Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 12: Smart Sleepers to Exploit and Lineup Advice

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistNovember 20, 2018

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 18: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates a Ravens touchdown against the Cincinnati Bengals in the third quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 18, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It's crunch time for fantasy football owners looking to sneak through the backdoor to the playoffs. Teams that sit atop the standings can't take their foot off the proverbial gas pedal.

As the injured reserve list populates with more notable names and two of the top offensive teams go on a bye week, the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams, it's a good time to lean on advice focusing on difficult decisions.

Fantasy owners shouldn't need further reasoning to start Andrew Luck, Ezekiel Elliott or Michael Thomas at this point in the season. We'll take a look at matchups that will cause managers to pause before setting their lineups for Week 12.

Under each position below, there are five matchups with start 'em, sit 'em suggestions and a sleeper pick to consider. As of Monday 6:25 p.m. ET, less than 50 percent of owners in Yahoo leagues have the under-the-radar choices on their rosters.


QB Advice

1. Russell Wilson vs. Carolina Panthers: Start 'Em

2. Dak Prescott vs. Washington Redskins: Start 'Em

3. Mitchell Trubisky vs. Detroit Lions: Start 'Em

4. Andy Dalton vs. Cleveland Browns: Sit 'Em

5. Matthew Stafford vs. Chicago Bears: Sit 'Em


Smart Sleeper: Lamar Jackson vs. Oakland Raiders

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 18: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens rushes against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium on November 18, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

According to Jeff Zrebiec of The Athletichead coach John Harbaugh said quarterback Joe Flacco "has a chance to play Sunday." As a result, owners should monitor his progression, if any, during the week. 

For managers with a definite start 'em quarterback listed above, plug that signal-caller into the lineup. If there's room for a streamer with high upside because Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes have a week off, pick up Lamar Jackson.

Jackson only completed 13-of-19 pass attempts for 150 yards and threw an interception against the Cincinnati Bengals' 31st-ranked scoring defense. However, his ability to run the football makes him an attractive asset against the Oakland Raiders, who field the second-worst run defense in the league.

The Ravens' rookie signal-caller recorded 27 carries for 117 yards Sunday. It's an unsustainable way to play the position, but for at least another game, Jackson holds value as a ball-carrier with the opportunity to throw a touchdown pass against a defense that allowed 262 yards and three scores through the air to Nick Mullens in his first start.


RB Advice

1. Nick Chubb vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Start 'Em

2. Marlon Mack vs. Miami Dolphins: Start 'Em

3. Matt Breida vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Start 'Em

4. Tevin Coleman vs. New Orleans Saints: Sit 'Em 

5. Derrick Henry vs. Houston Texans: Sit 'Em


Smart Sleeper: Josh Adams vs. New York Giants

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 18: Josh Adams #33 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs with the ball for a touchdown  during the first half against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 18, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Since running back Jay Ajayi went down with a torn ACL following Week 5 action, the Philadelphia Eagles have utilized a frustrating running-back-by-committee approach. 

Running back Wendell Smallwood has been the only player to log double-digit rush attempts (18) for the Eagles in the last five games. Josh Adams has led the team in the category over the last three outings. He's moderately trending up, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. 

Head coach Doug Pederson talked about giving Adams more rush attempts after the team's 27-20 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10, but the undrafted rookie only notched nine carries Sunday albeit in a 48-7 blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints. 

Assuming the Eagles have a tighter matchup against the New York Giants in Week 12, Adams should see more work in the backfield facing the league's 25th-ranked run defense. The unit allowed Tampa Bay Buccaneers tailback Peyton Barber to reach a season-high 106 yards on the ground in the last outing. The Notre Dame product may have his best day facing a bottom-eight group.


WR Advice

1. Doug Baldwin vs. Carolina Panthers: Start 'Em

2. Amari Cooper vs. Washington Redskins: Start 'Em

3. DeSean Jackson vs. San Francisco 49ers: Start 'Em

4. Corey Davis vs. Houston Texans: Sit 'Em

5. Devin Funchess vs. Seattle Seahawks: Sit 'Em


Smart Sleeper: Tre'Quan Smith vs. Atlanta Falcons

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 08:  Tre'Quan Smith #10 of the New Orleans Saints catches a touchdown pass over Greg Stroman #37 of the Washington Redskins during a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdomeur on October 8, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by S
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The Saints listed wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith on the injury report with a knee issue, but the team didn't go through a full practice Monday because of a short turnaround between Sunday's game and a Thanksgiving matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.

Smith hauled in 10 catches for 157 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles' depleted pass defense, missing its top three cornerbacks. The Falcons won't have their starting safeties Ricardo Allen (Achilles) and Keanu Neal (ACL), who are on injured reserve, but Damontae Kazee has fared well as a fill-in starter with a league-leading five interceptions.

Temper expectations for Smith, but the Saints passing offense ranks sixth in yards and third in touchdowns. Quarterback Drew Brees has the golden arm—any Saints pass-catcher on the field has an opportunity to produce big numbers. Smith has done it twice, the first coming in Week 5 against the Washington Redskins (three receptions, 111 yards and two scores).

Wideout Brandon Marshall may suit up to play, but he's still new to the offense. Consider Smith the clear-cut No. 2 wide receiver option behind Thomas. The rookie third-rounder may be at the starting point of a hot streak.


TE Advice 

1. Jack Doyle vs. Miami Dolphins: Start 'Em

2. Benjamin Watson vs. Atlanta Falcons: Start 'Em

3. Jared Cook vs. Baltimore Ravens: Start 'Em

4. Evan Engram vs. Philadelphia Eagles: Sit 'Em 

5. Austin Hooper vs. New Orleans Saints: Sit 'Em


Smart Sleeper: Jeff Heuerman vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

The Pittsburgh Steelers have vastly improved in pass coverage over the last five games. The unit hasn't allowed a quarterback to accumulate 250 yards through the air since Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in Week 5.

However, the Steelers still rank third in yards allowed to tight ends with 72.2, per Football Outsiders. Pittsburgh will go on the road to play a Denver Broncos team that hasn't lost a home game by more than four points and remains alive in the AFC wild-card race.

The trade that sent wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to the Houston Texans has benefitted Heuerman's target share. Over the last three games, he leads the Broncos in targets (21). Clearly, quarterback Case Keenum has built a solid rapport with him through the season.

Keep an eye on that connection in this contest because of the Steelers' explosive offense. Keenum may need to throw 35-40 times to keep pace, which bodes well for Heuerman's numbers.


DEF Advice

1. Houston vs. Tennessee Titans: Start 'Em 

2. Jacksonville vs. Buffalo Bills: Start 'Em

3. Pittsburgh vs. Denver Broncos: Start 'Em

4. Carolina vs. Seattle Seahawks: Sit 'Em

5. Cincinnati vs. Cleveland Browns: Sit 'Em


Smart Sleeper: Dallas vs. Washington Redskins

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 07:  Demarcus Lawrence #90 of the Dallas Cowboys rests on the bench in the second half against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on October 7, 2018 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Tim Warner/Getty Images

Statistically, the Cowboys have one of the best defensive units in the league, ranking third in points surrendered and eighth in yards allowed. On the flip side, the group lacks a ball hawk, someone who forces turnovers at a high rate, which dings its value in the fantasy realm. The Cowboys have recorded 10 takeaways in just as many games played this year.

In a matchup against the Redskins, without quarterback Alex Smith, who suffered a broken fibula and tibia, the Cowboys will have an opportunity to feast on Colt McCoy. He's thrown 23 passes since the 2015 campaign. 

Already a conservative offense, Washington may struggle to reach 20 points against a top-three scoring defense. If McCoy has to press, the Cowboys could pick off a pass or two on their home turf. 

McCoy has thrown 27 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions in his career. On a short week, it's a tall order to move the ball on a defense that's tied for the least number of passing touchdowns allowed (13) and ranks fifth against the run.