Week 12 Sleepers

A look at the best under the radar starts for Week 12

Quarterback

Andy Dalton, CIN (vs CLE) - Dalton’s best game of the year by far came in Week 4 at Cleveland, when he threw for four scores and 286 yards. Even his highest rushing total of the year came in that game - 29 yards. Cleveland has given up multiple passing scores in seven of ten games, and in one of the three they didn’t, Jacoby Brissett ran in two scores. Dalton is coming off of a three-touchdown game on only 25 attempts against the once scary Denver defense. If you’re not starting him this week, you won’t be starting him for the rest of the season.

Matt Moore, MIA (at NE) - Make sure that Jay Cutler doesn’t clear concussion protocol before plugging in Moore. Assuming he is in, Moore has a very high ceiling for Week 12. Moore had 282 passing yards and a score in a half last week, and 188 passing yards and two scores in a Week 7 one-half relief appearance. He and the Dolphins pass offense were overwhelmed by the Ravens in his one start, but the Week 12 opponent New England has one of the most feeble pass rushes in the league. Moore comes with risk, but few quarterback outside of Russell Wilson are looking to throw downfield more than Moore, and the game script should have the Dolphins playing from behind on the road, encouraging him to take even more chances.

Jacoby Brissett, IND (vs TEN) - Brissett has been a high floor/low ceiling play all season. If you want to catch him in a high floor week, plugging him in when he’s indoors (like he is this week) is a good idea. Three of his best performances of the year have come when he has been at home against Cleveland and San Francisco, and on the road at Houston. He has three straight games with two passing scores coming into this one, and the Titans have allowed multiple passing scores to the last three quarterbacks they faced, which include Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton. Make sure to monitor Brissett’s condition to confirm that he clears concussion protocol before Sunday.

Joe Flacco, BAL (vs HOU) - It might seem crazy to trust Flacco in a meaningful week, but he is coming off of his most efficient performance of the season, completing 22 of 28 passes at Green Bay. This week, he faces a Houston pass defense that just allowed three passing scores to Blaine Gabbert. They have given up 12 passing scores in the last four games, including two to Jacoby Brissett and three to Jared Goff. Opposing quarterbacks have averaged over 340 passing yards against them during that span. Flacco is set up for a big game under the lights on Monday night.

Running Back

Jerick McKinnon, MIN (at DET) **Thanksgiving** - The Lions rush defense is falling apart. They just gave up 169 yards and a score on 24 Chicago running carries, and the week before that, Cleveland piled up 144 yards on 26 running back carries. Since Dalvin Cook went down, McKinnon has averaged 14 carries and four and a half receptions a game, which should set him up for around 85-90 total yards if current trends hold. Latavius Murray is also a great play this week, but coming off a two-touchdown, 95-yard game, he’s not a sleeper.

Devontae Booker, DEN (at OAK) - The Broncos made changes at offensive coordinator and quarterback this week with an eye towards the future. It makes sense that running back could follow. Booker’s snaps, touches, and production have been trending up every week and CJ Anderson doesn’t look like he’ll be on the team next year with a 4.5 million dollar price tag. Booker has led the team in running back receptions since he returned to the field, and he’s facing a Raiders defense that has at least seven running back catches in each of the last three weeks and running back receiving touchdowns in the last two.

Austin Ekeler, LAC (at DAL) **Thanksgiving** - The Chargers have been managing Melvin Gordon III’s reps in games and practice all year, so it just makes sense that they would scale back his workload against the Cowboys on a short week of rest this week. Ekeler has scored and had at least 58 total yards in each of the last two weeks, and the Cowboys are coming off of a week when they allowed 202 rushing yards and two scores to Eagles running backs. In their other two games without linebacker Sean Lee, they gave up 125 rushing yards and a score to Aaron Jones and 215 total yards (including 121 rushing) and a score to Todd Gurley. There should be more than enough there for both Ekeler and Gordon to get fed at the Thanksgiving table.

Derrick Henry, TEN (at IND) - Henry’s best fantasy game of the year came in Week 6 against the Colts when he rushed for 131 yards closing out the win. The Colts also gave up 122 rushing yards and a score to Jacksonville’s #2 back in Week 7, TJ Yeldon. As long as Tennessee sticks with the run in Week 12 and uses Henry against a tired defense in the fourth quarter, he should have plenty of chances to reproduce his Week 6 line.

Thomas Rawls, J.D. McKissic, SEA (at SF) - The 49ers best defensive performance of the year against an opposing backfield was when they held the Seahawks backs to 126 total yards and a score. That should be a reasonable floor for the combine stats of Rawls and McKissic this week, as this came in a 12-9 snoozer before the Seahawks pass offense woke up under the command of Russell Wilson. The 49ers have allowed four scores through the air to backs, which gives McKissic extra appeal this week after he led the Seahawks backs in snaps last week.

Wide Receiver

Kenny Stills, MIA (at NE) - Stills has scored in three of Matt Moore’s last four starts. He piled up 154 yards and a score in one half with Moore last week, and 72 yards and two scores in one half with Moore in Week 7. He even had 5-65 on a night against Baltimore with Moore at the helm where nothing worked on offense and the Dolphins were shut out 40-0. As long Moore starts this week, Stills needs to be in your lineup.

T.Y. Hilton, IND (vs TEN) - How far we have come this year that Hilton, a second or third round pick in most drafts, is now a sleeper. He’s listed in this column to urge you to play him even though his fantasy season has been full of landmines this season. His groin issue should be improved with bye week rest, he’s at home on the fast track, and he’s facing a Titans secondary that has allowed six wide receiver scores and four wide receiver games of at least 95 yards in the last three contests. Take the risk of absorbing a 2-15 so that you will sure to not miss out on a 150+ yard game that has produced three times already this year. Before starting Hilton, make sure to monitor Jacoby Brissett’s condition to confirm that he clears concussion protocol before Sunday.

Jamison Crowder, WAS (vs NYG) **Thanksgiving** - Crowder has at least 72 receiving yards in each of his last three games even though he missed one with a hamstring injury during that span. Chris Thompson was lost for the season last week and while the team has Byron Marshall to replace him in the passing game, Crowder is a more likely candidate to get the high percentage targets vacated by Thompson. On a short week of preparation, Kirk Cousins should lean on Crowder in the middle of the field and avoid Janoris Jenkins against his more inexperienced outside receivers.

Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp, LAR (vs NO) - The Saints signed two corners this week. While that’s not a guarantee that Marshon Lattimore is out, it is an indication that the Saints feel their cornerback play needs help after the Week 11 near-loss to Washington. If Lattimore can’t go or isn’t his rookie of the year self, Watkins’ matchup gets a huge upgrade, and Kupp will likely face a new corner or a corner the Saints are concerned about in the slot. Robert Woods could play this week, but he will be battling through a shoulder injury. While the Vikings pressure kept Jared Goff down last week, the Saints also lost resurgent edge rusher Alex Okafor for the year in Week 11. Washington had three passing scores last week where their target was left all alone by Saints defensive breakdowns. Kupp and Watkins could be in for huge games in a potential shootout.

Paul Richardson Jr, SEA (at SF) - Richardson had his highest target total of the season in Week 11 and the mini-bye of rest after the Week 10 Thursday night game where he was a game-time decision seems to have done him well. The 49ers have allowed a wide receiver score in every game this year, except the one when they allowed 177 yards to TY Hilton. In their last game, they allowed 197 receiving yards to the Giants wide receivers even though they’ve lost Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall for the season.

Jeremy Maclin, Mike Wallace, BAL (vs HOU) - The Ravens haven’t exactly been the offense we think of when we look for wide receivers to start this year, but the Texans have elevated opposing passing games lately. Opposing wideouts have scored eight times in the last four games. Five wide receivers have gone over 90 yards in that span, with two going over 170. One of Maclin or Wallace has scored in each of the last three games and one has scored in all of the Ravens wins but one, when Wallace had 3-133 and Maclin had 6-43 against the Raiders. The Ravens are a touchdown favorite at home on Monday night, so expect at least one of this duo to reach paydirt or have a huge game.

Tight End

O.J. Howard, TB (at ATL) - Howard has scored every time he has had at least four targets this year, and he scored twice when he received six targets. It appears the Buccaneers are putting him ahead of Cameron Brate in the pecking order just in time for a road game at Atlanta that should probably force to pass more playing from behind. Howard had a second touchdown last week called back by a holding penalty. Atlanta has allowed at least six tight end receptions in each of the last three games, and tight ends scored twice against them in that span.

Ben Watson, BAL (vs HOU) - The Ravens figure to have some success passing the ball against a Texans defense that has surrendered 12 pass touchdowns in the last four games. During that span, tight ends have scored four times, including two two-touchdown games. Jack Doyle also had an eight-catch game and Ricky Seals-Jones had one of the multiscore games, so there is a vulnerability there that even Jacoby Brissett and Blaine Gabbert can exploit.

Jesse James, PIT (vs GB) - Monitor Vance McDonald’s status, as he had been taking away targets from James, but if McDonald is inactive again, James is a worthy streamer. The Steelers have Antonio Brown in top form along with Martavis Bryant back pulling in the same direction as the rest of the team and an ascendant Juju Smith-Schuster, so the Packers will have their hands full with the downfield passing game at Heinz Field. That will leave James open frequently, including in the red zone. The Packers haven’t allowed a tight end touchdown yet, but they have given up over 10 yards per reception to tight ends over the last three weeks despite facing Baltimore and Chicago in that span.

Garrett Celek, SF (vs SEA) - Celek came through for us in Week 10 in a great matchup, and he’s set up to be a viable streamer again in Week 12. The Seahawks have allowed three tight end scores and three games of 60 yards or more to tight ends in the last five games, including one to Levine Toilolo (for the second straight year) and one to Jermaine Gresham. Watch the 49ers practice reports to confirm that George Kittle is out with the ankle injury that sidelined him in Week 10 before playing Celek this week.