Week 12 got off to a rousing start with a feast of Thanksgiving NFL action. There are 13 more games remaining on this week’s schedule, and almost all of them hold some measure of playoff implication.
If you’re still in the hunt for your fantasy postseason, then Week 12 is going to carry a lot of playoff implications for you as well. Making the right roster decisions and waiver-wire adds will be important if you’re looking to head into the postseason with some momentum.
Well, we’re here to help with some late positional rankings for Week 12. We’ll be running down the top players at each position based on how we believe they will perform. We will also examine some intriguing flex and PPR options at running back, receiver and tight end.
Week 12 QBs
Rank Player Opponent 1 Tom Brady, NE @ NYJ 2 Cam Newton, CAR @ OAK 3 Carson Palmer, ARI @ ATL 4 Eli Manning, NYG @ CLE 5 Derek Carr, OAK CAR 6 Drew Brees, NO LA 7 Aaron Rodgers, GB @ PHI 8 Marcus Mariota, TEN @ CHI 9 Russell Wilson, SEA @ TB 10 Philip Rivers, SD @ HOU
Player to Watch: Tom Brady, New England Patriots
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been a fantasy beast since returning from suspension in Week 5. Through six games, he has passed for 1,915 yards with 16 touchdowns and one interception.
In Week 12, he’ll face a New York Jets defense that is rated just 27th in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus. It’ll be worth watching Brady because he is dealing with a knee injury.
#Patriots QB Tom Brady is officially listed as questionable for Sunday’s game vs. #Jets.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) November 25, 2016
"We’ll see," Brady said when asked if he would play Sunday, per Ryan Hannable of WEEI.
Our guess is that Brady will play on Sunday and torch the Jets secondary for lots of yards, touchdowns and fantasy points. The Patriots typically change their game plan from week to week. This could lead to a Brady-heavy day as New England avoids running against the Jets’ standout defensive front.
Week 12 RBs
Rank Player Opponent 1 David Johnson, ARI @ ATL 2 Jay Ajayi, MIA SF 3 DeMarco Murray, TEN @ CHI 4 Melvin Gordon, SD @ HOU 5 LeSean McCoy, BUF JAX 6 Thomas Rawls, SEA @ TB 7 Spencer Ware, KC @ DEN 8 Matt Forte, NYJ NE 9 Doug Martin, TB SEA 10 Devontae Booker, DEN KC 11 Lamar Miller, HOU SD 12 Devonta Freeman, ATL ARI 13 Rashad Jennings, NYG @ CLE 14 Carlos Hyde, SF @ MIA 15 Todd Gurley, LA @ NO 16 Darren Sproles, PHI GB 17 Isaiah Crowell, CLE NYG 18 LeGarrette Blount, NE @ NYJ 19 Jeremy Hill, CIN @ BAL 20 Terrance West, BAL CIN
Player to Watch: Jay Ajayi, Miami Dolphins
Miami Dolphins back Jay Ajayi has emerged as a fantasy stud this season. He has two 200-yard games on his 2016 resume and has 802 yards rushing with two touchdowns in total.
This week, the Dolphins host a San Francisco 49ers team that is simply atrocious against the run. The 49ers are currently allowing an average of 179.5 yards per game on the ground and are rated 31st in run defense by Pro Football Focus.
Don’t be shocked if Ajayi has his third 200-yard game of the season in Week 12.
If you’re going to stick a running back in your flex slot this week, try to aim for players with quality matchups. Typically, you’re using the flex for backs who aren’t consistent enough for a RB1 or RB2 play but who have enough upside to warrant a start.
This week, there are a few matchups that should provide upside. Consider guys like New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings or Green Bay Packers back James Starks, who play the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles, respectively.
Neither Jennings nor Starks has been a regular fantasy star this season, but both are in position to produce this week due to matchup. The Browns are rated just 27th in run defense by Pro Football Focus, while the Eagles are rated 25th.
When playing in PPR leagues, it’s obviously wise to boost the value of running backs who spend a large percentage of their time catching the ball. This is why players like Eagles back Darren Sproles (34 receptions) and Detroit Lions back Theo Riddick (48 receptions) are better plays in PPR formats than in standard.
For this week, we’re going to focus on backs who don’t have favorable rushing matchups but who may see a chunk of receptions because of this.
Atlanta Falcons back Devonta Freeman faces an Arizona Cardinals defense that is rated fourth against the run by Pro Football Focus. Expect the Falcons to utilize swing and screen passes as an extension of the running game with Freeman, who has 31 receptions on the year.
Expect the Browns to use a similar approach with Duke Johnson, who has 42 receptions so far. He’ll be matched up against a Giants team rated 11th in run defense by Pro Football Focus.
Week 12 WRs
Rank Player Opponent 1 Mike Evans, TB SEA 2 Odell Beckham Jr., NYG @ CLE 3 Jordy Nelson, GB @ PHI 4 Julio Jones, ATL ARI 5 Larry Fitzgerals, ARI @ ATL 6 Amari Cooper, OAK CAR 7 Julian Edelman, NE @ NYJ 8 Demaryius Thomas, DEN KC 9 Kelvin Benjamin, CAR @ OAK 10 DeAndre Hopkins, HOU SD 11 Emmanuel Sanders, DEN KC 12 Brandin Cooks, NO LA 13 Allen Robinson, JAX @ BUF 14 Terrelle Pryor, CLE NYG 15 Michael Crabtree, OAK CAR 16 Doug Baldwin, SEA @ TB 17 Michael Thomas, NO LA 18 Brandon Marshall, NYJ NE 19 Jordan Matthews, PHI GB 20 Jarvis Landry, MIA SF
Player to Watch: Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
There are a couple of reasons to really like Arizona Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald this week. One is his matchup with a Falcons defense that is rated just 19th in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus.
Another reason is that the Falcons are averaging an NFL-best 32.0 points per game. Even if the Cardinals defense plays extremely well, Arizona is probably going to have to continue scoring points throughout the game to come away with a victory.
This should lead to a lot of targets, receptions and fantasy points for Arizona’s ageless wonder.
As is the case with running backs, we’re going to focus on second-tier wide receivers who are looking at favorable Week 12 matchups for the flex.
Consider Eagles wideout Jordan Matthews against a Packers defense that is rated 31st in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus. Los Angeles Rams receiver Kenny Britt is also a sneaky great play against a New Orleans Saints defense rated 29th in coverage by Pro Football Focus.
One potential sleeper for the flex position is Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd. The rookie out of Pittsburgh should see an increased role this week with star wideout A.J. Green sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Backup long-snapper & TE C.J. Uzomah (calf) also is doubtful. A.J. Green obviously out. Everyone else should be good to go. #Bengals
— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) November 25, 2016
Fellow Bengals receiver Brandon LaFell is another wideout to consider for the flex. The Bengals don’t draw the best matchup against the Baltimore Ravens—rated seventh in overall defense by Pro Football Focus—but with Green out, Boyd and LaFell should see their targets increase.
There really aren’t any secrets when it comes to playing receivers in PPR formats. We’re going to focus here on some guys you might not realize are PPR standouts.
Everyone knows that Ravens receiver Mike Wallace is a legitimate deep threat, but did you know that he is tied for 35th in the NFL with 48 receptions? He has a terrific matchup this week against a Cincinnati Bengals defense rated just 26th in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus.
Packers wideout Davante Adams has only produced 663 yards receiving so far this season, but he’s amassed an impressive 53 receptions in the process. He should hold a lot of PPR value this week, despite facing a stout Eagles defense—just 228.9 yards passing per game allowed.
Rookie Saints receiver Michael Thomas has been even more impressive on the PPR front. He has already racked up 56 receptions for 681 yards and five touchdowns this season. He’s a smart PPR play, even against a Rams defense rated 10th in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus.
Week 12 TEs
Rank Player Opponent 1 Greg Olsen, CAR @ OAK 2 Antonio Gates, SD @ HOU 3 Jimmy Graham, SEA @ TB 4 Tyler Eifert, CIN @ BAL 5 Travis Kelce, KC @ DEN 6 Delanie Walker, TEN @ CHI 7 Dennis Pitta, BAL CIN 8 Zach Ertz, PHI GB 9 Martellus Bennett, NE @ NYJ 10 Cameron Brate, TB SEA
Player to Watch: Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots
We mentioned above that the Jets present a favorable matchup for the Patriots and their passing game. This is one of the reasons why Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett is an extremely safe play for week 12.
Another reason is that fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski is in danger of missing another week with a perforated lung. However, it will be worth keeping a close eye on Bennett himself over the next 24 hours, as CSNNE’s Phil Perry reported that Bennett is dealing with a shoulder issue.
Assuming Bennett can go, he should be a top fantasy tight end for Week 12, regardless of whether Gronkowski plays or not.
There really isn’t much reason to play tight ends in your flex spot, assuming your league even allows the tactic. The rare exception is when you own a couple of top-tier guys. Unless you do, or you are desperate to fill roster spots, stick with running backs and wideouts in the flex.
Use some common sense when it comes to scouting tight ends in PPR formats. This week, guys like Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta (49 receptions so far) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate (14 receptions in past three weeks), become potential starters based on workload.
Week 12 Ks
Rank Player Opponent 1 Matt Bryant, ATL ARI 2 Caleb Sturgis, PHI GB 3 Dan Carpenter, BUF JAX 4 Sebastian Janikowski, OAK CAR 5 Nick Novak, HOU SD 6 Stephen Gostkowski, NE @ NYJ 7 Justin Tucker, BAL CIN 8 Steven Hauschka, SEA @ TB 9 Graham Gano, CAR @ OAK 10 Wil Lutz, NO LA