QB Peyton Manning (3,502 yards passing, 29 TD) passed for 338 yards and three touchdowns in the Broncos' 37-6 rout of the Raiders back in Week 4.
The following countdown serves as a roundabout primer for NFL Week 14, as the fantasy season transitions into full playoff mode (quarterfinals or semifinals).
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. RB Doug Martin, Buccaneers
Skinny: Even with last Sunday's lackluster effort of 98 total yards against Denver (ain't sarcasm grand?), Martin still boasts averages of 109 yards and one touchdown in his last seven games.
Looking ahead, I'll be surprised if Martin doesn't clear 130 total yards and one touchdown against Philly, which has yielded 128 rushing yards per game since Week 9.
In fact, for the Bucs' three clashes during the fantasy playoffs (Eagles, Saints, Rams), Martin's a reasonable bet for 380 total yards and two scores.
And that may be underselling things a bit.
2. QB Peyton Manning, Broncos
Skinny: Be prepared for this lazy conundrum during the week: NFL pundits speculating on Manning's mindset for the final four games, since the Broncos have already clinched the AFC West title.
Will Denver ease off on Peyton's reps, saving him for the playoffs? Or should the club go full bore down the stretch, in pursuit of a bye during the AFC playoffs?
My take is simple: For Weeks 14, 15 and 16, fantasy owners have nothing to worry about here. The Broncos have won seven straight games...and for each of the victories, there's one common thread: Manning rolling for either 285 yards passing or three TD passes.
So, why change things moving forward, despite Manning's age (36) or the multiple neck surgeries from 2011?
Besides, the next time Peyton endures three direct hits from the opposing team in a single game...will be the first time he endures three direct hits from an opposing team in a single game.
Bottom line: With that powerful arm and lightning-fast release, there's no reason to fear a Manning injury.
(Knock on wood.)
3. WR Calvin Johnson, Lions
Skinny: Let us count the ways to Johnson's recent fantasy brilliance:
**For Week 13, he led all receivers in catches (13), targets (20) and receiving yards (171).
**In his last four games, Johnson has amassed 38 catches, 61 targets, 661 yards and four touchdowns.
**Calvin is on pace for 1,904 yards—a mark that would eclipse Jerry Rice's single-season NFL record for receiving yards (1,848 in 1995).
**The Lions wideout has eclipsed the 100-yard mark eight times—the most of any pass-catcher this year.
**Johnson has rolled for 200 receiving yards in four of his last 16 games.
1. RB Ben Tate, Texans
Skinny: This thumbs-up may seem odd, since Tate has neither been healthy nor tangibly productive in recent weeks.
But with the Texans closing in on home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, and RB Arian Foster (313 touches through 12 games) warranting a short-term reduction in December carries (before starting up again in January), someone will have to carry the mail for Houston in the final two or three weeks.
Enter Tate, who has recovered from a hamstring injury and remains a viable threat for 100 yards and/or one touchdown every Sunday.
Bottom line: This is the same Tate who tallied 1,040 yards and four TDs last season...with Foster playing in 13 games.
2. WR Donnie Avery, Colts
Skinny: This endorsement goes deeper than Avery's five-catch, 91-yard, two-touchdown outing against the Lions last week—which included the game-winning score with no time left on the clock.
He also had 14 targets in Detroit; through 12 games, Avery has collected six or more targets 11 times.
Throw in the fact that Colts QB Andrew Luck (3,256 yards passing, 22 total TDs) has attempted 48-plus passes in three of his last five games, and it's easy to be optimistic about a highly underrated performer (Avery) in a rapidly progressing offense.
3. RB Montell Owens, Jaguars
Skinny: It was painful to see Rashad Jennings go down with an injury last week against the Bills. But with each untimely exit from a game...comes an opportunity for lesser-known talents, like Owens, to shine during their extended moment in the spotlight.
On Sunday, Owens (40 total yards on eight touches last week) draws the Jets—the NFL's 29th-ranked rush defense—in his first offensive start of a special-teams-heavy career.
At this point, he could be a stealthy candidate for 75 yards and one score.
1. WR Sidney Rice, Seahawks
Skinny: Rice paid a price for scoring the game-winning touchdown in Seattle's overtime triumph in Chicago, getting concussed while crossing the goal line with the ball.
He'll likely undergo the NFL's baseline concussion testing during the week, before garnering clearance for Cardinals-Seahawks on Sunday.
2. QB Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Skinny: If I owned Big Ben in a 12-team league, he would not draw a Week 14 start.
The risk of playing a slow-footed and likely rusty quarterback with a sprained right shoulder just doesn't hold much appeal during the fantasy playoffs.
And that's too bad for all parties involved, since the Steelers have an attractive home date with a 4-8 Chargers club that's playing out the string in December.
3. RB Darren McFadden, Raiders
Skinny: I expect McFadden (ankle) to be a full go on Thursday night.
He practiced with the team last week, and it's hard to imagine DMC missing the Raiders' virtual Super Bowl—against Peyton Manning and the West-clinching Broncos.
1. RB DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
Skinny: I'm disappointed the Panthers only ran Williams 12 times (for 67 yards) against the Chiefs—especially since QB Cam Newton (310 total yards, three TDs) averaged a pedestrian 8.6 yards per pass attempt.
But there's a silver lining here: I'm still guaranteeing 80 yards and one score for Williams next week against Atlanta, if Jonathan Stewart (ankle) is a no-go.
The last time the Falcons visited the Panthers (December 2011), Williams rolled for 91 total yards and one TD, topping Stewart's 56-yard contribution.
2. TE Brandon Myers, Raiders
Skinny: Myers' rise to prominence in the fantasy realm is a happy tale to regale:
**Of his last seven games, the Raiders pass-catcher has four outings of double-digit targets and four touchdowns.
**Oakland QB Carson Palmer (3,532 yards passing, 21 TDs) has averaged 47 passes since Week 9.
**And against the Browns last week, Myers amassed 14 catches for 130 yards and one touchdown—good for 33 points in PPR leagues.
3. QB Jake Locker, Titans
Skinny: From a real-world standpoint, Locker had a deplorable outing against the Texans last week, bungling for five turnovers (three interceptions) and heavily contributing to his club's blowout loss at home.
But in the fantasy realm, he's still a sneaky-good emergency start for Week 14.
You know me. I'm a huge proponent of playing superstars during the fantasy playoffs...but there are exceptions to every rule.
And I fully expect Locker (347 total yards, one TD last week) to log 275 total yards and/or multiple TDs against the Colts, who have surrendered 300 yards passing in three of their last four games.
1. WR Lance Moore, Saints
Skinny: For the season, Lance Moore has crossed the PPR-elite threshold of six catches, 95 yards and/or one touchdown seven times.
Plus, he already has four outings of double-digit targets.
Put it all together, and Moore may be the NFL's best No. 4 passing option on a club (sharing touches with Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Darren Sproles).
Sorry, Brandon Lloyd, or Aaron Hernandez...when Rob Gronkowski is healthy with New England.
One more thing: Against the Giants last year, Moore racked up five catches, 54 yards and two scores.
2. WR Chris Givens, Rams
Skinny: Since Week 11, Givens has racked up more standard-scoring fantasy points than star wideouts Marques Colston, Steve Johnson, Randall Cobb, Malcom Floyd and Reggie Wayne.
This small-sample accomplishment was the result of two factors: Danny Amendola has been hindered by a foot injury...and no other Rams wideout has taken charge of late, even though QB Sam Bradford desperately needs another safety blanket.
Last week, the rookie Givens established new career highs in catches (11) and targets (14). And the previous Sunday, he trumped the Cardinals for five catches, 115 yards and one TD.
3. WR Donald Jones, Bills
Skinny: If Steve Johnson (hamstring) should miss Sunday's clash against the Rams, Jones (who missed last week with a calf malady) might assume the short-term mantle as the Bills' go-to receiver.
That would entail an increase in catches and receiving yards. It might even lead to a bump in targets, although Jones has averaged seven per contest since Week 7.
Here's one more thing to relish: Even with Johnson getting the lion's share of touches this season, Jones hasn't gone more than three outings without a touchdown.