Week 12 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Bengals may spoil Palmer's homecoming
Rashard Mendenhall will carry a greater workload amid an unsettled QB situation
Oakland's defense ranks among the NFL's 10 worst against QBs, RBs, WRs and TEs
After bad Week 11, Matt Ryan could rebound well versus Bucs' poor pass defense
The mess that was Week 11 sparked many questions, namely: "Why didn't you tell me to start Justin Blackmon or Cecil Shorts?"
In response, we quote 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who so eloquently said, "A lot of gobble, gobble turkey ... Just gobble, gobble, gobble turkey from jive-turkey gobblers, ya know?"
That quote makes as much sense as what Chad Henne did to the Texans. Put both out of your mind. We have a new set of matchups, a new set of questions and a whole new set of answers now that the bye weeks are like Week 11: in the past.
Confident that sanity will return, we break everything down matchup by matchup in the Week 12 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em:
Texans -- Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Shayne Graham, Texans D/ST: There are some obvious players to keep active even against the solid Lions defense, but one of the question marks, Daniels, faces the most favorable match-up of all. The Lions ranks sixth-worst in fantasy against tight ends. Only three teams have given up more touchdowns to that position. The Texans are coming off an awful outing against a terrible Jags offense, but they should rebound against the Lions. Despite having the No. 1-ranked passing game in the NFL, the Lions are third-worst in fantasy against opposing D/STs because of a league-worst seven return touchdowns (four via the kick).
Lions -- Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Jason Hanson: The running game may be so limited against the Texans' defense that the disappointing Stafford may emerge as a top-12 fantasy starting quarterback this week. Detroit's touchdowns are going to have to come via the pass.
Texans -- Matt Schaub, Ben Tate, Justin Forsett, Kevin Walter, Keshawn Martin, Graham Garrett: Schaub and Garrett were revelations against the Jags, but this Lions defense is considerably better. Detroit is roughly top 10 against quarterbacks and receivers and it slowed down the Packers last week. The short week should mean a run-heavy game plan for the Texans.
Lions -- Mikel Leshoure, Joique Bell, Kevin Smith, Titus Young, Ryan Broyles, Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, Lions D/ST: The Texans are the toughest team in fantasy versus running backs and haven't allowed a rushing touchdown all season, so Leshoure is a bad play. Also, you can find a better tight end now than Pettigrew in standard leagues.
Redskins -- Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris: The Cowboys' defense has played well of late, but these two rookie gems remain must-starts in all matchups.
Cowboys -- Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Jason Witten, Dan Bailey, Cowboys D/ST: The Eagles couldn't take advantage of the Redskins' secondary, but Romo and his elite receivers are better equipped to handle this division foe, especially in their Thanksgiving Day home game comfort zone. The Redskins are fourth-worst in fantasy against quarterbacks and wide receivers, so expect steady numbers across the board, which could also make for a good day for the resurgent Bailey. The defense is a marginal option facing the second-toughest team in fantasy versus D/STs, but it is still good enough to rank among the top-12 units this week.
Redskins -- Pierre Garcon, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson, Josh Morgan, Logan Paulsen, Chris Cooley, Kai Forbath, Redskins D/ST: Garcon made it through his first game back from injury, but he was limited to short passes. Moss and Robinson hit the home runs, but don't count on any Redskins receiver against the Cowboys' elite corners. Dallas' defense is top 10 against quarterbacks and receivers. If you believe the Cowboys will remain turnover-prone, you might consider the Redskins' D/ST a sleeper, but the bet here is that the offensive numbers pile up in an important divisional home game. The Cowboys are alive and well in the NFC East hunt despite their mediocre play.
Cowboys -- Felix Jones, Philip Tanner, Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris: Jones left Week 11 a bit banged up, and the Redskins have the eighth-best run defense in the NFL. Throw that stat out of the window if DeMarco Murray (foot) plays. He is a must-start in fantasy if he is active Thursday, though that seems unlikely at this point.
Patriots -- Tom Brady, Stevan Ridley, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots D/ST: Rob Gronkowski's broken arm, should convince most owners to trust Hernandez, who is expected to return. The Jets rank seventh-worst in fantasy versus tight ends. New England's defense, which is coming off a productive fantasy game, gets to take aim at a weaponless Jets attack.
Jets -- None: Everything the Pats are susceptible against, the Jets struggle with. This is a bad matchup for New York, unless you're really desperate for injury fill-ins and need to consider one of their untalented receiving options against a suspect Pats secondary.
Patriots -- Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Julian Edelman, Brandon Lloyd, Rob Gronkowski, Visanthe Shiancoe: Save for the injured Gronk, any one of these guys could do something fantasy-worthy this week. But go ahead and try to pick which one. It's like throwing darts. The Jets are better than their sixth-worst ranking in fantasy versus running backs, but the week you trust Vereen to get action, Woodhead goes and steals the thunder. Then, you might say, Edelman is starting in two-receiver sets, so he can be a consideration. Well, the Jets are fifth-best in fantasy versus receivers, and are the Pats going to go with two-receiver sets without Gronk? Shiancoe could get more snaps in Gronk's tight end spot, but he's not yet worth owning in any fantasy leagues.
Jets -- Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell, Jeremy Kerley, Chaz Schilens, Dustin Keller, Nick Folk, Jets D/ST: The Pats rank No. 1 in fantasy against opposing D/STs, so avoid the Jets' unit along with Greene and Powell against a Pats run defense that is top 10 in the NFL to date. The opportunities for fantasy owners against the Pats lie with quarterbacks (second-worst) and receivers (seventh-worst), but no one can trust Sanchez and company now that we're past the byes.
Bills -- C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson: Jackson (concussion) may return and should be active for fantasy owners if he does, along with Spiller and Johnson. The Colts are eighth-worst against running backs and sixth-worst versus receivers.
Colts -- Andrew Luck, Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Allen, Adam Vinatieri: Luck plays much better at home, so expect him to rebound, especially against a Bills defense that is in the bottom half versus quarterbacks and wide receivers. If you want to try to take advantage of the Bills' No. 32 ranking against running backs, go with Vick Ballard over a still-healing Donald Brown and touchdown vulture Delone Carter. Allen has emerged as a starter-quality fantasy option of late and the Bills are 11th-worst in fantasy defending tight ends.
Bills -- Ryan Fitzpatrick, Donald Jones, Scott Chandler, Rian Lindell, Bills D/ST: Save for Chandler versus the third-best team in fantasy against tight ends, there is no good reason to avoid these options because of a matchup in Indy. There are just better ones available to you with all 32 teams active again.
Colts -- T.Y. Hilton, Donnie Avery, Coby Fleener, Colts D/ST: Hilton is the one many are going to fawn over, but it should be noted that it was Avery who was the better fantasy producer just a week prior. It is a crapshoot between them week to week. Fleener and the Colts' D/ST are no longer worth owning, much less starting now.
Steelers --- Rashard Mendenhall, Steelers D/ST: Going to the third quarterback puts a larger onus on the running game to carry the day, so consider Mendenhall the back to use and backup Jonathan Dwyer a sleeper as a flex option against fantasy's 12th-worst team versus running backs. As for the other side of the ball, Pittsburgh sports the NFL's No. 1 overall defense. And though many may not have a better option, if you don't have to play Heath Miller, don't. The Browns are the best team in fantasy defending tight ends.
Browns -- Trent Richardson, Browns D/ST: Expect this game to be played as conservatively as any this season, so consider the underrated Browns defense against a third-stringer. And while the Steelers rank fifth-best in fantasy versus running backs, Richardson gets too many touches to slot him outside of the top 24 starting options at the position.
Steelers -- Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich, Ben Roethlisberger, Isaac Redman, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Jerricho Cotchery, Shaun Suisham: Having to go to Batch as the starting quarterback due to rib issues for Leftwich and Big Ben is a problem for the entire cast of Steelers fantasy options. Redman's concussion clouds his status, too. You can even cut him in standard leagues.
Browns -- Brandon Weeden, Josh Gordon, Greg Little, Ben Watson, Phil Dawson: Don't mess with the Steelers' defense right now. It is No. 1 in the NFL and No. 1 in fantasy versus quarterbacks and receivers and fourth against tight ends.
Raiders -- Marcel Reece, Brandon Myers, Sebastian Janikowski: The Raiders hope that Darren McFadden can return from his high-ankle sprain this week, but the reality is he won't be 100 percent. Consider Reece as a viable starter regardless of McFadden because of his involvement in the passing game and the fact that the Bengals rank ninth-worst in fantasy against running backs. Myers has emerged as a must-start as well and faces the eighth-worst team in fantasy versus tight ends.
Bengals -- Andy Dalton, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, A.J. Green, Jermaine Gresham, Bengals D/ST: Dalton is on a roll and the Raiders are, well, rolling downhill fast. Oakland is fifth-worst in fantasy versus quarterbacks and running backs, so keep the rejuvenated BGE active, too. The Raiders rank ninth-worst against receivers and tight ends and are in the bottom half against D/STs.
Rod Streater, Juron Criner, Derek Hagan, Raiders D/ST: Carson Palmer is making his return to Cincy, but he was so mediocre against the suspect Saints that it's tough to trust him against a Bengals secondary that is top 10 against quarterbacks (10th) and wide receivers (sixth). Moore would have been considered a regular fantasy starter by now, but he blew it last week. Ignore all of these Raiders options this week.
Bengals -- Cedric Peerman, Andrew Hawkins, Mohamed Sanu, Mike Nugent: These guys have fantasy value and just might make an impact against the woeful Raiders, but with no players on bye, there are far better starting options available.
Vikings -- Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph: The Bears' defense is third-best against running backs and top 10 against tight ends, but A.P. and Rudolph have earned must-start status, especially since Percy Harvin is dealing with an ankle sprain that will limit him -- if he even plays.
Bears -- Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Robbie Gould, Bears D/ST: The Bears are on a short week and in a tough division game with the status of their quarterback questionable. Consider only these steady performers this week.
Vikings -- Christian Ponder, Jerome Simpson, Michael Jenkins, Jarius Wright, Blair Walsh, Vikings D/ST: The Bears' defense went into Monday night's game third-best against quarterbacks and running backs and top 10 against receivers, tight ends and kickers. Consider the Vikings defense a viable option only if Jay Cutler (concussion) cannot go.
Bears -- Jason Campbell, Jay Cutler, Michael Bush, Devin Hester, Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett, Kellen Davis: Only the Bucs, Bears, 49ers and Texans have allowed fewer rushing yards to running backs than the Vikings, so don't consider Bush to be viable. This is a good Vikings defensive front. The shaky status of Cutler also makes starting any of these other guys an extreme risk.
Titans -- Chris Johnson: CJ2K is hot and should be productive against the fourth-worst team in fantasy versus running backs. Also, the Jags are eighth-worst against quarterbacks and receivers, so consider Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright and Nate Washington (in that order) as potential fill-ins in deeper three-receiver formats. For those desperate for a running back off waivers who can reach the end zone, goal-line back Jamie Harper is an option.
Jaguars -- Jalen Parmele: He took over for the struggling Rashad Jennings, and Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) isn't ready to return. The Titans happen to be the second-worst team in fantasy against running backs. Parmele is a solid start, but only consider Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts if you are desperate at receiver.
Titans -- Jake Locker, Jared Cook, Rob Bironas, Titans D/ST: You might see this as a game that can get loose and bust the over because of suspect defenses, but the quarterbacks could prove suspect and make it a 10-7 fantasy dud. Avoid Cook against a Jags team that was No. 1 in fantasy versus tight ends before being abused by a backup tight end last week. Cook is not a top-15 option this week.
Jaguars -- Chad Henne, Rashad Jennings, Laurent Robinson, Marcedes Lewis, Josh Scobee, Jaguars D/ST: Here's how much we think of Henne's breakthrough against the Texans: You should sit him even in a favorable matchup against a bottom-10 team in fantasy versus quarterbacks. Also, ignore Lewis against the fourth-worst team versus tight ends. That was an impressive Week 11 performance, but even a suspect Titans defense can deal the Jags a reality check in Week 12.