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Avoid Flacco-Dalton matchup

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Michael Harmon

Mike is a fantasy contributor for>>

Harmon Rankings: QB, RB, WR

I can’t believe that we’re already pondering the final week of the 2012 NFL regular season. The long, winding road that started with that first clean spreadsheet ends on Sunday night at FedEx Field. Along the way, countless would-be heroes fell to the wayside or added their names to the fantasy infirmary. Sure, there were a number of unheralded options that rose to prominence, but you only remember the failed draft choices unless you’re hoisting a trophy at season’s end.

In the days following Sunday’s action, we’ll recap the good, bad and ugly of the season and offer some keeper/prospect thoughts for 2013.

For now, we need to set the table with this, the last “Lineup Calls” piece for 2012. Keep your browser locked on for updated player news and information as kickoff approaches. This is a week replete with a ridiculous number of moving parts (sit-downs, injuries, etc.).


(Exclude Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Robert Griffin III)

Cam Newton at NO
Newton didn’t blow up the scoreboard as expected against the Raiders in Week 16, but he did generate his fifth straight multi-touchdown game. The second-year quarterback has also rushed for 60 yards or more in three games during this stretch.

Newton passed for 253 yards with a touchdown pass, adding 71 rushing yards with a touchdown against the Saints in Week 2. He completed 14-of-20 pass attempts, but did lose a fumble. Newton is a rock-solid option against the generous New Orleans pass defense (most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks).

Tony Romo at WAS
Romo and the Cowboys will be on the grand stage, the Sunday night finale in a divisional showdown. Will it end as big games have in the past for Romo-led teams, or will this Dallas team push forward?

Whatever the outcome (I picked Dallas), Romo will continue his late-season run of big-time statistical performances. Romo has accounted for multiple touchdowns in five of his past seven starts, a stretch run that includes five 300-yard games. The Redskins have played better of late, but this is still a defensive unit that has allowed 4,400 passing yards and 28 passing touchdowns.

Russell Wilson vs. STL
Wilson posted his second straight four-touchdown performance in the Week 16 obliteration of the 49ers. He’s produced multiple touchdowns in seven of his past eight games despite passing for fewer than 225 yards six times during this stretch.

The Rams owned him during the Week 4 meeting in St. Louis, limiting Wilson to 160 passing yards with three interceptions. Wilson gets his revenge in Week 17 as Pete Carroll’s squad rolls into the playoffs with another big home effort.

Michael Vick at NYG
Welcome back, Mr. Vick. Vick becomes a hot waiver wire property for the finale against the slumping, lifeless Giants. This New York squad has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, including 25 touchdown passes, and has been blown up by Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco in back-to-back weeks.

When last we saw Vick, he’d completed 6-of-9 attempts for 70 yards with a touchdown against the Cowboys before departing with a concussion. Vick passed for 241 yards with a touchdown pass and 49 rushing yards in the first meeting with the Giants.

Eli Manning vs. PHI
Can you trust Manning in the finale? With just two multi-touchdown performances in his past 10 games, it’s awfully difficult to put a huge bet on the two-time Super Bowl champion. However, I have to believe that the Giants put up a better effort in the finale with the playoffs still in play. Manning passed for 309 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in the Week 4 loss to Philadelphia. The Eagles have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.

Andrew Luck vs. HOU
The Texans are still battling for home-field advantage in Week 17. The Colts are playing for Chuck Pagano, who returns to the sidelines this week. Luck’s statistical output has waned in recent weeks, as the rookie has averaged 195.7 yards per game in the past three weeks with four touchdowns. Luck did pass for 186 yards with two touchdowns against the Texans in Week 15.

The Texans are slumping down the stretch, having allowed 82 points in the past three weeks (17 to the Colts in Week 15).

Colin Kaepernick vs. ARI
The 49ers were blown out by the Seahawks in Week 16, a decided letdown from wild win over New England the previous week. Kaepernick posted a solid stat line in the loss (244 yards with one touchdown, one interception and 31 rushing yards), though he was clearly outshone by Russell Wilson.

He’s on the board as a high-end QB2 this week for the home finale against Arizona. Of course, the Cardinals have been the stingiest team in the league against fantasy quarterbacks, yielding 18 touchdown passes against 21 interceptions. Still, I expect the Jim Harbaugh to get his team playoff-ready following that embarrassing road tilt.

Sleeper Options

Philip Rivers vs. OAK
River has posted a wildly inconsistent season, leaving San Diego fans and fantasy owners flat. Would you believe that he’s only passed for more than 300 yards twice? Still, Rivers has thrown multiple touchdown passes in nine games to make him a solid, albeit unspectacular, fantasy option.

He’s on the board for a strong play against the Raiders at home. Oakland has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, including 26 passing touchdowns. The Raiders allow 27.9 points per game.

Jay Cutler at DET
As with Tony Romo, fans and pundits eagerly await Jay Cutler’s performance against the Lions. Will he rise to the challenge and give the Bears a shot at the playoffs? Or, will the Bears’ second-half slide continue?

Cutler passed for 150 yards with one touchdown, adding 34 rushing yards in the home victory over Detroit in Week 7. He’s also only passed for more than 225 yards on six occasions this season (2,776 this season). Still, this game could open up, forcing Cutler to start winging the ball around to keep the Chicago playoff hopes alive.

Chad Henne at TEN
Henne will play without our all-name captain, Cecil Shorts III, who was shut down because of concussion issues. He’s obviously not a huge play, as he’s generated just two touchdown passes in his past four games. However, the Titans are limping toward the finale, having surrendered at least 24 points in four of the past five weeks (including that 55-point debacle against the Packers). Henne passed for 261 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the Week 12 meeting with Tennessee.


Matthew Stafford vs. CHI
If Stafford passes for 305 yards in Week 17, he’ll reach the 5,000-yard mark for the second straight week. Unfortunately, fantasy owners have watched Stafford rack up a ton of yardage with little support in the touchdown column this season. He’s produced multiple touchdowns in seven games this season (including his running efforts) and has been shut out in back-to-back weeks.

Chicago limited Stafford to 263 yards with one touchdown and one interception in Week 7. Remember, Calvin Johnson dropped what would have been a long gain, and possibly a touchdown, in the early part of that game. Johnson was then virtually erased by Charles Tillman for the remainder of the game.

Josh Freeman at ATL
I suppose that the fact that the Falcons aren’t “playing for anything” does support an argument in favor of Freeman. However, his recent run of terrible play (eight interceptions in the past two weeks) hardly warrants a boisterous endorsement.

The Falcons have allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks, including shutting Freeman out in the first meeting in Week 12 (256 yards).

Joe Flacco & Andy Dalton, BAL at CIN
There are many elements to fear in this matchup for fantasy owners.

- Neither quarterback has been a statistical beast in recent weeks. Dalton was shut out in Week 16 and has thrown three touchdown passes in his past four starts. Flacco has been erratic, but did produce a big game in Week 16.

- Both the Ravens and Bengals rank among the top-10 best units against quarterbacks.

- Finally, this game has zero playoff implications. The Ravens Bengals are locked into the fourth and sixth slots in the AFC, respectively.

Matt Ryan vs. TB
Given their playoff history, I’m loathe to believe that the Falcons will throttle down in the finale, but that’s a chance that fantasy owners cannot take. Atlanta locked down home-field advantage in Week 16 behind Ryan’s four-touchdown effort against Detroit. It was his third consecutive multi-touchdown game following a mid-season slowdown.

Ryan passed for 353 yards with one touchdown and two turnovers in the first meeting with Tampa Bay. We know the tale of Tampa Bay’s struggles against quarterbacks (second-most fantasy points allowed). However, the potential of Ryan taking a seat early forces owners to consider an alternative.

Tagged: Falcons, Bears, Bengals, Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Colts, Raiders, Saints, Giants, Eagles, 49ers, Seahawks, Buccaneers, Redskins, Panthers, Jaguars, Ravens, Texans, Michael Vick, Peyton Manning, Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, Chad Henne, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, Josh Freeman, Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson

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