Making the right decisions in sitting and starting players continues to grow in importance as the fantasy football season enters Week 12.
One mistake, whether it's starting a dud or missing a sleeper on your bench, could be the difference between the playoffs and the consolation bracket.
In the following slides, we'll give you a quick guide on how to avoid those mistakes in Week 12. There's no guarantees, but using matchups, projections and recent performances, we can provide you with the information you'll need to make the right decisions during this pivotal week.
Andy Dalton is a legitimate top-10 fantasy quarterback in Week 12, which could make for some difficult decisions at the QB1 position. In most leagues and formats, Dalton isn't a regular starter.
But how do you ignore the potential for Dalton against the Oakland Raiders at home?
Dalton has six touchdowns and 47 combined fantasy points the last two weeks, while the Raiders are currently the 30th ranked fantasy defense against opposing quarterbacks. Oakland has allowed eight passing scores and 67 fantasy points over the last three games to the position.
Passing on Dalton for a bigger name could be a big mistake this week. The Raiders (averaging 18.3 fantasy points/game to quarterbacks in 2012) are too tempting a matchup against a quarterback and passing game playing so well the last two weeks.
With Willis McGahee likely to be on the shelf a while with a knee injury, Hillman is the next man up for the Broncos backfield. And while this is still an offense that runs through Peyton Manning, Hillman's fantasy potential in Week 12 should not be ignored.
Tom Kensler of the Denver Post reported Monday that Hillman is likely to get the first crack at touches against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday. If that's the case, results should follow for the rookie running back.
The Chiefs are the 27th-best fantasy defense against opposing running backs this season, and in six of the last seven weeks, running backs have totalled at least 100 yards. Seven total touchdowns (five rushing) have also been scored by backs during that stretch.
Hillman may not get 25-30 touches like you'd want in this matchup, but 16-20 should be plenty. 100 total yards and a score wouldn't be at all far-fetched against a struggling defense that will likely be focused in on stopping Manning Sunday.
After Kaepernick's impressive showing Monday night, the 49ers now have a legitimate quarterback controversy on their hands. Head coach Jim Harbaugh hasn't committed to either for Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints, which gives Kaepernick a decent chance at starting his second-straight game in Week 12.
If he does, Kaepernick might vault himself into the top-10 for fantasy quarterbacks.
The Saints, despite noticeable improvements over the last several weeks, are still fantasy football's worst defense against opposing quarterbacks. In fact, the position is still averaging almost 21 points a game against New Orleans this season.
Kaepernick, in his two games with extended playing time this season, is averaging 17 a game.
Expecting that number to get a bump from the Saints defense is reasonable, and any kind of production in the 20-point range is top-quarterback material. You'll have to monitor the situation, but Kaepernick is worthy of a start in Week 12.
It feels like fantasy owners have been waiting for Ballard to break out for weeks now.
In fact, he's had five-straight weeks of somewhat consistent production. There just hasn't been the one break-out game. Over the last five weeks, Ballard has averaged over eight fantasy points a game, but his top performance was just 12 (Tennessee Titans).
Maybe this is the week the big one comes. Indianapolis is welcoming to town the Buffalo Bills, who are fantasy football's worst defense against opposing running backs this season. The Bills are also allowing an average of 24.1 points a game to running backs.
And don't let Buffalo's performance against the Miami Dolphins in Week 11 (53 rushing yards for running backs) scare you off. Each time that Buffalo has held an opposing backfield to under 100 yards this season, the following team has rushed for over 200 yards. Both New England (243) and Tennessee (203) pulled off the feat.
Martin hasn't found paydirt since scoring four times against the Raiders, but that could change in a hurry Sunday against the Falcons.
Atlanta, despite a 9-1 overall record, has allowed a touchdown to an opposing backfield in seven of 10 games this season. And in eight of those 10, opposing running backs have went over 100 total yards rushing.
The Falcons have also allowed a league-high six runs of over 40 yards this season. Martin doesn't have track speed, but he's shown an ability to hit the home run this season.
The difficulties stopping the run are more than just a trend for Atlanta at this point, and Martin (averaging 16.9 points/game) is one of fantasy football's best backs in 2012. In easy fantasy math, matchup plus talent equals stud in Week 12.
Cruz has been awfully quiet in his last three games, catching just 10 passes for 116 yards and no scores over that stretch. But for an elite receiver, seeing the Packers on the schedule for Week 12 could be the medicine for his fantasy ills.
Green Bay is just the 24th best fantasy defense against opposing receivers this season, and elite guys—Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston—have mostly taken advantage of this secondary. Could Cruz be next?
In two games against the Packers (allowing 22.4 points/game to receivers) last season, Cruz caught 12 passes for almost 200 yards. It might be slump-busting time for Cruz in Week 12.
Leshoure has made his fantasy money scoring touchdowns this season, but cashing in during Week 12 might be a difficult task for the Lions starting running back.
The Houston Texans are traveling to Detroit for Thanksgiving, and they'll be bringing with them a fantasy defense that hasn't allowed a touchdown to an opposing running back this season. 10 games, 10 running backs, zero scores.
Overall, the Texans are the second-best fantasy defense against backs. With a 10-point average allowed, the Texans don't offer Leshoure much of a ceiling, especially if he can't find the end zone.
The Dolphins top-two receivers are borderline fantasy flex options most weeks, but not in Week 12. The Seattle Seahawks, owners of the best fantasy defense against opposing receivers, travel to Miami this week.
Add in the fact that the Dolphins passing offense is headed in the wrong direction, and you get a fantasy nightmare for both Bess and Hartline.
Also, keep in mind these recent numbers for the Seahawks: Over the last two games, Seattle has allowed just 11 catches for 99 yards to opposing receivers, and in both games, forced and recovered a fumble from a receiver.
Avoid both Bess and Hartline this week.