The QB and RB positions continue to be muddled, and things are actually getting a bit worse as the season wears on. The Jaguars have made the move to their backup QB. The Chiefs have done the same. The Niners are still trying to figure out who their signal caller should be. In the backfield the Broncos have been forced to make a move with their lead back done for the season, and the Steelers three headed monster has little clarity. The Giants and Jaguars situations are still up in the air as well. As for the wideout position, there are a handful of lesser known wideouts that are performing at elite levels of late, and at tight end there are a couple of fellas whose performance dictates that we pay a little more attention.
Blaine Gabbert's season is over. The Jags placed in him the IR with forearm/shoulder issues. The forearm should be fine, but the shoulder issue, his non-throwing arm, will need surgery. Through 25 games Gabbert's numbers paint him as a player who might already be at the crossroads of his career. The 10th pick in the 2011 Draft, Gabbert has completed less than 54 percent of his passes, has only four more scores than interceptions (21 to 17), and is averaging 155 yards a game. Dreadful numbers. You can say the Jags didn't exactly surround him with talent, and that's certainly true, but as Chad Henne showed in Week 11 you can still move this offense effectively if you are a competent NFL quarterback. Henne, for those that are interested, is no great shakes, so don't expect a repeat of last week at any point this season. He's gonna be a low end QB2 most week with the upside of a mid level QB2 in the right matchup.
Colin Kaepernick looked great against the Bears in Week 11 throwing for 243 yards and two scores while displaying his plus arm strength (he made a couple of throws that Alex Smith could only dream about). After the game, HC Jim Harbaugh fanned the flames by leaving open the question of whether Kaepernick, or Smith, would man the helm in the next game. Chances are extremely high that he will gain that clearance and be ready to play should the Niners choose start him against the Saints. But will the Niners start him is the question? At this point, there is no answer. If I had to guess, I would say it's Smith that will start, but I'm just guessing. Yes Kaepernick's physical talents are superior to those of Smith, there is no debate. However, Colin has thrown 54 passes in his career, and there is this: Alex Smith has been very, very good since the start of last season. In Smith's last 25 starts the Niners are 19-5-1, he has thrown 20 more touchdowns than interceptions, and his QB Rating is an impressive 95.1. Some food for thought before you think it's Kaepernick or bust for the Niners.
Brady Quinn is going to start this week for the Chiefs. This is merely an informational posting as you'd be crazy to think Quinn is worth starting even in two QB leagues.
Michael Vick (concussion) didn't practice Wednesday, but reports suggest he's doing a bit better. He attended team meetings on Wednesday, and he does have an extra day to get well since the Eagles play Monday, but at this point it's starting to seem like we're looking at one more week of Nick Foles. With LeSean McCoy (concussion) also looking unlikely to play, and that offensive line performing so poorly, the Eagles offense has the look of an avoid situation in Week 12.
Ahmad Bradshaw is dealing with injury. What a shocker. He's got neck and foot woes that have him missing practice on Wednesday. The expectation is that he will still suit up, but if he doesn't coming off the Bye week it's panic time. For now, expect him to play against the Packers but realize that Bradshaw has averaged 56.5 yards per contest with one score in his last four games. Andre Brown, the lead ball carrier if Bradshaw is out, has only carried the ball 22 times for 123 yards the past four games, but he has scored a touchdown in each of those four games so his value is certainly building.
Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) is unlikely to play in Week 12 meaning Jalen Parmele is going to have a shot at another 20 touch effort like he had in Week 11. MJD maintains he will be back on the field in Week 13, but that has to be viewed with a healthy grain of skepticism. We haven't seen reports of MJD doing a lot of work to this point, foot sprains are often very tricky, and the Jags are 1-9 signifying that there is no reason not to hold him about another week or two if he really needs it. Remember, the Jags still plan on having MJD be their lead back next season, so there is little incentive to rush him back out there to risk a blowout with his foot.
Willis McGahee's regular season is over. He has a torn MCL and a broken leg, so it's not surprising that the Broncos made this decision. It ends a solid 31 year old season for McG. Not only did he have his highest reception total since 2007 (he had 26 receptions), he was also 10 yards from a career best total in the receiving game. McGahee was also averaging 4.4 YPC, the third best mark of his nine year career, and his pace of 73.1 yards a game would have led to a 16 game total of 1,170 yards rushing. At his age, it's fair to wonder if he will be able to return at this level. What do the Broncos do now? Everyone is all over Ronnie Hillman this week as “the” waiver-wire pick up. However, it's not as simple as saying that Hillman is gonna get 18-20 touches a week and just replace McGahee. He's a different player. Hillman functions better in space, he's a burner, and he's not likely to be running the ball up the gut of a defense a lot. He could be a nice weapon in PPR setups for sure. Lance Ball will be around, there's a chance he could get a lot of the short yardage work, and maybe even steal some goaline touches as well. And then there is this. VP John Elway said that Knowshon Moreno, yes he's still playing football, will be “in the mix” for work in Week 12. You have to rank the players Hillman, Ball, Moreno, and Hillman is certainly the only one that looks like a weekly play, but it's not at all a certainty that Hillman is going to be a top-20 runner the rest of the way if he's having to share touches.
The Steelers got Rashad Mendenhall back in Week 11, but he's still not been named the starter and bellcow for the club. Jonathan Dwyer, an if healthy Isaac Redman, are still in the mix for touches. My preference would be to have a healthy, solidified featured runner, but I don't always get what I want in this business,” said HC Mike Tomlin. “They've done a nice job of being productive when given an opportunity, but the circumstances themselves have created what we've done with the running backs at this point." Mendenhall appears to be in the lead, with Dwyer the fallback option, but until there is some clarity here none of the Steelers backs is really much more than a flex play.
Beanie Wells has been activated from the IR. Dealing with turf toe that has kept him out of action since Week 3, he's ready to take over the lead role in the Cardinals' backfield. Wells should handle the early downs with La'Rod Stephens-Howling being sprinkled in on third downs. While everyone is spending all their FAAB money on Hillman, the sly play might be to add Wells, if he's still available, for a fraction of the cost. Wells has shown an ability – when healthy – to be a very effective NFL runner. He, and the team, think he's healthy right now. With most players dealing with the weight of 11 weeks of an NFL season, Wells returns as a fresh player ready to rumble.
Who have been the standout WRs in football the last five weeks in PPR setups? Look at two of the names that are in the top-10.
Randall Cobb (5th) – It still amazes me that I get questions every week about whether or not to start Cobb. He's the 5th ranked WR the past five weeks folks.
Cecil Shorts (6th) – All the hoopla is around Justin Blackmon after his 236 yard game in Week 11 (more below), but it's Shorts who is starring. He's had only one game under 15 points the past five weeks.
Some numbers over the last three weeks, in a PPR setup, that stand out.
Calvin Johnson leads all receivers with 83.9 fantasy points. Only one other WR has 70 points. That 70 point man is Andre Johnson who has 74.6 points thanks to his 47.3 point outburst in a career best effort in Week 11 (14 receptions, 273 yards, one score).
There is only one WR who has gone for at least 20 points in each of the last three weeks. That man is A.J. Green who has gone for 23.5, 21.5 and 21.1 points. He's also scored in 9-straight games, the third longest streak for a WR in league history (for more on that see Week 11, Studs & Duds).
Denario Alexander has been so impressive the last two weeks, his total of 53 points is third best in football in that time, that he's the 5th best WR the past three weeks with 62.1 points. In addition to Alexander in the top-10, here are some other oddities at the WR spot the past three weeks: Justin Blackmon (56.3) and TY Hilton (53.3). What a wonderful game.
Dwayne Bowe (neck) still uncertain to play.
Greg Jennings has an “outside chance” to play Sunday night according to Mike McCarthy. Even if he does play, it would be very difficult to have him in a starting fantasy lineup.
Laurent Robinson has been placed in the IR and is done for the year. His first season in Florida went very badly, he suffered concussion after concussion, and it's fair to wonder if he will be brought back for a second year.
Dallas Clark has scored in his last two games an is coming off his best game of the season with season high's across the board (seven receptions, 58 yards, one score). Still, pump those breaks. Clark did see 11 targets in Week 11, but that was the first time this season that he saw more than six in a game, and the previous three weeks (Weeks 8-10) Clark was targeted just nine times. An injury fill-in if you were a Gronkowski owner? Possibly. But a weekly starter? Not in my mind.
Garrett Graham had a huge Week 11 with eight grabs for 82 yards and two scores in the Texans OT win over the Jaguars. Coming into the game Graham had one score and 32.7 fantasy points (he had 28.2 points last week). Do yourself a favor and realize his effort for what it was – a great performance that will not be repeated, ever. Graham will be lucky to get to half that point total, 14.1 points, in any game the rest of the way.
Tony Moeaki has seen his production rise the past few weeks. Take a look at the yardage marks his last four games: 18, 57, 68 and 73. With Dwayne Bowe spotty to play in Week 12, and Jon Baldwin coming back from a concussion, Moeaki might be a solid fill in choice this week. At the same time, Brady Quinn is under center for the club and that uncertainty isn't exactly a booster for Tony's value.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Thursday at 7 PM EDT and Friday's at 9p-12a EDT. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.