Week 12 looks like it could cause a lot of headaches for fantasy owners because of all the injuries from the past two weeks. In this week’s sleeper section, I will take a look at players that could fill in your lineup in place of an injured starter. I will talk to you about a couple quarterbacks with some bright upside, four running backs that have their chance to shine, some wide receivers looking for redemption, and three overlooked tight ends that will try to step up for their teams.
Chad Henne, QB, Jacksonville
After stepping in for the fourth quarter against Indy when Blaine Gabbert went down, Henne threw for 121 yards and one touchdown. After Gabbert got hurt in Week 11 against Houston, Henne once again filled in and went for 354 yards and four touchdowns. That’s 475 yards and five touchdowns in almost five quarters of play. It gets better. Look at his upcoming matchups and their average points allowed to QBs: Titans (18.27), Bills (18.68), Jets (12.95) and Dolphins (16.4). The Jets represent the only formidable opponent. With receivers like Cecil Shorts, Justin Blackmon, Laurent Robinson, and Marcedes Lewis, Henne has a number of quality targets that could lead to a good fantasy start.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB, Buffalo
Fitzpatrick has had one of the most up-and-down seasons for fantasy points this season. After going for 337 yards with two touchdowns against New England, he manages just 137 yards and no TDs against Miami. It is hard to recommend him, but he plays Indianapolis, who has had the worst pass defense in recent weeks. They have allowed 280 yards per game and eight TDs in the last five weeks while only intercepting the ball twice. Other than last week, they haven’t been playing studs either: Jacksonville, Miami, Tennessee, Cleveland. Look for Fitzpatrick to have a good Week 12.
Daniel Thomas, RB, Miami
This is the last week I pick Thomas if he doesn’t perform. I know what everyone is thinking — Seattle has a good run defense. But take a look at the stats, and you may think otherwise. Over the last five weeks, Seattle has allowed 146.5 rush yards per game, worst in the NFL. Over the last three, it’s even worse: 163.5 yards per game, second worst only to the Raiders. Look for Thomas to split carries with Reggie Bush though, which will limit his upside.
Ronnie Hillman, RB, Denver
Willis McGahee is expected to miss 6-8 weeks with a torn MCL. That puts Ronnie Hillman in the starting role in Denver. Lance Ball may be in the mix, but it seems after last week that Hillman will be the starter and get the bulk of the touches. He also has a favorable matchup in Week 12 at Kansas City.
Bryce Brown, RB, Philadelphia
If LeSean McCoy is ruled out for Week 12, the Eagles will turn to their backup, Bryce Brown, to handle the workload out of the backfield. He has only had 32 rushes so far this season, but has gone for 141 yards, an average of 4.4 yards per carry. He has yet to find the end zone all season, however. If you’re in a 14- or 16-team league and plagued by injury, Brown could be plugged in as a RB2 or low-end flex option. Brown faces Carolina in Week 12, a team that ranks 10th in points allowed to opposing running backs.
Jalen Parmele, RB, Jacksonville
After taking over for Rashad Jennings in Week 11, Parmele rushed for 80 yards on 24 carries. It was announced shortly after that he would be the starting running back for Week 12. Parmele will be facing a Tennessee Titans defense that has given up the second-most points to running backs in 2012.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis
I know it seems I may be jumping on the bandwagon with this guy, considering he has only had three legitimate weeks for fantasy. Take a look at his next three matchups, along with their ranking in pass defense: Buffalo (30), Detroit (29), Tennessee (28). With Andrew Luck playing at a very high level recently, it is hard to overlook T.Y. Hilton.
Michael Crabtree, WR, San Francisco
After a slow start to the 2012 season, Crabtree may not even be a sleeper anymore. Crabtree has put up 173 yards and four touchdowns in the last three games, and he is averaging over 13 yards per reception. Owners worried about Vernon Davis taking all the red-zone touches, have no fear. All of Crabtree’s touchdowns in the last three games have been in the red zone. Expect to see a big game from Crabtree in Week 12 when he matches up against the New Orleans secondary.
Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee
I never thought I would put Kenny Britt on a sleeper list. Unfortunately, it seems his ankle and knees have continued to bother Britt and have mostly silenced him so far this season. The Titans are coming off a bye in Week 11 where they planned to evaluate Britt’s role and look at how to use him better. With Jake Locker back in the lineup, Britt should see an increase in targets. It also helps that the Titans are playing Jacksonville, who just allowed Texans receiver Andre Johnson to have 14 catches for 273 yards and a score.
Plaxico Burress, WR, Free Agent
Another long shot here, but it is reported that Burress is scheduled to work out with the Steelers, and the general feeling is that he will be signed this week. Whether or not he will be starting in Week 12 is still up for debate. It’s risky, but if you are plagued by injuries, there’s a chance he could perform for you.
Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, New England
This is a bit of a stretch, as Shiancoe hasn’t been a legitimate threat since 2009 when he was with Minnesota. But he may get another chance in the upcoming weeks. Rob Gronkowski suffered a broken arm in week 11 and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks, and Aaron Hernandez has been practicing on and off but hasn’t played since Week 8. New England’s offense loves its tight ends, and Shiancoe has shown in the past he can be a good receiving tight end.
Kyle Rudolph, TE, Minnesota
After a great start in 2012, Rudolph fell off the face of the earth. It looked as if he was back in Week 10, with seven receptions for 64 yards and a touchdown. He has a tough matchup against Chicago in week 12, but with Percy Harvin still out, Christian Ponder may need to check down more often.
Benjamin Watson, TE, Cleveland
I have very little to say about this guy. He has been silent all year, until Week 11 when he had 47 yards and two TDs. It’s a stretch, I will admit that, but if you’re a Rob Gronkowski owner and there’s not much out there, it could pay off. The Browns play Pittsburgh in Week 12, a team that has been good against opposing TEs, but so had Dallas before Watson met them. The Steelers are also allowed 11 yards per catch to opposing TEs, so just hope for Brandon Weeden to get him the ball. Fortunately, after Pittsburgh, he has favorable matchups against Oakland, Kansas City and Washington, with Washington being the worst defense against TEs in the league.
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