Note: Sleeper alert focuses on players who aren't considered regular starters but have favorable matchups and could produce at a high level. Owners beware focuses on prominent players with unfavorable matchups who could fail to meet statistical expectations.
START OF THE WEEK
Joey Galloway, WR, Tampa Bay: When Galloway faces New Orleans, he turns into Superman. In his past five starts against the Saints, the ageless wonder has 455 yards and eight touchdowns. Earlier this season, Galloway went for 135 yards and two scores against them. He has also caught a touchdown pass in six consecutive games against the Saints and can become only the third player since 1970 to record a touchdown reception in at least seven consecutive games against a single opponent. New Orleans is not formidable against the pass, so Galloway's success should continue.
QUARTERBACKS: START 'EM
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh: Roethlisberger has had two consecutive mediocre performances, but he should reverse his fortunes against Cincinnati. The Bengals rank 26th against the pass and are tied with Detroit for the second-most passing touchdowns allowed (22) after 12 weeks, so the Steelers will look to exploit that weak unit with Roethlisberger and the pass attack. Unless the weather becomes an issue once again, Roethlisberger should find the same sort of success that resulted in two touchdown passes in an earlier start against this AFC North opponent.
Brett Favre, Green Bay: While it's true that Favre has not had much success in terms of wins against Dallas, it hasn't been due to a lack of numbers. In his past three starts against the Cowboys, Favre has thrown seven touchdowns passes. He should be able to throw for multiple scores on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, NFL Network), as the Pack will look to spread the Polks out and use three- and four-receivers sets to exploit a defensive backfield that can be vulnerable to effective pass attacks. This could be a shootout, so look for the old gunslinger to make some noise.
Sleeper alert: Jason Campbell vs. Buffalo.
QUARTERBACKS: SIT 'EM
Philip Rivers, San Diego: Rivers (finally) had a very nice stat line last week with 249 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Baltimore. He has still been inconsistent overall this season, however, and this week's matchup against Kansas City is far from attractive. The Chiefs rank an impressive ninth against the pass and have allowed a mere 180.2 passing yards per game on the road, so Rivers is no lock to match his Week 12 success. Another reason to avoid Rivers: He threw for 211 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in his first start of the season against this AFC West rival.
Eli Manning, N.Y. Giants: With one week left in the fantasy football regular season, now is the time to start players you can trust. That's not something we can say about Manning. The Giants' quarterback has thrown three touchdown passes and six interceptions in his past four starts -- that includes a one-touchdown, four-interception dud in last week's loss to Minnesota. The Bears do rank an unimpressive 25th against the pass on the season, but they'll no doubt put a ton of pressure on Manning against an offensive line that has been no short of ineffective in recent weeks.
Owners beware: Carson Palmer at Pittsburgh.
RUNNING BACKS: START 'EM
Clinton Portis, Washington: Portis and his Redskin teammates will play with heavy hearts after the tragic death of Sean Taylor. The organization will have to deal with this difficult time, but it should inspire them for three hours between the white lines. Portis has recorded two consecutive mediocre starts, but his fortunes should turn against a Buffalo defense that ranks 23rd against the run and has allowed nine rushing touchdowns. The Bills have also allowed an average of 145.6 rushing yards per game on the road, so Portis should shine in what will be an emotional contest.
Frank Gore, San Francisco: Gore appeared destined to have the dreaded fantasy bust label affixed to his uniform headed into last weekend, but he went on to dominate Arizona with 214 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. It was the first time all season that Gore saw more than 20 carries, and offensive coordinator Jim Hostler would be wise to follow that sort of guideline in Carolina. The Panthers rank an unimpressive 20th against the run and have allowed 11 rushing touchdowns (tied for fifth-most in the NFL), so look for Gore to make some noise for the Niners and fantasy footballers.
More running backs with favorable matchups: Travis Henry at Oakland, Earnest Graham at New Orleans, Thomas Jones at Miami, Jamal Lewis at Arizona, Kolby Smith vs. San Diego.
Sleeper alert: Derrick Ward at Chicago.
RUNNING BACKS: SIT 'EM
Shaun Alexander, Seattle: Alexander has returned to practice this week and has a chance to start in Philadelphia, but fantasy owners shouldn't rush to use him. Once a dominant runner, Alexander has seen his numbers fall hard in all categories since his record 2005 season. What's more, there's a definite chance that even if he does start, Alexander will share the workload with Maurice Morris and Leonard Weaver. He also faces a Philadelphia defense that allows an average of fewer than 90 rushing yards per game at home, so the veteran back should remain on the sidelines.
Laurence Maroney, New England: Maroney has been an enormous disappointment for owners this season, as injuries, an unexpected backfield-by-committee and the team's allegiance to Tom Brady, Randy Moss and the pass attack has led to his statistical demise. His fortunes won't be reversed in Baltimore, where he faces a Ravens defense that ranks third against the run and has allowed an average of fewer than 80 rushing yards per game at home. The Patriots will throw and throw some more on Monday night, so Maroney's chances to produce will be few and far between.
More running backs with unfavorable matchups: Ryan Grant at Dallas, Ahman Green at Tennessee, Rudi Johnson at Pittsburgh, Chester Taylor vs. Detroit, Fred Taylor at Indianapolis.
Owners beware: Kevin Jones at Minnesota.
WIDE RECEIVERS: START 'EM
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona: Fantasy owners who had Fitzgerald last week had to be thrilled with his 156-yard, two-touchdown performance in a loss to San Francisco. The former Heisman runner-up has found the end zone five times in his past three starts, and his success should continue this week against Cleveland. The Browns rank 30th against the pass and are tied with Detroit for the second-most receiving touchdowns allowed (22), so Fitzgerald should post a monster stat line in what has the potential to become a tremendous barnburner at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Sleeper alert: Bernard Berrian vs. New York Giants.
WIDE RECEIVERS: SIT 'EM
Javon Walker, Denver: Walker returned from an extended absence in Week 12, but he was limited throughout the Denver-Chicago contest and didn't haul in a single pass. He still might not be 100 percent from an injured knee that required a surgical procedure, and chances are he could be hindered when the Broncos face the Raiders. The silver and black are terrible against the run, but their defense ranks fourth against the pass and has allowed eight receiving touchdowns. All of these little factoids don't bode well for Walker, who should be reserved if at all possible.
Lee Evans, Buffalo: Evans is in the middle of a brutal cold stretch, as he has averaged a mere 3.3 receptions for 39.6 yards and has failed to score a touchdown in his past three starts. This week's opponent, the Redskins, rank 13th against the pass and have held No. 1 wide receivers to an average of 52.6 yards at FedEx Field. Another reason to avoid Evans is the return of Trent Edwards, who has replaced J.P. Losman and will start against what should be a motivated Redskins defense. Evans is a viable No. 3 fantasy wideout, but that's the extent of his value for Week 13.
Owners beware: Chad Johnson at Pittsburgh.
TIGHT ENDS: START 'EM
Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City: Gonzalez has struggled in his past three starts with 123 yards and no touchdowns, but owners should still start the veteran tight end in Week 13. Much like how Galloway owns the New Orleans Saints, Gonzalez has made mincemeat of this week's opponent, the San Diego Chargers, throughout his career. In his past nine starts against the Bolts, Gonzalez has recorded a combined 69 receptions for 712 yards and four touchdowns. He also posted 71 yards and a score earlier this season against the Chargers, so look for his numbers to rise.
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh: Miller isn't one of the elite tight ends in fantasy football like Antonio Gates or Gonzalez, but he is in the middle of his best season at the NFL level. Miller will record career highs in receptions, yardage and touchdowns based on his current numbers, and this week's matchup against Cincinnati bodes well for his chances to find further success. The Bengals rank 26th against the pass and are tied with Detroit for the second-most receiving touchdowns allowed (22) this season, so owners should start Miller with confidence in this AFC North battle.
Sleeper alert: Leonard Pope vs. Cleveland.
TIGHT ENDS: SIT 'EM
Alge Crumpler, Atlanta: Crumpler is in the middle the most difficult season of his NFL career. He missed time with ankle and knee injuries, and the loss of Michael Vick seems to have drained him of much of his value and production. Outside of a 30-yard touchdown catch against Carolina, Crumpler has seven catches for 51 yards and no touchdowns in his past three starts. Based on those numbers and a matchup against a St. Louis defense that has surrendered an average of fewer than four receptions per game to tight ends, Crumpler should be reserved in all formats.
L.J. Smith, Philadelphia: Much like Crumpler, Smith is in the midst of one of his worst seasons in the NFL. He has missed time due to a procedure to repair a sports hernia, and his numbers have been unimpressive since his return. Outside of a 49-yard, one-touchdown performance in a win over Washington, Smith hasn't had more than four fantasy points in standard formats over his past four starts. The Rutgers grad also faces a Seattle defense that has allowed a mere six receiving touchdowns -- the fewest in the NFL -- so Smith should be considered a risk-reward starter.
Owners beware: Dallas Clark vs. Jacksonville.
KICKERS: START 'EM
Stephen Gostkowski, New England: Gostkowski has developed into a nice No. 1 fantasy kicker this season, as he ranks eighth at the position on NFL.com and is far ahead of former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri (12th). He should continue to post solid numbers for owners in Week 13, as he faces a Baltimore defense that has allowed a league-high 30 field-goal conversions on the season. The Patriots will move the football with ease on the Ravens, so look for Gostkowski to see more than his share of chances to score in what could be another blowout win for head coach Bill Belichick's crew.
Rob Bironas, Tennessee: Bironas is in the middle of a career season, as he now owns the NFL record for field-goal conversions in a single game after an eight-conversion performance in a win over Houston back in Week 7. Also the most productive kicker on NFL.com after 12 weeks, Bironas should have more than his share of opportunities to score this week against a Houston defense that has allowed 25 field-goal conversions (second-most in the NFL). This could turn into a real shootout at LP Field, so look for Bironas to post a solid stat line in this important AFC contest.
Sleeper alert: Matt Bryant at New Orleans.
KICKERS: SIT 'EM
Shayne Graham, Cincinnati: Graham has had a nice season for fantasy football owners, as he ranks in the top 10 among kickers on NFL.com. Outside of an incredible 21-point performance in Week 11, however, Graham has scored double-digit fantasy points just once all season. He could find it difficult to score this week in Pittsburgh, as he faces a Steelers defense that has surrendered just 11 field-goal conversions this season. Graham has also recorded a mere nine field goals in his past nine starts against the Steelers, so his numbers could be less than stellar.
Matt Stover, Baltimore: Stover has been one of the most unproductive kickers in fantasy football in recent weeks, as he's scored single-digit points in four of his past five starts. Furthermore, outside of a 14-point performance in Week 11, Stover has averaged a miniscule 1.5 points since Week 7. His lack of production should continue on Monday night, as he faces a New England defense that has surrendered a league-low eight field-goal conversions on the season. With so many good kickers around the league this season, Stover should now be reserved or even released in most formats.
Owners beware: David Akers vs. Seattle.
DEFENSES: START 'EM
New York Giants defense: The G-Men have been inconsistent on defense in recent weeks, but this unit is still a solid option in Chicago for one reason: Bears quarterback Rex Grossman. The Giants will look to pressure the veteran quarterback all afternoon, so don't be shocked if Grossman has more turnovers than touchdowns in this NFC clash.
San Diego defense: The Bolts posted a decent stat line for fantasy footballers in last week's win over Baltimore, and this week's matchup against Kansas City and the inexperienced Brodie Croyle should mean another solid stat line. Even with DT Luis Castillo on the sidelines, the Chargers should still record a nice level of success.
More defenses with favorable matchups: Denver defense at Oakland, Chicago defense vs. New York Giants, Minnesota defense vs. Detroit, New England defense at Baltimore.
Sleeper alert: Washington defense vs. Buffalo.
DEFENSES: SIT 'EM
Baltimore defense: The Ravens defense has been riddled with injuries and become an enormous disappointment in the world of fantasy football this season, and now they'll have to face Tom Brady and a New England offense that averages an NFL-best 41.5 points per game on the road. Despite its preseason value, this unit should be reserved in Week 13.
Jacksonville defense: The Jaguars defense is close to impenetrable at home, but its much more vulnerable on the road. That doesn't bode well for their chances to find fantasy success this week in Indianapolis, where the Jags will have to face Peyton Manning and a Colts offense that averaged close to 30 points per game on their home field.
More defenses with unfavorable matchups: Arizona defense at Cleveland, Tennessee defense vs. Houston, Philadelphia defense vs. Seattle, Tampa Bay defense at New Orleans.
Owners beware: Green Bay defense at Dallas.