Bears

Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 12

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Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 12

Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is on the horizon.

We hope you got all of your Black Friday shopping done and didn't have to deal with any angry mothers along the way.

Man. Christmas shopping may be even more cutthroat than fantasy football. 

With that being said, It's a crucial week for fantasy owners who are looking to secure a playoff berth.

As always, we'll try our best to steal you a Week 12 victory:

START

Buck Allen, RB, BAL (@ CLE) - Allen is the latest running back thrust into the spotlight because of injuries (what a crappy year it's been). Luckily for Allen, his first defense he gets to face is the Browns, who are known for whiffing on tackles. Allen recorded 22 carries along with five catches in last week's game after Justin Forsett left. He's in the prime time spotlight with the Ravens likely trying to take the game out of Matt Schaub's hands. Expect him to get buck wild tonight. (John "The Professor" Paschall)

Travis Benjamin, WR, CLE (vs. BAL) - It seems like no matter the quarterback, Benjamin has been thriving this year as the Browns deep threat. What better secondary to dismantle than the Ravens shaky unit on MNF. The world will know of Benjamin's talents after Monday's game. Get him in your FLEX spot. (Paschall)

Alfred Blue, RB, HOU (vs. NO) - Let's face it. Arian Foster may never play another down in a Texans uniform, and at some point the coaching staff needs to find out what they have in Blue. If Week 11 was any indication (21 carries for Blue vs. Jonathan Grimes' 6), the first-place Texans will lean on Blue down the stretch. Expect a heavy dose of my favorite color (Blue) when Houston takes on the lowly Saints. New Orleans hasn't stopped any opposing running back this season so if you're looking for a week to start Blue, well this is the one. (Scott Krinch)

[MORE: Complete Fantasy Football coverage at Rotoworld]

Eli Manning, QB, NYG (@ WSH) - Eli should be a Top 10 QB in your league, regardless of scoring or format. But people don't classify him as a must-start each week and that needs to change. Manning has a fantastic matchup this week going up against a Redskins defense that has allowed multiple TD passes in five straight games, and seven of the last eight contests. (Tony Andracki)

Thomas Rawls, RB, SEA (vs. PIT) - Move over, Marshawn. There's a new "Beast Mode" in Seattle. Rawls has looked the part in Lynch's absence as the rookie from Central Michigan has exploded in his three starts this season, with the latest being 255 total yards against the 49ers last weekend. Ignore the Steelers' No. 2 ranking against opposing fantasy running backs (they have been so-so after a hot start to the season) and make sure the "Rawls Royce" is in your lineup. (Krinch)

Jameis Winston, QB, TB (@ IND) - Winston's home/road splits are absolutely bizarre - 10 TDs, 1 INT on the road and 5 TDs and 8 INTs at home. Playing on the road in Indy this week is a pretty solid matchup. Look for him to buil doff that 5 TD performance from last week and keep rolling away from TB. (Andracki)

SIT

A.J. Green, WR, CIN (vs. STL) - Remember when Green was a surefire No. 1 wide receiver? Green has recorded just one 100-yard game and a single touchdown since Week 3. To make matters worse for Green's owners, Marvin Jones has just one less target than Green in the last three weeks, plus the emergence of Tyler Eifert and Gio Bernard have taken away from Green's fantasy output. It won't get any easier for Green in Week 12 as he'll likely be covered by Rams No. 1 cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who has allowed just one score this season. Stay away from this matchup on Sunday. (Krinch)

Ronnie Hillman, RB, DEN (vs. NE) - The secret is out: The Patriots are rock solid at stopping the run. What makes me really worried about Hillman is The Hood. Belichick is really good at taking away what you do best and for the Broncos that's running the ball. I fully expect Brock Osweilier to have to beat the Patriots and that makes me feel very shaky about a guy like Hillman. (Paschall)

Brian Hoyer, QB, HOU (vs. NO) - He's the popular start pick this week but NOT SO FAST, MY FRIEND. The Saints defense has made pedestrian QBs look like All-Pros. But this week may be different. With Rob Ryan out, the Saints defense can't be possibly be as bad as it was in weeks past. In addition, they've had two weeks to prepare for Hoyer, which should be enough. I'm going against the flow and saying don't buy into the Hoyer temptation. (Paschall)

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Lamar Miller, RB, MIA (@ NYJ) - After back-to-back 100-yard rushing games under interim head coach Dan Campbell, Miller has rushed for just 146 total yards in his last four games. He's still dangerous in the passing game, however that won't be enough for him to make a fantasy impact against a Jets defense which has given up only one rushing touchdown to an opposing back this season. (Krinch)

Latavius Murray, RB, OAK (@ TEN) - The Titans are actually the No. 2 defense at limiting opposing RBs' fantasy production, allowing an average of just over 15 points per game in PPR formats. Murray has been pretty consistent lately, but that consistent production is just mediocre at best, disappointing his fantasy owner. This isn't a great week to play him, unless you don't have any better options. (Andracki)

Sammy Watkins, WR, BUF (@ KC) - If you just look at the Chiefs' overall ranking against WRs (31st or 32nd depending on your league's scoring), you might think this is a cushy matchup for Watkins. But that would be a mistake. The Chiefs have actually been fantastic on defense over their four-game winning streak and they haven't allowed more than 13 points since Week 6 against Minnesota (16). It took a while for Kansas City's D to get going, but they're on now. Meanwhile, can you trust Watkins? He's a fantastically talented receiver, but has been a major disappointment in fantasy this season. (Andracki)

2017 Bears position grades: Offensive Line

2017 Bears position grades: Offensive Line

2017 grade: C+

Level of need: Medium

Decisions to be made on: Josh Sitton (contract), Eric Kush (contract), Hroniss Grasu (contract), Bobby Massie (contract), Tom Compton (free agent), Bradley Sowell (free agent)

Possible free agent targets: Andrew Norwell, D.J. Fluker, Justin Pugh, Josh Kline, Jonathan Cooper

How the Bears’ offensive line will shape up in 2018 begins with a decision on which the Bears are already on the clock. The team has until March 9 to pick up Josh Sitton’s 2018 option -- or, to put it another way, they have until March 9 to determine if Sitton was/is/will be good enough to justify keeping him and not netting about $8 million in cap savings, per Spotrac. 

For what it’s worth, Bleacher Report ranked Sitton as the league’s sixth-best guard in 2017. If the Bears’ grades of Sitton match those outside ones, then the team probably won’t cut him -- not destabilizing Mitchell Trubisky’s offensive line would be well worth the money in that case. While Sitton turns 32 in June, cutting him would put a lot of pressure on Kyle Long, who hasn’t been fully healthy since 2016. The Bears are hopeful that Long will be back to full strength after multiple offseason surgeries, but releasing Sitton and then signing/drafting his replacement would be a gamble on Long’s health. 

Sitton’s status is the first part of the Bears’ 2018 offensive line equation. There’s also a decision to be made on Bobby Massie, who Bleacher Report ranked as the NFL’s 14th-best right tackle last year but could be cut for about $5.5 million in cap savings, according to Spotrac. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Bears cut or kept both Sitton and Massie for now, then drafted an offensive lineman in the first round (like Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson or Texas tackle Connor Williams) and released one of them. Or they could keep both through the end of the 2018 season. All those options would make sense on some level.

What wouldn’t seem to make sense is the Bears cutting Sitton or Massie and replacing them with a free agent. This year’s offensive line free agent class, without adding any potential cap casualties to it, isn’t particularly strong. By Bleacher Report’s rankings, the best free agent right tackle is Houston’s Breno Giancomi, who’s 27th in that list -- 13 spots behind Massie. At left tackle, New England’s Nate Solder (No. 22) isn’t rated as highly as Charles Leno (No. 20), who we'll talk about in a bit here. 

The only potential upgrade available via free agency would be Carolina Panthers guard Andrew Norwell (No. 2 in B/R’s rankings), who’s 26 and is in line for a big payday this spring -- but that would seemingly be counter-intuitive to releasing Sitton and then potentially paying more money to a different guard, even if he’s younger and has more long-term upside. The Bears could opt for a cheaper guard in free agency who could have some potential working with respected O-line coach Harry Hiestand -- the Giants’ D.J. Fluker (57th in B/R’s rankings) or Justin Pugh (42nd) fit that mold, as would the Titans’ Josh Kline (37th) or Cowboys’ Jonathan Cooper (38th). Or the Bears could keep Sitton and still sign one of those guys as insurance in case Long and/or Eric Kush, who tore his ACL last training camp, isn’t ready to start the season. 

Tom Compton and Bradley Sowell proved to be serviceable backups last year and could be an option to return, even with a new coaching staff in place. The health of Kush, who was missed as a reliable backup in 2017, will be important in figuring out what the Bears' O-line depth looks like. Hroniss Grasu struggled when he was on the field and missed time due to a hand injury, and despite playing for offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich at Oregon could be on the chopping block before/during training camp. 

We’ll finish here with some thoughts on Leno and Cody Whitehair. Could the Bears upgrade at left tackle and displace Leno to the right side of the offensive line? Possibly, especially if Hiestand believes he can make that move work. But it’d be odd if the Bears shifted Leno off left tackle and then signed someone who’s older and, depending on the evaluator, not even as good as him. 

This is all probably a moot point, since the Bears’ internal evaluation of Leno is what matters here. Leno is 26 and the Bears believe he hasn’t reached his ceiling yet, so more than likely, he’s sticking where he is. At the very least, he’ll enter 2018 with a starting job on the Bears’ offensive line. 

One other offseason objective for Hiestand and the new coaching staff: Keeping Whitehair at the same position. Whitehair’s versatility felt like it worked against him at times last year, with the former regime opting to shift him between guard and center quite a bit from the start of training camp through the early part of the season. That instability seemed to affect Whitehair’s play, as he went through a bizarre patch of snapping issues after moving back to center and struggled to be as consistent as he was in 2016. But Whitehair finished 2017 strong, and keeping him at center for the entirety of 2018 could get him back on track to make his first Pro Bowl. 

2017 Bears position grades: Wide receivers

2017 Bears position grades: Wide receivers

2017 grade: D-

Level of need: High

Decisions to be made on: Markus Wheaton (contract), Dontrelle Inman (free agent), Kendall Wright (free agent), Josh Bellamy (free agent), Kevin White (fifth-year option)

Possible free agent targets: All of them? (But more specifically Jarvis Landry, Mike Wallace, Paul Richardson, Marqise Lee, Ryan Grant, Eric Decker, Albert Wilson, Donte Moncrief, Jaron Brown, Taylor Garbriel, Terrelle Pryor, John Brown, Allen Robinson)

The Bears cannot go into 2018 with a wide receiver core as weak as the one with which Mitchell Trubisky had to work in 2017. That doesn’t necessarily mean they have to go out and sign Jarvis Landry for huge money and then draft, say, Alabama’s Calvin Ridley, but adding multiple reliable wide receivers is a massive need for the offseason. A blend of free agents and draft picks seems like the most likely route.

Before we look at this year’s free agent class, a word on Cameron Meredith, who said this on locker cleanout day Jan. 1: “Training camp for sure I’ll be back. Right now it’s staying on pace so that I can do that. Yes, full recovery.”

The Bears shouldn’t count on Meredith to improve off his 66-catch, 888-yard 2016 season by virtue of him coming back from a torn ACL suffered last August. But it’s also not like any production from Meredith will be a bonus; if he’s even close to the player he was two years ago, he’ll be a significant part of the Bears’ offense.

So if the Bears are counting on Meredith to play in 2018, do they absolutely need to go out and splurge for the best receiver on the market in Jarvis Landry? Not necessarily. Landry reportedly wants Davante Adams money (four years, $58 million, with $32 million guaranteed) and might get more than that if a bidding war develops on the open market.

Would Landry be worth it? He followed consecutive 1,100-yard seasons in 2015 and 2016 with a league-leading 112 receptions in 2017, and won’t turn 26 until next November, so yeah, he very well could be. The Bears should have enough cap space to chase Landry, too.

But for a few reasons, Ryan Pace has either never landed nor pursued the priciest free agents in his three cycles as general manager. He splashed $38.75 million for Pernell McPhee in 2015; that was the 10th-largest free agent contract signed that year and has the 13th-highest amount of guaranteed money, per Spotrac. Danny Trevathan got $28 million in 2016 (22nd among free agents), and Mike Glennon’s ill-fated $45 million contract ranked 11th last year (with significantly less guaranteed money).

The other part of Pace’s free agency strategy hasn’t been under his control: The Bears just haven’t been an enticing destination lately. Cornerback A.J. Bouye -- 2017’s highest-paid free agent -- turned down more money from the Bears to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars, for example.

The Bears hope that’s changing, with a promising franchise quarterback, a young and affable head coach and a major renovation to Halas Hall. For all the losing, and for all the gripes outside Lake Forest about John Fox, the Bears did have a good culture in their locker room. Selling the future of this franchise should be a lot easier in 2018 than it was in 2017.

Will that all add up to the Bears signing Landry to a huge contract? Not necessarily. The Bears could make a strong pitch and sizable offer, but he could be lured by another team that’s had more recent success (like the Oakland Raiders). Or Pace could continue to look for bargains in free agency, which hasn’t particularly worked out for him in the past, but then take a receiver with the Bears’ first-round pick.

But perhaps Pace will see his long-term vision coming together, and will see a big-ticket free agent like Landry being the guy who puts the Bears over the hump from winning to losing. He could be the franchise’s Jon Lester, or if you’re a hopeful White Sox fan, Manny Machado.

But here’s a counter to the argument for signing Landry: Kansas City’s offense last year didn’t have a big-time outside target. Tyreek Hill’s versatility and explosive playmaking ability made him the Chiefs’ best wide receiver, but he was able to line up at almost any position on the field. Albert Wilson (who’s a free agent) had the second-most targets of among Chiefs receivers with 62; tight end Travis Kelce was targeted a team-high 122 times.

The Bears don’t have a Hill or a Kelce on their roster. Tarik Cohen and Adam Shaheen could be the “light” versions of both, which may necessitate a need for better “traditional” wide receivers. That doesn’t necessarily mean Landry, to be fair.

Mike Wallace is 31 but showed he still has something in the tank, missing only one game the last two years while racking up 1,765 yards and eight touchdowns for the Baltimore Ravens. Paul Richardson had a breakout 2017 with the Seattle Seahawks, catching 44 passes for 703 yards with six touchdowns as an effective deep threat. Marqise Lee had 119 catches for 1,553 yards in the vertically-challenged Jaguars offense the last two years. Ryan Grant has never missed a game in his four-year career and is coming off a career best 45-catch, 573-yard season with Washington. The aforementioned Wilson caught 42 passes for 554 yards with the Chiefs last year, both career highs.

Perhaps no free agent receivers have as much to prove than Terrelle Pryor and Donte Moncrief. Pryor, like Alshon Jeffery, found the free agent market weak in 2017 and took a one-year prove-it deal, but instead turning it into an extension and Super Bowl ring, he bombed with only 20 catches for 240 yards with Washington. It’d be a risk, but if he can get the stink of 2017 off him and flash the talent that got him 77 receptions and over 1,000 yards with the Cleveland Browns in 2016, he’d be worth it.

Moncrief is another interesting name out there. He was targeted over 100 times in 2015 and caught 64 passes for 733 yards and six touchdowns as the big-bodied complement to T.Y. Hilton in Indianapolis, but struggled to stay healthy the last two years, only playing 21 games and totaling 56 receptions for 698 yards.

One other guy to highlight: Allen Robinson. The Jaguars probably won’t let him get away, but even if they do, would the Bears really want to sign him and then have three wide receivers coming off season-ending injuries (Meredith and Kevin White being the other two; Robinson tore his ACL in Week 1 last year). The Rams’ Sammy Watkins is also an impending free agent, but it’d be a huge surprise if Los Angeles let him hit the open market, so he’s not worth considering for the Bears right now.

We’ll see what direction Pace takes next month with free agency. But expect the Bears to return no more than one receiver from their Week 2 lineup -- Kendall Wright (59 receptions, 614 yards) is probably the only guy who could be back, if the two parties want to re-unite. Wright, as it stands for my grade, was the only guy keeping this unit from an “F,” as in a total failure.

Markus Wheaton, who became only one of nine players since 1992 to be targeted at least 15 times and catch fewer than 20 percent of those targets (he caught two passes), is likely to be cut. It’s unlikely Josh Bellamy or Dontrelle Inman will be re-signed (slight chance for Inman, but he disappeared in December). And the Bears probably will decline Kevin White’s fifth-year option, making 2018 a prove-it year for the former first-round pick.