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Week 12 NFL Recap: Injuries, Breakout Performers & Game by Game Analysis

I hope you all enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday and were able to add some fantasy victories to your list of things to be thankful for. Ideally you were also able to avoid the most recent batch of injuries sprinkled across the NFL as some key names went down with notable ailments.

The biggest name to suffer an injury in Week 12 was tight end Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots. Luckily, it would appear that Gronk’s injury isn’t nearly as serious as it looked when he was initially carted off the field. Fears of a second ACL tear have been quelled by the update that his knee is just badly bruised. Still, he’s expected to miss at least a week or two, making backup Scott Chandler a must-add in all formats this week. Chandler is certainly a downgrade from Gronkowski but given how effectively the Patriots utilize the tight end position you’ll want to insert him into your lineups as a low-end TE1 with upside.

Second on the list is quarterback Tony Romo. Romo re-injured his clavicle on Thanksgiving in game the Cowboys were simply trounced by the Carolina Panthers. This is a huge blow for every Dallas Cowboy not named Darren McFadden. The way I look at it, if you managed to make the fantasy playoffs in spite of a throw away year from Dez Bryant you don’t really need to rely on him this late in the year. There’s a pretty good chance that you’ve gotten this far because you were able to scoop up some usable options on the waiver wire so don’t force Dez into your lineup when it’s win-or-go home. Whoever the Cowboys end up trotting out at quarterback (likely Matt Cassell) is going to be a significant downgrade from Romo regardless. This is a case of seeing what your other options are but overall I’d probably just avoid starting a Cowboy if I can help it.

The last major injury worth discussing before diving into the individual games is that of Arizona running back Chris Johnson. CJ2K left with what is now being described as a fractured tibia that will keep him out of action for the remained of the regular season. Throw in a foot injury to Andre Ellington and the Cardinals are left with rookie David Johnson carrying the load into the playoffs. With a massive increase in touches coming Johnson’s way, you should expect him to be the week’s top waiver wire pickup. The Cardinals schedule isn’t all that great but a running back with that much opportunity in front of him will surely be worth starting for those of you who are hurting at the position.

As always, there were a few more minor injuries throughout this week’s slate of games so we’ll get to those during their respective contests.

Philadelphia Eagles @ Detroit Lions

The first of three Thanksgiving matchups featured a Detroit Lions team that went absolutely bonkers against a terrible Philadelphia defense. Matthew Stafford threw for five touchdowns, three of which went to Calvin Johnson with Theo Riddick and Golden Tate reeling in the other two. It was nice to see Megatron put together a big game this late in the season, and he should be able to maintain a high level of play with some favorable matchups coming up in the fantasy playoffs. Theo Riddick has quietly turned into a usable running back in PPR leagues, a big surprise for a team that has struggled to put anything together in the backfield. They might not be getting it done on the ground all that well but receptions count all the same for fantasy points so you can look for Riddick to continue to be a solid flex play in PPR formats.

Once again the Philadelphia Eagles failed to provide us with any sort of consistency in regard to fantasy. The only player who had a decent game here was wide receiver Jordan Matthews, his first good game since a Week 9 overtime win against Dallas. Like I’ve said before, the Eagles aren’t as reliable as we thought they would be this year as evidenced by the fact that it’s completely random as to which player will end up providing fantasy production in a given week.

Carolina Panthers @ Dallas Cowboys

This was a game that was pretty much decided entirely by the Carolina defense. With not one but two pick-sixes, the Panthers offense didn’t really have to do much on their own in order to secure a win. Both Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton continued their dominance of running the ball so that’s a reassuring sign for fantasy purposes. If anything, this defense proved that they shouldn’t be benched regardless of who their opponent is. They fall firmly into the category of “set it and forget it.”

We already touched on what the Tony Romo injury means for this team’s passing attack, leaving us with running back Darren McFadden. McFadden had an okay outing here that ended up being salvaged in PPR formats by his four receptions for 45 yards. With a tasty matchup against the Redskins looming, McFadden is poised to have a big game, especially with the passing game suffering. He’s easily a high-end RB2 for Week 13 and beyond.

Chicago Bears @ Green Bay Packers

Thanksgiving’s Thursday night game gave us a surprising upset with the Bears beating the Packers at Lambeau Field. Perhaps even more shocking than the outcome of this game was the fact that the Bears only needed 17 points to do it. The team’s two touchdowns went to Jeremy Langford on the ground and Zach Miller in the air. Langofrd split the workload fairly evenly with the returning Matt Forte so you can expect that to continue into the fantasy playoffs. Both backs will be usable as mid-range RB2s in all formats. Zach Miller was filling in for the injured Martellus Bennett so this was nothing more than a one-time occurrence. Lastly, it was nice to see Alshon Jeffery rack up another 11 targets after missing last week’s game against the Broncos. When healthy, Jeffery is a clear-cut WR1 regardless of matchup.

Green Bay’s lone score came on a touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Eddie Lacy. Even more important than that, Lacy was clearly the better running back here with 105 yards on 17 carries. James Starks had just seven carries of his own for 39 yards. This tells us that Lacy is back to being the team’s number one back so act accordingly if you own either of them. I’m not entirely convinced that Lacy is going to be the top-five option we expected him to be at the start of the year but given the team he plays for and the slew of question marks at the running back position, you’ll want to start Lacy anyway.

Oakland Raiders @ Tennessee Titans

What is there to say about the Oakland Raiders that hasn’t been said already? Both Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree have proven to be reliable fantasy wide receivers with considerable upside, and even with just 59 yards you’re starting Latavius Murray no matter who Oakland is playing. The 113 yards and two touchdowns for Seth Roberts isn’t any more than a fluke so don’t read too much into that. Crabtree might have only had four catches for 19 yards but his day was still salvaged by a score of his own.

The only Tennessee Titan you can start with confidence this late in the season is tight end Delanie Walker. Walker had caught six passes on eight targets for 91 yards here while the rest of the offense left a lot of be desired. If running back David Cobb is ever going to breakout it isn’t going to be in 2015. You can pretty much drop anyone that isn’t Delanie Walker.

Buffalo Bills @ Kansas City Chiefs

This ended up being somewhat of a high-scoring game that saw the Chiefs racking up at least 30 points for the second straight week. Kansas City came away with the win on the back of a 114-yard day from backup, backup running back Spencer Ware. It’s kind of amazing how deep this team is at the RB position, especially when you consider how much other team’s have struggled to find one usable back, let alone three. We’ll have to wait and see what the update is on Charcandrick West before deciding on what to do about Ware. Whoever the starter ends up being against the Raiders on Sunday will be worth starting.

Tyrod Taylor had a huge day for the Buffalo Bills with 291 yards and three touchdowns. Taylor almost didn’t even play in this game due to a shoulder injury and was expected to be limited at best. As it turns out, that report was greatly exaggerated. Taylor has shown that he can be a legitimate QB1, especially when you throw in his ability to rush outside the pocket. When fully healthy, you can easily use Taylor if you’re hurting at quarterback. Running back Karlos Williams left this game with a shoulder injury of his own, allowing for LeSean McCoy to hoard more touches for 101 total yards and a score. Even when healthy, Williams is now not much more than a McCoy handcuff.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Indianapolis Colts

Laugh all you want about Matt Hasselbeck’s age, but the truth of the matter is that the 40-year old quarterback is now 4-0 when filling in for Andrew Luck. The biggest takeaway from his most recent performance was being able to get the ball to both T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief with consistency. Hilton finished with 95 yards and two touchdowns while Moncrief had eight receptions for 114. It’s pretty much a rarity for both receivers to have big games at the same time these days so if you were able to benefit from this particular outing take that as a blessing. Hilton is certainly the more reliable player at this point in the season and has more targets than Moncrief with Hasselbeck in the lineup. He’s a WR2 with upside while Moncrief remains in the low-end WR3 range. Running back Frank Gore is said to be pretty banged up so you should expect Ahmad Bradshaw to continue eating into the workload. With a tough Pittsburgh run defense looming, I’d advise sitting Gore this week.

The Buccaneers were treated to the return of wide receiver Vincent Jackson who strung together a solid performance of four receptions for 76 yards. Both he and Mike Evans had 10 targets apiece but neither guy managed to find the endzone. In fact, the Bucs only had one touchdown in this game anyway and it went to Cameron Brate of all people. This was pretty much a throwaway game for Tampa Bay so look for them to get back on track when they face a middle-of-the-road Atlanta defense in Week 13.

New York Giants @ Washington Redskins

Another week, another absolutely ridiculous touchdown catch by Odell Beckham. That one catch was basically the only highlight for the Giants in a game that saw Eli Manning throw three interceptions. Let’s face facts here--this is a horrible division, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that all of the offenses in the NFC East are inconsistent. Beckham is the only New York Giant worth starting.

As for the Redskins, Jordan Reed continues to be a target monster, racking up 98 yards on eight receptions. He’s locked in as a TE1 for as long as he stays healthy. You’ll want to pick up a decent backup just in case he gets dinged up during the fantasy playoffs. DeSean Jackson broke off another long 63-yard touchdown here and that’s pretty much all you’re expecting from him once you put him into your lineup. He’s big-play dependent and not much else. Alfred Morris led the team in rushing attempts with 23 for 78 yards while Matt jones didn’t really do much of anything. This is still a ground game I’m avoiding at all costs so I wouldn’t read too much into this, workload or otherwise.

New Orleans Saints @ Houston Texans

Just when it looked as if the Saints had finally gotten their act together on offense they throw up a dud against a better-than-they-appear Houston Texans team. The Saints were held to just six points so unfortunately there wasn’t a single player that provided significant fantasy production. Mark Ingram remains a high-end RB2 while Brandin Cooks is still a hit-or-miss WR2 with upside. Other than that, this offense is what it is at this point.

DeAndre Hopkins had a down game by his standards here with five receptions for just 36 yards. There isn’t much to say about that other than chalking it up to an issue of scheme and game flow. Besides, the Texans didn’t really need to light up the scoreboard here anyway. Alfred Blue had a solid game on the ground with 77 yards and a touchdown. I can’t imagine relying on Blue in a playoff format but given the amount of touches he should see out of the backfield you’d be hard pressed to find a running back with more opportunities than Blue at this point in the season. He’s a deep league play that shouldn’t be in your lineup in a 10- or 12-team league unless you’ve been riddled with injuries.

Minnesota Vikings @ Atlanta Falcons

The Adrian Peterson comeback tour rolled through Atlanta with AD racking up 158 rushing yards and two touchdowns in an entertaining game that was close all four quarters. Other than Peterson, the Minnesota offense has struggled as of late with wide receiver Stefon Diggs being the most disappointing of the bunch. It looked as if Diggs was turning into a reliable WR2 for a while but now he’s fallen back down into boom-or-bust WR3 status. He’s another one of those players whose start status depends on who else you have. Minnesota’s next two outings are against Seattle and Arizona so it’d probably be best so sit Diggs for now. After that the schedule gets much easier as the team hosts Chicago and the Giants in what could very well decide your fantasy championship.

Rookie running back Tevin Coleman was the big story here, filling in nicely for the injured Devonta Freeman to the tune of 110 yards on 18 carries. Coleman did cough up another fumble in this game but the team relied on him despite those continued struggles. I would imagine that this is still Freeman’s gig once he returns and the expectation is that he’ll do just that when the team heads to Tampa Bay on Sunday. Tight end Jacob Tamme had yet another solid outing in the absence of Leonard Hankerson so you should expect that trend to continue for as long as Hankerson is out.

St. Louis Rams @ Cincinnati Bengals

This was an absolute beat-down that saw the Bengals obliterate the Rams 31-7. The most eyebrow-raising element of this game was St. Louis running back Todd Gurley being held to just 19 yards. Granted, the Rams were down big rather quickly so Nick Foles ending up having to throw the ball 46 times in order to keep up with the Cincinnati offense. With how good Gurley has been all season, he’s allowed to throw up one dud in an otherwise excellent rookie year.

The Bengals lost both tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Jeremy Hill to injuries in this game which could spell trouble for their upcoming schedule. Eifert suffered a stinger during the third quarter while Hill exited with an ankle injury. Chances are both players were held out given how big the Bengals were up by that point but both injuries will be worth monitoring in the coming days. You’re definitely starting Eifert if he’s out there but Hill is a little more questionable. He was in the midst of his most impressive outing of the season before his injury, having already racked up 86 yards on 16 carries. Between him and Giovani Bernard, it’s tough to make heads or tails out of this backfield. Personally, I wouldn’t want to rely on either rusher in the playoffs but it’s completely understandable if you don’t have better options at this point.

San Diego Chargers @ Jacksonville Jaguars

In a matchup between two teams that are all but eliminated from playoff contention, both the Chargers and the Jaguars provided us with some productive fantasy players in a high-scoring affair. Philip Rivers had four touchdowns in this game, two of which went to tight end Antonio Gates. I don’t need to tell you to start Gates if you own him, so the more interesting aspect of Rivers’ big day is that he threw a touchdown pass to both Stevie Johnson and Dontrelle Inman. Stevie had more yards on one more target so he still looks to be the more reliable option going forward yet Inman should garner some more attention. He isn’t worth more than a speculative add in a deeper league so keep him on your radar for now. Given how many injuries this team has already suffered it wouldn’t come as a huge surprise if Inman suddenly started hoarding targets in bunches.

The Jacksonville Jaguars endured a scary moment that saw wide receiver Allen Hurns being taken off the field on a stretcher due to a concussion. As always, concussions are impossible to predict so soon after injury so we’ll have to wait and see how he progresses throughout the week. Both Hurns and fellow receiver Allen Robinson have been legitimate fantasy contributors this year but it was tight end Julius Thomas who had the biggest day for the Jaguars here. Thomas finished with 116 yards and a score on 10 targets yet I’m still not convinced his workload is sustainable. He’s in the same category as the rest of the low-end TE1s although I’d be more inclined to depend on him if Hurns were to miss any time. Aside from a few key names, the tight end position is just too fluky.

Miami Dolphins @ New York Jets

Coming out of a rough 38-20 loss, the Miami Dolphins have decided to fire their offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and have promoted Zac Taylor. Taylor was the team’s quarterback coach prior to this change so that could mean better days are ahead for Ryan Tannehill. Still, I wouldn’t depend on the Miami passing attack in any capacity outside of PPR machine Jarvis Landry. Landry had a crazy 13 receptions for 165 yards and a touchdown, a decent portion of which came in garbage time. Hey, garbage time points count all the same so who am I to pick on him for that? The Dolphins couldn’t get anything going on the ground and amassed a lowly 12 rushing yards total. Don’t expect that to get much easier when the team plays Baltimore in week thirteen. The Ravens are much better at defending the run than they are the pass so look for the Dolphins to lean on Landry once again.

As for the Jets, Ryan Fitzpatrick had himself his best fantasy day of the year by throwing for four touchdowns, two of which went to Brandon Marshall. Marshall has been one of the most valuable steals of the year so much so that I would bet he’s one of the more owned player on fantasy playoff teams. Between him and Eric Decker, the Jets have provided us with one of the more consistent passing attacks in the NFL. Who knew that’d be a thing in 2015? Chris Ivory had a solid bounce back performance here with 87 yards and a touchdown, relegating Billal Powel back to handcuff duty. Ivory is still a dependable RB2 in any format despite his more recent struggles.

Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers

Once again the San Francisco 49ers managed to play much better defense at home than they do on the road. The Niners held the Cardinals to just 19 points and almost pulled off a shocking upset victory to boot. Other than that, there is literally nothing else worth talking about on the San Francisco side of the ball. On to the Cardinals we go.

Arizona’s passing attack was largely held in check by the aforementioned San Francisco defense although both Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown did manage to put together solid performances. Fitzgerald led the team in receptions with 10 while Brown had the edge in yards with 99. They’re the team’s clear top two receivers, especially with Michael Floyd nursing a hamstring injury so you can continue to rely on them accordingly. No Arizona receiver found the endzone here but Carson Palmer did manage to run the ball in for a touchdown of his own, his first rushing score since 2012. This game might not have been the blowout it could have been but at least the key contributors salvaged their fantasy days to some degree.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Seattle Seahawks

In what was the most enteratining game of the week by a mile, the Steelers and Seahawks were entrenched in a high-scoring heavyweight battle that saw Russell Wilson come out on top. Wilson threw for five touchdowns, showing that this team can get it done offensively when it’s necessary. Still, I wouldn’t exactly call this performance repeatable, especially as it pertains to Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. The two of them combined caught all five of Wilson’s TD passes, something that just isn’t going to happen again anytime soon. The biggest takeaway from this game was actually the injury to Jimmy Graham. Graham will be out for the remainder of the season with a torn patella tendon, the same injury that Victor Cruz is still suffering lingering effects from. It’s said that this is one of the worst possible injuries for any athlete to overcome so hopefully Graham takes his time recovering and waits until he’s back to full strength before returning to the field. Sadly, Graham wasn’t having himself a tremendous fantasy season so this likely doesn’t do all that much on that front. The Seahawks were already a run-heavy team so you can expect them to lean on Thomas Rawls just as much if not more than they were doing so already.

On the Steelers' side of the ball quarterback Ben Roethlisbeger lit up the Seattle secondary to the tune of 456 yards before exiting the game late in the fourth quarter with concussion-like symptoms. The most interesting aspect of that is the fact that Big Ben self reported his symptoms. With how concussion-conscious the league has become in such a macho sport, that’s something you actually have to applaud. It’s rare to see an athlete take that kind of action. Luckily for the Steelers, it appears as if Roethlisberger might not have suffered a concussion after all so he should be good to go in an enticing matchup against the Colts on Sunday. Shockingly it was Markus Wheaton who was the primary beneficiary of Roethlisberger’s big day as he racked up a nutty 201 yards on nine receptions. I wouldn’t read too much into this at all; Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant are still way ahead of Wheaton on the depth chart. This is another case you should chalk up to game flow.

New England Patriots @ Denver Broncos

Perhaps the only game that could challenge that Steelers/Seahawks tilt for game of the week was Sunday night’s battle between the Patriots and Broncos. New England was dealt their first loss in a game that saw Tom Brady throw three touchdowns to three different receivers. We’ve seen this plenty of times before--the Patriots shuffle skill position players in and out like crazy, so you can expect the likes of Brandon Bolden to find the endzone every once in a while only to go back to being invisible. That said, at some point or another the injuries do catch up to you regardless of how good you are. I highly doubt you have a quarterback you’d feel comfortable starting over Brady even with Gronk and Edelman out against the Eagles. Hopefully the team will be getting Danny Amendola back anyway so the Pats will likely be just fine offensively.

Welcome to the Brock Osweiler era…maybe? It’ll be interesting to see what the Broncos do at quarterback once Peyton Manning recovers from his foot injury but for now we’re looking at a Denver offense that is striving with Osweiller under center. Perhaps most importantly the ground game is finally looking the way we thought it would all the way back in August. C.J. Anderson ran all over the Patriots, including the game winning score in overtime. Anderson had 113 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 carries while Ronnie Hillman had 59 yards and a score of his own. Once again, however, it’s impossible to tell which running back is going to go off any given week so your guess is as good as mine. As I’ve said before, anyone who claims to know exactly what the Broncos will do out of the backfield is lying to you.


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