Fantasy Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em Week 12: Tony Pollard, Darnell Mooney, and Dalton Schultz all bring upside on Thanksgiving

With the NFL in full swing and fantasy football lineups being set, who makes the list of the top start 'em and sit 'em options for Week 12?

As we move ever so closer to the end of the fantasy football regular season, start ’em or sit ’em decisions begin to carry even more weight as teams separate themselves from the pack. With not all matchups being equal, here are our top start ’em and sit ’em plays for Week 12 of fantasy football on Thanksgiving.

NFL Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em for Week 12: Quarterbacks

While the focus in the majority of fantasy leagues falls on skill positions, quarterbacks — in most cases — consistently bring the highest weekly total. Which QBs are must-starts, and who should remain on the bench in Week 12?

Start ‘Em | Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders

We have six QBs to choose from on Thanksgiving, but let’s be honest, you want nothing to do with the majority of them for fantasy. The Lions and Bears don’t know who their QB will be Thursday. The Saints take on the Bills, who are an excellent defense. And then we have Josh Allen and Dak Prescott, who are must-starts. So that was five of six I just rattled off. That leaves us with Derek Carr, and honestly, I don’t mind him as a streaming option if you need one.

The Cowboys are allowing nearly 270 passing yards per game, and when Carr is hot, he can sling the ball. He’s finished as a QB1 (top-12) in 50% of his games and is averaging 304 yards per game. The Raiders have been sliding as of late, but Carr should be active on Thanksgiving in a game where they’ll likely need to keep up. 

Sit ‘Em | Trevor Siemian, New Orleans Saints

Ideally, I would put Andy Dalton here. But until we have the final word on who will be Chicago’s starting QB as Justin Fields deals with a rib injury, I’m staying away from making a final call.

There’s a thing you never want to do in fantasy — get too cute. Sure, the Bills just lost the Houston Texans at home, but trying to start Trevor Siemian would be the definition of getting too cute.

The Bills are as good as it gets on defense. They’re allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to QBs at 10.76. Buffalo is No. 1 in passing yards (191) and TDs (7), and they’re also tied for the league lead in interceptions (15). The Saints lack a legitimate WR1, and Siemian will also be without TE Adam Trautman, who suffered an MCL sprain that will sideline him for 4-6 weeks, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Just enjoy your food on Thanksgiving and sit Siemian in fantasy.

Running Backs

While these RBs found themselves with adjusted roles following injuries to surrounding players and poor play from others, they are on opposite sides of start/sit debates for Week 12. Let’s look at the top start and sit options from RB committees around the league for Thanksgiving.

Start ‘Em | Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys

Ezekiel Elliott briefly left the game in Week 11 with a knee injury but somehow avoided serious injury. He returned to the game and is expected to play Thursday, but don’t let that dissuade you from starting Tony Pollard. Even if Elliott does play, Pollard brings upside for fantasy.

The Cowboys only ran the ball 16 times on Sunday, but Pollard rushed 7 times for 50 yards and caught both of his targets for 20 yards. Amari Cooper is out (COVID-19), and CeeDee Lamb is in concussion protocol. Should both players miss, the rushing game should be a massive part of the Cowboys’ offense. Pollard has 168 total yards in his last two games and should be viewed as a mid-RB3 who could finish higher against the Raiders’ 26th-ranked defense.

Sit ‘Em | Zack Moss, Buffalo Bills

I’d love — just once! — to be able to rely on a Bills RB. That would be so fun. But I can’t. Zack Moss had a hot streak where he scored 4 touchdowns in three games, but he’s found the end zone just once since then (Week 10). 

Moss rushed only 3 times Sunday as the Bills were forced to give up the run in their blowout loss. Since Week 5, Moss has yet to finish as an RB2 while splitting reps with Devin Singletary. The Saints allow the fewest yards per rush (3.18) and per game (65.6) and are No. 2 in fantasy points allowed to RBs at 18.54. I like the Bills to bounce back, but I still can’t trust Moss for fantasy in Week 12.

NFL Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em for Week 12: Wide Receivers

The WR position is the deepest in fantasy football, with a plethora of quality starting options to choose from every single week. As matchups can be the final deciding factor, here are some of our start ’em or sit ’em recommendations for Week 12.

Start ‘Em | Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears

Darnell Mooney is breaking out, and I could not be more excited. Over the summer, Mooney was your favorite analyst’s favorite breakout receiver. And for as much as Matt Nagy has tried to screw this up, talent is prevailing.

Mooney saw 16 targets on Sunday, which he turned into 5 receptions, 121 yards, and a touchdown. After finishing as the WR6 in Week 10, he was the WR5 in Week 11. Mooney saw 46% of the targets with Allen Robinson sidelined. Whether it is Fields or Dalton under center, Mooney clearly can succeed and is now a virtual must-start in fantasy, especially in Week 12 against the Detroit Lions.

Sit ‘Em | Tre’Quan Smith, New Orleans Saints

Tre’Quan Smith caught 5 of 8 targets for 64 yards in Sunday’s Week 11 loss to the Eagles. Here is the interesting part: over the last four weeks, Smith is the WR18 in fantasy. He missed the first five games of the season with a hamstring injury, but he’s staking his claim as the Saints’ WR1.

With that said, being the WR1 for the 2021 New Orleans Saints is not saying too much. We discussed the matchup with the Bills when going over Siemian, and I expect their WRs to struggle. Taron Johnson is an underrated slot corner who is allowing only a 50% completion rate and has given up just 1 TD when targeted. There are plenty of reliable options to choose from at receiver for fantasy in Week 12 who should be started over Smith.

Tight Ends

It’s notoriously hard for fantasy managers to find consistent production from the tight end position. In Week 12, start ’em or sit ’em decisions could mean the difference between a win or a loss as the margins are razor-thin.

Start ‘Em | Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys

Dalton Schultz could have a career day in Week 12 against the Las Vegas Raiders. Schultz caught 6 of his 8 targets on Sunday for 53 yards as he took over a more prominent role following the injury to Lamb. It was the fifth time Schultz finished inside the top 10 TEs this season, which is extremely impressive when considering the playmakers on the Cowboys’ offense.

The Raiders come into Week 12 as the No. 30 defense against TEs, allowing 16.8 fantasy points per game. Schultz is likely to see an increased target share in Week 12 as the Cowboys could be without both Cooper and Lamb. This week, Schultz is a surefire TE1 who could have fantasy managers off to a massive lead coming out of Thanksgiving.

Sit ‘Em | Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears

I want Cole Kmet to be fantasy-relevant, but given the current state of Chicago’s offense, I cannot recommend him. Kmet saw only 2 targets on Sunday, catching 1 for 12 yards. He saw fewer targets than Jimmy Graham (3). Kmet was on a streak of seeing 6 or more looks in three straight games, but it seems he falls down the pecking order with Dalton under center.

Kmet has just one finish inside the top-15 TEs in weekly scoring, while he averages only 5.9 points per game. The Lions are sneaky decent against TEs (11th), and Kmet is too hit or miss to be relied on in Week 12.

Tommy Garrett is a Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read all of Tommy’s work here, listen to him on PFN’s Fantasy Football podcast, and check out his contributions in PFN’s free fantasy newsletter. Give him a follow on Twitter: @TommyGarrettPFN.