Week 12 Fantasy Football Sneaky Starts

Players flying under the radar this week who might be able to help you win your fantasy game.
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Welcome to Week 12, a.k.a. Thanksgiving Week! Two of the most important teams in the realm of fantasy—the Rams and the Chiefs—are on bye. Kerryon Johnson (knee), Jimmy Graham (finger) and Marcus Mariota (elbow) are dealing with injuries, while O.J. Howard (ankle) and Alex Smith (fractured leg) have already been ruled out for the rest of the season. So there will be more than a few owners scrambling to find quality starts this week as they get ready to eat all those leftovers.

A great way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA). Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. So if a defense has seen a murderer’s row of running backs, it will be reflected in the defense’s aFPA. As a ranker, I use this metric weekly when putting together our award-winning projections.


Nick Mullens, 49ers (at Buccaneers, 31st in QB aFPA)

Mullens’ performance against the Giants—250 yards, one touchdown, two picks—was a little disappointing after his epic debut against the Raiders—262 yards and three touchdowns—but he still completed nearly 70% of his passes and showed enough competence to earn another start. The matchup this week is about as good as it gets. The Bucs have yielded an average of 282 yards and 2.5 touchdowns per game through the air, to go along with a generous helping of 8.9 yards per attempt and a league-high 74.7% completion rate. Vegas has given this game the second-highest total on the board (55), so there should be points-a-plenty in this one.

Baker Mayfield, Browns (at Bengals, 22nd in QB aFPA)

Mayfield’s run of easy matchups continues. In recent weeks, he has posted 20.9 fantasy points against the Bucs, 17.9 points against the Chiefs, and 22.6 points against the Falcons. This week he has a favorable matchup against the Bengals, who are probably still wondering what it was that Lamar Jackson and the Ravens did to them last week. In Week 10, Drew Brees dropped 265 yards and three touchdowns on Cincy, while the combination of Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick managed 470 yards and three scores back in Week 8.

BELLER: Full Week 12 Fantasy Football Rankings

Gus Edwards, Ravens (vs. Raiders, 24th in RB aFPA)

The Ravens came out of their bye with the intention of getting Edwards more involved. He was in on the first drive and by halftime he had out-touched Alex Collins by a margin of nine to six. In the second half, Edwards out-touched Collins eight to one, ultimately racking up 17 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown. Head coach John Harbaugh said that Edwards “took the bull by the horns,” so I think he has at least a 50/50 chance of leading the Ravens in carries the rest of the season. This week’s matchup against the Raiders is terrific—Oakland has yielded an average of 142 yards and 0.9 touchdowns on the ground this season.

Josh Adams, Eagles (vs. Giants, 25th in RB aFPA)

In a bad matchup against the Saints, Adams carried the ball seven times for 53 yards and a touchdown, while adding three catches for 19 yards on six targets. The three receptions are big for him, since he came into the game with only one catch on the year. He played 55% of the snaps, which was a season-high (by far), so it certainly seems like he’s taking over as the team’s lead back. What’s even more telling is that Wendell Smallwood and Corey Clement saw one and four touches, respectively, which was a nine-week low for Smallwood and season-low for Clement. On top of all of this, the matchup against the Giants is terrific. In their last three games, the Giants yielded 110 total yards and a touchdown to Peyton Barber, 132 total yards and two scores to Matt Breida, and 156 total yards and two touchdowns to Adrian Peterson.

BELLER: Fantasy Football Week 12 Start ’Em, Sit ’Em

Marquise Goodwin, 49ers (at Buccaneers, 25th in WR aFPA)

In recent weeks, the Buccaneerss have yielded lines of 4-74-1 to Odell Beckham, 4-46-1 to Josh Doctson, 9-138-1 to Tyler Boyd, and 5-76-1 to A.J. Green, so Goodwin should be able to get loose for a long gain or two in Week 12. He was quiet in Nick Mullens’ debut, but finished with a four-catch, 69-yard line against the Giants in Week 10.

Keke Coutee, Texans (vs. Titans, 28th in WR aFPA)

In his first game back from injury, Coutee caught five passes for 77 yards on nine targets, and played 67% of the snaps. Demaryius Thomas wasn’t targeted in Week 11, so clearly Coutee is the No. 2 option behind DeAndre Hopkins right now.

Cameron Brate, Buccaneers (vs. 49ers, 11th in TE aFPA)

With the news that the Bucs sent O.J. Howard to injured reserve (ankle), Brate immediately becomes a low-end TE1, especially with Jameis Winston back under center. Since 2017, Brate has accounted for 12.3% of the targets, 12.5% of the receptions, 12.2% of the yards and 26.0% of the touchdowns from Winston. Owners can reasonably expect 0.4-0.5 touchdowns per game from Brate, so long as he and Winston are both playing.