Rex Grossman, Redskins
Should you get to be Moving Up (an acclaimed distinction to be sure) after a 15 of 24, 183 yard, one touchdown, two-interception performance? No way, Jose. But this isn’t a normal week and with fantasy finals on tap; those in desperate need of a quarterback could do worse than Grossman. The two picks last week against the Giants weren’t bad ones and Grossman has topped 20 fantasy points in three of his last five outings. The Vikings 29th ranked pass defense comes to Washington this week and that’s a tasty match up.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
If Big Ben owners weren’t done in by his horrendous performance this week against the 49ers (330 yards and no touchdowns isn’t bad unless you play in a league that penalizes turnovers of which he had four last week), then you might be looking for options this week. With the Rams coming to Pittsburgh, the Steelers could probably start their mascot and come up with a win. There are whispers that Roethlisberger will not start but even if he does, expect Pittsburgh to play conservatively and yank him if (when?) they get a big lead.
Reggie Bush, Dolphins
Dolphins management told us that Bush would be the featured back in 2011 and I guess we should have believed them. With 203 rushing yards this week against the Bills, he is just 16 yards shy of the first 1,000 rushing yard season of his six-year career and not many saw that coming. Bush is on pace to finish the season with 1,337 total yards and eight touchdowns and is currently the 12th ranked fantasy running back and will finish in the top ten since he will likely surpass both Fred Jackson and Matt Forte, who are both injured. With the Patriots and Jets up next, expect a strong finish to the season from Bush.
C.J. Spiller, Bills
I basically crapped all over Spiller when Fred Jackson was lost for the season but the 2010 1st round pick has looked reasonably decent over the past three weeks, topping double digit fantasy points twice. This week against the Dolphins, Spiller had the best game of his career, setting career highs in rushing yards (91 on 12 carries) and receiving yards (76 on nine receptions) while scoring twice. The Bills aren’t overworking Spiller (he has topped 14 carries just once since taking over for Jackson) but he certainly made the most of his touches this week.
Kahlil Bell, Bears
I put him here last week due to his modest production and he surprised on the high side this week, gaining 65 yards on 15 carries and 43 yards and a touchdown on five receptions. The Bears played from behind against the Seahawks so that helped increase Bell’s playing time but it’s not like Marion Barber is a chump as a receiver, having caught 52 passes during the 2008 season. The other reason he played more is that he looked good the previous two weeks, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. If you’re desperate for a flex, Bell’s not a bad option.
Donald Brown, Colts
Joseph Addai starts but Brown is getting the majority of the work and a significant amount of carries on a regular basis. Since Week 9, Brown has 15 or more touches in five or six games, getting just ten touches during Week 14’s loss to the Ravens where the Colts played from behind. He has hit double digit fantasy points in three or his last four games, scoring touchdowns in three of those games. At this point, Brown ranks as a low end RB2 or decent flex option and with president Bill Polian excluding running back from the list of team needs, he shapes up as the favorite to open the 2012 season as the team’s starter at the position.
Lance Ball, Broncos
A brutal fumble by Ball this week cost the Broncos big time against the Patriots but he managed a very respectable fantasy performance with 64 rushing yards, 41 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns on a healthy 13 touches. Willis McGahee’s hamstring isn’t expected to keep him out this week against the Bills but he seems to pull up lame plenty and the Bills have a run defense (ranked 29th) that’s been generous to opposing running backs.
Adrian Peterson, Vikings
What a kick in the groin for AP owners this week. Back in the starting line up and facing a middling Saints run defense, Peterson owners were expecting a big day but the Vikings coaching staff had other plans, giving the rock to the talented running back just ten times. He was productive, gaining 60 yards on those carries, but he wasn’t used in the passing game and backup Toby Gerhart chipped in two receiving touchdowns. Ouch. Maybe the Vikes are protecting their investment with the season already a write off.
Michael Turner, Falcons
Turner was decent this week against the Jaguars with 61 yards and a touchdown but he hasn’t put up a great performance since Week 6 against the Panthers. A combination of a groin injury and simply wearing down late in the season has led to a decline in his performance over the past four weeks. Despite some decent matchups (Vikings, Texans, Panthers, Jaguars), Turner has just 241 yards and a touchdown on 73 carries over the last four weeks while averaging a paltry 3.3 yards per carry.
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
Thomas gets the Moving Up designation two weeks in a row and his last season performance should have him Moving Up the 2012 rankings at wide receiver. He is clearly Denver’s number one wide receiver (sorry, Eric Decker owners, but this one was easy to see coming) with a whopping 33 targets over the Broncos last three games. This week against the Patriots, Thomas caught seven more balls for 116 yards, bringing his three game totals to 18 receptions for 338 yards and three touchdowns. Up next are the Bills and their leaky secondary in Week 16.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, Raiders
At this point in his career, DHB isn’t nearly the enigma he was over the first two years of his career. The enigma is Raiders head coach Hue Jackson and his inconsistent use of his talented third year wide receiver. This week against the Lions, Heyward-Bey was a big part of the game plan with the Raiders feeding him the ball on shorter patterns with Detroit’s cornerbacks playing soft coverage and also taking a couple of deep shots. End result: eight receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown on nine targets. That was the best game of his young career but it won’t be a surprise if he barely sees the ball in a must win game for Oakland in Week 16 against the Chiefs.
Julio Jones, Falcons
Looks like the hammy is fine. And, no, I don’t mean the Christmas ham. Okay, that was awful but it’s good to be generous at this time of the year. And, yeah, I know it was the back that was the issue with Jones this week. Anyway, he took advantage of a truly awful Jaguars secondary this week, catching five of six targets for 85 yards and a score, one week after lighting up the Panthers for 104 yards and a pair of scores. Absolutely a must start in all leagues with the Saints (27th ranked pass defense) and Bucs (25th) on tap.
Steve Smith, Panthers
After a four-game drought where Smith caught 15 passes for 174 yards and a score, he has come on over the last two weeks, topping double digits in games against the Falcons and Texans. Smith and quarterback Cam Newton are back on the same page with Smith catching 11 of his 15 targets over the last two games for 207 yards and a touchdown. The Bucs 25th ranked defense is on tap in Week 16 so another double-digit fantasy performance seems likely.
Reggie Wayne, Colts
Wayne has been a huge disappointment in 2011, struggling to be productive without Peyton Manning at quarterback for the Colts. Barring a near miracle, he will finish with fewer than 1,000 yards for the first time since the 2003 season, ending a streak of seven consecutive seasons above that plateau. He is staggering towards the end of the season, with just 129 yards on 12 receptions over the last three games, although he did manage to find the end zone this week against the Titans. Unfortunately for Wayne owners, the Colts finish the 2011 season at home against the Texans and in Jacksonville against the 2nd and 4th rated pass defenses in the league. To be fair, the Jaguars offer some hope given their banged up secondary but that Week 17 match up won’t be of much use in most fantasy leagues.
Austin Pettis, Rams
Dynasty leaguers take note. Pettis made a small amount of noise this year as a 3rd round pick out of Boise State and with Brandon Lloyd a free agent at season’s end and no other receiver having stepped up to claim a spot in the starting line up, Pettis had a chance to compete for a starting spot in 2012. However, a four game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs ensures Pettis backup status remains in tact for next season.
Brent Celek, Eagles
Do you get the feeling the Eagles are utilizing more screens to help keep Michael Vick happy? This week against the blitz happy Jets, Celek set a career high with 156 receiving yards this week on five receptions while catching a 26-yard touchdown. Since being reintroduced to the game plan eight weeks ago, Celek has 558 receiving yards. Philadelphia gets Dallas this week and look for plenty of screens as the Eagles try to slow down Cowboys pass rushing linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
Jason Witten, Cowboys
Witten owners should maybe rejoice. I had Calvin Johnson Moving Down last week based on a string of subpar performances and all he did was have the best game of his career with 214 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns, including the game winning score in the final minute against the Raiders. I love when that happens! Witten was decent this week against a porous Bucs secondary, catching four passes for 77 yards, but over his past four games, he has 16 receptions for 179 yards. That’s 4.5 points per game, folks, not what you’re looking for from your stud tight end when the fantasy matchups count the most.