Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens
Peyton Hillis –
This game will serve as nothing more than a strong reminder that Hillis is not the same player he was in 2010. He has apparently worn out his welcome in Cleveland and likely will not be getting the big pay day that most expected he’d earn. Hillis won’t find any room to roam here against the powerful Ravens’ defense. This game will fully encompass what has been nothing more than a huge disappointment for the once-dominant Browns’ running back. Expect low numbers and the continuation of value dropoff that started in Week 1 and will continue into next year’s draft.
Denver Broncos vs. Buffalo Bills
DeMaryius Thomas –
Since he recovered from a slew of early season injuries, Thomas has looked quite good. He’s replaced Eric Decker as Tim Tebow’s top receiver and in doing so has earned some starting consideration on fantasy rosters. Thomas is a huge target which is great for Tebow in the redzone. Once Tebow rolls out of the pocket and defensive coverage begins to slide to protect his running ability is when Thomas will shine. Thomas’ size and speed will fully exploit the limited coverage he’ll face once Tebow leaves the tackle box. Expect this notion to be on full display here in Week 16 as the Bills’ secondary will have trouble helping contain Tebow and Willis McGahee while providing coverage at the same time. Thomas should begin to build a strong case for himself to be labeled as a breakout potential sleeper for 2012.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Carolina Panthers
Jonathan Stewart –
Outside of Cam Newton, no one has impressed as a runner out of the Panthers’ backfield in 2011. I’ve been saying it for a few seasons now and I’ll throw it out there again: The Panthers need to move one of their two running backs. The Panthers could get huge value in exchange for one of their young, prized runners. The team is certainly moving in the right direction and will actually have a decent shot at a playoff run as early as next season.
They do need to add a few missing pieces, and to do so will need to make some decisions. They need to pick which back they want to stick with and move the other. Seeing how DeAngelo Williams just got paid a monster contract this season would lead one to believe that Stewart is the man on the move. If Williams can run past the lowly Buccaneers’ run defense it may make the decision that much easier for the Carolina front office. The more production that Williams racks up will lead to a higher likelihood of Stewart being moved.
Arizona Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Bengals
John Skelton –
The second-year quarterback has looked surprisingly good in his limited starts. With Kevin Kolb suffering through several setbacks in 2011, Skelton has been given a second chance to get used to the NFL speed. The connection of Skelton to Larry Fitzgerald has clearly been superior to Kolb and Fitzgerald. We could be in for a quarterback controversy once again in Arizona. Kolb did get a large paycheck, and the Cardinals did give up a lot to trade for him, so you’d have to assume that he’ll get the first crack at the starter role. But if Skelton continues to put up extremely noticeable numbers he could begin to put a lot of pressure on Kolb.
The more that Skelton continues to link up with Fitzgerald for big plays and should the Cardinals continue to win in 2011 the shorter Kolb’s leash will be in 2012. The Bengals’ pass defense is one of the better groups in the league, but as long as Skelton sticks with Fitzgerald they should have success. Look for a huge amount of targets to go Fitzgerald’s way, including a few deep shots. No one in the league can cover Fitzgerald, and that includes the Bengals.