Welcome to the Daily Fantasy Roundup where we'll cover every inch of what you need to set a great daily lineup every week. If you've been following this column all year, you should be absolutely pumped for Week 12.
Week 12 sets up for an interesting slate. With three games already completed on Thanksgiving, and injuries bringing some value play running backs into focus, we have a clear focus in week 12. With the three top receivers all in excellent spots this week, you'll notice the main goal of this column is all revolving on how to gain the flexibility needed to squeeze one or even two of them into your lineups.
With that being said, there are a number of plays, DFS theory concepts and matchups I'm excited to exploit this week. Let's get after it.
Top quarterback plays
Eli Manning - Rather quietly, Eli Manning is having the strong season many expected from him, albeit coming with some volatility. The Giants starter currently ranks inside the top 10 in FanDuel points scored for the season. Washington ranks 22nd in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and carries a 20-6 touchdown to interception ratio. Complicating matters: Washington just lost Chris Culiver for the season to a torn ACL. This is a strong week for the Eli Manning/Odell Beckham stack to go nuclear.
Brian Hoyer - Everyone's favorite value quarterback this week, Hoyer is sure to be a popular play this Sunday. In his second stint as Houston's starter, Hoyer averaged 19.92 fantasy points in the five games before he left the Texans' Week 10 Monday night win early with a concussion. In Week 12, he draws the Saints historically bad pass defense that ranked 31st in yards allowed and 32nd in touchdown rate prior to their Week 10 bye. New Orleans allowed the all-star duo of Kirk Cousins and Marcus Mariota to combine for eight touchdowns in back-to-back weeks. In this spot, Hoyer has around a safe 15-point floor with top-five DFS scoring quarterback upside in Week 12. The Hoyer/DeAndre Hopkins stack is the chalk this week, but it earns that status for good reason.
Top running back plays
Note: in order to get up to some of these high-end wideouts, I'll only personally be shooting for bargain running backs. There are plays in the mid to high-end range, and feel free to use them, but I think the best lineup construction lies with targeting some of these surprising starting running backs.
Chris Ivory - The Jets starting running back has been downright bad for fantasy the last few weeks, save for a few goal line touchdowns. However, this game sets up for massive rebound for him. The Dolphins allow the second most fantasy points to running backs, and allowed three players, in Darren McFadden, LeSean McCoy and Karlos Williams, to rush for over 100 yards against them in a two week span. Ivory should be as healthy as ever, after only seeing nine touches last week. The Jets should move the ball well in this one and set him up in the red zone. The public will be off of Ivory after his slow stretch, but he's a great DFS option because of it this week.
Chris Johnson - The 49ers allowed 25 or more points to running backs in three of their last four games played, including 39.7 to Thomas Rawls and the Seahawks last week. Their defense performs markedly better at homes compared to on the road, so that may be a note of caution as the Cardinals play them in Santa Clara this week. However, Johnson averages 19 touches per game this season, and gets fed regardless of game script. If the 49ers have another lackluster effort game on defense, he could quietly sneak into the top-five among running back scorers.
T.J. Yeldon - The Chargers lap the field in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs, and give up over five yards per carry on the season. The Jaguars use Yeldon as a workhorse running back, as he averages 19.3 touches per game. Two realities from last week's game brings a note of positivity and pessimism. On the plus side, Yeldon looks fantastic. He's breaking tackles, running with vision and balance, and looks the part of a breakout running back. However, Jacksonville took him out of the offense in the red zone, which you have to hope was a one week fluke. Yet, the Jaguars offense operates and scores through the air, and Yeldon has only two total touchdowns all season. This matchup indicates Week 12 could be a changing of the tide, but the construction of the Jaguars offense at least cautions some hesitation from going all in.
Javorius Allen - With Matt Schaub at quarterback, this offense won't have the firepower for Allen to be much of a ceiling play. However, in formats where you're searching for a tangible floor. Per 4for4's T.J. Hernandez, Baltimore's running backs account for over 60 percent of the team's total touches, which is the seventh most in the NFL. Allen himself saw 27 touches last week when Forsett went down. Facing a Browns defense that is improving, but still struggles to defend the run, Allen makes for a good floor play.
Giovani Bernard - Somehow, he's still listed behind Jeremy Hill on DFS sites, despite clearly schooling his backfield mate in terms of play quality. In Week 11, Bernard accumulated 87.6 percent of his yards through the air, which may be a positive against the Rams. They allow two more fantasy points per game to running backs on the road anyways, but recall that in the big games ceded to backs it's been through the air (ie: Jeremy Langford). Bernard should see the bulk of the touches once again, and presents a more reliable option than Hill in a game where the Bengals should win and control the flow.
Thomas Rawls - The new Seattle starter is locked in as an RB1 in season long fantasy formats with Marshawn Lynch on the shelf until December. However, this may be a week to back off a little in DFS. The public will be all over him after his top-scoring week in his last game out. Especially given his value relative to workload and performance, he'll push Hopkins for the top owned player in Week 12. For that reason alone, he might be worth fading given that there are so many other appealing backs in that range. Even without that, Pittsburgh ranks second in fantasy points allowed to running backs and could keep Rawls south of a tournament-worthy ceiling. However, it's still worth sprinkling him in while he's at this value range to get some exposure.
Spencer Ware - Charcandrick West looks highly questionable for the game on Sunday, and Ware becomes the clear best value play if he sits out. Ware proved himself worthy of a big role relieving West in Week 11, and could legitimately see north of 25 touches on Sunday as West averaged in his three-game strong stretch. The Bills quietly allow 5.62 yards per touch, and gave up 10 touchdowns to running backs through the first 11 weeks of the season. Ware becomes the best value play on the Week 12 slate, and a must own if West sits.
Top wide receiver plays
Larry Fitzgerald and Allen Robinson - As mentioned, this is a good week to aim high at wide receiver. You can find the best plays at receiver in the other sections of this article, and the only two worth noting outside of them are Fitzgerald and Robinson. The Cardinals will thump the 49ers on the road, and their receivers should run wild through a poor secondary. We've seen that the best bankable production from the robust Cardinals passing game comes from Fitzgerald. Robinson is the best player on the Jaguars team, and their top scoring threat. Jacksonville should move the ball at will on San Diego, and even if Robinson has a tougher cornerback matchup against Jason Verrett, he'll be the primary benefactor if their offense goes off against what may be the NFL's worst defense.
Top tight end plays
Tyler Eifert - The Rams are really struggling to cover with their linebackers, as mentioned in the Bernard section, and they just gave up 101 yards to Crockett Gillmore and 107 and two touchdowns to Zach Miller in back-to-back weeks. Eifert is the best red zone weapon in the NFL this year and is in a great spot here.
Delanie Walker - He leads the Titans in targets, and is clearly the focal point of the passing offense. Marcus Mariota leaned on Walker throughout the season, and should once again do so on Sunday. The Raiders have had two near misses in touchdowns allowed to starting tight ends, but Kyle Rudolph and Eric Ebron couldn't hold on to the ball. Walker is a far superior player to both, and is the safest bet to score multiple times at the tight end spot.
Jimmy Graham - Yep, this feels pretty foolish to play Graham again after he missed out on last week's outlier game for the Seahawks passing offense. However, his value continues to tumble as a result, and now puts him in a range where he won't tank your lineup. The Steelers and Seahawks game could quietly be setting up for a shootout, and Pittsburgh ranks in the bottom five of fantasy points allowed to tight ends. This doesn't look good on paper, but whatever helps us get up to multiple players from the top three receivers.
Top defense plays
Jaguars DEF- There's some risk going down this far, especially with how many clear strong plays are above them. However, Jacksonville averages a cool 11.25 points the last four games, and gets a Chargers team coming from the west coast in complete disarray. As a good correlation stack with Yeldon, perhaps shifting down to the Jaguars DEF is what allows you to sneak multiple receivers from the Hopkins, Jones and Beckham trio into your lineup.
Stack of the week and best contrarian play(s)
Ben Roethlisberger/Martavis Bryant or Antonio Brown - Some may get frightened off the Steelers offensive weapons playing Seattle on the road, but that means it's a spot DFS players want to exploit. The Seahawks defense hasn't played at the same shutdown level we're used to for the entire course of the season. In their last two homes games, the Seattle secondary let up an average of 18.54 fantasy points to Carson Palmer and Blaine Gabbert (seriously). With Roethlisberger behind center, Pittsburgh has one of the best offenses in the NFL. Seattle is unlikely to completely blot them out. Either one of the Steelers receivers could get over on this defense, but it may be Bryant that finds himself in a better spot:
With Bryant likely to run most of his routes against Cary Williams, combined with his explosive ability, he could turn the tides in a DFS tournament. Williams is the clear weak link of this defense, and Bryant can absolutely roast him for one or two big play receptions. You may not need much more than that given how low-owned these players should be on Sunday. Richard Sherman may not shadow Antonio Brown, so he could also be a useful contrarian play with the public pick the three receivers listed ahead of him (Hopkins, Jones, and Beckham) and ignoring the Steelers All-Pro. Even if Sherman covers Brown, smaller receivers with good route running ability and quickness historically give him trouble. Odell Beckham, T.Y. Hilton and even Stedman Bailey have thumped Sherman over the last couple of seasons. Brown fits right into that archetype and should win the matchup against Sherman. You should strongly consider hammering in on the Steelers passing game in tournaments while other people shy away. Despite the reputation of the Seahawks defense, this game could quickly turn into a shootout.
Bonus: Kendall Wright - In his first game back after missing a stretch with a knee injury, Wright gets an ideal matchup with struggling Raiders slot corner D.J. Hayden. When Mariota and Wright played together, the veteran receiver owned a 23 percent share of the passing targets, which led the team. Wright could bring some solid relief to your lineup if you go with two of the high-end receivers, and still want to squeeze a big name running back or quarterback into the equation.
Best obvious play
DeAndre Hopkins - He's the chalkiest play of the week, and could push a 50 percent ownership figure. There's some merit to fading that player in most weeks, but as the NFL's most targeted receiver facing the Saints secondary, there are no spots more favorable. If Hopkins truly meets expectations, he could end up being a player that scores so many points you can't take down a DFS game without him in your lineup. Normally carrying at least one chalk pick in your tournament lineup is a good idea. If you do so, that player should be Hopkins this week.
My near 100 percent exposure player
Cheat code of the week
Josh McCown - With the FanDuel slate released before the news of Johnny Manziel's benching, McCown comes at a huge value relative to his performance. Outside of the Week 6 loss to Denver, McCown had an average passer rating of 105.4 from Weeks 4 through 8. That stretch includes a 457 yard, three total touchdown assault on this same Baltimore's defense. The Ravens secondary improved since returning from their bye week, and the game script may not feature such a shootout style with Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett and Steve Smith all out. However, McCown should post a usable stat line, and has the ceiling with Gary Barnidge and Travis Benjamin to win a DFS tournament. Most importantly, he's such a bargain that he allows you to grab two receivers from the top-three of Hopkins, Jones, and Beckham. Being able to do so may be the key to winning in daily this week, and McCown is the easiest way to get there.