Let me first share what I have found to be a powerful and guiding exercise in introspection.
Picture yourself 20 years from now, having achieved your life's goals. Really take some time and picture that in the center of your mind, down to the smallest little detail.
Then try to see things through the eyes of that version of you. Witness your mistakes and, more importantly, quantify your current resources through that mindset.
"Big things" can seem can seem very, very little, and vice versa.
The Trashman summed it up perfectly just this moment as luck would have it. Between this paragraph and the last, his response came to my earlier text, breaking to him the news that Baron Batch had been cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers:
"Successful at life. Football is details."
Think of your fantasy season the same way. It has had its ups and its downs, peaks and valleys of waiver-wire flops and all-stars, possible rocky patches intermingled with smooth shores. It's been a trip, especially for owners in multiple leagues. It always is.
Take five minutes to yourself and look back at your season as 2012's league champion. Realize that failing to pick up Marcel Reece was a foolish, foolish thing to do—especially in PPR leagues. You should have listened to me, and may God have mercy on your soul. But we will get to that.
This is your Week 12 breakdown.
These are matchup rankings. I am going to tell you what this means to you as a fantasy owner.
Every week, I take defensive scouting grades that I purchase (or personally acquire) from three different entities.
One of my sources for great scouting and individual performance grades is ProFootballFocus.
I take the cumulative grades from these sources and break them into four groups:
1. Those who will be covering the TEs.
2. Those who will be covering the WRs.
3. Those who will be defending against against the run in a "traditional" box.
4. Those who will be rushing the passer.
I then average those grades and use the combined totals to create "matchup vs. personnel" groups whose collective grade I then use as a weighted variable against standard "fantasy points allowed" to the position in question when projecting performance.
Sometimes the numbers don't tell the whole story, and that has to be accounted for.
I also give little weight to season averages in "fantasy points against" metrics. My system places much greater emphasis on more recent performance as certain teams are clearly improving, digressing or simply tanking and giving new talent a shot for real-game-evaluation purposes when making 2013 roster decisions.
These rankings should serve as indicators of opportunity for owners. Now that the bye weeks have passed, you have your full roster back.
It's funny that Thanksgiving brings such a yearly mixed blessing.
You now have tougher decisions to make about which players to sit and which players to start.
Top 5 Week 12 Fantasy RB Matchups
1. Indianapolis Colts RBs vs. Buffalo Bills
One quick look at the usage of the Colts RB corps in Week 11 would indicate that we are trending towards a succession at the starting running-back position in Indy from Donald Brown to Vick Ballard.
Philadelphia Eagles DT Fletcher Cox told my radio co-host at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine that Ballard was the toughest RB to tackle of any that he faced in college, even though he only faced Ballard on the practice field at Mississippi State. If I own Ballard, I am getting him into my lineup at the flex position without question.
If I own Donald Brown, I am hesitant, but I may find solace in the thought that perhaps Brown's recent lack of significant on-field action may be more the result of "getting eased back in" from knee injury, but that is starting to seem like grasping at straws. If Brown does not produce or get utilized in this most favorable of matchups, cut him loose. That's when we'll know it's Ballard's job.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars RBs vs. Tennessee Titans
Jalen Parmele came in last week against one of the toughest matchups for RBs in fantasy football in the Houston Texans and was sufficiently key in aiding to make the Week 11 AFC South shootout completely and totally Twilight Zone-esque in nature with his very solid performance.
Parmele is a better running back than Rashad Jennings, and for some reason, the team seems to hate Jennings. With a seemingly rejuvenated passing attack resting squarely on the unlikely arm of Chad Henne, the production that is poised to be available to the Jacksonville RB position in this matchup is something that should not be overlooked. Parmele should be a top waiver pickup this week and is worthy of consideration as a solid flex play.
3. San Francisco 49ers RBs at New Orleans Saints
You're going to have Frank Gore in your lineups; expect a big week.
However, Kendall Hunter remains a risky flex play regardless of the great matchup. Hunter's usage has been too up-and-down in 2012 to adequately project any reasonably safe fantasy floor to couple with his significant upside.
4. Cincinnati Bengals RBs vs. Oakland Raiders
Benjarvus Green-Ellis got back on the map last week, and expect that to continue in Week 12 at home.
Cedric Peerman is worth consideration at the flex position in 14-team and deeper leagues. Peerman was only in on eight snaps in Week 11, but the team has said they want to get him more involved, and it showed. During those eight snaps, Peerman touched the ball eight times for a very serviceable flex-level performance of 7.5 points in standard leagues.
5. Arizona Cardinals RBs vs. St. Louis Rams
Many a "genius" fantasy owner rostered perennially disappointing Cardinals RB Beanie Wells in recent weeks, anticipating his expected Week 12 return to the playing field from non-season-ending injured reserve.
I like it. I don't love Wells, but I like him this week.
He has first-round pedigree and knows the system. He has fresh legs and is a much, much more impressive physical specimen than recent fill-in LaRod Stephens-Howling, who has been brilliant in road games but, for some reason, terrible at home during the absence of Wells and Ryan Williams.
Worst 5 Week 12 Fantasy RB Matchups
1. Detroit Lions RBs at Houston Texans
Mikel LeShoure is a running back who has been hot lately, while Joique Bell, a player who became a bit of a hot commodity for a while, is now sitting back on many waiver wires. This week, I am downgrading LeShoure in my personal rankings, as I do not like his versatility.
Bell represents the piece in the Lions offense that can be utilized in hurry-up sets and the passing game. If someone in your league dropped Bell, I would recommend kicking the tires if you are in a pinch, especially in PPR leagues.
2. New Orleans Saints RBs vs. San Francisco 49ers
Well, what a mess this is.
I would not start a single Saints RB in this matchup.
I know the 49ers are not quite the run-stopping unit they have been in years past, but the Saints are far too obvious in their deployment of RB-corps role players. If Mark Ingram or Chris Ivory are in the backfield in a set that involves a TE on the line of scrimmage, they are getting the ball.
If I can notice this trend, 49ers DC Vic Fangio certainly will, and the 49ers will be pinning their ears back on those first and second downs.
Pierre Thomas has been a virtual non-factor, and the only Saints RB I would teeter on the option of starting in this horrible matchup would be Darren Sproles if he returns. He is the kind of player you turn to when the run fails, which it will.
3. Kansas City Chiefs RBs at Denver Broncos
It just takes one play for Jamaal Charles to make your fantasy week, and I'm not worried. You have to roll with him every week. Any other Chiefs RB, that's an entirely different, entirely opposite story.
4. Seattle Seahawks RBs at Miami Dolphins
Never bench Beast Mode.
5. Cleveland Browns RBs vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
You can't bench Richardson either.
I would downgrade my expectations, however, and hope Richardson will find ways to become increasingly involved as a pass-catcher, as the Steelers have shown a greater propensity to give up big plays to these sorts of players.
Top 5 Week 12 Fantasy WR Matchups
1. San Francisco 49ers WRs at New Orleans Saints
Whether Colin Kaepernick or Alex Smith starts, the only WR worth starting in this matchup is Michael Crabtree. Crabtree's recent uptick in production was proven on Monday night to be capable of translating effectively from an Alex Smith-led offense to a Kaepernick-led offense.
2. Green Bay Packers WRs at New York Giants
If you own Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb, they will be in your lineups outside of extraordinarily ridiculous circumstances. James Jones is the most TD-dependent of any fantasy WR in 2012's current top 50, but he does find the end zone frequently.
Jones relies on touchdowns for over half of his fantasy output. That is usually indicative of a very unreliable situation. On the football side, however, it is game-planning tendencies, and it is a trend to recognize and understand as a fantasy owner.
If it keeps happening, then there is something there.
3. Atlanta Falcons WRs at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Two words: victory cigars.
Roddy White and Julio Jones should both go off, provided Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez don't swindle all the red-zone action.
Smoke 'em if you got 'em.
4. Tennessee Titans WRs at Jacksonville Jaguars
I am predicting a breakout week from a man who at some point in his life has likely contemplated breaking out of jail. Jake Locker is back at QB, and in Week 10, he targeted enigmatic WR Kenny Britt twice as much as any other player.
The team has indicated they want to get Britt more involved, and coming off a bye in a division matchup, I feel like Locker will continue to showcase what is hoped to be the franchise's connection of the future with sidekick Kendall Wright.
I see Britt as an Andre Johnson-type player when healthy, and we saw what happened last week.
5. Buffalo Bills WRs at Indianapolis Colts
Stevie Johnson should optimally be in your flex position, but this is a week when I'm comfortable rolling with him at WR2. Donald Jones remains a major boom-or-bust player, but he's on the field for virtually every play, so he's always a threat to get involved.
Worst 5 Week 12 Fantasy WR Matchups
1. Cleveland Browns WRs at Pittsburgh Steelers
The only star in this motley crew is Josh Gordon. But I would recommend you consider sitting him this week in your flex for other options.
2. Miami Dolphins WRs vs. Seattle Seahawks
If the Seahawks go into press coverage against Dolphins WRs Brian Hartline and Davone Bess, the logical expectation would be a (very welcome to fantasy owners) transition to Reggie Bush as a primary extension of the run as a passing target.
Hartline and Bess have been very dependable for what one could reasonably expect, but Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are very tall and very physical. I think they'll be grumpy after a trip that requires their traveling the longest distance that any NFL team must travel to play another in the lower 48.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers WRs vs. Atlanta Falcons
I can't tell you to bench Vincent Jackson ever, and even after how bad he has been lately, it's hard for me to hate Mike Williams too much in this matchup. Williams is due for a breakout, and I love the role he is playing. But he has been bad in division matchups against much easier matchups for fantasy WRs.
4. Minnesota Vikings WRs at Chicago Bears
I like it that Percy Harvin is coming off a bye, and while he isn't practicing fully, the team has reported no setbacks, and indications are that he will go.
I have to reluctantly endorse starting Harvin if he is indeed active. If you count special-teams production, Harvin has been a Chicago-killer, having never gone for less than 100 yards or having at least one touchdown in every career meeting.
5. New Orleans Saints WRs vs. San Francisco 49ers
This game could get really weird really quickly, and I love Drew Brees and anything connected to his arm when times get tough.
Start your Saints WRs as you normally would: Colston as a weak WR1, Moore as a solid flex play/WR3 and Devery Henderson as a Hail Mary, boom-or-bust player only.
Top 5 Week 12 Fantasy QB Matchups
1. Colin Kaepernick at New Orleans Saints
Kaepernick has not been named starter at time of print, but to me, it seems like the writing is on the wall.
Kaepernick, a name very familiar to our geeky world of NFL draftniks, introduced himself to the mainstream on Monday night with a monster outing against a vicious Chicago Bears defense. If he draws the start against New Orleans, Kaepernick is likely to generate production via his legs alone that would equal a top-15 performance at RB.
Ben Roethlisberger owners, take notice.
2. Jake Locker at Jacksonville Jaguars
I like Kenny Britt in this matchup and feel like it is the kind of division game where Jacksonville could be poised for a letdown at home. Like Kaepernick, Locker's rushing production provides an adequate fantasy floor on which to stack the exploits of a juicy matchup.
You will never see five picks out of the guy again, and he will be angry. Don't even think about benching him.
4. Aaron Rodgers at New York Giants
The best QB in fantasy will be Week 12's top producer.
5. Andy Dalton vs. Oakland Raiders
You should be good to roll with Dalton for another week, and as long as A.J. Green is connected to his arm, he always represents a decent option.
Worst 5 Week 12 Fantasy QB Matchups
1. Brandon Weeden at Pittsburgh Steelers
Stay away. There's no need to swindle yourself with this one.
If you are desperate for waiver-wire QB plays, I have good news. They are all over the place currently. Weeden is not the play to make in this game. This time last season, Colt McCoy was "turning a corner" coming into the game in Pittsburgh as well.
2. Drew Brees vs. San Francisco 49ers
Brees has been known to wet the fantasy bed on occasion in late-season out-of-dvision away games, but this game is in the dome, and this is no regular season in the Big Easy.
3. Ryan Tannehill vs. Seattle Seahawks
Thank goodness you would never think about starting him.
4. Christian Ponder at Chicago Bears
See note on Ryan Tannehill.
5. Robert Griffin III at Dallas Cowboys
When Robert Griffin III had his Baylor pro day, one person in attendance told me it was the biggest media event that Waco, Tex., located 100 miles south of Dallas, has seen since the ATF raided the Branch Davidian complex to end the David Koresh saga.
RG3 will come to play, and you are going to see a whole lot of red No. 10 jerseys in the stands on Thanksgiving day.
Top 5 Week 12 Fantasy TE Matchups
1. San Francisco 49ers TEs at New Orleans Saints
If Colin Kaepernick starts, expect another big game out of Vernon Davis. Davis is a locker-room leader in San Francisco who has been frustrated by his recent lack of involvement. As of Monday night, it seems as though Davis, one of Alex Smith's most vocal public endorsers, has joined the Kaepernick fan club.
Welcome aboard, Vernon.
2. Kansas City Chiefs TEs at Denver Broncos
Tony Moeaki has been getting more and more targets, especially in the last two weeks, and the tight end who broke the Chiefs single-season rookie receptions record at the position in 2010 seems to finally be coming on again after missing 2011 with a knee injury.
3. Green Bay Packers TEs at New York Giants
Jermichael Finley came back alive last week and is rolling into a matchup against the most-burned linebacking corps in the league by my eyes.
The seemingly improved safety play in New York has not helped the Giants exploits against the tight end, and Finley is a streaky player. Ride him while he's hot if you don't own a stud TE. Finley may have been dropped in your league—as he was in two of mine prior to Sunday's breakout.
4. New York Jets TEs vs. New England Patriots
I don't trust Dustin Keller any farther than I can throw him, but he has to do something at some point, right?
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers TEs vs. Atlanta Falcons
Dallas Clark has been in my top 20 TEs as a weekly staple for the second half of the 2012 season, and I love veterans in statement division matchups.
Worst 5 Week 12 Fantasy TE Matchups
1. Pittsburgh Steelers TEs at Cleveland Browns
Old man Charlie Batch will start at QB, and while Heath Miller has thrived in Todd Haley's offense with Ben Roethlisberger under center, it is obvious that he is being used as an aid in pass protection in Big Ben's absence, frequently staying inside to help the offensive tackles in their assignments as the edges of the Steelers offensive line remain a liability even given the progression in the interior guard and center positions.
2. New York Giants TEs vs. Green Bay Packers
I can't trust Martellus Bennett, and neither can you.
He's the epitome of a boom-or-bust player, and while he may finish as a top-15 fantasy TE for the 2012 season, his production has been too unpredictable and sporadic for fantasy purposes in most cases.
A bad matchup like this makes things worse.
3. New Orleans Saints TEs vs. San Francsico 49ers
The saints don't have a TE; they have a monster in Jimmy Graham. Nothing to see here.
4. St. Louis Rams TEs at Arizona Cardinals
Thank goodness you would never start one.
5. Miami Dolphins TEs vs. Seattle Seahawks
See note above.