Laura Diakun

laura diakun

Recent Posts

Having just played (and won) their first playoff game in franchise history, the Texans are in uncharted territory. Next up is a tough test against a Ravens team that has been there and done that many times before. But unlike previous seasons, Baltimore begins its Super Bowl quest from home — a place where it went a perfect 8-0 in the regular season. The Texans will have to rely on the running game if they want to overcome that stout Ravens defense.

1. Run!

Nothing demoralizes a defense more than an effective running game, and the Texans definitely have one. The one-two punch of Arian Foster and Ben Tate combined for 2,166 rushing yards during the regular season, averaging 153 per game (second in the NFL). Foster is an explosive player, and we saw just how good he can be in Houston’s wild-card win over Cincinnati (153 yards and two touchdowns, including one that came on a 42-yard run).

Not only will a strong rushing attack help break down the Ravens defense, but it will also take pressure off rookie quarterback T.J. Yates, who did just enough to win last week. However, yards will be hard to come by against Baltimore’s front seven — a unit that was tops in the AFC with only 92.6 rushing yards allowed per game. The last time these teams met in Week 6, Foster finished with just 49 yards.

If the Texans can’t run the ball, Yates will be in for a tough day (the Ravens have forced 21 turnovers in their last seven postseason games). The important thing for Houston is to stick with the run, even if the early returns aren’t great.  Foster has the talent to wear down defenders and if he can break through, the Texans will gain a major advantage.

2. Take away a dimension

While Houston has a very capable running back, Baltimore isn’t lacking in that department either. Ray Rice was second in the league in rushing yards and finished first in total yards — but as he goes, so do the Ravens. In Baltimore’s four losses this season, Rice averaged just nine carries for 38.8 yards, and during wins he had over 21 carries for 100.8 yards. In all of those losing situations, the Ravens found themselves trailing by nine points or more and had to abandon the run in order to play catchup.

That’s significant for the Texans. The last thing Baltimore wants is the disappearance of the running game, because Joe Flacco has been up and down this season. Running the ball against a Wade Phillips’ D is no easy task either. In his last eight playoff games as head coach or defensive coordinator, Phillips-led teams have held the opposition to just 81 rushing yards per game (the Bengals had only 76 last week).

If the Texans can put points on the board early in the ballgame (they were 10th overall with 23.8 points per game in the regular season) they can force the Ravens to rely on their inconsistent passing game.

3. Don’t give an inch

What Wade Phillips has been able to do with the Texans defense is nothing short of remarkable.  The unit had long been the laughingstock of the NFL, but that’s no longer the case. Houston finished the year ranked second overall in total defense (third against the run, fourth against the pass) and allowed just 17.4 points per game.

But the Texans went through a slump during the final three games of the regular season, and the defensive numbers weren’t pretty: 70 points allowed, 997 total yards, and only two turnovers over that span. However, in their opening round playoff matchup against Cincinnati, Houston’s D reverted back to midseason form. The Texans had three interceptions (and four turnovers total), a season-high four sacks, a defensive touchdown (thanks to J.J. Watt) and allowed just 10 points, including none in the second half.

You know the Ravens D will be ready to play (in Week 6 Baltimore held Houston scoreless in the final 21 minutes), so the Texans need their defense to play more like it did Saturday and less like it did at the end of the regular season. If that happens, Gary Kubiak and company could be celebrating the franchise’s second playoff win.

The Broncos pulled off the wild-card weekend shocker and will now meet the Patriots Saturday in a rematch of their Week 15 showdown. New England is the heavy favorite (just like Pittsburgh was) but if Denver can stay aggressive on defense and get a little bit more of that Tebow magic, the AFC West champs could prove the doubters wrong once again.

1. Be angry

The Denver defense showed its physical side against Pittsburgh, using man-to-man coverage to keep the receiving corps on its toes. The D sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times but, more importantly, didn’t buckle when the Steelers mounted a comeback (Big Ben was sacked three times on the final drive, denying Pittsburgh a chance at a game-winning field goal). If the Broncos have any chance of keeping up with Tom Brady (second in the NFL with 5,235 passing yards) they must stay aggressive on defense.

The Patriots are near the top of the league in terms of points scored, total yards and passing yards per game and they have the weapons to do some serious damage (Rob Gronkoswki and Wes Welker to name two). But back in Week 3, the Bills showed the football world that Brady isn’t invincible. Buffalo took advantage of Brady’s penchant to throw over the middle of the field — the D got hands up in the passing lanes and thanks to some timely tips and deflections, were able to intercept Brady four times.

The Broncos have to make Brady uncomfortable and force him to make mistakes.

2. Trust tebow

Just a few weeks ago, this statement would have been laughable. In the final three games of the regular season, Tim Tebow threw one touchdown, four interceptions and didn’t surpass the 200-yard plateau in any of those starts. In fact the Broncos offense scored just two touchdowns total in its last two games. Some said the magic was gone, but now we know better.

Putting up a season-high 316 passing yards against the league’s top-rated pass defense last week doesn’t necessarily mean Tebow has all of a sudden turned into the second coming of Joe Montana. It means he has the ability to slice and dice an opposing secondary if the matchups are there, and they are there this week against the Patriots. New England’s Achilles heel this entire season has been its pass defense — the unit was second-last in passing yards (293.9) and total yards allowed per game (411.1).

Tebow has a chance to put up some nice numbers again this weekend, even if former head coach Josh McDaniels is lurking on the enemy sideline. When these teams met in Week 15, Tebow had 194 passing yards but scored two touchdowns on the ground. An effective running game will help the Broncos and their top-ranked rushing offense even more as they try to keep pace with the high-flying Patriots.

3. Find paydirt

We know the Patriots are going to put up a lot of points Saturday (they always do), so that makes scoring touchdowns even the more important for the Broncos. Here’s the funny thing about the New England defense: even though it gave up all those yards, the team allowed an average of just 21.4 points per game (15th in the NFL). It’s the bend but don’t break mentality.

The defense avoids giving up the home run play while the offense scores in bunches to offset any defensive breakdowns. Amazingly, the Pats had one of the best red-zone defenses in football, and they also had six red-zone takeaways, which was tops in the AFC.

Matt Prater is a very good kicker (he went 19-for-25 this season for the Broncos, including 3-for-4 on field goals of 50 yards or more) but the less Denver uses him on Saturday the better. If the Broncos are able to break through in the red zone against the Patriots, this could turn into a much more competitive game than people think.

Fantasy Ins and Outs: Week 16

Congratulations if you’re playing in your fantasy league’s championship this week.  Here are some start and sit suggestions to help you out. Good luck, we’re all counting on you.

Quarterbacks

IN: Matt Ryan, Falcons
Matty Ice is back to putting up big numbers and at just the right time. Fantasy owners may have been a little miffed when Ryan got the hook after just three quarters last week, but by then he’d already thrown 224 yards and three touchdowns and the Falcons were in control. But that won’t be the case this week against the Saints. This NFC South tilt has shootout written all over it and Ryan will be able to do some serious damage against a New Orleans pass D that ranks near the bottom of the league.

OUT: Eli Manning, Giants
To say Manning had a disappointing game last week would be an understatement. In most standard leagues, Eli finished with less than five points and he’s got another tough assignment in Week 16. Yes, the Jets just got beat up by the Eagles last week, but the team has still allowed only 13 passing touchdowns this season and the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and company will be out to prove something on Saturday.

Running backs 

IN: DeAngelo Williams, Panthers
After a slow start (a very slow start) to the season, Williams is rewarding fantasy owners for their patience. He’s put up double-digit points in four of the last five games and has found the end zone four times in as many contests. And Williams has a juicy game coming up against the Bucs, a team that is giving up the most fantasy points to backs this season. Don’t let the fact that Williams splits carries with Jonathan Stewart scare you off –- there should be plenty of rushing opportunities to go around.

OUT: Beanie Wells, Cardinals
Wells hasn’t looked like the same rusher we saw at the beginning of the season — he’s been slowed by knee troubles and is always just a hit away from leaving the game. In his last three matches, Wells has just 145 yards rushing combined and is averaging less than three yards per carry. The only saving grace for Wells is the fact he has scored three times in the last four games. But the Bengals are a good run stopping team, allowing less than 100 yards per game, so look for Wells to struggle again.

Wide Receivers

IN: Demaryius Thomas, Broncos
Thomas has become Tim Tebow’s go-to guy over the last few weeks (338 yards and three touchdowns in the last three games). Even though he didn’t find the end zone last week, the wideout still finished with seven catches (great for PPR leagues) and 116 yards. Thomas is a big red-zone target and he will be able to take advantage against a Bills squad that has been struggling on both sides of the ball.

OUT: Laurent Robinson, Cowboys
Robinson has been a touchdown machine this season (he’s scored in seven of the last eight games and leads the Cowboys with nine), but his role in the Dallas offense has change dramatically. Now that Miles Austin is back, Robinson has been reduced to a bench role and only sees action in three wide receiver sets. He was only targeted three times last week against Tampa but caught all three balls and scored another touchdown. With so many options, Robinson is too much of a question mark to start with any confidence.

Tight Ends

IN: Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
Gresham has had more misses than hits this year and is coming off a 16-yard performance last week against the Rams, his lowest total since Week 2. Having said all that, the Bengals tight end is worth a start this week. Stud receiver A.J. Green might be limited because of a sprained shoulder, which means Andy Dalton could look Gresham’s way more often on Saturday. This is a big game for Cincinnati as the team fights for a playoff spot, and Gresham should be given the opportunity to produce.

OUT: Heath Miller, Steelers
With Ben Roethlisberger hobbling, Miller became the quarterback’s security blanket last week against the 49ers, finishing with 82 yards. Big Ben’s status for this week is very much up in the air, which isn’t good news for anyone on the Steelers offense. The Rams may have a horrible D, but the team has been very effective against tight ends — the unit has allowed less than 400 yards total and just one touchdown to the position this year. Miller should stay on your bench.

Kickers

IN: Neil Rackers, Texans
Rookie T.J. Yates had major issues moving the football last week and if that continues Thursday against the Colts, Rackers could have a field day. The Texans kicker has missed a field goal in each of his last three games, but don’t let that stop you from starting him. Andre Johnson will not play, but Houston still has plenty of options on offense and the Colts D isn’t putting a scare in anyone these days. Rackers could hit double-digit fantasy points for the first time since Week 7.

OUT: Adam Vinatieri, Colts
How inconsistent has the Colts offense been this season? Vinatieri had two field goals last week against the Titans (just the fourth time he’s done that all season) and three extra points (just the third time he’s done that all season) but don’t expect that kind of production on Thursday from the veteran. Despite a brief hiccup last week, the Houston defense is still very, very good and points will be hard to come by for Indy.

Defenses

IN: Redskins
Washington’s D has been up and down all year but this week the unit is facing Minnesota, a team that is giving up the third-most fantasy points to opposing defenses this season. The pass rush has been a major strength for the Redskins and that means trouble for the Vikings, who have allowed three or more sacks in seven straight games. Washington is coming off a terrific outing against the Giants (four turnovers, just 10 points allowed) and the unit will be safe to use in Week 16.

OUT: Bears
The Bears D, on the other hand, did not play well against the Seahawks last week but the unit saved its fantasy worth thanks to a fumble recovery in the end zone. Prior to Week 15, Chicago’s defense was the definition of consistent, surpassing double-digit fantasy points in each of the last three games. But this is the week to keep one of the top-ranked scoring defenses on your bench. The Packers are coming off their first loss of the season and you don’t want to be the next team facing that offense.

Fantasy Ins and Outs: Week 15

It’s fantasy playoff crunch time and here are some players that you’ll want to start and some you’ll want to avoid in Week 15:

Quarterbacks

IN: Carson Palmer, Raiders
Interceptions have been a major concern for Palmer lately (he threw four last week against Green Bay) but he’s still worth a play this week. Detroit’s secondary isn’t what it used to be (the unit is giving up an average of almost 25 fantasy points to quarterbacks over the last month) and with the likely return of Denarius Moore, Palmer will have his deep threat back in the lineup. The duo can definitely do some damage and fans should expect a shootout in the Bay Area on Sunday.

OUT: Philip Rivers, Chargers
It might be hard to keep Rivers on the bench in Week 15 — especially since he’s put up over 500 yards passing and six touchdowns in the last two weeks. But the Chargers will face the Ravens on Sunday, a team that has given up the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. In fact, the Baltimore D hasn’t allowed a QB to throw for more than 200 yards in a game. Rivers will be under pressure all afternoon, so don’t be surprised if his numbers aren’t that impressive.

Running Backs

IN: Cedric Benson, Bengals
Benson hasn’t been the most reliable and productive back this season, but he should be in your lineup this week. Why? The St. Louis Rams. Enough said. The Rams are ranked dead last in the league against the run (giving up almost 157 rush yards per game) and Benson, along with a lot of other Bengals, should put up some big numbers in Week 15.

OUT: Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers
This late in the season and the message remains the same: do not play your running backs against the 49ers. San Francisco still hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown and is tops in the league against the run. Mendenhall has been less than impressive (he’s rushed for more than 80 yards just once, back in Week 6) although he has been a frequent visitor to the end zone recently (five touchdowns in his last five games). Yards on the ground will be hard to come by this week, so don’t be surprised if the Steelers employ the aerial attack instead.

Wide Receivers

IN: Nate Washington, Titans
This pick is all about the matchup. The Titans are off to Indy to face the still winless Colts on Sunday, a team that is allowing the seventh most fantasy points to wide receivers this year. Tennessee might have rookie Jake Locker under center, but that’s not a major factor because Locker has performed well in limited action. Despite leaving last week’s game with a back injury (as well as struggling with an ankle issue), Washington will play Sunday and should put up some nice numbers against a weak secondary.

OUT: DeSean Jackson, Eagles
While the matchup definitely favors Nate Washington in Week 15, you can’t say the same for Jackson. The Eagles are taking on the Jets and their shutdown secondary on Sunday so Jackson will have to fight off the likes of Darrelle Revis and/or Antonio Cromartie for yardage. Good luck. Jackson did find the end zone last week for the first time since Week 5, but the wideout is averaging just six fantasy points in his last seven games. Those numbers won’t get you into your fantasy league’s championship.

Tight Ends

IN: Owen Daniels, Texans
Rookie T.J. Yates is starting to build a rapport with the tight end — Daniels was targeted 10 times last week, finishing with seven catches for over 100 yards. Expect that kind of production to continue this week when Houston takes on Carolina (it’s unlikely that the injured Andre Johnson will be fit enough to play). Daniels will continue to be the young QB’s security blanket against a Panthers D (allowing around eight fantasy points to tight ends) that doesn’t put a scare into anyone.

OUT: Vernon Davis, 49ers
The stats are definitely stacked against Davis in Week 15. It’s been a disappointing season for the Niners tight end — he has just 102 yards combined (and no touchdowns) in the last three weeks and doesn’t rank in the top 10 in terms of fantasy points for his position. In fact, Davis had just one measly catch last week against the Cardinals. The Steelers are ranked second in the league against the pass, so you might want to look for another tight end option this week.

Kickers

IN: Lawrence Tynes, Giants
The Giants offense has been on fire, with 96 points combined over the last three weeks. The good times should continue in Week 15 against the Redskins, which will benefit New York’s kicker. While his numbers haven’t been out of this world lately, Tynes has put up nine-point efforts in back-to-back games, and this week’s NFC East matchup could easily turn into a shootout.

OUT: Robbie Gould, Bears
Poor Robbie Gould. The Bears kicker has been the definition of accuracy this season (89.3% success rate) but he’s seen his opportunities dwindle now that Caleb Hanie is the quarterback and Matt Forte is injured. Gould hasn’t hit double-digit fantasy points since Week 10, and he has just seven points over the last two games. Seattle’s D has been on a roll lately, so Chicago might have major issues moving the football.

Defenses

IN: Dolphins
Miami’s defense has been solid recently, and last week they put up some good numbers (two turnovers, four sacks and just 239 yards allowed) in a losing effort to the Eagles. This week the Dolphins are taking on a Bills team that is having all kinds of problems scoring, especially with Fred Jackson out for the season. Miami can force turnovers and is always a threat to take one to the house.

OUT: Jets
Last week the Jets D was stifling, holding the Chiefs to just 10 points and recording a season-high five sacks. But that was Kansas City, not Philadelphia. The Eagles have a ton of weapons at their disposal, and with Michael Vick back the offense takes on a whole new look. Only one defense has hit double digit fantasy points against Philly in the last month, and New York’s rushing defense will be put to the test while trying to contain Vick and LeSean McCoy.

Fantasy Ins and Outs: Week 13

Here’s who I like and who I don’t like for Week 13:

Quarterbacks

IN: Matt Moore, Dolphins
Moore has been a pleasant surprise for Dolphins fans and fantasy owners alike — he’s coming off a good game against the Cowboys (288 yards) but has issues hanging onto the football (three fumbles in Week 12 but lost only one). Moore has been effective throwing down field, is building a rapport with Brandon Marshall and on Sunday he should take advantage of a Raiders pass defense that is ranked 19th in the league. Oakland is giving up the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.

OUT: Matt Ryan, Falcons
Ryan has been on a roll lately, putting up more than 250 yards in four straight games. But that came against the likes of the Vikings, Titans, Saints and Colts, defenses that don’t really scare anyone. But this week the Falcons will face the league’s top-ranked D in the Texans. Houston is giving up just shy of 176 passing yards per game so don’t be surprised if Atlanta uses a lot more Michael Turner (and therefore a lot less Matt Ryan) this week.

Running backs

IN: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Patriots  
There’s always a debate on whether or not to play Green-Ellis because of New England’s potent passing game, but don’t hesitate to put him in your lineup for Week 13. The Law Firm has combined to score 30 fantasy points in the last two weeks and is coming off a two touchdown performance against the Eagles. The Colts can’t stop much of anything these days — the defense is giving up around 150 rush yards per game. The Pats will score a lot of points on Sunday, as will BJGE.

OUT: Steven Jackson, Rams
Not only has Jackson been struggling (just 106 rushing yards combined over the last two games) but next up for the Rams is a date with the 49ers and their top-ranked rush D (75.5 yards per game). This is a horrible matchup. San Fran is giving up the least fantasy points to running backs — only three rushers have hit double-digit points against them. Plus, the unit still hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown this season. Jackson may pick up some yards (via the run or pass) but temper your expectations.

Wide Receivers

IN: Percy Harvin, Vikings
With Adrian Peterson out Week 12, Harvin became the main offensive weapon for the Vikings and boy did he rise to the occasion — he had 95 yards receiving and a touchdown, returned a kickoff 104 yards and was also taking handoffs. But even with Peterson in the lineup, Minnesota was starting to involve Harvin more (he’s averaging almost seven catches per game over the last three weeks). AD could return Sunday (how limited will he be?) but it’s still safe to ride with Harvin.

OUT: Stevie Johnson, Bills
Johnson had a great stay on Revis Island last week (eight receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown) but will he be able to build on that performance? That was only his second touchdown in the last eight weeks, and prior to Week 12 he had just four receptions total in his last two games. It might be difficult for Johnson to put up big numbers on elite cornerbacks in back-to-back weeks (Cortland Finnegan will get the assignment Sunday). To boot, the Titans are giving up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to wideouts this season.

Tight Ends

IN: Fred Davis, Redskins
After three sub-par weeks, Davis had a bounce back game against the Seahawks in Week 12, where he found the end zone for the first time since Week 7. The Jets have had issues slowing down tight ends this year (giving up the fourth-most fantasy points to the position) and it’s likely that Darrell Revis will be covering Santana Moss, which means things could really open up for Davis on Sunday.

OUT: Dustin Keller, Jets
On the other hand, Keller might be in for a tough afternoon. The Jets tight end is coming off a two-touchdown performance but unlike the Bills, the Redskins have been able to stop tight ends this season (like Jason Witten and Vernon Davis). Last week aside, Keller hasn’t been putting up good numbers — that was his first touchdown since Week 2 and he hasn’t topped the 64-yard mark since Week 3. Might be a good idea to find another tight end this week.

Kickers

IN: Robbie Gould, Bears
Gould has been one of the most consistent kickers this season — he has only two misses and is perfect from 50 yards or more. Quarterback Caleb Hanie proved that he could move the football in Week 12 and after another week of practice, he could be even more effective on Sunday. The Bears will be able to score on Kansas City. Plus, the weather could be a factor in Chicago this weekend, which could mean more field goal attempts.

OUT: Jay Feely, Cardinals
Feely is coming off a solid performance in Week 12 which saw him put up 11 points on the Rams. But be warned, because that was Feely’s only double-digit game of the season. The Cardinals offense has been inconsistent to say the least and on Sunday they will be hosting a tough and well-rested Cowboys team. Feely won’t come close to last week’s numbers so you should keep him on the bench.

Defenses

IN: Cowboys
Speaking of the Cowboys, recently their secondary has been susceptible to the big play but on Sunday they could get a big boost if corner Mike Jenkins is able to return. Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb will be back under center, but who knows how effective he will be after missing the last four weeks with a toe injury. Opposing defenses are scoring an average of 13 points when facing the Cardinals and sacks are always a possibility with DeMarcus Ware lurking across the line. Points might be hard to come by for Arizona.

OUT: Saints
Even though they came away with the victory in Week 12, the Saints gave up 465 total yards of offense to the Giants, including 392 through the air (although most came in garbage time). The Lions are coming off a disappointing Thanksgiving Day performance against the Packers and will be looking to rebound. Detroit can score in bunches (especially with that passing game) so it might be best to give the New Orleans D a break this week.

Fantasy Ins and Outs: Week 12

Here’s who I like and who I don’t like for Week 12:

Quarterbacks

IN: Tim Tebow, Broncos
Despite not being a “traditional quarterback” Tebow is still getting it done from a fantasy perspective. The former Gator has won four of his five starts and has at least two touchdowns in three of those games. The Chargers (who rank 28th in the league in points allowed) have been struggling to stop anything these days and are giving up almost 19 fantasy points to QBs this season. Tebow came off the bench and scored two touchdowns against San Diego back in Week 5, and you can expect another good game from him Sunday.

OUT: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers
Big Ben has been on quite a roll these days, but unfortunately he now has an injured thumb on his throwing hand to contend with. Roethlisberger has had a week to rest but will be wearing a splint when the Steelers face the Chiefs on Monday night. Kansas City’s defense doesn’t scare anyone but the big question is how much will that thumb impact Roethlisberger’s performance? Don’t be surprised if Pittsburgh relies more on the running game in Week 12 (and that Steelers defense knows a thing or two about putting points on the board).

Running Backs

IN: Chris Johnson, Titans
Just when you thought CJ2K was finally turning things around, he has his worst game of the season (28 total yards with just 13 coming on the ground in Week 11). Johnson has struggled against good rush defenses, but the Bucs are not one of those teams. Tampa has allowed the second-most fantasy points to running backs this year, including an astonishing 107 combined over the last three weeks. Look for Johnson to rebound in a big way in Week 12.

OUT: Reggie Bush, Dolphins
It looks like Miami has finally figured out the best way to use Bush and he’s rewarded his team by scoring a touchdown in each of the last three games (he has four in that span). The Cowboys rush defense presents a whole new challenge though.  The unit may be giving up over 101 yards per game on the ground, but Dallas has allowed only six rushing touchdowns this season. Bush is a dual back who could still rack up the yards, but the odds are against him finding the end zone for a fourth straight week.

Wide Receivers

IN: Brandon Lloyd, Rams
Much like Bush, Lloyd has been on a bit of a roll lately. Sure, the Rams receiver has averaged just 62 yards over the last four weeks, but he’s found the end zone in three of those games. The wideout is developing a nice rapport with quarterback Sam Bradford and has put up at least seven fantasy points in every single game since coming over from Denver five weeks ago. Lloyd has a nice matchup this week in the Cardinals, who are allowing the eighth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season.

OUT: Torrey Smith, Ravens
Smith is coming off an outstanding game last week against Cincinnati (165 yards and a touchdown) which saw him win AFC player of the week honors. But don’t expect a similar performance from him in Week 12. There’s a lot of risk in playing explosive receivers like Smith week in and week out, and next up for the Ravens is an opportunistic 49ers squad that knows how to clamp down on defense. This should be a grinding, hard-hitting game and points will be hard to come by, so don’t be surprised if Baltimore avoids the deep ball, which is where Smith excels.

Tight Ends

IN: Brandon Pettigrew, Lions
After a lengthy absence, Pettigrew finally found the end zone last week for the first time since Week 6. The tight end is more comfortable in the friendly confines of Ford Field (he has touchdowns in three of his last four home games) and this week the Lions are hosting a porous Packers secondary, which gave up 132 yards to Kellen Winslow last week. We could see a shootout between Green Bay and Detroit in Week 12 and Pettigrew should be a good goal-line target for Matthew Stafford.

OUT: Fred Davis, Redskins
The tight end’s production has been seriously hampered by Washington’s inability to put points on the board over the last few weeks. Davis hasn’t had more than 50 yards in any of the last three games (just eight fantasy points combined) and hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 7. The Redskins are in Seattle this week to face a Seahawks D that is giving up the ninth-most fantasy points to tight ends, but I don’t think that’s enough to put Davis in your lineup.

Kickers

IN: Olindo Mare, Panthers
Carolina’s offense got back on track last week against Detroit and Mare was a big beneficiary of the outburst leaving the Lions with nine points. In Week 12 the Panthers have another juicy matchup and should be able to do some damage against the lowly Colts. Indianapolis is giving up almost nine fantasy points to kickers on the season, so there’s a good chance Mare will reach double digits for the fourth time this year.

OUT: Neil Rackers, Texans
Rackers has been one of the most consistent kickers this season and the only reason he makes the “out” list is because of Houston’s quarterback situation. It’s been almost two years since Matt Leinart played an NFL game so who knows what you’re going to get from him. Leinart may have issues converting in the red zone or he may struggle to move the ball period on Sunday. Either way, there’s too much uncertainty to play Rackers with any confidence.

Defenses

IN: Bengals
Cincinnati’s secondary has suffered since losing Leon Hall (the defense overall has just 20 fantasy points combined in the last three games) but a visit from Cleveland could be the perfect cure. The Browns haven’t scored more than 14 points in any of their past five games and have passed the 20-point plateau just once this season. The Bengals D has performed much better at home (averaging more than 10 fantasy points) so this squad is worth a gamble in Week 12.

OUT: Giants
New York gave up just 17 points and picked off Vince Young three times in a losing effort to the Eagles in Week 11 but this week the team is heading to New Orleans to face the high-flying (and well-rested) Saints. The Giants have not been getting to the quarterback with any regularity lately (only five sacks in the last three games) and are having issues stopping the run.  Opposing defenses have not had a lot of success against the Saints, averaging just five points against that explosive offense.

Fantasy Ins and Outs: Week 11

Here’s who I like and don’t like for Week 11:

Quarterbacks

IN: Carson Palmer, Raiders
After a slow start, Palmer has put up over 18 fantasy points in back-to-back weeks and his best game with the Silver and Black could be just around the corner. The Raiders will face the Vikings on Sunday, a team that’s not only ranked 30th in the league against the pass and has allowed the second-most passing touchdowns in the NFL (18), but is also missing one of its key players in the secondary (Antoine Winfield). On extra rest, look for Palmer to air it out and put up some nice fantasy numbers this week.

OUT: Joe Flacco, Ravens
Flacco has been as inconsistent as the Ravens these days, averaging just over 12 fantasy points in his last five games. His track record against this week’s opponent, the Bengals, doesn’t garner much confidence — in the last four matchups, Flacco hasn’t topped 200 yards and has  just two touchdowns while throwing nine interceptions. Cincinnati’s defense is giving up the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, so Flacco could be in for another tough day.

Running backs

IN: Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks
Lynch has rewarded fantasy owners who have stuck by him — he’s scored a touchdown in each of his last five games and has notched 100-yard performances in back-to-back weeks (including against that tough Ravens D in Week 10). The Rams have had issues stopping the run all season, most recently giving up 126 yards to the Browns, who were missing their top two backs. Lynch will have a chance to put up some nice numbers again in Week 11.

OUT: LeGarrette Blount, Bucs
When Earnest Graham was lost for the year, many thought Blount would make the most of his increased workload, but the opposite happened. Since returning from injury, the Bucs back has produced single-digit fantasy points in each of the last three games and had only 34 yards last week against Houston. Tampa was trailing early in that game, and the same will be true this week against Green Bay. In all likelihood the Bucs will be throwing the ball to keep pace with the high-flying Packers, who are ranked eighth against the run this season.

Wide Receivers

IN: Jordy Nelson, Packers
Every Green Bay receiver has benefited from the outstanding play of Aaron Rodgers, but lately it’s been Nelson coming up big.  He’s ranked seventh among fantasy receivers and is coming off his first multi-touchdown game of the season. Nelson has become much more involved in the offense over the last couple of weeks (four touchdowns in four games and two 100-yard performances over that span) and his production should continue this week against the lowly Bucs, who are ranked 28th against the pass.

OUT: Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs
With Matt Cassel out for the foreseeable future, Tyler Palko takes over under center in Kansas City and will make his first career start against the Patriots on Sunday. Yes, New England is giving up the most fantasy points to wideouts this year, but who knows what you’re going to get from Palko. Bowe will still be his main target, but I think the risk is too great to play him with any confidence.

Tight Ends

IN: Greg Olsen, Panthers
Olsen’s numbers have been far from impressive lately — in his last five games, the tight end has hit double digit fantasy points just once and has recorded fewer than five three times. Olsen is coming off a tough game last week against the Titans where he had only 45 yards and a red-zone fumble, but I think he’s worth a play this week. The Lions have a good defense, but this game could be a shootout so Olsen and Cam Newton should reconnect Sunday at Ford Field.

OUT: Jermaine Gresham, Bengals
Gresham found the end zone last week in his return from a two-game absence with a hamstring injury. He has chemistry with Andy Dalton (four touchdowns in his seven games this season) and has become an every-week starter…well, except this week. The matchup is horrible for Gresham: the Ravens are giving up the fewest fantasy points to the position this season and are the only team in the league that hasn’t allowed a tight end to score a touchdown. Gresham will be hard-pressed to produce in Week 11.

Kickers

IN: Nick Novak, Chargers
Even though he missed a field goal last week against the Raiders, Novak has been very consistent (17-for-19) since taking over for the injured Nate Kaeding. The San Diego offense has stumbled lately, but Novak has still put up solid numbers — he has eight or more fantasy points in four of his last six games. The Chargers still have one of the most explosive offenses in the league which means Novak will get his chances Sunday against Chicago.

OUT: Phil Dawson, Browns
Dawson has recorded double-digit fantasy points twice in the last four games, including last week’s 12-point performance against the Rams (despite missing the game-winning field goal). Even though Dawson is reliable, the reality is Cleveland’s offense isn’t very good and Jacksonville has been effective against kickers this year (allowing fewer than six fantasy points to the position, the lowest in the league).  You might want to look for a different option this week.

Defenses

IN: Patriots
Yes, this unit still ranks dead last in the league, but the Pats are coming off a good performance against the Jets in Week 10: five sacks, two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), a forced fumble and just 16 points allowed. New England’s defense is improving (especially by pressuring the quarterback more) and this week the Pats host Kansas City and new quarterback Tyler Palko, who, as mentioned, will be making his first career start. The Patriots’ defense could be in for another big fantasy day.

OUT: Eagles
In a losing effort last week against the Cardinals, the Eagles put up a respectable 14 points (Asante Samuel’s interception return for a touchdown did most of the damage), but there are some major cracks in the defensive armor. Philly has given up at least 370 yards of offense in each of its last two games, and more recently John Skelton was able to throw for 315 yards and three touchdowns in Week 10. When the Eagles faced the Giants back in Week 3, they scored only three fantasy points, and there’s no reason why Eli Manning and company won’t put up lots of points against this squad again on Sunday.