In “Start or Sit,” we make a call on players who merit strong starting consideration — and players who might be best on the bench. However, owners should tailor their own lineup strategy to their roster constraints, league rules and other relevant factors.
Here’s our Week 13 rundown:
49ers QB Colin Kaepernick (at St. Louis) — Let's consider what he's done when he's had extended playing time the past three weeks. In Week 10, Kaepernick, who replaced an injured Alex Smith, rushed for 66 yards and a TD and threw for 117 yards in a 24-24 tie vs. the Rams. The following week, Kaepernick racked up 243 passing yards and two TDs against a strong Chicago defense. Then, in Week 12, Kaepernick rushed for a TD and threw for 231 yards and another score at New Orleans. Fantasy owners can't easily sit dual-threat quarterbacks. Kaepernick fits that bill. His ability to fill up the score sheet makes him a strong starting option in the 49ers' rematch with St. Louis.
Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno (vs. Tampa Bay) — The Buccaneers are tough vs. the run. Entering Week 13, they have allowed only three opponents to gain more than four yards per carry in any game this season. So why would I start Moreno on Sunday? He got the bulk of the carries in Denver's Week 12 win at Kansas City (20 of Denver's rushing attempts), and he also caught all four passes thrown his way. Also, the Buccaneers have allowed three rushing scores in the past two games. On paper, this isn't a great matchup for Moreno, but I believe circumstances are favorable for him to produce starter-caliber fantasy points, especially in yardage leagues.
Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman (at Denver) — With the Buccaneers potentially having a world of trouble stopping Denver's passing game, this could be a high-scoring affair. The Broncos have surrendered mulitple TD passes in 7-of-11 games. The Buccaneers' improved offense has been one of the biggest fantasy football developments on 2012.
Lions WR Ryan Broyles (vs. Indianapolis) — Broyles looks likely to continue to have a key role in the Detroit offense in Week 13, so keep starting him, especially in three-WR formats. Targeted 12 times in the Thanksgiving Day loss to Houston, Broyles caught six passes for 126 yards. There are plenty of opportunities for pass-catching targets other than Calvin Johnson in Detroit's pass-first offense, and Broyles capitalized in his most extended action of the season in Week 12 in place of Titus Young. While Young is back with the club, it reportedly looks like he'll be a reserve at best on Sunday.
Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray (vs. Philadelphia) — Murray reportedly could return to the lineup on Sunday night vs. Philadelphia. If he starts, he's a viable option either at an RB or a flex spot, with the latter role preferable. The Eagles' defense is a mess, and Murray could give Philadelphia fits if he's anything close to top form. If Murray doesn't play, then start Felix Jones with confidence.
Raiders QB Carson Palmer and Browns QB Brandon Weeden — The weather forecast for Sunday's Browns-Raiders game in Oakland is not conducive to passing. All things considered, I'd be careful with all passing-game players in Browns-Raiders, including Browns WR Josh Gordon, whom I really like from a matchup perspective, as I noted on Wednesday. However, the forecast gives me pause.
Steelers RB Jonathan Dwyer (at Baltimore) — If you have him on the roster, you are happy that head coach Mike Tomlin has finally picked a featured back — and has selected Dwyer. It's as if Tomlin knows how important this week is for fantasy owners. Well, maybe not. Anyway, so you have Dwyer. Do you start him? I like him much more as a flex play than in one of the RB spots in your lineup, and even as a flex, I'm not convinced he's a top-caliber option this week. Dwyer has had two games that make him a starter-caliber fantasy back (Weeks Seven and Eight) and little else. Moreover, he has yet to score a TD. Finally, the Ravens' defense has played very well in the last two weeks.
Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (at Kansas City) — Williams is similar to Dwyer. If you have to start him, you like that he figures to get most of the carries with Jonathan Stewart (high ankle sprain) out of the lineup. However, no Panthers running back has even reached 70 rushing yards in a game this season. There is also the matter of QB Cam Newton being an outstanding rushing threat in the red zone. Williams has more upside than usual, but less upside than it would take for most fantasy owners to get him into the lineup this week. Williams figures to remain on a lot of benches even with Stewart out of the mix, and that's probably the right call.
Packers WR James Jones (vs. Minnesota) — He's tough to play off a zero-target game in Week 12 and with Greg Jennings (groin) returning to action. If you have to play Jones, you are hoping that he gets a downfield look or two from QB Aaron Rodgers. It's entirely possible the Packers look to get him more involved after his quiet Week 12. Jones is in the midst of his best season, and a bounce-back game wouldn't be a shocker. However, a lot of fantasy owners will put Jones on the bench and try another solution at wideout after the goose egg vs. the Giants.
Rams WR Chris Givens (vs. San Francisco) — I'm leery of the Rams' ability to move the ball on the 49ers' defense as they did three weeks ago at Candlestick Park. Givens is a reasonable play for owners who start three wideouts or more in deep leagues, but I wouldn't be looking to play him if I could avoid it, even with Danny Amendola fighting a heel injury. I just wouldn't want to be needing points from any of the Rams' skill-position players in this matchup.
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