Start’Em Sit’Em Week 12
We are now beginning the planning process for Week 12. Which of course means that many of you have just two games remaining before your fantasy playoffs will begin. If your teams have already clinched a coveted spot in the postseason, then you are to be congratulated for navigating your roster through the various obstacles that can suddenly arise during the regular season. But many of you are still expending unwavering dedication toward guiding your teams into the playoffs. Which requires continual decision making and persistent roster modifications.
While planning lineups for Week 12 should remain your primary focus, I will restate my recommendation that you also examine the matchups in Weeks 14-16 for the players that are most critical to your team’s success. It is beneficial to begin planning those critical weeks right now, for you to establish which performers will be facing both vulnerable and formidable defensive units during those season-defining weeks. Then you can determine whether the players you will be most reliant on during that span will produce for you at the precise time that you need it most.
With that advice now firmly delivered, we will shift focus to the more immediate goal of making roster decisions that are specific to Week 12. Fortunately, owners no longer have to contend with bye weeks for the remainder of the season. While that does not eliminate the other challenges that you are encountering this week, this Start’Em Sit’Em week 12 column will assist with the critical decision-making process that is involved with finalizing your lineups. As it is designed to provide a strategic approach toward recommending your best starts, along with the players that should be excluded. Since you are already depending upon the performers that you selected at the onset of your drafts, along with the consistent leaders in fantasy points, this column will not confiscate your precious time by discussing them here. Unless the recommendation is that you need to sit any off those players. Kickoffs are approaching, so let’s examine the players that are featured in this Gridiron Experts Week 12 Start’em Sit’em column. Enjoy the games, and good luck in Week 12.
Ben Roethlisberger vs. Packers
A familiar name has resurfaced among the weekly low-end QB1 options, after a series of uninspiring performances had dropped his value beyond that level. In his first six games, the 35-year old Roethlisberger’s 7:8 touchdown to interception ratio was troublesome. But in his last four contests, he has manufactured a far more impressive 9:2 ratio. Which should boost the confidence level of his owners toward utilizing him with less trepidation during most of his upcoming matchups His recent statistical surge includes the 299-yard, four-touchdown performance that he delivered against Tennessee in Week 11. Which was the third time in four games that he has manufactured multiple touchdowns, after he is failed to accomplish that feat in four consecutive contests (Weeks 3-6). He has also assembled two of his three highest yardage totals within his last three games, and should deliver another productive outing this week. When he will navigate Pittsburgh’s passing attack against a Green Bay secondary that has often displayed its vulnerability. Since Week 6, the Packers have surrendered the 10th most fantasy points to opposing signal callers, which includes the 330 YPG that they yielded from Weeks 8-10. As Drew Brees (331), Matthew Stafford (361), and Mitchell Trubisky (297), registered the highest yardage totals that the Packers have allowed this season. They also permitted Joe Flacco to amass his highest yardage total since Week 6 during last Sunday’s matchup with the Ravens. The season-long journey for Roethlisberger owners has often been rocky. But he can be trusted to deliver favorable numbers this week.
Also Start: Alex Smith vs. Bills, Matt Ryan at Buccaneers
Drew Brees at Rams
During a week in which many weekly QB1s will be the beneficiaries of excellent matchups, the foundation of this advice will be based largely on the difficult task that awaits Brees on Sunday. Although, the fact that his production has diminished in several critical categories this season should not be dismissed. As his relentless accumulation of 300-yard performances and multiple touchdowns games has certainly decreased. In both 2015 and 2016, he eclipsed the 300-yard mark ten times, while also surpassing 400 yards four times during that span. But he had only reached that number twice this season, before gashing the Redskins for a season-high 385 in Week 11. His current season-long yardage YPG average (278) still places him fifth among all signal callers. However, after averaging 38 touchdowns from 2011-2016, his 15 scoring throws this season remain far below that pace, and he resides a surprisingly low 13th in that category. He has also provided his owners with multiple touchdowns in six different contests this season, after achieving that 11 times last year. Still, the primary concern for owners should be the Ram pass defense that he must contend with on Sunday. Los Angeles currently ranks 10th in that category, is allowing just 212 YPG, and his only given up 12 touchdowns throughout the year. The Rams have also allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing signal-callers during their last four games while surrendering multiple touchdowns just once since Week 4, and a total of three times throughout the entire season. This unit has also permitted just two quarterbacks to deliver a 300-yard passing performance, while only one other signal-caller has exceeded 241 all season. Owners may not be inclined to bench Brees, but it is wise to downgrade expectations if you don’t. Because this will not be one of his more productive outings.
Also Sit: Derek Carr vs. Broncos, Marcus Mariota at Colts[the_ad id=”72096″][the_ad id=”69556″]
Dion Lewis / Rex Burkhead vs. Dolphins
Heading into Week 11, Burkhead’s steadily escalating workload had enabled him to generate 183 total yards from Weeks 8-10. While making the fifth-year back a trendy topic and popular roster target for many owners. But an early fumble in Week 11, likely played a role in Burkhead being allotted just nine touches, and accruing only 37 total yards. Meanwhile, Lewis carried a team high 10 times, garnered a season-best four receptions, and now enters Week 12 entrenched as the most trustworthy starting option among all Patriot’s backs. But while his owners can confidently deploy him as an RB2, Burkhead also maintains viability as an RB3/flex for this week’s enticing matchup. When both backs face a Miami run defense that contains massive insufficiencies while surrendering the third most fantasy points to opposing running backs since Week 6. The compilation of runners that have gashed this unit is extensive. As Melvin Gordan (78 total yards), Alvin Kamara (96 total yards/1 touchdown), Mark Ingram (62 total yards), DeMarco Murray (69 total yards), Devonta Freeman (79 total yards), Bilal Powell (83 total yards), Matt Forte (82 total yards), Alex Collins (143 total yards), Marshawn Lynch 63 total yards/2 touchdowns), Christian McCaffrey (60 total yards 2 touchdowns), and Jonathan Stewart (110 rushing yards) have run roughshod through this unit. Lewis and Burkhead should commandeer the vast majority of touches again this week. While James White – who received just five touches in each of the Patriots past two contests – should not be in any lineups, Mike Gillislee is a nonentity who no longer resides within the fantasy landscape. This should compel Lewis and Burkhead owners to eschew sizable concerns about workload distribution while starting their backs with confidence.
Devontae Booker at Raiders
RB Start[the_ad id=”66786″]While there are more prominent running backs who will be the beneficiaries of favorable matchups this week, this section will be devoted to owners whose options are less certain – due to injury or ineffectiveness. Particularly those who believe that they must win to proceed into the fantasy playoffs. If this applies to you, I present the name, Devontae Booker. Who almost assuredly is residing on your waiver wire, but will not be once your league processes again. After he missed Weeks 1-3 with a wrist injury, Booker was allotted just 13 touches in Weeks 4-7. But since Week 8, his snap count, and workload have elevated substantially. As the second-year runner has carried 34 times while accruing 129 yards and a touchdown. He has also massed 68 yards on eight receptions during that span, which includes his 19 touch – 98 total yard performance Week 11. While Denver has promoted Bill Musgrave into the offensive coordinator position, that is unlikely to prohibit Booker from having a sizable role when the Broncos face Oakland substandard defense this week. The Raiders have been gashed repeatedly by opposing rushers, as Matt Forte (85 total yards), Chris Thompson (188 total yards/1 touchdown), Javorius Allen (85 total yards), Melvin Gordon (154 total yards/1 touchdown), Kareem Hunt (117 total yards), LeSean McCoy (173 total yards), Damian Williams (61 total yards/1 touchdown) Kenyan Drake (104 total yards) and Dion Lewis (88 total yards/1 touchdown), have all tortured his unit. As did the back that Booker will share touches with – C.J. Anderson (112 total yards) – back in Week 4. But despite Anderson’s continued presence, Booker should maintain a significant role and is worthy of consideration as an RB3.
Also Smart: Christian McCaffrey at Jets, Tevin Coleman vs. Buccaneers
Jordan Howard at Eagles
Howard just assembled 125 yards and a touchdown last Sunday against the Lions, which was the fourth time that he has exceeded 100 yards this season. Yet, he is being discussed among the sits and downgrades for this week. Because even though owners should depend on Howard during nearly all of his remaining matchups, it is wise to remember that his most favorable results have been interspersed with four games in which he failed to exceed 54 yards. Plus, he had not discovered the end zone since Week 4, before scoring against Detroit. Due in part to the shortcomings of the offense that surrounds him, there is always a risk that he will only provide modest numbers when confronted with a daunting matchup. That should compel owners to examine the merits of starting him this week. As Howard must contend with a staunch Philadelphia unit, that continues to lead the NFL in run defense. The Eagles are yielding a miniscule 71 YPG, and have also allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. Philly has not permitted a touchdown on the ground since Week 4, and just one since Week 2. While also limiting the yardage totals of Melvin Gordon (22), Orleans Darkwa (22), Chris Johnson (21), Carlos Hyde (25), C.J. Anderson (13), Devontae Booker (21), Christian McCaffrey (8) Jonathan Stewart (- 4), and Rob Kelley in two contests (16/30). While Alfred Morris did manufacture 91 yards in Week 11, he became only the second runner to exceed 38 yards against this unit during this season. The Eagles have reduced the ceiling on production of nearly every runner that they have confronted and will present Howard with a significant challenge. Making it wise to be realistic about the numbers that he can supply this week.
Joe Mixon vs. Browns
During last summer’s draft process, I was enthusiastic about Mixon’s potential to deliver excellent production during his first professional season. To the degree that I placed his value relatively equal to fellow rookies Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook. But after enduring frequent dissatisfaction, and gradually diminishing the expectations for his output during his first 10 games, it is time for all suffering Mixon owners to search elsewhere for a more proficient option during the critical fantasy matchups that remain. Even though he is now functioning as Cincinnati’s feature back, and has accumulated the 18th most carries among all rushers (127), he only resides 32nd in yardage for the season (370). Deficiencies within his offensive line have been a significant factor in his performances. However, Mixon also bears responsibility for his vastly disappointing 2.9 YPC average. He has only manufactured 51+ yards once this season, and has been limited to less than 40 in six different contests. Beyond the 91 receiving yards that he attained in Week 8 – which were constructed primarily on one 67-yard burst – he has averaged just 14.5 YPG with his 18 receptions. This week’s unfavorable matchup should also supply owners with the final incentive to deploy an alternative. As Cleveland fourth-ranked run defense has allowed under 90 YPG (89.6) and has yielded the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing backs. The Browns also limited Mixon to 48 total yards in Week 4, and owners should not expect a sudden departure from his consistently unexceptional results this week. Making it wise to leave him on your bench, until there is discernible evidence that he can deliver anything beyond frustration.
Also Sit: Adrian Peterson vs. Jaguars, Bilal Powell / Elijah McGuire vs. Panthers[the_ad id=”73965″][the_ad id=”63198″]
JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Packers
Status: Out (Hamstring)
The initial portion of Smith-Schuster’s season unfolded without significant production or a meaningful presence with the fantasy landscape. As he only received 27 targets during Pittsburgh’s first seven contests, and collected 17 of those passes for 231 yards (33 YPG). But the gifted rookie has risen to an unquestioned role as Ben Roethlisberger’s second receiving option, and has commandeered inclusion among weekly low-end WR2/high end WR3 starters. He has garnered 25 targets in his last three games. including the eight that he was allotted last Thursday night against the Titans, As a result, 337 of the 568 yards that he has accrued this season, have been accumulated since Week 8, while he has also assembled 16 of his 33 receptions during that span. He is now primed to deliver a high-quality outing for his owners this week. Versus a Green Bay pass defense whose ongoing deficiencies when attempting to neutralize opposing wide receivers have been well-documented. The Packers have yielded the eighth most fantasy points to the position, amid issues that include the propensity toward surrendering yardage in the slot – where Smith-Schuster will roam during this matchup. As Doug Baldwin (63 yards), Mohamed Sanu (85 yards), Adam Thielen (97 yards), Kendall Wright (51 yards/1 touchdown), and Golden Tate (113 yards), have previously flourished against their often ineffective coverage. If you are among those who secured Smith-Schuster for your rosters, you can elevate him into your lineups without hesitation.
Jeremy Maclin at Texans
Despite a lingering shoulder issue that forced him to miss two contests, Maclin has still managed to lead the Ravens in receiving yards (344) and touchdowns (3), while solidifying his role as Baltimore’s WR1. Since his return to the lineup in Week 8, he has corralled 15 of his 19 targets, while manufacturing 185 yards (62 YPG), and a touchdown. That includes the season highs in targets (9), receptions (8), and yardage (98) that he established in Week 9 against the Titans. While his consistent role within Baltimore’s passing attack escalates him into consideration among viable WR3 options, the concept of starting him this week should become even more appealing. As he will be the beneficiary of an appealing matchup versus the Texans’ 26th ranked pass defense. Which has now yielded the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers since Week 6, while also surrendering most yardage to the position (913). During what has largely been catastrophic coverage during their last four contests, this unit has permitted 10 touchdowns, which has also helped the collection of opposing receivers stockpile fantasy points for their owners during that brief span. In addition to being repeatedly eviscerated by receivers on the perimeter, the Texans have allowed Larry Fitzgerald, Cooper Kupp, and Doug Baldwin to a combined 192 yards in the slot since Week 8, which is where Maclin can also operate with success. Baltimore will struggle to establish the ground game against a seventh-ranked Houston run defense. Which will necessitate the need to attack Houston through the air, with Maclin becoming the primary weapon among Raven wide receivers. Anyone who starts him will benefit from that process.
Also Start: Emmanuel Sanders at Raiders, Cooper Kupp vs. Saints
Amari Cooper vs. Broncos
Those of you who undertook the lofty investment that was involved in drafting Cooper, have endured the agonizing weekly process of determining whether to start him. Although the vast majority of owners are still utilizing him every week, which is logical considering his virtually astronomical upside. But if his 11 catch-210 yard two touchdown performance against the Chiefs in Week 7 is temporarily subtracted from his season-long totals, he is averaging an anemic three receptions, and 31 yards during Oakland’s nine other contests, while manufacturing just two touchdowns. If owners were to ignore Cooper’s brand name, those numbers would be insufficient for him to remain in most lineups each week. Particularly in a matchup against the still imposing cornerbacks of Denver. While it would take an agglomeration of words to fully review the dysfunctional nature of Oakland’s offense this season, one of the many baffling issues, has been OC Todd Downing’s reluctance to use Cooper in the slot with more frequency. Even though that is where he has generated much of his limited success. But he will likely operate more frequently on the perimeter, running routes against Bradley Roby and the more formidable Aqib Talib. It will be a struggle for Cooper and Michael Crabtree to generate yardage versus either corner, which will eventually induce Derek Carr to funnel targets toward Jared Cook – which will be discussed later. There is risk that Cooper’s output may not be appreciably better than the initial meeting between these two teams in Week 5, when he managed just nine yards on two receptions. If you choose to start him, be prepared for another frustrating Sunday.
Larry Fitzgerald vs. Jaguars
You are undoubtedly aware of Fitzgerald’s accomplishments during a career that now expands into his 14th season. Any owners who overcame inhibitions about his age (34) and opted to roster him, have been rewarded through three contests in which he has collected double-digit receptions, and assembled 113+ yards. Plus, he just delivered a 91-yard – one touchdown performance last Sunday. But even though Blaine Gabbert remains capable of locating him with frequency, Fitzgerald’s output will be reduced this week. As a byproduct of his imposing matchup. Jacksonville’s league-leading pass coverage this season has been spearheaded by their stellar cornerback tandem of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Their smothering presence has been discussed in this column throughout the season, beginning with the Week 1 Start’Em Sit’ Em recommendations. But the Jaguars stingy coverage is not solely limited to the perimeter. As a slot corner, Aaron Colvin has primarily restricted the production of opposing receivers who run routes in his area. As Eric Decker (32), Jeremy Maclin (8), JuJu Smith-Schuster (58), Jeremy Kerley (37), Cooper Kupp (35), and Keenan Allen (48) have all registered modest yardage totals, while also collectively failing to generate touchdowns. Fitzgerald can still be an asset in upcoming weeks, and can even be used as a WR3 this week. But it is unrealistic to anticipate output that matches his best outings of the season.
Also Sit: DeVante Parker at Patriots, Davante Adams / Jordy Nelson at Steelers[the_ad id=”73518″][the_ad id=”74711″]
Jared Cook vs. Broncos
During Oakland’s first six games, Cook collected 21 of his 34 targets, manufactured 209 yards, and averaged 35 YPG. Which includes the 3-catch, 46-yard performance that he delivered in Week 4, while lining up against the Broncos. However, E.J. Manuel was under center for a portion of that encounter. Which occurred during a sequence of contests in which the Raider offense was arguably operating within its greatest state of dysfunction, which has been prevalent during under first-year OC Todd Downing. But Cook will enter this rematch amid an expanded role within Oakland’s passing attack, which has propelled the nine-year veteran’s recent statistical surge. From Weeks 7-9, he was targeted 21 times, which boosted his output sizably during that span (18 receptions/290 yards/96.6 YPG). As a result, Cook now leads the team in receptions (41), yardage (535), and should produce another favorable outing this week. When he runs routes against a defensive unit that has struggled consistently to contain opposing tight ends. Denver has surrendered the most fantasy points to the position since Week 6, has has been shredded for the league’s second-highest yardage total (758). The Broncos have already allowed significant yardage or touchdowns to Jason Witten (97 yards/1 touchdowns), Charles Clay (39 yards/1 touchdown), Evan Engram (82 yards/1 touchdown), Hunter Henry (73 yards), Travis Kelce (133 yards/1 touchdown), Rob Gronkowski (74 yards/1 touchdown), and Tyler Kroft (12/yards/1 touchdown). Cook should continue the trend, while providing owners with excellent output against this beatable tight end coverage.
Also Start: Tyler Kroft vs. Browns, Ben Watson vs. Texans
Austin Seferian-Jenkins vs. Panthers
The fourth-year tight end returned from suspension in Week 3, and quickly soared into fantasy relevance. Although that was partially due to the shortage of legitimate options that continue to torture many owners on a weekly basis. Still, he became an appealing value after generating a touchdown in three consecutive games (Weeks 5-7) and manufacturing 46 yards in both Weeks 4 and 6. But beyond a 67-yard performance in Week 10, his output has often been discouraging. As Seferian-Jenkins has not scored during any other contests, averaged just 23 YPG in Weeks 7-9, and failed to exceed 31 yards in five of the eight games in which he has played. He also has not scored since that aforementioned three-game streak, and anyone who enthusiastically anticipates a statistical surge, should not expect it to occur this week. As he will be confronted by a Carolina pass defense that ranks fourth, and has also allowed the fewest yards to opposing tight ends. Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate are the only two tight ends who have surpassed 36 yards in their matchups versus this unit. As Zach Ertz (18 yards), Zach Miller (29 yards), Austin Hooper (36 yards), Charles Clay (23 yards), George Kittle (27 yards), Coby Fleener (21 yards), and Julius Thomas (8 yards), have all registered insignificant yardage totals. It should be noted that Ertz and Darren Fells each scored twice when facing the Panthers. This unit that has also yielded the eighth fewest fantasy points to the tight end position, and Seferian-Jenkins should struggle to deliver anything beyond modest numbers this week.
Also Sit: Cameron Brate at Falcons, Julius Thomas at Patriots[the_ad id=”67766″]
Thanks for Reading!
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.