Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em Week 12
Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em Week 12
Another week in the books and with only three weeks left until most leagues start their playoffs, knowing who to start and who to sit is becoming increasingly important. If week 11 showed us anything, it’s that fantasy football continues to be as unpredictable as ever. Trevor Lawrence finally put together a game worthy of his talent, which translated to a highly productive day for Calvin Ridley, while T.J. Hockenson (in what has been the best matchup for tight ends up to this point) only managed 7.5 points after scoring nearly 25 points the week before. Those who continued to trust in rookies Tank Dell and Puka Nacua were rewarded, while those managers who were excited to finally have fellow rookie De’Von Achane back were left scratching their heads. With both Thursday and Friday games this week, several teams will be on a short week, which could lead to even more unpredictability. As always take the suggestions below as just that, suggestions. You know your team better than I do and what it needs. Don’t sit weekly studs for these players, but if you’re dealing with injuries or uncertainty at any position, I hope these suggestions help.
Week 12 Starts
Start Stat Percentage, via Sleeper
Matthew Stafford (QB)
Los Angeles Rams vs. ARI (14% Start)
After suffering a thumb injury in week 8 against the Cowboys, Stafford returned to game action and looked, ok. Nothing about his performance will jump out at you as being particularly good. To make matters worse Stafford could be without his No. 1 target, Cooper Kupp, for some time after the star wide receiver suffered a low-ankle sprain. While that is significantly better than a high-ankle sprain, it is still less than ideal for a quarterback who tends to focus a good portion of his targets Kupp’s way. Yet, on Sunday in his first game action in three weeks and without his No. 1 target for much of the contest, Stafford did enough to lead the Rams to a 17-16 victory over the visiting Seattle Seahawks. It may seem odd to say, but the injury to Kupp might actually help Stafford’s production. Every time he has played without Kupp this season, Stafford has spread the ball around and had some of his most productive games, so while this is a clear upgrade to players like Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell, it could also be good for Stafford. This is especially true in a week 12 matchup against an Arizona defense that is bottom-12 against opposing signal callers. With Kyler Murray at quarterback on the other side, the Arizona offense could be surprisingly potent. Look for Stafford to spread the ball around and throw a lot in this one, making him a worthy start if you are struggling at the position.
Justin Fields (QB)
Chicago Bears vs. MIN (41% Start)
If there was any controversy surrounding who should be the starting quarterback for the Bears the rest of the season, it was quickly put to rest on Sunday. Against the Detroit Lions, Fields came out and played one of his best games of the season, completing 16-23 passes for 169 yards, and one touchdown. That may not seem like a great performance, and alone it wouldn’t be, but Fields also added 18 rushing attempts for 104 yards, easily his best rushing total of the season. The Bears’ coaching staff finally seems to see what they have in Fields. With his athleticism and ability as a runner, attempting to make him a pure pocket passer makes no sense. They let him run and in doing so his passing efficiency also increased. He also put the Bears in a great position to win the game, and had it not been for some questionable play-calling and a complete defensive breakdown in the last three minutes the Bears would’ve left Detroit victorious. Still, Fields did everything he could to get the win, and the loss was not, in any way, his fault. The Vikings defense he will face on Monday night is middle-of-the-pack against quarterbacks, but then again, Fields is not your traditional quarterback. As long as he continues to use his legs, he provides the cheat code everyone should be looking for at the quarterback position. Fields has top-5 upside this week.
Jerome Ford (RB)
Cleveland Browns vs. DEN (54% Start)
Ford did not have a huge game on Sunday against the Steelers but he did still manage a top-20 finish with nearly 11 half-PPR fantasy points. The only discouraging development is that in a close game, teammate Kareem Hunt had the same number of carries and out-touched Ford overall. But neither was very efficient on the ground against a solid Steelers run defense, and I don’t think in most weeks this will be a 50/50 split. Even if it is there should be enough work to go around. With rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson starting again in week 12 the Browns could lean heavily on the run putting both Ford and Hunt in play, but I still prefer the younger, more explosive Ford to the 28-year-old veteran. The Denver Broncos are dead last against the run. Ford has seen 10+ carries in all but two games this season, and while the Broncos defense has improved in recent weeks they’ve still given up over 170 rushing yards in two consecutive games. Week 11 was only the second game of the last six where Ford didn’t average more than four yards per carry. I expect that to change this week in a plus matchup. He is a quality RB2 in week 12, with RB1 upside if he manages to find the end zone.
Gus Edwards (RB)
Baltimore Ravens vs. LAC (45% Start)
In recent weeks, Gus Edwards is starting to look like the 2022 version of Jamaal Williams. That is to say that all he does is score touchdowns. Edwards has 12 or fewer carries in three of his last five games, and yet he has finished as a top-7 running back, or better, in all but one of those games. The reason? Edwards has scored nine rushing touchdowns over that span, making him one of the best bets to find paydirt on a weekly basis. His yardage totals have left something to be desired, failing to rush for more than 80 yards in any of those games, and his passing role is non-existent, but none of that has mattered, and that consistent production has made him a reliable RB2 option. He will now face a Chargers defense giving up the eighth most fantasy points to the position. With the Ravens, there is always the risk of quarterback Lamar Jackson stealing goal-line carries or the rushing attack turning into a three-headed committee on any given week, but with his nose for the end zone, it would be foolish to bet against Edwards moving forward, making him one of the safer bets at the position. Edwards has top-12 upside in week 12 and top-15 upside for the rest of the season.
Michael Pittman (WR)
Indianapolis Colts vs. TB (13% Start)
I’m guessing Pittman’s starting percentage rests mostly on him being on a bye in week 11, but I would also expect the real percentage is still lower than it should be, especially in week 12. You may not realize it, but even without great quarterback play, Pittman has been quietly putting up a top-15 wide receiver season. He has also seen a ton of targets with 11 or more in all but four games, and five or more in every single game. He hasn’t always been productive with those targets, but in his last five games has scored double-digit points every time. He’s been one of the more consistent WR2s on the season, and could even flirt with WR1 numbers in week 12. Coming out of their bye we could see a more balanced and efficient attack from the Indianapolis Colts. Gardner Minshew has been serviceable in 2023, but against a Buccaneers defense that is third-worst against QBs and fourth-worst against WRs both Minshew and his No. 1 target could find success. Pittman only has three touchdowns on the season but could make it four (or even five) on Sunday. He is a great WR2 this week with some upside.
Jayden Reed (WR)
Green Bay Packers vs. DET (18% Start)
It is a true testament to how unpredictable the 2023 season has been that Green Bay Packers rookie Jayden Reed is no longer a sleeper pick, but a suggested starter. There are no byes in week 12, so it’s possible you may have better options and if so, I do not recommend replacing one of your weekly starters with Reed. But if you have suffered injuries to the position, Reed could be a great fill-in. Over the last four weeks, Reed has three double-digit outings in half and full-PPR and has even finished in the top-12 at the position over the last two weeks. His target totals haven’t been elite, but he has seen at least five targets in three of his last four games and appears to be developing as Jordan Love’s go-to receiver. Reed’s week 12 opponent is also not intimidating. The Lions have allowed the 12th most fantasy points to wide receivers this season, and after almost losing to the Chicago Bears in week 11, Jared Goff and Co. could come out firing with something to prove, meaning Jordan Love will have to throw more than coach Matt LaFleur would like. This could mean Reed’s highest target total and best production of the season. Reed is a good WR2 that you should be able to play in your flex this week.
Jake Ferguson (TE)
Dallas Cowboys vs. WAS (56% Start)
With the TE position as it is, I’m not sure why Ferguson, who is currently TE9 on the season, isn’t started in more leagues, but that needs to change. The entire Cowboys offense is playing at an elite level right now and with a quarterback who loves to target his tight end, Ferguson is a must-start TE moving forward. Over the last four weeks, Ferguson has three top-10 finishes at the position, averaging six targets over that span and scoring three touchdowns. Once you get past the elite of the elite at the tight end position, you should be looking for touchdown upside and Ferguson has more than most. The Commanders aren’t an especially easy matchup for tight ends, but with the Cowboys firing on all cylinders recently, most Cowboy skill position players are quickly entering matchup-proof status. Even with no teams on bye in week 12, unless you grabbed someone like Dalton Kincaid off the waiver wire or drafted Ferguson as a backup to your every-week starter, it’s hard to imagine you’d have a better option at tight end. Ferguson is a top-10 option this week and should remain one moving forward.
Week 12 Sits
Joshua Dobbs (QB)
Minnesota Vikings vs. CHI (31% Start)
As the QB7 on the season, Joshua Dobbs is having a career revival in 2023. He has finished as a top-8 QB in five games this season, and as he heads to Chicago to face the struggling Bears in what is perceived to be a favorable matchup there could be many managers considering putting him into their lineups. I would advise against it. I’m not not saying that Dobbs will be a total bust in week 12. He typically has a safe floor and should not put up a disastrous performance, but I expect him to perform below expectations this week. Although the Bears are perceived as an easy matchup, the Chicago defense has been much improved in recent weeks and just forced Goff, in Detroit, into three interceptions and held him to under 20 fantasy points. This was also Justin Fields’ first game back leading to longer drives and more rest for the defense, and those fresh legs made them more explosive. It could be more of the same on Monday night. The Bears are still a bottom-four team against fantasy QBs, and if you want to trust that ranking, go ahead, but after a dismal first third of the season the Bears’ defense has begun to gel and with the addition of defensive end Montez Sweat has been much more disruptive. Start Dobbs at your own risk.
Joe Mixon (RB)
Cincinnati Bengals vs. PIT (89% Start)
It may be nearly impossible to sit a player of Mixon’s caliber but with no teams on bye if you have a deep bench I would at least consider it this week. In week 11, the Bengals lost starting quarterback Joe Burrow for the rest of the season due to a thumb injury. This is going to make it difficult for every single skill player on the Bengals. Fifth-year veteran Jake Browning will take over quarterback duties and if what we saw last Thursday is any indication, we should not expect much from this offense moving forward. With Browning under center, opposing defenses will likely focus on stopping the run, forcing Browning to beat them with his arm. Something I am unsure he will be able to do. I’m not sure if this will hurt Ja’Marr Chase or Mixon more, but my guess is Mixon will take the biggest hit. He was already seeing close to 20 touches in most games this season, so it’s hard to imagine his usage increasing too much, but his efficiency could go way down, and his touchdown upside could completely disappear. The Steelers also aren’t a great matchup. They have been a solid unit in 2023 and could make things difficult for the Bengals offense all afternoon. Mixon is currently a top-10 RB, so I understand if you find it difficult to get away from him, but I wouldn’t expect much from him either.
Garrett Wilson (WR)
New York Jets vs. MIA (83% Start)
Oh, what could’ve been? Coming into the 2023 season, fantasy managers were salivating at the thought of a player of Garrett Wilson’s caliber catching passes from Aaron Rodgers. After what the New York Jets have seen at the quarterback position in recent years, Rodgers was a clear upgrade and we were all ready to see the Jets offense take flight. Unfortunately, Rodgers’ 39-year-old Achilles had other ideas and after exiting their week 1 contest, the Jets were forced to turn to Zach Wilson, a quarterback who had already proven he’s not the answer. Now owners of Garrett Wilson are clamoring for any quarterback not named Zach Wilson to try throwing him the football. That happened in a week 11 contest against the Buffalo Bills when the Jets turned to backup QB Tim Boyle after Wilson threw for 81 yards, an interception, and one touchdown. Boyle didn’t fair any better throwing for 33 yards, one interception, and zero touchdowns. Boyle is now expected to start on Friday against the Dolphins with Zach Wilson dropping to third on the depth chart. The problem is there’s no guarantee that Boyle is an upgrade and we have now seen Garrett Wilson’s floor when he finished week 11 with -.1 half-PPR points. With a ceiling of 15 points and that kind of floor, Wilson cannot be trusted until the Jets find consistent quarterback play, which may not happen until 2024.
Diontae Johnson (WR)
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. CIN (40% Start)
It may not quite be time to hit the panic button on Diontae Johnson, but there could be reason for concern. Johnson has now had back-to-back weeks of fewer than three fantasy points, with only three receptions over that two-game span. The Steelers are 6-4, but a quarterback like Kenny Pickett is only going to take a team so far and could drastically impact the fantasy output of all Steelers pass catchers. In week 11, Diontae Johnson saw eight targets but only had two receptions. That’s not a Johnson problem. It’s a Pickett problem that, on a fantasy level, becomes a Johnson problem. Pickett has failed to top 170 yards through the air in three straight games and only has two passing touchdowns in his last seven games. Johnson has never caught a ton of touchdowns, but he made up for that lack of touchdown upside with an insane amount of targets. He still gets a lot of targets, but they are no longer coming from Ben Roethlisberger, which has been a problem this season. Johnson is a talented wide receiver, who runs great routes, but the struggles of this passing offense have me wanting to go in a different direction in Week 12, and so should you.
Sam LaPorta (TE)
Detroit Lions vs. GB (78% Start)
I know, I know. I just made an argument stating that it’s crazy to sit a top-9 TE when I discussed Ferguson and now I’m recommending you sit LaPorta who is the TE5 on the season. You may not be able to sit LaPorta. If he’s your best option, then by all means start him, but while he’s been very impressive in 2023 his ranking is inflated by three weeks in which he scored higher than 15 half-PPR points. Other than those weeks he’s been under nine points every week and has failed to get above seven in his last two games. His targets have also diminished since coming out of their bye. Prior to the bye he was routinely seeing double-digit targets and saw five or fewer targets in just two of seven games. After the bye, he has received five targets in two straight games. With only four touchdowns on the season (two of which came in one game) the touchdown upside doesn’t seem to be there, and in week 11, quarterback Jared Goff looked pedestrian. All of these things could be outliers but on a short week against a defense that is top-10 against tight ends, I would rather pivot if I could.
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A die hard Bears fan and fantasy sports fantastic, T.J. Besler earned his journalism (and theatre) degree from The University of Iowa. When he isn’t busy writing parodies for his YouTube channel Parodies for Charities he can be found either on stage performing or doing all things fantasy football related. Besler has traveled to nearly all 50 states either for work or leisure, and is grateful to everyone who has helped him along the way, especially his lovely wife Elsa, without whom much of this would not be possible. BEAR DOWN!