News broke late Tuesday night that Bears QB Jay Cutler would miss the remainder of the season with a torn labrum, then on Wednesday Zach Miller was placed on injured reserve with a broken foot. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what is known as the final nail in the coffin for the Bears' 2016 season. WRs Cameron Meredith and Eddie Royal had a sliver of hope with Cutler slinging the pigskin around the field, but both can be safely cut with Matt Barkley taking over QB duties.
On the other side of the fantasy coin, you can add the Bears to the Browns as teams to play whatever players face them that week, to include the team defense that faces them. The Bears front office has their eyes on the No. 2 overall pick in the upcoming draft, and it is in the team's best interest to not mess that up by winning meaningless games down the stretch.
With the injuries everyone is scrambling in Week 12 to find replacements for their team as we head into the final two games before the fantasy playoffs kick off in most leagues. The problem is the waiver wire is a wasteland at this point, and your only hope is to snag an injury replacement when one happens. This week the best options are:
Sammy Watkins – Bills: Watkins has resumed practicing in full, and on Wednesday declared himself 100 percent healthy and ready to play. The Bills are without Robert Woods at WR, and LeSean McCoy (dislocated finger, surgery) and Mike Gillislee (hamstring) are both at less than 100 percent themselves. Tyrod Taylor NEEDS Watkins back in more ways than one. Make sure he is owned in your league.
Wendell Smallwood – Eagles: The Eagles are calling Ryan Mathews (sprained MCL) and Darren Sproles (broken rib) questionable for Week 12. If by questionable they mean they are out, then yes, they are questionable. Smallwood is going to get the start this week and is worth owning in most formats. He's not going to come in and be a Jordan Howard for you, but he should give you a solid RB2/Flex return in Week 12.
Jared Cook – Packers: Tight end is the most frustrating position in fantasy football, because everyone not named Rob Gronkowski is truly a boom-or-bust play. With Gronkowski looking like he will miss another week, Cook makes for a great streaming option at the thinnest position out there. The Packers have to start scoring points or they are going to be eliminated from the playoffs. Cook is a big redzone target, and can be played as a TE1 in all formats while Aaron Rodgers fights to keep Green Bay in the postseason race.
Tajae Sharpe – Titans: Sharpe is a guy I've talked about for a few weeks now, but he remains on most waiver wires still. Rishard Matthews may be Batman at WR in Tennessee, but Sharpe is establishing himself as The Boy Wonder. He's not going to wow you with his production, but he is good for around 4 catches, 65 yards, and a touchdown one in a while. If you are hurting for WR help, give Sharpe a look.
Kirk Cousins – Redskins: Cousins is becoming a season-saving fantasy QB this year, after starting the year as a guy we all avoided like the plague. Over the last 4 games he has a total of 1,095 yards passing, 7 touchdowns, and just 1 interception. Those numbers are good enough to rank him 4th for fantasy QBs over that time span.
What Cousins is doing is impressive given his weapons at WR with a declining DeSean Jackson, an average guy in Pierre Garcon, and an up-and-coming youngster in Jamison Crowder. He does have Jordan Reed at TE, which is a big weapon for him.
The Cowboys give up 20.5 PPG to fantasy QBs this season, the 15th-most in the NFL. The Redskins are fighting to keep themselves in the playoff picture, and beating the Cowboys on Thanksgiving would be a HUGE boost in that effort. This is a rivalry game that I expect to be an offensive battle.
Eli Manning – Giants: Manning is the QB this week who plays the Browns defense, which makes him an instant QB1. The Browns are 0-11, and could realistically finish the season without a win given their remaining schedule. Their defense is giving up a massive 23.0 PPG to QBs, the 4th-most in the NFL, and their 253.3 total fantasy points allowed to QBs puts them dead last against QBs.
Digging deeper in that overall number, the 3,026 passing yards allowed is 2nd-most; their 25 passing TDs allowed is the most, by 2 TDs. Manning has a dream matchup on Sunday, and I'm looking for the Giants to run up the score on the helpless Browns.
Thomas Rawls – Seahawks: Rawls was running like a madman in Week 11, averaging 4.1 YPC. He was able to gain 88 total yards in his first action since Week 2, and looked like he was 100 percent healthy while doing it.
The Seahawks take on a Bucs defense that is generously giving up 20.1 PPG to fantasy RBs this season, the 11th-most in the NFL. Rawls is more of a RB1/2 bubble guy, but someone that you probably got off the waiver wire recently. To pick up a guy, then wait a week or two, then stick him into your RB2 spot—that is a beautiful thing to have as we near the fantasy playoffs.
Wendell Smallwood – Eagles: With Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles not even practicing Wednesday, it is pretty much a lock that Smallwood is the feature back this week against the Packers. Green Bay started the season doing well against the run, allowing 100-plus yards rushing just once through the first 9 games. However, they've now given up 123 yards to DeMarco Murray and 137 yards to Rob Kelley over the past two weeks. What's worse, they gave up 3 rushing TDs to Kelley in Week 11. That one game triples his season total (1) for rushing touchdowns.
Smallwood should be considered an RB2 against a Packers team that is pretty much imploding before our very eyes. The Packers can't seem to move the ball consistently on offense, and have lost the ability to play tough defense. Smallwood is a must-own player for Week 12, but will go back to the bench when Mathews and Sproles are healthy again.
Adam Thielen – Vikings: Stefon Diggs is not going to play Thursday night, putting Thielen in a prime spot to be a waiver wire beast. Thielen has been solid this season, racking up 37 catches, 518 yards, and 3 touchdowns through 10 games. Not bad for a guy who is owned in just 10 percent of fantasy leagues right now.
Sam Bradford knows that he can't trust Charles Johnson or Cordarrelle Patterson to produce, whereas Thielen has caught 37 of 50 targets (74 percent) and turned them into yards and points on the scoreboard. I'd consider him a good WR3 off the waiver wire for those who need it.
Davante Adams – Packers: Adams was a total bust last week against the Redskins, finishing with just 3 catches for 42 yards. That type of production makes fantasy owners wonder if they should trust him this week, and I am here to tell you that you should.
The Eagles give up 23.9 PPG to fantasy WRs this season, the 16th-most in the NFL. While their 9 TDs (22nd) and 114 receptions (29th) rank high defensively, their 1,777 receiving yards allowed (14th) show they give up chunk yards when a reception is made.
Adams is a great bounce-back candidate for a Packers team that is in a must-win game every week from here on out. Given his lack of production last week, his price is likely to drop in DFS leagues as we head into Week 12. That makes him an enticing play there as well.
Jared Cook – Packers: I told you about Cook earlier, and I'm going to stand by him again here. Last week he was a one-man wrecking crew, shredding the Redskins for a 6/105/1 line. The problem with him is his propensity for mistakes, dropping a sure touchdown and fumbling late in the 4th quarter with the Packers driving down the field.
Even with him messing up now and then, TE is a problem position for every fantasy team with Gronkowski out and guys like Greg Olsen and Travis Kelce being hard to pin down for reliability. Cook has shown he can be an asset for a team that is struggling to find its identity on offense. Fire him up as a solid TE1 play in a week where there is nothing certain at the position.
Tennessee Titans defense: This one is pretty simple: the Bears are a bad football team. They are down to their 3rd string QB, their 2nd string no-name TE (Logan Paulsen), and their 3rd and 4th WRs (Royal and Meredith). On top of that, their offensive line couldn't block a sneeze from a 6-year-old child.
The Titans defense is ranked 18th this season, but they have their best chance for success all year against the Bears.
Matt Ryan – Falcons:Ryan is fantasy football's #1-ranked QB through 11 weeks of the season, which is amazing since he was drafted in the 14th round on average. He's averaging 324.7 passing yards, 2.4 passing TDs, and just 0.5 INTs this year, by far the best season of his career.
This week he draws a Cardinals team that is coming off an embarrassing loss to the Vikings in Week 11. It looks like DB Tyrann Mathieu will be back this week, which created big problems for Ryan and the Falcons passing game. The Cardinals are out of the playoff race, but their defense isn't going to roll over and die. Look for them to be fired up for the Falcons after getting thumped by the Vikings.
Matthew Stafford – Lions:Stafford was one of my loser picks last week, and he lands on my sit 'em list for this week for all the same reasons. He's thrown 4 TDs in his last 4 games combined, and hasn't thrown for 280 or more yards in 8 of 10 games this season. What Stafford has turn into in this post-Megatron era is a TD-dependent QB who isn't throwing more than 1 or 2 TDs per game.
Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, and Eric Ebron are as inconsistent as they come, and those are Stafford's top 3 targets in the passing game! Stafford was able to throw 2 TDs against the Vikings in Week 9, but I wouldn't bet on him doing it again in Week 12.
Jeremy Hill – Bengals:The Bengals are without their Pro Bowl WR in A.J. Green, and their passing-down RB in Giovani Bernard, leaving them with just Jeremy Hill and Tyler Eifert as their proven weapons on offense. Tyler Boyd is a rookie that has played in the slot, but is now being pushed outside with Green out; Rex Burkhead is a special teams guy who will take over passing duties with Bernard out. What that means is the Ravens can use their DBs in man coverage, and use their DL and LBs to stop Hill from running for big gains.
The Ravens have the NFL's #1 ranked run defense this season, allowing just 76.0 YPG on the ground. Factor in the obstacles the Bengals face offensively, and you have a running back you should avoid using if at all possible this week in Hill.
Rob Kelley – Redskins:While I do like Kirk Cousins this week, I don't like Rob Kelley and the Redskins rushing game. The Cowboys give up just 84.4 YPG rushing, the 3rd-fewest in the NFL this year. On top of that, their 5 rushing TDs allowed ties them for the 4th-fewest this year, and they haven't allowed more than 86 yards rushing to a single RB this year.
Kelley has solidified himself as the No. 1 RB in Washington, but he has a tough matchup this week. The Cowboys secondary has given up a receiving touchdown in every game this year, making Cousins, Jamison Crowder, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Jordan Reed much better plays than Kelley this week.
Willie Snead – Saints:Snead is one of those WRs you want to cut, but are afraid to because of Drew Brees throwing to him. Snead was great in Week 1, hauling in 9 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown. He followed up that game with a 5/54/1 line in Week 2. Still good fantasy totals because of the touchdown, but an obvious drop in production. After that, he went silent for 6 weeks before hauling in 2 more touchdowns in Week 10 against the Broncos. But true to Willie Snead form, he was M.I.A. last week as he managed just 33 receiving yards and no endzone visits against the Panthers.
Snead owners keep him because they are hoping to get a TD out of him, but that is wishful thinking more times than not. The Saints passing game runs through Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas, leaving Snead to fight with Coby Fleener for targets. Snead isn't going to overtake either on the depth chart, making him a TD-or-bust play in fantasy football.
Marvin Jones – Lions:Speaking of WRs fantasy owners are scared to cut, but don't want to play, meet Mr. Marvin Jones Jr. Jones was impressive the first half of the season, racking up 36 receptions, 656 receiving yards, and 4 TDs.
The problem is, in the last 2 games combined Jones has managed to catch 2 of 7 targets for 20 yards and no touchdowns. It's hard to fathom how a guy goes from 6/205/2 in Week 2 to 1/15/0 in Week 11, but that is what Jones has done. Jones isn't to be trusted right now, and especially in a game where I don't even want his QB starting for my fantasy teams.
Travis Kelce – Chiefs:Kelce has the problem of being a talented TE who could be elite in the NFL, if not for him being in a running offense with a game manager for a QB. Kelce pulled a rabbit out of his hat last week by piling up 108 receiving yards on 7 catches, but couldn't find the endzone against the Buccaneers. In the 2 games prior to last week, Kelce failed to reach 60 receiving yards in either game.
Kelce is the textbook definition of boom-or-bust, partly because of his TE position and partly because of his offensive scheme. This week he draws a Broncos defense that allows TEs to score just 6.1 PPG, the 7th-fewest fantasy points in the NFL. With the pressure the Broncos can put on a QB, combined with the Chiefs not wanting to throw the ball any more than they have to, look for Kelce to revert back to his TE2 numbers in Week 12.
Carolina Panthers defense: The Panthers defense entered this season overrated in fantasy terms, being the 3rd defense off the board, in the middle of the 8th round, on average. Fantasy owners didn't account for the fact that the Panthers front office built their secondary on a budget, which in turn has allowed QBs to throw for 2,901 passing yards (5th-most) and 19 TDs (9th). In contrast, their run defense is giving up just 14.4 PPG to fantasy RBs, the 3rd-fewest in the NFL.
This week the Panthers take on the Oakland Raiders and a passing attack featuring Derek Carr, Amari Cooper, and Michael Crabtree. The Raiders offense also gives back the 2nd-fewest fantasy points to defenses this season, making the Panthers a defense I'd avoid for Week 12. With the Giants, Titans, and Dolphins all great streaming options this week, you shouldn't have a problem finding a replacement for the Panthers if you own them.