Fantasy Football Start, Sit, Stream, or Fade: Week 12
2020 has been a year of chaos and discombobulation -- whatever the norm was, it's long been thrown out the window. However, despite all the pandemonium, the one thing that's bound to be a constant is the need to make fantasy football lineup decisions.
Imagine spending months searching for a vacation destination, finally finding one, and having absolutely no plan for when you arrive -- that would be all of us after weeks and months of researching for drafts and then not having a plan of action for when the season actually arrives.
If you had a good draft, you should have some tough lineup decisions to make on a weekly basis. If you don't have any tough lineup decisions, there's a good chance that your bench is thinner than LeBron James' hairline. The goal of this piece is to assist with some of those decisions.
Of course, leagues come in all shapes and sizes, so it's near impossible to tackle every start-or-sit scenario. A must-start for one team could be a bench option in another league.
With all that being said, we're here to help at numberFire! This column will try to highlight some of those tough lineup decisions you have to make every week, and will, hopefully, be able to sway you in one direction or another. In this piece, we'll be utilizing our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric (i.e., the expected points added on any given play), read more about it here.
Without further ado, let's get onto the best and worst plays of the week. We'll break down players into four categories:
Start: These players are good starts in any format unless you have one of the elites.
Stream: These will be players with either good matchups or higher-than-usual projected volume that can be streaming options in many formats.
Fade: This category will be reserved for higher-end fantasy studs who find themselves in a bad spot on that given week. Fade these players in DFS or if you have a loaded roster, but don't get too cute.
Sit: This category will feature players that should ride the pine unless you truly have no better options.
Let's get to it!
(When I reference fantasy points allowed, it is Yahoo settings for quarterbacks and half-PPR for the other positions.)
Cam Newton (vs. Arizona) - If you exclude Dwayne Haskins, Joe Flacco, and Andy Dalton, the Arizona Cardinals have surrendered an average of 22.9 fantasy points to the other seven quarterbacks they've faced this season. It's worth noting that none of those seven passers posted fewer than 18.5 fantasy points. While the Cards rank 12th-best in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, they have ceded the third-most rush yards to the position, which certainly helps Cam's outlook. Arizona has yielded at least 32 rush yards to a quarterback five times this season, including an average of 49.8 in their last four. Meanwhile, Newton has amassed at least 47 rush yards four times this season already. Only six teams have faced more plays on defense than Arizona, and only five teams have allowed more quarterback opportunities (pass attempts plus rush attempts) per contest. It makes sense, given that Arizona plays with the fastest pace in the league. Look for Newton to take advantage of this high-volume matchup that is molded to his strengths.
Derek Carr (at Atlanta) - Carr has had a serious case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde this season -- he's posted 20.3 or more fantasy points in half of his games, and he's recorded fewer than 15.4 in each of the other five. The good news is that we should see Dr. Jekyll make an appearance this week. Carr will be going up against an Atlanta Falcons defense giving up the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Atlanta ranks dead last in adjusted pass defense, and they're fresh off an outing where they surrendered 24.4 points to Taysom Hill -- it was the eighth time this season that Atlanta had given up 20 or more fantasy points to signal-callers in a game. As an added bonus, the Las Vegas Raiders have the second-highest implied total in a game with the highest projected total. Carr is the top streamer this week.
Taysom Hill (at Denver) - Hill's first career start was a resounding success. Week 11's QB4 completed 78.3% of his passes for 233 yards while also rushing for 51 yards and 2 tuddies. While the matchup with the Denver Broncos in Week 12 is far from mouthwatering, it is one where Hill can produce. Though Denver ranks 10th-best in adjusted pass defense, they have ceded at least 19 fantasy points to six different quarterbacks this season. Denver has allowed the 11th-most opportunities per game to opposing signal-callers, and two quarterbacks managed 75-plus yards and a score against them this season. Hill's rushing upside makes him one of the safer streamers of the week.
Daniel Jones (at Cincinnati) - I feel for any of you poor souls who have to start Daniel Jones, but this isn't the worst week to be in that situation. Danny Dimes is going up against a Cincinnati Bengals that ranks 6th-worst in adjusted pass defense and 10th-worst in fantasy points allowed to the position. While Alex Smith dudded in Week 11, the Bengals had surrendered an average of 23.5 fantasy points to quarterbacks in their seven games prior to that. Meanwhile, Jones has recorded at least 18.2 fantasy points in three of his last four games, so we could be looking at the emergence of a somewhat-reliable QB2.
Aaron Rodgers (vs. Chicago) - I had Rodgers as a 'fade' in this column last week, and he ended up posting 22.7 fantasy points en route to a QB7 finish. Good work, me. Of course, I'm going right back to it this week. Rodgers will be going up against the Chicago Bears in Week 12, a team that ranks fourth-best in adjusted pass defense and has yielded the second-fewest fantasy points to the position. Over their last 36 games, the Bears have given up 20 or more fantasy points to a quarterback once. Chicago has faced Rodgers three times during that stretch, and he scraped together 12.5, 12.9, and 14.4 fantasy points in those three matchups. Look for the Green Bay Packers to lean heavily on the run game, especially if Akiem Hicks (hamstring) can't go.
Lamar Jackson (at Pittsburgh) - It's hard to believe we've gotten to the point where Jackson is a candidate for the 'sit' section, but here we are. In Week 12, LJax gets the unfortunate draw that is the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh has ceded the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing passers, and they rank second-best in adjusted pass defense. Over his last two seasons, two of Jackson's five worst fantasy outputs have come against the Steelers. This season, despite the fact that Pittsburgh has faced the fifth-highest pass-to-ratio, they've given up the eighth-fewest quarterback opportunities. As for Jackson, after recording more than 20 fantasy points in all but one game last season, he has been under that number in 6 of his 10 outings this season. Don't go sitting Jackson for a scrub, but if there any decent options available on your waiver wire, you'd do well to consider them.
Drew Lock (vs. New Orleans) - Lock has had a couple of usable fantasy weeks this season, but don't mistake his matchup with the New Orleans Saints as one of them. The Saints sport the eighth-best adjusted pass defense on the season, but only the Steelers have been better over the last three weeks. New Orleans has given up a combined 12.7 fantasy points to Tom Brady and Matt Ryan in two of their last three games. Lock has amassed 13.1 or fewer fantasy points four times already this season, and it's possible that he fails to even reach double-digits this week.
Antonio Gibson (at Dallas) - The Dallas Cowboys rank in the middle of the pack in fantasy points allowed to opposing backfields (14th), but in reality, that doesn't reflect how bad they've been at stopping the run. To date, Dallas ranks sixth-worst in adjusted run defense, and they've surrendered at least 15.7 half-PPR points to six different backs this season. In fact, Dallas has ceded at least 128 total yards and a touchdown to a back three times in their last five games alone. One of those instances came in Week 7, when Antonio Gibson galloped for 128 yards and a tuddy. Gibson has scored at least 13 half-PPR points in six of his last eight efforts, and he's averaging 19.3 in the last four games in which he's seen at least 13 carries. Given that no team surrenders fewer fantasy points to opposing backs through the air than Dallas and that only two teams allow more points on the ground, this should be a game where Gibson is heavily featured over J.D. McKissic.
Todd Gurley (vs. Las Vegas) - A whopping 41.2% of Gurley's fantasy production in half-PPR leagues this season have come via rushing touchdowns. In most cases, that would be quite worrisome from a fantasy perspective since touchdowns can be quite unpredictable, but in this case, it's almost something we can bank on. In his 54 games since 2017, Gurley has had more games in which he's scored two or more times (18) than ones where he's failed to reach the end zone entirely (15). This week, he'll go up against a Las Vegas Raiders team that ranks dead last in adjusted run defense, one that has allowed multi-touchdown games to four different backs in 2020. Eight runners have accumulated at least 12.7 half-PPR points against Las Vegas, including six of the seven backs that saw at least 15 touches. Gurley has had fewer than 15 touches just once this season.
Duke Johnson (at Detroit) - In his last two games without David Johnson in the lineup, Duke has accrued 5.4 and 5.0 half-PPR points. Not great, Bob! That said, I'll still be trotting him out there in Week 12, and I'll also feel good doing so. In his last three outings, Duke has seen snap shares of 81%, 95%, and 77%, to go along with 20, 15, and 15 opportunities (carries plus targets) -- that'll play. This week, he'll be squaring off with a Detroit Lions team that ranks third-worst in adjusted run defense and dead last in fantasy points allowed to opposing backs. In fact, Detroit has surrendered at least 13.3 half-PPR points to 10 different backs over their last seven games, including to at least one back in each contest. Twelve runners have seen at least 15 opportunities against the Lions this season, and they've averaged 20.03 fantasy points -- only two of those backs scored fewer than 13.3, and both of those occurred prior to Week 4. With the Houston Texans favored in a game where they have a 27.25 implied total, Duke is an excellent filler.
Wayne Gallman (at Cincinnati) - Gallman has quietly been a very solid back for fantasy managers throughout his last four games. Over that stretch, he's averaging 16 opportunities and 13.7 half-PPR points per contest. This doesn't appear to be flukey, either -- among the 45 backs with at least 60 totes this season, Gallman ranks 10th in Rushing NEP per carry. During that four-game stretch, the only backs with more carries inside the 10 were Dalvin Cook, Josh Jacobs, and Derrick Henry. If he can continue to get those valuable touches, he'll be a fantasy asset for the remainder of the season. This week, he'll go up against a Bengals team that's been susceptible to the run. On the season, there's only been two games in which Cincy didn't allow at least 12 half-PPR points to a back, and they've ceded 16.9 or more five times during the 2020 campaign.
Josh Jacobs (at Atlanta) - Jacobs has had three blow-up performances this season, but otherwise, he's been...average. In fact, in the other seven games, Jacobs has posted an average of 10.6 half-PPR points, which is hardly RB1 material. Unfortunately for him, the matchup against the pass-funnel Falcons is not a great one. Atlanta ranks fifth-best in adjusted run defense, and they have surrendered the second-fewest fantasy points to backs on the ground this season. Jacobs has already had two matchups against teams that are top-three in that category, and he's come out with just 4.6 and 12 fantasy points. You probably won't be sitting Jacobs, but temper your expectations and avoid him in DFS.
J.D. McKissic (at Dallas) - McKissic has become somewhat of a hot play in PPR formats, but just like last week, this is a matchup in which he'll likely disappoint. As I mentioned in the Gibson blurb, no team has surrendered fewer fantasy points through the air this season than the Cowboys, who are ceding just 3.6 half-PPR points per game to the position on receptions. McKissic's fantasy value is heavily dependent on those receptions, which means you're better off letting him ride the pine this week.
Chase Edmonds (at New England) - Speaking of teams that are stingy against backs through the air, the New England Patriots rank seventh in that category. On the season, no back has caught more than three passes against the Patriots since Week 1, and they haven't given up more than 4.2 half-PPR points to a back through the air since Week 2. Meanwhile, Edmonds has relied heavily on pass-catching production this season, as he's averaging just 4.4 carries per game when Kenyan Drake is active. This is a week where he can struggle to produce.
Marvin Jones (vs. Houston) - If you've got a sour taste in your mouth from the crapfest the Lions put up offensively in Week 11, know that you're not alone. Watching them try to convert a third-down was like watching your arm get chopped off in slow-motion. That said, the matchup gets much tastier on Thanksgiving. In this one, the Lions will square off against a Texans team that struggles to defend just about any position. Over their last seven games, Houston has ceded double-digit half-PPR points to wideouts nine times, and six of those instances were at least 15.4 fantasy points. With Kenny Golladay not practicing, Danny Amendola banged-up, and D'Andre Swift a real question mark, Jones could see a workload similar to the 10 targets he saw in Week 10.
D.J. Moore (at Minnesota) - On the season, the Minnesota Vikings have surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts. A solid 14 receivers have recorded at least 10.9 half-PPR points against Minnesota, with 8 of them surpassing 15. Meanwhile, Moore has been hot-and-cold this season, with five games with at least 16 half-PPR points and five outings with fewer than 8. This could be a matchup where he achieves one of those boom performances. On a per-target basis, not many teams have been worse against the slot than the Vikings, who have also crapped the bed against outside receivers. Luckily, the Carolina Panthers have had Moore line up all over the field, so he should be able to find plenty of advantageous matchups.
DeVante Parker (at NYJ) - In 2020, the New York Jets have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points and third-most receiver yards to opposing wideouts. The winless Jets rank second-worst in adjusted pass defense, and their top-seven ranking in adjusted run defense makes them one of the prime pass-funnel defenses to target. Through 10 games, 13 wide receivers have garnered double-digit half-PPR points against this secondary, and 11 of them managed at least 13.1. Meanwhile, in his last 10 games without Preston Williams in the lineup, Parker has averaged 9.2 targets and 15.1 half-PPR points. He's a mid-level WR2 option in this spot.
Michael Pittman Jr. (vs. Tennessee) - Pittman has seen a snap share of at least 80% in each of his last three games, and he's amassed 18 targets during that stretch. This week, Pittman will draw a Tennessee Titans squad that ranks eighth-worst in adjusted pass defense and that's surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to wideouts. In fact, Pittman had his coming-out party against this very same defense two weeks ago when he totaled 122 yards on 9 opportunities. Pittman is bound to be involved in a game where the Colts have an implied total of 27 points, making him a high-end streamer for Week 12.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (vs. Baltimore) - JuJu has experienced a resurgence as of late, recording at least 13 half-PPR points in three of his last five efforts. The issue is that of all the Pittsburgh wideouts, Smith-Schuster has the toughest draw this week in slot corner Marlon Humphrey. Humphrey is the reason the Ravens have surrendered the fewest fantasy points per target to wideouts lined up in the slot. In his last five games against the Ravens, JuJu has topped 11.3 half-PPR points just once. You can still flex JuJu, especially in PPR formats, but don't expect a ceiling performance.
CeeDee Lamb (vs. Washington) - One team that's right up there with the Ravens in terms of defending the slot is the Washington Football Team. Here's how some notable slot receivers have performed in this spot: Jarvis Landry totaled 36 yards, Cooper Kupp managed 66 yards, Sterling Shepard recorded 39 yards, Danny Amendola accrued just 10 yards, and Tyler Boyd piled up 85 yards -- all of those guys failed to score. Oh, did I forget to mention? Lamb himself failed to record a single catch against Washington in Week 7. Hard pass for me.
All 49ers Receivers (at LAR) - This season, the Los Angeles Rams rank third in adjusted pass defense and have yielded the fewest fantasy points to the receiver position. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers are banged-up at every level of their offense, and even if Deebo Samuel were to return, he'll likely be on a pitch-count in this brutal matchup. Brandon Aiyuk has been a solid fantasy option in Samuel's absence, but Samuel's return, coupled with the matchup, makes him a very iffy play.
Hunter Henry (at Buffalo) - After scoring just once in his first eight games, Henry has now hit paydirt in consecutive games. It's not like the targets weren't there -- the 25-year-old has now seen at least six targets eight times this season. The scoring streak could continue in Week 12 against a Buffalo Bills defense that's given up the second-most half-PPR points per game to tight ends this season. The six tight ends to see more than five targets against this defense have averaged 15.2 half-PPR points. Henry is a high-end TE1 for this one.
Robert Tonyan (vs. Chicago) - Within the passing game, the Bears are a team that kind of funnels to tight ends. On the season, Chicago has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to wideouts and the fifth-fewest fantasy points to backs through air. However, Chicago has ceded the eighth-most fantasy points to tight ends in 2020. In fact, the Bears have surrendered more receiving touchdowns to tight ends than they have to receivers and running backs combined. Tonyan is far from a reliable option at tight end, but let's face it, reliable options at the position barely exist. Big Bob has seen at least four targets in six of his last eight games, which is about as much as we can ask for at the position.
Evan Engram (at Cincinnati) - The best approach to the tight end position this season is to roll with guys with target upside in a good matchup. That's exactly what Engram is this week. The 26-year-old has seen at least seven looks in six games this season, and he's posted at least 9.0 half-PPR points four times, including twice in his last three outings. Meanwhile, the Bengals have conceded at least 9.0 fantasy points to seven different tight ends this season, including five instances since Week 5.
Mark Andrews (at Pittsburgh) - No team has held opposing tight ends to fewer half-PPR points per game than the Steelers. On the season, only one tight end (Noah Fant in Week 2) has posted more than 7.7 fantasy points against Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, Andrews has failed to crack 5.0 fantasy points in five outings this season, and he has never topped 7.0 half-PPR points in four outings against the Steelers. We should be expecting another floor performance from last year's TE4.
Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett (vs. San Francisco) - Just like their backfield, the Rams' tight end position is a nightmare for fantasy managers. Higbee is consistently seeing snap share of 70% or higher, but he hasn't exceeded 7.5 half-PPR points in any of his last seven contests. Everett hasn't been much better -- he's failed to top 7.7 fantasy points in seven of his nine games this season. Meanwhile, the Niners are giving up the second-fewest fantasy points to the position. Only one tight end has surpassed 7.1 fantasy points against them, and none have topped 11.6. Neither of these two are fantasy options this week.