The playoffs are coming. Maybe your team’s comfortably in the hunt for the championship, or maybe you’re a bubble team. This is a crucial moving week as, with Thanksgiving behind us, the remaining slate of games do not have a lot of the top performers of this season featured. Never fear, we’ve got you covered.
Stud: Andrew Luck – He has thrown three touchdowns, or more, every game since Week Three. He’s going against a Dolphins defense that allowed five touchdowns to Deshaun Watson, two weeks ago. The Colts offensive line has become one of the best units in the league and has not allowed a sack in five weeks. Start him at QB and count on a cool 25.
Dud: Aaron Rodgers – Going out on a limb with this one…or am I? He has scored over 20 points just once in the last five weeks (last week, 21) and is going up against the sixth-best passing defense in the NFL. Minnesota has allowed just 226 passing yards per game, this season, only one 300+ yard game, and only two 260+ yard games. There may be a viable, albeit not as widely known, QB on the waiver wire, or your bench.
Sleeper: Baker Mayfield – This is not much of a leap, but it’s worth noting. The rookie, as well as his team, is coming into form. He has four-straight multiple TD performances, including last week when he torched a poor Falcons defense for 17-of-20 passing and three scores with a 151.2 QB rating. He goes from facing a poor defense to facing an absolutely awful one in Cincinnati. Whether it be David Njoku or Jarvis Landry over the middle, or Duke Johnson taking short screens and slants for first downs, or more, Baker is going to have a big day in Paul Brown Stadium.
Stud: Melvin Gordon (IF ACTIVE – Game-Time Decision) – The top running backs are who think they are, so you probably aren’t that surprised at this. No Gurley, no Hunt, and Kamara having already played, Gordon is the best of the bunch. He’s averaging 5.2 yards per carry and 10.7 yards per reception. The Chargers will be up early and will lean on the running game to suffocate the Cardinals, in Los Angeles. Gordon is dealing with knee / hamstring issues that have his status in doubt. If’s he is benched considered Austin Ekeler a great option and an immediate DFS plug-and-play option.
Dud: Joe Mixon – I must confess, I hate this. Typing this made me spit, a bit, with reluctance, but it has to be said. Mixon has oodles of talent, but the Cincinnati coaching staff has shown zero sign that they know how to put him in a position to succeed. Enter the Browns defense that, statistically, isn’t all that impressive. Recipe for a comeback, right? Not with this coaching staff calling the plays. There are ways to get Mixon in space…but Bill Lazor has not shown any sign that he knows how to do that.
Sleeper: Duke Johnson – He has the capability of putting up points in bunches and is in a situation where he can flourish. Sure, he’s not the feature back, but he is the scat back who can spark a passing game from the backfield. He’s Mayfield’s check down blanket, and has 13 receptions for 10 yards, or more. Add that to the fact he’s playing a defense that is dreadful, when it comes to tackling, and you’ve got yourself a nice flex option, especially in PPR formats.
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Stud: Antonio Brown – The Steelers are going to need the passing game to keep the running game from being keyed in on by the Broncos defense. Ben Roethlisberger isn’t particularly impressive, on the road, but he knows how to find his leading receiver. On the flip side, Denver’s pass defense ranks in the bottom half of the league against the pass. Brown caught just five of 13 targets against Jacksonville, but still managed 117 yards and a TD. He has just one game in which he didn’t score, this year. Don’t worry about him, he’ll be just fine.
Dud: Odell Beckham Jr. – You’re probably not going to take him out of your lineup, but it’s time to officially lower your expectations (if you haven’t already). Beckham is on pace for his lowest season TD total for his career. He also managed a whopping 44 yards and no TDs in his last game against Philly. Guess what’s changed? Nothing. The Giants are still playing Eli Manning at QB and the Giants’ offensive line continues to make everyone else’s line look good. OBJ is a much more riskier play than where he was drafted.
Sleeper: Jarvis Landry – Oh, come on, he’s ranked in the top 20, right? I say he finishes top ten this week. Notice a pattern with my sleepers?
Stud: Rob Gronkowski – In his previous reappearances after a decent absence due to injury, Gronk does one of two things: He scores, or he racks up over 100 yards. Despite his struggles in 2018, Gronk is proclaiming his own health, and he has eight career TDs against the Jets to go with 12 yards per catch. Look for a healthy 12-14 points from Tom Brady’s favorite target.
Dud: Evan Engram – Pretty much for the same reason I’m out on OBJ. The Giants, despite what some may be thinking, are not going anywhere this season. As for Engram, he was drafted with hopes of a top-10 finish. Right now he has 23 catches for 257 yards and two, yes two, TDs. There may be some better plays on your waiver wire.
Sleeper: David Njoku – The Browns are just going to have their way with the Bengals’ defense, on Sunday. Njoku is being ranked as a top-10 tight end play, but I say he finishes top-5. The Bengals are notorious for just flat not covering tight ends. A few weeks back, the Steelers were picking random guys on the roster to try and catch a ball, from the tight end position (aside from Vance Macdonald) and they all did. Njoku has gobs of talent and will put it on display in Week 12.
Stud: Jacksonville Jaguars – The Jags haven’t been the unit that they were last year, but they are still supremely talented. They also play the Buffalo Bills this week. They’ll key in on Shady McCoy to ensure he doesn’t beat them leaving a rusty, returning, rookie, Josh Allen to try and win one for the Bills. Not going to happen. Jacksonville will get sacks, picks, maybe a fumble, and won’t give up many points.
Dud: Cincinnati Bengals – They’re currently ranked as a borderline-startable defense. They are not worth the risk. What ails the Cincinnati defense is a fundamental of football: tackling. There is no searchable statistic for missed tackles by a team in a season (at least none that I found) but the Bengals rank second to last in the NFL in total tackles. They have 201 less tackles than New Orleans, the NFL leader. You don’t scheme tackling, so no game plan from Marvin Lewis will fix that.
Sleeper: Indianapolis Colts – They’re facing one of the worst offenses in the league, in Miami, and have forced the fifth-most turnovers. The Colts, as a whole, are on a tear and are playing for the postseason with a key obstacle in accomplishing that goal on the other side of the field, this Sunday. They’ll contain Kenyan Drake enough to force Miami into a one-dimensional offense. Top-10 defense, this week, will be had in Indy.