The following countdown serves as a roundabout primer for NFL Week 13, a time when fantasy leagues are hailing division champions and determining playoff seeds and matchups.
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!
1. QB Robert Griffin III, Redskins
Skinny: The Giants defense may have a knack for dominating opposing star quarterbacks, but that's no reason to put a cap on Robert Griffin's expectations for Week 13.
In the last two weeks, the Redskins rookie has passed for eight touchdowns (four apiece); and against the Giants in Week 7, Griffin rolled for 347 total yards (258 passing) and two touchdowns.
Bottom line: Fantasy gurus have no grounds for benching Griffin in 12-team leagues. In turn, I have no qualms with giving RG3 a top-three overall ranking for the weekend.
2. WR Andre Johnson, Texans
Skinny: How hot is Andre Johnson these days?
Even with the four-catch, 35-yard clunker from Week 10, Johnson still has amassed 27 catches, 43 targets, 496 yards and one touchdown in the last three weeks.
And of his last six outings, Johnson boasts absurd averages of 8.7 catches, 12.5 targets and 129.2 yards.
The only downside to Johnson's unprecedented surge? He only has one touchdown since Week 3.
3. RB Ray Rice, Ravens
Skinny: Somehow, some way, Ray Rice (164 total yards vs. San Diego) will post stellar numbers during the fantasy playoffs, even though he's not an obvious lock for greatness for Weeks 13-16.
That said, his odds of rolling for 150 yards and two scores this Sunday are more favorable than replicating his amazing 4th-and-29 odyssey against the Bolts. That's a once-in-a-lifetime play, even for a special talent.
Of his last three games against Pittsburgh, Rice has averaged 109 total yards and one touchdown. If I was a betting man, he'll (easily) eclipse the above numbers in the Ravens' revenge match with the Steelers.
1. QB Chad Henne, Jaguars
Skinny: Chad Henne's 261-yard, two-touchdown effort against the Titans was a little underwhelming. That, in a nutshell, should explain why Henne's a better long-term fit for the Jaguars, compared to Blaine Gabbert.
If the latter had thrown for 261 yards—off only 17 completions—he'd garner praise for taking another baby step toward low-key relevancy.
But in Henne's case, it's merely a launching point for another level of fantasy success over the next five weeks.
2. WR Chris Givens, Rams
Skinny: For Week 12, Chris Givens was only one of five NFL wideouts to rack up 100 yards receiving and one touchdown.
Of equal importance, Givens may be the Rams' best receiving option if Danny Amendola (foot) isn't at full strength from this point forward.
But to maximize his success, Givens will probably need double-digit completions from QB Sam Bradford.
3. WR Cole Beasley, Cowboys
Skinny: Consider this recommendation to be a pre-emptive move, based on last year's events.
On Thanksgiving Day, Cole Beasley collected seven catches, 13 targets and 68 yards against the Redskins, primarily as Miles Austin's injury replacement.
In 2011, when Austin went down with a hamstring injury, Laurent Robinson stepped up and scored 11 touchdowns in a 10-game span.
My advice: Prioritize Beasley on waivers...just in case QB Tony Romo should require a new best friend, opposite Dez Bryant.
1. RB Darren McFadden, Raiders
Skinny: Darren McFadden's absence from the Raiders lineup could end this week—simultaneously pleasing his owners, while rankling those who have found salvation with backup rusher Marcel Reece (672 total yards, one TD).
Before his ankle injury, McFadden was a hit-or-miss asset, rolling for 100-plus yards one week...and then struggling to hit 60 yards the next.
2. RB Matt Forte, Bears
Skinny: At the time of this writing, details have been scarce on Matt Forte's ankle injury. But hopefully, we'll get some clarity on his status Wednesday or Thursday.
As a fallback option, fantasy owners should move heaven and earth to land Michael Bush, a top-10 back as Darren McFadden's replacement last year (with Oakland)...and a bruiser who notched a pair of touchdowns last week against the Vikings.
3. WR Danny Amendola, Rams
Skinny: I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on the Internet. But I have a feeling Danny Amendola's foot ailment will be a notable injury over the next five weeks.
In turn, this will probably affect his game stats, particularly in catches and targets. Bottom line: If Amendola's health requires updates on a drive-by-drive or quarter-by-quarter basis, he's nothing more than a flex consideration in PPR leagues.
On the plus side, this setback should motivate fantasy owners to acquire Chris Givens (five catches, 115 yards, one TD vs. Arizona) at any auction price.
1. RB Beanie Wells, Cardinals
Skinny: On one hand, fantasy owners should be thrilled with Beanie Wells' rock-solid return from injury, rolling for two touchdowns against the Rams. But did we really glean anything, moving forward, from the experience?
If backfield mate LaRod Stephens-Howling (sore ribs) had logged more than one carry against St. Louis, we'd have a better idea of the Cardinals' plans for between-the-20s and third-and-long situations. Instead, we can only surmise that Wells has the upper hand around the goal line (duh).
When healthy, Wells is a reasonable bet for 80 total yards and one score each week...even if Arizona has no tangible answer at quarterback.
2. QB Colin Kaepernick, 49ers
Skinny: It's hard to find fault with Colin Kaepernick's two-game indoctrination as an NFL starting quarterback, averaging 257 total yards and two touchdowns against the Bears and Saints.
It's even harder to poke holes in Kaepernick's top-15 prospects for Week 13, when facing a Rams defense that has surrendered 300-plus passing yards three times in the last six weeks.
But let's exercise some patience here when exploring the 49ers quarterback as a top-10 mainstay. The second-year passer, still a de facto rookie, will likely encounter some adversity at his new position sooner than later. But that may not happen until Week 14.
3. RB Bryce Brown, Eagles
Skinny: On Monday night, Bryce Brown pounded the Panthers for 189 total yards (178 rushing) and two touchdowns, while collecting the most fantasy points of any NFL tailback in Week 12 (standard-scoring leagues).
Unfortunately, he also registered two fumbles in the Eagles' home defeat.
But you know the drill in fantasy: Fumbles only really matter if your star loses his job because of the turnovers. And as long as LeSean McCoy remains sidelined with a concussion...it's Brown's show in Philly.
Fumbles or no fumbles.
1. WR Davone Bess, Dolphins
Skinny: In the last three weeks, Davone Bess has been among the top 15 receivers in catches (17), targets (26) and receiving yards (232). And of the three categories, he's topped teammate Brian Hartline in that span.
Speaking of which, on the day Hartline captured the hearts of PPR owners everywhere—251 yards against the Cardinals in Week 4—Bess also collected seven catches, 13 targets and 123 yards.
So, it's not like Hartline ever established a clear hierarchy among the Dolphins receivers.
For the season, Bess is on the short of list of NFL receivers to collect at least six targets in all 11 games. Of the last two weeks, he also accrued 13 catches, 20 targets, 159 yards and one touchdown.
Look for more PPR (and standard-scoring) success against the Patriots this week.
2. WR Cecil Shorts, Jaguars
Skinny: Cecil Shorts should be the president of the Chad Henne Fan Club in Jacksonville...with the reverse holding true, as well. In a short window of time, their on-field chemistry has been remarkable.
In two of his last three games, Shorts has racked up 105 receiving yards. He's also scored a touchdown in three straight outings.
Of course, Shorts was on a roll with Blaine Gabbert under center, too. Since Week 7, spanning six games, Shorts boasts healthy averages of 4.7 catches, 8.7 targets, 90.3 yards and 0.7 touchdowns.
3. WR Brandon LaFell, Panthers
Skinny: Over the last three weeks, Brandon LaFell has attracted more targets than Julio Jones, Jeremy Maclin, Larry Fitzgerald, Denarius Moore and Lance Moore, pleasing PPR owners in need of a flex starter during the fantasy playoffs.
LaFell has also been reliable in the red zone, notching three touchdowns in his last five outings—including back-to-back scores for the first time (Weeks 11 and 12).
Obviously, LaFell's success is predicated on Panthers QB Cam Newton building on the success of Monday's four-touchdown demolition of the Eagles.
And looking at the Sunday slate, you have to love Newton's chances against the woeful Chiefs.