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Why You Should Start Thomas Rawls and Other Start/Sit Fantasy Advice For Week 12

Thomas Rawls

Thomas Rawls

Hopefully your fantasy teams got off to a good start for Week 12 with the Thanksgiving Day games, but if not, there’s still time and plenty of games to go.

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This is the first week since Week 3 where all 32 teams are in action, which means that you there are still 13 games left and a full player pool at your disposal, with the exception of those who are injured, of course. And there are a lot of those.

But not having any teams on bye also can lead to some very tough roster decisions about who to start and who to sit.

Thankfully for you, you have come to the right place. This will be a shorter version of my usual start/sit columns because I’m going shopping.

Positional Rankings: QB I RB I WR I TE I DST I K I Flex

Start These Guys

Quarterbacks

Eli Manning, NYG (at CLE)

Don't let Ben Roethlisberger's ugly performance in last week's windy conditions make you forget that the Browns’ defense is one of the most generous to opposing quarterbacks. They are still 29th in the league in yards per pass attempt allowed (8.0) and have given up multiple TD passes in nine of 11 games. Manning has quietly turned in three consecutive top-12 fantasy QB performances, and this is a good spot for him to continue that trend.

Marcus Mariota, TEN (at CHI)

I have been rolling with Mariota for weeks, and I'm not jumping off the bandwagon ahead of Sunday’s home matchup in Chicago. The Bears have held one quarterback (Sam Bradford) to fewer than 17 fantasy points in their last four games, and Mariota has scored fewer than 19 points once in his last seven games. I'd consider him a must-start.

Running Backs

Thomas Rawls, SEA (at TB)

Making his first appearance since Week 2, Rawls looked fully healthy against the Eagles, as he flashed glimpses of last year's violent, downhill runner on his way to 88 total yards (57 rushing, 31 receiving) on 17 touches (14 carries, three receptions). With C.J. Prosise (shoulder) out for the foreseeable future, the backfield now belongs to Rawls. Volume plus talent makes him a must-start player in every league, even against a Bucs defense that hasn't given up a rushing touchdown to an RB since Week 7.

Spencer Ware, KC (at DEN)

Ware didn't put up a great stat line in last week's loss to the Buccaneers, but he continued to dominate the backfield snaps (77 percent) and touches (19). He also has a nice matchup ahead against the Broncos, who have allowed an average of more than 20 fantasy points per game to visiting running backs this season.

Wide Receivers

Rishard Matthews, TEN (at CHI)

After pulling in nine catches for 122 yards in Week 11, Matthews has now finished as the WR No. 4, WR No. 19 and WR No. 11 in the last three weeks. He continues to thrive under the red-hot play of Marcus Mariota, and now he gets to go up against a Bears secondary that is giving up the most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. Matthews looked like a bust at the start of the season, but he's a legitimate WR2, even during a full week.

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Jarvis Landry, MIA (vs. SF)

It’s going to be dink-and-dunk city against the weak (and getting weaker after injuries) 49ers secondary. Landry scored a touchdown in Week 11, which offset his Bad Landry™ game (5 rec. 28 yds.), but he could see far more volume and way more YAC against San Francisco. To put it into PPR perspective, he should have a very Julian Edelman-esque game. Edelman just put up 8-77-1 (on 17 targets in the rain!) against the 49ers, so they can be passed on.

Tight Ends

Zach Ertz, PHI (vs. GB, Mon.)

Tight end has been so fickle and unforgiving this season. Take last week, Martellus Bennett, with no Rob Gronkowski and Tom Brady coming off of a loss against the lowly 49ers, and he gets two targets? We get it, Bill. It was rainy and Bennett is a good blocker, but give us a taste. At least Ertz has officially become a thing after not being one for a long while. He has 26 targets over the last three weeks and has shown that he has Carson Wentz’s trust along with being healthy.

Dennis Pitta, BAL (vs. CIN)

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So, Pitta has been a disappointment event though he’s been getting a decent amount of targets. The double-digit days are long gone, and he’s left with 11 targets over the last two weeks, but at least he’s caught nine of those passes. He has yet to catch a TD pass this season, so something has to give, and it might against Cincinnati, which is giving up the second-most fantasy points to TEs.

Defense/Special Teams (DST)

Buffalo Bills (vs. JAC)

The Bills DST put up its best stat line since Week 5 against the Bengals, and an upcoming matchup with the Jaguars makes this unit a solid option. Opposing DSTs have averaged 11.5 fantasy points per game against turnover-prone quarterback Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville offense over the last month, so Buffalo should feast.

Sit These Guys

Quarterbacks

Jameis Winston, TB (vs. SEA)

Winston's been pretty good for the last several weeks, and he's rewarded fantasy owners with some solid stat lines. Unfortunately, it's going to be tough to trust him against the Seahawks... even in a home contest. Seattle has allowed an average of just 13.1 fantasy points per game to home quarterbacks, so Winston could struggle.

Andy Dalton, CIN (at BAL)

Having lost one of the best wide receivers in the game, Dalton’s stock is in the red for the reminder of the season. Rookie Tyler Boyd is an enticing young talent, however, it’s unreasonable to expect him to produce half of what Green is capable of. The Bengals’ season is fading, and it won’t get any easier when they travel to Baltimore to face the seventh-best pass defense in the league.

Running Backs

Jeremy Hill, CIN (at BAL)

In their past four games, the Ravens have held Matt Forte to 3.3 yards per carry, Le'Veon Bell to 2.3 yards per carry, Isaiah Crowell to 2.6 yards per carry and Ezekiel Elliott to 3.9 yards per carry. Hill may be looking at an increased role with Giovani Bernard done for the season (ACL), but on the road (where's he averaging 2.9 ypc) against arguably the most stout run defense in the league kills his upside.

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Latavius Murray, OAK (vs. CAR)

Since their Week 7 bye, the Panthers have been consistently slowing down talented running backs. David Johnson finished as the RB No. 21 in Week 8, Todd Gurley as the RB No. 19 in Week 9 and Spencer Ware as the RB No. 27 in Week 10. Tim Hightower turned in a top-10 effort last week, but this is still a stout run defense that is fourth in the league in yards per carry allowed (3.5). Considering they are near the opposite end of the spectrum against the pass (24th), this stands out as a game where the Raiders will attack heavily through the air.

Wide Receivers

Terrelle Pryor, CLE (vs. NYG)

Here are Pryor's weekly WR finishes over the last five games: 79th, 24th, 20th, 50th, 21st. He has certainly shown to have big-play upside, but over the last month-plus he's carrying a fairly underwhelming ceiling and pretty low floor. Moreover, he will have to deal with yet another quarterback change (Josh McCown is starting) in Week 12, while the Giants have been good at slowing down outside receivers.

Randall Cobb, GB (at PHI, Mon.)

Aaron Rodgers has been on fire, but it hasn't helped Cobb in the box score. In fact, he's failed to score more than 8.4 fantasy points in each of his last three games. Next up is a road matchup against the Eagles, who have allowed an average of just 21.1 fantasy points per game to wide receivers (and two touchdowns) on their home field.

Tight Ends

Travis Kelce, KC (at DEN)

It's difficult to sit a player like Kelce at a thin position, but his owners might want to temper expectations. He has yet to find the end zone in four career games against the Broncos, and averages just 5.2 fantasy points in those games. Denver has been tough on tight ends this season too, so Kelce could be in for a difficult Sunday night at the office.

Tyler Eifert, CIN (at BAL)

You may think that he’s about to become the No. 1 target in a decent offense, but his whole situation worries me. Can he carry this offense like an A.J. Green? Will defenses scheme to stop him and Jeremy Hill to let Boyd do his damage? What’s going to happen? Even with Green out at the beginning of the game, Eifert only saw six targets, catching three of them for 37 yards. He remains a red zone threat, but Baltimore this week and Philadelphia next week are not sexy matchups.

Defense/Special Teams (DST)

Carolina Panthers (at OAK)

Believe it or not, but the Panthers DST has scored more fantasy points (43) than every other NFL unit over the last four weeks. With that said, I still find it tough to trust them in a road matchup against Derek Carr and the Raiders. Defenses have put up an average of just two fantasy points per game against the Silver & Black. And don’t forget Carolina will likely be without All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly for this game (at minimum).

— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.