NFL Gameday preview: Broncos at Patriots, Colts at Cardinals highlight Week 12


Peyton Manning and the Broncos, 9-1. Tom Brady and the Patriots, 7-3. Gillette Stadium, Sunday night. Where else would you rather be? (Joe Mahoney/Associated Press)
November 22, 2013
TV Games
Broncos (9-1) at Patriots (7-3)

Time (TV): 8:30 p.m. (NBC).

Line: Denver by 2.

Notable: Another week, another Game of the Week involving Denver. However, you can’t say we’re beating a dead horse here, not when that horse (a Bronco, to be unnecessarily precise) is very much alive and well and trampling the league. Yes, Peyton Manning has pretty much had his way so far, but this time he meets his match. Actually, more than his match, if Tom Brady’s 9-4 head-to-head record with Manning is any indication, not to mention his 3-1 edge in Super Bowl wins. In fairness, Brady also has twice as many Super Bowl losses — advantage, Peyton! The numbers may not be on Manning’s side when it comes to his receiving corps, either. Wes Welker spent the week coping with the after-effects of a concussion, although one has to imagine he’ll do everything in his power to take the field against the team that told him, “Go West, Wes” in the offseason. Plus, tight end Julius Thomas is dealing with a knee sprain.

Fantasy scout: In most standard leagues, the trade deadline has come and gone, so owners who want to tinker with their rosters have only the waiver wire in which to turn. Even there, the pickings are likely to be slim, so I’m going to have to expand the definition of “widely available.” For instance, New England’s Aaron Dobson is currently available in about 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues, which is widely enough for this exercise. Dobson is the guy the Patriots send deep most often, meaning that he has a good chance at a long touchdown every week, making him a solid pinch-hitter at WR.

Jets (5-5) at Ravens (4-6)

Time (TV): 1 p.m. (CBS).

Line: Baltimore by 3.

Notable: Ed Reed returns to Baltimore, which would be a pretty cool story line, except that Reed had already returned there in Week 3 as a member of the Texans. Reed was in Houston long enough to see Matt Schaub get benched after too many turnovers, and he may see history repeat itself with the Jets. Geno Smith leads the NFL in turnovers, and the Jets’ brass seems to be running out of patience. Could Smith’s backup, Matt Simms, be New York’s answer to Case Keenum?

Fantasy scout: If you’re willing and able to stash a tight end on your bench for at least a couple of weeks, Dennis Pitta is your guy. The Raven injured his hip back in July and he only returned to practice this week. Pitta won’t make an immediate impact, but he was ticketed for big things before getting hurt and could eventually return dividends.

Vikings (2-8) at Packers (5-5)

Time (TV): 1 p.m. (Fox).

Line: Green Bay by 4.

Notable: Green Bay has lost three straight and fallen behind both Detroit and Chicago in the NFC North, so with or without Aaron Rodgers, dropping one at home to Minnesota would be an awful loss. Losing to a Vikings team without a healthy Adrian Peterson would be even more inexcusable, but it remains to be seen how much the star running back’s groin injury bothers him. It also remains to be seen if Christian Ponder gets to both start and finish the game for the Vikes.

Fantasy scout: Peterson’s groin ailment, regardless of the severity, serves as a reminder for fantasy owners to grab their top running backs’ handcuffs, at least in cases where the identity of that handcuff is clear. In this case, there’s little doubt that Toby Gerhart would get the lion’s share of the carries if Peterson were to go down.

Cowboys (5-5) at Giants (4-6)

Time (TV): 4:25 p.m. (Fox).

Line: New York by 2.

Notable: New York has to be feeling pretty good about itself. A four-game winning streak has it not only back on its feet, but squarely in the NFC East race. Now the Giants get a chance to draw even with Dallas and move to just a game behind first-place Philadelphia. All that stands in the way of this delightful development is a depleted Cowboys defense that, when last seen, gave up a franchise-record 625 yards and a completely ludicrous 40 first downs in New Orleans.

Fantasy scout: Miles Austin puts the M.A. in, “He has an M.A. in Getting Hurt,” but the WR, who hasn’t played in two months because of a hamstring injury, now claims to be at 100 percent. With Terrance Williams recently remembering he’s a rookie, Austin may even get his job back, which would have him right back at the WR3 echelon.

Other games
Buccaneers (2-8) at Lions (6-4)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Detroit by 9.

Notable: Tampa Bay Coach Greg Schiano was on the hottest of seats during his team’s 0-8 start, so he probably appreciates a stretch where the opposing coach is taking most of the heat. The Bucs have won two straight, against Miami’s Joe Philbin (Incognito-gate) and Atlanta’s Mike Smith (presumed contender falling apart). Now Schiano faces Jim Schwartz, who is still hearing about his disastrous fourth-quarter decision to try a fake punt.

Fantasy scout: I’d say that Nate Burleson is a no-brainer pickup, except that he’s only been picked up 15 percent of Yahoo! leagues. The Lions WR began the season averaging 6.3 catches for 80 yards, before breaking his arm while simultaneously driving and lunging for a pizza box that was sliding off his passenger seat. I’d call that a no-brainer pickup.

Steelers (4-6) at Browns (4-6)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Cleveland by 1.

Notable: The sixth and final AFC playoff spot appears to be fairly low-hanging fruit, what with the leaders in the race for it (the Dolphins and Jets) sitting at 5-5, so this matchup of 4-6 teams has more juice — fruit juice? — than you might expect. If you asked Ben Roethlisberger, “Orange you glad you’re playing Cleveland?,” he’d certainly answer in the affirmative. The QB is 15-1 against the Browns.

Fantasy scout: Cleveland appeared to emerge from its Week 10 bye having decided to give Chris Ogbonnaya a bigger share of the backfield pie. (Mmmm . . . backfield pie . . . ) He responded with 14 touches for 99 yards and would make a good fill-in RB, especially in PPR leagues. Just don’t expect a bunch of touchdowns.

Jaguars (1-9) at Texans (2-8)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Houston by 10.

Notable: One of these teams has to win, meaning that one of these teams will damage its chances at the No. 1 overall pick in the quarterback-rich 2014 draft. Of course, there are some Houston fans who think that their team already has its QB of the future in Case Keenum. Certainly, almost all Houston fans think Keenum is the QB of the present, and apparently Coach Gary Kubiak has found the good sense to agree.

Fantasy scout: The excitement about Dennis Johnson has worn off a bit now that it looks like Ben Tate, even with banged-up ribs, can and will carry the load for Houston. But Tate owners with an available bench spot would be wise to grab Johnson, considering their guy’s injury history and the very good track record of Texans RBs.

Bears (6-4) at Rams (4-6)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: St. Louis by 1.

Notable: If you think it must be tough for Archie Manning when Peyton and Eli play against each other, your heart should really go out to Howie Long today. He’ll have a pair of sons actually blasting each other in St. Louis. Chris is a Rams defensive end and Kyle plays guard for Chicago, so they won’t often be lined up directly, but they will have occasion to do some hitting. At least their helmets will limit the noogies.

Fantasy scout: It’s rarely a good idea to carry three QBs on your roster, but the Bears situation could make for an exception to that rule. It is unclear when Jay Cutler will return from his ankle injury, and in the meantime, Josh McCown has played well. The team has tasty matchups ahead against the Vikings, Cowboys and Eagles.

Panthers (7-3) at Dolphins (5-5)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Carolina by 4.

Notable: The week in NFL chatter was dominated by talk about the flag that got picked up at the end of the Patriots-Panthers game. That must have been sweet music to the ears of the Dolphins, who know well what it feels like to be mired in controversy. Stopping red-hot Carolina, winner of six straight, figures to be a tall order, but Miami has quietly managed to right its own on-field ship, winnning two of its past three games.

Fantasy scout: The Panthers have been a good fantasy defense, and they face suspect offenses in Week 13 (Buccaneers) and Week 15 (Jets). But in Weeks 14 and 16, a.k.a. the fantasy playoffs, they get the Saints’ point-scoring juggernaut. One possible move is to pick up those Jets, who play the Raiders and Browns at home in those weeks.

Chargers (4-6) at Chiefs (9-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line: Kansas City by 5.

Notable: For Kansas City, this game comes sandwiched between a pair of showdowns with Denver, so it’s a good thing San Diego doesn’t represent a very meaty opponent. But while the Chargers arrive at Arrowhead having lost three straight, they are a divisional rival, so that should get Kansas City’s attention. Well, that and the fact that if the Chiefs aren’t careful, they could be staring at their own three-game skid.

Fantasy scout: Pop quiz: The Chargers have an intriguing tight end with a last name that has five letters, starting with ‘G.’ Is it:

a) Antonio Gates

b) Ladarius Green

c) all of the above
Answer: Ladarius Green. Gates is currently the better TE, to be sure, but after 11 seasons, he’s not intriguing. The young, athletic Green is.

Titans (4-6) at Raiders (4-6)

Time: 4:05 p.m.

Line: Titans by 1.

Notable: As with Steelers-Browns, Tennessee-Oakland has legitimate playoff implications, which is nearly as surprising a thing to say as, “Whoa, Matt McGloin is playing some really good quarterback!” McGloin will get another start, one in which he faces the NFL’s No. 7 pass defense. But he just looked shockingly competent against the top unit in that category (Houston), so I guess the sky’s the limit.

Fantasy scout: Delanie Walker might be best known as the guy without a helmet who got head-butted by the Colt who was wearing a helmet. But on his way to causing opposing linebackers to lose their helmeted heads, he has climbed to 12th in PPR scoring among TEs, with a much lower ownership percentage than everyone above him.

Colts (7-3) at Cardinals (6-4)

Time: 4:05 p.m.

Line: Arizona by 2.

Notable: Trivia time: Bruce Arians is the first reigning NFL Coach of the Year to face the team with which he earned that honor as the head coach of a different team. Of course, Arians did his fine work last season under unusual circumstances — Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was undergoing leukemia treatments, so Arians, then an assistant, stepped up in the interim. Look for a nice mid-field moment between those two.

Fantasy scout: When Reggie Wayne was lost for the season, many felt that Darrius Heyward-Bey, stone hands and all, couldn’t help but benefit statistically. But he has just five receptions in his past three games. Time to act like Heyward-Bey is a ball he himself is trying to catch, and drop him. (That made sense, right?)

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