Nate Burleson (WR, Detroit Lions) : The Lions go on the road to play the New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night, and for anyone who watched the Monday Night game this week, it’s pretty obvious there will be a lot of points scored. The Saints look unbeatable and unstoppable at home on the offensive side of the ball, but when they grab a large lead there will be a lot of time for Burleson and the Lions offense to produce in garbage time. Over the last 3 weeks, Burleson has 20 catches for 185 yards and a touchdown. His counterpart Calvin Johnson has only 16 catches over that same span. Teams are starting to double up on Calvin and it is leaving room for Burleson to maneuver across the middle of the field. He is the dominant WR2 for the Lions. Oh, and did I mention that Victor Cruz, WR2 for the Giants, just had 9 catches for 157 yards and 2 touchdowns on Monday Night on the road against New Orleans? Burleson has his breakout game on Sunday night. Oh, and he’s available in 83.2% of ESPN leagues.
Eli Manning (QB, New York Giants) : It’s hard to ever recommend a quarterback that is coming off a short week, but Manning is also coming off of a 400+ yard, 2 TD game. The Giants can’t run the ball at all, and they are playing a must-win game against the undefeated Green Bay Packers. Will they win? Not even close. They are going to get demolished again, which means a ton of garbage fantasy points for Eli. Even though they are 11-0, the Packers are giving up 278.8 yards per game through the air – good enough for 2nd to last in the league. In order for the Giants to have any chance in this game, they are going to have to throw a lot. Don’t be surprised if Eli ends up around 50 pass attempts. He should easy clear 300 yards, and have at least a couple touchdowns. He’s averaging 316 yards and just under 2 touchdowns a game in his last 5 starts.
Roy Helu (RB, Washington Redskins) : Is it finally time to trust a running back that is coached by Mike Shanahan? My vote is yes, and Roy Helu is that guy. The 23 carries that Helu received last week was the most by a Redskins RB since Tim Hightower in week one. Add that he had 162 total yards, including seven catches, and Washington may have finally figured out they have to heavily involve Helu into the game plan in order to give themselves a chance to win. The biggest advantage for Helu is that he is healthy, and very well rested. Helu only has 27 carries over the last 6 weeks, so there should be plenty of gas left in the tank. The matchup isn’t great, as Rex Ryan and the New York Jets are known for their tough run defense; however, the Jets have given up 10 rushing touchdowns on the ground this year – good enough for the 7th most in the NFL.
DeAngelo Williams (RB, Carolina Panthers) : I know I know, he has had an absolutely abysmal season, and if it hadn’t been for his two touchdowns last week it would have been another average at best day for someone who was drafted as a top 15 RB. Hear me out on this one though, the 25 carries he has in the last 2 games is the most of any two game span this season. He also has 174 total yards over the last two games, which is more than Frank Gore, Michael Turner, Reggie Bush, and Mike Tolbert. If Carolina just finds a way to stay in the game, Williams will get his carries and the chance to control the clock. With defenses now zoning in on Newton closer, they seem to forget about whose coming out of the backfield. The last factor is that Carolina is playing at Tampa Bay, who is sporting the 3rd worst rushing defense in the league – averaging just under 140 yards a game, and has given up 13 rushing touchdowns in 11 games.
Antonio Brown (WR, Pittsburgh Steelers) : Brown started the year on the depth chart as the Steelers number 4 WR, but has worked his way up and is now Pittsburgh’s WR2. With defenses zoning in on Mike Wallace, Brown is becoming one of Roethlisberger’s favorite targets, and his production in the last month and a half shows that. Brown has 30 catches for 445 yards over his past 5 starts – both of those totals are higher than those of Mike Wallace. He only has one touchdown, but it hasn’t been due to a lack of targets. Cincinnati boasts a good pass defense, but 3 weeks ago Brown had 5 catches for 86 yards against them, which makes him a pretty solid flex start.
Dez Bryant (WR, Dallas Cowboys) : Bryant was supposed to be one of the most dynamic receivers this year, and when Miles Austin went down a lot of owners thought this would help Bryant even more. The exact opposite happened – defenses have been playing press coverage on Bryant all the way down the field and making somebody else on the field beat them, thus the emergence of Laurent Robinson. With Miles Austin expected to be back this week, the depth of the Cowboys receiving core will be back, and Bryant will be the beneficiary. Dallas is also playing at Washington – the 8th worst pass defense in the league.
Antonio Gates (TE, San Diego Chargers) : Missed 4 weeks earlier in the season due to injury, but after the Chargers bye it’s like he never lost a step. In the last 4 games Gates is averaging just under 6 catches a game, for 65.5 yards and has 3 touchdowns. Now, he gets to face a Jaguars defense that allows the 2nd most fantasy points to tight ends… you probably weren’t sitting Gates anyway, but now you can start him with confidence.
New England Patriots D/ST : Last week, the Patriots defense got destroyed by the Eagles, and Vince Young threw for over 400 yards. However, the 20th ranked fantasy defense of the Patriots are playing the 0-11 Colts this week, which doesn’t even have a fourth of the fire power that the Eagles do. Indy announced today that Dan Orlovsky will be starting over Curtis Painter, and if that makes you nervous when you deploy the Patriots defense you are crazy. Remember, Orlovsky is the QB that ran 5 yards out of the back of the endzone for a safety when he was with the Lions. He is also the QB that led Detroit to an 0-16 season. The Colts can’t run, they can’t throw, and Julian Edelman returned a kickoff for a touchdown a couple weeks ago so there is some hope there.
Every Patriot : As I just mentioned, they are playing the 0-11 Colts… it’s going to be a blowout. Brady, Welker, Branch, Gronkowski, Hernandez, Green-Ellis, and even Woodhead in 12 team of deeper leagues all should start.
Lance Moore (WR, New Orleans Saints) : If you are in a deep league and are looking for a risky play, give Lance a go. Anyone except for Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles on the Saints roster is a risky start, but Moore does have 4 TD’s in his last 4 games… something to consider.
Automatic Starts: QB – Rodgers, Brady, Brees, Stafford, Newton, Fitzpatrick, Romo; … RB: McCoy, Foster, Rice, Forte, Peterson, Jones-Drew, Turner, Sproles, Gore, Murray, Matthews, McGahee, M. Bush (if McFadden out); … WR: Welker, Cal. Johnson, Smith, Cruz, Wallace, Jennings, Nelson, Fitzgerald, V. Jackson, White, Bowe, Nicks.
Nate Washington (WR, Tennessee Titans) : Week 11 was a fluke. He is getting a significant amount of targets but he is the only receiving threat on that team since Kenny Britt got hurt. Not including week 11, Washington has averaged 2.4 catches for 24.8 yards a game. Those are barely rosterable numbers. If Tennessee wants to go any where they are going to have to learn how to run the ball, and although Chris Johnson finally figured out how to do that last week, don’t count on it to be consistent. Washington is a dud in an offense that hasn’t found a way to be successful as a unit all year. Leave Washington on your bench this week until he proves he can perform on a weekly basis.
James Starks (RB, Green Bay Packers) : I honestly don’t understand why he gets such high projections on ESPN each and every week. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since week 1 and he hasn’t had more than 13 carries in a game all season. The Packers are a strict pass offense, and with all the weapons in that lineup, Starks will not get the touches that he needs in order to be placed into your lineup. When Grant was hurt, Starks was given the opportunity to show the organization that he was going to be the guy going forward, and he failed to do that. With Grant healthy, there is just no reason to start him.
Toby Gerhart (RB, Minnesota Vikings) : If Adrian Peterson plays then this is a no brainer sit, but even if AP doesn’t play I still don’t think you can rely on Gerhart to produce. He got the start last week and scored a touchdown, but if he doesn’t score you are absolutely screwed. He has terrible hands out of the backfield, adds nothing to the passing game, and he just isn’t a downhill runner that can commend a starting job. He’s a great short yardage guy that you love to throw in on 3rd or 4th and 1’s, like how the Steelers utilize Isaac Redman, but as a starter he’s not going to do much. Last week he had 17 carries for 44 yards… so if you want a guy whose going to average 2.6 YPC… Gerhart is your guy.
Andre Johnson (WR, Houston Texans) : Coach Kubiak admitted that he thought he played Johnson a little too much last week after he hadn’t played in over 2 months due to injury. If Schaub was at the helm, I would say deploy him as you usually would. But he is coming into a situation with a quarterback who he has never taken reps from in his career. I believe that defenses are going to load the box in order to stop Arian Foster, but the risk of T.J. Yates being able to throw Johnson back into fantasy relevance just seems like a pretty large task. If you have no one else, then you have to start him, considering you drafted him real high, but don’t expect anything above 50 or 60 yards.
Anquan Boldin (WR, Baltimore Ravens) : I can make this one short. Cleveland gives up the fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and he only has 7 catches in the last 3 games. There are definitely better options.
C.J. Spiller (RB, Buffalo Bills) : When Fred Jackson went down everyone thought that Spiller would step up and become a top ten fantasy running back. Well, we all learned real fast that Jackson was just an absolute beast this year and that Spiller won’t even come close to that hype. 19 carries for 55 yards last week, and now that Tashard Choice has been around for more than a week, expect him to get involved more in the offense and take touches away from Spiller.
Mark Ingram and Pierre Thomas (RB, New Orleans Saints) : Sproles is the only back in this offense that you can start with any confidence. Ingram’s 13 carries last week were the most he’s gotten since week 7 – he’s just too unpredictable. Pierre Thomas is the same way, you can’t start him with any confidence. He’s only had 10+ carries in a game once this year, and with all the weapons in New Orleans you just never know who will be holding the ball in the end zone.
Tim Tebow (QB, Denver Broncos) : Denver will probably win again behind the spiritual powers of Tim Tebow, and I know that he runs the ball a ton which is great for fantasy; however, somebody is eventually going to figure him out. I think that it’s Willis McGahee who runs all over the Dolphins this week, not Tebow. I enjoy watching him play because the offense that Denver runs is like nothing else in the league, but I just can’t recommend that you start a quarterback who is averaging 105 passing yards a game in his last 3 starts.
Eric Decker (WR, Denver Broncos) : Touchdowns in 3 of his last 4 games… he also has only 7 catches in those 4 games. He is Tebow’s favorite target, but Tebow just doesn’t throw the ball enough to risk starting him.
Every Kansas City Running Back : Don’t try to get cute, neither McCluster, Jones, nor Battle has proved they deserved to be started in a fantasy lineup.
Owen Daniels (TE, Houston Texans) : Hasn’t had a touchdown since week 4, hasn’t had more than 71 yards or more than 4 catches in a game since week 5, and now his quarterback is T.J. Yates… find somebody else.
Jabar Gaffney (WR, Washington Redskins) : Had a great week two weeks ago and really showed some promise in the world of fantasy football. That is until last week when he showed us that it was an absolute fluke. He only has two touchdowns since week 1, and only one game of more than 100 yards receiving. On top of it all, he faces a New York Jets defense ranked 7th against the pass.
Matt Ryan (QB, Atlanta Falcons) : He has been a top 10 quarterback all year, but I don’t see him putting up anything special against a Houston defense ranked 2nd in the league in pass defense. The Texans only give up 176 yards per game through the air. Atlanta will implement Turner and Snelling more into their game plan and it will be a bland game for Ryan. He’s been hot the last 4 weeks, but Houston will put out the fire.
Green Bay Packers D/ST : This week’s game against the Giants is going to be an absolute shootout. The Packers are a top 10 fantasy defense, but you’ll want to avoid them this week in a game where they will give up a bunch of garbage yards in the second half.