Gobble, gobble! Week 12 of the 2021 NFL season starts with a Thursday morning bout between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. The Dallas Cowboys then play host to the Las Vegas Raiders in the afternoon before the Buffalo Bills head to The Big Easy for a date with the New Orleans Saints. Here’s a break down the fantasy football starts and sits and DFS plays for Thursday’s action.
Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Over/Under Points Scored: 41.5
QB Andy Dalton — Justin Fields played badly last Sunday before being knocked out with a ribs injury. Dalton came off the bench and delivered a highly up-and-down performance, going 11-of-23 for 201 yards and 1 touchdown. Against the bottom-5 pass defense per NEFF rating, Dalton’s a high-floor QB2.
WR Darnell Mooney — Allen Robinson failed to practice at all last week (hamstring) and Mooney saw a Faustin 16 targets as a result. The downfield receiver parlayed those looks into 5 catches, 121 yards and 1 touchdown. Robinson has little chance of playing this week, so expect another fruitful Mooney Show today. He’s a back-end WR2 with enticing upside.
WR Marquise Goodwin — Goodwin was the beneficiary of a 49-yard Dalton touchdown pass late in Chicago’s back-and-forth loss to Baltimore last week. With Robinson sidelined, Chicago really only has downfield receivers at their disposal–and that’s okay. Detroit’s 12% explosive pass rate (SharpFootballStats.com) is, coincidentally, tied for 2nd-most in the NFL with the team the Bears just played; the Baltimore Ravens. The downfield nature of Goodwin’s role makes him volatile but he can be boldly started as a back-end WR4 this week, operating in the No. 2 WR role for Chicago. Goodwin is likely to be a low-rostered DFS option and you should consider him for DFS MVP/Captain purposes.
WR Jakeem Grant — Grant lost his chance to separate after Goodwin’s blowup Week 11 showing. Grant’s a WR8.
WR Damiere Byrd — Also a WR8. Same story here.
TE Cole Kmet — Kmet completely flopped last week and was even out-targeted by Jimmy Graham. That’s like to be a bit fluky but Kmet just reminded us that his floor’s as low as it gets. Still, Detroit can’t cover anybody so he remains a viable TE2.
RB David Montgomery — What won’t Montgomery do against the Lions. DET is bottom-10 in run defense NEFF rating while allowing 26.3 .5PPR RB PPG, 3rd most in the NFL. Khalil Herbert is barely involved now that Monty’s back to full health. Start Montgomery as a top-12 RB today.
QBs Tim Boyle and Jared Goff — Boyle completed 15-of-23 passes for 77 yards and 2 interceptions against Cleveland last week but it’s unclear as to whether or not Goff (obliques) will get cleared to play. Chicago’s front-seven has been neutered by injuries to Khalil Mack (IR) and Akiem Hicks (ankle) but Boyle can’ possibly be started in any format. He’s abysmal. Should Goff play, he’s a borderline QB2/3.
Update 11/25/21: Tim Boyle is out, Jared Goff is in. He’s the premier QB3 in our rankings right now.
WR Amon-Ra St. Brown — Last week we mentioned that ARSB’s slot match-up was good enough that he might be able to make an impact as a fantasy WR6. He finished the day 4-of-4 for 18 yards. Bears slot CB Duke Shelley is a man we’ve targeted but one can’t consider the Lions’ slot receiver outside of contrarian DFS lineups.
TE T.J. Hockenson — Hockenson’s eight targets were more than twice as many as any other Lion in Week 11. Chicago plays stout defense against tight ends though so Hockenson can only be treated as a boom/bust, back-end TE1.
RB D’Andre Swift — Swift is the heart of this team. The shifty Lion took 14 carries for 136 yards and 1 rushing touchdown and, perhaps representative of the team as a whole right now, caught 3-of-4 targets for 0 yards. With the aforementioned front-seven injuries suffered by CHI, Swift is borderline top-5 RB play.
RB Jamaal Williams — A fantasy RB5.
Las Vegas Raiders at Dallas Cowboys
Over/Under Points Scored: 51
Las Vegas Raiders
QB Derek Raiders — Henry Ruggs’ absence has been costly. The Raiders might be able to generate some intermediate-to-deep passing going against Dallas though as their top two pass rushers Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory sit on Injured Reserve. Carr is a borderline QB1/2.
WR Hunter Renfrow — Renfrow went just 4-of-4 for 30 yards (plus 23 return yards) after catching 7 passes in each of LV’s last three games while averaging 51 yards and 0.66 touchdowns. Leave his Week 11 dud in the past. Dallas’ slot corner Jourdan Lewis is nothing special and Renfrow should be able to go to work on him. Given the over/under, Vegas expects their team to put up some points in a back-and-forth shootout. He’s a high-floor, back-end WR2.
WR Bryan Edwards — Just a fantasy WR6.
WR Zay Jones — Jones is mostly a downfield decoy.
TE Darren Waller — Elite TE1.
TE Foster Moreau — Talent hasn’t been the issue for Moreau–Waller has. LV’s No. 2 TE got a little more involved in Week 11 as the Raiders searched for contributions in a world without Ruggs. Moreau is a low-end TE2 this week.
RB Josh Jacobs — Even with DE Demarcus Lawrence on IR, the combination of LBs Micah Parson and Leighton Vander Esch has kept most opposing backs from getting too loose against Dallas. Kenyan Drake takes too much work off of Jacobs’ plate for Jacobs to be ranked inside the position’s top-24.
RB Kenyan Drake — A fantasy RB4 here. Game script could call upon Drake’s pass catching ability but that’s a tough thing to bank on.
RB Jalen Richard — Mostly steals snaps in valuable passing down situations.
QB Dak Prescott — LT Tyron Smith’s absence spelled doom for the ‘Boys last week but the stalwart blocker (ankle) should be back this week after practicing in full on Tuesday and Wednesday. Prescott’s an elite QB1.
WR CeeDee Lamb — Lamb is somehow progressing through the NFL’s concussion protocol at warp speed, which is great news as Amari Cooper is still on the NFL’s COVID-19/Reserve List, completing his 10-day mandatory isolation after testing positive while unvaccinated. Expect an unholy, dominant performance out of Dallas’ X-receiver against Vegas’ undermanned secondary. He’s an elite fantasy WR1.
Update 11/25/21: Jay Glazer has announced CeeDee Lamb did not clear the concussion protocol and will not play today. Michael Gallup shifts to downfield X-receiver role/a Fantasy Football WR2. Cedrick Wilson is a back-end WR3, handling slot duties vs. underwhelming Raiders slot CB Nate Hobbs. Noah Brown takes on perimeter/field stretcher role. WR4 w/ DFS appeal. DAL will go deep.
WR Michael Gallup — Gallup will be integral as Dallas’ primary field stretcher in what’s expected to be one of the week’s highest totaled games.
WRs Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown — Wilson’s a pure slot receiver backup while Brown stays almost entirely on the perimeter with just a few trips inside. It’s likely the two cycle in and out of the lineup whenever Dallas wants to move Lamb into the slot. Neither are reliable plays but both should be in DFS lineups as dart throws. They are redraft WR6s.
TE Dalton Schultz — Schultz will duke it out with Gallup for No. 1 pass catching duties this week and he’s got a good chance of succeeding. Las Vegas is allowing 14.4 .5PPR TE PPG, 2nd most in the NFL right now. Schultz is quietly toying with a top-5 ranking.
RB Ezekiel Elliott — The fact that Zeke is top-10 in 2021 RB touches and the team as a whole is top-10 in time of possession is no accident. No matter what happens, DAL feeds him. Vegas also happens to be top-10 in .5PPR RB PPG allowed. Dallas’ lead back is a locked-in RB1.
RB Tony Pollard — Pollard should see another 10 or so touches in this one which is enough for a high-floor RB3 outing against the 25th ranked run defense (per NEFF).
Buffalo Bills at New Orleans Saints
Over/Under Points Scored: 46.5
QB Josh Allen — Buffalo’s offense had the ball for just 22 minutes, 13 seconds last Sunday (5th fewest), which made stat line of 21-of-35 for 209-yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 2 carries for 18 yards and a 2-point conversion fairly impressive, despite the QB13 finish. He’s an elite QB1 this week.
WR Stefon Diggs — Likely due to scheme/game planning, Diggs was not the focal point of the team’s passing attack. He salvaged his day with a pair of green zone touchdowns though, which was a great sign after he and Allen got their mojo back on track in Week 10. Diggs should stay hot in Week 12 as the Saints use man coverage far more than they do zone. He’s a locked-in WR1.
WR Emmanuel Sanders — Sanders has largely run cardio over the last few weeks but Week 12 looks like a slump-buster for him. Premier route runners/downfield receivers like Tennessee’s Marcus Johnson (5-of-6 for 100 yards), Atlanta’s Olamide Zaccheus (3-of-3 for 58 yards and 2 touchdowns), Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans (2-of-4 for 48 yards and 1 touchdown), and Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf (2-of-5 for 96 yards and 1 touchdown) have all smashed in since NOLA’s Week 6 bye. Even Philly WRs J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (1-of-1 for 23 yards) and Devonta Smith (4-of-6 for 61 yards) got loose for chunk gains despite playing with a run-happy QB. Sanders is a top-36 WR this week.
WR Cole Beasley — Beasley’s still nursing his ribs injury and they’re playing a man coverage team. Not a Beasley week. He’s a WR5.
WR Gabe Davis — His four targets weren’t far off from the other receivers but his snaps and routes tanked. WR7.
TE Dawson Knox — After being eased back in a week ago, Knox took flight as the team’s most targeted Week 11 player (6-of-10 for 80 yards). Saints’ do-it-all safety/slot cornerback Chauncey Gardner-Johnson landed on IR two weeks ago which should help Knox’s cause. A pass catching tight end this talented would sure have earned Gardner-Johnson’s attention on the 33% of routes Knox runs in the slot (PFF.com). Keep Knox in your lineup as a high-end TE1.
RBs Matt Breida, Zack Moss, and Devin Singletary — The coaching staff evidently loved what they saw from Breida last week. He led the backfield in carries last week, was second in snaps, and also saw two targets come his way. None can be trusted as more than an RB5 against the league’s top ranked run defense per NEFF rating.
New Orleans Saints
QB Trevor Siemian — Taysom Hill isn’t taking this job. Siemian smartly played to the strengths of his Week 11 matchup. As mentioned last week, Philly’s linebacking corps would be vulnerable to TE Adam Trautman and RB Mark Ingram through the air, while both Tre’Quan Smith and Deonte Harris had nice match-ups as inside/outside WRs. Siemian sent eight targets apiece to Trautman, Ingram, and Smith–all three tying for the team lead. The Bills’ defense as a whole was thrashed by Colts’ RB Jonathan Taylor last week but even in that drubbing, their pass defense still held (mostly) strong. Siemian is a mid-tier QB2.
WRs Tre’Quan Smith and Deonte Harris — Smith separated from Harris and the defense last week, connecting with Siemian on 5-of-8 targets for 64 yards. Part of his success may have come from a sharp increase in slot usage. Unfortunately Buffalo slot CB Taron Johson is a coverage beast. There’s no slot benefit to be found here. The uptick in targets is nice though. Smith is a WR5. Harris may be getting shoehorned into some sort of quasi X-receiver role. Too soon to be sure though and this isn’t the week to set expectations high. Harris is a WR6. The weekly Harris note: He’s still playing well in the return game. If your league rewards return yards, pay attention.
WR Marquez Callaway — Callaway has three touchdowns on six catches (14 targets) over the last three weeks. That kind of production is not sustainable. Sell-high where you can. He is a WR6 against the Bills.
TE Adam Trautman — Trautman’s match-up was flagged as a great one last week and he succeeded, catching 5-of-8 passes for 58 yards and 1 touchdown. Buffalo’s tight end coverage is about as tight as it gets though so the odds aren’t in his favor. Siemian-safety blanket treatment could keep him relevant as a borderline TE1/2 though.
RB Mark Ingram — Tony Jones Jr. and Dwayne Washington were technically active last week but they didn’t do a whole lot. This is Ingram’s backfield for the duration of Alvin Kamara’s absence. With the way Kamara’s Week 11 practice participation went, it seems likely that he suffered a setback in his MCL-sprain recovery–he’s unlikely to play this week. Buffalo had done a great job of limiting questionable backfield groups since their Week 7 bye but Jonathan Taylor’s Week 11 explosion reminded us that a capable back, working behind a studly offensive line like those found in Indy and New Orleans, can get the job done.
Update 11/25/21: Jay Glazer has reported that Mark Ingram is out. Tony Jones Jr. is now a back-end RB3. Ty Montgomery and Dwayne Washington are barely relevant.
— NerdBall Fantasy Football (@nerdballff) November 21, 2021
It’s worth noting that Ingram was given a rest day (knee) on Tuesday but he returned to practice on Wednesday. As long as he’s active, Ingram’s a locked-in RB1. Jones Jr. should be added as a safety net if possible.