Well, Thursday’s action came and went, and was sort of like many a Thanksgiving meal. Chicago and Detroit was the appetizer, with everyone just eating it because it’s there and they needed something to nosh on before the actual meal. Las Vegas and Dallas were the main course, and it did not disappoint. The game provided plenty of nourishment for our fantasy squads, save for Darren Waller’s unfortunate injury. The teams even went back for seconds, as many of us are wont to do. Buffalo and New Orleans were the dessert. It served its purpose but was a bit of a letdown after we all filled up throughout the day. Sunday and Monday will serve as the proverbial leftovers in this metaphor, but they are not to be downplayed or ignored by any means. We still have plenty of eating to do before the week is through.
Only a dozen games are remaining on the Week 12 NFL slate, so fantasy managers will have some interesting decisions to make. Thursday’s results may very well dictate your course of action for the rest of the week. Overall, most of the big names underperformed on Thursday. Many fantasy teams that had multiple players play on Thursday are in worse shape than ones who are starting from scratch on Sunday. Keep your situation in mind when sorting through my Week 12 start and sit recommendation. They are more or less meant to be digested in a vacuum, which may or may not pertain to your particular circumstances. You will see below that I am starting a player whom I recommend you sit based on my head-to-head matchup. Feel free to comment below or on Twitter with any specific questions you have regarding your start/sit decisions.
Week 12 Start and Sit Recommendations
Quarterback to Start
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals v. Pittsburgh Steelers
After throwing for multiple scores in each of his first eight games, Joe Burrow has thrown just one touchdown pass over his last two games. His yards per attempt have also dropped dramatically, going from 9.00 to 6.23. A matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers is not one that you would expect could reverse Burrow’s recent fortunes. But while Pittsburgh has a reputation as an elite defense, that has not necessarily been the case in 2021. The Steelers rank 22nd in yards per game allowed per game this season and 16th in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Perhaps more importantly, their offense has picked it up in recent weeks. In Ben Roethlisberger’s last two starts, the team has scored 66 points. This game could have a bit more offensive appeal than most are giving it credit for.
Burrow faced off against Pittsburgh in Week 3 and came away from that performance with a weekly QB16 finish. However, he threw just 18 passes in that contest. The Bengals were never really threatened in the second half of a game they would eventually win by 14 points. I am expecting a better effort from Pittsburgh’s offense this time around, which could in turn benefit Burrow. This is a pivotal AFC North matchup, and I believe Burrow will break out of his mini-slump. I have him inside my top-10 quarterbacks for the week. Most of the quarterbacks who played Thursday exceeded expectations, but I still think Burrow puts up solid fantasy points in this matchup. He is a Week 12 start for me.
Quarterback to Sit
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers v. Los Angeles Rams
Full disclosure – I am starting Aaron Rodgers in the one head-to-head league where I have him. I mention this because as much as I would like to make universal blanket statements, that is not the purpose of this column. My start and sit recommendations are usually situation-dependent. In the league where I am starting Rodgers, I had three players play on Thursday. They averaged just over eight points each, which was much less than I was anticipating. I am facing the top team in the league and am already way behind the eight-ball. I need to swing for the fences, and my other quarterback is Carson Wentz. While I do not like Rodgers this week, I still feel he offers a higher ceiling than Wentz. Now that I have offered that disclaimer, let me dig into why I am off Rodgers in general for Week 12.
First, the matchup is a rough one. The Los Angeles Rams have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. They have 12 interceptions versus 12 touchdown passes allowed on the year. That even split is tied with Dallas for the third-best ratio in the league. The Rams also pressure quarterbacks at a league-high 36 percent rate. That will be an issue considering Rodgers’ troublesome toe injury. Rodgers has had issues with pressure even before his toe injury. The Packers quarterback averages 8.68 yards per attempt when operating from a clean pocket this year. That number drops to just 4.73 yards per attempt when pressured. That 4.73 mark is ahead of only Andy Dalton among quarterbacks who have thrown at least 100 passes this season. I believe the matchup and injury will be too much for Rodgers to overcome this week from a fantasy perspective.
Running Backs to Start
Rex Burkhead and David Johnson, Houston Texans v. New York Jets
I recommended Myles Gaskin last week based on him squaring off with the New York Jets’ abysmal run defense. It may not have been pretty, but Gaskin finished the week as the overall RB9. The New York Jets are far and away the best fantasy matchup for opposing running backs. The Jets have allowed 20 percent more fantasy points to running backs than any other team in the NFL. They have given up 17 rushing touchdowns this year. The Los Angeles Chargers have allowed 13, and no other team has given up more than 10. Opponents have run the ball 31 times inside New York’s 5-yard line this year. No other team has seen more than 23 such attempts. And the Jets also struggle to contain receiving backs. They have allowed the third-most receiving yards (655) and touchdowns (4) to opposing running backs.
Having said all that, I cannot lie to you. I am not getting very warm and fuzzy about recommending either one of the running backs for the Houston Texans. Neither has eclipsed 55 total yards in a game this season, and each has scored a single touchdown on the year. But there is room for optimism this week. In addition to the cake matchup, Houston waived Phillip Lindsay earlier this week. Lindsay had not done much, but his presence muddled things a bit for Johnson and Burkhead. Now that he is gone, perhaps there is a clearer path to touches for both the veterans. Both had season-highs in opportunities last week and could threaten for 15-20 in this matchup. The 2-8 Texans are rare favorites in this contest. That has me leaning slightly towards Burkhead over Johnson, though not by much.
Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson, New York Jets at Houston Texans
Ironically, you can make a similar case for the Jets’ tandem of Tevin Coleman and Ty Johnson this week with Michael Carter out. Sorry, I had to go cry real quick. Houston’s defensive front is downright atrocious. They allow an average of 2.37 yards per carry before contact. That is the highest number in the league. The Jets have the third-worst offensive line in terms of yards before contact (1.10), so this will be an interesting case study in weakness versus weakness. The reason I prefer Houston’s pair is twofold. First, the Jets have allowed 21 total touchdowns to opposing running backs, while Houston has allowed just 11. Secondly, the Texans are surprisingly one of the better teams in the NFL at limiting receiving production from running backs. They have surrendered just 293 receiving yards on the year to running backs. That is the third-lowest number in the league.
I have all four backs in this game as RB3s in 12-team leagues, so I do not think any are must-starts by any means. But they do have some appeal in what has already been an odd week at the running back position. Josh Jacobs was the only top-20 back to exceed expectations, while D’Andre Swift (injury related), Ezekiel Elliott, and David Montgomery all fell short of their projections to varying degrees. It would not surprise me at all if a couple of the running backs in this game end up as top-20 fantasy weekly scorers. At the very least, they should all outscore Tony Jones, who I foolishly bumped up to 30th in my rankings after Mark Ingram was ruled out. Whoops.
Running Backs to Sit
J.D. McKissic, Washington Football Team v. Seattle Seahawks
We know that fantasy football production does not always match up with what we expect to happen. If it did, the game would be far less fun and challenging, though I suppose many of our relationships would benefit. Anyway, one thing that brings comfort is when a player has a specific role on a team. J.D. McKissic is the pass-catching back for the Washington Football Team. That means that by and large, we have an idea of what matchups we should start him in and which ones we should not. Generally speaking, I prefer to start players like McKissic when they are likely to be playing from behind. I do not know if that will be the case when Washington welcomes Seattle on Monday night.
Seattle is 3-7 and has scored the fifth-fewest points in the NFC. It certainly did not help that Russell Wilson has missed half the season. But it’s not like Russ has been doing much cooking since his return. The Seahawks have mustered a single touchdown in two games with their star quarterback back in action. It’s a shame because their defense has allowed the most receiving yards to opposing backs this year. And of course, there is the revenge game narrative at play for McKissic. But I just do not think Seattle’s offense will do enough to force Washington into a pass-happy game plan. I cannot recommend McKissic as a Week 12 start when I expect him to get single-digit opportunities in this game. However, I am fully willing to admit I was wrong to rank him below Tony Jones, so there’s that.
Alex Collins, Seattle Seahawks at Washington Football Team
I will say this for Alex Collins – he is consistent. In his last three games, Collins has had exactly 10 carries and has finished with anywhere from 36 to 44 rushing yards. Of course, none of those lines resulted in a top-40 fantasy finish. And yet most are consistently ranking Collins as a mid-range RB3. I just don’t see it. I have him at RB33 this week, and even that feels a bit ambitious. If I knew for a fact that Rashaad Penny was playing this week, I would drop Collins even further. Collins is facing the Washington Football Team. Washington allows the second-fewest rushing yards to opposing running backs, the fourth-fewest yards per rush, and the sixth-fewest yards per rush before contact. What exactly is the appeal of starting a running back who is likely capped at 12 touches against a high-end run defense?
Again, the only reason I ranked Collins as high as I did is the issue of Rashaad Penny’s health. Penny tweaked a hamstring last week and has yet to practice this week. Collins was given 56 total opportunities from Weeks 5-7 and parlayed that into an overall RB26 finish during that span. However, even that is a bit inflated. He finished outside the top-30 in two of those three weeks. Even if we think Collins is locked into 15-plus touches, I still would not trust him as a Week 12 start given the matchup. With Penny’s status still up in the air and this game not being played until Monday night, I have no interest in relying on Collins this week. You do not want to pin your hopes of earning a victory this week on Alex Collins scoring double-digit fantasy points.
Wide Receiver to Start
Leviska Shenault, Jacksonville Jaguars v. Atlanta Falcons
Just when I try to get out, they pull me back in… I was resigned to Leviska Shenault not reaching his potential for at least the remainder of 2021. However, Jacksonville used him primarily in the slot last week, which was a refreshing adjustment. They probably should have been doing that the whole time, but better late than never I suppose. In any event, Shenault ended the day with 50 receiving yards. Not very helpful for fantasy purposes, but it was his highest weekly total since Week 6. Baby steps. There is also the issue of Jamal Agnew’s season-ending hip injury. His absence could lead to some more work for Shenault, particularly out of the backfield. After getting 18 carries out of the backfield in his rookie season a year ago, Shenault has just 7 carries this year. Again, baby steps.
Do I think he has it in him to have a blowup game where he finishes as a top-12 fantasy receiver? Probably not. Jacksonville’s lackluster offense makes that nearly impossible. However, I do like this week’s matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, particularly if Shenault operates strictly out of the slot. A.J. Terrell is by far Atlanta’s best corner. He lines up outside 90 percent of the time. I would imagine he faces off against Marvin Jones on most snaps. That should leave Shenault against slot corner Richie Grant. Grant does not have a ton of experience, and opponents have had success against him. Opposing receivers have an 83 percent catch rate and average 1.65 yards per route against the Falcons’ rookie. I think Shenault is a solid Flex option this week, and would not be surprised if he scores his first touchdown of the season.
Wide Receiver to Sit
Odell Beckham, Los Angeles Rams at Green Bay Packers
Odell Beckham did not make a huge impact in his debut as a Los Angeles Ram two weeks ago. Beckham played just 15 offensive snaps and had two grabs for 18 yards. It was not a huge surprise given the small window of time with which to get acclimated to the offense. Perhaps last week’s bye was enough to get Beckham up to speed. But head coach Sean McVay referred to the process of incorporating Beckham into the offense as a “work in progress” earlier this week. While Beckham is still getting adjusted to his new offense, he will have to deal with a Green Bay Packers squad that allows the sixth-fewest fantasy points to the wide receiver position. That combination does not make me feel very confident in his Week 12 fantasy prospects.
Rams Quarterback Matthew Stafford, like his counterpart, has also had a ton of problems under pressure in recent weeks. In his last two games, he has completed just six-of-18 passes for 37 yards while under duress. Green Bay pressures opposing quarterbacks at a 34 percent rate, behind only the Rams and Raiders. This could lead to McVay designing more quick throws. His most likely individual matchup is also a bit worrisome. Beckham will presumably line up outside more often than not. That means he should square off with Kevin King more than any other cornerback. King is Green Bay’s best corner outside of the injured Jaire Alexander. Considering that Beckham’s rapport with Stafford and role in the offense are still works in progress, this does not seem to bode well for Beckham this week. I would prefer to bench Beckham in Week 12 if possible.
Tight End to Start
Dan Arnold, Jacksonville Jaguars v. Atlanta Falcons
Last week was the first time in November that I did not list Dan Arnold among my weekly starts. And look what happened! Zero targets, zero catches, zero yards, zero fantasy points. I threw off the entire balance of the universe by omitting him last week. I clearly have a major responsibility here, and I do not take it lightly. So fear not, Dan Arnold managers. I hereby include him in my Week 12 starts and thus ensure he has a productive day on Sunday.
In all seriousness, it will be more difficult than normal for Arnold to finish inside the top-12 given what took place on Thursday. There were 11 touchdown passes thrown Thursday, and seven of them went to tight ends. Scoring is often the difference between a tight end finishing inside or outside the top-12, and Arnold has yet to find paydirt in 2021. This recommendation is more a nod to point out that last week’s performance was the anomaly. Arnold still averages 45 yards per game as a Jaguar, which is a healthy number for a tight end. He has a very favorable matchup against Deion Jones of the Atlanta Falcons. Jones has allowed 0.36 fantasy points per target, 1.66 yards per route covered, and a 91 percent catch rate this season. All are bottom-three ranks. Do not hold Arnold’s Week 11 disappearing act against him this week.
Tight End to Sit
Noah Fant, Denver Broncos v. Los Angeles Chargers
This recommendation probably flies in the face of conventional wisdom a bit. The Los Angeles Chargers have allowed the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. And Fant’s 59 yards in Denver’s last game trailed only fellow tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, who had 77. However, Denver has a lot of mouths to feed in that offense. In addition to their two tight ends, they have two running backs who are heavily involved, as well as three solid receivers. It is a good problem for an NFL team to have, but it makes life rather difficult for fantasy managers. To be fair, many tight ends are in similar situations. I am not saying to drop him or trade him for pennies on the dollar. But he is a player who seems to be overvalued in many respects.
For example, his DFS salary this week is in the top five at the tight end position. That seems awfully ambitious to me. I realize this is not a DFS column, but fantasy football is inherently about finding value as well as production. Fant may very well produce this week, but I do not see a ton of value. I also feel that while the Chargers have allowed some tight end production, they have solid individuals who could stymie Fant a bit. Kyzir White has been a solid cover linebacker, and of course safety, Derwin James always lurks. I have Fant as my TE15 this week, so it is not as if I consider him to be trash. I just think he will underperform this week based on expectations.
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