Happy Thanksgiving week. My start and sit advice is out a day early in honor of the holiday -- and my plan to eat and watch football tomorrow. But I will sneak in some updates to the weekly projections later in the week, so check those out, especially if any of the currently mild weather forecasts revise for the worse between now and Sunday.
The following tables feature the players with the best and worst matchups of the week. Each listed player shows a true-talent (TT) ranking that represents how I would rank him with a perfectly neutral game context. Then, that ranking is adjusted by adding the context of the venue (Ven) -- home and road and dome and outside -- the forecasted weather (Wea), and opponent tendencies (Opp). The line beneath those rankings shows how much those contextual factors move projected PPR fantasy points. That total (Tot) number gives you a comprehensive estimate of how many fantasy points the player will score this week more or less than his typical total.
You can see our full weekly projections with projected stats, matchup adjustments and fantasy points by subscribing to FO+.
|Best Week 12 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
After watching the Panthers' No. 19 DVOA defense all season, the highest praise I think is fair to give them is "promising." As such, it gives me some pause to prop up Matthew Stafford as the No. 1 matchup gainer this week fresh off his shutout in Carolina. Still, it's clear there are several factors in his favor. First, he plays his Thanksgiving game at home in the dome in Detroit where he has averaged 2.4 more fantasy points per game than on the road since 2017, a top-10 split among current starting quarterbacks. Second, the Texans defense has been even worse than Carolina's at 29th overall and 28th in pass defense. And third, while Kenny Golladay will be out again, Stafford seems likely to have D'Andre Swift back this week. Golladay and Swift may be the two most important pieces of the Lions' passing attack. Even with Golladay missing another week, Stafford should have high-end QB2 value. He has thrown three touchdowns in two of the four games Golladay has missed -- or effectively missed -- because of his hip injury. And, you guessed it, both were at home.
Speaking of lynchpin receivers, Julio Jones is poised to be a game-time decision on Sunday versus the Raiders because of the nagging hamstring injury that knocked him out of the Falcons' loss to the Saints last weekend. Matt Ryan did not throw a touchdown without his star receiver, and while you might attribute some of that failure to a Saints defense that is up to fifth in DVOA against the pass, you should also remember the Falcons went more than 30 drives without a touchdown earlier this season when Jones initially suffered that injury and missed some time. Ryan is just behind Stafford in my top 10 this week on the assumption that Jones will be able to play. But if that changes, it may be safer to roll with Derek Carr across the field despite Carr's cross-country trip and top-three homefield advantage of 4.2 fantasy points per game since 2017. At least in the dome and facing the Falcons' No. 26 DVOA pass defense, Carr should have a higher floor as a mid-level QB2.
|Worst Week 12 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
Sorting out the aforementioned plus quarterback matchups is important this week because so many of the normal top options fall due to their venues or defensive opponents. Russell Wilson will suffer on the road in Philadelphia on Monday night and may also see some wind and rain. Such a long-range weather forecast may not be completely trustworthy, but Wilson does have an extended trend of scoring 3.3 more fantasy points per game at home than on the road, and the Eagles cut passing touchdowns by 17% per attempt. That plus the lack of bye weeks drops Wilson to a rare ranking outside the top five at the position. I have him sixth this week.
Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson, and Ben Roethlisberger each faces a top-10 DVOA pass defense this week -- and the latter two face each other's. Roethlisberger may seem like the safer choice given that his team isn't drowning in positive Covid tests, but consider that his 19.6 fantasy point-per-game average is outside the top 10 at the position. The fantasy success of his receivers such as Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool has not translated into standout passing production. Meanwhile, the Ravens defense cuts passing yards and touchdowns by 13% and 24% per attempt normally, and they are much closer to full strength with their pass rush and secondary than they are in run defense. Roethlisberger is outside my top 20 at quarterback this week. And if I had to guess which Steelers player is likeliest to overachieve the typical Ravens defensive standards this week, I'd pick running back James Conner.
|Best Week 12 Matchups - Running Backs|
After disappointing days with 22, 27, and 12 rushing yards to start November, Jonathan Taylor reasserted his place atop the Colts depth chart with 22 carries and 90 rushing yards on Sunday. And that couldn't have come at a better time for fantasy as his team is poised to play the Titans at home this weekend. The Titans have been stronger defensively against the run (No. 18 DVOA) than the pass (No. 25), but their generally poor defensive play has led their opponents to a 21% boost in rushing touchdowns per attempt. A bad passing defense is just as good as a bad rushing defense in letting an offense reach the red zone where they can score on the ground. Meanwhile, the Titans defense may have gotten even worse with linebacker Jayon Brown's season-ending elbow injury. Start Taylor with whatever confidence you can muster for a player whose team prefers to ride the hot hand. I have Taylor ranked 13th at the position this week.
With Dalvin Cook, Todd Gurley, and David Montgomery as varying degrees of obvious starts -- in particular with Gurley and Montgomery facing the Raiders and Packers, ranked 32nd and 20th in DVOA run defense -- Duke Johnson is the player to discuss. Despite yeoman snap shares of 81%, 95%, and 77% in David Johnson's absence, Duke has barely eclipsed 100 yards rushing in the sum of his last three games. That knocks him from my true-talent top 20 at the position. But if he has any chance to rally, it should be this Thursday in Detroit. The Lions are a top-six booster of rushing yards and touchdowns per carry and receiving yards and touchdowns per target for running backs. Even if Johnson lands around 50 rushing yards again, he could achieve fantasy success with similar production through the air.
|Worst Week 12 Matchups - Running Backs|
It will be nice to have Raheem Mostert back from his high-ankle sprain, hopefully ending the musical chairs game the 49ers have played with fantasy players in his absence. But if you have the depth to do so, you should leave Mostert on your fantasy benches for his return. The Rams are the No. 8 DVOA defense overall and cut rushing yards and touchdowns by 9% and 24% per attempt, respectively. And with Tevin Coleman and Jeff Wilson potentially available to play as well, Mostert could have a lower floor than even his matchup-adjusted No. 25 ranking at the position suggests.
The postponement of the Ravens-Steelers game to Sunday won't allow either J.K. Dobbins or Mark Ingram to play. As such, you can start Gus Edwards as a volume-driven RB2. I just prefer other options. Edwards faces both game-script and defensive challenges playing on the road against the Steelers, top-10 cutters of both run plays and touchdowns per carry. And with the Ravens desperate to end their losing streak and remain in the playoff hunt, Jackson may pick up a disproportionate amount of the vacated carries himself.
|Best Week 12 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
Conservative quarterback Alex Smith has been the boon one would expect for short-field Washington targets such as receiving back J.D. McKissic. But somewhat surprisingly, outside receiver Terry McLaurin has hit 89 yards receiving in all three games since Smith took over the starting job. That makes McLaurin a top-five true-talent receiver for me, and he jumps up to second at the position this week in the dome in Dallas. The Cowboys are a plus matchup for receivers of all shapes and sizes, but they particularly benefit No. 1 wideouts, boosting their yards and touchdowns by 19% and 147%, respectively.
Calvin Ridley and Justin Jefferson face some role ambiguity with teammates Julio Jones and Adam Thielen dealing with respective hamstring and (maybe false-positive) Covid issues. But I wouldn't overthink it. Ridley and Jefferson face the Raiders and Panthers this week, defenses that boost opponent pass plays as well as receiving yards per target to both No. 1 and No. 2 receivers. I have both Ridley and Jefferson in my top 15 at the position with an assumption that their teammates will play. And their value will only increase if those statuses change.
|Worst Week 12 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
Like at quarterback, bad matchups affect many of the best true-talent receivers this week. You wouldn't bench any of DK Metcalf, Tyreek Hill, Michael Thomas, or Davante Adams in any full-season league. However, they may not justify their expensive DFS price tags facing the Eagles, Bucs, Broncos, and Bears this week, the first three while also on the road.
The most interesting receiver is the one least impacted by his matchup. But I still wanted to highlight Tee Higgins because he was top-20 in fantasy scoring from Weeks 2 to 10 with Joe Burrow at quarterback, and he landed outside my top 50 at the position this week as the team transitions to Brandon Allen. Burrow averaged more than 40 pass attempts per start before his injury, and while much of that stemmed from game scripts that Allen will almost certainly share, offenses need a baseline level of efficiency to turn deficits into extra pass attempts. Allen started three games for the Broncos last season, and in his biggest loss to the Bills, he threw just 25 passes for 82 yards. I don't have high hopes for his success this year behind an offensive line that is bottom-10 with a 7.4% adjusted sack rate. And in fantasy, Higgins and fellow outside receiver A.J. Green will likely be the biggest victims.
|Best Week 12 Matchups - Tight Ends|
Week 12 isn't terrible across the top tier of all positions. At tight end, it's generally beneficial. That doesn't extend to top positional option Travis Kelce against the Bucs -- not that any matchup could dethrone him from his top ranking at the position -- but it does to Darren Waller and T.J. Hockenson, normal top-five options who boost to second and fourth at the position this week. They face Falcons and Texans defenses allowing top-five DVOA rates to tight ends. And the former is a top-two booster of tight end catch rate, yards per target, and touchdowns per target.
Outside of the top five, tight end is a weekly wasteland. As such, it makes sense to at least target players with plus matchups. Dalton Schultz leads the list of such players this week, playing at home in the dome on Thanksgiving and facing a Washington defense that, despite its general success with a top-five pass defense, is 29th in defending the position. He jumps to eighth in my rankings. And Austin Hooper and Mike Gesicki aren't far behind. They have to travel, but their Jaguars and Jets opponents are top-10 boosters of tight end yards and touchdowns per target.
|Worst Week 12 Matchups - Tight Ends|
After a trio of matchups against stingy tight end defenses, Mark Andrews took advantage of a plus one in New England with 96 yards and a touchdown last week. That lends confidence to the top-three true-talent ranking that he has underachieved in fantasy this season. And while that is great news for the fantasy playoffs, it won't help him this week again facing his rival Steelers. They've allowed far and away the worst DVOA to the position this season, and Andrews managed just three catches and 32 yards against them in Week 8. In full-season formats, Andrews' exceptional target share keeps him in the top five at the position, but you should avoid him in daily formats.
|Best Week 12 Matchups - Kickers|
Matt Gay had to be thrilled to kick the game-winning field goal against his former team last Sunday. And now he can celebrate with a plus Week 12 matchup that jumps him into the back end of my K1s. Much of that boost stems from his playing at home in the dome in Los Angeles. But the 49ers' defensive losses this season have also transformed them into a decent kicking matchup. Specifically, they are a top-three booster of long attempts at 21%. And speaking of domes, Matt Prater and Greg Zuerlein get to play in theirs this Thanksgiving. That jumps them to fifth and 15th at the position this week despite the offensive struggles that have lessened their true-talent rankings of late.
|Worst Week 12 Matchups - Kickers|
After returning only to miss a pair of extra-point attempts on Sunday, Sam Ficken went back on injured reserve with his groin injury. That promotes Sergio Castillo to typical fantasy relevance. This just isn't the week facing a Dolphins defense that cuts short and long field goal attempts by 43% and 34%, respectively, both top-three in football.
Meanwhile, the bad matchup news for elite fantasy options continues. Justin Tucker and Harrison Butker are top-five staples at the position, but they drop to just seventh and 15th for me this week on the road against the Steelers and Bucs. Those defenses are both top-12 cutters of short and long field goal attempts.
|Best Week 12 Matchups - Defenses|
The Dolphins may not have scored a defensive touchdown on Sunday, but they've still forced at least one turnover in all 10 of their games this season. Meanwhile, the Jets are generally worse than the Broncos and worse equipped to take advantage of a defense that plays worse against the run (29th DVOA) than the pass (11th). You can continue to start the Dolphins defense as a top-five option.
Unlike the Dolphins, the Giants and Browns need good matchups to enter fantasy lineups. Well, they have them this week facing Bengals and Jaguars offenses transitioning to new quarterbacks in Brandon Allen and Mike Glennon, whose careers to date suggest they don't have starter-level talent. I have particular faith in the Giants since the Bengals were a top-five booster of sacks per pass attempt even before Burrow's injury. Ryan Finley took four sacks in relief of Burrow on Sunday against just 10 attempts, and I'm not sure Allen will fare dramatically better.
|Worst Week 12 Matchups - Defenses|
Frequently, the biggest matchup-movers for the offenses they face are defenses you wouldn't want to start anyway. After all, the Chiefs, Steelers, and Saints defenses can't play their own other units. But this week, the Bucs and Bears tumble from their normal starting standard to outside my top 20 at the position facing the Chiefs and Packers. Defense is the most important position to play the matchups. Don't be stuck on teams' success against much easier opponents to date. Leave the Bucs and Bears on your fantasy benches.