John T. Georgopoulos
The Lowdown - Week 12

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Welcome to The Lowdown for Week 12. This is my little corner of the fantasy football universe— feel free to pull up a chair and stay a while!

Unreserved Apologies

I wanted to start off this week’s column by apologizing for my absence last week. Sometimes life conspires to throw a few surprises at us, and last week I found myself chasing down obligations beyond those here at Fantasy Sharks.

Rest assured, it upset me that I was unable to throw together this hodgepodge of a column and deprive all of you of my “wisdom.” If it’s any consolation, the players I had researched and was planning to recommend to you were Ben Roethlisberger, Harry Douglas, Donald Brown, Rashad Jennings and Michael Floyd. No, really.

You can take my word for it, because I’m an expert, and experts never lie about their own predictions.

Business Decisions

There were two widely discussed referee calls in Week 11, both in nationally televised games. The first occurred in the 49ers-Saints game, when a late turnover by Drew Brees was negated by a personal foul on Ahmad Brooks. The penalty allowed the Saints to keep the ball, and they eventually went on to win the game 23-20. The second controversial call occurred Monday Night when a pass interference flag in the end zone on the final play of the game was picked up, allowing the Panthers to hold off the Patriots 24-20.

Here’s my take: the Brees call was the correct call. I understand the argument that Brooks initially hit him high in the chest, but the bottom line is that Brooks essentially ended up clotheslining Brees, which clearly caused the fumble. I’m usually on the side of defenders (given the speed of the game and the ever-changing rules on what constitutes a “good” hit) in these cases, but I think the zebras got this one 100% right.

On the other hand, I think the Patriots were robbed. First of all, the easy call would’ve been defensive holding, since Luke Kuechly was clearly bear-hugging Rob Gronkowski in the end zone prior to the pass getting there. There shouldn’t even be any question about whether the pass was “catchable.” Look, I’m the furthest thing from a Patriots’ fan but I think the refs just wanted to get out of Carolina in one piece.

Eastbound and Down (but Stayed Too Long)

If you’re like me, you probably think that HBO’s Eastbound and Down is one of the best comedies of the past 25 years—a well-written and well-acted show that revolved around the efforts of a crude ex-MLB reliever (perhaps patterned on John Rocker) trying to make it back to the big leagues.

Unfortunately, the show hung around a bit too long, much like the majority of American TV fare, John McCain and Hulk Hogan. After season one, I thought the show was genius; after season two, it was still good but it should have ended there… anything after that kinda blended together, salvaged only by Danny McBride’s portrayal of the boorish Kenny Powers and Steven Little’s turn as Stevie Janowski.

So as satisfied as I was with the NFL action this past Sunday, my day ended on a huge downer as I watched the series finale of Eastbound… and was once again reminded of the old saying “It’s better to retire a year too soon than a year too late.” Are you listening, Ed Reed and Antonio Gates?

Interesting Players for Week 12

Not necessarily the players in line for the biggest games this week, but rather some players that caught my interest and upon whom I shall cast my gaze…

Bobby Rainey, RB – Tampa Bay (at Detroit): The running back situation in Tampa has completely deteriorated, first with Doug Martin getting shelved and then Mike James. I don’t know how good Rainey really is, but you simply can’t ignore a 163 yard, 2 TD performance— even if it was against the Falcons. At this point in the season, having a starting RB like Rainey on your roster is a gamble worth taking, so pick him up if he’s available in your league.

Nate Burleson, WR - Detroit (vs. Tampa Bay): This pick is one based on a strict risk/reward analysis. Burleson is listed as questionable for this week’s game against the Bucs, but that’s not why I’ve picked him up in a few leagues; it’s because he’s clearly the WR2 on a pass-happy team the instant he’s healthy enough to take the field. He has the potential to be putting up decent fantasy totals in a week or two—just in time for your playoff run. While he’s likely not a starter at WR for you if you’ve made it to your post-season, he’s certainly a strong flex option for most owners. Grab him now if you have the chance and wait until next week to consider giving him a shot.

Robert Housler, TE - Arizona (vs. Indianapolis): Housler is by no means a household name, but he’s someone I’ve been keeping an eye on for a couple of weeks now. Housler has put up 10/127/1 the past two weeks combined, and Carson Palmer targeted the TE five times in Week 10 and nine times in Week 11. With Palmer hitting a bit of a hot streak, I’ve picked up Housler as my TE2 in several of my leagues, dropping guys like Jermaine Gresham and Brandon Myers along the way.

Chris Ogbonnaya, RB - Cleveland (vs. Steelers): Ogbonnaya isn’t any sort of world-beater, but he seems to be one of those FB-types that’s getting an opportunity to be fantasy-relevant thanks to lack of options in their team’s backfield. Ogbonnaya rushed for 69 yards on eight carries last week, and reports out of Cleveland suggest that he might be getting more touches the rest of the way as Browns’ coaches have figured out that Willis McGahee stinks. But Ogbonnaya’s value is in PPR leagues, especially if he continues to build on his 11/69/0 receiving totals from the past two weeks. Hey, that’s nine fantasy ppg—not too shabby for a RB reserve.

Delanie Walker, TE - Tennessee (at Oakland): Walker is a player who clearly benefits from Jake Locker’s injury—whereas Locker had a tough time finding Walker on the field, backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick simply loves Walker. In the two weeks that Fitzpatrick has started, Walker has been targeted a total of 18 times, putting together a stat line of 14/153/2. That’s TE1-level production, and I see no reason for that to taper off as the season winds down. I’d also be looking to drop WR Nate Washington and pick up WR Kendall Wright if you have the opportunity.

Percy Harvin, WR – Seattle (bye): In the event someone in your league is being cute by dropping Harvin during his bye or if Harvin is somehow otherwise available, go ahead and pick him up ASAP. He may only have hauled in two passes last week, but it’s clear that when he’s 100% it’ll be nothing but Marshawn Lynch and Harvin all game long… a great addition to your playoff roster.

Don’t forget to bench any players from Buffalo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and Seattle, who are on a bye this week.

John T. Georgopoulos is an 18-year veteran of fantasy sports journalism. John’s Fantasy Forecast series has won the prestigious Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) award for Best Series, and he’s been nominated as an FSWA Award finalist on eight occasions. You can also listen to his weekly non-sports opinions here or follow him on Twitter @ThatRiotShow .