Add Westbrook, but don't dismiss Dixon in fantasy leagues

With Frank Gore out for the rest of the season, who's the better option moving forward between Anthony Dixon and Brian Westbrook? They both seemed to get a good share of carries on Monday night. - J. Tansey, Atlanta, Ga.

Michael Fabiano: Based on how well he performed in the preseason, I thought it was Dixon. In fact, I had added the rookie as insurance in the two leagues where I have Gore. But after watching the way the carries were split against the Cardinals, it looks like Westbrook is the better option. He had 23 rushing attempts in the contest, compared to Dixon's 14. While the one-time fantasy superstar seems like the better option, I still expect Dixon to see his share of the work. In fact, he is also worth adding off the waiver wire if you're unable to land Westbrook to replace Gore. Remember, Westbrook isn't exactly the most durable player in the league -- he dealt with knee and ankle issues in his final two seasons with the Eagles. Westbrook also won't be called upon to handle the same workload as Gore, so Dixon is certain to have some fantasy value.

Is it time to bench Peyton Manning in favor of Kyle Orton? Manning has killed me over the last few weeks. - E. Wester, Washington, D.C.

M.F.: Manning has done his best Jake Delhomme impersonation in recent weeks, throwing more interceptions (7) than touchdowns (6) over his last two starts -- he also trails Orton in overall fantasy points on NFL.com. Still, based on a home matchup against the Cowboys, I would start Manning ahead of Orton this week. The boys from Big D have been terrible against the pass, allowing an average of 17.5 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. That includes games against fantasy superstars Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees, who combined to throw for 641 yards and four touchdowns against them. Manning could also get back Joseph Addai and Austin Collie, which will help quite a bit.

Which quarterback should I start in Week 13: Joe Flacco or Josh Freeman? Also, which three wide receivers should I start from Malcom Floyd, Terrell Owens, Sidney Rice and Roddy White? - Y. Jackson, Germany

M.F.: At quarterback, I would side with Freeman. The Falcons have allowed an average of over 15 fantasy points per game to opposing signal-callers, and Freeman put up 14.2 against them in Week 9. Flacco has a much tougher task against the Steelers, who have allowed just 12 touchdown passes all season. Back in Week 4, Flacco posted just one scoring toss against them. He has also thrown for just five touchdown passes with four interceptions in five career starts against them. At the wide receiver position, you should obviously start White and Owens. The final decision between Floyd and Rice is a little more difficult, though. Floyd was held without a catch last week, and coach Norv Turner said the wideout's reps were limited to be cautious as he returns from a sore hamstring. Rice had just one catch against the Redskins, due in large part to the fact that the Vikings leaned on the run. If Floyd can practice without limitations, I'd give him the nod against the Raiders -- he has eight catches for 213 yards and one touchdown against them back in Week 5. But if the Chargers wideout is still hindered, Rice would be the safer choice.

Which wide receiver should I start this week from Steve Johnson and Johnny Knox? Also, should I start Fred Jackson against the Vikings? - D. Bahleda, Pittsburgh, Pa.

M.F.: I like Knox a lot this week, as he'll face a questionable Lions defense. But Johnson is still the better fantasy option. Hopefully he's over his terrible drop against the Steelers (oh wait, that was God's fault according to his Twitter post -- I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!! YOU EXPECT ME TO LEARN FROM THIS??? HOW???!!! ILL NEVER FORGET THIS!! EVER!!! THX THO...). Regardless of whether it's Johnson or God catching the football, I'd give him the start ahead of Knox. He also has a nice matchup this week, facing a Vikings defense that has allowed 14 total touchdowns and an average of 152.1 receiving yards per game to opposing wideouts this season.

I need to start one of the following three quarterbacks in Week 13: Jay Cutler, David Garrard or Shaun Hill. Which way would you go? - P. Bergstrom, Middle Island, N.Y.

M.F.: I'd start Cutler ahead of Garrard and Hill based on his matchup against the Lions. In his last three games against this NFC North rival, Cutler has thrown for a combined 789 yards and eight touchdowns. That includes a 372-yard, two-touchdown performance back in Week 1. Cutler has also been hit in recent weeks, tossing multiple touchdown passes in three of his last four starts.

With Marion Barber out for the next few weeks, do you think Felix Jones will see more work in the Cowboys backfield? Is Tashard Choice worth a look off waivers? - J. Drane, Marcy, N.Y.

M.F.: You would think that Jones is in line for more work without Barber, but I do think Choice is going to see a bump in carries as well. In fact, he could fill Barber's role as the team's goal-line back in addition to his backup duties. I do like Jones in fantasy leagues this week based on a matchup against the Colts and their weak run defense, however, so consider him a viable No. 2 option or flex starter. The one downfall with Jones is his lack of durability, so Choice is worth a look off the waiver wire in deeper leagues. But if he can avoid injuries, Jones should see a spike in production and value while Barber is on the sidelines.

I've lost Gore for the remainder of the season, so now I need to start two running backs from Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Brandon Jackson, Fred Jackson, Mike Tolbert and Brian Westbrook? Also, is Pierre Thomas ever coming back? - J. Weigel, Ames, Iowa

M.F.: Based on the individual matchups, I'd start Fred Jackson and Tolbert. Jackson proved in Week 12 that he's almost matchup proof, scoring a very impressive 22.30 fantasy points on NFL.com despite facing a stout Steelers run defense. The Vikings are good against the run, but Jackson is still well worth being active. Tolbert, who has rushed for a combined 214 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games, has a great matchup against the Raiders. Their defense has surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs. If Ryan Mathews were to return from an injured ankle and expected to see a lot of carries, however, Westbrook would be the better choice. As for Thomas, he has a chance to return this week against the Bengals. I'm not sure I would start him right away in fantasy leagues, but he's clearly on the verge of making a comeback.

Should I be concerned about Philip Rivers? He did nothing against the Colts, and now it looks like Vincent Jackson is out. - C. Scott, London

M.F.: I wouldn't be concerned in the least. Rivers is human after all (though his statistics sometimes do show otherwise), and last week was only his second bad game of the season. Sure, it hurts that Jackson is out of action once again, but Rivers has been putting up monster numbers with the likes of Legedu Naanee, Patrick Crayton, Seyi Ajirotutu and Randy McMichael as his top options in the pass attack. He's still a must-start across the board, especially when facing the Raiders. Earlier this season, he posted 431 yards and two touchdowns against the AFC West opponent. Rivers has also thrown for a combined 12 touchdowns in his last seven games against the Silver & Black.

Which quarterback would you start in Week 13: Tom Brady or Matt Cassel? Also, is this the week to start Steve Smith (CAR)? I can either play him or Lee Evans, but I like Smith's matchup a lot. Thoughts? - F. Grimaldi, Mass.

M.F.: Brady has been on absolute fire in recent weeks, but Cassel hasn't been a slouch either. In fact, he has thrown for multiple touchdowns in six of his last seven games. That includes two starts with four scoring passes in the last three weeks. Considering the current matchups, I would start Cassel ahead of Tom Terrific. Cassel faces a Broncos defense that has surrendered the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, while Brady goes up against CB Darrelle Revis and a fierce Jets defense. He has also struggled against the Men in Green, throwing for a combined three touchdowns in his last three games against them. At wide receiver, I would start Smith despite his struggles. It's not like Evans has done much in the stat sheets either, catching just five passes in his last three games. At least Smith has a great matchup, facing a Seahawks defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to wideouts.

I need to sit one of the following three wideouts: Dwayne Bowe, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Lloyd and Mike Williams (TB)? Tough call! - F. Grimaldi, Mass.

M.F.: This decision comes down to Williams and Fitzgerald, as Bowe and Lloyd are must starts in fantasy leagues. I would side with Fitzgerald, as he's been the hotter of the two wideouts over the last five weeks. You might not know it from Monday night's debacle against the 49ers, but the Cardinals wideout has been putting up some solid totals. In his previous four games, he had no fewer than six catches and three touchdown catches.

Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Leave it in our comments section or send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com!

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