- Should you start Lamar Jackson in his second NFL start? Who do we trust in Tampa with Jameis Winston under center? Find out in this week's Start 'Em, Sit 'Em.
Ben Roethlisberger’s home/road splits are well known across the fantasy football community. For the better part of his career, Roethlisberger has been much better in Pittsburgh than when the Steelers hit the road. There’s not an easy explanation for his struggles away from home. This isn’t baseball, where the dimensions of every stadium are different, and the Steelers play outdoors in the northern portion of the country, meaning he’s dealing with winter conditions for large chunks of the season. Still, the splits have been significant over a long enough period of time to take them seriously.
Roethlisberger’s road woes often push him down fantasy rankings when the Steelers are away from Pittsburgh. That is indeed the case this week, with his FantasyPros consensus ranking sitting at No. 13 among quarterbacks for Pittsburgh’s trip to Denver. Here’s the thing, though. While Roethlisberger has been better at home than on the road this season, the splits haven’t been dramatic enough to bench Roethlisberger when the Steelers travel, especially considering his ceiling.
The Steelers have played five games apiece at home and on the road this season. In his five home games, Roethlisberger has completed 66.5% of his passes for 1,561 yards, 7.92 yards per attempt, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions. That comes out to 23.09 points per game in standard-scoring leagues. For sake of comparison, Drew Brees and Matt Ryan, ranked second and third, respectively, at the position are averaging 23.64 and 23.23 points per game.
In Pittsburgh’s five road games, Roethlisberger has connected on 63.9% of his passes for 1,641 yards, 7.49 YPA, nine touchdowns and seven picks. That translates to 18.93 points per game, and a dip of more than four points per game is nothing to dismiss out of hand. Still, that shouldn’t force Roethlisberger to your bench. Quarterbacks averaging fewer than 18.93 points per game this season include Kirk Cousins, Carson Wentz and Tom Brady. In other words, there’s nothing wrong with getting nearly 19 points out of your quarterback. And then, there’s always the chance that Roethlisberger goes off, which he has done in multiple road games this season.
Back in Week 3, the Steelers visited the Buccaneers. Roethlisberger completed nearly 80% of his passes for 353 yards, 9.29 YPA and three touchdowns against one pick in that game. Three weeks later, the Steelers took a trip to Cincinnati. Roethlisberger carved up the Bengals, racking up 369 yards and 8.02 YPA, but had just one score, with James Connner hitting paydirt twice on the ground. Three weeks after that, in a brutal matchup at Baltimore, Roethlisberger threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns, without committing a turnover. He added a score on the ground, ending the game with 25.2 points.
Should you take Roethlisberger’s home/road splits seriously? Yes. Are they concerning enough that you should bench him? Unless you have another rock-solid top-10 quarterback on your roster, no.
With that, let’s get to the rest of Week 12 Start ’Em, Sit ’Em. If you’re reading this on Wednesday or early in the day on Thanksgiving, check out our Thanksgiving Day Start ’Em, Sit ’Em to get our coverage of all 15 games this week.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks (at Panthers)
Wilson continued making the most of reduced volume in Week 12, throwing for 225 yards and two touchdowns in the Seahawks’ 27-24 win over the Packers. Wilson hasn’t showed off the ceiling he has in the past, but has multiple touchdowns in all but one game, throwing for three scores five times this season. The Panthers are ranked 24th against quarterbacks in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric (aFPA), meaning they aren’t the matchup nightmare they used to be.
Jameis Winston, Buccaneers (vs. 49ers)
I covered Winston’s start case extensively in our Week 12 rankings, but just in case you missed it I will go over it again briefly here. If Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick were one player, they’d be the No. 2 fantasy quarterback, trailing only Patrick Mahomes. They’ve combined to produce six QB1 games, as many or more than every quarterback in the league other than Mahomes, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton. Finally, the 49ers are ranked 23rd in quarterback aFPA.
Nick Mullens, 49ers (at Buccaneers)
Mullens came back down to earth in his second start, throwing for 250 yards, 6.41 YPA, two touchdowns and one interception in the 49ers’ loss to the Giants in Week 10. The team is coming off a bye and facing a Buccaneers defense ranked 31st in quarterback aFPA. Mullens’s great NFL debut came against a similarly weak Oakland pass defense, which is a few spots ahead of the Buccaneers in quarterback aFPA. With Matt Breida healthy and George Kittle turning into a star, Mullens registers as a solid QB2 in a great matchup.
Lamar Jackson, Ravens (vs. Raiders)
Jackson had a successful NFL debut in Week 11, mostly with his legs, running for 117 yards on 27 carries. He was decent enough with the arm, throwing for 150 yards and 7.89 YPA, though he did get picked off once. Jackson is an exciting player with a potentially bright future, but he’s simply not enough of a threat as a passer to trust him as a fantasy starter. This is a good matchup, and the Ravens are favored by 10.5 points, but Jackson will have to make as much noise with his legs this week as he did last week to prove himself worthy of being a starter. That’s not a bet I want to make.
Andy Dalton, Bengals (vs. Browns)
In two games without A.J. Green, Dalton has thrown for 364 yards, 6.5 YPA, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Green may be able to return from his foot injury this week, but if he does he’ll likely be playing at less than 100%. If Green is out, it’s impossible to trust Dalton in a matchup with a Cleveland defense ranked fourth in quarterback aFPA.
Marcus Mariota, Titans (at Texans)
Mariota suffered a stinger in Week 12, which was actually good news considering that the injury was originally believed to be an aggravation of the elbow issue that plagued him for the balance of the season. He may be able to start for the Titans this week, but even if he does he should not be in your lineup. He has a tough assignment in Houston against a Texans defense that has gotten it together after a slow start to the season, and is allowing 12.62 points per game to quarterback in its last six contests.
Lamar Miller, Texans (vs. Titans)
Last week, we discussed how well Miller plays in Houston victories. Specifically, we noted that he was averaging just shy of one point per touch in games that the Texans win. In short, if you believe the Texans are going to win a game, Miller is typically a good fantasy play. Well, no matter if it’s Mariota or Blaine Gabbert under center, the Texans are going to be comfortable favorites in this game. Titans-Texans may not provide the same Monday night fireworks that Chiefs-Rams did, but Miller owners won’t care too much.
Peyton Barber, Buccaneers (vs. 49ers)
Barber has been one of the more interesting fantasy players this season. He has been the unquestioned starting running back for the Buccaneers all year, despite delivering more than his fair share of duds. On the other hand, when he has played well he has delivered in a big way, as he did last week when he ran for 106 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in the Buccaneers’ 38-35 loss to the Giants. Barber has had at least 13 touches in all of his last four games, and at least 17 in five games this season. The 49ers are league-average against running backs, helping make him an easy play this week.
LeSean McCoy, Bills (vs. Jaguars)
McCoy had his best game of the season his last time out, running for 113 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. He has been held back by the Buffalo offense all season, but when the team hangs in games, McCoy shows up for his fantasy owners. The Bills have won two games this season, and one of their seven losses in which McCoy played came by one possession. In those three games, he has 271 yards on 66 carries, six receptions for 49 yards, and two scores. With the Jaguars crashing this season, the Bills should be able to keep this game close, especially at home.
Dion Lewis, Titans (at Texans)
Lewis disappointed as the chalk last week, totaling 32 yards on 11 touches in the Titans’ 38-10 loss to the Colts. He’d be in a much better spot if Marcus Mariota plays this week, but either way he should be in your lineup. He’s dominating touch share for the Titans out of the backfield, and is game-script proof because of his pass-catching ability. His ceiling is down a bit in this tough matchup in Houston, but not enough to take him off the RB2 radar.
Gus Edwards, Ravens (vs. Raiders)
Edwards was one of the biggest stories in Week 12, running for 115 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in the Ravens’ 24-21 win over the Bengals. While Alex Collins may not completely fade away, the fact that Edwards was featured so heavily coming out of the Ravens’ bye suggests that his big game last week went beyond being the hot hand. This looks like a decision by the Baltimore coaching staff to get Edwards more involved, and he paid off that move in a big way. The Raiders are ranked 24th in running back aFPA in standard-scoring leagues.
Josh Adams, Eagles (vs. Giants)
Josh Adams is going to be popular after another solid performance in Week 11, but starting him will prove to be a mistake. Adams was the lone bright spot for the Eagles in their 48-7 embarrassment in New Orleans, running for 53 yards and a touchdown on seven carries. In his last three games, he has 161 yards and a score on 23 rushes. The problem, though, is that he has yet to reach double-digit carries in a game this season, and there’s no sign that the Eagles are going to divert from their three-back rotation. Despite Adams’ strong play of late, he has been on the field for just 37% of the Eagles snaps. So long as Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement are heavily involved in the offense, Adams isn’t going to get enough touches to be a comfortable start in fantasy leagues.
Alex Collins, Ravens (vs. Raiders)
Remember what you just read about Edwards? The equal and opposite reaction to his rise is Collins’ fall. It’s entirely possible that Collins remains involved in the offense, perhaps even heavily. Still, we aren’t working with a crystal ball here. The information that we have at hand—namely, that Edwards looked excellent coming out of the bye and that Collins has performed at a mediocre level all season—forces us to sit Collins this week. There’s just no way fantasy owners can believe in him when he has a distressingly low floor.
Derrick Henry, Titans (at Texans)
Henry hasn’t rushed for 60 yards in a game this season. He hasn’t out-touched Dion Lewis since Week 6. He hasn’t caught more than two passes in a game. He hasn’t scored double-digit fantasy points without a touchdown in any game this year, in either standard or PPR leagues. He has a tough matchup with a Houston defense that only seems to get better as the year progresses. And yet, Henry continues to rate as a top-35 back according to FantasyPros consensus rankings. I don’t even have him in the top 40. Unless you’re desperate and need to bet on him scoring a touchdown, you should go in another direction.
Frank Gore, Dolphins (at Colts)
If Adam Gase has made one thing clear this season, it’s that he’s not going to abandon Gore as his primary runner. Gore has had double-digit carries in all of his last seven games, and is clearly the go-to option on the ground over Kenyan Drake. This game sets up much better for Drake, though, given the opponent. Andrew Luck is on fire, throwing for at least three touchdowns in seven consecutive games. The Dolphins are going to have to outscore the Colts to win this game, especially with it being in Indianapolis. Additionally, the Colts are much better against running backs in standard leagues than PPR formats, ranking 19th in the former and 26th in the latter.
Tyler Lockett, Seahawks (at Panthers)
Like Russell Wilson, Lockett is delivering on modest volume, racking up 38 catches on 48 targets for 554 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He has given his owners at least 12 points in PPR leagues in seven games this season, providing a floor that makes him an easy start almost every week. The Panthers’ defense isn’t what it used to be through the air, and it ranks better in PPR leagues than it does in standard formats. In other words, touchdown-dependent receivers do better against the Panthers than those who rack up a ton of catches. That bodes well for Lockett.
Courtland Sutton, Broncos (vs. Steelers)
Sutton turned six targets into three catches for 78 yards in the Broncos’ 23-22 win over the Chargers in Week 12. He has yet to take off as expected since the team traded Demaryius Thomas, but there have been positive signs in both games since that deal. He has six catches on 11 targets for 135 yards since the Thomas deal, while playing 106 of the team’s 122 snaps. The Steelers have tightened up defensively over the last two months and rank fifth in wide receiver aFPA, but Sutton still belongs in lineups in most leagues.
All Buccaneers receivers (vs. 49ers)
Mike Evans is obvious, but this is a call to start DeSean Jackson, Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries as well. I wouldn’t start multiple Tampa Bay receivers on the same fantasy team, but if I owned any of them, I’d feel good about his chances. As we discussed earlier, this passing game shows up every week, producing six QB1 games on the season. The 49ers are ranked 23rd in both quarterback and receiver aFPA, allowing 21 passing touchdowns on the season, tied for sixth-most in the league. This is another great week to believe in the Tampa Bay passing attack.
John Brown, Ravens (vs. Raiders)
Brown didn’t get much of anything going in Lamar Jackson’s first start, catching his only target for 23 yards. Jackson isn’t going to be able to count on his legs for everything, though, and is eventually going to have to make some plays with his arm. When that happens, I feel good about banking on Baltimore’s best deep threat, based on what we saw out of Jackson at Louisville. I feel even better about it against an Oakland defense ranked 27th in wide receiver aFPA in standard leagues, and 24th in PPR formats.
Michael Crabtree, Ravens (vs. Raiders)
Despite what I just said about Brown, there’s no doubt that the Baltimore passing game is in better hands with Joe Flacco under center. Jackson simply isn’t going to provide the scoring floor for his receivers that Flacco does, and that means you can’t possibly believe in every receiver in the offense. Based on what we saw last week, Crabtree is the worst bet among the group. Brown is always going to be a weapon on the deep ball, and Willie Snead led the team with five catches for 51 yards on eight targets. Crabtree, meanwhile, caught one of three targets for seven yards. No thanks.
Demaryius Thomas and Keke Coutee, Texans (vs. Titans)
Remember that incredible Chiefs-Rams game you watched on Monday Night Football in Week 11. Picture something just about the opposite of that, and that’s likely what you’ll get this Monday. With much less scoring to go around in Titans-Texans, it’s hard to trust the ancillary pieces on either team. Deshaun Watson, Lamar Miller and DeAndre Hopkins are locked in as starters, but Thomas and Coutee are no better than fringe options.
Sterling Shepard, Giants (at Eagles)
Shepard has fallen off the map the last two weeks, getting five targets in wins over the 49ers and Buccaneers. He has caught four of them for 31 yards and a touchdown, but you cannot count on that sort of volume producing worthwhile fantasy games. The Giants’ usage tree becomes more concentrated in the hands of Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham every week, making it hard to trust anyone else in the offense.
Devin Funchess, Panthers (vs. Seahawks)
One of the big disappointments this season has been Funchess’ failure to launch. With a full offseason as Cam Newton’s No. 1 receiver, I believed that Funchess would be, at worst, a reliable fantasy starter. Not only has that not happened, his role has diminished as the season has worn on. He has five or fewer targets in three of his last four games, and hasn’t caught more than four passes in a game since Week 7. The strength of Seattle’s pass defense is on the outside, where it ranks seventh against wide receivers in standard-scoring leagues, and 10th in PPR formats.
Vance McDonald, Steelers (at Broncos)
McDonald has scored in two straight games, has at least six targets in three of his last five, and plays in one of the league’s most dangerous offenses. That’s enough to make him a relatively easy play on this season’s tight end landscape. The Broncos are about league-average against tight ends in both standard and PPR leagues.
Evan Engram, Giants (at Eagles)
Not too long ago, I said that it’s hard to trust any Giant not named Saquon Barkley or Odell Beckham, with respect to Sterling Shepard being a sit. So why is Engram a start? Well, he plays the shallowest position in fantasy football, whereas Shepard plays the deepest. What’s more, Engram has shown signs of life recently, catching six passes for 112 yards in his last two games.
Jared Cook, Raiders (at Ravens)
Cook is one of the more reliable low-end TE1s in the league, giving his owners three 70-yard games and four touchdowns this season. With Oakland’s wide receiver corps in shambles, he’s easily the top pass-catcher on the team. The Ravens are in the top 10 in quarterback, running back and wide receiver aFPA, but rank 18th against tight ends in standard leagues, and 21st in PPR formats.
Eric Ebron, Colts (vs. Dolphins)
The risk of playing Ebron was on full display last week. He got zero targets in the Colts’ 38-10 win over the Titans. In fact, the only reason he was in the box score was because he attempted a pass to Andrew Luck, which sailed just over the quarterback’s head. Ebron played 40% of the snaps compared with 82% for Jack Doyle, which followed the pattern set since Doyle returned from injury in Week 8.
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings (vs. Packers)
Rudolph’s season has reached a nadir the last two weeks, during which he has caught four passes for 43 yards. He hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 3, and hasn’t had more than 50 yards in a game since Week 4. With Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs completely owning the target share in Minnesota, Rudolph shouldn’t be on the fantasy radar.
Ricky Seals-Jones, Cardinals (at Chargers)
In what was a great on-paper matchup last week with a Raiders defense allowing 11.63 yards per target to tight ends, Seals-Jones hauled in one of three targets for five yards. There has been a peak or two in his season, but it has been a year of mostly valleys, and the Arizona passing game is too unpredictable to trust a player who’s entirely dependent on volume and touchdowns for his fantasy value.