Fantasy Football: C.J. Spiller Headlines Early Guide to Week 12 Success
The following countdown serves as a roundabout primer for NFL Week 12, a time when fantasy leagues are developing division champions and playoff contenders for the stretch run.
This should be yet another supplement to the countless positional rankings and strategy-oriented posts that run daily on The Fantasy Blog.
Enjoy the show!
Stars Primed for Week 12 Greatness
1. QB Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Skinny: At first blush, it doesn't make sense to endorse Aaron Rodgers (2,619 yards passing, 27 TDs) as the No. 1 quarterback for Week 12.
He hasn't exceeded 250 yards passing in his last three games. His receiving corps isn't at full strength. And the Packers' rushing attack ranks near the bottom of the league.
Yet, Rodgers has tallied 24 touchdown passes in his last seven games. And in two outings against the Giants last year (including the playoffs), he averaged 317 yards passing and three touchdowns.
2. RB C.J. Spiller, Bills
Skinny: Since Week 6, C.J. Spiller (1,059 total yards, five TDs) is 5-for-5 in racking up 100 total yards—an impressive stat that transitions nicely into the next factoid:
In the last two seasons, Spiller has had to finish 11 games without backfield mate Fred Jackson. In those outings, he amassed 1,296 total yards and nine touchdowns...for sterling averages of 117.8 yards and 0.81 TDs.
For this countdown, it also helps that Spiller gets a crack at a Colts defense ranked 21st against the run...and surrendered two rushing touchdowns last week against the Patriots.
Don't forget about Spiller's two-game track record in the last two seasons when playing indoors: 106 total yards and 0.5 touchdowns.
Bottom line: From any angle, Spiller is a lock for big numbers against Indy.
3. WR A.J. Green, Bengals
Skinny: At this point, I'm through guessing when A.J. Green's nine-game touchdown streak (10 during that span) will come to an end.
He's on a roll that would make Jerry Rice, Michael Irvin, Don Hutson, Randy Moss (in his heyday) or Calvin Johnson blush. Plus, he has a can't-miss matchup against the Raiders this week.
Speaking of which, Raiders QB Carson Palmer will get all the media attention for his Cincinnati homecoming (unless he fulfills that 2011 promise of never stepping foot inside Paul Brown Stadium again). But I'm excited to see how Bengals QB Andy Dalton handles the hoopla, as well.
Surely, Dalton will want to match his predecessor pass-for-pass and touchdown-for-touchdown. Let's hope he'll tell the Cincinnati coaches: "Hey, I know Oakland doesn't handle the run particularly well. But please, please tell me we've got 35 pass plays in the Sunday budget.''
With 30-plus passes come double-digit targets and a touchdown for the incomparable Green.
Prominent Waiver-Wire Pickups
1. RB Ronnie Hillman, Broncos
Skinny: Ronnie Hillman (250 total yards, one TD) may not be the most prolific free agent on the market, but he's the most important asset of the bunch.
No matter the league size or scoring rules, you can never have enough talented rushers on a roster. The rookie Hillman has all the physical tools to be a fantasy star, sooner than later.
With Willis McGahee out with a torn MCL, the burden of balancing out Peyton Manning's greatness falls to Hillman, Lance Ball and Knowshon Moreno in the Broncos' backfield.
Ideally, one of the trio will emerge as the go-to target when running between the 20s and inside the red zone. My money's on Hillman, who reminded me of LeSean McCoy coming out of college last spring.
2. WR Justin Blackmon, Jaguars
Skinny: Last week, Justin Blackmon established new career highs in catches (seven), targets (13) and receiving yards (236) against the Texans. Compare that to his first nine games when Blackmon had a grand total of 250 yards.
He also joined Andre Johnson (273 yards) to become the first tandem of opposing receivers to record 200-plus yards in the same game.
But since only a fraction of the fantasy populace started Blackmon last week, that breakthrough performance has little relevance here. The focus shifts to the following: Can Blackmon quickly evolve into a weekly threat for seven catches and 80 yards—reasonable stats for a high-upside rookie? Or is he a better bet for a pedestrian two catches and 45 yards on Sunday?
Considering the Titans' consistently erratic defense, it would be a major disappointment if Blackmon and the next asset in our countdown flop this weekend.
3. QB Chad Henne, Jaguars
Skinny: In relief of the injured Blaine Gabbert last week, Chad Henne threw for 354 yards and a career-high four touchdowns against the Texans.
Of equal importance, he connected with Justin Blackmon (236 yards) in a manner that had somehow eluded Gabbert throughout the season's first half.
Bottom line: At age 27, Henne is at the perfect age to carry a moribund franchise for another five or six years—especially one that hasn't had a blue-chip franchise quarterback since the days of Mark Brunell (sorry, Byron Leftwich and David Garrard).
To clarify, I'm not saying Henne will become a seven-year fixture in the Jacksonville lineup. But he certainly deserves a slew of chances to prove his short-term worth, regardless of Gabbert's availability.
Of course, if Henne wants to make a long-lasting impression over the next four weeks, he'll find a way to accurately target Blackmon, Cecil Shorts and Laurent Robinson approximately 20 times per game.
1. RB LeSean McCoy, Eagles
Skinny: Late in Philly's 31-6 blowout loss to Washington, LeSean McCoy suffered a minor concussion—or as head coach Andy Reid termed "a little headache."
Hopefully, McCoy will be cleared before the Eagles-Panthers game on Monday night. But for insurance purposes, it might be helpful to acquire Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams or Philly backup Bryce Brown before Turkey Day.
2. QB Kevin Kolb, Cardinals
Skinny: There was speculation last week that Kevin Kolb (ribs) would return for the Cardinals' clash with the Falcons. But that didn't happen to the dismay of the eight fantasy owners worldwide who started John Skelton against Atlanta. (Ouch.)
But that Kolb optimism gets transferred over to this week against the Rams. After all, if the Cardinals have any shot of converting a 4-6 season into a playoff berth. Kolb will likely be the featured option at quarterback.
As for Larry Fitzgerald owners, they'll surely take Kolb at 70 percent over Skelton or Ryan Lindley at full health.
3. WR Percy Harvin, Vikings
Skinny: Minnesota's Week 11 bye might have done wonders for Adrian Peterson's surgically repaired knee and Christian Ponder's fragile psyche, but it remains to be seen if Percy Harvin (ankle) will be ready for the Bears on Sunday.
When Harvin went down against the Seahawks three weeks ago, I figured his injury would result in a two-game absence. In essence, I am mentally prepared to bench him in four leagues, with an eye toward starting him as a WR2 or flex option in Week 13 against the Packers.
Surefire Fringe Starters for Week 12
1. RB Shonn Greene, Jets
Skinny: If the Jets are smart, they'll run Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell (two scores last week) approximately 35 times on Thursday to keep the scoring reasonably low and Tom Brady off the field.
In his last four outings against New England (including the 2010 playoffs), Greene has per-game averages of 85 total yards and 0.8 TDs.
2. WR Danario Alexander, Chargers
Skinny: It has been stated many times in The Fantasy Blog: Never mess with a streak!
Against the Broncos last week, Danario Alexander established career highs in catches (seven), targets (11) and touchdowns (two). It was his second straight sterling performance with San Diego, just weeks after getting unceremoniously dumped by St. Louis.
In the last two games, Alexander has accounted for 12 catches, 18 targets, 230 yards and three touchdowns. And with Philip Rivers as his shepherd, it's easy to believe Alexander will once again find the end zone (against the Ravens).
3. QB Sam Bradford, Rams
Skinny: On the surface, it seems absurd to endorse a quarterback coming off a bad home loss to the Jets, and one who completed only seven passes against the Cardinals in Week 5. And yet, I'm supremely confident that Sam Bradford (2,242 yards passing, 13 TDs) will have a rock-solid fantasy outing on Sunday.
Maybe he'll even be a "lock" for 275 yards passing and/or three touchdowns.
Call it a roundabout hunch.
Stealth Starts in Points-Per-Reception Leagues
1. WR Denarius Moore, Raiders
Skinny: We referenced Carson Palmer's reluctant Cincinnati homecoming earlier in the countdown. Here's how it'll go down Sunday: Either Palmer has a game for the ages against his old team or a meltdown of epic proportions. There's really no middle ground.
As a fantasy optimist, I'm confident Palmer will throw for 300 yards and/or three touchdowns against the Bengals. For this vision to be realized, Denarius Moore (35 catches, 584 yards, five TDs) must play a huge role with the hot-and-cold Raiders offense.
From Weeks 3-10, spanning seven games, Moore scored at least one touchdown five times. For the season, he's perfect, collecting seven-plus targets in each outing.
2. WR T.Y. Hilton, Colts
Skinny: T.Y. Hilton scored a career-high two touchdowns against the Patriots last week. He also matched a personal best in receptions (six).
But we're just scratching the surface of his rookie production:
a. In nine career games, Hilton has already rolled for 100 receiving yards three times.
b. Hilton has scored three touchdowns in his last three games.
c. In his last four home outings, Hilton has posted 100 yards twice and collected eight-plus targets three times. For good measure, he has two touchdowns at Lucas Oil Stadium.
d. Of the Colts' talented pass-catchers (Reggie Wayne, Donnie Avery, LaVon Brazill, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener), Hilton may be the most explosive deep threat.
Not a bad claim to fame with Andrew Luck as your quarterback.
3. WR Ryan Broyles, Lions
Skinny: Amid Titus Young's holiday suspension (detrimental conduct) and Brandon Pettigrew's decline in tight end circles, the door is now wide open for Ryan Broyles to emerge as the Lions' No. 2 target on Thanksgiving—behind Calvin Johnson.
Maybe Broyles will end up being this week's Justin Blackmon. In the last five games, the sure-handed rookie has caught 15 of his 18 targeted balls.