Once again we saw another wild weekend of football in the NFL, filled with high scoring shoot-outs (Jaguars/Titans), low scoring snoozers (Broncos/Chargers), upsets (Eagles/Patriots), and nail-biters (Panthers/Saints). Nobody in the sports world saw the Eagles beating the Patriots, just as nobody thought the Saints would be able to move the ball against a Panthers defense that has been one of the best in the NFL this season.
That is why I love fantasy football so much; on any given weekend there are any number of things that could happen to change the trajectory of a game, thus defying everything we thought we knew about football. But just as many positive things can happen, so too can there be disappointments.
Did you know that in Week 13 there were just three running backs that reached 100 yards rushing? Did you also know that a QB (Marcus Mariota) had just 1 fewer rushing yard (112) than the leading RB (Lamar Miller – 113) last week? I remember when a fantasy team was built around a strong RB corps, and WRs and TEs were just supporting cast. As we see the fantasy landscape move towards PPR-heavy formats, traditional RB-heavy fantasy teams aren't as effective as they used to be. And it doesn't help when you have a down week for the position like we did this week.
Cam Newton – Panthers: Newton was someone that I was high on this week because of the Saints defense. Prior to this game the Saints gave up the most fantasy points to QBs this season, and they stayed true to form once again in Week 13. Newton was able to complete 28 of 41 passes for 331 yards, 5 touchdowns and 1 interception, and chip in an additional 49 yards on the ground. The combination of yards and touchdowns were enough to rank Newton #2 overall for Week 13, as well as keep the Saints defense atop the list of worst fantasy defenses against QBs this season.
Blake Bortles – Jaguars: Bortles continues to put up stats in bunches as he added another 322 yards and 5 TDs to the already impressive totals for 2015. The touchdowns (27) now have Bortles as the franchise leader for TD passes thrown in a single season, passing David Garrard who previously had the record with 23. What's more, Bortles now has thrown a TD pass in 12 straight games, which ties him with Byron Leftwich for the franchise record. The only question left now is can he break Mark Brunell's single-season passing yardage total of 4,367 he set in 1996?
There is little doubt that Bortles is the future for the Jaguars at QB, and fantasy owners smart enough to grab him early in the season have reaped the rewards while those big-box websites tried to play catch-up around the mid-season mark.
Javorius Allen – Ravens: Even though the Ravens lost this week, Allen was certainly a winner as he racked up 170 total yards (63 rushing, 107 receiving) and a touchdown. For those in PPR formats, he also chipped in 12 receptions, which vaulted him to the top of the fantasy RB rankings for Week 13. The Ravens are struggling to move the ball with their QB, RB and multiple WRs out, so Allen is doing well with the check-downs out of the backfield.
David Johnson – Cardinals: Johnson got the call on Sunday with Chris Johnson on the I.R. designated to return (broken leg) and Andre Ellington out (turf toe), and he filled in nicely by running the ball 22 times for 99 yards and adding 2 catches for 21 yards and a touchdown. Johnson showed he is the guy to carry the load for the Cardinals as they head into the playoffs, so keep him in your lineup as a RB2 until you hear otherwise.
Allen Robinson – Jaguars: Robinson had a massive game on the road this week, piling up 153 receiving yards and 3 TDs on his 10 receptions. Only Falcons WR Julio Jones saw more targets (17) than Robinson (15) last week, but Robinson was able to be far more effective for his fantasy owners. It's obvious at this point that Bortles & Allen Robinson are must-start fantasy players each and every week because they produce fantasy numbers, each and every week!
Jeremy Maclin – Chiefs: Maclin has been quiet for most of the season, but he broke out last week for a 9/160/1 line against the Bills and followed it up this last with 9 receptions, 95 yards and 2 TDs against the Raiders. The Chiefs aren't a passing team, so you have to temper your expectations with a WR like Maclin in any fantasy format. With the Chargers headed to Kansas City for Week 14, Maclin will be on the WR2 map.
Richard Rodgers – Packers: You knew we couldn't get out of Week 13 without talking about Mr. Rodgers neighborhood! The Packers TE had us watching in amazement on Thursday night as he beat the Lions defense time and time again, then pulled down a game-winning touchdown on a 61-yard Hail Mary prayer. In the end, Richard Rodgers pulled down 8 of 8 targets for 146 yards and a touchdown. Rodgers isn't someone you can count on for stats most weeks, so take this game and run like a bandit if you happened to play him last week.
Philadelphia Eagles defense: Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, saw the Patriots losing to the Eagles in Week 13! What's worse, the Eagles did it in large part because of their defense. Not only did they hold the Patriots offense to 28 points (still a lot, but we all thought it would be more), but they racked up 4 sacks, 2 INTS and 2 defensive touchdowns (pick-6 and blocked punt return). And if your league counts special teams yards or TDs as part of the defensive stats, Darren Sproles ran a punt back 83 yards for a touchdown.
Philip Rivers – Chargers: Rivers' rocky season continued on Sunday as he failed to move the ball effectively against a tough Broncos defense. Rivers managed just 202 passing yards, no TDs and 1 INT after losing Stevie Johnson (groin) and Dontrelle Inman (ankle) during the game. If you remember, the Chargers are already without WR Keenan Allen, so the loss of Inman and Johnson just cripples an already-struggling offense. Rivers is a risky QB2 in all formats these days.
Ryan Tannehill – Dolphins: What an absolutely ugly statistical nightmare for Tannehill in Week 13, finishing with just 86 passing yards, 1 TD and no INTs. While he was able to add 11 rushing yards, it still wasn't enough for him to break 100 total yards in a game in which he didn't leave early due to injury. The reality is that the Dolphins didn't need Tannehill's arm as the defense was sound and Lamar Miller was the workhorse to keep them in the lead. Next week the Dolphins get a sketchy Giants defense, so consider Tannehill a QB2 for that matchup.
Adrian Peterson – Vikings: Can someone tell me why Yahoo projected Peterson to be this week's 3rd-best fantasy RB, despite the Seahawks giving up the fewest fantasy points to RBs this season? It's not a shock to me at all that Peterson managed just 18 yards rushing, and 6 yards receiving, on a day when the Seahawks were up 21-0 at halftime. When your team is down all game long, by multiple touchdowns, you can bet dollars to doughnuts that the running game will be abandoned. With the Vikings facing the Cardinals in Week 14, I wouldn't bet on him bouncing back to elite RB1 numbers like some of those big-box fantasy websites already are.
Todd Gurley – Rams: Gurley is a beast on the field, and there is really no denying that fact. But he is proving to be a TD-dependent fantasy play given the Rams' offensive limitations this season. This week he managed just 9 carries for 41 yards, and 36 of those yards came on one carry! There is little doubt about his ability for the future, but the Rams have real problems at QB, WR and TE, which allows defenses the opportunity to stack the defensive line and stuff Gurley at the line of scrimmage more often than not. He will have a better matchup next week (on paper anyway) against the Lions, but you can be sure they will stack the line just like everyone else.
Larry Fitzgerald – Cardinals: The good news for fantasy owners is that Fitzgerald was targeted 11 times on Sunday, and hauled in 8 of them. The bad news is he turned those receptions into just 55 empty yards on a day when Carson Palmer threw for 356 yards and 2 TDs. With Michael Floyd and John Brown back and fully healthy, Fitzgerald is no longer being targeted downfield on deeper routes, thus limiting his fantasy effectiveness. You can feel safe playing him in PPR formats, but those in standard formats can't view him as a plug-and-play option in the playoffs.
Brandon LaFell – Patriots: As if losing to the Eagles wasn't bad enough for the Patriots, their defense did a nice job bottling up LaFell all game long. Despite being targeted 9 times on Sunday, LaFell managed to reel in just 4 of them for 27 empty yards. He's had two straight games to win the No. 1 WR job for the Patriots, and has turned those opportunities into 8 receptions (18 targets), 63 yards and no TDs. Unless you are in the most desperate of situations at WR, I wouldn't trust LaFell anymore as we head into the fantasy playoffs. I'm considering cutting him in the leagues I own him in so he can kill other fantasy teams I might play against!
Travis Kelce – Chiefs: Kelce started off the season with a bang after racking up 106 yards and 2 TDs in the opening week. But since then he has managed just 2 TDs over the next 11 games and has topped 50-plus yards just once over the past five games. This week he managed just 42 yards on 2 catches and a 2-point conversion, but canceled that out by losing a fumble. TE is a boom-or-bust position in fantasy football, so a player of Kelce's caliber has to be played unless you have a clearly better option.
Carolina Panthers defense: The Panthers may remain undefeated, but it was a struggle all game long for a defense that had previously been shutting offenses down with relative ease. Not only did they give up 30 points to the Saints offense, but they managed just 2 sacks and 1 INT for fantasy help. Because of the points allowed, the Panthers finished as the 3rd-worst fantasy defense in Week 13. Next week they get the Falcons, so it could be another battle if Matt Ryan and Julio Jones get things going.