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Week 12 Start/Sit: Monday Night Football Matchup Analysis

We haven't seen the Oilers in action since 1998, but they're still very alive in my heart. Warren Moon was one of my favorite players as a kid, and their uniforms/color combination might just be the most iconic to ever grace a football field. In case you're too young to remember, the Oilers played in Houston from 1960 to 1996 prior to relocating to Tennessee and playing two seasons as the Tennessee Oilers (before becoming the Titans we know today). For that reason (also because I'm corny), I find extra joy in these matchups and view them as games which always end in a tie because it's the Oilers versus the Oilers and how can a team win a game if it's playing itself?

In reality, these two teams have squared off 33 times since the NFL returned to Houston in 2002 -- with the Titans boasting a 18-15 lead in the series -- and when the (5-5) Tennessee Titans head to Houston to take on the (7-3) Houston Texans, there will be much more than bragging rights at stake - the Titans are trying to keep pace in the AFC South division race.

It goes without saying that these two teams are very familiar with each other, and this should be yet another good game provided to us in the spotlight of Monday Night Football. But, unless you're a fan of either the Titans or Texans, you're probably just here to see what you should be doing from the fantasy perspective... Let's get into that.

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Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans

Date and Start Time: Monday, November 26th at 8:15 p.m. EST
Game Spread: HOU -4.5
Over/Under: 41.5

Offensive and Defensive Rankings (per game):

Titans Texans
Passing Yards 30th 18th
Rushing Yards 15th 10th
Pass Defense 9th 8th
Run Defense 10th 6th


Must Starts

Top Players That You Should Have In Your Lineup

DeAndre Hopkins (WR, HOU)

When it comes to the wide receiver position in fantasy football, Hopkins is one of the most consistent options to be had. He's Top-10 at the position in receptions, yards, yards per reception, touchdowns, targets, fantasy points, and leads the position in target share. You could ask for more, but gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins.


Must Sits

Players To Avoid Putting In Your Lineup

Tajae Sharpe (WR, TEN)

When we saw the Titans on Monday night back in Week 9, Sharpe was coming off a nine-target, seven-catch, 101-yard performance and had been about as productive as Corey Davis in the team's two games prior ("productive" is used lightly).

Well, it's funny how quickly things change because in just three weeks Sharpe has gone from fantasy relevance to I'd rather start Dante Pettis. Including that Week 9 MNF matchup, Sharpe has seen a total of 11 targets over the Titans last three games - those 11 targets have resulted in a less than impressive six receptions for 37 yards and one touchdown. Even more damning, he caught five passes for 37 yards and a TD last week - meaning he had one catch for zero yards in Weeks 9 and 10, combined. Factor in a rather low ceiling, and Sharpe just isn't worth the risk.

Demaryius Thomas (WR, HOU)

Thomas saw three targets over the Texans first three drives in his Week 9 debut. Those three targets led to three receptions, 61 yards, and the birth of the Deshaun Watson/DT connection - a connection seemingly destined to be one for the ages... He hasn't seen a target since. The seven quarter target-less streak is the main cause for concern here, but it's also worth noting that DT's debut came without a healthy Keke Coutee. Coutee saw nine targets last week, and there was a point in the game where I legitimately forgot Thomas was even on the squad. I'd imagine that Thomas has a better grasp of the offense after three weeks in his new duds (including the bye), but he's clearly the third option (at best) in this passing game and with Lamar Miller running more effectively in recent weeks, again, he just isn't worth the risk.


Solid Options/Sleepers

Which Players Will Have Solid Games and Which Could Surprise?

Solid Option - Marcus Mariota (QB, TEN)

Mariota has balled out when healthy. Problem is, he's rarely been healthy. Still dealing with injury, Mariota practiced in full Friday and looks to be good to go. So, there's that.

Now you might look at the matchup and see that the Texans have allowed just 15.3 fantasy points per game to opposing QBs (fifth-fewest), less than 235 passing yards per game (eighth-fewest), and think this would be one to steer clear of. Maybe so. However, the Texans have played 10 games; they've faced Blaine Gabbert, Nathan Peterman/Josh Allen, Blake Bortles/Cody Kessler, Brock Osweiler, Case Keenum, and Alex Smith/Colt McCoy in six of those - Keenum is the only QB among the Top-20 quarterbacks in passing yards per game at 17th. In other words, the numbers are slightly skewed.

Plus, Mariota is virtually guaranteed to pick up a few extra points with those things attached to his hips.

Solid Option - Deshaun Watson (QB, HOU)

Watson has been a disappointment in his sophomore campaign, which is crazy considering he has six Top-10 weeks and sits 13th among QBs in fantasy points per game at 18.7. He was just that good as a rookie. Like the Texans, Tennessee has been the beneficiary of some favorable matchups (to a much lesser degree) and while their secondary has been solid, Watson's floor is high enough to make him a solid play this week.

Solid Option - Dion Lewis/Derrick Henry (RB, TEN)

This Titans backfield has been more frustrating for fantasy owners than dealing with the Black Friday crowds only to find the item you're looking to purchase is sold out. Lewis saw 20-plus touches in two-straight games coming out of their Week 8 bye, and his production was more than enough to warrant fantasy consideration in Week 11. Then, Week 11 came, and he touched the football a mere 11 times, contributing 32 yards from scrimmage.

Henry was held scoreless through the first six weeks of the season, and averaged a measly 42.8 scrimmage yards over those six contests - likely landing the behemoth on many a waiver wire. He rewarded anyone who had the audacity to remain patient by finding the end zone four times over the team's next three games, then, Week 11 came, and he gave us 4.6 fantasy points.

The frustration is likely to continue Monday night with the Texans posing one of the stiffest challenges for opposing RBs -- Saquon Barkley is the only back to top 75 rushing yards against this defense (Week 3) -- but Houston has surrendered five touchdowns to the position over their last three games, so if you're in a bind, a roll of the dice in hopes of a TD could pay dividends. The Titans backs have run the football on 46-percent of the team's offense snaps -- the second-highest run rate of any team heading into Week 12 -- so at least you know they'll get touches.

Solid Option - Lamar Miller (RB, HOU)

Quietly, Miller has received 16.1 carries per game - good for eighth at the running back position. The consistent volume hasn't led to consistent production, but the guaranteed touches land him in the flex conversation despite the tough matchup.

Solid Option - Corey Davis (WR, TEN)

Again, the numbers are skewed. Davis has seen 28.9-percent of his team's targets (third-most) and he should see more than enough volume to put up decent numbers in what's a more favorable matchup than the numbers might suggest.

Solid Option - Keke Coutee (WR, HOU)

Coutee has seen at least seven targets in three of his five appearances this season and should continue to find himself running open so long as Hopkins is on the field to command attention. His value takes a hit in standard scoring formats -- he runs a lot of underneath routes -- but the volume alone makes him worthy of WR3 consideration in PPR formats.

Sleeper - Jonnu Smith (TE, TEN)

The loss of Delanie Walker was a huge blow to this Titans offense, but the combination of Smith, Luke Stocker, MyCole Pruitt, and Anthony Firkser have sufficiently filled the void. At the same time, four tight ends splitting targets is a far from ideal situation to target as a fantasy owner looking for help at the TE position and not until recently were any of these guys considered viable fantasy options. Jonnu Smith has become a viable fantasy option. Smith has caught a TD pass in two of the Titans last three, and last week (when he didn't bring in a TD pass), he saw eight targets. He's averaging nearly five fantasy points per game on the season in PPR formats, and with Houston having allowed back-to-back Top-10 fantasy performances to the position, Smith could be in for a very nice evening.

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