Our NFL Insiders predict Week 12's biggest upsets, fantasy flops and sleepers. Plus: What should NFL fans be thankful for this Thanksgiving? And which teams should draft a quarterback in the first round in 2018?
What's your top upset pick for Week 12?
Dan Graziano, NFL writer: Giants over Washington. That's right. Give me the Giants to start a win streak Thursday against a banged-up Washington team coming off a crushing loss in New Orleans. The Giants put forth a quality effort on defense last week, shutting down the Chiefs and winning in overtime. I can't imagine offensive tackle Trent Williams and the rest of Washington's walking wounded will be in great shape for this game, and I say the Giants take a low-scoring affair.
Mina Kimes, senior writer: Broncos over Raiders. Denver's defense has struggled in recent weeks, but there's too much talent and pride there to think the Broncos can't bounce back, especially against Oakland's one-dimensional offense (the Raiders are averaging under 90 rushing yards per game, sixth worst in the NFL). I'm not sure what to expect from Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch, but the Raiders' defense -- currently ranked dead last in DVOA -- offers a soft landing for his first start this year.
Aaron Schatz, editor-in-chief of Football Outsiders: Saints over Rams. The Rams have had some problems getting pass pressure with just four, and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips does love to send extra pressure. But Saints QB Drew Brees has excelled against big blitzes (six or more pass-rushers) the past couple seasons. Meanwhile, the Rams rank only 20th in defensive DVOA against the run, and the Saints have the best run game in the league. Combine that with the improved Saints defense that is almost as good as the Rams defense, and the Saints seem to be the better of these two well-balanced teams.
Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: Broncos over Raiders. I'll go with new Broncos offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave calling plays against the team that dumped him following a successful 2016 season on offense.
Field Yates, NFL Insider: Broncos over Raiders. It feels odd to place confidence behind a team on a six-game losing streak that just fired its offensive coordinator and is turning to its third starting quarterback of the season, but let's go with Denver. The Oakland defense has provided little resistance to opposing offenses of late, and the Denver defense still has the requisite ingredients to dominate on a given Sunday. Paxton Lynch's next act as the Broncos' starter kicks off on a good note.
Fill in the blank: This Thanksgiving, NFL fans should be thankful for _______.
Graziano: The sudden infusion of young quarterback talent in the league. Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Dak Prescott ... Deshaun Watson, before he got hurt. There's a fun new wave of young QBs on the rise that make you think maybe all the worry about who will take over when Tom Brady, Drew Brees et al are gone is misplaced.
Kimes: The NFC. There are too many good teams vying for too few playoff spots in the conference, and the schedule is going to get frisky. I'm thankful for the competition, and also for the turnover at the top. The Eagles haven't been to the divisional round since 2008, the Vikings haven't made it since 2009 and the Rams' last appearance was 2004.
Schatz: Increased use of Skycam. Yes, that camera angle from behind the quarterback that makes it sometimes hard to see how many yards a play gains. The angle sometimes needs to be drawn back a bit to show the outside receivers. But over the next couple years, TV directors will get a better idea of when to use it live and when to use it on replay. Overall, it really makes it easier for average fans to see how pass routes develop, and run-blocking holes are easier to see as well. Mixed in with the conventional angle, it makes watching football more fun.
Sando: Tom Brady's ability to defy Father Time. He is great not only for the Patriots, but for the league. He has been so great for so long that it's easy to take his excellence for granted.
Yates: Relaxed celebration rules -- among many, many other things. The NFL is fantastic. We live and breath this league. So there is no shortage of ways to go with this answer, but I'll have some fun and note that the relaxed celebration rules have led to some truly memorable moments this season. Players have no lack of creativity, and allowing their personalities to shine through has made the game even more fun. Whether it's the always entertaining JuJu Smith-Schuster, or the Saints defense posing as a unit, celebrations have been on point this year.
Who's your pick to be the biggest fantasy flop this week?
Graziano: Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals. We know the drill by now. Jacksonville is allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to wide receivers by far, and the Cardinals' passing game is heading into that buzz saw. The matchup Arizona had this past week was a good one. This is a lousy one for the passing game, and those who are leaning on Fitzgerald might need to look for help elsewhere on their roster to win this week.
Kimes: Drew Brees, QB, Saints. The Saints can find a way to win against the Rams, but it will probably be on the ground. So far this season, Los Angeles is giving up the third-most fantasy points to running backs, but the fourth-least to quarterbacks. I don't expect Brees to break that trend on the road.
Schatz: Jordan Howard, RB, Bears. The Eagles are one of the best defenses in the league against the run, especially for fantasy purposes. As an inferior team on the road, the Bears won't be running the ball much in the second half.
Sando: Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions. He's talented enough to put up big numbers against any team at any time, but Stafford has only one touchdown pass in his last two games against a Minnesota defense that shut down Jared Goff last week.
Yates: Alex Collins, RB, Ravens. Collins has usurped the "early down," between-the-tackles running back role from Terrance West in the Baltimore offense, though Danny Woodhead has returned and should see more work in Week 12 than his 13 snaps in Week 11. Moreover, the Texans are a force against running backs in fantasy football this season, allowing fewer points per game to opposing RBs than any other defense this season. The stingy Texans have allowed just one rushing touchdown to opposing running backs this season, the best mark in the NFL.
Besides the Browns, which team absolutely has to draft a quarterback in the first round in 2018?
Graziano: The Cardinals. I can't believe they haven't taken a quarterback in either of the past two drafts. They currently have Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert behind Carson Palmer, who might retire. This is a team that could be dealing with a major rebuild in the next year or two, and part of that should be an attempt to find Arizona's quarterback of the future.
Kimes: The Giants. New York can part ways with Eli Manning after next season and save $17 million against its cap. While he hasn't been as bad this year as their 2-8 record suggests, the Giants are probably going to be in pole position in a top-heavy quarterback draft. They can and probably will take advantage of that opportunity to handpick Eli's successor, who can spend a season learning from the Super Bowl winner before he rides off into the sunset.
Schatz: The Jets. They're 29th in offensive DVOA and honestly, enough with the veteran place holders already. The Jets need to stop bringing in stopgaps. Last year's draft started the big rebuild on defense. This year's draft needs to start it up on offense.
Sando: The Jets. Especially if they lose enough games down the stretch to put themselves in position for one of the higher picks. They appear to have no young prospects at the position. Their starter, Josh McCown, turns 39 in July and would ideally be a backup.
Yates: The Jets. Josh McCown has been rock-solid this year after inking a one-year contract this offseason, and the Jets have been more competitive than really anyone expected. But the team and McCown understand a young player is needed in the quarterback pipeline, as it feels like neither Christian Hackenberg nor Bryce Petty is a long-term answer. It's time for the Jets to find a young signal-caller to build this offense around.
Pick a fringe fantasy player who should be started in Week 12.
Graziano: Jared Cook, TE, Raiders. The Broncos and the Giants have been the two most vulnerable teams to fantasy tight ends this year, but you already know that I expect Washington to have trouble scoring this week against the Giants. So give me Cook, who has been a major part of the Oakland passing game when the Raiders have had success this year, against reeling Denver.
Kimes: J.D. McKissic, RB, Seahawks. San Francisco has given up a league-high 617 receiving yards to running backs, including four receiving touchdowns. With former pass-catching back C.J. Prosise on the mend yet again, McKissic looks like Seattle's best option, and could get a healthy number of targets.
Schatz: Alfred Morris, RB, Cowboys. The Chargers are 29th in fantasy points allowed to running backs this year, and Tyron Smith should be back to lead Dallas' offensive line. It's finally time for the Cowboys to get back to the offense that works for them, even if it won't be as good without Ezekiel Elliott around.
Sando: Samaje Perine, RB, Redskins. Injuries have eliminated Washington's preferred options at the position. Perine should get increased opportunities.
Yates: Mike Williams, WR, Chargers. Let's go bold here. Williams, the seventh overall pick in this year's draft, has played in five games this season, totaling nine catches. But he picked up five in a Week 11 blowout of the Bills and seems to gradually be growing into a more expanded role. The Cowboys' secondary doesn't strike fear into many opponents, so let's roll the dice and forecast the possibility of Williams finding the end zone for the first time (of many eventual times) in his NFL career.