Familiar faces like Josh Gordon, Knowshon Moreno, Philip Rivers, Jamaal Charles and Tom Brady topped all fantasy performers this past week, a gentle reminder that it is always best to trust your studs down the stretch.
This week, fantasy owners will once again have their full complement of fantasy players as the bye weeks are now beyond us. It's a relief, but it also means all of the onus is once again on you to make the right lineup calls. There are no more, "well, I had to start that guy, I was crushed by the byes" excuses.
Any slip-up could cost you a spot in the playoffs. Luckily, I've compiled my top-10 rankings at every position so you don't have to worry about mistakenly benching one of this week's top performers.
|1||Matt Stafford||Detroit Lions||Green Bay Packers||26|
|2||Tony Romo||Dallas Cowboys||Oakland Raiders||25|
|3||Cam Newton||Carolina Panthers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||22|
|4||Robert Griffin III||Washington||New York Giants||20|
|5||Tom Brady||New England Patriots||Houston Texans||19|
|6||Drew Brees||New Orleans Saints||Seattle Seahawks||17|
|7||Peyton Manning||Denver Broncos||Kansas City Chiefs||17|
|8||Andrew Luck||Indianapolis Colts||Tennessee Titans||16|
|9||Josh McCown*||Chicago Bears||Minnesota Vikings||15|
|10||Andy Dalton||Cincinnati Bengals||San Diego Chargers||15|
*Jay Cutler if he returns
This is a tough week for top fantasy quarterbacks.
Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, Philip Rivers and Colin Kaepernick all have tough matchups. You obviously are starting Brees and Manning every single week, but Wilson, Rivers, Foles and Kaepernick have all been relegated to QB2 status for the time being.
The Green Bay Packers have held an opposing quarterback to under 13 fantasy points in standard-scoring leagues just once this season, so Matt Stafford (and Calvin Johnson, for that matter) should have a field day against them.
Quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Manning, Rivers and Foles have absolutely torched the Oakland Raiders, so don't be surprised when Tony Romo does the same.
I don't care who is starting for the Chicago Bears this week—they're worth a start against a poor Minnesota Vikings defense. And coming off a bye and facing a poor San Diego pass defense, Andy Dalton returns to the land of the QB1 this week.
|1||Adrian Peterson||Minnesota Vikings||Chicago Bears||24|
|2||Matt Forte||Chicago Bears||Minnesota Vikings||22|
|3||Frank Gore||San Francisco 49ers||St. Louis Rams||20|
|4||Eddie Lacy||Green Bay Packers||Detroit Lions||19|
|5||Marshawn Lynch||Seattle Seahawks||New Orleans Saints||17|
|6||Jamaal Charles||Kansas City Chiefs||Denver Broncos||17|
|7||Chris Johnson||Tennessee Titans||Indianapolis Colts||16|
|8||Reggie Bush||Detroit Lions||Green Bay Packers||15|
|9||LeSean McCoy||Philadelphia Eagles||Arizona Cardinals||14|
|10||Knowshon Moreno||Denver Broncos||Kansas City Chiefs||13|
Running Back Notes
The Chicago Bears just gave up 15 fantasy points to Zac Stacy in a half. Imagine what Adrian Peterson will do to them in a whole game...
Of course, the Vikings have given up over 20 fantasy points to opposing running backs in consecutive weeks, so Matt Forte is going to have a big game himself.
Truth be told, there really aren't many surprises in the top 10. Frank Gore, Eddie Lacy, Chris Johnson and Reggie Bush all have excellent matchups, while Marshawn Lynch, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy and Knowshon Moreno have been too consistent to dismiss even when the matchup doesn't seem overly favorable.
One important player is Stacy, who misses this list more because of uncertainty with his injury and less because of a potentially tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. Stacy scored a combined 27 fantasy points against the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers, so he basically seems matchup-proof at this point.
If he's healthy, he should be considered a low-end RB1. With 98 points in the past seven weeks—that's 14 points per week, folks—he's earned that right.
|1||Calvin Johnson||Detroit Lions||Green Bay Packers||23|
|2||Josh Gordon||Cleveland Browns||Jacksonville Jaguars||20|
|3||A.J. Green||Cincinnati Bengals||San Diego Chargers||19|
|4||Brandon Marshall||Chicago Bears||Minnesota Vikings||18|
|5||Dez Bryant||Dallas Cowboys||Oakland Raiders||16|
|6||Antonio Brown||Pittsburgh Steelers||Baltimore Ravens||16|
|7||Jordy Nelson||Green Bay Packers||Detroit Lions||15|
|8||Larry Fitzgerald||Arizona Cardinals||Philadelphia Eagles||15|
|9||Demaryius Thomas||Denver Broncos||Kansas City Chiefs||14|
|10||Andre Johnson||Houston Texans||New England Patriots||13|
Wide Receiver Notes
Calvin Johnson notched 11 fantasy points on Sunday, and it felt like a down week. That's how freaking good he has been recently. Until further notice, his home is atop these rankings.
Josh Gordon continues to prove he is an elite NFL receiver and excellent fantasy option. His 14 receptions for 247 yards and a touchdown on Sunday would put him at fifth on the Cleveland Browns this season in both receptions and receiving yards.
With double-digit fantasy points in six of his past nine games, Gordon has firmly established himself as a weekly WR1.
A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant, Jordy Nelson and Larry Fitzgerald all have really tasty matchups, while Demaryius Thomas and Andre Johnson have earned our trust. And how about Antonio Brown absolutely torching Joe Haden this week for six receptions, 92 yards and a score?
I'll be honest, I didn't see that coming at all. Brown has turned himself into a legitimate WR1 in the past four weeks (all double-digit performances) and should be treated as such.
|1||Rob Gronkowski||New England Patriots||Houston Texans||20|
|2||Jimmy Graham||New Orleans Saints||Seattle Seahawks||17|
|3||Jason Witten||Dallas Cowboys||Oakland Raiders||15|
|4||Vernon Davis||San Francisco 49ers||St. Louis Rams||14|
|5||Julius Thomas*||Denver Broncos||Kansas City Chiefs||12|
|6||Jordan Cameron||Cleveland Browns||Jacksonville Jaguars||12|
|7||Coby Fleener||Indianapolis Colts||Tennessee Titans||11|
|8||Tony Gonzalez||Atlanta Falcons||Buffalo Bills||11|
|9||Jordan Reed*||Washington||New York Giants||10|
|10||Delanie Walker||Tennessee Titans||Indianapolis Colts||10|
*If he plays
Tight End Notes
Much like Megatron at wide receiver, until further notice Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham will continue to live atop these rankings, regardless of matchup. They are each just a step above anyone else at the position.
Jason Witten's matchup against the Raiders should translate into his third double-digit performance in his past four games, while Vernon Davis continues to be one of the steadier options at the position (even if one 30-point week has slightly inflated his value).
Jordan Cameron has a tasty matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars, while Coby Fleener torched the Tennessee Titans in their last meeting in Week 11 for eight receptions and 107 yards. He has now registered double-digit fantasy points in two straight weeks and has scored eight or more points in four of his past five games, making him a very intriguing option going forward.
If Julius Thomas is healthy, you start him. Plain and simple.
|1||Carolina Panthers||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||20|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||St. Louis Rams||16|
|3||Miami Dolphins||New York Jets||15|
|4||Dallas Cowboys||Oakland Raiders||14|
|5||New England Patriots||Houston Texans||13|
|6||Cleveland Browns||Jacksonville Jaguars||13|
|7||New York Giants||Washington||12|
|8||Baltimore Ravens||Pittsburgh Steelers||11|
|9||St. Louis Rams||San Francisco 49ers||10|
|10||Seattle Seahawks||New Orleans Saints||9|
Defense/Special Team Notes
You don't want to start the Cincinnati Bengals against the San Diego Chargers or the New Orleans Saints vs. the Seattle Seahawks this week. Too risky.
But yes, I think you play the Seahawks unless you have one of my top nine options, solely because Seattle is at home. In Seattle, the Seahawks defense is averaging 12.6 fantasy points per contest. On the road, that number drops to 10.3 fantasy points per game.
Seattle has won 13 straight games at home, and the crowd noise is going to make life very difficult for Brees and the Saints offense. There are very few moments when you should take the chance on a defense facing New Orleans, but this is one calculated risk that I think will work out for fantasy owners.
Carolina and San Francisco will dominate this week, but beyond that, trust the matchups. Teams like the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants have played well in fantasy terms of late and should definitely be considered this week.
|1||Stephen Gostkowski||New England Patriots||Houston Texans||15|
|2||Dan Bailey||Dallas Cowboys||Oakland Raiders||14|
|3||Matt Prater||Denver Broncos||Kansas City Chiefs||12|
|4||Mason Crosby||Green Bay Packers||Detroit Lions||12|
|5||Adam Vinatieri||Indianapolis Colts||Tennessee Titans||12|
|6||Robbie Gould||Chicago Bears||Minnesota Vikings||11|
|7||Justin Tucker||Baltimore Ravens||Pittsburgh Steelers||11|
|8||Alex Henery||Philadelphia Eagles||Arizona Cardinals||10|
|9||Dan Carpenter||Buffalo Bills||Atlanta Falcons||10|
|10||Steven Hauschka||Seattle Seahawks||New Orleans Saints||9|
In my primary league I have Matt Prater, and it has been a relief because streaming kickers is truly maddening. You can play the matchups and target players who have performed consistently, but kickers are so darn fickle you just never know.
If you have a kicker you trust and one that has remained a top option, stick with them. After 12 weeks of the NFL season, you should have a pretty good idea of what you have in them and don't need to risk weeks of frustrating kicker streaming as the playoffs approach.
Hit me up on Twitter—I'll answer your fantasy lineup questions, tweet random fantasy musings and propose theories for how Antonio Brown overcame Joe Haden's fantasy kryptonite.