The opener for Week 13 didn't quite roll out as planned. We had great hopes for a shootout as the opening kickoff approached, and the Falcons' quick start on the ground pushed us to the edges of our seats. Fantasy owners riding Drew Brees toward a playoff berth rubbed their hands in delight and expected a wide-open game to ensue. Instead, they watched in horror as Brees was shut out of the end zone, thus ending the much-hyped 54-game streak with at least one touchdown pass. He was intercepted five times in 23-13 loss. Give Brees credit. He owned the loss in his post-game comments.
Of course, it didn't go down quite so easily. Lance Moore dropped a touchdown pass, and Darren Sproles had another called back because of a penalty. Brees now leads the NFL with 16 interceptions.
Lost in the commotion surrounding the end of Brees' streak was the fact that the New Orleans defense put forth a great effort against Matt Ryan. Ryan was limited to a season-low total of 165 passing yards with one touchdown (Tony Gonzalez).
Fantasy owners didn't quite get the hot starts that we witnessed during Week 12. Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Julio Jones and Roddy White (one reception for 20 yards?) all failed to score. Lance Moore was the receiving hero in this game with his seven receptions for 123 yards.
Turn the page.
Let's review the rest of the quarterback field for Week 13.
- We await word on Ben Roethlisberger, who may give it a go against the division rival Ravens.
Heroes (Exclude Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Robert Griffin III, Tom Brady)
Tony Romo vs. PHI
Romo and the Cowboys absorbed a difficult loss in Week 12 against the Redskins, but his huge second half certainly aided many fantasy owners. He finished the game with 440 passing yards, his fourth game with at least 313 passing yards in five starts.
Guess who the opponent was in that fifth game? That's right. Romo only passed for 209 yards in the first meeting with Philadelphia, though he completed 19-of-26 attempts with two touchdown passes. The Eagles are disintegrating quickly, and Romo and company are in for another big game at home. Look for Rob Ryan's defense to set Romo up with multiple short fields.
Matthew Stafford vs. IND
Following a post-Bye surge during which the Lions won three of four games, the Lions have dropped three straight games. The most recent loss came in dramatic and controversial fashion against the Texans on Thanksgiving Day. Fantasy owners were happy to take the 440 passing yards and two touchdowns that Stafford put on the board.
Stafford has thrown multiple touchdown passes in three of his past five starts, and I expect another strong effort at home against the middling Indianapolis defense. Calvin Johnson has started to pad his touchdown count while leading the league in receiving, and the emergence of Ryan Broyles helps Stafford overcome any distractions caused by Titus Young, Sr. Indianapolis has allowed the 13th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Cam Newton at KC
Trusting fantasy owners were treated to a four-touchdown performance from Newton on Monday night against the sinking Philadelphia defense. It was Newton's second multi-touchdown game in three weeks and just his fourth of the season.
Despite the second-year quarterback's inconsistent play in 2012, I'll put him up as a mid-QB1 option this week. The Chiefs put up a game effort in Week 12 against the Broncos, but fell in defeat once again, and Peyton Manning passed for nearly 300 yards with two touchdowns. I expect Newton to deliver a strong road performance against this Kansas City squad that has allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks (22 touchdowns). Brandon LaFell's a WR3 option this time out.
Eli Manning at WAS
Manning and the Giants looked like a refreshed squad during Sunday's thrashing of the Packers. He passed for 249 yards with three touchdowns during the blowout victory. Manning is in prime position for a big encore performance this week against the Redskins. In the first meeting, he passed for 337 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in a narrow home win. I would expect that the now-healthy Giants receivers to hit their marks against the porous and sometimes overaggressive Washington secondary. The Redskins have allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Ergo, while they generate turnovers (14 interceptions), Washington will surrender numerous big plays downfield. It's a big spot for Victor Cruz (131 yards with a touchdown in the first meeting) to get back on track.
Andy Dalton at SD
Dalton has thrown nine touchdowns with zero interceptions in the past three weeks. This week, he takes aim at a reeling San Diego squad that is coming off of a difficult loss. The Chargers have allowed the 14th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, including 20 touchdown passes. Look for Dalton to start a new touchdown streak with A.J. Green and for Mohamed Sanu (he's scored in three straight games) to make waves again.
Andrew Luck at DET
Luck's three-game streak with multiple touchdowns came to an end against the Bills. He completed 20-of-37 attempts for 240 yards with one touchdown and an interception while absorbing four sacks in the seven-point home win. This isn't an easy spot on the road, particularly if you consider the Detroit pass rush (25 sacks to date).
However, the Lions allow 25.5 points per game. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged 236.5 passing yards and 1.5 passing touchdowns per game. The Detroit offense has been more explosive of late, and Matthew Stafford will have success against the Indianapolis secondary (24.8 points allowed per game). Therefore, look to Luck to post a high number of attempts.
Colin Kaepernick at STL
We got our first extended look at Kaepernick in Week 10 against these Rams. He completed 11-of-17 attempts for 117 yards in that contest and made big plays with his legs in the 24-24 tie. Kaepernick popped off five runs of at least 10 yards (66 yards with a touchdown overall).
Kaepernick has played well in wins against the Bears and Saints, completing 32-of-48 attempts for 474 yards. His running ability puts him over the top this week. The Rams have been effective against opposing passing games (19th-most fantasy points allowed), but have been susceptible to teams that pound the ball on the ground. Kaepernick's potential output on the ground puts him over as a starter for Week 13.
Sleeper Options Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. JAC
Fitzpatrick is hardly a lock for a big play, but he's worthy of consideration for owners in deeper leagues. He's thrown for 239 yards or fewer in six of his past seven games with just two multi-touchdown games. However, Fitzpatrick faces a Jacksonville team that has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks (281 yards per game with 19 total touchdowns). I like Fitzpatrick, but I like his counterpart for Sunday's matchup even better.
Chad Henne at BUF
Henne may be the missing ingredient for your team to procure a playoff berth. Read that again and take a deep breath.
The scheduling gods of the NFL offer you a fantastic option here with Henne and the Jaguars facing the Bills. Since picking up for Blaine Gabbert in Week 11, Henne has completed 33-of-59 attempts for 615 yards with six touchdowns and a single interception. The Buffalo defense appears to have turned the corner, but there's no fear of putting the ball up for grabs with Henne. As a result, I'm anticipating another mountain of passing attempts to Cecil Shorts III and Justin Blackmon downfield. Henne will propel multiple fantasy teams into the playoffs this week.
Jake Locker vs. HOU
Locker had to throw the ball 40 times to keep pace with Chad Henne and the Jaguars in Week 12. I expect to see more of the same against the Texans this weekend. He passed for 261 yards in that contest and will face an injury-riddled back-seven for Houston that has been diced apart in the past two weeks.
Brandon Weeden at OAK
Weeden has passed all concussion tests and will get the start in Oakland. He's hardly a world-beater, having averaged just 168.2 passing yards per game in his past four starts. Still, the Oakland pass defense has been abysmal. With all of Oakland's defensive effort concentrated to shut down Trent Richardson, Weeden takes his shots downfield with Josh Gordon and Greg Little. Weeden rates only a back-end QB2, but I'm moderately intrigued to see if he can lead the Browns to a road win.
Flops Joe Flacco vs. PIT
I know. Flacco bucked the trend and posted a big yardage total in San Diego. However, he threw a single touchdown pass and was sacked five times. Flacco has produced a single multi-touchdown game in his past seven starts.
That string of performances included his weak 164-yard output in Week 11 against these Steelers. Flacco completed 20-of-32 attempts, but was shut out for the second time this season. Again, you can cite the home-road split statistics all you want. Flacco rates no better than a mid-QB2 this week in a rivalry match against the second-ranked Steelers (only the Bears have allowed fewer fantasy points to quarterbacks).
Carson Palmer vs. CLE
Palmer had a nice four-game streak of strong fantasy performances ended in his return to Cleveland last week. He was limited to 146 passing yards (19-of-34) with one touchdown pass, two turnovers and four sacks.
This Cleveland pass defense has played much better, as expected, with Joe Haden effectively shutting down half the field. This is not a game that matches Palmer's previous fantasy successes, as Cleveland isn't charging out to a huge lead. Palmer sits this week.
Josh Freeman at DEN
Freeman's ridiculous six-game streak of multi-touchdown performances ended in Week 12 against the Falcons. The third-year signal caller was shut out for the first time this season. I'm not optimistic for a dramatic rebound this week on the road in Denver. The Broncos boast the eighth-best defense against quarterbacks, and top option Vincent Jackson will renew his rivalry with Champ Bailey. Bailey has normally gotten the best of Jackson in those individual battles.
Freeman's been one of the great rebound stories for 2012. He's no better than a mid-QB2 in this final game of the fantasy regular season.
Philip Rivers vs. CIN
Rivers ended a three-game streak of multi-touchdown performances with a pedestrian effort against the Ravens in a narrow loss. He completed 23-of-36 attempts for 228 yards with one touchdown and six sacks. Rivers has thrown multiple touchdowns in six of his past eight games, but this is a difficult spot.
The Bengals have allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks. Opposing quarterbacks have produced only nine touchdowns (eight passing) while averaging 239.1 passing yards per game. The San Diego offensive has been less dynamic than years past, with Rivers averaging 244.5 passing yards per game. That's a full 40 yards per game fewer than 2011.