Thumbs Up of the Week: Lamar Jackson (v OAK)
The 27 rushing attempts that Lamar Jackson had last week isn’t sustainable over an extended period of time—averaging 27.0 attempts per game would break Larry Johnson’s NFL record of 416 carries in a season—but the Ravens are going to do whatever it takes to win with Jackson under center for a playoff race; and based on their reluctance to let the rookie throw last week, they are almost certainly going back to Joe Flacco (hip) when he’s healthy. But for now, Jackson boasts an excellent floor (his 15.7 fantasy points last week came with zero touchdowns and a turnover) and almost unmatched upside if he can connect on or break a big play. The Raiders came to play last week, but don’t be surprised if they are sluggish for an early kickoff on the east coast, especially after a holiday. Jackson is a high-upside QB1.
Thumbs Up: Tom Brady (@ NYJ)
New York has done a nice job against Tom Brady in recent years, including last season when he combined to complete just 50.7% of his passes for 447 yards and a 4:1 touchdown-interception ratio in two matchups (so, basically a regular Monday night for Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes). However, there isn’t a more feared team in the league than the “angry” Patriots, as they are 5-0 this decade after losses of 14 or more points, averaging 38.8 points per game with an overall point differential of +94. If Brady has a full compliment of weapons with a bye week to think about their 34-10 loss in Tennessee, watch out.
Thumbs Up: Russell Wilson (@ CAR)
He isn’t putting up big-time passing numbers every week, but from a real-life perspective, Russell Wilson has been great for the Seahawks and their ground-and-pound attack with 23 touchdowns and just five interceptions through ten games. This week in Carolina, I think Wilson could take matters into his own hands more often (8.1 yards per carry over the past three games against the Panthers), and he is bound to find the end zone eventually as a runner with zero touchdowns so far this year. Wilson is a low-end QB1 option for me.
Thumbs Up: Eli Manning (@ PHI)
Eli Manning disappointed as a “Thumbs Up” against the Eagles earlier this year, but Philadelphia’s secondary has fallen to pieces since then, as they might be forced to rely on 22-year-old Chandon Sullivan, 24-year-old Cre’Von LeBlanc, and 25-year-old De’Vante Bausby at cornerback—a trio that has zero starts between them this season. Plus, Eli is coming off two very efficient performances (both wins), and the Giants could suddenly find themselves just 2.0 games back in the NFC East by next week with a victory. If the Giants can protect Manning, he should provide strong QB2 value.
Others: Andy Dalton (v CLE), Josh Allen (v JAX)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Jameis Winston (v SF)
Yet another quarterback change in Tampa Bay puts Jameis Winston back under center, but while he will almost certainly be the starter for the remainder of the season, I still don’t trust the former No. 1 overall pick in fantasy lineups as a QB1. Through five appearances (three starts), Winston has tossed 11 interceptions, and the 49ers have allowed less than 20 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in each of the past four games. The 30-point potential should be acknowledged, but I’m not relying on Winston with fantasy playoffs potentially on the line.
Thumbs Down: Deshaun Watson (v TEN)
Deshaun Watson had a big day earlier this year against the Titans, but since Will Fuller (knee) went down for the season, Houston has been a completely different—and much less explosive—offense. In the Week 2 matchup, Fuller went for eight receptions, 113 yards, and a score, so in the rematch, Watson is going to be without an elite field-stretcher that he’s shown remarkable chemistry with over the past two years. Also, the game has a higher chance of being a defensive battle if Marcus Mariota (arm) isn’t able to go, and Tennessee is allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to the position.
Thumbs Down: Matthew Stafford (v CHI)
Some people might want to roll with Matthew Stafford to add more flavor to their Thanksgiving, but you would really just be banking on volume against one of the league’s best defenses, which probably isn’t a sound strategy. Two weeks ago in Chicago, the Lions struggled to do much of anything until the fourth quarter of a 34-22 loss, and that was with the offense at full strength. Now, Stafford is basically down to Kenny Golladay as his only proven receiver, and I would think the Bears are going to tighten up their coverage in the fourth quarter at some point down the stretch. Stafford is just a low-upside option in two-quarterback leagues.
Thumbs Down: Marcus Mariota (@ HOU)
Apparently only dealing with a stinger, Marcus Mariota would seem to have enough time to get cleared for Monday night’s game against the Texans. However, fantasy owners will be taking an unnecessary gamble if Mariota’s status isn’t clear when the injury report is released on Saturday, and the arm issue has been a bit mysterious, making an in-game re-aggravation entirely possible. I would rather start Case Keenum, Nick Mullens, or Ryan Tannehill for Week 12.
Others: Derek Carr (@ BAL), Josh Rosen (@ LAC)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Nick Chubb (@ CIN)
Despite only starting four games this year, Nick Chubb is already the RB19 in standard leagues, and since taking over as the starter, his average of 16.8 fantasy points per game would rank him as the No. 7 running back on the season. Of course, everyone who has Chubb should keep him penned into lineups down the stretch, but he should also be a staple in daily fantasy lineups this week as a top-three option against the Bengals, who have allowed the most fantasy points per game to running backs and have been absolutely shredded in recent weeks.
Thumbs Up: Sony Michel (@ NYJ)
New England’s first-round pick is flying a bit under the radar with 15 attempts for 53 scoreless yards since going for 106 yards and two scores in Week 6, but Sony Michel should be healthy out of the bye and ready to contribute as a solid RB1/RB2 the rest of the way. Michel would really benefit from Rob Gronkowski (ankle/back) returning to keep safeties honest down the seam, and the 3-7 Jets saw their run defense collapse a couple weeks ago by allowing 182 yards to the previously dormant Bills. As stated before, this is a bounce-back spot, which hopefully sets up a positive game script for Michel.
Thumbs Up: Josh Adams (v NYG)
The third rookie runner in a row, Josh Adams hasn’t had a breakout performance like Chubb or Michel, but he’s quietly taken control of Philly’s backfield with 23 carries for 161 yards (7.0 YPC) and a touchdown over the past three weeks; at the same time, Wendell Smallwood has rushed just 11 times for 24 yards (2.2 YPC), and Corey Clement has rushed 11 times for 30 yards (2.7 YPC). Barring a change of heart by Doug Pederson, the Notre Dame product should handle at least 12-15 touches against a Giants defense allowing 135.3 rushing yards per game since Week 8. Adams is a top-25 play for me.
Thumbs Up: Tevin Coleman (@ NO)
The Saints are a difficult matchup on Thanksgiving Night, but Tevin Coleman scored against them earlier this year, and he has really played with juice this month (after a bye to rest up), rushing for 6.8 yards per carry against the Redskins and 7.2 yards per carry against the Cowboys. Atlanta would be wise to feed Coleman and allow him to run some downfield routes with their season hanging in the balance, so while he’s ticked down a bit this week, I still have the 25-year-old optimistically ranked as a high-upside RB2.
Others: Gus Edwards (v OAK), Kenyan Drake (@ IND)
Thumbs Down of the Week: LeSean McCoy (v JAX)
LeSean McCoy is coming off a 113-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Jets, but those numbers accounted for a whopping 30% of his rushing production this season, and he still carries an extremely low weekly floor. Jacksonville was stunned last week after blowing a 16-0 lead to the Steelers, but they held James Conner (4.9 standard fantasy points) to his worst performance of the year, and overall, only the Bears, Ravens, and Saints have allowed fewer fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season. McCoy remains nothing more than a decent FLEX option.
Thumbs Down: Dion Lewis (@ HOU)
Averaging 2.9 yards per carry since taking over as the lead ball-carrier head of Derrick Henry (5.0 YPC in November), Dion Lewis could soon find himself on the wrong end of Tennessee’s timeshare if he continues to struggle with efficiency. On Monday night, the Titans will face a Houston front that held Lewis to 14 carries for 42 yards in Week 2, and the Texans have allowed just 64.4 rushing yards per game over the past seven games. Even in PPR leagues, Lewis is better viewed as a FLEX than a low-end RB2.
Thumbs Down: Alex Collins (v OAK)
Gus Edwards made the “Thumbs Up” as an honorable mention after a showcase game for Baltimore’s new-look offense in Week 11, and unfortunately for Alex Collins, that led to a season-low seven carries. The former fifth-round pick didn’t necessarily do anything to lose his job, but the Ravens prefer the no-nonsense style of Edwards to compliment Lamar Jackson’s speed on options and designed keepers, as Collins does a little too much dancing instead of hitting the hole. Unless Joe Flacco returns, it would be surprising if Baltimore went back to Collins as anything more than a change-of-pace runner.
Thumbs Down: James White (@ NYJ)
The situation is a bit different this year because James White has been featured to already set a career-high in rushing attempts, rushing yards, receptions, receiving yards, and total touchdowns, but the Jets have held him to just 35.0 yards per game in five matchups, and White’s 6.8 yards per reception against them is well below his career average of 8.7 yards a pop. Again, if this is a game the Patriots handle, they might not need to give White many looks with favorable draws for Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and Rob Gronkowski.
Others: Doug Martin (@ BAL), Ito Smith (@ NO)
Thumbs Up of the Week: A.J. Green (v CLE)
It sounds like A.J. Green is on track to return this week, and it comes at an ideal time for both the struggling Bengals and fantasy owners looking to make a playoff run. Over the past four matchups against Cleveland, Green has caught 23-of-29 targets for 106.5 yards per game and three touchdowns, and he’s gone for at least 58 yards in every game this season. Only the threat of being a decoy makes Green a low-end WR1 instead of a solid WR1, but fantasy owners shouldn’t hesitate to get him in lineups as a potential difference-maker for an important week.
Thumbs Up: Courtland Sutton (v PIT)
Chunk plays have kept Courtland Sutton afloat for fantasy owners, and that included two receptions of 30+ yards in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s win over the Chargers. This week, I think Denver will have to throw it more than usual against a stout run defense, and I like Sutton—who is averaging 20.0 yards per reception as a rookie—to do some damage on intermediate, in-breaking routes by finding the space in Pittsburgh’s zone coverage. Also, if the Steelers are able to catch fire offensively on the road, this matchup has sneaky shootout potential, and Sutton is due to find the end zone with no scores over the past month.
Thumbs Up: Willie Snead (v OAK)
With lines of 5/54, 7/58, and 5/51 over the past three games, Willie Snead has turned into the most consistent receiver for Baltimore no matter who is under center. The 26-year-old has actually caught at least five passes for 49+ yards in all but two games this season, and with Lamar Jackson set to draw another start, he will probably be the No. 1 option in the passing game because the dual-threat rookie is more comfortable throwing between the numbers. Consider Snead a solid FLEX in PPR leagues.
Thumbs Up: Sterling Shepard (@ PHI)
Sterling Shepard has been very inconsistent through ten games, as he has five performances with 75+ yards and/or a score (12.9 standard fantasy points per game), but has totaled just 165 scoreless receiving yards in his five other outings (3.2 fantasy points per game). A couple of the duds have come in favorable matchups, too, including last week against Tampa Bay and earlier this year against Philadelphia. That said, this weekend sets up nicely for Shepard due to all the injuries in Jim Schwartz’s secondary, and Odell Beckham Jr. probably won’t be having all the fun for New York.
Others: Anthony Miller (@ DET), Nelson Agholor (v NYG)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Allen Robinson (@ DET)
Ranked as a high-upside WR2 for me to start the week, Allen Robinson’s outlook gets downgraded significantly with Chase Daniel replacing Mitchell Trubisky (shoulder) on Thanksgiving. In general, I think Daniel will do a nice job for Matt Nagy’s offense, but the downfield passing game likely won’t be there for Robinson, as while Trubisky has one of the best deep balls in the league, his veteran backup is more comfortable taking what the defense gives him. I still have the Penn State product on the low-end WR2/FLEX radar, but fantasy owners need to temper expectations, especially with Darius Slay healthy for Detroit.
Thumbs Down: Jarvis Landry (@ CIN)
Since spread-the-wealth Baker Mayfield took over for Tyrod Taylor as Cleveland’s starter, Jarvis Landry has averaged just 6.3 standard fantasy points per game after kicking off his Browns tenure with lines of 7/106, 5/69, and 8/103. The Bengals are obviously an attackable matchup, but Landry doesn’t carry the upside or floor that many expected entering 2018, and the offense will continue to revolve around Nick Chubb and the running game. In standard leagues, Landry is just a capped-ceiling FLEX.
Thumbs Down: John Brown (v OAK)
I think the Ravens will challenge a bit more outside the numbers against the Raiders than they did in Lamar Jackson’s first start, but there’s no denying that John Brown has a zero-point floor with the Baltimore’s first-round pick under center, and he’s probably only going to be worth a spot in lineups by breaking loose on an off-script play (which we saw for a 23-yard gain last week) or getting behind the defense. “Smokey” needs Joe Flacco back more than anyone to take advantage of a dream schedule the rest of the way.
Thumbs Down: Tre’Quan Smith (v ATL)
Fantasy owners often overreact to what occurred in the previous week, and that seems to be happening with Tre’Quan Smith after he posted a 10/157/1 line against Philadelphia’s depleted secondary. The rookie is undoubtedly worth picking up for a potential shootout against Atlanta, but it would ideally be as a FLEX option instead of the low-end WR2 that he’s being viewed as, because for all their injuries, Dan Quinn’s defense doesn’t allow downfield passes. Look for Drew Brees to pick the Falcons apart underneath like he did in September’s overtime victory when Michael Thomas (10/129), Alvin Kamara (15/124), and Benjamin Watson (5/71) did almost all the damage.
Others: Marquez Valdes-Scantling (@ MIN), Michael Crabtree (v OAK)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Rob Gronkowski (@ NYJ)
Nearly a month removed from his last appearance (27 days on Sunday), Rob Gronkowski should be healthy and ready to dominate for another late-season surge by New England. The monster tight end didn’t quite look like himself in recent outings, so hopefully the rest will have him back to “normal” against the Jets, who he destroyed for 83 yards and two touchdowns last year in New York. Gronk is the No. 1 play at the position for Week 12.
Thumbs Up: David Njoku (@ CIN)
A new offensive coordinator (Freddie Kitchens) has led to mostly poor results for David Njoku over the past three games with a zero-catch performance followed by lines of 4/53, and 1/18, but the bye should have given Cleveland a chance to self-evaluate and realize the 2017 first-round pick is their most dangerous offensive weapon besides Nick Chubb. Cincinnati has been shredded by tight ends this year (sixth most fantasy points allowed), so Njoku carries enough upside to remain a midrange TE1.
Thumbs Up: Vance McDonald (@ DEN)
The Broncos are just behind the Bengals in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends, and their struggles were on display last week when Antonio Gates went for 80 yards and a score in a throwback effort. Ben Roethlisberger has had recent success throwing it up to the former second-round pick in the red zone, so I think there’s a good chance McDonald extends his touchdown streak to three games this week in Denver.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Evan Engram (@ PHI)
If there’s a place the Eagles are still strong in coverage, it’s against opposing tight ends, which doesn’t bode well for Evan Engram after he was third on the team in snaps played (32%) at the position in Week 11. I think the lack of playing time was partly due to New York nursing a lead, but it’s definitely a concern to be behind Rhett Ellison (75%) and Scott Simonson (34%). And unlike 2017 with basically everyone injured for the Giants, Engram is highly unlikely to approach the ten targets he averaged against Philadelphia as a rookie.
Thumbs Down: Ricky Seals-Jones (@ LAC)
Ricky Seals-Jones has lines of 2/12, 2/12, and 1/5 in three of his past four games, and the only solid performance (5/51) came against the Chiefs, which actually turned out to be the lowest point total for tight ends facing Kansas City all season. RSJ simply can’t be trusted with Josh Rosen under center, and the Chargers will be prepared after last week’s loss to the Broncos.
Thumbs Down: Antonio Gates (v ARI)
The future Hall of Famer was barely hanging onto the fringe of the rankings before last week’s 5/80/1 line, but he’s still not on the TE2 map against the Cardinals, who have been stingy against opposing tight ends. I would consider Gates a touchdown flier in deeper leagues.