Minnesota Vikings v Atlanta Falcons
Percy Harvin – Fantasyland was shaken by a 10.0 on the Richter Scale last week when Adrian Peterson was helped off the field and then carted into the locker room. The fantasy landscape shook and broke apart like the collapsing dream buildings in “Inception”. The bright side is that it doesn’t appear to be a break or significant ligament damage for Peterson. With that in mind don’t count on AP playing for the next few weeks. The Vikings aren’t doing anything relevant in the short-term and their future success starts with Peterson in the backfield. The Vikings will take the same approach with Peterson that the Texans took with Andre Johnson. They’ll wait until he’s completely healthy and then wait even longer to be absolutely sure. With Peterson out of the Vikings’ lineup Toby Gerhart will takeover as the lead back. Gerhart has shown some flashes of potential over the past few seasons but Peterson’s shoes are far too big to fill.
The Vikings will need to adjust their game plan to make sure that the offense goes through Percy Harvin. Harvin is undoubtedly the second best talent on offense and presents the best chance to score for the Peterson-less Vikings. Harvin will be utilized more on running plays, wildcat formations, short passes, screens, and deep route attempts. The Vikings will need to flood Percy with a stacked workload to move the chains and stay in the game. Quarterback Christian Ponder has looked surprisingly capable in his rookie campaign. Harvin’s numbers have remained mediocre though. This is Harvin’s best chance of 2011 to really reestablish himself as an elite game breaker in the NFL.
Look for Harvin to receive the most touches and targets that he’s received all year. The Falcons’ defense isn’t easily walked on but Harvin needs to show us something with the extra workload in order to maintain any potential.
Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals
Jerome Simpson – Simpson showed up in a big way for the Bengals in Week 11. He showcased his preseason sleeper quality skills in a big way putting up over 150 yards on an elite defense in the Baltimore Ravens. It remains to be seen if A.J. Green will be back in the lineup after missing last week’s game. That may have a short-term impact on Simpson’s value but will offer us a quick look at his long-term value too. Now that quarterback Andy Dalton has established some chemistry with Simpson, how will the two connect once Green is back in the game? It’s been crystal clear all season long that Green is the main target for Dalton.
The question becomes has Simpson earned enough trust from Dalton to become a viable number two option at the wide receiver position? If the answer is yes, then the Bengals become one of the better balanced offenses in the entire league. Defenses would be hard pressed to cover Green, Simpson, and Jermaine Gresham while respecting the running game and Cedric Benson at the same time. If Green misses another game then Simpson will be given the chance to further build upon his chemistry with Dalton in what should be an easy matchup. If Green does in fact play then we’ll get to see what Simpson’s role in the offense has become. The only real downside is that cornerback Joe Haden could screw up the measuring process a bit in Week 12. Haden provides some of the best cornerback coverage in the NFL.
Regardless of the level of competition Simpson will non-the-less have the opportunity to build his value up for the future. Simpson either takes a big step forward in Week 12 or he falls back into the abyss of the high-potential, yet unreliable wide receiver pool.
Buffalo Bills v New York Jets
Stevie Johnson – The Bills’ number one wide receiver hasn’t lived up to his 2010 season. His yardage is down and his touchdowns are in the toilet. Part of that may be due to a shoulder injury that he suffered a few weeks back. But most of it falls back onto the Bills’ offensive struggles. Stevie Johnson’s play is linked directly to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s and neither has down much in the last several weeks. This week doesn’t get any better against one of the better defenses in football that includes the best cornerback in the game. That means that both Fitzpatrick and Johnson could both struggle in a big way here in Week 12.
We’re at the point in the season though where we need our fantasy players to step it up, no matter the competition. This is a big game for the future value of both Johnson and Fitzpatrick. Can you trust them in tough matchups? Johnson will need to find a way to get open and stay productive against Revis or his value will stall out where it currently is. While it’s true that Revis has completely shutdown some of the best receivers in the league during his career the fact remains that we need to see something. If not, owners will be hard-pressed to start either when it counts, the playoffs.
Last week was terrible for Johnson who barely contributed and let a touchdown catch bounce right off his hands. If Johnson’s slide continues he could fall way down the rankings for 2012. Stevie Johnson needs to have at least a mildly productive day to stay afloat. Is the combination of Ryan Fitzpatrick and Stevie Johnson an elite one? Week 12 will provide us with that answer. The Jets can be thrown on and are currently as vulnerable as they have ever been. Expect the Bills’ defense to provide a couple of turnovers leading to a few short scoring distances for the offense. If Johnson and Fitzpatrick can’t be trusted in tough games then their value would depend solely on the Bills’ schedule moving forward, in relation to both short- and long-term.