Fantasy Football: Matchups to exploit and avoid in Week 12
MATCHUPS TO EXPLOIT
CHARGERS (at Cowboys)
With Dak Prescott (sans Ezekiel Elliott) morphing into a turnover machine — six in his past two games, following a nine-turnover rookie season — and Philip Rivers rediscovering his rapport with Keenan Allen last week, this is a big spot for the Chargers. Both backfield Bolts — Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler — found pay dirt last week to finish as top-20 fantasy backs and draw a Cowboys run ‘D’ that cannot function without Sean Lee (87.7 rushing yard average allowed when Lee starts, 181 when he sits). Rivers has multiple touchdowns in three of his past four games, and Dallas has allowed multiple scores through the air in seven of 10 games, including its past three.
Must start: Philip Rivers, Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen, Chargers D/ST
Solid play: Austin Ekeler, Hunter Henry
RAMS (vs. Saints)
Los Angeles’ upstart offense has been stopped in its tracks by elite defenses, most recently Minnesota. New Orleans, while immensely improved on defense, just played its worst game since Week 2, losing breakout pass rusher Alex Okafor for the season and potentially Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate and No. 1 CB Marshon Lattimore for this game. Cooper Kupp, coming off a performance to forget, is primed for a rebound, and Jared Goff should help him oblige after failing to throw a touchdown vs. the Vikings for just the second time this season. Monitor Lattimore’s status but prepare to roll with Kupp and Sammy Watkins, both needing to pick up injured Robert Woods’ slack, in addition to Todd Gurley.
Must start: Todd Gurley, Robert Woods
Solid play: Cooper Kupp, Sammy Watkins, Jared Goff, Rams D/ST
BRONCOS (at Raiders)
This inclusion may seem curious but our reasoning is twofold: (A) in-season coordinator changes, like the one Denver made this week in firing Mike McCoy and promoting Bill Musgrave, more often than not coaxes an instant, if only temporary upgrade; and (B) the Raiders ‘D’ is hemorrhaging passing touchdowns over the past month (nine combined to Alex Smith, Jay Cutler and Tom Brady). Are we recommending whichever quarterback Musgrave tabs (the guess as of this writing is Paxton Lynch)? No. But we love Demaryius Thomas — who has touchdowns in three consecutive outings — and envision a run game whose second-best 2017 outing came against Oakland untracking with Devontae Booker, who finally out-snapped C.J. Anderson and creates mismatch opportunities vs. susceptible linebackers.
Must start: Demaryius Thomas
Solid play: Emmanuel Sanders, Devontae Booker, C.J. Anderson
PATRIOTS (vs. Dolphins)
We promised not to play the obvious matchups, and New England only fits here because some unlikely suspects suddenly are rising to prominence. Dion Lewis’ second consecutive week with a touchdown — his first as a receiver — included his 10-60 rushing doubling James White’s and Rex Burkhead’s output, in addition to Lewis leading the backfield for the first time as a receiver. And with Chris Hogan (shoulder) still sidelined, the sure-handed and efficient Danny Amendola had his best fantasy day, and his snaps continue to rise.
Must start: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Brandin Cooks, Dion Lewis
Solid play: Danny Amendola, Rex Burkhead
MATCHUPS TO AVOID
Cardinals (vs. Jaguars)
The Texans pass ‘D’ Blaine Gabbert tossed three touchdowns against is to fantasy quarterbacks what the Giants ‘D’ is to tight ends; forgive this Mizzou grad for not immediately jumping back on the former Tiger’s bandwagon. Adrian Peterson probably wishes it was Week 6 or Week 8 again, when he was going off for 150-plus yards and the Jaguars — who had not yet acquired Marcell Dareus then — were letting the Rams and Colts average more than 4.5 yards a pop (2.5 YPC with Dareus). Peterson, following a second consecutive sub-2.0-yard average clunker and three in his past four games, appears to be running on empty. Larry Fitzgerald very well may play forever but there’s nothing else to see here.
Must start: Larry Fitzgerald
Solid play: Cardinals D/ST
Worth a look: Adrian Peterson
Texans (at Ravens)
The Savage-O-Meter tracking Tom Savage’s two-touchdown games in the NFL officially reset for the first time Sunday in just his sixth start! Not as awful as one might’ve guessed. However, D’Onta Foreman’s breakout NFL game was halted abruptly by a torn Achilles, which leaves uninspired Lamar Miller (one 20-plus yard carry out of 162) and Alfred Blue to share the backfield. Meantime, Baltimore’s run ‘D’ has undergone a similar transformation to Jacksonville’s with Dareus since welcoming back behemoth nose guard Brandon Williams (2.9 YPC the past three games). DeAndre Hopkins has proven to be matchup- and quarterback-immune this season but there’s nothing else to see here, either.
Must start: DeAndre Hopkins
Solid play: Lamar Miller
Dolphins (at Patriots)
If only fantasy football awarded points for penalties. Miami, with 37 combined infractions on offense over its past five games, would be a juggernaut. Alas, that isn’t the case, and with Matt Moore likely to start in place of a concussed Jay Cutler, the offense is capped. Jarvis Landry has had big days vs. Bill Belichick defenses (19-211-1 receiving last season) and belongs in lineups. However, Moore generally means less chances for DeVante Parker (14-187-1 in four games with Miami’s QB2 over the past two regular seasons) and an increasing number for Kenny Stills (6-154-1 with Moore last week, seven touchdowns in eight games overall with Moore). But the Patriots have allowed a total of 75 points during their six-game win streak, when only Josh McCown has exceeded 235 yards and one passing touchdown.
Must start: Jarvis Landry
Worth a look: Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Kenyan Drake, Damien Williams
Packers (at Steelers)
Green Bay was shutout by Baltimore for the first time in more than a decade Sunday — three days after Pittsburgh notched four interceptions and five sacks in a game for the first time in nearly three-and-a-half decades. The Brett Hundley-led Packers are averaging 14.25 points over the past month, when Jordy Nelson has been relegated to back of milk carton status (10-92 receiving) and Davante Adams has been their only consistently viable fantasy producer. Meantime, the Steelers’ No. 2 scoring ‘D’ surrenders an average of 65.4 rushing yards in its eight wins, and Pittsburgh is the week’s second-biggest favorite (-14).
Solid play: Davante Adams
Worth a look: Jamaal Williams