Start 'Em & Sit 'Em is our weekly look at the best and worst matchups from around the NFL and how they might affect lineup decisions for your Fantasy Football team. We are not in the business of stating the obvious, so you won't be reading here why you need to start Drew Brees, Chris Johnson, Andre Johnson or any other top-tier players.
The quarterback position has been tough for Fantasy owners this season. There are plenty of owners who are left with difficult decisions on a weekly basis.
Based on the start percentage for the majority of leagues on CBSSports.com there are only six quarterbacks started in 85 percent of leagues or more with Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Michael Vick and Tom Brady. After that it's a tossup, and the wrong choice can ruin your season, especially at this time of year.
For this week, we're calling on a quarterback who was started in 23 percent of leagues in Week 12, but he's been a star and has revenge on his mind. Matt Cassel is ready for the Broncos, and he's our Start of the Week.
It was just Week 10 in Denver when the Broncos put up 49 points on the Chiefs, which prompted Kansas City coach Todd Haley to snub Denver coach Josh McDaniels after the game and scold him for running up the score. Haley will likely try to return the favor at home with Cassel leading the way.
Cassel had his best game of the season against the Broncos that week with 469 yards and four touchdowns and has been among the best Fantasy options of late. He is averaging 253 passing yards in his past five games with 13 touchdowns and one interception over that span. Dwayne Bowe has become the best Fantasy wide receiver, and Cassel is using Jamaal Charles as a weapon out of the backfield. Bowe and Charles should have another big outing in this matchup, and Thomas Jones can also be considered a starting running back in the majority of leagues.
The Broncos, meanwhile, have fallen apart in their pass defense and are among the league leaders with 23 passing touchdowns allowed. Denver has allowed 11 passing touchdowns with only one interception in the past three games against Cassel, Rivers and Sam Bradford, and cornerback Andre Goodman (quad) and safety Darcel McBath (quad) are dealing with injuries for Denver's secondary.
It should be a good week for Cassel. And if you're one of those Fantasy owners looking for a quarterback this week or are unsure about your regular starter then trust him for this matchup. It should be a fun showdown in the AFC West.
|Player||Fantasy Points (projected)||Fantasy Points (actual)||Start percentage|
|Kyle Orton, QB, Broncos||19||31||56|
|BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots||14||17||74|
|Matt Schaub, QB, Texans*||20||19||65|
|Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Bills||16||14||13|
|Terrell Owens, WR, Bengals||8||1||78|
|Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals||9||4||60|
|Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets||19||10||40|
|Sidney Rice, WR, Vikings||10||2||41|
|Nate Washington, WR, Titans||11||1||32|
|Jay Cutler, QB, Bears||15||34||21|
|Johnny Knox, WR, Bears||9||12||29|
|Davone Bess, WR, Dolphins||5||11||9|
Our favorite sleeper in Week 12 was ... Matt Cassel, who was started in 23 percent of leagues and
finished with 35 Fantasy points. He had more Fantasy points than Drew Brees (18), Peyton Manning
(15) and Philip Rivers (seven).
* -- Start of the Week
Kyle Orton (at KC): As we said with Cassel, this game
should be a shootout, and Orton will have to keep pace. He did quite
well in the first meeting with the Chiefs in Week 10 with 296 passing
yards and four touchdowns, and he has a great history against Kansas
City. In three games with the Broncos, Orton has 907 passing yards,
seven touchdowns and four interceptions against the Chiefs, who could be
without Brandon Flowers (hamstring).
Orton has been stellar this season with six games with at least 24
Fantasy points and is coming off another solid game against St. Louis
with 31 Fantasy points.
Jay Cutler (at DET): Cutler was our Start of the Week in Week 1 when he faced the Lions, and he finished with 372 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception and five carries for 22 yards and a lost fumble. He has eight touchdowns and one interception in three meetings with Detroit as a member of the Bears, and the Lions are struggling in pass defense, having allowed eight total touchdowns the past two weeks against Jon Kitna and Tom Brady. Cutler is coming off a career game against Philadelphia with 247 passing yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions with 17 rushing yards. The Bears will rely on Matt Forte in this matchup as well, but Cutler should also have a quality performance this week.
Matt Ryan (at TB): Ryan is a safer start at home than on the road, and he doesn't have a great history against the Bucs. But Tampa Bay is dealing with injuries in their secondary with Cody Grimm (leg) out for the season and struggled last week against Joe Flacco, who had 289 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Five quarterbacks have passed for multiple touchdowns against Tampa Bay, and Ryan is coming off an impressive November. In four games he averaged 250 passing yards with seven touchdowns and no turnovers. And despite his perceived road woes, Ryan has seven touchdowns and two interceptions in five road games this season.
Eli Manning (vs. WAS): Manning turned around a disappointing game last week against the Jaguars and finished with 226 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. He now has a favorable matchup against the Redskins, who are No. 29 in pass defense and have allowed 20 touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks with just 10 interceptions. They are also dealing with injuries in their secondary to LaRon Landry (Achilles' tendon) and Carlos Rogers (hamstring), and Manning has done well at home this season. In his past three games in New York against Detroit, Dallas and the Jaguars he has six touchdowns and two interceptions with an average of 259 passing yards.
Josh Freeman (vs. ATL): Freeman struggled last week at Baltimore with 14 Fantasy points, but he's been extremely consistent all season with eight games with at least 17 Fantasy points. He reached that total in Week 9 at Atlanta with 189 passing yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions and 26 rushing yards. The Falcons have allowed at least 20 Fantasy points in five of their past six games, and they have allowed 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions to opposing quarterbacks this year. This is a huge game for Tampa Bay to remain in the hunt for the NFC South title, and Freeman has done well in rising to the occasion this year. He will be motivated to play well in this game and is worth using as a starter in deeper Fantasy leagues.
Sleeper alert: Sam Bradford (at ARI): Bradford is coming off the best game of his rookie season with 308 passing yards and three touchdowns at Denver, and he continues to improve as the year has gone on. In his past six games, Bradford has 11 touchdowns and one interception with an average of 19 Fantasy points over that span. The Cardinals have allowed at least 19 Fantasy points in four of their past five games, and Bradford should be ready for this matchup in what could decide the NFC West title. We like Bradford's chances with his improved receiving corps, which features Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson and a healthy Danario Alexander. With Steven Jackson also a significant factor out of the backfield, Bradford should post quality stats this week as a starter in deeper formats. For more sleeper quarterbacks, including Mark Sanchez and Chad Henne, click here.
Ben Roethlisberger (at BAL): Roethlisberger has a bad foot
and a poor history against the Ravens. In his past three games against
Baltimore, Roethlisberger has averaged just 232 passing yards with three
touchdowns and two interceptions. He's also dealing with a foot sprain
that had him in a boot after a disappointing game at Buffalo last week.
And in his past three road games against New Orleans, Cincinnati and the
Bills he has combined for just 26 Fantasy points. The Ravens have
allowed some big games to quarterbacks this year with Orton, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan, but Roethlisberger might not be ready to
handle Baltimore's pressure at less than 100 percent.
Carson Palmer (vs. NO): The Saints are No. 3 in pass defense and have an amazing stat line against opposing quarterbacks coming into this game. In their past seven games, including matchups with Freeman, Roethlisberger and Jon Kitna, New Orleans has only allowed two touchdowns to opposing quarterbacks. Matt Hasselbeck in Week 11 is the only quarterback to reach at least 15 Fantasy points over that span, and the Saints are doing a fantastic job in pass defense. Palmer had one of his worst games of the season last week at the Jets with only seven Fantasy points, and he snapped a streak of seven games in a row with multiple touchdown passes. You shouldn't expect Palmer to rebound in this matchup, and he's even a risky start in two-quarterback leagues based on how well the New Orleans defense is playing in pass coverage.
Jon Kitna (at IND): The Colts have done a great job in pass defense at home this season where their speedy defensive ends in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis tend to wreak havoc on the turf. Indianapolis has held Eli Manning, Cassel, Matt Schaub, Palmer and Rivers to an average of 199 passing yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions at home. Kitna is coming off a poor game against New Orleans with 313 passing yards and one interception with 20 rushing yards, and you should anticipate a similar stat line in this matchup. Dallas has a chance to run the ball this week based on how the Colts have struggled in stopping opposing running backs.
David Garrard (at TEN): I've changed my mind on Garrard from earlier in the week after initially considering him a sleeper for this matchup. He does get left tackle Eugene Monroe back (concussion) this week, but the Titans have been able to frustrate Garrard throughout his career. In his past four complete games with Tennessee (he left Week 6 against the Titans with a concussion) he has four touchdowns, five interceptions and two fumbles, including two games without throwing a touchdown. Things have been worse in Tennessee where he has two touchdowns and nine interceptions in his past five games. Garrard is also dealing with an injured left wrist, and the Titans have done well in pass defense at home. Orton is the only quarterback to throw multiple touchdowns in Tennessee, and the Jaguars should be able to lean on Maurice Jones-Drew in this matchup after he complained last week about the offense abandoning the running game in a loss to the Giants.
Donovan McNabb (at NYG): This will be McNabb's first game against the Giants as a member of the Redskins, but he does know this defense well from his days in Philadelphia. He has a successful past against the Giants with 28 touchdowns and just six interceptions in 18 regular-season meetings, but he's not the same quarterback he was for the majority of those matchups. This McNabb has just one game with multiple touchdown passes, and he's only reached 17 Fantasy points four times this year. The Giants also are No. 1 in pass defense, and Kitna (twice) and Peyton Manning are the only quarterbacks to throw for multiple touchdowns against them. The Giants have shut down Cutler, Schaub, Vick and Garrard and will now take aim on McNabb. He was once sacked 12 times in a game against the Giants in 2007, and he might be under just as much duress in his latest visit to New York since the Giants are among the league leaders with 31 sacks.
Bust alert: Joe Flacco (vs. PIT): It's hard to bench Flacco based on his recent play, especially at home. In his past five games in Baltimore, Flacco is averaging 253 passing yards with 11 total touchdowns and only two turnovers, but he has taken advantage of quality matchups against Cleveland, Denver, Buffalo, Miami and Tampa Bay. This week, the matchup gets significantly tougher with the Steelers, who have done well against Flacco in his career. In five meetings with Pittsburgh, Flacco is averaging just 205 passing yards with five touchdowns and seven turnovers. He's also been sacked 17 times over that span, and the Steelers are one of five teams with more interceptions than passing touchdowns allowed this season. Pittsburgh also is among the league leaders with 32 sacks, and Flacco's blind side could be in trouble with left tackle Michael Oher (knee) at less than 100 percent. This game should be a slugfest that will likely be decided by kickers and defenses. We recommend using Flacco as only a No. 2 Fantasy quarterback this week.
Felix Jones (at IND): Fantasy owners have been patient with
Jones, and he's finally started to deliver the past three games – all
with Jason Garrett as the interim head coach. He has 35 Fantasy points
against the Giants, Detroit and New Orleans, and now he should see even
more touches with Marion Barber (calf)
out for at least two games. Barber's injury opens the door for Tashard Choice to have an increased role, and he should be considered a
sleeper this week. But Jones is still the focal point of the backfield
and is worth using as a No. 2 Fantasy running back. The Colts have
allowed 12 touchdowns to opposing running backs with seven reaching
double digits in Fantasy points.
Mike Tolbert (vs. OAK): Tolbert is on a roll now, and he should be active in all leagues. He is averaging 19 Fantasy points in his past two games against Denver and Indianapolis and has another favorable matchup this week against the Raiders, who are No. 28 in run defense with 13 touchdowns allowed to opposing running backs, including Tolbert in Week 5. Eight running backs have reached double digits in Fantasy points, and Tolbert has three games with double digits in Fantasy points in his past four outings. There's a chance Ryan Mathews (ankle) could return this week, but Tolbert is clearly the best running back in San Diego and should remain the starter for the rest of the season.
Brandon Jacobs (vs. WAS): Jacobs had the kind of game you expected last week against the Jaguars with 14 carries for 87 yards, but he failed to score a touchdown, which kept him from being a standout Fantasy option for Week 12. This week he has the chance for another solid game and is worth using as a No. 2 Fantasy running back. The Redskins have allowed seven touchdowns to opposing running backs, including two last week against Minnesota, with 11 reaching double digits in Fantasy points. Ahmad Bradshaw is also worth using as a starter this week as the Giants are still dealing with injuries at wide receiver to Hakeem Nicks (leg) and Steve Smith (pectoral). That means the focal point will remain with the running attack, which should help Jacobs and Bradshaw.
Cedric Benson (vs. NO): The Saints run defense can be hit or miss, but Benson owners are hoping they are off this week. New Orleans has allowed 10 touchdowns to opposing running backs, including two last week against Dallas, with seven reaching double digits in Fantasy points. Benson has also been hit or miss this season with four games with double digits in Fantasy points and three games with five points or less. He has done well at home with 542 total yards and two touchdowns in his past five games in Cincinnati, including two games in a row with double digits in Fantasy points. It's risky to call him a must-start Fantasy option, but we like his matchup at home enough to say he's worth starting as a No. 2 running back in the majority of leagues.
Jonathan Stewart (at SEA): This is more of a sleeper call than a regular start. I still have Mike Goodson ranked higher heading into Sunday, but Stewart might overtake Goodson as the starter now that he's healthy. And Stewart is heading back to his home state since he's from just outside Seattle. Both running backs are worth using this week since Seattle's run defense has fallen apart. The Seahawks have allowed 12 touchdowns to opposing running backs with 11 reaching double digits in Fantasy points, and Stewart and Goodson are coming off solid games in Week 12 at Cleveland. Goodson had 136 total yards and a touchdown, while Stewart had 12 carries for 98 yards in his first game back after missing two with a concussion. They should run well again in this matchup.
Sleeper alert: Danny Woodhead (vs. NYJ): Woodhead was claimed by the Patriots after he was released by the Jets in September, and he has done a solid job in New England, especially once Kevin Faulk (knee) went down. You can figure that Bill Belichick will force the ball to Woodhead several times to show the Jets what they're missing, which is something he's done with Wes Welker against Miami (he has at least eight catches in five of seven meetings). Woodhead has double digits in Fantasy points in all four home games this year, and he should be considered a flex option in this matchup. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is also worth using as a starting option in the majority of leagues since he has run well in tough matchups against Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Baltimore and has nine touchdowns in his past nine games. For more sleeper running backs, including Choice, Toby Gerhart, Chris Ivory and Marshawn Lynch, click here.
LeGarrette Blount (vs. ATL): The last time Blount faced the
Falcons in Week 9 he finished with 13 carries for 46 yards. That's been
the norm for running backs against Atlanta this season. The Falcons
haven't allowed a rushing touchdown since Week 2, and only four running
backs have reached double digits in Fantasy points against Atlanta this
season, including matchups with LeSean McCoy,
Benson, Ray Rice and Steven Jackson. Blount hasn't scored a touchdown in his past two games
and has just one game with double digits in Fantasy points in his past
three outings. He should only be used as a flex option in the majority
Maurice Morris (vs. CHI): We had Morris as a sleeper last week, and he responded with 19 Fantasy points against the Patriots. He has the chance to be the best running back in Detroit for the rest of the season with Jahvid Best (toe) limited, but Best is still expected to see some playing time against the Bears. This is a difficult matchup for Morris since Chicago is No. 2 in run defense. The Bears haven't allowed a rushing touchdown in their past three games against Adrian Peterson, Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams and McCoy, with McCoy the only one to reach double digits in Fantasy points. Morris can still make plays as a receiver out of the backfield, so he can be useful as a flex option in leagues where receptions count. But in standard formats you might consider benching Morris based on the matchup along with the change at quarterback with Drew Stanton replacing the injured Shaun Hill (finger).
Keiland Williams (at NYG): The Giants run defense has shown some flaws the past two games against McCoy and Jones-Drew, but it's hard to imagine Williams playing at their level after his performance last week against Minnesota with three carries for 5 yards and four catches for 21 yards. James Davis could see an increased role this week, which would cut into Williams' playing time, and he remains too risky to consider a starting option in the majority of leagues. Ryan Torain (hamstring) could also return, which would further complicate matters, but the Giants should be able to stop Williams in this matchup.
Beanie Wells (vs. STL): The Rams defense has improved this season against the run. Darren McFadden and Michael Turner are the only running backs to run for at least 100 yards and just six running backs have reached double digits in Fantasy points. Wells only has 13 carries in his past two games against Kansas City and San Francisco with eight Fantasy points combined over that span. He hasn't scored since Week 8 and is now having trouble taking handoffs from Derek Anderson based on their fumbled exchange in the first quarter in Week 12 against the 49ers. He's just too inconsistent to trust right now in even the deepest of Fantasy leagues.
Shonn Greene (at NE): We get asked all the time about the biggest bust in 2010, and Greene's name almost always gets mentioned when looking at players not affected by injuries. He has one touchdown on the season and just two games with double digits in Fantasy points. He could still make an impact in Fantasy leagues over the next five games, but most owners aren't willing to trust him anymore. In his past three games we've finally seen his carries increase with 53, but he only has 184 rushing yards to show for it with LaDainian Tomlinson still the main option in the Jets backfield. New England has been average against the run this season, but the Patriots have only allowed Benson and Peterson to score at home. Peyton Hillis is also the only running back to run for more than 100 yards against New England, and Greene was held to 15 carries for 52 yards in the first meeting in Week 2.
Bust alert: Brian Westbrook (at GB): Westbrook is worth adding in all leagues since he's going to start for the injured Frank Gore (hip). That doesn't mean you have to start Westbrook this week at the Packers in the majority of Fantasy leagues. It's a difficult matchup since Green Bay is solid against the run, and Westbrook is already dealing with an ankle injury. Only two running backs have run for at least 100 yards against the Packers, and they have only allowed four rushing touchdowns and three running backs to reach double digits in Fantasy points. Westbrook will also share playing time with Anthony Dixon, and the first time you'll want to use Westbrook will be Week 14 against Seattle. That's a much easier matchup than what he's facing this week in Green Bay.
Johnny Knox (at DET): When I spoke with Knox after his Week
11 game in Miami, he told me how much fun this offense is when it's
clicking, and the Bears were on fire in Week 12 against Philadelphia.
Knox scored his second touchdown of the season against the Eagles and
continues to play at a high level with at least eight Fantasy points in
six games this year. Knox only had three catches for 52 yards in Week 1
against Detroit, but the Lions have allowed nine receivers to reach
double digits in Fantasy points with 14 touchdowns. Cutler will continue
to look for Knox in this matchup, and he's worth starting in all leagues
as a No. 2 Fantasy option.
Mario Manningham (vs. WAS): Manningham continues to play well with Nicks and Smith out, and he should be considered a starting Fantasy wide receiver in this matchup with the Redskins. Manningham has two touchdown streaks on the line heading into this matchup. He is looking for his third straight game with a touchdown against the Redskins, and he's also looking for his fourth straight game with a touchdown at home. The Redskins have allowed 13 touchdowns to opposing wide receivers with 12 reaching double digits in Fantasy points. Eli Manning will continue to rely on Manningham due to the injuries, and Fantasy owners should as well since he also has two touchdowns in his past three games.
Ben Obomanu (vs. CAR): Obomanu has taken over as the No. 1 wide receiver for the Seahawks with Mike Williams dealing with a foot injury. Williams is not expected to play this week, which means Obomanu should continue to see plenty of attention from Matt Hasselbeck. Obomanu now has three touchdowns in his past four games with 51 Fantasy points over that span. He is coming off an outstanding game in Week 12 against Kansas City with five catches for 159 yards and a touchdown. This is a tougher matchup against the Panthers, but they have allowed eight touchdowns to opposing wide receivers this year. With the way Obomanu is playing now he is worth trusting as a No. 2 Fantasy option in deeper leagues and a No. 3 option in standard formats.
Blair White (vs. DAL): White continues to play well in place of the injured Austin Collie (head). White had four catches for 34 yards and a touchdown against San Diego last week, and he now has three touchdowns in his past two games. Collie could still be out in Week 13 against Dallas if not longer, and Peyton Manning will continue to rely on White in the meantime. The Cowboys have allowed 17 touchdowns to wide receivers this year, including eight in the last five weeks, with 13 reaching double digits in Fantasy points. Since the Colts can't run the ball, you can expect Manning to continue to put the ball in the air, which means good things for White.
Mike Williams (vs. ATL): Williams had an impressive streak snapped last week at Baltimore when he failed to score for the first time on the road. He had scored a touchdown in the first five road games of his career. Williams only has one touchdown at home this year, which was Week 1 against Cleveland, but he did score in his first matchup with the Falcons in Week 4 when he had four catches for 89 yards. Atlanta has allowed 14 touchdowns to opposing wide receivers, including six in the last five weeks, with 12 reaching double digits in Fantasy points. Williams has been one of the top rookies this season, and he remains a quality Fantasy option in this key division matchup.
Sleeper alert: Jabar Gaffney (at KC): The Chiefs are still trying to figure out how to stop the Broncos from the last time the two teams met in Week 10. Gaffney played a significant role in that matchup with three catches for 57 yards and a touchdown. Gaffney enjoys facing Kansas City since he has 17 catches for 270 yards and a touchdown in his past two meetings with the Chiefs. Brandon Lloyd remains the best wide receiver for Denver, and Eddie Royal continues to play a prominent role. But Gaffney has done a solid job this year with five games with at least eight Fantasy points, and this is a good matchup to use him as at least a No. 3 Fantasy wide receiver. The Chiefs have allowed 11 touchdowns to opposing wide receivers with eight reaching double digits in Fantasy points. For more sleeper wide receivers, including Danny Amendola, Davone Bess, Steve Smith and Legedu Naanee, click here.
Michael Crabtree (at GB): Crabtree has played well lately
with three touchdowns in his past four games, and he also scored at
Green Bay last year with four catches for 77 yards. But the Packers have
been impressive against No. 1 wide receivers recently and will focus
their attention on stopping Crabtree. Green Bay has only allowed Dez Bryant to score a touchdown since Week 8, but the Packers have
shutout Santonio Holmes (three catches
for 43 yards), Miles Austin (two
catches for 16 yards), Sidney Rice
(three catches for 56 yards) and Roddy White
(five catches for 49 yards). With Gore out, the Packers will work on
containing Crabtree and even Vernon Davis,
and this could be a long day for San Francisco on offense.
Nate Burleson (vs. CHI): Burleson is dealing with a hamstring injury and a new quarterback with Hill out. That means Stanton will start for the Lions, and it could be a tough day for Detroit with a difficult matchup against the Bears. You're not going to bench Calvin Johnson in the majority of leagues, but you should be cautious with Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew. In Week 1 at Chicago, Burleson was held to one catch for 19 yards. The Bears are also second in the NFL with only eight passing touchdowns allowed, and Burleson might not be at 100 percent with the hamstring injury following his performance last week against New England when he was held to three catches for 35 yards.
Jacoby Ford (at SD): Ford has been amazing in two of his past three games with six catches for 148 yards against Kansas City in Week 9 and four catches for 108 yards and a touchdown against Miami in Week 12. He also is a star on special teams and has become the best receiving threat in Oakland with Zach Miller dealing with a foot injury. But this is a tough matchup for Ford since the Chargers are No. 2 in pass defense. San Diego has only allowed three receivers to score at home with Mike Sims-Walker in Week 2, Nate Washington in Week 8 and Lloyd in Week 11. He could see some garbage-time production, but it's too risky to count on Ford at this time of year, especially with Jason Campbell now back as the starting quarterback for the Raiders in place of the injured Bruce Gradkowski (shoulder).
Mike Sims-Walker (at TEN): Sims-Walker was able to play last week at the Giants despite dealing with an ankle injury, but he was limited to four catches for 48 yards. He is still dealing with the injury this week, but he should play against the Titans. This should be a difficult matchup since the Titans have only allowed six touchdowns to opposing wide receivers this season. Only Royal and Riley Cooper have scored in Tennessee, and Sims-Walker has a so-so history with the Titans. In his past two games against Tennessee he has combined for four catches for 25 yards and no touchdowns, but he did score two touchdowns in a meeting with the Titans in Jacksonville last year. Expect Sims-Walker to see a fired up Cortland Finnegan, and although the two shouldn't end up fighting like Finnegan did with Andre Johnson last week, Sims-Walker should struggle.
Chad Ochocinco (vs. NO): Just when Ochocinco appeared to turn the corner with a touchdown in Week 10 at Indianapolis and Week 12 against Buffalo, he regressed last week with four catches for 41 yards at the Jets. Granted, it was a tough matchup for him, but he has the same problem this week with the Saints, who are No. 3 in pass defense and No. 1 against opposing wide receivers. Only three wide receivers have scored passing touchdowns against the Saints, who have shut down Percy Harvin, Crabtree, Mike Wallace and Bryant this season, among others. Terrell Owens should rebound from last week's outing against the Jets, and his body of work this season makes him trustworthy enough to still use in the majority of leagues. But it's hard to say the same about Ochocinco, who only has one touchdown in Cincinnati this season.
Bust alert: Deion Branch (vs. NYJ): Branch is coming off his best game of the season with three catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns at Detroit, and he should send Lions cornerback Alphonso Smith a holiday gift for allowing him to have such an outstanding performance on Thanksgiving Day. Branch also has at least seven Fantasy points in his past three games, but this week he should see a lot of Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. All Revis has done this season is shut down Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson and Owens, and Branch will likely be next. Revis also will lineup against Wes Welker, and the Jets will likely move Revis around the field. But Welker should still be considered a No. 2 Fantasy wide receiver in the majority of leagues based on his role and amount of targets. Even if Branch is lined up against Antonio Cromartie it could be hard for him to have a productive enough game to warrant starting in the majority of leagues.
Kevin Boss (vs. WAS): Boss has stepped up recently with
Nicks and Smith going down with injuries. He has three touchdowns in his
past four games and is coming off a solid performance against
Jacksonville in Week 12 with three catches for 74 yards and a touchdown.
He led the Giants in targets with eight and should remain active against
the Redskins, who have allowed four touchdowns to tight ends this year
and will likely be without standout defensive back Landry. That should
allow Boss to have some open running lanes in the middle of the field.
Joel Dreessen (at PHI): The Eagles have allowed a tight end to score a touchdown in three of their past four games, and Dreessen is hoping to keep his touchdown streak alive. He has scored in each of the past two games at the Jets and against Tennessee and has played well in place of the injured Owen Daniels (hamstring). Dreessen has become the No. 2 option in the passing game for Schaub behind Andre Johnson, and he has the chance to play well this week based on the matchup. Daniels could return in Week 14 against Baltimore, so this could be the last chance to consider Dreessen a starting Fantasy option in the majority of leagues.
Tony Gonzalez (at TB): Gonzalez scored last week against Green Bay, but that was his first game with double digits in Fantasy points since Week 6. He played well against Tampa Bay in Week 9 with eight catches for 72 yards, but he hasn't scored against the Bucs as a member of the Falcons in three meetings. That could change this week with Tampa Bay dealing with injuries in their secondary with Grimm. Todd Heap had two catches for 79 yards and a touchdown last week against the Bucs, and Gonzalez could follow suit. It's safe to trust him as a starter again for this matchup.
Sleeper alert: Visanthe Shiancoe (vs. BUF): This isn't as guaranteed a matchup as it seems. The Bills are among the worst teams at defending tight ends, but they have done well the past three games against Brandon Pettigrew, Jermaine Gresham and Heath Miller. And it's not like Shiancoe has been playing well. He had three catches for 54 yards last week at Washington, but that was his best game since Week 9 and only the second time he's had more than three Fantasy points since Week 2. But with the tight end position lacking in talent this season, especially recently, we'll give Shiancoe a starting nod at home in this matchup. The Bills have allowed eight touchdowns to tight ends this year, and Shiancoe is worth consideration if you need a starter this week.
Dustin Keller (at NE): Keller has completely disappeared
since Holmes returned from his four-game suspension. He had five
touchdowns in the first four games of the year and none since with a
combined 23 Fantasy points in his past seven outings. He had a great
game against New England in Week 2 with seven catches for 115 yards and
a touchdown, but you can't expect him to repeat that performance based
on his recent production. The Jets also might have Jerricho Cotchery (groin) back for this game, which will further cut
into Keller's targets, and he's playing more like a No. 2 Fantasy
option. The Patriots have also allowed only one touchdown to a tight end
in their past five games and none have reached more than six Fantasy
points over that span.
Heath Miller (at BAL): Miller only has one touchdown on the season and has disappeared lately. Since scoring against Cleveland in Week 6, Miller has 18 Fantasy points in his past six games. He also has a difficult history against the Ravens with 11 catches for 103 yards and no touchdowns in his past five meetings, including in Week 4 when he finished with two catches for 32 yards. Baltimore did allow Kellen Winslow to score a touchdown last week, but that was only the second touchdown the Ravens have allowed to a tight end this season and first since Week 3.
Benjamin Watson (at MIA): Watson was a huge letdown last week against Carolina in what was a favorable matchup, and he finished with four catches for 40 yards. He hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 6 and has combined for 14 Fantasy points in the past five games. He also has a tough matchup against the Dolphins. Miami is among the best teams against opposing tight ends with Keller the only one to score and reach double digits in Fantasy points. Since then they have shut down Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, Heath Miller, Gresham, Heap, Greg Olsen and Zach Miller. It's also hard to trust Watson with Jake Delhomme as the starting quarterback in place of the injured Colt McCoy (ankle).
Bust alert: Chris Cooley (at NYG): As we said last week with Marcedes Lewis in this spot against the Giants, defensive coordinator Perry Fewell has done a great job at defending tight ends. The Giants held Lewis to three catches for 36 yards, and only three tight ends have gained more than 50 receiving yards against New York this year with only two scoring touchdowns. Cooley has played well at times this season with five games with at least six Fantasy points and does have two touchdowns against the Giants in his past five meetings, but he has just two touchdowns on the season and none since Week 4. Based on how the Giants have played against tight ends this season, this isn't a good week to consider Cooley as a starting Fantasy option.
Chargers (vs. OAK): Last week was a tremendous performance for
the Chargers at Indianapolis when they had four interceptions against Peyton Manning with two defensive touchdowns. San Diego's defense has
been impressive this season and rank No. 2 against the pass and No. 3
against the run. The Chargers have three games with multiple
interceptions and six games with three or more sacks. Oakland is going
back to Campbell in this game with Gradkowski hurt. Campbell has three
touchdowns and four interceptions in four road games this season, and
the Raiders running game has stalled the past two weeks against
Pittsburgh and Miami. We would even consider benching Darren McFadden based on his recent play the past two games against
Pittsburgh and Miami and given the tough matchup. The Chargers are in
the midst of their usual late-season surge, and the defense is carrying
the load as much as the offense the past two weeks with solid outings
against Denver and Indianapolis. You can count on a third game in a row
with quality production against the Raiders.
Other DSTs with good matchups: Rams (at ARI), Colts (vs. DAL) and Dolphins (vs. CLE)
49ers (at GB): The 49ers DST played well in Week 12 at Arizona with 17 Fantasy points, and they have five games with double digits in Fantasy points this season. But the Cardinals are a much inferior opponent than the Packers, and Green Bay should be motivated on offense after losing last week at Atlanta and needing a win for playoff positioning. The Packers are averaging 31 points at home, and Rodgers hasn't thrown an interception since Week 7. Green Bay beat San Francisco 30-24 last year at home, and the Packers offense should dominate this matchup.
Olindo Mare (vs. CAR): Mare deserves credit for having a
solid season coming into this matchup. He has four games with multiple
field goals, including two games against Arizona with five field goals
and one game against New Orleans with four. He is a Top 12 Fantasy
kicker for the season, and he has a favorable matchup this week. The
Panthers have allowed eight kickers to make multiple field goals and
four to reach double digits in Fantasy points. Mare has only missed
three field goals on the season and none at home, and he's worth using
as a starting option this week.
Nick Folk (at NE): Folk is the No. 5 kicker in standard leagues this season, but his job could be in trouble based on his recent struggles. The Jets brought in Kris Brown for a workout this week after Folk missed five of his past 11 field goals over the last three games. In his last road game at Cleveland he missed three field goals and nearly cost the Jets in an overtime victory. Folk was 2 of 2 on field goals in Week 2 against the Patriots, and New England has allowed five kickers to make multiple field goals this year. But New England has only given up two field goals in the past three games against Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Detroit with Jeff Reed and Dave Rayner each missing a field goal. Folk could be motivated for a good game to save his job, but he could also wilt under the pressure.
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