The fantasy landscape had a bit of a scare on Sunday when Adrian Peterson went down with an ankle injury. While his MRI showed he may not miss any time at all, Peterson owners can’t afford to take the chance he’ll be inactive in Week 13. His backup must be added. The Peterson injury wound up paling in comparison to the hip injury suffered by Frank Gore on Monday night. After re-entering the game for another carry, Gore took himself out, and for good reason; his injury was so severe that he’s out for the season. Of course, his backup — and probably his backup’s backup — must be added.
Brian Westbrook, RB, SF. Back the preseason, I wrote a feature about handcuffing running backs, identifying seven must-own handcuffs for owners of those team’s No. 1 backs. Westbrook now becomes the third of those eight handcuffs to pay off big time (and a fourth will be featured in just a minute). Unfortunately for me, someone in my main league followed the advice and has owned Westbrook all season. The most surprising part of Westbrook’s performance on Monday night was that San Francisco was willing to give him 24 touches. He’s going to be the No. 1 waiver pick in most fantasy leagues this week, for good reason.
Anthony Dixon, RB, SF. Of course, Westbrook hasn’t been the picture of perfect health in his career, and that means Dixon is worth owning in all leagues as well. The rookie running back didn’t perform as well as Westbrook, but he did plunge into the end zone for a TD on a key third down early in the game. He could be set up for goal-line action, giving him value in deeper leagues immediately. That is, if the 49ers can move the ball against a real defense.
Toby Gerhart, RB, MIN. Peterson owners may have survived a scare on Sunday, but the star RB’s availability could depend on how he practices. Gerhart became the feature back and was solid in picking up the win for Leslie Frazier. Against Buffalo, Gerhart would be a must-start in a critical week should Peterson be unavailable. Peterson owners should be all over this guy and ready to watch the game-day inactive list. Other owners will also want to add him on the chance he starts.
Mike Goodson, RB, CAR. Jonathan Stewart’s return was expected to be the end of Goodson’s brief fantasy worth, but the recent fantasy star’s value in the passing game, as well as an early 26-yard TD, led to him having his third straight great fantasy performance. At this point, Goodson must be given touches moving forward, and he’ll likely be on the field a lot as the Panthers pass to catch up. If he’s still available to you, add him.
James Davis, RB, WAS. He didn’t put up big fantasy numbers in Week 12, so he’s going to most likely fly under the radar in your league. However, Davis had the team-high totals in carries and rushing yards on Sunday, and coach Mike Shanahan will likely ride the guy no one expects, as has been his motif in the past. While Davis shouldn’t be a monster fantasy back akin to Goodson over the past few weeks, you simply can’t ignore anyone that may get double-digit carries at this point of the season.
Chris Ivory, RB, NO. While we patiently wait for Pierre Thomas to return, Ivory has posted two straight 15-point efforts in fantasy leagues. May as well own him and use him while he’s seeing significant playing time. There should always be room to run for Ivory, as teams concentrate on not being beat by Drew Brees and the passing game. Against Cincinnati, Ivory makes for a solid flex back.
Tashard Choice, RB, DAL. Marion Barber is expected to miss a couple weeks with a calf strain, and that’ll give Choice the opportunity to prove he deserves more playing time. He’s proved exactly that in the past, and I’d expect him to do so again. He has a dream matchup in Week 13 against the Colts, and he’s worth using in that game, as well as against the Eagles the following week.
Maurice Morris, RB, DET. I snatched up Morris last week, liking his matchup against the Patriots in Week 12, and he didn’t disappoint, scoring two TDs. Jahvid Best owners should already have Morris, but if he remains unowned, he’s worth a waiver pickup on the chance Best doesn’t get healthy any time soon.
Matt Cassel, QB, KC. He’s owned in a majority of leagues, but that’s not enough — he needs to be picked up in every league at this point. With a 22:4 TD:INT ratio this season, Cassel has been even better over the last seven weeks, throwing 18 TDs and just one INT. Dwayne Bowe has morphed into one of the league’s best receivers, and that has led to Cassel’s big breakthrough.
Josh Freeman, QB, TB. With games against Atlanta, Washington, Detroit and Seattle, Freeman is set up for big success over the next month. He’s a solid spot-starter if you don’t have an elite QB in your employ, even though the yardage totals have taken a big dip over the last month.
Chad Henne, QB, MIA. The Dolphin QB had a nice return in Week 12, topping 300 yards while throwing a pair of TDs and just one interception. He also showed that he doesn’t need Brandon Marshall to be successful. With great matchups against Cleveland, Buffalo and Detroit over the next four weeks, Henne is a capable spot-starter for in your fantasy league.
Deion Branch, WR, NE. Branch looked great in his re-introduction to Tom Brady several weeks ago, and he looked even better on Thanksgiving, hauling in TDs on two of his three receptions and posting his first 100-yard game of the season. Don’t let the lack of receptions scare you off the scent — Branch had seven receptions in each of his two previous games. He’s definitely worth the add.
Davone Bess, WR, MIA. Is the Miami passing attack actually better without Brandon Marshall? We know Bess the fantasy receiver is way better, and he posted his first 100-yard game of the season with Chad Henne back in the fold. Bess is always a nice PPR guy to have, but he’s making an impact in all leagues right now.
Derrick Mason, WR, BAL. I don’t know why Joe Flacco isn’t throwing the ball to Anquan Boldin; Bucs star cornerback Aqib Talib ignored Boldin most of the day to focus on Mason, and Flacco still threw the ball Mason’s way more often than not. Mason now has TDs in three of his last four games, and he’s worth having on your roster in case the paradigm shift continues in Baltimore.
Ben Obomanu, WR, SEA. I was very high on Obomanu this week; Mike Williams’ expected absence from the Seahawks’ Week 12 game against Kansas City and with top cornerback Brandon Flowers also sidelined, Obomanu was set up for success. He had a solid day before hauling in a long-distance TD late, pumping him up over 150 yards. He has three TDs in his last four games, and he’s a great play should Williams continue to be limited.
Jacoby Ford, WR, OAK. The rookie continues to make game changing plays, scoring two TDs on Sunday (one on a return). With two big games in his last three attempts, Ford is an unknown quantity no longer. Deep league owners need to be all over this guy, and standard league owners should also consider the add, as Ford has a sweet December schedule.
Kevin Boss, TE, NYG. With the Giants’ top two receivers out, Boss predictably became a bigger part of the passing game, racking up 74 yards and a TD in Week 12. Steve Smith may be back this week, but he’ll be at less than 100 percent, making Boss a great start for at least one more week.
Seattle Seahawks, TM, SEA. The smart play says to take the defense facing Jimmy Clausen, and his week it’ll be Seattle. Even better, Clausen has to hit the road and travel to a stadium known for its difficulty for opposing offenses. The Seahawks defense had been great over the first part of the season but has slowed down in recent weeks. Fortunately, this matchup is just what the doctor ordered.
Miami Dolphins, TM, MIA. Jake “Pick Six” Delhomme should be under center again, and that makes the Dolphins a nice one-week defensive play this week. They’ve been solid over the last month, scoring between eight and 12 fantasy points in my league in each of the last four weeks.
St. Louis Rams, TM, STL. The Rams defense has been flying under the radar this season, but they have eight double-digit efforts in 11 weeks this season. Take away Week 11’s game against Atlanta, and this unit has been worth starting in every week since Week 5. They’ll get the inept Cardinals offense next, and I like them to continue their double-digit ways.
Rashad Jennings, RB, JAC. Maurice Jones-Drew owners, learn from the lesson Frank Gore taught you this week. If you have a stud running back, and he has a player behind him that would earn the vast majority of carries should he be injured, pick up that guy. For MJD, Jennings is the guy to own. He picked up 53 yards and a TD on Sunday in his most extensive action since Week 2.
James Starks, RB, GB. With Dmitri Nance out, Starks may be pressed into duty before he’s ready. I know he’s generated a little bit of sleeper buzz, but the last time he hit the field in a game was his junior season in 2008. He’ll need an entire offseason to even have a chance at being an effective running back, so I wouldn’t expect much out of him this year. Still, as a guy who may get carries in the next few weeks, he deserves our attention.
Jason Campbell, QB, OAK. He was awful in Week 11 against Pittsburgh, and I don’t hold out hope that he’ll be any better this week when he faces the Chargers. But after that, Campbell takes on Jacksonville and Denver, two teams that can be passed upon. While I wouldn’t make the mistake of relying on him in my fantasy playoffs, owners in two-QB leagues will want to give the guy a look with the running game sputtering.
Danario Alexander, WR, STL. He played for about 20 snaps on Sunday, yet Alexander was able to lead the team in receiving yardage. Rookie QB Sam Bradford seems to have a great rapport with “DX”, but the star in the making needs to stay healthy to have a big fantasy impact. Sly owners will want to add him now on the chance he does keep healthy and has a big breakout soon.
Blair White, WR, IND. He’s always a threat to score a TD, but his fantasy worth will evaporate should Austin Collie ever return. You could do worse than White if you’re in a bind, though. Despite not topping 42 yards this season, he has three TDs in his last two games. Without the scores, he’s useless to your team, but at this point of the season, beggars can’t be choosers.
Earl Bennett, WR, CHI. Jay Cutler favored Bennett in Week 12, but the receiver still sees too few targets to make a weekly impact in fantasy leagues. Still, it’s unwise to ignore a guy that catches two TDs this late in the season. Keep Bennett, Cutler’s former college teammate, on your watch list heading into the fantasy playoffs.
Frank Gore, RB, SF. He’s out for the season, and he’ll do you no good in re-draft leagues.
Keiland Williams, RB, WAS. Mike Shanahan’s Wheel of Fortune has landed on James Davis, and Williams will be unreliable for the rest of the season.
Bruce Gradkowski, QB, OAK. If you were relying on Gradkowski for fantasy production, your season was already likely over anyway.
R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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