By Matt Citak
Only two weeks remain before the start of the fantasy playoffs. If your league is anything like mine, then playoff spots are coming down to the wire, with numerous spots up for grabs. You never know how close your playoff race will actually be come the end of Week 13, so every point counts in your push to the postseason. Let’s get right into it.
Here are CBS Local Sports’ Week 12 Fantasy Football Starts and Sits.
QB: Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
Roethlisberger is coming off his best start of the season in which he completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 299 yards and four touchdowns against the Titans. This week Roethlisberger faces off against a Packers defense that has allowed three of the last four quarterbacks its faced to pass for 295 yards or more, including a 297-yard performance from Bears rookie QB Mitch Trubisky. The veteran QB performs significantly better at home, and with the Steelers hosting the Titans at Heinz Field on Sunday night, expect a big night from Big Ben.
QB: Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
The 2017 season has not gone the way many thought it would for Mariota. Entering Week 12, the third-year quarterback has thrown for just 2,089 yards, eight touchdowns, and 10 interceptions, including four in last week’s loss to the Steelers. But the Titans have a get-right game this week as they travel to Indianapolis to take on the Colts and their 30th-ranked pass defense. Fire Mariota up with confidence.
QB: Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Dalton is coming off a three-touchdown, zero-interception performance against the Broncos last week, and now has five touchdowns and zero interceptions over his last two contests. The Bengals are welcoming the Browns to Cincinnati this weekend, with Cleveland surrendering 20.8 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Game script could be a concern if the Bengals go up big, but Dalton is the one of the best streaming options available in most leagues this week.
RB: Samaje Perine, Washington Redskins
Perine won Washington’s starting running back role due to season-ending injuries to both Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson. In his first game as the primary back, Perine impressed by carrying the ball 23 times for 117 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and a touchdown. Washington takes on its NFC East rival New York Giants on Thanksgiving night, and with New York ranking 30th in the league in rushing yards allowed per game (132.7), this is a great week to be starting Perine.
RB: Dion Lewis, New England Patriots
Lewis has been the most consistent running back for the Patriots over the last month and a half. The 5-foot-8 back has received at least 10 carries in each of New England’s last five games, and has found the end zone in two consecutive contests. The Patriots welcome the Dolphins to Foxborough this week, with the Dolphins defense having allowed two touchdowns to opposing running backs in two of its last three games. If the Patriots go up big in the second half, Belichick could look to run the clock out by pounding the ball on the ground. Lewis is a solid RB2 this week.
RB: Devontae Booker, Denver Broncos
Denver’s Week 11 loss to the Bengals may have represented a changing of the guard at the running back position, as second-year back Devontae Booker finished the game with season-highs in carries (14) and receptions (five). Booker has served as the team’s pass-catching back for the last two months, and with Paxton Lynch now at quarterback, Booker could play an even bigger role in the passing game. Starting Booker has its risks, but if you decide to roll the dice on the young running back, it could end up paying off big.
WR: Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
Allen had been off to a rather disappointing start to the season before exploding for 12 receptions, 159 yards, and two touchdowns in Los Angeles’ 54-24 thrashing of the Bills last week. Allen’s day gets even more impressive when you look into those stats. The 25-year-old receiver had 66 yards after the catch, more than he had in the previous five games combined, while Philip Rivers had an almost-perfect passer rating when targeting him. The Chargers battle the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, and with the Cowboys giving up the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season, Allen could be in for a Thanksgiving feast.
WR: Jamison Crowder, Washington Redskins
Other than Perine, Crowder seems to be the biggest beneficiary of the injuries to Chris Thompson and Terrelle Pryor, who were both placed on injured reserve this week. The third-year receiver had already been one of Kirk Cousins’ favorite targets, racking up 32 over the last three weeks, but with limited options in the passing game now, Crowder will likely see even more. The Giants pass defense ranks 29th in yards allowed per game, which makes Crowder a strong play on Thanksgiving night.
WR: Jarvis Landry, Miami Dolphins
Despite inconsistent quarterback play in Miami, Landry is quietly in the midst of his strongest season since entering the NFL in 2014. Landry has 67 receptions for 567 yards and a career-high six touchdowns through 10 games this year. The 5-foot-11 receiver has a touchdown in six of the last seven games, and will look to keep that trend going against the Patriots and their 32nd-ranked pass defense on Sunday. “Juice” has been targeted 10 or more times in seven games this year, and with that sort of volume against this struggling secondary, he’s a must-start.
TE: Jared Cook, Oakland Raiders
Cook had his first bad game in over a month against the Patriots last week, catching just 2-of-5 targets for 36 yards. But with a matchup against the free-falling Broncos on Sunday, the veteran tight end has a great opportunity to get right back on-track. Denver’s defense has struggled during its six-game losing streak, but the unit has been unable to defend tight ends all season. The Broncos have allowed touchdowns to tight ends in seven contests this season. Cook has a good chance of making it eight this week.
TE: Tyler Kroft, Cincinnati Bengals
Kroft didn’t have that strong of a performance last week against the Broncos, but his touchdown helped save the day for his fantasy owners. The third-year tight end has another amazing matchup this week as the Bengals will take on the winless Browns in Cincinnati. Cleveland has surrendered eight touchdowns to the tight end position this season, including one in each of their last three contests. He may not gain a ton of yards on Sunday, but Kroft could easily find his way into the end zone again.
QB: Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
Prescott is coming off a horrendous outing against the Eagles on Sunday night. The second-year QB out of Mississippi State completed just 58.1 percent of his passes for 145 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions, finishing with a Passer Rating of 30.4, the lowest of his career. Dallas’ offense is clearly feeling the absence of Ezekiel Elliott, and if offensive tackle Tyron Smith can’t make it back on the field in time, then Prescott is in trouble. The Chargers have allowed only one quarterback to score 19 or more fantasy points, and that was Trevor Siemian back in Week 1. Prescott is a borderline starter in this matchup.
QB: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Stafford has looked great over the last three weeks, registering a 7-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio during that span while racking up 909 passing yards. He will likely have trouble continuing his strong play this week though, as the Vikings are coming to Ford Field for a NFC North Thanksgiving showdown. The Vikings defense has been one of the best against opposing quarterbacks this season, allowing only Kirk Cousins to register more than 20 fantasy points. Minnesota just shut down Jared Goff and the Rams last week, and will look to do the same to Stafford in Week 12 as they march their way towards a division title.
QB: Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
Who would have thought the Raiders would struggle this much after a stellar 12-4 campaign last season? It’s hard to blame the team’s struggles on any one player, but Carr’s performance has certainly not helped the situation. Carr has just 14 touchdowns to go with eight interceptions, and has a Passer Rating of 88.2 through 10 games. The Broncos’ defense has not been able to limit opposing quarterbacks over the last three weeks, as Carson Wentz, Tom Brady, and Dalton each scored 18.5 or more points. But Carr doesn’t look like the same quarterback as last season, and Denver’s defense is bound to turn things around eventually. It could very well happen this week. Start Carr if you must, but I’d look for other options first.
RB: Adrian Peterson, Arizona Cardinals
Peterson has been the definition of boom-or-bust since being dealt to the Cardinals. The veteran back ran for 293 yards and two touchdowns in Arizona’s two wins since the trade, but was only able to gain 76 yards combined in the team’s three losses. Things are unlikely to get any better for Peterson this week as the Cardinals take on the Jacksonville Jaguars at home. The Jaguars have allowed only one rushing touchdown to a running back since Week 4, and that was to Joe Mixon, who finished that game with just 31 rushing yards. Peterson has better matchups later in the season, but this is not the week to take a gamble on the veteran.
RB: Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions
Abdullah has been able to find the end zone in each of Detroit’s last three games, and while he has received consistent volume all season, he’s better off on your bench this week. The 24-year-old back is one of only four running backs to get a double digit carry total in every game this year. However, that is unlikely to help him on Thanksgiving against the Vikings. Minnesota is allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to the running back position in 2017. Detroit could struggle to move the ball against this talented defense, and with a low possibility of scoring a touchdown, Abdullah’s ceiling is rather low this week.
RB: Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins
Drake had an all-around awful performance against Tampa Bay in Week 11. He was only on the field for 38 of Miami’s 64 offensive plays, and was able to turn eight total touches into a mere 14 yards. The Dolphins seem to prefer Drake’s teammate, Damien Williams, in passing situations, which means against New England this week, we are likely to see a lot more of Williams. The Dolphins will likely be playing from behind for most of the game, and that does not bode well for Drake’s fantasy outlook.
WR: Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
While Green Bay’s offense has seemingly fallen apart since Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone, Adams has been the one player that has been able to keep up his productivity. Adams has at least 90 yards or a touchdown in each of the last two games, and is clearly Brett Hundley’s favorite target. But the Packers have to battle the Steelers on Sunday night, and with Pittsburgh’s defense playing like it is at the moment, it’s hard to see the Packers having any sort of success on offense. The Steelers are allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, so start Adams at your own risk.
WR: Marvin Jones Jr., Detroit Lions
Jones was able to rebound from a horrible Week 10 performance, catching four passes for 85 yards and a score in Detroit’s win over the Bears last week. There’s no doubt he plays a large role in the Lions offense, but with the Vikings on deck in Week 12, Jones could struggle to succeed. The veteran receiver leads the Lions’ pass catchers in vertical receiving yards, but Minnesota’s defense has been one of the strongest against vertical yards allowed over the last month. Jones will also see a lot of Xavier Rhodes this week, which could be enough to ruin the receiver’s Thanksgiving Day.
TE: Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys
Witten has gone through a bit of a cold streak in November, as two of Dallas’ last three games have resulted in the veteran tight end securing just one pass on one target. The Chargers have been fantastic at shutting down opposing tight ends, with only Rob Gronkowski scoring a touchdown against Los Angeles. In fact, Gronk is one of only two tight ends to reach double digit fantasy points against the Chargers this season. His outlook will improve slightly if Tyron Smith returns, but even so, I’m avoiding Witten at all costs this week.
TE: Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons
After securing a touchdown in two of Atlanta’s previous three games, Hooper put up a complete dud against the Seahawks in Week 11. The 6-foot-3 tight end caught both of his targets, but somehow finished with -1 yards. The Falcons go up against the Buccaneers this week, and while the Tampa Bay defense has struggled all year, they have actually been great against tight ends. No tight end has hit double digit fantasy points against this Bucs defense, including matchups against Kyle Rudolph, Evan Engram, and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Hooper has had his moments, but if those tight ends couldn’t succeed against Tampa Bay, then Hooper is likely in for a long day.
Matt Citak is a producer for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter or send comments to email@example.com.