Fantasy Football: Week 12 matchups to avoid and exploit

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Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell (26) carries the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns in Cleveland, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016. (AP Photo/David Richard) — David Richard

Fantasy owners can almost say goodbye to bye weeks, but we still have to contend with a never-ending stream of injuries. In Week 10, Giovani Bernard was lost for the season with an MCL injury. Zach Miller (foot) is done for 2016, and C.J. Prosise (scapula) will likely miss the rest of the regular season.

A.J. Green will miss at least a couple of weeks with a hamstring injury. Andrew Luck is in the concussion protocol. LeSean McCoy suffered a dislocated thumb, but should be able to go this week. Someone is going to run all over the Packers on Monday night, but it might not be Ryan Mathews (knee). In the “does anyone care” file, Jay Cutler (shoulder) and Cody Kessler (concussion) are out indefinitely. Ryan Fitzpatrick (MCL), however, will go for the Jets.

So we’ve got that going for us.

On to Week 12 …


Cowboys (vs. Washington) Thursday, 3:30

Dallas is producing 413 yards and 28.5 points per game. Washington counters with a below average 23rd ranked defense. With Dez Bryant relatively healthy, the Cowboys offense is at full strength and on a roll. The Pokes have not lost since Week 1. During their current nine-game streak, they’ve scored a minimum of 24 points in each game, and were held under 27 just once. Washington also has a very good offense and should keep this game close. The odds makers are thinking shootout: the over/under is hovering around 50.

Must start: Ezekiel Elliott, Bryant, Dan Bailey

Solid play: Dak Prescott, Cole Beasley, Jason Witten

Worth a look: none

Last resort: Cowboys D/ST

Stay away: Alfred Morris

Steelers (@ Colts) Thursday, 7:30

And speaking of over/under, this game (around 54) is projected to be the highest-scoring game of the week. Only three teams (49ers, Browns, Raiders) are giving up more yards than the Colts. Pittsburgh’s 22nd-ranked defense isn’t a whole heck of a lot better, so a boatload of points would surprise no one. Indy’s defense is dead last against the pass, so Big Ben joins Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell as a top play. Assuming this game shakes out as expected, you can bet at least one other Steeler will emerge with a strong fantasy performance. Eli Rogers is the most likely candidate. Jesse James had just one catch and Ladarius Green had no catches on two targets and a drop last week in Cleveland. In the climate-controlled confines in Indianapolis, and facing a better offense (provided Luck is able to go), we expect more passing attempts from Pittsburgh.

Must start: Roethlisberger, Bell, Brown

Solid play: Chris Boswell

Worth a look: Rogers, James

Last resort: Green, Cobi Hamilton

Stay away: Steelers D/ST (if Luck is active)

Cardinals (@ Falcons) Sunday, noon

To put it mildly, 2016 has not been a good year for the Cardinals. Considered one of the more explosive offenses coming into the season, AZ is 18th in points scored, 11th in passing yards and 13th in rushing yards. They are 4-5-1 overall and just 1-3 on the road. Arizona has just two home games left this season. To make matters worse, head coach Bruce Arians was hospitalized with chest pains last Sunday after a 30-24 loss in Minnesota. But, hey, let’s look on the bright side: Although they might not win this game, the Cards should have a chance for decent fantasy numbers. The Falcons are giving up 28.3 points per game and are ranked 28th in total defense. Atlanta has been inconsistent defensively and the over/under in this game is around 51. Fantasy owners can’t really count on any AZ wideout other than Larry Fitzgerald. John Brown is still battling back from health issues. J.J. Nelson caught one ball for zero yards against Minnesota and has three catches in the past two games. Michael Floyd might be the best bet after Fitzgerald, but he is only marginally more valuable than Brown or Nelson.

Must start: David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald

Solid play: Chandler Catanzaro

Worth a look: Michael Floyd

Last resort: Andre Ellington, Jermaine Gresham, Brown, Nelson

Seahawks (@ Bucs) Sunday, 3:05

With C.J. Prosise out, Thomas Rawls could be in position for a pretty good day. In his first game back from injury, he posted 57 yards on 14 carries against a pretty good Eagles D’. Tampa’s defense is ranked 26th overall and gives up 115 rushing yards per game. This is also an above average matchup for Russell Wilson. Tampa is 25th in passing yards allowed.

Must start: Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham

Solid play: Rawls, Stephen Hauschka, Seahawks D/ST

Worth a look: none

Last resort: Troymaine Pope, Tyler Lockett, Jermaine Kearse


Giants (@ Browns) Sunday, noon

New York should roll against the Browns and their 31st-ranked defense. Pittsburgh scored 24 points in Cleveland last week and that represents the lowest scoring total for any Cleveland opponent this season. The Browns will be playing at home for the fourth time in five weeks. Not sure that means anything, but it is a weird schedule quirk.  

Eagles (vs. Packers), Monday, 7:30

The Eagles are not an offensive juggernaut, but Green Bay is in free fall. Since beating the Bears in Week 7, the Packers have lost four straight and have yielded 33, 31, 47 and 42 points, respectively.


Bengals (@ Ravens) Sunday, noon

After facing the high-powered Cowboys, Baltimore’s defense has slipped from the top spot in the defensive rankings. Don’t be surprised if the Ravens are back on top after this contest. The already sputtering Bengals offense lost two of their main weapons in Week 11 when A.J. Green and Giovani Bernard suffered significant injuries. The absence of Bernard might increase the overall value of Jeremy Hill, but probably not this week. The Ravens remain tops versus the run, giving up just 3.4 yards per carry and 76 yards per game. Tyler Boyd will be a popular pickup. The rookie caught six passes for 54 yards and a TD after Green went down with a hamstring injury.

Must start: none

Solid play: Tyler Eifert

Worth a look: Hill, Boyd, Bengals D/ST

Last resort: Andy Dalton, Brandon LaFell

Stay away: Mike Nugent

Jets (vs. Patriots) Sunday, 3:25

Coach Todd Bowles is starting Fitzpatrick reportedly because he feels he’ll lose the locker room if he turns to second-year QB Bryce Petty. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for either QB, or the coach … or the team, for that matter.

Must start: none

Solid play: Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall

Worth a look: Quincy Enunwa

Last resort: Bilal Powell, Robby Anderson

Stay away: Nick Folk, Jets D/ST

Chiefs (@ Broncos) Sunday, 7:30

Though the Chiefs tend to play well against Denver, they have not scored more than 20 points since Week 8 in Indy. Jeremy Maclin has missed the past two weeks with a groin injury and Charcandrick West (concussion symptoms) and Tyreek Hill (knee) were injured in last week’s loss to Tampa Bay.

Must start: none

Solid play: Travis Kelce

Worth a look: Spencer Ware, Maclin* (if active), Hill* (if active and no Maclin), Chiefs D/ST

Last resort: Hill* (if Maclin active)

Stay away: Cairo Santos


Lions (vs. Vikings), Thursday, 11:30

Detroit did absolutely nothing against Jacksonville last week. It won’t get any easier facing a Vikings team that gives up just 17.6 points per game.

*Check injury status