It took A.J. Green sitting out on his bye week for Josh Gordon to break into my starting lineup this weekend. Talk about great timing.
In that PPR league, Gordon delivered a whopping 43 points and helped me overcome an inexplicable dud by Victor Cruz, who faced one of the league’s most generous secondaries and didn’t even have to compete for targets with the inactive Hakeem Nicks.
Gordon’s 14-reception, 237-yard, one-TD jackpot against the Steelers – despite a mid-game quarterback change and blustery conditions – positions him among the most valuable wideouts in the business as the fantasy postseason rapidly approaches.
Heck, the Jaguars are heading to Cleveland in Week 13!
And it’s not as if this was Gordon’s coming-out party. The Browns playmaker has posted four other games in 2013 with more than 100 yards and Sunday’s scoring reception was his fifth of the season, which, you’ll recall, began in Week 3 after his two-game suspension.
Gordon should be locked into every starting lineup for the duration.
Meanwhile, Stevan Ridley’s latest fumble (his fourth of the season) not only earned him an early shower Sunday night but could be the final straw that forces him from the Patriots’ backfield committee altogether. Shane Vereen’s stock – and to a lesser extent, Brandon Bolden’s – warrant an upgrade.
Other lessons from Week 12 action:
Mike Wallace still has something. Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew are still exasperating. Kansas City’s defense isn’t so invincible without Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Andrew Luck could use some. The Cardinals are no longer a laughingstock (even their running game).
Oh, and Andre Johnson is right. The Texans “suck.”
FREE AGENT PICKS AND PANS
To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.
Catch ‘em while you can
Benny Cunningham, RB, Rams. The undrafted rookie picked up where Zac Stacy left off after the starter was knocked out with a concussion. His 109-yard, 1-TD effort showed that Cunningham has skills. If Stacy can’t return next week, Cunningham would presumably get his shot to carry the load, albeit in a rough matchup with the 49ers.
Dennis Johnson, RB, Texans. Uh-oh, Ben Tate owners. Johnson was given the opportunity to perform against the lowly Jags, and he did just that. Though Tate is still dealing with cracked ribs, he was pulled more due to ineffectiveness than injury. This likely means Houston’s backfield will become more of a committee, with the dreaded “hot hand” getting the majority of the workload. So while Johnson is worth a pickup just in case he turns into the next Stacy, this development is probably just bad news for Tate.
Nate Burleson, WR, Lions. Back from a freak auto accident that left him with a broken arm, Burleson has settled into his familiar sidekick role opposite Calvin Johnson. There are benefits to being Matt Stafford’s No. 2 wideout. A healthy Burleson can hold great value for contending teams needing a solid third receiver down the stretch.
Julian Edelman, WR, Patriots. When the going gets tough, Tom Brady turns to Rob Gronkowski. And Edelman, apparently. His 110-yard, two-TD outing Sunday night came out of the blue, as the wideout had amassed just six receptions for 45 yards over the previous three games. So we can call it a blip on the radar, or the possible resumption of the duo’s early-season success. At this point, I’d rather take my chances with Edelman than Danny Amendola.
Don’t be fooled
Matt Flynn, QB, Packers. Is it possible that Green Bay is the only place that Flynn can prosper? Very possibly, but even though Aaron Rodgers is expected to sit out at least the Thanksgiving game and the Scott Tolzien experiment appears to be over, the well-traveled Flynn can’t be trusted. Even against the soft Lions secondary on Thursday.
Tiquan Underwood, WR, Buccaneers. As well as Mike Glennon has been playing, it’s a bit surprising it’s taken this long for Underwood to have a breakout game. But with as few targets as he is seeing, we may not see a similar performance again this season. Underwood is a fifth-year wideout that has rarely distinguished himself on the field, so don’t get your hopes up.
Ladd Biro was named Football Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association for two consecutive years (2010, 2011). Follow all his advice daily at the Fantasy Fools blog, on Facebook and via Twitter (@ladd_biro).