Fantasy Football 2012: Stars with Brutal Upcoming Schedules

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    It's the stretch run of the 2012 fantasy football season and with only a few regular season contests remaining, some teams are just playing out the string while others are busily making preparations for the fantasy postseason.

    For both teams that have already made the playoffs and those still fighting to get in, it can be a huge help to examine fantasy matchups from here out, as players with favorable schedules can provide a much-needed boost while those with rough stretches may lay an egg just when their fantasy owners can least afford it.

    It's that latter group we'll focus on here, and while odds are you're still going to start the following handful of fantasy stars, it's at least worth knowing that doing so may carry with it more risk than usual.

    After all, forewarned is forearmed.

Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots

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    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is once again lighting up the stat sheet in his 13th NFL season, and Brady's nearly 3,000 passing yards and 21 touchdowns ranks him fourth among fantasy quarterbacks at this point in the season.

    Fantasy owners will all but surely keep rolling the Golden Boy right back out there week after week, but it's worth keeping in the back of your mind that with matchups against the Houston Texans and San Francisco 49ers still on tap, that Brady has the sixth-hardest fantasy schedule for quarterbacks the rest of the season.

    Other quarterbacks with difficult schedules: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions; Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals; Robert Griffin, Washington Redskins

Adrian Peterson, RB, Minnesota Vikings

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    To say that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has come back strong from last December's ACL tear would be a slight understatement.

    Not only does Peterson lead the NFL with 1,128 rushing yards, but on the heels of a career-high 5.8 yards per carry and seven rushing touchdowns, Peterson is fantasy football's second-ranked running back.

    With that said, however, the sixth-year veteran may be hard-pressed to keep producing at this pace, as no running back in the NFL has a more difficult schedule down the stretch than Peterson.

    Other running backs with difficult schedules: Matt Forte, Chicago Bears; Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens; Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers

Brandon Marshall, WR, Chicago Bears

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    After a decade without a 1,000-yard wide receiver, it appears that a very long drought is about to end in the Windy City as wide receiver Brandon Marshall needs fewer than 100 yards to become the first wideout since Marty Booker in 2002 to hit that plateau for the Chicago Bears.

    For the season the seventh-year veteran has reeled in 67 catches for 904 yards and seven touchdowns, and that production has been enough to garner Marshall fantasy's top spot at the position through the season's first 10 games.

    Whether that production will continue remains to be seen, however, as Marshall and the Bears face the third-most difficult fantasy schedule for wide receivers the rest of the season.

    Other wide receivers with difficult schedules: Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals; Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings; Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Aaron Hernandez, TE, New England Patriots

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    The New England Patriots' victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Week 11 came at a heavy price, as star tight end Rob Gronkowski fractured his forearm late in the blowout win and will be sidelined for at least the next month.

    That puts an added impetus on Aaron Hernandez to return to the field after missing several games with an injured ankle, but fantasy owners who have been anxiously awaiting his return should bear in mind that the third-year pro has the fourth-hardest fantasy schedule for tight ends the rest of the way.

    Other tight ends with difficult schedules: Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions; Heath Miller, Pittsburgh Steelers; Owen Daniels, Houston Texans