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updated: 12/22/2011 8:00 PM

Fantasy football: Time to look ahead to 2012

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  • Since Week 4, Houston's Arian Foster is the No. 1 tailback in terms of garnering fantasy points.

      Since Week 4, Houston's Arian Foster is the No. 1 tailback in terms of garnering fantasy points.
    Associated Press

  • Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan celebrates with Roddy White after 1 of White's 2 TD catches last Thursday against Jacksonville. Ryan has 7 TD passes the last two weeks and is a fantastic play this week at New Orleans.

      Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan celebrates with Roddy White after 1 of White's 2 TD catches last Thursday against Jacksonville. Ryan has 7 TD passes the last two weeks and is a fantastic play this week at New Orleans.
    Associated Press

 
 

With Week 16 upon us and three quarters of you done with fantasy football for the year, it's time to look ahead to 2012.

Just like last year at this time, I'm going to devote a column to players who have been red hot since Week 9 and give you my read on some trends.

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So, clip and save, or bookmark this column for August of next year ... and Merry Christmas everybody!

Quarterbacks

1. Drew Brees (19 TDs, 1 INT, 35.8 fantasy points per week since Week 9)

2. Aaron Rodgers (21 TDs, 3 INTs, 31.9 ppg)

3. Tom Brady (18 TDs, 3 INTs, 29.9 ppg)

4. Tony Romo (19 TDs, 2 INTs, 28 ppg)

5. Matt Ryan (17 TDs, 4 INTs, 27.3 ppg)

Others who are hot: Matthew Stafford (6th), Cam Newton (7th), Philip Rivers (9th), Tim Tebow (10th)

Missing big name: Ben Roethlisberger (15th)

Lessons learned: The semi-shocking thing here is Ryan at No. 5. Much of this is because he tossed 7 TD passes in the last two games, but as Julio Jones matures, Ryan has a chance to consistently post top-flight numbers. When the big names are gone next season, grab Ryan and smile.

While Cam Newton has been sensational, about 40 percent of his fantasy points have come because of his feet (13 rushing TDs, 609 yards). As we saw this year with Michael Vick, that's a dangerous formula to rely upon. Newton will come with lots of upside but his fantasy owners had better draft a decent backup.

Finally, I can see Rivers being comeback fantasy player of the year, and I'd be very careful about grabbing Tebow as my starting quarterback. Like Newton, about 40 percent of Tebow's points have come because of his scrambling ability.

Running backs

1. Maurice Jones-Drew (858 yards from scrimmage, 7 TDs, 21.5 fantasy points per game)

2. Marshawn Lynch (848 YFS, 9 TDs, 21.3 ppg)

3. Arian Foster (818 YFS, 6 TDs, 20.3 ppg)

4. LeSean McCoy (687 YFS, 10 TDs, 18.7 ppg)

5. Ray Rice (872 YFS, 5 TDs, 18.1 ppg)

Others who are hot: Reggie Bush (6th), Michael Bush (7th), Chris Johnson (8th), Roy Helu (10th), Shonn Greene (11th)

Missing big names: Michael Turner (19th), LeGarrette Blount (23rd), Frank Gore (27th)

Lessons learned: Take out Lynch, insert Adrian Peterson, and those should be your top five tailbacks heading into 2012, although not in that order.

Moving down the list, you should take note of what Helu has done in Washington over the past four weeks. The rookie out of Nebraska has averaged an astounding 28 touches per game and racked up three 100-yard rushing games. Greene (92 rush yards per game last four) also seems to have found his stride and may be a decent RB2 next year.

As for Turner, it looks like he's done. I wouldn't touch him except as a backup -- in 2012.

Wide receivers

1. Roddy White (675 yards, 5 TDs, 15 ppg)

1. Percy Harvin (453 yards, 5 TDs, 15 ppg)

3. Victor Cruz (697 yards, 3 TDs, 13.7 ppg)

3. Laurent Robinson (456 yards, 8 TDs, 13.7 ppg)

5. Jordy Nelson (521 yards, 6 TDs, 13.3 ppg)

Others who are hot: Vincent Jackson (6th), Larry Fitzgerald (7th), Calvin Johnson (8th), Julio Jones (9th), Wes Welker (10th)

Missing big names: Steve Johnson (26th), Mike Wallace (26th), Greg Jennings (30th), Dwayne Bowe (51st), DeSean Jackson (61st)

Lessons learned: That there is no more volatile group than the wideouts.

Get this: Last season, Bowe, Jennings, Wallace, Andre Johnson and Jackson were the top five receivers when I wrote this article. Now, we've got Missing Person Reports out on all of them.

And what about the names in the top five this time? I don't trust a single one except for White, who jettisoned up the charts mostly because of his huge game in Week 15.

Still, I like all of them except Robinson to be in the top 15 for next year's preseason rankings.

Also watch for the Falcons' Jones and the Bengals' A.J. Green will finish in the top 10 next season.

My team: Oof. Ever been punched in the gut? Had the wind knocked out of you? That's how I felt after last week. I don't mind losing playoff games, but losing them when you make not one, not two but THREE bad lineup decisions is unbearable. Eli Manning (2 points) killed me in a 52.5-43 loss. Had I played Matt Ryan (19), I'd be in the title game. Also had a gut feeling on Lance Moore (16 points) but couldn't pull the trigger and left Antonio Gates in (we don't split out TEs and WRs).

Good bets

(First of all, congrats if you've made the title game. Now, don't panic with lineup decisions. Stay conservative, but definitely play the matchups if you need to. And as always, email me with any questions.)

Jets QB Mark Sanchez vs. New York Giants. With 9 TD passes in the Jets' last four games, Sanchez is a decent play and is starting for one of the teams in my unit league. He figures to end up with 175-200 yards and 2 TD passes against a flailing Giants defense.

Dolphins QB Matt Moore at New England. Facing the league's worst pass defense, Moore's a VERY solid play in 2-QB leagues.

Panthers RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart vs. Tampa Bay. Here are two flex options that could put you over the top. The Bucs have allowed a whopping 142.3 yards per game to opposing running backs the last four weeks.

Chargers RB Mike Tolbert at Detroit. I actually like Tolbert more than Steven Jackson and may use him in my third-place game.

Redskins QB Rex Grossman, WRs Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney and Redskins defense vs. Minnesota. Here, I want to highlight the Skins' D because they should get you 7-12 points even with Adrian Peterson getting healthier.

Bad bets

Rams RB Steven Jackson at Pittsburgh. If you really have no other options, then roll with Jackson but don't look for more than 80 yards from scrimmage.

Giants QB Eli Manning vs. N.Y. Jets. Maybe this is just sour grapes from me after last week, but I wouldn't trust Manning against this secondary.

Bills WR Stevie Johnson vs. Denver. Champ Bailey figures to shut down Buffalo's No. 1 target.

Bucs RB LeGarrette Blount at Carolina. After the season, I'm going to email Blount and see if he can pay for the wood, nails and labor we've been using by building him a permanent residence in the bad bets. In three of the last six weeks, he's been held under 35 yards, and the way the Bucs have played of late, watch for another abysmal afternoon.

Bears RB Marion Barber at Green Bay. The Pack is honked off, and the Bears are trotting Kahili Bell out way too much to take a chance on Barber.

Lions defense vs. San Diego. Detroit ranks just 15th among defense/special teams in fantasy points since Week 10, and that includes a huge game against the Vikings in Week 13. Get the Redskins if you can and bench this unit.

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