Week 12 brings a smaller-than-usual 10-game main slate. With most of the top quarterbacks either on bye or playing in primetime games, we are left with a number of unexciting games featuring low totals. There are less top options than normal, especially at the quarterback and tight end positions. Roster construction is complicated by a lack of obvious value options under $6,000. A more balanced approach that bypasses the elite superstars allows you to stock up with high-upside players in the mid-tier of pricing, where wide receiver is especially loaded with solid plays this week.
Most of the top fantasy quarterbacks are off the main slate. In terms of FanDuel PPG, four of the top seven quarterbacks this season are unavailable on this ten-game slate: Josh Allen (1), Lamar Jackson (2), Kyler Murray (5), and Patrick Mahomes II (7). Of the top quarterbacks who are averaging over 22 PPG, only three are on this slate: Tom Brady, Justin Herbert, and Jalen Hurts. As such, ownership is rightly going to fall more heavily on those three players given the relative lack of top options on the smaller-than-normal Thanksgiving-Sunday slate. Not only have those three been top performers this season, they rank as the top three point-per-dollar projections on the slate according to the Footballguys Consensus.
Top QB Plays
Tom Brady ($8,200), Tampa Bay at Indianapolis
Brady has a combination of solid floor and fairly high ceiling in this matchup. He has thrown at least two touchdown passes in six straight games, so odds of him tanking your lineup are minimal. Over that six-game stretch, he also threw for four-plus touchdowns in half of the games. In tournaments, you probably need four touchdowns from Brady even on what is likely to be a lower-scoring slate. While the Colts defense is strong, the unit has allowed four touchdown passes three time already this season in games against Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, and the Jets duo of Mike White/Josh Johnson. This is a spot where Brady has a reasonable shot at putting up the 25-plus points needed to take down a tournament.
It is worth watching the health of Mike Evans, who is dealing with a back injury. With Evans in the lineup alongside Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski, the Buccaneers passing offense creates mismatch issues for the defense. Gronkowski has been an especially key element of the offense. In the five games Gronkowski has played this season, Brady has averaged 354 passing yards and 3.2 touchdowns per game.
Justin Herbert ($7,800), LA Chargers at Denver
The matchup on the road against the Broncos should give some pause. If we had better options to consider or if Herbert was priced up to a level commensurate with his production, it would be easier to dismiss him in this spot. Alas, it is a tough week at quarterback and Herbert remains underpriced. He has a few things working in his favor. First, the passing volume is there for him every single week. He has not thrown less than 34 passes in any game this season. The way the Chargers are using Austin Ekeler helps Herbert, as well. Ekeler has been averaging nearly as many targets (6.6) per game as carries (11.2) over the past five games. Lastly, the rushing aspect of Herbert’s game had been going underused for most of the season. That changed last week when he rushed a season-high nine times for 90 yards against the Steelers. This is one of the biggest games of the season for the Chargers against a division rival and now that we are getting down to the stretch run it is reasonable to assume we might see Herbert’s usage as a runner continue to tick up late in the season.
Other QBs to consider:
Cam Newton ($8,000), Carolina at Miami
In his first start in almost a year, Newton rushed for 41 yards and a touchdown while throwing for nearly 300 yards and two more touchdowns. The 10.1 fantasy points as a runner is a reminder of why Newton should always be in our tournament player pool. The rushing points add up in a hurry and Newton’s usage as the go-to runner down around the goal line gives him a massive ceiling. The Dolphins defense is solid but not one we have to fear. The unit just gave up nearly 300 yards to Joe Flacco last week.
In terms of general roster construction for Week 12, the biggest question is whether to punt a couple of other spots to fit in a pair of expensive $8K-plus running backs or to limit yourself to one of the top tier backs. Do you want to scrounge for value at both tight end and at least one wide receiver spots? My preference is to limit myself to one top back so that I can take advantage of the strong mid-tier options at other positions. The only issue is that there are so many strong, expensive options that it is hard to choose just one. AJ Dillon was a slight disappointment last week but I am willing to go back to the well at the sub-$7K price point. Myles Gaskin also looks underpriced for the volume he is getting. Lastly, it is worth considering whether taking a risk on one of the Jets back is worth it. This is an alternative path to a pair of top running backs without having to sacrifice too much at wide receiver.
Top RB Plays
AJ Dillon ($6,900), Green Bay at LA Rams
Dillon was a disappointment as a core lineup piece last week. He was held out of the end zone by the Vikings and managed a solid but unspectacular 97 total yards. This is one of those spots where a focus on process over results is ideal. Even though he did not get there, Dillon was still a great play and all of the advanced metrics back this up. He played 75% of the snaps, handled 81% of the backfield touches and even garnered a 20% share of targets. Those are elite usage numbers for a talented back in one of the NFL’s better offenses. It is a rare opportunity to roster a nearly every-down back in a top offense for $7,000. Heading into Week 12, Dillon’s salary actually dropped $100 making him an outstanding play for the second week in a row. There are two ways this game could play out. It could be like last week where the Packers fell behind by a couple touchdowns and were forced to abandon the run earlier than they wanted to. That would be less than ideal but even in that negative game script we saw Dillon catch six passes for 44 yards. Alternatively, the Packers, who are playing as home favorites, could play a close game against the Rams or jump out to an early lead. In this potential game script, you would expect Dillon to carry the ball 20-plus times with the potential for nearly 30 carries.
Last week (12.7 FanDuel points) is essentially Dillon’s floor for as long as Aaron Jones is sidelined. His ceiling is one of the highest on the slate if the Packers can build a lead and really establish the run. In a week where there are not glaring values at wide receiver or running back, the $1,000-plus in cost savings between Dillon and the other top backs makes him a player who I want to get in as many lineups as possible.
Myles Gaskin ($6,200), Miami vs. Carolina
Rostering Gaskin is not the most exciting proposition. Nothing about this Miami offense screams excitement this season and Gaskin is not a special talent. That being said, it is impossible to ignore Gaskin at this price given his recent usage. There is no slam dunk value under $6,500 on this slate at any position, so if you want to fit in some of the top plays you are going to need to find some salary savers who can get you double-digit points with the upside for more. Gaskin fits the bill. While the matchup against Carolina is not spectacular either, this is a defense that just allowed 164 rushing yards to the Washington running back last week.
YOU might not like Myles Gaskin, but it’s abundantly clear the MIAMI DOLPHINS like Myles Gaskin— Adam Koffler (@AdamKoffler) November 24, 2021
He has 26 touches in two of his last three games and sports a RB opportunity share of 83.1% in those three games ðŸ”¥
He also has 15 RZ carries over that stretch
Clear lead back ðŸ“ˆ
Other RBs to consider:
Ty Johnson ($5,200), NY Jets at Houston
Let’s quickly discuss one more salary-saving option before moving on to the exciting plays. It is not entirely clear how the touches will be split between Johnson and Tevin Coleman now that Michael Carter II is out. The eye test favors Johnson getting the nod. He has been a playmaker this season and if he can overcome some of his issues in pass protection has a shot to take this lead role and run with it over the next few weeks. At this bargain salary and in a great matchup, this is a dice roll that could pay off and unlock the door to some of the $9K running backs and wide receivers on the slate.
Christian McCaffrey ($9,700), Carolina at Miami
It does not take a whole lot of explanation as to why we want to roster McCaffrey whenever we can fit his salary in. He has ramped back up closer to his typical workload over the last two weeks with 23 carries and 17 receptions and again looks like one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the NFL.
Joe Mixon ($8,000), Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh
Mixon has back-to-back games with a pair of touchdowns and has scored in seven straight games. His touchdown equity is outstanding, though it is worth nothing that the last time he was held out of the end zone was Week 3 in Pittsburgh. He did average 5.0 yards per carry on 18 carries in that matchup, however and the Steelers just gave up four touchdowns to Austin Ekeler.
Austin Ekeler ($8,400), LA Chargers at Denver
As noted in the Herbert writeup above, Ekeler is averaging 6.6 targets per game over his last five. For his career, he is averaging 1.6 FanDuel points per target. If you project him for six or seven targets, his mean projection is in the neighborhood of 10 fantasy points without even factoring in his rushing.
We have seen enough football this season to know we want Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams, Justin Jefferson, and Deebo Samuel in our lineups whenever we can fit them in. On a slate with less value than we have come to expect, that is not as easy as it has been in past weeks. This may force us to focus on a loaded mid-tier with Keenan Allen, Diontae Johnson, Chris Godwin, Adam Thielen, and Michael Pittman Jr amongst the standout options priced between $6,600 and $7,600. Rostering a trio from this tier is doable from a salary perspective and brings serious upside, as well.
Top WR Options
Diontae Johnson ($7,100), Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Volume is the name of the game for wide receivers. If you tell me a wide receiver is going to get 13 targets, I will go out of my way to get him on my roster. Especially if that wide receiver is priced at an extremely affordable mid-tier salary of $7,100. Well, Johnson has had 13 targets five times in his last seven games. As we enter the stretch run of the 2021 season, Johnson has as much bankable target volume as any wide receiver in the NFL.
The Bengals numbers against opposing wide receivers are solid on paper but if you dig deeper, it is obvious the stats are deflated because the team has faced a very weak wide receiver schedule to start the season. Johnson was sidelined in the first matchup between these two teams and nearly every other top receiver has torched this defense, including Davante Adams (11-206-1), Adam Thielen (9-92-2), Justin Jefferson (5-71), and Marquise Brown (5-80-1).
Chris Godwin ($7,600), Tampa Bay at Indianapolis
With Mike Evans banged up and Antonio Brown headed towards inactive again, Godwin is the top healthy wide receiver in the best passing offense on the slate. Over the last six weeks, Godwin has averaged 8.8 targets per game. He has been incredibly efficient with his targets, with a catch rate of over 76% and just under 10 yards per target over the last two seasons. The Buccaneers-Colts game opened with the highest total on the slate and has only risen as the week has gone on. The over/under now sits at 53, highest on the slate by a full four points. This is a game we want to get as much fantasy exposure to as we can and Godwin looks like arguably the best points per dollar play amongst all the skill position players in this matchup.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling ($5,600), Green Bay vs. LA Rams
On a slate bereft of value, Valdes-Scantling stands out due to his recent volume and the matchup. Valdes-Scantling had a 58% marketshare of air yards in the Packers matchup last week against the Vikings. With Allen Lazard still banged up, Aaron Jones and Robert Tonyan Jr out, and Davante Adams likely to see shadow coverage from Jalen Ramsey, the stars are again aligning for Valdes-Scantling to be a go-to target for Aaron Rodgers. From a roster construction standpoint, taking a risk on a high-upside WR3 like this could pay huge dividends because of how much high-priced talent you can stack the rest of your roster with.
Other WRs to Consider:
Ja'Marr Chase ($7,700), Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Chase has had three relatively quiet fantasy games of 11.6, 5.9, and 11.5 FanDuel points since the massive game against Baltimore. Has the league figured him out to some extent? Perhaps so, according to Mike Tomlin.
Weeks 1-7, #Bengals WR Ja'Marr Chase had 8 rec for 354 yds on deep passes. Has 0 deep catches since. #Steelers' Mike Tomlin says that's "plays on tape." Talent recognized, adjustments made: "Seems like there's a young talented WO that takes the league by storm in Sept every year"— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) November 23, 2021
While Tomlin’s comments were actually relatively complimentary, the headlines likely got the attention of Chase, Joe Burrow, and the Bengals coaching staff. Consider the bear poked. Expect some extra deep shots to Chase.
Cooper Kupp ($9,500), LA Rams at Green Bay
The price tag requires sacrifices to be made elsewhere but Kupp has been incredible this season. He has three times as many fantasy games with 20 FanDuel points (six) as he does games with fewer than 15 FanDuel points (two). Against a Packers defense that was absolutely torched by Justin Jefferson last week, you want Kupp in your lineup if you can find the cap space to get up to him.
As with quarterback, most of the top options (Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, Mark Andrews, and T.J. Hockenson) are absent from the main slate. This leaves George Kittle as the only proven top option on the slate. If you do not pay up for Kittle it may be worth punting a bit and focusing on saving salary at the position. Rostering a player like Pat Freiermuth, Tyler Higbee, or Dan Arnold in the low $5Ks makes roster construction a whole lot easier.
Top TE Options
George Kittle ($6,700), San Francisco vs. Minnesota
If you watched closely, Kittle drew triple coverage in the end one on a play last week that allowed Brandon Aiyuk to get wide open for a touchdown. Aiyuk has started to heat up and Deebo Samuel has been on fire all season. Kittle has also been extremely productive. In three games since returning from an injury, he has averaged 5-65-1 (15.0 FanDuel points per game). There can be a yo-yo effect sometimes for NFL offenses. As the wide receivers make more plays, they start to generate extra defensive attention, which should free Kittle up to make more plays. He has cashed in on his lone red zone target each of the last three weeks and as the other pass catchers draw more attention, expect Kittle to gain some more favorable matchups.
Pat Freiermuth ($5,300), Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
With Eric Ebron and JuJu Smith-Schuster out for the season, Freiermuth has emerged alongside Chase Claypool as the second option in the Steelers passing offense. He has seen consistent volume with five straight games of six-plus targets (7.2 targets per game over that stretch). He is also clearly Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite red zone target, scoring four touchdowns in the last four weeks. At his bargain price tag, he looks like one of the top plays if you are looking to punt at tight end.
Other TEs to consider:
Dallas Goedert ($5,900), Philadelphia
With Zach Ertz in Arizona, Goedert has been the Eagles most-targeted pass catcher in three times in the last four games. At his sub-$6k price tag, he may be the safest bet at the position this week. The only drawback is that the Eagles have found success in recent weeks leaning on the run, especially in the red zone.
Kyle Pitts ($6,600), Atlanta vs. Jacksonville
Pitts got the Bill Belichick star player treatment last Thursday night, earning double coverage on nearly every snap. Being the only elite weapon on an offense is both a blessing and curse. The return of Cordarrelle Patterson and an easier matchup against a vulnerable Jacksonville pass defense could lead to Pitts having his first big fantasy game since Week 7.
Miami Dolphins ($3,400) vs. Carolina
With pricing tighter than normal this week, the optimal move is to try to save some money at defense. The Dolphins are blitzing a ton and have racked up 11 sacks over the past three weeks. The Panthers have allowed the sixth-most points to opposing defenses on the season.
Jacksonville Jaguars ($4,500) vs. Atlanta
The Jaguars have been sneaky good against the run and Atlanta has one of the worst run games in the NFL. Expect Jacksonville to make the Falcons one dimensional and tee off against Matt Ryan and the undermanned Atlanta offense with the Patriots providing a blueprint of how to dominate the unit.
Cincinnati Bengals ($3,300) vs. Pittsburgh
The price point is hard to ignore considering the Bengals are a home favorite in what is projected to be a relatively low-scoring game. It will be fairly cold and windy in Cincinnati this weekend.