News & Analysis

Week 12 fantasy start/sit advice

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 13: Tyler Kroft #81 of the Cincinnati Bengals runs with the ball during the fourth quarter of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Paul Brown Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Pittsburgh defeated Cincinnati 33-20. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

With another week of NFL action behind us, and another week of fresh data to analyze and consider, I’m here to help you with some of your toughest fantasy football start/sit decisions.

If you’re ever stuck between a few players, please feel free to reach out to me on twitter (@ScottBarrettDFB) early in the week, and I’ll try to do my best to fit them into that week’s column. Here were some of your most frequently mentioned players for Week 12:


Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott
(Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys (vs. LA Chargers) – Prescott has performed poorly since losing running back Ezekiel Elliott and left tackle Tyron Smith, scoring just 18.0 fantasy points over the past two weeks. Prior to that, however, Prescott finished as a QB1 in nine of his last 10 games. Though he gets Smith back this week, the matchup isn’t great, with Los Angeles allowing the 10th-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Still, I have him as the No. 10 quarterback of the week in my rankings, and wouldn’t quite start panicking yet.

Andy Dalton, QB, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Cleveland) – Cleveland ranks third-worst in fantasy points per dropback allowed and third-worst in fantasy points per game allowed over expectation to opposing quarterbacks. Dalton, meanwhile, averages 22.7 fantasy points per game and an absurd 136.2 passer rating in his last five games against Cleveland. He’s a borderline QB1 this week.

Alfred Morris, RB, Dallas Cowboys (vs. LA Chargers) – Morris is unlikely to be used in the passing game, but has seen 39 carries (70 percent) the past two weeks, despite Dallas losing by a combined 48 points in those games. On a small sample size (42 carries), Morris is averaging 6.19 yards per carry. Just last week, he totaled the most rushing yards (91) by any running back against the Eagles this season, who rank best in the league in yards per carry allowed (3.07). His matchup is much softer this week, and with Tyron Smith back, against a Chargers defense ranking second worst in yards per carry allowed (4.92) and sixth-worst in rushing fantasy points per game allowed (14.9) to opposing running backs.

Jamaal Williams, RB, Green Bay Packers (@ Pittsburgh) – Williams is a tricky call this week because much of his Week 12 projection hinges on the status of Ty Montgomery. If Montgomery plays, I’ll have Williams as a high-end RB3. If Montgomery is out, Williams would become a mid-range RB2. Williams played 88 percent of the snaps last week and saw 18 carries and six targets, but has a tough matchup against a Pittsburgh defense allowing the seventh-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs (21.4). Unfortunately, this isn’t very helpful for those of you debating between Williams and someone playing on Thursday. I’d split the difference and call him a fringe-RB3 for now.

Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons (vs. Tampa Bay) – Among all 32 running backs to see at least 300 carries over the past three seasons, Coleman ranks seventh in yards per carry (4.40) and second in yards per target (8.47). Coleman averaged just 2.15 yards per carry last week, but it was a brutal matchup against the Seahawks, who are allowing a league-best 2.66 yards per carry average since Week 4. Coleman has seen 40 carries and three targets the last two weeks with Devonta Freeman playing on just two snaps due to a concussion. If Freeman is out again, Coleman is a borderline RB1 this week in a neutral matchup against the Buccaneers. While the matchup is only neutral, Coleman has scored in back-to-back weeks and Atlanta has the second-highest implied point total of the week.

Miami wide receivers (@ New England) – For reasons outlined here, I have Jarvis Landry as a low-end WR1 this week regardless of whether or not Jay Cutler plays. If Matt Moore draws the start, I’ll be bumping Kenny Stills from a mid-range WR4 to a high-end WR3, while DeVante Parker would fall from a low-end WR2 to a low-end WR3.

Mohamed Sanu, WR, Atlanta Falcons (vs. Tampa Bay) – If we exclude Week 4, when Sanu exited early with an injury, he currently ranks 31st among wide receivers in fantasy points per game (12.5), and not far behind Julio Jones‘ average of 13.9. Although volume has fallen off as of late, he’s still an excellent option this week against a Tampa Bay defense allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing slot wide receivers (17.9), which is where Sanu runs 65 percent of his routes.

Zay Jones, WR, Buffalo Bills (@ Kansas City) – If desperate this week, Jones feels like a sneaky bet to hit his upside this week, and especially if Kelvin Benjamin (currently questionable) is out. Jones runs 49 percent of his routes from Tyrod Taylor’s left, while Kansas City is allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing left wide receivers (17.3). He runs another 20 percent of his routes from the slot (away from Marcus Peters), and the Chiefs are allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing slot wide receivers (13.8). The Chiefs are also allowing the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing receivers on deep targets (12.6). This bodes especially well for Jones, as 31 percent of his targets have come on deep passes, which ranks third-most among all 81 receivers to see at least 45 targets this year. While Jones’ production has been poor, the volume has been there, averaging 13.1 expected fantasy points per game over his last six games, which would be borderline-WR2 numbers if over a full season.

Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay (@ Pittsburgh) – As evident by this chart, Adams is the only Green Bay receiver not negatively impacted by Aaron Rodgers departure. In fact, Adams has seen an uptick in usage and firmly cemented himself as the team’s WR1 under Brett Hundley. The Steelers are allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing outside wide receivers, but Adams had an even tougher matchup last week against the Ravens (third-fewest fantasy points per game to outside wide receivers) and still totaled 126 yards – the only 100-yard game Baltimore has surrendered all year. Pittsburgh will also likely again be without their highest-graded cornerback in Joe Haden. He played just 10 snaps in Week 10 and missed all of Week 11. In that span, both of Chester Rogers and Rishard Matthews totaled over 100 yards and a score against the Steelers (the two highest-scoring games they've allowed to a wide receiver all season).

Cooper Kupp and Sammy Watkins, WRs, Los Angeles Rams (vs. New Orleans) – Kupp and Watkins are both strong plays this week with Robert Woods sidelined due to a shoulder injury. Neither of New Orleans’ starting outside cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore or Ken Crawley practiced Wednesday. Safety Kenny Vaccaro, who actually mans the slot (where Kupp runs 62 percent of his routes and will remain even with Woods out), put together a limited practice after missing Week 11. This season New Orleans has seen 44 percent (fourth-most) of their wide receiver production funneled to the slot, which was mostly a product of Lattimore and Crawley playing so well outside (both ranking among our top-20-graded cornerbacks). If Lattimore plays, that's a massive downgrade for Watkins, while providing a slight bump up for Kupp. As it stands, I currently have both as high-end WR3s this week.

Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers (@ NY Jets) – Olsen is likely to play in Week 12, returning from a broken foot suffered in Week 2. Although there’s concern he might be on a snap count, you’re still starting him this week given his immense upside. Olsen has averaged 12.9 fantasy points per game over the past three seasons, which would rank fourth-best among all tight ends this year. The matchup is strong as well, considering the Jets rank eighth-worst in fantasy points per game over expectation. Devin Funchess has the tougher matchup, likely drawing shadow coverage from Morris Claiborne who ranks top-15 among 86 qualifying cornerbacks in fantasy points allowed per target and fantasy point allowed per route in coverage.

Tyler Kroft, TE, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Cleveland) – In Cincinnati's last game against Cleveland, Kroft totaled six receptions (on seven targets) for 68 yards and two scores. The game before that, Tyler Eifert totaled five receptions (on six targets) for 48 yards and two scores. Cleveland is allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends over the past two seasons. Kroft, somewhat surprisingly, ranks seventh among tight ends in fantasy points per game since Week 4. He’s a low-end TE1 for me this week.

Jared Cook, TE, Oakland Raiders (vs. Denver) – Cook has seen between five and nine targets in every game but one, and has two 100-yard games in his last four. While Cook only has one touchdown this season, he does rank second on the team in end-zone targets with five. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree haven’t reached 60 receiving yards and have combined for just one touchdown in five games against the Broncos over the past three years. The Broncos rank third-best in fantasy points per game over expectation to opposing wide receivers, but third-worst to opposing tight ends.


New York Jets QB Josh McCown
(Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

Josh McCown, QB, New York Jets (vs. Carolina) – While you may have been pleasantly surprised with McCown’s recent performance – ranking seventh among quarterbacks in fantasy points per game (19.2) since Week 6 – this is not the week to play him. The Panthers rank fourth-best in fantasy points per game over expectation allowed to opposing quarterbacks.

Ameer Abdullah, RB, Detroit Lions (vs. Minnesota) – Abdullah has been held to under 15 touches in five of his last six games, while Theo Riddick tied a season-high in carries with nine. Neither is worthy of a start this week against a Minnesota defense ranking best in the league against running backs in fantasy points per game over expectation.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Arizona Cardinals (vs. Jacksonville) – Peterson has been held to under 5.0 fantasy points in three of his last four games, despite high volume. Don’t get tricked into thinking this is even an average matchup for Peterson by looking at season-long metrics. Jacksonville’s run defense has made a complete turnaround since trading for Marcell Dareus.

Marqise Lee, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars (@ Arizona) – Over the past five weeks, Lee ranks ninth among wide receivers in expected fantasy points per game (16.5). While the volume has been good, efficiency has suffered, running 60.1 percent of his routes against top-30-graded cornerbacks over this span (second-most). Unfortunately for him, his cornerback schedule is about to get even more difficult.  Arizona’s Patrick Peterson, who leads all cornerbacks in yards allowed and fantasy points allowed per route in coverage over the past three seasons, is likely to shadow Lee this week, bumping him down to a WR4.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers (@ Pittsburgh) – Since Aaron Rodgers’ Week 6 injury, Nelson went from averaging 19.5 fantasy points per game to 6.2 fantasy points per game, as well as dropping in targets per game from 7.0 to 5.8. As sad as this is to say, Nelson should not be started this week, or in any week until Rodgers returns to the field.

Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals (vs. Jacksonville) – Both of Jacksonville’s outside cornerbacks grade out among our top-seven cornerbacks overall this season. Now you may think this means they’d be more susceptible underneath in the slot (where Fitzgerald runs 65 percent of his routes), but that hasn’t been the case at all. Jacksonville is allowing the fewest fantasy points per game (5.7) and the fewest fantasy points per target (1.17) to opposing slot wide receivers. While Fitzgerald is still a mid-to-low range WR2 based on volume and skill-level, and you’re probably still starting him, it’s worth tempering your expectations at least.

Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ Atlanta) – Brate has been held under 15 yards and under two receptions in each of his past three games. Not coincidentally, this has come with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, who has targeted tight ends at the lowest rate in the league over the past five seasons. I have Brate as a low-end TE2 this week.

Jason Witten, TE, Dallas Cowboys (vs. LA Chargers) – Witten draws the single worst possible matchup for any tight end, against a Los Angeles Chargers defense allowing the fewest fantasy points per over expectation. If Travis Kelce could only muster up one yard against the Chargers, I have a hard time imagining Witten finishes as a TE1.

Notes: If the player you were hoping to find in this column wasn’t mentioned, check to see if I wrote about them in the Actual Opportunity Report. If they weren’t mentioned there either, you can always refer to our rankings.

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