We’ve hit the home stretch, and fantasy owners are either dead in the water, fighting for their playoff lives or coasting to division titles and first-round byes. If you’re one of the final two, that’s why you’re here. Those other losers are watching that sport with the orange ball and wood by now, as they couldn’t hack it on the gridiron.
It’s Week 13, and we’ve got some really tasty matchups on the schedule, but there are also some potential pitfalls, so don’t make the mistake of starting a guy based on what he did last week or the game before. Play the matchups, watch the opposing defenses, and check out a player’s game history against his opponent. Has he played well against a division rival, does he generally struggle? Make educated decisions based on facts and stats, now just on names and overall performance. Sometimes we miss, and miss badly. Performances come out of nowhere and happen even against great defenses, which other times a guy just doesn’t exploit a defense he should dominate. It happens. But, more often than not, this method works to perfection.
Good luck in Week 13, and hopefully you’re ready to punch your ticket to the fantasy postseason!
Quarterback – surprise start of the week
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buffalo (vs. JAC): Fitzpatrick and the Bills meet the Jaguars, which rank 28th in the NFL against the pass by allowing 274.5 yards per game through the air. So far this season, the Bills have passed when needed against teams ranking 21st or worse against the pass. Fitzpatrick has thrown for 1,239 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions in seven games against teams with a Top 20 pass defense or better. However, in just four games against teams which rank 21st or worse, he has compiled 1,120 yards, 12 TDs and six INTs, including his only two 300-yard games of the season.
Other surprise plays: Christian Ponder, Minnesota (at GB), Matt Schaub, Houston (at TEN), Ryan Tannehill, Miami (vs. NE)
Quarterback – sit of the week
Joe Flacco, Baltimore (vs. PIT): Flacco has managed a total of just 10 touchdown passes with four interceptions in nine career starts against the Steelers, who rank first in the NFL against the pass this season by allowing 165.7 yards per game through the air. That’s about what Flacco managed in his first meeting with the Steelers two weeks ago in the Steel City, as he finished 20-of-32 for 164 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions in a road win. Flacco has just one career 300-yard game (Week 9 – 2011), and he has thrown for multiple TDs in a game just twice against the AFC North Division rivals.
Other QBs to sit: Sam Bradford, St. Louis (vs. SF), Jay Cutler, Chicago (vs. SEA), Mark Sanchez, N.Y. Jets (vs. ARI)
Beanie Wells, Arizona (at NYJ): OK, I am aware he struggled against the Rams rush defense last week, but they rank 14th – or middle of the pack – against the run. Wells had just 2.8 yards per carry in his return from the Injured Reserve/Designated to Return list after dealing with a toe ailment. However, he was able to find the end zone twice despite his struggles. Now, he’ll get a crack at the 30th-ranked run defense, a Jets team which allows 142.8 yards per game on the ground, along with 12 rushing touchdowns. Wells should visit the end zone at least once, and the yardage will be there. Fellow RB LaRod Stephens-Howling has been bothered by a rib ailment, and Wells should continue to see his star rise, while LSH fades.
Other surprise plays: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City (vs. CAR), Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh (at BAL), Trent Richardson, Cleveland (at OAK)
Running back – sit of the week
Knowshon Moreno, Denver (vs. TB): Everyone is touting Moreno as the next big thing in fantasy, but take into consideration that he will be facing the league’s No. 1 rush defense this weekend. The Buccaneers allow just 81.5 yards per game on the ground. Moreno might be a decent pick-up for the remainder of the schedule, as Willis McGahee (knee) is done and Ronnie Hillman doesn’t see to have the complete trust of the coaching staff. But Moreno is injury-prone, and he faces a difficult matchup. It’s best to leave him on the bench for this one.
Other RBs to sit: Ahmad Bradshaw, N.Y. Giants (at WAS – Mon.), Steven Jackson, St. Louis (vs. SF), Chris Johnson, Tennessee (vs. HOU)
Wide receiver – surprise start of the week
Josh Gordon, Cleveland (at OAK): Gordon burst onto the scene with a three-week stretch which saw him visit the end zone four times, and nearly a fifth time before he lost a sure TD in the sun in Indianapolis in Week 7. However, over the past four games, he has managed just 14 grabs for 197 yards and no scores, losing some of his fantasy luster. Well, this weekend he should be back. Gordon faces the league’s 24th-ranked pass defense, and QB Brandon Weeden (concussion) has been taking first-team reps in practice and appears to be on track to start. Gordon should be able to exploit the Raiders pass defense for at least 80 yards and a score, if not more. His first-career 100-yard game could be right around the corner.
Other surprise plays: Stevie Johnson, Buffalo (vs. JAC), Santana Moss, Washington (vs. NYG – Mon.), Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati (at SD)
Wide receiver- sit of the week
Torrey Smith, Baltimore (vs. PIT): Smith has faced the Steelers just three times in his brief career, and his results haven’t been great. He posted just one grab for seven yards in the defensive slog two weeks ago in Pittsburgh, and a huge jump forward isn’t expected this week. It’s difficult for Smith’s fantasy owners to pull trigger on benching him since he had such a fine performance (7-144-0) last week in San Diego, but Pittsburgh ranks No. 1 against the pass, and just doesn’t give up big plays through the air, especially now that the defense knows it has to carry this team with the offense banged up.
Other WRs to sit: Danny Amendola, St. Louis (vs. SF), Brandon Marshall, Chicago (vs. SEA), Mike Williams, Tampa Bay (at DEN)
Tight end – surprise start of the week: Aaron Hernandez, New England (at MIA)
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy plays: Martellus Bennett, N.Y. Giants (at WAS – Mon.), Scott Chandler, Buffalo (vs. JAC)
Sit of the week: Dustin Keller, N.Y. Jets (vs. ARI)
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Brent Celek, Philadelphia (at DAL), Antonio Gates, San Diego (vs. CIN)
Kicker – surprise start of the week: Phil Dawson, Cleveland (at OAK)
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy play: Josh Scobee, Jacksonville (at BUF)
Sit of the week: Greg Zuerlein, St. Louis (vs. SF)
Other who should be riding the fantasy pine: Rob Bironas, Tennessee (vs. HOU)
Defense/special teams – surprise start of the week: Jets DST (vs. ARI)
Other solid, less-than-obvious fantasy plays: Lions DST (vs. IND), Panthers DST (at KC)
DST sit of the week: Buccaneers DST (at DEN)
Others who should be riding the fantasy pine: Redskins DST (vs. NYG – Mon.), Steelers DST (at BAL)