The Fantasy Basement is a weekly piece that provides fantasy advice on lineup calls, sleepers, waiver-wire moves and rookie spotlights, along with the occasional ramble or two. Why “Fantasy Basement” you ask? There is a common misconception that sports writers dwell in their childhood cellars, that the institution promotes arrested development. Um…how does that have negative connotation? After all, who wouldn’t enjoy coming home to fresh-baked cookies and having their laundry done?…Anyway, enjoy!
QB: Scott Tolzien, Packers
Normally tossing three passes to the wrong team prohibits endorsement the following week. Given the circumstance (a third-stringer making his first NFL start), environment (in New York) and opponent (the G-Men’s top-10 defense) he was thrust into, I think we can make an exception for Green Bay’s Tolzien. Aside from the trio of turnovers, the Wisconsin product fared well, hitting 70.6 percent of his intended receivers for 339 yards. Moreover, Tolzien went 6-for-6 on throws over 15 yards, just the fourth time since 2006 such a feat was accomplished.
Following the endeavor that was the Giants secondary, Minnesota and its 30th-ranked defense should offer a respite for Tolzien. As Russell Wilson, Nick Foles and Andy Dalton are on bye (although in fairness, I think both Bengals fans and fantasy owners are in need of a timeout from the Red Rifle), the Packers arm is a viable option in Week 12. Other starts: Case Keenum, Eli Manning
RB: Ben Tate, Texans
Despite dealing with cracked ribs, Tate is making the most of his opportunity as Houston’s primary back, evidenced by 117 total yards against the Raiders last Sunday. The offensive line has been immune to the rest of the Texans’ woes, serving as one of the best run-blocking units in the league and reinforcing Tate’s worth for the rest of the fall. Tate is a must-start this weekend versus a Jaguars front seven surrendering a league-high 139.1 yards per game. (Speaking of the Texans, Andre Johnson knows a thing or two about bad quarterbacking, considering he’s worked with the immortal likes of David Carr, Tony Banks, Dave Ragone and Sage Rosenfels. So when the normally-equable Johnson loses his cool on Matt Schaub, that should illustrate the utter disarray of the Houston situation under center. Also, are we sure that Wade Phillips wasn’t secretly coaching the Texans on Sunday? Because switching from Case Keenum to Schaub was one of the most questionable coaching calls all season.) Other starts: Zac Stacy, Rashad Jennings
WR: Giants receivers
The Dallas secondary is giving up a league-worst 329.9 yards per game and coming off a 49-17 beatdown at the hands of the Saints. There’s also an 82.4 percent chance that Monte Kiffin has retired and a cardboard cutout is calling the defensive shots for the Cowboys. And if that’s the case, promote the silhouette to GM. Can’t do a worse job than Jerry Jones has done in the role, right? Other starts: Aaron Dobson, Jarrett Boykin
TE: Coby Fleener, Colts
A chaste, self-effacing man would not boast of his candidacy for Fleener a few weeks ago and reservedly take pride in his work. Loyal readers of this column know I’m not this type of guy. Hell, I once swaggered down the court in a co-ed intramural league after swatting a girl’s shot. In my defense, she broke my heart the year before, so it was only rational to break her confidence in the mid-range jumper.
ANYWAY, Fleener has cashed in on Reggie Wayne’s absence, registering 15 catches for 204 yards in his last three games. Just as important have been the amplified looks from Andrew Luck in his direction, recording 20 targets in the past two games. Still available in 51 percent of FOXSports.com fantasy football leagues, Fleener should capitalize on an Arizona squad relinquishing the most fantasy points to the tight end position in 2013. Other starts: Garret Graham, John Carlson
DEF: New York Jets
The Ravens offense has facilitated fantasy defenses a field day this campaign, a trend that should continue as Baltimore’s 27th-ranked rushing attack squares off against Gang Green’s NFL-best ground opposition. Plus it’s been quite some time – all of two quarters- since Average Joe Flacco tossed a pick-six. Cat’s due to assist another house call. Other starts: Houston Texans, New Orleans
QB: Robert Griffin III, Washington
In terms of mobility, RG3 has shaken off the early-season rust, averaging 45.5 yards on the terrain in his last six games (compared to an output of 18 yards per contest in four September outings). Coupled with a submission of 278.7 yards per contest in November, things seem to be turning around for the former Heisman winner.
Unfortunately, this is a false assumption. The Washington signal caller owns as many turnovers as touchdowns (14 apiece). In truth, this ratio could be ghastlier: only four of Griffin’s 10 fumbles have been lost. Worse, RG3’s production is more of a derivative of a generous schedule (porous secondaries in San Diego, Minnesota and Philly) rather than his own accord. His rapport with the Washington wideouts remains shaky (59.7 completion percentage, 21st in the league), and taking on a Niners defense that ranks seventh-best against roto field generals won’t improve that figure. Even in deeper leagues, Griffin’s a bigger gamble than believed this weekend. Other sits: Matt Ryan, Alex Smith
RB: Ryan Mathews, Chargers
The 26-year-old back is in the midst of one of the hottest streaks of his career, averaging 86.4 yards per game over the past five weeks. Before you confuse this as backing, a few detriments are holding Mathews from fantasy dependability this week. Danny Woodhead’s arrival has subtracted Mathews from the receiving arena, possessing a meager 10 receptions on the season. End-zone excursions have also been a shortcoming, crossing the goal line only twice this campaign. Toss in a rendezvous with a Kansas City defense handing out only 13.8 points per game and there are too many ominous clouds to paint a sunny forecast. Keep Mathews on the pine. Other sits: Donald Brown, Lamar Miller
WR: Antonio Brown, Steelers
Brown has been a breakout star for the Steel City, bringing in a league-high 74 balls and posting 95.2 yards per game (fourth-best in the league). Alas, can’t put my conviction in Brown knowing the shadow of Joe Haden looms. As Haden’s shut-down of A.J. Green (two receptions, seven yards) is still fresh in my mind, view Brown as a high-risk insertion this weekend. In a related note, after one wayward Dalton throw last Sunday, Green looked more depressed than the football team that went to Applebee’s. Remember that commercial? After losing in the high school playoffs, the squad makes a pit stop at America’s neighborhood grill? Talk about a kick in the groin. Heartbreaking enough to have your gridiron dreams dashed; it’s another dimension of misery going to Applebee’s. And if that doesn’t sum up the frustration of watching Dalton, I’m not sure what will. Other sits: Pierre Garcon, Steve Smith
TE: Charles Clay, Dolphins
Don’t be fooled by Clay’s latest conquest (six catches, 90 yards, touchdown in Week 11). Before his matchup with the Chargers, the Miami tight end was held to 87 yards in his previous four games. Expect Clay to come down to earth versus the top-ranked Carolina defense. Other sits: Tim Wright, Tony Gonzalez
DEF: Chicago Bears
I know the storm that tormented the Midwest puts an asterisk on Sunday’s clash with Baltimore, but in case you needed any more reason to doubt Chicago’s front line, Ray Rice’s performance should do the trick. The Bears are giving up the second-most rushing yards at 133.9 per game, and their allowance of 26.7 points ranks 26th in the league. St. Louis isn’t the fiercest of foes, but look for Zac Stacy to go nuts on the vulnerable Chicago vanguard. Other sits: New England Patriots, New York Giants
Waiver Wire Watch: Delanie Walker, Titans
The Tennessee tight end had a season-high 91 yards against the Colts, but it was far from an aberration. Walker has made trips to pay dirt in three of the past four games and has five touchdowns on the season. More importantly, Walker has played a bigger role in the Titans offense since Ryan Fitzpatrick took over the reins, garnering 18 targets in the past two weeks. Facing a Raiders defense that’s vulnerable over the middle, Walker, owned in just 16.4 percent of FOXSports.com fantasy football leagues, is an astute play.
Email of the Week
I’m often asked if this section is legit or if I’m generating these “letters.” Not only are they real brother/sister, but sounds like this week’s winner – Shane in Windsor – needs our help:
Hey Joel PPR 14-teamer have (Aaron) Dobson and (Danny) Amendola which one do I play? Girlfriend dumped me and job sux need winner week to make playoffs. Thanks! Also DEF DAL or PITT?
Foremost, keep your head up Shane! (Unless you’re playing golf, that is. In that case, keep your head down.) It could be worse – at least you don’t live in Detroit, right? (Kidding, Motown!)
Regarding your dilemma: each player received seven looks from Brady against Carolina on Monday night, and both project as good lineup calls against a Denver secondary that is yielding 300.2 receiving yards per game (third-most in the NFL). However, with your PPR scoring system, I think Amendola is the safer bet. Dobson has the higher ceiling, but also has the better chance of submitting a goose egg. And for defenses, roll with the Steelers.
Fantasy Flyer: Nate Burleson, Lions
There’s a chance Burleson makes his triumphant return from that tragic pizza-related car accident for the Lions in Week 12. (Connected: I love Burleson’s DiGorno pitch, but c’mon, who is going to recognize Nate Burleson? Pretty sure the majority of Detroit fans wouldn’t be able to identify the man sans jersey.) Admittedly, Burleson lacks the pizzazz of the usual flyer label, yet he’s also a more sound investment than the usual sleeper. The Motor City has continued to struggle in its search for a complement to Calvin Johnson, and someone has to reap some targets outside of Megatron. Available in 97 percent of FOXSports.com fantasy football leagues, Burleson warrants the roster stash.
This Week in BRENT CELEK
C-Note finished with just one catch, but it was a big one, going 42 yards and falling just short of the goal line, setting up a one-yard journey to the Promised Land for LeSean McCoy. Solid production, considering Celek was distracted by an appearance from Kanye West and Kim Kardashian in the City of Brotherly Love this weekend. Not that the Eagles tight end is a fan of the infamous couple; rather, Celek was merely concerned why a grown man would rock a woman’s Manteau. 2013 stats: 19 receptions, 290 yards, three touchdowns Linebacker Body Count: Nine
Personal Foul on: Clete Blakeman, referee
Let’s just say I know someone that might have had a lot of Monopoly money on the Pats covering. Then again…
Gatorade Shower Goes to: Clete Blakeman, referee
I mean, you saw that epic Bill Belichick presser after the game, right? Anyone who can make the Hoodie go into such a catatonic state is doing the Lord’s work.
Joel Beall is a writer for FOXSports.com and WhatIfSports.com. He lives with a Golden Tee machine and a jump shot that’s currently broken. Reach Joel on Twitter @FOXSportsBeall