Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 12
Despite this being one of the most annoying, injury-filled fantasy football seasons ever, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, there's still plenty to be thankful for.
Like Todd Gurley, who fell in fantasy drafts thanks to injury concerns, but has become one of the more reliable running backs in the game.
Or Devonta Freeman. If you snagged Freeman in the eighth round of August drafts, I'm sure you're in a good spot to make the fantasy playoffs right now.
How about DeAndre Hopkins? While everyone was excited about getting the Calvin Johnsons and A.J. Greens of the world in the second round this season, you waited patiently for the next round to hit, snagging the breakout star.
See? It's not all that bad.
And, to be honest, why not be thankful that this game even exists, no matter how depressing it's been in 2015. Because how else would you waste time at work between September and December? By talking to Jeff in accounting about his newborn girl?
Yeah, I'll take a Marshawn Lynch injury to my fantasy squad over that all day long.
Let's take a look at how to maximize your roster this week with some start and sit answers.
Quarterbacks to Sit
Andy Dalton (vs. St. Louis): Dalton had an impressive outing against Arizona last week, but he'll face an even tougher test against St. Louis in this one. The Rams rank third in the NFL against the pass according to our schedule-adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, and just one quarterback, Jay Cutler, has finished with a weekly quarterback ranking better than 15th against them this season. If you recall, Cutler got a lot of his yards on plays being made after the catch, which is tough to predict and somewhat unsustainable week to week. The ceiling just isn't there to play Dalton confidently this week, especially with great streaming options on the board.
Tony Romo (vs. Carolina): Ranked second within our pass defense metrics is Carolina, led by stud cornerback Josh Norman. Though the Panthers haven't played the toughest quarterbacks in football, only Aaron Rodgers has really found success against them this season in fantasy, and the majority of his work came in garbage time (though he did almost make an improbable comeback). Like Dalton above, it seems like an unnecessary risk to roll Romo out when there are a ton of really great streaming options this week.
Start These Quarterbacks Instead
Marcus Mariota (vs. Oakland): The Raiders have surrendered a top-12 (QB1) weekly quarterback performance to every passer they've faced aside from two: Teddy Bridgewater and Peyton Manning. Bridgewater ranks worse than 30th in points per game at the quarterback position, while Manning is, well, you know the story with Manning.
The Raiders secondary is #notgood, ranking 31st in the league against the pass according to our numbers. And they're especially bad against the tight end position, which is exactly what Mariota and the Titans love to utilize in the passing game.
If Mariota can keep running the football -- he's got five rushes in each of his last two games, scoring once -- then he has a nice floor with a great ceiling this weekend.
Brian Hoyer (vs. New Orleans): You know that feeling when you've got a plate full of food on Thanksgiving and you're just about to dig in? That's exactly the same feeling you get when you see a reasonable quarterback streaming option facing the Saints. You know it's going to be good, and it is always so, so good.
New Orleans has surrendered at least 14 fantasy points to every passer faced, while 6 of the 10 starting passers they've faced have finished in the top five in weekly scoring. That's silly.
Hoyer hasn't been bad himself this year, scoring 17 or more fantasy points in all but one game that he's completed this year. And you know he'll have a safe floor with DeAndre Hopkins as his top pass-catcher.
Running Backs to Sit
Karlos Williams (at Kansas City): What happens when Karlos Williams doesn't score a touchdown? We saw in Week 11, as he finished with 11 yards and 1.1 fantasy points. That was certainly an underperformance for this season's most efficient running back, but touchdown regression is a real thing, and he's clearly not the main guy in the Bills' backfield -- Lesean McCoy is.
The Bills gets Kansas City this week, a defense that's been playing lights out over the last five weeks of the season. According to our numbers, they have the eighth best rush defense in football. And they've also only allowed one running back touchdown since Week 5, which, you know, is a pretty big deal for a touchdown-dependent back like Williams.
Frank Gore (vs. Tampa Bay): I'd completely understand if you can't bench a guy like Gore because the running back position is a disaster and a player like Gore is a weekly RB2 no matter the matchup. But if you're in a shallower league, there's enough reason to not feel good about him this week. The Bucs have been strong against the run all year long, having allowed the 10th fewest fantasy points to the running back position. A lot of the successful backs against them this season -- like Shane Vereen and Darren Sproles -- have done their damage through the air, too. Though Gore can work as a receiving threat, he's not much of a consistent threat. There's also the idea that Indianapolis pulls him close to the goal line as they did last week, putting Ahmad Bradshaw in. If that's the case again, Gore loses a lot of value.
Start These Running Backs Instead
T.J. Yeldon (vs. San Diego): The Chargers have been gashed on the ground all year long, and now rank as the second worst rush defense in football according to our numbers. Eight backs have finished with a top-10 weekly PPR performance against San Diego, which is actually more than Cleveland, a team everyone targets for running back matchups.
Yeldon may not be the most efficient runner in the league, but his volume and production has been exceptionally consistent, as he's scored fewer than double-digit PPR points just twice all year. The reason he hasn't had much of a ceiling is because he's had a hard time finding the end zone, but in this matchup with one of the highest implied team totals of the week, Yeldon could be in store for a nice day.
Javorius Allen (at Cleveland): Speaking of Cleveland, rookie Buck Allen will face off against the city's professional football team on Monday night in what should be one of the worst prime time games of all time. But, really, it's going to be terrible.
For whatever reason, I've chosen to write about a couple of guys from the game, including Allen. Cleveland has the worst rush defense in the league per NEP, and while they haven't given up as many fantasy points as the Chargers to the running back position, Allen's going to have to be relied upon heavily given the Ravens are starting the pick-six machine himself, Matt Schaub. This is really the only plus matchup Allen will face from here on out, so if you got him off the waiver wire, you might as well try and get the most out of him.
Chris Johnson (at San Francisco): CJWhatAreYouNowK has been pretty ineffective over the last few games, and the advanced metrics don't love him. Among the 34 backs with 100 plus carries this year, Johnson is ranked right in the middle in terms of Rushing NEP per rush, which isn't something to write home about in one of the more efficient passing offenses in the league.
But the stars are aligning for him this week, as he'll face a San Francisco team that was just completely crushed by backup Thomas Rawls this past week. The Cardinals are heavy favorites, too, which means a positive game script, and considering Johnson is seeing the most carries -- by far -- in that offense, he's a logical play.
Wide Receivers to Sit
LaFell's Monday night performance was a little disheartening, and things aren't going to get much better when he matches up against the Denver corners. Because the Broncos, as you're probably aware, have the best secondary in football according to anyone with access to a television, having surrendered one -- that's one -- wide receiver touchdown all season long. I'd be nervous about starting LaFell this week.
Jones has seen decent volume of late, but he'll see a Rams defense that's forced the 10th lowest pass-to-run ratio in the NFL this season. Not only that, but also the Rams have allowed the second fewest fantasy points to wideouts, allowing just one receiver score since Week 5. That's no recipe for a sneaky play.
Start These Wide Receivers Instead
T.Y. Hilton (vs. Tampa Bay): It's been kind of rough for Hilton owners, mostly because Matt Hasselbeck is his quarterback. But I do like him this week. The Buccaneers, Indy's opponent, have had a rough time stopping top wide receivers all season long, and the secondary ranks 23rd according to our numbers. Vegas has the Colts with a decent team total, and because Tampa can stop the run so well, that tells me they could do some work through the air. Let's just hope Hilton can see a little more volume.
Steve Johnson (at Jacksonville): Over the Chargers' last two games without Keenan Allen, Johnson has taken the underneath role, securing 18 targets and catching all but 4 of them. He's been solid enough in PPR leagues, ranking as a top-30 wide receiver in each matchup, and he'll have a good opportunity to do more with his opportunity against our 28th-ranked secondary, Jacksonville, this weekend.
There could be more looks coming for him, too, considering the Jags are four-point favorites -- San Diego will see a negative game script, which is great for their pass-catchers. A huge reason that didn't matter much last week was because the Chiefs defense has been playing so well. The Jags? Not so much.
Terrance Williams (vs. Carolina): I'm of the belief that Terrance Williams isn't very good, and I can't stand his volatility in fantasy football. But if Josh Norman attaches himself to Dez Bryant, it could generate some opportunity for Williams on the other side of the field. Just know that, if you do plan on using Williams, he's completely a boom-or-bust option -- even with Romo under center last year, he had just two top-12 weekly PPR performances, while every other performance ranked 30th or worse.
Tight Ends to Sit
Charles Clay (at Kansas City): In the Bills' four games since the end of Week 6, Charles Clay has seen 5, 1, 6 and 3 targets. Not only is that not enough to sustain any reliability at your tight end spot, but he'll face a Chiefs defense that's allowed just one tight end to rank higher than 18th in weekly PPR scoring against them. No thanks.
Start These Tight Ends Instead
Delanie Walker (vs. Oakland): By this point, we know the story with Oakland -- tight ends have crushed them, especially close to the end zone. On the year, they've allowed 10 tight end touchdowns, the most in the NFL. And that could be a lot higher if not for end zone drops from Eric Ebron and Kyle Rudolph.
Walker continues to be one of the most underrated tight ends in fantasy football, as he's seen six or more targets in all but two games this season. Though Kendall Wright should be back for Tennessee, don't think about benching Delanie.
Brent Celek (at Detroit): If you need to dig a little deeper, Brent Celek is in an interesting spot given Zach Ertz will be sidelined with an injury this week. Over his last two games, Celek has 11 catches for over 200 yards, and he gets a date with a Detroit Lions team that ranks 25th in the NFL in fantasy points against to the position. Ertz has averaged roughly 6.5 targets per game for Philadelphia, and with no one else to catch passes at tight end, Celek could end up seeing a good amount of looks in the plus matchup.
Defenses to Sit
Seattle Seahawks (vs. Pittsburgh): A defense against Pittsburgh has ranked better than 18th in weekly scoring just three times this year. And in two of those three games, Ben Roethlisberger either didn't start (Kansas City) or didn't finish the entire game (St. Louis). Pittsburgh's offense is rolling right now, ranking sixth in efficiency according to our numbers, and even though this game is in Seattle, there are better options out there this week.
Other defenses to sit: Denver Broncos (vs. New England), St. Louis Rams (at Cincinnati)
Start These Defenses Instead
Cleveland Browns (vs. Baltimore): Would I play Cleveland's defense over Seattle's? Yes. Because in fantasy football, your defensive choice is less about the actual defense you're using and more about the opponent.
Cleveland's opponent this week isn't the typical Baltimore Ravens. They're without Justin Forsett, Steve Smith's been done for a while and, of course, Matt Schaub will now be under center. The pick-six machine. Vegas thinks this game will be low scoring (41 over/under) and the Browns are 2.5-point favorites. That's the perfect recipe -- along with a backup quarterback who's now known for turning the ball over -- for defensive streaming success.
Other defenses to start: Cincinnati Bengals (vs. St. Louis), Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Buffalo)