Jay Cutler is experiencing setbacks with his ankle ligaments, and may have fallen behind his projection to return for Week 13. Josh McCown will start his third game of the season Sunday in St. Louis. He has completed 60.4 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and no interceptions, while carrying Chicago to two close victories in the last three weeks. These numbers are good but only offer a small sample size. In twelve NFL seasons, McCown owns a 58.2 completion percentage, and has thrown 42 touchdowns to his 44 picks. While the face of the franchise remains sidelined, apply caution towards Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and anyone else in a Bears jersey.
Willis McGahee will play Sunday against Pittsburgh, but Chris Ogbonnaya may have earned the greater role moving forward. In Week 11’s loss to Cincinnati, Ogbonnaya led all Browns with 14 touches, converting those for 99 total yards. McGahee played just 11 snaps, and gained 17 total yards on eight touches. The Steelers are 26th against the run, but the lack of clarity makes this a backfield to avoid until proven otherwise.
Miles Austin is expected to return from his annual hamstring sabbatical. But he likely returns to complete obsolescence, as Terrance Williams has demonstrated superior talent while playing in his stead. This story in Dallas is cyclical. Tony Romo’s starting receiver Roy E. Williams missed three games in 2009, which fostered Austin’s emergence as a starting slot player. That was Austin’s best year by far, concluding with 1,320 yards and 11 touchdowns. Terrance Williams is on track for 796.8 yards and eight scores as a rookie. Projecting the numbers that Williams has earned since week four (Austin’s first missed game of 2013), he is on pace for 873.4 yards and 10 touchdowns. Don’t bother starting Austin this week, and continue to give the former Baylor Bear a shot as a high-upside flex player.
Julius Thomas will be a game-time decision for Denver’s Sunday night showdown in Gillette Stadium. Should he be unable to play, Wes Welker should receive more attention in the slot. Welker is on pace for 97.6 receptions, 1,036.8 yards, and 14.4 touchdowns. Only Jimmy Graham (11), Calvin Johnson (11), and Thomas (10) lead Welker in receiving scores this year. Heading into a game, few players have likely ever had as much motivation as Welker will, in facing his former teammates this Sunday in Foxboro. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker remain incredibly value as fantasy wideouts. Demaryius Thomas is tied with Welker for 9 scores, and sits at seventh in the NFL in receiving yardage this year. Decker is 15th on that list, and Welker is number 23.
This may be the final start for Scott Tolzien before the impending return of former NFL Most Valuable Player Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers has been able to throw without experiencing pain. But he has been ruled out for Week 12, and his outlook for the Thanksgiving game is losing momentum. “For that to happen, I would have to be on the field two days before the game,” Rodgers said. So he would have to practice this Tuesday in order to suit up for the 1:00 Thursday game in Detroit. Jordy Nelson and James Jones are risky players with high upside while Tolzien is carrying the torch.
Ben Tate will continue to carry the load for Houston, with Arian Foster done until 2014. Tate is fighting to earn a big contract in the offseason, and rookie backup Dennis Johnson will spell him from the bench.
The Colts are committed to their new rotation of Trent Richardson and Donald Brown. Few players have fallen so hard and so quickly in fantasy value charts as Richardson this season. This season may be a lost cause for the second-year stud, who was asked to learn his third NFL playbook and blocking schemes before his 19th career game. Despite his relative lack of production this year, there remains hope for forward-looking keeper owners. Of all 2013 rushers, the former third overall pick sits number three in the average carries needed to force a missed tackle. Only Marshawn Lynch and Roy Helu are more efficient at causing missed tackles. These three backs are the only ones to do so more than once every four carries (Richardson requires just 3.97 rushes to posterize an opponent). Try to avoid starting Richardson and Brown, the same way you would for the Buffalo and Carolina backs. Indianapolis will be traveling to Arizona, who is ranked eighth in defense and second against the run.
Ryan Tannehill is receiving the 25th most time in the pocket before making a pass attempt (2.36 seconds). This lack of time disarms the downfield threat of Mike Wallace, while increasing the values for slot targets Charles Clay and Rishard Matthews. Matthews emerged recently after Brandon Gibson’s season-ending injury. With lessened ability to scan for the long-ball attempts, Tannehill has been panicking and settling for the dink and dunk. The two storied and missing offensive linemen aren’t helping the cause for Tannehill, Wallace, or second-year rushing prospect Lamar Miller. Expect more continued involvement from Clay and Matthews, and try not to get them confused for a certain Green Bay Fathead spokesman.
Shane Vereen returned last week for his first action since week one. He caught eight passes for 65 yards, and rushed once for another seven yards. Vereen will continue to line up in different positions on offense. Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski will have to bring a big game to keep up with the Broncos. Peyton Manning remains on pace (5,715.2 yards) to break the single-season yardage record held by Drew Brees (5,476 yards in 2011). They will come in with a chip on their shoulder after the controversial non-call that ended their game in Carolina.
Andre Brown has played two games so far this year, combining for 52 touches, 212 total yards, and a rushing touchdown. He will get his third consecutive start Sunday against Dallas.
Santonio Holmes will earn his second straight start, as the Jets travel to Baltimore this weekend. Holmes caught two passes for 71 yards during his return last week in Buffalo.
Matt McGloin will start Sunday over a healthy Terrelle Pryor. Raiders head coach Dennis Allen said of the situation, “If you go out and you perform and you make plays, you get opportunities to continue to go out and perform and make plays. Matt did that last week. He’s going to get another opportunity this week. We’ll see how it goes.” Darren McFadden will not play, and backup Rashad Jennings will start once again. Jennings has performed well this season, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. In the last two games, he has rushed 42 times for 238 yards and a touchdown, while adding four receptions for another 17 yards. Denarius Moore will not play, elevating Rod Streater to the number one position once again. Streater is not a strong start against Tennessee’s seventh-ranked pass defense.
Keenan Allen suffered a minor knee injury last week in Miami, but head coach Mike McCoy said, “He’s fine. He’ll be playing this week, which is great.” Allen has led all Chargers’ wideouts with 41 receptions for 613 yards and three touchdowns. The rookie is on pace for 65.6 catches for 980.8 yards and 4.8 scores. Kansas City may cause a wrinkle for Philip Rivers, the league’s most accurate passer (70.9 percent complete). But with 19 touchdowns and only eight interceptions, Rivers should still find ways to involve Allen, Antonio Gates, and Danny Woodhead.
Michael Crabtree is still on the Physically Unable to Perform list, and cannot be activated to play until Week 13 at the earliest. Colin Kaepernick is the 22nd ranked quarterback in passers’ rating, and sits at 23rd in passing yards. He has thrown 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. Last week’s viewers of Sunday Night Football were treated to a feast of strength versus strength, when Denver’s top passing attack faced the Chief’s number one passing defense. The upcoming Monday Night Football game will be a spectacle of weak against weak. San Francisco ranks dead last in the NFL in passing, but will get to play the 26th ranked Redskins’ passing defense in primetime.
Jordan Reed and Leonard Hankerson are both out for Monday Night Football. That leaves more attention to be paid to Pierre Garcon and Alfred Morris. San Francisco is 10th against the pass and 12th stopping the run. Robert Griffin, III will have his hands full trying to compensate for his valuable missing pieces. Since Washington’s bye in week five, Reed has led all NFL tight ends in targets (44), receptions (32), and receiving yards (393). The margins are sizable as well, as the 6-foot-3 rookie owns leads of five targets, eight receptions, and 50 yards, respectively.
Stats and data courtesy of pro-football-reference.com, footballguys.com, and profootballfocus.com.
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