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Lust: Standings Have Clout with Playoffs on Horizon

As the NFL regular season comes closer to ending, we start thinking about the playoffs, and standings become more prominent in our minds.
The Bengals, Colts, Patriots and Broncos lead the AFC, while the Falcons, Lions, Eagles and Cardinals lead the NFC. It’s around Week 12 when people start gritting their teeth, clenching fists, and biting nails. It’s around week 12 when teams start getting closer and closer in the standings.
Late bloomers may bloom, leaders may fall, and the Jets still suck. Obnoxious fans’ favorite things to say include lines such as, but not limited to: “Oh well you never know -insert failing quarterback name here- could come back,” “He and -insert washed up wide receiver name here- are a great pair,” or “The Jets still suck.”
The NFL postseason tests friendships, relationships, even family ties. It creates a place where, at one moment, can bring an extended family together, and in another, tear it apart. Hidden fandoms come to light, and ancient rivalries are stirred up. Die-hard fans die even harder, and bandwagoners start to realize they’re all really just Jets fans.
So strap in, because the next five weeks, you may start to find something inside yourself that you never realized you had.
Like your inner Jets fan.
Here are my picks for Week 12.
QB Picks for Week 12:
1. Definite Start: Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (@New York Giants): Last time Romo played the Giants, he ended the game with 279 yards and three touchdowns, totaling 21.7 fantasy points. He’s been resting on his bye week and will easily be ready to once again dominate the Giants’ defense, which has managed to give up an average of 17 points per game to opposing quarterbacks. With Dez Bryant coming off of a 28 point game two weeks ago against the Jaguars, Romo should be in great condition to put up big numbers against the Giants.
2. Sleeper Start: Kyle Orton, Buffalo Bills (vs. New York Jets): In week eight against the Jets, Orton managed to throw for four touchdowns on 238 yards with no interceptions, completing the game with 26 fantasy points. The veteran quarterback has bounced around the league over the past few years, but he seems to have found his place as EJ Manuel’s current replacement. If you’re wondering who to start this week and can’t find any sure starts, Orton should be a solid choice for your lineup. Be wary however, there have been rumors of EJ Manuel returning. The Bills coach stated Monday that Orton would be starting, but keep an eye on that ESPN ticker.
3. Free Agent Pickup: Zach Mettenberger, Tennessee Titans (@Philadelphia Eagles): Although the game ended in a loss for the Titans, Mettenberger put on quite a show against the Steelers on Monday. While still not providing any mind blowing plays, Mettenberger managed to stay extremely well poised in the pocket, and ended up throwing two touchdowns on 263 yards, with one particular deep 80-yard ball to Nate Washington. Although Mettenberger may not be the most prominent choice for your QB1 position, he could provide solid points to a struggling fantasy team with no other QB option. Chances are he’s in your league’s free agency, as he’s only owned in 2% of teams on ESPN.
4. Beware of Starting: Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos (vs. Miami Dolphins): You should most likely never doubt Peyton Manning, as he’s easily one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. When I say “beware of starting” him, I simply mean explore your other options. The Dolphins have allowed the lowest number of fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this year, only giving up 11.4 points per game. With the addition of Brent Grimes at cornerback in 2013, who has accumulated nine interceptions since then, and the always looming presence of defensive end Cameron Wake (who has accumulated 8.5 sacks already this season), the Dolphins may prove to be quite the challenge to even the most elite of quarterbacks in Peyton Manning. Manning will most likely at least put up 15 or so points, however you may want to explore your options this week.
RB Picks for Week 12:
1. Definite Start: Demarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys (@New York Giants): Murray is coming back, and he’s coming back in full force. Coming off a fairly solid game against Jacksonville in Week 10, and having a full week to rest himself, Murray is easily going to be looking to have another explosive outing against the Giants. Last time the two teams collided in week seven, Murray managed to sprint for 128 yards on 28 attempts with one touchdown, finishing the game with 20 fantasy points. The Giants have allowed an average of 21.4 fantasy points per game to opposing backs, not to mention the 456 yards total they’ve allowed Murray since he joined the league in 2011. If you have Murray, this is a sure start. If you don’t, he would almost be worth serious trade consideration.
2. Sleeper Start: Darren Sproles, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Tennessee Titans): Sproles has been less than a threat this year, only accumulating an average of 28 yards per game in the nine games he has played with the Eagles. We all remember his unbelievable run with New Orleans, where he played the dual threat receiver and halfback, racking up 1,981 receiving yards and 16 receiving touchdowns. Unfortunately, those days might be behind him, but maybe not completely. This week, Sproles is up against a Titans defense that has allowed opposing backs 143 rushing yards per game; the second most in the NFL. With back-up Mark Sanchez still in a quarterback, LeSean McCoy will most likely get the most looks, but Sproles could provide some quality 3rd down and goal line runs this week.
3. Free Agent Pickup: Denard Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars (@Indianapolis Colts): I almost wanted to switch Robinson and Sproles, but according to ESPN, Robinson is currently owned on a smaller percentage of fantasy teams. Sleeper start or free agent pickup, Robinson is looking like an extremely good choice this week for RB2 or even RB1 slots. Going up against a Cowboys defense in week 10 that has only allowed 15.5 fantasy points to opposing backs this year, Robinson still managed two touchdowns on 60 yards for 17 points, making for a pretty solid outing. This week, he’s pitted up against a Colts defense that has allowed the third most fantasy points to opposing backs this year at 21.1 points per game. Robinson should be an easy RB2 choice for this week, and maybe even an RB1 choice.
4. Beware of Starting: Mark Ingram, New Orleans Saints (vs. Baltimore Ravens): Although I hate to say this because of my undying love for Mark Ingram and his never-give-up running style, Ingram may be a bit of a bust this week. It’s hard for him to be too much of a bust, due to the fact that as of right now, Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas are both still either out or questionable for Monday’s game, which means Ingram will still be getting just about every carry. The Ravens have only allowed 10.6 fantasy points per game to opposing backs; the least in the NFL. Although Ingram will most likely put up at least nine points due to his continuous workload, the Ravens defense may keep him to a minimal amount of yardage, especially considering the fact that they only allow a measly 3.4 yards per carry to opposing backs. Ingram could be a viable option, but there are plenty of more favorable matchups out there for this week.
WR Picks for Week 12:
1. Definite Start: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (@Houston Texans): Green exploded for 127 yards on 6 receptions and one touchdown Sunday against the Saints, finishing the contest with 19 fantasy points. His quarterback, Andy Dalton, was coming off of a horrible week of throwing for only 86 yards and three interceptions, getting him -2 fantasy points. During Dalton’s 220 yard, three touchdown outing, Green was the receiver of 8 of the 16 of Dalton’s completions, making Green a prominent favorite. This week, Green goes up against a Texans defense that has allowed 27 fantasy points per game to opposing receivers; the most in the league. Green is an easy WR1 start for this week. But be wary of J.J. Watt. Who knows, he could line up at corner back or safety this week.
2. Sleeper Start: Steve Smith, Baltimore Ravens (@New Orleans Saints): Smith has been sort of a disappointment so far this year. We all remember his bout against his former Panthers teammates, when he posted 139 yards on just seven receptions with two touchdowns. Even though he’s only put up double digit fantasy points in four of the 10 games he’s played this season, Smith could be poised for a big outing this week against Saints defense that has allowed 24 points to opposing receivers this year.
3. Free Agent Pickup: Malcom Floyd, San Diego Chargers (vs. St. Louis Rams): Floyd has only averaged a measly 8.2 points per game this season, which isn’t something to write home about. On the other hand, the Rams have given up an average of 247 passing yards per game this year, plus 25 points to opposing receivers per game, which is the fourth most in the NFL. Although the Rams put a cork on Peyton Manning last week, I don’t think that success can continue against elite quarterbacks such as Rivers. Floyd and Allen seem to be Rivers’ most loved wideout targets, so Floyd could be a great WR2 or flex option for this week. He’s only owned on 33.3% of teams on ESPN, so chances are he’s available no matter who your fantasy team is through.
4. Beware of Starting: Julian Edelman, New England Patriots (vs. Detroit Lions): The Brady-Edelman connection was once something of legends. And after Wes Welker left, and was no longer an option, many believed Edelman was going to become the prime target for Brady’s elite passes. However, with the addition of Brandon LaFell, Edelman’s use has gone down. Since the beginning of the season, Edelman has only 30 more yards and 20 more targets than LaFell, and has three less touchdowns. Brady has been moving the ball around the field, and with a tough Lions defense that has allowed the fourth least amount of fantasy points to opposing receivers, Edelman should be in a for a pretty hard matchup.
TE Picks for Week 12:
1. Definite Start: Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots (vs. Detroit Lions):
In the battle of elite tight ends (Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski), Gronkowski seems to be pulling ahead. In the past three games, Gronk has averaged 17 fantasy points per game (although, one of those games was 32 points against the Bears). Gronk is a monster size wise, and even the best of defenses have trouble defending him. The Lions have only given up six fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season, but Gronk still manages somehow. In week one against a might Dolphins defense, Gronk still managed one touchdown on 40 yards for 10 total points. Chances are if you have him he’s already starting, but if you’re having second thoughts, don’t have second thoughts.
2. Sleeper Start: Larry Donnell, New York Giants (vs. Dallas Cowboys): Donnell has averaged a pretty acceptable 7.4 points per game this year, putting him high up there on second TE choices and flex options. In week four against Washington, he exploded for three touchdowns on 54 yards, and then posted solid numbers again in week 11 at home against the 49ers with one touchdown on 54 yards. The Cowboys have allowed the fourth most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this year (average 10 per game), so Donnell is someone you might want to give a second look.
3. Free Agent Pickup: Colby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts (vs. Jacksonville Jaguars): Last week Fleener had an incredible outing, posting 144 yards on just seven receptions for 15 fantasy points. In week three against the Jaguars, Fleener added another solid game to his repertoire with one touchdown on 49 yards and 11 fantasy points. He and Dwayne Allen have proved to be quite the tight end duo, so I would expect a pretty solid outing from him this week.
4. Beware of Starting: Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints (vs. Baltimore Ravens): Again, it pains me to say this because of how much I love Jimmy Graham. But you might want to be careful this week. The Ravens have only allowed 5 points per game to opposing tight ends this season, and Graham has been almost a boom or bust this year. Out of ten games played this year, five out of town have been for double digit numbers with Graham. Chances are he’ll put up at least 8 or 9 points this week, however you may want to be wary, has Graham has tended to be a bit temperamental this season.

Taylor LustOle Miss student Taylor Lust is a Fantasy Football guru and can be reached at tdlust@go.olemiss.edu.

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