Fantasy Recap: Week 12

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In America, Thanksgiving is a time of remembrance and thankfulness for all the blessings we have. But, to football fans, it is also about getting to watch games all day long from the comfort of your home with amazing food! Week 12 brought us both highs and lows, with some touchdowns, some interceptions, some wins, and some loses all in a span of 4 short days.

Tony Romo suffered a hairline fracture in his collarbone on Thursday, ending his already short season; Rob Gronkowski tweaked his knee, and may miss a week; the Packers lost to the Bears, in Green Bay, which shows you how far their offense has gotten off track with Jordy Nelson out of the line-up; Detroit got their groove back on national television; the Broncos ended the Patriots undefeated season behind Brock Osweiler and their running game; and still, even with all the things to be thankful for, we still saw plenty of giving with interceptions (Eli Manning, Nick Foles & Romo) and lost fumbles (10 players lost fumbles in Week 12).

And if all that wasn't weird enough, consider the fact that Blaine Gabbert threw for 318 yards and a touchdown this week against a Cardinals defense that everyone thought was an elite fantasy play this week! If I didn't see turkey on the table, I would have thought it was April fools!

Winners

Tyrod Taylor – Bills: I didn't have much confidence in Taylor heading into this week given him nursing a throwing shoulder injury, and after a down month where he averaged just 190.7 YPG & threw just 2 TDs in 3 games. I was sure wrong though as Taylor had his best game of the year as he finished with 291 passing yards, 46 rushing yards, 3 TDs, no INTs, and 1 lost fumble. Taylor finishes most weeks as a QB1, and this week he was a top 5-6 QB, depending on your scoring format. It looks like the Bills have found their QB of the future.

Blake Bortles – Jaguars: Bortles is a stats machine, but he still gets no love from the national media because the win/loss record doesn't look as good as the boxscore. Let me tell you that the stat-line is a far better indicator of a player's ability than the standings! Bortles racked up 329 passing yards, 33 rushing yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT Sunday against the Chargers. Bortles is a QB1, and will enter next season as a starting fantasy QB for all those same big-box websites calling him an iffy QB this year!

Eddie Lacy – Packers: It was just 2 weeks ago that Lacy was replaced on the depth chart for James Starks, and fantasy owners were left wondering what happened to their 1st round pick who just a year ago was a fantasy stud. Well, Lacy took the benching as a kick in the butt and put up 105 yards rushing, 34 yards receiving, and scored a touchdown for just the 3rd time all season. Lacy is still unpredictable for production given the Packers problems on offense, but I feel safe plugging him in as an RB2 next week against the Lions.

Spencer Ware – Chiefs: It was just a nightmare day for the Bills defense, giving up 420 yards of total offense, and 30 points to the Chiefs. Once Ware got to work running the ball, he didn't stop until he was near the top of the fantasy RB list for Week 12. He finished with 19 rushes for 114 yards (6.0 YPC), 2 TDs, and chipped in 3 catches for 3 yards for those in PPR leagues. We'll have to see how Charcandrick West's hamstring does this week, but Ware is obviously capable of carrying the load if West is indeed out again in Week 13.

Sammy Watkins – Bills: Watkins burned the Chiefs secondary over and over again on Sunday, and finished the game with 6 catches for 182 yards and 2 TDs. It's hard to fathom that Watkins' 10 targets in Week 12 actually ranked him 21st for WRs. Watkins finished the week as the #1 ranked WR in almost all formats thanks to the yardage bonus he receiver after hitting the 150-yard mark. He's a WR2 next week against a Texans defense that has allowed 35 points over their past 4 games. Be aware and beware.

Markus Wheaton – Steelers: Wheaton had the best game of his career on Sunday night as the Seahawks were focused on stopping Antonio Brown & Martavis Bryant so much so, that they forgot all about him. Wheaton saw 13 targets on the night, reeling in 9 of them for 201 yards and a TD. There are going to be a ton of owners rushing to the waiver wire to pick up Wheaton on Tuesday, but I would caution you to not plug him into the line-up next week hoping to get WR1 stats against the Colts. Not every team can stop a team's No. 1 & No. 2 WR, letting the No. 3 guy go off for a 9/201/1 line.

Julius Thomas – Jaguars: Thomas easily had his best game as a Jaguar on Sunday, hauling in 9-of-10 targets for 116 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers. He now has scored in back-to-back games and is likely to see his role increase next week against the Titans with Allen Hurns being hospitalized after being stretchered off the field due to a nasty concussion. My guess is Hurns will miss next week and Thomas will be a TE1 against a Titans defense that gives up the 7th most fantasy points to opposing TEs this season.

Cincinnati Bengals defense: The Bengals are a widely owned fantasy defense (66 percent owned, 12th most on Yahoo), but they finished Week 12 ranked #2 after allowing the Rams to score just 7 points, and piling up 3 INTs, 1 sack, and a defensive touchdown. Leon Hall took an interception 19 yards to the house for a Pick 6, while Dre Kirkpatrick and Vontaze Burfict combined for 16 tackles (9.5 for Kirkpatrick & 6.5 for Burfict). What's also impressive is the defensive line held Todd Gurley to just 19 yards on 9 carries! The Bengals shut down the Rams in every imaginable way on Sunday to move to 9-2 on the season, and are all but assured of clinching the AFC North with the Steelers struggling to stay above .500.

Losers

Tony Romo – Cowboys: Things couldn't have gone much worse for the Cowboys on Thursday if they had personally handed their playbook to the Panthers. Romo fractured his collarbone, but not before he managed to throw for just 106 yards, 0 TDs, and 3 INTs.  The Cowboys are now stuck with Matt Cassel under center, which means everyone on offense takes a step backwards in fantasy value as we head into the fantasy playoffs.

Drew Brees – Saints: Brees snapped a pretty impressive streak on Sunday by failing to find the endzone for the first time in 155 games, finishing with just 228 yards passing, 1 INT, and 2 sacks on the day. I remember when Brees was at the top of the QB draft list, and the Saints were blowing NFL teams out of the water with their high-powered offense and rock-solid defense. Those days are gone however, and fantasy owners have to look at Brees as a streaming type of QB rather than a plug-and-play QB this year. With the Panthers up next for the Saints, I want no part of Brees or the Saints in Week 13!

Todd Gurley – Rams: Gurley's day was really a product of poor offensive line play, great defensive line play by Geno Atkins* *(3 tackles for loss and a sack), and the Bengals being up by 31 points in the 3rd quarter. He managed just 9 carries on Sunday, and turned those carries into 19 yards. He did add a catch for 11 yards, but he was still more harm than good to fantasy owners in Week 12. The reality is Gurley has really slowed down the past 4 games now, averaging just 54.8 YPG despite seeing 17.5 carries per-game. The Rams are not build to play from behind, and when they do Gurley disappears from the offense. He's still a great RB1, and he'll look to get back on track against a Cardinals defense he roasted for 146 yards on 19 carries back in Week 4.

DeMarco Murray – Eagles: The 2015 season continues to be an ugly one for Murray and the Eagles, and one the fans would surely like to forget. Murray managed just 30 yards against the Lions, and 19 of those yards came on one carry! The problem with Murray is in his usage. The Eagles are determined to run him East/West, where he is least effective, rather than send him up the middle and let him go North/South, where he is most effective. Murray is little more than a boom-or-bust RB2 given the play calling going on in Philadelphia.

Chris Johnson – Cardinals: It was a brutally ugly game for CJ2K as he managed just 17 yards on 12 carries (1.4 YPC) before exiting the game after taking a helmet to the knee. My guess is there is no real damage done, and the Cardinals decided to let him stay in the locker room due to his ineffectiveness on the field. If healthy, Johnson will be in the RB2 range next week as the Cardinals hit the road to take on the Rams.

DeAndre Hopkins – Texans: Hopkins had the dream match-up in Week 12, facing a Saints secondary that gives up yards like they are on a black Friday clearance rack! Despite the match-up, Hopkins managed just 5 receptions and 36 yards in a game the Texans were winning easily. Hopkins is an elite WR, but the Texans had the game in hand and were in no real rush to get him the ball as they managed the clock. 

Julio Jones – Falcons: Jones finished the game with just 56 yards on 5 receptions, but it really had more to do with tight coverage by CB Xavier Rhodes than it did with an inadequacy from Matt Ryan. Jones was blanketed all day, and never had a chance to get separation and brake off a long one, or rack up the YAC (Yards After Catch). He will bounce back next week against the Buccaneers, so owners need not worry.

Antonio Brown – Steelers: The good news is that Brown was targeted 12 times on Sunday night; the bad news however is he hauled in just 6 of them for 51 yards and no endzone visits. It really makes me wonder why Yahoo had him projected as the #3 WR for Week 12 with Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor in the Seahawks secondary. It's yet another example of why you can't set your line-ups based on projections from these big-box websites!

Jason Witten – Cowboys: We all know that Tight End is very much an all-or-nothing position in fantasy football, so even when someone like Greg Olsen goes for 70 yards on 5 catches, he was a decent fantasy play that week. However, Witten was not even that good given the Cowboys struggles against a determined Panthers defense, and he finish the week with an empty 4 catches and 36 yards. Without Romo, Witten goes back to being a low-end fantasy TE that isn't worth playing unless you are just desperate for receptions in PPR formats.

Philadelphia Eagles defense: It would be much easier for me to list what went right for the Eagles on Thanksgiving than it would for me to list what went wrong because the list would be substantially shorter! The defense gave up 45 points with the nation watching, and managed to get fantasy owners just 2 sacks on the day. The massive points allowed and complete lack of defensive numbers meant that the 84 percent of people who owned the Eagles saw about -6.00 points this week. It would have been better to not play a defense and take a zero (0) rather than have the Eagles as your fantasy defense for Week 12! Did you know the NFC East is the only division in the NFL where every team in it has a losing record?

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