The fantasy football playoffs are quickly approaching, so it's worth surveying which players will be bankable options to produce big numbers as the majority of the NFL's Week 12 action approaches.
Some of the top players at each offensive position are familiar fixtures, but others have proven this season that they can be relied upon as consistent, No. 1-caliber options with their outstanding performances and consistency.
Here is a look at the stars who should top their respective positions in fantasy points, along with a top-five list of rankings for each spot on offense for the rest of Week 12.
Cam Newton, QB, Carolina Panthers
The three touchdown passes, the game-winning drive and an accumulation of a game-high 62 rushing yards in Monday night's win over the New England Patriots suggest Newton has arrived.
Expectations have never been higher, and the pressure has never been greater on the 2011 No. 1 overall pick, but Newton continues to thrive, improve and relish the big stage.
Newton faces a Miami Dolphins defense in Week 12 that yields 122.6 rushing yards per game and is near the bottom third of the league versus the pass.
Against a dual-threat dynamo like Newton, Miami is in trouble and in grave danger of dropping back below .500.
With a deep backfield featuring DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert likely to bounce back after a disappointing effort against New England, Newton should have a complementary cast of backs to help him exploit the Dolphins off of play fakes.
Look for Newton to build off of his landmark triumph from last week with another big-time performance—this time on the road.
Projected Numbers: 20-of-30 passing for 280 yards, three touchdowns, one interception; seven carries, 70 yards, touchdown
Zac Stacy, RB, St. Louis Rams
That suggests Stacy has nursed himself back to near 100 percent after the bye, which is bad news for the Chicago Bears, who are second-worst in the NFL in rushing defense, conceding 133.9 yards on the ground per contest.
Stacy is a sixth-round pick out of Vanderbilt and has proven to be one of the steals of the 2013 class. His low center of gravity at 5'8" and 224 pounds allows him to run through arm tackles, and his decisive, hungry style of downhill running makes him a force to be reckoned with.
Dave Richard of CBSSports.com points to the injuries on the Bears' defensive line that work even more in Stacy's favor:
Just noticed the Bears are going to be without Stephen Paea and Jay Ratliff this week. Zac Stacy's gonna have a feast and a half.— Dave Richard (@daverichard) November 22, 2013
With Kellen Clemens still under center for St. Louis, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer should stick with the ground-and-pound he preferred in his days calling plays for the New York Jets.
That's good news for Stacy owners, who should be rewarded if they were patient with the first-year runner.
Projected Numbers: 25 carries, 120 yards, two touchdowns; three receptions, 20 yards
Victor Cruz, WR, New York Giants
Which star will have the best game in Week 12?
The salsa dance should be in full effect on Sunday when the Giants take on the NFC East division rival Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium.
Cruz devastated Dallas in the season opener with five catches for 118 yards and three touchdowns. Given how putrid the Cowboys' league-worst pass defense is, similar numbers could be in store for the star wideout.
Andre Brown has brought a physical presence to New York's backfield and has helped the Giants become more balanced.
That should only translate to more big-play opportunities for Cruz off of play action. Plus, he is dynamic in the slot and should find plenty of room underneath against the Cowboys' incompetent secondary.
Projected Numbers: nine receptions, 120 yards, two touchdowns
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
Chances are, the Patriots will be in a shootout of sorts with the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos.
Manning has his unit scoring a league-best 39.8 points per game, but that rate of scoring has also caused Denver's pass defense to suffer.
Thus, the Broncos present a favorable matchup for Gronkowski and his QB, Tom Brady, ahead of Sunday night's showdown in Gillette Stadium.
Against what may have been his toughest test last week, Gronkowski caught five passes for 59 yards and a touchdown on seven targets, continuing to build his rapport with Brady that was established the previous game:
Tom Brady was 9-10 when targeting Rob Gronkowski last game (10-22 in first 2 games with him).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 17, 2013
There is no reason Gronkowski and Brady shouldn't devastate the Broncos, no matter who guards Gronk.
Projected Numbers: 10 receptions, 150 yards, two touchdowns
|Rank||Quarterback||Running Back||Wide Receiver||Tight End|
|1||Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers||Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams||Victor Cruz, New York Giants||Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots|
|2||Tom Brady, New England Patriots||Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings||Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions||Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers|
|3||Peyton Manning, Denver||Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers||Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys|
|4||Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers||Ben Tate, Houston Texans||Andre Johnson, Houston Texans||John Carlson, Minnesota Vikings|
|5||Eli Manning, New York Giants||Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs||Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers||Jordan Cameron, Cleveland Browns|
Rankings are strictly opinion