Week 12 brings a trio of Thanksgiving games that will force fantasy owners to make important line-up decisions sooner rather than later. It’s a tremendous Thursday triple-header, with current AFC top dog Houston travelling to desperate Detroit at 5.30pm GMT, long-time NFC East rivals Washington and Dallas clawing and scratching to get back into the division race at 9.15pm GMT, and the Jets and Patriots - bitter enemies with genuine mutual antipathy - doing battle at 1.20am GMT.
All of them can be seen live on both Sky Sports and NFL Game Pass, and below we get into which core players you might - or might not - want to get onto your team before Thursday’s deadline.
Let’s get to your fantasy questions for Week 12:
- ‘What does TE Rob Gronkowski’s injury mean for the Patriots offense?’
After a slow(ish) start to 2012, Gronkowski has been on a tear of late and is the top scoring tight end in fantasy by a wide margin (with New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham second and Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez third). Over the last three games played, he has recorded a monstrous 18 catches, 314 yards and five TDs, single-handedly winning games for fantasy owners in the process.
By now we all know about his catch radius, his incredible athleticism and his status as Tom Brady’s de facto number one receiver. But his propensity for the occasional injury is, in truth, no less part of the Gronkowski package (indeed a back injury that wiped out his junior year in college is arguably what prevented him from becoming a first round pick in 2010). After surgery for a fractured forearm sustained on a meaningless Week 11 extra point attempt, he will now miss 4-6 weeks.
For the Patriots, it’s a huge loss but certainly one they’ll be confident about handling - especially with Gronk’s running mate Aaron Hernandez likely to get back into the starting line-up this week. Hernandez is every bit the threat Gronkowski is, and has been held out of the last three games despite putting in decent practice time in between games. There’s a sense the Patriots were resting him fully while Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd et al. picked up the passing game slack, so it’s not in the least surprising to learn that Hernandez appears healthy at last and is tentatively expected to be ready Thanksgiving.
But would I start him in my Week 12 NFLUK fantasy team? I think I’d want to see him knock the rust off first. You could consider cheaper in-form options like the Raiders’ Brandon Myers, the Bengals’ Jermaine Gresham or the Packers’ Jermichael Finley and blow the dollars you save on an elite performer at another position. The 49ers’ Vernon Davis - apparently set to benefit from the possible elevation of QB Colin Kaepernick to starter - might be worth a thought too. But by far the best solution might be a one-for-one swap for the Saints’ Jimmy Graham. He’s the only tight end out there offering consistent production on a weekly basis now that’s he’s healthy once again.
- ‘Should I take Washington’s Robert Griffin III at Dallas on Thanksgiving night? And what about the Patriots’ Steven Ridley against the Jets?’
Since you’re asking Milky, let’s look at all the key Thanksgiving performers and size up their chances of thriving on Thursday night. Starting with Washington, RGIII was once again in imperious form in Week 11, notching only one incompletion and four passing scores against a deflated Eagles’ team that just wanted to go home by half-time. He won’t fare so perfectly against Dallas’ decent D, but the Cowboys allowed fellow rookie Brandon Weeden to throw for 210 yards and two TDs, so RGIII will get his points. He’s impossible to sit. RB Alfred Morris has slowed down recently, and might be in for a solid but not spectacular game. He’ll get his 20 carries and maybe be even a score against a Cowboys’ unit that made Trent Richardson work for every yard last weekend, but he’s unlikely to really go off. For Dallas, WR Dez Bryant is on fire and deserves a place in your team against the Redskins’ poor secondary. QB Tony Romo and WR Miles Austin will continue to give decent but not difference-making production too. TE Jason Witten has posted some good games against the Skins but has been quiet in recent weeks. K Dan Bailey might well have another strong game after a confidence boosting OT win versus the Browns.
Houston QB Matt Schaub just posted one of the truly great fantasy football passing performances in Week 11, with 527 yards and five touchdowns. A remarkable haul, but an anomalous one (that’s as many touchdowns as Schaub collected in his previous four games combined.) He won’t repeat the trick against Detroit, but WR Andre Johnson has seriously come to life and has a good match-up with Detroit’s defensive backfield. One question though - will his body be tired coming off a 14-catch game with so little rest? TE Owen Daniels is also nicked up, which has allowed reserves Garrett Graham and James Casey to make a case for more playing time in recent weeks. Daniels is the top dog, but it’s tough to confidently play any of the Texans’ tight ends this week until the pecking order gets a bit clearer. RB Arian Foster is a must-play whatever the game. He went without a touchdown last weekend for the first time this year - a trend that won’t last. Detroit has a chance at an upset at home, which means WR Calvin Johnson will need another big game. There’s no reason to think he won’t get one, especially after Houston’s DBs spent much of Sunday chasing down Jaguar Justin Blackmon. WR Ryan Broyles is also a very sneaky play with Titus Young Jr. currently ruled out. QB Matt Stafford is struggling with consistency at this point, and needs to show more before you can play him with certainty. RB Mikel Leshoure has been a solid contributor, but doesn’t match up terribly well versus Houston. If the game is close, he’ll produce another 80+ yards and a score. Ks Jason Hanson and Shayne Graham are both good plays.
In New York, Jets’ RBs Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell could become irrelevant early if the Patriots get any kind of a lead. The Patriots’ pass defense has improved with the addition of CB Aqib Talib and is creating turnovers. As beatable as it is, New England’s team defense is therefore worth a play. Jets’ WR Jeremy Kerley has a chance to make some things happen, as does TE Dustin Keller, but no Jets receiver is a reliably good play right now. On the flipside, Patriots’ QB Tom Brady is in an excellent spot, and RB Stevan Ridley - who had a sub-standard Week 11 for him but still found the end zone - should find room to run against New York’s up and down run D. TE Aaron Hernandez should play but could be rusty. WRs Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker will pick up targets with Gronkowski out, but Welker is still a little bit nicked up. K Stephen Gostkowski is set to do well even if the game is closer than expected.
- ‘I need your help with kickers - who to play for week twelve please?’
The key thing with kickers: don’t start one against a team that scores touchdowns easily and often, because your kicker’s team will be forced to eschew field goal tries for fourth-down touchdown attempts when they fall behind. The Giants’ Lawrence Tynes has been setting records for field goals so far this season, but is seriously slowing down since week eight and might not improve things in Green Bay. Three kickers who are in much better form are Atlanta’s Matt Bryant (at Tampa), New England’s Gostkowski (at the Jets) and Houston’s Graham (at Detroit). All three have a chance to do well, especially Bryant and Gostkowksi. Denver’s Matt Prater is also worth a look. He’s trending up and could notch some trash time points in Kansas City assuming Manning and Co. get some way ahead by the second half.
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