RotoWire Partners

Depth Chart Watch: The Fallout From Week 12

Howard Bender

Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a variety of web sites. For more from him, you can find his personal musings on his blog or follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy. For questions, thoughts or comments you can email him at

Usual Depth Chart Watch author Kenn Ruby was considered questionable with a Thanksgiving belly heading into Sunday's action and was declared inactive after slipping into a pumpkin pie-induced coma prior to gametime. His return to the column for next week is probable. Howard Bender gets the nod in his place this week.


Jay Cutler returned Sunday after a one-game absence to complete 23-of-31 passes for 188 yards, one touchdown and one interception, proving that even a mildly concussed Cutler is still better than a healthy Jason Campbell. And that ain't sayin' much!


Matt Forte left Sunday's game in the third quarter with an ankle injury and did not return to the game, finishing with 14 carries for 42 yards. But even before he left the game, Michael Bush was stealing the show as he ran in two touchdowns from the one-yard line in the first half and had almost as many touches before Forte left the game for good. Bush finished the day with 21 carries for 60 yards and the two scores and figures to be the primary ballcarrier in Week 13 if Forte is still sidelined.


Andrew Hawkins was inactive for Sunday's game due to a lingering knee injury, and Armin Binns continues to disappoint this season. That has, in turn, opened the door for rookie Mohamed Sanu who caught five passes for 29 yards and two touchdowns, giving him three touchdowns over his last two games. Sanu has clearly become the Bengals' No. 2 wideout and should have decent fantasy value, especially if he continues to see so much red-zone work.


This was the biggest kick to the fantasy groin for so many owners as it was announced at the last minute Sunday that Knowshon Moreno would start over Ronnie Hillman. When Willis McGahee went down last week, and Hillman did such a strong job as his replacement, the assumption was Hillman would be the primary back with Lance Ball getting third-down work and some occasional touches going to Moreno. Perhaps the hamstring issue that plagued Hillman early in the week factored into this week's decision, but it was Moreno who logged 20 carries for 85 yards while Hillman ran it just three times for nine yards. Ball never even registered a carry. There's no reason to expect a change, so it looks like Moreno is now the guy to own.


Despite rushing for 178 yards and two touchdowns over his last two games, LaRod Stephens-Howling was already set to take a backseat to the returning Beanie Wells. But a rib injury sustained last week left him as questionable for this week and he didn't see even the third-down work that most expected. He ran the ball just once for one yard and caught zero passes. Meanwhile, Wells ran the ball 17 times for 49 yards and two touchdowns and figures to be the primary back. Stephens-Howling could see some work as a third-down back, but he won't have much in the way of fantasy value.


Coby Fleener missed his fourth straight game Sunday with a shoulder injury, and Dwayne Allen continues to play well in his absence. Allen had three catches for 36 yards, giving him 17 catches for 211 yards over the last four games, which is almost as much as Fleener had through the first seven games of the season. Although nothing has been mentioned as far as anyone's job being supplanted, it would seem that Allen likely will remain the No. 1 tight end even when Fleener returns.


It appeared as if the knee injury to Donald Brown would complete the transition to Vick Ballard, but Brown has worked his way back the last three weeks and earned 10 carries to Ballard's 13 Sunday. Neither was very effective, combining for just 67 yards, however. Ballard should see more touches overall as he is the better receiver of the two, but with a relatively even split of carries out of the backfield, both lose a certain amount of fantasy value.


Donnie Avery made it back this week from his concussion, but that didn't detract from the value of T.Y. Hilton as he got the red-zone target in the third quarter. Hilton's recent play has earned him more snaps and more targets, which should continue. He gets added value for his punt return work, so those that grabbed him off the waiver wire may have just gotten themselves a nice late-season game-changer. Avery should continue to see a fair share of targets and will retain most of his value in PPR leagues, but a reduction in both yardage and red-zone looks will limit his value in standard play.


Felix Jones was questionable throughout the early part of the week, which put fantasy owners onto Lance Dunbar for emergency purposes. However, Jones did, in fact, play and rushed a team-high six times for 14 yards while Dunbar carried the ball just once. Jones also caught three passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. DeMarco Murray is expected back for Week 13, which would move Jones back into a reserve role with Dunbar likely to ride the pine.


Although the last few weeks saw more of an even split of carries between Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas, the gameplan deviated a little more Sunday as Bush saw 14 carries to Thomas' nine. Both found the endzone, which keeps each a viable flex play, but unless Bush continues to receive the bulk of the carries, that's all either will be.


After playing games with the media and the Saints defensive coaches, Jim Harbaugh finally named Colin Kaepernick his starting quarterback early Sunday morning. The move was expected as sources leaked the official change mid-week, but Harbaugh attempted to keep everyone guessing. Kaepernick played well, completing 16-of-25 passes for 231 yards, one touchdown and one interception and rushing six times for 27 yards and a touchdown, while Alex Smith was left on the sidelines as the team's No. 2. Harbaugh said the change wasn't health related (Smith had suffered a concussion two weeks ago), which should mean that, as long as the team is winning and Kaepernick is playing well enough to help make that happen, he should remain the team's starter.


Well, back-up RB that is. Frank Gore remains the primary back in San Franccisco, but an ankle injury for Kendall Hunter on Sunday could open the door for some of the other backs on the team. Brandon Jacobs saw his first action of the season this week while Anthony Dixon also saw some work late. Rookie LaMichael James also is waiting in the wings. More will be known with Hunter's practice schedule this week, but depending on how severe the injury is, Gore owners might need to invest in a different handcuff.


With Rashad Jennings being fairly close to ineffective during the absence of Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jaguars turned to Jalen Parmele as their new starting running back. He became one of the hottest waiver pick-ups for the week and was primed for a very favorable match-up with the Titans. But Parmele suffered a leg injury early in the first quarter after just one carry and Jennings was called upon again. Jennings rushed 16 times for 43 yards and a touchdown while Parmele, who came back in the second half, finished with just eight carries for 45 yards. Given the difference in yards per carry, the natural assumption would be that, if healthy, Parmele would get another shot at starting, but we'll have to wait for more news during the week.


After a strong performance in Week 11, Bilal Powell was expected to see an increase in work and push the Jets running back situation into a committee approach rather than Shonn Greene getting all of the work on his own. on Thanksgiving, Greene tallied 14 carries to Powell's 12, but it was Powell given the touchdown carry once the Jets were inside the five during the third quarter. Expect more of the same.


With Titus Young suspended due to behavior deemed detrimental to the team, the Lions utilized recently acquired veteran receiver Mike Thomas who hauled in two catches for 17 yards and a touchdown. But the real beneficiary of Young's absence was rookie receiver Ryan Broyles who saw 12 targets and made six catches for a career-high 126 yards. The team hinted that Young's suspension could go beyond just the one game.


The Packers haven't been happy with their running game since Cedric Benson went down (well, truthfully since Ahman Green, but that's not important right now) and have gone toward more of a committee approach with Alex Green and James Starks. Green was the first choice, but after coming up fairly empty, they switched to Starks and then back to Green again as the starter Sunday. Green logged 10 carries for 30 yards while Starks ran eight times for 35, and it looks like this is the way they'll go as Benson might not even make it back. Look for John Kuhn to also start getting more work as well.


The situation remains tenuous for fantasy owners as Mark Ingram and Chris Ivory split the majority of carries this week with Ingram getting two more but rushing for seven fewer yards. Neither has proven to be more valuable than the other just yet, so continue to expect this type of timeshare. Meanwhile, Darren Sproles returned to the backfield, and although he did not see a single carry, he had seven catches for 65 yards and continues his role as the most prolific of the Saints backfield. He's a stronger play in PPR formats, but he's also your best option if you have to choose one of the three for a flex play.


Probably the most disgusting position battle for fantasy owners as there is just no clear-cut No. 1 back here. Of course there isn't, as each running back who touched the ball Sunday lost a fumble to the Browns. Jonathan Dwyer saw the most carries with nine, but Chris Rainey who saw the goal-line work that led to the team's only offensive score. Isaac Redman and Rashard Mendenhall had two and four carries, respectively, and were non-factors. It seems that Dwyer is the guy to own, but the Steelers offense is in such shambles, that relying on him or any running back here is fantasy suicide.


With Antonio Brown missing another game with an ankle injury, Emmanuel Sanders saw the most work in his absence. Mike Wallace obviously lined up on the other side of the field, but Sanders saw the most looks. Regardless, Charlie Batch was under center, and that immediately kills the fantasy value of any Steelers receiver.


As expected, Percy Harvin missed another game with a knee injury, which gave the start, again, to Michael Jenkins. However, just like Week 10, Jarius Wright saw the majority of targets and not Jenkins with Wright coming away with a team-high seven catches for 49 yards. Harvin is expected to return for Week 13, but it could be Wright who gets more snaps in three-wide receiver sets and not Jenkins.

Howard Bender has covered fantasy sports for more than 10 years on a variety of web sites. Follow @rotobuzzguy on Twitter or email questions to