Week 12 lineup calls: Quarterbacks
It’s a great slate of games for Week 12, and the storylines have been dizzying.
Here are the top quarterback starts, sleepers and flops.
(Other than Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Michael Vick)
Ben Roethlisberger at Buffalo
After six games, it’s safe to say that any rust on Roethlisberger has been shaken off and that he’s found his stride. Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes against the Raiders, the second straight that he did so. He’ll continue his magic this week on the road at Buffalo against a defense that ranks 29th in total defense (nearly 28 points per game). The Bills rank ninth in terms of passing yardage (208.9 yards allowed per game), but the red zone pass defense has been abysmal (20 touchdowns allowed against four interceptions).
Mark Sanchez vs. Cincinnati
Sanchez threw two of the finest passes of the season in the dramatic Week 11 win over Houston. He’s established a tremendous rapport with Santonio Holmes and veteran Braylon Edwards continues to stretch the field. In his past four games, Sanchez averaged 301.5 passing yards.
This home date against a sinking Cincinnati squad represents another tremendous opportunity for the second-year quarterback out of USC. The Bengals’ cornerback play has been solid, but the decided lack of a pass rush leaves them on islands for the eventual breakdown downfield. The Jets’ speed receivers present big problems this week, and Sanchez will be operating on short fields.
Shaun Hill vs. New England
Hill has looked good at the helm for the Lions in place of Matthew Stafford. He has averaged 287 passing yards in his six complete games this season with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He’s also averaged 45.2 pass attempts in these games. That bodes well for another big run against the youthful New England secondary, particularly for those late-game fantasy heroics after Tom Brady stakes the Patriots to a big lead. Nate Burleson has become a strong complement to Calvin Johnson with Brandon Pettigrew eating space over the middle.
Jon Kitna vs. New Orleans
He’s thrown three touchdown passes in back-to-back games and 10 overall since taking over for the injured Tony Romo. In this five-game period, Kitna has averaged 244.6 passing yards while effectively integrating rookie Dez Bryant more completely into the offense. Kitna is front and center for a huge Thanksgiving Day home date against the Saints. The Dallas offensive line will be tested by the myriad of blitz packages, so Kitna will need to be nimble in the pocket.
Eli Manning vs. Jacksonville
That was a difficult way to lose two points against the Eagles. Manning picked up the first down and looked to be moving into position for perhaps another touchdown throw. Instead, the Eagles were able to close out the game.
Manning has been talked about frequently this week because of the issues affecting the receiving corps. Hakeem Nicks joins Steve Smith on the sidelines, leaving Mario Manningham to lead a reconfigured list of options. I don’t expect a dominant game this week, as the team will likely turn its attention to Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs in the run games. However, the Jaguars have struggled against the pass all season long, surrendering 264.6 yards and two touchdowns per game (28th in the NFL). Look for more of Kevin Boss and Derek Hagan this week.
Sam Bradford at Denver
Bradford has been a consistent option for fantasy owners this season. He’s registered five multi-touchdown games (three in his past four starts) and has only been shut out once this season. As a result, those left in a quandary because of the Vince Young meltdown might look his way against a Denver defense reeling from the schooling done by Philip Rivers on Monday night. The Broncos allow 232.1 yards and two touchdowns per game.
Matt Hasselbeck vs. Kansas City
Hasselbeck enters this game against the 25th-ranked Kansas City pass defense on a bit of a hot streak. He’s logged back-to-back 300-yard games while spreading the ball around effectively. Obviously, there’s some concern about the foot injury sustained by Mike Williams in Week 11, but both Ben Obomanu and Deon Butler are capable options.
David Garrard at New York Giants
Garrard threw three interceptions in Week 11 to match the total number of interceptions he’d thrown in his previous six starts. Still, he logged his third consecutive multi-touchdown effort and fourth in the last five games he completed.
He faces a New York defense that has been susceptible to big plays (there were several near-misses to wide-open receivers on Monday night). The key to this game is the play of the Jacksonville offensive line, as it seeks to stifle the fierce New York pass rush. Maurice Jones-Drew’s recent surge on the ground should help to slow the Giants from dialing up too many blitzes.
Donovan McNabb vs. Minnesota
McNabb is a frustrating fantasy option, but he’s fairly consistent. You’re not going to get 300-yard, three-touchdown blowout performances. He’ll also rarely get shut out. McNabb has thrown a touchdown pass in nine consecutive games (he was shut out in the opener against Dallas) with one two-touchdown effort. I don’t expect big numbers, but I do anticipate another yardage total in the 225-250 range with a touchdown and big plays to Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong.
My only concern is that the promotion of Leslie Frazier injects some life into the defensive front and that McNabb’s forced to press. McNabb isn’t world-beating, but he’s safe.
Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Pittsburgh
I shan’t belabor the analysis of Fitzpatrick in this spot. Frequent readers of this piece know that I appreciate Fitzpatrick’s style and cornerback mentality. No matter what happens in the game, Fitzpatrick keeps chucking downfield.
He seeks to follow up a ridiculous four-touchdown comeback win over the Bengals against the 22nd-ranked Pittsburgh pass defense (239.1 yards and 1.1 touchdowns allowed per game). Fitzpatrick will need to avoid the pass rush of defensive end Brett Keisel, who returns from injury.
Derek Anderson vs. San Francisco
Anderson’s accuracy is always the subject of ridicule, but he keeps firing and eventually hits the target. In his past four games, he’s averaged 257.5 passing yards and a touchdown while turning the ball over four times. Anderson appears to be gaining comfort with Steve Breaston downfield (three games with 90-plus receiving yards), and Larry Fitzgerald’s production has improved markedly since the beginning of the season.
San Francisco is a middling pass defense, having surrendered 221.4 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game through 10 weeks.
Rusty Smith at Houston
I know you think I’m joking, but those in desperate straits or looking to play “ultimate spoiler” might turn to Smith against the league’s worst pass defense. The Texans surrender 301 yards and 2.5 touchdowns per game through the air and give up big play after big play every week. I’ll be interested to see how many times the 6-foot-5 rookie from Florida Atlantic tries to push the ball downfield to Randy Moss early this week. Can the rookie ignore Moss’ pleas of “I’m open” that he’s sure to hear from the opening whistle?
Brett Favre at Washington
It’s come to this. Favre would have been drafted as a late QB1 or early QB2 and has now been released in a great number of leagues. As such, he represents a plug-in option this week for those owners hamstrung by the Vince Young injury or seeking a high-risk, high-reward play. The Redskins rank 29th against the pass, and the secondary has been riddled with injuries.
Will the Vikings rally in a Dallas-like fashion following Brad Childress’ departure? How much of an impact will Sidney Rice have in his second game since returning from injury? Does Favre have anything left in the tank?
Joe Flacco vs. Tampa Bay
Flacco’s four-game streak of multi-touchdown performances came to an end in Week 11 against the Panthers. He faces a difficult task this week against the sixth-ranked Tampa Bay pass defense (200.8 yards and 1.5 touchdowns allowed per game) that plays tight and aggressively on the edges. The Buccaneers have registered 15 interceptions this season.
Jay Cutler vs. Philadelphia
Cutler was shut out for the second time this season in Thursday’s win over Miami. His receivers continue to leave opportunities on the field and things are not clicking downfield. Cutler faces a difficult proposition this week against the aggressive Philadelphia pass defense. The numbers are not impressive overall (213.6 yards and 1.8 touchdowns allowed per game), but the myriad of blitz packages will pose a problem for this Chicago offensive line.
Kyle Orton vs. St. Louis
Orton has yet to be shut out this season. He’s among the safest and most consistent options that you’ll find the on the board and warrants a low QB1 status. That said, the Rams have been very stingy against the pass. They allow 230.5 passing yards per game, but have surrendered only 12 passing touchdowns (tied for sixth in the NFL). Orton will also face a persistent pass rush from a unit that has generated 28 sacks to date.
Carson Palmer at New York Jets
Palmer has thrown multiple touchdown passes in seven consecutive games, all in losing efforts. He’s also thrown a total of 10 interceptions during this period.
Palmer is in a difficult spot this week against the New York Jets pass defense. Don’t be fooled by the statistics. This unit performs in big tests, as it shut down the high-octane Green Bay and Denver passing attacks. The squawking done by his wide receivers denigrating the cornerbacks and the fact that Palmer was in a walking boot on Monday doesn’t help his cause.