Start’Em Sit’Em Week 12
We have progressed through 11 weeks of the regular season, leaving many of you with just two more games before postseason matchups begin in your leagues. The unfortunate assortment of injuries that occurred last Sunday will create unwanted but essential maneuvering for anyone whose players were impacted. This is obviously the case regardless of whether your teams are favorably positioned for the playoffs, or if you were already faced with critical roster modifications, toward the goal of guiding your teams into the postseason.
Even as you strive to win your remaining regular season contests, I recommend that you also examine the Week 14-16 matchups for the players that you have been relying on. Because now is the optimal time to determine if you have the most favorable roster components that will provide you with the best chance of procuring a sizable number of fantasy points throughout the playoffs. If you have depended upon players that will be confronted by daunting matchups during those critical weeks, you should decide now whether or not you are sufficiently confident in their ability to remain matchup proof in Week 14 and beyond – when you are faced with your most important games of the season. This also applies to any potential starters that you might be considering, as replacements for those aforementioned players that suffered injuries.[the_ad id=”58835″]With that recommendation now firmly established, we will transfer our attention toward decisions that are specific to Week 12. For the first time since Week 3, all 32 teams will be in action. Making bye weeks a non-factor in your lineup construction. However, six teams will play on Thanksgiving Day, and it will behoove owners to make sure that any Vikings, Lions, Redskins, Cowboys, Steelers and Colts that you are planning to start, will be safely in your lineups before the games kickoff on Thursday.
Thanksgiving Day Games:
- Vikings at Lions 12:30 PM ET
- Redskins at Cowboys 4:30 PM ET
- Steelers at Colts 8:30 PM ET
Now, let’s progress to my Start ‘Em and Sit ‘Em recommendations for Week 12. As always, no space will be devoted to elite players that you should already be planning to deploy. Instead, the focus will remain on the Start and Sit options that are more uncertain. Enjoy the games, and good luck this week.
Start QB Eli Manning at Browns
After manufacturing a grand total of two touchdowns in Weeks 2-5, and failing to register a score three times between Weeks 2-7, Manning has now amassed nine touchdowns during the Giants’ last three contests. He has also tossed four interceptions during that span, resulting in an unimpressive 17:10 touchdown to interception ratio. However, owners should be encouraged by Manning’s overall performances since his return from New York’s Week 8 bye and can anticipate high-quality production this week.
The Browns’ 22nd ranked pass defense has been shredded for a league-worst 25 touchdowns, including a whopping 12 between Weeks 6-10. They have also yielded the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, despite the fact that blustery in-game conditions helped insulate them from further aerial abuse during their Week 11 matchup with Pittsburgh. As the Steelers were compelled to become more reliant upon their ground game. Still, Cleveland remains extremely vulnerable to opposing signal callers, as nine different quarterbacks have generated multiple touchdowns against this unit, while seven have exceeded 275 yards. Manning should accomplish both this week.
Sit QB Philip Rivers at Texans[the_ad id=”63198″]This recommendation has more to do with the quality of Rivers’ opponent than it does with the unsightly fourth quarter meltdown that occurred in his Week 10 matchup with Miami. The four interceptions that he tossed late in that encounter slightly taints a still respectable 20:11 touchdown to interception ratio that the 13-year veteran had constructed entering his Week 11 bye. He had also assembled the NFL’s third highest yardage total (2,886), and those 20 scores placed him fifth overall. His output becomes more noteworthy, considering the depleted arsenal of weaponry that he has endured as the season has progressed. However, he will be contending with a Houston pass defense that entered Week 11 ranked third, while having permitted the second fewest touchdowns through the air this season (8). The Texans were also tied with Denver for the fewest fantasy points to opposing signal callers (17 PPG), have not yielded over 271 yards to any quarterback, and have surrendered multiple touchdowns just three times. Rivers’ production will be restricted to an uncomfortable degree this week.
Start RB Jay Ajayi vs. 49ers
Ajayi has blended massive determination with his size and physicality to accumulate 137 YPG in his last past five games while averaging 5.9 YPC during those contests. That level of production has provided a significant incentive for owners to embrace the concept of entrusting him in their lineups, even if his matchups were unfavorable. That was certainly the case in Weeks 9-11, when he lined up against a trio of sturdy run defenses but rumbled for respectable yardage totals against the Jets (111), Chargers (79), and Rams (77). This week’s opponent is significantly less capable of opposing rushers, and the magnitude of Ajayi’s exceptional matchup makes him an absolute must start. As the unfailing ineptitude of San Francisco’s NFL-worst rush defense continues to anchor them at the bottom of league rankings. The 49ers continue to be gashed on a routine basis and are now yielding a mammoth 179.5 YPG. They continue to pave the way in hospitality to opposing rushers, as they also lead all teams in fantasy points allowed (29 PPG). Plus, they have allowed 100-plus yards to a rusher in eight different contests. That includes a stretch of seven consecutive games in which that occurred. The 49ers have also been gouged for 13 touchdowns on the ground, which further supplies Ajayi owners with a compelling rationale to lock him into their lineups again this week.
Start RB Melvin Gordon vs. Texans
Heading into the 2016 regular season, two concerns regarding Gordon’s potential for productivity were his inability to generate a touchdown as a rookie in 2015, and the pilfering presence of Danny Woodhead. However, all trepidation has long been eviscerated, as Gordon’s nine rushing touchdowns were the second highest among all backs entering his Week 11 bye. They had been supplemented by two scores as a receiver, and his 838 yards on the ground were the third most among all rushers. This week, Rivers and the San Diego aerial attack will be contending with Houston’s staunch pass defense. Which will persuade the Chargers to place increased emphasis on their ground game, by deploying Gordon with considerable frequency throughout this matchup.
Entering their Week 11 matchup with Oakland, Houston’s run defenders ranked just 26th and were allowing 4.3 YPC. While they did limit the Raiders to 30 rushing yards, they were also shredded for 199 receiving yards by Oakland’s backs. The Texans also permitted an opposing back to eclipse 100+ total yards in seven consecutive games from Weeks 2-8 and will be facing a well-rested Gordon on a short week. He should be a vital component of San Diego’s game specific strategy to an even greater degree than he has been during most matchups and is an unquestioned start this week.
Sit RB Jeremy Hill at Ravens[the_ad id=”66786″]Hill’s role is destined to expand, due to the unfortunate injuries to Giovani Bernard (ACL), and A.J. Green (hamstring). But it would be unwise to expect high-quality production this week. As Hill has failed to attain 50 rushing yards in five different contests this season, and will have difficulty surpassing that number by a significant degree during his encounter with Baltimore. In four career games against Cincinnati’s division rival, Hill has only exceeded 25 yards during one contest and has averaged just 3.8 YPC. Accumulating yardage against the Ravens will be exceedingly difficult yet again, as the NFL’s top-ranked run defense has permitted just 76 YPG, and has yielded a league-low four touchdowns. This unit has also allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing rushers (13.2 PPG). While they have surrendered 100+ yards to two different runners (Matt Forte, Isaiah Crowell), only two other backs have surpassed 32 yards this season. That includes Ezekial Elliott, who did amass 97 yards last Sunday, but required 25 attempts to attain that output (3.9 YPC). Hill could be an effective option for owners in upcoming weeks, but an alternative should be utilized when he faces Baltimore.
Sit RB’s Mark Ingram / Tim Hightower vs. Rams
Ownership of Ingram already received an unwanted layer of complication in Week 8, when he was benched in favor of Hightower. While Ingram remains the more talented option, Hightower’s presence has siphoned precious touches in the past three contests. Now, Ingram is undergoing concussion protocol, which presents yet another issue when determining whether or not to start him. If he is sidelined, Hightower becomes a serviceable option due to volume, however, he will have great difficulty generating significant yardage against the stiff Ram run defense.
Since Week 6, the Rams have yielded the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing rushers (12.8 PPG) and accomplished that despite allowing 98 yards to Matt Forte in Week 10, and 77 yards to Jay Ajayi in Week 11. LeSean McCoy is the only rusher to reach 100 yards against Los Angeles, and this unit has only yielded three touchdowns on the ground since Week 1. Plus, Bilal Powell’s receiving touchdown in Week 10 was the first by an opposing back all season. An unfavorable matchup, the ambiguity regarding Ingram’s health, and the reduced production that ensues in the event of another time share, all combine to supply owners with considerable rationale for avoiding both Saint backs. If Hightower ultimately performs as the primary runner, his value is enhanced. But his ceiling will remain lower than what owners should prefer.
Start WR Doug Baldwin at Buccaneers
The restoration of Russell Wilson’s health has been extremely advantageous for Baldwin, who leads Seattle in targets (71), receptions (54), yardage (733) and touchdowns (5), and just exceeded 100 yards for the second time this season against the Eagles in Week 11. He has also received at least six targets in seven of Seattle’s ten games, which has helped him garner at least four receptions in nine of those contests. The deficiencies that exist within the Tampa Bay pass defense have resulted in the Buccaneers allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers since Week 8.
Coverage in the slot can be included among their shortcomings, as Mohamed Sanu (5-74), and Seth Roberts (3-69-1) both achieved success while operating inside during Weeks 8-9. As a result, Baldwin should draw a favorable matchup, which will compel Wilson to locate him extensively. While owners should not expect him to replicate the touchdown pass that he launched last Sunday, he will still provide desirable results this week.[the_ad id=”67766″]
Start WR Sterling Shepard at Browns
After he amassed 13 receptions for 190 yards in Weeks 2-3, Shepard averaged a paltry 25 YPG from Weeks 4-7. As a result, his owners can be forgiven for that sequence of the season, during which their initial reaction to the concept of starting him resided somewhere short of ecstatic. But even though owners would still embrace higher yardage totals, the rookie slot receiver’s viability is now ascending. Both as a result of locating the end zone in three consecutive contests and also in the aftermath of Shepard receiving a season high 11 targets in Week 11. This week, the rookie will also so be the recipient of an excellent matchup, as Cleveland’s pass defense has been routinely torched this season.
The Browns were yielding the fourth most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers (26.5 PPG) before weather conditions prohibited Ben Roethlisberger’s from fully unleashing Pittsburgh’s potentially lethal passing attack. However, Manning and Shepard should have far greater success connecting against this unit, which has repeatedly been scorched by opposing slot receivers. As Steve Smith Jr., Quincy Enunwa, Jarvis Landry, Kendall Wright, Cole Beasley, and Jordan Matthews generated touchdowns against the Browns, while Landry, Matthews, and Wright also eclipsed 110 yards. Shepard can be confidently inserted into starting lineups as a WR3 this week.[the_ad id=”67766″]
Sit WR Brandon Marshall vs. Patriots
Amid a disappointing season that has owners shaking their collective heads, and contemplating the ramifications of benching the six-time Pro Bowler, it is noteworthy that Marshall’s disconcerting output has not been the result of declining opportunities. As he was actually eighth among all receivers with 91 targets heading into his Week 11 bye. But despite that lofty number, he was just 26th among all receivers with 601 yards, and a dismal 35th with 43 receptions. The Jets’ abysmal situation at quarterback throughout the team’s disappointing season has firmly suppressed his production.
As Marshall’s fortunes have primarily been linked to Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has staggered to an unsightly 8:13 touchdown to interception ratio. Plus, the team’s general dearth of playmakers beyond Marshall and Matt Forte has further squelched his numbers. While New England’s pass defense does not reside among the league’s elite, they are hardly a candidate to provide relief for suffering owners. Since Week 2, Antonio Brown is the only opposing wideout who has generated 100+ yards against the Patriots. While this unit did get torched for a trio of scores by the combination of Wilson and Baldwin in Week 10, New England has only yielded six all season beyond that matchup. Initially, it may feel strange to bench Marshall. But with no teams on bye, you should locate a superior option this week.
Sit WR Tyreek Hill at Broncos[the_ad id=”66786″]Hill surfaced within the fantasy landscape in Week 8, when he caught five of his six targets for 98 yards and a touchdown. Then, the rookie secured a season-best ten receptions for 89 yards in Week 10, and it appeared that he would supply owners with a viable WR 3 option against Tampa Bay in Week 11. Particularly since his role was likely to expand due to Jeremy Maclin’s absence from the lineup (groin). He ultimately manufactured 53 yards on four receptions versus the Buccaneers, as his yardage total was built primarily through a 42-yard pass that he garnered in the first half. But Hill’s brief rise into relevance now concludes just as quickly, as he will be challenged by a rested and focused Denver defensive unit, that currently ranks second versus the pass, and is yielding 194 YPG. The Broncos are also permitting the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers (14 PPG), and have only surrendered five touchdowns to the position all season. Hill should not be in the vicinity of anyone’s starting lineup this week.
Start TE Zach Ertz vs. Packers[the_ad id=”58837″]I was planning to recommend Zach Miller as this week’s tight end start, due to his enticing matchup against the Titans. However, his broken foot necessitated a new direction, which requires this transition to a different Zach. During the first nine weeks of the regular season, Ertz managed just 15 receptions. But he has collected 20 in this last three games, including the six that he secured in Seattle last Sunday. He also generated his first touchdown of the season, and also scored on a 57-yard catch and run that was called back after Nelson Agholar lined up improperly.
This week, he will face a Green Bay pass defense that has been shredded for 11 touchdowns in the last four weeks and has recently struggled to contain opposing tight ends. Since Week 9, the Packers have surrendered the fifth most points to the position (13.2 PPG). During that span, they have been overwhelmed by Delanie Walker (9-124-1), Jordan Reed (5-79), and Jack Doyle (5-61). It is unlikely that the reeling Packer defense will improve sufficiently to deny Ertz from achieving favorable production when they contend with the Eagles on Monday Night.
Sit TE Jared Cook at Eagles
He managed just six receptions for 53 yards in Weeks 1-3 before an ankle issue forced Cook to miss Green Bay’s next six contests. He reemerged in Week 11, assembling 105 yards and a touchdown on six catches. This has hoisted his stock significantly, as he will vanish from any waiver wires that currently include his name. But even though he led the Packers with 11 targets, and subsequently delivered his best production since 2013, owners should not pursue last week’s output. As he will not replicate those numbers in Philadelphia.
The Eagles’ ninth-ranked pass defense has also allowed the fifth fewest fantasy points to tight ends, permitting only 5 PPG. Kyle Rudolph and Vernon Davis are the only two players who have attained 50 yards against this unit, and neither performer surpassed 55. Philadelphia has also surrendered just three touchdowns all season and will present Cook with an arduous matchup during this prime time encounter. Adding Cook to your rosters is wise, but he should not be deployed this week.
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Also, don’t forget to check out our Thanksgiving Start’em Sit’em article which talks about the three games on Thursday. This year’s matchups are very interesting in terms of the Fantasy ramifications. You have an NFC North divisional battle which could go either way, an NFC East matchup that we should all not take lightly and a Colts team who looks like they will be starting their backup QB after Andrew Luck officially missed Tuesday’s practice. Should be a funny day of Turkey and Football for all!
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Phil is a proud Hoosier, who relocated in Nebraska, and began playing fantasy football nearly 20 years ago. In his first ever draft, he had the third overall pick and selected Barry Sanders. That choice was instantly mocked by several other owners, but Sanders ultimately scored 14 touchdowns and generated 2,358 total yards during an exceptional season. That instantly taught Phil a very important lesson – even though none of us will forecast with 100% accuracy, you should follow your gut instincts whenever you truly believe in a player. Phil began his writing career with RotoWire, later joined Fanball, and has since returned home to the Gridiron Experts. He remains firmly convinced that the key to happiness can be found through a subscription to the Sunday Ticket.