Week 12 of the 2016 NFL season is well underway, and the fantasy football playoffs are right around the corner. This means that many of you lucky enough to still be in the postseason hunt are likely facing some important roster decisions.
There are plenty of factors we can use to help us make roster decisions. Past performances, player roles and straight-up talent can often be the most important of them. However, matchups often play big roles, especially when our best players are facing tough ones.
The problem is that overanalyzing a matchup can be costly. How many times have you decided to sit a quarterback or a pass-catcher against a top defense, only to have that player waste 30 fantasy points on your bench?
Sometimes, though, difficult matchups do cause your top fantasy players to struggle. The unfortunate aspect here is that it becomes difficult to determine which players to start and which to sit against difficult matchups.
We’re here to help you sort things out with our start ’em-sit ’em guide for Week 12’s unfavorable matchups.
Start ‘Em: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
In most weeks, we wouldn’t even consider sitting Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. The guy has sliced through defenses this season with regularity and has amassed 3,247 yards with 24 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Yes, having a target like Julio Jones does help.
The problem is that Ryan is facing an Arizona Cardinals team that is allowing an NFL-low 190.2 yards passing per game. The Cardinals are also the only team to have forced Ryan into throwing four or more interceptions in a single game—and they’ve done it twice.
However, we’re going to stick with Ryan this week for a couple of reasons. For one, he is playing at home and does have weapons like Jones, Mohamed Sanu and tight end Austin Hooper at his disposal. Also, he has talented running back Devonta Freeman, who is excellent at catching passes out of the backfield—and those passes still count as passing yards for Ryan.
We’d expect something in the neighborhood of 250 yards and two scores with an interception or two for Ryan. Those aren’t great numbers, but they aren’t bad enough to warrant a benching.
Sit ‘Em: Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
We are going to suggest sitting Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith this week against a tough Denver Broncos defense. Denver is rated seventh in pass rush and third in pass coverage by Pro Football Focus for the season.
The problem for Smith, though, isn’t just the Denver defense. The former No. 1 pick hasn’t played particularly well since he temporarily lost the starting job due to injury.
Smith passed for just 178 yards with an interception against the Carolina Panthers in Week 10, and he passed for 261 with a touchdown, a rushing touchdown and an interception against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week.
“I think Alex is OK,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of Smith, per Adam Teicher of ESPN.com. “He’s going to be fine. We’ve just got to keep going here. He does a great job with leadership and all of those things. He’ll be fine.”
While Smith may be OK over the long haul, we’d expect his Week 12 numbers to be a lot closer to what we saw against the Panthers than against the Buccaneers—who are rated just 31st in overall defense by Pro Football Focus.
Start ‘Em: Lamar Miller, RB, Houston Texans
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While it might have been easy to overlook—as the team itself often has been this year—the defense of the San Diego Chargers has taken some positive steps in recent weeks, especially against the run.
San Diego is now allowing an average of just 87.4 yards per game on the ground, fifth-fewest in the NFL. However, this isn’t enough for us to recommend sitting Houston Texans running back Lamar Miller this week.
Miller is probably the most consistent player on Houston’s offense right now, and the Texans need to ride him hard this week if they hope to fend off the Chargers. It would be especially wise to utilize Miller’s skills as a receiver against the improving San Diego defense—though the Texans haven’t been adept at doing this.
Miller has just 24 receptions all season.