Week 12: Player Upgrades
Much like the Chiefs franchise, Smith isn't flashy. He hasn't thrown a touchdown in five of his starts and he has yet to post a 300-yard passing game. None of that matters anymore because Smith finishes the year with the third-softest schedule of any quarterback in the NFL per our very own strength of schedule ratings. That means Smith will be playing the likes of San Diego (twice), Denver, Washington, and Oakland. For a quarterback who is often turnover-free (11 touchdowns to four interceptions), this bodes well for Smith as he could really pad his stats against some of the worst secondaries in the league. Smith is also an efficient runner and should be a guy worth starting down the stretch.
Manuel is on bye this week, but returns for a three-game stint against the Falcons, Buccaneers and Jaguars. Obviously, he'll be a good play for those weeks; and to make owners feel even better, he was able to turn in perhaps the strongest performance of his young career last week. Manuel went 20-28 for 245 yards and two touchdowns against the Jets. Most impressive is the fact that Manuel was able to do this without much in the way of a ground game. The Bills have struggled all season running the ball and despite that being the case Sunday, Manuel put together a game that should propel him to a strong finish in 2013.
Two straight impressive performances for Ivory get him on the list. Ivory has 237 yards and two touchdowns over the past two games and the 10th softest schedule remaining for any running back. Ivory's 7.2 yards per carry over the past two weeks have been even more impressive given the lack of support he has received from Geno Smith (who has not thrown a touchdown pass over that span).
Brown has not been named the starter, but since Trent Richardson has been a member of the Colts, Brown has 293 yards on 48 carries and Richardson has 272 yards on 96 carries. Given the lack of success for Richardson, Brown received more carries against the Titans (14 to Richardson's 8) and delivered with 80 yards and two touchdowns. Brown's big night should merit continued opportunities, especially since Richardson's touches have decreased over the past month. The Colts are committed to running the ball and so fantasy owners should ride the hot hand with Brown.
It seemed like Hakeem Nicks was poised to break out and start finding the end zone a few weeks ago, but instead it's been Rueben Randle getting all the red zone looks. The forgotten man in the Giants receiving corps has six touchdowns in the last six weeks. However, Cruz has been the WR getting the most attention from Eli Manning. Cruz has been targeted 31 times over the past three games and has totaled 18 receptions for 233 yards. He's bound to find the end zone soon as the Giants have games remaining against the likes of the Cowboys, Redskins (twice) and Chargers.