Familiar fantasy football names take back seat to breakout candidates

David Leffler

Like great hitters in baseball and sharp shooters in basketball, many fantasy football players go through rough patches and slumps. Although some struggle for extended periods, players tend to have breakout games when you least expect it. With fantasy football playoffs beginning this week and a lot on the line, here are a few names whose unlikely performances could propel you to a big victory:


1) Jake Locker, QB
Tennessee Titans
Locker looked dreadful against the Texans last week, throwing three interceptions and fumbling twice. However, much of his poor performance can be attributed to Houston’s ability to get out in front of opponents early and force them into mistakes. There was also a silver lining in Locker’s poor outing: his lone touchdown pass Sunday made it his second consecutive week with only one. I like Locker’s odds this week against a weaker Indianapolis defense.


2) Eric Decker, WR
Denver Broncos
Over the past four games, Peyton Manning has tossed nine touchdowns. The problem for Decker is, he’s only been on the receiving end of one of them. Though he has failed to reach 50 yards receiving or catching a touchdown in three of his last four games, nothing revives a player’s fantasy production like a trip to Oakland. Expect Decker to break out this week against an awful Raiders’ secondary.

3) DeMarco Murray, RB
Dallas Cowboys
Murray’s problem this year hasn’t been a lack of production so much as it has been unreliability, as he missed six games after going down with a foot injury against Baltimore during Week 6. While he looked a little rusty, Murray was still able to rack up 83 yards and a touchdown in his return last week against the Philadelphia Eagles and can be expected to perform similarly Sunday against Cincinnati.



1) Philip Rivers, QB
San Diego Chargers
One of the year’s biggest fantasy disappointments, Rivers has registered three multi-turnover games in his last four outings. Things don’t get any easier for him this week either, as he and the Chargers travel to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers’ vicious pass rush.

2) Vernon Davis, TE
San Francisco 49ers
It’s no wonder Davis has come out and publicly supported recently-benched quarterback Alex Smith:
Colin Kaepernick rarely throws him the ball. Davis has largely been ignored since Kaepernick took over as the team’s starting quarterback, catching only two passes for 15 yards in the past two games. Things could change this week against the Dolphins, but I wouldn’t count on it.


3) Miles Austin, WR
Dallas Cowboys
While he did score a touchdown against Philadelphia on Sunday night, Austin has been quiet over the past couple weeks thanks to Dez Bryant’s recent resurgence. Considering the fact that he’s going up against a Bengals defense that has yielded only one touchdown reception to an opposing wide receiver over the past four games, odds are Austin won’t reach the end zone this week.

Printed on Friday, December 6, 2012 as: Playoffs begin, stakes rise