Another week down, another week of crushing injuries to go through. There's been many a fantasy team that's been decimated by injuries this season and that trend continued last weekend. Just think of it this way, no matter how many injuries your team has sustained this season, it can't be as bad as it is for the Baltimore Ravens. They were already down their best offensive playmaker in wide receiver Steve Smith due to a torn Achilles', then they lost running back Justin Forsett to a broken arm and quarterback Joe Flacco to a torn ACL/MCL...in the same game! Their Rookie 1st Round pick, WR Breshad Perriman, has been unable to even get on the field this season due to a nagging knee injury. And that's just on offense! Defensive stalwart and team leader Terrell Suggs was lost to a season ending injury very early on as well. How do you even attempt to come back from that? The short answer is that you don't. You just have to roll with the punches and do the best you can...and just remember that you can't have it as bad as the Ravens.
Let's get into the fantasy match-ups this week. It looks like another fairly weak slate for good overall fantasy games, but there's at least one pretty obvious choice in New Orleans vs. Houston, which has the highest point total of the week at 47.5. I really don't have a lot of faith in the other options, either due to injuries, poor offensive performance or bad match-ups, but Chicago vs. Green Bay is at least interesting, as both teams at least have the ability to put up some points. Unfortunately, the New England-Denver game looks like it won't be anywhere near the offensive showdown we would have expected early in the season and offenses like those in Philadelphia and Detroit can't be trusted right now either. If we're lucky, a few of these games end up surprising us and we'll get some big weeks from key fantasy players.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone, enjoy the time with your families, eat some good food and watch some good (hopefully) football. Good luck in Week 12.
Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers - Nov. 26 8:30 p.m. ET, Over/Under: 46.5
Chicago: QB Jay Cutler has never really been known for his consistency, but since coming back from an injury early in the season, Cutler has put up at least 21 fantasy points in standard leagues in every game except last week against the vaunted Denver Broncos defense. And that was without his top weapon in the passing game, WR Alshon Jeffery, who missed the game with a groin injury. This week he goes up against the archrival Packers on their regular Thanksgiving Day game, with Green Bay ranked 23rd in both pass defense and in fantasy points allowed to QBs. As long as Jeffery is able to play on Thursday night, I like Cutler as a low-end QB1 candidate and definite streamer option. If Jeffery isn't able to go, it definitely lowers Cutler's outlook, but he could still provide a decent floor getting the ball to WR Marquess Wilson, TEs Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller and RBs Matt Forte and Jeremy Langford.
We've seen what Jeffery can do when he's healthy, as he put up a three game stretch from Weeks 6-9 in which he got at least 11 targets, 8 catches, 116 yards and 15 fantasy points in each game in that timeframe. The really sad part for Jeffery and his owners is that he just hasn't been able to claim that for most of the season and he continues to get dinged up, mostly with miscellaneous muscle strains/pulls. He hasn't been himself for the past two weeks and had some tough match-ups anyway -- St. Louis and Denver in back to back games - and he's still listed on the injury report this week and is currently questionable to play on Thursday. If Jeffery is able to play, you have to roll him out there, despite the injuries and the Packers' ranking of 9th in fantasy points allowed to WRs. As I previously mentioned, if Jeffery sits out of this game, Marquess Wilson will be the biggest beneficiary at the WR position. Wilson has shown flashes of ability this season when given the opportunity, specifically when Jeffery has been out of the lineup, as he's put up games of 8, 14 and 10 fantasy points when the Bears were without Jeffery. If Jeffery misses this game, Wilson should be considered somewhere in the WR3 or flex range and he would likely provide good value for his cheap DFS price.
The TE position has been pretty strange for the Bears for the past several weeks, with Zach Miller upstaging regular starter Martellus Bennett. The Packers have actually been susceptible to TEs and have allowed the 7th most fantasy points in the league to that position. Unfortunately, it's difficult to discern which of these two guys will end up having a good game and it's likely they will split reps. There is a caveat to this, however, as Bennett is currently listed on the injury report with an injury to his ribs. If Bennett is unable to play on Thursday or is even limited, Miller could see an increased role and provide some fantasy value for desperate fantasy owners. If you're in a position where you have to use one of these guys, pay attention to the practice reports leading up to Thursday, as Miller would be an extremely cheap play in DFS tournaments and a deep league play.
Rookie RB Jeremy Langford has been fantastic for both the Bears and fantasy owners since taking over the full workload after regular starter Matt Forte sustained a MCL injury four weeks ago. Langford put up back to back games of 22 and 29 fantasy points in Weeks 9 and 10 and did manage to score a TD against the Broncos in Week 11. Prior to getting injured, Forte had been very consistent for his owners, scoring double digits in fantasy points in all but one game (if you don't count the game in which he was injured) and it sounds like he could return in some capacity this week. Green Bay is 10th in fantasy points allowed to RBs, but is only the 22nd ranked rush defense in the league, making this a decent but not great match-up. The best outcome for fantasy owners would be for Forte to sit out another week and hopefully come back in Week 13 at full strength, allowing Langford to carry the load this week against Green Bay. If Forte does suite up for the first time since suffering his injury, then it will be a difficult decision for those owners who have both Forte and Langford, as it will likely render both of them useless due to some form of timeshare, especially if Forte is on a pitch count. Pay attention to the practice reports and the pre-game information on this situation, as Langford would be a Top-10 RB if Forte sits out for one more week.
Green Bay: With all the talk this season about how much QB Aaron Rodgers has struggled at times, you'd think he'd be having a terrible year or something. Well, Rodgers is currently the #4 QB in standard leagues and has put up at least 20 points in 8 out of 10 games this season, with his worst game by far coming in that Week 8 beat-down handed to him and the Packers' offense by the Denver Broncos, where he threw for only 77 yards and scored just 6 fantasy points. In the three weeks since that game, Rodgers has scored 41, 25 and 22 fantasy points, respectively. You don't usually worry about match-up with Aaron Rodgers, but with the loss and Jordy Nelson and the other numerous injuries to his offensive skill position players, it doesn't hurt to take a look. The Bears are actually pretty strong against the pass statistically, coming in at #4 in yards allowed. This could be a little bit of a facade though, as Chicago also has the third least amount of pass attempts against them on the season and they're middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to QBs. You're starting Rodgers in any situation anyway, but you don't have to be concerned with this as a particularly tough match-up.
The Packers' receivers have really struggled at times this season, with Randall Cobb suffering from a nagging shoulder injury he sustained coming into the regular season and Davante Adams being hobbled with a couple ankle injuries. James Jones has made his presence felt in the touchdown department, but he's also his own issues with two zero fantasy point performances in the past four weeks. I've written several times about how much this offense misses Jordy Nelson and I don't think I need to rehash that, but the deep threat with field stretching ability is what's really missing here. The Bears are middle of the pack against WRs in terms of fantasy points allowed, so what do we make of this match-up for these guys? Cobb is still the #1 option for Rodgers and should get the highest number of targets, but he's just not a WR1 anymore. He should definitely be started as a WR2 though. Jones is interesting because of his touchdown potential and he had a big game last week, posting 6 catches on 12 targets for 109 yards and a TD. He also should be viewed as a WR2. Adams is hurting from the previously mentioned ankle problem and was obviously limited in last week's game. He's currently questionable and shouldn't be relied upon this week, despite the high number of targets (32) Rodgers gave him in the two games prior to last week.
TE Richard Rodgers had a few good games in a row -- 12 and 9 fantasy points -- prior to Green Bay's Week 11 game against Minnesota, but basically all of his points on the season have come from short TDs. He has yet to record more than 45 receiving yards in a game this season and has 5 total TDs and Aaron Rodgers appears to look for him in the red-zone. Despite that, you can't trust a guy that doesn't consistently put up decent yardage and relying on touchdowns isn't a good way to go. The Bears are 10th against TEs in fantasy points allowed, so I'd stay away from Rodgers if possible.
Last week gave us the resurgence of RB Eddie Lacy, who totaled 100 yards rushing for the first time this season on an also season high 22 carries. Lacy looked like the guy we had been used to seeing during his first two seasons in the league and I believe he takes back his full-time job from James Starks from this point forward, as long as he can stay healthy. The Bears are only 25th against the run in yards allowed but have somehow only given up 3 rushing TDs on the season, pushing them up to 11th in fantasy points allowed to RBs. I don't view this as a tough match-up for the running game and I think Lacy is a mid-RB2 who could make his way back to RB1 status as we approach the home stretch of the season.
New Orleans Saints at Houston Texans - Nov. 29 1:00 p.m. ET, Over/Under: 47.5
New Orleans: The Texans' defense has actually stepped up in the last three games, only 29 total points to be scored against them combined in those contests. Overall, they're middle of the pack in allowing fantasy points to opposing QBs and are a strong 5th against the pass. That being said, QB Drew Brees has been playing better recently and has thrown for multiple TDs in three straight games. I'm not expecting a huge day here for Brees, but I think he could be a solid QB1 here in a game where he'll have to put up some points to counter what his defense gives up.
WR Brandin Cooks has been great in the Saints' past three games after disappointing fantasy owners who drafted him early for most of the season. He's come down with 5 receiving TDs in those games and his fantasy point totals are 20, 13 and 22 points in Weeks 8-10, respectively. Houston is Top-10 against WRs in fantasy points allowed, but you still have to roll Cooks out there as at least a WR2. Willie Snead had been a fairly consistent fantasy option for his owners after coming out of nowhere early in the season, but then he put up a goose egg in what was thought to be a good match-up against Washington prior to going into the bye. I'd somewhat attribute that to a knee injury Snead was dealing with going into that game, so hopefully he's gotten over that issue over the bye week. He isn't a top option, but he should be considered a WR3 or flex candidate. TE Benjamin Watson also had a productive multiple game stretch (Weeks 5-9), but was held to only 1 fantasy point in Week 10. Houston is 11th against TEs in fantasy points allowed, so temper your expectations on Watson and find another option if possible.
RB Mark Ingram has been a very reliable option this season, which is more than you can say for most at the running back position. He no doubt would have had a huge game against Washington in the Saints' last game, as he started the day off with a 70 yard run. Unfortunately for Ingram and his fantasy owners, he suffered what must have been a minor injury and only recorded 4 more carries the rest of the day. With a week off to recover from what ailed him, Ingram should have a good game against the Texans' run defense, which is 22nd in fantasy points allowed to RBs and 20th in total rushing yards allowed per game. He's a RB1 here.
Houston: Prior to suffering a concussion in Week 10 against the Bengals, QB Brian Hoyer had been putting up some very strong fantasy numbers for several weeks, including a five game stretch of 21, 24, 29, 27 and 21 fantasy points from Weeks 4-8. Put that together with a match-up against the worst pass defense in football and you have a fantastic streaming option and a DFS tournament target. I mean seriously, the Saints are giving up over five more fantasy points per game to QBs than the second-worst team (Baltimore) and have allowed 28 TD passes to only 4 INTs on the season. I don't care who you get rid of (I'm looking at you Rob Ryan), there's no immediate fix for that kind of problem, even with a bye week to work on it.
Hoyer's main target all season has been WR DeAndre Hopkins, who you could put up a very strong argument for as the best receiver in the league right now. Hopkins is the #1 WR in standard fantasy leagues so far this season and if you saw his performance against Darrelle Revis last week, you know that no defense can really shut him down and with this especially juicy match-up, he's the #1 WR this week. The other notable options in the passing game, such as Cecil Shorts III and Nate Washington, have put up a few good games themselves, but that's mostly come when one or the other has been out. With both guys healthy this week, expect them to split the secondary receiving role and to not be reliable options for your fantasy teams.
The running game in Houston has been a mess without Arian Foster, who we all know went down for the season with an Achilles' tendon injury. Alfred Blue continues to get the majority of carries and not do a lot with them, getting only 58 yards on 21 carries last week against the Jets. He's only averaging 3.3 yards per carry (ypc) on the season and has only had two games with double digit fantasy points in relief of Foster this season. With all of that in mind, I would still try to find a way to get Blue into my lineups as a low-end RB2 or flex play, as the Saints are giving up the 4th most fantasy points to opposing RBs and are 29th in rushing yards allowed per game.