Week 12 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Projections for Top 10 Players at Each Position - Let's face facts: Most managers are going to make a costly fantasy football decision with their Week 12 lineups.
That's not a cynical purview of other players' fantasy acumen. No matter how much we try to answer all of life's unknown mysteries, something unexpected always shakes up the puzzle even more.
Last week, Jonas Gray became the top culprit. The undrafted rookie went from practice squad to prime time in a month, torching the Indianapolis Colts for 201 yards and four touchdowns on Sunday night.
And he did so on most fantasy benches or waiver wires. That's a lot of missed points. Nobody could have projected such a meteoric breakout from someone entering the contest with 131 career rushing yards, but giving up and admitting defeat won't help anyone's cause either.
There are at least some predictable choices on the horizon this weekend. As long as owners stay alert and don't fall into certain traps, they can optimize their lineups as much as possible with the fantasy season winding down.
Start: Tony Romo, DAL (at NYG)
Banged up heading into Week 12, Tony Romo is going to play. If the Dallas Cowboys shipped him off to London on an injured back just to play the Jacksonville Jaguars, they'll play him on Sunday Night Football after enjoying a Week 11 bye.
As long as he laces up, his owners would need to also own a top-five stud to sit Romo this Sunday. When he faced the New York Giants last month, the 34-year-old collected 279 passing yards and three touchdowns during a 31-21 victory.
The biggest fear isn't New York stopping him, but rather DeMarco Murray stealing Romo's thunder. The Giants rank last against the run, and no other running back has come close to matching Murray's 244 carries and 1,233 rushing yards through 10 games.
Don't worry, there's plenty of fantasy goodness to go around, as the G-Men also rank No. 22 against the pass. A heavy running threat will clear the field for deep throws, and there's no need to worry about Romo handling an unwelcoming crowd, per NFL on ESPN:
Play Romo with confidence and wait patiently for him to pile up the points.
Sit: Philip Rivers, SD (vs. STL)
Under normal circumstances, the sage advice would be to stay calm and not let recency bias create panic. After a marvelous start to the season, Philip Rivers has looked dreadful in his last two games.
Yet he still holds a 66.8 completion percentage, 7.76 yards-per-attempt average and 21 passing touchdowns on the season. Just a simple rough patch, with the first blunder coming against an elite Miami Dolphins defense.
Or maybe not. Antonio Gates revealed the truth earlier this week, telling U-T San Diego's Michael Gehlken that Rivers is dealing with "a very severe rib injury." With the secret out, NFL.com's Ian Rapoport confirmed Gates' statement:
Yet Rivers tried to keep San Diego Chargers fans calm by claiming he's OK, per Chargers.com's Ricky Henne:
I feel good. Shoot, it’s part of playing this position (to) get banged up here and there. I feel as good as I could ask to feel at this point in the season. If we told you every knick and knack we ever had, it’d be a long list and things you wouldn’t care to hear about. It wouldn’t be worth reporting that, for sure.
Isn't it the worst when people report the truth? Now fantasy players are entering dicey territory, as the numbers contradict Rivers' insistence of status quo. It's much harder to say, "Everyone has a bad day," or chalk it up to the law of averages with a medical explanation for why Rivers isn't living up to his typically stellar play.
Use his next game against the St. Louis Rams to scout the battered quarterback. If he plays well, he gets clearance back into the lineup, but don't roll with Rivers just yet.
Start: Isaiah Crowell, CLE (at ATL)
The Cleveland Browns sent fantasy lineups into disarray last Sunday, announcing shortly before their 1 p.m. game that Isaiah Crowell would start at running back. This came a week after fellow rookie Terrance West received a season-high 26 rushing attempts.
It wasn't simply Crowell playing more during the opening series; he led the team with 14 handoffs while West got the ball only five times. Including two receptions, the new starter finished with 91 yards and a fumble that stripped points away from those who made a last-second switch.
That performance certainly doesn't catapult Crowell into stardom, but it helps to make him a solid No. 2 running back or flex play against the Atlanta Falcons, who rank last in total defense while allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing backs, per ESPN.com.
Now that the Browns have waived Ben Tate, who was quickly claimed by the Minnesota Vikings, Crowell has one less teammate to worry about. Crowell's 4.6 yards per carry tops West's average by a full yard, so trust him to keep the prominent role.
Sit: Shane Vereen, NE (vs. DET)
It's now safe to say Shane Vereen won't get a chance to assume a larger ball-carrying role this season. With Gray replacing the sidelined Stevan Ridley in style, the 25-year-old will keep fighting for scraps.
Never a traditional rusher, Vereen got one carry tossed his way during the New England Patriots' convincing victory last weekend. He also compiled 59 receiving yards, giving him an average of 63.3 total yards per game in 2014.
Not bad for someone desiring a high-floor option, but the pass-catcher has eclipsed 100 yards just twice this season. Against the Detroit Lions' NFL-best defense, his chances of making it three are slim. Even Gray is a poor choice against the Lions' premier run-prevention unit, but persuading owners to bench him after last week's domination seemed like an impossible task.
This is a prime case of knowing your league, as Vereen makes a usable flex play in point-per-reception (PPR) formats. In standard leagues, however, owners should stay away this weekend.
Start: Vincent Jackson, TB (at CHI)
Mike Evans has stolen the spotlight in Tampa Bay, swinging several fantasy matchups with 458 receiving yards and five touchdowns over the last three games. Given that mind-blowing production, Vincent Jackson has gotten lost outside the rookie's spotlight.
No longer an exciting fantasy choice, Jackson has registered 43 catches for 561 yards and two touchdowns this season. While Evans has far exceeded his veteran teammate's fantasy appeal, both are viable options against the Chicago Bears.
Despite his middling production, Jackson remains heavily involved in the Buccaneers offense, receiving double-digit targets in five games. That includes Weeks 9 and 10, when he reeled in 14 catches for 161 yards.
That's good news heading into a Week 12 clash against Chicago's No. 25 passing defense. Jackson has made his money on deep strikes, and the Bears are tied the Atlanta Falcons for the most yards allowed per pass attempt (8.2).
This game gives Jackson a great opportunity to score his first touchdown since Sept. 28, so stay patient and keep him in the lineup.
Sit: Kenny Britt, STL (at SD)
Kenny Britt became a popular add after tallying 128 yards and a touchdown against the Denver Broncos last week. Stashing a high-reward player never hurt anyone, but Britt does not merit starting status after one big game.
Scratch that. Make it one big play, as Britt delivered most of his points on a 63-yard touchdown bomb. Those are great when they happen, but huge plays are unpredictable and dangerous when they're the only way for someone to derive any value.
This is still a wideout who has caught 25 passes in 10 games. Before last weekend, he was averaging 34.7 receiving yards per game. Britt, ever the fantasy tease, now has two 100-yard receiving days throughout the last three years.
San Diego is a tough secondary to penetrate, rating No. 6 in passing defense alongside 6.9 opposing yards per attempt. Want to trust a flaky receiver and a quarterback who has played seven games in four years against an above-average group? Go for it, but the results probably won't be pretty.
Start: Coby Fleener, IND (vs. JAC)
Always a super talent struggling to stand out in a deep Colts receiving corps, Coby Fleener broke out after Dwayne Allen left Sunday night's game. Andrew Luck connected with his former Stanford teammate on all seven targets for 144 yards.
Just like that, the third-year tight end goes from backup/wavier-wire fodder to a strong Week 12 start, as the Colts host the Jacksonville Jaguars. Allen's status remains in doubt, but the Indianapolis Star's Zak Keefer said it doesn't look good after he missed Thursday's practice:
Fleener has compiled more catches and yards than Allen, but his colleague has him beat with seven touchdowns. He'll get looks his way even if Allen suits up, but the 6'6", 251-pounder will draw red-zone attention as the top tight end in town.
Sit: Vernon Davis, SF (vs. WAS)
Start or sit isn't the right question to ask for Vernon Davis. Hold or heave to the waiver wire is the real decision to make for the struggling tight end.
Davis has caught a measly 18 passes all season for 176 yards. He has yet to gain 50 or more yards in a single game and hasn't sniffed the end zone since Week 1.
As many of his fantasy owners jump ship, Davis assured CSNBayArea.com's Matt Maiocco that he'll snap out of this funk.
“Everything always works itself out, especially if you’re working hard and doing the right things,” Davis said. “It’ll come. It’ll come. It’s just a matter of time. I know that I have to be optimistic, keep my faith and just keep working hard.”
Perhaps, but gamers can't afford to patiently wait with the playoffs fast approaching. After grabbing one eight-yard catch versus the New Orleans Saints, he followed with one seven-yard reception against the Giants. Regardless of the opponent, Davis is no longer someone anyone can start until he proves otherwise.
Start: Green Bay Packers (at MIN)
Following a dominating outing against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Green Bay Packers defense suddenly ranks fifth in ESPN scoring. Over the past two weeks, they have snatched four interceptions, three fumble recoveries and produced four scores.
Those came against supremely talented offenses in the Eagles and Bears. The Vikings represent their easiest matchup since Week 5, when Green Bay generated three turnovers and a score against the Vikings while allowing a season-low 10 points.
Hot unit. Great matchup. Give Green Bay a whirl this weekend, but don't think a huge day makes the group startable against New England in Week 13.
Sit: Miami Dolphins (at DEN)
This isn't rocket science or making small talk with a stranger. (Is that last one just me?) It doesn't matter if we're talking the 1985 Bears: A defense facing the Broncos is off limits.
Just making sure nobody was getting any bad ideas after the Rams picked off Peyton Manning twice and contained Denver to seven points, Denver's lowest total since acquiring Manning. And yes, only the Lions have allowed fewer yards per game than the Dolphins.
Stash the Dolphins defense if possible, as they play the New York Jets next weekend. They're a good squad against the right opponent, but defenses average zero fantasy points per game against the Broncos. Don't out-think yourself here.
Start: Justin Tucker, BAL (at NO)
Only fantasy novices roster two kickers, which means most owners kicked Justin Tucker to the curb during his Week 11 bye. If he's still hanging around the waiver wire, click his name and pop him into the starting lineup.
The Baltimore Ravens kicker provides steady accuracy, making all 16 field-goal attempts under 50 yards this season. Avoiding wind or any climate factors inside the Superdome also helps his cause on Monday night.
Before his mandatory week off, Tucker converted just one field in his last two games. Opportunities, however, constantly fluctuate for kickers, so don't hold that against him.
Sit: Chandler Catanzaro, ARI (at SEA)
After a string of fruitful games to start the season, Chandler Catanzaro hasn't delivered a double-digit fantasy outing since Week 8 against Washington.
Again, this isn't his fault, as he has missed just one attempt (a 53-yarder) during his rookie campaign. Yet the Arizona Cardinals travel to Seattle with Drew Stanton at the helm.
One way of looking at that is the Cardinals will settle for more field goals, but that's assuming they get that far. Swap him for someone else (Tucker, Nick Novak, Robbie Gould) on the waiver wire.Read more NFL news on BleacherReport.com
Fantasy Football Week 11 Rankings: Projections for Players with Matchups We Love - I'll be straightforward with you, folks—this week's fantasy rankings will probably break the Internet. Yeah, I said it.
Below, I'm going to expose some of the top matchups for you to exploit. My stats will be revealing. I promise, I'll have you popping champagne after your Week 11 win if you follow my advice.
That's right, Internet, it's high time somebody broke you. And hey, fantasy football enthusiasts might as well win their matchups this week, too.
Well, this one was pretty easy.
Aaron Rodgers is one of the hottest players in fantasy football at the moment—and in the NFL, period—with 1,710 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, just two interceptions and 155 fantasy points in his last six games. That's absurd production, folks. To put those numbers into perspective, only seven other quarterbacks have more than 155 fantasy points this season.
Now he faces a Philadelphia Eagles defense that has given up two or more touchdown passes in eight of nine games, 300 or more passing yards in four of their last seven games and 18 or more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks six times.
In a game that has shootout written all over it, expect Rodgers to post enormous numbers.
People talk about DeMarco Murray's unbelievable start to the season, or Arian Foster's recent brilliance, or even LeSean McCoy's surprising struggles. But one player we don't talk about enough is Le'Veon Bell.
Bell has posted double-digit fantasy points in eight of 10 games and scored at least nine points nine times. And he's done all of that while scoring just three touchdowns, largely because he's been a yardage monster this season, totaling 1,213 yards from scrimmage this year, second only to Murray.
He should add to that tally against a Tennessee Titans defense that has given up 353 rushing yards and four touchdowns to opposing running backs in their last two games. The Titans have also given up 24 or more fantasy points to opposing backs five times this season.
Bell owners should be rewarded quite nicely this week, in other words.
Mark Ingram owners should be feeling pretty good, too. Ingram has 59 total fantasy points in his past three games and has rushed for a whopping 392 yards in that time, giving the New Orleans Saints another much-needed dimension to their offense.
Now, he goes against a floundering Cincinnati defense that has allowed 20 or more fantasy points to opposing running backs in five of their last six games. At home, against a defense that has surprisingly become porous against the run, Ingram should continue his streak of huge fantasy performances.
I may love Ingram against the Cincinnati Bengals, but I also love A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu against the struggling New Orleans secondary. The Saints just gave up 12 catches for 200 yards and a touchdown against San Francisco's middling wideouts, and have given up 25 or more fantasy points to opposing receivers six times this year.
I'm not worried about last week's horrible showing against the Cleveland Browns. Green has always been a consistent performer in fantasy, while Sanu has really emerged as a dangerous No. 2 option. Expect much better results for both players than they offered last week.
And then there is DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon facing a terrible Tampa Bay defense giving up 28.6 fantasy points to opposing wide receivers per week, worst in the NFL. Jackson is obviously a weekly starter, as he's capable of getting behind any secondary for a long touchdown reception, but Garcon is the trickier call to make.
I'm hoping that having the week off and a chance to regain his chemistry with Robert Griffin III will do a world of good for Garcon, who has been a pretty huge disappointment this year. If ever there was a week for him to get back on track, this is it.
Oh, and while I didn't focus on them here, I obviously love Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb against Philly's poor secondary. Who do you think is going to catch all of those Rodgers touchdown passes?
There are no bad matchups for Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham or Julius Thomas. Always remember that.
There are bad matchups for the rest of the tight ends in the league, however, and also some great ones. And this year, one of the great ones is facing the Chicago Bears, a defense giving up 12.6 fantasy points to opposing tight ends, easily the worst mark in the league.
In Week 5, they gave up eight receptions, 88 yards and two touchdowns to Carolina's tight ends. In Week 7, it was 91 receiving yards and a score against Miami's tight ends. In Week 8, New England's tight ends totaled 16 receptions, 220 receiving yards and four touchdowns. And last week, the Bears gave up two touchdowns to Green Bay's tight ends.
Here's a quiz for you casual football fans: Name one tight end on the Packers. It's OK, I'll wait.
So that's the evidence I'm presenting you before saying that I really like Kyle Rudolph this week. Yes, the same Kyle Rudolph who has been injured and hasn't played since Week 3. I'm fully expecting Rudolph to hit the ground running and notch a touchdown against a Bears defense that has basically been giving them away to opposing tight ends this year.
For what feels like the first time this season, I'm not picking the team facing the Jacksonville Jaguars! Of course, that's because the Jaguars are on a bye. Let's not get hung up on technicalities—just take this small victory, Jacksonville fans.
But even if the Jags weren't on a bye, I'd probably pick the Denver Broncos this week. The St. Louis Rams were already giving up 13.6 fantasy points to opposing defenses per week, 31st in the NFL, and then they tweeted this:
So yes, I'm all about the Broncos this weekend against an already mediocre St. Louis offense with Shaun Hill under center. Enjoy your reprieve, Jacksonville fans.
Oh, let's see...
Stephen Gostkowski is already the top kicker in fantasy this year and is likely to benefit from a shootout this week. How do I know it will be a shootout?
Because Tom Brady plays quarterback for the New England Patriots and Andrew Luck plays quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. That's how I know this will be a shootout. Start Gostkowski with confidence, he'll likely be a busy man in this one.
All point totals and points-against statistics via ESPN standard scoring leagues. Hit me up on Twitter—I'll answer your fantasy questions and make some corny jokes, too. It's more fun than a passing drill against the Chicago Bears defense.
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