Fantasy Football

Ballard a smart start versus Bills

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John Halpin

John Halpin has been a fantasy contributor for since 2007. He has written and co-hosted webcasts about fantasy football for, and managed websites for the NHL, the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Network. Listen to his "Fantasy 15 Podcast" on and follow him on Twitter.


Position vs. Fantasy Defensive Points Allowed (PFDPA)

Through 11 weeks, our Position vs. Fantasy Defensive Points Allowed has become a pretty good tool to help you find friendly matchups. By next season, it will be able to optimize Thanksgiving side dishes and desserts so you know exactly what to have with your turkey.

As always, please remember that the players listed are mostly meant to be borderline guys, who need reasons for you to play or bench them. You won’t see recommendations to start Arian Foster, Calvin Johnson and Drew Brees, because you should always start Arian Foster, Calvin Johnson and Drew Brees. Make sense? Good.

Note: The fantasy points per game (FPPG) referenced below are from standard leagues.

Week 12 Byes: None – bye weeks are over.

Thursday games: Texans at Lions, Redskins at Cowboys, Patriots at Jets

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Stay away: Philip Rivers, Chargers (vs. Ravens)

Rivers has thrown for 805 yards over his last three games, with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. He hasn’t been terrible this season – just terribly inconsistent. On Sunday, he’ll face a Ravens’ defense that ranks sixth in the league with 14.4 FPPG allowed to opposing quarterbacks. It’s no fun to start a QB when you have no idea what you’re going to get out of him. Because of that, you can do better than Rivers this week.


Is Josh Freeman a must-start? Not yet, but he’s getting closer. This week, he’ll battle a Falcons’ defense that ranks ninth with 15.8 FPPG allowed to opposing quarterbacks, and that makes him a shaky start. You know what else makes Freeman shaky? Doug Martin. You’re not always going to throw a lot when you have a stud running back who carries 20 times a game. .

Play, play, play: Andy Dalton, Bengals (vs. Raiders)

The Raiders are 31st against opposing fantasy quarterbacks, giving up 23.4 FPPG. This week, they travel to Cincinnati to face Dalton, who … hey, did you know Dalton has thrown 20 touchdown passes this season? Ginger Power!


There aren’t really any other good borderline matchup starts this week. Tony Romo (vs. Redskins) and Andrew Luck (vs. Bills) have fantasy-friendly matchups, but you were probably starting them, anyway. The 49ers have a good matchup with the bottom-ranked Saints (25.9 FPPG allowed to opposing QBs), but we don’t yet know who’s going to be under center for them. Either Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick can be an interesting plug-and-play once a decision is made.

Running Backs

Stay away: Mikel Leshoure, Lions (vs. Texans)

Leshoure isn’t bad, but he’s nothing special. Against the top-ranked Texans’ rushing defense (10.5 FPPG to opposing RBs), he’s not a recommended start on Turkey Day.


The 49ers have the second-ranked fantasy run defense, giving up 11.1 fantasy points per game. It would be difficult to recommend a Saints’ runner against them in any case, but that issue is exacerbated by a situation in which it’s hard to know who will get the ball. Mark Ingram has led the way recently, carrying 28 times for 134 yards and a score over the last two weeks, but you’re asking for trouble if you start him. You can think about Darren Sproles in a PPR league – if he returns, of course – but beyond that, pass on the always-confusing Saints’ backfield.

The Dolphins will host the Seahawks’ fourth-ranked fantasy rushing defense (13.5 FPPG allowed to opposing RBs) at a time when their run game has hit the skids – they’ve averaged just 66 yards on the ground over their last three games. With the ‘Fins splitting rushing duties between Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, neither back is a good start here.

Play, play, play: Vick Ballard, Colts (vs. Bills)

Ballard appears to have taken over as the Colts lead back after carrying 17 times (for 72 yards) to Donald Brown’s four against the Patriots in Week 11. If you have the chance to start Ballard against the Bills’ league-worst fantasy run defense (25.8 FPPG to opposing RBs), do it. I’ve got Ballard as a top-20 back this week, even with Delone Carter threatening his goal-line opportunities..


Jalen Parmele had seven carries over four NFL seasons with the Dolphins and Ravens, didn’t play in 2011, and signed with the Jaguars during the most recent offseason. He had another seven carries in Weeks 8 and 9, raising his career total to 15. Then, he took over for Rashad Jennings in Week 11, carried 24 times for 80 yards against the Texans, and looks to be an RB2 against a Titans’ rushing defense that ranks 30th with 24.1 FPPG allowed to opposing backs. Fantasy football is really ridiculous sometimes, isn’t it?

With Willis McGahee done for the regular season, Ronnie Hillman might share some work (specifically of the goal-line variety) with Lance Ball, but he figures to get the ball often enough to showcase his breakaway speed. Against a Chiefs’ defense that ranks 26th with 20.4 FPPG allowed to opposing backs, Hillman is a strong start.

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Wide Receivers

Stay away: Brian Hartline, Dolphins (vs. Seahawks)

That Seattle defense is nasty, huh? The Seahawks rank second with 16.7 FPPG allowed to opposing wide receivers, and have a road date this week with the Dolphins’ not-so-vaunted passing attack. Hartline gets plenty of targets in most games, but look for Richard Sherman & Co. to go out of their way to stop him.


Even without Darrelle Revis, the Jets have been pretty good against the pass, ranking fifth in the league against opposing fantasy wide receivers (18.4 FPPG). It’s hard to know exactly how the Patriots will adjust to the absence of Rob Gronkowski, but Brandon Lloyd hasn’t developed noticeable chemistry with Tom Brady, and hasn’t broken the 50-yard barrier since Week 6. Give Lloyd a seat on your bench tomorrow night, maybe with some turkey and stuffing to keep him occupied.

Dwayne Bowe’s status for Sunday’s game against the Broncos (19.2 FPPG, ninth in the league) is uncertain because of a neck injury. Even if Bowe does play, he’s got a tough matchup, and a quarterback duo that can’t seem to help his stats much no matter how often they throw him the ball. Bowe is a decent PPR option, but isn’t trustworthy enough to start in standard formats.

Play, play, play: Michael Crabtree, 49ers (at Saints)

I’m not sure I care who starts at quarterback for the Niners, because the Saints rank last with 29.6 FPPG allowed to opposing wideouts. Crabtree has been more steady than stellar this season, but looks to be a low-end RB2 in this game.


Jeremy Kerley didn’t get as many looks from Mark Sanchez in Week 11 as he usually does, but let’s remember that he caught seven passes for 120 yards against the 29th-ranked Patriots’ pass defense (27.5 FPPG to opposing WRs) in Week 7. Kerley isn’t an every-week play, but this is the type of matchup that warrants a long look.

Still waiting for the Kenny Britt breakout? Join the club. As a Rutgers alumnus, I might be more stubborn than most about Britt’s fantasy potential, but you can think about using him this week against the 25th-ranked Jags (24.7 FPPG allowed to opposing WRs). As of Wednesday morning, I had Britt at WR35.

Tight Ends

Stay away: Heath Miller, Steelers (at Browns)

Miller’s targets and production have been dropping lately – he’s had 10 receptions for 117 yards and no touchdowns in his last three games. Will Charlie Batch throw to him any more often than Byron Leftwich did? Heck if I know, but against the Browns’ league-best fantasy tight end defense (5.2 FPPG), you can give Miller the week off.


The Colts rank fourth with 5.6 FPPG allowed to opposing tight ends. Buffalo’s Scott Chandler brings five TDs to the table, but they’re accompanied by inconsistent catch totals and a low-yardage output (380 in 10 games). Avoid Chandler if you can.

Play, play, play: Dustin Keller, Jets (vs. Patriots)

Yes, the faith of this space’s pro-Kellerness has been shaken by two consecutive subpar weeks. Fortunately, the Patriots’ 29th-ranked pass defense versus tight ends (10 FPPG) comes to town on Thanksgiving night, and Keller torched them for seven catches, 93 yards and a score in Week 7. I’m still in – who’s with me? And why do I think the Jets might win?


Cincinnati’s Jermaine Gresham gets a Week 12 matchup against the Raiders and their 25th-ranked fantasy tight end defense (8.7 FPPG). Gresham has been a top-10 fantasy tight end this season, but he’s still viewed as a matchup play and doesn’t start all the time. This week is when you want him in there.

For discussion’s sake, let’s throw out Tony Moeaki’s Week 9 goose egg against the Chargers. In his last three games other of that one, Moeaki has been targeted eight, six and six times, and caught 11 passes for 198 yards. That’s not great, but it makes him a decent option if you’re scrambling for a deep-league tight end in a depressing, post-Gronk world. The Broncos’ league-worst standing against opposing fantasy tight ends (11.5 FPPG) makes him even more interesting – he’s at TE16 for Week 12 after spending most of the season off the board.

Good luck in Week 12. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tagged: Bills, Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Titans, Colts, Chiefs, Raiders, Dolphins, Patriots, Saints, Jets, 49ers, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Jaguars, Ravens, Steelers, Chargers, Texans, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Heath Miller, Calvin Johnson, Dwayne Bowe, Dustin Keller, Donald Brown, Kenny Britt, Arian Foster, Tony Moeaki, Lance Ball, Andy Dalton, Vick Ballard

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