The B/R Guide to Dominating Fantasy Football in Week 12
It's Thanksgiving, and that means many things. It means food—and lots of it. It means family. Friends. Good times. And it means football—three games on Thursday, including the traditional contests in Detroit and Dallas.
It also means that it's almost December, which means the fantasy football regular season is in the stretch run—and the last thing some managers can afford is a turkey.
Sure, some managers have already either punched a ticket to the playoffs or are barreling in that direction. And some are sadly just playing out the string. But there are a lot of fantasy teams at 6-5 or 5-6 whose fate will be decided over the next few weeks.
For those managers—every week has become a season of its own. To make the playoffs, they have to survive the next few games. Get wins. Because the next loss could be the one that sinks the season.
With the pressure level higher than ever, managers badly need to maximize their chances of earning a victory. They need to know who to start or fade. Which matchup plays are set to blow up. They need to know how to milk every possible point from their lineup. How to win. Even dominate.
See what I did there?
Week 12 Smash Starts
This is the time of year when people give thanks. For friends. For family. For pants with an elastic waistband.
Every year I tell myself that I'm not going to enjoy the consequences of that third helping of cheesy potatoes. And every year I do it anyway.
When the dust settles on Week 12, fantasy managers will also be giving thanks for having these players in the starting lineup. Because this entire group is set up to smash in a big way this week.
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. TEN) (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,700)
Fresh off a four-touchdown game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Burrow faces a Titans defense that leads the AFC in run defense but ranks 30th in the league in pass defense. Tennessee has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks in 2022.
Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers (at ARI) (DraftKings DFS Value: $7,000)
Herbert hasn't met expectations this season, largely because of injuries to his wide receivers. But while Mike Williams re-injured his ankle last week against the Chiefs, Keenan Allen is back. That should mean good things against a Cardinals defense that just gave up four touchdown passes to Jimmy Garoppolo.
James Conner, Arizona Cardinals (vs. LAC) (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,600)
Conner barely averaged three yards a carry last week against the 49ers, but his fantasy line was bailed out by a touchdown. But this week Conner and the Cardinals take on a soft Chargers run defense giving up 5.5 yards per carry this season.
Kenneth Walker, Seattle Seahawks (vs. LV) (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,900)
Walker's last game was his worst of the season—10 carries for just 17 yards two weeks ago in Germany against the Buccaneers. He should rebound in a major way Sunday against a Raiders run defense allowing the fourth-most PPR points per game to running backs in 2022.
Terry McLaurin, Washington Commanders (vs. ATL) (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,800)
McLaurin has benefitted in a major way from the change at quarterback in Washington—he's eighth in PPR points among receivers over the past month. No team in the NFC has allowed more PPR points per game to wide receivers this season than the Falcons.
Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts (vs. PIT) (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,000)
Pittman's fantasy prospects received a boost when Matt Ryan was re-inserted as the starting quarterback in Indianapolis. They will receive another one Monday night against a leaky Steelers pass defense leading the league in PPR points per game allowed to receivers.
T.J. Hockenson, Minnesota Vikings (vs. NE) (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,300)
Hockenson has wasted no time carving out a real role for himself on the Vikings offense. The Patriots are a very good defensive team, but surprisingly they have allowed the eighth-most PPR points per game to tight ends in 2022.
Dawson Knox, Buffalo Bills (at DET) (DraftKings DFS Value: $3,500)
Knox hasn't found the end zone with the frequency he did a year ago, and his fantasy production has suffered as a result. But in Week 12 Dawson and the Bills take on a Lions team giving up the fourth-most PPR points per game to tight ends this year.
Week 12 Must-Fades
The centerpiece of every Thanksgiving dinner is…well, dinner. Families gather to feast on turkey and the trimmings before enjoying entirely too many slices of pie.
But for every person, there's that one dish on the table that they just can't handle. Maybe it's the cosmic mystery that is Waldorf salad (what the hell is Waldorf salad?). Or Aunt Gladys' stuffing with oysters (the latter should not ever be placed in the former). Everyone has that one off-limits delicacy—one that makes you nauseous just thinking about it.
Start one of these players in fantasy this week, and you will likely be left with a similar feeling.
Daniel Jones, New York Giants (at DAL) (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,500)
Jones has quietly been a solid low-end fantasy QB1 this season, thanks in large part to the fifth-most rushing yards (437) among quarterbacks. But in Jones' first meeting this year with the Cowboys, Jones failed to clear 200 passing yards and didn't score a touchdown.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers (at PHI) (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,800)
Remember when fantasy managers could start Rodgers with confidence? Those were good times. They are also in the past—especially in a bad matchup with an Eagles defense that has surrendered the fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks in 2022.
Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals (at TEN) (DraftKings DFS Value: $7,000)
Sitting a top-10 running back isn't an easy ask for fantasy managers (it also isn't the last time in this column we'll go down this road), but even if Mixon can clear the concussion protocol, he faces a tough matchup Sunday against Tennessee's AFC-leading run defense.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Atlanta Falcons (at WAS) (DraftKings DFS Value: $6,000)
Patterson just has too many things working against him in Week 12. His usage has been all over the place in recent weeks, and even if the touches are there, they will come against a Commanders team giving up the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs.
Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers (at IND) (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,200)
Johnson has been one of the more maddening wide receivers in fantasy this year—ninth in targets but just 42nd in PPR points among receivers. Expecting a different result this week against Stephon Gilmore and the Colts defense is asking to be disappointed.
Christian Watson, Green Bay Packers (at PHI) (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,000)
Watson has been the hottest wide receiver in the NFC over the past couple of weeks, with five touchdowns over that span. But Sunday he faces Darius Slay and an Eagles pass defense that has surrendered the second-fewest passing yards per game in the league—just 178.4.
Juwan Johnson, New Orleans Saints (at San Francisco) (DraftKings DFS Value: $3,400)
Johnson has quietly become a viable fantasy starter, with touchdowns in three straight and the third-most PPR points among tight ends over that span. The hot streak ends this week against a 49ers team that has given up the fourth-fewest PPR points per game to tight ends.
Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers (at PHI) (DraftKings DFS Value: $3,300)
It's a lot harder to find a reason to start Tonyan this week then find a reason to roll him out—he's been all but invisible the past few weeks and takes on a stout Eagles defense that has given up the ninth-fewest PPR points per game to tight ends this season.
Week 12 Mastering the Matchups
Thanksgiving Day isn't the only to-do this week. Many people will barely have shaken off their tryptophan-induced comas before they head out in search of bargains at Black Friday sales.
For those wondering, it's called Black Friday because it takes most retailers until the end of November to start turning a profit.
In this most critical of times on the fantasy calendar, managers are looking for bargains, too—matchup plays that can propel their team to victory and pave the way for a profitable season.
These players are all capable of big-time production at a big-time discount in Week 12. Just do me a favor...
Don't get into a full-blown brouhaha trying to acquire them.
Taylor Heinicke, Washington Commanders (vs. ATL) (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,300)
Heinicke may be winning games, but he hasn't been posting big numbers as the Commanders starter. That will change Sunday—the Falcons have spent most of the 2022 season making the likes of P.J. Walker fantasy-relevant.
Matt Ryan, Indianapolis Colts (vs. PIT) (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,200)
The Matt Ryan who was named the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2016 is gone. He's not coming back, either. But the Steelers defense that terrorized the NFL for years is gone as well—Pittsburgh is dead last in the league in both pass defense and touchdown passes allowed.
Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams (at KC) (DraftKings DFS Value: $4,900)
The Rams surprisingly showed running back Darrell Henderson the door earlier this week, which would appear to make Akers the clear-cut lead back in Los Angeles. This week the Rams take on a Chiefs defense that has given up the seventh-most fantasy points per game to running backs this year.
Latavius Murray, Denver Broncos (at CAR) (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,000)
With Chase Edmonds injured and Melvin Gordon no longer on the team, the Denver backfield is Murray's at least in the short term. In Week 12, that could mean big things—the Panthers have surrendered the sixth-most PPR points per game to running backs this season.
Zay Jones, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. BAL) (DraftKings DFS Value: $4,600)
Jones has been a WR4 this season in terms of both total points and fantasy points per game. But he could flirt with a top-25 finish this week against the Ravens' 27th-ranked pass defense in a game where the Jaguars will most likely be playing catch-up in the second half.
Jakobi Meyers, New England Patriots (at MIN) (DraftKings DFS Value: $5,100)
Meyers may well be the most underrated fantasy asset in the league at wide receiver. He's 20th in fantasy points per game among wideouts—ahead of the likes of Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman Jr. and Terry McLaurin. He also draws a favorable matchup for receivers this week in the Vikings.
Noah Fant, Seattle Seahawks (vs. LV) (DraftKings DFS Value: $3,200)
The near-even target split between Fant and Will Dissly has robbed both tight ends of most of their fantasy value. But this week's matchup with a Raiders defense allowing the fifth-most PPR points per game to tight ends this year makes both worth consideration as dart-throw plays.
Foster Moreau, Las Vegas Raiders (at SEA) (DraftKings DFS Value: $3,400)
Moreau has shown some ability to make a dent statistically, posting a 3/43/1 line two weeks ago against the Indianapolis Colts. His best game of the year could be coming in Week 12—playing against the Seahawks tends to do that for tight ends.
Week 12 Fantasy Stock Market
We've reached a point in the season where many fantasy managers simply cannot afford another loss if they want to be part of the fantasy playoffs.
Desperation can be a powerful motivator. But some managers would sooner miss the playoffs altogether than make a trade where they might be perceived as the "loser."
Let's say you have four startable running backs but a massive hole at wide receiver. Some would bristle at the idea of selling one of those backs at a discount for a wideout who would fill the hole.
But the thing is, you don't have to "win" a trade for it to be good for your team. For it to better your chances of making the postseason tournament. And (within reason, of course) that's your only objective.
And for the love of turkey gravy, don't worry about how good the deal might make your opponent. Unless you make the playoffs, that doesn't much matter.
Kyler Murray, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Taking a run at Murray right now is an exercise in playing the long game. In preparing for the postseason. In the short term, his missing Week 12 would probably be a good thing, in that it might drive his price down even more. At the time of Murray's hamstring injury, he was sixth in fantasy points among quarterbacks.
Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
After a pair of clunker stat lines the past two weeks, Sanders' value appears to be in decline. But appearances can be deceiving. Prior to Week 10, Sanders had failed to hit double-digit PPR points just twice and topped 15 points three times. The real kicker with Sanders is an upcoming schedule that includes a Week 15 trip to Chicago. Start the fantasy playoffs with a bang.
D.J. Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers
Stop looking at me like that. Yes, it has been a mostly dismal season for Moore, but that also means his asking price will be low. Per Chris Towers of CBS Sports, Moore's target share with Sam Darnold at quarterback last year was substantially higher than with Mayfield in 2022, and he averaged almost 16 PPR points a game. That's right—we're glad to see Sam Darnold.
Gerald Everett, TE, Los Angeles Chargers
You aren't going to make any earth-shattering trades at tight end—there are all of two elite options, and good luck getting your hands on either one of them. However, Everett is ninth in PPR points per game among tight ends, and with him on the shelf with a groin injury, a panicky fantasy manager who can't afford to wait might part with him on the cheap.
Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Miami Dolphins
Provided that the Dolphins cruise Sunday against the hapless Texans, now is a good time for managers with two viable quarterbacks to go ahead and ditch the backup. Tagovailoa is the most valuable such commodity. Depth is less important this time of year than upgrading starters where possible—Tagovailoa isn't much good to you on the bench, and his remaining schedule features several bad fantasy matchups
Isiah Pacheco, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
The best-case scenario for Pacheco managers is a second straight 100-yard game this week against the Rams—preferably with a touchdown. Even if that was guaranteed, selling the rookie would make sense. Makes even more sense after. It's not a matter of talent—Pacheco has plenty. It's lack of faith in the Chiefs run game as a whole. Let someone else take that chance in the playoffs.
Christian Watson, WR, Green Bay Packers
Yes, this is the second straight week that Watson has appeared in this section. And yes, he made me look pretty foolish when he scored two more touchdowns last week. But nothing has changed. His torrid scoring pace isn't sustainable. His target share isn't especially impressive. And this week's matchup with the Eagles isn't the last bad one he'll see this year.
Juwan Johnson, TE, New Orleans Saints
Johnson has touchdowns in four of the past five games and in each of the last three. But if you have another viable tight end, that makes him a prime candidate to deal for an upgrade elsewhere. Johnson has just 17 targets total over the last month and was targeted five times in a game once over that span. Selling high is all about dealing a player at his apex—before any decline. With Johnson, that time is now.
Week 12 Reading the Defense
There are three games on Thanksgiving—and as it happens, all three feature high-end fantasy defenses.
First, there are the Buffalo Bills, who will be in Detroit for the second straight week—this time as the "away" team. The Bills have backslid a bit defensively in recent weeks, and the Lions can move the ball offensively. But Buffalo is fourth in fantasy points among defenses and ranks toward the top of the league is sacks and takeaways.
After that, the NFC's No 1. fantasy defense takes the field when the Dallas Cowboys host the New York Giants. New York is a middling fantasy matchup for defenses, but the G-Men have struggled at times to protect Daniel Jones, and the Cowboys lead the league with 42 sacks.
Finally, the kings of fantasy defenses are on the field when the New England Patriots travel to face the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are coming off a 40-3 beatdown at home at the hands of the Dallas Cowboys, and Kirk Cousins' struggles in prime-time games are well documented.
All three defenses should give managers something to be thankful for in Week 12.
Tired of the holiday metaphors yet?
Strong D/ST Matchups
San Francisco 49ers (vs. NO) (DraftKings DFS Value: $4,000)
Sometimes, it all comes together for fantasy managers. San Francisco has the NFL's No. 1 total defense, No. 1 run defense, No. 4 scoring defense and No. 5 fantasy defense. The Saints have allowed the seventh-most points per game to defenses in 2022.
Miami Dolphins (vs. HOU) (DraftKings DFS Value: $3,900)
The Dolphins haven't played great defense this season, but this is less about the team than who it's playing. The Texans are dead last in the league in total offense, 30th in scoring offense and have given up the third-most fantasy points per game to defenses.
Kansas City Chiefs (vs. LAR) (DraftKings DFS Value: $2,800)
Speaking of fantasy plays that are all about the matchup, fire up the Chiefs with confidence in Week 12. No team in the league has surrendered more fantasy points per game to defenses than the Rams—and that was with Cooper Kupp and Matthew Stafford.
Weak D/ST Matchups
Baltimore Ravens (at JAX) (DraftKings DFS Value: $3,700)
The Ravens have fielded a top-10 defense this season, both in terms of fantasy points and in points allowed per game. But the Jaguars have been a surprisingly poor fantasy matchup this year, allowing the 11th-fewest fantasy points per game to the position.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at CLE) (DraftKings DFS Value: $3,400)
The Buccaneers haven't been quite as good this season as the past couple of years, but they still rank inside the top 12 for the season. This week's matchup with Cleveland is a poor one—the Browns rank 26th in fantasy points allowed to defenses this season.
New York Giants (at DAL) (DraftKings DFS Value: $2,400)
The Giants defense hasn't been great this season. But it also hasn't been a big liability for a 7-3 New York team. They will be a liability for fantasy managers in Week 12, though—no team in the NFC has surrendered fewer fantasy points to defenses this season than the Cowboys.
Week 12 Fantasy Mailbag
Every week during the 2022 season, I'll be pulling a handful of fantasy football questions from the Bleacher Report app and answering them here. Hopefully, those answers will aid not only the managers making the query, but others as well.
Have a question you want answered? Head on over to the fantasy football section of the app and make with the asking.
Who should I play in my flex? My options are Gabe Davis, Josh Palmer or Najee Harris. — @jamesboulton
This one comes down to Palmer vs. Harris—Davis has a solid matchup vs. the Lions, but he's a feast-or-famine option whose ceiling isn't any higher than Palmer's...with a much lower floor. This comes down to how you feel about your chances this week. If you feel like a favorite or are evenly matched with your opponent, the 15-20 touches Harris will see (and the fantasy floor it affords) win the day. But if you fashion yourself an underdog who needs every point you can get, roll the dice that Palmer can repeat last week's explosion against the Chiefs.
With Justin Fields possibly not playing, should I start Marcus Mariota or Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback? — @JasonB
This is a close call. Garoppolo has the better matchup in terms of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and is coming off a four-touchdown game against the Cardinals. Mariota is quietly ninth among quarterbacks in fantasy points and gets a nice bump in value thanks to his rushing ability. It's that last part that seals the deal—Mariota's higher floor makes him a more appealing fill-in against a so-so Commanders defense.
Who should I start with Nick Chubb at running back this week—Jeff Wilson or D'Onta Foreman? — GoBucks614
This comes down to a matter of matchup vs. workload—and I'm going with the former. Foreman is the unquestioned lead back in Carolina, but he faces a Denver defense that ranks 20th in PPR points allowed to running backs. Jeff Wilson Jr. shares backfield work with Raheem Mostert, but the Texans lead the league in PPR points allowed to running backs. He gets the nod.
I need three of these five wide receivers. CeeDee Lamb, Chris Godwin, Darnell Mooney, Curtis Samuel and George Pickens. — Mikemantheman
I'm going to get wild here and say that starting Lamb on Thanksgiving is a good idea. After getting double-digit targets in four of the past five games, so is starting Godwin. Samuel's out—his numbers are down precipitously since Taylor Heinicke took over center. So is Darnell Mooney over concerns about the Bears quarterback situation. That leaves Pickens coming off a 4/83/1 line last week against the Bengals.
I'm torn on picking a Week 12 flex. Do I start Tyler Boyd, D.J. Moore or Brian Robinson? — @RavenRob44
As I mentioned earlier, there's reason to think that Sam Darnold could help D.J. Moore's fantasy value—but not enough to start him in a bad matchup with the Broncos. The Washington backfield has shifted toward Antonio Gibson in recent weeks, and Robinson is a complete non-factor in the passing game. Boyd has been quiet the past couple of weeks, but he gets a great matchup with a leaky Titans defense. He's due for a 12-plus-PPR-point effort.
THE Fantasy Bust of Week 12
No one player can make or break an entire season. Even cataclysmic injuries to top-five picks can sometimes be overcome with some waiver-wire magic and/or a trade or two.
However, one player can make or break a week. Get a huge game from the right guy, and a team can cruise. Have a starter lay an egg, though, and it can be game over.
With that in mind, we're going to conclude each edition of the B/R Guide to Dominating Fantasy Football with one player who will define the week to come, for better or worse. The Boom (or Bust) of the Week.
In Week 12, it's a "Bust" and a high-end running back who hasn't been so high-end of late.
Down end to this week's column aside, I hope you and yours enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving. Have an extra slice of pumpkin pie. On me.
Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans Saints (at SF) (DraftKings DFS Value: $7,300)
Kamara was drafted as a low-end RB1 this season, and he has more or less lived up to that asking price—Kamara is 11th in PPR points per game at the position. But as Dalton Del Don wrote at Yahoo Sports, there are more numbers working against Kamara this week than there are side dishes on the Thanksgiving table.
"Kamara has averaged just 12.0 touches over the last three games, including zero opportunities inside the 10-yard line," he wrote. "He’s yet to score a touchdown on the road this season. Now, he’ll travel to San Francisco to face a 49ers defense allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs this season. They haven’t let a running back reach 60 rushing yards (or 50-plus receiving yards) in a game this season. SF has also ceded an NFL-low 3.4 YPC—the next lowest is 3.8. It helps explain why 49ers opponents have an NFL-high 70.5 percent pass rate in Levi’s Stadium this year."
The Saints are banged up on the offensive line. Game script likely won't be doing the team any favors. And over that three-game stretch Del Don mentioned, Kamara is 31st among running backs in PPR points per game.
Unless you are absolutely loaded in the backfield, sitting Kamara probably isn't an option in Week 12. But if you're in a must-win scenario, keep in mind that Kamara is more likely to finish outside the top 25 than inside the top 10.
Looking for fantasy rankings? Check out Gary's Week 12 Big Board!
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Gary Davenport is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association Football Writer of the Year. Follow him on Twitter at @IDPSharks.