Welcome to the Thanksgiving version of Start/Sit!
As always, we’re hitting on the best and worst plays for shallow (10-teams) and deep (12- and 14-teams) leagues.
Please note that the “sit” calls in this column are not universal but are more recommendations to consider if you have options that project similarly. Our projections should be used as the final call.
Start: Justin Herbert at Bills
Herbert has been a mainstay in this space for a few weeks now and, once again, enters the week as one of the best plays at the position. Unless you have Mahomes, Murray, Allen, or Watson — you’re firing up Herbert as a no-brainer QB1. Herbert is on an absolute tear as of late, finishing as a top-10 weekly scorer in five-straight games since the Chargers bye. This week, Herbert should find himself in a pass-heavy shootout with Josh Allen and the Bills explosive offense. Both the Chargers and Bills offenses are among the top-10 fastest-paced teams in the league which should boost the overall play volume in this game. Vegas is all over it, too. We always want options from high-scoring game environments and the over/under in this spot is set at 53.5 points, third-highest on the slate behind only Raiders-Falcons (56) and Buccaneers-Chiefs (55.5).
Sit: Lamar Jackson at Steelers
What a fall from grace it has been for last year’s MVP. Jackson has been a shell of his 2019-self this season, struggling badly under pressure and with his accuracy to all parts of the field. This matchup is about as bad as it could get for a quarterback that’s just fighting to complete passes, too. Pittsburgh is the NFL’s most aggressive defense, sending blitzes at the second-highest highest rate (42%) and generating pressure on a league-high 34% of opposing quarterbacks' dropbacks. Jackson has crumbled under pressure this year, completing just 57% of his throws for 5.5 yards per pass attempt when blitzed. Add in the fact that Pittsburgh has yet to allow a single quarterback to eclipse 18 fantasy points against them this season and has held Jackson to 11.4 and 14.8 FP in two career starts against them and we have a clear-cut situation. Lamar is no longer a must-start QB1 and that’s especially true this week.
Start: Derek Carr at Falcons
Carr and HC Jon Gruden have not gotten nearly enough credit for how good the Raiders offense is. Despite lightly using No. 12 overall pick Henry Ruggs, the Raiders are achieving some pretty impressive milestones offensively. As a team, Vegas ranks top-10 in points per game, yards gained per play, drives ending in a score, and third-down conversion rate. Derek Carr has blossomed in his third season under Gruden and is having his career-best year, by far. In fact, Carr ranks top-6 in three of the most important stats for a quarterback: Expected points added per pass, passer rating, and touchdown rate. Against this Falcons secondary that has allowed a 300-yard passer in 8-of-10 games and a league-high 25.5 fantasy points per game, Carr can be trusted as a QB1 for Week 12 lineup decisions.
Sit: Ryan Tannehill at Colts
After a relatively easy opening stretch to start his season, Tannehill has cooled off a bit as of late as the Titans schedule has gotten harder. Over his last five starts, Ryan Tannehill is averaging just 16.0 fantasy points per game — which is tied with Matthew Stafford for 20th among QBs in this span. It should be no surprise Tannehill’s numbers have been held in check either. The Titans have faced the Steelers, Bears, Colts, and Ravens in four of their past five games. This week, Tannehill has to face the Colts yet again two weeks after they held him in check for 10.8 fantasy points in Week 10. Aaron Rodgers had a great game against the Colts last week, but he needed 38 attempts and a last minute bomb to Marquez Valdes-Scantling on their final drive to get into field goal range and eclipse 300+ yards. Over the full season, Indy has limited QBs to the fifth-fewest passing fantasy points per attempt (0.41), the third-lowest passer rating (83.1), and the second-fewest yards per game (207.1) to opposing QBs.
Start: James Robinson vs. Browns
Even though Robinson somewhat disappointed in the box score last week (17/73 rushing; 2/21 receiving), it wasn’t because of his usage. (It was mainly because Jake Luton melted down.) James Robinson dominated the Jaguars RB touches last week with Chris Thompson on injured reserve, handling all 19 of the touches while No. 2 back Dare Ogunbowale only played 13 snaps mainly in mop-up duty. Even though the Browns are big-time favorites (-6.5), Robinson is one of the few true bell cow backs and he’ll handle another massive workload again this week. You can’t take him out of a lineup right now.
Note: You’re starting D’Andre Swift as a confident RB1 if he clears concussion protocol in time to play on Thanksgiving against the Texans. Before unfortunately missing last week, the Lions finally made Swift their workhorse back in Week 10 as he set season-highs in snaps (73%) and touches (21). The Texans have been hammered by dual-threat backs all season long, giving up a league-high 186.4 scrimmage yards per game and 5.9 yards per touch.
Sit: Clyde Edwards-Helaire at Buccaneers
CEH finally ran into some good luck in the touchdown department last week but his underlying usage really didn’t change all that much. In the four games since the Chiefs added Le’Veon Bell, Edwards-Helaire has averaged just 10.3 touches per game and played on 47% of the team’s snaps. Before they brought in Bell, Edwards-Helaire’s role was much stronger as he saw 21.3 touches per game and was on the field for 66% of the Chiefs plays. This week, Edwards-Helaire will have to make the best of his limited opportunities against what has been a truly dominant front-seven for opposing backs. Even without run-stuffing DT Vita Vea, Tampa Bay is limiting running backs to a league-low 93.2 scrimmage yards per game and 3.0 yards per carry. Aaron Jones (13.1 fantasy points), Josh Jacobs (6.1), Alvin Kamara (15.9), and Mike Davis (8.4) have all underwhelmed in this matchup recently.
Start: Wayne Gallman at Bengals
With Devonta Freeman (ankle) on injured reserve, Gallman has quietly turned into a very sturdy RB2. Over his last four games with Freeman sidelined, Gallman has scored 13 or more fantasy points in every contest and handled 60% of the Giants RB touches. Even though OC Jason Garrett has been mixing in Alfred Morris in a changeup role, Gallman has handled seven of the Giants 9 carries inside of the 10-yard line (red-zone) without Freeman in the lineup. This week, Gallman catches an excellent matchup out of his bye week against a Bengals defense that is allowing 146.6 scrimmage yards per game (fifth-most) and explosive 5.2 yards per carry (second-most).
Start: J.D. McKissic at Cowboys
After seeing 14 and 15 targets from Alex Smith in Washington’s two previous games in Week 9-10, McKissic came back down to earth last week with only four targets in a game The Football Team largely controlled against the Bengals. This has been a continued theme for McKissic all season long. In games where Washington is behind, his volume spikes. McKissic’s usage has been highly game script dependent as 57 of his 66 targets (86%) have come when his team has been behind on the scoreboard. The Cowboys are currently installed as 3-point home-favorites over Washington, which should lend itself to a more ideal game script for McKissic. He’s a strong RB2/FLEX play in PPR leagues.
Sit: Ronald Jones vs. Chiefs
Both things can be true: Jones is the better back than Leonard Fournette but he’s largely unusable in fantasy. Outside of his 98-yard touchdown run two weeks ago, RoJo has been held in check since Fournette returned to the lineup in Week 7. Jones has been held under 35 yards rushing in four of his last 5 games and he’s been out-snapped by Fournette in this span (153 to 111). While Fournette is mainly being used as the passing down back, he and Jones are also splitting goal-line carries. Over Tampa’s last five contests, RoJo and Fournette both have six carries from inside of the 10-yard line. Jones is a completely boom-or-bust RB3 this week. The Chiefs are 3-point favorites and if the Bucs’ fall behind, we’ll see plenty of Fournette as the hurry-up back once again.
Start: Brandin Cooks and Will Fuller at Lions
Since the Texans axed HC Bill O’Brien, Cooks and Fuller have been more of “1A” and “1B” options for Deshaun Watson. Over the Texans last six games, Cooks has actually out-targeted Fuller 52 to 46 and has cleared 60 yards in 5-of-6 contests. With Watson playing so well, it’s very hard to take either one of these receivers out of a lineup this week in this matchup. The Lions are giving up the fifth-most yards per game to wideouts. After getting crushed by Panthers WRs with a backup at quarterback last week, Cooks and Fuller are amazing WR2 plays with WR1 upside on Thanksgiving.
Start: Amari Cooper vs. Washington
Sure, the Cowboys have taken a massive step back without Dak Prescott — but it’s not been all bad for Cooper. In Andy Dalton’s three starts, Cooper is tied with CeeDee Lamb for the team lead in targets (25) and has posted stat lines of 7/79/1, 7/80, and 6/81. Cooper has been just fine with Dalton under center and has absolutely owned Washington in his four previous outings against them, ripping them for 23/396/3 on 26 targets.
Sit: Chris Godwin vs. Chiefs
As unfortunate as it is, Godwin has turned into the Bucs’ No. 3 target since the team added Antonio Brown. This is Tom Brady’s target distribution over the last three weeks: Brown (26), Mike Evans (26), Godwin (22), and Rob Gronkowski (15). The Bucs’ are spreading the ball around too much and it’s making all three of AB, Evans, and Godwin hit-or-miss WR2’s. Plus, this matchup isn’t as nearly as good as it may seem. Kansas City has been tough on opposing wideouts all year long, limiting them to the fourth-fewest fantasy points and second-fewest yards per game.
Start: DeVante Parker at Jets
Regardless of who is starting at quarterback, this is undeniably a great spot for Parker. The Jets have been set on fire by receivers for monster games in recent weeks, giving up 11/112 to Stefon Diggs, 4/98/2 to Tyreek Hill, 7/96/1 to Mecole Hardman, and 4/63/1 to Demarcus Robinson, 12/169 to Jakobi Meyers, and 16/145/1 to Keenan Allen over their last four games. Coming off a strong 6/61/1 outing in a much tougher matchup against the Broncos, Parker is a high upside WR3 start this week.
Start: Michael Pittman vs. Titans
After missing a month because of a calf injury, Pittman has emerged as the Colts clear cut No. 1 wideout over his last three games as he leads the team in routes (105) and targets (18). Pittman had his breakout game against the Titans two weeks ago (7/101) and is, once again, an intriguing WR3 start again. Tennessee is vulnerable out wide and through the slot, which bodes well for Pittman since HC Frank Reich is lining him up all over the field. Over the full season, the Titans have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points and fourth-most yards per game to receivers.
Sit: Christian Kirk at Patriots
We’ll very likely see CB Stephon Gillmore travel with DeAndre Hopkins on every snap this week which, in theory, gives Christian Kirk the “easier” matchup on the outside against J.C. Jackson. The thing is, even though the Patriots defense hasn’t been as near as dominant as they were in 2019, their outside cornerbacks between Gillmore and Jackson isn’t an easy matchup. The Patriots are allowing just 12.2 fantasy points per game to outside wide receivers, which is tied with the Ravens for the fourth-fewest in the league. New England is far more vulnerable through the slot, but Kirk only lines up inside on 14% of his snaps. Not only is the matchup far from ideal, Kirk’s usage leaves a lot to be desired, too. He has seen a target share of more than 20% in just one game all season long.
Start: Hunter Henry at Bills
After seeing consistent volume every single week and not really producing much on it, Henry has now posted two back-to-back strong outings with 4/30/1 (on 6 targets) against the Dolphins and 4/48/1 (on 7 targets) last week against the Jets. After putting up two of his three highest scoring games of the season, this is another spot for Henry to continue his hot-streak against a Bills defense that is giving up the second-most receptions (5.9) and second-most yards (65.0) per game to opposing tight ends.
Sit: Rob Gronkowski vs. Chiefs
Gronk was sort of rolling midseason after a slow start, but he has cooled off completely over the last few weeks since the team added Antonio Brown. Gronkowski is now Brady’s fourth option in the pecking order and the duo has been out of sync in recent weeks as Gronk has caught just five of his 15 targets for 78 yards over their last three games. The Chiefs have given up a little production to the few good tight ends they’ve faced — namely Darren Waller (5/48/1 and 7/88/1) and Hunter Henry (6/83) — but Gronk’s inconsistent usage makes him a TE2 only.
Start: Austin Hooper at Jaguars
Hooper’s production has left a lot to be desired since he returned two weeks ago (1/11 in Week 10; 3/33 in Week 11), but this matchup couldn’t be any better if you’re in need of a streamer. The Jaguars have given up the second-most fantasy points per target to tight ends and just got hit for 4/36/1 by Eric Ebron last week. Hooper’s floor is low because Baker Mayfield has been turned into a full-blown game manager — he’s averaged 22.6 pass attempts per game over his last five outings — but we’re playing the TD-or-bust game at this position and Hooper at least has a decent chance to score. Mayfield missed a wide open Hooper in the end zone last week in what was one of the most egregiously overthrown balls I’ve seen all year.
Sit: Jared Cook at Broncos
After clearing 80 yards or catching a touchdown in five of his first 6 games, Cook’s targets (3 > 2 > 1) and snaps (36% > 36% > 38%) have dwindled over the last three weeks. The Saints went way more run-heavy with Taysom Hill under center last week and that obviously doesn’t bode well for Cook’s usage. Cook has become a completely unusable option for fantasy and there are just far better streaming options out there like Jordan Reed and Dalton Schultz, which Tom outlined in detail here.