It's far easier to find the best fantasy performances in a given week than the worst. For the best, it's as easy as "Who scored the most points?" But for the worst, that would just be a bunch of guys who didn't see the field. No, for the worst running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends, "worst" is far more subjective, as it must include guys that fantasy owners had some level of expectation for.
With that in mind, this is a look at the week's worst performers. What caused their struggled? And will they continue?
Worst quarterbacks in Week 12
Geno Smith, NYJ (127 passing yards, 0 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 1 lost fumble, 0 fantasy points)
This is Smith's second straight week at the top (bottom?) of this list, as he followed up Week 11's negative-4-point performance with another clunker. After a few decent outings to start the season, the shine has more than come off Smith, and at some point, the New York Jets have to consider whether Matt Simms might make them a more competitive team; Smith has no touchdown passes and seven interceptions in his last four games, and hasn't had more touchdowns than picks since Week 5.
Next game: The Jets face a Miami Dolphins team that just shut down the passing abilities of the Carolina Panthers' Cam Newton, and have 13 interceptions on the season. It ain't gettin' better yet, Geno.
Jason Campbell, CLE (124 passing yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 1 lost fumble, 2 fantasy points)
Campbell's poor performance can be excused in retrospect, as he was forced out of the game with injury (the inevitable result of having Brandon Weeden née Michael Myers as your backup), but that doesn't help any desperate fantasy owners who wound up using Campbell hoping to catch lightning in a bottle. Campbell had 44 fantasy points in his first two games this season, but had an awful performance in Week 11 before this game, showing again why the best job he could get this season was the No. 3 quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.
Next game: Assuming he gets back on the field next week, things are looking up for Campbell, as the Browns face the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13, and that's a salve for almost any quarterback (save the next entry on this list). Of course, that is "assuming he gets back on the field." Stay tuned.
Case Keenum, HOU (169 passing yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception, 4 fantasy points)
People were buying in on Keenum right and left after he had six touchdowns against no interceptions in Weeks 9 and 10. In two games since, though, he has 339 yards total, one touchdown, two picks, one benching for Matt Schaub, and 12 total fantasy points. No, as it turns out, Keenum wasn't a diamond in the rough just waiting for a polish. As it turns out, he was, and is, bad at NFL football.
Next game: The Houston Texans might want to consider going back to Schaub at quarterback, just to have hopes of being competitive. Conversely, they might keep running Keenum out there, as they now sit in the catbird seat for the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, and a chance at Teddy Bridgewater. Either way, why would you even consider playing Keenum? Stop that.
Worst running backs in Week 12
Donald Brown, IND (1 rushing yards, -2 receiving yards, 0 fantasy points)
After several weeks of a gradual rise in Indianapolis Colts usage, and several days of "sleeper pick!" talk, Brown turned right back into a pumpkin, along with the rest of his team, in Sunday's 40-11 annihilation at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. Of course, the Colts fell behind 7-0 within the first five minutes of the game, and were behind 27-3 by the end of the first half, so there wasn't exactly much to do with the running game (Trent Richardson had only seven carries, with Dan Herron adding four more at the very end of the game). Brown is still probably the team's No. 1 running back going forward, but Sunday proved he's not yet anywhere near reliable-starter territory.
Next game: The Colts take on the Tennessee Titans in Week 13. The Titans are exceptionally stingy against wide receivers, but far more generous to running backs, so there's a good chance Brown could rebound from this awful game.
Ben Tate, HOU (1 rushing yard, 26 receiving yards, 2 fantasy points)
Seven rushes, one yard. Ben Tate averaged 0.14 yards per carry Sunday, or 5.04 inches, or less than half the length of a football. If he had gently rolled the ball forward on each of his touches, he would have had a better rushing day. The Houston Texans moved to Dennis Johnson with Tate struggling, and the backup managed 74 rushing yards on 13 carries.
Next game: The Texans face the New England Patriots in Week 13, which can mean only bad things for basically everyone on the Texans roster. Even if the team goes back to Tate as the starter, it's hard to imagine anyone using him in fantasy if they have any other options.
Ray Rice, BAL (30 rushing yards, -3 receiving yards, 3 fantasy points)
After Rice's 20-point fantasy explosion a week ago, there was some hope that he was back to providing the first-round fantasy value he had in the past. That's why Sunday's no-show was all the more disappointing. Sure, it can be reasoned away by saying the New York Jets are a stout run defense and the like, but if Rice wants to be the stud running back he's supposed to be, he doesn't get to make such excuses.
Next game: The Baltimore Ravens take on the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving night. The Steelers have been generous to opposing running backs most of the year, but Rice has been so disappointing for much of the year that just about any viable alternative is preferable at this point.
Worst wide receivers in Week 12
Victor Cruz, NYG (27 receiving yards, 1 fumble lost, 0 fantasy points)
It looked like a dream matchup for Cruz -- division game, New York Giants on a winning streak, Cowboys giving up the second-most receiving yards in the NFL -- which is why his abysmal game is all the more mystifying. Cruz had two receptions and was still targeted four times, so there's no obvious reason why his game was so awful. He hasn't been the Victor Cruz fantasy owners have gotten used to for most of this season, with only one double-digit fantasy day since Week 4, but this game was still far worse than anyone could have expected.
Next game: If Week 12 was a dream matchup for Cruz, Week 13 is just as much of one, as the team gets to take on the horrible defense of the Washington Redskins. If Cruz struggles again, maybe it's time to worry, but for now, he's still a must-start.
T.Y. Hilton, IND (38 receiving yards, 3 fantasy points)
It's now two straight bad fantasy days for the Indianapolis Colts' No. 1 receiver, as he has only 82 yards in the last two weeks after consecutive games of more than 120. In the wake of the Reggie Wayne injury, it's easy to see why opposing defenses would make it a point to stop Hilton, and the team's last two opponents -- the Tennessee Titans and the Arizona Cardinals -- are among the league's best at stopping wide receivers. Hilton is still an upper-echelon receiver, but he needs to show it more often.
Next game: The Colts go right back to facing the Titans in Week 13, so Hilton might well struggle again, and the next week against the Cincinnati Bengals. It'll be Week 15 -- against the Houston Texans -- before the Colts have a game for Hilton owners to look forward to.
Andre Johnson, HOU (36 receiving yards, 3 fantasy points)
After 66 fantasy points, five touchdowns, and 382 yards in his previous three games, Johnson was the victim of Case Keenum's implosion Sunday, matching his worst receiving game of the season, and setting a season low with two catches. The Houston Texans' lack of a decent quarterback continues to dog Johnson -- like Larry Fitzgerald in years past -- and it could limit his upside down the stretch.
Next game: The Texans take on the New England Patriots in Week 13. If they can find some quarterback success -- whether with Keenum, or Matt Schaub, or even T.J. Yates -- Johnson might enjoy his football life again. Either way, fantasy owners basically have to roll with him, but the times aren't as good as they were.
Worst tight ends in Week 12
Antonio Gates, SD (21 receiving yards, 2 fantasy points)
Gates had his lowest receiving total of the season for the San Diego Chargers, and only had fewer catches in his season-opening game. It would be easy to blame his poor production on the fact that the Chargers were facing the Kansas City Chiefs, who have been the best in the NFL against opposing tight ends, except for the fact that the Chiefs gave up 41 points in the game, and backup tight end Ladarius Green had 14 fantasy points himself. Still, while Gates has struggled a bit since his early-season surge, he's still fifth among tight ends in fantasy points this season, so his bad performance Sunday should be chalked up as a fluke. For now.
Next game: It doesn't get much easier for Gates in Week 13, as the Chargers face the tough Cincinnati Bengals defense coming off a bye. Gates is still a weekly start, but that game will go a long way toward revealing his long-term status.
Charles Clay, MIA (27 receiving yards, 2 fantasy points)
Clay has been a pleasant surprise among tight ends this season, with four touchdowns and four double-digit fantasy days. Coming off 90 yards and a score in Week 11, things went the other way Sunday, as he had four catches for only 27 yards. The dirty little secret about Clay, though, is that he hasn't had many middle-of-the-road fantasy days -- he's averaged 13 fantasy points in his good games, but has scored 2 or 3 fantasy points in four of his last five games. While he's been good overall, Clay really isn't an obvious week-to-week starter.
Next game: The Dolphins face the New York Jets in Week 13, which bodes well for Clay, as the Jets are a far better run defense than they are a pass D. Maybe he's not an every-week starter, but he's a next-week starter.
Worst defense in Week 12
Kansas City Chiefs (41 points allowed, -7 fantasy points)
The Chiefs didn't do anything particularly egregious in Sunday's game; they just didn't do much of anything at all. The team had no interceptions, no fumble recoveries, only one sack. With Justin Houston and Tamba Hali hurt, the Chiefs were hardly reminiscent of the defense that was so strong earlier in the season. Still, this is the team's second straight negative fantasy day, and anyone who thinks it is still the league's top defense isn't really paying attention.
Next game: Ouch. The Chiefs face the Denver Broncos again in Week 13, making them a full-on fantasy stay-away.