Welcome to Week 12 of the NFL schedule. SB Nation Arizona is your source for all Arizona Cardinals-related fantasy football analysis. Need some last minute predictions, help setting lineups, or info on who to sit and who to start? We're here for you. This week we highlight Derek Anderson, Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, Beanie Wells, and Tim Hightower. We'll also look across the division, at the San Francisco 49ers' Troy Smith and Frank Gore.
Derek Anderson: Say what you will about the beleaguered Cardinals quarterback, but the man has at least proven consistent on the fantasy field. After a rough start -- and a couple benchings -- Anderson has proven to Ken Whisenhunt that he may be the only halfway-capable quarterback on the roster.
With last week's 15.80 point performance, D.A. pushes his streak of over-ten-point games to four. His inaccuracy will always be a problem, but he has noticeably improved at minimizing his turnovers during the streak -- having gotten intercepted only once in the past three games.
The 49ers have a middle-of-the-road secondary, and have given up an average of 221.4 passing yards per game. Anderson has thrown the ball over 40 times the past two games. In all likelihood, the Cardinals will be playing from behind. The opportunities will be there for the taking.
Fantasy Prediction: 27-45, 311 yards, 1 interception, 2 touchdowns
Larry Fitzgerald: The three-yard touchdown pass to Fitzgerald in the closing seconds of last week's blowout may not have meant much in the real world, but fantasy owners that stuck by Fitz's side throughout a tough season must have been proud.
After five consecutive underwhelming performances from Week 2 to Week 7, many in the fantasy community had the Pro Bowler left for dead. However, over the past four weeks we have seen a resurgence of sorts, with the former fantasy Hall-of-Famer eclipsing the 90-yard receiving mark three times, and nabbing three touchdowns in the process.
Fitzgerald historically does well against Nate Clements and the 49ers secondary, collecting five touchdowns in their last six meetings. It would not be surprising if he continued his streak and added to that total on Monday night.
Fantasy Prediction: 7 receptions, 99 yards, 1 touchdown
Steve Breaston: Breaston presents the classic case of the fantasy football wildcard receiver. Yards are never an issue with him -- the former-Wolverine is averaging a fantastic 91.25 receiving yards over his last four games -- it is the elusive touchdown that pesters the young Cardinal.
Steve has never been a big touchdown guy, only catching three in each of the last two seasons, but this season the issue has taken a much more drastic turn. Through seven games, Breaston only has a single touchdown reception. Unpredictability like that can spell doom for even the wisest of fantasy owners.
Yet, if you live by the "law of due", you have to figure Breaston is due for a big game sooner or later; the kind of ‘9 catch, 122 yard, 2 touchdown' performance he proven capable of over the years. The question is, will that finally come to fruition this week?
Fantasy Prediction: 5 receptions, 88 yards, 0 touchdowns
Beanie Wells: Chris "Beanie" Wells certainly has to be in the running for most disappointing fantasy performer of the year. After a strong close to the 2009-2010 season, this was supposed to be the year that Wells took the leap to stardom.
Unfortunately, a string of bizarre injuries and erratic opportunities have rendered the Ohio State product to be virtually irrelevant. Even when Wells has been given a few sporadic chances, he has performed below expectations, averaging a mediocre 3.5 yards per carry.
Beanie seems to be healthy now, but it is almost impossible to predict how Whisenhunt will split the available carries. Earlier in the week, the second year player again expressed frustration at the lack of faith the staff has shown in his ability. In the past, Coach has stated that he likes to see this type of attitude from his youngsters. Still, in all likelihood, Wells will be watching from the sideline on Monday night as Tim Hightower grabs his fair share of the touches.
Fantasy Prediction: 12 carries, 49 yards, 0 receptions, 0 touchdowns
Tim Hightower: Hightower has proven himself the most reliable back in the Cardinals committee, averaging 4.8 yards per carry throughout the 2010 campaign. The past three weeks have seen Tim touch the ball 14.33 times per game, well above any other runner on the team.
The running back committee is generally fantasy poison, and this case is no exception. Still, if you have to trust one Cardinal back, Hightower is probably the best choice.
That being said, the 49ers are better than average at stopping the run, holding opponents to a strong 106.8 rushing yards per game. Historically, Hightower has struggled against the Cardinals' Bay Area rival, only rushing for 53 yards in 31 attempts against the Niners -- a dreadful 1.70 yards per carry. While he will likely get the most touches out of the backfield, the third-year pro will struggle to convert them into positive yardage.
Fantasy Prediction: 14 carries, 36 yards, 2 receptions, 14 yards, 0 touchdowns
Troy Smith: It's rare in life that people get second chances. So if that opportunity ever comes around, you better make the most of it.
After starting the last two games of his rookie season to mediocre results, the Heisman winner toiled away on the Baltimore Raven bench before being released following the 2009 season. As fate would have it, Smith signed on with a 49er team that promptly self-imploded -- one of the largest factors being poor quarterback play.
Smith, once buried in the depth chart, finally got his second chance in Week 8. The Ohio State product smartly managed the game, minimized mistakes, accounted for two touchdowns, and engineered a victory over Denver for the struggling franchise.
Two games and one more win later, the team seems committed to the fourth-year signal caller. Smith may not create a lot of big plays, but he makes quick decisions, doesn't turn the ball over, and is deceptively swift in the pocket.
The Cardinals defensive unit has been struggling as of late, but they are still an enormously talented bunch. This game could really go one of two ways. Either they step up and expose the young quarterback, or they give him an early Christmas present in the form of a career day. It should be interesting to watch.
Fantasy Prediction: 16-27, 145 yards, 2 interceptions, 0 touchdowns
Frank Gore: What is there to say about Frank Gore? Despite not playing a single full season over the past four years, the Beast from the East has averaged 260 carries, for 1238 rushing yards, and seven rushing touchdowns per year, along with 52 catches, for 425 receiving yards, and two receiving touchdowns. Simply incredible. You can put that four-year stretch against anybody's throughout the history of the NFL and it would stack up favorably. Consistency like that is what fantasy football legends are made of.
Of course, this season is no exception. Gore is on pace to either match or surpass those numbers all across the board.
His infamous running exploits aside, the Miami product becomes so incalculably important in fantasy circles because of a rare skill: his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. Few running backs are as adept receivers as Gore. He is an immense threat, regardless of where he is on the field.
The last time these two teams met, Gore went off, piling up 167 rushing yards, ten receiving yards, and a touchdown. The Cardinals struggles against the run are well documented. History will repeat itself on Sunday.
Fantasy Prediction: 26 carries, 136 yards, 5 receptions, 41 yards, 2 touchdowns
Note: All point totals are based off of YahooSports.com's default fantasy scoring system.