If ever there was a week to explore some intriguing breakout fantasy football performers in the NFL, it was Week 12.
Not only did we see some huge performances from surprising players, but with the fantasy playoffs approaching, owners are now looking to bolster their squads to make the playoffs or reinforce their teams in what they hope will be a championship campaign.
That means every waiver-wire move is vital, each claim must be carefully considered, and falling for fool's gold—or as I like to call it, Nick Foles Gold—can be the difference between glory and agony.
So with that in mind, I present Week 12's "Fact or Fiction," an examination of those performances that were a sign of great things to come and those which were a mirage that will have fantasy owners splashing sand into their mouths.
Choose wisely, my friends. And may this slideshow guide you on your journey. (Somebody cue the dramatic music.)
16-for-30, 210 passing yards, three touchdowns; 20 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues
Since the Bengals' Week 8 bye, Dalton has 10 touchdowns and just one interception in four games. In the past three games, he's exceeded 20 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues.
That begs one main question: Is Andy Dalton now a legitimate QB1 you should start each week or is he simply a solid quarterback you should use when he has the right matchups?
If you believe it's the former, it's because the Bengals passing attack has evolved beyond the "throw it in the direction of A.J. Green and assume he'll make the play" we saw earlier in the season.
Tight end Jermaine Gresham has stepped up since the bye with 19 receptions for 233 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie Mohamed Sanu has made himself a legitimate weapon with four touchdowns in the past three weeks. Suddenly, the Bengals have a passing attack with multiple weapons.
And Dalton's been finding them and protecting the rock. Not surprisingly, the Bengals have won three straight.
FACT. Expect the good times to continue for Dalton and this passing attack. Unless you also own one of the truly elite quarterbacks in fantasy, Dalton has entered must-start status each week.
Three receptions for 33 yards and a touchdown; punt return for touchdown; 15 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues
That's now two weeks in a row Hilton has reached double-digit fantasy points and the third time in four games. In all, he has five touchdowns in four weeks, and the young player looks as though he's carving out a valuable role as a deep threat in the Colts offense.
Obviously, Reggie Wayne is still the much safer option for fantasy owners, but with Andrew Luck exceeding already lofty expectations in his rookie season and Donnie Avery a solid but hardly sexy No. 2 wideout, Hilton should continue to produce for Indy.
FACT, if you temper your expectations. Hilton may remain a bit hit or miss since he's such a big-play threat, but he's clearly developed a rapport with Luck and should continue to see targets in Indianapolis.
17 rushes for 48 yards and two touchdowns; 16 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues
Welcome back, Beanie!
While 2.8 yards per carry is nothing to get excited about, Wells was saved by two touchdowns on Sunday. That's now four of the past five games in which an Arizona running back has reached double-digit fantasy points (LaRod Stephens-Howling accomplished the feat the previous three times).
And Wells was handed the ball on 17 of the Cardinals' 22 running plays on Sunday. He's back to being the guy in Arizona, and that's very good for his fantasy owners.
FACT. I still think your best bet is only trusting him as a flex for now, but Wells should produce for fantasy owners if he can avoid injuries.
Five receptions for 115 yards and one touchdown; one rush for one yard; 17 points in standard-scoring leagues
Once every month or so, Givens scores a touchdown for the Rams, and two of them have come against the Arizona Cardinals. In Week 5, he had a 51-yard touchdown catch against the Cardinals. In Week 8, he had three receptions for 53 yards and a score against the New England Patriots.
And this week, he had the best game of his career.
Take away a really solid October—he had 39 fantasy points in four games that month—and Givens has been pretty mediocre this season for fantasy owners. Then again, the same could be said for Sam Bradford and the St. Louis passing game this year.
FICTION. Givens is a player to keep an eye on next year as a sleeper, but for now the only wide receiver on the Rams worth starting in fantasy remains Danny Amendola—when he's healthy, that is.
16-for-25 for 231 yards, one touchdown and one interception; six rushes for 27 yards and a touchdown; 19 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues
Kaepernick now has 18 and 19 fantasy points in consecutive starts for the 49ers, and it looks like he's locked in as the team's starter for the time being. His dual-threat ability as a passer and runner is a huge plus for fantasy owners, as is his status on the efficient 49ers offense.
Given his ability to make plays with his legs, his ability to zip the ball into tight coverage with accuracy and the proficiency he's shown running the offense, I don't expect him to lose his job anytime soon.
He's Tim Tebow or Michael Vick as a starter, except he's actually accurate and doesn't turn the ball over in droves. If he is still available in your league for some odd reason, snatch him up immediately.
FACT. Kaepernick isn't a must-start every week just yet—we need to see more before we can give him that status—but I'm betting he'll end up being a top-10 quarterback the rest of the way. And with the St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots on the schedule the next three weeks, he should be in starting lineups.
Eight receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns; one rush for six yards; one fumble; 24 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues
The question isn't whether Bryant is a viable fantasy option for owners; he obviously is. The question is whether Bryant has overtaken Miles Austin as the No. 1 receiver in Dallas and thus has solidified a position as a true WR1 for fantasy owners.
In the past three weeks, the answer seems to be a resounding "yes." Bryant has posted 477 receiving yards and four touchdowns in that time, has apparently earned the trust of Tony Romo and appears to now be the erratic quarterback's top option.
On a team that hasn't run the ball without DeMarco Murray in the lineup, that makes Bryant a very valuable player for fantasy owners.
FACT. Dez Bryant has finally arrived. He's no longer a low-end WR2 or flex option; he's now the man. Congratulations if you were patient and waited for his breakthrough this year.
10 rushes for 42 yards; two receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown; 19 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues
Let's list the Patriots' running backs and the number of games they have this season with eight fantasy points or more in standard-scoring leagues.
- Stevan Ridley: eight
- Shane Vereen: three
- Danny Woodhead: three
- Brandon Bolden: one
Now let's list the Patriots' running backs fantasy owners should trust in their lineups:
- Stevan Ridley
I know, I know, Vereen now has double-digit fantasy points in consecutive weeks and has grabbed 21 total carries in those games. But the Patriots love to use a handful of running backs throughout the season, and the only one who has consistently produced on a weekly basis is Ridley.
FICTION, FICTION, FICTION! If you're in a pinch and the running back position has been picked clean in your league, Vereen is worth a waiver-wire add. But I'm guessing there are better options out there in your league, and Vereen shouldn't be trusted.
37-for-62 for 441 passing yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions; three rushes for seven yards; 27 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues
Has Tony Romo entered QB1 status?
On one hand, Romo has scored 14 or more fantasy points in seven straight weeks. For fantasy owners, he's been incredibly consistent. On the other hand, he's only topped 20 points once (on Thanksgiving). For fantasy owners, he's been hardly spectacular.
The Cowboys are going to be in trouble if they can't re-establish a running game, so I'm not expecting Romo to continue to throw for 441 yards and attempt 62 passes each week. But I do expect he'll continue to produce solid numbers—he's always been a solid stats guy.
In other words, whether or not Romo's performance on Sunday is fact or fiction depends on your expectations.
FACT and FICTION. Yes, he's both—Romo is tough to peg. He's the type of quarterback who can blow up when he has the right matchup and should give you at least 15 points every week. But he's not a true QB1 that you must start every game, making Thursday's performance somewhat of an outlier.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets are thankful for leftovers.