Note: Sleeper alert focuses on players who aren't considered regular starters but have favorable matchups and could produce at a high level. Owners beware focuses on prominent players with unfavorable matchups who could fail to meet statistical expectations.
START OF THE WEEK
Brett Favre, QB, Green Bay: Favre has been an absolute stud for fantasy football owners this season, and that should continue Thursday in Detroit. The Lions rank 30th against the pass and have allowed 17 passing touchdowns, which is the fourth-most in the NFL, and their defense has been much closer to lambs than lions on Thanksgiving. The past three quarterbacks to face them on the holiday have combined to throw for 595 yards and 11 touchdown passes. The Packers should score a ton of points, so look for Favre to record an impressive stat line.
QUARTERBACKS: START 'EM
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seattle: Hasselbeck has quietly put together some serious stat lines in recent weeks. The consistent veteran threw for 337 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-23 win over the Bears, and he now has thrown for at least two scores in each of his past five starts and in six of his past seven. Hasselbeck's statistical success should continue in Week 12, when he heads to St. Louis. He has thrown for 1,022 yards and eight touchdowns in his past five starts against the Rams, so Hasselbeck should be active in all fantasy football formats this week.
Sleeper alert: Vinny Testaverde vs. New Orleans.
QUARTERBACKS: SIT 'EM
Philip Rivers, San Diego: Rivers has already thrown more interceptions after 11 weeks than he had all of last season, and he's tossed one touchdown pass or less in four of his past five starts. That sort of production (or lack thereof) has made Rivers a real risk for fantasy football owners, and this week's matchup against Baltimore is far less than favorable. The Ravens rank 12th in the NFL against the pass and have allowed an average of fewer than 170 passing yards per game on the road, so Rivers could be in for another hard week in this AFC clash.
Daunte Culpepper, Oakland: Culpepper had some nice numbers in last week's loss to Minnesota, as he threw for 344 yards and one touchdown against his former team. Despite that success, however, the veteran quarterback should still not be considered a viable option in Week 12. Culpepper faces a far more difficult matchup in Kansas City, where he'll face a Chiefs defense that has allowed a mere nine passing touchdowns and held Peyton Manning to no scores last week, so this could be one of those weeks where Culpepper throws more interceptions than touchdowns.
Owners beware: Drew Brees at Carolina.
RUNNING BACKS: START 'EM
Willie Parker, Pittsburgh: Fast Willie was a serious disappointment in last week's loss to the Jets, as he rushed for 52 yards on 21 carries (2.5 YPC) and failed to find the end zone for the eighth time in 10 starts. His fortunes should be altered in Week 12, however, when the veteran back faces the winless Miami Dolphins at Heinz Field. The Fish rank 30th in the league against the run, and opponents have averaged close to 160 rushing yards per game against them on the road. This could be a one-sided affair in Pittsburgh, so look for Parker to make some noise.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville: Jones-Drew hasn't been consistent at all this season, but he's still on pace to finish with close to 1,300 all-purpose yards and 10 total touchdowns based on his current numbers. He should improve on those totals in Week 12, as the smallish runner out of U.C.L.A. faces a Buffalo defense that ranks 20th in the league against the run. The Bills have allowed an average of over 150 rushing yards per game on the road, so look for the Jaguars to exploit that obvious weakness with lots of Jones-Drew in their offensive attack.
Sleeper alert: Maurice Morris at St. Louis.
RUNNING BACKS: SIT 'EM
Frank Gore, San Francisco: It's difficult to reserve a first-round runner this season based on the number of injuries at the position, but fantasy owners who have depth in their backfield should consider the move. Gore seems to be at less than 100 percent, as he with a mere 63 all-purpose yards in last week's 13-9 loss to St. Louis. Gore also failed to find the end zone for the seventh consecutive game. He has gone from fantasy hero to fantasy zero in less than one season, and he's a risk-reward (more risk) No. 2 back against a hardened Arizona run defense.
Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati: Johnson could use some words of encouragement from Sean Astin, who starred as Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger on the movie screen, but the veteran runner is in a serious rut. He rushed for 25 yards on eight carries in last week's loss to Arizona and once again lost carries to Kenny Watson. It's hard to know which back will see more carries each week, but regardless, Johnson's fantasy value has taken a notable turn for the worse. What's more, a matchup against a Tennessee defense that ranks 4th against the run makes him even less attractive.
More running backs with unfavorable matchups: Jesse Chatman at Pittsburgh, Warrick Dunn vs. Indianapolis, Justin Fargas at Kansas City, Laurence Maroney vs. Philadelphia, Anthony Thomas at Jacksonville.
Owners beware: Kevin Jones vs. Green Bay.
WIDE RECEIVERS: START 'EM
Andre Johnson, Houston: The return of Johnson will be an absolute godsend for fantasy owners. He hauled in six catches for 120 yards and one touchdown in a win over New Orleans and has 20 catches for 382 yards and four touchdowns in his three starts. Projected over a full season, the former Miami standout would produce an incredible 2,037 yards and 21 touchdowns. His tremendous success should continue this week in Cleveland, where he'll face a Browns defense that ranks 31st against the pass and has surrendered a league worst 22 receiving touchdowns on the season.
Steve Smith, Carolina: Fantasy owners need to keep tabs on the status of Smith, who missed last week's loss to the Packers with an injured shin. He's expected to return in Week 12, and if he does he should be considered a nice starter. Smith has been a disappointment overall, but it's hard not to like him against a New Orleans defense that ranks 29th against the pass and has allowed 17 receiving touchdowns -- that's the fourth-most in the NFL. It's also a positive that Vinny Testaverde, not David Carr, will be under center, so start Smith if he's in fact active.
Sleeper alert: Justin Gage at Cincinnati.
WIDE RECEIVERS: SIT 'EM
Santana Moss, Washington: Moss broke out of a season-long rut in last week's loss to Dallas, as he caught nine passes for 121 yards and hauled in his first touchdown pass. He now warrants greater consideration in terms of a roster spot in all leagues, but Moss is not an attractive option this week in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers rank an impressive third in the league against the pass, and their defensive backfield has surrendered a mere six receiving touchdowns all season. Unless you're desperate for a third wideout in a larger format, Moss should be on the sidelines.
Lee Evans, Buffalo: Evans has been hot and cold all season, and he's in the midst of another frigid stretch. After consecutive 130-plus yard, one-touchdown performances, Evans has totaled eight catches for 105 yards and no touchdowns in his past two starts. That lack of production could continue this week in Jacksonville, where he'll face a Jaguars defense that is hard to penetrate at home. They've allowed an average of fewer than 17 points per game and have not allowed a wide receiver to score on their home field, so Evans could be in for a difficult afternoon.
Owners beware: Chad Johnson vs. Tennessee.
TIGHT ENDS: START 'EM
Kellen Winslow, Cleveland: Winslow is one of the most productive tight ends in fantasy football. The former Miami Hurricane is on pace to record 83 receptions, 1,227 yards and close to seven touchdowns based on his current totals, and it's hard not to love him this week against Houston. The Texans do rank 13th in the league against the pass, but tight ends have averaged close to five catches against them on the season. Winslow will be a prominent option for Derek Anderson in what could be a shootout, so look for him to make some serious statistical noise.
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh: One of the more underrated tight ends in the NFL and fantasy football, Evans is on pace to record career bests across the board in his first season under offensive coordinator Bruce Arians. His success should continue this week against Miami, which is still looking for its first win and has surrendered 15 receiving touchdowns on the season. In his last start against the Fish, Miller recorded three catches for 101 yards and one touchdown in a 28-17 win. This could be a blowout at Heinz Field, so Miller's chances for success are high indeed.
More tight ends with favorable matchups: Owen Daniels at Cleveland, Todd Heap* at San Diego, Donald Lee at Detroit, Jeremy Shockey vs. Minnesota.
Sleeper alert: Greg Olsen vs. Denver.
TIGHT ENDS: SIT 'EM
Alge Crumpler, Atlanta: Crumpler is in the middle of what could be the most difficult season of his career. He missed time with ankle and knee injuries, and the loss of Michael Vick seems to have drained him of a lot of his value of production. Outside of a 30-yard touchdown catch against Carolina, Crumpler has seven catches for 50 yards and no touchdowns in his past four starts. Based on those numbers and a matchup on Thanksgiving night (8 p.m., NFL Network) against an Indianapolis defense that ranks second against the pass, Crumpler should be reserved.
Vernon Davis, San Francisco: Davis has been a far more reliable tight end for owners in recent weeks, but he could fail to produce an attractive stat line in Week 12. The former Maryland standout heads to Arizona to face the Cardinals, who have one of the more underrated defensive units in the NFL. The Cards rank 10th against the pass and have been beaten for a modest 11 receiving touchdowns, and they've allowed an average of just 2.2 receptions to tight ends on the season. Davis will be active in a lot of leagues, but don't be shocked if his stat line is unimpressive.
More tight end with unfavorable matchups: Eric Johnson at Carolina, Randy McMichael vs. Seattle, Alex Smith vs. Washington, L.J. Smith at New England.
Owners beware: Chris Cooley at Tampa Bay.
KICKERS: START 'EM
Stephen Gostkowski, New England: Gostkowski has developed into a nice No. 1 fantasy kicker this season, as he ranks seventh at the position on NFL.com and ahead of former Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri (12th). He should continue to post solid numbers for owners in Week 12, as he faces a Philadelphia defense that has allowed 19 field-goal conversions (tied for fourth-most in the NFL) on the season. The Patriots will move the football with ease on the Eagles, so look for Gostkowski to see more than his share of chance to score in this rematch of Super Bowl XXXIX.
Rob Bironas, Tennessee: Bironas has had one heckuva 2007 season, as he owns the NFL record for field goals in a single game after an eight-conversion performance in a win over Houston back in Week 7. Also the most productive kicker on NFL.com after 11 weeks, Bironas should have more than his share of opportunities this week in Cincinnati against a Bengals defense that has allowed 18 field-goal conversions (tied for sixth-most in the NFL). This could be a real shootout, so look for Bironas to post a solid stat line in this important AFC contest.
Sleeper alert: Sebastian Janikowski at Kansas City.
KICKERS: SIT 'EM
David Akers, Philadelphia: Akers has seen his numbers fall hard in recent weeks, as he's scored a total of 13 fantasy points on NFL.com in his past three starts. That lack of success could continue to haunt him this week, as he faces a New England defense that is tied for second in the league for the fewest field-goal conversions allowed with a total of seven. If the past is an indication, the P-Men should dominate this contest and leave little reason for the Eagles to attempt field goals. That makes the veteran Akers a real risk for fantasy owners.
Matt Stover, Baltimore: Stover ranks in the top 10 in points among kickers on NFL.com, so he'll be active in a lot of leagues this week. However, it wouldn't be a shock to see the veteran out of Louisiana Tech struggle in an AFC battle against San Diego. The Chargers have been inconsistent on defense, but this unit has still surrendered a mere eight field-goal conversions (tied for fifth-fewest in the NFL) on the season. This could become a defensive battle in Southern California, so Stover's chances for immense fantasy success seem to be slim.
Owners beware: Mason Crosby at Detroit.
DEFENSES: START 'EM
Pittsburgh defense: The Steelers will be fired up at home after a bad loss to the Jets in Week 11, and they'll take out their frustrations on rookie quarterback John Beck and the winless Dolphins. Look for the Steel Curtain to dominate this AFC contest and post a monster stat line for fantasy footballers.
Dallas defense: It's hard not to like the like Cowboys this week against Kellen Clemens and a Jets offense that could be without its top wideout in Laveranues Coles. The Polks should get to Clemens on a consistent basis in this contest, and that's good news for their chances for tremendous fantasy production.
More defenses with favorable matchups: Denver defense at Chicago, Kansas City defense vs. Oakland, New England defense vs. Philadelphia, New York Giants vs. Minnesota.
Sleeper alert: Arizona defense vs. San Francisco.
DEFENSES: SIT 'EM
Tennessee defense: The Titans will have more value if DT Albert Haynesworth returns, but overall this unit is a less-than-attractive option on the road against Carson Palmer, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and a Bengals offense that has averaged close to 24 points per game on its home field.
Detroit defense: The Lions defense has taken a holiday in recent Thanksgiving Day contests, so the presence of Favre, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and an explosive Green Bay offense that averages close to 30 points per game on the road could mean a very porous week of fantasy production.
More defenses with unfavorable matchups: Buffalo defense at Jacksonville, Houston defense at Cleveland, Miami defense at Pittsburgh, St. Louis defense vs. Seattle.
Owners beware: Philadelphia defense at New England.