9 Fantasy Football Stars to Start or Sit for Week 12

Think the running backs will feel the Tryptophan sluggishness? Lead Writer Zach Warren disagrees.

Editor's Note: Some of the recommendations here have been posted on as well through a partnership between numberFire and Bleacher Report. Both parties have agreed to have this information posted in both places.

Happy Thanksgiving! Just from numberFire, we want to give you a gift: the gift of Math. You see, our analytics consistently outperform our competitors; how many others said to pick up Danario Alexander or to watch out for Marcel Reece last week? With three games on Thanksgiving today, setting your fantasy lineup early is crucial. Thankfully, we're here to help.

If you want our full projections, make sure to check out our Week 12 Projections page. But below is an expanded Start/Sit for Week 12, with nine key players we're looking at that can make a difference one way or another this week, with a heavy focus on those key Thanksgiving matchups.

Fantasy Football Best Starts/Must Sits Week 12

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Standard League Fantasy Points: 14.07 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 20 QB (No. 29 Overall)
Week 12 Opponent: vs. Houston Texans
Verdict: Sit Him

Beware, all ye who enter against the Houston defense. Not everybody can be Chad Henne.

Despite their failures last week against Jacksonville, the Houston Texans still come into this week as numberFire's No. 3 opponent-adjusted defense. Expect a regression back to the mean this week; remember that after their blowout Packers loss, the defense came back the next week and held the Ravens to 13 points.

And while Matthew Stafford has at least put together some solid performances after early season struggles, I would still be wary trusting him. In his four games against defenses that we have ranked in the top 10 in efficiency, only once—Seattle, Week 8—has Stafford posted above 14 Fantasy Points (FP) in a standard league.

Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins
Standard League Fantasy Points: 11.87 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 9 RB (No. 46 Overall)
Week 12 Opponent: at Dallas Cowboys
Verdict: Start Him

Evidently, Alfred Morris has become somewhat of a fantasy pariah after his three straight single-digit fantasy point games. I wasn't aware of this, but apparently one-fifth of ESPN fantasy owners are spooked; Morris comes into the week being started in roughly the same amount of leagues as Steven Jackson, Michael Turner, and Ryan Mathews.

I just don't understand why. Morris has at least 13 rush attempts in every single Redskins game so far this season; last week, he had 20. Morris has rushed for at least 75 yards in eight of his 10 games so far this season. And the Cowboys defense is dead average - they sit at No. 18 on numberFire's opponent-adjusted defensive list.

Don't overthink the recent "struggles" (in which he hasn't had below five FP) and go with the sure thing: Morris will get his touches. Have yourself a happy Thanksgiving and trust him.

Stevan Ridley, New England Patriots
Standard League Fantasy Points: 10.02 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 14 RB (No. 56 Overall)
Week 12 Opponent: at New York Jets
Verdict: Start Him

Ignore the Shane Vereen factor; if the Patriots are in any semblance of a close game, Stevan Ridley is going to receive the lion's share of the carries.

If you want proof, take a look at the plays breakdown from the beginning of their Week 11 game against the Colts. Five of the first six carries of the game went Ridley's way. By the time the Patriots went up 38-17 in the third quarter, Ridley had 10 carries while Vereen only had three. Most of the backup's work came in garbage time.

The Jets have an above-average defense (we have them ranked No. 14), but don't sleep on Ridley. He had 65 yards on 17 carries against them earlier this season.

Shonn Greene, New York Jets
Standard League Fantasy Points: 9.81 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 15 RB (No. 59 Overall)
Week 12 Opponent: vs. New England Patriots
Verdict: Start Him

But Ridley's not the only running back I like in the Thanksgiving nightcap; take a look at the man on the other sideline as well.

Although Bilal Powell poached Greene for two touchdowns last week, the former Iowa back still remains the clear No. 1 option in the New York backfield. He finally has settled into some sort of rhythm with at least 15 carries in each of his past four games, and he has responded in kind with at least 50 yards rushing in each affair.

The Patriots are weaker against the pass than the run, but that's not the Jets' game. Rex Ryan's squad has rushed the ball on 48 percent of its offensive plays so far this year.

Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons
Standard League Fantasy Points: 7.41 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 29 RB (No. 104 Overall)
Week 12 Opponent: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Verdict: Sit Him

It seems like every week I'm telling people to bench Michael Turner. But it seems like many people still haven't gotten the clue, as Turner is still being started in 75 percent (three-quarters!) of ESPN fantasy leagues.

Maybe those people are conveniently ignoring Turner's -0.21 NEP per rush average, meaning that Turner's losing the Falcons a point of expectation for every five rushes he makes. Maybe they're ignoring the potential poaching of Jacquizz Rodgers, who has actually led the Falcons in rushing yards in two of their last four games. Or maybe they just expect Turner to continue scoring every game, but our 0.31 projected total TDs disagree.

Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Standard League Fantasy Points: 11.90 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 12 WR (No. 46 Overall)
Week 12 Opponent: vs. Atlanta Falcons
Verdict: Start Him

The narrative with Vincent Jackson is simple: He has the catching ability of a 6th grade defensive lineman, but when he connects, he can fly. And it's because of that ability that the Buccaneers will continue to give him his chances.

Jackson's 48 percent catch rate sits among the worst of all NFL receivers; the average catch rate is closer to 60 percent. But his 88 targets are in the top 10 of all NFL receivers. So why does Josh Freeman keep trying? Because Jackson's 20.5 yards per catch is the highest among all qualified receivers, and his 16 catches of at least 20 yards is fourth behind only Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas and Reggie Wayne.

As long as Jackson's not facing a top-five defense (and the Falcons only come in at No. 10 in our rankings), he should be a must start every single week. At the very least, he's going to get the opportunities.

Brian Hartline, Miami Dolphins
Projected Stats: 4.50 receptions, 66.68 receiving yards, 0.26 receiving TDs
Standard League Fantasy Points: 8.09 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 31 WR (No. 90 Overall)
Week 12 Opponent: vs. Seattle Seahawks

Different player, different team, same story: Just because Hartline is the presumed No. 1 receiver for the Dolphins, don't automatically assume that he's start-worthy.

I do say "presumed" because, unlike Amendola, Hartline actually does have some competition. Davone Bess comes into Week 12 with only six less total targets on the year, and his 11 targets against the Bills last week led the team.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, don't have the strength of the Arizona secondary but are pretty close. Their 5.22 NEP allowed over expectation ranks sixth among all NFL squads.

Jermaine Gresham, Cincinnati Bengals
Standard League Fantasy Points: 7.71 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 6 TE (No. 94 Overall)
Week 12 Opponent: vs. Oakland Raiders
Verdict: Start Him

Take a look back at the first slide and check out all my praise for the Red Rocket. Well, the same argument applies for one of his main targets, tight end Jermaine Gresham.

Sitting second on the team behind A.J. Green with 63 targets, Gresham has become one of the most consistent tight end options available. Over the past five Bengals games, Gresham has recorded at least six fantasy points in four of them. The other tight ends who can say that? Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.

Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions
Standard League Fantasy Points: 5.16 FP
numberFire Rank: No. 15 TE (No. 138 Overall)
Week 12 Opponent: vs. Houston Texans
Verdict: Sit Him

We've loved Pettigrew in the past... perhaps a little too much. Despite high expectations, Pettigrew has not put up a single double-digit fantasy point game in a standard league so far this season. That bears repeating. Not. A. Single. One.

When added to the fact that the Houston Texans have one of the best secondaries in the NFL (already covered when talking about Matthew Stafford), Pettigrew has little to no upside this week. He'll likely get some targets, as he's averaging a second-on-the-Lions 7.6 targets per game so far this season. Just don't expect him to do anything with them.