Thumbs Up of the Week: Ben Roethlisberger (v GB)
Last week, I had Roethlisberger as a top-five play and thought his first 3+ touchdown game of the season would be coming against the Titans, and he threw for 299 yards and four scores in a convincing win. Big Ben could be in for a repeat performance in Week 12, as he stays at home in another primetime spot against Green Bay. I have him as a high-to-mid QB1 again.
Thumbs Up: Jared Goff (v NO)
Goff was held without a touchdown pass in last week’s 24-7 loss to the Vikings, but there were plays left on the field due to drops and a key turnover, and Minnesota might have the NFL’s best secondary. Despite not having Robert Woods (shoulder) this week against the Saints, I like Goff to bounce back with a big game. New Orleans has improved drastically on defense, but it should be noted that their schedule hasn’t been very difficult. Plus, this could turn into a shootout with Drew Brees on the other side of the field.
Thumbs Up: Marcus Mariota (@ IND)
Mariota is coming off the worst game of the season in the midst of the worst season of his career, but now is a good time to trade for or pick him up. The third-year quarterback has a nice matchup with Indianapolis on Sunday, and he’s too good of a player to not get hot down the stretch and make people forget about his 8:10 touchdown-interception ratio thus far. Mariota is a low-end QB1 for me.
Thumbs Up: Philip Rivers (@ DAL)
All you really need to know here is that Los Angeles is breaking out the powder-blue jerseys on Thanksgiving against the Cowboys. Philip Rivers is looking to improve to 3-0 against Dallas, and in their most recent meeting, he completed 35-of-42 passes for 401 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. That was four years ago, but Rivers has a bunch of weapons that will give the banged-up defense plenty of problems. He’s a borderline QB1 option.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Derek Carr (v DEN)
If you look at the pass-defense statistics for Denver, there is no doubt that GM John Elway was correct in calling the team “soft,” as they have allowed 22 touchdown passes and only have five interceptions through 10 games. That’s actually hard to believe, especially because the Broncos allowed 13 touchdown passes all year in 2016. All that said, they have too many good players to not take the criticism in stride and play for pride on Sunday. Derek Carr is averaging just 177 yards per game against his division rival, and he could see a fired-up unit in Week 12.
Thumbs Down: Alex Smith (v BUF)
Should fantasy owners really consider benching Smith, a top-five fantasy quarterback with an 18:3 touchdown-interception ratio? You want to stick with the guys that got you there for the most part, but not if it will cost you a fantasy championship, and the early-season magic seems to be gone for Smith and Kansas City. While the Bills have fallen off a cliff defensively, I have Smith as a high-end QB2 at home, as he’s yet to throw for multiple scores in Arrowhead this season.
Thumbs Down: Dak Prescott (v LAC)
It’s rare to see two top-end fantasy options fall off so quickly, but Dak Prescott owners are basically in the same boat as Alex Smith owners. The potential return of left tackle Tyron Smith would be a huge boost to Prescott, but I don’t like how his playmakers stack up against Los Angeles. If Casey Hayward erases Dez Bryant, it’ll be up to the inconsistent Terrance Williams, 35-year-old Jason Witten, and 19.5-yards-per-game Cole Beasley to make plays. I think you’d need significant rushing production to feel good about having started Dak.
Thumbs Down: Matthew Stafford (v MIN)
Matthew Stafford has won three in a row and is 5-2 in his career against Mike Zimmer, but Detroit has used a conservative game plan against Minnesota over the past three-and-a-half years. Stafford is averaging 220 passing yards and 1.28 passing touchdowns per game in seven meetings, including 209 yards, zero touchdowns, and zero interceptions in Week 4 of this season. I wouldn’t count on more than 15 or so fantasy points for Stafford, so you should have a better option with no teams on a bye.
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Thumbs Up of the Week: Latavius Murray (@ DET)
A baseless narrative by fantasy “experts” about Murray’s abilities as an NFL player are still causing him to be underrated by much of the fantasy community, as Latavius is started in less than 50% of ESPN leagues and is available in 25% of them. Minnesota’s free-agent acquisition scored twice in Sunday’s win over the Rams, and he’s carried it 32 times for 163 yards and three touchdowns since the Week 9 bye, as he was able to get closer to 100% health after offseason ankle surgery. Facing a Detroit team on a short week that’s allowed 313 yards on 50 attempts (6.3 YPC) over the past two games, Murray could be in for a nice Thanksgiving. Start him as an RB1/RB2.
Thumbs Up: Samaje Perine (v NYG)
Washington selected Perine in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, and I thought and still think they got a steal there in a guy that could have been a Day 2 pick. The Oklahoma product had the best game of his rookie year in last week’s loss to the Saints, as he rushed 23 times for 117 yards and a touchdown. With Chris Thompson going down with a broken leg, Perine could have a monster workload over the final six weeks of the season. He should be picked in all formats and is a quality RB2 play in standard leagues on Thanksgiving night.
Thumbs Up: Alfred Morris (v LAC)
He’s yet to find the end zone this year, but Alfred Morris is averaging an impressive 6.2 yards per carry, and he’s turned 28 touches into 144 yards since replacing the suspended Ezekiel Elliott as the starter for Dallas. The Cowboys need to feed Morris and keep Philip Rivers off the field on Thursday afternoon to avoid falling to 5-6. He’s going to score soon enough after Elliott did five times in the three games before his suspension kicked in.
Thumbs Up: Devontae Booker (@ OAK)
I’ve discussed Booker a lot of recent weeks, and the Broncos finally gave him a big workload last Sunday with 19 touches. The second-year back could be featured through the end of the year for a 3-7 team, and that starts this week against the Raiders, who will have a new defensive coordinator after Ken Norton Jr. was fired. Oakland has been beaten both on the ground and through the air by running backs, and Booker excels in both areas. He’s a solid FLEX.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Adrian Peterson (v JAC)
Things were looking good for Peterson after a 37-carry, 159-yard performance in Week 9, but he hasn’t been able to overcome stacked boxes behind a weak offensive line since then. The Jaguars have gotten a lot better when it comes to stopping the run after acquiring defensive tackle Marcell Dareus at the trade deadline, and it could be another long day for “All Day” in Week 12.
Thumbs Down: Carlos Hyde (v SEA)
Carlos Hyde has had more success against the Seahawks than anyone else has over the past few years, as he’s rushed for 5.9 yards per carry in five games, including 100-yard efforts in each of the past two meetings. In Week 2, he rushed 15 times for 124 yards in Seattle, but he’s just a midrange RB2 for the rematch. Despite losing key pieces in the secondary, the run defense has stiffened up for the Seahawks, as they’ve allowed just 391 yards on 147 attempts (2.7 YPC) since October. Perhaps Hyde will be their kryptonite, but he’s not an RB1 for me.
Thumbs Down: Lamar Miller (@ BAL)
Miller handled a season-high 22 carries and 26 touches in last week’s win over Arizona, but the matchup is a lot tougher on Monday night in Baltimore. After a slow start to the season, the Ravens have allowed just 146 rushing yards on 46 attempts over the past three weeks, and their loaded defense is fresh off a road shutout. I don’t see a big primetime game coming for Miller.
Thumbs Down: Seahawks running backs (@ SF)
As Jon Gruden said on Monday Night Football, the Seahawks have seemingly been through 15 running backs over the past two seasons. I still think they should just commit to Thomas Rawls and have him carry the load, but that seems unlikely after he was a healthy scratch in Week 11, and it’s really anyone’s guess as to who (if anyone) might take control of the backfield. I don’t think any of Rawls, Eddie Lacy, or J.D. McKissic need to be rostered.
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Thumbs Up of the Week: Adam Thielen (@ DET)
I would think anyone who has Thielen at this point is starting him, but he needs to be considered a WR1 in all formats with lines of 5/98/1, 8/166/1, and 6/123/1 over his past three games. The 27-year-old trails only Antonio Brown in receiving yards this season, and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has done a tremendous job getting the ball in his hands in a variety of ways. With Darius Slay expected to mostly cover Stefon Diggs on the perimeter, Thielen should eat against Detroit on Thanksgiving.
Thumbs Up: Sammy Watkins (v NO)
I’ve been all in on Sammy Watkins this year, and a big reason for that is his playoff schedule, as the Rams will face the Eagles, Seahawks, Titans, and 49ers. Robert Woods has been the top fantasy and real-life option in Sean McVay’s offense, but he is going to miss some time with a shoulder injury, which should open up looks for Watkins, who has been running a lot of deeper routes but has the ability to play underneath, too. Outside of a Week 13 matchup with Patrick Peterson, I like him as a high-upside WR2 over the final six weeks of the season.
Thumbs Up: Josh Doctson (v NYG)
There wouldn’t be a better time for Josh Doctson to put it all together than on Thanksgiving night in front of a national audience, as he will look to build on his career-best, 81-yard performance against the Saints last week. The 2016 first-round pick should see a lot of Janoris Jenkins, but he has the size (6’4”) to take advantage of the 5’10” corner, and Kirk Cousins should have more trust than ever in the 24-year-old. Doctson is a solid FLEX.
Thumbs Up: Jeremy Maclin (v HOU)
Jeremy Maclin is a really good target for those needing help at wide receiver down the stretch for a few reasons. First of all, he and Joe Flacco continue to build chemistry with a combined 12 connections over the past two weeks. Also, the schedule shakes out favorably, including on Monday night against Jonathan Joseph and the Texans. I think Baltimore will try to get their best receiver going as they look towards a playoff run.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Golden Tate (v MIN)
I’ve discussed Matthew Stafford’s play against Minnesota already, and it shouldn’t be surprising that Goldne Tate’s numbers take a hit against them, too. Tate is averaging just over 50 yards per game in seven matchups with Mike Zimmer’s defense, including earlier this year when he caught three passes for 29 yards. Even though he won’t see much or any of Xavier Rhodes, Detroit’s slot receiver will have to contend with emerging slot corner Mackensie Alexander and savvy veteran Terrance Newman inside.
Thumbs Down: Demaryius Thomas (@ OAK)
Typically ranked as a borderline WR1 option for me, Demaryius Thomas gets downgraded to low-end WR2 status against the Raiders. Oakland held him to one reception for 11 yards in their Week 4 matchup, and the bigger cornerbacks could give DT some problems again. Also, Paxton Lynch replacing Brock Osweiler as the starter will likely be a bad thing for Thomas, as he scored in all three of Osweiler’s starts this season, while Lynch is probably going to be rusty and unpolished in his first start of the year.
Thumbs Down: Dez Bryant (v LAC)
Dez joins Dak as a “Thumbs Down” on Thanksgiving, because as I said, Casey Hayward will likely shadow Bryant and makes things difficult for him. In two career matchups (when Hayward was with the Packers), Bryant has been held to 1/9 and 3/38 lines against the cornerback. I would be very surprised if Prescott gets on the same page as his top receiver when the Chargers come to town.
Thumbs Down: T.Y. Hilton (v TEN)
We’ve seen teams draft a player simply to stop a player from a team in their division, and it’s very possible the Titans had T.Y. Hilton in mind when they targeted cornerback Adoree’ Jackson in April’s draft. The rookie held Hilton to just 19 yards in their October meeting, and it helped Tennessee top Indy for the first time since Hilton was drafted in 2012. Andrew Luck being out also helped, but as everyone knows, he won’t be out there on Sunday either. T.Y. is a low-floor, high-upside play.
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Thumbs Up of the Week: Vernon Davis (v NYG)
Jordan Reed (hamstring) has already been ruled out for the final course on Thanksgiving, so Vernon Davis is in a blowup spot against the Giants. New York has allowed 10 touchdowns to the tight-end position this year, and they just let Travis Kelce catch eight passes for 109 yards against them. Kirk Cousins should look to Davis more with Chris Thompson (leg) also out.
Thumbs Up: Greg Olsen (@ NYJ)
Still available in over 25% of ESPN leagues, Greg Olsen should be owned everywhere as a rock-solid TE1 for the end of the season. Olsen isn’t yet a top-five option for me, but fantasy owners don’t need to waste any time getting him in lineups with a good matchup and so much uncertainty at the position.
Thumbs Up: Hunter Henry (@ DAL)
Speaking of uncertainty, Hunter Henry might lead the team in yards or he might not be targeted. Over the past three weeks, he’s averaging just one fantasy point per game, but in a four-game span before that, he averaged 8.25 fantasy points. Fantasy owners might as well take the plunge in an average matchup and hope that LA gets the talented 22-year-old involved as they look to make a move in the AFC. And again, they’re wearing the powder-blue jerseys.
Thumbs Up: Tyler Kroft (v CLE)
If you can’t get a tight end facing the Giants, a tight end facing the Browns is the next best thing, and Tyler Kroft is evidence of that. In Week 4 against Cleveland, Kroft had the game of his career with six receptions for 68 yards and two touchdowns. I like the Rutgers product as a streaming option.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Cameron Brate (@ ATL)
Chemistry between a quarterback and receiver is often overlooked, but Cameron Brate’s fantasy owners would be wise not to do that. Including the Saints game where Jameis Winston didn’t play the second half, Brate has totaled just three receptions for 31 yards over the past three weeks with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. He should at least stay out of lineups until Winston returns, and I think it’s safe to drop him.
Thumbs Down: Austin Seferian-Jenkins (v CAR)
Seferian-Jenkins went for a season-high 67 yards against his former team before the bye week, but he hasn’t scored in over a month, and the Panthers are tough on opposing tight ends. ASJ is still a decent low-end TE1 in PPR leagues, but he’s barely a top-15 option in standard leagues for me.
Thumbs Down: Austin Hooper (v TB)
Held to two receptions for negative-one yard in Week 11 against the Seahawks, Austin Hooper isn’t a recommended fantasy play on Sunday. Tampa Bay has done a good job against opposing tight ends this year, and Hooper still hasn’t surpassed 50 yards since the season opener.
Thumbs Down: Martellus Bennett (v MIA)
Nope. I’d rather play Dwayne Allen.
For defense and kicker advice—and all your start/sit decisions—check out our full Week 12 rankings.