By Ted Rossman
With injuries turning depth charts upside down, here are five players whose roles should expand, with advice on whom to add and whom to ignore.
- Reed Doughty (S, WSH): Doughty has the unenviable task of replacing the late Sean Taylor (S) in the Washington secondary. It might seem shallow to mention football in the context of a tragedy, but the Redskins will take the field this week, certainly with heavy hearts. Doughty has started consecutive games with Taylor sidelined by a knee injury. In those contests, he totaled 14 tackles (nine solo). From a tackling perspective, Doughty is a player with decent value down the stretch.
- Justin Durant (LB, JAC): Durant stepped into Jacksonville's starting lineup last week with Mike Peterson (LB) idled by a broken hand. Durant recorded nine tackles (all solo) and an interception. With Peterson out indefinitely, Durant is a good pickup for the stretch drive.
- Oliver Celestin (S, ARZ): Celestin has started consecutive games with Adrian Wilson (S) on the sidelines. Wilson is week-to-week, though he indicated on Monday that he is not very close to returning to the lineup. Regardless, Celestin isn't someone you need to grab. He isn't likely to contribute much besides a few tackles here and there.
- Reggie Torbor (LB, NYG): Torbor is replacing Mathias Kiwanuka at starting strongside linebacker after Kiwanuka broke his leg in Week 11. Torbor isn't nearly as strong of a pass rusher, which is a problem on the strong side, where players typically record fewer tackles. As a result, pass on Torbor.
- Derrick Pope (LB, MIA): Pope is receiving expanded playing time with starting middle linebacker Zach Thomas still recovering from migraines. So far, Pope hasn't been very productive, recording between three and five tackles per game in his last four contests. He's not someone you need to pick up.
Here, we look at trends and matchups savvy owners can exploit in the upcoming week.
- The list of injured quarterbacks grew significantly in Week 12. The Eagles (vs. Seattle), Falcons (at St. Louis), Rams (vs. Atlanta), Panthers (vs. San Francisco), Buccaneers (at New Orleans) and 49ers (at Carolina) might start their backup signal caller in Week 13. Other teams, like the Chiefs (vs. San Diego), Raiders (vs. Denver), Bills (at Washington) and Dolphins (vs. N.Y. Jets), are managing inconsistent and/or desperate quarterback arrangements. These opposing defenses warrant upgrades in Week 13.
- The league's worst offenses (in terms of points per game) are San Francisco, Atlanta and Kansas City. Those teams, respectively, visit Carolina, St. Louis and play host to San Diego in Week 13.
- All season we have written about how teams often fare better following a bye week. Now that bye weeks have concluded for the season and Thursday games have begun, it's time to point out the teams that have unusually short weeks. This week, that isn't anyone, despite Thursday's tussle between the Packers and Cowboys. Both teams played last Thursday, giving them a full seven days' rest.
- Looking for sacks in Week 13? Try the Vikings (vs. Detroit, which allows a league-high 4.3 sacks per game), Falcons (at St. Louis, which allows 3.5 sacks per game) and Panthers (vs. San Francisco, which allows 3.4 sacks per contest). Teams to avoid are Tampa Bay (at New Orleans, the toughest team to sack), Kansas City (vs. San Diego, tied for the second-toughest team to sack) and Baltimore (vs. New England, tied for the second-toughest team to sack).
- Wondering who is toughest to intercept? Tampa Bay (at New Orleans) has only been intercepted four times, while New England (at Baltimore) and Jacksonville (at Indianapolis) have thrown five picks apiece. The easiest teams to pick off? St. Louis (vs. Atlanta) and Chicago (vs. the N.Y. Giants).
- Slippery fingers, anyone? The Ravens (vs. New England) lead the league with 19 fumbles lost. Houston (14, at Tennessee), Tennessee (14, vs. Houston) and Washington (14, vs. Buffalo) have also been less than sure-handed. The Colts (vs. Jacksonville) have lost only three fumbles, the fewest in the NFL.
- The Ravens (minus-11, vs. New England), Texans (minus-9, at Tennessee), Bears (minus-9, vs. the N.Y. Giants) and Rams (minus-9, vs. Atlanta) have the NFL's worst turnover differentials. New England (plus-16, at Baltimore), San Diego (plus-11, at Kansas City) and Buccaneers (plus-11, at New Orleans) have the best.
Whither the weather
Because bad weather usually means fewer points and more turnovers, you need to know where IDPs should benefit from the elements. Here are some sites where the weather could be a significant factor. Keep in mind that the forecasts can change leading up to game day.
Rain is expected to play a significant role in Week 13. Next time you doubt the possible effects of weather on a football game, pull out a tape of the Monday Night Mud Bowl between the Dolphins and Steelers. Hopefully nothing that ugly will occur in Week 13, but be on the lookout for more rain in Pittsburgh on Sunday night, where the Steelers play host to the Bengals. Rain is also expected to fall on games involving the Seahawks and Eagles, 49ers and Panthers, Texans and Titans, Giants and Bears and Patriots and Ravens. Five games (Lions-Vikings, Jaguars-Colts, Falcons-Rams, Browns-Cardinals and Buccaneers-Saints) will be played in climate-controlled venues.