A new spate of injuries brings a new slate of start/sit debates and we're here to answer them all for every matchup on the slate. There are glaring Week 12 examples of players you should start and sit. There are also examples of sleepers who could provide unexpected production and big names who could flop based on these Week 12 matchups. Every week we'll break down every game on the slate and pinpoint the players you need to know in every matchup.
All lines from Caesars Sportsbook.
PIT Pittsburgh • #11
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
Claypool's Week 11 output of 5-93-0 left me a little sour as it represented his third-best output of the season. The effort was a reminder of what could have been with Claypool -- he lost two contested catches, had a miscommunication on an end-zone target and had a deep ball underthrown from Ben Roethlisberger that would have been a walk-in touchdown but instead was a 37-yard gainer. On the year, Claypool has seven end-zone targets but only one touchdown. He also is a disappointing 9-for-23 on contested catches; a guy his size should win a strong majority of those plays. The hope is that Claypool continues to reap a nice dose of targets from Roethlisberger. Big Ben should throw in the neighborhood of 35 times, and Claypool has had a target share of 17.9% or higher in all but two games this season. Nine of the 11 receivers with at least seven targets against the Bengals have had a minimum of 12 PPR points including Claypool in Week 3 (the two receivers who didn't get there were Lions). That's a depressing floor for Claypool, but it's not far off from where his better stat lines have been. It's enough to make him a decent low-end No. 2 receiver in PPR and a flex in all other formats.
PIT Pittsburgh • #88
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
Could we have all been in on the wrong rookie tight end all along? Freiermuth has been targeted on an incredible 27% of his routes run in his last four games, and he's pretty much become Roethlisberger's go-to in the red zone. A 74% catch rate doesn't hurt either. Cincinnati has allowed a touchdown to a tight end (and at least eight PPR points) in three straight games.
Tee Higgins WR
CIN Cincinnati • #85
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
Higgins had a season-low 10.7% target rate in the Bengals' first game coming off a bye against a defense that played a coverage scheme he previously thrived against. Part of the problem was that Joe Burrow was under serious pressure from the Raiders D-line, so he couldn't throw far downfield very often (and when he did, it was Ja'Marr Chase on the other end most of the time). Hand in hand with that were a number of routes by Higgins that were designed for defenses to focus on him and open up a target closer to the line of scrimmage. A similar situation might play out against the Steelers, even if they don't have T.J. Watt rushing the passer. So while Pittsburgh's pass defense was atrocious last week (119 yards after catch allowed just to wide receivers), it's just not a great enough matchup to convincingly start Higgins as anything more than a third receiver or a low-end flex.
NYJ N.Y. Jets • #23
Age: 28 • Experience: 7 yrs.
Without Michael Carter around, the expectation is that Coleman will handle the majority of the rushing downs and short-yardage carries while Ty Johnson sticks around for passing downs and the hurry-up offense. With the Jets offensive line seemingly improved with Laurent Duvernay-Tardif settled in at guard, and a favorable matchup against the Texans ahead, both backs are in play. Most notably, the Texans have allowed 15 rushing touchdowns to backs (only the Jets have allowed more) and also rank poorly in yards after contact per rush allowed (2.94, eighth-worst) thanks to 66 missed tackles on rushes (second-most behind the Lions). Coleman is the best Jets running back in yards after contact per rush (3.4 yards), ahead of Carter (3.0) and Johnson (2.26). He's a terrific fit for the Week 12 matchup.
Elijah Moore WR
NYJ N.Y. Jets • #8
Age: 21 • Experience: Rookie
With everyone but Zach Wilson, Moore has a 69% catch rate, 14.0 yards per catch and four touchdowns. With Wilson, it's a 41% catch rate, 8.8 yards per catch and zero touchdowns. If you start Moore, you're hoping Wilson will lean on Moore much like Joe Flacco did, and that both can operate effectively against the Texans, which for most people not named Ryan Tannehill isn't that big of a deal. But for Wilson, any defense is a problem for him. It's also worth remembering that Corey Davis, not Moore, was Wilson's go-to target earlier this season. I'd be nervous starting any Jets pass catcher.
TEN Tennessee • #7
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Here's what I know about the Titans running backs: Foreman has essentially been a two-down power back with zero explosive runs (12-plus yards) over 23 carries. Jeremy McNichols has essentially been a passing-downs specialist with serviceable numbers (only three plays of 16-plus yards over 25 receptions). Hilliard was the freshest addition who replaced McNichols in the pass-downs spot (and played a ton since the Titans were trailing last Sunday), but his results were a mixed bag. He had three solid runs and was a good contributor in the pass game, but he also had a drop in the two-minute offense and luckily had a fumble of his recovered by a teammate for a touchdown. With McNichols out, Hillard should resume the passing-downs role and also get some run to help spell Foreman. That's particularly good against the Patriots, who have been great at stopping running teams with bad offensive lines (recently the Jets, Panthers, Falcons) but not as good against capable O-lines (recently Cowboys, Chargers, Browns). New England has also allowed the second-most targets (94), second-most receiving yards (682), the fourth-most yards after catch (584) and a 79% catch rate to opposing running backs.
NE New England • #38
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
The matchup has nothing to do with this -- in fact, you may very well end up starting one or both of these guys. But the Patriots' decision to rotate these two by series last week and then give Brandon Bolden the third-down work was wise for their team but infuriating for us. The general perception is that the Patriots will cruise to another win over the punchless Titans, who have given up a touchdown to a rusher in three of their last four games (the Texans' two rushing scores last week came from Tyrod Taylor). Whichever back is in the game on a certain drive is the one most likely to handle any carries near the goal line. The only edge here is that Harris is the more experienced of the two and has consistently played more snaps than Stevenson. Both are low-end starters with plenty of risk.
PHI Philadelphia • #26
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Sanders has a playing time problem, a workload problem and a goal-line problem. He did play a higher percentage of the snaps after Jordan Howard left with an injury last week, but he also watched his quarterback run for three scores. In fact, Jalen Hurts has only one fewer rushing score than all the Eagles running backs combined, and Sanders has none. Shoot, Sanders has just five carries from 10 yards or closer to the goal line this season (Hurts has 18). I can't feel good about starting Sanders if he's a longshot to score; it means he'll only be good if he runs for a ton of yardage. He was very good on outside edge runs last week (3-49-0) but struggled between the tackles (13-45-0). Sanders is an even larger risk in PPR considering his lack of involvement in the passing game (25 targets in eight games).
LAC L.A. Chargers • #81
Age: 27 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Fantasy managers got bailed out in a big way by busted coverage for Williams to deliver last week. I've watched plenty of his film over the past month and it's clear the Chargers view him as a shot-play guy with less-than-desirable involvement in the short-area passing game. But they also love using him around and in the end zone -- six targets inside of 15 yards in the past three games to be exact (one called back by a defensive penalty last week). That's just enough information to keep Williams in play as a usable Fantasy option. Denver's pass defense is pretty good specifically against outside receivers (57% catch rate is second-best in football), but Williams has at least seven targets in each of his past four against the Broncos with 13-plus PPR points in three of them (and 11-plus non-PPR in two of his past three).
LAR L.A. Rams • #9
Age: 33 • Experience: 12 yrs.
Stafford's had a lot of issues over his last two games, but the biggest is that he's been pressured on 26% of his dropbacks, resulting in a 33.3% completion rate and 2.06 yards per attempt when under siege. That's an issue the Rams surely addressed during their bye week, but it won't mean they won't get challenged by the Packers defensive front. The Packers rank in the top-10 in pass rush pressure rate over the last three weeks (38.2%) and on the season (32.6%) and they should have Rashaun Gary back in the fold. If the Rams follow the Vikings' gameplan, they'll attack deep against the Packers, but they don't have a guy like Justin Jefferson (sorry, Odell Beckham isn't it). Tack on Stafford's inefficiencies passing against zone coverage (seven touchdowns, six interceptions) and what appears to be a cold-weather day, and Stafford stands out as a passer with odds stacked against him. I'd rather start Hurts, Newton or Cousins; Garoppolo and Wilson are closer calls.
Kirk Cousins QB
MIN Minnesota • #8
Age: 33 • Experience: 10 yrs.
Cousins was awesome last week thanks to being comfortable in the pocket. His O-line did a really good job protecting him and he was able to capitalize on deep throws. On the season the 49ers rank third-worst in pass rush pressure rate (ahead of only the Falcons and Lions) and have a league-average 23 sacks. After throwing two of three touchdowns when pressured last week against a defense that specialized in zone coverage (Cousins is much better against man coverage), it's hard to doubt the quarterback. 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan knows Cousins well from their days together in Washington, but Cousins has put up good numbers in two of three matchups since then, and the 49ers defense doesn't seem to be strong enough to knock Cousins around this time.
SF San Francisco • #11
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
The Vikings just gave up twin 100-yard games to Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling last week. On the year, outside receivers have scored six times against them and they've allowed 5.08 yards after catch per reception (seventh-most). In Minnesota's last four games, six receivers have posted at least 98 yards and six touchdowns have been scored by wideouts. If Aiyuk has a shot to do well, then so too does Garoppolo. Since losing pass rusher Danielle Hunter for the year, three of four quarterbacks have had 21-plus Fantasy points against them, and Minnesota will move forward without Everson Griffen, who was their highest-graded remaining pass rusher according to Pro Football Focus. No question, both are risks, but both have very good matchups to exploit.
BAL Baltimore • #34
Age: 29 • Experience: 8 yrs.
Freeman continued to lead the Ravens run game last week (57% of snaps, 22 touches), including a valuable short-yardage late-game touchdown carry. He continued to look better than Latavius Murray, who might be around to keep Freeman fresh and not necessarily have a significant role in the offense. With Lamar Jackson back, Freeman's targets should go in reverse but he should continue seeing quality efficiency in his rushing stats. In their past seven games the Browns have allowed 4.7 yards per carry and eight rushing touchdowns (plus three receiving touchdowns) all to running backs.
SEA Seattle • #3
Age: 33 • Experience: 10 yrs.
Wilson was a much better passer last week -- by my count he missed on only four throws (one intentionally) and was plagued by mistakes by his receivers. I'd expect him to keep passing well, and the volume could be in his favor too given the poor state of the Seattle run game. Wilson still has to worry about his protection -- he was sacked twice on his first three dropbacks. The Seahawks allow the second-highest pass rush pressure rate this season (39.5%, only Miami is worse). If there's hope it's that the Football Team's pass rush pressure rate has cratered to 22.2% (eighth worst) over the last two weeks without Chase Young. Fantasy managers shouldn't expect a monster game from Wilson, but he should have the chance to get around 20 to 22 Fantasy points. That mild upside is the only reason why I can't start him over Stafford.
CHI Chicago • #11
Age: 24 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Mooney's 16 targets in Week 11 were the sixth-most by any player in a game this season. It's unlikely he'll see close to as many against the Lions, but Fantasy managers should at least be mildly encouraged by Andy Dalton throwing Mooney's way 11 times (almost half of his pass attempts). It's Mooney's speed and quick movements in his routes that especially get him open (his catch-and-run for a 60-yard score in Week 11 wasn't bad either). The Lions see the second-fewest pass attempts per game, a byproduct of teams running so well against them. But each of the seven receivers with at least eight targets against them have posted a minimum of 13 PPR points. Mooney himself turned seven targets into a 5-125-0 stat line back in Week 4. Obviously Mooney's upside is stunted if Allen Robinson's hamstring heals up in time for Thursday.
DET Detroit • #88
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
It was awesome to see Hockenson get a target on 38% of his routes run (a massive total!) but nearly all eight of them from Tim Boyle were basic and without explosiveness. Only until his final grab, late in the fourth quarter against soft zone coverage, did Hockenson actually have space to add yardage after the catch. Otherwise, he dealt with a 5.1 average target depth. I'm acknowledging that the Bears have been very giving to tight ends in each of their past two games (at least 11 half-PPR points to Pat Freiermuth and Mark Andrews), but covering Hockenson doesn't seem like such a chore with Boyle under center. I have him barely ranked as a top-12 tight end; I would like him a little bit more if Jared Goff plays.
Josh Jacobs RB
LV Las Vegas • #28
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Jacobs has 13 or fewer carries in each of his last four games (three with single-digit carries), and he's gone scoreless in three straight. Worst of all, he has yet to total 100 yards in a game this year and has just one with 90 total yards. A lack of workload and a lack of a bullying O-line are crushing Jacobs' upside -- he ranks poorly in yards before contact per rush (1.16, 31st best) and yards after contact per rush (2.58, 33rd best). It means defenses are getting to him consistently before he can explode for a big gain. Dallas ranks sixth-best in yards after contact per rush allowed (2.6 yards) and figures to keep Jacobs contained. At least he's caught four passes in each of his past three games, but if he doesn't add a touchdown, he's going to grossly disappoint Fantasy managers.
DAL Dallas • #86
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
In a game that Amari Cooper missed and CeeDee Lamb sat out a half in, Schultz saw his target rate rocket back up to 19% with his stat line following suit (6-53-0). It's pretty obvious, isn't it? When the Cowboys have their three best receivers on the field, Schultz is an afterthought. When they don't, Schultz is a primary target. That was even the case before Lamb was concussed last week when Schultz saw five first-half targets. Las Vegas has been hammered for at least 10.5 half-PPR Fantasy points by a tight end in six of its past eight games, opening the door wide for Schultz to make solid contributions. Vegas' zone-heavy defensive coverage also favors Schultz, who has a much higher catch rate and more explosive plays (83% and nine) versus zone than man (65% and two).
Dawson Knox TE
BUF Buffalo • #88
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Knox rallied last week with a 6-80-0 stat line, but he took advantage of the Colts' zone-friendly defense and a pass-friendly game script. The Saints play much more man coverage, and while Knox has had success against man-coverage defenses (especially in the end zone), his catch rate is lower and his routes are usually shorter. An argument could also be made that Josh Allen will favor his receivers when they're in man coverage. But perhaps the biggest case against Knox this week is that the Saints have allowed one touchdown to a tight end, and only one tight end, Dallas Goedert last week, scored more than 10 PPR points against them.
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