With many fantasy football fans watching from a turkey-filled table on Thursday, Week 12 of the NFL season got off to an early start with a trio of Thanksgiving games. For those owners who had to square off against the likes of Antonio Brown, Ezekiel Elliott, Jordan Reed, and perhaps even Donte Moncrief and Anquan Boldin, you may wake up this morning finding your opponent’s scoreboard looking quite stuffed indeed.
The good news is, because there are no byes this week, you still have plenty of opportunity to catch up. However, if you’re already looking at a huge double-digit deficit, you may well wish to roll the dice and take a few Hail Mary chances on Sunday.
Keep that in mind as you set your fantasy lineups this week. Be sure to take advantage of our Roster Advisor tool to get an edge on your opponents, and for those taking part in the Eliminator Challenge, you can get an edge here too, with the Survivor Guide.
Our weekly ESPN Insider cheat sheet provides a rundown of the greatest hits from all of our Insider fantasy football content. In this file, you’ll find answers to the top questions of the week, along with injury updates, matchup advantages and wild-card plays from Eric Karabell, Tristan H. Cockcroft, Scott Kacsmar, Mike Clay and Al Zeidenfeld. It’s all the best tips, distilled into one handy file.
Here’s what our experts are saying about Week 12:
In their past three home games, the Cleveland Browns have allowed the following stat lines to the lead backs they were tasked with trying to tackle: 82 yards and 2 TDs, 92 yards and 2 TDs, and Week 11’s 146 yards and a touchdown from Le’Veon Bell. Al Zeidenfeld thinks it’s perfectly fine to continue picking on a soft run defense.
“This is a pure matchup play to target the Browns’ defense that gives up touchdowns on more than 30 percent of opponent’s offensive drives. Jennings is still the lead back in New York even with Paul Perkins emerging as a role player, and has been involved more in the passing game the past two weeks with six targets in both games; on top of all that, he gets the goal-line carries.”
Tristan H. Cockcroft also likes the idea of running with Jennings in Week 12, noting that “it sure looks like Jennings has recaptured the throne as the Giants’ clear starting running back ahead of Perkins, getting 46 snaps to Perkins’ 19 in Week 11, the widest differential between the two since Week 2. Jennings’ 21 carries to Perkins’ four also marked one of the widest differentials all year.” ?
The Bengals’ offense has been decimated by serious injuries to Giovani Bernard and A.J. Green, which is surely going to cause fantasy owners to think twice before locking quarterback Andy Dalton into their lineups. That said, Eric Karabell notes that there’s still value to be found in the Cincinnati huddle going forward. ?
“Dalton has fared well at MT Bank Stadium in recent years, averaging 319 passing yards the past three seasons and winning twice, with six touchdown passes. This year’s Ravens are strong against the run, so Jeremy Hill really isn’t a better option than normal. Rookie wide receiver Tyler Boyd and veteran Brandon LaFell are, though, and they should pick up most of the targets with Green out.”
“Remember, the Green/Bernard duo was targeted on nearly half of Dalton’s passes. He’s still going to throw. Even if you don’t intend to use Boyd or LaFell this week, add them to your bench in case. The schedule isn’t so bad moving ahead.”
Scott Kacsmar believes this would be a really good week to pay up for the Raiders wideout, even as he struggled for much of the game his team played Monday in Mexico City.
“Cooper was rather quiet against Houston before his game-winning touchdown on a short catch-and-run, but he should be in for a much bigger day against the Panthers. Carolina’s troubled secondary ranks 27th against No. 1 wide receivers, though No. 11 against No. 2 receivers, so this should be more of a Cooper day than a Michael Crabtree day.”?
Playing the matchups
Mike Clay points out that the Saints do like to move their receivers all over the field, and they’re facing off against a Rams team that doesn’t typically like to play the shadow game on the defensive side of the ball. Still, he’s bullish on Thomas being the most likely wideout to flourish Sunday.?
“E.J. Gaines has repeatedly been lit up in the City of Angels. In fact, he has been targeted at least eight times in four straight games, he has allowed five or more receptions in six of his seven games, and he has allowed at least 56 receiving yards or a touchdown in each of his outings.
“Thomas lines up wide to Drew Brees‘ left on 54 percent of his routes, so he will benefit most from Gaines’ struggles. Especially with Willie Snead having to deal with Lamarcus Joyner in the slot, Thomas is the Saints wide receiver with the best matchup this week.”
Clay also thinks the matchup for the veteran Cardinals receiver against the Falcons could be better than expected, but he cautions that his optimism is contingent on the status of CB Desmond Trufant.?
“Fitzgerald lines up in the slot on 65 percent of his pass routes, so he often dodges coverage from top corners. That is unlikely to be the case this week, as Atlanta hasn’t hesitated to use Trufant inside, matching him up with the likes of Brandin Cooks, Doug Baldwin and Travis Benjamin in the slot. At least for now, Fitzgerald needs to be downgraded, but keep in mind that Trufant is questionable for this game with a shoulder injury. If he sits out, it will be all systems go for Fitzgerald. This is a situation to monitor throughout the week.”
Statistics can sometimes be misleading, especially when you look at a particular defense’s history going up against a particular position. That’s why a meeting with Seattle won’t scare Kacsmar off a tight end with three scores in his past four games.
As he points out, “Many will avoid Brate this week, as the Seahawks have a solid defense against tight ends, but until the past two weeks, they hadn’t faced any offenses that feature them. In those two games (against the Patriots and Eagles) they allowed 17 catches, which was greater than the 13 they had allowed in all other games.”
With the likelihood of Patrick Peterson shadowing Julio Jones all afternoon, Cockcroft isn’t all that excited about the Atlanta passing game, especially given Ryan’s failures to overcome the difficulties of completing passes when his top target struggles for space.
“[Ryan] managed just 19 (Week 3) and 14 (Week 5) fantasy points in games in which Jones had issues getting open. In the past five weeks, the Cardinals have made Russell Wilson (9 fantasy points, Week 7), Cam Newton (12, Week 8) and Sam Bradford (8, Week 11) look bad.”
“And while Colin Kaepernick?dropped 23 fantasy points against them in Week 10, bear in mind that Kaepernick totaled 11 of the points on rushing plays, something Ryan lacks in his game. Should Tyrann Mathieu (shoulder) return for Week 12 too, Ryan’s matchup will only look less appealing.”
The backup’s status for this weekend is not yet known, but after he suffered a hamstring injury Wednesday, he did not participate in Thursday’s practice. Rex Ryan has some “serious concern” with Gillislee, so Buffalo has to really hope that LeSean McCoy’s thumb doesn’t cause him any problems.
Although all signs point to Cutler’s shoulder keeping him out for this weekend, with Matt Barkley handling quarterback duties for the Bears, Coach John Fox is not yet ready to write the veteran off. “You know, in my experience with Jay, he’s a tough son of a gun,” Fox said. “… So, right now he is day to day.”
He has been a participant in two practices this week, as he tries to return from a serious chest injury. However, what that means for Sunday’s action is still a bit hazy. Martellus Bennett (ankle) did not practice Thursday, and it’s unclear if the reason is that he is unable to play himself, or if the team simply wants to make sure nothing happens to their other tight end because there’s something they’re seeing in Gronk that concerns them.
Because the bulk of attention that has been focused on Kaepernick this season has had to do with non-football related issues, as Zeidenfeld notes, his on-the-field exploits have kind of gone unnoticed.
“Kaepernick has been outstanding and consistent in his five starts this season. The consistency was something he struggled with in past seasons, but this offense has provided him with a chance to showcase his unique skill set. The very real threat of Kaepernick running the ball out of the read-option has helped him post solid passing statistics, with seven touchdowns through the air in his five starts, leading to a stellar 20.9 DraftKings points per game average in that span.”
When it comes to paying attention to teams from the City of Brotherly Love, you know Karabell is always going to have something to say. For this week, it’s a potential shot in the dark at running back that has him musing. “Ryan Mathews (knee) and Darren Sproles (rib) are expected to play, but rookie Smallwood looms, and against the current shell of an NFL defense the Packers are flaunting, the stumbling Eagles offense should be more relevant than usual.”?
Big question of the week
Karabell also wonders what the backfield breakdown in Green Bay might be in Week 12 and beyond: “The Packers would seem to be set with James Starks and Ty Montgomery splitting snaps, rushes and targets, but one wonders what happens if Christine Michael suits up for the game.”
Aaron Rodgers, for one, seems ready to get Michael in the huddle to see what he can do, “It’s yet to be seen exactly in this offense, but what he’s done in other offenses has been pretty spectacular. I mean, he’s scored six touchdowns this year, which obviously would put him first on our squad.”
“He’s a change-of-pace back, very quick, very athletic, and he’s happy to be here. I think he’s just looking for an opportunity. Obviously a guy of his talent wasn’t on the street for that long, just a couple hours until he was claimed. But I’m excited about getting him out there.”?
Time will tell if fantasy owners should be equally as excited with the former Seahawks back.
Al Zeidenfeld is a promoter user at DraftKings (Username: Al_Smizzle) and plays on his personal account in games he offers advice on. These views/strategies are his own and do not reflect the views of DraftKings. He may also deploy different players/strategies than what he advises.