By now most people have a good idea whether or not they are in the fantasy playoffs, causing most leagues to be half active and half dead. The thing about me is even when I am out of the playoff race, I will continue to run my team as if I was in, just to play spoiler. If I can't win, my goal is to make sure you don't win either!
With that said, you must stay active on the waiver wire for streaming and replacement options. The problem is that in Week 13, the waiver wire is mostly a barren wasteland of unwanted players. There are, however, a few players worth snagging to stream from week-to-week. Here are some of the guys you should target immediately after reading this:
Taylor Gabriel – Gabriel is a small (5'8", 165 lbs.), but speedy (4.28 40-yard dash) WR that is great at making defenders miss, while blowing past just about everyone on the field. With Julio Jones drawing double-coverages, the Falcons are throwing short screens to Gabriel, which he is turning into touchdowns. He's a WR3/flex for now.
Tyreek Hill – When Jeremy Maclin went down, Hill stepped up and showed that a WR in the Chiefs offense can succeed. Why? Because Maclin is a downfield threat, whereas Hill is more of a short route runner that counts on getting yards after the catch. Even when Maclin returns, Hill's role seems to be cemented.
Dontrelle Inman – Tyrell Williams suffered a shoulder injury in Week 12 that forced him out of the game. Word is leaking out of San Diego that the injury is in fact a right labrum injury, making his status going forward murky at best. Travis Benjamin may be the No. 1 WR on paper, but he is a straight-line runner. If Williams were to miss time, Inman would be the guy who steps into his role within the passing offense. He's worth owning in all formats as a speculative add.
Kenneth Dixon – Dixon and Terrance West are splitting touches almost 50-50 these days, with the trend leaning in Dixon's favor. With RBs being in short supply in almost every league out there, make sure Dixon is owned in yours. Even if you don't need one, sometimes the best move you can make is keeping someone else from making one!
Vernon Davis – Jordan Reed suffered a Grade 3 AC joint separation, making him unlikely to play this week. The Redskins have yet to rule him out, but word is he only has around 30 percent range of motion in his left arm. I really don't see how he would get cleared in time to play Sunday, nor does it make sense to risk further injury when you are likely to make the playoffs.
The Redskins have a tough matchup against the Cardinals this weekend, but TE-desperate teams should find Davis to be an upgrade over other waiver wire options.
Cincinnati Bengals defense – The Bengals take on the Eagles this week, and rookie QB Carson Wentz. Wentz started off hot, throwing 7 touchdowns and just 1 interception in his first 5 games. But since then he's managed to rattle off 8 INTs with just 4 TDs. Quite a reversal of fortunes for the young QB.
Next week the Bengals take on the Browns, a team doing their very best to run the table in reverse and go 0-16 this year. That makes the Bengals a 2-week play in fantasy terms. Owners who stream defenses would be smart to plan ahead with the Bengals.
Colin Kaepernick – 49ers: Trusting Kaepernick to do anything is a risky proposition, one I'm willing to take in leagues where I stream QBs, but more because of the Bears than the 49ers. Chicago is in full 2017 mode with their 3rd string QB starting, their top WR (Alshon Jeffery) suspended, and their team riddled with injuries.
The 49ers are prone to mistakes, but that can be cancelled out with the Bears' generous defense. So far this season the Bears have given up 17 passing TDs while snagging just 5 INTs. This could be the week the 49ers finally snap their 10-game losing streak. And even if they don't, they should be able to put a few touchdowns on the board.
Tyrod Taylor – Bills: Taylor has not been an effective fantasy QB for weeks now, but that has more to do with his weapons at WR than any regression on his part. It's hard to throw the ball when you are down to Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin, Justin Hunter, and most recently Percy Harvin, who's best for finding funny fantasy football team names rather than at WR.
The good news for the Bills is Sammy Watkins is back on the field. There is some concern with Watkins as he didn't practice Wednesday due to a sore foot. But since a lot of players don't practice on Wednesdays anymore in the NFL, I'm not going to be overly concerned unless he misses Friday's practice as well.
The Bills take on the Raiders, a team that gives up 22.0 PPG to fantasy QBs this season, 8th-most in the NFL. The Raiders are an offensive team, with a defense that looks better on paper than on the field. Taylor should find his way to QB1 stats in a game in which he may have to throw to keep the Bills in the game.
Jordan Howard – Bears: As I mentioned above, the 49ers are a mistake-prone team on both sides of the ball who aren't on a 10-game losing streak by accident. Their run defense gives up the most fantasy points to RBs this season at 27.6 PPG, which is 4.2 PPG more than the next-closest team. To put that in perspective, 4.2 points is equal to about 60 rushing yards, or a single touchdown per game.
The Bears passing game is a mess with Matt Barkley in as their starting QB, and their No. 1 WR being a combination of Eddie Royal and Cameron Meredith. With the passing game in trouble, the Bears will look to lean on the running game, as well as the check-down passing game.
I'm going to throw you a curveball below at the WR position, but this one is more of a straight fastball. Howard should be considered a mid-range RB1 this week.
Theo Riddick – Lions: Riddick has far more value in PPR leagues, where he has hauled in 48 passes for 356 receiving yards and 4 receiving touchdowns this year. Riddick is averaging 4.0 YPC on the ground, but the Lions don't seem committed to the running game given Riddick's 9.8 carries-per-game average. Ten carries just aren't enough to get the blood flowing.
With that said, I like Riddick this week because the Saints generously give up 26.6 PPG to RBs in PPR formats, 6th-most in the NFL. The Saints just gave up 89 yards of total offense to Todd Gurley last week, which speaks volumes about them given how well he has fared this season. I'm looking for RB2 numbers from Riddick in PPR formats this week.
Marquess Wilson – Bears: Here is the curveball I was talking about. I know what you are saying: "But James, you just said the passing game is a mess." Yes, I did. And, yes, it is. But who do you think Barkley threw to in practice as the 3rd string QB? Marquess Wilson, that's who.
Royal is dealing with a toe injury that has plagued him all season, so he isn't at full strength. Meredith's nickname in Mexico is "Manos de piedra," which means Stone Hands. That leaves Wilson, who last week posted an 8/125/1 line in his second game this season.
Wilson should give you WR3 numbers off the waiver wire, which is not an easy thing to find in Week 13.
DeAndre Hopkins – Texans: Trusting Hopkins is a lot like trusting Kaepernick: it's riskier than playing Russian roulette by yourself. But this week may be the game he finally reaches the endzone since Week 5. Not because Brock Osweiler has made strides and looks like the QB the Texans are paying him BIG money to be. No. Rather, the Packers secondary has been atrocious.
So far this year the Packers are giving up 27.1 PPG to WRs, the 3rd-most in the NFL. Their 17 receiving TDs to WRs is 2nd-most in the NFL, and their 1,947 receiving yards to WRs is 12th-most in the NFL. This is the best matchup Hopkins is going to see the rest of the season, so I am going to give him a shot at WR2/3 one final time in 2016.
Kyle Rudolph – Vikings: With Delanie Walker on a bye, and Rob Gronkowski and Jordan Reed injured, fantasy owners are scrambling to find a replacement for Week 13. Rudolph has had a rocky season, posting 10-plus targets multiple times, with 5 touchdowns mixed throughout the season, and a low of 3 targets, 1 reception, and 1 yard receiving back in Week 9. So why am I recommending him? The Cowboys!
The Cowboys are giving up 9.6 PPG to TEs this season, the 5th-most in the NFL. Tight end is a lot like kickers in terms of fantasy numbers, so 9.6 points is actually elite most weeks. The Vikings offense has been hard to pin down, but the Cowboys just gave up 15 catches, 163 yards, and 2 TDs to Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis last week.
Cincinnati Bengals defense: As I mentioned above, Wentz is in a downward spiral to finish the season. He's throwing INT after INT, while doing little to make up for it with endzone visits. The Bengals have given up 20 passing TDs this year, but they've also taken away 11 INTs. Wentz doesn't have the weapons at WR and TE to cause true matchup problems for them, making this more of a running and check-down game, in my opinion.
The Bengals are a good option too because they get a Browns team coming fresh of their first week without a loss this season, their bye. The Browns are a terrible football team, on all sides of the ball. With the fantasy playoffs right around the corner, it would be smart to at least stash them for Week 14 if you have an elite defense already.
Carson Wentz – Eagles: I've laid out Wentz's problems clearly already, so it's no surprise he lands on the sit 'em list this week. He is regressing more and more with each passing game, and the Eagles injuries to Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles aren't helping matters. Sproles is healthy enough to play, but neither he nor Wendell Smallwood are backs that run up the middle of defenses.
The Bengals defensive line is sure to give the Eagles offensive line fits. Their run-blocking is top notch, but with Mathews out that won't be a problem for the Bengals. Wentz isn't a QB you should own anymore, and certainly not one to play even in DFS leagues.
Trevor Siemian – Broncos: Did you know the Jaguars are the 8th-best defense against fantasy QBs this season, allowing just 18.8 PPG? Siemian is averaging around 21 PPG this season, but that number is skewed with big games in Weeks 3 & 12. Siemian has shown his ceiling to be around 350 yards, 3 TDs, and no INTs, but he's also shown his floor to be around 150 yards, with a TD and an INT or two.
You're going to hear all those big-box websites jumping all over the Broncos offense this week, but don't buy what they are selling. Remember, they did the same thing with the Bills last week, and the Lions the week before that. Neither worked out well for fantasy owners!
Todd Gurley – Rams: Gurley went from the #2-ranked RB in the preseason by most fantasy websites, to now hovering in the RB2 rankings. That means instead of being in the top 2-3 RBs, he's closer to the top 15 RBs. That's quite a drop from a guy you no doubt had to take with your No. 1 overall pick.
This week the Rams take on the Patriots, who have a defense that hasn't allowed 90 yards rushing to a RB this season. The Patriots have given up just 4 rushing TDs, and 2 receiving TDs, to RBs this season. Gurley has become a TD-dependent player in this putrid Rams offense, and the Patriots defensive history doesn't bode well for him scoring this week.
Jerick McKinnon – Vikings: I remember when Adrian Peterson went down with his knee injury and people ran to the waiver wire to grab McKinnon, and I said that Matt Asiata was the fantasy RB to get there. People wrote me emails and comments via social media saying how wrong I was, and how I didn't know what I was talking about. Well, it's Week 13 and I was right!
McKinnon has touched the ball 121 times, to Asiata's 112. However, McKinnon has turned those touches into 404 total yards with a single touchdown. Asiata, on the other hand, now has 458 total yards with 5 touchdowns.
If you need 30 empty rushing yards on 10 carries, then McKinnon is your man. But if you need fantasy points to ensure you make it to the fantasy playoffs, then I'd look elsewhere.
Dez Bryant – Cowboys: What the Cowboys have done this season with rookies at the QB and RB position is simply amazing. I give credit where credit is due on that. However, this week Dak Prescott meets up with a Vikings secondary that gives up just 16.9 PPG to fantasy QBs, 3rd-fewest in the NFL. And they are one of the few defenses that is running almost even in TDs allowed to INTs snatched at 13-12.
I know I'm supposed to be talking about Bryant here, but I am indirectly. My hunch is Dak and the Cowboys coaches will simply choose to run since the Vikings are much weaker against the run (16.0 PPG allowed to RBs, 15th-most) than they are against the pass.
Bryant is one of those WRs that either gets you 100-plus yards and a touchdown, or 50 yards and no touchdown. My money is on the latter of the two this week.
Demaryius Thomas – Broncos: For all the same reasons I am sitting Siemian, I am sitting Thomas here. My guess is the Jaguars shadow Thomas with Jalen Ramsey, and bring safety help over the top as needed. With Thomas essentially facing double-coverage, his chances for success will be limited to chunk yardage gains.
You could play Thomas as a WR2/3 and probably be safe in doing so. But to play him as the WR1 you drafted him to be, that is a recipe for failure.
Vernon Davis – Redskins: So you should pick up Vernon Davis, but sit him? I know… it sounds weird. But Davis takes on the Cardinals this weekend, and they are #1 in the NFL against fantasy TEs this season, giving up a stingy 2.6 PPG.
The reason I say pick him up is because you know one of the top teams owns Gronkowski, Reed, or Walker, and they'll need a warm body to fill in this week while their guys are hurt or on a bye. If you pick up Davis and stash him, that will force them to take an even worse option and likely get a big goose egg at the position this week.
Buffalo Bills defense: The Bills were one of the elite fantasy defenses the first 5-6 weeks of the season, hammering the Cardinals, Patriots and Rams. But since Week 7, the Bills have scored 10-plus fantasy points just once, while averaging 8.45 fantasy PPG. Even if you look at just the last 4 games, the Bills are averaging 9.57 fantasy PPG, 20th in the NFL.
The Bills are just giving up too many points, 21.3 per game to be exact. Their offense has struggled to move the ball with all the injuries at WR, so their defense has been on the field far too often. This week they take on the Raiders and their potent offense. I'd feel much better about playing the Bengals, Chargers, or even the Dolphins than I would about playing the Bills. Hold the Bills though, because play the Browns in Week 15.