Fantasy football stats: The best of Week 12

Matt Sullivan

There were a handful of surprisingly good fantasy performances this week. We take a look at them.

It's an easy, yet effective, benchmark that players with 20 or more fantasy points were the best in a given week. For Week 12, 11 "players" made the cut (written in quotes because the Pittsburgh defense is hardly a "player"), which was a good place to start for the Best of Week 12.

Below, we break down the best performances of the week, including all those 20-point scorers, plus a few more, and wonder which performances might continue going forward:

Best quarterbacks in Week 12

Philip Rivers, SD (392 yards, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 27 fantasy points)

A month or so ago, you could have gotten pretty favorable odds in a bet that a quarterback facing the Kansas City Chiefs' defense would be the highest-scoring quarterback in a week, even better odds if you excluded Peyton Manning. But with Tamba Hali and Justin Houston both sidelined for Kansas City, the team had much less defensive firepower to combat Rivers, who had his second-best fantasy game of the season, leading the Chargers to 41 points and a win, including a 26-yard touchdown pass to Seyi Ajirotutu with 24 seconds left in the game.

Next game: Palmer and the Chargers host the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13. The Bengals have averaged 17.5 fantasy points a game in their last four, and at this point in the season are easily as good -- and maybe better -- than the Chiefs. Rivers has played himself into obvious QB1 territory, but the odds are against him being this good again next week.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, TEN (320 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 22 fantasy points)

Fitzpatrick has now been the Titans' primary quarterback five times this season. He has scored double figures four times, and 20 or more points three. In other words, come 2014 -- whether it is with Tennessee or elsewhere -- there is every reason to think Ryan Fitzpatrick will be someone's starting quarterback. He hasn't thrown an interception since his back-to-back horrific matchups against Kansas City and Seattle in Weeks 5 and 6, and has five touchdowns in his last three games.

Next game: The Titans have their second game against the AFC North leader Indianapolis Colts in Week 13. The Colts have scored a total of negative-1 fantasy point since Week 7, so Fitzpatrick could very easily offer this sort of performance again.

Alex Smith, KC (294 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception, 21 fantasy points)

For real football, Sunday was something of a disaster for the Kansas City Chiefs, as they lost their second game in a row and made an AFC West title increasingly unlikely. For fantasy, though, the Chiefs scored 38 points, meaning there was a lot of fantasy value to go around. Even Smith got on board, with his fifth game of 21 or 22 fantasy points on the year. He completed touchdown passes to Donnie Avery, Anthony Fasano, and Dwayne Bowe in the game, and his 294 yards marked a season best.

Next game: The Chiefs host the Denver Broncos in a game they really need to win in Week 13. Smith had 22 fantasy points in Week 11 against the Broncos, and Denver games almost always promise big fantasy scores. Smith might be a reasonable fantasy play.

Carson Palmer, ARI (314 yards, 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 20 fantasy points)

Sunday was a crazy football day. Jacksonville and Tampa Bay won; Kansas City lost; there was a tie. But perhaps no game was more surprising than the Arizona Cardinals-Indianapolis Colts matchup. Not that an Arizona win is so surprising in itself -- they now sit at 7-4 and, at least until Monday night, sit in the NFC's six-seed -- but the fact that they beat the Colts so convincingly is a result few could have expected. After an interception in every game and no more than 17 fantasy points in any game through Week 10, Palmer has now had consecutive games of no interceptions and at least 20 points.

Next game: The schedule stays favorable for Palmer for one more week, as the Cardinals play the friendly Philadelphia Eagles' defense in Week 13. After that it's four straight against stingy defenses, so Week 13 might be Palmer's 2013 swan song.

Best running backs in Week 12

Knowshon Moreno, DEN (224 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 6 receiving yards, 28 fantasy points)

Moreno had never topped 161 rushing yards in a game before his huge Sunday night outing, when bad weather and fumbles by his teammates led the Denver Broncos and quarterback Peyton Manning to rely on the five-year veteran. It was -- somewhat surprisingly -- Moreno's first hundred-yard rushing day of the season, though he has topped that number five times when adding in receiving yards. The oft-injured Moreno now has nine touchdowns on the year, and while he was seen on crutches in the locker room after Sunday's loss, if he's healthy he has to be considered a strong RB1 going forward.

Next game: A lot about this will depend on Moreno's health, which the Broncos probably won't really address until Monday at the earliest, but the Broncos take on the Kansas City Chiefs in a game that now stands to have huge implications for the playoffs next Sunday. If Moreno is healthy, the team will need to lean on him, so there's every reason to expect him to have a big game. Again, if he's healthy.

Jamaal Charles, KC (115 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns, 42 receiving yards, 27 fantasy points)

After at least 100 yards from scrimmage in every game through Week 8, Charles had back-to-back sub-100 outings before getting back over the hump Sunday. He had his most rushing yards of the season, with the rest of the team combining for less than zero rushing yards. Now that everyone has 11 games, Charles is pretty comfortably at the top of the list of fantasy running backs, 14 points ahead of second place.

Next game: Again, it's Chiefs vs. Broncos again in Week 13. Denver held Charles to a season-worst seven fantasy points in Week 11, as they tend to do with running backs, as Denver games are usually passing affairs. Even at his worst, Charles is a must-start, and double-digit fantasy points is totally reasonable to expect, but don't go in planning for dominance.

Eddie Lacy, GB (110 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 48 receiving yards, 21 fantasy points)

Despite missing a good portion of the overtime period because of an asthma flareup, Lacy equaled the best fantasy performance of his young career Sunday, setting a season-high in receiving yards. Lacy had 25 of the Packers' 28 running-back carries in the game and was only one off of the team lead in receptions. As long as Aaron Rodgers is hurt, the Packers are going to lean hard on Lacy and the running game -- better that than relying on Scott Tolzien or Matt Flynn to win a game for you.

Next game: The Packers play at the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day. The Lions have been reasonably strong against running backs this season, and there is the chance that Rodgers can get back on the field. Lacy is still a must-start running back, but expect a big fall-off from this performance.

Maurice Jones-Drew, JAC (84 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 60 receiving yards, 20 fantasy points)

Jones-Drew entered Sunday averaging only 7.7 fantasy points per game. He left Sunday averaging almost 9. After several weeks in a row of decent-but-unspectacular performance -- 100 yards or a touchdown, but never both -- Jones-Drew finally put it together against the Houston Texans, with a season high in both rushing and receiving yards.

Next game: The Jaguars travel to Cleveland to take on the Browns in Week 13. If the team keeps giving Jones-Drew as many looks as they have of late, there's no reason to think he can't keep doing what he's doing.

Best wide receivers in Week 12

Josh Gordon, CLE (237 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 29 fantasy points)

Gordon had the best fantasy performance across the entire NFL Sunday, but it almost didn't happen. He had only 80-some yards through three quarters, before he and Brandon Weeden -- in for an injured Jason Campbell -- connected for a load of fourth-quarter junk-time stats. Gordon is now averaging 14.2 fantasy points per game, which is good for second among NFL wide receivers behind, of course, Calvin Johnson. It's been a tremendous season for the second-year receiver, and there's not much reason to expect it to slow down now.

Next game: The Browns host the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13. While the Jags have improved their defensive performance in recent weeks, it's still the Jaguars, so there's every reason to think Gordon could have yet another big game.

Tiquan Underwood, TB (108 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns, 22 fantasy points)

Underwood is the first true "Who? Wait, him?" guy on the Week 12 list, as he set career highs in both yards and scores Sunday. Underwood entered Week 12 with only three career scores before scoring on two of his three catches Sunday. It was a blown coverage that gave him his 85-yard touchdown, but he still outran the defense, and as long as Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon keeps showing that he might be the real thing, there's no reason the Tampa Bay offense can't support multiple fantasy receivers.

Next game: The Buccaneers take on the stingy pass defense of the Carolina Panthers in Week 13. Long-term, Underwood might have potential, but next week, there's no way he's worth a start.

Mike Wallace, MIA (127 yards, 1 touchdown, 18 fantasy points)

Wallace was looking like a ridiculous free-agent overpay entering Week 12, with only two hundred-yards games and one touchdown on the season. He still might end up being one, but he had a huge game Sunday, with a season-high 127 yards and his second touchdown. Wallace had 110 of his yards on two first-half catches before falling far shorter in the second, but overall, it was a big game.

Next game: The Dolphins go on the road to face the New York Jets in Week 13. The Jets feature a strong run defense, meaning teams have to look to the pass for production, so Wallace could potentially have another big game.

Best tight ends in Week 12

Jimmy Graham, NO (100 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 16 fantasy points)

The best tight end in the NFL kept it up Thursday, with his sixth hundred-yard game and 11th touchdown of the year. There's not much to say about Graham that hasn't been said already, but after two straight games without a score and with only 100 yards total across the two, it was nice for Graham to get back on the good list in Week 12.

Next game: The Saints take on the Seattle Seahawks next Monday in what promises to be a huge NFL game. Middling fantasy players might warrant a benching against the Seahawks, but Graham is as far from a middling fantasy player as there is in the NFL.

Jason Witten, DAL (37 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns, 15 fantasy points)

Witten hasn't been the tight-end stud he used to be this season, with as many games of 1 or 2 fantasy points as games of more than 10. His spot on the TE1 list has been more by virtue of the mediocrity at the position than his own production. So two scores and 15 fantasy points out of him was an unexpectedly positive sign for his fantasy owners.

Next game: The Cowboys play the Oakland Raiders in Week 13. In other words, Welcome Back To The Top, Jason Witten.

Best kicker in Week 12

Jay Feely, ARI (4/5 FG, 4/4 XP, 18 fantasy points)

It's no coincidence that Arizona's highest-scoring day was also its kicker's highest-scoring day. It is somewhat more surprising that the NFL's highest-scoring kicker had a missed kick, but hey, if you score a lot, things happen.

Best defense in Week 12

PIttsburgh Steelers (11 points allowed, 1 interception, 3 fumble recoveries, 1 touchdown, 21 fantasy points)

The Steelers' defense's best two-game performance was 17 points; the unit had 20 total fantasy points in its last five games. Sometimes, your Thanksgiving-week present is facing Brandon Weeden.

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