Week 13 is here and as always, there is a lot still yet to be determined before we must set our lineups. Several running backs figure to be obvious starts this week due to injuries suffered by their backfield mates. Examples include Alexander Mattison and Jamaal Williams. The same would go for Javonte Williams, assuming Denver rules out Melvin Gordon. I will not include these players in my Week 13 Starts because I cannot imagine many scenarios where a fantasy manager would be on the fence with those players. If that is the case, you have healthier rosters than I do, so congratulations. For the record, all three of those running backs are top-15 plays for me this week.
Week 13 Start and Sit Recommendations
Quarterbacks to Start
Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders v. Washington Football Team
In our Week 13 Bold Predictions piece, my entry focused on Derek Carr. Rather than repeat the same information here, I would suggest you read that article. Suffice to say, I think big things are in store for Carr and the Raiders passing offense this week.
Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville Jaguars
Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams apparently decided to start a new movement called No Win November. The Rams lost all three of their games by an average of nearly two touchdowns. I don’t think it will stick around long term. The Rams’ quarterback has struggled mightily in his last three games. He has thrown five interceptions in that span, with three of them being returned for touchdowns. Stafford landed outside the top-15 in fantasy production in two of the three games, with last week’s QB4 finish being the lone exception. Most of his production was aided by long touchdowns and garbage time last week. I do not expect Stafford to need garbage time to pad his Week 13 stats, but I do think long touchdowns could be in store when the Rams face the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Jaguars have allowed 7.91 yards per pass attempt this season. That is the fourth-highest number in the NFL. They have also generated just five interceptions on defense. Only two teams (the New York Jets and Las Vegas Raiders) have fewer. Stafford’s biggest Achilles’ Heel of late has been his struggles with pressure. However, I do not know if Jacksonville has the personnel or scheme to exploit this weakness. The Jaguars have just 19 sacks on the season. That is tied for fourth-fewest in the league. They allow quarterbacks an average of 2.59 seconds to throw and 2.44 before generating pressure. Both marks are bottom-12 among the 32 NFL teams. This feels like a game for Stafford and the rest of the Rams’ passing weapons to get some of their mojo back. December is a new month, and Sunday will be a new day for Stafford and the Rams.
Quarterback to Sit
Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals v. Los Angeles Chargers
Joe Burrow finished as the overall QB11 last week which made me feel smart after recommending him as a start. He could have finished much higher had Cincinnati not blown the doors off of Pittsburgh. That is two consecutive games where Burrow has not needed to go above and beyond, as the Bengals’ running game and defense have done most of the heavy lifting. Burrow’s streak of eight straight games to start the year where he threw for multiple touchdowns may have masked the fact that Cincinnati does not want their franchise quarterback throwing the ball all over the yard in Year 2. Burrow has attempted 35 passes in just three of Cincinnati’s 11 games this season. That makes him a bit of a risky start for me when it comes to his Week 13 fantasy prospects against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Burrow has been quite efficient on the year, averaging 8.36 yards per attempt with a 6.49 touchdown percentage. He will need to maintain that uber-efficiency against a Chargers defense that has been very good at limiting opposing passing attacks. The Chargers allow an even 7.00 yards per pass attempt on the year. Los Angeles has also allowed just 16 passing touchdowns on the year. I expect Cincinnati to continue to feature their rushing attack in this game against a Chargers team that has been vulnerable to the run all year long. The Chargers have given up 14 rushing touchdowns and are allowing 2.10 yards per rush before contact. Both are the second-highest marks in the NFL. I would be a bit wary of starting Joe Burrow this week considering the game plan the Bengals are most likely to employ.
Running Backs to Start
Devonta Freeman, Baltimore Ravens v. Pittsburgh Steelers
The thought of recommending Devonta Freeman against the Pittsburgh Steelers would have seemed completely absurd a couple of months ago and is a little nerve-racking. Maybe it shouldn’t be, though. After all, this is the same defense that has given up six total touchdowns and nearly 300 all-purpose yards to the combination of Austin Ekeler and Joe Mixon over the last two weeks. Freeman is not in their class, of course. However, he does have 69 opportunities in Baltimore’s last four ball games. The volume gives Freeman a relatively safe floor against a defense that has hemorrhaged an NFL-high 553 yards to opposing running backs over the past four weeks. Freeman has found the end zone in four of his last six games. If he scores this week, he will exceed his consensus expectation for the week.
Boston Scott, Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets
Rex Burkhead, Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
I am listing Boston Scott and Rex Burkhead together because when I posted my Week 13 Flex Rankings the other day, they came in at 95 and 96 overall, respectively. In most cases, that would mean they are to be considered “sits”. However, I have warmed on each of them a bit in the last 48 hours or so. Not to the point where they are no-brainer starts, but where I would be comfortable starting both of them if your other options are less than ideal. Let’s start with Scott first.
I need to mention first and foremost that Scott has yet to practice this week due to a non-Covid illness. This makes him a bit of a risky proposition as of now. But if he plays, I am expecting a solid outing. Jordan Howard has been ruled out of Sunday’s contest against the New York Jets. Though Scott and Howard do not have similar roles, there at least figures to be less competition with Miles Sanders for touches with Howard out of the picture. That is a positive sign considering how bad the Jets’ run defense is. Philadelphia removed Sanders from their official Week 13 injury report. But they have shown no willingness to overwork Sanders in any game so far this season. Sanders has averaged just 12.7 opportunities per game this year, and 13.5 in two games since returning from a multi-week absence.
Scott, meanwhile, has averaged 11.8 opportunities over the past six weeks. This is not a situation where Scott is only playing sparingly. He has out-snapped Sanders 63-58 in the last two weeks and has just one fewer opportunity in that span. I do not expect the Eagles to suddenly give Sanders 20-25 chances to touch the football. That means Scott will likely get close to his normal workload. Just about any back who gets double-digit opportunities against the Jets is worthy of Flex consideration, and Boston Scott would be no exception. If Scott cannot overcome his illness in time for kickoff, Kenneth Gainwell becomes an intriguing option. The fifth-round rookie is still available in nearly 40 percent of Fantrax leagues and has scored four touchdowns on just 66 touches this season.
Rex Burkhead put my theory about universally starting any running back with four functioning limbs against the New York Jets last week when he parlayed 15 touches into a pedestrian RB33 finish. While that hardly instills any confidence that he will fare any better against the Indianapolis Colts this week, backfield mate David Johnson is dealing with an illness and a thigh injury ahead of Week 13. If either ailment forces Johnson out of action, Burkhead would be close to an every-down back. The Colts have shown some cracks in the armor of their run defense in recent weeks. They have allowed an even 6.0 yards per carry and five total touchdowns to opposing running backs in their last two games. Burkhead may lack efficiency, but a boost to his volume could lead to him posting low-end RB2 numbers this week.
Running Back to Sit
Damien Harris, New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills were destroyed by Jonathan Taylor two weeks ago, and by Derrick Henry in Week 6. The two AFC South studs combined for eight touchdowns and 360 total yards in their matchups against the Bills. Even with those two strikes against them, Buffalo is a top-five fantasy defense against running backs this season. That speaks to how good they have been in their other nine games. They have allowed just 3.83 yards per carry to opposing backs on the year and just 1.21 yards per rush before contact. Those numbers rank sixth and eighth, respectively in the NFL. Bills’ opponents have just nine carries inside Buffalo’s five-yard line this year, the third-fewest in the NFL. This just doesn’t feel like a spot where Harris will have a ton of success. That could be a problem given his one-dimensional nature.
Harris has just 15 targets, 13 receptions, and 84 receiving yards on the season. He still trails Henry in all three categories despite Henry being out since October. Brandon Bolden seems to have a grasp on passing-down duties in New England, and Rhamondre Stevenson has siphoned enough touches away from Harris to where he is not exactly a workhorse. New England has beaten each of their last four opponents by at least 18 points. Harris has played in three of those games, yet has averaged just 13 opportunities per game in that stretch. He has scored in two of the three but has not finished inside the top-18 in any of those three games. With New England as slight underdogs, I do not expect his recent workload to suddenly increase. Harris is a touchdown-dependent Flex, and one who I believe will fall short of expectations in this matchup.
Wide Receivers to Start
Odell Beckham and Van Jefferson, Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville Jaguars
The Los Angeles Rams hit a wall in November and have lost three straight. However, their offense did show some signs of life last week. Odell Beckham and Van Jefferson each caught long touchdown passes from Matthew Stafford in their Week 12 loss in Green Bay. And both tied or eclipsed previous season-highs in targets, receiving yards, and touchdowns. I will note that the wideouts benefited from the Rams facing a negative game script throughout much of that game. That does not necessarily figure to be the case when they face the Jacksonville Jaguars this week. But with running back Darrell Henderson nursing a quad injury and the Jaguars lacking depth in their secondary, this feels like it could be a “get right” game for Stafford and the Rams aerial attack.
Beckham and Jefferson figure to split time against the combination of Nevin Lawson and Tyson Campbell. Both rank outside the top-75 corners based on the Pro Football Focus grading system. Campbell, in particular, has struggled. He allows an average of 1.72 yards per route covered this year. The second-round rookie has also had issues defending the deep ball. That is a weakness that either (or both) could exploit. In the two games in which they have played together, Jefferson has an average depth of target of 16.44. Beckham is not far behind at 14.31. I currently have both ranked as top-30 fantasy options this week. Beckham is questionable with a hip injury, though he is expected to play. If Beckham were to sit out, Jefferson would vault into WR2 territory given the favorable matchup.
Wide Receiver to Sit
Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
With each passing week, it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the correlation between Jerry Jeudy’s presence on the field and Courtland Sutton’s production. In the six games Jeudy missed, Sutton had 55 targets, 37 receptions, and 525 yards. In the five games Jeudy has played, Sutton has 15 targets, 8 receptions, and 109 yards. It may be an oversimplification to think that Jeudy is solely responsible for Sutton failing to produce with both on the field, so we do not need to worry about Sutton trying to pull an Aminata Diallo anytime soon. Still, the numbers are the numbers, and Sutton has not proven that he can coexist with Jeudy from a production standpoint. I do not think that is likely to change this week when Denver takes on the Kansas City Chiefs, who suddenly look back to normal.
The Chiefs have won four straight football games. In that span, they have permitted a total of just 47 points. Part of the reason has been the stellar play of cornerback Rashad Fenton. Fenton is PFF’s top-graded cornerback on the year. He has allowed just 0.14 fantasy points per route, and 0.63 yards per route covered. Both place him inside the top-six among all cornerbacks who have covered at least 200 routes this year. Fenton will most likely be the Chiefs’ corner who is singled up against Sutton most often. That does not figure to help the struggling wideout break out of his month-long slump. There is just too much going against Sutton at the moment to expect him to reverse his recent fortunes. I have him outside my top-40 fantasy wideouts this week.
Tight Ends to Start
Tyler Higbee, Los Angeles Rams at Jacksonville Jaguars
I realize that recommending three pass catchers on the Los Angeles Rams as Week 13 starts not named Cooper Kupp is a bit dicey. It is probably unlikely that Odell Beckham, Van Jefferson, and Tyler Higbee all hit given Kupp’s expected production. Having said that, I do like their matchups, and I am starting them where I have them, for whatever that’s worth. I think Higbee has a distinct advantage over Damien Wilson, who figures to line up against him in most one-on-one situations. Wilson has allowed an average of 0.31 fantasy points per target, an 85 percent catch rate, and 1.52 yards per route covered. All rank Wilson in the bottom-five among linebackers who have covered at least 200 tight end routes, per Pro Football Focus. I expect Higbee to bounce back nicely after last week’s 1-3-0 dud.
Brevin Jordan, Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts
Recommending three Rams doesn’t seem so crazy now that you see I am recommending two Houston Texans, does it? Admittedly, Brevin Jordan is a deeper option than I normally seek out. However, there are reasons to consider him in deeper leagues this week. Jordan was inactive for the first seven weeks of the season but has gained a bit of steam of late. In his first taste of NFL action, Jordan caught a touchdown pass in Week 8 as he and Antony Auclair split reps behind incumbent starter Jordan Akins. But following Houston’s Week 10 bye, the team has deemed Akins a healthy scratch in each of its last two games. Jordan, Auclair, and Pharaoh Brown have formed a bit of a committee, with Jordan serving as the primary pass-catcher among the three.
Over the last two weeks, Jordan has four catches for 30 yards and a touchdown. Brown has two catches for 10 yards, and Auclair has not been targeted. That is not exactly the type of volume we target when seeking tight end streamers. However, I think Jordan is an intriguing play this week against a Colts team that has surrendered the second-most receptions (77) and yards (844) to the position. They have also allowed six passing touchdowns to tight ends, which is tied for sixth-most in the NFL. I still have Jordan outside my personal top-20 fantasy tight ends, so I am not saying he is a must-start by any means. However, if you are in a deep league or one that features tight end premium scoring, Brevin Jordan could be an under-the-radar source of fantasy production this week.
Tight End to Sit
Zach Ertz, Arizona Cardinals at Chicago Bears
Zach Ertz has made a nearly seamless transition into life as an Arizona Cardinal. He has scored three touchdowns in five games and averaged over 50 yards per game. Perhaps more impressive is that he has done so while Kyler Murray has missed most of that time dealing with an ankle injury. Regardless of who Arizona tabs as their Week 13 quarterback, Ertz could have his hands full against the Chicago Bears. Chicago has allowed the third-fewest receiving yards to opposing tight ends, while also ranking in the top-10 in terms of fantasy points and receptions. I do not expect Ertz to completely disappear this week from a fantasy perspective. However, I would temper expectations a bit compared to his recent output. Ertz is more of a high floor TE2 for me than he is a must-start TE1.
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