Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 12

There are many things to be thankful for -- and this is the time of year to keep those things in mind -- but getting negative points from a starter in your fantasy football lineup is not one of them.

Starting Dak Prescott in Week 11 was like preparing yourself to stuff your face with turkey on Thanksgiving, just to find out no turkey would be served. It was like being forced to eat cranberry sauce out of a can.

The literal worst.

Yes, yes -- like I said, there are plenty of things to be thankful for. But the sting of a fantasy football loss because you simply started a player? A loss that could've been prevented had you just not played that guy? That's when fantasy football sucks. That's when it's impossible to be thankful for anything.

Except the waiver wire. We can always be thankful for the waiver wire. Right, Dak owners?


Start Andy Dalton (vs. Cleveland): Since Ken Zampese's firing as offensive coordinator for the Bengals, Dalton hasn't been all that bad in fantasy football. He's averaging 15.70 fantasy points per game without him, and when you remove two games against two top pass defenses -- games against the Jaguars and Steelers -- that number shoots up to 18.30, which is a top-10 number in points per game at the quarterback position. Dalton's already torched the Browns this year for four touchdowns, and he shouldn't have a ton of issues with them again on Sunday.

Sit Dak Prescott (vs. Los Angeles): There's a chance Tyron Smith finds the field on Thanksgiving, which would be a huge boost for Prescott and the Cowboys. But even if Smith plays, Prescott's still in a tough spot. The Chargers have the sixth-best pass defense in the NFL according to our schedule-adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, and they haven't provided much a ceiling for opposing passers this year, limiting all but one quarterback to fewer than 18 points. (That one was, somehow, Trevor Siemian early in the season.) Given Dak's recent play, if you have options on your waiver wire in plus matchups, you may want to look that direction. But like I mentioned in this week's 15 Transactions column: don't drop him.

Start Case Keenum (deeper play, at Detroit): Keenum now has 17-plus fantasy points in each of his last three games, and he'll face a Detroit Lions secondary on Thanksgiving that's been pretty mediocre all season long, surrendering 14 or more fantasy points in all but one of their last six games. And those contests have been against -- to name a few -- DeShone Kizer, Brett Hundley, and Mitchell Trubisky.

Another key reason to like Keenum this week, though, is similar to why I was on him last week: game pace and team tendencies in a neutral script. Both the Lions and Vikings have a top-10 pace this season when the game is within six points (the spread in this contest is three points), and Detroit is the pass-friendliest team in football -- a 1.94 pass-to-rush attempt ratio -- when the game is close as well. The pace should create more overall plays, but the potential increase in passing also dictates more plays run. That makes Keenum super intriguing. The downside is that it's a divisional game, and it's the second time these two teams have met this year. That could cause a lower-scoring contest.

Sit Derek Carr (vs. Denver): The Broncos surprisingly rank in the bottom half of the league in fantasy points against to the quarterback position, and it's all because of touchdowns. No team has allowed more than Denver's 22 passing touchdowns this season. Let me say that again: the Denver Broncos -- the secondary feared by everyone in fantasy football over the last couple of seasons -- has allowed the most passing touchdowns this year.

So why bench Derek Carr? Well, this is two-fold. First, Carr kind of has been bad at football of late. He's scored just 12 or 13 fantasy points in each of his last three games, and those contests came against beatable defenses like New England, Miami, and Buffalo. The other piece to this, though, is that it looks like Denver's been a little unfortunate. While they've given up more passing touchdowns than any other team, they still rank fifth-best in yards allowed, which means regression should eventually hit. So that combined with Carr's recent struggles make him a sit candidate this week.

Other quarterbacks to start: Tyrod Taylor (at Kansas City), Marcus Mariota (at Indianapolis)
Other quarterbacks to sit: Josh McCown (vs. Carolina), Blaine Gabbert (vs. Jacksonville)

Running Back

Start Samaje Perine (vs. New York): With Chris Thompson now sadly out of the picture for Washington, Samaje Perine will take on a huge role in the Redskins' backfield. He ended up carrying almost 70% of Washington's rushes on Sunday, and that was with Thompson healthy for a portion of the game. Though the Giants held Kareem Hunt to a modest performance on Sunday, they've been pretty ordinary as a rush defense this year per our numbers, and Perine has a chance to be in a nice positive script since Washington's a seven-point favorite. That means lots of rushes and the potential for scores.

Sit James White (vs. Miami): The emergence of Rex Burkhead has really hurt James White in fantasy football. From Weeks 1 through 6, White played no fewer than 40% of New England's snaps in a single game. Burkhead returned to the lineup in Week 7, and in the four games with Burkhead, White's snap rates have been 31%, 23%, 16%, 28%. He's found the end zone twice during this time and that's kept him somewhat relevant in fantasy, but the fear with this game is that the Patriots, as 17-point favorites, hop out to an early lead and don't look back. That's never a good scenario for a satellite back.

Start Alfred Morris (vs. Los Angeles): You want, ideally, a positive game script for Alfred Morris. Despite the Cowboys getting torched by the Eagles this past Sunday night, Morris carried the ball 17 times, and he now has 28 of a possible 40 running back carries for Dallas during the two games Ezekiel Elliott's been suspended for.

I'm not here to predict a Cowboys victory or a for-sure positive game flow situation, but Morris is in a much better spot this week than last. The Cowboys are favorites, which seems strange given their recent play, but at the very least, the game could end up being close. And they're facing a Chargers rush defense that's much easier to beat than the pass D -- they rank 30th in rush defense according to our numbers, and they've allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to the running back position. Morris should be fine (especially if Tyron Smith is back), but if the game actually goes in Dallas' favor, watch out.

Sit Doug Martin (at Atlanta): It's to the point where matchups really don't matter for Doug Martin. He was in a great spot last week against Miami and fell flat on his face, rushing for 38 yards on 19 carries. He now has a Success Rate -- or the percentage of positive runs made by a running back -- of just 27.68%, which is the second-lowest in the league among running backs with 100 or more carries. Over his last three games, he hasn't cracked the top-40 in running back scoring (PPR). How can you trust him in any matchup at this point?

Start Devontae Booker (deeper play, at Oakland): Booker finally saw more totes than C.J. Anderson in Week 11, and he played almost 20 more snaps. Things have been pointing up for Booker, and it looks like this may finally be his backfield. If that's the case, he's got a great matchup against the Raiders and their bottom-10 rush defense. It's one that's given up the sixth-most fantasy points per game to the running back position.

Other running backs to start: Jerick McKinnon (and Latavius Murray) (at Detroit), Dion Lewis (vs. Miami)
Other running backs to sit: Javorius Allen (vs. Houston), Ameer Abdullah (smaller league, vs. Minnesota)

Wide Receiver

Start Cooper Kupp (vs. New Orleans): It's looking like Bobby Woods is going to miss a couple of weeks with a shoulder injury, so his volume in the offense (seven targets per game) will be dispersed throughout. That could really benefit Kupp this week, who will see a great slot matchup against the Saints (they've struggled against slot wide receivers this year -- Golden Tate, Adam Thielen, Chris Hogan, and even Jamison Crowder last week did work against them). That's especially true if Marshon Lattimore ends up playing, as he'll cover Sammy Watkins on the outside. In a game with a 53.5-point over/under, Kupp could have a big day.

Sit Jordy Nelson (at Pittsburgh): With Brett Hundley starting this year, Jordy Nelson has yet to see a red zone target (Davante Adams has four), and even though he's seen almost 18% of the team's targets in the split, he's finished no higher than 43rd in weekly wide receiver scoring (PPR). Against a Steelers secondary -- albeit a banged-up one -- that's allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this year, Nelson's an easy sit.

Start Kenny Golladay (deeper play, vs. Minnesota): It sounds like Xavier Rhodes should be healthy for Week 12, which might actually be good news for Golladay. The last time these two teams met (Week 4), Rhodes shadowed Marvin Jones on the outside on 26 of 30 coverage snaps, allowing a 1-catch, 38-yard line, per Alex Gelhar of Golladay (Babytron) wasn't active for that game due to injury, but the soft coverage on the other side of the field does give him some upside. If you're really in a pinch, he's not a terrible dart throw.

Sit Amari Cooper (vs. Denver): As I mentioned above with Derek Carr, the Broncos have allowed a lot of passing touchdowns this year. But against wide receivers, Denver actually ranks closer to the middle of the pack in touchdowns allowed, mostly because they've been pretty bad against tight ends. Their corners are still fine. Cooper's struggled against Denver -- and those corners -- throughout his career. In five career games against the Broncos, he's averaged 7.2 targets, 3.2 receptions, 30.2 yards, and 0.2 touchdowns against the Broncos. Not great, Bob.

Other wide receivers to start: Emmanuel Sanders (at Oakland), JuJu Smith-Schuster (vs. Green Bay)
Other wide receivers to sit: Marvin Jones (vs. Minnesota), Rishard Matthews (at Indianapolis)

Tight End

Start Vernon Davis (vs. New York): On Sunday, the Chiefs became the first team this year to not score a tight end touchdown against the Giants. Even still, Travis Kelce was the third-best tight end on the week, as he had over 100 yards receiving on 8 catches. As long as Jordan Reed continues to be sidelined, Vernon Davis stands to benefit against a defense that's allowed the most fantasy points to the tight end position this year. He's an elite play.

Sit Jason Witten (vs. Los Angeles): Witten's been a completely boom or bust tight end this year, ranking outside the top-40 in weekly positional scoring four times while also finishing inside the top-7 four times. Two of those four plus games have come against the Broncos and Giants, though, which are the two worst teams at defending the position in fantasy football. This week he'll get the Chargers, who've surrendered only two top-15 games to tight ends, and those tight ends were Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz. This isn't an easy one for Witten.

Start Tyler Kroft (vs. Cleveland): Kroft has just 16 receiving yards over his last two games, but he's been on the field for well over 90% of Cincinnati's snaps. And he's run more routes than all but seven tight ends in the NFL over this time. In Week 12, he gets Cleveland, who've allowed the fourth-most points to the tight end position this year. Back in Week 4, if you recall, Kroft beat up the defense with 68 yards and a pair of scores. We shouldn't expect that, but we should expect more production than we've seen from him over the last couple of games.

Other tight ends to start: Delanie Walker (at Indianapolis), Jared Cook (vs. Denver)
Other tight ends to sit: Eric Ebron (vs. Minnesota)


Start the Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Green Bay): In Week 11, the Ravens showed us the type of ceiling defenses can have against this Brett Hundley-led Packers offense. Baltimore's biggest rival, Pittsburgh, will try to take advantage of that matchup. And they should be able to -- in Hundley's four starts, the Packers are surrendering 3.25 sacks per game, while the Steelers are second in the NFL with 34 sacks.

Sit the Los Angeles Rams (vs. New Orleans): We've only seen one defense rank as a start-worthy one (top-12) in fantasy football this year against the Saints. Because the Saints are good. Don't get cute with this one.

Other defenses to start: Washington Redskins (vs. New York), New England Patriots (vs. Miami)
Other defenses to sit: Buffalo Bills (at Kansas City), Dallas Cowboys (vs. Los Angeles)