Each week, Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com previews all the NFL games from a fantasy perspective.
New England at Detroit
The Lions have allowed 130.6 rushing yards per game and 11 rushing touchdowns, so expect a high-quality performance from Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who should be one of the top starts of Week 12. Running back Danny Woodhead complements Green-Ellis well with his speed and elusiveness, and is a viable flex play as well. The Lions have also surrendered 16 passing touchdowns and will likely have a lot of trouble keeping a balanced New England attack out of the end zone, both on the ground and through the air. Expect Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to throw at least two touchdown passes, and a third is always possible against a defense that may be backpedaling often. Tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski are two of Brady's favorite red zone targets and are strong starts. Receiver Wes Welker should be busy for PPR purposes and Deion Branch will be useful in larger leagues.
The Lions do not have much of a running game right now, and quarterback Shaun Hill should throw often. The Patriots will know what's coming offensively, so expect mixed statistical results for Hill. He will finish with more than one touchdown pass and more than one interception. Expect the New England defensive backs to have a lot of trouble containing receiver Calvin Johnson, who will be one of the top fantasy performers of Week 12. Nate Burleson is a strong WR3 because of all the defensive attention Johnson commands. Brandon Pettigrew has emerged as a top fantasy tight end and should be started in most instances.
New Orleans at Dallas
The Cowboys have obviously improved under interim coach Jason Garrett, but the secondary will still likely have a lot of trouble handling Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who I expect to throw a minimum of two touchdown passes. Marques Colston has re-emerged as a must-start fantasy receiver. Who else might get involved in the passing game is always a question/risk in fantasy, though, and you cannot start Lance Moore or Robert Meachem without first reminding yourself that each player is a boom-or-bust option in any given week. Running back Chris Ivory is a consistent touchdown threat and continues to be undervalued for fantasy purposes. He is a very good flex option.
Cowboys quarterback Jon Kitna may have to throw often, as he cannot lean on his running game for solid support and will have to keep up with Brees. When he is pressured to force a comeback or play from behind, Kitna can be erratic, and is not an ideal start this week. Receiver Dez Bryant has become a regular touchdown threat and is a surefire starter, and Miles Austin can benefit from the increased defensive attention the rookie is drawing. It may be just a matter of time before tight end Jason Witten gets back into the flow of the offense, but do not believe it until you see it.
Cincinnati at New York Jets
Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer's foot problem may not keep him out of action, but he should be no match for the strong secondary of the Jets. Many teams cannot match up directly with Cincinnati's top pass-catchers, but New York can do so effectively. Palmer has been erratic recently and should not be started because of the match-up. It is difficult to reserve Terrell Owens, but you can do so if you have another top-level receiver as an alternative. Receiver Chad Ochocinco has not been reliable and should be reserved. Expect running back Cedric Benson to also struggle this week, as he is not running with as much authority and burst as he did last year and will come down hard after performing well against the Bills last week.
The Bengals are allowing 118.3 rushing yards per game, and running back LaDainian Tomlinson will show he is nowhere near "wearing down" as some have inferred. Running mate Shonn Greene, however, is still frustrating fantasy owners and cannot be used with confidence, regardless of the opponent. A strong running game should give quarterback Mark Sanchez time to throw, and he is a solid option again in Week 12. Receiver Santonio Holmes has meshed well with Sanchez and is playing at the top of his game right now. Braylon Edwards is a consistent big-play threat and should be locked in as a WR2 start in most leagues.
Jacksonville at New York Giants
The Giants allow 89.5 rushing yards per game, but Maurice Jones-Drew is playing too well for fantasy owners to be concerned. Expect at least adequate numbers from Jones-Drew, who is always a threat to score. The Giants defense may actually spend more time on the field this week due to injuries at wide receiver hampering their offensive flow. The Jaguars should move the ball well enough for their top fantasy players to at least post adequate totals. New York may be heavily focused on containing Mike Thomas in the passing game, so David Garrard could elect to go to Marcedes Lewis often as an alternative. Garrard is not a top start this week, as the Jaguars will lean heavily on Jones-Drew. Brandon Jacobs starts for the Giants, but Ahmad Bradshaw should still get a lot of work. Jacobs should score a TD in an expanded role, yet Bradshaw will still be very good for yardage purposes. New York must focus more on the running game now because of the problems in the passing attack. The Jaguars' pass defense has been notoriously bad this year, though, and even if the Giants run the ball often, Eli Manning will take some downfield shots to Mario Manningham. Manning is still a quality start for possible TDs even if his yardage numbers are down. Monitor the progress of Derek Hagan, but do not use him in most leagues just yet.
Pittsburgh at Buffalo
The Bills have been awful against the run this year, and Rashard Mendenhall, one of the top starts of Week 12, should score more than once. Expect Ben Roethlisberger to spread the ball around very effectively, and it seems to be a given that Mike Wallace will make a big play every week. It's difficult to envision Buffalo being able to contain Wallace. With the Bills likely to fall behind, Fred Jackson may become less of a factor than usual, plus there is the obvious difficult match-up against the staunch Steelers run defense. Ryan Fitzpatrick could be prone to turnovers if he is forced into adverse passing situations. Stevie Johnson should be started against any opponent, but any other Bills are big fantasy risks this week.
Minnesota at Washington
The Vikings should be inspired to perform well under Leslie Frazier, who should realize that all of his success will be tied to Adrian Peterson, not Brett Favre. Peterson should get a lot of work and will produce ideal numbers. That would mean less pressure on Favre, who should connect with Percy Harvin often against a vulnerable pass defense. Sidney Rice should re-emerge as a red zone threat this week and can be used in larger leagues. Expect fewer mistakes from Favre, but he may not post big numbers, either, for Minnesota to perform effectively. Keiland Williams will have to work hard for his yardage against the Vikings front wall, and is not a strong option. Expect Donovan McNabb to throw frequently, which bodes well for the totals of Santana Moss and Chris Cooley. McNabb doesn't finish off enough drives with TD passes, so keep him reserved unless you play in a two-QB league.
Carolina at Cleveland
Jake Delhomme could get the call against his former team this week, and could pump some life into the Browns passing game while he searches for some revenge. His return should boost the appeal of Mohamed Massaquoi, who can be useful if you are struggling for WR help this week. The Panthers have no hope of containing Peyton Hillis, especially when you consider they allow 128.4 rushing yards per game. Mike Goodson has already shown he can perform well even if defenses key on him. Goodson is a rhythm runner, and as long as the Panthers keep feeding him the ball, he can come through with at least respectable fantasy totals. Steve Smith has faded away as a fantasy player this season, and at this late juncture, it's safe to cut him if you haven't already done so. Some owners still hold onto him because of the name value, but the production is simply not there. Heroics from David Gettis can be occasional, especially with Smith still commanding a lot of defensive respect. Still, though, Gettis is too unproven to use him at this critical time of year.
Green Bay at Atlanta
The Falcons rank 24th in the NFL in passing yards allowed, and will likely have a lot of trouble with the Packers' potent passing game. Aaron Rodgers is possibly the top QB start of Week 12. Greg Jennings should post some big yardage numbers and James Jones has emerged as a top start in most fantasy formats. Rodgers tends to throw frequently due to the lack of a running game, so Brandon Jackson should not be started unless you are desperate. The Packers defense has been very sturdy recently, and Michael Turner cannot be counted on for big yardage numbers, even if he does find the end zone. No defense can stop Roddy White, but don't expect Matt Ryan to test the Packers on a regular basis. Ryan is not a top starting option, and if he has to try to keep up with Rodgers, he could be in for a troubling week.
Tennessee at Houston
While even the average fan knows how bad the Houston pass defense is, the Titans might not have the personnel to exploit the Texans' weaknesses. With Rusty Smith at QB, it's just too much of a gamble to use Randy Moss, who has lost all credibility with fantasy owners. Nate Washington could be Smith's go-to guy, and is possibly the only Titans receiver worth using in larger leagues. Bo Scaife's appeal drops significantly with Vince Young out of the picture. Chris Johnson has much less of a chance of delivering a sparkling performance with Smith starting, but always does a great job of creating his own running room and should perform adequately. The Titans defense could end up spending a lot of time on the field, which would mean a big day for Arian Foster, some Andre Johnson heroics and more than one TD pass from Matt Schaub.
Kansas City at Seattle
The speed of Jamaal Charles should give the Seahawks some trouble, and I expect Kansas City will move the ball well enough to get Thomas Jones in position for a short-yardage score, even if his yardage numbers are limited. Matt Cassel should be able to pick his spots against a vulnerable Seattle pass defense and is one of the more underrated quality fantasy starts of Week 12. Dwayne Bowe gets the job done even when he is swarmed by defenders, and his run of impressive performances should continue. Marshawn Lynch has not been able to get on track behind the shaky Seattle offensive line, and I'm expecting another disappointing week. Justin Forsett is always a threat to let loose for some decent yardage numbers, but he is really a desperation option who cannot be counted on. Without Mike Williams, expect Matt Hasselbeck to sputter in the passing game. Ben Obomanu does have an established rapport with Hasselbeck, but may disappear if asked to play a larger role. Deon Butler is capable of some occasional heroics, yet cannot be counted on at this critical juncture.
Miami at Oakland
The Raiders allow 128.5 rushing yards per game and are coming off an embarrassing loss at Pittsburgh. Look for the Raiders to stack their fronts against Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams early, limiting the yardage production of both players. Brown should score if Miami can hang in the game for awhile and can still be effective in the red zone, but the Raiders should eventually pull away and render the Dolphins' running game completely ineffective. Miami's passing game is looking moribund recently and isn't capable of playing catch-up. The Dolphins allow 112.7 rushing yards per game, so expect a solid performance from Darren McFadden, who will be primed to bounce back from his worst game of the year. Jason Campbell should also rebound with a respectable outing, as the Raiders' offense sees much more field time than Miami's.
Philadelphia at Chicago
The Bears have the NFC's best run defense and can do a respectable job of keeping Michael Vick from busting too many profitable runs. Yet Vick now has the capability to sit back in the pocket and gun to DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, who are must-starts in all leagues. Vick also finds LeSean McCoy in the short passing game, and the Eagles offense simply has too much balance to bench any of their top players right now. Expect the Bears to have trouble establishing Matt Forte in an attempt to play ball control, as the Eagles allow 99.7 rushing yards per game, eighth in the NFL. The Bears will likely have to live and die with the gunslinging of Jay Cutler. That should mean some TDs and turnovers for the Chicago QB, and good yardage for Johnny Knox. Greg Olsen could also make significant contributions.
St. Louis at Denver
Only the Bills have a worse run defense than the Broncos, and this will be a very good week for Steven Jackson, who should soar past the 100-yard mark and find the end zone. Sam Bradford should enjoy some offensive balance and will likely throw more than one TD pass. Start Danny Amendola with confidence, and Brandon Gibson will be useful in larger leagues. Expect Bradford to target multiple receivers while avoiding Champ Bailey, who many not cover any receiver exclusively. Kyle Orton should bounce back from a disappointing outing on Monday night and connect consistently with Brandon Lloyd. Orton will likely have to throw often, as Knowshon Moreno may struggle to find regular openings in the St. Louis front seven. You can still roll with Moreno as a RB2, though, as a good passing game should set him up with some opportunities to score from short range. Jabar Gaffney is a nice start for PPR purposes in a key fantasy week.
Tampa Bay at Baltimore
LeGarrette Blount should still be a threat against the Baltimore run defense, which has not played up to its reputation recently. Expect Blount to get in the end zone even if he does not reach 100 yards. Josh Freeman does a fine job of valuing the football and limiting mistakes, and while he likely will not post outstanding numbers, he will get the ball to Mike Williams as usual and keep the Buccaneers in the game. I expect the weak Tampa Bay run defense to be shredded by Ray Rice, and Willis McGahee is a strong bet to score. Tampa Bay's pass defense looks strong on paper, but Joe Flacco is playing well and remains a solid start. Anquan Boldin is always a threat to score in any match-up, as he is targeted regularly in the red zone. The Ravens defense may not give up a lot of points this week, but turnovers may be challenging to come by against Freeman.
San Diego at Indianapolis
The two QBs who some consider the best in fantasy football square off in what is sure to be an exciting match-up. Questions do linger about Philip Rivers' receiving corps, yet the standout passer should still get the job done no matter who is catching the ball. Vincent Jackson will be pressed into a major role upon his return and it could be a detriment to his production, since he has been inactive for so long and may not be ready to play a prime role. Do not use him over a WR who has been reliable and has played all season. Seyi Ajirotutu could assume a significant role and is a nifty sleeper for Week 12. Mike Tolbert should get a lot of work as the Chargers try to control time of possession and is a strong RB2 start. Peyton Manning will not be afraid to challenge the San Diego secondary, and could deliver another week of big yardage and a few TDs, along with some turnovers. Reggie Wayne might be somewhat held down by Quentin Jammer, but he cannot be reserved. Jacob Tamme and Pierre Garcon should benefit from the defensive attention Wayne commands. Blair White and Donald Brown have some upside, yet should not be used over more established players at this point of the season.
San Francisco at Arizona
Both teams could drum up some respectable offensive results in this divisional match-up on national TV. Expect Frank Gore to tear through the Cardinals after an off week, and should be the star of the show. I believe Troy Smith will find holes in the porous Arizona pass defense, and will throw more than one TD pass, with at least one score going to Michael Crabtree. The Cardinals do not have much hope of mustering a ground attack, so expect Derek Anderson to gun the ball to Larry Fitzgerald often. But also expect an erratic performance from Anderson. Larry Fitzgerald, though, should roll up some nice fantasy totals, and Steve Breaston is an underrated quality starter for Week 12. Both of these teams know each other pretty well, and this will likely not be a very high-scoring affair.
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