Underdog Battle Royale Picks: Week 12
It was an interesting Week 11 in the NFL, particularly for my picks who couldn't have had a more up and down week.
Justin Fields went back to his old ways of struggling against the Ravens and then suffered what appears to be broken ribs. That gave way to Andy Dalton to have a decent day in limited action (16.04 points). Russell Wilson struggled to the tune of 8.5 fantasy points after the hope was he would be a solid pivot of popular picks like Patrick Mahomes and Dak Prescott, but even they struggled on the week, scoring 7.5 and 2.6 points respectively.
Of course, if you drafted one of either Trevor Siemian, Colt McCoy, Taylor Heinicke or Joe Flacco, then you enjoyed a rather productive day at the quarterback position, as they all finished top-12 in a week that was particularly gross for quarterbacks.
CeeDee Lamb went down with a concussion and finished with only 2.9 fantasy points, and DeAndre Hopkins, after believing earlier in the week that he might play, was ruled out for his third straight contest.
It's time to move on and forget a down week. Drowning our sorrows in turkey and gravy will help, but make sure you also have plenty of drinks set aside for when the Lions take the field.
It's Week 12 and Thanksgiving. Let's get it!
Week 12 Spread and Over/Under
- Indianapolis (+3) vs. Tampa Bay - O/U 51.5
- Denver (+2.5) vs. Los Angeles Chargers - O/U 48
- San Francisco (-3.5) vs. Minnesota - O/U 48
- Green Bay (-1) vs. Los Angeles Rams - O/U 47.5
- Jacksonville (+1) vs. Atlanta - O/U 47
- New York Giants (+4) vs. Philadelphia - O/U 46
- Cincinnati (-4.5) vs. Pittsburgh - O/U 45
- New England (-1.5) vs. Tennessee - O/U 44.5
- Houston (-2.5) vs. New York Jets - O/U 44
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow has been in some kind of a funk these past two weeks. After a hot start to the season in which he was averaging more than two touchdown passes a game through the first eight weeks, Burrow has thrown just one touchdown in his last two games while turning the ball over three times.
He's averaged just 9.3 fantasy points per game over that span, but now he gets a Steelers defense that is a middling 18th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Burrow faced the Steelers in Week 3, in a game the Bengals won 24-10. While he only threw for 172 yards in the game, Burrow managed to also throw for three scores and finished the day with 18.58 fantasy points.
The Steelers are allowing 240.7 passing yards per game and 1.50 touchdown passes per game. Anchored to an elite receiving corps that features Ja'Marr Chase (47/867/8) and Tee Higgins (37/446/2), Burrow could be in line for a much-needed bounce-back day at home against Pittsburgh.
Our rankings project Burrow as the 11th overall quarterback on the weekend with 17.1 points. We also project him as having the fifth easiest matchups for quarterbacks on the weekend.
Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts
The Buccaneers are allowing the 15th most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, and Wentz has played surprisingly well for a guy whose stay was worn out in Philadelphia.
Despite being known as a turnover-prone quarterback, Wentz has only six turnovers on the season and three interceptions to 18 touchdown passes. The gamble on Wentz is that the Colts appear plenty fine with pounding the ball with Jonathan Taylor, as Wentz has thrown just one touchdown pass in the last two weeks. The Colts won both of those games, but even in a blowout win against Buffalo last week, he was asked to throw just 20 times, while Taylor toted the rock 32 times for 185 yards and four touchdowns.
Indianapolis may need to lean a bit more on Wentz in this one, however, as the Colts are currently four-point underdogs to the Bucs. Tampa Bay is allowing 243.7 passing yards per game and 1.80 touchdown passes per game. Our rankings project Wentz as the overall QB14 on the weekend with 17.0 fantasy points. He doesn't come without risk, as he's projected to have the 11th most difficult matchup on the weekend, but in a game where the Colts are underdogs, and that is projected to be the highest-scoring of the slate, there could be an edge to had with grabbing Wentz late.
James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars' offense has been incredibly underwhelming under no. 1 overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence and newly-minted head coach Urban Meyer. With that being said, one of the lone bright spots in Jacksonville is James Robinson, who is the overall RB17 in fantasy points per game (14.2)
Robinson has five top-12 running back weeks on the season and is averaging 81.89 yards from scrimmage per game, along with 0.78 touchdowns per game.
Now, he gets what could be a generous matchup against a Falcons defense that is allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs and the eighth-most rushing yards per game (123.3).
Robinson shouldn't be difficult to acquire in your drafts, as the Underdogs ranking system projects him as the RB8 on the slate with 14.4 fantasy points. Our rankings project him slightly higher at 15.6 points, with 98.3 projected total yards.
Broncos Running Backs
I'm copping out of this one a bit by broadly suggesting either Bronco running back as a viable play for this week. Denver has split backfield touches all season between Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, but this should be treated as a buy-low situation in your drafts rather than as one to avoid.
Williams is averaging 65 yards from scrimmage per game to go with 12.7 touches per game, while Gordon is averaging 67.3 yards from scrimmage and 13.9 touches per game. Where the fantasy production differentiates is in touchdowns, as Gordon has seven on the season to Williams' two.
The reason either of these backs is worth the gamble is that this weekend they get a Chargers defense that is allowing a league-high 145.1 rushing yards per game, and the ninth most fantasy points to opposing running backs. Our rankings correctly reflect the split between Gordon and Williams, as we have them ranked as the 23rd and 24th best RBs on the weekend, with Gordon drawing the slightly higher ranking at 10.7 points (Williams is projected for 10.5).
If I'm throwing multiple lineups into the tournament, a steady dose of both backs would be worthwhile. However, if I'm only playing a handful of lineups, I'd go all or nothing on Gordon, given his touchdown totals and his overall red zone work on the season compared to Williams'.
Deebo Samuel, San Francisco 49ers
Not many players have blown the cover off the 2021 season quite as Deebo Samuel has. Now enjoying a clean bill of health, Samuel has gone for 955 receiving yards on the season and five touchdowns on 55 receptions and has also rushed 19 times for 137 yards and three touchdowns.
Last weekend against the Jaguars, Samuel was used as an extension of the running game with running back Elijah Mitchell out, as he led the 49ers with 79 rushing yards on eight carries and found the end zone for his second straight game with a rushing touchdown.
This weekend, Samuel gets a chance to add to his impressive start against a Minnesota Vikings defense that is allowing the third-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and 251.9 passing yards per game (12th most).
In regards to wide receivers, the Vikings are surrendering 222.4 passing yards per game alone, which ranks as the most in the league, as Vikings cornerbacks have struggled all season long to contain the passing game.
Our rankings project Samuel as the WR2 on the weekend with 18.7 fantasy points, while Underdog's rankings have him as the WR3 with 15.1. Samuel has a 30% target share on the season that ranks third in the NFL, if he falls to you in the first round of drafts this week, I'm happy with scooping him up as often as I can.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mike Evans can't help but enjoy one productive fantasy week after another. Even in his down weeks, Evans tends to find a way to finish with a decent week, having finished as a top-24 receiver in six of his ten games this season.
Evans has scored a touchdown in each of his last four games, and which includes games in which he saw just three and four targets against the Saints and Football Team.
Last weekend against the Giants, Evans saw a team-high 11 targets and finished with a receiving line of 6/73/1 and 16.3 fantasy points. As previously mentioned, Sunday's game against the Colts is the highest projected total on the slate at 51.5. The Colts are also surrendering the fifth-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers, which could further strengthen the case for Evans in a high-scoring affair.
Evans is the projected WR6 on Underdog fantasy with 13.4 points. Our projections have Evans slated for 14.0 points on the weekend.
Kyle Pitts, Atlanta Falcons
Of the tight ends on this weekend's Battle Royale Slate, Pitts ranks second with a 20% target share (Kittle 23% target share). Pitts has gotten off to an elite start this season, going for 43 receptions for 635 yards and one touchdown. It's his lack of touchdowns that is really keeping Pitts from having a truly elite fantasy season, ranking as the overall TE7 with 9.1 fantasy points per game.
Jacksonville is allowing the 13th most fantasy points to opposing tight ends this season but is also allowing the 12th most receiving yards per game to the position (57.0).
Our rankings project Pitts as having the ninth easiest matchup in Week 12 and project him for 10.3 fantasy points.
Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers
Since Week 6, Freiermuth has averaged 7.2 targets per game to go with five receptions per game and 37.4 receiving yards. He has also averaged 10.6 fantasy points per game over that span (TE5) and is becoming a borderline must-start for fantasy managers who have him rostered.
Even in last week's underwhelming performance against the Chargers, in which he caught four passes for 11 yards and one touchdown, Freiermuth still finished with 9.1 fantasy points (TE12). Freiermuth still saw seven targets on the day, despite his low receiving totals, but could be in line for a boost in the coming week.
Fellow tight end Eric Ebron has been ruled out for an undisclosed period of time and could be underdoing knee surgery, which should only lead to an increase in opportunity for Freiermuth. Our rankings project Freiermuth as the overall TE12 on the weekend with 8.0 fantasy points.