Week 12 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em

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Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes.

QUARTERBACK

Start of the Week: Cam Newton at Dolphins -- Newton made his first start in his return to Carolina last week, and even after coach Matt Rhule suggested P.J. Walker could still be involved on offense, it was all Cam, playing 100% of the offensive snaps. He went 21-of-27 as a passer for 189 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Washington, adding 10 carries for 46 yards and a third touchdown on the ground, finishing as Week 11’s overall QB4. Newton tied Christian McCaffrey for the team lead in rushing attempts and scored on a 24-yard run. Newton draws another plus passing matchup, and his rushing upside remains immense as a threat to keep it at the goal line every time. Miami is 27th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 21st in pass-defense DVOA, and 29th in opponent plays per game. This is another potential ceiling spot for Newton despite this game’s Week 12-low 41.5-point total. Josh Allen hung a pair of passing touchdowns and a rushing score on this Miami defense as the overall QB1 in Week 8. Allen is a rich man’s Newton, but both are big, hard-to-tackle dual-threat quarterbacks.

Starts
Russell Wilson at Washington -- Wilson has been flat-out bad since returning from I.R. With a 0:2 TD:INT mark and 184 yards per game in two starts back under center, Wilson is the overall QB31 since Week 10. Only Baker Mayfield, Jared Goff, and Matt Ryan have been worse. But if there’s a spot for Wilson to right the ship, it’s Monday night in D.C. Washington is dead last in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 30th in pass-defense DVOA. The Football Team lost star pass rusher Chase Young to a torn ACL two weeks ago, and fellow DE Montez Sweat remains on I.R. with a broken jaw. Wilson should have plenty of clean pockets this week and gets to face a defense that just surrendered the QB4 performance to Cam Newton last Sunday. This is a breakout spot for the entire Seattle passing offense. Wilson makes for a strong back-end QB1 while Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf are must-starts at wide receiver.

Taylor Heinicke vs. Seahawks -- Opposite Russell Wilson will be Heinicke, who is coming off his second three-touchdown game of the season in a thrilling Week 11 win over the Panthers last Sunday. It was Heinicke’s first multi-touchdown passing game since Week 4, as he posted the overall QB7 performance last week. Heinicke is fantasy’s QB15 on the year, and he now gets a Monday night date with a Seattle pass defense that has surrendered the fourth-most passing yards, checks in at 25th in DVOA, and is dead last in opponent plays per game. Colt McCoy just hung a top-eight fantasy week with 328 yards and two touchdowns on this defense in Seattle last weekend. Like McCoy, Heinicke is spunky with mobility to manipulate the pocket and make plays with his legs. This game has some sneaky shootout appeal with a 46.5-point total and a one-point spread. Heinicke should at least be stapled to two-QB league lineups.

Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Vikings -- Garoppolo has four straight multi-touchdown games and distanced himself from Trey Lance even more, guiding the 49ers to three wins over the last four weeks to put San Francisco back in the mix for a Wild Card spot. Garoppolo has been fantasy's overall QB8 since Week 8. He’s doing it with extreme efficiency, completing better than 70% of his throws over the last three weeks while averaging over 9.2 yards per attempt in the last month. Deebo Samuel has been one of the very best playmakers in the sport, Brandon Aiyuk is coming on after a slow start to the season, and George Kittle is healthy again. All of these guys are mavens with the ball in their hands. Garoppolo just has to deliver it and let them do the work. This week, Garoppolo draws a Minnesota defense that is 24th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 25th in opponent plays per game and has next to no pass rush with DEs Danielle Hunter on I.R. and Everson Griffen out indefinitely with mental-health issues. Starting CB Patrick Peterson returned from I.R. last week but appeared to aggravate his hamstring injury and couldn’t cover anyone in the shootout with the Packers. Garoppolo is a streaming option in a game with a strong 49-point total where the Niners are implied to score 26 points.

Sits
Ryan Tannehill at Patriots -- Tannehill has played three games without Derrick Henry (foot) in the lineup, and after he was expected to take on more of the offensive burden, he’s actually produced even less and is coming off an embarrassing four-interception home loss to the Texans. Tannehill was last week’s QB17 against Houston and is the overall QB18 since Henry went down. Tannehill has a 3:5 TD:INT mark as a passer over the last three weeks but has scored twice on the ground in that span. He now gets a New England defense that leads the league in interceptions and is No. 2 in both pass-defense DVOA and fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. The Patriots are also 11th in opponent plays per game. Tannehill has already failed in multiple easy on-paper matchups, so there’s no reason to think he’s going to suddenly pop up for a big game at Foxboro without Julio Jones (hamstring, I.R.) and A.J. Brown (ribs) playing at less than full health while getting all of Bill Belichick’s attention. The Titans are massive seven-point underdogs and implied to score a Week 12-low 18.25 points.

Tua Tagovailoa vs. Panthers -- Tagovailoa hasn’t produced a 300-yard passing game since Week 6, but he is averaging a robust 39.25 pass attempts per game in his last four healthy starts. The Dolphins are throwing the ball as much as anyone in the league. That volume alone hasn’t been enough to prop Tagovailoa up as a weekly fantasy starter. And he now gets one of his tougher matchups of the season against a Carolina defense that is No. 4 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, No. 5 in pass-defense DVOA, No. 1 in adjusted sack rate, and No. 1 in opponent plays per game. Tagovailoa is going to have to be extremely efficient in the red zone if he’s going to post a top-12 week, and Miami is 22nd in red-zone touchdown rate this season. Implied to score just 19.75 points, Tagovailoa is difficult to get behind as a Week 12 starter.

Ben Roethlisberger at Bengals -- Big Ben attempted his second-most passes (44) of the season, threw for his most yards (273) since Week 3, and posted his first three-touchdown game of the year last Sunday night against the Chargers. It was all fueled by the Steelers’ 27-point fourth quarter, as the Chargers tried to give the game away. Don’t expect the Steelers to get involved in too many shootouts. This team wants to play defense, and they’re expected to get a plethora of key defensive starters back from injury and COVID this week against the division-rival Bengals. Cincinnati is No. 7 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, surrendering the third-fewest passing touchdowns in the league. Big Ben attempted a season-high 58 passes when these two teams clashed back in Week 3, and he was still able to throw just one touchdown and produce 10 total points in a 24-10 loss. Roethlisberger was the overall QB23 that week. Pittsburgh is implied to score 20.25 points this Sunday, the week’s fifth-lowest mark.

RUNNING BACK

Start of the Week: Javonte Williams vs. Chargers -- The Broncos are coming off their bye week. Melvin Gordon has been starting, but he and Williams are pretty much splitting work right down the middle in a slow-paced, vanilla Broncos offense. The duo saw 10 touches each last time out in the loss to the Eagles. But it was Gordon’s second-half fumble that was returned for a touchdown as the nail in Denver’s coffin. Gordon still has five touchdowns over the last four games while Williams continues to run over defenders as one of the toughest running backs to tackle in football. After the fumble, Williams dominated the backfield snaps with the coaches seemingly punishing Gordon for his mistake. It will be interesting to see if it’s the thing that makes the coaches flip to Williams as the Broncos’ lead back in a Week 12 date with the division-rival Chargers. L.A. is dead last in run-defense DVOA and 29th in fantasy points allowed to running backs. The position has gotten so barren in fantasy that Williams should be treated as an easy top-20 play this week with major upside. This game has a strong 48.5-point total and will be played in the friendly fantasy confines of Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium.

Starts
Tevin Coleman at Texans -- Coleman has carried the ball a total of 30 times this season at 3.9 yards per rush. He missed four weeks with an injury but returned in Week 10. With Michael Carter (ankle) expected to miss 2-3 weeks, the Jets appear to be going from a three-man backfield to a one-two punch with Coleman the favorite for early-down work and Ty Johnson maintaining his pass-game role. Coleman isn’t very good and is among the most injury-prone backs in football at this stage of his career, but the matchup with the Texans is just too good to ignore. Houston is 26th in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 23rd in run-defense DVOA. The Texans are hemorrhaging 4.81 YPC to opposing backs. Coleman is a plug-and-play back-end RB2/FLEX for desperate running back-needy fantasy players.

Boston Scott at Giants -- Miles Sanders returned from I.R. last week against the Saints and paced the backfield in playing time (46%) and rushing attempts (16) while the Eagles made rookie Kenneth Gainwell a healthy scratch in favor of Scott and Jordan Howard. With Howard now expected to miss Week 12 against the Giants due to a knee injury, Sanders’ floor and ceiling get a boost with a better shot at handling goal-line work. Sanders can be penciled in as a strong RB2 in a run-heavy Philadelphia offense, but Scott could see double-digit touches and has some definite FLEX appeal against a Giants defense that is 24th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, 30th in run-defense DVOA, and 30th in opponent plays per game. The Giants are on a short week and reeling after an ugly Monday night loss to the Bucs.

Rex Burkhead vs. Jets -- I’m not sure how we ended up here, but here we are. The Texans have traded Mark Ingram and waived Phillip Lindsay over the last month, going from a four-man backfield to a two- or three-way committee, depending on what they decide to do with Royce Freeman this week following the Lindsay ouster. With a matchup with the Jets on deck, there’s some merit to both Burkhead and David Johnson being plug-and-play, hold-your-nose RB2/FLEX options. Burkhead is averaging 2.8 yards per carry with no pass-game involvement, but he seems to be a coach’s pet and is coming off an 18-carry game last week. The Jets are dead last in fantasy points allowed to running backs, surrendering 4.77 YPC and a whopping 21 touchdowns to the position through just 10 games. This is a spot where we just ignore the name and start the guy who is going to be carrying the ball against the Jets. It also helps that the Texans have been installed as 2.5-point home favorites, putting them in a run-heavy script.

Sits
Myles Gaskin vs. Panthers -- Malcolm Brown (quad) has missed the last four games on I.R., and Gaskin set season-highs in carries (23) and rushing yards (89) last week against the Jets while catching his fourth touchdown of the season compared to just one on the ground. Seeing 4.7 targets per game and double-digit carries in five straight keep Gaskin locked in as a usable RB2 most weeks, even if his efficiency is severely lacking at 3.5 yards per carry. But after seeing his easiest matchup of the season last week, Gaskin now gets one of his toughest. The Panthers are No. 2 in fantasy points allowed to running backs, surrendering the fewest catches to the position. That’s where Gaskin makes his money in fantasy. On top of that, Carolina is No. 1 in opponent plays per game. With Miami implied to score just 19.75 points, the fourth-lowest team total of 30 teams in action this week, Gaskin needs to be downgraded to a low-floor, low-ceiling FLEX play, especially after the Dolphins claimed Phillip Lindsay off waivers.

Alex Collins at Washington -- Chris Carson (I.R.) needs disc-fusion neck surgery and is done for the season. The Seahawks can’t seem to find a capable running back, cycling through all four remaining options week in and week out. Collins has remained the starter, but his leash is getting shorter and shorter by the week. Rashaad Penny (hamstring) is hurt again. DeeJay Dallas scored a late meaningless touchdown last week against the Cardinals. Maybe he’ll get a shot at some carries going forward. Collins is averaging just 39 rushing yards per game over the last four weeks despite seeing double-digit carries each outing. He has just three catches for 14 yards over his last five games as a zero in the passing game. While Washington has struggled mightily against the pass this season, it has stamped out opposing running games. The Football Team is No. 6 in fantasy points allowed to running backs, surrendering just 3.67 yards per carry.

D’Onta Foreman at Patriots -- The flavor of the week last week on the waiver wire, Foreman played just 19% of the offensive snaps in the stunning loss to the Texans. He rushed seven times for 25 yards and was out-targeted 10-1 by Dontrell Hilliard. The Titans have since released Adrian Peterson, signaling they’re moving forward with a Foreman-Hilliard-Jeremy McNichols backfield. Foreman is still probably the best bet for early-down work, but Hilliard and McNichols should soak up all of the pass-game reps. The Patriots are No. 8 in run-defense DVOA, 11th in opponent plays per game, and have allowed the fewest rushing touchdowns (2) to opposing running backs. With the Titans as touchdown underdogs on the road and implied to score just 18.25 points, this doesn’t look like a spot for Foreman to produce box-score results.

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WIDE RECEIVER

Start of the Week: Brandin Cooks vs. Jets -- In the Texans’ surprising upset of the Titans last week, Tyrod Taylor attempted just 24 passes, and only three went to Cooks. He turned those into two grabs for 18 scoreless yards, as Taylor threw for just 107 yards on the day. All of Taylor’s damage came via a pair of rushing scores. Cooks, however, is in another great spot this week as the Texans’ unquestioned No. 1 wideout facing a Jets defense that is 23rd in fantasy points allowed to opposing wideouts. Over the last three weeks, no defense has surrendered more fantasy points to the position. Coach Robert Saleh’s defense is dead last in DVOA against the pass. Mack Hollins (2-72-1), Jaylen Waddle (6-65), Stefon Diggs (8-162-1), Gabriel Davis (3-105), Michael Pittman (5-64-1), and Zach Pascal (4-58) have all met or exceeded expectations against the Jets since the start of November. Cooks should be teed up as a WR2.

Starts
Brandon Aiyuk vs. Vikings -- Over the last four weeks, Aiyuk’s snap counts have been 88% > 93% > 90% > 93% with target counts of 7, 8, 4, and 7 in those games. Aiyuk has sprinkled in 6-89-1 and 7-85-1 receiving lines in those games and is coming off team-highs in targets (7), catches (7), and yards (85) with a touchdown last week against Jacksonville. With Deebo Samuel taking on more of a role as a ball-carrier, it has opened up some more pass-game looks for Aiyuk. It’s time to move past his slow start to the season and run him out there as an every-week WR2 with upside ahead of a Week 12 date with a Minnesota defense that is 29th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts and 31st in that category over the last three weeks after surrendering big days to Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling last Sunday. The Vikings are dealing with personnel issues in the pass-rush department and the secondary. This game sports a hefty 49.5-point total, the second-highest of the weekend slate.

Elijah Moore at Texans -- Since Week 8, Moore is fantasy’s overall WR2 behind only Deebo Samuel. He’s caught four touchdowns over his last three games and solidified himself as a fantasy asset. Corey Davis is now battling a groin injury that the Jets say he’ll play through this week despite missed practices Wednesday and Thursday. Still, Moore has emerged as the Jets’ top playmaker, especially with fellow rookie RB Michael Carter (ankle) now expected to miss multiple games. Zach Wilson is returning under center for the Jets with Joe Flacco and Mike White on the COVID list. That’s a bit of a concern after the rookies failed to connect much early on before Wilson’s injury. However, the two were firing on all cylinders over the summer and obviously had established a previous rapport. Wilson just needs to play better. Houston is an opportunity for Wilson to get going in his return. The Texans are 25th in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. Continue to start Moore with confidence in an easy matchup.

Laviska Shenault vs. Falcons -- Here we go again. Shenault has found his name in this section more times than I’d like to admit, but I’m going back to the well this week. With Jamal Agnew (hip) now done for the season, the Jaguars have to find a new playmaker in the pass game. Shenault should be at or near the top of that list. He’s coming off four week-highs in catches (5) and yards (50) last week against the 49ers, playing roughly two-thirds of the snaps. He should push that 70%-plus playing time barrier going forward. The Falcons present a soft spot. Atlanta is 18th in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers, 29th in pass-defense DVOA, and 22nd in opponent plays per game. It would be nice if the Jaguars would just get the ball in Shenault’s hands like they were with Agnew, feeding him carries and targets. This passing offense has been brutal for the vast majority of the season, but there’s a shot at Shenault producing a top-30 week in a game between two bad teams with a 45.5-point total.

Sits
Jarvis Landry at Ravens -- Landry led the team with his eight targets last week against the Lions and took matters into his own hands on a wildcat snap in the second quarter, running it up the gut for the 16-yard score. Landry, however, continues to do nothing with his looks in the pass game and has posted back-to-back scoreless 4-26 receiving lines the last two weeks and has 37 yards or fewer in 5-of-7 games this year with no touchdown catches. Landry is impossible to trust as anything more than a WR4/5 in this brutal passing offense. Cleveland is implied to score just 21.5 points with a battered and beaten Baker Mayfield under center.

Tim Patrick vs. Chargers -- Patrick is in the midst of a second-straight solid season and was rewarded for it with a three-year extension earlier in the week. Denver also signed Courtland Sutton to a big deal. With all four of Sutton, Patrick, Jerry Jeudy, and Noah Fant healthy, however, there are just way too many mouths to feed in such a low-volume pass offense. There aren’t enough targets to go around, and it’s been Jeudy commanding the most of them with 21 over the last three weeks since he returned from I.R. Patrick has just 14 in that span and doesn’t have a single 100-yard game this year. A low-ceiling, low-floor WR4, Patrick now gets a date with a Chargers defense whose weakness has been against the run. L.A. is No. 2 in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers and No. 9 in pass-defense DVOA.

Kenny Golladay vs. Eagles -- Golladay is coming off a two-target dud against the Bucs last week in his second game back from injury. The Giants continue to roll through 5-6 wide receivers, and Golladay’s two looks last week were way behind Kadarius Toney (12) and Darius Slayton (7) in a game the Giants were trailing start to finish. Golladay just hasn’t exactly been on the same page as Daniel Jones this season after Golladay missed a bunch of reps in camp with an injury. The good news for Golladay’s prospects this week is it looks like Toney (quad) could miss this game while Sterling Shepard (quad) also remains sidelined. We should see Golladay, Slayton, and some combination of John Ross and Collin Johnson in three-wide sets. Darius Slay awaits, though, as he’s cleared concussion protocol and will likely see a lot of Golladay. The Eagles have surrendered the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing wideouts.

TIGHT END

Start of the Week: Kyle Pitts at Jaguars -- Calvin Ridley (personal) has missed the Falcons’ last four games, and it’s been a real chore for Pitts as the team’s clear-cut top option in the passing game. He’s struggled with double-teams and bracket coverages as defenses key in on stopping the rookie. Pitts is the overall TE26 since the start of Week 8 and hasn’t found the end zone since Week 5. Sunday presents Pitts’ best opportunity to rebound. The Jaguars are 22nd in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, 31st in pass-defense DVOA, and 19th in opponent plays per game. Jacksonville doesn’t employ anyone on defense who should be able to stick with Pitts. He should easily lead the Falcons in targets, with at least five in all but one game this year.

Starts
Dan Arnold vs. Falcons -- Opposite Kyle Pitts will be trade pickup Arnold, who has become one of Trevor Lawrence’s favorite targets despite the zero-target Week 11 dud against the 49ers where the Jaguars were destroyed by 20 points. Arnold is still playing well over 60% of the offensive snaps and running plenty of routes as a catch-first tight end. With Jamal Agnew (hip) now out for the year, there are more targets to go around in Jacksonville. The Falcons are 12th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends but 29th in pass-defense DVOA. I like Arnold as a bounce-back bet against a soft Atlanta defense.

Noah Fant vs. Chargers -- Fant has just three touchdowns on the season but is playing well over 80% of the Broncos’ offensive snaps when he’s healthy. Denver is coming off its bye, and Fant and Jerry Jeudy have asserted themselves as Teddy Bridgewater’s favorite targets to date. The Chargers have been absolutely gashed by tight ends this season, surrendering the most touchdowns and second-most fantasy points to the position. The weakness of the Los Angeles defense is on the inside, and that’s where Bridgewater likes to filter his targets.

Gerald Everett at Washington -- Everett played a season-high 86% of the snaps last week against Arizona, and the coaches have praised his play of late, saying they need to keep getting Everett the ball after he’s seen 12 targets in the two games Russell Wilson has been back from injury. Everett hasn’t scored since Week 1, but the Seattle pass offense is in a great spot to get right this week. Washington is 30th in pass-defense DVOA and 16th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Now healthy and playing a ton of snaps and running plenty of routes, Everett makes for a usable streaming option Monday night in a game with a 46.5-point total.