Week Twelve, Thanksgiving week, stands out as a unique week because no teams are on bye. This increases the menu size for picks but creates more lines to weed through for the value. There should be more opportunities but finding where angles are not baked in can be more cumbersome when breaking down larger slates. Opportunities abound this week, but focusing on the few with the most potential should create the most value for one's self.
Cincinnati @ Tennessee
Year over year, the Titans continue to rise above other AFC South teams by Thanksgiving. The Titans lead the division by three wins. Conversely, the Bengals are scrapping their way to playoff contention once again. They enter week 12 at 6-4 after a slow start to the season. Every game is critical for the Bengals if they want to maintain the hope of winning the division and hosting a playoff game.
The Bengals have been one of the more flexible teams with their offensive approach this year. Two weeks ago, Joe Burrow threw for 200 yards while Joe Mixon punched in four rushing touchdowns. Then last week, Burrow threw four touchdowns, and Samaje Perine led the team with 30 rushing yards. The Bengals do not hesitate to focus on the facet of the game they find to work in any given week. With Joe Mixon potentially missing this game, the Bengals will likely look towards the air to begin this game.
Ja’Marr Chase will attempt to come back from injury against the Titans. After a historic rookie season, Chase has continued the remarkable start to his career. Chase has three games with over 100 yards and has the 12th-highest target share of any player on the season. Chase’s receiver mate, Tee Higgins, has averaged 2.33 yards per route run. These playmakers have strong cases to be top 10 receivers in the NFL. Chase’s preeminence can mask Higgins’s ability, as people focus on Chase as the more impressive player in the offense.
The Titans will avoid passing as much as possible, instead letting Derrick Henry carry the load. If they fall behind, this could dismantle their game plan. As discussed in a previous edition of “Fantasy Faceoff,” the Titans are one of the NFL’s best scripted teams. This success early in the game often allows them to stick to playing their way. If pushed to pass the ball, the Titans will be elated to have Treylon Burks lead the receivers. Last week he returned from injury and emerged with a 100+ yard receiving game. Beyond the unknown upside of Burks, the Titans’ passing game offers little explosive power. One other rookie has provided jolts at times. Chig Okonkwo has operated in a limited role but has generated chunk gains. Okonkwo has 3+ yards per route run, trailing only Tyreek Hill.
The Bengal’s defense could also aid the Titans as they give up one of the higher expected points added per rush in the league. The success rate they allow is close to average, so they perform around average most of the time but allow significant plays on the ground. Derrick Henry will look to take advantage of these shortcomings. The Titans’ defense has been middle of the league through the air but has one of the stoutest fronts against the run game. They allow a successful run on 31.3% of rushing attempts, the lowest in the league. Sticking to the air is the best course of action for the Bengals on Sunday.
Since Lamar Jackson’s scorching start to the season, he has regressed significantly. After week three, Jackson has only one game with two or more passing touchdowns and one game over 210 passing yards. He has the potential for a blowup at any moment, but the mean performance looks much lower than we previously would have thought.
Tyreek Hill is a matchup problem against any defense, never mind against the Texans. Hill leads the league in yards per route run and six games of 12 or more targets. While fantasy players should view Hill as the WR1, other receivers like Chase, Adams and Diggs are still within shouting distance of him.
Back the Bengals passing game this week with Joe Burrow (+1.5) over Lamar Jackson and Ja’Marr Chase (+5) over Tyreek Hill.
Baltimore @ Jacksonville
Record-wise, the Jaguars look like the same typical team. Surprisingly, the Jaguars' point differential is +11, higher than the Titans’. They have lost an unlucky number of close games and have the underlying metrics of a much better team. They look to show turn around the season against the Ravens in week 12. The Ravens lead the Bengals in the race for the AFC North. The Ravens won their last four games but showed signs of weakness. Last week, they struggled to get by the lowly Panthers, who fired their coach a couple of weeks ago. If the Ravens want to keep this streak up, they must immediately step up their level of play.
The Ravens have been pass-rate neutral this year. The Ravens’ pass tendencies have undoubtedly shaded toward the run more recently, as Mark Andrews and Rashod Bateman were unavailable. Unlikely figures have been popping up for the Ravens. Last week, Demarcus Robinson led the team in receiving. Mark Andrews returned last week with 63 receiving yards. He will serve as the focal point of the passing attack going forward, with a hodgepodge of receivers filling in behind him.
Over the offseason, the Jaguars were critiqued for their Christian Kirk signing. Unequivocally, Kirk has provided for the Jaguars. Kirk has commanded a 25% target share, averaged over 2 yards per route run and caught seven touchdowns. Alongside Kirk, the talent remains limited, but Travis Etienne has ascended into a preeminent back over the last month. The Jaguars started the season with James Robinson as the lead back but have since traded him and utterly fed Etienne. Over the last month, Etienne has averaged over 100 yards on the ground and a touchdown per game. His use in the passing game should also entice fantasy backers, as he can be game script agnostic.
The Ravens’ defense started the year poorly but has gotten back on track. They do not rate as one of the more menacing matchups in the NFL, but they are respectable. As the charts above show, both defenses are middling in defending the pass and run game. The Jaguars have spent considerable draft capital on linebackers, so maybe one can somewhat slow Mark Andrews.
Travis Kelce has been the unabashed TE1 for the season. In recent weeks, variance has certainly assisted his greatness. Three touchdown games should not be an expectation for anyone, but these dominant performances have pushed Kelce’s projections even higher. Pitting Andrews (+4) against Kelce gives a good amount of cushion to the only other premier tight end.
Similar to Etienne, Kenneth Walker has climbed the depth chart, albeit for other reasons. Walker finds himself as the lead back for a surprisingly plucky Seahawks team. They enter week 12 as favorites over the putrid Las Vegas Raiders. Over the last five games, Walker has 18+ rushes in all but one, the only loss in that stretch. The Seahawks should be competitive and continue to feed Walker. Walker is spotting two points to Etienne, so I’ll side with the points.
Take Mark Andrews (+4) over Travis Kelce and Travis Etienne (+2) over Kenneth Walker when Baltimore visits Jacksonville.
Last week had highs and lows. Barkley never stood a chance as the Lions bottled up the Giants' run game. Also, the Eagles’ run of excellence has sputtered recently, so the Colts could rely on Taylor more than expected. Amon-Ra St. Brown's usage continued to impress. Despite Diggs’s touchdown, Amon-Ra’s volume pushed him over the top of Diggs.
The second game broke in a positive way for last week’s picks. Montgomery saw much more volume than Patterson on the ground and through the air. Even with a kickoff return touchdown, Montgomery outperformed Patterson handily. Unfortunately, Kyle Pitts got injured and subsequently lost to Kmet. He fell short by less than a point.
This week we look to get back to a winning outcome. Hopefully, no injuries or unexpected events throw a wrench into this plan. Agree or disagree with my picks, join me in the TopProp streets this week, where you can put your money where your mouth is.
Looking for more fantasy football content or discourse, follow me on Twitter @FeilNarley.
TPRR is courtesy of the 33rd Team and Sports Info Solutions and success rate data is from rbsdm.com.