Matt Flynn, Packers
Flynn took over for an overmatched Scott Tolzien this week and played reasonably well (218 yards and a touchdown in two and a half quarters of playing time) given the conditions. With the Lions and their less then stellar secondary on tap for Thanksgiving Day, Flynn figures to get the start. In fact, he could get several, with no definitive word on when Aaron Rodgers will return to the lineup.
Alex Smith, Chiefs
With the Chiefs suddenly struggling (or just not getting to face subpar quarterbacks every week), Andy Reid has gone pass happy, with Smith attempting 83 passes over the last two weeks. And Smith has been effective in those games, throwing for 524 yards and five touchdowns with just one interception. Up next are three defensive secondaries ranked 24th or lower (Broncos, Redskins, Raiders).
Philip Rivers, Chargers
After a five game run of decent but unspectacular performances, Rivers turned it up a notch this week against the Chiefs, with 392 passing yards and three touchdowns. With Ryan Mathews out, the Chargers figure to turn to the passing offense more, and Rivers seems to be getting hot again at the right time, with 700 passing yards through his last two games. A tough match up against the Bengals awaits, but that is followed by some easy pickings in the form of the Giants, Broncos and Raiders.
Andrew Luck, Colts
Removing some garbage time production during the Rams game in Week 10, Luck has been entirely underwhelming in the Colts’ last three games, with a pair of touchdowns and four interceptions. His fantasy points during that three game stretch were padded with some rushing production (79 yards and a score), but his production through the air when games are in doubt has suffered with Reggie Wayne out of the lineup. Don’t expect that to change over the next three weeks as Indy faces passing defenses ranked eighth or better.
Montee Ball, Ronnie Hillman, C.J. Anderson, Broncos
Knowshon Moreno is in a walking boot with a deep bone bruise, but the truth of the matter is that Ball and Hillman have been injury-prone and unproductive while Anderson clearly isn’t ready for prime time.
Lamar Miller, Dolphins
It’s a similar story for Miller, who figures to see an increased workload with Daniel Thomas likely out for the year with a torn ligament in his ankle. The truth is that with just 95 yards on 29 touches over his last three games, Miller would be Moving Down if not for Thomas’s injury situation.
Danny Woodhead, Chargers
Woodhead is another player who will benefit due to injury, with Ryan Mathews likely out with a hamstring problem. But Woodhead really isn’t built to handle many more touches than the 11.7 per game he currently is getting.
Benny Cunningham, Rams
Because of a Zac Stacy concussion, Cunningham took over as the Rams’ lead back early in the second half against the Bears and finished with the first 100-yard game of his career. While the holes he ran through against an injury-ravaged Chicago defense were large, Cunningham’s 13-carry, 109-yard, one-touchdown performance was impressive nonetheless. He is a must-add in all formats.
Chris Ogbonnaya, Willis McGahee, Browns
A little look-see at the Bears’ upcoming schedule tells us these are the only running backs who you might be able to grab on the wire to exploit Chicago’s defense. Yeah, it was that bad on Sunday.
Stevan Ridley, Patriots
Another day, another fumble. Ridley coughed up his fourth lost fumble of the season this week against the Broncos and spent the rest of the night nailed to the bench. The only saving grace for Ridley is that LeGarrette Blount also fumbled—although that positive is somewhat negated by Brandon Bolden’s strong performance.
Ben Tate, Texans
Benched in favor of 5-foot-7, 195-pound Dennis Johnson. Wow.
With all of the injured players noted above, fantasy owners will have some tough decisions on their hands this week.
Antonio Brown, Steelers
When you torch the Browns’ Joe Haden for six receptions, 92 yards and a score, there is no doubt that you’re Moving Up. The score gives Brown a career-high six touchdowns this season, and it might surprise some that he leads the league in receptions with 80. Turns out the Steelers made the right move in deciding to retain Brown over the speedy Mike Wallace.
Josh Gordon, Browns
After his 14-reception, 237-yard, one-touchdown performance this week, Gordon now has 54 receptions for 988 yards and five touchdowns in just nine games. Extrapolating that over 16 games gives you 96 receptions for 1,756 yards and 8.9 touchdowns. Since that’s a lot of numbers in just two sentences, I’ll sum up what it means for fantasy owners: upper-tier WR1 in 2014.
Justin Hunter, Titans
This one’s a lukewarm endorsement since Hunter was targeted once in Week 11 while averaging 6.5 targets in Weeks 10 and 12. However, he looked solid this week against the Raiders, catching all six of his looks for 109 yards and a score. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a check-down artist but he might be receiving marching orders to get Hunter more involved.
Michael Crabtree, 49ers
Likely to be activated and available for the 49ers’ Week 13 matchup against the Rams.
Danny Amendola, Patriots
When Amendola returned to the lineup in Week 5 and was targeted nine times, it appeared that he would be a huge part of New England’s offense. In the five games since then, he has been targeted only 27 times, and since he rarely finds the end zone (eight touchdowns in 49 career games), that isn’t enough to warrant WR3 status.
Cecil Shorts, Jaguars
After finding the end zone seven times in 14 games last season, the big plays have dried up for Shorts, who has just one touchdown in 11 games this season. Worse than that is that he’s gone stone cold with fantasy playoffs approaching, hauling in just 12 receptions for 135 yards in his last three games and failing to find the end zone in his last six.
DeAndre Hopkins, Texans
The rookie first-round pick followed up his one-reception, seven-yard performance against the Raiders with a one-reception, eight-yard performance against the Jaguars. Hey, I guess I can’t say he didn’t improve.
Rob Gronkowski, Patriots
While his stat line wasn’t outstanding (seven receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets), he looked the Gronk of old. Or a healthy Gronk. You know what I mean. His owners have been waiting, and he seems ready to explode over the last five games of the season.
Jacob Tamme, Broncos
Since Julius Thomas tried to give it a go this week but wasn’t successful, I expect him to be ready next week. But if not, it is worth noting that Tamme was extremely effective this week, catching all five of his targets for 47 yards and a score.
Antonio Gates, Chargers
It appears as though Gates’ 33-year-old legs are wearing down as the season comes to a close. He has just one touchdown in his last seven games and has topped 53 receiving yards just twice during that stretch.