Can you smell that?
It's the sweet smell of the fantasy playoffs, well at least for some players. For others, just remember that you may be playing for more than just pride. You may be playing for another team's fate, so do the right thing and play out the season to the best of your ability no matter what your record may be this week. All you really have to do is let the fantasy forecast, brought to you by the folks at RapidDraft.com, lead the way and you should finish strong.
Don't forget to sign-up for the RapidDraft Weekly Contest for your shot at $50,000. Enjoy the remodeled forecast.
WEEK 12 FANTASY LEADERS
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees -- There wasn't a more amazing performance in Week 12 than the whooping the Saints quarterback put on the New England Patriots during Monday night's prime-time showdown. Brees threw for 371 yards and five touchdowns and completed 78.26% of his passes. This week, Brees and his Saints are on the road against a Redskins defense that is surrendering an NFL-leading 170.4 passing yards per game and is in the top 10 in points allowed per game at 18.6.
Buffalo running back Fred Jackson -- Jackson carried the ball 15 times for 73 yards against the Dolphins. He caught five passes for 43 yards and scored twice. He clearly is the best option at running back for the Bills, and should continue to see an increased workload on Thursday night against a Jets team he dinged for 52 rushing yards in Week 6.
Minnesota wide receiver Percy Harvin -- Not only did Harvin record his first 100-yard game of his NFL career last week against the Bears, he rushed for 45 yards, caught six passes and scored a touchdown for the fifth time this season. In three of the last four games, Harvin has caught a touchdown and recorded at least five receptions. He is becoming one of Brett Favre's favorite targets, a trend that should continue this week against the Cardinals.
San Diego tight end Antonio Gates -- For the second time this season, Gates was caught two touchdown passes in a single game, but that's not all he did. He also caught all seven passes thrown his way for 118 yards. This week, the Chargers will be in Cleveland to play a Browns team that is not only downright bad on defense, but also depleted due to injuries. Plus, this season against AFC North opponents Gates has combined for 14 receptions, 202 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
WEEK 12 FANTASY LEAKERS
Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck -- He threw for just 102 yards. Hasselbeck hasn't thrown a touchdown pass and has averaged 166.5 yards per in his last two games, but returns home this week to face a 49ers defense that is allowing 256.5 yards per game through the air.
Buffalo running back Marshawn Lynch -- Yes, Lynch was bothered by a shoulder injury, but his numbers were still unacceptable for a second straight week. One week after recording eight carries for 18 yards, Lynch carried the ball three times for six yards. Lynch's struggles have opened the door for Fred Jackson to steal away the No. 1 job; a job Jackson may just run away with permanently this season.
Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith -- Go ahead and blame Jake Delhomme for Smith's Week 12 struggles, but just keep in mind that No. 89 has now caught one pass for five yards or less in not one, but two games this season. The other team he accomplished this disappointing feat against is the Panthers opponent this week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Pittsburgh tight end Heath Miller -- Miller became the Steelers biggest victim of Ben Roethlisberger being on the sidelines last week, as the big tight end caught just one pass for two yards with Dennis Dixon leading the way. Lucky for Miller, though, Big Ben has practiced this week with little to no problems and barring any drastic changes should be back against the Raiders this week.
WEEK 13 FANTASY HEROES AND VILLAINS
No comparisons this week; just straight fantasy heroes and villains:
Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre -- There is no doubt that no matter what happens from here on out, Favre will live on in the hearts of fans as an NFL legend. This week, you can just call him a fantasy legend when he lights up the Cardinals Sunday night on national television. The Cardinals are allowing a 29th best 258.3 passing yards per game and have surrendered 16 touchdowns via the air. Plus, this gives No. 4 yet another opportunity to show why he's a prime candidate for MVP. And, with the way he was throwing bombs while his team was up by 20 points in the fourth quarter against the Bears this past week, I wouldn‘t be surprised if the Vikings allow him to raise the bar and aim for 450-plus yards this week, even if they‘re up big late in the game.
San Diego running back Ladainian Tomlinson -- Have you heard the latest on No. 21? Rumor has it that there is a "good chance" that the Chargers will release their all-pro running back after the season. That's one of three reasons why Mr. Tomlinson is on my list of fantasy heroes this week. The other reasons are a little simpler. A) The Chargers runner has finally caught fire and has scored five touchdowns in his last four games. B) Against the Browns in his career, No. 21 is averaging 146.3 rushing yards per game and has found the end-zone seven times. Yes, Tomlinson's overall production has diminished a bit this season, and his value is fading long-term, but like a glistening display of outdoor lights in December he'll dazzle and wow fantasy owners, and make them believe that he truly is back and shining brighter than ever before.
Philadelphia wide receiver Jeremy Maclin -- Have you ever been to Candy Cane Lane, or something similar? There is nothing that brightens the month of December like this novel place in West Allis. It's the same effect rookie Jeremy Maclin has had for the Eagles this season. For example, back in Week 5 against the Buccaneers when the Eagles had a laundry list of injuries at wide, receiver Maclin came through big, catching six passes for 142 yards and scoring two touchdowns. Now, with Desean Jackson's status uncertain due to a concussion he suffered against the Redskins Maclin will be counted on once again against yet another NFC South opponent. Best of all is the fact the Atlanta Falcons defense has surrendered 18 touchdowns and an average of 252.6 passing yards per game this season. Maclin will be as sweet to the eye as those red striped white canes that illuminate the path to bright success.
Other players joining the heroes alliance this week include: Matt Schaub, Philip Rivers, Rashard Mendenhall, Thomas Jones, Reggie Wayne, Kevin Walter, Brent Celek, and Kellen Winslow Jr.
Denver quarterback Kyle Orton -- What is with Kyle Orton's right arm lately? The Broncos signal caller averaged about 244 passing yards per game and threw nine touchdowns --- at least one in every game --- in his first six games. However, over the past five games he has decreased his average to 196 and has found the end-zone just three times. It doesn't get any better for Orton this week. The Broncos travel to Arrowhead, which is a place that No. 8 has never visited as an NFL quarterback, and is a place that can get real ugly this late in the season. Besides, the Chiefs defense is allowing 134.5 rushing yards per game, and the Broncos defense is allowing a sixth best 17.2 points per game this season. The Broncos will put up the traditional running lights this week, so don't be foolish enough to start Orton, especially when all the Broncos have to do is hand the rock to Knowshon Moreno and let him run wild.
Packers running back Ryan Grant -- As it is, the Packers rely heavily on the explosive passing game. Add in a Ravens run defense that is allowing less than 100 yards per game on the ground this season, and you get an almost guaranteed fantasy bust. Sure, Grant's season numbers (80.9 rushing yards per game and five touchdowns) are more relative to a more consistent runner, but sometimes he can become exposed when a good defense comes to town, which will be such the case for fantasy owners this week as Baltimore soars in to Green Bay on Monday night.
Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson -- Four days and a few injuries following a seven catch, 161 yard, and one touchdown performance against Cleveland at home Calvin Johnson caught just two of the 12 passes thrown in his direction for 10 yards. Sure, he scored an early touchdown, but his injuries and Matthew Stafford's bum inaccurate right arm clearly kept him unproductive throughout the rest of the Thanksgiving game. This week Johnson should be ready to go with little to no limitations, but it'll be against Cincinnati team that has a new passion for running the football, and has a knack for keeping opposing offensive wide receivers from making a major impact. In fact, in the past five games the Bengals secondary has held opposing No. 1 wide receivers to an average of 54.6 yards per game; wide receivers that most notably include Santonio Holmes and Derrick Mason, who were held to a combined 119 yards and zero touchdowns. With a few injuries still lingering and a dominant Bengals secondary in front of him Megatron's value this week should be limited.
Other players joining the villains alliance this week include: Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Kevin Smith, Tim Hightower (Non-PPR), Steve Smith (NYG), Terrell Owens, Zach Miller, and Kevin Boss.
Rapiddraft.com writers Eric Huber, Matt Schauf, and Frank Mazzola tackle a few burning questions heading in to Week 13.
Should fantasy owners start looking at Vince Young as a starter at quarterback, or was his 387 yard passing day against the Cardinals just a fluke? Does he have any chance against Manning and the Colts this week?
Huber: I don't know if Young's performance was a fluke, but in the past five weeks it's become evident that for the first time in his career he's not the focal point of the offense, which has probably allowed him to relax a little more and let the game come to him. However, what made him a fantasy starter at one point in his career was his ability to gain huge chunks with his legs, something that has disappeared since his return to the lineup (32 yards per game). As for this week, I'm taking Manning over Young with ease. Why? Manning has better receivers, has shown more consistency, and is up against a far worse pass defense.
Schauf: The 387-yard game wasn't a fluke, because Young has played well since returning to the lineup. It also won't be the norm. Chris Johnson is the centerpiece of this offense. Before the Cardinals game, Young was averaging just 21 pass attempts through four starts, and he still has yet to produce more than one total touchdown in a game. A desperate fantasy owner who's suddenly without Kurt Warner or Ben Roethlisberger, for example, could take a shot with Young, but I wouldn't look to him as a strong fantasy starter. That's especially true this week against a Colts defense that has allowed just six touchdown passes all year to quarterbacks not named Tom Brady.
Mazzola: Call me a doubting Thomas, but I'll need just a bit more evidence before I proclaim Young start-worthy. He does have a chance against the Colts, of course, because anything can happen in the NFL, but the Colts are tied for second in the league in terms allowing the fewest passing touchdowns. He'll also being playing away from home as well. I'd stay away.
With the emergence of Justin Forsett, is Julius Jones out of the picture as the starting running back of the Seattle Seahawks? What should fantasy owners expect from Forsett this week and down the stretch?
Huber: According to coach Jim Mora, the answer to that question is "no." According to the numbers that Forsett has put up in his Jones' place the answer should be "yes." As for this week and down the stretch, Forsett should continue to put up good overall numbers if Jones continues to ride the bench. If not, then Forsett may become a fantasy afterthought.
Schauf: No. Jones has quickly moved out of that primary role. Coach Jim Mora says Jones will remain the starter whenever he gets healthy, but I can't imagine that a two-time head coach in the NFL is stupid enough to not realize that Forsett has been way better since stepping in for Jones. We'll have to see just what Seattle's plan is for when Jones returns, which certainly increases the risk on Forsett whenever it happens (perhaps this week). Folks in point-per-reception leagues can handle that risk better because Forsett already enjoyed two games with at least five catches while Jones was in the lineup. Those who don't get points for receptions, though, will have to try to read the situation leading up to game day and might ultimately have to sit Forsett if they have another option of similar value but in a clearer situation.
Mazzola: Julius Jones has never emerged as a true starting running back of any great effectiveness in this league, so I wonder why some are shocked that he may back up Forsett. As for the latter, he brings a pass-catching presence that Jones (who hasn't averaged even 20 catches a season over the course of his career) does not, is more explosive and should be a good starter in deeper leagues for the rest of the year.
Which top target will produce bigger fantasy numbers in Week 13's Sunday night showdown --- Larry Fitzgerald or Sidney Rice? Why?
Huber: Fitzgerald. In two career games against the Vikings, No. 11 has averaged eight receptions and 112 yards per appearance, and is starting his best month of his career when it comes to touchdown receptions --- 18 in 21 December games. It doesn't matter if Kurt Warner or Matt Leinart takes the field, Fitzgerald will get the job done this week, and he will outscore Favre's favorite target.
Schauf: If Kurt Warner plays, this will be close, and both should be starters in season-long leagues. For people playing a game like RapidDraft Sports Weekly who might have to choose between the players, I'd go Rice either way. His quarterback is performing better at this point and the defensive matchup favors him more than Fitzgerald.
Mazzola: I think you have to go with Rice here if,as rumored, Matt Leinart could be playing. Though Leinart got better as the game went on against Tennessee, he's just not going to be able to withstand the Minnesota rush to be able to get the ball out. If Warner plays (and is healthy), then I put them at about even production.
Name your best and bust picks for Week 13 (QB, RB, WR, TE).
Huber: QB -- Best: Peyton Manning, Bust: Jay Cutler RB -- Best: Matt Forte, Bust: Ryan Grant WR -- Best: Larry Fitzgerald, Bust: Terrell Owens TE -- Best: Vernon Davis, Bust: Heath Miller
Schauf: QB -- Best: Matt Schaub, Bust: Joe Flacco RB -- Best: Thomas Jones, Bust: Ryan Grant WR -- Best: Andre Johnson, Bust: Terrell Owens TE -- Best: Dallas Clark, Bust: John Carlson
Mazzola: QB -- Best: Brett Favre, Bust: Donovan McNabb RB -- Best: Chris Johnson, Bust: Ryan Grant WR -- Best: Randy Moss, Bust: Terrell Owens TE -- Best: Jason Witten, Bust: Jeremy Shockey
GAME 12 FANTASY BREAKDOWN
Baltimore vs. Green Bay
Monday Night Football. Aaron Rodgers. Ray Rice. Donald Driver.
What could be better?
How about a fantasy breakdown?
Baltimore's Joe Flacco -- Flacco has played in 11 games, and has thrown for 2744 passing yards, 13 touchdowns, 8 interceptions. Flacco has thrown just two touchdown passes in the last five games and in two career night games has thrown just one touchdown pass and is averaging 222 yards per game.
Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers -- Rodgers has played in 11 games, and has thrown for 3136 passing yards, and 22 passing touchdowns, while running for 247 yards, and three touchdowns. Rodgers has also thrown for at least 260+ yards in eight games this 2009 season.
Fantasy Advantage: Rodgers -- He has almost twice as many touchdown passes as Flacco this season.
Baltimore's Ray Rice -- Rice has played in 11 games, and has registered 821 rushing yards, 61 receptions, 582 receiving yards, and seven total touchdowns. Rice has recorded just two 100+ rushing performances and the Packers are allowing a fourth best 89.1 rushing yards per game, and have surrendered just three touchdowns on the ground.
Green Bay's Ryan Grant -- Grant has played in 11 games, and has registered 890 rushing yards, 23 receptions, 190 receiving yards, and five total touchdowns. Although Grant torched a miserable Browns defense in Week 7, he was held to just 3.3 yards per carry against the Bengals in Week 2, who along with the Ravens are one of nine teams allowing under four yards per carry for the season.
Fantasy Advantage: Rice -- He's a threat in both the running and passing games, while Grant provides fantasy owners with just one dimension.
Baltimore's Derrick Mason & Mark Clayton -- Mason has played in 11 games, and has registered 52 receptions, 734 yards, and has scored five touchdowns. Clayton has also played in 11 games, and has registered 32 receptions for 457 yards, and has scored two touchdowns. The Packers have allowed a fourth worst 21 touchdowns through the air this season, and have a depleted secondary.
Green Bay's Donald Driver & Greg Jennings -- Driver has played in 11 games, and has registered 53 receptions for 845 yards, has scored five touchdowns, and has one Golden Gobbler award. Jennings has also played in 11 games, but has registered 47 receptions for 722 yards, and has scored three touchdowns. Together the Packers pair have combined for five 100+ yard games this season; a reflection of the way their quarterback evenly distributes his passes.
Fantasy Advantage: Driver and Jennings -- Consistency wins this match-up.
Baltimore's Todd Heap -- Heap has played in 11 games, and has registered 37 receptions, 370 yards, and two touchdowns. He has recorded three receptions for 21 yards in the past two weeks.
Green Bay's Jermichael Finley -- Finley has played in eight games, and has registered 27 receptions, 339 yards, and one touchdown. He has recorded 10 receptions for 79 yards in the past two weeks.
Fantasy Advantage: Finley -- Heap has vanished from Flacco's target list while Finley continues to be utilized by Mr. Rodgers.