Be Thankful for Fantasy: Start ‘Em/Sit ‘Em Week 12

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It certainly did feel like 2007 all over last week. Jay Cutler, Tom Brady and Carson Palmer were among the top-scoring signal-callers, while some old school tight ends like Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates and even Kellen Winslow joined the party.

But for Week 12, it’s back to reality (oops, there goes gravity). With Thanksgiving almost upon us, it’s time get thankful. Personally, I’m thankful for Eli Manning, my back-up fantasy quarterback, to have the season he’s having, given my starter, Philip Rivers, is as predictable as the weather. I’m also thankful for drafting Rob Gronkowski, who is proving to be some form of superhero tight end.

Here’s some other players worthy of starts or sits this week, and have a reason to be thankful.

Start ‘Em:

It’s going to be a shootout Thursday afternoon when the Packers and Lions face off in what looks to be a high-scoring affair. And sure, we’ll keep our eyes glued on Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford.

But there are two running backs that might be surprise performers: Ryan Grant and Kevin Smith.

With James Starks nursing a sprained knee and questionable, Grant would draw the start. Obviously Grant has not wowed anybody this season, but he has been splitting carries all season long. The opportunity to be the lone ball carrier, as well as the recipient of most of Rodgers’ passes out of the backfield, you could do much worse as a RB2 or a flex.

The Packers are going to try and play keep-away from the prolific Lions offense, and there’s no better method than attacking the porous Detroit rush defense. The Lions rank 27th in the NFL against the rush, and only six teams allow more fantasy points to opposing running backs.

Last week, Kevin Smith topped 200 total yards with 3 TD for Detroit. Be thankful if you snagged him off the waiver wire.

In the other backfield, it’s Smith in line to make his second consecutive start, as Jahvid Best continues to sit out. Last week, in his first start since 2009 with these same Lions, Smith torched the Panthers for 201 total yards and three touchdowns. He shouldered nearly one-third of the offense, more than double of Maurice Morris.

LeGarrette Blount stomped over the Pack last week, rushing for over 100 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown exposing some tackling woes. This defense is vulnerable against the run, if the Lions capitalize on it.

You can thank Chris Johnson; the Tennessee Titans are becoming a pass-first team. With 13 yards on a dozen carries against Atlanta last week, the Titans attempted 44 passes, and Nate Washington has emerged as the true No. 1 wide receiver.

With Jake Locker under center, Washington hauled in two touchdowns for the Titans, and 115 yards on the game. He and tight end Jared Cook tied for the team lead with nine targets, demonstrating the Titans are looking for ways to get their two main playmakers involved.

There is a strong likelihood, however, that Matt Hasselbeck will be able to start Sunday against Tampa Bay.

Regardless, the Titans have a favorable matchup, facing the Bucs defense that is struggling of late. Tampa has allowed six passing touchdowns in the last five games, and has allowed opposing wideouts to reach double-digit fantasy points in four of those.

That’s the kind of intriguing play one should be thankful for.

Adrian Peterson owners are fleeting to the waiver wire in search for a replacement, as their best player will miss Sunday’s game against the Falcons with a high-ankle sprain. Toby Gerhart, better known as White Thunder, is expected to make his second career start. But is he truly the best option in the Minnesota backfield?

All season long, we’ve seen Percy Harvin take snaps as a running back, much like he did at Florida in Urban Meyer’s offense. There’s an argument to be made that Harvin is the Vikings’ second-best running back, and owners who have been loyal to him should be thankful.

Percy Harvin, who has emerged as 25% of the Vikings offense, could be in line for more RB snaps without Adrian Peterson. Be thankful if you were loyal to Harvin.

In the team’s last five contests, Harvin’s rushing attempts have increased, and he did receive five carries last week with Peterson out. And since Ponder has been inserted in the starting offense, Harvin has seen an increasing role in the offense (from 13 percent to a team-best 23 percent v. Oakland) and has become the most targeted receiver (23 percent of targets v. Oakland).

Harvin is the Viking’s best playmaker, so it only makes sense that he’ll be more involved in the offense without AP. He provides a receiving threat out of the backfield, and we’ve seen his ability to get goal-line carries; he scored on a 10-yard run Week 8 against Carolina. Last week, he got on track with a receiving touchdown, and was a holding penalty away from scoring on a punt return.

Harvin’s overall versatility boosts his stock, especially this week, with Atlanta allowing three receiving touchdowns in their last two games. The Falcons, who on the year allow the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing receivers, move Harvin into WR1 status.

Follow Sam on Twitter for fantasy updates throughout the week; tweet him with your questions, too.

Sit ‘Em:

Dear Mike Shanahan, we’re sick of your Shanahanigans, especially when they’re illogical.

The Skins continue to start Ryan Torain, despite the productivity of rookie Roy Helu, the team’s leading rusher over the past six games. Shanahan cites too much pressure for a first-year player as the reason for Helu splitting snaps.

If you want to play carousel with your backfield, Shanahan, go for it. This week, relieve yourself of guessing which back will get see the bulk of the carries and bench both Torain and Helu. Take it from the Backstreet Boys and quit playing games with my running backs, Shanahan.

The Seahawks have not allowed a single 100-yard rusher at Qwest Field this season, and only two running backs have reached the end zone this season. Seattle allows the sixth fewest fantasy points to backs in the NFL. Here are some of the struggles top running backs have had:

The Seahawks have been stellar against the run this season, especially at home. Be thankful for my advice to bench your Skins RBs.

  • Ray Rice: 8 attempts, 25 yards
  • Steven Jackson: 15 attempts, 42 yards
  • Frank Gore: 22 attempts, 59 yards
  • Rashard Mendenhall: 19 attempts 66 yards
  • Ahmad Bradshaw: 17 attempts, 58 yards

The coach: frustrating. The matchup: terrible. Avoid it for Week 12.

One of the more frustrating fantasy running backs this year has been Ryan Mathews. Since that stretch of games from Weeks 2 to 5, where Mathews totaled 368 rushing yards and six total touchdowns, has quickly reversed track. Since then, he has run for 167 yards.

There are plenty of areas to point the blame. With the loss of left tackle Marcus McNeill and guards Louis Vasquez and Tyronne Green, the Chargers are forced to start a make shift offensive line. Mathews is still splitting carries with Mike Tolbert, and after Norv Turner said he was going to increase Mathew’s carries, the running back responded by fumbling the opportunity.

The Broncos are getting a lot of attention due to the heroics of Tim Tebow, but they should truly be thankful for their rushing defense. Denver has allowed just one rushing touchdown all season and has limited opposing running backs to fewer than 100 yards in five consecutive games. Running backs have been held to single-digit fantasy points in four of those five games, too.

Last week, I warned you to bench Tebow, Willis McGahee and Lance Ball against the Jets, whose defense was playing tremendous of late. Tebow put up his second-lowest fantasy point total of the season, while the Broncos backfield was held to big donut.

The same goes for the Bills’ star players this week. Speedy Stevie Johnson, Fred Jackson, it’s time to ride the pine.

Against Miami last weekend, Jackson got banged up and has yet to take the practice field. C.J. Spiller would likely make the start if Jackson can’t suit up, and thus far in his career has yet to prove he’s a true threat.

Gang Green has not allowed a running back to reach the end zone in three straight games, allowing backs 64 yards per game and a total of seven total fantasy points during that span. The stretch, ironically enough, began by halting Jackson’s tremendous season, as the Jets held him to 82 yards in Week 9.

Since being limited to 82 yards against the Jets, Fred Jackson's season has spiraled into a funk. Over the last month, Jackson has little to be thankful for.

That week spurred Jackson into a funk. F-Jax hasn’t scored in four games, and with the Bills playing from behind, his touches have diminished (23, 18, 13, 7). Oddly enough, his receiving totals, which made him such a great fantasy player, have also decreased. Jackson had 34 catches in the first six weeks; he’s had 15 over the last four.

The spell that’s plaguing Jackson has also spread to Johnson. Whether it’s the struggles of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick or a nagging injury, Johnson has been shut down over the last month. After hauling in 33 passes for 382 yards and four touchdowns in the first six weeks, Johnson has totaled four receptions for 24 catches in the last two contests and has been held scoreless over the last month.

The remedy for an embattled wide receiver is never a trip to Revis Island. Revis and the Jets have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and the secondary limited Johnson to three catches in their previous matchup. The Bills should be thankful they only need to face the Jets twice a year.