Week 13 marks the last hurrah for most fantasy owners trying to make it into the postseason. Some are already in, some were never in, and some are still fighting for their chance. Regardless of your record or playoff hopes, we should play each game like it is our last, and put the best possible lineup out there to win, or at least play spoiler. Misery loves company, after all!
The most notable injury news of the week is Bucs RB Doug Martin is likely out after suffering a concussion in Week 12. That puts Jacquizz Rodgers back in the driver's seat at RB, but this time with Peyton Barber as the 1b option. Martin is probably going to miss only one game, like Devonta Freeman from the Falcons, so I wouldn't drop anyone of consequence to pick him up. I've already been asked about guys like Rod Smith, Damien Williams, and LeGarrette Blount, all of which I would keep over adding Rodgers.
In other news, the Giants have announced they have benched Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith. It tells me that are playing for the 2018 draft, not the 2017 season. And Smith gives them a better chance to lose than 3rd-round rookie Davis Webb. Chances are you weren't playing Manning anyway, but this news does affect Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard owners.
Smith is a tried and true 2nd-round bust at QB in the NFL, and he only hurts the values of those around him. There isn't going to be anything better on the waiver wire in Week 13, so as long as you lower your expectations you shouldn't be disappointed.
Kirk Cousins – Redskins: Cousins and the Redskins are heading to Dallas to take on their longtime rivals, the Cowboys. No matter how bad the Redskins or Cowboys are, these two teams always seem to step up their games and play this matchup like it is the Super Bowl.
Speaking of how bad someone is, the Cowboys have been absolutely terrible without Ezekiel Elliot in the backfield. The offense couldn't move the ball effectively if they had a referee on a golf cart driving them down the field. And the defense… well they've given up 21 passing touchdowns while taking away just 5 interceptions, and give up 21.2 PPG to fantasy QBs, 8th-most in the NFL.
Cousins has thrown for 300 yards in 2 of his last 3 games, while adding 6 TDs and 2 INTs to his season total over that span. The Cowboys are coming off a game in which they gave up 434 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions to Philip Rivers, and Cousins is statistically having a better season than Rivers. Consider Cousins a top-5 fantasy QB this week.
Tyrod Taylor – Bills: The problem that I have with Taylor as a fantasy QB is not him, it is his team. The Bills are a running team, which is the first thing. The second is that they traded away Sammy Watkins (FA this summer), and left him with Zay Jones and a hurt Jordan Matthews for almost 2 months. Then, as if that wasn't enough, they benched Taylor for Nathan Peterman who tried his best to break the single-game interception record in one half of football!
Now, back to fantasy football. This week Taylor and the Bills take on the Patriots at home. It's a game they will likely lose, but that is not a bad thing for fantasy owners. If they hope to win, it will be on the backs of LeSean McCoy and Taylor. In order to win, they will have to get up early, which means Taylor has to throw against a weak Patriots secondary. Then they would use McCoy to control the clock.
However, if the Patriots do what they do, and jump out to an early lead, then the Bills will be throwing from behind all game. And with what we saw from Peterson in his start, I don't see any way the Bills can bench Taylor for him again and hope to keep people's jobs. No matter what, Taylor should be able to finish Week 13 as a QB1 in all formats. He's a dual-threat QB, so he gets you points with his arm, and his legs.
Leonard Fournette– Jaguars: Fournette's talent is undeniable, and his future is as bright as anyone in the NFL. But in 2 of his last 3 games he's managed to run for under 35 yards, leaving some owners to wonder if he has hit the rookie wall. My answer is: no!
Fournette has been dealing with an ankle injury since Week 6, but is back to practicing in full for Week 13. With the Colts giving up a generous 20.6 PPG to fantasy RBs this season, 4th-most in the NFL, Fournette is an elite RB1 with upside into the top-3 rankings this week. He's not a Kareem Hunt, i.e. a RB you may seriously consider benching.
Latavius Murray – Vikings: Latavius Murray has become the defacto 1a RB, with Jerick McKinnon taking a back seat when it matters. Over the past five games, Murray has averaged 79.8 YPG on the ground, while scoring 5 TDs. Meanwhile, McKinnon has averaged 40 yards rushing, 28 yards receiving, and has scored just 1 TD over that same span.
Even though the carry split is fairly even (89-65, Murray-McKinnon), Murray is clearly the more productive early-down and goal line back for the Vikings.
The Vikings are on the road to take on the Falcons this week, and they have been fairly good against the run this season. Even though they haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 6 (Jay Ajayi), they have given up 5 rushing touchdowns and 3 receiving touchdowns to RBs. Just last week the Falcons gave up 2 TDs to Peyton Barber of the Bucs, so they can be scored on.
Consider Murray a low-end RB2, but someone you should start over guys like Rodgers, Alfred Morris, and Duke Johnson.
Josh Doctson – Redskins: People are always looking for a sleeper, that diamond in the rough. Well, Josh Doctson might be a WR that you can pick up off the waiver wire, or dirt cheap in those DFS leagues. He's owned in just 44 percent of fantasy leagues, but has put up a solid 4-game stretch with 12 catches, 198 yards, and a touchdown.
He's not going to be someone you stick in your WR1 slot, or even WR2 slot for that matter. But if you are looking for a back-end WR3 that you can get for pennies, then Doctson is someone you should consider. The Cowboys give up the 4th-most fantasy points to WRs this season at 24.4 PPG, and have been roasted by the Eagles and Chargers the last two games.
Davante Adams – Packers: With Aaron Rodgers out with a broken collarbone, Brent Hundley has been forced to take over as the starting QB for the Packers. Hundley is clearly not any sort of threat to take Rodgers' job, but he has found a rapport with Davante Adams at the expense of Jordy Nelson.
Over the past four games, Adams has averaged 9.3 targets, 6.3 receptions, and 87.8 receiving yards per game. Adams has also scored twice over that span, which is half of the touchdowns thrown by Hundley (4).
Tampa Bay gives up the most fantasy points to WRs this season at 27.9 PPG, and Adams is clearly the No. 1 WR for the Packers while Hundley is under center. Consider him a high-end WR2 this week, with a ceiling in the WR1 ranks.
Hunter Henry – Chargers: Tight end is always an all-or-nothing position in fantasy football, and Henry exemplifies that to the fullest extent. Henry has put up highs of 7 receptions, 90 yards, and has scored 3 touchdowns this season. But he's also had two games with no catches, and another three games in which he's logged 2 or fewer catches.
Henry is boom-or-bust, but so is everyone not named Rob Gronkowski. If you are streaming TEs this season, Henry has as good a chance as any of them to find success against the Browns defense giving up the 3rd-most fantasy points (10.5 PPG) to TEs this season.
Los Angeles Chargers defense: The Chargers have been the 2nd-best fantasy defense over the past four weeks, racking up 9 interceptions, 6 sacks, 1 fumble recovery, and scoring 3 defensive touchdowns. The only defense better over that span has been the Jaguars, and they are owned in nearly 100 percent of leagues. Meanwhile, the Chargers are available in almost 40 percent of fantasy leagues, and host the lowly Browns this week.
The Browns have Corey Coleman back at WR, and will be getting Josh Gordon back as well this week. Even with a possible dynamic duo at WR, they still have DeShone Kizer throwing to them. I'd consider the Chargers a top-3 fantasy defense this week.
Jimmy Garoppolo – 49ers: The 49ers traded for Garoppolo at the trade deadline, a move both teams needed to make. The Patriots knew he was leaving after this season, and the 49ers knew C.J. Beathard wasn't going to be the answer at QB. It took Garoppolo a few games, but he has been named the starter for Week 13.
So why sit him? Garoppolo has played in 18 games over his 4-year NFL career, and Week 13 marks just the 3rd time he has started a game. The reality with him is we just don't know enough about him to play him in his first start since Week 2 of 2016. On top of that, the 49ers top WRs are Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, and Trent Taylor. 'Nuff said!
Alex Smith – Chiefs: No QB in the NFL had a hotter start to the season than Smith, racking up 2,444 passing yards and 18 touchdowns through the first nine games of the season. Even more impressive is he threw just 1 interception through those nine games, while attempting 319 passes.
The problem is the Chiefs offense has become stagnant the past two weeks, scoring just 19 points with a single touchdown over that span. Smith has thrown 3 INTs over those two games, and hasn't topped 230 yards passing in either game. The Chiefs are headed to New Jersey to take on a Jets defense giving up just 222.2 YPG passing this season.
It's entirely possible Smith shreds the Jets defense to keep the Chiefs on top in the AFC West. But given his last two games, and how slow the Chiefs have looked as a whole over those games, I'm not willing to bet on him in a must-win game for many fantasy teams.
Jay Ajayi – Eagles: When Jay Ajayi was traded from the Dolphins to the Eagles, we all thought he would go from an inconsistent RB1/2, to a solid every-week RB1 with the Eagles offense. Instead, Ajayi has managed to see his carries go from 8 in Week 9, to 7 in Week 11, then 5 in Week 12. Even worse is he is a non-factor in the passing game!
Ajayi takes on a Seahawks defense this week that is giving up just 15.2 PPG to fantasy RBs, 5th-lowest in the NFL. While their secondary may not be the Legion of Boom without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, there is nothing wrong with Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Michael Bennett, or Frank Clark.
I personally wouldn't play Ajayi as anything more than a probable bust RB4 until he is able to log double-digit carries for the Eagles.
Jacquizz Rodgers – Buccaneers: Rodgers is going to be a popular addition this week off the waiver wire, but I'm not buying what he is selling. Doug Martin isn't likely to get cleared from the concussion protocol in time to play Week 13, meaning Rodgers will start at RB once again.
The problem I see is Rodgers was solid in Weeks 1 & 3, racking up 150 rushing yards, 25 receiving yards, and scoring a touchdown in those two games. But in relief of Martin last week he managed to get 8 carries to Barber's 5. Rodgers is a volume-dependent RB, and splitting carries with Barber, and coming out on passing down in favor of Charles Sims, doesn't make him an appealing fantasy option in my book.
I think his ceiling is more in the RB3 range, unless he scores. Playing in the cold weather of Green Bay won't make things easy on him, but neither will splitting touches with Barber and Sims.
Josh Gordon – Browns: We've seen the ceiling for Flash in 2013, when he hauled in 87 receptions, 1,646 receiving yards, and scored 9 touchdowns with Jason Campbell and Brandon Weeden at QB. If he can do that with two QBs who throw as many INTs as they do TDs, he can do it with anyone!
The problem is, Kizer has thrown 14 INTs to 5 TDs, and now the Browns have Corey Coleman and David Njoku to take away targets from Gordon. Not to mention the fact that Gordon hasn't played an NFL down since Week 5 of the 2014 season!
Gordon could hit the field and be the same old WR we knew and loved. Or, he could be rustier than a tin bucket in a monsoon. We just don't know which Gordon will show up. Even if the old Gordon shows up, he still has the problem of his QB playing pitch-n-catch with the defense more often than the offense. He's worth owning, but I'd wait on playing him unless you are absolutely desperate.
Jordy Nelson – Packers: Nelson has gone from a must-start PPR monster, to the forgotten man on the Packers thanks to Brett Hundley starting at QB. Nelson reeled in 25 catches for 290 yards and 6 touchdowns in Weeks 1-6. Since then, he's managed to catch just 13 passes for 103 yards and no touchdowns in five games. That's an average of just 20.6 yards and 2.6 receptions per game.
Nelson could always have a PPR game waiting in his back pocket, but I wouldn't bet on it given the track record between him and Hundley. If Aaron Rodgers can hit the field healthy in Week 15, Nelson will be the fantasy playoff boost his owners need. However, there is about a 5 percent chance the Packers make the playoffs this season. That means the Packers could elect to just hold Rodgers out for the remainder of the season. If that happens, Nelson could almost be dropped if there were ANYTHING on the waiver wire worth grabbing.
Evan Engram – Giants: Even Engram wasn't drafted in fantasy leagues this year due to his being a rookie. But he became a must-own TE off the waiver wire when he averaged 4.8 receptions, 50 receiving yards, and scored a touchdown in his first four games as a pro.
Engram is currently the #6-ranked fantasy TE this season, with just 0.60 points separating him from Delanie Walker in the #5 spot. Regardless of how good he has been through 12 weeks of the season, fantasy owners can't ignore the fact that Geno Smith – and his lifetime 28 TDs to 36 INTs – are now throwing the pigskin around the field. There is a case to be made that Engram has a worse QB situation than Gordon has in Cleveland!
Even if Davis Webb comes in and replaces Smith after he goes all Nathan Peterman, things won't get any better if Webb can't perform better than he did in the preseason (3 games, 18-34 passing, 52.9 completion percentage, 190 passing yards, no TDs or INTs).
Seattle Seahawks defense: Even though I said above that the Seahawks run defense is good enough to sit Ajayi this week, that doesn't mean their defense is one I would count on. The Seahawks are at home against the 10-1, Super Bowl-favorite, Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles put up 381.5 YPG of offense, 3rd-most in the NFL, and have scored 351 points this season, #1 in the NFL. The Seahawks are 9th in points allowed with 212, and 8th in total YPG allowed at 311.7. But the Eagles haven't scored fewer than 20 points in a game this season, and are averaging a staggering 31.9 PPG on offense. Even if you had the 2000 Ravens defense out there against the Eagles, I'm not sure they would hold them to less than 20 points. The Seahawks secondary is exploitable now, and the Eagles