Fantasy Football: Week 12 Wide Receiver Matchup Report
Antonio Brown was the fantasy star of Week 11, posting a career-high 32.4 fantasy points in Pittsburgh’s victory against the Tennessee Titans. Brown became the first wide receiver to hit the 1,000-yard mark this season, and now trails DeAndre Hopkins by just 3.3 points for the lead as the overall WR1 on the season. Adam Thielen continues to be one of the best fantasy stories of 2017. Drafted in the middle rounds of most fantasy drafts as an upstart WR4, Thielen is the overall WR4 on the year after putting up his third straight top-six weekly performance. The news was not as good for a player who has been an even bigger surprise, post-hype sleeper Robert Woods. The late-round-flier-turned-WR1 suffered a shoulder injury late in Week 11 and will be out for at least a couple of weeks. Marvin Jones has been just as hot recently, recording four weekly WR1 finishes over his last five contests. That said, putting up a similar performance will be a difficult task for Jones in Week 12, given his matchup.
With just two weeks remaining in the fantasy regular season, Week 12 will certainly be a critical one for many fantasy owners. With Thanksgiving upon us, there will be three Thursday games, which should throw an interesting wrinkle into head-to-head lineup decisions. The good news is that the NFL’s bye weeks are finally behind us, which means that most fantasy owners should have plenty of options to choose from when making weekly lineup choices. As we head into this pivotal week, let’s take a look at some of the wide receivers whose matchups may dictate a change in their Week 12 value.
JEREMY MACLIN, BALTIMORE RAVENS VS. HOUSTON TEXANS
Jeremy Maclin dealt with injuries and inefficiency throughout the first half of the 2017 season. He was limited after suffering a concussion and also dealing with a hand ailment. After missing two games due to a shoulder injury, Maclin returned in Week 8 and immediately put up back-to-back WR2 weekly performances. However, Maclin followed that up with a disappointing effort in a great Week 11 matchup against the Green Bay Packers. This week he has a chance to put last week’s game behind him. Maclin takes on a beleaguered Houston Texans secondary that has hemorrhaged an absurd 58 receptions, 948 yards and eight touchdowns to opposing wideouts over their last four games. Maclin runs most of his routes from the inside, which is where Larry Fitzgerald (Week 11’s overall WR6) did much of his damage against Houston. Jeremy Maclin should be able to take advantage of this matchup and put up WR2 fantasy numbers once again in Week 12.
STERLING SHEPARD, NEW YORK GIANTS AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS
In two games since returning from an early-season ankle injury, Sterling Shepard has been a great value at wide receiver. Essentially the last man standing following in New York’s receiving corps following season-ending injuries to Odell Beckham, Jr. and Brandon Marshall, Shepard caught 16 passes for 212 yards spanning Weeks 9-10. However, Shepard sent owners into a panic last weekend when it was learned that he would be missing a prime matchup with Kansas City due to migraines. This week he has a chance to pick up where he left off in a matchup against the Washington Redskins. As Shepard primarily plays the slot, he should be able to avoid Redskins’ cornerback Josh Norman in primary coverage. Even if Norman checks Shepard, Shepard is still a high-upside Week 12 play. Norman attempted to cover fellow slot receiver Doug Baldwin at times in Week 9, and Baldwin easily beat him for a touchdown en route to an overall WR5 performance. The Giants will likely have to throw the ball quite a bit in this game, and Shepard should once again receive a high volume of targets. It should be noted that Shepard missed practice on Tuesday, as the team is still trying to determine the source of his migraines. New York plays on Thursday, so Shepard owners need to be on alert and have other options available in case Shepard is ruled out. If Sterling Shepard does suit up on Thanksgiving, I expect him to continue his impressive stretch run and finish Week 12 as a fantasy WR2.
KENNY STILLS, MIAMI DOLPHINS AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Many fantasy players (myself included) believed that 2017 would be the DeVante Parker breakout year. That, uh, hasn’t really worked out. Parker is just the WR60 on the season. Meanwhile, teammates Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills have each put up WR2 numbers so far in 2017. Stills is very quietly the overall WR14 on the year. His 24-point Week 11 performance has plenty to do with that, of course. But Stills has enjoyed a breakout campaign, particularly when paired with Dolphins’ backup quarterback Matt Moore. Moore has spent essentially two games’ worth of time as the Dolphins’ quarterback, and Stills has produced at an elite level with Moore at the helm. Stills has 15 catches for 261 yards and three touchdowns on a whopping 22 targets with Moore at quarterback. This week, Miami takes on the New England Patriots. New England has played stout defense of late but has still ceded the second-most receptions, second-most receiving yards, and fourth-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. The Dolphins are an enormous underdog in this game, and they will likely be throwing the ball quite a bit while being forced to play catch up. Regardless of which Dolphins’ quarterbacks starts this week, I think Kenny Stills is a borderline WR2.
COREY DAVIS, TENNESSEE TITANS AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
2017 has been a very frustrating year for both Corey Davis and his fantasy owners. Davis suffered a hamstring injury in training camp, which put his debut in doubt. He was able to overcome that and debut when the regular season began in Week 1. Davis showed great promise as he had six catches for 69 yards on a team-high 10 targets in his NFL debut. However, Davis re-injured his hamstring in Week 2 and missed the next six weeks. Upon his return, he has teased and shown flashes but has yet to pay off patient owners. He was on the brink of a Week 10 touchdown, but he fumbled prior to breaking the plane of the goal line, resulting in an eight-point fantasy swing. Many fantasy owners are looking to dump Davis, but they should not. Davis has played 85.2% of snaps and seen 17 targets in Tennessee’s last two games. This week, the Titans face the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts have allowed at least 50 yards receiving in a game to 17 different wide receivers, including three Titans in Week 6. I expect a big game out of Corey Davis in Week 12. I believe he will score his first NFL touchdown and hit double-digit fantasy points in this matchup.
STEFON DIGGS, MINNESOTA VIKINGS AT DETROIT LIONS
For the second consecutive season, Stefon Diggs started out like a house of fire. He averaged 15.73 fantasy points per game during the season’s first month. Unfortunately, as was the case in 2016, Diggs suffered a groin injury which abruptly put a halt to his elite production levels. In three full games since his return, Diggs has totaled just 136 total yards on just 17 targets. Meanwhile, Adam Thielen has put up monster numbers as quarterback Case Keenum’s go-to wide receiver over the past several weeks. Thielen has averaged 105 yards, 14.1 fantasy points, and a whopping 11.2 targets per game since Week 6. Despite Diggs’ recent struggles, he is still the receiver most likely to draw Detroit Lions’ cornerback Darius Slay in primary coverage. Slay has had another solid season in 2017, limiting opposing receivers to just 376 receiving yards under his watch. With his recent dip in productivity and his likely matchup against Slay, Stefon Diggs should be considered no better than a WR3 in Week 12.
MICHAEL CRABTREE AND AMARI COOPER, OAKLAND RAIDERS AT DENVER BRONCOS
Michael Crabtree ranks just 33rd in receiving yards among wideouts in 2017 but has managed to produce an overall WR17 ranking on the strength of his six touchdowns and one two-point conversion. Crabtree has a season-high of just 83 yards, as the entire Oakland Raiders’ offense has failed to live up to preseason expectations. On the other side of the field, Amari Cooper has been one of the biggest busts in all of fantasy. After being selected in the second round of many drafts, Cooper has lumbered to an overall ranking of WR34, largely resembling DeAndre Hopkins’ tremendously disappointing 2016 campaign. Cooper always has the potential to break out, as evidenced by his colossal Week 7 effort. However, it’s not wise to expect anything close to resembling that performance out of either Oakland wide receiver in Week 12 when the Raiders host the Denver Broncos. Though Denver has struggled defensively of late, they are still third-best in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to enemy wide receivers. The Broncos have allowed just 90 receptions to opposing wideouts, tied with Jacksonville for the lowest number in the league. Denver has also historically shut both Crabtree and Cooper down. The Broncos have limited Crabtree to 93 scoreless yards in three games since 2015. Cooper has not fared much better. Through four career games, Cooper has averaged just 26 yards per game against Denver. The Raiders have an intriguing late-season schedule, but neither Michael Crabtree nor Amari Cooper should be started as anything more than Flex plays in Week 12.
MARVIN JONES, DETROIT LIONS VS. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
As we discussed at the beginning of this article, Marvin Jones has been an absolute beast over the Detroit Lions’ last five games. Jones has vaulted all the way up to the overall WR8, largely on the strength of his recent stretch. Jones has averaged 13.56 fantasy points per game over his last five outings. However, Jones may have some problems continuing his recent hot streak in a Thanksgiving matchup with the Minnesota Vikings and elite cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes has allowed just 23 receptions for 248 yards and has not given up a touchdown in coverage on the year. When these teams faced each other in Week 4, Jones was held to just two catches for 42 yards. I simply don’t foresee Jones being able to beat Rhodes on a consistent basis in this matchup. I think it’s much more likely that Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford avoids Rhodes and instead chooses to pepper slot receiver Golden Tate with a lot of targets in this game. Despite his recent success, I don’t envision Marvin Jones as anything more than a WR3 in this difficult matchup.
SLEEPER OF THE WEEK:
ZAY JONES, BUFFALO BILLS AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Zay Jones had his best game in Buffalo’s Week 9 defeat at the hands of the New York Jets. He had 53 yards and a touchdown in that outing, finishing the week as a WR2. However, he tweaked his knee during that game and subsequently missed Week 10. Following Buffalo’s acquisition of Kelvin Benjamin from the Carolina Panthers, Jones was expected to take a backseat in the Bills’ pecking order. However, Benjamin left Week 11’s contest early with a knee injury of his own, and Jones took advantage of Benjamin’s absence. Jones had four catches for 68 yards, finishing the week as a WR3. With Benjamin questionable at best for Week 12, Jones once again has an opportunity to make some noise. His matchup presents a prime spot in which to do so. Buffalo faces the Kansas City Chiefs, who have given up the most fantasy points in the NFL to opposing wide receivers. As long as Tyrod Taylor is once again named the Buffalo Bills’ starting quarterback, Zay Jones makes for a very intriguing Week 12 fantasy sleeper.