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Week 12 was expected to bring good news with Browns receiver Josh Gordon returning to action. While Fantasy owners with Gordon can rejoice now that he's ready to play, many others are dealing with some potentially crushing injuries.
In Week 11 we saw Ahmad Bradshaw (ankle), Montee Ball (groin) and Brandin Cooks (thumb) go down for likely an extended period of time, and Emmanuel Sanders (concussion), Julius Thomas (ankle) and Dwayne Allen (ankle) could also be out for Week 12. That should make for an active waiver wire as we creep closer toward the Fantasy playoffs.
There were two running backs in Jonas Gray and Alfred Blue who emerged in Week 11 and could prove to be vital this week and moving forward. Gray dominated the Colts in his breakout performance, and Blue started for the Texans in place of Arian Foster (groin) and looked great at Cleveland. He will obviously lose value if Foster returns in Week 12 against Cincinnati, but Foster isn't a lock to play.
Kenny Stills will see a boost in production with Cooks out, and he should be considered a No. 2 Fantasy receiver for his home matchup Monday night against Baltimore. Cecil Shorts and Allen Hurns also should see a bump in production with Allen Robinson (foot) out.
And at tight end, we could be looking for at least two starters if Thomas and Allen are out. Coby Fleener is a top priority in all leagues whether Allen plays or not, because he's been playing well of late and faces the Jaguars this week.
Injuries: Nick Foles (collarbone)
Key players on bye: Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton
Priority list (in this order): Josh McCown (35 percent ownership), Kyle Orton (35 percent), Brian Hoyer (21 percent), Michael Vick (22 percent), Ryan Mallett (12 percent), Drew Stanton (34 percent), Zach Mettenberger (7 percent), Shaun Hill (4 percent)
Potential drop candidates: Cam Newton (91 percent), Robert Griffin III (76 percent)
Why McCown is the best: McCown has played great the past two games in his return from a thumb injury and is taking advantage of a soft schedule and the dynamic play of rookie receiver Mike Evans. He has 23 Fantasy points in each game against Atlanta and Washington, and he has another favorable matchup this week at the Bears, which is his former team. Chicago has allowed five quarterbacks to throw multiple touchdowns, including three in the past four games. As long as Evans stays hot -- he has 21 catches for 458 yards and five touchdowns in his past three games -- McCown should do fine this week as a Top 10 option.
Of note: If Andy Dalton (76 percent ownership) and Ryan Tannehill (73 percent) are available, you should consider adding them and starting them over Matthew Stafford (at NE) and Philip Rivers (vs. STL) this week based on the respective matchups. Dalton should do well at Houston, and Tannehill could be in a shootout at Denver. ... Orton also has a favorable matchup vs. the Jets, and he had 33 Fantasy points against them in Week 8. Ben Roethlisberger in Week 10 is the lone quarterback not to have multiple touchdowns against the Jets. ... Hoyer gets Gordon back in a favorable matchup at the Falcons. We'll see if Gordon is rusty and how he does, but four quarterbacks in a row have thrown multiple touchdowns against the Falcons. ... Vick came on in relief the last time these teams met, and he had six Fantasy points. Since then, Vick has 34 Fantasy points in his past two games with no turnovers, and he's gotten more time to develop a rapport with Percy Harvin. Buffalo is down Leodis McKelvin (ankle), so maybe Vick can have consecutive games with at least 20 Fantasy points. ... Mallett showed potential in his first start against the Browns with 18 Fantasy points, and he's worth keeping an eye on in all leagues. But this is a tough matchup against the Bengals, who have allowed just four quarterbacks to score at least 20 Fantasy points and just shut down Drew Brees in New Orleans with 16 points. ... Stanton had 20 Fantasy points in his second stint as the starter for the Cardinals in Week 11 against Detroit, but it will be hard for him to duplicate that at Seattle. He now has four starts on the season with 42 Fantasy points at home and 10 on the road. ... Mettenberger had his first game with 20 Fantasy points against Pittsburgh on Monday night, and he has 39 Fantasy points at home. His lone road start was at Baltimore, and he finished with 11 Fantasy points. He'll be closer to that total this week at Philadelphia. ... Hill did well in leading the Rams to a big upset against the Broncos in Week 11, but he's just a game manager. You can ignore him in most standard formats.
Injuries: Ahmad Bradshaw (ankle), Arian Foster (groin), Reggie Bush
(ankle), Ronnie Hillman (foot), Giovani Bernard (hip), Fred Jackson
(groin), Khiry Robinson (forearm), Doug Martin (ankle), Pierre Thomas
(shoulder), Montee Ball (groin), Mike Tolbert (leg)
Key players on bye: Le'Veon Bell, Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams
Priority list (add them in this order): Jonas Gray (33 percent ownership), Alfred Blue (61 percent), Isaiah Crowell (39 percent), Bryce Brown (52 percent), Tre Mason (67 percent), Charles Sims (44 percent), Dan Herron (0 percent), Latavius Murray (1 percent), Knile Davis (59 percent), Theo Riddick (37 percent), Roy Helu (22 percent), Juwan Thompson (16 percent)
Potential drop candidates: Montee Ball (95 percent), Ahmad Bradshaw (89 percent), Darren McFadden (80 percent)
Why Gray is the best: We now know that if the Patriots commit to their running game they have a capable running back to handle the load. Gray had a whopping 38 carries for 199 yards and four touchdowns at Indianapolis in Week 11. Last year, the Patriots ran into the playoffs behind LeGarrette Blount, so Gray could play a similar role this season. So far this year, the Patriots have given a running back double digit carries nine times, and five times that has resulted in double digits in Fantasy points. Gray should be the No. 1 player added this week.
Of note: I would hold onto Adrian Peterson (97 percent) and Ben Tate (94 percent) for now until we find out what happens with Peterson's appeal of his year-long suspension and if Tate lands with a team after being cut by the Browns. ... There are reports Foster could return in Week 12 against the Bengals, but he also was expected to play in Week 11 at Cleveland coming off the bye. If he's out again then Blue would be a No. 2 running back against the Bengals. He was solid against the Browns with 36 carries for 156 yards, and the Texans clearly trust him as the catalyst of their offense. ... Crowell is the running back of choice in Cleveland, especially now that Tate has been released. Crowell had 14 carries for 61 yards and two catches for 30 yards against Houston, but he also lost a fumble. But he now has 26 carries in the past two games, and he appears to be ahead of Terrance West. While West could leapfrog Crowell this week, we'd gamble on him as a potential starter with his matchup at Atlanta. ... Jackson is expected to return this week, but the Bills could still give Brown plenty of work, especially for PPR owners. He has 13 catches for 122 yards in his past two games, and he should have the best chance of any Buffalo running back to succeed this week against the Jets. ... The Rams have built a lead on a team three times in the past five games, and each time Mason has posted a quality stat line, which included Seattle in Week 7, San Francisco in Week 9 and then this past week against Denver when he had 29 carries for 113 yards against the Broncos. If you think the Rams can hold a lead at the Chargers in Week 12 then start him, but I like Mason as just a flex option. ... If you want to gamble on a running back this week then look at Sims at Chicago. He has yet to play in the two games he's been active, but Tampa Bay did give him 13 carries for 36 yards and three catches for 8 yards at Washington in Week 11. He could be a sleeper as a flex against the Bears. ... Trent Richardson will handle the majority of work with Bradshaw out, but Herron will now assume the No. 2 role. Based on how Richardson has played since coming to the Colts and how valuable Bradshaw was prior to his injury, don't be surprised if Herron gets an extended look. He's definitely worth adding in deeper leagues. ... The Raiders have finally realized it's time to give Murray an extended look, and he played well in Week 11 against the Chargers with four carries for 47 yards and three catches for 16 yards. He's not going to win you a Fantasy league this season, but he is worth adding in deeper leagues if he starts to get a substantial workload. ... Davis might be worth using this week against the Raiders as a flex option if he gets some garbage-time carries on Thursday. ... Riddick and Helu have plenty of upside as flex options in deeper PPR leagues. Both have had their moments in recent weeks, but Riddick is tied to Bush, who could return in Week 12. ... Thompson is worth adding now that he's the No. 2 running back for the Broncos with Hillman and Ball out. Should something happen to C.J. Anderson then Thompson could end up starting in Denver.
Injuries: Brandin Cooks (thumb), Emmanuel Sanders (concussion), Greg Jennings
(ribs) and Jarius Wright (hamstring)
Key players on bye: Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and Kelvin Benjamin
Priority list (add them in this order): Kenny Stills (39 percent ownership), Cecil Shorts (39 percent), Jarvis Landry (18 percent), John Brown (60 percent), Davante Adams (38 percent), Allen Hurns (23 percent), Kenny Britt (12 percent), Andrew Hawkins (47 percent), Malcom Floyd (66 percent), Marqise Lee (9 percent), Chris Hogan (1 percent)
Potential drop candidates: Keenan Allen (99 percent), Brandin Cooks (96 percent), Pierre Garcon (96 percent)
Why Stills is the best: This isn't a great week for receivers, but Stills should get the chance for a bigger role with Cooks now out. And he faces a Ravens defense still dealing with holes in their secondary in New Orleans. He scored in Week 11 against the Bengals and has at least seven Fantasy points in a standard league in three of his past five games. I like Stills as a No. 2 receiver this week, especially with how well the Saints tend to play at home in prime time games.
Of note: Wes Welker (70 percent) could see an increased role with Sanders out, and he is worth a flier if he's still available in your league. He has just one touchdown on the season, but he could be needed if Sanders sits. ... The Jaguars have to replace Robinson, and we like Shorts, Hurns and Lee in that order. Shorts will see the most targets moving forward, and he had five catches for 119 yards in Week 10 against Dallas. Hurns has the most big-play ability with two two-touchdown games on the season, but he'll be inconsistent even with the increased playing time. And Lee will be a gamble but could do well as the No. 3 receiver moving forward. ... Landry has two touchdowns in his past three games and has been a big reason for Tannehill's recent surge. He has 21 targets in his past three games and could be needed if the Dolphins are chasing points at Denver. ... Brown didn't have a great game against the Lions, but he led the Cardinals in targets with nine. He finished with five catches for 69 yards and is worth using as a No. 3 receiver at Seattle in Week 12. ... Adams is still looking for his first game with double digits in Fantasy points, but he does have at least seven Fantasy points in five of his past six games, with three touchdowns over that span. I will continue to advocate stashing him in all leagues because a big game is coming. ... I'm still not sold on Britt despite his game against Denver with four catches for 128 yards and a touchdown on seven targets. He does have a touchdown in two of his past three games, so you can look at that as reason for hope. But he'll be inconsistent with Hill throwing him passes. ... Hawkins has scored in two of his past three games and has double digits in Fantasy points in three of his past four outings, but the return of Gordon could change things – or make Hawkins better. I would add him in PPR leagues, especially with the matchup against the Falcons, and hopefully he doesn't slow down with Gordon now in the mix. ... Floyd needs to show he can be more consistent before Fantasy owners can trust him in all leagues. He had 10 Fantasy points against the Raiders in Week 11 but only has two games with double digits in Fantasy points since Week 4, both against Oakland. Let's see more from Floyd moving forward. ... Hogan has 12 catches for 121 yards and a touchdown in his past two games and continues to be a favorite target for Orton. He's worth adding in deep PPR leagues with this matchup against the Jets.
Injuries: Julius Thomas (ankle), Jordan Reed (hamstring), Dwayne Allen
(ankle), Delanie Walker (concussion)
and Jordan Cameron (concussion)
Key players on bye: Greg Olsen, Heath Miller
Priority list (add them in this order): Coby Fleener (63 percent ownership), Charles Clay (63 percent), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (36 percent), Jacob Tamme (1 percent), Owen Daniels (53 percent), Kyle Rudolph (56 percent), Marcedes Lewis (5 percent), Jermaine Gresham (11 percent), Garrett Graham (9 percent), Chase Coffman (0 percent)
Potential drop candidates: Vernon Davis (97 percent), Jordan Reed (74 percent)
Why Fleener is the best: Fleener is coming off a standout game against the Patriots with seven catches for 144 yards on seven targets, and he now has double digits in Fantasy points in each of his past two games. Allen could miss this week, which would only enhance Fleener's value, and he scored against the Jaguars in Week 3 with four catches for 49 yards. Whether Allen returns or not you should add Fleener because with Bradshaw out also, there's one less mouth to feed in this dynamic passing game.
Of note: Clay has been hit or miss the past few weeks with two touchdowns in his past five games and four Fantasy points or less in his three other outings. But he's facing a Broncos defense that has allowed six touchdowns to opposing tight ends, including two of the past three games. ... Seferian-Jenkins has two touchdowns in his past four games and is facing a Bears defense that allows the most Fantasy points to opposing tight ends. I'd consider him a streaming option in all leagues this week. ... Tamme could be a spot starter for the Broncos and Fantasy owners if Thomas is out. He had four catches for 31 yards on 10 targets against the Rams, and I like anyone who gets 10 targets from Peyton Manning. ... Daniels comes off his bye week and faces a Saints defense that just allowed two touchdowns to Gresham. If you need a flier for Week 12 then Daniels could be a low-end starting option in deeper leagues. ... Rudolph was a disaster in Week 11 at Chicago with no targets on a limited snap count, but the hope would be he continues to improve as he gets closer to 100 percent. I'm still a proponent for stashing him if you can. ... Lewis is expected to return from his ankle injury, which put him on injured reserve in Week 2. He is a low-end option to consider, but we have seen Blake Bortles rely on Clay Harbor while Lewis was out. ... You can ignore Gresham even with the two-touchdown game. That was the first time he has scored this season.
Packers (at MIN): 63 percent
Colts (vs. JAC): 45 percent
Cowboys (at NYG): 43 percent