The playoff push is upon us. Performance-driven breakouts and injuries have opened up some opportunities for players who could shine in Week 12. Here are 24 under-the-radar options from various positions that you might want to take a look at for your starting roster. Some of these may be waiver claims, others may be players on your roster that may finally be worthy of a start this week.
Tyrod Taylor, Houston vs NY Jets - It's a good strategy to target players who are playing the Jets and this week is no different. The 2-8 Jets are being outscored by an average of 14.2 points per game this season. They have allowed at least two touchdown passes or more since Week 4. This week Tyrod Taylor gets his crack at productive point-scoring against them. On the plus side, Taylor has 40, 15, 23, and 28 yards rushing in the four games he has appeared in this season. In addition to passing well, Taylor should also be able to add fantasy points via the run. He's a good start in 2QB leagues and if you need a quarterback in single-QB leagues, you could do worse.
Taylor Heinicke, Washington vs Seattle - The first thing that sticks out with this matchup for Washington is the volume of pass attempts that opponents of Seattle have had since Week 5. Every quarterback who has faced Seattle in the last six games has 35 pass attempts or more. Quarterbacks on that list include (Stafford, Roethlisberger, Winston, Lawrence, Rodgers, and McCoy). Next up is Heinicke who has topped 32 pass attempts or higher in seven of his last nine games. From a volume standpoint alone, he's worth a look. Since Week 7 he is ranked QB12 including 4th in quarterback rushing yards with 149.
Cam Newton, Carolina at Miami - Cam Newton has five touchdowns (3 pass, 2 rush) in his last two games, one of which was only 9 snaps. In addition to that, he has a 77.4% completion percentage. He has been hesitant to throw much downfield in his return to the field but that may be due to him not being completely familiar with the playbook in his limited time with the team. Quarterbacks are averaging 26-for-42 for 255 yards and 1.3 touchdown passes in the last four games against the Dolphins. If Newton comes close to those numbers and is successful on the ground with a rushing touchdown or two, he could come away with a strong fantasy performance this week.
Andy Dalton, Chicago at Detroit - Andy Dalton has been named the starter for the Bears in Thursday's Thanksgiving showdown with the Lions due to a rib injury that has sidelined Justin Fields. Detroit has been pretty decent against quarterbacks lately, allowing only 177 yards passing with 0.7 touchdown passes per game over the last three games. Having said that, Dalton can be used in two-QB leagues as an emergency option. On the bright side, Detroit opponents have averaged 34:16 of possession (third-most in the league) over the last three games. This may be a ground-controlled game but Dalton could sneak in with one or two touchdowns in a spot-start in front of a national audience. Dalton is more of an in-case-of-emergency-break-glass type of fantasy option, but against Detroit, you never know.
David Johnson or Rex Burkhead, Houston vs NY Jets - So far the "start your running backs vs the Jets" strategy has paid off handsomely. The string of at least one touchdown scored by a running back vs. the Jets since Week 1 is in jeopardy this week. Can Houston follow suit? The Texans have three rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns by running backs all season. Can they get another this week? Since Mark Ingram II was traded to New Orleans after Week 7, the breakdown of snaps by a Texans running back has been 78 for Rex Burkhead, 77 for David Johnson. Nearly a 50/50 split. In terms of touches, it breaks down similarly, 27 for Burkhead and 26 for Johnson. Fantasy points (PPR) have been 18.70 for Burkhead and 14.70 for Johnson. Who is the better play if you had to choose? Since Week 8, Johnson has 7 receptions vs Burkhead's 3, however, Burkhead is the only one of the two to score a rushing touchdown in that span. The chances are, we'll see one of them have a fairly decent game with an outside chance of both accumulating a decent return. Perhaps a slight lean towards Johnson due to his receiving tendencies in this offense.
Miles Sanders, Philadelphia at NY Giants - Sanders returned from an ankle injury last week to the tune of 94 yards on 16 carries. Jordan Howard added 10 carries for 63 yards on 13 snaps but it was Sanders who led the way with 36 snaps. The Giants have struggled to contain opposing running backs, allowing the third-most PPR points to the position since Week 8. Sanders has appeared in eight games for the Eagles this season and has topped double-digit carries four times (50%). This is by far not a lock for success this week, but the recent success against the Giants at running back plus the acknowledgment of needing to get Sanders more involved is a good recipe for a breakout game for a back that may be sitting on your bench waiting to shine. The Giants have also allowed 28 receptions to running backs in the last three games (KC, LSV, TB).
Devonta Freeman, Baltimore vs. Cleveland - The Ravens have used Devonta Freeman as their primary running back for the last five games while Latavius Murray was absent with an ankle injury. He came through fairly well scoring four times in that span. Murray returned last week and produced a meager 32 yards on ten carries. Freeman seems to be the preferred back for Baltimore, at least for now. He also has 14 receptions in his last four games. The matchup this week vs Cleveland doesn't sound great on paper but the Browns have struggled against the run lately, allowing a 90-plus yeard rusher in three of the last four games, with six rushing touchdowns allowed to running backs in that span. Freeman has been a decent fill-in or flex option lately. The same rings true for this week with the bonus of a decent matchup. It should be a tough decision to keep Freeman from your starting lineup this week.
Melvin Gordon III & Javonte Williams, Denver vs LA Chargers - The double-trouble backfield of Gordon and Williams has been productive this season for Denver. Gordon has been the hotter back lately with touchdowns in each of the last four games, compared to only one by Williams. The snap count and usage are fairly even. Any given week could be successful for either back and both could finish with decent fantasy numbers. Enter the Chargers run defense which has been porous this year. They have allowed at least one rushing touchdown in seven of the last nine games. They have allowed at least two different backs on the same team to both score in four of those games.
Mark Ingram II, New Orleans vs Buffalo - We saw Jonathan Taylor destroy the Bills run defense last week. Good defenses that get beat up badly usually right the ship and fix whatever ails them, but there are also examples of teams who struggle to find a solution to a problem. We also saw Buffalo struggle against Tennessee's run game. Which Bills defense shows up this week? Can New Orleans follow suit with Mark Ingram II if Alvin Kamara (knee) is unable to go? Even if Ingram gets thwarted by Buffalo, he's still a decent fantasy option this week due to his receiving tendencies. Ingram has 17 receptions in his last four games, two of which were without Kamara. In those two he had 10 total receptions.
Ty Johnson, NY Jets at Houston - Michael Carter suffered a high ankle sprain and will miss the next few games. As a result, the running back duties in New York will belong to Ty Johnson and to a lesser degree, Tevin Coleman. Johnson is next up on the depth chart and snap count utilization. He stands to benefit the most in Carter's absence. The Jets are a liability on defense which usually means a poor run game, but this week's matchup against Houston could prove to be productive. Houston has allowed an average of 25 carries for 117 yards and 0.9 rushing touchdowns to running backs this season. With the depth chart reduced to mostly Johnson and Coleman, there is a chance for decent production in Week 12.
A.J. Dillon, Green Bay vs LA Rams - Aaron Jones (knee) remains out which means A.J. Dillon will once again take over as the primary running back weapon for the Packers. This week's matchup against the Rams isn't a strong one, but Dillon should see plenty of opportunities after being on the field for 75% of the team's snaps last week. He was also third on the team in team target percentage with 19%, catching 6 passes. Dillon has topped 78 total yards in each of the last four games.
Elijah Moore, NY Jets at Houston - Elijah Moore leads all wide receivers in PPR fantasy points over the last four weeks. He has 24 receptions for 336 yards and four touchdowns. The downside is none of that came with Zach Wilson under center. Wilson has missed the last four games due to a knee injury while a combination of Mike White, Josh Johnson, and Joe Flacco have elevated Moore's game. Wilson is the future of the Jets until proven otherwise and now he is healthy enough to return to action and is scheduled to start against Houston in Week 12. Can Moore maintain his second-half breakout with Wilson under center? We're going to find out. Moore finished his string of big games with a 31% team target share in Week 11 while totaling 8 receptions for 141 yards with a touchdown. Houston has allowed at least one touchdown to a wide receiver in each of the last five games. If you're not starting him already, Moore is worthy of your attention from here on out, provided Zach Wilson doesn't fall flat. As good as he has been recently, go ahead and start him, but don't be shocked if Wilson struggles to keep him fantasy-relevant.
Michael Gallup, & Cedrick Wilson, Dallas vs Las Vegas - The Cowboys will be without CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper against the Raiders on Thanksgiving Day. As a result, Michael Gallup and Cedrick Wilson should see an increase in targets for the injury-challenged wide receiving corps of the Cowboys. Both could gain upwards of 50-80 yards against a Raiders team who have allowed four touchdowns to wide receivers in the last two games.
Darnell Mooney, Chicago at Detroit - The presence of Andy Dalton under center for the Bears likely means more downfield throws which benefit the Bears wide receivers. Allen Robinson (hamstring) is probably out this Thursday making Mooney an even stronger play. Last week, without Robinson, Mooney accounted for a whopping 16 targets (48% team target share) and finished with 5 receptions for 121 yards and 1 touchdown. The Lions have allowed only one touchdown to a wide receiver since Week 7 and no wide receiver has surpassed more than 83 yards in that span against CLE, PIT, and PHI. While the lean towards Mooney as a starter this week looks promising, the Lions could surprise us and keep Mooney at bay.
Marvin Jones Jr & Laviska Shenault Jr, Jacksonville vs Atlanta - The Jaguars have been hit hard with injuries to their wide receiver corps, losing D.J. Chark Jr and now Jamal Agnew to long-term injuries. Filling the void will be Jones and Shenault. Trevor Lawrence has zero touchdown passes each of the last three games (BUF, at IND, SF) and he failed to reach 165 yards passing in each game. Enter the Atlanta Falcons who have allowed five touchdowns to wide receivers in the last three games. Both Jacksonville and Atlanta are teams on the fade. Jacksonville has scored 7, 9, 17, and 10 points in their last four games, while Atlanta has just 3 points in their last two games. Something has got to give in this game and it could be what Lawrence needs to break out of his mid-season slump.
Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas at Dallas - Aside from Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow has been the top receiver target for the Raiders, commanding a team target share of 20% or higher in six of the last seven games. He is clearly a key piece to the offensive passing attack and should see upwards of 8-9 targets against Dallas. Renfrow has 7 receptions exactly in three of the last four games and he has two touchdowns in that span.
Cole Beasley, Buffalo at New Orleans - Cole Beasley is second on the Bills in targets (74) and receptions (57) and lately, he has been a hot commodity for Josh Allen as his hot read when pressured. Teams are recognizing Buffalo's lack of a run game and are dropping back 7 or 8 in the secondary. As a result, Beasley, the short-yardage target, is seeing more looks. If this continues look for Beasley to rack up a high number of targets and receptions approaching 8-10 targets and 7-8 receptions per game.
Evan Engram, NY Giants vs Philadelphia - The "start your tight ends against the Eagles" strategy continues to be a strong producing play. Last week marked the 9th tight end touchdown scored against Philadelphia when Adam Trautman found the end zone. Philly's struggles include at least one tight end touchdown allowed in nine of the last eleven games. Engram has a team target share percentage of 24%, 12%, 18%, and 14% in each of the last four games with scores in back-to-back games before failing to score in Week 11. Can Engram be the next in line to benefit against Philadelphia's tight end coverage issues? Trends suggest he will.
Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh at Cincinnati - The Steelers may have found their tight end of the future in Freiermuth. He is fourth on the team in targets this season (49) but since Week 7 only Diontae Johnson leads him in targets. In the last four games, he has 18 receptions on 29 targets with 4 touchdowns. The news of Eric Ebron's knee injury that will force him to miss multiple games means Freiermuth will be relied upon even more in the games ahead. The Bengals have allowed a tight end touchdown in each of the last three games.
Adam Trautman, New Orleans vs Buffalo - Adam Trautman quietly has 19 receptions in the last four games. His 30 targets in that span are fifth-most in the league. He has 10 receptions and a touchdown over the last two games and is poised to have a strong second half of the season. Buffalo is a tough matchup, allowing only two touchdowns to tight ends this season, but it's difficult to overlook what Trautman has done recently.
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