Fantasy Football Week 12 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
It is fantasy crunch time, so you have to ride your studs, even if they face a tough matchup or some freezing and windy weather as the days get shorter here down the stretch. The good news is the Week 12 schedule has given us some favorable matchups for those players on the fantasy fringe.
Do you sit a stud in the cold and wind for one of these fringe guys we list as a "start" this week? It depends on the situation. Our weekly Saturday Start 'Em, Sit 'Em staple at Bleacher Report analyzes the matchups, starts and sits, and also gives you the rankings by position to compare all of your options.
You have made it this far in your fantasy season; you owe it to yourself to keep grinding. This six-position slideshow will help you.
Quarterbacks: Monday Night Matchup a Perfect Time for Colin Kaepernick to Erupt
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
This is a Jobu game—gratuitous Major League reference (link not safe for work, or children or people who don't like four-letter words)—for Kaepernick's fantasy owners. "If you no help me now, I say (blank) you Jobu, I do it myself." The Redskins are fourth-worst in fantasy against quarterbacks and seventh-worst against the pass. This Monday Night Football matchup lines up perfectly for patient fantasy owners to finally get a hallmark game out of Kaepernick.
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys vs. Eli Manning, New York Giants
While we are wary of the wind and cold in New Jersey and Foxborough, Mass., this Sunday, you should not let the weather scare you off the quarterbacks in these two huge rivalry games. No one is truly considering sitting Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, but he or she might be leaning against Romo or Eli Manning. Those latter two tend to engage in late-game shootouts. Manning is a less certain option here, but he faces the worst pass defense in the NFL and a team that is dead last in fantasy against quarterbacks.
Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals
He is coming off one of his best games as a Cardinal, and he draws the Colts at home in a potential shootout against Andrew Luck. This game is in far more favorable conditions in Arizona too. Palmer has developed a rapport with Michael Floyd downfield, and Larry Fitzgerald is still a star. Expect 350 yards and two-plus touchdowns, especially if Luck and the Colts offense come to play on the road.
Case Keenum, Houston Texans
You can be a bit worried about Keenum's third-quarter benching last week, but the Texans' playoff hopes went down when Arian Foster (back) did, and they have to give Keenum a full evaluation before the offseason. The matchup against the Jags—third-worst against fantasy quarterbacks—is a favorable enough one to consider Keenum even in standard formats.
Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers
Rivers has cooled off after his scorching first half of the season, and now he has to head to one of the toughest places to play this season: Kansas City. The Chiefs are in the top 10 of fantasy against quarterbacks and in the NFL against the pass—not to mention coming off a loss. This does not bode well for Rivers or his fantasy owners.
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Big Ben has posted some huge weeks of late, but this doesn't appear to be a great one to expect big numbers. The Browns defense, particularly their secondary, is a lot better than anyone will give it credit for being. The Browns have Joe Haden to neutralize if not shut down Antonio Brown, and they are No. 4 against the pass. We just don't trust Jerricho Cotchery or Emmanuel Sanders enough to rank Big Ben as a start in either 12- or 14-team leagues below.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
No one should be considering Tannehill in standard leagues at this point—not with the frustrations of his supporting cast and absences along the offensive line—but this is a matchup you should consider sitting Tannehill even in two-quarterback formats. The Panthers are No. 1 in fantasy against the position and No. 5 against the pass.
Matt McGloin, Oakland Raiders
You can like McGloin's story—Penn State walk-on and undrafted rookie free agent—or his future as much as the Raiders do, but you cannot like him in a matchup against the Titans defense, even at home. The Raiders' No. 1 receiver, Denarius Moore (shoulder), has been ruled out, and the Titans are No. 4 in fantasy against quarterbacks and No. 7 in the NFL against the pass. This will be a real test for the upstart McGloin.
|1||Drew Brees||NO||at Atl||2||+1|
|2||Peyton Manning||Den||at NE||1||-1|
|3||Matthew Stafford||Det||vs. TB||3||0|
|4||Tom Brady||NE||vs. Den||4||0|
|5||Cam Newton||Car||at Mia||5||0|
|6||Tony Romo||Dal||at NYG||6||0|
|7||Colin Kaepernick||SF||at Was||8||+1|
|8||Andrew Luck||Ind||at Ari||7||-1|
|9||Robert Griffin||Was||vs. SF||10||+1|
|10||Eli Manning||NYG||vs. Dal||12||+2|
|11||Matt Ryan||Atl||vs. NO||14||+3|
|12||Carson Palmer||Ari||vs. Ind||19||+7|
|13||Case Keenum||Hou||vs. Jac||9||-4|
|14||Alex Smith||KC||vs. SD||15||+1|
|15||Ben Roethlisberger||Pit||at Cle||11||-4|
|16||Josh McCown||Chi||at StL||16||0|
|17||Philip Rivers||SD||at KC||18||+1|
|18||Ryan Fitzpatrick||Ten||at Oak||21||+3|
|19||Scott Tolzien||GB||vs. Min||17||-2|
|20||Joe Flacco||Bal||vs. NYJ||20||0|
|21||Mike Glennon||TB||at Det||13||-8|
|22||Matt McGloin||Oak||vs. Ten||24||+2|
|23||Kellen Clemens||StL||vs. Chi||27||+4|
|24||Ryan Tannehill||Mia||vs. Car||25||+1|
|25||Geno Smith||NYJ||at Bal||28||+3|
|26||Chad Henne||Jac||at Hou||26||0|
|27||Christian Ponder||Min||at GB||23||-4|
|28||Jason Campbell||Cle||vs. Pit||22||-6|
Running Backs: A Number of Favorable Matchups Line Up Our Options Nicely
Andre Brown, New York Giants
Not only are freezing and windy conditions forecast for East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday afternoon, but the Dallas defense is dead last in fantasy against running backs. The Cowboys have given up the fourth-most rushing yards too. Brown should have a busy and productive day in a must-win game for the Giants, even if Brandon Jacobs might steal some carries in short yardage.
Zac Stacy, St. Louis Rams
You can question the Rams offense because of Kellen Clemens, but you cannot question the viability of Stacy any longer. He has put together a strong six-game stretch since being officially let loose by the Rams, and now he draws the Bears run defense, which is 31st in the NFL. Stacy is a must-start in all leagues, particularly at home in this great matchup.
Ben Tate, Houston Texans
Tate is coming off 100-plus combined yards and has taken over as the Texans' feature back with Arian Foster (back) now out for the season. Tate is a bit banged up, but the matchup against the Jaguars is just too good to ignore, especially at home. The Jags are dead last against the run and eighth-worst against running backs in fantasy. Expect 100-plus yards and at least one touchdown here.
Rashad Jennings, Oakland Raiders
Jennings is on a roll that is potentially earning him playing time over Darren McFadden (hamstring), even when the contract-year veteran returns from injury. Jennings has topped 100 combined yards in three consecutive games and topped out with 150 yards and a touchdown last week. He shouldn't get much resistance from a Titans defense that is fifth-worst against fantasy running backs this season.
DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers
We should probably add Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert to the starts too. Yes, the Panthers running game is a three-headed monster—Williams starts and gets the majority of touches, while Tolbert gets the goal-line touchdowns—but the matchup against the Dolphins is favorable enough to consider all three. The Dolphins are fourth-worst against fantasy running backs and eighth-worst against the run.
Trent Richardson, Indianapolis Colts
There are just too many reasons to be wary of Richardson in any lineups now. First, he has a calf injury that limited him in practice. Second, Donald Brown has stolen his thunder in the passing game and is making plays in the open field. Brown is the better play of the two, but neither is overly favorable in a matchup at Arizona. The Cardinals are No. 1 against fantasy running backs and No. 2 against the run.
Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas, Miami Dolphins
Ignore the struggles and timeshare of these backs; the Dolphins offensive line is a mess right now. Walkoffs, suspensions and injury have decimated it. Also, Thomas has been getting more carries than Miller of late. Topping all the issues off is a matchup against the Panthers defense, which is No. 3 in the NFL against the run and No. 7 against fantasy backs. Yuck!
Rashard Mendenhall, Arizona Cardinals
Andre Ellington justifiably gets all the love among the Cards backs, but Mendenhall has been getting enough fantasy points because of touchdowns to be a fringe starter in leagues too. The matchup against the Colts seems favorable because they are fifth-worst against the run, allowing 126.1 yards per game, but Indy is still hovering around the top 10 of fantasy against running backs. This is not quite a matchup good enough to like Mendenhall to reach the end zone.
Bernard Pierce, Baltimore Ravens
Not only was Pierce ineffective against the Bears last week, but Ray Rice took off—finally—and a matchup against the No. 1 run defense in the NFL looms this week versus the Jets. You can push the dirt over Pierce's fantasy value right now and don't bother owning him, much less consider starting him against the No. 2 team in fantasy against backs.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego Chargers
This is a fringe sit because you might not be able to afford sitting a back who has been solid for over a month, rushing for 100-plus yards in three of five games and scoring a touchdown in another. Mathews is just outside of our top 25 fantasy options this week against a Chiefs defense that has been fifth-best against fantasy backs. Only the Bucs (two), Bengals (two) and Ravens (one) have allowed fewer rushing touchdowns than the Chiefs (three) to running backs.
|Rank||Running Backs||Team||Opponent||ECR||vs. ECR|
|1||Matt Forte||Chi||at StL||1||0|
|2||Jamaal Charles||KC||vs. SD||2||0|
|3||Adrian Peterson||Min||at GB||3||0|
|4||Zac Stacy||StL||vs. Chi||4||0|
|5||Knowshon Moreno||Den||at NE||9||+4|
|6||Eddie Lacy||GB||vs. Min||6||0|
|7||Andre Brown||NYG||vs. Dal||7||0|
|8||Frank Gore||SF||at Was||5||-3|
|9||Reggie Bush||Det||vs. TB||10||+1|
|10||Chris Johnson||Ten||at Oak||13||+3|
|11||DeMarco Murray||Dal||at NYG||16||+5|
|12||Le'Veon Bell||Pit||at Cle||14||+2|
|13||Alfred Morris||Was||vs. SF||11||-2|
|14||Ray Rice||Bal||vs. NYJ||21||+7|
|15||Ben Tate||Hou||vs. Jac||8||-7|
|16||Rashad Jennings||Oak||vs. Ten||12||-4|
|17||Maurice Jones-Drew||Jac||at Hou||18||+1|
|18||Steven Jackson||Atl||vs. NO||26||+8|
|19||Stevan Ridley||NE||vs. Den||17||-2|
|20||Shane Vereen||NE||vs. Den||20||0|
|21||Bobby Rainey||TB||at Det||19||-2|
|22||Pierre Thomas||NO||at Atl||15||-7|
|23||Andre Ellington||Ari||vs. Ind||25||+2|
|24||Chris Ivory||NYJ||at Bal||23||-1|
|25||Danny Woodhead||SD||at KC||24||-1|
|26||Ryan Mathews||SD||at KC||22||-4|
|27||Darren Sproles||NO||at Atl||38||+11|
|28||Donald Brown||Ind||at Ari||28||0|
|29||DeAngelo Williams||Car||at Mia||29||0|
|30||Montee Ball||Den||at NE||36||+6|
|31||Lamar Miller||Mia||vs. Car||33||+2|
|32||Rashard Mendenhall||Ari||vs. Ind||30||-2|
|33||Chris Ogbonnaya||Cle||vs. Pit||27||-6|
|34||Jonathan Stewart||Car||at Mia||35||+1|
|35||Mike Tolbert||Car||at Mia||39||+4|
|36||Jacquizz Rodgers||Atl||vs. NO||40||+4|
|37||Mark Ingram||NO||at Atl||31||-6|
|38||Trent Richardson||Ind||at Ari||34||-4|
|39||Joique Bell||Det||vs. TB||32||-7|
|40||Kendall Hunter||SF||at Was||49||+9|
|41||Daniel Thomas||Mia||vs. Car||41||0|
|42||James Starks||GB||vs. Min||51||+9|
|43||Michael Bush||Chi||at StL||63||+20|
|44||Dennis Johnson||Hou||vs. Jac||55||+11|
|45||Brian Leonard||TB||at Det||37||-8|
|46||Fozzy Whittaker||Cle||vs. Pit||52||+6|
|47||Bilal Powell||NYJ||at Bal||43||-4|
|48||Willis McGahee||Cle||vs. Pit||45||-3|
|49||Shonn Greene||Ten||at Oak||42||-7|
|50||Roy Helu||Was||vs. SF||47||-3|
|51||Bernard Pierce||Bal||vs. NYJ||48||-3|
|52||Daryl Richardson||StL||vs. Chi||59||+7|
|53||Peyton Hillis||NYG||vs. Dal||56||+3|
|54||Brandon Jacobs||NYG||vs. Dal||44||-10|
|55||Denard Robinson||Jac||at Hou||85||+30|
|56||Anthony Dixon||SF||at Was||88||+32|
|57||Jason Snelling||Atl||vs. NO||73||+16|
|58||Ronnie Brown||SD||at KC||77||+19|
|59||Jonathan Dwyer||Pit||at Cle||64||+5|
|60||LeGarrette Blount||NE||vs. Den||54||-6|
|61||Toby Gerhart||Min||at GB||53||-8|
|62||Knile Davis||KC||vs. SD||65||+3|
|63||Joseph Randle||Dal||at NYG||72||+9|
|64||LaMichael James||SF||at Was||68||+4|
|65||Benny Cunningham||StL||vs. Chi||62||-3|
|66||Felix Jones||Pit||at Cle||70||+4|
Wide Receivers: No Shortage of Solid Fantasy Options Due to Matchups Here Either
Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin, Green Bay Packers
You can stress about the prospect of Scott Tolzien getting another start for the Packers in place of Aaron Rodgers (shoulder), but you can relieve some of that with the quality of matchup these receivers are facing this week. The Vikings are fourth-worst against the pass and sixth-worst in fantasy against wide receivers. With a Thanksgiving Day game looming, expect the Packers to save the running game at least a little and work on lower-impact touches in the passing game against the woeful Vikings defense.
Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After a couple of lean weeks against good secondaries, Jackson went off for season highs 10 catches and 165 yards against the Falcons in Week 11. His matchup this week is even more favorable against the Lions, who have been second-worst in fantasy against wide receivers and third-worst against the pass. Jackson is a must-start here.
We cannot seem to get away from advising you to use this trio in fantasy despite Eli Manning's lack of consistent pass protection or production. The Cowboys are dead last in the NFL against the pass and eighth-worst in fantasy against wide receivers. You should be a bit worried about the windy forecast, but each of these receivers can reach the end zone in a must-win home game for the Giants.
Kendall Wright, Tennessee Titans
There is no longer any question as to who the Titans view as their No. 1 wide receiver, regardless who is taking snaps from under center. Wright has just one touchdown reception and no 100-yard games, but he has been a high-volume receiver in terms of targets every week of the season. He has averaged six catches for 66 yards a game this season, and the Raiders are fifth-worst in fantasy against wide receivers. We say Wright cracks 10 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown finally.
Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers
The 33-year-old vet has been consistent this season, and Colin Kaepernick has struggled, but Boldin is coming off a solid week against a good Saints secondary. His matchup this week against the Redskins on Monday night is arguably his most favorable one of the season now too. Washington is seventh-worst against the pass and against fantasy wide receivers.
Rishard Matthews, Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins
Not only has Wallace failed to distinguish himself with Ryan Tannehill in a struggling Dolphins offense getting no help from its patchwork offensive line, but these three have proven to be interchangeable parts week to week. They are bad options in fantasy against the Panthers defense that is No. 5 against the pass and No. 2 against fantasy wideouts.
Cecil Shorts, Jacksonville Jaguars
He was supposed to take off when Justin Blackmon was suspended indefinitely by the NFL (at least for the rest of the season). Instead, Shorts is making headlines only because he is complaining about his lack of involvement in the offense. Don't expect him to get healthy against the Texans this week, no matter how much they have struggled this season. The Texans are still No. 1 in the NFL against the pass, believe it or not, and fifth-best against fantasy wideouts.
Rod Streater, Jacoby Ford and Brice Butler, Oakland Raiders
Don't fall in love with Matt McGloin just yet. Even though McGloin is coming off an eye-opening debut, his second game will come with Denarius Moore (shoulder) ruled out. This would seemingly make Streater, a fantasy gem a week ago, a potential start this week, right? Nope. The Titans are No. 1 in fantasy against wide receivers and No. 7 against the pass. All of the Raiders receivers are too difficult to trust this week, even with Moore out.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
Although we list Brown as the No. 16 wide receiver this week, there is some justification to sit this every-week fantasy play. The Browns' shutdown cornerback, Joe Haden, is on the schedule this week. Cleveland is fourth-best against the pass and sixth-best against fantasy wideouts—mostly because of Haden's one-on-one skills.
Haden held A.J. Green to two catches for seven yards last week and previously shut down Calvin Johnson (three catches for 25 yards) and Stevie Johnson (two catches for 19). Sit Brown if you have a viable alternative in a more favorable matchup.
Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers
Not only has Allen's production waned in the past two games—seven catches for 86 yards combined—but the Chiefs are next up on the schedule. They boast a top-10 pass defense, and Philip Rivers has other options to go to if Allen draws the attention of the Chiefs defense like we would expect. You likely have a better alternative to start in a crucial week such as this one.
|Rank||Wide Receivers||Team||Opponent||ECR||vs. ECR|
|1||Calvin Johnson||Det||vs. TB||1||0|
|2||Andre Johnson||Hou||vs. Jac||2||0|
|3||Dez Bryant||Dal||at NYG||5||+2|
|4||Brandon Marshall||Chi||at StL||6||+2|
|5||Demaryius Thomas||Den||at NE||4||-1|
|6||Wes Welker||Den||at NE||9||+3|
|7||Vincent Jackson||TB||at Det||3||-4|
|8||Victor Cruz||NYG||vs. Dal||7||-1|
|9||Jordy Nelson||GB||vs. Min||8||-1|
|10||Larry Fitzgerald||Ari||vs. Ind||17||+7|
|11||Eric Decker||Den||at NE||15||+4|
|12||Alshon Jeffery||Chi||at StL||11||-1|
|13||Josh Gordon||Cle||vs. Pit||10||-3|
|14||T.Y. Hilton||Ind||at Ari||16||+2|
|15||Pierre Garcon||Was||vs. SF||12||-3|
|16||Antonio Brown||Pit||at Cle||14||-2|
|17||Roddy White||Atl||vs. NO||31||+14|
|18||Marques Colston||NO||at Atl||18||0|
|19||Torrey Smith||Bal||vs. NYJ||13||-6|
|20||James Jones||GB||vs. Min||33||+13|
|21||Hakeem Nicks||NYG||vs. Dal||23||+2|
|22||Steve Smith||Car||at Mia||28||+6|
|23||Kendall Wright||Ten||at Oak||20||-3|
|24||Danny Amendola||NE||vs. Den||19||-5|
|25||Anquan Boldin||SF||at Was||26||+1|
|26||Jarrett Boykin||GB||vs. Min||22||-4|
|27||Michael Floyd||Ari||vs. Ind||24||-3|
|28||Keenan Allen||SD||at KC||21||-7|
|29||Rueben Randle||NYG||vs. Dal||32||+3|
|30||Aaron Dobson||NE||vs. Den||27||-3|
|31||Dwayne Bowe||KC||vs. SD||30||-1|
|32||DeAndre Hopkins||Hou||vs. Jac||37||+5|
|33||Emmanuel Sanders||Pit||at Cle||35||+2|
|34||Cecil Shorts||Jac||at Hou||29||-5|
|35||Harry Douglas||Atl||vs. NO||25||-10|
|36||Tavon Austin||StL||vs. Chi||51||+15|
|37||Rishard Matthews||Mia||vs. Car||42||+5|
|38||Mike Wallace||Mia||vs. Car||34||-4|
|39||Rod Streater||Oak||vs. Ten||44||+5|
|40||Greg Jennings||Min||at GB||50||+10|
|41||Jerricho Cotchery||Pit||at Cle||43||+2|
|42||Miles Austin||Dal||at NYG||49||+7|
|43||Dexter McCluster||KC||vs. SD||57||+14|
|44||Kenny Stills||NO||at Atl||41||-3|
|45||Brandon LaFell||Car||at Mia||39||-6|
|46||Santonio Holmes||NYJ||at Bal||40||-6|
|47||Brian Hartline||Mia||vs. Car||38||-9|
|48||Marlon Brown||Bal||vs. NYJ||46||-2|
|49||Ted Ginn||Car||at Mia||64||+15|
|50||Mario Manningham||SF||at Was||62||+12|
|51||Donnie Avery||KC||vs. SD||58||+7|
|52||Kris Durham||Det||vs. TB||45||-7|
|53||Terrance Williams||Dal||at NYG||36||-17|
|54||Nate Washington||Ten||at Oak||54||0|
|55||Chris Givens||StL||vs. Chi||53||-2|
|56||Eddie Royal||SD||at KC||60||+4|
|57||Jacoby Jones||Bal||vs. NYJ||72||+15|
|58||Lance Moore||NO||at Atl||52||-6|
|59||Darrius Heyward-Bey||Ind||at Ari||77||+18|
|60||Greg Little||Cle||vs. Pit||68||+8|
|61||Julian Edelman||NE||vs. Den||61||0|
|62||Andre Roberts||Ari||vs. Ind||76||+14|
|63||David Nelson||NYJ||at Bal||74||+11|
|64||Cordarrelle Patterson||Min||at GB||55||-9|
|65||Davone Bess||Cle||vs. Pit||75||+10|
|66||Tiquan Underwood||TB||at Det||56||-10|
|67||Mike Brown||Jac||at Hou||67||0|
|68||Vincent Brown||SD||at KC||70||+2|
|69||Stephen Hill||NYJ||at Bal||80||+11|
|70||Justin Hunter||Ten||at Oak||59||-11|
|71||Markus Wheaton||Pit||at Cle||91||+20|
|72||Austin Pettis||StL||vs. Chi||71||-1|
|73||Jerome Simpson||Min||at GB||83||+10|
|74||Jarius Wright||Min||at GB||63||-11|
|75||Ace Sanders||Jac||at Hou||65||-10|
|76||Lavon Brazill||Ind||at Ari||85||+9|
|77||Santana Moss||Was||vs. SF||79||+2|
|78||Robert Meachem||NO||at Atl||69||-9|
|79||Earl Bennett||Chi||at StL||101||+22|
|80||Cole Beasley||Dal||at NYG||92||+12|
|81||Brian Quick||StL||vs. Chi||96||+15|
|82||Jacoby Ford||Oak||vs. Ten||105||+23|
Tight Ends: If You Don't Have Rob Gronkowski, We Have Some Sleepers for You
Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts
Fleener is coming off his best game yet (eight catches for 107 yards), and he has emerged as Andrew Luck's go-to receiver in Pep Hamilton's offense. Perhaps the best reason to consider Fleener among the must-start fantasy options this week is the Cardinals are dead last in fantasy against tight ends, allowing nine touchdowns this season. If Luck gets the ball into the end zone against the Cardinals, expect it to be with Fleener on the other end of it.
Garrett Graham, Houston Texans
Graham led the position in Week 11 with 136 yards and has finally looked like a sure-fire fantasy option we thought he would be with Owen Daniels (leg) out. The best news for his fantasy owners is a tasty matchup looming with the Jaguars, who have allowed the second-most points in fantasy to tight ends. Graham is a viable start in all leagues this week.
Rob Housler, Arizona Cardinals
Housler is also coming off a season-high in receiving yards, and he has given a rising Carson Palmer a third option down the seam with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd working the outside. The Colts are a top-10 team in fantasy against tight ends, allowing just two touchdowns to them all season, but they are coming off a game against the Titans that made Delanie Walker look like Vernon Davis. Housler is a nice sleeper play.
Jordan Reed, Washington Redskins
He has not passed his concussion test, according to ESPN's John Keim, which will put his Monday night status in severe doubt—if he is not ruled out before Sunday's lineup deadlines. You should find a replacement for him now. Don't make it Fred Davis, though. The 49ers are fourth-best in fantasy against tight ends.
Martellus Bennett, Chicago Bears
He has been far less of a sure thing with Josh McCown under center for the Bears, so we leave him out of the starters in standard 10- and 12-team leagues. It also does not help that the Bears are facing a Rams defense that has been third-best in fantasy against tight ends.
Tim Wright, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Not only has his upstart rookie season dwindled in the past two games—two catches for 32 yards combined—but the Bucs also face a Lions defense that has allowed just one touchdown reception to a tight end this season (Tyler Eifert in Week 7). There might be some catches and yards for Wright, but he is out of the group we rank as viable starts in standard leagues below.
|Rank||Tight Ends||Team||Opponent||ECR||vs. ECR|
|1||Jimmy Graham||NO||at Atl||2||+1|
|2||Rob Gronkowski||NE||vs. Den||1||-1|
|3||Jason Witten||Dal||at NYG||5||+2|
|4||Vernon Davis||SF||at Was||3||-1|
|5||Coby Fleener||Ind||at Ari||6||+1|
|6||Julius Thomas||Den||at NE||4||-2|
|7||Greg Olsen||Car||at Mia||9||+2|
|8||Antonio Gates||SD||at KC||7||-1|
|9||Tony Gonzalez||Atl||vs. NO||8||-1|
|10||Jordan Cameron||Cle||vs. Pit||12||+2|
|11||Garrett Graham||Hou||vs. Jac||11||0|
|12||Delanie Walker||Ten||at Oak||10||-2|
|13||Rob Housler||Ari||vs. Ind||18||+5|
|14||Jordan Reed||Was||vs. SF||13||-1|
|15||Martellus Bennett||Chi||at StL||15||0|
|16||Heath Miller||Pit||at Cle||14||-2|
|17||Charles Clay||Mia||vs. Car||16||-1|
|18||John Carlson||Min||at GB||17||-1|
|19||Tim Wright||TB||at Det||19||0|
|20||Jared Cook||StL||vs. Chi||20||0|
|21||Brandon Myers||NYG||vs. Dal||29||+8|
|22||Anthony Fasano||KC||vs. SD||32||+10|
|23||Kellen Winslow||NYJ||at Bal||34||+11|
|24||Brandon Pettigrew||Det||vs. TB||26||+2|
|25||Marcedes Lewis||Jac||at Hou||31||+6|
|26||Joseph Fauria||Det||vs. TB||36||+10|
|27||Jeff Cumberland||NYJ||at Bal||24||-3|
|28||Dallas Clark||Bal||vs. NYJ||21||-7|
|29||Lance Kendricks||StL||vs. Chi||35||+6|
|30||Andrew Quarless||GB||vs. Min||28||-2|
Defense/Special Teams: Push the Carolina Panthers Up to the Top of the Heap
This is a pretty obvious one with the way the Panthers have been playing and how much the Dolphins offensive line is in disarray. We feel obligated to list the Panthers as the No. 1 unit on the board this week.
The Jets looked like trash last week in Buffalo, and they go on the road to a much tougher place to play, Baltimore. The Ravens play good enough defense to exploit the third-worst team in fantasy against defense/special teams.
A miserable season sent the Texans kicker to the waiver wire in most leagues, but a home matchup against the Jags gives them one final shot at fantasy viability. Expect J.J. Watt and Co. to finally put a full game together against the fourth-worst team in fantasy against opposing defenses.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers defense shouldn't excite anyone as much as the prospect of facing the error-prone Christian Ponder in the great outdoors. The Packers are going to play a lot closer to the vest this week, which should put their defense in less compromising positions. The Vikings are sixth-worst in fantasy against defenses too.
New England Patriots
Coming off a short week after Monday night's road loss in Carolina, the Pats have the daunting task of facing Peyton Manning. Even if the Pats are at home and potentially playing in freezing and windy conditions, the Pats defense is too far down the fantasy pecking order to consider keeping active here.
New York Giants
They have played much better in their four-game winning streak, if only because Eli Manning hasn't been throwing out pick-sixes like Halloween candy. The Cowboys are also the No. 1 team in fantasy against defenses, so avoid the Giants unit in all leagues this week.
San Diego Chargers
They were a sleeper unit because of defensive and special teams touchdowns last season, but those haven't come as easily this year. Also, a matchup in Kansas City might be the worst in fantasy. The Chiefs are third-best against fantasy units to date. Don't bother owning the Chargers, much less starting them.
|Rank||Defenses and Special Teams||Team||Opponent||ECR||vs. ECR|
|1||Carolina Panthers||Car||at Mia||1||0|
|2||Kansas City Chiefs||KC||vs. SD||3||+1|
|3||Baltimore Ravens||Bal||vs. NYJ||2||-1|
|4||San Francisco 49ers||SF||at Was||5||+1|
|5||Houston Texans||Hou||vs. Jac||4||-1|
|6||St. Louis Rams||StL||vs. Chi||15||+9|
|7||Detroit Lions||Det||vs. TB||16||+9|
|8||Dallas Cowboys||Dal||at NYG||13||+5|
|9||Green Bay Packers||GB||vs. Min||12||+3|
|10||Tennessee Titans||Ten||at Oak||6||-4|
|11||New Orleans Saints||NO||at Atl||7||-4|
|12||Pittsburgh Steelers||Pit||at Cle||18||+6|
|13||Chicago Bears||Chi||at StL||10||-3|
|14||Denver Broncos||Den||at NE||17||+3|
|15||Indianapolis Colts||Ind||at Ari||11||-4|
|16||Cleveland Browns||Cle||vs. Pit||8||-8|
|17||Miami Dolphins||Mia||vs. Car||19||+2|
|18||New York Jets||NYJ||at Bal||14||-4|
|19||Arizona Cardinals||Ari||vs. Ind||9||-10|
|20||Washington Redskins||Was||vs. SF||21||+1|
Kickers: Nick Folk, Dan Bailey and Ryan Succop Should Be Regular Fantasy Starts
Nick Folk, New York Jets
He came off his bye and didn't muster much in Buffalo, but the Ravens have allowed the most field-goal attempts and the third-most points in fantasy against kickers. Folk is back among the top-12 options here.
Dan Bailey, Dallas Cowboys
He has been a bit inconsistent, but he is off his bye and facing a Giants team that has given up 25.6 points per game. Regardless of the weather conditions in New Jersey on Sunday, you have to expect a lot of points on the board between the Cowboys and Giants. Consider Bailey a set-it-and-forget-it option among fantasy kickers the rest of the way.
Ryan Succop, Kansas City Chiefs
You have to like the Chiefs returning home, coming off a loss and facing the Chargers in a division game. This should be enough to keep Succop among the must-start kickers in fantasy.
Kai Forbath, Washington Redskins
We understand the allure of having a Monday night kicker to root for some late fantasy points, but the prospect of Forbath facing the 49ers is not favorable. San Francisco has given up the fewest points to fantasy kickers this season.
Nick Novak, San Diego Chargers
He had his moments early in the season, but Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense have cooled off. Don't dare trust the Chargers at Kansas City, especially with the Chiefs coming off a loss. Kansas City has been the second-toughest matchup for fantasy kickers this season too.
Caleb Sturgis, Miami Dolphins
We have to change our tune on this rookie kicker. Despite a strong leg, he has had some struggles, and the Dolphins are a mess right now. A home matchup facing a team on a short week usually sets up nicely, but not when that opponent is the steamrolling Carolina Panthers. Sturgis is no longer among the must-have fantasy kickers, much less a viable starting option.
|1||Stephen Gostkowski||NE||vs. Den||2||+1|
|2||Matt Prater||Den||at NE||3||+1|
|3||Garrett Hartley||NO||at Atl||1||-2|
|4||Mason Crosby||GB||vs. Min||7||+3|
|5||Justin Tucker||Bal||vs. NYJ||5||0|
|6||Ryan Succop||KC||vs. SD||9||+3|
|7||Dan Bailey||Dal||at NYG||4||-3|
|8||Phil Dawson||SF||at Was||11||+3|
|9||Nick Folk||NYJ||at Bal||16||+7|
|10||David Akers||Det||vs. TB||6||-4|
|11||Blair Walsh||Min||at GB||23||+12|
|12||Matt Bryant||Atl||vs. NO||10||-2|
|13||Nick Novak||SD||at KC||19||+6|
|14||Greg Zuerlein||StL||vs. Chi||21||+7|
|15||Adam Vinatieri||Ind||at Ari||8||-7|
|16||Shaun Suisham||Pit||at Cle||17||+1|
|17||Jay Feely||Ari||vs. Ind||20||+3|
|18||Josh Brown||NYG||vs. Dal||14||-4|
|19||Caleb Sturgis||Mia||vs. Car||28||+9|
|20||Kai Forbath||Was||vs. SF||15||-5|
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.