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Week 12 Fantasy: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

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Thumbs Up of the Week: C.J. Stroud (v JAX)

Jacksonville has an opportunistic defense that can be stingy in any given week, but Stroud had no problems against them in a 37-17 victory earlier this year—and the numbers are still towards the bottom of the league for the Jaguars in passing yards per game allowed (254.4). The NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year favorite is too hot to take out of lineups with 336+ passing yards in each of the past three weeks, and we have him as our overall QB6 despite all 32 teams being in action.


Thumbs Up: Kyler Murray (v LAR)

Murray has wasted no time re-establishing himself as a clear QB1 option through two weeks, and a big part of that has been rushing production with 33 yards and a score in his season debut followed up by seven carries for 51 yards and a touchdown in Week 11. The Rams have given Murray some problems in the past, but a new system might lead to more success, and the passing attack could explode at some point. Consider the dual-threat signal-caller a midrange QB1 play.


Thumbs Up: Jordan Love (@ DET)

Coming off perhaps his best career performance, Love should have increased confidence for a Thanksgiving showdown versus Detroit, and Green Bay is expected to run the offense through the passing attack with Aaron Jones (knee) out and the Lions being more vulnerable through the air than on the ground. I also think Love might have increased rushing production himself to boost his streaming outlook, and the Packers have thrown it 40+ times in three of the past four games.


Thumbs Up: Dorian Thompson-Robinson (@ DEN)

Thompson-Robinson isn’t much more than a low-end QB2, and the floor will be shaky on the road versus a Denver defense that has played much better in recent games. However, DTR threw it 43 times last week in a slugfest, and those who watched him at UCLA over the past few years might be anticipating him to have a breakout game on the ground at some point. If you’re in a Superflex league or desperate for a dart throw, Thompson-Robinson could be an exciting option.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Russell Wilson (v CLE)

Wilson has continued to make plays when it matters most for the Broncos, and I’d definitely want to invest in him as a rest-of-season option (at least for insurance) at quarterback. For this week, though, he’ll take on the top-ranked pass defense of the Browns—which is allowing NFL-lows in passing yards per game (143.7) and touchdown passes (nine) on the year. Wilson barely sneaks inside the top 20 at the position.


Thumbs Down: Sam Howell (@ DAL)

The amount of passing Washington has done combined with rushing upside makes Howell someone to consider every week, and he’s a borderline top-15 option on Thanksgiving. That said, the downside needs to be considered versus a dominant Dallas defense, and the group will be playing with an edge after losing last year to Howell in the season finale. Overall, I don’t like how things set up for the second-year quarterback, and the Commanders could be flat after a crushing loss to the Giants.


Thumbs Down: Will Levis (v CAR)

Levis came out firing with four touchdowns in his career debut, but he’s since gone for fantasy-point totals of 8.68, 5.96, and 12.52 with Tennessee dropping to 3-8. While the Panthers might be viewed as a matchup to target because they are one of the few teams worse than the Titans this year, they’re allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks and are much better attacked on the ground. Even in very deep leagues, I would avoid Levis.


Thumbs Down: Tua Tagovailoa (@ NYJ)

Tagovailoa didn’t face the Jets in 2022, and it’s possible that Mike McDaniel’s offense is able to put up strong numbers with him under center on Black Friday. But Tua should still be moved out of the top ten at quarterback based on how stout New York is on the backend, as Josh Allen last week is the only passer to reach 20.0 fantasy points against them, and he did it without Stefon Diggs and the wideouts—a strength for Miami—doing much damage.


Running back


Thumbs Up of the Week: Zach Charbonnet (v SF)

The difficult schedule for Seattle over the next few weeks has been brought up as reason to “fade” Charbonnet even with Kenneth Walker III (oblique) set to miss time, but he played nearly every snap last week after the starter went down—totaling 21 touches. In my opinion, the talent of Charbonnet makes him closer to an every-week RB1 than he is an option to consider not starting, so play him despite the 49ers coming to town.


Thumbs Up: De’Von Achane (@ NYJ)

This is a very tricky one after Achane (knee) burnt fantasy owners in his return with just two touches before leaving the game, but the upside will make him a top-15 option if he is active—and the rookie wanted to go back into the game last week and intends to suit up against the Jets. If Achane does play, New York is allowing the third-most rushing yards per game in the league (137.6), and they just allowed Buffalo to attack them with their backs through the air.


Thumbs Up: Jerome Ford (@ DEN)

For all the improvements made by Denver since getting thrashed by the aforementioned De’Von Achane and Miami, they are still weak versus the run—allowing NFL-highs in rushing yards per game (160.0) and yards per carry (5.5) while often struggling to tackle on the second level. Ford was saved by a questionable overturned touchdown call last week with 12 carries for just 31 yards on the day, but running room should be easier to come by on Sunday to make him a low-end RB2/FLEX with upside.


Thumbs Up: Keaton Mitchell (@ LAC)

Mitchell is in a similar spot to Ford as a big-play threat in a great matchup, and he was tripped up a couple of times last Thursday night to prevent a big performance. The expectations do need to get pulled back some with the rookie being hyped like crazy before Week 11, but perhaps the quiet night makes him someone to at least target for DFS lineups with others disappointed by eight carries for 33 yards in his last outing.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Najee Harris (@ CIN)

Harris had been coming on in back-to-back games with former offensive coordinator Matt Canada on the sidelines, but he was quiet with Jaylen Warren going off last week, and now there is a lot of uncertainty about the backfield split with Canada getting fired. The possibility of Warren taking over as the clear lead back and Harris being limited to 40 or fewer rushing yards in three-of-four career matchups against Cincinnati makes him a FLEX rather than an RB2 option.


Thumbs Down: Alexander Mattison (v CHI)

Chicago’s defense remains atop the league in yards per carry allowed (3.4) despite a late run by Detroit last week, and Mattison didn’t find much room on the ground against them back in Week 6 by rushing 18 times for 44 scoreless yards. With zero rushing touchdowns on the year and a lost fumble in the close loss to Denver, Mattison should be downgraded to the low-end RB3 ranks, and the gap between him and Ty Chandler (14 touches for 110 total yards last Sunday night) seems to be narrowing.


Thumbs Down: James Cook (@ PHI)

The first game for Cook under new offensive coordinator Joe Brady was very encouraging, as he rushed 17 times for 73 yards and caught three passes for 29 yards and a touchdown in the 32-6 victory over the Jets. I would expect Buffalo to pivot more towards the wideouts this week, though, as Philadelphia has the league’s No. 1 run defense, and Cook is still in a committee with Latavius Murray and Ty Johnson combining for 16 touches last week. I’d view the second-year back as a volatile low-end RB2/FLEX option on the road.


Thumbs Down: Javonte Williams (v CLE)

Williams only handling 13 touches against the Vikings—after combining for 55 touches in the previous two games—had more to do with the matchup than anything else, and it’s an excellent sign for his outlook that Jaleel McLaughlin and Samaje Perine only had one carry each. Unfortunately for those relying on RB1 production, Williams gets another tough draw on Sunday versus the Browns, so he should in the RB20-RB25 range for Week 12.


Wide receiver


Thumbs Up of the Week: Gabe Davis (@ PHI)

Davis did not receive a target last week, and being held without a catch in two of the past three weeks might make him someone most fantasy owners are keeping on the bench. But as just alluded to, the Bills will be more aggressive attacking specific matchups under Joe Brady, and Davis is primed for an explosion with the struggles of Philadelphia on the backend in 2023. Stefon Diggs can also go off and is our overall WR2 this week, but Davis should draw single coverage and makes the top 20.


Thumbs Up: Zay Flowers (@ LAC)

Although he has cooled off recently, Flowers was robbed of a touchdown last week, and defensive struggles for Los Angeles should make the rookie a tremendous play on Sunday night. In addition to the matchup, I get the feeling Baltimore will want to get Flowers a score to make up for last week, and also to show the Chargers made a mistake in passing on him in the 2023 NFL Draft. I’d be targeting the rookie as a buy-low option if your trade deadline hasn’t passed.


Thumbs Up: Romeo Doubs (@ DET)

The rotation at wide receiver hadn’t impacted Doubs until last week when he dropped to 68% of the snaps played, but he still caught the game-winning touchdown (his seventh of the season) and now heads into a matchup versus a Detroit defense he had a season-best nine receptions and 95 yards against in Week 4. The absences of Aaron Jones and Luke Musgrave (abdomen) should put more on the wideouts on Thanksgiving, and Doubs continues to be undervalued in redraft leagues.


Thumbs Up: Rashee Rice (@ LV)

An invisible ceiling on Rice’s targets and playing time is difficult to explain with the rookie taking advantage of all of his opportunities and the wideouts as a whole struggling for Kansas City, but I’m still holding out hope for him to be unleashed. This week, Rice can make plays versus the Las Vegas cornerbacks after flashing a couple of times on Monday night, and the floor is at least solid with 6.2 fantasy points in every game since Week 5.


Others: Christian Kirk (@ HOU), Michael Gallup (v WAS)


Thumbs Down of the Week: Amari Cooper (@ DEN)

The matchups weren’t easy against Baltimore and Pittsburgh, but Cooper has combined to catch five-of-14 targets for 50 scoreless yards in two starts by Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and his draw won’t get any easier on Sunday versus Patrick Surtain II. General volatility (especially later in the season) is always a part of Cooper’s game, so with cold temperatures in the forecast and Cleveland unlikely to be too aggressive throwing outside the numbers, I’d look elsewhere if possible.


Thumbs Down: Terry McLaurin (@ DAL)

Sam Howell saying this week that he needs to take what the defense gives him when asked about McLaurin and Jahan Dotson not being involved isn’t what you want to hear as a fantasy owner, and—similar to the Browns—I’m not sure how much Dallas will be tested with Stephon Gilmore and DaRon Bland on the perimeter. McLaurin had 74 yards and a score with Howell under center last year in the season finale, but he was held to yardage totals of zero, 40, and 15 in the previous three meetings, so the floor makes him a FLEX on Thanksgiving.


Thumbs Down: Jerry Jeudy (v CLE)

Jeudy is coming off one of his best games of the year with five receptions for 58 yards, but he’s yet to see more than seven targets in a game, and Denver won’t suddenly start chucking the ball around for a matchup against the NFL’s top pass defense. With the play of Courtland Sutton making him the No. 1 target for Russell Wilson and Sean Payton wanting to get Marvin Mims Jr. more involved, Jeudy doesn’t offer a ton of excitement in challenging matchups like the one he gets this weekend.


Thumbs Down: Christian Watson (@ DET)

Watson caught a touchdown last week and a touchdown in the first game versus Detroit, but he’s been held below 40 yards in six-of-seven appearances this season, and the play of rookies Jayden Reed and Dontayvion Wicks—not to mention Romeo Doubs—has led to them being more involved at his expense. On the year, Watson has only caught 16-of-37 targets, it’ll probably take the downfield connection with Jordan Love clicking for him to pay dividends.


Others: Tyler Lockett (v SEA), Jahan Dotson (@ DAL)


Tight end


Thumbs Up of the Week: David Njoku (@ DEN)

He—by his own admission—didn’t have the best game, but Njoku saw 15 targets last week in the win over Pittsburgh, and Kevin Stefanski has made him more of a priority as Cleveland has rotated quarterbacks with a season-long pace of 88/921/7 over the past five games. Now taking on a Denver defense allowing the most fantasy points to the position, Njoku is a top-five option for Week 12.


Thumbs Up: Trey McBride (v LAR)

McBride is another tight end with elite usage in recent weeks, and the past two home games in particular have been terrific with lines of 10/95/1 and 8/131. The first matchup against the Rams resulted in four receptions (on five targets) for 62 yards for the second-year pass-catcher, so we’ll see if he can have a similar outing—and maybe more upside with Kyler Murray under center.


Thumbs Up: Isaiah Likely (@ LAC)

Likely has been quiet this season with Baltimore leaning more on the wide receivers, and the absence of Mark Andrews (ankle) doesn’t necessarily lock him into the TE1 ranks because of the new offensive system. For this week, though, Likely is a top-12 option against a Los Angeles defense that has been shredded by tight ends recently, including at least 60 yards allowed in each of the past five games.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Kyle Pitts (v NO)

New Orleans hasn’t been as good defending the position this year compared to their usual standard, and Pitts will ideally be more of a factor coming out of the bye with Desmond Ridder getting a chance to view things from the sideline for a few games. However, he was limited to two receptions (on seven targets) for 19 scoreless yards in the lone meeting last season, and it’s been over a month since Pitts has seen more than five targets in a game. The talent is the only thing keeping him as a fringe TE1 play.


Thumbs Down: Tucker Kraft (@ DET)

Kraft was able to bring in both of his targets for 32 yards last week, and while the rookie will see an increased role with Luke Musgrave on injured reserve, Green Bay’s wide receivers will be more of the focus. That’s especially true with Kraft being talked up for his blocking more than anything else by head coach Matt LaFleur this week, and you might need a score to consider him a Week 12 “hit.”


Thumbs Down: Noah Fant (v SF)

Fant has become almost a complete afterthought for Seattle despite strong play early in the year, as he’s combined to catch three passes for ten scoreless yards over the past three games, and he hasn’t caught more than two passes in a game since September. Keep him on the waiver wire in redraft leagues and hope for a change in scenery for the former first-rounder—who is still young having turned 26 a couple of days ago—in 2024.