What a wild weekend of NFL football! If you managed to survive and advance after the inordinate number of blowout losses, shutouts and underachieving big name studs then congratulations are in order.
Some studs such as Drew Brees, Andre Johnson and Adrian Peterson kept their owners alive while others picked a very inopportune time to lay an egg. Doug Martin, Jamaal Charles and Danario Alexander probably ended more than a few fantasy playoff runs this weekend.
As championship weekend awaits here are some names that stood out this weekend as possible plug-and-play options to help steal that Week 16 win. As well as a few names that may just be fantasy mirages and are best left alone.
Riley Cooper, WR, PHILADELPHIA: Cooper scored his third touchdown of the season on Thursday night and has filled in admirably for the injured DeSean Jackson. Over the past three weeks Cooper has played 95% of the Eagles offensive snaps and produced nine receptions for 88 yards and two touchdowns. Rookie quarterback Nick Foles seems to have an eye for Cooper as he has been targeted 21 times in the last three games. At 6' 3", and 222 pounds he is a nice red zone option for Philadelphia and has the Washington Redskins on tap for Week 16. Washington is among the top three defenses in allowing fantasy production to the wide receiver position and Cooper is looking at a strong fantasy finish to the 2012 season.
DuJuan Harris, RB, GREEN BAY: In the past two weeks Harris has rushed for 58 yards and scored a touchdown on very limited touches. Look for that to change moving forward because Alex Green is simply not getting the job done for the Packers. After a decent performance against the Lions in Week 14 where he amassed 66 total yards and averaged 5.3 yards per carry, Green put up only 41 total yards on 14 touches against the Bears. Look for Green Bay to turn to the former Jaguar Harris, sooner rather than later. Green will still get some action on passing downs but Harris is due for a look as the No. 1 RB for Green Bay.
Leonard Hankerson, WR, WASHINGTON: It was a very nice week for Hankerson as he turned three targets into a two catches for 56 yards and two touchdowns. For the season he now has 36 receptions for 521 yards and three touchdowns. Hankerson will be a hot name next week as a possible Week 16 starting option, but don't buy into it. Remember that it was Kirk Cousins under center for the Redskins and while he had a nice rapport with Hankerson, as soon as RG III returns, Cousins will be heading back to the bench. He may be worth holding onto in dynasty leagues as Washington has a young offense that can mature together, but right now Hankerson is too risky to plug into lineups.
Mike Tolbert, RB, CAROLINA: It took 15 weeks but Tolbert finally paid off for those stubborn owners who held on to him and started him this week. Just kidding, nobody has started Tolbert since week...well, since some week last season I suppose. That could all change moving forward as on Sunday he was able to utilize his skills as the goal line option for the Panthers and punched in two 1-yard touchdown runs. He ended the day with 64 total yards on 11 total touches and the two touchdowns. Tolbert resembles ‘Cedric the Entertainer' more than he does a NFL running back but he possesses a nose for the end zone and excellent ball catching skills. Unfortunately, the Panthers are as likely to use Cam Newton as a goal line option as they are Tolbert so the risk factor in starting the ‘human bowling ball' is just too great.
Vick Ballard, RB, INDIANAPOLIS: Ballard posted his first career 100 yard rushing performance against the Texans on Sunday and cemented his spot as a #2 RB heading into Week 16. He's amassed 199 rushing yards in the last two weeks and has a date with the hapless Kansas City Chiefs next week. He's stepped up and claimed the position of number one running back for the Colts and can be safely started moving forward this season as well as held on to in dynasty formats. Yep, the Colts have found their running back of the future and fantasy owners have found a fill-in starter for their fantasy championship.
James Jones, WR, GREEN BAY: Jones exploded for three touchdowns against the Bears on Sunday to bring his team leading total to 12 for the season. Yes, James Jones leads the Green Bay Packers in touchdown receptions in 2012 and remains the ultimate fantasy enigma. Just when it seems that it's safe to insert him into fantasy lineups on a regular basis he disappears for a week or two. The smart money says it is time to ride the hot hand and get him in your lineup for next week's matchup against the Titans. Jones put together three straight weeks of two touchdown games earlier this season and is looking to cement his role as the No. 2 wide receiver in Green bay for next year. Green Bay may allow Greg Jennings to walk in free agency, as Jones has really stepped up this season. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has shown trust in Jones this year, he does not hesitate to look his way and has targeted him 12 times in the past two weeks.
Mark Ingram, RB, NEW ORLEANS: Ingram paced the Saints rushing attack against the Buccaneers on Sunday with an impressive 14 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown. Has the first round pick out of Alabama finally arrived as the missing piece to the New Orleans running game? No. Do not be fooled by the nice stat line as nine of Ingram's carries came in the third and fourth quarter when New Orleans was already up by 24 points and his touchdown came very late in garbage time. I realize garbage time fantasy points count as well, but my point is that the Saints have not enjoyed a lot of games where they have gotten to run out the clock by pounding the ball. Ingram will remain just one facet of a three-pronged running back by committee and cannot be started with any sense of confidence against Dallas next week.
Mike Goodson, RB, OAKLAND: For one of the few times this season I believe we got a look at how the Raiders intended their backfield to function all year long. Darren McFadden was the workhorse and compiled 110 yards on 30 carries (and lost one fumble) and Goodson was the perfect change-of-pace back. Goodson amassed 89 yards on only 13 carries and got his yardage in large chunks. McFadden's longest run of the day was for 19 yards and by contrast Goodson's was a 43-yard scamper. Watching the two players closely it seems like Goodson has the better chance to take any touch to the house more so than McFadden. Look for the Raiders to find ways to keep his touches up around 12-15 a game and that puts him in flex territory for a desperate team.
Michael Floyd, WR, ARIZONA: I know, I know recommending any receiver from the Cardinals is like picking out the best violin player on the Titanic. He may have sounded good but he was going down with that poor doomed ship. Floyd led the team in receptions against the Lions with a paltry three receptions for 37 yards but he is seeing an increase in playing time and seems to be a favorite of rookie QB Ryan Lindley. He's been targeted 20 times over the past three weeks and has hauled in seven catches for 89 yards. Arizona figures to be playing catch-up a lot during the next two weeks and that could mean more opportunities for the rookie from Notre Dame. He's a dynasty stash for certain and could be used as a #3 WR in a pinch next week as the struggling Bears visit the desert.
Brandon Lloyd, WR, NEW ENGLAND: Don't look now, but Lloyd and Brady may finally be getting on the same page. Last week against the Texans Lloyd posted seven receptions for 89 yards and a touchdown on nine targets. In the shootout with the 49ers this week he finished with 10 catches for 190 yards. He was targeted 16 times as the Patriots played catch-up for most of the night and he and Brady do look more comfortable playing together. Next week the Patriots get to take out their frustration over losing to San Francisco on the Jaguars and Lloyd will have an excellent week again.
There we have it folks. Ten names that jumped out at me this week as interesting fantasy options to either be added to championship week lineups and others that can be avoided as their performances this week will not be repeated.
As always...good luck!! Go win that championship!
I have Martin,Charles, and Alexander all on my team... needless to say my 12-1 season is over