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NFL Fantasy 2023 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Running backs for Week 12

You have lineup questions, we have lineup answers -- at least we hope so. Start 'Em, Sit 'Em is here to help fantasy managers make difficult roster decisions. And you know what is a good move? Starting Christian McCaffrey. But that's too obvious, so you won't see such simple analysis here. Instead, we're exploring more debatable situations. And if you can't find a player you are looking for, please check out the latest NFL Fantasy lineup rankings.

Start 'Em

Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans TEN

It’s been a very up-and-down season for Henry. He's been held to fewer than six fantasy points in two straight games, but had more than 16 in the three games before. It’s hard to keep kings down for long, and Henry has the ultimate get-right spot this week against the Panthers. Carolina has allowed the fifth-most rushing yards, most rushing touchdowns, sixth-most receiving touchdowns and second-most fantasy PPG to running backs. To summarize, they give up a boatload of production each week to backs. And the best part: You do not have to worry about Henry getting game-scripted out against the 1-9 Panthers (despite how poorly the Titans have played). Like Tony Pollard last week, Henry is set to bounce back in this one. Start him. 

Joe Mixon
Cincinnati Bengals CIN

Week 11 dealt the Bengals a devastating blow. The shift from Joe Burrow to Jake Browning lowers fantasy value for basically all Bengals players, but the person least impacted should be Mixon. He posted a season-high 21 fantasy points last week in a tough matchup against the Ravens. With an inexperienced QB, the Bengals will likely try to establish the run a whole lot more. I would also expect a lot of quick dump-offs to Mixon in the passing game against a Steelers unit that has allowed the sixth-most yards to backs on the season.

Isiah Pacheco
Kansas City Chiefs KC

Pacheco had the toughest matchup among running backs last week, but he did not let it slow him down. Against a stout Eagles front, the second-year back churned out 89 yards on 19 carries. But the lack of a touchdown limited his fantasy total to just 10.1 points, continuing a streak of middling performances. Fortunately, the Raiders have been allowing get-right games to backs all year. Vegas has allowed the fourth-most yards and fifth-most fantasy points to RBs this season. If the Chiefs are playing from ahead (likely), you can expect to see a lot of Pacheco. The Vegas grass is not ready for the pounding it’s set to receive on Sunday.

Jaylen Warren
Pittsburgh Steelers PIT

Ever get a “promotion” in title alone? That’s basically what’s happened to Warren. While he's now listed as the Steelers' starter, he still had fewer snaps and carries than Najee Harris in Week 11, with just one more target (3 to 2). And yet, Warren continues to be the more productive back, turning his limited touches into 145 yards and a touchdown. He finished the week as the RB2 overall. Warren has now scored more than 14 points in three straight. The Bengals aren’t a slam-dunk matchup, but they have allowed 4.6 yards per carry in 2023. And if the Bengals offense struggles with Jake Browning under center, affording Pittsburgh additional possessions, Warren could be in line for more touches and more chances for big plays; he has 13 runs for 10 or more yards in the last three weeks -- Harris has 12 all year. I think Warren is a top-20 fantasy RB with a lot of upside.

Kyren Williams
Los Angeles Rams LA

He’s back! Williams is set to return from IR this week and should immediately return to starting lineups. Don’t forget what Williams was doing before he was injured. He scored more than 17 fantasy points in four of six games, clearing 21 three times. He may share more of the workload moving forward than he did early on, but he also starts off with a great matchup in Week 12. The Cardinals have allowed the third-most rushing yards and third most fantasy PPG to backs this season. He is in play as an RB2 or flex option.


Zach Charbonnet
Seattle Seahawks SEA

Kenneth Walker, who had already been dealing with a calf injury, hurt his oblique early in last week's game and did not return. With Seattle playing on a short week, it may be Zach Charbonnet time. Of course Charbonnet would finally get his chance in a divisional matchup against the staunch 49ers defense. Still, quantity alone could have him in play as an injury replacement. Last week, he played 84 percent of the team's offensive snaps, carried the ball 15 times and caught all six of his targets. It’s not the ideal matchup, but if you’re going a little deeper at RB, he’s a viable volume play. 

Sit 'Em

James Cook
Buffalo Bills BUF

Joe Brady could be a very good thing for Cook. During Brady's tenure in Carolina, he ran a primarily one-back system (even when Christian McCaffrey was out of the lineup). In the Bills' first game with Brady in charge, Cook scored 19.2 fantasy points, tied for his second-most all season. That said, Cook still split work with two other backs, playing just 45 percent of the snaps. That number is a bit watered down by a blowout, but still. Now there’s talk that "Playoff" Lenny Fournette could be activated next week. Cook is certainly trending up after Sunday's performance, but the Eagles remain the toughest matchup for an RB. They have allowed the fewest yards and fewest fantasy PPG to backs. Plus, it’s not like you can rely on a touchdown here. I would sit Cook if you have another reliable option this week. 

Alexander Mattison
Minnesota Vikings MIN

If Jaylen Warren is the guy who got promoted in title alone, Mattison is the guy who has the title despite rarely doing the work. He’s still technically the lead back for the Vikings, playing 64 percent of the snaps to Ty Chandler’s 30 percent in Week 11. And he even had a “big game” by his standards on Sunday, running for 81 yards, his high mark since Week 4. Still, he finished with just seven fantasy points due to a fumble and irrelevant receiving production. It’s the fourth time in five games that Mattison has scored seven or fewer fantasy points. Chandler looked more explosive and was involved more in the passing game. The Bears are also a very tough matchup on the ground, allowing the fewest rushing yards to backs since Week 7. They have struggled against pass-catching backs, so if you start a Vikings RB this week, it should be Chandler. 

AJ Dillon
Green Bay Packers GB

Aaron Jones unfortunately suffered an injury in Week 11. Typically, when Jones is sidelined, fantasy managers get excited for Dillon. But we’ve seen this show already. In three games with no Jones this year, Dillon has scored 7.3, 3.3 and 13.6 fantasy points. That 13.6 effort came in a great matchup against the Raiders and is also Dillon’s best game of the season. He gets a Lions defense this week that's the opposite of a favorable matchup. They have allowed the fourth-fewest rushing yards and fifth-fewest fantasy PPG to backs this year. Dillon faced them in Week 4, in a game in which Jones left early, and was limited to just 1.1 fantasy points. Hard to trust this play.

Chicago Bears

A three-headed backfield is a nightmare for fantasy purposes. While Khalil Herbert saw a whole lot of work last week, all three Bears backs were involved, and the goal-line chances went to D'Onta Foreman. Worst of all (except for his fantasy managers), Justin Fields led the Bears in carries and rushing yards. That makes this a four-man rushing attack (when everyone’s healthy, which Foreman’s currently not) for a team that doesn’t generate the most scoring opportunities to begin with. Plus, the Vikings have given up just 3.4 yards per carry to backs since Week 7. Given all the murkiness and with no teams on bye, I would avoid this backfield all together. 

EDITOR'S UPDATE: Foreman (ankle/shin) is officially doubtful to play against the Vikings.

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