NFL Week 12: Optimal Flex Plays

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The crazy and unpredictable 2021 NFL continues to take us on a wild ride. It’s a fun one and probably a stressful one depending on where your fantasy teams sit as we enter Week 12. If you’re out of the playoff race, take this opportunity to ruin someone's season who isn’t. With more injuries and yes still bye weeks on the schedule, you’re going to have to solidify your flex spots. James Conner, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and others are amongst those away this week on a bye. It’s the week of Thanksgiving, which means we have several Thursday games, so don’t forget to set your lineups! Some of this week's optimal flex plays will play on turkey day, so you're going to want to make sure that you get them in there.

Michael Gallup, WR, Cowboys
Starting Gallup is just one of those situations where you don’t want to get too cute. Even if CeeDee Lamb does suit up in Week 12, Gallup is a nice play. Lamb is trending towards playing, but if he doesn’t, you should have even more confidence. Gallup returned in Week 10 with a modest performance (five targets, three receptions and 42 yards). Week 11 saw him grab five catches for 44 yards against the Chiefs. The difference in Week 11 is that he saw 10 targets with Amari Cooper inactive for the game. I expect Dalton Schultz to be a beneficiary as well in the Cowboys passing game due to injuries. On a short week for the Cowboys and against the crumbling Raiders, the score may not reach the hefty 51.5 over/under. Even if it does not, sheer volume and opportunity for Gallup may help you squeak out a win in Week 11.

Nyheim Hines, RB, Colts
I don’t care if you think I’m crazy for this because I already know. This is about not stating the absolute obvious. Yes, it is far and away the Jonathan Taylor show in the Colts backfield, but hear me out. The facts are that the Colts manhandled the stout Bills defense on the legs of Taylor in Week 11. In Week 12, the Colts will face what should be a more stingy Bucs run defense. The Bucs defense is the best in terms of rushing yards allowed, giving up only 3.8 YPC. If Taylor can’t fight through the Bucs front seven, Hines may play a more important role in the game. Mostly a ghost in 2021, Hines does tend to show up when you least expect it. As three-point underdogs in a game that has an over/under of 52.5, Hines may fill a need in your PPR leagues.

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Jaylen Waddle, WR, Dolphins
Waddle is the best thing cooking (at least consistently) for the Dolphins offense. Over his past four games, he’s averaged nine targets, six catches and almost 60 yards a game. The Panthers do present a nice pass defense being the second-best in terms of yards allowed, but Waddle is a favorite of Tua Tagovailoa. The Dolphins will do any and everything to get the young speedster the football. I expect Waddle to be very active as usual, and he will continue to be a nice flex in PPR formats.

Javonte Williams/Melvin Gordon, RB, Broncos
While Kareem Hunt has dealt with an injury, Gordon and Williams have become the best running back tandem in football. Even after the bye, Gordon and Williams rank RB19 and RB30 respectively (PPR scoring). In Week 12, they get a nice matchup against the Chargers, who have the fourth-worst defense against running backs in fantasy. Even more so, the Chargers defense has given up a rushing touchdown in each of its past six games. The Broncos will look to establish the run against a Chargers defense that is the second-best against receivers in fantasy. This is the perfect matchup for a team that wants to pass the ball off of the run game. Look for the duo to bruise up the Chargers front seven.

Rashod Bateman, WR, Ravens
Once Marquise Brown was ruled out for Week 11, the fantasy community hopped onto the Bateman boat. Some hopped off when it was announced that Lamar Jackson would too miss the game against the Bears. Still, it was a great opportunity for the young receiver, one that he wasn’t able to cash in. He was already averaging seven targets per game coming into that contest, so that’s a plus. All the credit in the world to Tyler Huntley filling in for Jackson, but he is not Jackson. Bateman did see six targets but he was only able to haul in three for 29 yards. In Week 12, Bateman should get Jackson back against the Browns who have a middle-of-the-pack defense against receivers in fantasy. Baker Mayfield and the Browns as a whole are playing uninspired football that'll play into the hands of the Ravens offense.

Devonta Freeman, RB, Ravens
Freeman has been coming along nicely in 2021 after a rough start. For the season, Freeman is averaging 4.6 YPC, which is probably more than what most people thought. Even though Latavius Murray has returned, Freeman has a safe floor. As Murray gets back into the groove, he could find himself being an option as a flex as well. Freeman has been able to secure at least 13 touches in his past three games. With the hopeful return of Jackson, things should open even more for the Ravens running attack.