My Week 12 daily fantasy (DFS) football picks come on the heels of a particularly hellacious week. My Monday through Wednesday were particularly busy. Not only was I writing additional Thanksgiving-specific pieces, but I was also up extra early this week for my retail job. But those came on the heels of a funeral for "Brett S," who I am honoring with my Week 12 picks.
I barely knew Brett, but he was one of my fellow owners in one of my seasonal FFL leagues. However, I am friendly with his brother-in-law, who ironically is the first person I remember asking me years ago, "Do you know what DFS is?" Well, Brett passed away this past week due to complications from COVID-19.
Brett's story is a sad one as he was the sole custodian for an autistic child. But despite the challenges that life dealt him, Brett continued to remain steadfast. And I know, I'm lucky that this is the closest person to my family that we have lost due to the pandemic. But it doesn't make it any better.
I don't want to get too gloomy, so all I will say is that like Brett, we DFS players have to remain steadfast despite the challenges a DFS slate can bring. Below are my attempts to overcome the challenge of the Week 12 DFS slate.
Safe Quarterback Week 12 Pick
Justin Herbert, Chargers at Bills ($7200, FD $8400)
When I first looked at the slate, my initial thought was that as much as I love Herbert this year this would be a good game to fade him. First off, the weather in Buffalo this time of year isn't usually too nice and the Bills' defense is pretty good. As it turns out the weather in Upstate New York this weekend is quite nice, relatively speaking. Ok, so it's not exactly summer-like, but you can't ask for too much more than 44 degrees and a clear day in late November in Buffalo. And I was surprised to find out that Buffalo has actually given up the 10th-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks.
Meanwhile, Herbert has been just short of spectacular with a sparking 22:6 to TD-to-INT result. That 104.7 QB rating is for real. Since the start of October, Herbert's worst game was only a pair of touchdowns. With a ceiling of three touchdowns and 300-plus yards, like what he did last week, the aforementioned floor is plenty of reason to lock Herbert in and move on.
High Risk/Reward Quarterback Week 12 Pick
Philip Rivers, Colts vs. Titans (DK $6100, FD $6800)
I hate recommending "one L" Philip Rivers as he has made up for that with his share of ugly losses. The truth however is that he's been playing much better lately than he did to start the season:
Rivers is wonderfully affordable this week, priced at $6100 and $6800 on the two sites. Furthermore, this matchup might be too good to avoid. The Titans are giving up the fifth-most fantasy points to both quarterbacks and wide receivers. And don't forget that Rivers is coming off a very solid 288 passing yards and three-TD day against the Packers last week. He has three 300-yard games already this year. The Titans also have given up three 300-yard games through the air and that includes such notable offenses as Chicago and Jacksonville. The Colts might not be much better than either of those two, but Rivers could be a very sneaky play this week.
Safe Running Back Week 12 Pick
Dalvin Cook, Vikings vs. Panthers (DK $9500, FD $11000)
Let's not sugarcoat it, Cook is a little overpriced. But if you asked me who the safest RB is this week, there is no question is that it's Cook. Over his last seven games, he has totaled nearly 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns. That's insane. The Vikings are involving Cook more in the passing game lately and that should only increase with Adam Thielen out this week. The Panthers have allowed six different running backs to post top-five numbers against them. But if keep things confined to just the rushing stats, the Panthers have allowed double-digit rushing TDs already and a hefty 4.76 yards per carry. Cook is overpriced this week, but I'll pay the premium.
High Risk/Reward Running Back Week 12 Pick
Brian Hill, Falcons vs. Raiders (DK $4000, FD $5100)
There's an argument that Hill should be a safe pick. However, he is averaging six carries a game, so it's not like there is a ton of history for us to fall back upon.
That said, I think Hill does enough to match his $5100 price tag and far exceeds his minimum $4K price tag on DraftKings. For one, the Falcons are a high-scoring offense. Todd Gurley has 43 red-zone carries, behind only Derrick Henry. But with Gurley now out, Hill should get those opportunities inside the Raiders' 20-yard line. Furthermore, Las Vegas has been scored upon every 16.5 carries and has given up the third-most fantasy points per opportunity to RBs, making this a golden matchup for the Atlanta running game.
If Hill sees double-digit carries, he should easily outproduce his price tag. It is also worth noting that Hill out-snapped Gurley in last week's blowout loss, so even if there is a negative game script, Hill could provide value. And given that this game has an over/under set at 53 points, there should be plenty of scoring opportunities and I like the chances of Hill punching at least one if not two into the end zone.
Safe Wide Receiver Week 12 Pick
DJ Moore, Panthers at Vikings (DK $6200, FD $7300)
Not much has changed since I talked about the Carolina WRs earlier this week. I still like Moore.
High Risk/Reward Receiver Week 12 Pick
Collin Johnson, Jaguars vs. Browns (DK $3000, FD $4600)
To call Johnson a boom-or-bust option is an insult to that expression. But just pesos above the minimum price, he does provide huge profit potential at a likely minimal ownership rate. For one, most want nothing to do with the Jacksonville passing game, especially if it does not include DJ Chark Jr. Chark has already been ruled out for this game, along with the next WR up Chris Conley.
Laviska Shenault might not play either, which suddenly thrusts Johnson into Jacksonville's WR2 slot. Johnson has always had the skill set to be a top WR, but it's his durability that has been a question. He has great hands (only 11 drops amongst his 306 career targets while at the University of Texas) and a big-bodied frame that makes him a great red-zone target. He's seen limited action this year, but in the one game that he played and saw more than three targets he did score.
The Browns have given up the 10th-most fantasy points to wide receivers, due in part to 41 red-zone targets faced, the most in the league by a large margin as the next most for a team is 35. The Jags' passing game, especially with Mike Glennon under center, is extremely risky, but I will have a few shares of Johnson as I do expect him to score and produce double-digit fantasy points, making him an incredible value play.
Safe Tight End Week 12 Pick
Darren Waller, Raiders at Falcons (DK $6000, FD $7100)
Waller is an easy and obvious pick this week. Last Sunday. he caught all seven of his targets for 88 yards and a TD. Of course, Waller scoring should be of little surprise as he leads the NFL with 17 red-zone targets and happens to account for more than 35 percent of those for the Raiders. I will repeat again that the Falcons are the most generous in giving up fantasy points to TEs this year.
But I read a stat earlier this week that was even more telling. Do you recall how bad Arizona was versus opposing TEs last season? Opposing TEs notched 2.39 PPR points per target versus the Cardinals. Through 10 games the Falcons have allowed 2.46 PPR points per target. Case closed.
High Risk/Reward Tight End Week 12 Pick
Jonnu Smith, Titans at Colts (DK $4100, FD $6000)
Smith is once again a top-five fantasy football tight end. So his low DK salary sort of jumps out. What might seem like a head-scratcher suddenly makes sense when you realize he hasn't exceeded more than 32 receiving yards since Week 5. However, he has scored three touchdowns over the last three weeks, making him a tailor-made option for this category, perfect for a GPP entry.
Safe Defense/Special Teams (DST) Week 12 Pick
Dolphins at Jets (DK $4200, FD $5000)
It's been a you-know-what kind of week. Forgive me, but I'm taking the easy way out on this one. Yes, we're back to the "whoever is playing the Jets" and for Week 12 that's the Dolphins. I welcome your criticism.
High Risk/Reward Defense/Special Teams (DST) Week 12 Pick
Rams vs. 49ers (DK $3700, FD $4500)
I couldn't remember how this defense did last time these two teams squared off earlier this season. I figured it was pretty good. Do you remember? Care to guess?
No, really. Guess. C'mon.
Fine, I'll tell you. It was a big fat zero! The Rams gave up 24 points to San Fran and didn't notch one interception, one fumble, not even one measly sack. So there's some risk here. But I'm going to bet against that happening again. The Rams are a better real-life defense than they are fantasy defense. But that's subjective. But I'm more than willing to take a chance on a team that has allowed the fewest TD passes, is tied for the sixth-most INTs, tied for the fourth-most sacks, and has allowed the seventh-fewest rushing TDs.
— Written by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.
(Top photo by Alika Jenner/Atlanta Falcons, courtesy of atlantafalcons.com)