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2021 Fantasy Football: Week 12 Loves & Hates

Shifting narratives throughout the week made Week 11 arguably our most interesting week in the history of this column. We had big news ahead of gametime and big results from some of our deep value finds. With the landscape of fantasy football continuing to heat up with major NFL transactions and developing playoff pictures, it’s once again time to take advantage of trends and scripts to go 1-0 in fantasy. Welcome back to my Fantasy Football Weekly Loves & Hates.

In this series, we identify the best and worst value plays at each skill position for fantasy football purposes. We take into account matchups, game scripts, advanced statistics, and any other relevant news. This won’t be your spot for trying to rank the top players at each position or suggesting deep waiver wire digs every week. Rather, whether you are playing DFS or season-long formats, your start/bench/cut decisions can be informed based on the players that stand out the most at each position—the ones that could go off (loves) and the ones that could disappoint and lose you a matchup (hates).

We will review the previous week’s picks and grade our performance before giving out picks for the upcoming week. I firmly believe that the most important part of the process of winning is to evaluate your winning and losing decisions. We’ll do exactly that in our evaluations of the previous week’s picks.

More fantasy football fun for Week 12: Waiver Wire | FAAB Guide | Start & Sit | Loves & Hates | Stock Watch | Sleepers & Streamers | D/ST Streamers

Week 11 Review

My Week 11 loves and hates can be viewed here. Here are self-evaluations of those picks, with grades for me in parentheses.

Quarterback (F)

For my love pick at quarterback, against the reeling Bengals, I was looking to target Cincinnati’s ability to give up air yards via a guy who has been trusted in volume this season—Derek Carr. Instead, what we got was an inability for Carr to hold onto possessions and keep the ball moving via his arm at all. His 27 pass attempts were tied for a season-low and despite managing 215 pass yards and a passing touchdown, Carr turned the ball over twice and finished as the QB24 of Week 11, an utter disappointment and matchup-killer in any one-quarterback league.

On the other hand, I faded a huge name for my hate pick at quarterback. I was scared that Aaron Rodgers hadn’t done enough good this season when under pressure. Rodgers came into the game with a 41.9 PFF grade when under pressure, set to face the defense with the fifth-highest quarterback pressure rate in the NFL. The first half of this game looked like my script was immaculate. The Vikings were disturbing Rodgers in the pocket and the Packers were stifled on offense, going down 16-3 early. With just seconds left in the first half, everything changed. A touchdown throw on the run to Josiah Deguara kickstarted what would be a big passing day for the reigning NFL MVP. Rodgers, looking to complete the come-from-behind win, finished the day with 385 passing yards (season-high) and 4 passing touchdowns (tied for a season-high). He did not turn the ball over, allowing him to finish as the QB2 of Week 11. Despite not getting the win, the fantasy production was clearly there in a high-scoring narrative, crushing my expectations completely.

Running Back (A+)

My running back love pick of the week, Myles Gaskin, had all the boxes checked for a huge game. He had a juicy matchup against the laughable Jets defense. He was looking to be part of a close game where he would be active in touching the football. Finally, his volume has been trustworthy in PPR formats and the red zone opportunities were a given.

Indeed, Gaskin and the Dolphins stepped up as we expected. With Joe Flacco at quarterback for the opposing Jets, the score was actually tied after each of the first three quarters, meaning a close narrative for starters. Gaskin was in the center of the Miami game plan as he rushed the ball a season-high 23 times for a season-high 89 yards and sprinkled in 3 receptions on 4 targets for 7 yards, including a touchdown. He finished as the PPR RB10 of Week 11 and that’s despite getting fed in the red zone without cashing in with a rushing touchdown. The Dolphins ended up scoring a touchdown via a rush from wide receiver Jaylen Waddle to prevent Gaskin from his second multi-touchdown game of the season. Still, a great call to start Gaskin in all formats and pay up for his DFS price.

My running hate pick of the week—well, I cheated a bit and simply avoided the entirety of the Eagles backfield. Instead of trying to guess how head coach Nick Sirianni would split workload in his fluid room of running backs, I simply advised to disregard the news on whether Miles Sanders was in or not and if he was, sell high on him to those who believe he would immediately have a huge fantasy-impactful role.

Sanders did indeed suit up for Week 11 and in a statement game for Jalen Hurts looking for an NFC East division push, the Philly quarterback put the team on his back in the red zone and rushed for three touchdowns himself. Hurts became only the second NFL quarterback in nearly 9 years to record 3 rushing touchdowns in a game. Here is how the Philadelphia backfield fared in the process, with Kenneth Gainwell being listed as a healthy scratch.

Offensive snapsRushingReceiving
Miles Sanders46%16 carries, 94 yards, 0 TD, 1 fumble0 catches (1 target), 0 yards, 0 TD
Jordan Howard17%10 carries, 63 yards, 0 TD0 catches (0 targets), 0 yards, 0 TD
Boston Scott37%6 carries, 16 yards, 0 TD2 catches (2 targets), 2 yards, 0 TD

Table. Philadelphia Eagles running back splits, Week 11 vs. New Orleans Saints

Boom. Going forward, while the Eagles backfield continues to be tricky with Sirianni’s platoons, it is encouraging for Sanders’ owners that he recorded 16 touches in his first game back despite being benched for a few snaps. With Jordan Howard set to miss at least one week, Sanders could see a high fantasy ceiling in Week 12.

Wide Receiver (A+)

Whether or not you think Joe Flacco is elite, it’s clear that he will forever like his slot receivers. Elijah Moore is not just someone who can play in that role but also really talented; it’s why he was drafted in the second round of the 2021 NFL draft. Moore has turned up recently as he has made the most of his opportunity now that he’s had health on his side and in Week 11, I was looking for the defensive attention of the Dolphins to be wavered by guys like Corey Davis, allowing secondary options like Moore to flourish.

Indeed, the Ole Miss product had the game of his life, racking up 8 receptions on 11 targets for 141 yards, all career-highs. One of those receptions was a touchdown, placing him as the PPR WR3 of Week 11. Moore has all four of his career receiving touchdowns in his last three games and is the overall #1 PPR wide receiver in that span.

My hate pick of the week was seemingly ruined shortly after publishing—Michael Gallup’s situation was far from what it was when my column went up. After Amari Cooper went down due to COVID-19 protocols, Gallup was expected to take over more of a role against a Chiefs team that hasn’t been great defensively this season. I took to social media to clarify that given the news, Gallup was no longer an auto-bench but one must be careful about the fantasy-relevant volume going to tight end Dalton Schultz and the ability for wide receivers like Cedrick Wilson and running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard to get more involved in the air. I answered start/sit questions regarding Gallup on an individual basis as I viewed him as a feasible FLEX play and a borderline player to feel confident about in Week 11.

Indeed, Gallup naturally saw more volume, drawing 10 targets to lead the team. However, he was far from effective on all of those looks as he recorded 5 receptions for 44 yards and was held out of the end zone. He was outscored on the week by Schultz and Elliott as the Cowboys looked pathetic on offense, mustering only three field goals for all their scoring. Rising star wide receiver CeeDee Lamb in the final seconds of the second quarter and is questionable to play today on Thanksgiving Day.

Tight End (A)

It looks like after my abysmal calls at quarterback, I woke up mid-writing and found all the value on the table. Just like at the running back and wide receiver positions, my tight end love of the week, Adam Trautman, showed up big. The logic was simple: the Eagles cornerbacks have played very well recently, allowing wide receivers very little room to produce, but leading tight ends to huge fantasy games. That trend continued in Week 12 as Trautman set new career-highs in targets and receiving yards, tied his career-high in receptions, and scored his first touchdown of the season. Looks like it was the right decision to use Trautman, the PPR TE4 of Week 11, for my Fantrax staff Bold Prediction of the Week.

On the other hand, my tight end hate, Dallas Goedert, was playing in the same game but he, like Gallup, had a narrative shift as well shortly after I published. This time, it was the money narrative. Just ours after my column went live, Goedert agreed to a four-year extension with the Eagles, a token of faith from the Philadelphia front office that they trust him to be a primary playmaker for their offense well past 2021, the final year of his rookie contract.

Indeed, I wasn’t feeling so good about Jalen Hurts staying away from Goedert through the air and the talented tight end finished up the afternoon with 5 receptions on a season-high 8 targets for 62 yards. His 96% offensive snap share was also a season-high and despite not scoring a touchdown, he was the PPR TE13 of Week 11. Given that I switched up my take on Goedert after seeing the big news, I’m not docking my grade a ton, but I’ll take myself out of the A+ contention Trautman put me in to keep me honest.

Week 12 Loves & Hates

week 9 rankings

Barring quarterback, our picks came up big to find value and avoid traps in Week 11. We’re looking to build on those techniques—narratives that give us a hint at volume, matchups that your opponents aren’t reading but you are, and statistics that give you the edge on some borderline players. Here are the picks for Week 12 of 2021 fantasy football.


Love: Mac Jones (NE)

Two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Matthew Judon has dropped some claims—first, that his body is built from Taco Bell; second, that mac and cheese is overrated and needs to be off the Thanksgiving table. There’s a lot to digest here (no pun intended) but luckily, there are two things that I will look forward to this weekend to make my holiday a little better: mac & cheese on the dinner table and Mac Jones on television.

My New England Patriots are the hottest team in the NFL. They’ve won five in a row with an average win margin of 25 points in that streak. One of the reasons they’ve been so consistent recently? They’ve been producing offense more consistently and the #15 overall pick, Mac Jones, has firmly entered the race for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He is now the fourth-best quarterback in the NFL this season by PFF grade, is among the bottom 10 quarterbacks in turnover-worthy play rate, and among the top 10 quarterbacks in adjusted completion rate (minimum 5 games played).

The Patriots will have a challenge if they want to make it six wins in a row as they are set to face the 8-3 Titans. Regardless of the final result, this game should be a close contest between Bill Belichick and his former player Mike Vrabel. With that, we could get a rare pass-heavy game from the Patriots to take advantage of the Titans, who rank middle-of-the-pack in pass DVOA as a defense. The key will simply be how Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will use his talent in the red zone. While New England has generally been a rushing attack in such situations, the Titans have given up 22 total touchdowns to quarterbacks this season but only 7 rushing touchdowns to running backs. In fact, this season, the Titans have given up the most fantasy points per game to wide receivers and the second-most yards on explosive pass plays in the NFL this season.

I’m using my Fantrax Bold Prediction of the Week on the rookie under center in New England and making the call that in Week 12, he’ll throw three touchdowns for the second time in his career. Stream Mac Jones with confidence this week, especially if you are an owner of Patrick Mahomes or Kyler Murray, both of whom have byes in Week 12.

Hate: Cam Newton (CAR)

He’s back. The former MVP is in his home—back on the Panthers with a monetary value attached to heavy sentiment. In Cam Newton‘s first appearance in the NFL this season, he threw a touchdown and rushed for a touchdown in the first quarter. That was enough for Carolina head coach Matt Rhule to feel confident enough to start the veteran in Week 11 and in his first start of the season, Newton was a fantasy success, tallying 3 total touchdowns, 189 yards passing, and 46 yards rushing.

This early success shouldn’t carry over to Week 12, however. While Newton has been playing well so far, the Dolphins could be a tough matchup for him, containing him as a dual threat, and locking up passing lanes with cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. This season, the Dolphins rank #13 in the NFL in rush DVOA as a defense but all the way down at #21 in the NFL in pass DVOA. That’s good enough to stymie Newton’s fantasy relevance with his limited skill set through the air right now. While fantasy football is won via touchdowns, Newton shouldn’t have his way that easily against the Dolphins, who have only allowed one rushing touchdown to a quarterback this season, despite having faced Tyrod Taylor, Lamar Jackson, and Josh Allen twice already.

In deep leagues, you should feel happy if you were able to snag Cam Newton off the waiver wire this week to stash and start in future but in Week 12, there are better streaming options; e.g., my love of the week, Mac Jones.

Week 12 Rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | Kicker | D/ST | PPR | Flex

Running Back

Love: Melvin Gordon III (DEN)

On Monday Night Football in Week 11, the Chargers faced one of the most talented rookies in football when they matched up against Najee Harris. Many were expecting a big game from Harris. He entered the game as a certified RB1 and this season, the Chargers are the worst rushing defense in the NFL by far by rush DVOA. Instead, they locked in on Harris and forced Ben Roethlisberger to use his arm and depleted pass-catching core. The Steelers offense ended up taking advantage and closing in on the lead to make the game a thriller. However, the Chargers likely won’t be using exactly the same game plan in Week 12.

The Broncos were at work even during their bye week in Week 11—in the front office. They wrote checks to wide receivers Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick and they have an extra week of rest to get it together on the field. I’m expecting a competitive, high-scoring narrative between the Broncos and the Chargers in what is projected as a chilly but sunny day in Denver. Instead of trying to roll out lottery tickets on which pass-catchers might put in the work in the red zone, take good ol’ reliable Melvin Gordon III to finish off offensive drives for Denver and punch in at least one touchdown.

This season, Gordon ranks #12 among NFL running backs in red zone fantasy points; given the matchup and the high expectancy of red zone appearances for the Broncos, the potential for the veteran running back is too high to watch him explode on your bench. Respect the man and start him in all formats.

Hate: Tevin Coleman (NYJ)

Early in the Jets’ Week 11 thriller against the Miami Dolphins, rookie fantasy star running back Michael Carter went down due to an ankle sprain. It is now confirmed that Carter will be out at least two weeks. In his absence, the Jets will immediately draw a somewhat juicy matchup against the Houston Texans. Indeed, this season, Houston ranks #23 in the NFL in rush DVOA as a defense and a surprisingly robust #6 in the NFL in pass DVOA. But there are two primary backs manning the Jets backfield—the answer for them will be Ty Johnson, not Tevin Coleman by any means.

This season, Coleman’s fantasy points per opportunity ranks #73 among running backs and his -8.7 expected points added ranks #111 among running backs. That’s not exactly good. Furthermore, this season, Johnson has out-touched Coleman in the red zone 9 to 2.Johnson is the younger, more recently reliable back and if the Jets manage to get in the red zone, Johnson as well as the Jets’ talented wide receiver core can be involved in Week 12. Coleman is currently being projected on the same tier in PPR formats as Johnson and that makes no sense—in deep leagues, the veteran is worth a roster spot for now but you shouldn’t shell out FAAB for him and you should not have to dig to the bottom of the barrel to start him. No manager should be desperate enough to do that.

Wide Receiver

Love: Emmanuel Sanders (BUF)

Finally, a Thanksgiving Day player making an appearance! If you’re an Emmanuel Sanders owner, congratulations—you’re getting some fantasy-relevant action on Thanksgiving night because Sanders needs to be in your starting lineup.

The situation. The Buffalo Bills need to send a message; they’ve not played well on offense as of late and Josh Allen ranking as a mediocre quarterback recently has been a huge reason they don’t look like the runaway AFC favorites anymore. Against an inferior team in the Saints who are without their starting quarterback and starting running back, the Bills are tasked with a simple concept—throw the ball well and get back in the win column. With Zack Moss playing banged up, Devin Singletary having ball security issues, and Matt Breida only just emerging as a contender to get more opportunities, the backfield in Buffalo is no cakewalk. Expect the pass-catchers to get involved instead.

The matchup. The New Orleans Saints have given up the ninth-most receiving yards and fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season and one of the ways they get burned is the big play. The Saints have given up the tenth-highest explosive pass play rate in the NFL. Sanders’ speciality? You guessed it—the explosive play. His 17 deep targets this season ranks #8 and his 17.4-yard average depth of target ranks #2 among qualified wide receivers. Even if he can just complete a pair of these big plays, that’s a WR2-tier player in the making. And if he finds the end zone, this is a WR1-ceiling upside.

The narrative. Revenge narratives are some of my favorite. There really isn’t much of a reason for bad blood between Sanders and the Saints but opportunities to face your previous team just months after you switched uniforms don’t come around that often and the potential for a reliable veteran to come through big against his former teammates makes for some juice on this play that’s worth the squeeze.

Hate: CeeDee Lamb (DAL)

The second-year wide receiver CeeDee Lamb is a superstar in the making. In fact, per PlayerProfiler, his attributes most closely resembles that of legendary receiver Jerry Rice. This season, at just age 22, Lamb is the PPR WR12 on the season and he has multiple games with over 100 receiving yards and multiple games with multiple touchdowns. Bench him in Week 12. Yeah, you read that right—putting him on the field on short rest is not a risk worth taking for the Cowboys and starting him in your fantasy lineup just for an early disappointment in the week is a risk that uses up a lineup spot for the week. Look elsewhere, play the waiver wire if need be, and don’t mess with a concussion game.

Yes, the Raiders aren’t great against the pass play. They rank #23 in the NFL in pass DVOA as a defense. That’s exactly why the Cowboys can get through this game with the likes of Michael Gallup, Dalton Schultz, and Cedrick Wilson while getting both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard involved out of the backfield against the Raiders, who rank #15 in the NFL in rush DVOA as a defense. If Lamb starts today, he will likely be used as a decoy and/or will have a limited snap count. In the absence of Amari Cooper, when Lamb is on the field, the defensive attention will be locked in on him and that’s not good for fantasy production. Pass up on the temptation to start Lamb and let the weekend do the talking for you if it comes to that. Don’t force this Thursday start. 

Tight End

Love: Cole Kmet (CHI)

Reading this with time to spare for the first game of Thanksgiving Day in Week 12? If you have any doubts at tight end, hurry up and pick up the 6’6” athlete out of Notre Dame. If you’re been following my columns, I’m a big fan of narratives. The Bears are entering today with arguably the biggest narrative of Week 12—the possibility that Matt Nagy is on the verge of being fired. Whether or not the rumors are actually true, the Bears are looking to come out with energy against a team that they’ve exposed before in the winless Lions.

This season, Detroit has actually been a middle-of-the-pack fantasy defense against tight ends—but that’s really because they’re getting killed by running backs and wide receivers. When they faced Chicago last in Week 4, they gave up a two-touchdown, 100-yard game to David Montgomery and a 100-yard game to Darnell Mooney simultaneously. 

This time, with Allen Robinson II unlikely to play and Mooney being gameplanned more on defense for the Lions, it’s Kmet’s turn to get work in the red zone. Before their Week 10 bye, Kmet totaled 20 targets in the three games prior. Expect him to take advantage of smaller defenders and now that he has a greater role in the offense, to produce more in the air for a fantasy-relevant game and a steal as a tight end streamer in Week 12.

Hate: Tyler Conklin (MIN)

The Vikings offense is primarily known for an elite wide receiver duo in Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen that has recently made Kirk Cousins look like one of the better quarterbacks in the league. But when Irv Smith Jr. went down with injury, Tyler Conklin had no issues taking a step forward and filling in for meaningful work. He has multiple 70+ yard games and three touchdowns on the season, something that not too many third-option tight ends can say this season. In a scramble of a position to evaluate, it is easy to get excited about starting Conklin every week—but don’t be so naive in Week 12. 

A lot of Conklin’s production has heavily relied on touchdowns; even in games where he has gotten heavy pass volume, the high number of targets doesn’t do much for his fantasy ceiling when the routes are so short. This season, no defense has given up fewer targets or receiving yards to opposing tight ends than the 49ers and only one team has given up fewer receptions. Indeed, they have given up a few touchdowns to tight ends but consider this: San Francisco is a tad worse as a fantasy defense against wide receivers and have given up the fourteenth-most receptions to opposing wide receivers in the NFL. Kirk Cousins’ top two options in the air, especially if he is playing from behind, are still wide receivers, not to mention that Dalvin Cook still rates as an elite talent in the backfield. If Conklin is ignored in the red zone as he sometimes has been this season, there’s no real upside to starting Conklin—and if you’re streaming at tight end, you want that boom potential, not this.

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