Week 12’s best and worst: McCaffrey stars; Landry struggles

As we do each week, we recap the week’s best and worst from a fantasy perspective, complete with applicable game and historical data. Check back after the conclusion of the 1 and 4 p.m. ET (and, when applicable, Sunday Night Football) games for our picks.

The Best

Christian McCaffrey, RB, Carolina Panthers: Your top PPR fantasy point total of 2018 belongs to McCaffrey, whose 46.9 on Sunday exceeded the 43.5 points Tyreek Hill had in Week 11. For McCaffrey, it was a game full of accolades, even if his team lost in heartbreaking fashion on a field goal as time expired. He became the first player this season to tally at least 100 yards apiece rushing and receiving and the first since Todd Gurley II did it in 2017 Week 16, as well as only the third player since at least 1950 to reach both of those thresholds in addition to catching at least 10 passes, joining Pierre Thomas (2007 Week 17) and Gurley (2017 Week 16). McCaffrey’s career-best performance pushed his season totals to 265.7 points using PPR scoring, fourth-best among running backs (pending the performances of James Conner and Melvin Gordon), and 194.7 using non-PPR scoring, fifth-best among running backs (again pending Connor’s and Gordon’s games, though both will almost assuredly pass him). McCaffrey is a locked-in RB1, on a Panthers team with an extremely favorable rest-of-season schedule.

Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants: Again a performance that came in a heartbreaking loss for his team on a game-ending field goal, Barkley’s 33.2 PPR fantasy points were second-best among running backs from the 1 p.m. ET games. It represented the 10th time during his rookie campaign that he scored at least 20 points, moving him into a tie with Eric Dickerson (1983) for the most in history by any first-year player at any position. It also gave Barkley 286.0 PPR points for the season, which is second-best in the league behind only Gurley (297.4) this season, the second most by any rookie running back since at least 1950 behind only Eric Dickerson’s 329.6 in 1983, and the 13th most by any running back (at any stage of his career) through 11 team games since at least 1950. Barkley’s fantasy impact has been astounding, and while he now faces consecutive challenging matchups — the Chicago Bears at home in Week 13 and Washington Redskins on the road in Week 14 — there’s no reason to expect him to regress from RB1 production.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns: In what was one of Sunday’s most surprisingly dominant team performances, Mayfield led his Browns to a 35-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals, resulting in a career-best 25.9 fantasy points for the rookie signal-caller. It was the third time in his past five games that he scored 20-plus points, and during that time span he has averaged 233.2 passing yards while totaling 13 passing touchdowns compared to two interceptions. Yes, Mayfield was facing an incredibly light slate of matchups during that time span — the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons and Bengals, to be specific — but it’s a good sign for his development that he stepped up with such authority given that slate. Things get a little tougher for him against the Houston Texans in Week 13, but he’ll still be a mid-to-high-end QB2 for that game.

Leonard Fournette, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Considering he was on the field for only a little more than 42 of 60 minutes, Fournette’s 25.8 PPR fantasy points probably look all the more impressive. He was ejected with 2:52 remaining in the third quarter after throwing a punch, ending his day with the third-best single-game point total in his 18 career NFL games. The effort gave him a third consecutive game with at least 20 points, the second time in his career he has had a streak of that length (2017 Weeks 4-6). Fournette continues to be heftily utilized, totaling 70 of the Jaguars’ 116 rushing attempts during the past three weeks, re-establishing himself as RB1 material. He faces the Indianapolis Colts, against whom he had 22.1 points just one week ago, in Week 13.

Zach Ertz, TE, Philadelphia Eagles: Consider that an effective rebound, as Ertz scored 22.1 PPR fantasy points against the Giants on Sunday, leading all tight ends from the 1 p.m. ET games and helping his team to a 25-22 victory. In the process, Ertz set a franchise record for receptions by a tight end, finishing his day with 84 and exceeding Keith Jackson’s 30-year-old mark of 81 (1988). Ertz is in the midst of a historic campaign by a tight end, pushing his season fantasy point total to 209.5, which is the seventh most at the position by any player since at least 1950.

Nick Chubb, RB, Browns: He has quietly ascended to RB1 status in recent weeks, and despite the aforementioned Mayfield’s big day, Chubb had a huge game of his own, scoring 27.8 PPR fantasy points after totaling 35.9 in his last game in Week 10. He was started in 87.5 percent of ESPN leagues in Week 12, 10th-highest among running backs, so it’s clear he has become a mainstay in many of his managers’ lineups. Chubb has a couple of so-so matchups upcoming against the Texans (Week 13) and Panthers (Week 14), but his fantasy-playoffs schedule couldn’t look much more enticing, with the Denver Broncos (Week 15) and Bengals (Week 16), his opponent for this game, coming up after that.

Josh Allen, QB, Buffalo Bills: For the second time in his young NFL career, Allen rode a huge rushing performance to a lofty fantasy point total, his 26.3 points driven largely by his 13 carries for 99 yards and a touchdown. It was the second time in his seven NFL games that he scored 25 or more points, and he’s the owner of the two best single-game point totals by any rookie quarterback this season — this game as well as his 27.7 points in Week 3. Though this came against a Jaguars defense that is better on paper than in recent games on the field, Allen still shouldn’t be expected to repeat the effort, considering his dearth of top-quality receivers and inexperience. At best, this game puts him on the QB2 radar for favorable upcoming matchups against the Miami Dolphins (Week 13 on the road, Week 17 at home) and Detroit Lions (Week 15).

David Njoku, TE, Browns: One of Mayfield’s go-to receivers, Njoku tied for the team lead in targets (5) and turned them into a perfect five catches and 17.3 PPR fantasy points, second-most among tight ends from the 1 p.m. ET games. It was an encouraging turnaround for the second-year player, as he had totaled just 12.1 points in his three previous games combined, a concern only in that those came following the team’s coaching changes. Njoku enjoys one of the most favorable remaining schedules of any tight end — at Texans (Week 13), versus Panthers (Week 14), at Broncos (Week 15), versus Bengals (Week 16), at Baltimore Ravens (Week 17) — so he could have a top-five ceiling at the position the rest of the way.

Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys: Your Thanksgiving Day star, Cooper’s 38.0 PPR fantasy points were most among the 77 skill-position players to appear in any of the three games that day, and were 7.2 shy of the most by any player on Thanksgiving Day since at least 1950 (Sterling Sharpe, 45.2 in 1994). They were the second-most Cooper has had in any game in his career, trailing only the 44.0 he had in 2017 Week 7, and gave him an average of 18.7 points in his four games since his trade to the Cowboys. To put that into perspective, Cooper averaged 10.8 points in 20 games for the Oakland Raiders between this and last season. He faces an outstanding rest-of-year schedule that includes games against the New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Giants, so there’s every reason to believe he’ll average at least 15-20 points per game the rest of the season.

Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys: Another of the Thanksgiving Day stars, Prescott’s 27.4 fantasy points were the fourth most he has had in any of his 43 career NFL starts, and they represented the fourth time in his past six games that he had reached the 20-point plateau. He was started in 16.9 percent of ESPN leagues, 19th-highest among quarterbacks, which seems absurdly low considering his recent play, the boost to his receiving corps as a result of Cooper’s acquisition, as well as his remaining schedule. Prescott might be a borderline QB1, and at worst a high-end QB2, for each of his five remaining matchups: versus Saints (Week 13), versus Eagles (Week 14), at Colts (Week 15), versus Buccaneers (Week 16), at Giants (Week 17).

Austin Ekeler, RB, Los Angeles Chargers: Facing one of the most favorable matchups for a running back — the Arizona Cardinals entered the week having allowed the fifth-most PPR fantasy points per game (29.4) — it was Ekeler, not Melvin Gordon, who was the fantasy star for the Chargers. Ekeler scored a team-best 26.3 points, good for fifth-most among running backs through Sunday’s 4 p.m. ET games, totaling seven touches and 10.6 of his points after Gordon left roughly three minutes into the second half with a recurrence of his knee injury. That Ekeler managed that much production despite himself leaving after the third quarter, with the Chargers up, 42-10, only makes the performance look more impressive. It was the second-most fantasy points he has had in any of his 27 career NFL games, trailing only the 26.9 he had in 2017 Week 10. If Gordon is unable to play in Week 13, Ekeler would check in as a high-end RB2 (if not more).

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers: His 37.9 PPR fantasy points on Sunday set a new personal best, and were fueled in large part by a 97-yard touchdown reception early in the third quarter, the longest pass play of the season. Smith-Schuster dominated the Denver Broncos’ defense to the tune of 13 catches on 17 targets for 189 yards and a touchdown, more than doubling teammate and fellow wide receiver Antonio Brown’s 15.7 points on 12 targets. Smith-Schuster continues to draw more advantageous matchups against weaker corners due to his slot-receiver status, but in this game, he succeeded despite a tough assignment against Chris Harris Jr. That’s a great sign for his rest-of-season prospects, especially with a similarly challenging matchup against the Chargers up next.

Kenyan Drake, RB, Miami Dolphins: His 26.6 PPR fantasy points on Sunday set a new personal best, exceeding the 24.5 he scored only seven weeks earlier (Week 5). It was the fifth time in his past 16 games that he scored at least 20 points, a feat that’s all the more impressive if you consider that he has averaged just 8.1 rushing attempts per game this season. Drake did most of his damage as a receiver on Sunday, catching five of his six targets for 64 yards and a touchdown. He should put forth RB2 numbers again in Week 13 against the Bills.

Eric Ebron, TE, Indianapolis Colts: For the third time this season, he reached the 20-PPR-point fantasy threshold, his 21.5 points finishing second among tight ends through Sunday’s 4 p.m. ET games. To put Ebron’s production this year into perspective, he had never scored as many as 20 points in any game in his career entering 2018. He was targeted seven times on Sunday, second on the Colts behind only T.Y. Hilton (10), which was three more times than fellow Colts Jack Doyle (4). It’s a promising sign for Ebron’s usage, especially on the heels of his being shut out on the fantasy scorecard in Week 11. The Colts continue to heavily utilize their tight ends in the passing game, so he should remain a borderline TE1, albeit a risk/reward one, in coming weeks.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings: The top-scoring quarterback of Week 12 entering Monday Night Football, having outscored Prescott by two-hundredths of a point, Cousins continued his career excellence against the Green Bay Packers, scoring at least 27 points for the third time in as many career meetings against them. His 27.4 gave him a 15th career game with at least 25, all of those coming since the beginning of the 2014 season, with only Tom Brady (19), Drew Brees (19), Cam Newton (19), Russell Wilson (19), Aaron Rodgers (18) and Ben Roethlisberger (16) having more during that time span. Cousins’ success came at a key time in a critical win for his Vikings, and he’ll probably be asked to shoulder much of the load again at the New England Patriots in Week 13.

Adam Thielen, WR, Vikings: The third highest-scoring wide receiver of Week 12 entering Monday Night Football, Thielen’s 26.5 PPR fantasy points were only his fourth-best single game total of 2018, which emphasizes just how good of a season he has had. With it, he has recaptured the positional lead for seasonal fantasy points from Tyreek Hill (255.7) with 256.8, and he also broke a tie with Hill, Mike Evans and Michael Thomas for the most 25-point games this season, as this was his fifth.

The Worst

Jarvis Landry, WR, Browns: Is there anything more frustrating than seeing that a team scored 35 points and that your wide receiver’s quarterback scored 25.9 fantasy points, only to open up your box score and see that your player managed just 6.0 PPR points on five targets? That was the story of Landry’s Sunday, as for the second straight game he was held beneath 10 points, giving him a total of 33.1 points in his past four games combined. The concern with that is the team’s coaching change, which could’ve led to a slight shift in offensive philosophy that is hurting Landry’s production, especially considering the team has generally faced favorable wide receiver matchups of late. Be careful not to trust him as more than a low-end WR2 now that his volume has come into question.

Greg Olsen, TE, Panthers: The third-most-started tight end of Week 12, active in 74.0 percent of ESPN leagues, Olsen scored just 3.1 PPR fantasy points on four targets on Sunday, a terribly disappointing number considering the team was without Devin Funchess (back) and presumably could’ve used a big target like Olsen near the goal line. For Olsen, it was his worst single-game score since 2017 Week 17 (2.0), and it was only the 10th time he scored that few points in a game since the beginning of the 2012 season (his second with the Panthers). Fortunately, it probably shouldn’t become a habit considering his importance to the offense, and he should rebound in a big way against the Buccaneers in Week 13.

Alshon Jeffery, WR, Eagles: For the fourth consecutive game, Jeffery was held beneath 10 PPR fantasy points, his 6.9 on three targets on Sunday representing his fewest since Week 5 (5.9). It has been quite a disappointing stretch for the veteran wide receiver, who earlier this season appeared to have exceptional chemistry with Carson Wentz. Jeffery has suffered from some challenging matchups in recent weeks, but things won’t improve on that front as he faces Josh Norman and the Redskins in Week 13. Jeffery was started in 65.3 percent of ESPN leagues in Week 12, 17th-highest among wide receivers.

Michael Thomas, WR, Saints: The most-started wide receiver of Week 12 in ESPN leagues (99.8 percent), Thomas was one of Thanksgiving Day’s biggest disappointments, considering the strength of his matchup against the Falcons. Facing a defense that entered the week allowing the seventh-most PPR fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers, he scored just 7.8 points on six targets, the worst single-game score of his season. Ultimately, Thomas and the Saints’ passing game weren’t required to do much in a 31-17 victory, as Drew Brees attempted just 22 passes. That won’t be the case every week.

LeSean McCoy, RB, Bills: He scored just 6.3 PPR fantasy points on 17 rushing attempts and one reception (on one target), the fifth time in 10 games this season that he was held beneath 10 points. While McCoy’s matchup against the Jaguars was a challenging one, he hasn’t shown quite the same burst he did earlier in his career, a signal that age might be catching up to him. He does get a bounce-back opportunity in a much more favorable matchup against the Dolphins in Week 13, but consider him only a high-end flex.

Duke Johnson Jr., RB, Browns: What a frustrating season he has endured, with four games of 13-plus PPR fantasy points but four under five, including Sunday’s 4.9 points on two rushing attempts and two targets (one caught). Johnson’s usage has been maddening to predict, which explains why he was active in only 34.0 percent of ESPN leagues in Week 12 despite the great matchup against the Bengals. His rest-of-year schedule includes a few more plus matchups, but he’s tough to trust in anything but PPR leagues as a flex play.

James White, RB, New England Patriots: Speaking of Sunday PPR disappointments, White’s 8.8 points on nine rushing attempts and a 1-for-5 performance catching his targets had to rank among the day’s biggest. That gave him consecutive games scoring fewer than 10 points after he had scored at least 14.1 in each of his first nine of the season, calling into question his value for the final five weeks of the season. White remains a RB2 candidate in PPR leagues, but with Sony Michel back and healthy, White is a shakier choice in leagues that don’t award receptions, more of a low-end RB2 or high-end flex.

Jordan Howard, RB, Bears: Another of the Thanksgiving Day disappointments, Howard scored just 2.5 PPR fantasy points on seven rushing attempts and one reception (on two targets), despite facing a favorable matchup against the Lions as well as entering as presumably the team’s offensive focal point with Mitchell Trubisky (shoulder) inactive. It was the second time this season that Howard had scored that few points — he also had 2.5 in Week 4 — and fourth time in his past eight games that he was held beneath five points.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Packers: For the second consecutive week, he was practically invisible, scoring 1.3 PPR fantasy points on two targets on Sunday Night Football. That came on the heels of a 1.8 point Week 12, which is likely to cause his start percentage in ESPN leagues to plummet in Week 13. Despite the tougher individual matchup, Davante Adams caught five of his eight targets for 17.9 points, a sign that Aaron Rodgers still looks to Adams first and foremost in the passing game.

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