Fantasy Football: Week 12 recap and analysis

Los Angeles Rams @ Green Bay Packers

After reports emerged Sunday of Matthew Stafford dealing with a chronic back issue and pain in his throwing elbow, he threw a pick-six for the third straight game and struggled mightily (-8.5 CPOE), although he finished as a top-five fantasy QB this week anyway. Stafford will almost certainly gut it out through his injuries, but his clear drop in play after being the early MVP favorite makes more sense now. The Rams have dropped three straight and were the latest team to start slowly (scoreless in the first quarter) following their bye.

After splitting work with Sony Michel last game, Darrell Henderson once again acted as LA’s feature back, while A.J. Dillon had 25 touches compared to 10 for Aaron Jones, who was eased back into action. Expect Green Bay’s backfield to go back to normal after its upcoming bye … Van Jefferson had a long TD catch and another touchdown (from Cooper Kupp) overturned by review, as he’s going to be a weekly fantasy starter with Robert Woods out (exaggerating praise is one thing, but Troy Aikman calling Woods “a top-three wide receiver in the league” was simply too far).

Odell Beckham tied for the team lead with 10 targets, turning one into his first touchdown since Week 4 of 2020. Beckham appeared to be dealing with a back issue that needs further monitoring, however. Kupp, Jefferson and OBJ were the only Rams receivers to see targets, and Tyler Higbee continues to disappoint, so all three LA wideouts can have fantasy value moving forward (Jefferson has a ton of upside with Beckham’s health looking so tenuous) … Aaron Rodgers is now 73-1-1 when leading at halftime at home, and his infamous toe injury felt good enough for him to run in a score.

Rodgers finished as Sunday’s No. 1 fantasy QB; Stafford was No. 2.

Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots

Mac Jones continued to play well (8.3 CPOE), getting some serious help from Kendrick Bourne as well as Rhamondre Stevenson, who runs angry ... Damien Harris’ fantasy value takes a hit with NE’s backfield becoming a near-even timeshare … That’s back-to-back weeks Dontrelle Hilliard has been a top-12 PPR back, as he and D’Onta Foreman both ran for 100+ yards and lost fumbles. No one on Tennessee saw more than five targets, as the team badly missed A.J. Brown (and Julio Jones).

New York Jets @ Houston Texans

Tyrod Taylor struggled but looked like Joe Montana compared to Zach Wilson (-9.1 CPOE), who was extremely shaky during his return and appeared to re-injure his knee at one point (but would stay in the game). Wilson had an ugly pick, but, in his defense, was missing Corey Davis and facing an underrated Houston pass defense that entered ranked No. 6 in DVOA (and picked off Ryan Tannehill four times last week). The Jets pulled off the upset despite their QB play … Elijah Moore is going to be so, so good … Brandin Cooks’ five targets were especially surprising given Houston’s struggling run game and with the Texans losing for most of the second half, but at least one play saved his fantasy day.

Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants

Jalen Hurts had a really bad game (0:3 TD:INT, -14.3 CPOE), as even his legs couldn’t save his fantasy day for once … Miles Sanders saw just one target and six fewer carries than Boston Scott in a disastrous fantasy situation that didn’t even include Jordan Howard. Sanders can’t be trusted as a top-25 RB moving forward … Saquon Barkley looks more like a borderline RB2 than he does a first-round fantasy player right now, but things could improve once the Giants receivers and his ankle get healthier … It’s hard to point to Jason Garrett no longer calling plays as the reason for Sunday’s upset, as New York’s defense came to play … Jalen Reagor committed multiple drops during a real rough game ... Philadelphia doesn’t have to get on a plane again all season, while the Giants now play four of their next five on the road.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Indianapolis Colts

Leonard Fournette was easily fantasy’s RB1 this week while facing a Colts defense that entered allowing the fewest fantasy points to running backs. Fournette scored a whopping four TDs, as he and Ronald Jones matched the number of total touchdowns Indy had previously allowed all season ... Michael Pittman suffered multiple drops and had fewer yards and touchdowns than Ashton Dulin despite 10x the targets … Chris Godwin and Mike Evans both took a backseat to Rob Gronkowski, who’s locked in as a top-three fantasy TE down the stretch.

Rob Gronkowski #87 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates after an 8 yard touchdown with Leonard Fournette #28
Rob Gronkowski and Leonard Fournette fueled the Buccaneers' late defeat of the Colts. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Tom Brady now has 20 TD passes over five home games and 10 TDs over six road games … Jonathan Taylor entered with more 30+ yard runs than the entire NFL and fell just three yards shy of becoming the first back in NFL history to record 100+ yards from scrimmage with a TD for nine straight games (against a tough TB run defense with Vita Vea and Devin White active) … Carson Wentz threw three TD passes in the first half for the first time since the game he tore his ACL in 2017 … The Colts nearly tied it with a late kick-return touchdown, while Jack “Doyle Rules” was fantasy’s TE1 this week.

Atlanta Falcons @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Cordarrelle Patterson is an absolute legend, as he was a game-time decision but played through a high-ankle sprain, balled out while finishing as fantasy’s RB4 this week and most importantly, helped keep “The Team Of Destiny” alive in my $6M Survivor pool. Being on the Falcons and Bears (Thanksgiving was its own week in this contest) over the last five days has taken at least five years off my life. Only 30 people left!Marvin Jones had a nice one-handed grab, while Trevor Lawrence remains a major work in progress and a gigantic enigma right now … I’d like to personally extend an apology to those I’ve misguided with my aggressive Kyle Pitts talk; just realize my own fantasy teams share your pain.

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After watching D’Andre Swift leave Thanksgiving Day and the hero known as C-Patt perform Sunday (the Falcons had gone seven straight scoreless quarters without him), it’s hard to say running backs don’t matter. Seriously.

Carolina Panthers @ Miami Dolphins

Cam Newton was extraordinarily bad (-42.2 CPOE!) to the point it’d be a surprise if P.J. Walker doesn’t emerge as Carolina’s starter after the team’s bye (although Matt Rhule is claiming otherwise). That was a work of art Sunday (if you were starting Miami’s D/ST) … Christian McCaffrey played one second-half snap after suffering another injury, one that will reportedly end his season. He will be a fascinating player to rank in 2022. My early guess is I’ll be well below his ECR … Emmanuel Ogbah has batted a pass seven straight games — the longest streak in the NFL in 20 years ... His fantasy stats don’t show it, but Tua Tagovailoa (13.8 CPOE) continued to impress Sunday, playing extremely well against a loaded Carolina secondary … Jaylen Waddle was PPR’s WR1 this week; the rookie scored and then waddled.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Mixon is up to 12 touchdowns over his last eight games, is seeing more targets lately and has become a major fantasy difference-maker. Meanwhile, Najee Harris was the biggest (non-injury) bust of Week 12 … Having held opponents to fewer than 30 points in 9 of 10 games this season, the Steelers somehow were losing 31-3 at halftime … Tee Higgins finally broke out Sunday and was fantasy’s No. 2 WR this week … Pat Freiermuth entered with more targets inside the five-yard line (five) over the previous four games than any other tight end had all season, although the rookie’s score Sunday came from 15 yards out.

I’m beginning to think Ben Roethlisberger may be on the downside of his career.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Denver Broncos

It’s odd the Chargers remain the same old Chargers even without Philip Rivers and a new coaching staff, but they lost as favorites Sunday despite Teddy Bridgewater badly hobbled while trying to play through a shin injury … In a borderline Hail Mary situation, Justin Herbert went to Jared (Cook). Herbert put up real nice fantasy stats for failing to get even 7.0 YPA … Javonte Williams didn’t dominate carries as some hoped after Melvin Gordon lost a fumble during the Broncos last game, but he led Denver in targets (four!) and receiving yards to go along with yet another highlight run in which he broke multiple tackles.

With Gordon an unrestricted free agent and either Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson at QB for an otherwise loaded Denver roster, Williams will likely be a first-round fantasy pick in 2022.

Minnesota Vikings @ San Francisco 49ers

Dalvin Cook left with an injury that will sideline him at least a few weeks, so Alexander Mattison (50% rostered in Yahoo leagues) could quickly go from the waiver wire (or bench stash) to legitimate top-five fantasy RB barring the weekly matchup … Deebo Samuel did it again on the ground and now has more rushing touchdowns this season than Christian McCaffrey, Aaron Jones, Alvin Kamara, David Montgomery and Saquon Barkley. Samuel’s status needs to be monitored after he left with a groin injury though, and Brandon Aiyuk’s already improving fantasy value would rise even further should Samuel miss time.

Elijah Mitchell looked terrific during his return from finger surgery (while Trey Sermon was carted off), as he’s clearly Kyle Shanahan’s most trusted back; Mitchell also saw a career-high six targets, including a few schemed for him. He’s a borderline top-10 fantasy RB moving forward, with health being the only concern. The 49ers are averaging 178.3 rushing yards over the last three games … Kirk Cousins tried to take a snap from his right guard during a crucial play and tossed his first pick on the road this season. Minnesota continued to be the NFL’s only team to lead every game this season by 7+ points yet incredibly have a losing record.

Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens

Sunday night marked just the second game of Lamar Jackson’s career with three picks, and he had them by halftime (and finished with four). His accuracy was off all night after missing last week’s game with an illness, as Jackson finished with his fewest fantasy points in a game this season. After this result and rumblings about Miami “solving” Baltimore’s offense followed by Jackson’s DNP, the football world will be closely watching the Ravens when they travel to face a reeling Pittsburgh defense next week … Baker Mayfield (-11.1 CPOE) was also brutal yet again, and Kareem Hunt’s return resulted in utter disaster for him (20 yards from scrimmage) and Nick Chubb (39 YFS), with RT Jack Conklin leaving mid-game certainly not helping … What a catch by Mark Andrews … Teams throwing 4+ interceptions had been 0-52 since 2014 before Baltimore’s win Sunday night. It was also somehow the first divisional win of the season for the AFC’s No. 1 seed.

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