Sometimes the best fantasy football advice comes at the last minute.
Call me the Eli Manning of fantasy football columnists. I am looking to dispense some two-minute warning fantasy knowledge to you right before your squad is about to take the field for its most crucial contest of the season.
Your team might be battling for a playoff berth, fighting for a division title or struggling to stay out of the cellar because you do not want to be a last-place loser.
So here is some last-minute fantasy football advice for every position on your roster for Week 13:
Houston’s Matt Schaub is a borderline No. 1 QB in fantasy leagues, but when he goes against the Tennessee Titans he becomes a sure start. Schaub has thrown for 14 touchdowns compared to just one interception in his last six games against the Titans.
With Tennessee ranked 27th in pass defense, this does not appear to be the week for Schaub’s mastery against his division rival to end.
I know Seattle rookie Russell Wilson is improving every week, but you cannot possibly fathom starting him when he is at the Chicago Bears. Wilson has a 6-8 ratio of TD to INT away from home and has not thrown for more than 235 yards in any road game, and none of those games were against a defense as stout as that of the Bears.
Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy is doing as well on his concussion tests as Vince Young did on the Wonderlic test. McCoy is not going to play this week, which means the slippery-fingered, fleet-footed Bryce Brown will start at tailback again for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Brown dashed for 178 rushing yards and two touchdowns against the Carolina Panthers in a breakout performance that stuck him on the fantasy map. But he did lose two fumbles, and his effort came against the 24th-best run defense in football.
The sledding should be much rougher for Brown this Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys. The game is on the road, he is facing the 13th-ranked run defense, he will not be sneaking up on Dallas like he did Carolina, and he may get fewer touches since his ball protection skills are shakier than Mark Sanchez’s. Brown should do okay, but he will not rush for 178 yards again.
I know fantasy owners trampled over each other to grab Denver’s Knowshon Moreno on waiver wires this week now that he has surprisingly emerged as the team’s top tailback in Willis McGahee’s absence.
I personally would trust Moreno this week about as much as I would trust Jason Babin to stop a running play. How many times do fantasy owners have to be burned by a player before they realize he is bad news?
Moreno has a history of missed playing opportunities due to his fumbling, injuries and inconsistency. With Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball waiting in the wings, Moreno is on a shorter leash than a pit bull. And Moreno is facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week, owners of the top run defense in the NFL. If you have similar options at RB, use them over him.
The loss of Ben Roethlisberger has affected no Pittsburgh pass catcher more than Mike Wallace. The speedster has not been able to get out of the blocks with Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch throwing him floaters and sinkers.
Wallace has just 47 yards over his past three Big Ben-less games and should be benched this week against Baltimore. If any Pittsburgh receiver could do okay, it’s the returning Antonio Brown because he catches more short and intermediate passes, which is what Batch is better at throwing.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are already ranked last in the NFL in pass defense. They make every quarterback look like Aaron Rodgers (stats-wise, not mustache-wise). And just when you thought their pass defense could not get any worse, their top cover cornerback, Eric Wright, was suspended for four games due to violating the NFL’s drug policy.
This means that since the Denver Broncos will be hosting the Bucs, receiver Eric Decker should be a must-play. I know he has tailed off—eight receptions for 102 yards and one score in the last three weeks—but he is primed to make up for his slump against Tampa’s cover-nobody defense.
With DeSean Jackson now on injured reserve, look for Jeremy Maclin to be targeted twice as often in the rest of Philadelphia’s remaining games. Maclin is the only decent receiver left, and with the Eagles bound to trail most of their games from here on out, Maclin should be able to pile up lots of yards late in games if he can stay healthy.
San Diego’s Antonio Gates only had four receptions for 30 yards combined in his last two games against Denver and Baltimore and has suddenly been hard to rely on. And things will not get easier for him in the next two weeks as he faces playoff-caliber teams in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.
San Francisco’s Vernon Davis can no longer be considered one of the top tight ends in fantasy. Twice this season he has been held without a catch. That has not happened once to Dallas’ Jason Witten, San Diego’s Gates, New England Rob Gronkowski, New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham and Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez, and only Graham has had as low as a one-reception game this season—not counting games missed due to injuries.
And do not assume, like I foolishly did, that San Francisco's using Colin Kaepernick at quarterback will help Davis. One of Davis’ zero-point outings came last weekend against New Orleans while Kaepernick was the QB.
Minnesota’s Blair Walsh has flown so low under the fantasy radar that some owners might think that Ryan Longwell is still the Vikings' kicker. But Walsh has had a superb season, connecting on 24 of his 26 field-goal tries and all 22 of his extra-point attempts.
Walsh has been exceptional lately as he has converted eight of his nine FG chances over his last four games, including four from 40-plus yards, two of which were from beyond 50 yards. If he is still available in your league, feel free to upgrade your kicker position if he is better than what you have.
Philadelphia’s Alex Henery might be better off with Nick Foles running the Eagles offense than Michael Vick. Henery has kicked five field goals in Foles’ two starts. He averaged under two FG per game in Vick’s starts.
Because Philadelphia’s offense is getting progressively worse every week with every injured player it loses—Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, 400 offensive linemen—its drives are more prone to stalling, and stalling sooner. That is why four of Henery’s five field goals the past two weeks have been from 40 yards out or longer.
This has been the worst New York Jets defense in the four years of the Rex Ryan regime (no thanks to Darrelle Revis’ torn ACL), but they have to be considered one of the top fantasy plays this week.
The Jets are hosting the hapless Arizona Cardinals, who for some reason are again trotting out rookie Ryan Lindley and his 47.0 quarterback rating. Lindley still has lots to learn. For once, Tim Tebow will not be the worst quarterback throwing a pass in the game.
The St. Louis Rams defense had gone more than a month without forcing turnover, yet they not only picked Lindley off four times last week, they returned two of the interceptions for touchdowns!
Ryan might be a toe-loving pompous blowhard, but he is a great defensive coach, and the Jets defense has always been good at bullying around bad offenses and creating turnovers and sacks. Look for the Jets to blitz often against Arizona’s awful offensive line and get five sacks, and for Antonio Cromartie to take a Lindley INT back for a TD.