Every week fantasy football owners should be watching the league's action for major injuries. Likewise, they should be checking for good-to-great performances from the replacements who step in for the starters.
Week 12's action gave us a few noteworthy games from second-stringers given the opportunity to shine. These players will have their names thrown about on Monday morning as potential waiver-wire pickups.
Benjamin Cunningham, RB, St. Louis Rams
The St. Louis Rams have made a strong commitment to running the football since Sam Bradford went down with a season-ending injury in Week 7. The new direction is shining through in the team's rushing statistics.
Since Bradford went down, the Rams are averaging 189.5 yards per game on the ground. That includes a season-high 258 against the Chicago Bears on Sunday in the team's 42-21 win. Zac Stacy had been the primary beneficiary for this strategy, but he suffered a possible concussion against the Bears and didn't return to the game, per Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com.
The Rams didn't miss a beat in the ground game, and Benjamin Cunningham was a big reason why. He stepped in and had a huge game. Cunningham racked up 109 yards on just 13 carries and scored a touchdown. With the Rams showing a strong ability to run the ball and with Stacy potentially set up to miss time, Cunningham could be a great late-season pickup for fantasy owners.
Matt Flynn, QB, Green Bay Packers
It seems like the only team Flynn looks like an NFL quarterback with is the Green Bay Packers. After short and unsuccessful stints with the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders, Flynn is back with the Packers, the team that originally drafted him in 2008. Back in 2011, Flynn stepped in for Aaron Rodgers and threw for a Madden-like 480 yards and six touchdowns agains the Detroit Lions in the regular-season finale.
With Rodgers out again and still a few weeks away from returning, per Paul Imig of Fox Sports Wisconsin, Flynn stepped in for an ineffective Scott Tolzien on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. He completed 21 of 36 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown in a game that ended in a 26-26 tie.
Had Flynn started—as he likely will in Week 13 at the Lions—the Packers might have won. In any case, Flynn's effectiveness in relief of Tolzien shows his confidence has been somewhat restored now that he's back with Mike McCarthy. Could he produce another ridiculous stat line against the Detroit Lions? Half of the production he delivered against them three years ago would delight fantasy owners who take a chance on him.
Flynn isn't a great long-term solution, but if one of your quarterbacks is on a bye or has been recently injured, he's not a bad choice for a short-term fix.
Dennis Johnson, RB, Houston Texans
With Arian Foster done for the season, per Tom Pelissero of USA Today, and Ben Tate ineffective, someone in Houston has to get the bulk of the rushing attempts. That person is likely to be Dennis Johnson.
In the Texans' embarrassing 13-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, Johnson had 74 yards rushing on 13 carries. It was more yards than he'd had in all his previous games combined this season.
The diminutive back has some value as a receiver as he also caught two passes. There isn't much to like about the Texans roster, but fantasy owners may find Johnson to be a decent flex option.