The Yays and Nays: Our Fantasy Football Projections and Top Plays for Week 12
It’s Thanksgiving week, which means bonus Thursday football, fantasy decisions earlier in the week, and did I mention…bonus Thursday football?
Let’s revisit an approach we first took back in Week 6, in which we pointed out six numbers that helped explain some of the early season fantasy football trends. Here are six more numbers that have helped define the fantasy season as we hit the home stretch.
That’s how many points the New England Patriots have allowed in the last three weeks. Total. As a result of this real-world dominance, the Patriots have soared to the top spot in fantasy by a wide margin, buoyed by a league-leading 18 interceptions in 11 games. For context, 18 was the league lead for the season last year (New England, Miami, New Orleans).
In Week 11, the Patriots absolutely hammered the Atlanta Falcons 25-0. It was such a dismantling that three different Falcons quarterbacks threw an interception. It was only the second time all season a team registered at least four sacks and four interceptions in a game. The Patriots also did it in Week 2 against the New York Jets. The Patriots have proven to be a dominant defense, and with the banged-up Tennessee Titans on deck, that has a good chance to continue in Week 12.
That’s how many PPR points Elijah Moore has scored the last four weeks, more than any other wide receiver. Moore has flown under the radar because of the success of other, more highly touted rookie receivers, Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, and DeVonta Smith. But after capping this recent stretch with a finish as WR3 in Week 11, it might be Moore’s time to come to the forefront.
With at least six receptions and 65 receiving yards in three of his last four games, games started by Mike White, Josh Johnson, and Joe Flacco no less, Moore has proven to be quarterback-proof. This week, Zach Wilson is expected to get the start for the Jets. Don’t let that scare you off. Moore is quickly ascending to the No. 1 option of an offense that has thrown the ball the fourth most in the NFL.
That’s how many rushing yards and rushing touchdowns Deebo Samuel has accounted for this season. Samuel leads all wide receivers in both categories and is the only wide receiver in the top five in rushing yards with more than one rushing touchdown.
Arguably no player has been a bigger surprise this season. Drafted as WR36 on average, Deebo enters Week 12 as WR3. He ranks second in the NFL in receiving yards. But he also doesn’t need receiving yards to have a good week. In the San Francisco 49ers’ dominant victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars last week, Samuel only had two targets. It didn’t matter, because he ran the ball eight times, for 79 yards and a touchdown. He notched 16.4 fantasy points and continued his streak of scoring at least 10 points in every game this season.
He once again leads the NFL in yards after catch. Like we mentioned in Week 2:
Don’t believe that he’s the defining player with the ball in his hands? Samuel has finished each of his first two seasons ranked in the top two at the wide receiver position in average YAC. And last year, Samuel finished first in the entire NFL with an average of 12.1 YAC; Dalvin Cook finished second (10.3 average YAC).
But now, Samuel is also averaging 7.21 yards per carry, which leads the NFL among all players with at least 15 carries on the season. There’s been nothing fluky about his season. He’s a top-10 option at wide receiver for the rest of the season.
That is Kirk Cousins’ Touchdown/Interception ratio so far this season. To be exact, Cousins has 21 passing touchdowns and only two interceptions. His ratio is so much better than any other quarterback it requires a double-take. Carson Wentz is second with a 6.0 TD/INT ratio. Aaron Rodgers is third. His ratio is half that of Cousins’.
To this point, Cousins is QB8. Using default QB scoring from NFL.com, Cousins already has six 21-point performances, in large part because he’s avoiding those negative plays. Josh Allen, currently QB3, only has four games with more than 21 points. Cousins’ ADP entering the season was QB18. He’s rarely considered a top-10 quarterback, but he has undeniably been one through 11 weeks.
That’s how many rushing touchdowns Jalen Hurts has scored this season. If you’re wondering how Hurts is QB1, look no further. Here’s something that may surprise you, but also makes perfect sense. The other four quarterbacks that join Hurts in the top five are Tom Brady, Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert. Here’s where those four rank in pass attempts this season respectively: second, fourth, first, third. Hurts? He ranks 20th.
His eight touchdowns on the ground are three more than any other quarterback. His 618 rushing yards are second among quarterbacks. Over the last four weeks, Hurts has only attempted 75 passes. Despite that, he still ranks fourth in fantasy points among quarterbacks during that stretch. Hurts is a legit QB1.
That’s how many times Christian McCaffrey has finished the week as a top-four running back. He’s only played five full games. But that’s not the astounding part. In two of those games, McCaffrey didn’t even score a touchdown. Jonathan Taylor, currently RB1, also has four top-four finishes. He’s played 11 games. In those four Taylor outings, he combined for 11 touchdowns and scored at least two touchdowns in every game.
Taylor has been one of the biggest fantasy stars this season. But there’s been some talk that he should be considered the RB1 for the rest of the season. There are levels to McCaffrey’s fantasy dominance that no other player can reach. As long as he’s healthy, CMC is still the ultimate fantasy football cheat code.
As always, let’s jump around and evaluate some Week 12 projections gathered from some of the top data-driven projections available using several of our AI-powered models.
Note: The ranking to which we compare ours in this piece is the expert consensus ranking (ECR) from Fantasy Pros. These rankings update throughout the week. (We pulled these numbers from Wednesday.) Once again, we are using PPR unless noted otherwise.
Matthew Stafford, QB (LAR) vs. GB (ECR: 8, Our Rank: 5): For the first time in his career, Stafford won’t be participating in a Thanksgiving game. Instead, he’ll be enjoying turkey on a nice November day in Los Angeles, preparing to travel to the Midwest for an NFC showdown with a team Stafford is quite familiar with, the Green Bay Packers.
Despite his two worst fantasy performances coming in his last two games, Stafford is still QB7 through 11 weeks. Stafford is fourth in passing yards and third in passing touchdowns. This week, he faces a Packers defense that allows the most touchdowns once a team reaches their 30-yard line. The Rams have had little trouble moving the ball, ranking first in the NFL in yards per play (6.20), so they should have plenty of opportunities in prime scoring positions.
Coming off two straight losses and their bye week, the Rams offense is rested and primed for a big game. Stafford is projected to throw for the second-most yards and is third in projected passing touchdowns. Our models have Stafford as a top-five play.
Darrell Henderson Jr, RB (LAR) vs. GB (ECR: 17, Our Rank: 11): The Rams have had two weeks to think about their showing in primetime on Monday night against the 49ers. There’s a strong chance one of the major regrets they’ll have is that Henderson only received five rushing attempts the entire game.
Not only do we expect the Rams to have success through the air, but we expect the Rams ground game to start clicking. Henderson has quietly recorded at least 82 scrimmage yards in six of his 10 games this season and in those six games, he has averaged 18.9 PPR points. Last week, 18.9 PPR points would have finished as RB10.
Our projections expect Henderson to record 91 scrimmage yards this week. He is a borderline top-10 play, with RB1 upside if he can score a touchdown for the first time since Week 8.
Chase Claypool, WR (PIT) vs. CIN (ECR: 29, Our Rank: 17): In the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first game against the Cincinnati Bengals this season, back in Week 3, Claypool recorded nine receptions for 96 yards. He finished the week as WR16.
Claypool is WR44 so far this season. But he’s missed two games to injury and only has one touchdown. This, after an impressive rookie campaign saw the Notre Dame alum score 11 touchdowns. However, as he proved in Week 3, Claypool doesn’t need a touchdown to finish as solid WR2 in any given week.
Against a Cincinnati defense that has allowed the third-most plays of 20+ yards through the air over the last eight games, expect Claypool’s big-play ability to come to the forefront.
Both teams are desperate for a win to stay near the top of the extremely competitive AFC North. Claypool is not touchdown-dependent, which makes him a strong WR2 this week.
Hunter Renfrow, WR (LV) vs. DAL (ECR: 26, Our Rank: 20): Renfrow was last on our Yay list in Week 9. His ECR that week was WR30. He finished as WR11. The next week, Renfrow finished as WR11 again. It was his third week as a top 15 WR.
In a game where we expect the Raiders to have success through the air, Renfrow is a strong WR2 candidate this week. He’s seen at least eight targets in five of his last seven games and has at least six receptions in all five games. More than that, he’s scored a touchdown in four of those games. Overall, when Renfrow receives at least eight targets, he averages 16.1 PPR points per game.
Rondale Moore scored 16.1 PPR points last week and finished as WR21. Renfrow doesn’t need to do anything extraordinary. He’s a good bet to outperform his ECR on Thanksgiving.
Cam Newton, QB (CAR) vs. MIA (ECR: 9, Our Rank: 16): Newton’s first start in his second stint with the Carolina Panthers was a smashing fantasy success for all managers who chose to play him. He finished with two passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown and stormed his way to a weekly finish of QB4.
This week, however, Newton is likely to experience much more resistance. During their recent three-game winning streak, the Miami Dolphins have held Tyrod Taylor and Lamar Jackson, two extremely mobile quarterbacks, to one total touchdown and four interceptions. In what is expected to be a low-scoring game, expect Carolina to lean heavily on the ground attack with McCaffrey.
Newton has our second-fewest projected passes for the week. Needing a rushing touchdown to sustain fantasy success is not what you want from your quarterback, unless his name is Jalen Hurts.
Josh Jacobs, RB (LV) vs. DAL (ECR: 19, Our Rank: 25): Josh Jacobs has only rushed for more than 55 yards in one game this season. One! He’s only surpassed 5.0 yards per carry in a game once. In five of the eight games Jacobs has played this season, he has averaged less than 3.5 yards per carry.
This week, Jacobs faces a Dallas defense that is more susceptible through the air than on the ground. The Cowboys have allowed the seventh-fewest total rushing yards this season and have only allowed two running backs all season to finish a week as a top-12 running back.
Jacobs has only surpassed 10 carries once in the last four weeks. Our models are not projecting him to hit that number on Thursday either. He is a risky RB2.
Cordarrelle Patterson, RB (ATL) vs. JAX (ECR: 14, Our Rank: 26): Lost in the bludgeoning the Jaguars incurred on Sunday, the Jaguars once again held up extremely well in the run game. It only allowed 82 rushing yards by 49ers running backs, on 29 total attempts. Jacksonville remains third in the league, allowing only 3.92 yards per carry.
Meanwhile, the Falcons have struggled mightily on the ground all season.
After missing last week’s game, Patterson is currently questionable with an ankle injury. Even if he is able to suit up, against this stingy Jags rush defense, Patterson is going to be dependent on production through the air. He is definitely capable, but without the rushing floor to prop him up and battling a nagging ankle injury, Patterson may struggle to produce RB2 value.
Terry McLaurin, WR (WSH) vs. SEA (ECR: 12, Our Rank: 22): Let’s start with the good. McLaurin has four games with at least 21 PPR points. That’s one more than Davante Adams! McLaurin is 10th in the NFL in total targets and among those 10 players, his 13.6 yards per catch is the most.
Here’s the bad. In the games in which McLaurin doesn’t score a touchdown, he averages 9.1 points. His highest single-game total without a touchdown is 11.9. And because he has six games this season without a touchdown, McLaurin is only WR17 on the season, despite having three top-five weekly finishes among wide receivers.
Seattle has had their fair of struggles this season. But they still rank seventh in the NFL in points allowed per game (20.9) and they’ve only allowed one touchdown by a wide receiver over their last five games – despite facing wide receivers like Adams, Cooper Kupp and Diontae Johnson. Since we’ve already established McLaurin is touchdown-dependent, that makes him a risky WR2 on Monday night.
We’ll get back to our Best DFS value plays next week. Happy Thanksgiving!
Design by Briggs Clinard.
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