Fantasy Football Week 12: Confident Calls on Toughest Lineup Decisions
Injuries and bye-week absences will again impact the fantasy football world in Week 12. While only two teams are on bye, those teams are the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams.
This means regular must-starts Kareem Hunt, Todd Gurley, Travis Kelce, Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, Brandin Cooks, Tyreek Hill and Robert Woods will be unavailable. Injured players such as Kerryon Johnson and Marvin Jones, among others, will be unavailable as well.
This will leave a lot of fantasy owners starting second-tier starters in tough matchups. We'll analyze factors such as opponent, performance to date and player health, and our choices are based on point-per-reception (PPR) scoring formats.
Eli Manning at Philadelphia Eagles
It would be silly to call New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning a must-start at any point this season. He's struggled with consistency, he's been sacked a boatload (36 times), and he's averaging just over one touchdown per game.
However, if there was a time to have some faith in Manning, it's here in Week 12, as the Philadelphia Eagles secondary is more beat up than a '76 Mercury Bobcat.
Philadelphia went into last week's game already without Jalen Mills, Ronald Darby and Rodney McLeod. Against the New Orleans Saints, the Eagles lost Sidney Jones, Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox to injury. Some of these players will likely return, but it's safe to say the Eagles defense won't be at 100 percent.
And Manning finally seems to be finding a rhythm, as five of his 13 touchdown passes have come over the last two weeks.
Projection: 280 yards passing, 2 TDs, 1 INT
QB Derek Carr at Baltimore Ravens
Oakland Raiders quarterback Darek Carr had a respectable outing (192 yards, two touchdowns) last week against the Arizona Cardinals. However, he also had a few bad throws and displayed some sideline friction with head coach Jon Gruden.
"We had a mild disagreement," Gruden said, per Paul Gutierrez of ESPN.com. "But you know what, that's part of this business. We're going to have times where we clash a little bit, but we're also very supportive of one another."
Gruden had better be supportive of Carr in Week 12, because the quarterback could be in for a rough day against the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore is allowing an average of 205.4 passing yards per game and has logged 29 sacks on the season. Only two teams have allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.
When you add in that Oakland is traveling across the country for an early game, Carr becomes a player to avoid.
Projection: 205 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 INT
RB Aaron Jones at Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings do not have an elite defense, but they do have a strong one against the run. Minnesota allows an average of just 94.8 yards per game on the ground and has allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs.
This is a tough matchup for the Green Bay Packers and their running backs on the road.
However, we're at the point in 2018 where Aaron Jones is nearing must-start status. He isn't there quite yet because Mike McCarthy insists on sticking with a committee backfield, but Jones is becoming a major piece of the game plan.
Last week against the Seattle Seahawks, Jones produced 103 combined rushing and receiving yards and two touchdowns. Even though the Vikings may limit his big plays, Jones will have enough touches to finish with a productive day.
Projection: 48 yards rushing, 4 receptions, 32 yards receiving, 1 TD
RB LeSean McCoy vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
It's been quite the up-and-down season for Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy. He's had strong fantasy outings—like his 113-yard, two-touchdown rushing day against the New York Jets or his six-catch, 82-yard receiving day against the New England Patriots.
He's also had terrible days, like the 29-total yard game against the Chicago Bears that came between the Jets and Patriots games.
This week is shaping up to be a bad one.
It's looking like rookie quarterback Josh Allen is going to be back in the starting lineup for the Bills, which may hurt McCoy's production. The Jacksonville Jaguars are going to dare Allen to beat them. Considering Jacksonville already allows the fifth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs, McCoy owners could be in for a major disappointment.
Projection: 32 yards rushing, 3 receptions, 15 yards receiving
WR Courtland Sutton vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Rookie wideout Courtland Sutton is establishing himself as a significant piece of the Denver Broncos offense—especially now that Demaryius Thomas is a member of the Houston Texans. He faces a tough challenge against an emerging Pittsburgh Steelers defense in Week 12, though.
The Steelers do not have a lockdown unit, but they do a great job of pressuring the quarterback and forcing turnovers. They've logged 37 sacks, six interceptions and 10 forced fumbles so far this season.
Broncos quarterback Case Keenum is likely to have a tough time against Pittsburgh, and in particular, its pass rush. However, Sutton can remain a viable starting option because of his after-the-catch ability.
He has three catches in each of his last three games, and his lowest yardage total in that span was 57 yards. In the other two games, he produced 78 yards, and he should be good for double-digit fantasy points here.
Projection: 4 receptions, 68 yards receiving, 1 TD
WR Donte Moncrief at Buffalo Bills
After having a streak of five consecutive good fantasy outings (his worst was four catches and 54 yards), Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Donte Moncrief was held to just a single reception and 11 yards last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Don't expect him to bounce back this week against the Buffalo Bills.
Moncrief is going to spend a lot of time battling Bills' No. 1 cornerback Tre'Davious White, one of the better defensive backs in the league.
"You watch him on tape right now and what he does against perimeter receivers, he locks a lot of these guys down," one scout recently said of White, per Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
As a team, the Bills allow the fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Don't expect this trend to change against Jacksonville, and don't expect Moncrief to feast.
Projection: 2 receptions, 28 yards receiving
WR Tyler Boyd vs. Cleveland Browns
Cincinnati Bengals wideout Tyler Boyd has emerged as a fantasy star over his last three games, racking up 274 yards and a touchdown. However, his run started against a terrible Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense and included two games with No. 1 receiver A.J. Green on the sideline.
According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, there's a "good chance" Green returns against the Cleveland Browns.
Even if Green is back, we like Boyd against a Browns defense that is good but not great against the pass. While cornerback Denzel Ward is a Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, he'll likely be matched up against Green.
Boyd should get plenty of one-on-one opportunities against second-tier cornerbacks, and he should reward fantasy owners who stick by him.
Projection: 5 receptions, 68 yards receiving, 1 TD
WR DeVante Parker at Indianapolis Colts
The Miami Dolphins are expected to get starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill back from his shoulder injury this week. According to Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post, Tannehill hasn't indicated to coach Adam Gase any lingering shoulder pain.
Dolphins receiver DeVante Parker, who is dealing with his own shoulder injury, doesn't have quite as clear a status.
"We'll see how practice goes," Gase said, per Antwan Staley of Dolphins Wire.
Even if Parker does go, we'd recommend benching him. The Indianapolis Colts defense has been surprisingly good against opposing fantasy receivers—only six teams allow fewer points. A less-than-100-percent Parker against that defense isn't appealing.
Projection: 3 receptions, 43 yards receiving
TE Kyle Rudolph vs. Green Bay Packers
When the Vikings added quarterback Kirk Cousins, fantasy owners may have had visions of a surging Kyle Rudolph at tight end. After all, Cousins helped make both Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis relevant—depending on their health—during his time with the Washington Redskins.
Rudolph has been underwhelming this season, as he's averaging barely over 36 yards per game and only has two touchdowns. He had just two receptions in each of his last two games.
Don't expect Rudolph to see a big jump this week against the Packers, as only four teams have allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing tight ends.
Projection: 3 receptions, 36 yards
Denver Broncos D/ST vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
While the Denver Broncos don't look like playoff contenders, the defense can be legit. The unit already logged 31 sacks and 10 interceptions, and most weeks it's worth sticking by the Broncos defense.
While the Steelers do have one of the better offenses in the NFL, we're going to go with Denver once again this week. Also consider the Steelers offense isn't as good on the road as it is at home.
Pittsburgh dropped 52 points on the Carolina Panthers in Week 10, but the Steelers scored just 43 points in their last two road games combined. Against the Jaguars last week, Ben Roethlisberger tossed three interceptions.
While the Broncos defense isn't going to blank the Steelers, it can help your fantasy team.
Projection: 24 points allowed, 4 sacks, 2 INT, 2 FF