Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward redraft leagues but can also be used for setting DFS lineups, as these are the players I’ll likely be filling out my cash lineups with on Sunday. Typically, the Thursday night game is ignored, but with three games on Thanksgiving, I hit on a few.
Start of the Week: Blake Bortles vs. Chargers: We typically like to play running backs against the Chargers, but their pass defense has gone in the tank of late and is equally as bad. San Diego’s run defense is dead-last at 32nd in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the pass defense checks in at 28th. The Chargers will be traveling cross-country for a 1 PM ET start. Bortles is in a prime bounce-back spot after burning streamers in Week 10 against the Ravens and snapping a multi-touchdown streak in Week 11 against the Titans. Back at home with 10 days rest, Bortles is right there with Hoyer, Stafford, and McCown as the favorite streamers of the week. Mariota slides in behind those four in my personal opinion. Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, and Derek Carr each threw for 300-plus yards and/or multiple touchdowns against San Diego the past month. The Chargers have picked off the fifth-fewest passes and registered the eighth-fewest sacks through 11 weeks. Allen Robinson draws a tough matchup with shadow CB Jason Verrett, but Robinson has proven matchup-proof, and Allen Hurns and Julius Thomas are in above-average spots against the rest of the defense.
Marcus Mariota vs. Raiders: The Raiders are one of just three teams allowing 300-plus passing yards per game. They’ve allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to the position. Geno Smith threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns in Week 9 against Oakland, and Matthew Stafford went for nearly 21 fantasy points last week without throwing a touchdown but rushing for 31 yards and a score. Mariota has displayed time and again that he’s capable of taking advantage of a weak pass defense. And with the Titans not having much of a running game and getting slot WR Kendall Wright back from a multi-week MCL sprain, this sets up pretty well for Mariota to have success at home. The Raiders’ strength also happens to be their defense against running backs. Mariota will have had 10 days to prepare for the Raiders. His home-road splits are a bit concerning, as he’s averaging 8.48 YPA with a 10:0 TD:INT ratio on the road compared to 7.2 YPA and 3:6 TD:INT at home, but most signs point to this being a plus spot. He’s faced a tough home schedule to date. According to Rich Hribar’s Week 12 Worksheet, the Raiders have allowed a top-12 quarterback 8-of-10 games.
Matthew Stafford vs. Eagles: Stafford was one of the favorite plays of Week 11, but he ended up throwing for 282 scoreless yards against the Raiders after Eric Ebron dropped a first-quarter touchdown pass. The positive is Stafford didn’t turn the ball over and added 31 rushing yards with a score. His 20.86 fantasy points were more than respectable. This looks like a fine spot to go back to the well on Thanksgiving. The short rest is the only concern here, but the Lions didn’t have to do any travel. Stafford has played far better at home this season, averaging over 20 fantasy points per contest. The Eagles’ pass defense, while opportunistic, has crumbled of late with big-money CB Byron Maxwell and fellow outside CB Nolan Carroll giving up big plays. Slot man E.J. Biggers has also been victimized in coverage. Philadelphia has allowed the fourth-most passing touchdowns and ninth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. A Stafford-Calvin Johnson stack on Turkey Day looks mighty fine in DFS after Jameis Winston lit up the Eagles for five touchdowns last Sunday. The Lions will also be playing much faster, as the Eagles runt he highest-paced offense. More plays mean more opportunities to post yards, which then equals more chances for fantasy production.
Josh McCown vs. Ravens: Johnny Manziel was benched and demoted to third-string on Tuesday after he was caught on video partying in bars over the Browns’ Week 11 bye. McCown has been reinserted as starter, and Rams castoff Austin Davis will be the backup. McCown had one of his best games of the season Week 5 against this same Ravens team in Baltimore, going 36-of-51 for 457 yards and two touchdowns. That was the second-best fantasy game of his career. McCown is now rested after injuring his ribs a few weeks back and gets this awful pass defense at home. The Ravens field Football Outsiders’ 27th-ranked pass defense in DVOA. In six healthy starts, McCown has averaged 41 attempts per game and never attempted fewer than 32 passes. The Browns will also be up in pace with the Ravens running the fifth-fastest offense in the league. McCown’s insertion back under center boosts both Travis Benjamin and Gary Barnidge in the passing game.
Brian Hoyer vs. Saints: Hoyer is playing the Saints. At home. That’s pretty much all we need to know, but you’re here for more than that. The Saints are, by far, allowing the most fantasy points in the league and are dead-last in points allowed to quarterbacks. Kirk Cousins, of all people, picked this unit apart for 324 yards and four scores in Week 10. Coach Sean Payton proceeded to fire DC Rob Ryan, replacing him with ex-Raiders coach Dennis Allen. Allen had some fine defenses as Denver’s DC, but he’s not going to miraculously turn this one around. At last check, Brandon Browner is still a starting corner for the Saints. After 10 games, quarterbacks are averaging 308.1 yards and 2.8 touchdowns per against New Orleans. Over the last four, those numbers rise to 344.5 yards and 4.25 touchdowns allowed per game. Hoyer was cleared of his concussion earlier this week and will start Sunday after T.J. Yates managed two wins. For DFS players who don’t want to pay up for DeAndre Hopkins, Hoyer is a cheap way to get exposure to Hopkins. Hoyer has already proven to have top-10 upside in great on-paper matchups. This qualifies as one.
Tom Brady at Broncos: It’s amazing that sitting fantasy’s No. 1 quarterback is even a consideration, but this makes for a week to seriously think about it. As seen above, there are a number of lower-level quarterbacks in great spots, while Brady is heading into a road date against the league’s No. 1 pass defense. Brady is also dealing with a short deck with Julian Edelman (foot) out for possibly the rest of the regular season and Danny Amendola suffering a sprained knee on Monday night. Amendola may be able to play Sunday night, but he remains a real question mark and won’t be 100 percent. Brady really struggled against the Bills on Monday night behind an ever-changing offensive line and is on a short week against a Broncos team that has picked off more passes (10) than it has allowed touchdowns (8). Quarterbacks are averaging just 211.9 yards and 0.8 touchdowns per game against them. Brady is obviously the best one they’ll have seen, and it’s not the smartest idea to bet against him, but it’s very real Brady doesn’t finish the week as a top-12 quarterback.
Tyrod Taylor at Chiefs: After a red-hot start to the season, TyGod has fallen off a cliff in recent weeks. He was one of the most-accurate passers the first month-plus but has become a bit scattershot of late. Taylor really struggled against the Patriots on Monday night, missing a couple of potential touchdowns and overthrowing Sammy Watkins on other passes. Taylor appeared to hurt his shoulder late in the loss, but coach Rex Ryan anticipates Taylor starting Sunday. He’s not attempting enough passes with LeSean McCoy running hard out of the backfield and taking back over as the focal point of the offense. The Chiefs have righted their pass defense after a shaky start to the year. The return of RCB Sean Smith from suspension has solidified the unit, and they’re ranked 7th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. Smith is Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 cover corner the past four weeks, behind only the Lions’ Darius Slay. Going into a hostile environment like Arrowhead isn’t a place we’re looking to stream Taylor, especially with the Chiefs’ defense on a hot streak.
Matt Ryan vs. Vikings: Ryan continues to be a letdown in plus matchups, so at home in a tough on-paper one, he’s not in play outside of two-quarterback leagues. The Vikings have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks, and Ryan is turning the ball over at a career-worst clip with 13 combined interceptions and lost fumbles through 10 games. Ryan is fantasy’s QB22 in points per game and QB27 in points per pass attempt. The “weapons” behind Julio Jones simply aren’t doing enough, and Ryan isn’t someone who is going to elevate those around him. He’s not a carrier, and instead needs to be carried himself. Ryan Tannehill, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Jay Cutler have all outplayed Ryan this season. The Vikings have surrendered the sixth-fewest pass TDs.
Brock Osweiler vs. Patriots: Peyton Manning visited foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson in North Carolina earlier this week, and it’s been deemed Manning will miss “at least” the next two weeks with a torn plantar fascia. Osweiler is locked in as the starter for the immediate future and may hold the job the remainder of the season. He had a solid first career start last week in Chicago, completing 20-of-27 passes for 250 yards and a pair of touchdowns and now gets to go home. But the New England pass defense is much better than Chicago’s unit. No. 1 CB Malcolm Butler has proven to be a legitimate shutdown corner and should trail Demaryius Thomas much of Sunday night. Emmanuel Sanders is iffy after being inactive Week 11 with his high-ankle sprain. The Broncos will probably try to control the clock with their running game, which worked much better with Osweiler directly under center last week as opposed to Manning in shotgun, to keep Tom Brady off the field. In a projected close game, there may not be enough volume here to make Osweiler a top-12 play.
Start of the Week: T.J. Yeldon vs. Chargers: Targeting running backs against the Chargers has become a weekly tradition much like targeting passing games against the Saints and tight ends against the Raiders. Charcandrick West didn’t work out last week before he left with a hamstring injury, but his backup, Spencer Ware, came in and piled up a quick 96 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries in relief. The Chargers are dead-last in Football Outsiders’ run-defense DVOA. They allow over 5.05 YPC and the most fantasy points to running backs. San Diego is also traveling cross-country for a 1 PM ET start. It’s something they’ve handled well in the past, but this year’s Chargers team might be the worst in football. A precious thing for running backs these days, Yeldon is averaging 19.3 touches per game as a rookie. He’s a true every-down back but was bafflingly pulled in goal-line situations last week in favor of Denard Robinson. Robinson was predictably stuffed on his attempts, so Yeldon should be back in the saddle there against San Diego. Yeldon also was playing through a foot issue, which he’ll have had 10 days to recover from come Sunday. Per Rotoworld’s Graham Barfield, Yeldon is the only running back 50-plus percent of his team’s red-zone carries to not have a red-zone touchdown. That’s the real concern with Yeldon is he doesn’t score much. But that streak has a good chance at ending Sunday. He’s easily a top-15 play at the position.
Buck Allen at Browns: Allen is merely an average to slightly above-average talent, but he’s stepping into a boat-load of touches. Justin Forsett broke his arm last week against the Rams, and Joe Flacco tore his ACL in the same game. Both are out for the season, leaving Allen as the starting running back and Matt Schaub at quarterback. The Ravens might give the Rams a run for the worst offense in the league. The Ravens have to-date been one of the more pass-happy offenses in the league, but it’s not realistic to ask Schaub to throw the ball 35-plus times per game. Look for OC Marc Trestman to lean on Allen and the running game. (Terrance West should be active this week behind Allen and Raheem Mostert.) After Forsett went down last week, Allen piled up 27 touches for 115 scoreless yards. That big workload is what fantasy owners crave, and this week, Allen gets a Browns defense that’s bleeding points to running backs. They’re allowing 4.82 YPC and the fifth-most fantasy points to the position. Expect Cleveland to key in on Allen, but the touches are too good to pass up. With a depleted Ravens pass-catching corps, Allen might see around eight targets.
Thomas Rawls vs. Steelers: Rawls will probably be the highest-owned player across the board in DFS this week after his 255-yard, two-touchdown performance on 33 touches last Sunday against the 49ers. Marshawn Lynch underwent sports-hernia surgery on Wednesday morning and is expected to miss the next month-plus, leaving Rawls locked in as the Seahawks’ starter. In this run-heavy offense, Rawls is a virtual lock for 22-25 touches at minimum. In Rawls’ four starts in place of Lynch, he’s averaged 132.5 rushing yards on 21.5 carries with two touchdowns. The Pittsburgh run defense is a strong unit, allowing just 3.87 YPC, two rushing touchdowns, and the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs. The positive is this game is in Seattle, and Rawls is locked into heavy volume. He runs with really good power and quickness and has looked a lot better than Lynch in 2015. Rawls has the talent to mask Seattle’s offensive-line deficiencies.
Chris Ivory vs. Dolphins: Ivory has been dreadful four of the past five games, rushing for 41 yards or fewer four times since Week 7. He’s coming off an eight-carry, 36-yard performance against the Texans, a game that got away from the Jets and made Ivory a victim of game flow. Bilal Powell is the Jets’ pass-game back and gobbled up snaps in garbage time. The Jets are back at home this week as 3.5-point favorites. It sets up perfectly for Ivory to get back on track. Having C Nick Mangold (hand) in the lineup will be key, but signs point to him being available. Last time out against these Dolphins in Week 4 in London, Ivory piled up 166 yards and one touchdown on a season-high 29 carries. It was easily his best game of the season, and the Dolphins still can’t stop the run. They’re allowing 4.29 YPC on the year, and that number has swelled to 4.70 YPC the past four games, as they’ve allowed Darren McFadden, LeSean McCoy, and Karlos Williams to each run for 100-plus yards in that span. Only the Chargers have allowed more fantasy points to running backs through 11 weeks. The Jets need to focus more on running the ball, and Week 12 is a perfect opportunity.
Doug Martin at Colts: Martin snapped a three-game streak of being held to 71 yards or fewer with a monster 235-yard rushing effort against the Eagles last Sunday. He’s been extremely up-and-down at times this season, but Martin is fifth in carries per game with an 18.8 mark. He’s seeing one of the heaviest workloads in the league, and this remains a run-first offense, even with Jameis Winston coming off a five-touchdown effort. The Colts have played strong run defense, allowing 3.97 YPC, but they’ve surrendered the eighth-most fantasy points to running backs while giving up the fourth-most rushing touchdowns. Rookie DE Henry Anderson was the Colts’ top run defender before tearing his ACL in Week 9. In the Colts’ first game without Anderson last week, Devonta Freeman was on his way to having a huge day with three carries for 43 yards before suffering a concussion. Martin is looking to snap a five-game touchdown-less streak. It’s a good spot for him to stay hot.
DeAngelo Williams at Seahawks: It’s hard to go and flat-out bench Williams because of his heavy volume, but this matchup isn’t ideal on the road. In four starts without Le’Veon Bell, Williams is averaging 21.25 carries per game for 107 yards with five touchdowns. He’s done the vast majority of his damage in two of those games against the Patriots and Raiders and has faced three bottom-10 run defenses. The Seahawks are No. 1 in fantasy points allowed to running backs and eighth in Football Outsiders’ run-defense DVOA. They’re yielding just 3.61 YPC. Sunday’s Pittsburgh-Seattle matchup pits the league’s top-two ranked fantasy run defenses against each other. Both offenses figure to find success through the air, with Pittsburgh picking on secondary CBs Cary Williams, DeShawn Shead, and Jeremy Lane behind shutdown No. 1 CB Richard Sherman.
Jeremy Hill vs. Rams: Hill has devolved into a full-blown, touchdown-dependent RB2. He hasn’t topped 60 rushing yards since going for 63 in Week 1. Despite having seven rushing scores, they’ve all come in three games. Hill is coming off one of those multi-touchdown performances last week against the Cardinals. Chasing the points isn’t a smart idea against the Rams. St. Louis fields Football Outsiders’ No. 3 run defense in DVOA, and the Rams are tops in the league in opponent red-zone scoring percentage, allowing a touchdown only 34.62 percent of the time inside the 20-yard line. Hill might have plenty of chances to salt away the clock in a game the Bengals are favored by 8.5 points, but the touchdown upside isn’t there. The Rams yield just 3.69 YPC to running backs. Hill continues to play a secondary role to Giovani Bernard in the Bengals’ pass-first offense.
Lamar Miller at Jets: Since touching the ball 21 times in interim coach Dan Campbell’s debut in Week 6 against the Titans, Miller has averaged just 11.6 carries per game. He’s kept his fantasy stock afloat with an expanded role near the goal line and 4.6 catches per game out of the backfield. But the past four weeks, Miller has failed to top 44 yards on the ground, and rookie Jay Ajayi has entered the mix as the change-of-pace back following an impressive Week 9 debut. Miller now gets the Jets’ No. 1-ranked run defense in DVOA at Football Outsiders. The Jets are allowing just 3.66 YPC and the fifth-fewest fantasy points to running backs. They’re one of two teams to have allowed only one rushing touchdown. Week 4 against this same Jets defense, Miller rushed seven times for 26 yards. Miller remains the clear top dog in Miami, but this is a really tough spot.
Latavius Murray at Titans: Murray hasn’t topped 50 yards rushing in back-to-back games, but was able to save his fantasy owners a bit last week with a goal-line plunge for a touchdown despite rushing for 28 yards and averaging 2.15 YPC. His 12 and 13 rushing attempts Weeks 10 and 11, respectively, have been Murray’s second- and third-lowest totals of the season. The Raiders, for some reason, have been trying to mix in fullback-types Jamize Olawale and Marcel Reece for carries possibly because Murray might be running out of steam in his first season as a starter. Another thing working against Murray has been C Rodney Hudson missing time with a high-ankle sprain. He returned last week against the Lions but aggravated the injury and had to leave for good. Hudson is a top-six center at Pro Football Focus and signed a mega-deal with the Raiders in the offseason. His loss can’t be understated, as he hasn’t practiced this week. The Titans are allowing 3.91 YPC and the fourth-fewest fantasy points to running backs. This sets up better for Derek Carr as a passer.
Start of the Week: Travis Benjamin vs. Ravens: Benjamin didn’t struggle to find success with Johnny Manziel at quarterback, but his target totals have been a lot more comfortable with Josh McCown under center. In Manziel’s games, Benjamin has averaged six targets, as opposed to 9.7 with McCown. He’s scored three of his four touchdowns with Manziel, but the floor is much safer with McCown, and this matchup is a phenomenal on-paper one. The Ravens have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, third-most to receivers, and the most touchdowns to receivers. Baltimore checks in at 27th in Football Outsiders’ pass-defense DVOA. In the Week 5 tilt with the Ravens, Benjamin saw a dozen targets, and he continues to dominate looks outside the numbers. The weakness of the Ravens’ pass defense is at the boundary corner spots with Jimmy Smith and Shareece Wright. The Browns have no running game whatsoever and will have to throw the ball Monday night. Smith and Wright have combined to allow seven touchdowns between them, and the Ravens have allowed the ninth-most (36) 20-plus yard pass plays. Benjamin is a threat to bust a long touchdown after dropping one last game and losing a shoe on another potential one.
Allen Hurns vs. Chargers: Hurns posted a disappointing 3-19-0 line on four targets last Thursday night against the Titans, but that was on a short week with Hurns coming off multiple nagging injuries. Hurns is practicing this week and should draw the better matchup among he and Allen Robinson. Chargers No. 1 CB and Pro Football Focus’ No. 6-ranked cover corner out of 110 qualifiers Jason Verrett projects to shadow Robinson, leaving Hurns to work against Brandon Flowers. Flowers is Pro Football Focus’ 106th-ranked cover corner and has given up five touchdowns and 14.4 YPR. The Chargers have lost six-straight and pretty much mailed it in for the season. Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, and Alex Smith have found recent success through the air against this defense. Both Robinson and Hurns are locked in as top-24 options with Hurns having the easier test.
Golden Tate vs. Eagles: Tate has seen at least six targets in 8-of-10 games, and the schedule is starting to soften for the Lions’ passing offense after going through a gauntlet of strong units the first half of the year. Tate cleared 70 yards for the third time last week and caught a season-high eight passes. Eric Ebron has fallen out of favor at tight end after a number of dropped passes, and those middle-field targets are starting to come Tate’s direction. The touchdown upside isn’t strong for Tate, but he has a solid floor in PPR leagues and managed to see three red-zone targets the past two games. Calvin Johnson is a really strong WR1 play on Thanksgiving, while Tate has some WR3 appeal against an Eagles pass defense that has fallen apart. They’ve allowed the second-most fantasy points to receivers and been one of the worst coverage units much of the year.
Nate Washington vs. Saints: Washington draws the lucky card of the week. Teammate DeAndre Hopkins will get shadow coverage from No. 1 Saints CB Delvin Breaux, leaving Washington to work against burn victim Brandon Browner, who continues to bring up the bottom of Pro Football Focus’ cornerback coverage grades. He ranks 110 out of 110 qualifiers in coverage, surrendering 15.6 YPR. Browner is also the most-penalized player in the league this season. Washington’s No. 1 asset is his long speed, and that’s the thing Browner struggles with most. Since Cecil Shorts returned to the lineup two games ago, Washington’s targets have taken a dip, averaging 5.5 per game, but he only needs 6-8 looks to do damage. Washington is always a candidate for a long touchdown. This is the easiest matchup of his life. The Saints, far and away, have allowed the most passing yards.
Stefon Diggs at Falcons: Diggs runs the bulk of his routes against right cornerbacks, so he should avoid Falcons stationary LCB Desmond Trufant for most of the day Sunday. Second-round rookie CB Jalen Collins has been playing right cornerback for Atlanta the past few weeks and has graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 95th-ranked cover corner out of 102 qualifiers Weeks 8-11. Precise route-runner Diggs should eat Collins up, and even though this Vikings pass offense has very little upside, Diggs is the one with the highest floor and ceiling. Targets are always a concern for Diggs, but he should see six-plus in a game the Vikings will be up in pace with one of the higher over-under totals of the week. Mike Wallace should be locked down in Trufant’s coverage as a non-factor.
Sammy Watkins at Chiefs: In his three games since returning from injury, Watkins has seen eight, seven, and six targets. Week 9, he caught all eight of them for 168 yards and one score. In order for Watkins to have success in this low-volume passing attack, he has to have that kind of catch rate. Unfortunately, Tyrod Taylor’s accuracy has taken a downturn. Taylor didn’t even attempt a pass to Watkins in the first half on Monday night’s loss to the Patriots, and then overthrew him on a couple other balls, while Watkins made two spectacular catches on passes that were off-target. Coach Rex Ryan said after the game that they have to make more of an effort to get the ball in Watkins’ hands. Expect Taylor to try to do so Sunday, but Watkins is now in another tough matchup against Chiefs RCB Sean Smith, who’s graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 cover corner over the past four weeks. Ever since Smith returned from a three-game suspension, the Chiefs’ pass defense has played at a high level. This isn’t a spot to get excited about unleashing Watkins, especially with Taylor battling an injury to his throwing shoulder. If E.J. Manuel start, it’d be a bigger downgrade.
Brandon LaFell at Broncos: Danny Amendola (knee) sounds like he’ll be fine after going through the Patriots’ walkthrough on Wednesday, but even if he misses, LaFell still won’t be a strong play. The Broncos field the league’s best pass defense and will be playing at home Sunday night with the Patriots coming off a short week. Monday night against the Bills, LaFell opened the game as the No. 4 receiver behind Amendola, Aaron Dobson, and Chris Harper, playing just 14 first-half snaps. After Dobson went down with a high-ankle sprain and Amendola injured his knee, LaFell played every snap. He should be close to an every-down player Sunday, but is expected to draw Aqib Talib in coverage. LaFell has been a big disappointment since returning from his foot injury. The Broncos have surrendered just one touchdown to opposing wide receivers all season.
Anquan Boldin vs. Cardinals: Boldin returned from a two-game absence due to a hamstring injury to catch 5-of-7 targets for 93 yards against the Seahawks last week. He looked healthy for the most part when on the field, but had to go to the sideline a number of times to keep stretching out the hammy. Cold weather certainly played a part. Blaine Gabbert’s insertion into the lineup figures to benefit Boldin down the stretch, as Gabbert has flashed better ball placement and a more accurate arm than Colin Kaepernick. But Boldin draws a really tough matchup against Cardinals slot CB Tyrann Mathieu, who has graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 cover corner through 11 weeks. In the previous matchup between these two teams, Bolding caught two passes for 16 yards. The 49ers have the second-lowest team total of the week at 17 points as 10.5-point underdogs.
DeSean Jackson vs. Giants: Jackson was the only success story for the Redskins’ offense last week in Carolina. In his best game since returning from a hamstring injury, Jackson caught 5-of-8 targets for 87 yards and a 56-yard touchdown. He ran right by fill-in CB Colin Jones on the play. The Redskins play much better at home, but the Giants’ outside cornerback duo of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Prince Amukamara poses a tougher test than Colin Jones. Both DRC and Amukamara are top-24 cover corners at Pro Football Focus and have combined to allow just one touchdown. Jordan Reed and Jamison Crowder have better matchups inside the hashmarks. If Jackson gets some reps out of the slot, he could make some noise, but he figures to play mostly outside.
Start of the Week: Tyler Eifert vs. Rams: Eifert is one of the best red-zone players in the league with his league-leading 11 touchdowns. The Rams don’t have many weak spots on defense, but tight ends have been eating against them of late. Crockett Gillmore put a 5-101 line on them last week, Zach Miller went 5-107-2 in Week 10, and Gray Barnidge posted 6-101 in Week 7. Jimmy Graham also went 6-51-1 against the Rams in Week 1. Eifert and Barnidge are easily the two-best tight ends the Rams will have seen all year. Without WLB Alec Ogletree (fractured leg), the Rams have really struggled to contain tight ends. Eifert might be the top tight end of Week 12.
Heath Miller at Seahawks: The Seahawks have given up the seventh-most catches, fourth-most yards, seventh-most touchdowns, and third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Run-of-the-mill 49ers TE Vance McDonald caught all four of his Week 11 targets for 65 yards and a score against Seattle. Richard Sherman is expected to shadow Antonio Brown on the outside. While Brown will still get his looks, it could lead to a couple more targets for Miller in the middle of the field, especially in the red zone. Neither offense is expected to have a ton of success running the ball, as the Seahawks and Steelers are Nos. 1 and 2 in run defense, so this one should feature plenty of passing. Miller has averaged 8.7 targets per game the past three weeks.
Jimmy Graham vs. Steelers: Opposite Heath Miller is Graham, who also draws a plus matchup. Only the Raiders and Saints have allowed more touchdowns to tight ends than the Steelers. Pittsburgh has also allowed the fourth-most catches to the position. Graham’s been an extreme disappointment in Seattle, but he’s at least seeing targets in the red zone when the Seahawks manage to get down there. He’s been targeted four times inside the 20-yard line the past six games.
Brent Celek at Lions: Zach Ertz has been ruled out for Thanksgiving against the Lions with a concussion. Celek will pick up the slack and be an every-down player. He’s coming off a couple garbage-time-loaded receiving efforts of 4-134 and 7-79 in back-to-back weeks. Celek is a capable pass catcher. With Lions No. 1 CB Darius Slay expected to lock down Nelson Agholor on one side of the field and Riley Cooper being a non-factor on the other side, most of the passing attempts should go to the middle of the field for the Eagles. Both Celek and Jordan Matthews have above-average matchups. The Lions have allowed the third-most touchdowns to tight ends.
Charles Clay at Chiefs: Since Sammy Watkins returned to action three weeks ago, Clay has averaged 3.3 targets per game and totaled 72 scoreless receiving yards on seven grabs. He was well behind Chris Hogan, LeSean McCoy, Robert Woods, and Watkins in the target pecking order Monday night against the Patriots, and now gets the Chiefs’ top-ranked tight end defense. With S Eric Berry back from a bout with cancer, the Chiefs have allowed the fewest catches for the fewest yards to opposing tight ends. We can do a lot better than Clay this week.
Jordan Cameron at Jets: Cameron rose from the dead and nabbed his first touchdown catch since Week 6 and second of the season. Don’t dare go chasing it. Cameron has registered two or fewer catches in five-straight games and hasn’t topped 34 receiving yards since Week 2. Cameron simply isn’t a big part of the offense and has seen his snaps decline in recent weeks. Only the Bengals have allowed fewer touchdowns to tight ends than the Jets.
Eric Ebron vs. Eagles: Admittedly, I completely whiffed on Ebron last week. The matchup was perfect, but Ebron has irons for hands and dropped a first-quarter touchdown that hit him right in the mitts. He’s now dropped four passes the past two weeks and leads the league. Ebron vows to correct the issue on Thursday against Philadelphia, but it’d be hard to blame Matthew Stafford if he doesn’t even look his tight end’s way. After the drop last week, Stafford seemed to ignore Ebron, who posted a goose egg for the week. The Eagles have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends.