By Stephen Johnson–
(CBS) “Sit ‘Em, Start ‘Em” is a breakdown of some of the best and worst fantasy football matchups to help you navigate setting your lineups for the week.
With Week 12 behind us, Julio Jones owners are thankful for their first-round pick finally making the impact they’ve expected all season, while Kareem Hunt owners continue to scramble for answers with the postseason quickly approaching. This week marks the end of the regular season for many fantasy leagues, and there’s plenty of big matchups to exploit and avoid with seasons on the line.
START – Kirk Cousins, Redskins (at Cowboys) Playing in Dallas tends to bring out the best in Cousins, who will look to keep up his impressive averages of 312 yards and three touchdowns per game at AT&T Stadium. This matchup may also be the weakest defense Cousins has faced in this rivalry, as linebacker Sean Lee will miss his third consecutive game with a hamstring injury. Without Lee this year, the Cowboys’ points per game allowed balloons from 18 to 35 and opponent passer ratings skyrocket from 89.6 to 109.5.
SIT – Matthew Stafford, Lions (at Ravens) Baltimore’s defense has been lights out against opposing quarterbacks at home this season to the tune of a 3:9 touchdown-to-interception ratio in five games and just 8.2 fantasy points allowed per game. One of the biggest questions surrounding this matchup is the health of Stafford’s ankle after getting rolled up in a loss to Minnesota last Thursday. The Ravens’ pass rush has stepped up its game in recent weeks, leading to nine turnovers in their past three games. Should Stafford be hobbled, it may be a long day against a Ravens defense starting to peak as the playoff picture heats up.
START – Alex Collins, Ravens (vs. Lions) Reaching double-digits in fantasy points in three of the last four contests, Collins now faces a susceptible Detroit run defense that has allowed a top-eight running back in each of its last three games. Collins will look to hit paydirt in his third consecutive game this Sunday, and Detroit is reeling in that department by allowing a touchdown to running backs in six consecutive games and eight touchdowns overall in that span.
SIT – Lamar Miller, Texans (at Titans) Banged up and coming off a short week, Miller and the Texans head to Nashville to take on a Titans team among the stingiest at stopping the run. Allowing only 74 yards per game to running backs this season, Tennessee has only gotten better over the past month, shaving 13 yards off its average in its last four games. Meanwhile, Houston’s offensive line has shown issues of its own as the yards before contact has continued its downward trend, now at the fifth-worst rate in the league. Miller’s underachieving stats haven’t gone unnoticed either. Among eligible running backs, Miller has the second-fewest yards after first contact in the league.
START – Cooper Kupp, Rams (at Cardinals) Since Robert Woods exited stage left with a shoulder injury, it’s been all eyes on Kupp and for good reason. Coming off a career-best 116-yard receiving day on eight catches, Kupp will look to continue his impressive play against a Cardinals secondary that has had its trouble outside of Patrick Peterson’s weekly shadow coverage. With Sammy Watkins in Peterson’s crosshairs, it will be up to the 24-year-old Kupp to exploit a defense that has been carved up by slot receivers this season, including Kupp himself when he went for 51 yards and a touchdown in their Week 7 tilt.
SIT – Jarvis Landry, Dolphins (vs. Broncos) You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better slot cornerback in the NFL than Chris Harris Jr., Landry’s main opposition this weekend. Only one slot receiver has reached double-digit PPR points against the Broncos this season — in Week 1 when Keenan Allen scored 14.5 points. Landry routinely averages double-digit targets per game, but Harris’ game has been about limiting those opportunities by allowing a catch on just 57 percent of targets thrown his way and allowing a miniscule 0.18 fantasy points per route covered, which is the eighth-lowest average among all cornerbacks.
START – Jared Cook, Raiders (vs. Giants) No Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper means there will be plenty of targets to go around in Oakland’s passing game this Sunday. Enter Cook, who gets the opportunity to increase his target share against the worst fantasy defense against tight ends in the Giants. Allowing the most touchdowns to the position with 10, New York continues to struggle with personnel on defense with cornerback Janoris Jenkins getting placed on injured reserve and outside linebacker Jonathan Casillas in danger of missing the game with wrist and neck injuries.
SIT – Austin Hooper, Falcons (at Vikings) Minnesota’s vice grip on limiting opposing tight ends continued against Detroit last Thursday. The Vikings have allowed just 3.2 standard fantasy points per game to the position over the last six weeks. Hooper’s target share has hovered around six per game over the past month, but his inability to cash in on those opportunities has him as a desperation option in Week 13. In his last two contests, Hooper has totaled a combined five catches for 37 yards and no touchdowns.
Stephen Johnson is 670 The Score’s 2017 Fantasy Football Expert winner. He’s a weekly guest on “Chicago’s Fantasy Football Today,” every Sunday morning during football season from 8.a.m.-9 a.m. CT on WSCR-670 and 670thescore.com/listen. Follow him on Twitter @Stephen_Roto.