'The NFL Beat': Week 12

Enterprising fantasy football journalism

'The NFL Beat': Week 12

As we enter the stretch run of the fantasy season, we see in the near future an epic drop in the beat.

Not a mistake, but rather, a choreographed, masterfully performed coda from one movement to the next. You will be receiving the same NFL Draft and offseason enterprise journalism you have come to expect soon enough. Just not today.

You have a fantasy opponent to demolish.

Minnesota Vikings at Chicago Bears

It looks as if Bears QB Jay Cutler will suit up this week following his Week 10 concussion, and this news bodes most positively for Bears WR Brandon Marshall. If there is one team that knows and understands the way to attack the base cover 2 that Minnesota will be employing, it is the Chicago Bears, who are the current NFL masters of the alignment on the defensive side of the ball. It will take getting Marshall matched up inside, which will lead to massive targets regardless of who is at quarterback.

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson had the torn ACL and MCL he suffered to end the 2011 season just over 10 months ago operated on by an orthopedic surgeon who has seen everything: Dr. James Andrews. Dr. Andrews recently spoke publicly about his shock last winter when he cut Peterson's knee open. Peterson, who has spent his life getting his lower body pounded by top athletes still has a knee that Dr. Andrews likened to that of "a newborn baby." Peterson is like the Wolverine in his healing capabilities, and truly may be stronger than ever. I don't care about the matchup, or the fact that Peterson has not put up 10 fantasy points in Chicago over the last two seasons after putting up more than 25 at Soldier Field in his first three tries. Expect a monster game.

Oakland Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals

As long as Bengals QB Andy Dalton is playing out of division, I like him more than usual. When Dalton is playing at home against one of the most disjointed defensive backfields I have witnessed in recent memory in the 2012 Oakland Raiders, I love him. If you know fantasy football, you know that WR A.J. Green will go big in this game, and for Green to go big, the guy whose arm is connected to his production has to, as well.

Bengals slot WR Andrew Hawkins is doubtful for Sunday and a player I have been telling you about since the Senior Bowl - WR Marvin Jones - is set to finally make his debut as a Bengal after suffering from a lingering knee injury to start his professional career. Both Jones and Mohammed Sanu make for great upside flex plays in this matchup should you be in a bind and needing options.

I would tell you for the third straight week now to pick up Raiders RB Marcel Reece, but you either have or haven't by now and he is certainly no longer available. Expect another big game from Reece for the owners who listened before.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns

I want no piece of this whole deal in fantasy except for Browns RB Trent Richardson, who will have a Top 10 fantasy day Sunday afternoon. Charlie Batch will be starting at QB for the Steelers and the Pittsburgh offensive line is in disarray as a pass-blocking unit.

Cleveland is devoid of any offensive weapons outside of Richardson and a very undependable WR for fantasy purposes in Josh Gordon who faces the matchup that my system has identified as the worst in fantasy for WRs coming into Week 12.

Downgrade all Steelers WRs (even Mike Wallace) to flex-level fodder until QB Ben Roethlisberger returns, and downgrade expectations for TE Heath Miller as well. Miller will need to stay in and help the atrocious outside of the Pittsburgh offensive line when Old Man Batch audibles to max-protect, which will happen often. He is very old and will be very scared back there. I would be, too.

Buffalo Bills at Indianapolis Colts

Bills 31-year-old veteran RB Fred Jackson will make his return to the Bills offensive lineup following his Week 10 concussion, an event that once again led the way for RB C.J. Spiller to shine in his absence. The writing is now clearly on the wall regarding the future of the Bills offense. Jackson is nothing less than amazing for a player of his seasoning and NFL tenure, but Spiller is simply better. Owners of Jackson should look at other options in the flex position that may represent a similar fantasy floor until we see how the split in Buffalo's carries will be divided this time.

Don't go crazy, though. If history tells us anything, Bills HC Chan Gailey will stubbornly feature Jackson. And he may, but Gailey knows that if he doesn't win some games, and soon, that he himself will be history next season. Spiller's explosive big-play ability gives Buffalo the best chance to win now. If you start Jackson on your fantasy team this week, you are essentially betting on the fact that Gailey simply does not believe what seems so evident to so many.

Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars

One of my "breakout" picks for Week 12 will be playing in this game. As I wrote in my column for Bleacher Report this week,

"I am predicting a breakout week from a man who at some point in his life has likely contemplated breaking out of jail. Jake Locker is back at QB, and in Week 10, he targeted enigmatic WR Kenny Britt twice as much as any other player.The team has indicated they want to get Britt more involved, and coming off a bye in a division matchup, I feel like Locker will continue to showcase what is hoped to be the franchise's connection of the future with sidekick Kendall Wright."

I see Britt as an Andre Johnson-type player when healthy, and we saw what happened in Week 11 when Johnson faced the reeling Jags secondary. An absolute fantasy monster. If you have been sitting Britt in weeks' past, then good for you. I would try and find a way to get him into your lineups Week 12, though.

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs

Willis McGahee is done for fantasy purposes following his Week 11 injury, and it is a shame. He, like Fred Jackson of the Bills, was playing out of his mind in a very beat-up, very NFL-old body.

Rookie SDSU standout Ronnie Hillman, who has excelled in spot duty, just so happens to have a skill set very similar to that of another staple in a Peyton Manning offense and former San Diego State Aztec in Marshall Faulk. There is one issue. Hillman can't pass block to save his life, or the Frankenstein neck that connects Manning's current rag-arm to the supercomputer that compensates for it in his dome.

The "other", admittedly probably less talented RB in this situation is Lance Ball, who touched the ball nine times in McGahee's relief Week 11 to Hillman's 14, but ended up with a very similar fantasy output (5.3 points versus 5.9.)

Most importantly, Ball is a hard-nosed pass blocker and Chiefs LB Tamba Hali has been asserting himself as a QB menace lately. While Hillman represents a high-upside RB2 play this week against a terrific matchup, don't be surprised to see Ball involved in the mix more often than some may think. Coaches don't love relying on rookies during playoff runs, and I would be giving Ball a long look at my flex if I'm in need of a spot start.

Seattle Seahawks at Miami Dolphins

I don't like a single player in this game outside of a sneaky feeling I keep having about a big Sidney Rice or Golden Tate performance.

Outside of the Seattle WR corps, however, I don't see this matchup playing out well for anybody. I even see Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch struggling relative to what fantasy owners have come to expect. In has last three trips to the South/Southeast, Beast Mode has had fantasy outputs of 5.3 at Tampa Bay, 5.5 at New Orleans, and a pathetic 9.4 against a swiss cheese 2012 Carolina Panther run defense.

Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If you would have told me at the 2012 Senior Bowl as I watched soon-to-become Bucs RB Doug Martin that he would be my No. 1 fantasy RB of Week 12, I would have been very curious to know who you were, and where you got this (very interesting) information regarding the future.

But I wouldn't have been surprised. Fantasy owners should expect a monster, and the only thing that makes me a bit hesitant is how much better Martin has been in away games than in home games this season. I am downgrading my expectations for both Bucs WRs Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams this week, but I love the way Bucs TE Dallas Clark matches up against an over-pursuing Falcons LB corps and expect fantasy production.

Baltimore Ravens at San Diego Chargers

Chargers WR Danario Alexander is a player I have been touting for weeks, and he is the real deal until his knee blows out again, which it will. If he is available on your waiver wire, or if you were able to pick him up and are hesitant about starting him in your flex, I would recommend rolling with him.

I have done so for two weeks in multiple leagues and sufficiently given league-mates nightmares. Alexander is a target monster, and is clearly QB Phillip Rivers' favorite target. So much so that Alexander is eating into the previously un-eat-into-able production in an offensive system predicated through the utilization of TE Antonio Gates. Not even Vincent Jackson, playing alongside a hurt Gates, was capable of stealing this many looks on a consistent basis as a Charger.

St. Louis Rams at Arizona Cardinals

Cardinals RB Beanie Wells will be returning from his non-season-ending injured reserve designation in Week 12. In related news, fantasy writers across the world are rejoicing that they do not have to write out the name "Larod Stephens-Howling" with such frequency moving forward.

Wells has fresh legs, and had the biggest game of his career versus these Rams, so I think he immediately vaults into RB2 territory for Week 12. The fact is, he is healthy, and Stephens-Howling is not. There is one other thing. Stephens-Howling is 180 pounds dripping wet while Wells is, if nothing else, a physical NFL RB prototype, a high school national player of the year, and a first round selection. Against a bad run defense at home where Stephens-Howling has struggled mightily in his absence. Roll with Wells at RB2 if need be.

San Francisco 49ers at New Orleans Saints

Saints RB Darren Sproles was a late scratch in Week 11 after being designated as probable all week in his would-be return to action from the broken hand suffered in Week 7.

Sproles appears to be coming back just in time for one of the worst matchups his position can face in the 49ers run-stopping juggernaut. This news is not terrible for Sproles, though. This news is terrible for Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, and Chris Ivory. None are given sufficient reps to get the defense lathered up for a big play, and the run will fail.

We will see a lot of Sproles being utilized in space as a receiving weapon in the flats and out of the backfield as a result. Despite the bad matchup on paper, the way the game looks to shake out indicates Sproles being heavily involved right off.

Green Bay Packers at New York Giants

Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in fantasy football, and he was the only player who I had ranked ahead of my No. 2 and No. 3 QBs of this week in Robert Griffin III and Tom Brady who have already played, and, well … gone off.

I was much higher than the expert consensus at FantasyPros.com on both Griffin and Brady, a situation which had me worried. You never like to have Drew Brees and Matt Ryan ranked so much lower than everyone else as a result, but that's how I saw it, thankfully.

There is one thing the over 100 fantasy experts on the network seem to agree on nearly unanimously though. That is Rodgers being this week's QB1. I do not expect WR Greg Jennings to return this week, so do not count on him. I like a rebound game from Packers WR Jordy Nelson, and expect another Randall Cobb monster day. Packers TE Jermichael Finley has been a nightmare to own, but remember, he is a streaky player who scored last week and faces the most-burned group of LBs by TEs in the league coming into Week 12, and basically have been every week for two years now. If Finley's been dropped in your league and you are not comfortable with your TE situation, he is worth a look.

Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles

Another very sorry Monday Night game featuring backups that myself and loved ones will be forced to watch while you live your life. See you next week.

[Alex Dunlap (Twitter) is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and founder of RosterWatch.]

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