News & Analysis

Sunday morning fantasy football decisions: Rankings, start/sit, sleepers, and busts for Week 12

(Each week, the Sunday Study Session will feature a quick-hit look at our top fantasy football advice of the week to help you prepare for that week’s fantasy slate, as well as links to our full writeups. For last-minute research and prep, this is the place.)

We’re heading into the heart of Week 12 now, which means (in most leagues) there is this week and next of the fantasy regular season before the playoffs start. If you need every last win to earn a playoff spot, by all means keep pushing and plugging away. This message is for those of you who know you will have a Week 14 matchup to prepare for.

You can make waiver claims this week for your Week 13 lineup. By all means. But if the game doesn’t matter (or doesn’t matter much) for your playoff aspirations, you could not bother. You could instead start looking ahead to your playoff matchup.

Example: Next week, Week 13, Carolina plays Washington. That’s good news for the Panthers DST! And then in Week 14, Carolina plays the Falcons. That’s less good. Do you want to claim Carolina next week, if next week doesn’t matter? No. Better to put on a claim on Green Bay, who plays the Giants and then Washington, or Cleveland, who plays Pittsburgh and then Cincinnati.

The key is to look ahead. Prepare for Week 14 now, not in Week 14.

On to the Week 12 advice.

Season-long league advice

These are the pieces that will help you build your roster and set your lineup each week. On Tuesday, Jeff Ratcliffe breaks down the best waiver claims of the week, while Scott Barrett breaks down the streaming defense candidates and Lee Sifford picks out streaming quarterbacks. Daniel Kelley looks at the players worth dropping at this point in the season. Wednesday is Jeff’s top 150 flex rankings, Daniel’s peek at the best and worst matchups of the week, and Scott’s Expected Fantasy Points metric. There’s also the indispensable trade value chart. Thursday, Daniel returns with his weekly sleepers and busts, while Scott Barrett breaks down the key start and the sits of the week. And finally, Jeff is back Friday with his weekly focus, taking a full look at the whole weekly slate from every angle.

Previewing the weekend in fantasy

For most of these pieces, we’ll pull a blurb to highlight and offer up a key takeaway. For this piece, though? It’s worth a full read. Beginning to end, Jeff brings the crucial info.

A snapshot of the flex rankings

27. Mark Ingram, BAL @ LAR (RB14) — He doesn't see heavy volume, but Ingram is one of the league's most efficient running backs.
28. Joe Mixon, CIN vs PIT (RB15) — The Bengals aren't good, but Mixon has been trending up in the middle of the season.
29. D.J. Moore, CAR @ NO (WR13) — Over the last three weeks, Moore leads all receivers with 35 targets.
30. Amari Cooper, DAL @ NE (WR14) — Cooper is banged up and gets a brutal matchup this week.

Two starts, two sits

START D.J. Moore in medium-sized leagues: Moore leads all players in targets since Week 8, and he’s exceeded 15.0 fantasy points in five of his last six games. Although Moore has failed to find the end zone in any of those games, that’s due more to bad luck than volume or efficiency.
START DeVante Parker in deep leagues: Since Week 4, Parker ranks 17th among wide receivers in fantasy points, with top-36 finishes in all seven of these games. It only took five seasons, but fresh off consecutive games with double-digit targets, Parker is finally worth a start.
SIT Joe Mixon in shallow leagues: Over the last two weeks, Mixon averages 22.5 carries, 3.0 targets, and 127.0 yards per game. That’s pretty good, and especially considering he averaged just 10.0 fantasy points per game through his first eight games. Even so, he draws a worst possible matchup this week – no running back has reached even 14.0 fantasy points against Pittsburgh this year.
SIT Noah Fant in medium-sized leagues: Fant is averaging 8.0 targets per game and 12.5 fantasy points per game over his last three games. That’s the good news. The bad news is — Buffalo leads all defenses in schedule-adjusted fantasy points per game allowed to tight ends.

Sleepers and busts for the week

SLEEPER: Tyler Eifert: Eifert’s target share has grown by almost 50% since Ryan Finley took over as the starter, from 9.7% to 13.1. His receptions per game have grown by about the same rate, while his yardage has more than doubled.
BUST: Daniel Jones: Jones’ successes and failures this year have tracked extremely well to his opponents’ abilities to generate pressure, and this week’s opponent (the Bears) are pressure generators. It might just be that simple.

The best and worst matchups of the week

BEST: Baker Mayfield: There’s still a ways to go before Mayfield is all the way back in our good graces, but things are looking up. Week 10 was his first time all year passing for multiple touchdowns in a game, and then he did it again in Week 11 … and added a rushing score to boot. And things get about as good as they can this week against Miami.
WORST: Josh Jacobs: The Jets are middle of the pack against fantasy running backs this season, but that’s largely been because of receiving production. The Jets have allowed the lowest yards per carry (3.0) to opposing backs this season and the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game (65.4), but the sixth-most receiving yards per game to the position. And while Jacobs has gotten slightly more involved in the passing game of late, he still has yet to top 3 receptions or 30 receiving yards in a game or score a receiving touchdown.

Waiver claims to make

ADD Kareem Hunt in shallow leagues: Cleveland has leaned heavily on Hunt in the passing game, just as we expected. He's a flex-or-better play every week going forward.
ADD Jeff Driskel in medium-sized leagues: With Matthew Stafford potentially out until the end of the season, the Lions will continue to roll with Driskel. He's a priority streamer this week against the Redskins.
ADD N’Keal Harry in deep leagues: The Patriots got Harry on the field last week against the Eagles. He offers a skillset in that offense that gives him an intriguing ceiling for the stretch run.

DST streamers

Atlanta Falcons: Dan Quinn surrendered defensive playcalling duties following the team’s Week 9 bye. Since then, in just two games, Atlanta’s defense has recorded 11 sacks and four turnovers while allowing just 6.0 points per game. They’ve scored a league-high 36.0 fantasy points over this span, which is also four times as much as their total over their prior eight games.

QB streamers

Ryan Tannehill: Tannehill has never made for a reliable starting fantasy quarterback but in deeper leagues, in a matchup against an average Jacksonville secondary, Tannehill should be good for at least 15 fantasy points. With an average depth of target of 9.8 yards, Tannehill ranks fourth of 35 qualified QBs which allows him to be a viable streaming option although he may not get as many dropbacks as we’d usually like to see.

Expected Fantasy Points

Kenyan Drake: While it’s probably obvious by now David Johnson should be riding your bench until further notice, maybe it’s not so obvious that Drake has looked like a borderline-RB1 in his absence. Over the last three weeks, Drake has ranked 12th in XFP per game (15.0) and 10th in actual fantasy points per game (16.8), with a 91% XFP market share at the position over this span.

DFS advice

Scott Barrett’s DFS Focus piece will highlight all the key daily fantasy tips and tricks from one of the industry’s best, but that isn’t all, as our team tackles the main DFS slate from every angle.

DFS weekly preview

Salary changes: Jamison Crowder: Crowder has been an extremely (surprisingly) reliable fantasy option with Sam Darnold at QB, and that should not change this week against the Raiders. Adding intrigue to him this week is the fact the Raiders are a bottom 10 defense against slot WRs.

DFS facts to know

Ravens vs. Rams: For the third week in a row, Mark Andrews has the week’s premier tight end matchup. When Andrews is on the field, the Ravens throw him the football at a higher rate than anyone else in the entire league (wide receivers included) – his 31% target rate (221 routes, 69 targets) is tops in the NFL.

Bargains

Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Winston has been the sixth-best fantasy quarterback over the last four games, averaging 20-plus points a week. In that stretch, he has amassed 1,307 yards and eight touchdowns, which have sustained him in fantasy despite throwing eight interceptions.
Cole Beasley, WR, Buffalo Bills: Beasley is much deeper and less reliable play this weekend. This season, he has surpassed the 50-yard mark just twice and has hauled in just three touchdowns. The value here comes from his +7% matchup advantage while his teammate John Brown draws Chris Harris Jr., which is a -5% matchup disadvantage.

Locks

Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons: The Buccaneers allowed 22.4 points to quarterbacks across Weeks 1 and 2 combined. It started well. Since? They’ve been worst in the league per game by two full points (25.7 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks; the Lions are second at 23.7). They’ve allowed two of the five best single fantasy games to opposing quarterbacks (Russell Wilson in Week 9 and Daniel Jones in Week 3).
Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints: Thomas has the NFL receptions league by a ridiculous 19. Among players on this week’s main DFS slate, his lead is even bigger, a whopping 26 reception lead over Julian Edelman and 31 over Chris Godwin. On average, that’s basically saying he starts every game with a 2-point head start.

Fades

Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills: Week 11’s inexplicable second-half meltdown by the Broncos defense helped make Kirk Cousins the first quarterback all season to reach even 18 fantasy points or 280 passing yards against Denver. And crucially for this matchup, the Broncos haven’t allowed a rushing score to a quarterback this season or more than 34 rushing yards.
Vance McDonald, TE, Pittsburgh Steelers: McDonald is much more name than production at this point. He’s only missed one game this year (a common problem for him in the past), but is still only 23rd among tight ends in fantasy scoring. He only has a touchdown in two games, and he has yet to have a single game with more than 40 yards. Every other tight end in the top 40 at the position has done that at least once, but McDonald hasn’t.

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