NFL Week 12 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em
It is Week 12, the holidays and fantasy crunch time are upon us and the byes are completely behind us. We break down all the matchups in our Start 'Em, Sit 'Em.
• WR Andre Johnson, K Neil Rackers, D/ST Texans
We cannot be sure how Matt Leinart is going to fair in his first start, but we should all be sure to play Johnson in his return from a hamstring issue. Arian Foster is an obvious must-start along with the Texans D/ST and Rackers in this matchup. It should be the running game, field goals and defense for the Texans with Matt Schaub out.
• RB Maurice Jones-Drew
The Texans are fourth-best in fantasy against RBs, but if you have MJD, you know you never sit him in any matchup. You just reduce expectations. He is the only thing the Jags have going for them, so he will get his 80 yards even in blowouts -- no, especially in blowouts. That might be the easiest time for MJD to run the ball.
• RB Ben Tate, TE Owen Daniels, WR Kevin Walter, WR Jacoby Jones, QB Leinart
The Jags are a top-10 team in fantasy against RBs, so consider Tate a less-intriguing play this go-round. It will be a Foster show. The secondary Texans targets are questionable options, too, with the uncertainty surrounding Leinart. If you need to use one of them, it should be Daniels. Limited QBs tend to focus their targets to the backs and tight ends.
• QB Blaine Gabbert, WR Mike Thomas, WR Jason Hill, TE Marcedes Lewis, D/ST Jaguars, K Josh Scobee
These are all pretty obvious sits. With no more bye weeks, Lewis is really the only one worth owning. Lewis showed improvement last week, but the Texans are the third-best team in fantasy against TEs. Stash Lewis for a week to potentially use him down the stretch.
• RB DeAngelo Williams, RB Jonathan Stewart, QB Cam Newton, D/ST Panthers, K Olindo Mare
The Colts are third-worst in fantasy against RBs, so this is about as close to a "start all" game as the Panthers get. Williams and Stewart both look viable, finally. Newton and Steve Smith should remain active, and the Panthers face the eighth-most forgiving team in fantasy against opposing D/STs. The Colts still have huge question marks at QB.
• WR Pierre Garcon, WR Reggie Wayne
The uncertainty at QB makes this duo a bit worrisome, but they are better than most sketchy third-receivers on other teams. Perhaps Dan Orlovsky can rejuvenate the Colts offense that was left stagnant by Curtis Painter. Austin Collie might be a sleeper if Orlovsky starts, because backup QBs who become starters love the receiver they tend to get accustomed to on the scout team.
• TE Greg Olsen, TE Jeremy Shockey
It tends to be teams with good TEs -- Dallas Clark used to be one -- are good at stopping opposing TEs. The Colts are top 10 in fantasy against them and the Panthers have featured the TE less and less in their offense. These two are no longer good plays in fantasy, particularly with no bye-week issues causing problems with your other TE options.
• RB Joseph Addai, RB Donald Brown, RB Delone Carter
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• RB Cedric Benson, QB Andy Dalton, WR Jerome Simpson, TE Jermaine Gresham, K Mike Nugent, D/ST Bengals
This is ostensibly a "start all" game for the Bengals. If A.J. Green is a go, start him, too. The Bengals made it through their buzz-saw against the elite of the division -- two of the best defenses in the NFL -- so facing the Browns shouldn't pose as much of a challenge. It will be a lot of running for Benson against a defense that is in the bottom-10 of fantasy against RBs. The Browns are No. 1 in fantasy against QBs and WRs -- surprisingly -- but mostly because teams are running out the clock from the start of the game on them. Dalton has earned our trust and Simpson is a great play if Green doesn't go. Gresham is a good play, regardless of Green's status.
• RB Chris Ogbonnaya, QB Colt McCoy, WR Greg Little, WR Josh Cribbs, TE Ben Watson, D/ST Browns
The Bengals still have a top defense, despite their back-to-back losses to the Steelers and Ravens. They are going to slow the running game and make McCoy beat them. He won't. This is a "sit all" game for the Browns. You probably should only own Ogbonnaya in the non-bye season and you shouldn't play him in an unfavorable matchup like this one.
• WR Percy Harvin
Christian Ponder hasn't been great, but he has at least made Harvin viable in fantasy again. He is the only thing Ponder is going to have to work with in this one.
• QB Matt Ryan, WR Roddy White, D/ST Falcons, K Matt Bryant
This is a "start all" game for the Falcons. Julio Jones should start if he plays, and Harry Douglas is viable if Jones is out. Michael Turner is an obvious must-start and his backup Jason Snelling is a sleeper, too, because he could get some cheap goal-line scores here. Consider the Falcons defense a great one-week play against a rookie QB.
• RB Adrian Peterson, RB Toby Gerhart
Even if Peterson was 100 percent, he would be a questionable play against a scorching hot Falcons run defense that is third in fantasy against RBs. Peterson has no real reason to push it right now, so expect him to sit for Gerhart. Gerhart is a sleeper, but the matchup is a bad one for him to do much.
• RB Shonn Greene, RB Joe McKnight, WR Santonio Holmes, WR Plaxico Burress, D/ST Jets
This is a "start all" game for the Jets -- although it is doubtful you need to trust the erratic Mark Sanchez right now. Trust him enough to start his primary outside receivers. Also, expect the Jets to pound the ball at the Bills, who are seventh-worst in fantasy against RBs. With the sinking of the Bills, the Jets defense is a great play here. It is going to have to finally be smashmouth football for this team. Sanchez has proved incapable of playing any other way.
• RB Fred Jackson, WR Stevie Johnson, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
This is a "sit all" game for the Bills in the truest sense. Jackson is banged up, and will reportedly sit out. The Jets still can load up on the run with anyone in the NFL -- even if they are middle of the pack against RBs in fantasy. It is a bad week to use any Bills player. If the Dolphins can nearly blank them, the win-thirsty Jets surely can.
• RB LeGarrette Blount, QB Josh Freeman
We learned just how important Blount is for us. He handled an elite run defense in a big week last Sunday, so facing a bottom-10 team in fantasy against RBs makes him a must-start. The Bucs receivers woke up in a great matchup against the Packers, so Freeman just might have something going down again the field. We doubt you need him to start, but he is capable of helping you again this week. Kellen Winslow and Mike Williams are sleepers, too, if you need them.
• RB Chris Johnson
The Bucs are the second-worst team in fantasy against RBs, so you have to go back to the frustrating Johnson. At least now we know he has it in him for a big game. His schedule from here on out looks favorable for helping us to fantasy titles. As for the WRs and QBs for the Titans, the uncertainty makes them unusable. Jake Locker looked good in relief of Matt Hasselbeck, but we cannot be sure about them at this point. Nate Washington is a decent play, if you need a receiver.
• D/ST Buccaneers, D/ST Titans
You might look at this game for these teams and deem it favorable as a one-week defense fill-in, but both of these teams are in the top 10 in fantasy against opposing defenses. They just focus on limiting sacks and QB mistakes.
• RB Beanie Wells, D/ST Cardinals, K Jay Feely
The Cardinals have a mess at QB, but it should be a Wells day here. The Rams are sixth-worst in fantasy against RBs, although they have improved since the Cowboys shredded them. Wells should be closer to his first-half form, no matter who is under center. As for the Cardinals defense, it is a sleeper against a Rams team that is the worst in fantasy against opposing D/STs. Early Doucet is a sleeper start behind Larry Fitzgerald, if you need a WR. The Rams are fourth-worst in fantasy against WRs.
• RB Steven Jackson, WR Brandon Lloyd
This is about whol we can view as trustworthy in fantasy for the Rams. They have been unable to get anything consistent going with Sam Bradford in Josh McDaniels' offense. Lloyd and Jackson have been consistently good and Cardinals haven't been great against RBs or WRs.
• QB John Skelton, QB Kevin Kolb, QB Bradford
Skelton will remain the starter if Kolb cannot go, but you have to expect inconsistency. Bradford has played like complete junk.
• RB Marion Barber, D/ST Bears
With no Jay Cutler (thumb), the Bears are going running and defense. They are going to use Caleb Hanie as a game-manager. Barber is going to be used heavily behind the must-start Matt Forte, and the Raiders are fourth-worst in fantasy against RBs. Barber, it might surprise you, has scored a touchdown in five of the past seven games, too. He is going to be used at the goal-line at least. The Bears D/ST is a solid option, even if you like the Raiders under the new QB.
• RB Michael Bush, QB Carson Palmer, K Sebastian Janikowski
The Bears are in the top 10 of fantasy against RBs, but the running game is too important to the Raiders to abandon it. Bush will remain the feature back with Darren McFadden out. Palmer, while we have no clue which receiver will be his primary target, is facing the eighth-worst team in fantasy against QBs.
• WR Earl Bennett, WR Roy Williams, WR Johnny Knox, WR Devin Hester, WR Denarius Moore, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh
This is a motley crew of receivers now. It was hard to make sense of the Bears receivers before Bennett returned from injury and now with Hanie under center, it should be even worse. The Raiders have already proven to be a sketchy group as well. Using any of these guys is a crapshoot, literally.
• TE Fred Davis, WR Jabar Gaffney
Rex Grossman might not be a worldbeater, but he is capable enough to help keep these two productive in fantasy. The Redskins don't figure to be getting much of anything done on the ground, so Grossman figures to be leaned on heavily. Davis and Gaffney are solid starts.
• RB Marshawn Lynch, WR Sidney Rice
How far has Lynch come? He probably should be considered a must-start now. Lynch has a scoring streak going and, while the Redskins are bad at stopping the run, the Seahawks put all their effort into establishing it with Lynch. Rice is also a pretty steady play, regardless of the play of the Seahawks QB.
• RB Ryan Torain, RB Roy Helu, D/ST Redskins, K Graham Gano
The Seahawks are a top-five team in fantasy against RBs and the Redskins continue to befuddle us with their time-share in the backfield. Helu is a decent play in PPR formats, but otherwise these guys should be avoided. The Seahawks are a bottom-five team in fantasy against opposing D/STs, but you should have a better defense available to you than the Redskins.
• QB Tavaris Jackson
Jackson might have convinced the Seahawks to keep him the starter over Charlie Whitehurst, but he isn't an option in fantasy because of his inconsistency. The Seahawks D/ST is a sleeper with the 12th man and the pitiful Redskins in town.
• QB Tim Tebow, RB Willis McGahee, K Matt Prater
The Chargers defense hasn't been good for weeks, so consider Tebow and McGahee must-starts here. The Broncos' receivers qualify as sleepers, but you never know when the Broncos might go with their high-school form of the read-option offense, never throwing the ball. Tebow will be productive on the ground, even if he has nothing to work with through the air.
• QB Philip Rivers, RB Ryan Mathews, RB Mike Tolbert, WR Vincent Jackson, TE Antonio Gates, D/ST Chargers, K Nick Novak
The make-or-break nature of this game makes it a "start all" for your Chargers. Rivers should be his best yet against a Broncos defense that is fourth-worst against QBs and sixth-worst against WRs. Vincent Brown is a decent sleeper in deeper leagues, too, if Malcom Floyd remains out. The Chargers defense has been pretty worthless, but the Broncos are a limited offense with Tebow under center and they are ninth-worst in fantasy against opposing D/STs.
• D/ST Broncos
There really isn't a good reason to sit anyone you need in this game, but this is one option that looks appealing but shouldn't be. The Chargers are fourth-worst in fantasy against opposing D/STs, mostly because of the mistakes by Rivers, and the Broncos have been great of late. You still should not trust them against a potentially elite offense like the Chargers. The make-or-break nature of this matchup makes the Broncos dangerous to use against a Rivers who could go off for five TDs.
• WR Wes Welker, WR Deion Branch
The Eagles defense turned around its season in one fine performance against the Giants. The secondary is playing much better, but you still should not sit Welker coming off his worst week, or even Branch. Tom Brady will have to find someone other than Rob Gronkowski, who should not sit even if he gets triple-teamed.
• WR DeSean Jackson, K Alex Henery
Jackson rebounded and should be a great play against the Pats, who are dead last in fantasy against WRs. Jeremy Maclin is a nice sleeper if he plays and Riley Cooper can be useful if Vince Young starts over Michael Vick. Backup QBs love their backup receivers. LeSean McCoy should be busy against a Pats team that is improving but still in the bottom half against RBs.
• RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, TE Aaron Hernandez
Green-Ellis faces an Eagles defense that has improved tremendously against the run. Also, you can never be sure who is going to get the touches for the Pats, be it BGE, Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley or even Shane Vereen. Hernandez has struggled of late, and the Eagles are fifth-best in fantasy against TEs. Gronk just gets too big of a chunk of the throws to trust Hernandez in a standard league right now, especially in this matchup.
• QB Ben Roethlisberger, RB Rashard Mendenhall, WR Mike Wallace, TE Heath Miller, D/ST Steelers, K Shaun Suisham
This is a "start all" game for the Steelers against a Chiefs team that is done, starting a bad QB and coming off a Monday night game. Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are options, too, if you need a sleeper WR.
• WR Dwayne Bowe
Bowe looks like he will be the only Chief immune to Tyler Palko's ineffectiveness. Bowe should at least get some garbage time in a blowout. Steve Breaston should, too.
• RB Jackie Battle, RB Thomas Jones, RB Dexter McCluster, D/ST Chiefs
The Chiefs went to Palko and a running back by committee, giving Jones more carries and Battle less. All of them figure to be equally ineffective against the Steelers run defense.
• QB Eli Manning, WR Victor Cruz, WR Hakeem Nicks
The Giants were underwhelming offensively against the Eagles, but this figures to be a far more wide-open game that will require keeping up offensively. The Giants won't be allowed to be conservative here. If they are, there will be garbage time in a blowout. Manning, Cruz and Nicks all look like safe bets. The Saints are bottom-10 against TEs, too, but Jake Ballard cannot run -- or catch as proved with his drops last week--otherwise he is a useful TE.
• RB Darren Sproles, RB Mark Ingram, K John Kasay
The Giants have fallen into the bottom half of fantasy against RBs, which adds Ingram (against his father's former team) to the starts with Sproles. Drew Brees, Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham should all have big days as must-starts, too. The Giants just couldn't generate any pressure last week against the Eagles. The Saints are great at home and blew the Giants out in their last meeting here.
• RB Ahmad Bradshaw, RB Brandon Jacobs, WR Mario Manningham, K Lawrence Tynes
The Giants are completely incapable of establishing a running game, so regardless of whether Bradshaw returns, avoid their backs until Da'Rel Scott gets more carries. Manningham was almost blanked last week and is a riskier option than Cruz or Nicks. Also, the Giants defense probably has to be used, but they are a bad option against that potent Saints offense at home.
• WR Robert Meachem, WR Lance Moore, RB Pierre Thomas
The Saints have too many weapons to consider these guys viable in standard leagues now that the bye weeks are over. Meachem is coming off a game with a TD, but Moore or even Devery Henderson can just as easily be used. Thomas will slide back to third string with Ingram getting healthier.
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com, including the Start 'Em, Sit 'Em, the Weekend Fantasy Watch List and his Sunday night staple: Fantasy Football Fast Forward. If you need a further clarification on lineups this week hit him up on Twitter. You can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy.