Fantasy Football Week 12: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
On Thursday, families all across the United States will gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving. Tons of turkey will be eaten. Thousands of pumpkin pies will follow. There will be laughs, hugs and good times galore.
There will also be three NFL games, starting with the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. And while folks are gathering to give thanks, fantasy football managers will be hoping for one more thing to be thankful for: a trip to the fantasy playoffs.
This deep into the season, many teams have zero margin for error. Take another loss, and it's all over. Every lineup decision can be the difference between winning and losing. Every point can make or break the season.
It's enough to make your tummy hurt more than that fourth helping of green bean casserole.
This column aims to help you keep dinner down.
As I do every week here at Bleacher Report, I examined fantasy lineup questions on the B/R app and selected some that should assist both the fantasy managers who asked them and others in setting their Week 12 lineups.
Time to eat.
Lesser of Two Evils
Can't wait for this week's column. Three games on Thursday should be fun. Thanks for the advice as always! Full PPR – Alex Collins or Rhamondre Stevenson? Seattle has just looked horrible. -- @fsjetset23
In at least some respects, this column is like the slate of Thanksgiving Day games this year. It could be entertaining, or it could be an absolute train wreck.
Speaking of train wrecks, how about those Seattle Seahawks?
Getting quarterback Russell Wilson back was supposed to turn Seattle's season around. But in the two games since his return, the team has scored all of one touchdown.
Meanwhile, the New England Patriots have been barreling in the opposite direction, winners of five straight. And rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson has played a big part in that success, including a 20-carry, 100-yard, two-score game against the Cleveland Browns two weeks ago.
The problem is that game came with Damien Harris on the shelf. With Harris back in Week 11 against Atlanta, Stevenson shared carries, toting the ball 12 times for 69 yards.
Collins' status as Seattle's lead back would appear to offer an edge here. But in recent weeks, that status hasn't meant much. Collins has exactly 10 carries in each of the least three games, and he hasn't hit 45 rushing yards in a game since Week 6.
There's no matchup edge to be had here. Both Tennessee and Washington are bottom-six fantasy matchups for running backs. And neither of these backs is likely to crack the top 20 this week.
But with no workload or matchup advantages here, it's just a matter of the player and team that has performed better recently. In this case, that is clearly Stevenson.
The Call: Rhamondre Stevenson
We All Need Help Sometimes
Start 3 WR and 1 Flex, .5 PPR. (Chris) Godwin, Mike Williams, DJ Moore, Jaylen Waddle, Tony Pollard, Jeff Wilson (if Mitchell doesn't return) and Cole Beasley. I really need the help. --@AvrohomMochkin
The first two wide receiver spots here are easy calls.
Chris Godwin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and D.J. Moore of the Carolina Panthers both rank inside the top 20 wide receivers for the season in half-point PPR formats. While the insertion of Cam Newton at quarterback for the Panthers isn't good news for Moore's fantasy value, he's still a better play than Jaylen Waddle of the Miami Dolphins, Mike Williams of the Los Angeles Chargers or Cole Beasley of the Buffalo Bills.
After that, things get interesting.
Waddle hasn't piled up the yards this year and hasn't seen the end zone since Week 6, but he's the most-targeted rookie wideout in the NFL this year. Williams was red-hot out of the gate, vanished completely for a month and then reappeared with a 5/97/1 in Week 11 against the Steelers. Beasley has 14 catches for 71 yards over the last three games combined.
Waddle has been targeted an average of nine times per game over the last month, and which gives him a fantasy floor that earns him the third wide receiver spot. The question then becomes whether Williams or Beasley deserves the flex spot over Tony Pollard of the Dallas Cowboys or Jeff Wilson Jr. of the San Francisco 49ers.
Wilson is a pass. Even with Elijah Mitchell out last week, he managed only 50 rushing yards and averaged less than three yards per carry against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
With Ezekiel Elliott nicked up, it's possible that Pollard could see added work Thursday against the Las Vegas Raiders. But the third-year pro has double-digit touches in only one of the last four contests.
If you're going to gamble, it might as well be on Williams reeling in his eighth touchdown pass of the season.
The Call: Chris Godwin, DJ Moore, Jaylen Waddle, Mike Williams
Turkey Day Dilemma
Love reading your columns every week and this week's should be just as great! 12-team Full PPR, Need 1 WR, 2 FLEX – A.J. Brown, (Michael) Pittman Jr., (Emmanuel) Sanders, Odell Beckham, Elijah Mitchell, Tony Pollard. Thanks! -- @Klutch36
The wide receiver call here is an easy one, especially with A.J. Brown of the Tennessee Titans nursing a chest/rib injury.
With the Colts drawing a top-10 fantasy matchup for receivers this week with a beatable Tampa secondary, Pittman needs to be in starting lineups. From there, things get interesting.
Elijah Mitchell's Week 12 status is unknown after he missed last week's win over the Jaguars with a broken finger. But if the rookie running back is active, he'll lead all of these players in touches. Those touches equal opportunities to amass fantasy points.
Brown would be the second flex play if he's able to go against the New England Patriots. The matchup is bad and the Titans have been struggling offensively, but Brown has the talent to break out any given week regardless of opponent.
Pollard would be the first alternate here. The Dallas running back could see a dozen-plus touches against a Raiders team allowing the sixth-most PPR points to running backs. But playing him means sitting one of the other two thanks to Turkey Day. It's the same with Sanders against a Saints team surrendering the fifth-most PPR points to wide receivers in 2021.
So, here's the plan: Pollard goes. Wait on the second spot in the hope that Mitchell can play. If he doesn't, hope that Brown can play. If he doesn't, Beckham is a last-resort play and you can curse me all Sunday long.
The Call: Michael Pittman Jr., Tony Pollard, Elijah Mitchell
The Perils of Overthinking, Week 12 Edition
Cam (Newton) or (Matthew) Stafford? Also Darrell Henderson or Saquon Barkley? -- @landonbeck
Here's a test to see if you might be overthinking a lineup call. Ask yourself this: Would this have even been a question a month ago? If the answer is no, why not?
Yes, Matthew Stafford's fantasy production is down over the past few weeks. He ranks outside the top 25 quarterbacks in fantasy points per game since Week 9. And yes, Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers faces a Miami Dolphins team in Week 12 that has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks.
But over the first eight weeks of 2021, Stafford was fourth in fantasy points among quarterbacks. And the Dolphins are a great matchup for quarterbacks because their pass defense has been awful. However, Newton hasn't thrown the ball well in recent years, to put it diplomatically.
The Rams' main focus over the bye was likely getting the offense untracked. That could mean a rebound week for Stafford and also mean big things for running back Darrell Henderson Jr.
Were the New York Giants not hot garbage right now, it would be easier to make a case for running back Saquon Barkley against a Philadelphia Eagles defense that has given up the ninth-most PPR points per game to the position in 2021. It's a more favorable matchup than the Green Bay Packers, whom the Rams square off with.
But on Monday, the Giants managed only 215 yards of offense and 10 points against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. One day later, they fired offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. Freddie Kitchens will call the plays Sunday against Philly.
Maybe Barkley will thrive in the new offense. But with a viable Plan B at the ready, I wouldn't bet my Week 12 on it.
The Call: Matthew Stafford, Darrell Henderson Jr.
Do You Believe in Miracles?
I'm 4-7 and miraculously still in it for the playoffs. (Dalvin) Cook is my RB1. (Stefon) Diggs and DK (Metcalf) are my WRs. Need a RB2 (Darrell Henderson, A.J. Dillon) and a flex (either RB, Brandon Cooks, DJ Moore, Michael Gallup) -- @dboe73
I had a dynasty team last year that started 3-0 before proceeding to drop seven straight. At 3-7, I figured the first pick in 2021 was more likely than a playoff spot.
But I closed the season with three wins, snuck into the postseason with a 6-7 record and then upset the top three playoff seeds in succession on the way to a championship.
Keep. Hope. Alive.
This running back question is clouded by the Week 12 status of Aaron Jones of the Green Bay Packers. Jones was limited at practice Wednesday, per Zach Kruse of Packers Wire, but it's still uncertain whether he'll be able to face the Rams on Sunday as he continues to recover from his MCL sprain.
Even if Jones can't go, Darrell Henderson Jr. of the Rams is the play over A.J. Dillon here. Dillon scored twice two weeks ago against the Seahawks, but over the past two weeks (including one game with an injured Jones watching from the sideline), he's averaging only 3.7 yards per carry.
But if Jones sits, I'd favor Dillon's floor in the flex spot. He's likely to see 15-plus carries and has a decent chance at a short-yardage score.
All of the wide receivers have questions as well. Michael Gallup struggled as the Cowboys No. 1 wideout last week, catching only half of his targets. Brandin Cooks of the Houston Texans caught only two passes for 18 yards last week. Carolina's DJ Moore is now saddled with a quarterback in Cam Newton for whom accurate passing isn't a strong suit.
If Jones gets back on the field, Moore earns the flex spot. Waiting on Dillon rules out Gallup, and Moore draws a Miami pass defense that ranks 29th in the league.
The Call: Darrell Henderson Jr., A.J. Dillon/DJ Moore
The Injury Bug Bites Again
I have been killed by injuries but am trying to make it in the playoffs, Need a win this week! Need 2 RBs and a flex, .5 PPR. Kareem Hunt, Devonta Freeman, Mark Ingram, DeVonta Smith, Hunter Renfrow and Elijah Moore? -- @benjaminnichols
It's fitting that injuries have defined this user's question, because they'll be lucky to have two healthy running backs in Week 12.
Per NFL Network's Ian Rapaport, it isn't looking especially good for Mark Ingram II (knee) of the Saints to face the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night. Ingram did practice in a limited fashion Wednesday though, and Alvin Kamara has already been ruled out.
If Ingram plays, you have to start him here. But adding Saints third-stringer Tony Jones Jr. off the waiver wire could be a week-saver here if Ingram sits.
Meanwhile, Browns running back Kareem Hunt hopes to return to action Sunday night against the Ravens, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. But Hunt hasn't seen the field since Week 6, so it's far from a sure thing that those hopes will be realized.
Still, provided that you already have one back started by Sunday night (whether it's Ingram, Jones or a guy like Tevin Coleman of the Jets), you can wait for Hunt. If he plays, start him, since he was a fantasy RB1 pre-injury. If he doesn't, pivot to Baltimore's Devonta Freeman.
At the flex spot, all three of those receivers have not-insignificant upside. Smith is Philly's No. 1 receiver, Moore blew up against the Dolphins last week and Renfrow has quietly been a solid fantasy WR3 in 2021.
However, the Eagles have gone too run-heavy to trust Smith in a must-win game. Zach Wilson's return under center for the Jets mucks up Moore's prospects.
Give me Renfrow in a game with the Cowboys where the Raiders will likely have to throw to keep up.
The Call: Whichever RBs actually play, Hunter Renfrow
Stumping for Superman
Cam (Newton) or (David) Carr at QB? Also, Full PPR, 2 WR and a Flex out of Keenan Allen, Diontae Johnson, DeVonta Smith and Ja'Marr Chase? -- @soskyehigh
Given my snarky comments earlier, you might think I'm anti-Cam Newton. You would be wrong.
I'm no more anti-Newton than anti-Jalen Hurts. Quarterbacks that regularly run the ball can be valuable fantasy assets. You just have to be realistic with Newton.
He doesn't have the upside of a Hurts or Lamar Jackson at this point in his career. All of the hits he's taken have taken a toll. He's probably going to need a rushing score to have a good week, and his QB8 ranking over the past two weeks is closer to his ceiling than his floor.
Still, that's enough upside to favor Newton over Derek Carr of the Raiders.
The wide receivers and flex spots are easy-peasy. Keenan Allen of the Los Angeles Chargers is 11th at his position in PPR points for the year, which makes him an every-week starter. Cincinnati's Ja'Marr Chase is sixth for the season and posted a 4/65/2 stat line against the Steelers in Week 3. Pittsburgh's Diontae Johnson is 12th in PPR points per game among receivers.
With the Eagles running the ball 50 times last week against the Saints, DeVonta Smith is an easy odd man out here.
Sorry, DeVonta. You have to eat at the little table with Cousin Melvin.
The Call: Cam Newton, Ja'Marr Chase, Diontae Johnson, Keenan Allen
DraftKings DFS Question of the Week
With Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray both on bye, who is the best value play among high-end quarterbacks in the DraftKings Week 12 Fantasy Football Millionaire Contest? -- @KabbageKollekter
This is an interesting question, in that I don't know that an expensive quarterback is the play to make in massive tournaments like the Fantasy Football Millionaire.
Sure, you want a signal-caller that's going to score a ton of points. But you also want to set your lineup aside from others as best you can.
If you want to win the big bucks, you need to not only make contrarian picks but also hit on them. No pressure.
With that said, there are a few plays inside the top 10 that stand out.
Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals [DK DFS VALUE $6,200] is seventh in salary among quarterbacks this week ahead of a home tilt with a Pittsburgh Steelers team that has surrendered the third-most DK points to quarterbacks in 2021. Burrow threw three touchdown passes in his first tilt with the Steelers this year, including two to wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase [DK DFS VALUE $7,300]
Anyone up for some stacking?
Sitting just above Burrow in salary is Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings [DK DFS VALUE $6,300], who ranks ninth on the season in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks after his 341-yard, three-score outburst against the Green Bay Packers last week.
On Sunday, Cousins will face a San Francisco 49ers team that has given up the seventh-most DK points to quarterbacks. In Justin Jefferson [DK DFS VALUE $8,300] and Adam Thielen [DK DFS VALUE $6,700], Cousins has a pair of potential stack partners for managers who like to double-dip.
Of the two, I'd lean slightly toward Burrow. He's slightly cheaper and his receiver has a better matchup. But given my druthers, I might also go with an even cheaper alternative: Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers [DK DFS VALUE $5,700].
Only one team has allowed more DK points to quarterbacks this year than the Viking. While wide receiver Deebo Samuel [DK DFS VALUE $7,900] and tight end George Kittle [DK DFS VALUE $6,400] are obvious stacking candidates, Brandon Aiyuk [DK DFS VALUE $5,300] has been hot as of late and could offer the potential to double your fun at a discount.
The Call: Joe Burrow
As is the case every week, we'll conclude this week's Start/Sit column by wailing out some answers to app user questions in rapid-fire style.
Have more Start/Sit questions? Leave them in the comments. I try to spend a few hours there on Friday and/or Saturday, answering as many as possible.
And lest it go unsaid, I sincerely hope that all of you enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving with your families.
Pass the gravy boat, please.
PPR – Darnell Mooney or Rashod Bateman? -- @MS1911
This is an excellent question. Bateman has shown flashes of the talent that made him a first-round pick this year, but with Allen Robinson II listed as doubtful and Andy Dalton under center (this is where we're at, Bears fans—viewing Andy Dalton's return as a good thing), Mooney is the play against a Detroit Lions team that ranks 27th in total defense.
Flex Davis, (Jakobi) Meyers or (Rhamondre) Stevenson full PPR? -- @PhenomenalTB
I'm not sure if you mean Corey Davis or Mike Davis, but whether it's the Jets wideout or the floundering Falcons back, both are a pass. So is Stevenson, since there's no telling how many carries he'll get in a timeshare with Damien Harris. That leaves Meyers, who leads the Patriots in both targets and receptions this season. With the benefit of a point for each catch, he gets the nod.
Gronk or DeVonta Smith in my flex? -- @Jorlando11
I'm going to assume that your tight end spot is occupied by a high-end weekly starter, because there are only a handful of players at the position that should be started over Tampa Bay's Rob Gronkowski in Week 12. He appears to be over the injuries that cost him several weeks, and he caught six of eight targets for 71 yards on Monday against the Giants. It's that high floor that gives Gronk the edge over Smith, who has become a much riskier fantasy play since the Eagles decided that forward passes were for suckers.
I won with your advice three weeks ago and am on a roll. Let's get defensive—Bears defense at Detroit or Dolphins at Carolina or any other streamer you prefer. Thanks!
Both of these teams have plus matchups against teams that rank inside the top 10 in fantasy points per game given up to team defenses. But even with Jared Goff back, the Detroit offense might be the worst in the entire NFL. It ranks 27th in yards per game and 30th in points per game. Plus, if you roll out Da Bears on Thanksgiving, you have a rooting interest and a built-in excuse not to engage in a political conversation with Aunt Helen and Uncle Carl. You're welcome.
Good problem to have…between A.J. Dillon, James Robinson and Nick Chubb, who should be my RB1 and RB2 this week?
This is indeed a formidable trio of running backs. Nick Chubb of the Cleveland Browns is averaging six yards per carry and ranks third in the NFL in rushing yards despite missing three games so far this season. James Robinson of the Jacksonville Jaguars gets an Atlanta Falcons defense that has allowed the fourth-most PPR points per game to running backs. Steer clear of the cloudy RB situation in Titletown and go with Chubb and Robinson.
Superflex league and need two out of Cam (Newton), Ben (Roethlisberger), Trevor Lawrence and Tyrod (Taylor). Thanks! -- @mikekolo
Since I view Newton as a low-end QB1 this week, he's the best of the four options listed here. The Houston Texans managed less than 200 yards of offense last week, so Taylor is out. Lawrence is tempting against an Atlanta defense allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, but Roethlisberger gets the last spot after throwing for 273 yards and three scores against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 11.
Full PPR. (T.J.) Hockenson or (Dan) Arnold? -- @bryandawson
Dan Arnold of the Jaguars wrecked a few rosters last week with his goose egg (on zero targets) against the 49ers, but I expect the fourth-year veteran to rebound into low-end TE1 territory in Week 12. Still, Arnold shouldn't be started over Detroit's T.J. Hockenson, who ranks fifth for the season in PPR points among tight ends. He'll also benefit from Jared Goff's likely return on Thursday.
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Fantasy points allowed and scoring data courtesy of My Fantasy League.
Gary Davenport is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association Football Writer of the Year. Follow him on Twitter at @IDPSharks.