It’s Thanksgiving week, which means the playoff pictures in 2021 fantasy football leagues are becoming clearer. Whether you’re on the outside looking in or near the top looking to secure a bye week, start/sit decisions are going to be as crucial as ever. This is no time to be caught off guard by playing time issues or poor matchups, so let's use the data to set our best lineups and clinch those playoff berths.
As usual, here are some of the tougher start/sit decisions to consider heading into Week 12.
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START: DI JONATHAN ALLEN, WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM VS. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
The defensive tackle position is one of the most volatile positions in IDP, but there are a few who should be locked into a starting spot every week. Allen has made a case for himself to be in that conversation: After starting the season with three sacks in three games, he has slowed down a bit with just three more in his last eight appearances. While sacks often require some help from the opposing team and are tougher to predict, Allen has all the right predictors for success going into this week’s game against Seattle.
Allen currently has the second-highest pass-rush grade (91.4) among defensive tackles this season, behind only Aaron Donald (91.5), while putting up 41 total pressures on the year — fourth among interior defenders. Allen has been a force on his own even without Chase Young and Montez Sweat on the edges beside him. This week he'll face Russell Wilson, who has invited eight sacks this season himself — tied for second-most among quarterbacks in 2021. The Seahawks also have the 24th-ranked interior offensive line in terms of pass-blocking grades this season (53.1), making Allen a must start in Week 12 with a shot at a big game.
Allen Ranks Among Defensive Interior Players | 2021
SIT: ED SHAQUIL BARRETT, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS VS. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Some IDP rosters might not have enough options to sit Barrett, who is having a great season — his 52 total pressures are tied for third among all edge defenders. The problem is that he has now gone three straight games without a sack, and the pass-rush grades haven't been great over that span. Barrett has posted 17 pressures in the past three games, but they’ve all come after 2.0 seconds, with most of them (53%) over 2.5 seconds. For reference, another edge defender with 52 pressures this season, Matthew Judon, has 10 pressures under two seconds since Week 8 (Barrett has none).
Barrett’s matchup isn’t ideal this week against a Colts defense whose tackles rank among the top-10 in pass-blocking grade (77.4) over the past four weeks. They have not surrendered a single sack in that time. Quarterback Carson Wentz is responsible for just 4.7% of pressures himself this season (third) and owns the seventh-lowest pressure to sack conversion rate (12.4%). Barrett is in for a tough matchup this week, so consider other options if you have them.
START: DI ED OLIVER, BUFFALO BILLS VS. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Oliver has yet to register a single sack in 2021. So, why would we start him now in Week 12 of all times? This is for those looking for a streaming option this week in potentially good matchup. Oliver has strung together a couple solid performances in back to back weeks with seven total pressures and an 89.5 pass-rush grade, which is second among defensive tackles in that small span.
The Saints are the 28th-ranked interior offensive line this season in terms of pass-blocking grade (46.0), with the likes of Calvin Throckmorton (49.5), Cesar Ruiz (57.3) and Eric McCoy (61.6) all experiencing their fair share of struggles this season. Starting quarterback Trevor Siemian also has the fourth-highest percentage (18.8%) of pressures allowed this year of which the quarterback was responsible. Siemian is among the top-10 QBs in the league in highest average time to throw (2.68) as well, which suggests there will be some extra time for Oliver to finally get his first sack of the season.
SIT: DE JADEVEON CLOWNEY, CLEVELAND BROWNS VS. BALTIMORE RAVENS
Clowney posted 31 pressures, 3.5 sacks and 16 tackles in his first seven games but has dropped off over the past four. Since Week 8, Clowney hasn’t had a single game with more than one pressure and has not posted more than two tackles in any week. He’ll be unstartable unless we see a major turnaround.
A matchup against the Ravens doesn't offer hope, as he’ll square off against right tackle Patrick Mekari, who has been one of the Ravens bright spots along their offensive line. Mekari has allowed just three sacks and 14 pressures all season, earning a 73.2 pass-blocking grade. Clowney should see the bench in the majority of leagues this week — there will be plenty of better options to replace him in Week 12.
Clowney Season Splits | 2021