There is a lot to keep track of this week. A short work week, travel, seeing your family, eating copious amounts of food, not killing your family, and responsibly partaking in the beverage of your choice. But amidst all that chaos, don’t forget about your fantasy team, because Week 12 can be one of the more influential weeks of the season. We’re done with byes, so all 32 teams have games this week, and you can drop “bye week fillers” for the best player available. Games also start early on Thursday, so setting your lineup and handling potentially injured players can be tricky. And finally, given where we are in the season, this is a must win game for any team that is not eliminated. So enjoy yourself this week, but not at the expense of a playoff spot or a potential bye.
Here’s what I’m thankful for heading into Week 12:
J.J. Watt – He was the first IDP taken in most leagues, and I’ll go out on a limb and say that he hasn’t been dropped in any league. But he has had 4 games this year with 6 points or less, which is not the usual dominance we’ve come to expect from Watt. He re-established his dominance on Sunday with an 8 tackle, 2 sack performance against the Jets, and he very nearly caught a TD pass. Not just any pass, but a fade in the corner of the endzone. There’s literally nothing that he can’t do, and he gets to face three top 10 matchups over the playoff weeks. If you’re facing Watt in fantasy or reality from Weeks 14-16, I’m truly sorry.
Charles Johnson – The Panthers have officially activated Johnson, giving an undefeated team another weapon as they move towards the stretch run. Johnson wasn’t exactly lighting up the stat sheet before he got hurt, and with a Thursday game, my hopes are not high for IDP relevance this week. However, Johnson is joining a defense that now has Jared Allen, and is experiencing breakouts from Kawann Short and Kony Ealy, so opposing offenses won’t be able to key on him nearly as much as they were in Weeks 1-3. Assuming he’s not owned after a long absence, I would pick him up now, but probably wait until next week to actually start him.
Kelvin Sheppard – The Dolphins’ LB situation has been an unreliable mess all year. Jelani Jenkins was the incumbent starter after a breakout 2014, but he has alternately been injured and disappointing. Koa Misi showed signs of life for the first time in his career, but didn’t play a snap on Sunday with an injury, despite being active (What’s the opposite of a healthy scratch? An injured itch? We need a term for this). That leaves Sheppard, who was a top IDP prospect a few years ago, only to fizzle out of Buffalo and Indy with only one relevant season. Sheppard had a whopping 15 tackles on Sunday, and figures to be the lone healthy LB on the roster again this week, even if Misi and/or Jenkins return. I don’t love the matchup, but the price tag could not be lower for a one week flier.
Eric Kendricks – After missing two games, Kendricks returned and put up 7 tackles last week, sending Chad Greenway back to the bench on third downs. Kendricks has had a solid rookie year, and looks to be an IDP stud for years to come, but he has had a glaring lack of big plays in the passing game. Anthony Barr remains a better pass defender, but if Kendricks can start accumulating some tipped passes and interceptions, his ceiling is extremely high. If someone dropped him due to the rib injury, he’s got a great matchup this week and is a LB2 for the rest of the season.
Walter Thurmond – Philly’s secondary has quietly had a solid year at DB in IDP leagues. Led by Malcolm Jenkins and Nolan Carroll, they aren’t really effective in reality, but they do put up a lot of tackles and other IDP goodness. The third man in line has been Thurmond, who has put up about 5 tackles per game, but has only really been startable when he gets a big play. The last two weeks he’s gotten a strip sack, and he gets a nice matchup with Matthew Stafford on Thanksgiving, so call it a hunch, but I have a feeling he gets another big play or two this week.
Bashaud Breeland – Don’t even get me started on DeAngelo Hall. Don’t do it! He was supposed to see an increased role last week after seeing only 17 snaps in his first game back from injury. Instead, he saw a whopping six snaps and put up zero stats, much to the dismay of his owners. While it appears that Hall’s career as a viable IDP is quickly winding down, Breeland looks like a man on the rise. Similar to Hall, Breeland isn’t all that great at preventing guys from catching the ball. He does do a good job of tackling them once they catch the ball, and he has put up 8 or more tackles in 4 of his last 6 games. With a good matchup against the Giants, I like Breeland as a low end DB2 this week.