Another weekend, another group of four teams out of the schedule. It is nap-time for Kansas City, Minnesota, Arizona, and the Los Angeles Chargers. You won’t be able to play some of the top fantasy scorers in Patrick Mahomes, Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Kyler Murray, Austin Ekeler, and Keenan Allen, just to name a few. So, what does all of this mean? You’ll have tough decisions on which of your usual reserves—or even waiver wire pickups—deserve a start this weekend. Now is the time to prove yourself as the best GM of your league by building a lineup full of win-not-kill guys for Week 12.
Whether you’re playing in an 8-, 10- or 12-team league, you probably have doubts about who to put in that widely open flex position, who to stream at quarterback, or how you could address all of the uncertainty surrounding the tight end slot. Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst options you should consider.
Matt Ryan, ATL (vs TB) - START
You know you’re in for some offensive fireworks when a game features an O/U of 51.5 points. This weekend, the only match to break the 48-total barrier is this one, and both Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston should be good plays. I’d lean toward Ryan if I had to choose only one of them. In his last two weeks since coming back from injury, Ryan has passed for 493 yards and three touchdowns while only getting picked once. He’s scored himself—and a resurgent Falcons team—have a couple of wins. Although the season might be over for Atlanta they still have a chance to do something. That means Ryan will keep going full-gear and Tampa Bay is a cupcake in his schedule. Just this past weekend the Bucs allowed Drew Brees to hang three touchdowns on them while reaching 228 yards, and the two games prior to that one they surrendered 702 yards and eight passing touchdowns combined. It is hard to find a better matchup for a quarterback these days and Matt Ryan is known for his high-volume numbers which make this play even better and raises his upside.
Sam Darnold, NYJ (vs OAK) - START
I think I was one of the very few who believed in Darnold at the end of last season. Then we arrived in 2019 and, truth be told, he disappointed me quite a bit and made me lose my faith in him with two bad games against the Patriots (comprehensible) and the Jaguars (not so much). But since Week 9 he has been on a steady rise. Darnold has passed for 260, 230, and 293 yards in his last three outings. He had his best game of the season against Washington last weekend (don’t be fooled, Washington is averaging just the 18th-most points to QBs this season) by throwing four scores (on just 19 completions!) to just one interception. His fantasy scores in this three-week span have gone from 17 to 24, to 30. It would be a little disingenuous to think those will keep going up, but the stats say Oakland has a much worse defense against the pass (28th-best) than Washington. The Jets enter the game as underdogs, will need to pass, and the Raiders have prevented opposing quarterbacks to score a touchdown only one time this season.
Jared Goff, LAR (vs BAL) - SIT
It is time to seriously worry about Goff, his progression, and mostly for us, his true fantasy football value. Even playing at no more than an average level early in the season, Goff still provided a good return to his fantasy owners and bettors, mostly due to his high-volume stats. Goff has had seven games in which he has attempted at least 37 passes this season, and he even reached 517 (!) yards passing in Week 4. Those numbers are mental and even in bad games overall (he threw two touchdowns and three interceptions in that Week 4 game) he was still reaching fantasy tallies of around 22 points weekly. That has changed since the Rams went on a bye in Week 9. In the last two games he has played, Goff hasn’t thrown a single touchdown yet he’s been intercepted three times and lost three fumbles. He’s in the middle of the toughest streak of defenses he will face all season and his current level won’t cut it against the Ravens. Baltimore has allowed more than 241 passing yards just once since Week 4, and never more than one touchdown and a QB-score of more than 18 fantasy points in that span. So stout is this unit that it limited MVP-candidate Deshaun Watson to 169 yards—plus an interception—and a ridiculous 9.65 fantasy points last weekend...
Daniel Jones, NYG (at CHI) - SIT
There is a high probability that you check Jones’ numbers from his last game and think about starting him this weekend. No wonder, as he threw for 308 yards and four (!) touchdowns and no interceptions against the Jets. The problem with starting Jones is that you really don’t know what you’ll get from him. He’s been a constant roller-coaster this season. Jones is able to have those 33-fantasy-point games as much as he’s able to end the day with a paltry 14-point score. Although Jones completes a good number of passes weekly (23 on average), his low YPA (6.7) limits his upside a lot and his touchdown numbers—barring the explosions for four touchdowns this past weekend and in Week 8—usually don’t top one per game. All of that makes for a rather low ceiling with the chance to crash down to a 10-point floor. The Bears won’t help him this weekend, either. They rank sixth in points per game allowed to QBs and limited Jared Goff last weekend to 11 completions for 173 yards, an interception, no touchdowns, and a fantasy score of just 8.95 points. If you need more to convince yourself of fading Jones, just take a look at the Giants injury report.
Derrius Guice, WAS (vs DET) - START
Has Guice done enough to be a must-play this weekend? No. Not at all. Does he bring some massive upside with him? Absolutely. Guice has been hyped since he entered the league last year, but due to injuries we have not been able to truly experience his game. Last week we finally were able to get some of it, and it looked good enough to help him make this column today. Guice came back from injury and only saw 20 snaps against the Jets in Week 11 but he was able to rush for 24 yards and added a receiving score in which he caught a pass behind the line of scrimmage and got it to the end zone by covering 45 yards. That won’t happen everyday, sure, but the workload will keep going up and his next matchup can’t be better to have his first explosion in the NFL. The Lions are dead-last against rushers and it shows. Detroit has allowed a touchdown to opposing backfield either on the ground or receiving in each and every one of their games this season. Adrian Peterson is still an important part of Washington’s backfield but he’s trending downward and a little banged up, so Guice should take the major workload and have a field day against the Lions.
Phillip Lindsay, DEN (at BUF) - START
Don’t be afraid of the running-back-by-committee approach of the Broncos any more. Reports from Denver are saying that Lindsay will be given a heavier workload and a more prominent role going forward, so Royce Freeman’s days might be numbered. The timeshare had been pretty even up until last weekend, as Lindsay finished the Week 11 game with 52 snaps to Freeman’s 24. He couldn’t do much against a good Vikings defense (67 yards on 16 carries, 8 receiving yards on two targets), but Buffalo isn’t even close to that level of run-stopping. Lindsay has a solid 10-fantasy-points floor this season at the very least (he’s actually averaging 13.9) and has logged 75 or more yards from scrimmage in eight of his 10 games while featuring routinely in the passing game. That makes him a complete tailback that can get points either rushing or receiving, and who is not entirely touchdown-dependent. If his opportunities go up this week, he could finish with one of his biggest tallies of the season, as the Bills have surrendered 150-plus yards from scrimmage to RBs in three of their last four games and allowed fantasy scores of 45, 16, 28, and 24 points in that span.
Ronald Jones, TB (vs ATL) - SIT
It is hard to predict what Jones will bring to the table, and that should be reason enough to sit him. Take last week. Tampa Bay fell behind in the scoreboard and the Bucs straight abandoned the running game, making Jones useless in fantasy (four carries, 13 yards, 3.4 fantasy points). The week prior to that, though, He rushed for 29 yards and added 77 receiving, with a touchdown on the ground for a final tally of 24.6 points. But such is life playing for the Buccaneers, as he’s alternated games of fewer than 10 points with others in which he’s reached 15 easily. The game against Atlanta makes for a risky bet on Jones. The Falcons have a potent offense that can put up points and we know what happens when Tampa Bay falls behind. On top of that, Jones lost touches and snaps to Dare Ogunbowale last weekend, which is another reason for concern. For this weekend I’d pass on Jones in favor of another better, not so game script-dependent rusher.
Chris Carson, SEA (at PHI) - SIT
Hard to sit the RB10 overall this season, but this is the situation we’re in. This decision comes down more to the whole scenario and matchup than Carson’s own ability. First of all, Carson’s profile is that of a pure rusher without much upside on the passing game. The Eagles are on a three-game streak in which they have limited RBs to 67 yards on the ground at most. Second, although Seattle calls running plays at a high rate, Philadelphia screams passing game as loud as you can imagine. The Eagles are one of the worst teams against WRs and the Seahawks will try to get up by throwing the ball rather than running with it. Finally, while Carson had a terrific run from weeks 4 to 6 in which he amassed 427 yards from scrimmage, he has combined for 324 in his last three games and only reached 100 yards rushing once. His floor isn’t high if he doesn’t get a touchdown and he has just four on the season, so against the seventh-best defense against RBs, but seventh-worst against WRs I’d leave Carson off my lineups.
Calvin Ridley, ATL (vs TB) - START
I’m not a fan of riding the hot hand, but if you read Matt Ryan’s blurb above then you know this game just calls for it. Stars have aligned, I guess, as we have a hot player entering a great matchup here. Ridley finished Week 11 with the 10th-highest fantasy score of the weekend to the tune of 143 yards and a touchdown on a perfect performance in which he caught all eight passes he was thrown. His 28.3 fantasy points more than doubled his season average (13.9), but that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to replicate such a game this weekend. With Mohamed Sanu traded and Austin Hooper injured, Julio Jones and Ridley are the only go-to targets in the Falcons offense, and Jones will always draw the toughest cover-men. Tampa Bay is plain bad at defending the pass (most points per game, yards, and touchdowns allowed through 10 games), so that shouldn’t be of much concern. Same as Matt Ryan could be in for a booming day, Ridley will be at the other end of his passes receiving them, so stacking both looks like a clear win-win to me this weekend.
Hunter Renfrow, OAK (at NYJ) - START
Under-the-radar starter here. You might have heard of Tyrell Williams as one of the—if not the—best wide receiver in Oakland, but since the Raiders went on a bye back in Week 6 the truth is that Renfrow has out-performed Williams in every game. Renfrow has more targets (30 to 25), receptions (21 to 13), yards (264 to 246) and touchdowns (two to one) than Williams and has done all of that in a much lower snap count. Renfrow has also been targeted five times inside the 20-yard line in the last three games and has only scored one touchdown, so positive regression might be coming his way. The Jets have suffered all season long against WRs and as incredible as it sounds they have surrendered 10 touchdowns in their last four games while allowing receiving corps to reach at least 181 yards in each of those games. Carr has thrown at least one touchdown in his last five games, and Oakland is a three-point favorite in a high-total game (46.5) so the chances will be there for Renfrow to take.
Michael Gallup, DAL (at NE) - SIT
I thought about including Amari Cooper here, but you just don’t sit Amari Cooper in season-long, re-draft leagues. If you are reading this thinking about your DFS lineup, then go ahead and fade Amari Cooper too. The reasoning for doing so (either with Cooper or Gallup) is simple: you don’t want to have anything to do with this Patriots defense. Cooper is banged up and that would help in opting to bench him, but that also means that New England could afford itself to pay more attention to the rest of the Cowboys receivers, including Gallup. Gallup has seen an uptick in usage lately (back-to-back 10-plus targets) and has exploited the Vikings (29th) and Lions (24th) bad defenses against WRs, but the Patriots are a beast of their own. They are on a two-game streak in which they have allowed 75 or fewer yards to full receiving corps, allowing just 11.3 and 13.5 fantasy points to entire units. Divide that by two or three and you have Gallup’s fantasy upside entering Week 12. New England has only allowed one touchdown to WRs in their 10 games, so even with Dak Prescott at the helm, you can’t put much faith in Gallup scoring this weekend either.
Mohamed Sanu, NE (vs DAL) - SIT
Sanu is one of the best middle-of-the-pack, safe-play receivers in fantasy football, full stop. It’s been that way for years and although he’s never had a high ceiling, his solid floor always makes him a good play. Since moving to New England, though, his luck has changed a bit. Sure, he had a booming 24.1-point performance in Week 9 that was totally out of his norm, but other than that he finished his other two games with just 23 and four yards on two receptions each. Those were horrific outings, yet he still saw five and four targets—on par with his season average. In fact, Sanu hasn’t scored double-digit fantasy points since Week 5 against Houston while still a member of the Falcons. Dallas is no slouch on defense, as the Cowboys rank second in points per game allowed to WRs and in the past four weeks were able to limit three of the four receiving corps they faced to under 84 yards. Forget about Sanu hitting his usually high floor this weekend.
Ryan Griffin, NYJ (vs OAK) - START
It is sad to include Ryan Griffin here, because it should read “Chris Herndon”, but this is the world we live in. Herndon is done for good this year after being put on injured reserve. He played 18 snaps on the year, quite an accomplishment. Ryan Griffin has led the Jets tight ends in playing time all season and he’s made the leap lately. While Griffin put up a dud against the Giants in Week 10 (0.8 points) showing his zero-floor, he’s also been able to have finish three of his last four games with 50-plus yards and three combined touchdowns. He topped the 20-point mark in two of those while finishing with 11 in the other one, and he’d be TE2 (under Travis Kelce) if only looking at the past four weeks. That, my friends, is incredible and something to take very seriously when discussing the position given how putrid it’s been all year. Add a good matchup (the Raiders have allowed seven touchdowns to TEs and the fifth-most fantasy points to the position) and this should be a no-brainer decision.
Jacob Hollister, SEA (at PHI) - START
The matchup isn’t the greatest, but no tight end has scored three touchdowns and averaged more fantasy points combined in his last two games. Jacob Hollister is the definition of a hot player right now with back-to-back 20-point games with two and one touchdowns respectively. He did so against totally different defenses, as Tampa’s ranks 31st against the position but San Francisco’s rank second. Hollister can’t enter the game against Philadelphia in better shape—even more coming from Seattle’s bye week—and although the Eagles are giving up just 10 fantasy points to the position this season, four of the last five tight ends they’ve faced reached 38 receiving yards or caught a touchdown. Not a lot, sure, but you can’t ask for much more and you definitely need to hope Hollister keeps up his hot streak of great outings.
Noah Fant, DEN (at BUF) - SIT
Speaking of bad matchups, Noah Fant is facing the worst possible one this weekend. The Bills rank first in the nation in fantasy points per game allowed to tight ends (6.5) and are the only team along with the Vikings to have conceded just one touchdown to the position. The last three TEs to face them have finished with under-30 yards and fewer than six fantasy points. Fant has grown into one of the go-to weapons for new Broncos QB Brandon Allen but we’re still talking about a rookie QB-TE pairing here. That will always be a risky proposition, and Fant’s best performances have all come against average-or-worse defenses against the position, and he truly has just one explosion this season (115 yards and a touchdown against Cleveland, one of his only two 10-plus fantasy points performances on the year). This is a true test for him, so let’s give him the chance to show he belongs and wait another week until we put him in our lineups if he passes it.
Jimmy Graham, GB (at SF) - SIT
Graham was a pleasant surprise in Week 1 and he fooled a lot of us by catching three passes and scoring a touchdown against the Bears in the season opener. Then he put on two consecutive goose eggs, came back with a 6/61/1 performance, had three more middling games, came back again with another 4/65/1 scoring outing, and is currently in a three-game streak of getting fewer than eight fantasy points each game. The only way Graham is a good fantasy play is if he scores. If we remove the six points given for scoring a touchdown from his tallies, he would have topped at 12 points in his best game of the year. And it is not that Graham is a touchdown-scoring machine, so you get the idea. In the rest of his games he’s very benchable, and facing the second-best defense against the position, it would be more than reasonable to leave him out of your team and look for other streaming options with higher upsides.