Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton stiff arms Arizona Cardinals linebacker Zaven Collins as he runs in for a touchdown on Nov. 14. Photo courtesy of Ralph Freso.
ETHAN POLAK | SPORTS REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy Thanksgiving to all the amazing NFL fans out there. As the world tries to digest all the great food and football, there are still more games to be played this weekend.
The AFC South had a reawakening as the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans pulled off huge upsets against the top teams in the AFC, continuing to leave fantasy football fans in disbelief.
With so much still to unravel in the playoff race, fantasy managers have to be ready for anything. Here are the key players to start and sit for Week 12 of the NFL season.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers. In the words of a wise man, “I’m back”. After being released by the Panthers in March 2020, he has found his way back to the city of Charlotte to save their playoff hopes. In his first game back, he helped the team score two touchdowns to help upset the division leading Arizona Cardinals. This week, the Panthers face the Miami Dolphins defense that has allowed the fourth most yards per game in the league. The return of “Super Cam” is going to be crucial not only for the Panthers, but for fantasy managers looking for a last minute boost to their lineups.
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers. No matter what NFL fans have to say about Rodgers, he is still a national treasure and should be protected at all costs. From lying about being vaccinated to changing his profile picture on Twitter to a picture of his foot, his season off the field has been one to remember. However, his upcoming game against the daunting Los Angeles Rams defense and another superstar bearing the name Aaron could be a rough one. This week’s matchup may force the part-time Jeopardy host with a fractured toe to reconsider his decision to stick with football.
Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals offense has been tearing it up, so much so, that they are now giving themselves their own nicknames. Consisting of Joe Burrow, Mixon and the three Bengals wide receivers, they have created a super team that they dubbed the “Fabulous Five”. Scoring 30 or more points in four of the last five games does support their dominance over the opposing defenses. Mixon should be excited for a favorable matchup against a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that just allowed Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler to score four total touchdowns last week. Mixon needs to be moved into the starting lineups immediately.
Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns. Browns fans can rejoice now that the Cleveland Browns will have a healthy backfield for the first time since Week 5. Between injuries to Hunt and Nick Chubb, the star running backs haven’t shared the green grass in what feels like ages. The return might be able to save the Browns hopes and dreams of sneaking into the playoffs. However, this week will be a tough task as they face a Baltimore Ravens defense that has allowed the second least rushing yards per game. It is great to see Hunt back up and running, but fantasy managers should be very cautious when thinking of starting him this week.
Elijah Moore, New York Jets. The rookie out of Ole Miss is beginning to show flashes of a star. Moore has been putting on a clinic, scoring a touchdown a game in four of his last five games — including last week where he passed 100 receiving for the first time in his career. Moore will have the opportunity to shine once more against a Houston Texans defense that has allowed the third most total yards per game in the league. In the “city that never sleeps”, Moore has emerged as a reliable option in fantasy football for managers desperate for a wide receiver.
Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos. Another young gun with potential has been Jerry Jeudy. The Alabama product has just returned from an ankle injury that forced him to miss six weeks and is slowly building back his role as one of the top receivers in Denver. However, the Broncos will face a Los Angeles Chargers defense this week that ranks fifth in least passing yards allowed per game. Fantasy managers should stay hopeful about Jeudy, but for now they should leave him on the bench.
George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers. “The people’s tight end” can not be stopped. Since returning from a calf injury in Week 9, Kittle has found the endzone in all three of his games. As the 49ers continue to lean on him to provide big performances every Sunday, Kittle hasn’t blinked an eye. This week, the 49ers will take on the hottest team in the NFC in the Minnesota Vikings that rank in the bottom half of the league in receiving yards allowed per game. As NFL fans brace for another shootout, Kittle should have no issues continuing his hot streak of dominant performances.
Hunter Henry, New England Patriots. NFL fans grab your panic bags because the Patriots now sit atop the AFC East once again. Everything has gone exactly to Bill Belichick’s evil plan as — without making much noise — they’ve suddenly snuck ahead of the Buffalo Bills. Mac Jones has fit into the Patriots’ system perfectly as he has transformed this offense into a well-oiled machine. However, this week the Patriots will face the top team in the AFC in the Tennessee Titans. With Henry’s production already being very limited, fantasy managers should steer clear of starting him this week.
Younghoe Koo, Atlanta Falcons. The 2020 Pro Bowl kicking legend is having the complete opposite production then last season. After being one of the top kickers in the league, Koo has struggled to find opportunities to score. In his defense, the Falcons haven’t helped as in their last two games they have scored a combined total of three points. On the positive side, the Falcons will finally have a favorable matchup this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars who have allowed the eighth most points in the league. Koo might finally have the chance to return to his true form this week as an automatic kicker.
Tristan Vizcaino, Los Angeles Chargers. To no one’s surprise, the Chargers still can’t win games cleanly. No matter who the team is, every game has to be a nailbiter. No wonder why they are always outnumbered inside SoFi Stadium! All jokes aside, the Chargers still sit one game behind the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West. Even with their rotating panel of kickers every few games, they still find a way to put up big numbers. However, they will have a harder chance to do so against a Denver Broncos defense that has allowed the third least points per game in the league. While Vizcaino seems like a great streaming option in a high-powered offense, there is no reason fantasy managers should be that desperate to pick him up.
Philadelphia Eagles Defense. Another team creeping around in the playoff race is the team from the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia has scored a total of 70 points in their last two wins against the Denver Broncos and New Orleans Saints. The best part for the Eagles is that their schedule only gets easier here on out. Up next for Philadelphia is a New York Giants team that just fired their offensive coordinator Jason Garrett for leading his team to the eighth worst offense in points per game in the league. The Eagles defense won’t have to do too much to limit the damage of the disaster of the Giants offense.
Seattle Seahawks Defense. Jamal Adams is not the best in the business. After last week’s blunder of not only blowing the game once, but twice. He allowed a touchdown on the last drive of the game that was called back for holding. On the very next play he was called for pass interference in the endzone leading to the game-winning touchdown for the Arizona Cardinals. The Seahawks will have to stop blowing games, especially against a Washington Football Team coming off back-to-back wins against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers. The Seahawks are not worth the risk as the fantasy football playoffs inch closer and closer.