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Fantasy football: Peyton Manning too good to bench

Is Eli Manning back after last Sunday's night huge performance? Would you start him ahead of his brother, Peyton Manning? - @MrJerryOC (via Twitter)

Michael Fabiano: It sure looked like he was back, as Eli put up 249 yards, three touchdowns and 23.16 fantasy points. That was more points than he had scored in his previous three games combined. With that said, how in the world do you bench someone like Peyton? He's had one bad fantasy stat line all season, and this week's matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers couldn't be more favorable. Their defense has allowed an average of over 18 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks on the road, so look for the elder Manning to put up yet another attractive stat line.

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Should I start Colin Kaepernick over Josh Freeman in Week 13? - C. Milanowski (via Facebook)

M.F.: Remember how much I liked Tim Tebow last season? Well, Kaepernick is now firmly on the fantasy man crush list. He has scored almost 40 fantasy points in his last two games combined, and this week's matchup against the St. Louis Rams is a favorable one. Their defense has given up an average of close to 18 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks on their home field. That makes Kaepernick an even more attractive option in fantasy football - and more attractive, at least to me, than Freeman. He faces a Denver Broncos defense that has allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to signal-callers overall.

Which running backs should I be targeting off the waiver wire this week? - S. Riggleman (via Google+)

M.F.: The first name that comes to mind is Beanie Wells, who returned to action last week and found the end zone twice against the Rams. His schedule isn't favorable down the stretch, but he looks like a featured back and won't lose goal-line carries in Arizona. Knowshon Moreno is another runner to target, as he was the featured back for Denver in the team's first full game without Willis McGahee. Jacquizz Rodgers, David Wilson and Daniel Thomas are also available in a lot of leagues and worth a look if you're thin at the position.

Is this the week that Matt Ryan breaks out of his recent slide? - @GB_DoughBoy (via Twitter)

M.F.: I think so. Take a look at these numbers - the Saints and Falcons have averaged a ridiculous 890 yards and have combined to score 168 points in their last three meetings. What's more, the Falcons have put up 400-plus yards in all three of those contests. On the flip side, New Orleans has posted 360-plus yards in 10 straight meetings. So the bottom line here is pretty simple - you're going to be starting almost all of the big-name players in this game. That includes Ryan, who blasted the Saints for 411 yards, three touchdowns and 26.64 fantasy points back in Week 10. Also, New Orleans has allowed more fantasy points to quarterbacks on the road than any other defense in the league.

Is it time to give up on Vernon Davis? I also have Jermaine Gresham. - B. LeFort (via Facebook)

M.F.: Davis, who was held without a single catch in Week 12, told reporters after the win over New Orleans that he believes Alex Smith should still be the 49ers' starting quarterback. From a fantasy perspective, Davis wasn't any better or worse with Smith under center from a statistical perspective though. Believe it or not, but fellow tight end Delanie Walker (and not Davis) led the team with 81 yards in that contest. Delanie Walker! With that said, Davis should no longer be considered a must-start at a position that has been an absolute disaster for fantasy owners this season. You could argue that Gresham should start ahead of Davis from here on in, but I would play the matchups to make a final decision. This week I'd go with Gresham, who faces a San Diego Chargers defense that has given up the ninth-most fantasy points to tight ends at home.

What is the status of Darren McFadden for Week 13? If he returns, will he lose carries to Marcel Reece? - L. Hendricks (via Google+)

M.F.: A report out of the Bay Area suggests that McFadden's teammates expect him to return to action this week against the Cleveland Browns. He hasn't been able to practice since going down with a high ankle sprain in Week 9, though, so it's very important to keep tabs on the team's practice reports throughout the week. The Browns have allowed not been great against the run this season, so McFadden would become an instant starting option in fantasy land if he were able to return. Reece could see some work in that sort of scenario as well, but I don't know if that's enough to start him in fantasy land. In fact, McFadden's return will likely spell the end of Reece's run as a legitimate option in most leagues.

What is the status of DeMarco Murray? When is he coming back, and can I trust him when he does return? - @StatzHub (via Twitter)

M.F.: Those are all very good questions, because Murray has been out a lot of longer than most of us expected. I would consider him questionable to face the Philadelphia Eagles, but the best gauge on his status is to check the Cowboys' practice reports. Coach Jason Garrett won't let Murray back on the field unless he's able to practice, so his participation (or lack there of) will be a good indicator. The Philadelphia Eagles have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs on the road, so I wouldn't consider Murray much more than a flex option if he is able to return to the gridiron.

Would you continue to start Randall Cobb, even with Greg Jennings expected to return this week? I also have Roddy White and Dez Bryant. - J. Lamoreaux (via Facebook)

M.F.: I still consider Cobb a viable fantasy starter, at least until we see how effective Jennings is after missing most of the season with a groin injury (cue Sam Malone). With that being said, I'd start White and Bryant over Cobb and Jennings this week. White should post a nice stat line in what figures to be an absolute shootout against the Saints on Thursday night, and Bryant has just been too hot to bench. In fact, he has scored the fourth-most fantasy points among wide receivers over the last two weeks. He also put up a nice stat line (87 yards, TD, 14.70 fantasy points) against this week's opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, back in Week 10.

Is it time to bench Larry Fitzgerald? He has been an absolute bust this season! - S. Garcia (via Google+)

M.F.: This isn't Fitzgerald's fault, because the Cardinals have a woeful offensive line and one of the least attractive quarterback situations in the entire league. Defenses are also putting a lot of attention on stopping him in the pass attack, and the Cardinals don't have another wideout to draw coverage. However, it's still tough for fantasy owners to look past the fact that he has averaged 3.8 catches, 39.4 yards and scored just one touchdown over the last five weeks. Furthermore, a total of 48 wideouts (including Brandon Stokley, Donald Jones and Dexter McCluster) have scored more fantasy points than Fitzgerald over the last four weeks. If you are deep at wide receiver or are required to start just two each week, then sitting Fitzgerald might be the best move to make. This week's matchup against the Jets isn't favorable, either, as their defense has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers at home.

What are your thoughts on Jacquizz Rodgers? He can score fantasy points if the Falcons get him the touches! - @strouse523(via Twitter)

M.F.: The Atlanta backfield has become a committee, as Rodgers and Michael Turner are now sharing time. In fact, Rodgers (31) played more snaps than Turner (23) for the second straight game in Week 12. Turner did see more touches (16) than the Oregon State product (12) against the Buccaneers, but it was close. With that said, I think Rodgers is worth a look in deeper leagues as a one-week flex starter against the Saints. Their defense has allowed has allowed more fantasy points to running backs on the road than any team in the league. Just be aware that he isn't going to overtake Turner for the top spot on the depth chart and become a featured option this season.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!

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