• Dan Larocca

NFL Starts/Sits: Week 12

Last week was a return to the win column for our start and sit picks – we finished with 13 wins and 11 losses, including 7 wins out of our 8 headlining starts and sits of the week. Notable “the tides are turning” performances included 104 total yards and a TD from Washington’s Antonio Gibson, and 12 catches + 111 yards from the Steelers’ emerging number one WR Diontae Johnson. Both are looking like studs at their positions for the fantasy stretch run.

The NFL gave us a break from byes on US Thanksgiving week, so all the [healthy] stars will be on display. And with only two weeks to the start of the fantasy playoffs, your decisions on who to start couldn’t be more important. The week 12 slate offers some juicy matchups to exploit and a few to avoid, so let’s get into our turkey week edition of starts/sits.

Win/loss methodology: I look at fantasy finishes for all my previous week’s picks, including honorable mentions, to assess which players were start-worthy or not. In other words, if they finish within QB12, RB30, WR30, or TE12 (accounting for a RB/WR flex spot). On average for half-PPR scoring, that means the following:


START: Derek Carr, Raiders

Carr has been hot and cold this year, hitting 20+ points in exactly half of his ten games this year. As a pocket passer with minimal rushing totals, Carr needs volume to perform for fantasy – in games when Carr has attempted more than 30 passes he has averaged 20.9 fantasy points, compared to 11.8 points in games with 30 or fewer attempts.

Thankfully he gets Atlanta this week, who allow an average of 37.4 passing attempts to opposing QBs (6th most in the league) this year. Not only that, but teams are making the most of those attempts – Falcons opponents have averaged 8.41 yards per attempt, the 2nd highest mark in the league. All signs point towards Carr remaining hot this week. Start him with confidence.

Honorable mentions: Carson Wentz (vs. Seahawks), Cam Newton (vs. Cardinals)

SIT: Robert Griffin III, Ravens

On Thursday, it was reported that Lamar Jackson, who tested positive for COVID, would not be playing this weekend and that Robert Griffin III would be taking his place. But fantasy managers looking at Griffin as a replacement for Jackson should steer clear of RGIII. The Ravens will be severely short-handed this week, with 10 players on the COVID list as of this writing. Not ideal timing for Baltimore, who have a divisional matchup with the Steelers on tap this weekend. The Steelers are the toughest matchup for opposing fantasy QBs, limiting QBs to under 20 fantasy points in every game this season. Don’t let RGIII anywhere near your fantasy lineups this week.

Honorable mentions: Ryan Tannehill (at Colts), Matt Ryan (vs. Raiders)

Running Back

START: Wayne Gallman, Giants

With Devonta Freeman on IR for at least one more week, Gallman will be getting lead back duties for the Giants again this week against the lowly Bengals. Gallman has impressed during his stint as the Giants’ RB1 over the past four weeks, averaging 13.5 rushes, 63.25 total yards, and 1.25 TDs per game. His lowest point total in half-PPR over the past four weeks, 12.7 points, came against the Buccs and the 3rd toughest defense against fantasy RBs.

The Bengals rank as the 12th easiest matchup for RBs this year, including giving up 75+ yards to eight different RBs this year. Their front seven has looked worse since Carlos Dunlap was shipped to Seattle, and with Joe Burrow on the shelf for the rest of the year, I don’t expect the Brandon Allen-led offense to deliver many sustained drives. I expect a positive game script for the Giants and double-digit fantasy points for Gallman this week.

Honorable mentions: Kenyon Drake (at Patriots), Ronald Jones (vs. Chiefs)

SIT: Melvin Gordon, Broncos

Gordon is coming off an 18.4 point performance against the Dolphins, but don't expect him a repeat this week against the Saints and stingy defense, who rank as the #1 toughest matchup against fantasy RBs in the league this year. The Saints are one of five teams allowing less than 3.5 yards per carry this season, and rushing TDs aren’t any easier to come by – New Orleans has allowed a league-low five TDs to RBs this year. And if the Broncos fall behind, passing totals aren’t likely to help Gordon’s fantasy day either. He’s only been targeted 3 times in his last three games, including 0 targets last week. Avoid Gordon this week if you can.

Honorable mentions: Gio Bernard (vs. Giants), Damien Harris (vs. Cardinals)

Wide Receiver

START: Antonio Brown, Buccaneers

I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect much from Brown’s return to the NFL this year. And while he’s still a ways from a reliable fantasy performer, he and Tom Brady are doing all they can to prove the skeptics wrong. Brown has 21 targets over the last two weeks, and last week he led his team in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. Coming off a mediocre performance and a tough loss, Brady is likely to come out firing against the Chiefs, who have allowed 22.3 and 17.8 points to Curtis Samuel and Nelson Agholor, respectively, in back-to-back weeks.

With a 56 point O/U, Vegas thinks this will be the highest-scoring game of the week. The Chiefs’ quick-strike offense will force the Buccs to come out aggressive, which should mean even more volume for Brown. He’s a steady WR3/flex play this week with a high ceiling this week.

Honorable mentions: Robby Anderson (at Vikings), Michael Pittman Jr (vs. Titans)

SIT: Deebo Samuel, 49ers

Samuel is expected to return to the lineup this week with San Francisco coming off their bye. While he’ll likely resume WR1 duties for the injury-ridden 49ers, that likely means more attention from Rams’ Jalen Ramsey, whose performance has contributed to the Rams being the toughest matchup for opposing fantasy WRs this year. While Kyle Shanahan will likely get Samuel involved with short passes and designed runs, the team will also want to take precautions with his hamstring and ease him back into the offense. Samuel is a risky WR3 this week.

Honorable mentions: Marquise Brown (at Steelers), Tee Higgins (vs. Giants)

Tight End

START: Evan Engram, Giants

After posting solid totals in weeks 7-9 (including 29 targets), Engram came back down to earth in week 10 against the Eagles with a 2.5 point performance. Coming off a bye, Engram gets the Bengals, who are averaging the 5th most fantasy points to TEs.

While he’s far from the picture of consistency, Engram ranks 4th among TEs in targets this year. That kind of volume potential is what makes him a viable option most weeks, including this one.

Honorable mentions: Noah Fant (vs. Saints), Jordan Reed (at Rams)

SIT: Mark Andrews, Ravens

With how bleak the TE position has been this year for fantasy, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to pivot from Mark Andrews this week. But hear me out. Week 12 has already been a rough one for the Ravens – their Thursday game was pushed to the weekend after multiple players and personnel tested positive for COVID, including QB Lamar Jackson. With Jackson confirmed to be out for the game and the Ravens not practicing due to their COVID situation, there is a lot of uncertainty around this offense.

All this drama couldn’t come at a worse time for Baltimore, who play their second divisional matchup against the Steelers this week. Pittsburgh’s stout defense has been extremely tough on TEs this year – they are the toughest matchup for opposing fantasy TEs, allowing an average of 4.4 points to the position per week. In their first matchup earlier this year, Andrews was only able to muster 4.7 points. In fact, in four career games against the Steelers, Andrews hasn’t hit double digit fantasy points. Temper your expectations this week.

Honorable mentions: Jared Cook (at Broncos), Jonnu Smith (at Colts)

That’s it for this week. Be sure to check me out on Twitter (@dlaroccNFL) for news leading up to the games and a report-out next week on how our picks did. Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating!

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