Each week of the regular season in "Fantasy Audibles" I'll use the SAP Player Comparison Tool to help you make the right decisions when it comes to difficult lineup dilemmas. The tool uses several factors to help make an educated suggestion, including past performance, matchup, consistency, upside and intangibles. It finally appears as if the tool is fully operational (though not 100 percent reliable), so I'll use a combination of the tool and old-fashioned fantasy methods to help make a determination on four difficult Week 12 matchup decisions below. Let's take a look at the start/sit questions haunting some of our fantasy readers and try to help them set a winning lineup.
Who should I start at QB: Russell Wilson or Marcus Mariota?
It's amazing what being healthy can do for a quarterback. Since Russell Wilson healed up prior to Week 9, he's second in the league in fantasy points, trailing only Aaron Rodgers. He's playing his best football of the year as the offensive pieces around him gel into a truly frightening unit. His opponent this week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are ripe for the picking as well. So far in 2016 they allow the eighth-most yards per game (267) and the fourth-highest touchdown rate (5.8 percent) to opposing passers. Even though Wilson is away from the comfy confines of CenturyLink Field this weekend, the Bucs should offer up little resistance to stop Wilson and the ascending Seahawks offense.
If you're still doubting Marcus Mariota as an every-week starter, I don't know what else to tell you. He has 21 touchdowns (rushing included) and five turnovers in the last seven weeks, with five 22-plus fantasy point outings in that span, with a low of 16.68. Since Week 5, he leads all quarterbacks in fantasy points per game (24.4). The Bears defense was surprisingly strong to start the year, but injuries have taken their toll. Eight of the 15 passing touchdowns the team has conceded on the year have come in the last four games, which sets up nicely for Mariota. A rash of recent injuries and suspensions puts the Bears as a team in freefall, and Mariota should be able to take full advantage of this opportunity on the road.
Verdict: This one is certainly close, as the Player Comparison Tool indicates, but I'd have to tip the scales in favor of Wilson here. Mariota has been better for longer in 2016, but Wilson is chasing heights even beyond what he put on display last season, and his matchup is more favorable.
Who should I start at RB: Doug Martin or Thomas Rawls?
Doug Martin has resumed his role as Tampa's featured back, but so far the fantasy returns have been minimal. Sure, Martin has double-digit fantasy points in each game back, but he's averaged a paltry 2.4 yards per carry. That's worrisome as he prepares to face a Seattle front seven that just welcomed back Kam Chancellor and could get Michael Bennett back as well. As the Fantasy Hipsters noted in their look at Week 12's overrated plays, the Seahawks allow just 85.8 rushing yards per game when Chancellor plays compared to 117.3 when he's out. The Seahawks offense is finally clicking and should have no problem picking apart the Tampa Bay secondary. That spells trouble for the game script for Martin as well, as the team could have to abandon the run to try and keep up with Seattle.
The team hoped to bring Thomas Rawls back slowly, but an injury to C.J. Prosise forced the Seahawks to feed him 17 touches in his first game back. That doesn't figure to change in Week 12, as the team will likely rely on Rawls as their featured back when they travel to Tampa Bay. Tampa's run defense has been stout this year, allowing just 96.9 rushing yards per game at a 4.12 yards per carry clip, but they've have their hands full slowly down a Seattle offense firing on all cylinders. Also working in Rawls' favor is his increased role in the passing attack, as he's just one target shy of his 13-game total from last year, even though he's only played three games in 2016.
Verdict: As the Player Comparison Tool indicates, this one looks to be running away in favor of Rawls. The matchup, the performance of his offense, and potential game script all favor the Seattle runner. While Martin should see volume and is a fine play, if owners are sweating out this dilemma, set Rawls in your lineup and forget about it.
Who should I start at WR: Michael Thomas or Tyrell Williams?
Michael Thomas had the look of a breakout superstar with four-straight double-digit performances from Week 3 to Week 7 (had his bye in Week 5), but fumbles and a more spread out passing attack in New Orleans have slowed his roll of late. During that scoring stretch, Thomas owned 20.3 percent of Drew Brees' targets, though his piece of the pie has fallen to around 17 percent over the last month. More concerning, however, is his dip in red-zone usage, as he's seen his targets near the end zone drop from 26 percent to 11 percent in the time periods referenced above. Nevertheless, Thomas is part of a high-flying offense playing at home against the Rams in Week 12. The Rams defense is carrying this team right now and has been middle-of-the-road against the pass. On the season they allow the 18th-most yards per game (168.2) and 12th-lowest touchdown rate (4.1). Thomas should avoid the Rams' top cover corner, Trumaine Johnson, as Thomas plays 58 percent of his snaps at left wide receiver, the opposite side of the field Johnson usually patrols. It's hard to bet against the Saints at home, but determinging which wide receiver will go off in a given week is a difficult proposition.
On paper, this is a horrible matchup for Tyrell Williams. The Texans remain a stout passing defense, allowing the third-fewest yards per game (131.5) and the fourth-lowest touchdown percentage (3.1) to wide receivers in the league. Working in Williams' favor is his new role as the No. 1 wide receiver in the Chargers offense. His target totals over the last month are 11, seven, six (he was injured), and 10. Working against Williams is Rivers' recent play, as he has eight touchdowns and eight interceptions over his last four games. That's bad news facing a defense that has recorded two of its five interceptions this season in the last two games. Williams should still see plenty of volume, though, and many of the routes put him in position to make use of his electric speed and after-the-catch ability. The Texans defense has allowed 20-plus points in six of the seven games since it lost J.J. Watt to injured reserve, so if Rivers can protect the football Williams should have a decent shot at finding the end zone.
Verdict: This one is close, as the Player Comparison Tool indicates, though once again the Tool doesn't seem to know when a team is playing at home. Regardless, Williams looks like a safer bet to command the type of volume I want my starting wide receivers to see, and the Houston defense could be tired playing on a short week after a rough game in the altitude in Mexico city -- a tough draw considering the Chargers are coming off their bye. I'll take Williams here by a hair, but wouldn't fault anyone for starting Thomas instead.