We have reached Week 12, and naturally, the NFL playoff pictures are beginning to take more shape. At the same time, the Fantasy postseason is almost here, and many of this week's performances from key offensive players will play a significant role in deciding Fantasy playoff destinies.
The Seahawks host the Steelers this week in a matchup that is essential for both ball clubs in terms of attempting to strengthen their postseason positions in their respective conferences. Pittsburgh brings a potent arsenal to town, featuring Fantasy superstar WR Antonio Brown. The Seahawks, as has been their tradition ever since Fantasy Football became a popular pastime, will trot out another impressive running back in this important week. Thomas Rawls has already joined names like Shaun Alexander, Marshawn Lynch and Chris Warren in Seahawks Fantasy lore.
Rawls' 209 rushing yards last week were the most in a game for Seattle since 2006. This week, he will have to earn every bit of yardage against a traditionally stiff Pittsburgh run defense. Only the Seahawks themselves have allowed less Fantasy points per game to opposing RBs on NFL.com than the Steelers. Pittsburgh has surrendered only 12.53 rushing FFPG in standard formats. The Steelers have surrendered only 93 rushing yards per game and three rushing scores.
Rawls, who was the hottest free agent add in Fantasy Football this week, cannot be reserved on matchup alone. The undrafted rookie has morphed into an instant Fantasy star, as it is obvious he has already learned a lot about breaking tackles and finishing runs from Lynch. You cannot fear the matchup when you have a quality Fantasy performer in your lineup. Rawls must at least be used as a Fantasy RB2 this week, and volume of touches should ensure at least a solid overall Fantasy performance.
The Seahawks may be able to open up more running room for Rawls by attacking Pittsburgh's pass defense, which ranks 28th in the league in yards per game. But also note that the Steelers do have 28 sacks, so Russell Wilson may have to operate a quick-hitting attack. That could mean getting the ball into the hands of his pass-catchers quickly and letting them operate after the catch. Screens, flat passes and even looks to Rawls out of the backfield could be the plan of attack to offset the pass rush. Rawls does have some added appeal as a versatile PPR play if he is used in such a manner.
Wilson is coming off his best Fantasy game of the season, as his 25.40 Fantasy points on NFL.com were the third best of Week 11. He should keep some momentum going into this week, and if he has to trade offensive punches with Ben Roethlisberger, he should be up to the task, and will not be hesitant to take some deep shots if he needs to. Wilson is looking like a quality start in deeper Fantasy leagues for Week 12.
The Steelers allow 25.36 Fantasy Points Per Game on NFL.com to opposing WRs, and Wilson has always relied on Doug Baldwin in many big spots, as Seahawks fans know well. Baldwin has caught 13 passes for 194 yards in the past two games and is no doubt ready to seize more critical moments for the Seahawks when they need him at this point of the season. He is certainly worth some flex consideration this week.
Tyler Lockett scored twice last week, and has all three of his TD receptions against the 49ers so far. Fantasy leaguers should monitor him closely this week, as he could be blossoming in time to become a good option for WR depth down the stretch.
The Steelers allow 10.98 Fantasy Points Per Game to opposing tight ends, the fifth most in standard NFL.com leagues. So this appears to be a prime week for Jimmy Graham to bust through with a strong outing. With the Steelers being so stingy near the goal line against the run, Graham should get some prime opportunities to score this week. Graham has always been a champion of winning contested catches, and that could be the types of plays on which he makes a real impact this week. Start him with confidence.
Steven Hauschka could be good for at least three field goals this week as Pittsburgh's tenacity against the run near the goal line could lead to a healthy amount of field goal chances. Roethlisberger does get rid of the ball quickly, so sacks may not be as bountiful for the Seattle defense as in some other matchups. Even if you do choose to stream another defense over the Seahawks this week, though, you must keep them rostered for some very friendly matchups after Week 12. Their matchups from Weeks 13 through 16 are very enticing and could key more Fantasy championship runs again this season.
In other games, expect at least two TD passes from Eli Manning against Washington. Blake Bortles should be very busy and will throw often against San Diego. Brian Hoyer is definitely worth some deeper league consideration as he faces the Saints.
Doug Martin could be headed for another big game vs, Indianapolis. Javorius Allen will get the start for the Ravens at RB and has a great matchup vs. Cleveland. Lamar Miller faces the Jets, but cannot be reserved regardless of matchup. Danny Woodhead should get back into the offensive flow vs. Jacksonville.
Look for a bounce-back performance from Allen Hurns vs the Chargers. John Brown has a lot of upside against San Francisco. Davante Adams will get targeted often against Chicago. DeSean Jackson will burn the Giants secondary for a big play or two.
Delanie Walker is a top TE start as he takes on the Raiders. Richard Rodgers has good TD potential vs. the Bears. The Chiefs are playing terrific defense and are a lock to start in Fantasy against Buffalo. Also consider the Browns against the depleted Ravens.
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