Week 13: Player Upgrades
Hello and welcome to player upgrades. Throughout the year we'll be focusing on which players should receive starts based on matchups, injuries, etc. plus those rising weekly and long-term rankings.
Your opponent has a clear-cut starting QB in Drew Brees, but maybe you're saddled with Andy Dalton and Big Ben? You locked up AP with the number one pick, but forgot to take another back until round seven? Player upgrades will help you decide whom to start each week and forecast the closing stretch ahead.
Yes, Dalton has failed to live up to expectations this season given the weapons around him, but he's due in a big way against the 27th ranked Chargers pass defense. Coming off a bye, Dalton has the 11th most favorable schedule remaining and needs to put together some convincing starts as Cincinnati approaches the postseason. Though it's been an uneven year for Dalton, play him this week, reap the benefits and hope it carries over to the rest of December.
Manning has been far from impressive this year, but this week he gets the honor of playing the Redskins secondary, which anyone – even Colin Kaepernick and Christian Ponder – can play like an All-Pro against. In fact, Manning gets them twice in the month of December along with the Chargers and has the sixth-easiest schedule remaining per our own strength of schedule rankings.
With Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount fumbling last week, Vereen is likely to see more touches out of the backfield. He had 10 attempts against Denver, up from the single carry he had in Carolina. However, even if Vereen doesn't get 15-20 carries due to the crowded stable of backs in New England, he has been a reliable receiver since his return. Vereen has been the most targeted running back over the past two weeks (22 targets) and Tom Brady has looked to him early and often, lining him up in a variety of formations. Vereen has 16 catches for 125 yards in two games and regardless of his rushing performance, he's a viable option as a RB2 thanks to his receiving exploits.
Jennings has 553 total offensive yards since taking over for the oft-injured Darren McFadden on Nov. 3. Twice thus far in November he has rushed for 100+ yards and scored touchdowns in both efforts. He's chipped in through the air as well, making him a dual-threat running back who is gaining the Raiders' trust game-by-game. McFadden is expected back as soon as this week, but it appears from reports that the Raiders will keep Jennings in a prominent role going forward. Considering no back has gained as many yards as Jennings this month, fantasy owners should ride him for the foreseeable future.
Burleson returned from injury this week and picked up right where he left off with Matthew Stafford, catching seven passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. In each of his four games this season, Burleson has had no less than six receptions in each. He was targeted 10 times in Week 12 and looked like a legitimate number two option across from Calvin Johnson. With the Lions firmly entrenched as one of the NFL's top passing offenses, expect Burleson to continue receiving looks for as long as he remains healthy.