Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 12 (2020)
Before celebrating Thanksgiving in a hopefully safe fashion, fantasy football managers must weigh risk on a far lesser scale when setting Week 12 lineups. With three games currently scheduled for Thursday, gamers will be pressed into making difficult decisions earlier than usual.
Some may simply want to start those players to give them a rooting interest in Thursday’s action. That won’t always be the wisest course of action, as two players from the Thanksgiving Day slate come brandished with a “Sit” label.
As always, the Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) cited below were taken from half-PPR leagues on Tuesday evening.
Start: Tom Brady (TB) vs. KC: QB7 ECR
Brady has played far too erratically for a QB1, placing as a top-10 quarterback in six weeks but QB19 or worse in five others. Just two of those subpar outings came in succession, and the second of that pairing can be attributed to low volume rather than poor performance in a Week 6 blowout win over Green Bay. This upcoming marquee matchup with Kansas City likely won’t be as lopsided, and BettingPros assigns it the week’s highest over/under line at 56 points. Kanas City hasn’t struggled too much against quarterbacks not named Derek Carr. Its pass-rush could also be the key to slowing down the 43-year-old quarterback. Nevertheless, scoring is expected to be plentiful, and that aforementioned game against the Packers was the only time Brady attempted fewer than 35 passes in a game. Don’t panic and sit him for a streamer following a dreadful primetime display.
Start: Cam Newton (NE) vs. ARI: QB11 ECR
Newton finished as the QB28 in two terrible outings (Weeks 3 and 7) this season. He’s placed no lower than QB14 in the seven others. Although the floor is lower than the typical starting-caliber quarterback, he’s delivered a reasonable return more often than not. It’s also encouraging to see Bill Belichick give him more leeway against weaker passing defenses. After attempting 65 passes combined in his first three games back from the COVID-19 list, Newton threw 35 times against the Jets in Week 9 and 40 times on the Texans last Sunday. Arizona has surrendered the seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, giving a healthy Newton the opportunity to pull his weight as a low-level QB1.
Sit: Ben Roethlisberger (PIT) vs. BAL: QB14 ECR
The Steelers are making the most of their dynamic receiving trio by having Roethlisberger throw more than 40 passes in four of his last five games. All of those opponents rank in the bottom 12 of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. In the other contest, he went 21-of-32 for 182 yards and two touchdowns against the Ravens. While its offense has underwhelmed, Baltimore has relinquished the second-fewest yards per attempt and seventh-fewest passing yards. Big Ben should hold his own, but it’s easy to see at least a dozen players out-performing him at the stacked position.
Note: As of Tuesday, the NFL does not plan on moving this game from Thursday night despite multiple Ravens players and staffers testing positive for COVID-19.
Sit: Jared Goff (LAR) vs. SF: QB17 ECR
Goff is coming off a spectacular 376-yard, three-touchdown showing on Monday Night Football. However, he doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to encores. The last time he finished among the week’s top-10 quarterbacks, Goff followed a gem at Washington with a QB18 showing at San Francisco. Prior to that, he went from the QB5 in Week 4 to QB26 the next weekend. Once again, the California native faces the 49ers after a strong showing. Sean McVay wisely dialed up a pass-heavy blueprint against the NFL’s stingiest rushing defense Monday night, but San Francisco ranks fifth against the pass.
Start: Salvon Ahmed (MIA) at NYJ: RB16 ECR
Although far from a groundbreaking performance, Ahmed turned 12 carries and five catches into 74 total yards and an RB25 finish in Week 11. He also assuaged any fears of Matt Breida wrestling away from the main reps in Miami. Breida returned to the lineup, but got just two touches in seven snaps. This backfield appears to belong to Ahmed until Myles Gaskin return, which won’t be in time to face the 0-10 Jets. Although the No. 1 frontrunners have allowed just 3.8 yards per carry, a victorious game script could yield ample value for Ahmed, who accrued 21 handoffs in Week 10’s 29-21 win over the Chargers.
Start: Wayne Gallman Jr. (NYG) at CIN: RB17 ECR
I was going to type out all of the reasons to play Gallman, but QB List’s Erik Smith already did:
Week 12 Rankings Challenge:
How high can I get Wayne Gallman in my RB ranks?
✅Double-digit carries & a TD each of last 4 weeks
✅RB12 or better in 3 of last 4 weeks
✅vs a CIN D allowing the 2nd-most rush y/a, 4th-most rushing yards, no Burrow to put up a fight, NYG -5.5.
— Erik Smith (@ErikSmithQBL) November 24, 2020
Furthermore, Gallman has received more carries in each of his last three games. Along with peaking at 18 rushes in Week 10, he also played in a season-high 59% of the Giants’ offensive snaps. He might inch his way into the ECR’s top-15 running backs by Sunday.
Start: Duke Johnson Jr. (HOU) at DET: RB27 ECR
It’s difficult to trust a process-over-results approach following back-to-back poor weeks from Duke Johnson. Despite receiving 15 touch opportunities (carries and targets) in both games without David Johnson, the replacement D.J. tallied just 89 combined yards without a single score. He hasn’t made the most of his chances, but it’s awfully dangerous to ignore a heavily featured back facing a Detroit defense last in fantasy points allowed to running backs. The Lions steered Mike Davis to a bounce-back effort last weekend, and Duke should offer similar volume-based success on Thanksgiving. However, he’s hardly a must-play in shallower leagues given his dismal 2.8 yards per carry in 2020.
Sit: Giovani Bernard (CIN) vs. NYG: RB23 ECR
Even with Joe Mixon out of commission, Bernard has totaled just 102 yards over his past two games. After playing 76% of Cincinnati’s snaps in his first start in place of Mixon, the veteran’s rate dipped to 54% last weekend. The offense could now struggle mightily to move the chains without Joe Burrow, limiting Bernard’s overall touches and red-zone opportunities. While there’s enough volume to keep him in flex territory, Bernard isn’t a particularly appealing play against a Giants defense quietly sixth against the run.
Sit: Melvin Gordon III (DEN) vs. NO: RB28 ECR
Gordon scored two touchdowns when I recommended sitting him last week, so naturally I’m doubling down. In hindsight, I gave way too much credit to a Miami defense that remains highly vulnerable against the run. The Saints, on the other hand, wield the NFL’s second-best rushing defense. As noted by ESPN’s Mike Triplett, they’ve set a record for 52 straight games without permitting a 100-yard rusher. Nobody has even hit 90 this season, and only two (Josh Jacobs and David Montgomery) managed to reach 75. The Broncos are six-point home underdogs, and Gordon doesn’t have the role to strive in a lopsided loss. He played just 52% of Denver’s snaps in last week’s 20-13 victory while failing to receive a single target for the second consecutive week. When facing the only run-stopping unit better than New Orleans, he got stymied to 38 total yards in Week 3’s loss to Tampa Bay.
Sit: Chase Edmonds (ARI) at NE: RB33 ECR
For the first time this season, Kenyan Drake saw more targets (five) than Edmonds (four) in Week 11. While the latter still notched his third receiving touchdown, he also recorded a season-low two carries. Edmonds momentarily had a window to run with the opportunity in Arizona, but he mustered just 70 yards on 25 carries when Drake sat out Week 9. He’s averaging just 4.3 rushing attempts in every other contest, and the receiving work isn’t consistent enough to trust him. Per NFL.com, only the Cowboys have witnessed fewer opposing targets to running backs than the Patriots.
Start: D.J. Moore (CAR) at MIN: WR21 ECR
After averaging 78.3 receiving yards per game, Moore has frustrated managers in a lackluster follow-up by offering … 78.5 receiving yards per game. While he’s hardly been a beacon of consistency, all but one of his “duds” — 18 yards in Week 10 — reside in the respectable 49-65 range. He’s exceeded 90 yards five times (including three straight with 93) in his last seven contests, most recently setting a new season benchmark with 127 in Week 11. Moore will be just fine as a high-upside WR2/3 regardless of whether Teddy Bridgewater or P.J. Walker is under center for Carolina. That’s despite the Vikings tightening up their passing defense in recent weeks after a dreadful start.
Start: Darius Slayton (NYG) at CIN: WR32 ECR
So far this season, Slayton has faced just two defenses ranked in the bottom half of fantasy points relinquished to wide receivers. Those games resulted in 102 yards and two touchdowns to open 2020 against Pittsburgh, and 93 yards in Week 10. The Bengals have given up the seventh-most fantasy points to wide receivers. They’d permitted a 100-yard receiver in four straight games before Terry McLaurin settled for 84 last Sunday. There’s tremendous upside in this matchup for Slayton, who has an average depth of target of 12.7 yards. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, only McLaurin, Moore, Adam Thielen, and Marquise Brown account for a higher percentage of their team’s targeted air yards.
Start: Antonio Brown (TB) vs. KC: WR35 ECR
I don’t feel particularly bad about filing Brown as a “Sit” last week. He finished with eight catches for 57 receiving yards as the WR35, which is right where he slots in this week’s ECR. He also received 13 targets, which means it’s time to move him up. Since joining the Buccaneers, he has as many targets as Mike Evans (26) and four more than Chris Godwin. That’s a lot of volume to overlook in a game with so many projected points.
Sit: Christian Kirk (ARI) at NE: WR29 ECR
It’s a bit surprising to see Kirk remain this high in the ECR following a humdrum four catches for 50 yards against the Seahawks. Pro Football Focus identifies his matchup with J.C. Jackson as one of the worst of Week 11. Jackson, whose six interceptions tie Xavien Howard for the NFL lead, has limited the opposition to a 53% catch rate. It’ll take a big play for the hit-or-miss Kirk to pay off at Foxborough.
Sit: Tee Higgins (CIN) vs. NYG: WR39 ECR
Higgins had earned weekly starter status, but that changes with Ryan Finley replacing Burrow. Cincinnati’s new starting quarterback has a career passer rating of 55.5, completing 44 of 97 passes. While Tyler Boyd could at least salvage some PPR value from the slot, Higgins could struggle while seeing his fair share of James Bradberry on the outside.
UPDATE: Per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, Brandon Allen is expected to start Sunday for Cincinnati instead of Finley. He wasn’t much better than Finley last year, going 39-of-84 for 515 yards in three games for Denver. Higgins and the rest of the Bengals’ skill-position players remain risky Week 12 options.
Sit: Corey Davis (TEN) at IND: WR50 ECR
Davis probably isn’t getting enough respect in the rankings. He’s narrowly averaging more fantasy points per game (11.6) than CeeDee Lamb, Robby Anderson, and JuJu Smith-Schuster and just hit triple-digits — for the third time this season — against a stout Ravens secondary. He mustered five catches for 67 yards against the Colts in Week 10, so this matchup isn’t necessarily a death sentence. Davis could easily justify a place 10 spots higher in the ECR, but that still makes him a higher-grade WR4 against a capable Colts defense. That zero against the Bears is likely scaring rankers away. Another strong performance here, however, should elevate Davis to WR3 territory in the weekly rankings going forward.
Start: Jonnu Smith (TEN) at IND: TE12 ECR
Smith is a touchdown-dependent option, but he keeps scoring touchdowns. Although registering a putrid 157 receiving yards in his last seven games combined, he has found the end zone in each of the last three games. During that streak, Smith became the first and only tight end to hit pay dirt against the Colts. This remains a difficult matchup for a player yet to record more than two catches in a game since Week 5. The fact that you can still hold your breath and start this season’s TE5 because of his regular goal-line involvement speaks volumes about this position.
Start: Jordan Reed (SF) at LAR: TE17 ECR
If you need a streamer, Reed could feasibly jump closer to TE12 territory by Sunday. He’s received at least six targets in three games without George Kittle, including a two-touchdown Week 2 and 62 yards prior to San Francisco’s bye.
Sit: Logan Thomas (WAS) at DAL: TE14 ECR
This is more of a note to myself than readers. Stop it. Don’t keep falling for the Thomas trap. Every time I swear off of the Washington tight end, he does just enough to offer encouragement for better days ahead. Then he vanishes. Week 11 marked the third time this season Thomas registered single-digit yards. He’s averaging 42.6 yards per game even if you remove those disastrous outings. Because he’s a “Sit”, Thomas will probably score on one of his five targets in a nice matchup at Dallas. I’d rather take my chances on Dalton Schultz (TE18 ECR) in the same Thanksgiving Day game.
Sit: Jared Cook (NO) at DEN: TE19 ECR
After serving up a donut in Week 10’s box score, Cook caught his only target from Taysom Hill for six yards in Week 11. Making matters worse, the Broncos have stymied Travis Kelce and Darren Waller en route to surrendering the eighth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends. Cook will need to earn his way back into starting lineups by receiving more attention from Hill.
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