Week 12 is upon us, and as always, there’s a ton of appealing matchups on paper for fantasy purposes. Some of them stand head and shoulders above the rest, and they quickly turn into the chalk matchups of the week. Before we dig into the week’s top chalk selections and how to approach them, let’s take a look at the games and scenarios that everyone will have on their radar this week.
Chalk Games Of The Week
Arizona Cardinals @ Atlanta Falcons
When we have the highest projected scoring game of the Sunday slate, plus two offenses that can go off in a heartbeat, we have ourselves the chalk game of the week. To make this one even more appealing, there’s no clear defensive red flags to keep in mind with the exception of the fact that the Cardinals have been a little stingy against opposing running backs in 2016. However, even that comes with a caveat as solid backs can carve out some points. Devonta Freeman falls in that category, and we can consider him a solid option for Week 12 - along with plenty of other skill position players from this tilt.
Both signal callers offer up appeal, ands we can consider a high-priced stack with Matt Ryan at the helm, or a more affordable one with Carson Palmer leading the way. We’ll assume Palmer will be owned at a higher clip due to his discounted price, but both will see plenty of interest this week. There’s no reason to shy away from either player, but there’s also plenty of other viable plays at quarterback. In short, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger, but neither player is in the must play conversation.
Pass catchers are a different story, as Julio Jones and Larry Fitzgerald look like two of the top plays at wide receiver for Week 12. Both will be heavily owned, but we’re not going to shy away just for the sake of being different. Other options include Michael Floyd, JJ Nelson, Mohamed Sanu and Austin Hooper. We shouldn’t have to worry about ownership percentage for any of them, and we’ll only consider them as boom-bust options for GPP play. Finally, David Johnson is one of the top plays on the board most weeks, and this week is no different. He’s going to cost you, but the upside is huge in a potential shootout.
Carolina Panthers @ Oakland Raiders
This is an interesting matchup in the late Sunday afternoon window that features two top quarterbacks. We can expect interest to be high on Cam Newton, but Derek Carr may fall slightly under the radar. Both are strong plays in Week 12, but we’ll give the edge to Newton for overall upside. For targets to stack with them, Greg Olsen and Amari Cooper are the top options. We can expect interest to be high in both, but not so high that we have to worry about fading them for differentiation purposes. Kelvin Benjamin and Michael Crabtree are intriguing secondary options, and they make for nice ways to gain some exposure to the respective passing attacks at a lower ownership percentage. Both clubs have been relatively stingy against the run in recent weeks, so we’ll lean towards taking a pass on Jonathan Stewart and Latavius Murray.
Chalk Thoughts To Keep In Mind
The 49ers defense is atrocious. During their nine-game losing streak, the 49ers have allowed seven opponents to drop 30 or more points on them. That bodes well for the fantasy prospects of the Miami Dolphins this week, and there’s plenty of ways to attack it. Jay Ajayi has an outstanding opportunity to produce a monster line in Week 12, but we can also easily be talked into a stack centered by Ryan Tannehill.
Eli Manning is heating up. He’s thrown nine touchdowns over the last three weeks, and he has the privilege of facing off with a Browns squad that is incredibly fantasy friendly. Manning will be heavily owned this week, and for good reason. There’s a good chance he torches the Browns, who have allowed 25 passing touchdowns on the season.
Tom Brady doesn’t like the Jets. He’s jokingly expressed his disdain for the Jets in the past, but there’s definitely something to it. Brady has had mixed results against them in recent years, but he’s been playing fantastic since his return. Combine that with the fact that the Jets strength at secondary is a distant memory, and we could be looking at a fantasy bonanza for Brady and the Patriots.
Let’s take a look at this week’s top chalk plays by position and how we can approach them for our lineups, starting with the quarterback position.
QB Russell Wilson, $6,700. There’s a few quarterbacks in the running for the chalk selection of the week, but we’ll lean towards Wilson for a few reasons. For starters, he’s riding a three-game streak of 25+ points per game. Second, the Buccaneers have been a pretty fantasy friendly defense to play against in 2016. Finally, he’s super affordable in relation to his upside. Add it all up, and Wilson may very well be the most popular choice at quarterback in Week 12.
Despite the reasons outlined above, he’s not quite a must play option. There’s plenty of appealing options at a similar price point, namely Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan, and we can also find some intriguing signal callers a little further down south on the salary chart. Eli Manning, Derek Carr and Carson Palmer are affordable options with upside, and they should offer plenty of differentiation from Wilson. Bottom line, we won’t look to fade Wilson just to be unique, but we can find the upside elsewhere to set our lineups apart.
RB Jay Ajayi, $7,600. While Wilson is not quite a must play, Ajayi is certainly hovering around that neighborhood this week. He’s facing off against the porous defense of the 49ers, and the upside is absolutely massive. His price also happens to match the upside, as he checks in as the third most expensive back on the Sunday only slate. We’ll definitely consider paying up, as there are plenty of value running backs that we can look towards to fill our RB2 spot.
Rashad Jennings, Spencer Ware and Thomas Rawls are a few of the more affordable running back choices that appear to be in good spots to produce. Pairing one of them up with Ajayi will still leave you plenty of salary cap dollars left to field a competitive roster. We can save even more by looking towards Doug Martin or Jeremy Hill, but both players are in the realm of boom-bust for Week 12. In short, we’ll consider Ajayi to be an incredibly strong looking play in Week 12, and we won’t hesitate to include him on our rosters.
WR Larry Fitzgerald, $7,000. The game between the Cardinals and Falcons could easily devolve into a shootout, and Fitzgerald is player you want a piece of if that scenario plays out. He continues to dominate targets in the passing attack, and there’s no reason to believe that will suddenly change. While the Cardinals have plenty of physical talent at the position, that hasn’t translated into a ton of production.
That leads the team to lean heavily on Fitzgerald and David Johnson, and both players have some pretty big upside for what could be a fast-paced game. There’s no glaring reason to fade Fitzgerald outside of uniqueness, and it doesn’t seem to make sense in this case as there’s plenty of other spots we can mix it up. However, top plays don’t always pan out - see Mike Evans, Week 10 and Martellus Bennett, Week 11 - so we understand the feeling of wanting to look past the consensus must plays. Allen Robinson and Brandin Cooks are two upside options that are similarly priced, and they should both have an ownership percentage that’s much less than Fitzgerald’s.
TE Jimmy Graham, $5,300. Graham is affordable enough this week, and he’s carving out a niche for himself in the Seahawks offense. He’s second on the team in targets behind Doug Baldwin, and also a big target that Russell Wilson looks towards in the red zone. Basically all of the the things that the Seahawks were anticipating when they acquired him are falling into place, it just didn’t happen right away due to the initial growing pains followed by some extensive time out with an injury.
Since we expect Wilson to be a popular choice, we can also expect his top two targets to have their fair share of supporters. Graham is a fine play in Week 12, but there’s also [plenty of other directions we can look without losing upside. We can turn to the more expensive Greg Olsen or Tyler Eifert, or we can save some coin by pivoting to Delanie Walker or Travis Kelce. There’s plenty of ways to skin the cat at tight end in Week 12, and with the inherent unpredictability the position has brought to the table in 2016, we won’t discourage you from pivoting away from Graham.
D New York Giants, $3,600. There’s certain teams that will automatically pop up on the short list when you’re scouting defenses for the week, and the team that’s facing off against the Browns are one of them. The past two weeks have been particularly brutal for the Browns, as both the Ravens and Steelers delivered double digit performances against them. The Giants are in a good spot to make it four in a row, as they’ve been doing a solid job of creating pressure and forcing turnovers in recent weeks. They have room for improvement in keeping opponents off of the scoreboard, but that shouldn’t be an issue against the anemic Browns offense.
However, there’s plenty of other appealing options at various price points. On the expensive side, we can look towards the Bills and Broncos, while cheaper options include the Titans and Ravens. Similar to Graham, the Giants make for a fine selection in Week 12, but they’re not so far head and shoulders above the rest that you simply have to roster them. We won’t talk you out of rostering them, but you should be prepared to have plenty of company.
Thanks for reading The Chalk for Week 12. Enjoy the games this weekend, and best of luck with your lineups. Feel free to hit me up anytime on Twitter - @cm_feery - or email - firstname.lastname@example.org - with questions or comments.