News & Analysis

NFL Week 12 PFF Preview: Players to watch, fantasy football advice and betting projections

PFF previews the 14 NFL games ahead in Week 12, highlighting players to watch while also taking a fantasy football and betting approach to offer insight for every NFL fan.

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Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans

Player to Watch

Deshaun Watson ranks second among qualifying quarterbacks in PFF passing grade on throws of 10-plus air yards at 94.0. He has recorded 19 big-time throws and just seven turnover-worthy plays on throws of such depths. He’s also recorded a 66.7% adjusted completion percentage on said throws, a figure that leads all qualifying quarterbacks entering Week 12.

Fantasy Football Preview

On just 14 carries in Week 11, Marlon Mack totaled 109 yards and a score before leaving with a fractured right hand. In relief of Mack, and on just 14 touches, Jonathan Williams totaled 147 yards. With Mack out the next several weeks, Williams will be a popular waiver-wire add, but maybe not a smart one – he’ll still be behind Jordan Wilkins (who sat out Week 11 with an ankle injury) on the depth chart. 

Betting Preview

AFC South playoff implications kick off Thursday night between two teams evenly matched according to PFFELO Ranking. The Colts' sixth-ranked defense will need to slow Deshaun Watson, who has graded 18 points better than his counterpart Jacoby Brissett but needs to rebound after posting his third below-average game grade of 2019 last week. Bettors are pushing the total down from an opening of 46.5 with Greenline offering no discernible edge on the spread or total. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons

Player to Watch

Julio Jones enters Week 12 ranked fifth in yards per route run (2.44) among the 85 NFL receivers with at least 200 routes run this season. He continues to be one of the NFL's most efficient receivers and is on a bit of a hot streak in recent weeks.

Fantasy Football Preview

With Austin Hooper still banged up, look for Julio Jones to post what might be his best stat-line of the season. Inarguably, Tampa Bay is the best possible matchup for any WR1. In eight separate instances, a wide receiver has scored 25.0 or more fantasy points against Tampa Bay this year, which is twice as many as the next-closest defense. Wide receivers who rank top-25 in fantasy points per game – Michael Thomas, Tyler Lockett, Cooper Kupp, Christian Kirk and Sterling Shepard – have combined to average 33.1 fantasy points per game against Tampa Bay this year. In 14 career games against Tampa Bay, dating back to 2011, Jones averages a whopping 24.2 fantasy points per game and 27.3 across his last five games.

Betting Preview

Points are expected in this one with the highest total printed for Week 13. The total has slid down from an opening of 54, but the current print of 51.5 may not be as low as we go. Both teams rank in the top half league-wide in opponent-adjusted offensive ranking. Jameis Winston has graded below average, but even bad quarterback play leads to quick points in the right situations. The total has a potential play with Greenline right in line with the spread market and giving Atlanta a 65.6% win probability. 

Denver Broncos @ Buffalo Bills

Player to Watch

Courtland Sutton has taken a significant step forward in Year 2 of his NFL career. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound SMU product enters Week 12 ranked eighth in yards per route run (2.35), with nine contested catches from 13 contested targets.

Fantasy Football Preview

It’s hard to trust anyone on the Brandon Allen-led Broncos, and especially in this difficult matchup, but Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant remain intriguing. In Allen’s two starts, Sutton has seen a 31% target share while averaging 18.1 fantasy points per game. Following Emmanuel Sanders’ departure, Fant is averaging 8.0 targets and 12.5 fantasy points per game. We should remain suspicious of the small-sample for both players, but Sutton should be accepted as a true WR1 (for Denver, not for fantasy) in the midst of an impressive sophomore year breakout. He ranks seventh in PFF grade and has accounted for 35% of his team’s receiving yards, which ranks fourth-most among all players.

Betting Preview

The Broncos blew another late lead but are now 5-1 against the spread after a horrible start to 2019. The lowest total on the slate after opening at 36.5 has drifted up slightly but offers no value according to Greenline. After opening at +5, the Broncos have found some backing down to +4. Greenline has a heavy lean at the current spread price, but this line could continue to be on the move. 

New York Giants @ Chicago Bears

Player to Watch

Only Philip Rivers and Jameis Winston have recorded more turnover-worthy plays than Giants rookie quarterback Daniel Jones in 2019. Jones has logged just 12 big-time throws and 22 turnover-worthy plays, earning a 61.3 PFF passing grade that ranks 24th among qualifiers.

Fantasy Football Preview

David Montgomery has been one of the league’s most frustrating players to own week-to-week, but he has seen 17 or more opportunities in four consecutive games. In victories, his usage has been even better, averaging 17.3 carries, 2.8 targets and 2.0 red zone opportunities per game. Look for similarly good volume this week, a game Chicago is projected to score 23.25 points (6.4 points more than their per-game average) and win by 6.0.

Betting Preview

The Bears have been bet down hard in this matchup after opening as 7.5 point favorites through key numbers down to -6.5. Such is life when you are trying to decide who to start between Chase Daniels and Mitchell Trubisky. There is no total posted for this game yet, as we await an answer to the coveted question. 

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals

Player to Watch

Among the 32 NFL quarterbacks with 200 or more dropbacks this season, Mason Rudolph ranks dead last in PFF passing grade (51.3). He’s logged five big-time throws and 15 turnover-worthy plays so far this season, a dangerous ratio that Cincinnati can take advantage of in Week 12.

Fantasy Football Preview

In Week 11, the Steelers – potentially without James Conner, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson – get set to face the winless Bengals as 6.5-point favorites. Whatever happens this week, it’s probably not going to be pretty, but (assuming Conner is out) Jaylen Samuels remains an intriguing option. In five career starts, he averages 19.2 opportunities, 90.2 yards, and 15.8 fantasy points per game.

Betting Preview

Pittsburgh opened as more than a touchdown favorite on the road in this AFC North matchup. This is the second game we have on the slate with a total below 40, which means if the road dog is going to cover the now current -6.5, the over 38.5 could be a safe spot as well. 

Miami Dolphins @ Cleveland Browns

Player to Watch

Ryan Fitzpatrick has earned a higher PFF passing grade (73.2) than Baker Mayfield (69.1) so far this season. Fitzpatrick has six big-time throws and six turnover-worthy plays, while Mayfield has 13 big-time throws and 14 turnover-worthy plays on the year.

Fantasy Football Preview

Odell Beckham Jr. has totaled just 123.0 fantasy points in 10 career games with the Browns. For perspective, that’s 46.6 fantasy points less than his worst 10-game stretch with the Giants. Beckham has no doubt struggled this year, and partly due to a league-worst strength of schedule, but volume has remained strong. Week 12 looks like the perfect get-right matchup. Miami has been getting beat up by opposing WR1s since their Week 5 bye, surrendering 26.0 fantasy points to Terry McLaurin, 21.3 fantasy points to JuJu Smith-Schuster, 22.3 fantasy points to Jamison Crowder, and 19.3 and 34.7 fantasy points to John Brown.

Betting Preview

Betting Fitzmagic was pushed for one week after five straight against the spread victories for the Dolphins. Bettors seem to be adding on with the Dolphins moving from an opening 12.5 down to 10.5 in most spots. Greenline still leans towards the road dog but gives them just an 18.8% chance at winning outright. 

Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints

Player to Watch

Kyle Allen simply hasn't taken advantage of clean pockets in Carolina. Among the 34 NFL quarterbacks with 100 or more clean-pocket dropbacks in 2019, Allen ranks last in clean-pocket passing grade (66.2). He has just nine big-time throws and nine turnover-worthy plays when working from clean pockets so far this season.

Fantasy Football Preview

Despite failing to find the end zone in a 3-29 loss to the Falcons, Christian McCaffrey still managed to lead all running backs in fantasy points (30.1) in Week 11. This was his eighth top-four finish or ninth top-seven finish in 10 games this season. He averages 30.3 fantasy points per game this year, or what would be the fourth-most by any player at any position in any season all-time. Across his last 20 games, he’s scored 30.0 or more fantasy points nine times. He’s scored 40.0 or more fantasy points three times – the same number as games below 20.0 fantasy points. Basically, he’s an absolute freak of nature and the most valuable player in fantasy, and thus, there’s no need to fret over his Week 12 matchup and recent history against the Saints.

Betting Preview

The Saints rebounded quickly with a runaway victory over Tampa Bay, which puts their against-the-spread record tied for best in the league at 7-3. Their number has dropped considerably this week after opening at 11.5 down two to 9.5. Greenline falls in line with the market total but has a strong lean on a certain side in this NFC South matchup. 

Oakland Raiders @ New York Jets

Player to Watch

Center Rodney Hudson enters Week 12 ranked first among all offensive linemen with at least 275 pass-blocking snaps in pressure percentage allowed at 0.7%. He's allowed just two pressures in 279 pass-blocking snaps so far this season.

Fantasy Football Preview

In seven games with Sam Darnold under center, Jamison Crowder averages a team-high 8.4 targets per game and 16.0 fantasy points per game. For perspective, 16.0 fantasy points – a number he’s exceeded in each of his last three games – would rank tied for 15th among wide receivers. Look for Crowder to keep up that pace this week, as Oakland ranks bottom-10 in fantasy points per game allowed to slot wide receivers. In games with Darnold active, this represents his best (and only better-than-neutral) matchup of the season.

Betting Preview

Oakland opened as a heavy road favorite but has dropped below a field goal spread in some spots down to -2.5. At that price, the Raiders are a clear buy according to Greenline with a potential play on the total developing, as well. Despite a less than ideal defensive setup, the Raiders rank sixth offensively and would clearly not trade spots with a Jets squad ranked 29th offensively but fifth defensively according to our opponent-adjusted metrics. 

Seattle Seahawks @ Philadelphia Eagles

Player to Watch

Germain Ifedi enters Week 12 ranked second-to-last among the 133 offensive linemen with 275 pass-blocking snaps in pressure percentage allowed (10.2%). The Seahawks offensive tackle has allowed 39 total pressures in 383 pass-blocking snaps so far this season. Only Dolphins’ J’Marcus Webb ranks lower than Ifedi in pressure percentage allowed.

Fantasy Football Preview

Per our matchup chart, the Eagles are giving up the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing slot wide receivers and the eighth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. However, for the third consecutive season, they’re giving up the most fantasy points per game to opposing outside wide receivers. That means we should probably expect a below-average performance from Tyler Lockett (70% of his routes from the slot), while D.K. Metcalf and Josh Gordon should take advantage of the softer matchup on the perimeter.

Betting Preview

Bettors are buying into the legend of Russell Wilson, pushing the Seahawks from three-point dogs down to just +1.5. Greenline likes a certain side at this current price with these teams evenly matched according to our overall ELO rankings. 

Detroit Lions @ Washington Redskins

Player to Watch

Matthew Stafford enters Week 12 with NFL-highs in average depth of target (11.4) and percentage of passing yards before the catch (65.1%). Detroit needs his aggressive play under center if they’re going to get back on track in 2019.

Fantasy Football Preview

Terry McLaurin has played lights out, ranking 10th among wide receivers in PFF grade, but he’s struggled to score fantasy points in recent weeks. He averaged 19.4 fantasy points per game through the first six weeks of the season but just 7.0 fantasy points per game since. Expect another underwhelming performance this week, given Dwayne Haskins’ struggles (58.9 passer rating) and a near-worst-possible matchup in shadow coverage against Darius Slay (who held Amari Cooper to just 6.8 fantasy points in Week 11).

Betting Preview

The Lions still rank seventh offensively according to our opponent-adjusted metric but sorely miss Matthew Stafford with Jeff Driskel posting just a 58.0 overall passing grade. On a small sample size, it is enough to beat his rookie counterpart Dwayne Haskins, who has posted just a 55.4 passing grade. Greenline sees little value in this matchup but forecasts sloppy quarterback play throughout. 

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans

Player to Watch

Leonard Fournette has averaged 3.7 yards after contact per carry so far this season, a figure that ranks tied for second with Chris Carson among NFL running backs with 100 or more attempts in 2019. Fournette has also forced 0.17 missed tackles per carry, which ranks tied for 19th among the same group of qualifiers.

Fantasy Football Preview

Jacksonville’s defense ranks dead-last in rushing yards allowed per carry (5.41), well above the league average rate (4.21). Since Week 5, they’ve allowed 6.21 yards per carry on the ground, while surrendering 100-yard games to every runner they’ve faced who has exceeded 12 carries against them (Jonathan Williams, Marlon Mack, Carlos Hyde, Christian McCaffrey). In other words, expect a big game from Derrick Henry – he just totaled 188 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries against the defense that ranks second-worst in yards per carry allowed (Chiefs, 5.05).

Betting Preview

The spread in this matchup has fluctuated from a key number three to the hook for the Jaguars. At 3.5, Greenline likes the price for the road dog who should be able to stay close with only five places separating these two offenses. Greenline falls in line with the total market expecting few points to be scored by either offense. 

Dallas Cowboys @ New England Patriots

Player to Watch

Dak Prescott enters Week 12 ranked third in PFF passing grade from a clean pocket at 91.0. The Cowboys signal-caller has completed 184-of-247 passes for 2,361 yards, 15 touchdowns and four picks when kept clean this season. He also ranks seventh in adjusted completion percentage (83.1%) on said dropbacks.

Fantasy Football Preview

Somewhat quietly, Julian Edelman ranks third in targets per game (10.0) and 12th in fantasy points per game (16.6). Though he should be valued as a WR1 for the remainder of the season, it’s worth tempering expectations this week. Last week, against an Eagles defense that ranks best in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing slot wide receivers, Edelman scored just 10.3 fantasy points on 10 targets. This week, he gets a Dallas defense that ranks fifth-best against opposing slot wide receivers (and for the second-straight season).

Betting Preview

New England has dropped just below a touchdown favorite as the top-ranked Patriots take on the best ranked offensive unit in the NFL. If forced to choose, Greenline leans slightly towards the over but falls in line with both spread and total market numbers. 

Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers

Player to Watch

Among the 22 NFL quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts of 10-plus air yards, Packers veteran Aaron Rodgers ranks first in PFF passing grade on such throws. He has completed 58-of-111 attempts for 1,405 yards, 10 touchdowns and just one interception on passes of 10-plus air yards in 2019.

Fantasy Football Preview

Although George Kittle missed out on a near-perfect matchup against the Cardinals in Week 11, if he returns this week, he’ll get a Packers defense that is giving up the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Green Bay has allowed a tight end to finish top-six and score at least 15.0 fantasy points in four consecutive games, with an average of 23.9 fantasy points per game over this span. As blasphemous as it may sound, Kittle really might be the second coming of Rob Gronkowski (as argued elsewhere), or, at the very least, he has a Gronkowski-like expectation this week (should he return).

Betting Preview

Our game of the week pits two teams atop the NFC standings with the 49ers opening as field-goal favorites at home. This is a great matchup between two teams ranked in our top-10 both overall and defensively. The total appears to be well priced along with the spread, but a certain moneyline play exists at the right odds. 

Baltimore Ravens @ Los Angeles Rams

Player to Watch

Rams off-ball linebacker Cory Littleton enters Week 12 ranked second among all defensive players in PFF coverage grade (90.4). He has recorded six forced incompletions and 10 defensive stops in coverage so far this season.

Fantasy Football Preview

Since Marcus Peters joined the Ravens in Week 7, the Ravens rank second-best in points allowed per game (14.0) and second-best in opposing passer rating (69.6). Jared Goff, over his last 18 games (postseason included), averages a passer rating of just 78.4. For perspective, Brock Osweiler retired with a 78.0 passer rating. Lamar Jackson is on pace for most fantasy points by any quarterback in any season in NFL history and easily has the highest expectation of the week, but don’t be surprised if, for the third consecutive week, we see Robert Griffin III early in the fourth quarter.

Betting Preview

Monday night brings the hottest team in the NFL across the country to the West Coast, where our third-ranked Ravens sit as three-point road favorites. They appear to be getting continued backing from the public. After opening at 2.5 points, they can already be found with the hook the other way in spots. Greenline projects this game to stay close with a 3.5 point print a probable play for the home dogs. Either way, Monday night should finally provide some quality football as two teams with two teams ranked in our top-10 ELO rankings face off. 

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