Week 12 is the turning point. If you’re at the top, you can clinch your playoff berth; and if you’re in the middle, a win this weekend could put you in playoff position.
It’s an exciting time to be one game over .500, especially if there are six playoff spots in your league. Perhaps you’re like me and have five starters on bye. (OK, so I loaded up one team with three Seahawks. Call me a homer; call me a moron; just know that I’ve had to add two of the guys below in order to fill out my lineup.) I’m missing my three starting RBs and two starting wideouts, so I really needed to do some patchwork, and that included dropping Darren McFadden and relinquishing his 12th-round keeper value. It’s one of those situations where I need to fill out a full lineup and I’m sick of keeping a player who sits more than he suits up — no matter what his draft value is every season.
This week we have the Seahawks, Bengals, Bills and Eagles on bye. All of these teams have top offensive players (even the Bills), and some of you are shaking up your teams in order to put a full lineup in play.
Here are my picks for bye week fill-ins for Week 12 (all percentages are from Yahoo! Fanatsy Football):
QB – 6 percent owned Scott Tolzien, GB vs. MIN – The Vikings pass defense has had a lot of trouble lately, giving up multiple-TD performances to quarterbacks four out of their last five games. All of those QBs are first-stringers, but that doesn’t mean that Tolzien can’t follow in their footsteps. He still has Jordy Nelson, and has shown great chemistry with Jarrett Boykin, a connection I feel goes unnoticed throughout fantasy football and the NFL. Quarterbacks who start the season lower on the depth chart don’t always get reps with the first team in practice, especially if you’re playing behind Aaron Rodgers. Boykin was, at best, the fourth wideout on the depth chart in Week 1, and Tolzien was the third-string quarterback. These guys have run a lot of reps together, and we could see a huge game from Boykin this weekend.
WR – 40% Kenny Stills, NO @ ATL – He had 86 yards in Week 1 against the Falcons and is much more involved in the offense now. Atlanta has really been struggling lately, decimated by injuries and poor play from Stephen Jackson and “Matty (melting) Ice” Ryan. On the other hand, New Orleans is on fire. Drew Brees has been throwing the ball better than anybody not named Peyton this season, and has been getting the rookie Stills more involved as the season has gone on. This is a great play in PPR league, and gives you a great reason to watch the Thursday night game.
RB – 22% Chris Ogbonnaya, CLE vs. PIT – I had a lot of trouble coming up with a pick for this spot, and I’m not sure I even like the player I’ve put down. There aren’t a lot of unowned RBs worth starting, and I’ve reluctantly put him in at my RB2 with that five-player bye team I mentioned above. He’d be the flex, but Ben Tate may not play, and if he’s out, I’d rather replace him with someone who isn’t a running back. Pittsburgh has been giving up almost three receptions per game to RBs, and Ogbonnaya is getting a lot more snaps than Willis McGahee. Josh Gordon is Cleveland’s only deep threat, and after getting punished by Cincinnati last week, I’m thinking Jason Campbell will be looking to dump the ball off to Ogbonnaya.
TE – 10% John Carlson, MIN @ GB – After the injury to Kyle Rudolph, Carlson has put together two strong weeks in a row. He’s putting up very similar numbers, and with the stagnant Vikings offense around Adrian Peterson, Christian Ponder will try to get as many yards as possible while scrambling away from Packers defenders, thus making Carlson a threat to receive Ponder’s short passes. Expect numbers similar to what we’ve seen the last few weeks — and what we’ve seen all season — from Rudolph. He should end up with about five receptions and 50 yards plus a touchdown if you’re lucky.
Def – 31% Pittsburgh Steelers @ CLE – Pittsburgh’s D has turned a corner since its really bad start, and it has a fantastic fantasy matchup this week. Jason Campbell at QB for Cleveland isn’t scary at all, and if the Steelers can stop Josh Gordon, they can stop the Browns. The Bengals’ defense destroyed the Browns last week, and Cleveland’s offense is about to hit a brick wall in the Steelers — who, oddly enough, are still in the playoff race. If Pittsburgh wins this week, it will be two games behind the Bengals for the division lead with three of its last four games coming at home, including matchups with the Bengals in Week 15 and Browns in Week 17.