Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes. Anybody can tell you to start the Chris Carsons, D.J. Charks, and George Kittles of the world. That’s not what I’m doing here. I’m looking deeper at legitimate mostly-borderline candidates who owners may truly be contemplating using in lineups.
Start of the Week: Matt Ryan vs. Bucs: Fantasy’s QB10 in points per game, Ryan has a pair of sub-200 yards performances in his last three games and is just the QB20 since returning from his ankle injury. That’s after Ryan opened the season with six straight 300-yard passing games, tossing multiple touchdowns in five of those contests. Despite throwing just one touchdown last week in Carolina, Ryan played extremely well, averaging a season-high 10.03 yards per attempt as Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley were working over the Panthers secondary. This is a major get-right spot for the former MVP. The Bucs are a true pass-funnel defense, checking in at 30th in pass-defense DVOA, 31st in passing yards allowed per game, 31st in touchdowns allowed through the air, 24th in opponent passer rating, 21st in opponent yards per attempt, and 31st in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks while facing the league’s most pass attempts. Tampa Bay is also 24th in opponent plays per game. Both the Bucs and Falcons are top-15 in offensive pace, so this game has major shootout appeal as evidenced by its 51-point total, easily the highest of the week. Drew Brees (228 yards, 3 TDs, QB10), Kyler Murray (324/3/QB4), Russell Wilson (378/5/QB1), and Ryan Tannehill (193/3/QB11) have all lit the Bucs up since Tampa’s Week 7 bye. Ryan is an elite QB1 option right behind Lamar Jackson for Week 12.
Baker Mayfield vs. Dolphins: Mayfield is coming off back-to-back multiple-touchdown games, amazingly his first two such games of the season after throwing 0-1 scores each of the first eight contests. He is the QB11 over the last two weeks. Cleveland’s offense is getting to full strength with the recent return of Rashard Higgins from injury, Kareem Hunt from suspension, and David Njoku now knocking on the door after missing Weeks 2-11 with a broken wrist. Mayfield now gets a Dolphins Defense that is dead last in pass-defense DVOA, 20th in passing yards allowed per game, 28th in opponent yards per attempt, 30th in opponent passer rating, 29th in passing touchdowns surrendered, and 26th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Miami has played better defense of late, but the QB schedule hasn’t exactly been difficult. Since the bye, the Dolphins have faced Case Keenum, Josh Allen, Mason Rudolph, Sam Darnold, Jacoby Brissett, and Allen again last week, who hung the overall QB1 day on the board. Miami is 21st in opponent plays per game. The Browns’ implied total of 27.5 points is the second-highest of the week, tied with the Falcons behind the Saints. Mayfield is a top-12 play.
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Derek Carr at Jets: Carr rushed for his first touchdown of the season last week and has multiple touchdowns in 6-of-8 games after tossing just one each the first two weeks of the year. The problem for Carr as a fantasy prospect is that he’s yet to have a 300-yard game and is averaging just 249.4 yards per game with next-to-no rushing output. He’s been perfectly fine as a strong QB2 each week, but the ceiling is relatively low because Carr plays such a conservative game. That’s fine in real life, but it doesn’t translate to fantasy numbers, as Carr is the overall QB22 in points per game behind guys like Jacoby Brissett, Jimmy Garoppolo, and Andy Dalton. But this is a potential ceiling game for Carr. The Jets are 21st in pass-defense DVOA, 21st in passing yards allowed per game, 21st in opponent passer rating, 23rd in touchdown passes surrendered, and 21st in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. And they’ve faced Dwayne Haskins, Daniel Jones, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Gardner Minshew the last four weeks. Jones put 308 yards and four touchdowns on the Jets in Week 10 after Minshew hung 279 yards and three scores on them two weeks before that. Carr has one of the better offensive lines in the league protecting him while the Jets are in the bottom half of the NFL in adjusted sack rate. Oakland’s implied total of 24.75 points is sixth-highest of the week. Carr is a legit streamer.
Jeff Driskel at Redskins: Driskel is completing a subpar 58.3% of his passes in two starts filling in for Matthew Stafford while averaging just 6.6 yards per attempt with three touchdown passes, but he’s compiled a 13-88-1 rushing line and is the QB8 since stepping in under center. Driskel is by no means even an average thrower of the football, but he has above-average athleticism and is surrounded with a strong group of pass-catching playmakers. He now gets one of the easier matchups in football against a Washington defense that is 26th in DVOA versus the pass, 24th in opponent yards per attempt, and 26th in opponent passer rating. The Redskins are middle of the pack in passing yards allowed and fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks mainly because they face the fifth-fewest pass attempts per game. Working in Driskel’s favor, however, is the Lions’ lack of a reliable running game and Washington being 25th in opponent plays per game. He’s also a threat to run it in himself when the Lions are near the goal line. Washington just surrendered 293 yards and four touchdowns to Sam Darnold last week after Josh Allen threw a score and ran one in the previous week. Kirk Cousins completed 88.5% of his 26 throws against the Skins in Week 9. This game has the fourth-lowest total on the board at 41.5 points, but the 3.5-point spread suggests it could be competitive. Driskel is unlikely to flirt with elite QB1 numbers, but his rushing floor and favorable passing spot make him a viable play.
Tom Brady vs. Cowboys: The overall QB9 in Weeks 1-6, Brady produced five top-13 weeks in that span, but has been the overall QB29 in fantasy points per game over the last five weeks with zero top-12 finishes and three QB19-or-worse weeks. Brady has zero 300-yard passing games over his last four outings with one multi-touchdown game. It hasn’t been for lack of volume either, as Brady has fired off at least 45 pass attempts in three of those four contests. The offense is simply devoid of playmakers following the release of Josh Gordon. Mohamed Sanu now has a multi-week ankle injury, leaving Julian Edelman as the lone reliable target. Dallas is 19th in pass-defense DVOA but No. 7 in passing yards allowed per game, No. 5 in opponent yards per attempt, No. 7 in passing touchdowns allowed, 17th in opponent passer rating, and No. 8 in fantasy points given up to quarterbacks. The projected pace of this game is intriguing with both the Patriots (No. 1) and Cowboys (No. 3) top-three in offensive pace, but I am leaning toward this game hitting the under on its 45.5-point total that is currently being bet down. The Cowboys have held each of the last four quarterbacks they’ve faced to 220 yards or less while none of the four have thrown more than two touchdowns. Brady just hasn’t been getting it done from a fantasy perspective. There are better streamers, and I’d personally start Baker Mayfield and possibly even Jeff Driskel (both listed above) over Brady this week.
Josh Allen vs. Broncos: Fresh off his overall QB1 flaming of the Dolphins last week in Miami, Allen returns home for a stiff test against a Broncos Defense that is No. 5 in passing yards allowed per game, No. 5 in opponent yards per attempt, No. 5 in passing touchdowns allowed, 14th in opponent passer rating, and 15th in pass-defense DVOA. Denver is also all the way up to 12th in adjusted sack rate despite its horrendous start to the season in that department coupled with the loss of OLB Bradley Chubb to a torn ACL. This defense faces the eighth-fewest plays per game, and both the Bills and Broncos are in the bottom half of the league in offensive pace. Broncos-Bills has the lowest total of the week at 37.5 points. Allen is obviously always a threat for rushing scores, but this doesn’t shape up as a spot for him to realize his sky-high ceiling, especially if Denver can control the ball on the ground a bit against a weak Buffalo run defense. Allen is a borderline QB1/2 best-suited for two-QB leagues this week. I’m personally starting Jameis Winston and Jeff Driskel over Allen where I have him.
Ryan Tannehill vs. Jaguars: Since taking over as the Titans’ starter in Week 7, Tannehill has cobbled together the overall QB9 output with weekly finishes of QB13 > QB11 > QB5 > QB11. This might be Tannehill’s toughest on-paper test to date, however. The Jaguars are No. 11 in pass-defense DVOA, No. 8 in passing yards allowed, No. 10 in opponent completion percentage, No. 12 in passing touchdowns allowed, No. 12 in opponent passer rating, and 15th in fantasy points given up to quarterbacks. Jacksonville is also No. 6 in adjusted sack rate. Both the Jaguars and Titans are bottom-seven in offensive pace. The Jaguars are No. 12 in opponent plays per game, and the Titans run the fourth-fewest offensive plays. Tennessee wants to run the ball down the defense’s throat, and that’s just what it did last time out against the Chiefs with Tannehill attempting all of 19 passes in the upset win. The Jaguars are a run-funnel defense, checking in at 30th in DVOA against the run. Derrick Henry has a history of destroying this defense. With the Titans as three-point home favorites, Henry should get all he can handle. Tannehill will ideally play a game-manager role. He’s best left for two-QB leagues.
Start of the Week: Phillip Lindsay at Bills: Out of the Broncos’ Week 10 bye, Lindsay played a season-high 64.6% of the snaps in the loss to the Vikings. That represents a 15% spike in playing time from Weeks 1-9. Royce Freeman, on the other hand, played just 29.1% of the downs in Minnesota, a 22% dip from his first nine weeks. Lindsay out-touched Freeman 18-9, though neither back did a whole lot from a fantasy perspective, as Lindsay turned his looks into just 75 scoreless yards. Unlike the Vikings, the Bills field an extreme run-funnel defense. Buffalo is 27th in DVOA against the run compared to ninth versus the pass. Opposing running backs average over 4.58 yards per carry against the Bills, and Buffalo is 18th in rushing yards allowed per game and 19th in fantasy points surrendered to running backs. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt combined for 24-146-0 on the ground against Buffalo in Week 10. Adrian Peterson had 18-108-0 in Week 9. Jordan Howard (23-96-1) and Miles Sanders (3-74-1) both visited the end zone in Week 8. And Mark Walton had a respectable (14-66-0) the week before. Lindsay is the current RB20 in half-PPR points per game and has been targeted one fewer time than Freeman, 35-34. The two have seen a total of four targets in the two games Brandon Allen has started, however, so the receiving floor appears to be basement-level in this backfield. This game should be competitive enough -- BUF (-4) with a 37.5-point total -- where Lindsay should be able to mess around and flirt with 16-20 touches. The Broncos would prefer to lean on their backfield rather than letting Allen air it out 39 times like he did last week against Minnesota.
Brian Hill vs. Bucs: The hot pickup of Week 11, Hill completely flopped in the Falcons’ blowout road win over the Panthers. He turned 15 carries into 30 scoreless yards and caught an eight-yard pass. Hill was stuck on 11 carries for 11 yards into the fourth quarter before busting a couple runs into the red zone. He eventually scored from one yard out but had the touchdown called back on a holding penalty. Hill doesn’t look like a starting-caliber NFL back, lacking explosion and change-of-direction traits, but his 60% snap share was pretty promising considering the Falcons didn’t stray away from him late despite the lack of big plays. Devonta Freeman (foot) is expected to miss another game at least, giving Hill another shot as the lead back. The Bucs are No. 1 in run-defense DVOA and No. 2 in rushing yards allowed, but they’ve sprung some leaks in recent weeks. Alvin Kamara averaged 5.8 yards per carry last week with a 13-75 rushing line to go along with 10 catches for 47 yards. And Chris Carson put a 16-105 day on them two weeks before that with two catches for 28 yards. Tampa Bay is surrendering the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs, but Hill’s grip on the No. 1 job with Freeman sidelined appears strong, as he also led Falcons RBs in routes with 16 last week. He caught a touchdown in Week 10. The Falcons are four-point home favorites, and this is an overall blow-up spot for the entire offense on the Mercedes Benz Dome turf in a game with the week’s highest total at 51 points. Atlanta’s implied total of 27.5 points is second-highest on the board. Owners need to go back to the well and play the volume card with Hill as a confident RB2 against a Bucs defense that is in the bottom third of the NFL in opponent plays per game.
David Montgomery vs. Giants: After generating 223 yards and three touchdowns on 48 touches Weeks 8-9 as the overall RB5 in that span, Montgomery has turned 32 touches into 110 scoreless yards the last two weeks. Montgomery was in on over 73% of the Bears’ offensive snaps Weeks 8-9 but played an eight-week low 46.9% of the downs last Sunday night against the Rams. And it’s not like that game was out of hand. Montgomery needs to be featured more as the offensive centerpiece with the way Mitchell Trubisky is playing, especially now that he’s at less than 100% due to a hip pointer. Coming back home as touchdown favorites over the Giants paves the way for Montgomery to see a bigger workload. The Giants are 14th in run-defense DVOA and 21st in fantasy points allowed to running backs, and they allow the 10th-most rushing yards per game and have faced the fifth-most rush attempts. Montgomery has seen at least 14 carries in four straight games and should be able to push for 18-plus in this spot. He’s a bet-on-game-script RB2 who should see enough volume to put up fantasy numbers. Le’Veon Bell (68 yards, TD), Ezekiel Elliott (139/0), Chase Edmonds (150/3), and Sony Michel (113/0) have experienced success against the G-Men in their last five games.
Jaylen Samuels at Bengals: James Conner (shoulder) has yet to practice this week and is looking doubtful to suit up Sunday in a matchup of AFC North basement-dwellers. This game may feature the smallest collection of offensive talent we’ve seen in awhile, as JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee, concussion) will also be out for Pittsburgh. Samuels hasn’t exactly capitalized on his opportunities in place of a banged-up Conner this season, but this is about as good of a spot he’ll see all season. The Bengals are 24th in run-defense DVOA, 32nd in rushing yards allowed, 30th in opponent yards per carry, 31st in rushing touchdowns allowed, and 29th in fantasy points given up to running backs. Samuels is likely to split the work with now-healthy Benny Snell and possibly even Trey Edmunds, but Samuels is the clear-cut preferred pass-down back among the three who will have a chance to register double-digit carries and catches. Mason Rudolph’s targets have to go somewhere with Conner and Smith-Schuster missing this one. Pittsburgh will be playing significantly up in pace against the Bengals’ No. 4-paced offense and a defense that is 20th in opponent plays per game. Samuels is an excellent RB2 play in PPR formats with a FLEX floor in standard leagues.
Ronald Jones at Falcons: Jones played 55.3% of the snaps against the Seahawks in Week 9 and handled 20 touches for the second time this season. After that impressive performance, coach Bruce Arians admitted Jones earned and deserved more work. In the two games since, Jones’ snap rates are 45.8% and 29.9% with touch counts of 19 and six. The 19-touch day against the Cardinals was a bit skewed by eight catches considering Jones entered that week with eight catches for the entire season. The Bucs got rocked by the Saints last week, putting Jones in an extremely negative game script, as Dare Ogunbowale is Arians’ preferred pass-game and catch-up mode back. This Bucs-Falcons game has a sexy 51.5-point total, but the Bucs are four-point underdogs on the road against an Atlanta defense that has been lights out since making defensive staff changes during the Week 9 bye. The Falcons have shut down the Saints and Panthers in back-to-back weeks, so this game getting away from the Bucs is a real possibility. That would again put Jones behind the eight ball. This three-man backfield committee appears here to stay. If you’re of the belief the Bucs can keep this close and even win, then Jones’ fantasy floor rises, but this team is a mess overall. And the Falcons have done a complete 180 since the bye. Jones is a scary RB3 play as we embark on the fantasy playoffs.
Derrius Guice vs. Lions: Making his first appearance since Week 1, Guice was in on just 30.8% of the snaps last week against the Jets, rushing seven times for 24 yards but making his lone catch count for a 45-yard touchdown on a screen. Adrian Peterson still got the start and out-carried Guice 9-7 while Wendell Smallwood led the backfield in snap share. Chris Thompson is expected back from injury this week to further complicate matters, though Peterson did miss practice Wednesday and Thursday with a toe issue. Peterson has played through several injuries this season, but this could be a way for the Skins to deactivate Peterson and see more of Guice. That would put Guice on the fantasy map, but for now, I’m writing this as if Peterson is going to play. Guice just hasn’t been healthy in the NFL, and I’m not actively looking to start running backs playing in the league’s worst offense who are also part of a committee. The Redskins rotate backs and play at the NFL’s slowest offensive pace while running the fewest plays per game. Guice is a low-floor RB3 as it stands right now.
Sony Michel vs. Cowboys: Michel has played less than 30% of the snaps the last two games and has a total of 14 carries for 51 scoreless yards in that span. Averaging a hideous 3.3 yards per carry as a sophomore, Michel has been even more touchdown-dependent than he was as a rookie. And with Rex Burkhead healthy to steal 5-8 touches per game while James White dominates pass-game work, it lowers Michel’s floor even more. The Cowboys are a middling 17th in run-defense DVOA, 14th in rushing yards allowed, and 16th in fantasy points given up to running backs, but Michel’s low volume of late on top of his nonexistent pass-game role makes him an extremely volatile RB3 who can sink lineups when he doesn’t score touchdowns. He’s playing like a rich man’s Peyton Barber or Kalen Ballage in his second NFL season. We need Michel to get back up around 50% of the snaps or better on-paper matchups to go back to him.
Start of the Week: Jamison Crowder vs. Raiders: Crowder has at least 76 yards and a touchdown in three straight games, averaging 7.7 targets and coming in as the overall WR4 in fantasy points per game in that span. Where he’s owned, he should be stapled to lineups. Crowder is clearly Sam Darnold’s favorite target right now and catches another plus-plus draw against the Raiders. Oakland is 28th in passing yards allowed and 27th in fantasy points surrendered to opposing wideouts. Since the Raiders’ Week 6 bye, Marquez Valdes-Scantling (2-133-1), Jake Kumerow (2-54-1), DeAndre Hopkins (11-109), Kenny Golladay (4-132-1), Marvin Jones (8-126-1), and Keenan Allen (8-68) have all met or exceeded expectations against the Silver and Black. Like the guys listed, Crowder is his team’s No. 1 wideout, even though he plays in the slot 73.7% of the time. Allen did his work from inside. Danny Amendola (3-29) was the only other notable slot man to face the Raiders in that span, but he’s a distant third on the Lions for targets. The Raiders’ slot man, Lamarcus Joyner, missed last week with a hamstring injury and didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday, again putting him in doubt for Sunday. This game has some shootout appeal with a 46.5-point total, fifth-highest of Week 12.
Josh Gordon at Eagles: Gordon played just 37% of the snaps in his Seahawks debut in Week 10, running 22 routes, but he did come with two huge third-down catches late in the game, reeling in both targets he saw from Russell Wilson. Even on limited playing time, Gordon’s presence was felt in that Monday night win over the Niners. There’s a good chance the Seahawks spent their Week 11 bye getting Gordon more ingrained in the offense for the stretch run as they try to chase down the Niners atop the NFC West. Having Gordon out there as a regular threat playing heavy snaps makes all the sense in the world for this team, as he and Tyler Lockett put fear into a defense and allow Chris Carson to run against softer fronts. If defenses key on Carson, then the wideouts see single-coverage with MVP candidate Russell Wilson throwing them the ball. Where I held onto Gordon in fantasy, I’m running him out there against the Eagles. Philadelphia is 29th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts. The DBs held their own last week against Tom Brady, but Wilson, Lockett, Gordon, and DK Metcalf are a clear step above the current Patriots’ pass-catching group. This is a smash spot for the entire Seattle offense. The 48-point total for Seahawks-Eagles is the second-highest of the week.
Tyrell Williams at Jets: After seeing six targets per game Weeks 1-4 with a touchdown catch in each contest, Williams’ targets have dipped to 4.75 per week over the last four with no touchdowns in his last three outings. The good news is he still commands the lion’s share of air yards for Oakland, but the bad news is that Derek Carr rarely pushes the ball downfield. The Gazelle was the overall WR21 in half-PPR points per game in the four games before his foot injury but has been the WR37 in the four games since his return. Williams played a season-low 75% of the snaps last week against the Bengals and has been in on just 83% of the downs since coming back from injury. That’s still a solid clip, but Williams played at least 92% of the snaps in every game Weeks 1-4. Hunter Renfrow and Zay Jones have taken on increased roles while Darren Waller is an every-down tight end dominating underneath and seam targets. Still, this spot presents a terrific bounce-back opportunity for Williams. The Jets have been nails against the run, coming in at No. 2 in DVOA, but they’re a pitiful 21st against the pass and surrender the third-most fantasy points to wideouts. Terry McLaurin (3-69), Darius Slayton (10-121-2), Golden Tate (4-95-2), Preston Williams (5-72-2), DeVante Parker (4-57-1), Chris Conley (4-103-1), and D.J. Chark (6-79-1) have all met or wildly exceeded expectations against the Jets over the last five weeks. Oakland’s implied team total of 24.75 points is sixth-highest of Week 12, and the Jets are 27th in opponent plays per game. Williams is a strong WR3 option.
D.J. Moore at Saints: Moore (8-95) and Christian McCaffrey (191 yards) were the only sources of offense for a Panthers team that mustered just three points at home against the Falcons last Sunday. Moore has now drawn at least 10 targets in four of the last five games and eight targets in six straight. He's averaging 105.3 yards over his last three outings, but touchdowns have avoided him with just two on the year and none since Week 6. This isn’t the easiest matchup Moore will see, but the Saints are expected to be without top CB Marshon Lattimore (hamstring) after he missed practice Wednesday and Thursday. That makes this spot for Moore much easier. And even though Kyle Allen has played some of the worst football we’ve seen in recent weeks, he’s still feeding Moore relentlessly. Moore’s ability to turn short targets into big gains with his tackle-breaking yards-after-catch ability gives him a chance to score from anywhere on the field. He’s top-10 among qualified wideouts in YAC. This game’s 47-point total is fourth-highest of Week 12, and the Panthers figure to be chasing on the scoreboard much of the day as 9.5-point underdogs. Moore, McCaffrey, and Greg Olsen are the safe plays for Carolina.
Curtis Samuel at Saints: Since the Week 7 bye, Samuel is averaging a healthy eight targets per game, but he’s failed to top 46 yards in 3-of-4 contests and has mainly gotten by as a fantasy asset with four touchdowns over his last five outings. D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffrey are very clearly the top two options in the offense right now with Samuel fighting for what’s left with Greg Olsen. Kyle Allen completely bottomed out last week against the Falcons, leaving little confidence in this passing game headed into a tough road environment at the Superdome. New Orleans is top-eight in both pass-defense DVOA and opponent yards per attempt. Allen crumbles under pressure and should see a good amount of it Sunday. This game’s 47-point total is third-highest of the week, but the Saints are massive 9.5-point favorites. Carolina’s implied total of 18.75 points is fifth-lowest on the board. Samuel has settled in as more of a touchdown-dependent WR4 against a Saints Defense that is No. 6 in opponent plays per game. While Samuel leads the Panthers in air yards, the quality of those targets from Allen is very low.
Terry McLaurin vs. Lions: After starting his rookie year on a heater with gunslinger Case Keenum under center, McLaurin’s numbers have tailed off since Dwayne Haskins started seeing snaps. In Haskins’ two starts, Weeks 9 and 11, McLaurin has receiving lines of 4-39 and 3-69 while seeing 10 targets for a measly 17.5% of the target share. His matchup against Detroit as a team defense isn’t all that daunting, but McLaurin figures to draw shadow coverage from CB Darius Slay. Slay has allowed just one touchdown in his coverage all year, and his 56.8% completion rate allowed in his coverage is 26th among 116 qualified corners at Pro Football Focus. Quarterbacks have an 82.8 passer rating when throwing at Slay, which is 31st among those 116 corners. And Haskins is arguably the worst quarterback Slay will see this year. McLaurin’s freaky combination of size, speed, and ball skills always make him a high-ceiling option because he can score from literally anywhere on the field, but this matchup against Slay in a game with a 41.5-point total and the Skins’ implied total of 19 make him a boom-bust WR4.
Michael Gallup at Patriots: This one’s tough because Gallup has been lights out since Dallas’ Week 8 bye. He has receiving lines of 2-33-1 > 4-76-1 > 9-148 in those three games while seeing a whopping 22.8% of the targets from Dak Prescott. Amari Cooper is playing through a knee injury and seeing a lighter snap load, allowing Gallup to get a legitimate No. 1 wideout target share. Still, this spot against the Patriots is insanely tough. New England is No. 1 in pass-defense DVOA, No. 2 in passing yards allowed, No. 2 in pass plays of 20-plus yards against, and No. 1 in fantasy points allowed to wideouts. This defense has surrendered just one touchdown to a receiver, all the way back in Week 6 to slot man Golden Tate. If any position has given the Patriots some fits, it’s been the inside receivers. That shapes up well for Randall Cobb to possibly continue his hot streak Sunday. But Gallup and Cooper are in real tough spots against Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty on the outside. The Patriots haven’t allowed an outside receiver to clear 52 yards with two-plus catches since John Brown in Week 4.
Start of the Week: Dallas Goedert vs. Seahawks: Since Week 4, Goedert has played 73% of the Eagles’ snaps and is top-15 among tight ends in yards per route in that span. He’s seen 5.6 targets per game over the last five weeks. Zach Ertz is seeing eight targets per game in the same span, but Goedert has three touchdowns to Ertz’s one and leads the team in targets inside the 10-yard line on the year. Goedert is a full-time player, especially with how banged up the Eagles are at wideout. Two tight ends is this team’s base offense. Seattle is 25th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Austin Hooper (6-65-1), Ricky Seals-Jones (3-47-1), Gerald Everett (7-136), Vance McDonald (7-38-2), and C.J. Uzomah (4-66) have all had success against the Seahawks. Goedert and Ertz are Carson Wentz’s go-to guys in the scoring area, and this game’s 48-point total is second-highest on the board. It has some shootout appeal.
Ryan Griffin vs. Raiders: Griffin is playing over 87% of the snaps this season and coming off a career-best 5-109-1 game against the Redskins last week. It was the first 100-yard game of Griffin’s seven-year career. He’s getting major opportunities in the Jets’ offense, as he’s 16th among all tight ends in routes this season despite playing in coach Adam Gase’s slow-paced offense. Griffin’s main draws are his every-down snap share and high percentage of routes. Oakland is 30th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, surrendering the second-most touchdowns to the position. Hunter Henry (4-30-1), T.J. Hockenson (3-56), Darren Fells (6-58-2), and Jimmy Graham (4-65-1) have all had big games against the Raiders since their Week 6 bye. Griffin is a no-brainer top-10 tight end play in a game with a 46.5-point total.
Jacob Hollister at Eagles: Since Will Dissly went down with a torn Achilles’ in Week 6, Hollister is the overall TE11 in fantasy points per game, and that includes 3-20 and 2-18 receiving lines Weeks 7 and 8 before exploding for a combined 12-99-3 line in Weeks 9-10 before the bye. Hollister has been in on 79% of the snaps the last two games and has ran the fourth-most routes among tight ends in that span. He’s slid right into Dissly’s old role as Russell Wilson’s reliable red-zone target except Hollister is a far better athlete. Hollister has long had interesting traits, but health hasn’t cooperated dating back to his time with the Patriots. The Eagles have stamped out tight ends this season, yielding the eighth-fewest fantasy points to the position, but Hollister is a full-time player running plenty of routes and gets featured in the red zone. Not much more we can ask for at tight end. This game’s 48-point total is the second-highest of Week 12.
Vance McDonald at Bengals: McDonald has ran the ninth-most routes among tight ends this season, but his pitiful 0.84 yards per route is second-worst among 40 qualified tight ends, better than only Trey Burton. McDonald has yet to clear 40 yards in a game this season and is scoreless in all but two contests. But he is on the field a ton -- 96% of the snaps the last two weeks -- and leads the Steelers in red-zone targets and targets inside the 10-yard line. The Steelers are also expected to be without targets and touches hogs JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee, concussion) and James Conner (shoulder) for this one in Cincinnati. That could/should lead to McDonald getting funneled the ball more. The Bengals are 24th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Darren Waller (5-78), Foster Moreau (2-8-1), and Mark Andrews (6-53-2) have all produced against Cincinnati since the team’s Week 9 bye.
Due to the lack of quality talent at tight end, it’s impossible for me to argue against anyone at the position. It’s a total crapshoot, and all we’re looking for among streamers are ones who can maybe fall into the end zone. Predicting touchdowns is the hardest thing to do in football. Just finding a tight end who is on the field enough and runs plenty of routes is hard enough. And now that bye weeks have entered the picture, the pickings are even slimmer. Good luck.