Football is pretty predictable being that you already know who to start and who to consider benching by week 12. You are also aware that the waiver wire is pretty grim, and finding a potential league winner is almost a non-zero chance.
At this point in the season, and with the rash of injuries, you may not have a choice and have to start certain players in bad matchups. Here are a few players that you may be on the fence about starting that have some favorable matchups:
NICK MULLENS @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
18.5 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS
For those keeping track, it’s now Mullens Mania in the Bay. Mullens burst on the scene Week 9 filling in for CJ Beathard and filled up the stat sheet with a 262 yard, 3 Touchdown, 32.0 point performance. He was silenced, Week 2 to the tune of 14.0 fantasy points by a Giants defense that is better than expected, only allowing 17.1 fantasy points per game (17th) to opposing QBs.
Start him this week with confidence. The 49ers threw the football 39 times Week 10 (6th) and Mullens should keep slinging it going forward. He will face a Buccaneers secondary who has literally been burned by everyone in the league this year. The Tampa Bay Bucs defense is allowing 23.4 FPPG to opposing QBs (1st), 2986 yards (5th) and 25 TDs (1st)
BUCCANEERS DEFENSE AGAINST QUARTERBACKS
- Week 1: Drew Brees 37.0 Fantasy Points (QB2)
- Week 3: Ben Roethlisberger 35.0 Fantasy Points (QB9)
- Week 4: Mitchell Trubisky 61.0 Fantasy Points (QB1)
- Week 6: Matt Ryan 33.0 Fantasy Points (QB4)
- Week 7: Baker Mayfield 26.0 Fantasy Points (QB8)
- Week 8: Andy Dalton 24.0 Fantasy Points (QB11)
- Week 9: Cam Newton 24.0 Fantasy Points (QB9)
- Week 11: Eli Manning 25.0 Fantasy Points (QB12)
BAKER MAYFIELD @ Cincinnati Bengals
20.5 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS
Baker has arrived. I think most of us have secretly been thinking that Mayfield could be a good NFL quarterback, but were unable to say that with any confidence. With Mayfield under center, the Browns are throwing the ball 35.6 times per game (12th) and have an electric and young backfield with Nick Chubb. He is averaging 25.0 FPPG in his last 2 games and should aggressively air it out in this one.
The Bengals defense is allowing 23.0 FPPG to opposing QBs (2nd), 3061 yards (2nd), and 21 TDs (5th). This game is easy money in the bank for Baker.
BENGALS DEFENSE AGAINST QUARTERBACKS
- Week 1: Andrew Luck 23.0 Fan PTS (QB12)
- Week 2: Joe Flacco 26.0 Fan PTS (QB12)
- Week 3: Cam Newton 33.0 Fan PTS (QB3)
- Week 4: Matt Ryan 36.0 Fan PTS (QB8)
- Week 7: Patrick Mahomes 47.0 Fan PTS (QB2)
- Week 10: Drew Brees 36.0 Fan PTS (QB4)
Look for Mayfield to have his best game of his young career in a battle for Ohio with virtually no defense on either side of the ball.
ELI MANNING @ Philadelphia Eagles
18.5 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS
Eli has now delivered back to back 25.0 point fantasy games in Weeks 10 and 11 and is becoming something more than a streaming option. He has been heavily criticized this season and may be playing with a chip on his shoulder for the rest of the year. He will look to continue his strong play against a hobbled Philadelphia Eagles secondary, who is allowing 20.4 FPPG to opposing QBs (6th), 254 completions (5th) and 2931 yards (8th)
EAGLES DEFENSE AGAINST QUARTERBACKS
- Week 2: Ryan Fitzpatrick 43.0 fantasy PTS (QB6)
- Week 4: Marcus Mariota 36.0 Fan PTS (QB5)
- Week 7: Cam Newton 28.0 Fan PTS (QB5)
- Week 8: Blake Bortles 21.0 Fan PTS (QB13)
- Week 10: DAK Prescott 22.0 Fan PTS (QB9)
- Week 11: Drew Brees 38.0 Fan PTS (QB3)
Eli may not be sexy, smart or good at football, but he could just be reliable enough down the stretch and playing to keep his legacy in tact. With two divisional teams fading from playoff contention and one of the biggest rivalries in football, this could be a big week for Eli. He should be fired up for this one, like its Toyota-thon.
NICK CHUBB @ Cincinnati Bengals
15.2 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS
If you aren’t sure about Nick Chubb or his continued success, I would urge you to look beyond his last game and really check his numbers. Since Chubb took over for Carlos Hyde Week 7:
- 78 Carries (6th)
- 406 Rush Yards (5th)
- 5.2 Yards per Carry (2nd)
- 21 First Downs (5th)
- 13 Runs of 10+ Yards (3rd)
- 324 Yards after Contact (2nd)
- 4.15 Yards after Contact per Attempt (1st)
- 16 Tackles Avoided (2nd)
These numbers are incredible and appear to forecast an elite talent in the Cleveland backfield. He should continue his strong play Week 12 against a Bengals defense allowing 26.4 FPPG (2nd), 1201 yards (4th) and 10 TDs (4th). This is not a good secondary, and this game has shootout written all over it.
BENGALS DEFENSE AGAINST QUARTERBACKS
- Week 3: Christian McCaffrey 22.0 Fan PTS (RB6)
- Week 5: Kenyan Drake 22.5 Fan PTS (RB6)
- Week 6: James Conner 30.0 Fan PTS (RB5)
- Week 7: Kareem Hunt 36.5 Fan PTS (RB1)
- Week 10: Alvin Kamara 24.0 Fan PTS (RB10), Mark Ingram 25.5 Fan PTS (RB12)
- Week 11: Gus Edwards 19.0 Fan Points (RB10)
Duke Johnson could also be in play as a potential flex option since the Bengals defense is allowing 523 receiving yards (8th) and 5 TDs (3rd) to pass catching running backs. You pretty much have to start him every week going forward. He may be matchup proof.
JOE MIXON vs. Cleveland Browns
16.6 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS
Joe Mixon has been inconsistent and ineffective this season. He averaged 17.5 carries per game in his first 6 outings, but only 11.5 carries in his last 2 games. It really isn’t his fault, as they have fallen behind the last 2 weeks and he has virtually disappeared in the game script. That shouldn’t happen in this one, since the Browns are allowing 23.8 FPPG (8th), 1105 rush yards (8th), and 12 TDs (2nd).
BROWNS DEFENSE AGAINST RUNNING BACKS
- Week 1: James Conner 35.0 Fantasy Points (RB2)
- Week 2: Alvin Kamara 16.0 Fantasy Points (RB12)
- Week 3: Isaiah Crowell 19.0 Fantasy Points (RB9)
- Week 4: Marshawn Lynch 19.0 Fantasy Points (RB14)
- Week 6: Melvin Gordon 35.0 Fantasy Points (RB3)
- Week 8: James Conner 37.0 Fantasy Points (RB1)
- Week 9: Kareem Hunt 33.0 Fantasy Points (RB2)
The Browns are also allowing 538 receiving yards (6th) to running backs, and Joe Mixon excels as a receiver out of the backfield. Hopefully, this should be the game to get him back on track and delivering for his fantasy owners.
MARLON MACK vs. Miami Dolphins
13.6 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS
Marlon Mack has come back down to earth since his 34.0 point breakout Week 7 and 29.0 point effort Week 8, averaging only 9.2 fantasy points in his last 2 games. In his defense, these games were against Jacksonville (5th best run defense) and Tennessee (4th best run defense). He should look to get back on track this week against a Dolphins Defense that is allowing 24.1 FPPG (5th), 1221 yards (3rd), and 9 TDs (7th)
DOLPHINS DEFENSE AGAINST RUNNING BACKS
- Week 1: Dion Lewis 22.0 Fantasy Points (RB9)
- Week 2: Bilal Powell 19.0 Fantasy Points (RB9)
- Week 3: Marshawn Lynch 18.0 Fantasy Points (RB10)
- Week 4: James White 31.0 Fantasy Points (RB3)
- Week 5: Joe Mixon 21.0 Fantasy Points (RB9)
- Week 6: Tarik Cohen 24.0 Fantasy Points (RB6)
- Week 7: Kerryon Johnson 20.0 Fantasy Points (RB9)
- Week 8: Lamar Miller 19.0 Fantasy Points (RB15)
- Week 10: Aaron Jones 32.5 Fan Points (RB5)
The verdict is still not in yet on whether Mack is good or not because he doesn’t have the health or the track record to instill confidence. The Colts have thrown together a pretty impressive offensive line, not allowing a sack since Week 5, so the potential is there. Look for Mack to get back on track.
GUS EDWARDS vs. Oakland Raiders
9.6 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS
This is a tough recommendation to make, but Gus Edwards appears to be the spark the Baltimore Ravens needed at running back. With Alex Collins and Buck Allen virtually useless in this offense, Edwards was a welcome site last week, rushing for 115 yards on 17 carries and 1 TD. Edwards benefitted from a heavy dose of read options from Rookie Signal Caller Lamar Jackson and should continue to be the featured back as long as Lamar Jackson is the starter.
The Raiders Defense is allowing 24.0 FPPG to RBs (6th), 1310 yards (1st), 256 attempts (2nd), and 8 TDs (6th). The Raiders have been pretty terrible against the run:
RAIDERS DEFENSE AGAINST RUNNING BACKS
- Week 1: Todd Gurley 23.5 Fan Points (RB8)
- Week 5: Melvin Gordon 20.0 Fan Points (RB8)
- Week 8: Marlon Mack 29.0 Fan Points (RB3)
- Week 9: Raheem Mostert 16.0 Fan Points (RB16)
- Week 10: Melvin Gordon 26.5 Fan Points (RB8)
- Week 11: David Johnson 17.5 Fan Points (RB16)
If only the Raiders had a serviceable edge rusher they would be able to shut down this mediocre Baltimore running game. But they don’t, and they won’t because they can’t, so look for Gus Edwards to capitalize on a soft matchup and have another strong fantasy performance.
MATT BREIDA @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
12.6 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS
Matt Breida has had more than 16 touches in a game this season just once. In fact, other than his one 16 touch effort in Week 8, Breida’s previous high was 14 touches. In Week 10, Breida had 20 touches and 30.5 total fantasy points for his best outing of the season. He has been quietly good and the clear #1 running back in the bay:
- 11 runs of 15+ yards (5th)
- 632 rush yards (7th)
- 5.6 YPC (4th)
- 28 First Downs (12th)
- 20 runs of 10+ yards (7th)
- 334 YCO (15th)
Breida is not much of a receiver, only averaging 1.8 targets per game and 13.0 routes run per game (32nd), but he is durable and 4th in the NFL in yards per carry. The 49ers are the 3rd best run blocking unit in the NFL and the Bucs defense is allowing 23.8 FPPG (7th) and 13 rushing TDs (1st).
BUCCANEERS DEFENSE AGAINST RUNNING BACKS
- Week 1: Alvin Kamara 38.5 Fan Points (RB1)
- Week 2: Corey Clement 16.5 Fan Points (RB9)
- Week 4: Tarik Cohen 26.5 Fan Points (RB4)
- Week 7: Nick Chubb 16.0 Fan Points (RB17)
- Week 8: Joe Mixon 28.5 Fan Points (RB4)
- Week 9: Christian McCaffrey 31.5 Fan Points (RB3)
- Week 11: Saquon Barkley 36.0 Fan Points (RB1)
Breida will look to keep this momentum going after the bye week and should punish this Tampa Bay run defense.
EMMANUAL SANDERS vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
11.7 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS
Emmanual Sanders has been a pleasant surprise to fantasy owners this season, and one of only 2 bright spots on this Denver offense (Phillip Lindsay being the other). However, since his 22 and 28 fantasy point Week 6 and Week 7 performances he has cooled off considerably, and people may be starting to lose confidence in Case Keenum leading this offense.
Spoiler Alert: he can’t. In his first 6 games, Sanders was averaging 8.8 targets per game, which was 11th in the NFL. In his last 4 games, he is only averaging 6.5 targets per game, which is 37th in the NFL.
He will face a Pittsburgh secondary who is vulnerable to the slot. They are currently allowing 24.1 FPPG to slot receivers, which is the 5th most points in the NFL. Look for Sanders to get some extended run in this one.
JULIAN EDELMAN @ New York Jets
12.3 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS
The New York Jets are currently allowing 25.8 FPPG (9th), 150 receptions (5th) and 1859 yards allowed (7th) to opposing wide receivers. The Jets are also allowing the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing Slot Receivers. Edelman lines up in the slot on 70.3% of his snaps.
In his last 6 games since returning from suspension Edelman is averaging 9.2 targets per game and has been targeted 55 times, which is 2nd in the NFL during that span. He has also scored double-digit fantasy points in 5 of his last 6 games. That is all you can really ask for. Edelman should have a big day against this secondary.
DEMARYIUS THOMAS vs. Tennessee Titans
7.2 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS
Demaryius Thomas was quiet in his debut with the Texans. A little too quiet with only 1 target and no receptions. It takes a while to get acclimated to a new offense, but Thomas is a seasoned veteran and should be more involved in this offense Week 12.
The Titans are allowing 27.3 FPPG to WR (6th) this season and are allowing the most points in the league to opposing Wide Receivers in their last 4 games. Thomas will also line up across from Malcom Butler, who is allowing 659 yards against (2nd), 7 TDs (1st) and a 136.4 passer rating (2nd). Look for Thomas to get some runs this week.
* All the Texans Wide Receivers are in play this week.
NELSON AGHOLOR vs. New York Giants
6.9 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS
For the first time all season, Nelson Agholor played more snaps out wide than he did from the slot in Week 11 at New Orleans. This resulted in 2 targets and 0 receptions. Playing a perimeter receiver could be death to Agholor, as he has historically struggled playing out wide and only became effective when Doug Pederson moved him to the slot.
Agholor will line up across from Janoris Jenkins, who is allowing a 128.1 passer rating (5th), 46 Receptions against (1st), 626 yards (4th), and 7 TDs (1st). Hopefully, this will be the game that gives Agholor momentum going forward.
KENDRICK BOURNE @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4.5 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS
This is a deep hail mary and more of a flex play, but Kendrick Bourne has been playing well as of late. He is leading the 49ers in Targets last 6 games with 30 Targets or 5.0 per game. The Bucs are allowing 28.2 FPPG to WR (3rd) and Bourne should capitalize on a soft secondary and an ample opportunity. Mullens should target him early and often.
CJ UZOMAH vs. Cleveland Browns
4.4 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS
The Cleveland Browns are currently allowing 15.6 FPPG to opposing Tight Ends, which is the 4th most in the NFL. Uzomah has been targeted 9 times in his last 2 games (4.5 targets per game), which is good for 12th in the league among Tight Ends. This is not great production, but Uzomah has the potential to be a consistent fantasy contributor down the stretch – starting this week.
CHRIS HERNDON vs. New England Patriots
9.1 PROJECTED FANTASY POINTS
Chris Herndon has been a very nice for the New York Jets this season. He has not been targeted a ton this season, but is making the most of his targets with a 76% catch rate (12th in the NFL among Tight Ends). What is more impressive is his 147.8 passer rating when targeted, which is 1st in the NFL among Tight Ends.
He will face a Patriots defense that is allowing 15.3 FPPG to opposing Tight Ends, which is 7th in the league. Herndon has the tools to be a Top 5 Tight End in this league. Hopefully Darnold will get him there.
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