Whether it’s because of injuries, matchups, or declining usage trends, there are plenty of reasons why a player can struggle in a given week. It’s crucial to try to identify these busts in advance. Ahead of Week 12, we’re worried about big-name players like Aaron Rodgers and Courtland Sutton and streamer specials like Teddy Bridgewater and Rhamondre Stevenson. Players like this figure to be involved in a lot of Week 12 fantasy start ’em, sit ’em decisions, which is why it’s important to think twice before locking them into your lineup.
As always, even perennial stars can bust in favorable matchups, but it’s tough to call superstars “busts” unless they’re less than 100 percent, they’ve really been trending downward, or they have a particularly brutal matchup. We mostly stick to naming guys on the start-or-sit bubble, not guys who are simply going to have a good-but-not-great week or guys who are on over 90 percent of waiver wires. Sometimes you don’t have the depth to reasonably bench these players (or you might just totally disagree with our assessments), but you’ll at least know who is at risk this week. Nothing is worse than being taken off guard by a fantasy dud.
Let’s just start by saying we swung for the fences last week with Justin Herbert, and we hope you ignored us. Pittsburgh’s defensive injuries, which we weren’t sure of at the time, we’re too much for the Steelers to overcome. Cam Newton, Elijah Moore, Mike Williams, and Darnell Mooney piled onto the tough day. We’re convinced they read our busts list and went off to spite us.
Jordan Howard, Alex Collins, Carson Wentz, Dan Arnold, Tyler Conklin, the Steelers defense, and the Eagles defense helped us salvage a decent week of selections, but we’ll do our best to be better in Week 12.
Week 12 Fantasy Busts: Running backs
Myles Gaskin, Dolphins vs. Panthers (Jackson Sparks). Gaskin has shined in spots and can produce a serviceable fantasy day if he is force-fed targets, but fringe RB2 should usually be avoided against the Carolina defense that ranks as a top-eight unit against fantasy RBs. Ezekiel Elliot and Dalvin Cook are the only two RBs to produce a great day against the Panthers, so the matchup simply isn’t there for Gaskin.
Alex Collins, Seahawks @ Washington (Vinnie Iyer). He should just “Riverdance” back into retirement instead of doing nothing with volume. Expect Seattle to remix this backfield with a lot more DeeJay Dallas.
Rhamondre Stevenson, Patriots vs. Titans (Matt Lutovsky). Stevenson has looked good as the co-leader in the Patriots backfield, but as long as Damien Harris is active, Stevenson is merely a low-ceiling flex option. Against a Tennessee defense allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game (FPPG) to RBs, he might not even be that.
Week 12 Fantasy Football Busts: Quarterbacks
Teddy Bridgewater, Broncos vs. Chargers (Sparks). Bridgewater has been a popular streamer in favorable matchups and has been a smart bench candidate when the matchup is tough. Before the Chargers’ defense fell apart in the fourth quarter against the Steelers, it ranked as the sixth-strongest defense against fantasy QBs. That said, Bridgewater’s floor is low and his ceiling is limited.
Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins vs. Panthers (Iyer). Al Pacino’s favorite first name in the NFL won’t be saying hello as a fantasy friend in a bad matchup against Carolina’s defense. Tu-AH will be more Tony Montana than Joe Montana in Miami.
Aaron Rodgers, Packers vs. Rams (Lutovsky). As long as Rodgers is on the field, he’s a threat for a big day. However, given the painful toe injury he’s dealing with the Rams’ strong pass defense, he’s riskier than usual this week.
Week 12 Fantasy Football Busts: Wide receivers
Odell Beckham Jr., Rams @ Packers (Sparks). Beckham has the name value that will always make people want to start him, but we don’t like his chances to produce in this one. He’ll be more involved after the Rams went on a bye week, but this is Cooper Kupp’s offense and the Packers are a top-10 unit against fantasy WRs. Yes, Justin Jefferson dismantled them, but this isn’t 2016 anymore, so you can’t count on OBJ.
Rashod Bateman, Ravens vs. Browns (Iyer). He’s our third favorite Bateman behind Jason and Justine, but we’re looking forward to the fourth season of Ozark a lot more than this matchup. It will only get more difficult if Marquise Brown (thigh) can’t play again to draw attention away from Bateman.
Courtland Sutton, Broncos vs. Chargers (Lutovsky). Sutton just got paid, but with just five catches and 78 yards in his past three games, he’s not someone you can start against the Chargers’ top-five pass defense.
Week 12 Fantasy Football Busts: Tight ends
C.J. Uzomah, Bengals vs. Steelers (Sparks). Let’s keep this really simple. Uzomah is an “all-or-nothing” player at tight end, and we think he’ll be on the “nothing” side of the equation against a Steelers’ defensive unit that has allowed just two tight ends to go over 41 yards receiving. One was Darren Waller and the other was a garbage-time-aided performance from Cole Kmet.
Hunter Henry, Patriots vs. Titans (Iyer). The matchup is a little tricky, so be aware that this could be a TD-or-bust week for him with the wideouts getting more involved.
Pat Freiermuth, Steelers @ Bengals (Lutovsky). Freiermuth has seen at least six targets and four catches in each of the past five games, and that kind of floor is tough to find at TE. If you’re just looking for a decent baseline of stats, Freiermuth can still work. But he’s had just 42 receiving yards in the past two games combined, so he’s not exactly a high-ceiling player. The Bengals have a top-10 defense against fantasy TEs, making this is a potential bust spot for Freiermuth.
Week 12 Fantasy Busts: Defenses
Pittsburgh Steelers @ Bengals (Sparks). It’s time to face the facts when it comes to the Steelers’ D/ST in fantasy: It is not good anymore, at least not when T.J. Watt (knee/hip) out of the lineup. The Bengals’ offense has the firepower to shred Pittsburgh, much like the Chargers did in Week 11.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Colts (Iyer). They cool down from Monday night, as the Colts tend to protect and be careful with the ball behind good pass protection.
Denver Broncos vs. Chargers (Lutovsky). Denver’s D/ST has been a bit up and down this year, but the Chargers are too hot right now to use a defense against. LA has allowed four sacks, two takeaways, and an average of 29.3 offensive points/game over its past three contests. The Broncos have both a low floor and low ceiling, even at home.