Welcome to Week 12 of my weekly article series for In-Between Media (IBT), giving you my takes on the fantasy football “winners and losers” after each week of action. This is a fun topic to cover, and I will include my reasoning behind the judgments, along with actionable analysis when possible.
Now, let’s look at the settled dust of Week 12 of the 2023 NFL season.
Fantasy Football Winners & Losers: Week 12
Fantasy Football Winners
Dak Prescott (QB, Dallas Cowboys)
Dak Prescott turned in an unbelievable game on Thanksgiving. Prescott took advantage of a great matchup with the Commanders, completing 22 of 32 passes (68.8% completion rate), taking his season-long completion rate to exactly 70%. Those 22 completions resulted in 332 passing yards and four TDs. With no turnovers, Prescott’s QB Rating was a ridiculous 142.1 and had the highest PFF grade for any QB in a single game since 2007.
Dak Prescott had the highest single game grade by a QB since 2007? pic.twitter.com/XOxbHMAcZf
— PFF (@PFF) November 24, 2023
Prescott is a fantasy football winner in Week 12, not because he is currently the overall QB1 for the week (with only Justin Fields and Joshua Dobbs left to play). His performance went a long way in winning the week for his fantasy managers, and it takes him to the overall QB2 on the season. With an Average Draft Position (ADP) of QB9 in single-QB Sleeper leagues, Prescott may very well end up being on a lot of championship rosters.
Pat Freiermuth (TE, Pittsburgh Steelers)
Pat Freiermuth, who injured his hamstring earlier in the season and missed five games, made his return from Injured Reserve (IR) in Week 11 against the Browns. Although excited for his return, fantasy managers were told to temper their expectations, with it being the third-year TE’s first game back and the Browns being one of the toughest matchups for fantasy TEs in the league.
And the warning was accurate, as Freiermuth caught his only target on the day for just seven yards. The Steelers eased Freiermuth back in, as shown by route participation of only 39.4%. For reference, Freiermuth ran a route on closer to 70% of Kenny Pickett’s dropbacks before the hamstring injury,
Flash-forward to Week 12, with the “first game back” already out of the way, former Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada having been shown the door and a much better TE matchup against the Bengals (Top 10 favorable TE opponent). Freiermuth rewarded the fantasy managers who had patiently awaited his return.
Pat Freiermuth in the first game since the coordinator change in Pittsburgh:
– 9 catches (career-high)
– 11 targets (second most ever)
– 120 receiving yards (career-high)
No player has more receiving yards in Week 12. pic.twitter.com/ZQDmEn4lB0
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) November 27, 2023
Freiermuth is a Week 12 fantasy football winner because he stands as the Points Per Reception (PPR) TE1 of the week with only T.J. Hockenson and Cole Kmet still to play. Freiermuth caught nine of 11 targets for 120 yards, good for 21 PPR points. Securing a weekly TE1 spot without scoring a TD is no easy feat, and Freiermuth did that (so far) after earning a team-leading 34.4% target share.
Kyren Williams (RB, Los Angeles Rams)
Speaking of players returning from injury, Kyren Williams was activated off of IR leading into the Rams’ Week 12 matchup with the Cardinals. Whereas Freiermuth was eased back in a bad matchup upon his return in Week 11, Williams was handed the keys to the backfield in a great RB matchup in Week 12. And do not be misled by the final box score, which shows Williams having only three more rush attempts than teammate Royce Freeman, 16-13. One concern with Williams’ return from injury is whether he would maintain the dominant RB workload given to him pre-injury or if the Rams would move more toward a committee.
The first answer to this question was given to us when Darrell Henderson Jr. was waived by the Rams. More light was shed in Week 12.
Will the Rams slightly lessen Williams’ load to help keep him healthy? Yes. I doubt he will see the 90-100% RB Opportunity Share he was seeing pre-injury. Still, he will remain the Rams’ primary back. Freeman had only three carries in the first half and did not see his fourth carry until the Rams were up 31-8.
Me when I tried to control that dawg in Kyren Williams in his first game post-IR, but I couldn’t bc he’s actually got the strength of two dawgs in him and now my opponent is wrecked ruff ruff ruff ruff pic.twitter.com/NvIRq63rYq
— cooterdoodle (@cooterdoodle) November 27, 2023
Williams is a fantasy football winner for Week 12 because, even with Freeman taking on some garbage time mop-up duties, he still had an RB Opportunity Share close to 60%, and he dominated the other RBs in snap share, routes run and only trailed Puka Nacua in target share. RB opportunity knocked, and Williams kicked down the door to the tune of 22 touches for 204 total yards and two TDs. He is comfortably the PPR RB1 for Week 12.
Fantasy Football Losers
Adam Thielen (WR, Carolina Panthers)
This article series looks at the good, the bad and the ugly each week, and Adam Thielen can be filed under the ugly for Week 12. Thielen is a fantasy football loser because he (and the entire Panthers passing game) completely bungled a great matchup against the Titans.
Coming into Week 12, Thielen had scored double-digit PPR points in seven of 10 games, including three games with 20+ points, and had not earned under six targets in a game since Week 1. His rostership was at 93%, and he was started in 73% of Sleeper leagues in Week 12. In a week with no byes, fantasy managers were counting on Thielen over other WR options because he has shown an ultra-safe floor and was matched up with the Titans, ranked 28th (fifth-easiest) versus fantasy WRs according to my adjusted fantasy points allowed scoring.
This game went so poorly that it ended up being the last nail in the coaching coffin for now former head coach Frank Reich, running backs coach Duce Staley and quarterbacks coach Josh McCown. Thielen saw just three targets, catching one pass for seven yards. And he was on the field. Thielen led the team with 36 routes run and 94.7% route participation (according to PFF), so his three targets and 1.7 PPR points are well within the “ugly” range of outcomes.
Jake Ferguson (TE, Dallas Cowboys)
It’s difficult to find any negatives for the Cowboys in their Thanksgiving thrashing of the Commanders, but Jake Ferguson was a disappointment. Dak Prescott threw 30+ passes and ended the day with 331 passing yards and four TDs. If you only showed me that stat line, I would initially be excited for my teams with Ferguson, assuming the talented TE1 for the Cowboys would be one of the key pieces. The Commanders rank 16th versus fantasy TEs, so they are not the best TE matchup. They are right in the middle, but certainly not an opponent that scares you off of a TE like Ferguson. Early on, it looked like Ferguson could be on his way to a big day, with Prescott hitting him on a nice seam route for a 35-yard gain in the first quarter.
Ferguson makes the fantasy football loser list for the first time because that ended up being his only catch of the game on three total targets. Like Thielen, this was not due to him missing any time in the game. Ferguson ran 28 routes, tied for second-most on the team (with Brandin Cooks) behind CeeDee Lamb. This is the main concern with a TE like Ferguson. There are a lot of talented mouths to feed in Dallas and they tend to blow out inferior opponents. Those positive game scripts end up taking potential opportunities away from members of the passing game. Prescott had an extremely efficient day. Throwing for 331 yards and four TDs on only 32 pass attempts is impressive, and unfortunately for Ferguson in Week 12, he was not a prominent part of that efficiency.
Brock Purdy (QB, San Francisco 49ers)
This one may seem strange because Brock Purdy and the 49ers have been playing so well lately. I am including Purdy as a Week 12 fantasy football loser for a couple of reasons. One is to show you that me considering a player a loser in a given week does not automatically mean they played poorly. Purdy did not have a stellar game against the Seahawks, but he played a better game than most QBs who make the loser list. The other reason is to highlight concerns I have about certain players who are on the threshold of or well within “must-start” territory. That was part of my reasoning with Ferguson, and the concern is similar to Purdy’s.
The 49ers offense is so good and well-rounded that these games will occur in which Purdy does not need to do a lot. Also similar to Ferguson, if you showed me a final score of 31-13 for the 49ers against the Seahawks – a team that ranks 18th in adjusted fantasy points allowed to QBs – I would expect more than 10.5 fantasy points to have been scored by Purdy.
The issue was that the Seahawks have been even friendlier to fantasy RBs, ranking as the third-most favorable matchup. That is the direction the 49ers went against Seattle, rushing 31 times and scoring three times on the ground. If you flip a few of those rushing TDs to passing TDs, Purdy’s fantasy day is just fine. But that is the concern, especially in games against even weaker opponents than the Seahawks. If the 49ers build a big lead and those points lean toward rushing output, we will see more 209-yard, one-TD, one-INT days from Purdy.
Not What It Seems: Fantasy Football Panic Meter
The following players were fantasy disappointments in Week 12, but my concern is low moving forward:
- Dalton Kincaid (TE, Buffalo Bills)
- Austin Ekeler (RB, Los Angeles Chargers)
- D.K. Metcalf (WR, Seattle Seahawks)
- Jaylen Warren (RB, Pittsburgh Steelers)
- James Conner (RB, Arizona Cardinals)
The following players were disappointments in Week 12, and I am concerned about moving forward:
- Zach Charbonnet (RB, Seattle Seahawks)
- Breece Hall (RB, New York Jets)
- Cooper Kupp (WR, Los Angeles Rams)
- Tyler Allgeier (RB, Atlanta Falcons)
- Amari Cooper (WR, Cleveland Browns) – I know Cooper was injured in Week 12 and is day-to-day; this concern is more about his numbers plummeting since Deshaun Watson went on season-ending IR.
Thanks for reading my Week 12 fantasy football winners and losers. As always, find me on Twitter, talking fantasy football, joking around, posting GIFs and lending my support where it’s needed @MunderDifflinFF.
*Photo Credit: Corey Perrine – USA TODAY Sports*