It’s somehow Week 12 and that means yes, we’re talking about playoffs. Hopefully you’re cruising to a bye and can work on getting your lineup dialed for the postseason, but many of us are still battling to secure one of those final playoff spots. With bye weeks in the rearview, start/sit decisions are important as ever this week.
That said, with the holiday and various life responsibilities abounding, I’m aiming for a slightly shorter article. You can always find me on Twitter (@eweiner_bball – a silly name, I know) if you need help with any of your crucial calls. Most importantly, have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving surrounded by the ones you love! There aren’t many better days in the year.
Starts Record: 110/169 (65.09%)
Sits Record: 106/148 (71.6%)
Sleeper Record: 37/64 (57.8%)
*Note: These statistics do not include injured players or players who are essentially a wash and did not really help you or hurt you if you started them.
**Assume .5 PPR scoring for any reference to a player’s season-long ranking or in-week ranking
Start: Tyrod Taylor @ Kansas City
This is assuming Tyrod reclaims starting duties in Buffalo, but starting Nathan Peterman again could result in an actual mutiny in the Bills locker room. Tyrod put up the QB12 performance last week despite only playing in one half, managing a touchdown on the ground and through the air. Kansas City has been a top-10 quarterback matchup all year, and the crumbling state of the Bills defense could lead to Tyrod to another garbage time all-star performance. The Chiefs have allowed the seventh-most rushing yards to quarterbacks despite facing the seventh-fewest quarterback rushing attempts, so Tyrod should feast on the ground.
Start: Marcus Mariota @ Indianapolis
Mariota’s four interceptions were tough to watch last week, but he still managed the QB9 performance in a tough road matchup on a short week. With 10 days to rest and gameplan, it should be all systems go against the Colts sieve-like defense. Indy has allowed the eighth-most points to quarterbacks and more completions of 20+ yards than any other defense. After sustaining injuries to FS Malik Hooker (ACL, MCL) and DT Henry Anderson (laryngeal fracture) and cutting CB Vontae Davis, the Colts will be without three of their best defenders. Mariota has 11 rushing attempts over his last two games, elevating both his floor and ceiling.
Sit: Matthew Stafford vs. Minnesota
This is uncomfortable considering Stafford is playing the best football of his career and will be at home, but historically he’s struggled against Mike Zimmer’s defenses. Stafford suffered through easily his worst performance of the season the last time these teams clashed, managing just 209 yards and zero touchdowns. Minnesota ranks eighth in defensive DVOA and just held Jared Goff below 10 points (he too was a recommended sit last week). I get starting Stafford for his floor, but he doesn’t project as a top-12 option this week. Per Rotoworld’s Evan Silva, Minnesota has only allowed two top-12 passers this season.
Sit: Derek Carr @ Denver
Carr was an utter disappointment last week, playing in a supposed good matchup in the game with the highest total on the week. Now he must travel to Denver. Despite the Broncos’ recent struggles, the No Fly Zone is still the third-best quarterback defense on the season. Carr is struggling on deep shots and hasn’t gotten the offense into a groove since the game against the Chiefs, despite some plum matchups. It’s hard to trust Carr outside of 2QB leagues this week.
-Andy Dalton vs. Cleveland: Dalton is playing pretty well right now, coming off a three-touchdown performance in Denver while riding a four-game interception-less streak. The only time he surpassed 20 points this year came against Cleveland, and that was on the road. He should feast against the Browns pass funnel defense.
Start: Kenny Stills @ New England (if Jay Cutler sits):
This might feel like point-chasing, but this is really all about Matt Moore. Stills simply balls out whenever Moore plays. Stills’ three lines in the games Moore has played in are 6/85/2, 5/65 and 7/180/1 with almost all of that coming from the hands of Moore. Meanwhile, Stills has only surpassed four catches and sixty yards in one of Jay Cutler’s starts. With New England a huge favorite and still technically boasting a receiver-friendly defense, Stills is looking at 8+ targets with a realistic shot at 80 yards. He’s a legit WR2 if Moore starts.
Start: TY Hilton vs. Tennessee (if Jacoby Brissett plays):
Brissett is currently in the concussion protocol, but head coach Chuck Pagano says he’s expected to play. Having thrown for multiple touchdowns in three straight weeks, Brissett is playing the best football of his young career and is clearly coming into his own as a passer. The Titans, meanwhile, are allowing the fifth-most points to wide receivers and just got eaten alive by Antonio Brown, a similarly speedy number-one receiver. Two of Hilton’s blowup games have come at home this year, while all three have come in similarly pristine matchups. Unsurprisingly, the Colts’ only three wins this year came in Hilton’s monster games. The situation sets up beautifully for his fourth.
Sit: Marvin Jones Jr. vs. Minnesota
Even with Jones balling out right now, I’m not willing to call him matchup-proof. We saw two weeks ago how shutdown corner Jason McCourty was able to contain him (1/22 on 2 targets), and though he’s playing well, McCourty isn’t in Xavier Rhodes’ league. Because Rhodes doesn’t travel into the slot, he shadowed Jones when these teams met in Week 4 and held him to 2/42 on 5 targets. A similar line is very possible.
Sit: DeSean Jackson @ Atlanta
Never fun to recommend sitting someone who can have a great game with just one play, but here’s betting D-Jax is more bust than boom this week. Atlanta is the sixth-best receiver defense this year, thanks to the legit corner trio of Desmond Trufant, Robert Alford and Brian Poole. In Mike Evans’ return last week, D-Jax only saw three targets and was lucky to escape with a short touchdown.
-Zay Jones @ Kansas City (if Tyrod starts): Kelvin Benjamin (knee) is unlikely to play and Jones played 85 percent of the snaps in his absence against the Chargers. Jones has come on strong with 13 catches for a combined 153 yards and a touchdown over his last three healthy games and finally seems to have developed a rapport with Tyrod. No defense has been more forgiving to receivers than the Chiefs have this year. Buffalo has a favorable ROS schedule, making Jones a solid deep-league pickup moving forward.
Start: Dion Lewis vs. Miami
Lewis is averaging 14.75 touches per game since becoming the Pats ‘starter’ in Week 7, which is more than enough volume to be a legit RB2 considering the elevated scoring chances he gets in this offense. Most promising, Rex Burkhead fumbled and Lewis subsequently enjoyed season-highs in targets (four) and catches (four) and managed to find pay dirt through the air. Lewis is a firm RB2 locked into 14+ touches per game in the league’s best offense, and that’s before we look at his Week 12 context. The Pats opened as 17-point favorites, which is mind-blowing even for them. With a staggering implied team point total of 32 points, Lewis has elevated odds of scoring again this week. I’ll be stacking him with the Pats D in many DFS lineups.
Start: Samaje Perine vs. New York Giants
Perine took over Washington’s lead back duties last week and delivered with a delightful 23/117/1 line, while also adding a nine-yard catch. The yards are lovely, but the 24 touches are the most noteworthy takeaway, and it’s worth pointing out the rushing touchdown came before Chris Thompson’s sad season-ending leg injury. The Giants are allowing the 12th-most points per game to running backs, while Washington’s offensive line ranks 12th in run blocking DVOA. The Redskins enter as 7.5-point home favorites which bodes well for Perine’s projected workload. He’s an easy RB2.
Sit: Ameer Abdullah vs. Minnesota
Abdullah salvaged a putrid 11/22 rushing line by catching two passes for 13 yards and a touchdown against the Browns last week. After averaging 18.75 touches per game over the first four games of the season, Abdullah has only seen an average of 14.67 touches per game since, a significant difference for someone who doesn’t see much work inside the red zone. Meanwhile, Minnesota’s staunch front seven now boasts the stingiest running back defense in the league, and Minnesota is actually slightly favored in this one. He’s barely a top-30 option this week.
Sit: Adrian Peterson vs. Jacksonville
As we’ve been over before, AP is an incredible game script-dependent fantasy commodity in this mediocre offense. AP is more likely to get scripted out of games without Carson Palmer in and because Arizona’s pass defense has taken a huge step backward this year. While Jacksonville was a clear run funnel defense to open the year, their killer trade for Marcel Dareus has changed that. Larry Fitz is the only playable Cardinal this week.
-J.D. McKissic @ San Fransisco: McKissic’s touch totals have trended 5>5>9>12 over the last four games with at least four catches in the previous two. Seattle installed Mike Davis as the starter last week but he left the game with a groin injury and Seattle is on a short week. Thomas Rawls was a healthy scratch. McKissic is in line for 10+ efficient touches this week against a Niners defense allowing the most fantasy points to running backs. San Francisco has allowed 74 more receiving yards to running backs than any other team this year.
Start: Tyler Kroft vs. Cleveland
He’s playing the Browns, so you know the drill. Kroft scored last week and lit Cleveland up for 6/68/2 earlier this year. In a week light on streaming options, he’s firmly on the TE1 radar.
Start: Vernon Davis vs. New York Giants
Honestly, old man Davis is a top-8 option pretty much any week that Jordan Reed (hamstring) is out. But even if Reed suits up this week, Davis is a fine play because he’s playing against the Giants. Though the Giants absurd nine-game tight end touchdown streak did end last week, they still gave up a massive 8/109 line to Travis Kelce. Davis’s outlook is not only elevated by the matchup but also by Chris Thompson’s (leg) target vacuum considering Thompson was seeing 17.5 percent of Kirk Cousins’s targets. Note: Reed has been ruled out; Davis is all systems go.
Sit: Jason Witten vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Witten has proven an inconsistent fantasy option coming off his fourth single-digit yardage game of the season. The Chargers have been the second-stingiest tight end defense this season, most notably holding Travis Kelce, Evan Engram, Charles Clay and Jared Cook all below 30 yards in their respective games. Witten is a touchdown-or-bust TE2 this week.
Sit: Austin Hooper vs. Tampa Bay
Hooper had been coming on strong in recent weeks before an absolute dud in Seattle in which he turned two targets into two receptions for negative one yard. Some may chalk it up to a good Seattle defense and try and stick with Hooper this week considering he’d seen six targets in three consecutive weeks prior to last week’s stinker. But Seattle was missing Kam Chancellor and has actually been a bottom-ten tight end defense this year, while Hooper now must face Tampa’s seventh-best tight end defense. Tampa’s defense is healthier now and has tightened in general over the last few weeks in similar fashion to the Bucs 2016 defense. Hooper is not a top-15 option this week.
-Adam Shaheen @ Philadelphia: In a scant week for tight end streamers, I’m digging deep with the second-round tight end out of Ashland. With Zach Miller (leg) and Dion Sims (illness) out, Shaheen played a season-high 73 percent of the Bears snaps last week (46 out of 63) and hung a 4/41/1 line on the Lions. Per ESPN’s Mike Clay, Mitchell Trubisky has targeted tight ends on 30 percent of this throws. Philadelphia is a slightly above average matchup and Chicago may have to throw a ton to keep up.
Start: Cincinnati vs. Cleveland
Cincy’s defense played reasonably well in consecutive road games and its reward is a home date with DeShone Kizer and the Browns. Cleveland’s implied point total is just 15 points and, per Rotoworld’s Justin Bailey, the Browns pair the league’s highest turnover rate with the lowest scoring rate. The Bengals D is an easy top-eight play this week.
Start: Pittsburgh vs. Green Bay
After seemingly taking a step forward in Green Bay’s win at Soldier Field, Brett Hundley did a complete 180 in last week’s embarrassing loss to the Ravens. Hundley took six sacks, threw two interceptions and failed to lead a single scoring drive. Pittsburgh is talented at all three levels of the defense and is heavily favored at home. Giddy up.
Sit: Los Angeles Rams vs. New Orleans
Los Angeles impressively ranks first overall in defensive DVOA, but I’m not willing to test Drew Brees even at home. This game has easily the highest total of the week (53.5) and should be full of fantasy goodness. Still, if you can manage the bench spot, LA is probably worth holding onto with a date against Blaine Gabbert Week 13.
Statistics courtesy of nfl.com, rotoworld.com, Yahoo.com, fantasylabs.com, footballguys.com, footballoutsiders.com, profootballfocus.com and pro-football-reference.com