We have said this for weeks, but it bears repeating because of the news this week: Michael Crabtree is going to follow the slow, steady paths of Percy Harvin (hip) and Mario Manningham (knee) in his return from May surgery on an Achilles tear.
Absolutely own him in fantasy for his potential to chip in down the stretch, but don't expect anything in the way of immediate results. The 49ers did get us excited by activating Crabtree (Achilles) off the PUP list Tuesday, but Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News reminds us it was a procedural move:
"Coming back" does not necessarily translate to "starting" or even to being in uniform. Above all, keep this fact in mind:
Crabtree is not being activated to make a difference Sunday against the Rams. He is being activated to make a difference in January -- if the 49ers make the playoffs (which they should) and if he can indeed return to his superior form of last season (which is still in question).
On Twitter, however, the 49ers were at least willing to say he'd play in Week 13:
Purdy concludes his column with this fantasy nugget:
Make no mistake. Adding the Crabtree option to a wide-receiving mix with reliable Anquan Boldin and veteran Mario Manningham should jack up the 49ers' passing game. Crabtree should take it to another level. But don't expect him to take the express elevator there. It'll be more of an escalator ride. A prudently slow one.
The Week 12 rebound of Colin Kaepernick is exciting, but his future production will still have to come with the help of Boldin, Vernon Davis and perhaps Manningham more than Crabtree in the short term.
Patriots Games (at Running Back and Wide Receiver)
What do we make of the Patriots running backs and wide receivers coming off that fantasy frenzy against the Broncos on Sunday night? It is a classic Bill Belichick mess.
Belichick seems resigned to minimizing the risk of his fumbling backs or injury- and mistake-prone receivers by leaving all of his options open.
ESPN's Mike Reiss suggests Stevan Ridley has fumbled away the feature-back role. That means Shane Vereen is the only Pats back to trust. Heck, he might emerge as a top-10 fantasy star, if he truly starts and gets all of the passing-down targets.
Vereen won't be the goal-line back, though. That will still rotate through the hands of Ridley, LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden. None of that trio is worth starting in standard fantasy leagues right now, even if Ridley has top-10 potential.
At wide receiver, Danny Amendola remains the only truly intriguing option, but we wouldn't start him against the NFL's No. 1 pass defense this Sunday, especially since Julian Edelman, Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson have taken turns outscoring him in fantasy since Amendola's return from injury. There has been nothing of substance written on this, but it seems the Pats don't trust Amendola to be their weekly go-to man—perhaps because of the injury risk.
Eagle Has Landed
The Philadelphia Eagles have named Nick Foles their starting quarterback for the rest of the season.
Air is good. Water is wet—and especially delicious when you are thirsty.
Nothing more needs to be said there. You can drop Michael Vick in all standard leagues, if you didn't long ago.
THURSDAY START 'EM, SIT 'EM
We sort through the fantasy options in each of the three Thanksgiving Day games this week:
Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions
- Packers: Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Jarrett Boykin and Mason Crosby
- Lions: Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and David Akers
The opportunity here lies with the Packers receivers. Matt Flynn showed enough to make each of the three Packers wideouts viable starts against the second-worst team in fantasy against wide receivers, Detroit. Burleson, the most-added receiver in fantasy this week (see below), joins your other weekly Lions starters.
- Packers: Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn, Scott Tolzien, James Starks, Andrew Quarless and Packers D/ST
- Lions: Joique Bell, Kris Durham, Kevin Ogletree, Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria and Lions D/ST
The Lions are in the top 10 of fantasy against running backs and tight ends, while both teams are in the top 10 against defense/special teams. The only question is whether to use Flynn at quarterback. You can in two-quarterback formats, but you probably don't need to dig that deep in standard leagues.
Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys
- Raiders: Rashad Jennings, Darren McFadden and Rod Streater
- Cowboys: Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Dan Bailey and the Cowboys D/ST
While this is a "start all" game for your Cowboys—especially at home on the short week—there are a few things to like about the Raiders this week. Dallas is third worst against the run and second worst against the pass. Dallas has also allowed the most points in fantasy against quarterbacks and running backs.
Jennings will get the start and bulk of the touches, but you can consider Darren McFadden as a flex play, because of the quality of matchup and the likelihood Dallas runs it up and forces McFadden into the game as a pass-catcher in the hurry-up offense.
- Raiders: Matt McGloin, Marcel Reece, Denarius Moore (shoulder), Jacoby Ford, Brice Butler, Mychal Rivera, Sebastian Janikowski and Raiders D/ST
- Cowboys: Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar, Miles Austin and Terrance Williams
Because the Cowboys give up yards and might give up garbage-time points here, too, the Raiders are going to be popular sleepers in daily salary-cap leagues. Moore is the only one of the Raiders above who even deserves to be owned in standard fantasy formats, but he isn't expected to play.
The Cowboys here are sits because of the veterans who are now healthy. Austin's return has cut deep into Williams' value. If you need to play one of them, play Austin. He will get more and more targets as he proves healthy down the stretch.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens
- Steelers: Le'Veon Bell, Antonio Brown and Heath Miller
- Ravens: Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Justin Tucker and Ravens D/ST
The Ravens are third best in fantasy against running backs, but the Steelers' Bell should have earned your trust by now. The Steelers are in the bottom 10, so Rice should have a much better game than he did against the No. 1 rush defense in football, the Jets, last week. This rivalry is always a physical, defensive struggle, but these options remain among the weekly starting options in standard leagues.
- Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, Felix Jones, Jonathan Dwyer, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Shaun Suisham and Steelers D/ST
- Ravens: Joe Flacco, Bernard Pierce, Marlon Brown, Jacoby Jones and Dallas Clark
The Steelers and Ravens are both in the top 10 of fantasy against quarterbacks, so Big Ben and Flacco are merely two-quarterback, or salary-cap format options. These others are fringe-to-bad plays in favorable, wide-open matchups. This should be one of those. The good news is the weather conditions will be dry and not too frigid.
We break down the top 50 most-added players in fantasy this week, using CBS Sports leagues as the example below.
|Week 13's Most-Added Players|
|RK||Player||POS||TM||Past %||New %||Increase|
You cannot go wrong with Carson Palmer, Alex Smith or Josh McCown as quarterback fill-ins this week, although McCown gets the most-added nod because he will be playing indoors. He and Palmer have enough weapons to be productive against anyone, but Smith is the one who will be engaging in a potential division-deciding shootout against the Broncos on Sunday.
Benny Cunningham probably didn't deserve as much love as he got this week. Sure, he will be potentially starting for Zac Stacy (concussion), but the Rams will be at the 49ers. San Francisco remains one of the most feared run defenses in football.
The second choice, Brandon Bolden, is stuck too deep in a timeshare, while Dennis Johnson might be the most intriguing option. Johnson was added in just six percent of leagues, but he will be getting ample touches against the 31st-ranked run defense of the Patriots.
Burleson, Edelman, Streater and Crabtree were the obvious adds. Fantasy got it right here. Burleson and Streater are the one-week plays, while Crabtree has the highest ceiling in the season's final weeks—even if he will be worked in slowly off his Achilles tear. Edelman warrants being owned, but the Pats receiving corps is just as dicey as their backs right now. You can never be sure which one is going to get the production week to week.
It is a lean week here. None of those above are truly all that exciting, so we will point you back to Bleacher Report's Top Pickups at tight end. Rob Housler is the one-week stopgap, while Dennis Pitta (hip) is the speculative add for the fantasy position.
Seeing the Dolphins unit No. 1 is a bit surprising...and crazy. Yeah, we know you would rather have the Dolphins defense facing an error-prone Geno Smith, but fantasy scoring isn't about talent; it is about winning. We should expect the Jets to play well at home this week, especially defensively.
The Jets should have been the add over Miami. The Patriots are the must-start of those above and should have been the most-added unit this week.
No one should be agonizing over their options here by now. Steven Hauschka is a must-start kicker, so seeing him No. 1 at this position shouldn't shock anyone. If you're looking to add a sleeper, it is Justin Tucker. He is better than his early-season numbers indicated.
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.