I've promoted Laurent Robinson to must-start status for this week after he went and racked up seven touchdowns in his last five games. That designation could change once Miles Austin (hamstring) returns, but there's a good chance that's not happening before the fantasy playoffs start. Anyways, I cannot continue recommending him, since he's clearly a top-20 receiver for the time being. Mr. Robinson, thanks for the great five-week run in Players To Watch.
In total, I finished Week 12 with a healthy 19-14 record, led by the aforementioned Robinson, Matt Ryan, Cedric Benson and Chris Johnson. They all stepped up with big time performances, not a one going for less than 17. On the flip side, Ben Tate, Chris Ogbonnaya and Torrey Smith all bombed with ugly games. Of my four favorites Donald Brown was the real standout, while Antonio Brown also hit the mark, Kevin Smith (ankle) left hurt and Ogbonnaya tanked due to the unexpected return of Peyton Hillis.
With Week 13 a pivotal week for many, I'm looking for the safe plays unless you're in dire need of a miracle to sneak into the playoffs. Playing it safe this time of year means taking advantage of obviously favorable matchups and starting your best talent. So it's with that in mind that I'm highlighting DeAngelo Williams (matchup), BenJarvus Green-Ellis (matchup), Dez Bryant (matchup/talent) and Philip Rivers (talent) as my four favorites.
So start anyone of them with confidence, start any of the rest of these guys and start envisioning that glorious championship run. As for the rest of you-those of you out of the picture-play for the upset, and like the Colts, hope for better Luck next year.
As a bonus recommendation I'm advocating the play of Mike Williams (TB). Riding high on two straight 80+ and a touch games, he's apparently returned from the fantasy graveyard.
Philadelphia @ Seattle
Vince Young (QB) for Eagles - In two weeks Young has racked up 658 yards and three scores passing. After Seattle just let Rex Grossman pass for more than 300 and two scores, I'm thinking Young will fare pretty well against the struggling Seahawks pass defense.
Riley Cooper (WR) for Eagles - With Young as the starter and Jeremy Maclin (hamstring/shoulder) out, Cooper has posted at least 70 receiving yards in each of his two starts and grabbed his first score of the season. He's a solid flex start as long as Philly is working without Michael Vick and Maclin.
Carolina @ Tampa Bay
DeAngelo Williams (RB) for Panthers - In their five-game losing streak, the Bucs have given up an astounding 850 rushing yards, or 170 per game on average. Williams, who's averaged 5.7 yards per carry in his last two games, should take a big advantage of the poor Tampa tackling by gashing them for big gains.
Josh Freeman (QB) for Buccaneers - Curtis Painter had not thrown a touchdown in four straight games before going for 226 yards and a score last week versus a Panther defense allowing the most yards per attempt (8.4) to opposing passers in the league. Against a Carolina squad struggling so much defensively, Freeman is in line for a big day.
Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
Jermaine Gresham (TE) for Bengals - Gresham has caught four touchdowns in his past six games and has become a favorite target of Andy Dalton's in the red zone because of his huge size (6-5, 260) and terrific hands. He had a score the last time Cinci faced Pittsburgh and could post another, especially if Troy Polamalu (head) is forced to sit.
Antonio Brown (WR) for Steelers - With at least 80 yards or a touchdown in five straight games, Brown has become one of fantasy's most reliable flex plays. Bench him if you dare.
Atlanta @ Houston
Matt Ryan (QB) for Falcons - Ryan has totaled at least 16 fantasy points in seven of his last eight games. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Owen Daniels (TE) for Texans - What's a young quarterback's best friend? That's right. The tight end checkdown. In T.J. Yates' first career start, facing one of the stingiest run defenses in the league, look for him to use Daniels often as a security blanket and a way to keep drives alive.
New York Jets @ Washington
Shonn Greene (RB) for Jets - Greene has run very well of late, averaging at least 4.0 yards a carry and topping 60 yards in each of his last four full games. Versus a Skins defense that has allowed at least 100 total yards or a score to opposing backs in EVERY game this year Greene could be gold.
Roy Helu Jr. (RB) for Redskins - In the two games in which Helu was used as the feature back he's racked up 308 total yards and a score. Now that Shanahan has finally figured out what he's got in Helu, you should start him accordingly.
Indianapolis @ New England
BenJarvus Green-Ellis (RB) for Patriots - After a five-week scoring drought The Law Firm finally served court again with a couple scores versus Philly. So a matchup against a Colts run defense that's given up a league worst (tied) 15 rushing scores makes him a no-brainer.
Deion Branch (WR) for Patriots - Branch can be hit or miss a lot of weeks, but against an absolutely horrendous Colts defense with Tom Brady pitching it around, any and every Patriot is worth starting this week.
Oakland @ Miami
Carson Palmer (QB) for Raiders - Palmer has thrown for more than 1,200 yards in only four and a half games so far with the Raiders and has room for improvement. Though Miami's D has stepped up their game a lot lately, Palmer should still post solid numbers.
Matt Moore (QB) for Dolphins - In his last four games, Moore has thrown for seven touchdowns while only tossing one pick. He's not going to pile up a ton of yards, but he gets the job done efficiently and doesn't take many points away with turnovers.
Denver @ Minnesota
Eric Decker (WR) for Broncos - Despite the awful passing attack in Denver, Decker has been tremendously consistent in recent weeks with a score in four of his last five games. And against a Vikings defense that's given up the most passing touchdowns (22) in the league, he should be able to continue his hot streak.
Percy Harvin (WR) for Vikings - Harvin has been big in back-to-back weeks now and is finally starting to get the attention he should have been getting all season in the Vikes' passing attack. With three scores in his past four games and his dual-threat skills, I'm betting on him for another strong day.
Tennessee @ Buffalo
Damian Williams (WR) for Titans - The Bills have allowed a whopping 10 touchdown passes over the past three games, including six to wide receivers. Williams meanwhile has notched a score in three of his last four outings. In this sweet matchup, he's got a great chance to make it 4-of-5.
C.J. Spiller (RB) for Bills - 100 total yards. I'm calling it. After posting 70 total yards against the Jets stingy defense, Spiller will rack up more than 100 yards versus the Titans at home.
Kansas City @ Chicago
Caleb Hanie (QB) for Bears - Hanie posted over 20 fantasy points in his first career start, on the road, against an aggressive defense. Versus the weaker KC D on his home turf, look for similar numbers minus a pick or two.
Dwayne Bowe (WR) for Chiefs - It won't matter whether it's Tyler Palko or Kyle Orton at QB for the Chiefs, Bowe will see a heavy dose of targets and produce solid totals. Even though he's dealt with issues at quarterback, Bowe has registered at least 60 yards in all but two games all season.
Baltimore @ Cleveland
Torrey Smith (WR) for Ravens - With Anquan Boldin being locked down by star corner Joe Haden the Ravens' passing game will be led by the rookie speedster for just the third time this year. Smith should see a heavy dose of targets from Flacco and needs just one big play to make for a good flex start.
Peyton Hillis (RB) for Browns - Prior to facing San Fran in the Brother Bowl, Baltimore had allowed an opposing running back to go for either 100 total yards or a score in six straight games. Even though Hillis has done next to nothing this year, I'm making the call that he re-starts that embarrassing streak for the proud Ravens defense.
Dallas @ Arizona
Dez Bryant (WR) for Cowboys - When you haven't topped 100 yards in a single game and have taken a backseat to Laurent Robinson in the red zone, you are no longer an obvious start. However, Bryant does remain an obvious talent and should be treated as such. With this promising matchup, don't get cute and bench him.
Early Doucet (WR) for Cardinals - With Kevin Kolb looking ready to return to action, Doucet should likewise return to his usual solid numbers. Prior to last weeks season low for yardage, he'd gone for at least 50 yards or a score in six straight.
Green Bay @ New York Giants
Brandon Jacobs (RB) for Giants - 17 wins is not the only streak the Pack has going. Their defense has allowed 100 total yards or a touchdown to an opposing running back in eight consecutive games. Here's betting both streaks continue.
Jake Ballard (TE) for Giants - Bad pass defense plus a team playing from behind will equal inflated numbers for the Giants pass catchers, and Ballard will register his best totals since he caught the game-winner in New England.
St. Louis @ San Francisco
Michael Crabtree (WR) for 49ers - Crabtree has caught 13 passes for 174 yards in his past two games and is beginning to show the talent that made him a top-10 pick in the 2009 draft. In a home matchup with one of the league's worst defenses, don't be shocked if Crabs puts together his first 100-yard and a score effort of the season.
Kendall Hunter (RB) for 49ers - Halftime. That's the latest this game should be decided by. And when the Niners run up a big lead, look for Frank Gore to get rest and Hunter to run out the clock against the league's worst rush defense. For Hunter, a 100-yard day is definitely not out of the question.
Detroit @ New Orleans
Nate Burleson (WR) for Lions - Burleson has racked up 20 catches in his last three games, and in a play-from-behind battle in the Bayou, he'll post a bunch more when the Lions turn to the passing game early.
Mark Ingram (RB) for Saints - The lead will grow big. The clock will need killing. Ingram will do it.
San Diego @ Jacksonville
Philip Rivers (QB) for Chargers - Taking away the Denver speed bump, Rivers has been steadily improving since his last (and highly embarrassing) Monday nighter versus the Chiefs. Despite the Jags' tough pass defense, Rivers will resume that ascension with a productive night.
Mike Tolbert (RB) for Chargers - In what Jacksonville will make a very physical game, Tolbert will supply the hammer at the goal line that San Diego needs to close out a tough drive. Or two.