In “Start or Sit,” we make a call on players who merit strong starting consideration — and players who might be best on the bench. However, owners should tailor their own lineup strategy to their roster constraints, league rules and other relevant factors.
Here’s our Week 12 rundown:
Bengals QB Andy Dalton (vs. Oakland) — When Dalton has had a favorable matchup, he has usually capitalized. For instance, he threw three TDs in each matchup against Cleveland as well as the Week Three win at Washington. In wins at Jacksonville and Kansas City, Dalton threw for a pair of scores and rushed for a TD, too. The Raiders' defense has allowed 16 TDs in the last three games, with half of them coming through the air. Dalton deserves strong starting consideration on Sunday. Which leads me to my next point ...
Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (vs. Oakland) — ... Here's an SAT math question we can all dig: If the Raiders have allowed 16 offensive TDs in the last three games, and eight were passing TDs, how many rushing TDs have they surrendered in this span? The answer, of course, is eight. There's your case to start Mr. Green-Elllis, who rushed for a season-high 101 yards in Sunday's win at Kansas City.
Raiders QB Carson Palmer (at Cincinnati) — He's becoming tough to sit, isn't he? The Raiders' defense, as noted above, is a sieve, which puts the offense in these must-throw situations that fantasy owners love. Hey, I didn't say it was right, but it's the truth. Fantasy owners cherish desperate, pass-pass-pass comeback attempts. Well, owners of the running backs on those offenses don't love those sort of games, but it is what it is. Finally, I consider Palmer's return to Cincinnati a neutral factor in whether to play him or not. The Paul Brown Stadium crowd will surely boo him, but I don't believe that will affect his performance either way. Nor can I quantify what he may still know about the Bengals' defense — and what the defense knows about him.
Titans TE Jared Cook (at Jacksonville) — Here's the case for Cook: For starters, the Jaguars had significant problems with the Texans' tight ends in Week 11. Also, Cook had a monster game in the second meeting with Jacksonville in 2011, catching eight passes for 169 yards and TD. You remember this; it's one of the reasons why Cook was such an interesting proposition for fantasy owners entering 2012. We know Cook has the capability to have the occassional gigantic game. Of course, we also know he's also capable of producing disappointing numbers. In bigger leagues, though, he's a perfectly reasonable play in Week 12; there are some logical reasons to play him, and that's what you are looking for when picking between several similarly ranked players. Cook isn't one of the top TE propositions in 2012, but he has a higher ceiling than most at his position.
Jaguars WR Cecil Shorts (vs. Tennessee) — We see it all the time: a player flashes potential, fantasy owners flood the waiver wires picking up said player, and then ... nada. It was just a moment in time, and fantasy owners were a week late to the party. Shorts hasn't been that guy. Let's suppose you picked up Shorts after his four-catch, 79-yard, one-TD performance at Oakland on Oct. 21. Well, in the next four games, Shorts produced 11 fantasy points or more three times. Considering his production, and considering that the Titans have allowed two TD passes or more in 7-of-10 games, Shorts is very logical play in Week 12.
Giants RB Ahmad Bradshaw (vs. Green Bay) — Fantasy owners thrilled by Bradshaw's early-season surge have then had to deal with some tough news: backup RB Andre Brown has emerged as a key part of the Giants' goal-line offense. In the last four games before the Giants' bye, Brown had a TD in each game, and all were one or two yards in length. Ooof. I'm not against starting Bradshaw if your other options are unappealing; he is, after all, a starting back in a good offense, one that can be great at its best. However, the Packers are solid vs. the run. For owners in two-RB, no-flex leagues with great tailback depth, Bradshaw isn't an auto-start by any means. That's what I'm saying.
Ravens QB Joe Flacco (at San Diego) — If you need to start Flacco, you will do so taking solace in the fact the Chargers have allowed multiple TD passes in 6-of-10 games. That said, you will also be starting him hoping he plays his first strong game on the road all season. Flacco hasn't exceeded 200 yards passing in his last four games away from Baltimore. I hate to harp on Flacco's poor road numbers, but it's Week 12, and a lot of fantasy owners are all-in. Owners need to be aware of the upside and downside of the players they start. In the case of Flacco, the risk is that the road woes continue. Be careful.
Steelers RBs Jonathan Dwyer and Rashard Mendenhall (at Cleveland) — The Steelers could use Dwyer (12-55-0 in Week 11) and Mendenhall (11-33-0) at Cleveland on Sunday. However, how the workload will be split between the backs remains to be seen. On Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said that his "preference would be to have a healthy, solidified featured runner," but that hasn't been the case this sesaon, with Dwyer, Mendenhall and Isaac Redman (concussion — check status) all dealing with injuries at various points. My advice? Hold on to Dwyer, Mendenhall and even Redman for the time being and see if a consistent fantasy producer emerges. However, I'd have a hard time starting any of the backs right now unless I absolutely had to, and that's even with Pittsburgh conceivably leaning on the run a little more with third-string QB Charlie Batch in the lineup.
Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe (vs. Denver) — Bowe looks like he'll play despite neck and back injuries suffered in the Week 11 loss to Cincinnati. However, he's tough to play with great confidence, considering the sad state of the Chiefs' offense. Since the beginning of October, the Chiefs have one passing TD (and just four total TDs). If you have to play him, you are at least starting the Chiefs' go-to receiver; he has 41 more targets than any other Kansas City player.