Fantasy Line-Up Primer - Week 12

Today is Thanksgiving Thursday and besides providing us a great opportunity to give thanks for everything we have, it also means lots of football. As usual Detroit and Dallas will play at home, hosting Houston and Washington, respectively. Late at night, two great rivals collide at the Meadowlands with the Patriots visiting the Jets. Time is against us because we need to get our fantasy line-ups fixed as soon as possible before sitting down in front of our television sets to enjoy the games...

Quarterbacks

Start them:

Matthew Stafford, Lions ($4m): Stafford should take advantage of the troubles that Houston’s aerial defense is experiencing. Robert Griffin III, Redskins ($2m): Dallas has an excellent pass defense, but RG3 could really hurt the Cowboys today with his rushing ability. Peyton Manning, Broncos ($3m), has gained at least 17 fantasy points in seven of his last eight games, so if you do not want to take risks at the quarterback position this week, Manning is the best choice. Matt Ryan, Falcons ($3m) leads the NFL with 3,072 aerial yards and will face a Buccaneers defense that ranks last in the league against the pass.

Sit them:

Matt Schaub, Texans ($3m): I know he threw for 527 yards and five touchdowns last Sunday, but the Lions defense kept Packer Aaron Rodgers under 15 fantasy points last week. Nothing against Schaub, but I think other $3m and $2m-quarterbacks will post better numbers than him this time. Brandon Weeden, Browns ($1m): The rookie did OK against the tough Dallas passing defense last Sunday but now he will face the number 1 aerial defense in the league. Odds are definitely against him for Week 12’s matchup with the Steelers.  

Running backs

Star them:

Shonn Greene, Jets ($3m): The Jets recipe for success tonight will be pounding the ball up the middle with Green playing a huge role. Jonathan Dwyer, Steelers ($1m): With his first two quarterbacks out injured, the defense and the rushing attack should carry Pittsburgh for the following weeks. Dwyer showed the Jerome Bettis-style of running that the Steelers fans love, excelling in carries between the tackles against the Ravens. The ball will be handled to him a lot at Cleveland and do not be surprised if Dwyer scores his first NFL touchdown on Sunday. Vick Ballard, Colts ($1m): The Bills front four played their best game of the season last Thursday against Miami, but Buffalo still ranks last in the AFC in run defense, having surrendered more rushing touchdowns (16) than any team in the NFL. C.J. Spiller, Bills ($2m) leads the league with an average of 6.6 yards per carry (minimum 100 attempts). Although Fred Jackson could be back this week, Spiller should be the back featured by Buffalo if the Bills want to win on Indianapolis. Chris Johnson, Titans ($3m): The Jaguars have the fourth worst defense in the league against the run, having allowed 14 touchdowns on the ground (second most in the NFL). Johnson has topped 90 yards in each of his five last games and has a huge chance of enjoying a breakout fantasy week at Jacksonville. Doug Martin, Buccaneers ($1m): The Falcons Achilles hill this season has been stopping the run and they will be on the road facing rookie Martin, who quickly is emerging as one of the best backs in the business.

Sit them:

Mikel Leshoure, Lions ($1m): He only has 502 rushing yards this year, but he ranks seventh in the league in touchdowns per game, having scored five in eight contests. His red zone effectiveness should go down today facing a Houston defense that is the only one in the NFL that has not allowed a rushing touchdown this season. Adrian Peterson, Vikings ($3m): He leads the NFL in rushing and has gained more than 350 yards (three touchdowns) in his last two games, but Chicago is definitely not the best place to run in the NFL. Jamaal Charles, Chiefs ($3m), will face a Broncos defense that has not allowed an opposing back to reach 75 rushing yards in five consecutive weeks (all Denver wins). Ray Rice, Ravens ($4m): The Chargers are experiencing all sorts of problems lately, but one of their units that is still standing is their run defense. San Diego ranks third in the league in the category, and the Ravens will need to find other ways of advancing and scoring than just handling the ball to Rice.

Wide receivers

Start them:

Calvin Johnson, Lions ($4m): He scored only once in his first eight games, but has a touchdown reception in each of the last two. The streak will move to three today against the Texans. Dez Bryant, Cowboys ($3m): He is playing better as the season goes on and will face a Washington defense that has allowed 20 aerial touchdowns this season. Wes Welker, Patriots ($4m): The Jets defends the long ball pretty well, so expect Brady to go often to the short-passing game where he will not have Rob Gronkowski, with Aaron Hernandez being just back from an ankle injury. All the numbers are for Welker to come up with at least eight catches tonight. A.J. Green, Bengals ($4m): The Raiders have allowed 20 aerial touchdowns this year, Green leads the NFL with 10 receiving scores so, as every week, makes a lot of sense to start him at wide out. Cecil Shorts, Jaguars ($1m), has posted double digits in fantasy numbers in four of his last five games. His streak should continue when Jacksonville hosts a weak Tennessee defense that is in the league’s bottom seven stopping the pass.

Sit them:

Brandon Lloyd, Patriots ($3m): A knee injury has been bothering him lately and the way the Jets defense plays does not benefit him at all. The first time these two teams met, he only had a six-yard reception. Josh Gordon, Browns ($1m): The Steelers have not allowed an opposing wide out to reach 100 receiving yards since Week 1 at Denver (Demaryius Thomas), so Gordon and the whole Cleveland wide receivers corps will have a big challenge on Sunday. DeSean Jackson, Eagles ($4m): Philadelphia’s aerial offense looked even worse on Sunday without Michael Vick. The Panthers have a good passing defense which has allowed 13 touchdowns in 10 games, so do not expect much from Jackson and Philadelphia’s receiving troops on Monday Night.

Tight ends

Start them:

Jason Witten, Cowboys ($3m), should have a big day against a Redskins unit that is in the NFL’s bottom four in pass defense. Dallas Clark, Buccaneers ($1m), is getting more and more involved in Tampa Bay’s offense. He will be one of the offensive keys on Sunday as the Bucs take on the division-leading Falcons. Tony Gonzalez, Falcons ($3m), should have another huge performance facing Tampa Bay: the NFL’s worst pass defense. Jimmy Graham, Saints ($4m), leads his team with eight touchdown catches, including five in his last four games. Count of him as Drew Brees’ most dangerous weapon on Sunday in San Francisco’s red zone.

Sit them:

Antonio Gates, Chargers ($3m), only had two receptions at Denver and will face a Baltimore unit that has not allowed a touchdown pass to an opponent tight end since October 18.

Kickers

Start them:

Jason Hanson, Lions ($1m): Is in his 21st NFL season and will play his 20th Thanksgiving game. With 20 field goals in 22 attempts, Hanson has the third most effective percentage (90.9) in his prolific NFL career. Today he could make the difference with Detroit hosting Houston. Lawrence Tynes, Giants ($1m): There are plenty of question marks as to how the Giants will match up with the Packers coming back from a bye week after suffering two consecutive losses. One thing is sure: Tynes, who still leads the NFL in scoring, will be as reliable as usual.

Sit them:

Mason Crosby ($2m): Mike McCarthy backed him up after a horrendous performance at Detroit, missing two field goals in three attempts. The truth is that Crosby is not mentally focussed having made only six of his last 13 field goals tries.

Team defenses

Start them:

Chicago Bears ($1m): After not being intercepted in his first four games, Christian Ponder has thrown eight picks in the next six. The Bears lead the NFL with 19 interceptions this season, having returned seven of them for touchdowns. Hosting Minnesota should mean a great opportunity for Chicago to again post huge defensive fantasy numbers. Denver Broncos ($1m): Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil have more combined sacks (23) than any other pair of teammates in the league. They will pressure Brady Quinn on Sunday generating more sacks and sloppy offensive plays that will end up in turnovers.

Sit them:

Green Bay Packers ($1m): The Giants are still the team that has surrendered the least amount of sacks in the NFL (13) and with the bye week I am sure Tom Coughlin has drawn up a plan to correct the offensive mistakes, so I do not expect the Packers to score big defensively this week.