Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Week 12 Starters & Benchwarmers

Wondering whether or not to start Drew Brees and Mike Wallace, or to bench Tyler Palko and Patrick Crayton? The network bozos specialize in that kind of advice. If you’re looking for help with your real starting lineup conundrums, read on.

Here are my picks to roll, and get rolled, in Week 12 of the 2011 season.

Watch ‘em roll

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons vs. Vikings. He’s on a nice three-game roll, even without Julio Jones on the field for most of the last two weeks. Now Ryan gets to feast at the trough of the Vikings’ hospitable secondary, which has allowed a league-worst 19 passing scores. Start him with confidence.

Kevin Smith, RB, Lions vs. Packers. Smith proved to be an integral part of Detroit’s offense last week as both a runner and receiver. Though Green Bay is fairly solid against the rush, they are pushovers in the passing game. One way or the other, Smith will get his touches; and his points.

Cedric Benson, RB, Bengals vs. Browns. With A.J. Green sidelined last week with a knee injury, Benson was the team’s red-zone hero. The Browns are giving up 131 yards per game to opposing rushers, while their pass defense is top notch; so look for another nice outing from Benson, especially if Green sits again.

Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings at Falcons. Harvin will be the X factor in an offense run by a rookie quarterback and missing its most dangerous weapon. The multi-purpose player could line up in the backfield nearly as often as out wide in an effort to get the ball into Harvin’s hands as frequently as possible.

Nate Washington, WR, Titans vs. Buccaneers. Washington has a strong rapport with both of his quarterbacks, as evidenced by his two scoring connections with Jake Locker last week. The Bucs cough up a lot of passing scores, so get the play-maker back in your lineup.

More thumbs up (excluding the no-brainers): QBs Matt Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Tim Tebow; RBs Chris Johnson, Willis McGahee, Reggie Bush, CJ Spiller, DeAngelo Williams, Donald Brown; WRs DeSean Jackson, Torrey Smith, Santonio Holmes, Antonio Brown, Victor Cruz, Brandon Lloyd.

Roll ‘em back

Andy Dalton, QB, Bengals vs. Browns. The rookie continues to impress, even against stiff competition. But Dalton will be facing the NFL’s top-ranked pass defense Sunday, most likely without his top wideout, Green.

Toby Gerhart, RB, Vikings at Falcons. Adrian Peterson is unlikely to play due to his high ankle sprain, but don’t expect his backup to prosper in his place on Sunday. Atlanta has surrendered the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing rushers, and Harvin is the more likely candidate to benefit from Peterson’s absence.

Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers vs. Broncos. Denver’s improving defense has allowed the third-fewest rushing scores in the NFL. Meanwhile, Mathews’ fortunes have dipped along with his team’s performance. He hasn’t scored since Week 3 and he fumbled twice in the Week 11 loss.

Andre Johnson, WR, Texans at Jaguars. You’ve waited seemingly forever to get him back in your lineup, but you’d be wise to give him another week to get acclimated. Not only might Johnson see limited reps, but he’ll be chasing down balls thrown by Matt Leinart. The Jags’ secondary is pretty solid as well.

Michael Crabtree, WR, 49ers at Ravens. He’s coming off his best game of the season, but Crabtree continues to be bothered by a lingering foot injury. Squaring off against the stingy Ravens secondary makes him the riskiest of Thanksgiving plays.

More thumbs down: QBs Rex Grossman, Matt Moore, Alex Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick; RBs BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Jackie Battle, Brandon Jacobs, Roy Helu, Ryan Torain; WRs Earl Bennett, Laurent Robinson, Jerome Simpson, Stevie Johnson.

Taking a flier

Beanie Wells, RB, Cardinals at Rams. He predictably fell flat last week against the 49ers’ staunch run defense, and he’s still hindered by a balky knee. But Wells remains the workhorse for an offense that is struggling in the passing game. Best of all, he’ll be facing the porous Rams run defense. Though he struggled against them three weeks ago, consider giving him a second chance as a flex play.

Don’t be the bonehead who…fails to grab C.J. Spiller off the waiver wire. With the news that Fred Jackson has been lost for the season with a fractured fibula, Spiller will step into the job for which he was selected with the ninth overall pick of the 2010 draft. He has underachieved to date, but he’s shown flashes of brilliance (mostly in the preseason), and he’s a good receiver as well.

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