1:00PM ET Games
New England @ Houston
Remember midseason talk that Tom Brady was "declining"? Not so fast. Now 87 of his last 124 (70.2%) passing for 1,087 yards (8.77 YPA), eight touchdowns, and one pick, Brady is on a tear with his pass-catching corps restored to full health. Although Houston boasts the NFL's No. 1 pass defense on paper, the fact that this game will be played indoors can't be overlooked, and nor can the Texans' 18:4 TD-to-INT ratio against. This isn't nearly the difficult matchup it appears to be. Keep riding Brady to fantasy trophies. He's paying major dividends for owners who stuck with him through so many first-half ups and downs. ... Brady's target distribution since Shane Vereen returned from short-term I.R. two games ago: Vereen 22; Rob Gronkowski 17; Julian Edelman 15; Danny Amendola 13; Kenbrell Thompkins 11; Aaron Dobson 7; Brandon Bolden 1. ... Vereen has been an absolute PPR monster, and his standard-league fantasy value is enhanced by Bill Belichick's distrust of usual early-down bangers Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount for fumbling woes. Vereen is a candidate for 20-plus touches against the Texans' bottom-11 run defense. He's an every-week fantasy starter. ... Houston has been fairly stingy in tight end coverage -- they're 19th in fantasy points allowed to the position -- but matchups don't matter for Gronkowski. With Jimmy Graham facing the Seahawks, Gronk is this week's No. 1 fantasy tight end play. He's played in five games this season, and has at least 100 yards and/or a touchdown in four of them.
Edelman and Amendola play similar slot/Z positions and are now working against each other in weekly box scores. Amendola had a big Week 9 game (4-122-1), while Edelman was quiet (1-11). In Week 11, neither did much (3-27, 6-45). Last week, Edelman (9-110-2) went off as Amendola (3-17) took a backseat. Until clarity is established -- and it may never be -- they're both WR3 rolls of the dice. ... The Pats' "X" receiver spot also lacks definition. OC Josh McDaniels is mixing and matching Thompkins and Dobson on a week-by-week basis. Whoever gets the first-team nod Sunday will draw Texans top CB Johnathan Joseph's coverage. I'd view it as a Week 13 fantasy situation to avoid. ... New England's two-down banger role will come down to Bolden, Ridley, or Blount. Ridley and Blount were both benched in last week's comeback win over Denver after losing early-game fumbles. Bolden went on to turn 14 touches into 69 yards and a score. Although I expect Ridley to get another shot sooner rather than later, fantasy owners would be most savvy to put this backfield on a "wait and see" week. If Ridley or Bolden plays well against the Texans, consider it a plus even though they're on your fantasy bench. You'll then know to use whichever one does well in the fantasy playoffs. Ridley still has the most value because he has the most talent. Bolden is a fourth-stringer, and the Patriots have only viewed Blount as a clock-killing back.
Friday Update: Dobson (foot) didn't practice all week and has been ruled out, increasing Thompkins' fantasy start-ability. The matchup is still fairly difficult, but Thompkins should be a full-time player at X receiver playing indoors in a Brady-quarterbacked offense. I can think of many worse WR3 rolls of the dice.
Although this game's high-scoring potential and indoor environment keep Case Keenum on the two-quarterback-league radar, his QB1 streamer shine has evaporated as defenses have caught on to Keenum's act. He simply can't identify blitzes, a weakness of which defensive-minded Belichick has surely taken note. Keenum has completed just 32 of his last 62 attempts (51.6%) for 346 yards (5.58 YPA), one touchdown, and two interceptions. It's a two-plus game stretch. ... The Texans would have a lot better chance to stay competitive by attacking New England's defense on the ground, rather than through the air. As game watchers of Sunday Night Football are well aware, the Patriots' defensive front can be moved off the football, primarily due to injury depletion. New England is 31st in run defense and coughs up 4.49 yards per carry, the seventh most generous average in the league. Ben Tate's Week 12 clunker makes him a less-than-confident play, but he's still more likely to bounce back this week than not. He's a risky RB2/flex. ... The Texans tried riding the "hot hand" in last week's Jaguars game, giving UDFA Dennis Johnson 15 touches to Tate's 12. Coach Gary Kubiak issued a public vote of confidence in Tate this week, and he will be a superior Week 13 fantasy bet than Johnson. Johnson's fantasy value has risen, but he remains more of a lottery-ticket stash/handcuff than standalone flex, even in this plus matchup.
Keenum's 2013 target distribution: Andre Johnson 45; Garrett Graham 36; DeAndre Hopkins 25; Tate 17; DeVier Posey 16; Lestar Jean and Johnson 3. ... Belichick's defense has historically had a knack for eliminating the opposition's top weapon, though taking away Johnson will be harder with top CB Aqib Talib's hip clearly still bothering him. Talib was in and out of last Sunday night's win over Denver. It is notable that Johnson and Talib squared off in December last year. Johnson won the battle, racking up eight catches for 95 yards. I'd start Johnson this week as a low-end WR1. These are Andre's stat lines in Keenum's five starts: 4-89, 9-229-3, 5-37-2, 10-116, 2-36. Despite last week's scoreless, 36-yard game, those are still good odds. ... Mistake-prone rookie Hopkins has turned in back-to-back stat lines of 1-7 and 1-8, getting benched once in the process and dropping two passes. Nothing Hopkins has done this season suggests he would be a viable fantasy WR3 against New England's top-nine pass defense. ... The Patriots are allowing the seventh most receptions in the league to tight ends. They struggle in linebacker coverage. As Houston's target leader in consecutive weeks, Graham is on the TE1/2 borderline in this game.
Score Prediction: Patriots 27, Texans 17
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $300,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 13. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the link.
Miami @ NY Jets
The Dolphins head to chilly MetLife Stadium as the NFL's only team yet to exceed 27 points in a single game, and with next to no possibility of fielding a competitive Week 13 run game. Keyed by an unblockable young front three of DEs Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, and NT "Snacks" Damon Harrison, the Jets render opposing rushing offenses weekly non-factors. Since its Week 10 bye, Rex Ryan's defense has stymied Buffalo and Baltimore for 135 yards on 69 runs (1.96 YPC). That is truly suffocating. Lamar Miller's rest-of-season outlook is theoretically trending upward with Daniel Thomas sidelined by torn ankle ligaments, but let's face it: Miller doesn't have a prayer this week. ... If the Dolphins are going to move the ball in this seemingly sure-to-be low-scoring affair, it'll absolutely have to be through the air. Due to a shortage of outside-edge rushers and poor secondary play, the Jets rank 23rd versus the pass with a 20:6 TD-to-INT ratio allowed to enemy quarterbacks. Especially burnable deep, the Jets have served up 12 passing plays of 40-plus yards, the third highest number in football. I think Ryan Tannehill is worth a long look as a two-quarterback-league starter. He wouldn't be on my preferred list of QB1 streamers.
Tannehill's target distribution since Brandon Gibson tore his patellar tendon: Mike Wallace 39; Rishard Matthews 37; Brian Hartline 35; Charles Clay 30; Miller 15; Michael Egnew 6. ... As alluded to above, there is reason to believe Wallace can build on last week's 5-127-1 game against the Jets' porous secondary. Throw in Antonio Cromartie's troublesome hip injury and Wallace is a boom-or-bust WR3 whom the matchup suggests is more likely to boom. ... Overpaid Hartline cleared 70 receiving yards in Week 12 against Carolina for the first time since the season opener. Hartline can be safely dropped for higher-ceiling bench stashes in 12- and 14-team leagues. He hasn't hit pay dirt since Week 3. ... Mathews has a plus on-paper matchup against Jets CB Kyle Wilson in the slot, but his Week 10 shredding of Tampa Bay's defense (11-120-2) is shaping up as a one-hit wonder. Mathews' other stat lines since the Gibson injury are 2-24, 4-52, and 3-2. Aim higher. ... If Wallace is the best fantasy bet among Miami pass catchers in Week 13, Clay is next up. The Jets are allowing the eighth most fantasy points in the league to tight ends. Clay has at least seven targets in three straight games. He's a low-end TE1 this week.
With Geno Smith hitting rock bottom and Chris Ivory nursing an ankle injury, the Jets' offensive outlook is in the gutter as it gets set to take on a Miami defense allowing the tenth fewest points in the league. Even if Ivory ends up playing, I wouldn't feel comfortable starting him in a fantasy league considering his durability track record and lack of effectiveness when attempting to play hurt. ... If Ivory does not play, Bilal Powell will be worth discussion as a Hail Mary flex. Over its last five games, Miami's run defense has allowed 674 yards and five TDs on 151 carries (4.46 YPC) to enemy tailbacks. If Ivory does play, Powell won't be a Week 13 option. ... Geno could be facing the last-ranked pass defense in the NFL this week and still wouldn't be a two-quarterback-league starter. He is playing that poorly. There were indications from Jets brass during the practice week that Matt Simms handled some first-team reps. I expect Smith to be on a short in-game leash until he snaps out of his funk. And he may not.
Friday Update: After early-week indications that Ivory had a high ankle sprain, he went on to practice in some form every day this week, and received a probable tag on Friday's injury report. I wrote previously I would "write him off" as a Week 13 fantasy option. But I feel a lot better about Ivory based on the way the week transpired. He's still a bit of a risky flex play, but I wouldn't be at all opposed to starting him against a below-average Miami run defense. Powell is not in the fantasy discussion this week.
Geno's target distribution since Santonio Holmes returned from a hamstring injury two weeks ago: Santonio 12; Stephen Hill 8; David Nelson 6; Powell and Kellen Winslow 5; Greg Salas and Jeff Cumberland 4; Tommy Bohanon 2; Ivory 1. ... Jeremy Kerley is tentatively expected back from his elbow dislocation this week, further muddying New York's pass-catching corps. Holmes would be the best bet and I still couldn't bring myself to trust him. Using usual LCB Brent Grimes to match up with opposing No. 1 wideouts more often in recent games, the Fins have contained Vincent Jackson (3-28), Keenan Allen (3-45), and Steve Smith (5-69) in consecutive weeks. So this isn't a great matchup for Santonio. ... The rest of the receiving crew is a low-upside crapshoot. Winslow and Cumberland are rotating tight ends. Nelson, Kerley, Hill, and Salas will fight for scraps behind Holmes. Avoid.
Friday Update: Coach Rex Ryan hinted Friday that Kerley (elbow) will not play against the Dolphins, and Holmes is now a game-time decision after missing practice with a hamstring injury. So the Jets' Week 13 receiver committee could be comprised of Nelson, Salas, Hill, and Wildcat specialist Josh Cribbs. I suppose I'd take my chances on Nelson among them, and wouldn't feel the least bit good about it.
Score Prediction: Jets 17, Dolphins 14
Tampa Bay @ Carolina
The Bucs and Panthers tangled on Week 8 Thursday Night Football, with Carolina triumphing 31-13 in a dominant effort, in Tampa. Although the Buccaneers are playing much better lately -- they are on a three-game win streak with respectable victories over Detroit, Miami, and Atlanta -- there is nothing suddenly imposing about Cam Newton's Week 13 matchup. Dating back to Week 6, the Bucs have been picked apart by Nick Foles, receiver-depleted Matt Ryan (twice), Newton, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, and Matthew Stafford for a combined 156-of-239 passing (65.3%), 1,787 yards (7.48 YPA), and a 17:9 TD-to-INT ratio, with three more scores on quarterback runs. During Carolina's seven-game win streak, Cam is 135-of-210 (64.3%) for 1,468 yards and an 11:4 TD-to-INT ratio with four additional rushing touchdowns. Lock in Newton as an elite QB1. ... Cam's target distribution during the seven-game streak: Steve Smith 55; Brandon LaFell 43; Greg Olsen 37; Ted Ginn 31; DeAngelo Williams 19; Mike Tolbert 15; Jonathan Stewart 4. ... With Darrelle Revis (groin) hobbling toward a game-time decision, the Bucs are likely to revert to a zone-heavy secondary with rookie Johnthan Banks, burnable slot CB Leonard Johnson, and street free agent-type Michael Adams forming their sub-package defense. Averaging nine targets and 62 yards per game over the last month, Smith is a low-ceiling but respectable WR3 option with an increasingly favorable matchup.
Olsen is the No. 3 fantasy tight end over the past five weeks, behind only Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. Olsen is fairly touchdown dependent, but his matchup isn't a negative versus a Bucs defense permitting the 15th most fantasy points to tight ends. ... LaFell has hit the 60-yard mark in 2-of-11 games this season. He isn't worth rostering in 12-team leagues no matter what happens on Sunday. I guess he might be worth grabbing if Smith got hurt. ... Ginn led Carolina in Week 12 targets against the Dolphins. That didn't work out, as Ginn dropped a wide-open bomb and pathetically turned his ten looks into 11 yards. Don't expect that treatment again. ... The Panthers' fantasy quagmire of a backfield takes on Tampa Bay's top-nine run defense in Week 12. Good luck trying to sneak production out of this nightmare. Since Stewart returned from PUP four games ago, here are the snap counts of each Carolina back: Tolbert 154; Williams 103; Stewart 75. Here are their touch totals: Williams 44; Stewart 37; Tolbert 24. There's a decent chance one of them will score a touchdown against Tampa Bay. I have no idea who it will be.
Friday Update: Williams (quad) wound up missing practice each day this week, making Stewart and Tolbert more interesting Week 13 flex options. It is notable, however, that both Tolbert (knee) and Stewart (ankle) turned in limited repetitions on Thursday and Friday. So they don't seem to be 100% either. If Williams is inactive Sunday and Stewart plays, I'd like the latter as a bit of a Hail Mary flex play. Stewart's scoring potential would still be capped by red-zone vulture Tolbert's presence.
The cute little Bucs have three wins in a row and are playing hard for Greg Schiano, much to their forward-thinking fans' chagrin. The rubber meets the road Sunday at Carolina, where the host Panthers boast the NFL's No. 1 defense in points allowed and rank No. 3 in yards. Mike Glennon is 144 of his last 224 (64.3%) passing for 1,589 yards (7.09 YPA) and a 12:2 TD-to-INT ratio. He's been the NFL's best rookie quarterback this year, and it isn't even close. And in this matchup, he isn't more than a low-end QB2. ... Week 11 breakout star Bobby Rainey got stifled by Detroit's top-four run defense last Sunday, and this week takes on Carolina's top-three group. View Rainey as a matchup-based flex option. He's a good little back with decisiveness and quick feet at the second level, but he needs to get past the first level for his strengths to show. That happened against the Falcons. It didn't happen against the Lions, and is unlikely to resume happening again versus a Panthers defense that's even better than Detroit's. It doesn't help that Tampa is barely using Rainey in the pass game. ... Glennon's 2013 target distribution: Vincent Jackson 87; Tim Wright 40; Brian Leonard 27; Tiquan Underwood 24; Chris Owusu 7; Rainey 4.
V-Jax is the focus of defenses on a weekly basis and plays with a rookie quarterback. So inconsistency is inevitable. He's still worth starting every week because he is heavily targeted and has dominant ability. He's a boom-or-bust WR2 against a Carolina defense Jackson touched up for five catches and 79 yards on 13 targets in these clubs' Week 8 meeting. ... Underwood has started four games since Mike Williams landed on I.R., registering box-score lines of 2-29-1, 3-64, 1-20, and 3-108-2. Last week's mammoth effort is likely to prove an outlier. Underwood had 47 yards on three grabs in Week 8. ... Wright is Tampa's No. 2 pass-game option. Carolina is just 21st in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, but Wright remains on the streaming TE1 radar. He dropped a 5-48-1 number on the Panthers five weeks ago. ... The Bucs are otherwise devoid of fantasy contributors. Leonard is averaging five touches for 22 yards over his last two games.
Score Prediction: Panthers 23, Bucs 14
Tennessee @ Indianapolis
Just four of Sunday's 12 games will be played indoors. This is one, as Tennessee's suddenly red-hot offense travels to domed Lucas Oil Stadium for a clash with Indy's tailspinning defense. The Titans have caught fire by putting Ryan Fitzpatrick back in the Pistol with hurry-up packages, flooding the field with wideouts a la Chan Gailey's old Bills spread. It's what makes "FitzMagic" most comfortable. Completing 78 of his last 108 throws (72.2%) for 845 yards (7.82 YPA) and a 5:0 TD-to-INT ratio, Fitzpatrick is quietly playing some of the best football of his career. He's a high-end QB2 against the Colts' No. 19 pass defense. ... Fitzpatrick's 2013 target distribution: Kendall Wright 46; Delanie Walker 37; Nate Washington 26; Chris Johnson 21; Justin Hunter 18; Kenny Britt 10, Damian Williams 8. ... Wright's stat lines in FitzMagic's five games of extensive play: 7-78; 5-69; 6-74; 9-80; 6-103-1. He's led Tennessee in targets in four of those five games. Already a locked-in WR2 in PPR, Wright can earn WR2 standard-league billing if he keeps hitting pay dirt. He's an every-week fantasy starter regardless. Wright had nine catches when Tennessee and Indianapolis met just two weeks ago. ... Hunter's marquee talent was on display in last week's win over Oakland, racking up critical third-down catches and tacking on a highlight-reel 54-yard touchdown. Inconsistency is unavoidable for a rookie receiver barely playing 50% of the offensive snaps, but there aren't many higher-ceiling Hail Mary WR3 plays than Hunter out there right now.
Walker followed up his impressive Weeks 11-12 box scores (10-91-1, 4-62-1) with a team-high nine targets against the Raiders, although he dropped two and finished with five catches for 46 yards. Still, heavy targeting is a reminder that Walker remains a huge part of the Titans' revised passing attack. Walker posted the 10-catch game on this same Colts defense and is squarely on the back-end TE1 radar. Fitzpatrick seems to love him. ... Washington has taken a backseat as Fitzpatrick's No. 4 pass-game option behind Wright, Walker, and emerging Hunter. Washington is waiver-wire fodder. ... Oakland's genuinely stout run defense limited CJ?K to 81 scoreless yards in Week 12, but Johnson still handled 23 touches to Shonn Greene's four and looks to be in no danger of losing carries moving forward. Johnson still has 371 yards and four touchdowns on his last 79 totes (4.70 YPC). He's on the RB1 borderline against Indy's 27th-ranked run defense, a unit surrendering the eighth most generous yards-per-carry average in football (4.4). ... Greene is a mere handcuff averaging just over seven touches per game since Tennessee's Week 8 bye.
The home, domed environment is an inarguable plus for Andrew Luck's Week 13 prospects, but Indianapolis' recent pass-game struggles are difficult to overlook. Ever since the Colts' Week 9 Sunday night comeback win over Houston, Luck has completed 72-of-122 throws (59.0%) for 748 yards (6.13 YPA), two touchdowns, and five interceptions. Rushing stats have prevented Luck from killing fantasy teams, but he's no better than a low-end QB1 in Sunday's date with the Titans' top-eight pass defense. Aggressive Tennessee defensive boss Gregg Williams will surely dial up blitzes to attack Indianapolis' talent-deficient offensive line. The Titans have allowed the fewest passing touchdowns (8) in football. ... Luck's target distribution since Reggie Wayne's Week 7 ACL tear: T.Y. Hilton 39; Coby Fleener 33; Darrius Heyward-Bey 22; Griff Whalen 17; Trent Richardson 15; LaVon Brazill 13; Donald Brown 10; Stanley Havili 6. ... Dating back to the final five weeks of his rookie season, Hilton has played ten games indoors and six outdoors. He's combined for 23 catches, 217 yards, and no touchdowns outdoors, for an average per-game stat line of 3.8-36.2-0. In the ten indoor games, Hilton has 45 catches for 901 yards and seven TDs at a per-game clip of 4.5-90.1-.7. Although Hilton's last two weeks have been slow yardage wise, he has at least five catches in four consecutive games and is the No. 9 overall fantasy wide receiver in per-game scoring over the past five weeks. He's an every-week WR2 starter with WR1 upside.
Further helping the cause of Indy's pass catchers is Titans FS Michael Griffin's one-game ban for illegal hits. Coverage of Fleener would've been one of Griffin's primary Week 13 responsibilities. Tennessee was already letting up the eighth most yards in the league to tight ends, giving Fleener an attractive matchup. With at least eight targets in three straight games, Fleener has emerged as a rock-solid TE1. ... Brazill is the only other Colts pass catcher worth fantasy discussion, and he's just a deep-league shot in the dark. He's playing Hilton's old third receiver role. ... Defensively, the Titans are vulnerable on the ground. They're 18th in run defense and have served up 15 rushing touchdowns, tied for most in the league. Rashad Jennings and Marcel Reece combined to paste Tennessee for 180 total yards and a touchdown in Week 12. Unfortunately, T-Rich and Brown are no better than low-end flex plays. Richardson hasn't handled double-digit carries in a game since mid-October. Change-up back Brown finished last week's game with three touches for -1 yard.
Score Prediction: Colts 24, Titans 21
Arizona @ Philadelphia
The Cardinals are quietly on a four-game win streak entering Sunday's matchup with a Philly team similarly hot with five wins over its last seven games. The Eagles' defense has been statistically stout of late, although it's still fair to question its legitimacy after facing a consecutive string of quarterbacks named Scott Tolzien, Eli Manning, injured Terrelle Pryor, and hobbled Robert Griffin III. RG3 dropped 21 standard-league fantasy points on Philly's defense in their last game. Having completed 105 of his last 147 throws (71.4%) for 1,266 yards (8.61 YPA) and a 9:2 TD-to-INT ratio, Carson Palmer has earned high-end QB2 distinction against the Eagles' last-ranked pass defense. As coach Bruce Arians and assistant Tom Moore have manufactured ways to give Palmer a clean pocket, he's absorbed just ten sacks over the past four weeks. That is a low number considering Palmer's complete lack of mobility and Arizona's talent deficiencies on the line. ... Palmer's target distribution during the four-game stretch: Larry Fitzgerald 33; Michael Floyd 24; Rob Housler 20; Andre Roberts 19; Andre Ellington 10; Rashard Mendenhall 6; Jim Dray 5. ... The Eagles are allowing the most fantasy points in the league to receivers. The No. 12 overall fantasy wideout over the past three weeks, Fitzgerald is a locked-in, every-week WR2 who's emerged as Palmer's clear go-to option on red-zone passing plays. ... Although Floyd isn't scoring at the same clip as Fitz, the second-year Notre Dame alum is on a yardage tear. Floyd is on pace for 1,107 yards in what's shaping up to be a breakout season. He's a fantasy WR2/3.
Housler is playing 69.0% of Arizona's offensive snaps since the Week 9 bye, up quite a bit from his first-half averages. He's still more top-end TE2 than TE1. Philadelphia is allowing the fourth fewest fantasy points to tight ends. ... Correspondingly, Roberts' playing time is down as the Cardinals make more use of two-tight end sets. Roberts would need a Fitz or Floyd injury to have fantasy value at this point in the year. ... Philly's 2013 defensive strength has been versus the run, where they permit a middling 4.10 yards per carry and have held opponents to seven rushing touchdowns through 11 games. Following Mendenhall's 78-total-yard, one-score Week 12 effort, Arians essentially deemed it his best game of the year. Telling. Mendenhall averaged 4.2 YPC and 3.25 if you leave out his longest run. He isn't suddenly a strong flex option. In all likelihood, Mendenhall will continue to be a touchdown-dependent fantasy commodity who burns a hole in lineups when he doesn't hit pay dirt from a yard or two out. ... Arians' affinity for and increasing commitment to Mendenhall is a concern for Ellington's rest-of-season outlook. The RBBC obviously isn't going away. Ellington will continue to be a dice-roll flex play with more value in PPR leagues. I would still gamble on Ellington's big-play ability over Mendenhall in any given week.
Friday Update: Ellington suffered a knee injury in Thursday's practice, and Cardinals beat writers are now skeptical about his Week 13 availability. Mendenhall remains a low-ceiling flex play only, as the Cards could turn to Stepfan Taylor or Alfonso Smith to take Ellington's snaps, rather than thrusting Mendenhall into an every-down back role. Facing an underrated Eagles run defense, this is not a great fantasy situation.
Philly's offense returns from a Week 12 bye to host an extremely aggressive Arizona defense that ranks second in the NFL in blitz frequency and is genuinely capable of eliminating running games. Pounding the rock is what run-minded coach Chip Kelly's Eagles do best, as they lead the NFL in rushing offense and rank sixth in rushing attempts per game. The Cards are No. 2 in run defense and No. 3 in yards-per-carry allowed (3.51). So we'll see what happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force. Fantasy owners should have all kinds of faith in LeSean McCoy due to his volume and talent, but this is a difficult on-paper matchup. ... During its four-game hot run, Arizona's defense has stymied enemy signal callers to the tune of 103-for-185 passing (55.7%), 920 yards (4.97 YPA), and a 5:7 TD-to-INT ratio. Again, this is an imposing Arizona defense. I placed Nick Foles eighth in my FF Playoff Ranks -- ahead of Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, and RG3 -- but wouldn't have him in my top-12 quarterbacks for Week 13. ... Foles' target distribution since returning from a concussion three games ago: Riley Cooper 18; DeSean Jackson 15; Zach Ertz and McCoy 9; Jason Avant 8; Brent Celek 6; James Casey and Bryce Brown 3. ... This game sets up noticeably well for Cooper, as D-Jax will likely draw Patrick Peterson in shadow coverage. Cooper (6'3/220) has a major size advantage on Cards No. 2 CB Jerraud Powers (5'9/188), who has been up and down this season. I like Cooper's chances of hitting pay dirt against Arizona.
I think it's interesting to note that not a single Eagles pass catcher has exceeded seven targets in any of the three games discussed above. Foles has compensated for lacking volume with extreme efficiency. So if Foles is not as efficient in a given forthcoming game, it could be a slow week for this passing game as a whole. No one member is being peppered with targets. ... Jackson does have a tough matchup against Peterson, who helped hold similarly-built T.Y. Hilton to 44 yards on five catches last week. You still start D-Jax because he's a top-five fantasy receiver and Kelly schemes him the ball, but I'd view Jackson as more of a boom-or-bust WR2 in Week 13. ... Arizona's weakness in pass coverage is versus tight ends, the position to which they're allowing the most fantasy points in the league. Unfortunately, neither Ertz nor Celek has been a consistent part of Philadelphia's passing attack. Celek hasn't cleared 50 yards in a game since September. Ertz has done so once all season.
Score Prediction: Eagles 20, Cardinals 17
Chicago @ Minnesota
Now 97-of-148 passing (65.5%) for 1,106 yards (7.47 YPA) and a 7:1 TD-to-INT ratio through five appearances in relief of Jay Cutler (groin/ankle), Josh McCown is flirting with legitimate and high-ceiling QB1 value in this near-ideal matchup indoors. Not only is Minnesota's defense ranked 29th against the pass with a league-high 23 passing touchdowns allowed, the Vikings had to cut sub-package CB A.J. Jefferson this week following domestic violence charges, and will be without top safety Harrison Smith (foot/short-term I.R.) for at least two more games. The only quarterbacks I'd start over McCown on Sunday and Monday are Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson. I'd rank McCown ahead of Philip Rivers, Robert Griffin III, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton, Nick Foles, and Matt Ryan. ... McCown's target distribution on the season: Brandon Marshall 44; Alshon Jeffery 36; Matt Forte 26; Martellus Bennett 18; Earl Bennett 11; Michael Bush 3; Marquess Wilson 2. ... The domed environs and matchup bode similarly well for Marshall and Jeffery, who are locked-in every-week fantasy starters with the former in the high-end WR1 category and the latter as a rock-solid WR2. Marshall has at least 75 yards and/or a touchdown in 9-of-11 games this season. Jeffery is averaging nearly 12 targets per game over the last month.
Minnesota has coughed up the fifth most fantasy points to tight ends, making Martellus a quality low-end TE1. When these teams met in Week 2, Bennett torched the Vikings for a 7-76-2 line. The Vikes have since lost coverage safety Smith. ... Steamrolled by Green Bay for 196 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries (5.76 YPC) last week, Minnesota is now 25th in run defense. In Week 2, Forte skewered the Vikings for 161 total yards. Only Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Marshawn Lynch, and Knowshon Moreno have scored more fantasy points among running backs than Forte this year. ... For just the second time all season in Week 12 against St. Louis, Bush vultured a goal-line score from Forte. Bush is averaging just over four touches per game. He has no standalone flex value.
As Charles and McCoy both face top-five run defenses, Adrian Peterson is fantasy's clear No. 1 running back play of Week 13. Since Week 6, Alfred Morris/Roy Helu, Brandon Jacobs, Eddie Lacy/James Starks, Reggie Bush, Ray Rice, and Zac Stacy/Benny Cunningham/Tavon Austin have combined to paste the depleted Bears defensive front for 929 yards and 11 TDs on 145 runs (6.41 YPC). Per ESPN Stats & Info, St. Louis amassed 213 rushing yards before contact in last week's win over Chicago. The Bears are getting destroyed at the point of attack. ... Christian Ponder earned another start in last week's tie with Green Bay. Although not remotely a QB1 streamer candidate, Ponder has played his way into Hail Mary two-quarterback-league discussion against Chicago. The matchup and lack of weather conditions are pluses, and Ponder is always a threat to sugar the box score with rushing stats. He's a poor man's Jeff Garcia. ... Ponder's 2013 target distribution: Greg Jennings 38; Jerome Simpson 37; Cordarrelle Patterson 34; John Carlson 27; Peterson and injured Kyle Rudolph 24; Jarius Wright 19; Toby Gerhart 9.
Patterson is Minnesota's target leader in each of the past two weeks. With the Vikings' season over, OC "Wild Bill" Musgrave is finally featuring the first-round pick on offense. Now a 56% player having touches manufactured for him, Patterson is one of my favorite FanDuel fliers and Hail Mary WR3s. The ball is going to him, the game is indoors, the opponent is weak, and the dude can ball. ... With Patterson and Peterson hogging the pigskin, the rest of Minnesota's pass catchers are all but bereft of fantasy value. Carlson's production has dropped steadily and weekly since Rudolph's foot injury. He finished with three catches for 36 scoreless yards in Ponder's best game of the season last Sunday. Even against a Bears defense allowing the 11th most fantasy points to tight ends, Carlson is a replacement-level streamer. ... Jennings seems to be more obsessed this season with ripping his old team, the Packers, than playing effective football. He had yet another drop last week and hasn't hit the 60-yard mark in a game since Week 4. ... The Vikings' new primary three-receiver set has Jennings in the slot, Simpson at X receiver, and Patterson at Z. While Patterson sees manufactured touches and Jennings plays a high-percentage position, Simpson is running low-percentage isolation routes down the sideline. With a few exceptions, Simpson is basically a clear-out receiver, or decoy. He did catch a 31-yard pass in Week 12. If I owned Simpson in a 12- or 14-team fantasy league, I'd drop him quickly.
Score Prediction: Bears 27, Vikings 21
Jacksonville @ Cleveland
A virtual lock to be a low-scoring snoozefest at chilly Browns Stadium, Vegas' 40-point over-under for this one seems awfully generous. The Browns are playing top-four defense. The Jags' defense is better than paper stats indicate. And both offenses stink. In Week 13 fantasy lineup decisions, avoid this one wherever possible. ... The lone Jaguars skill-position player who should be locked into starting lineups is Maurice Jones-Drew, who has 100-plus total yards and/or a touchdown in five of his last six games. And even his ceiling is capped by Cleveland's No. 6 run defense, which is holding enemy runners to the second lowest yards-per-carry average (3.43) in football. Jones-Drew is a low-end RB2/flex. ... With a 4:9 TD-to-INT ratio on the season, Chad Henne isn't even worth two-quarterback-league discussion versus the Browns' top-five pass defense in this weather-affected game. I'd start Christian Ponder over Henne 100 times out of 100 this week. ... Henne's target distribution since Justin Blackmon's year-ending suspension: Cecil Shorts 20; Ace Sanders 16; Marcedes Lewis and MJD 14; Mike Brown 7; Kerry Taylor 4; Jordan Todman 2.
Shorts will surely get the Joe Haden treatment on Sunday, rendering the Jags' top receiver a low-end WR3. Jacksonville is simply unlikely to have passing success as a team. ... With Brown due back from his shoulder injury, the Jaguars' complementary pass catchers are useless. Sanders' snaps will drop. Brown has flopped since the Blackmon suspension. Lewis is a total fantasy non-factor. ... The Jaguars got Todman a season-high 12 touches in last week's win over Houston. It's always easy to involve change-of-pace backs more when you're playing with a lead or in a tight game. If you think the Jags will be playing with a lot of leads or in tight games the rest of the way, view Todman as a threat to Jones-Drew's workloads. If you think they are more likely to face large deficits, Todman is a non-issue. I tend to project more of the latter scenarios for Jacksonville.
We've seen enough of Brandon Weeden's act by now to know his reinstallation in place of Jason Campbell (concussion) isn't going to light a fire in Cleveland's offense. Weeden is a slow-twitch mover and decision maker prone to sacks and head-scratching mistakes. Even against the Jags' No. 18 pass defense, Weeden should be avoided in two-QB-league lineups. ... Weeden's target distribution over his past five appearances: Josh Gordon 29; Jordan Cameron 27; Greg Little 23; Chris Ogbonnaya 19; Davone Bess 18; Fozzy Whittaker 8; Gary Barnidge 5; Willis McGahee 4. ... Although Gordon has been prone to sporadic clunkers due to quarterback woes, he's an every-week starter because he can dominate in any given game and almost single-handedly win fantasy owners' head-to-head matchups. You'll want to start him against the Jags. ... There is some reason to think Weeden's reinsertion could kickstart Cameron, whose statistics had bottomed out with Campbell behind center. These are Cameron's stat lines in the five games where Weeden has attempted at least 25 passes this season: 9-108-1; 5-95; 5-64; 7-55-1; 3-32. Jacksonville is allowing the second most fantasy points in the league to tight ends.
On pace for 46 catches, 526 yards, two touchdowns, and nine drops, Little is fantasy waiver-wire fodder regardless of league size. ... Same goes for Bess, whose two touchdowns in Week 10 have been exposed as an obvious illusion. He hasn't cleared 70 yards in a game all year and has hit pay dirt in 1-of-11 appearances. ... The Browns' running game matchup is attractive on paper versus Jacksonville's No. 29 run defense, but the lack of workload clarity and defined roles prevents any of Cleveland's tailbacks from being a reliable Week 13 fantasy option. The Browns used Ogbonnaya sparingly in last week's loss to Pittsburgh following a second-quarter lost fumble. Whittaker led the backfield in touches with seven, gaining all of 21 scoreless yards. McGahee doesn't belong on an NFL roster. Ogbonnaya remains the best fantasy bet this week, but only as a low-ceiling flex option. There are no strong indications that Whittaker's role is growing. At least not yet.
Score Prediction: Browns 20, Jaguars 13
4:05PM ET Games
Atlanta @ Buffalo
Marred by skill-position injuries, the Bills return from a much-needed bye to face a lousy Falcons defense allowing the fourth most points and sixth most yards per game in football. Particularly vulnerable on the ground, Atlanta has been annihilated by Pierre Thomas, Bobby Rainey, Marshawn Lynch, Carolina's backfield, and Andre Ellington over its past five games for 666 yards and six touchdowns on 112 carries (5.95 YPC). The Bills lead the NFL in rushing attempts per game (33.0), so this is an ideal setup for coach Doug Marrone's ground-based attack to take off. View C.J. Spiller as a high-ceiling RB2 play, and goal-line favorite Fred Jackson as a good bet to score. For Spiller, this game could be the prelude to a spectacularly fast finish. During the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16), Buffalo faces the league's Nos. 9 (TB), 29 (JAX), and 26 (MIA) run defenses ... Nearly as inept against the pass, Atlanta has allowed enemy quarterbacks to pile up a 23:6 TD-to-INT ratio and league-high 106.7 passer rating. The Falcons are 28th in sacks. E.J. Manuel turned in arguably his best outing of the season against the Jets before the open date and should be stapled into two-QB-league lineups. The up-and-down rookie still isn't a QB1 streamer.
In terms of secondary play, Atlanta has struggled in the slot more than anywhere else, attempting to mix and match Robert McClain and rookie Desmond Trufant. Stevie Johnson is Buffalo's go-to slot weapon. He's a recommended WR3 play this week. ... I'm interested to see whether the Bills commit more snaps to game-breaking rookie Marquise Goodwin coming off the bye. Goodwin has ripped off gains of 40, 26, 59, 17, and 43 yards over Buffalo's last six games. He smoked Antonio Cromartie one on one for the 43-yard scoring bomb in Week 11. Goodwin is an enticing Hail Mary WR3 in such a favorable matchup, and it's worth noting this game will be played indoors beneath Toronto's Rogers Centre dome. The Falcons have allowed the third most 40-plus-yard passing plays in football (12) and can't rush the passer, which will give Manuel time to deliver shot plays. ... Robert Woods is due back from his high ankle sprain. He'll run most of his routes into Falcons top CB Asante Samuel's coverage and is a WR4. ... Scott Chandler has consistently come up short in plus matchups, so the fact that Atlanta is allowing the 12th most fantasy points to tight ends doesn't help much. Because Chandler is on pace for just 54 receptions and 623 yards, he only pays off as a TE1 streamer when he scores TDs. He has two touchdowns on the season.
Although early-year pass defense woes skew some of their season totals, the Bills have cobbled together arguably the league's most underrated defense under Rex Ryan disciple Mike Pettine. Now top 15 in yards allowed, Buffalo is tied for first in the NFL in both interceptions (16) and sacks (37), and returns from a bye week to freshen up for Sunday's clash with Atlanta. This is far from the cakewalk matchup for Matt Ryan it may have seemed destined to be during the season's first month. With just one 300-yard outing and a combined TD-to-INT ratio of 5:9 over his last five games, Ryan can't be trusted as a fantasy QB1 in this difficult road affair. I'd rather start the Bills' fantasy defense. ... Ryan's target distribution since Roddy White's Week 10 return: Harry Douglas 28; Tony Gonzalez 19; Darius Johnson 17; White 15; Jacquizz Rodgers 12; Steven Jackson 11; Jason Snelling 6; Drew Davis 2. ... Not being heavily targeted in a struggling passing offense, White is just a mid-range to low-end WR3 option until something changes. He still has a chance to make fantasy playoffs noise against Green Bay and Washington's weak pass defenses in Weeks 14-15, but White is 60th in fantasy receiver scoring over the past three weeks.
While White does battle with Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin on the perimeter, look for Douglas to run most of his routes against rookie slot CB Nickell Robey. Robey deserves credit for a strong first year, but he's an undrafted rookie taking on Atlanta's most productive receiver on high-percentage pass patterns. Look for Douglas to lead the Falcons in catches again this week. ... Buffalo is allowing the sixth fewest fantasy points to tight ends, giving Gonzo an underwhelming Week 13 matchup. Still seventh among tight ends in fantasy scoring on the year, Gonzalez is entrenched as a mid-range to back-end TE1. Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham owners have a major head-to-head advantage on those starting the likes of Gonzo, Greg Olsen, and Charles Clay on a weekly basis. ... S-Jax found pay dirt for the first time all season in last week's loss to New Orleans. Since returning from a hamstring injury five games ago, Jackson has 178 yards on 60 carries (2.97 YPC). Just from watching almost all of those runs, I do think there is reason to believe S-Jax is moving quite a bit better than he was a month ago. He'll be a low-ceiling RB2/flex against Buffalo's 23rd-ranked run defense. It's worth noting the Bills have permitted just four rushing touchdowns on the season -- third fewest in the NFL -- and are holding opponents to 4.10 YPC, which is a middling average. They're a better run defense than the No. 23 ranking suggests.
Score Prediction: Bills 23, Falcons 20
St. Louis @ San Francisco
49ers OC Greg Roman promised last week his offense would "pop" and that an explosion was "coming." It did in Monday's 27-6 demolition of Washington, as Colin Kaepernick dropped 255 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. Kap has accounted for 11 TDs compared to three turnovers over his last six games. His yardage totals remain disappointing as a runner and passer, but in a favorable-weather game versus the Rams' No. 22 pass defense, Kaepernick is worth back-end QB1 consideration. In these clubs' September meeting, Kap managed 178 total yards against the Rams but threw for two scores. Because the 49ers' dominant defense doesn't allow for shootout scenarios or high pass attempt totals, Kaepernick must compensate with sheer playmaking ability. And that limits his upside a bit. ... Kap's target distribution since San Francisco's Week 9 bye: Anquan Boldin 20; Mario Manningham 17; Vernon Davis 14; Frank Gore 7; Vance McDonald 5; Bruce Miller 4; Jon Baldwin 3. ... Even with Michael Crabtree (Achilles') due back this week for 12-15 snaps, Boldin remains a quality WR3 play. He tagged St. Louis for a 5-90-1 line in Week 4. Other notable enemy receiver stats given up by the 2013 Rams: Brandon Marshall 10-117-1; T.Y. Hilton 7-130; Golden Tate 5-93-2; Justin Blackmon 5-136-1; Cecil Shorts 5-74-1; Larry Fitzgerald 8-80-2; Dez Bryant 4-38-1; Julio Jones 11-182-1; Steve Smith 5-69-1; Andre Johnson 7-88.
The savviest fantasy owners will put Crabtree on a wait-and-see week and view it as a plus if he does well against the Rams. Because injuries like his can be so debilitating and he's clearly not going to be an every-down player in his 2013 debut, Crabtree is best left benched. ... Manningham and Baldwin's roles will be scaled back with Crabtree returning. And even more so once Quinton Patton (foot) gets back. Patton practiced this week on a limited basis. Baldwin is unworthy of a fantasy roster spot, while Manningham is just a WR4/5 in 14-team leagues. ... Although the Rams are statistically stingy versus tight ends, Davis is always a good bet to reach pay dirt when healthy. He's 100% this week. Only Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham are better fantasy tight end starts. ... Gore's recent box-score stats suggest he's beginning to hit something of a late-season wall, understandable in his age-30 campaign. He's still a high-end RB2 against a Rams defense Gore absolutely torched for 153 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries (7.65 YPA) in the Week 4 game.
Since losing Sam Bradford to a torn ACL, the Rams have been playing Hide the Quarterback, leaning on a high-volume run game and average to above-average defense to stay competitive week in and week out. They're going to have trouble executing the formula against a Niners team that ranks No. 12 in run defense. If Zac Stacy (concussion) plays in Week 13 -- and here's betting he will -- he'll only be a mid-range to low-end RB2. If Benny Cunningham gets the nod, he will be a dicey flex. Despite last week's box score against the hapless Bears, Cunningham won't be start-able if Stacy is active for this game. ... Kellen Clemens' target distribution on the season: Chris Givens 24; Jared Cook 21; Stacy 15; Tavon Austin 13; Lance Kendricks 10; Austin Pettis 8; Brian Quick 7. ... The only St. Louis pass catcher worth a serious mention is Austin, whose four TDs the past two games are unsustainable on his current minimal usage. He only has eight targets, four receptions, and six touches combined during that span. Austin is playing 40.2% of the Rams' snaps. He's a Hail Mary flex/WR3. ... Some desperate fantasy owners may be tempted to chase Jared Cook's last-week points. He caught 4-of-5 targets for 80 yards and a touchdown against Chicago. Resist that temptation. San Francisco allows the fewest fantasy points in the NFC to tight ends, and held Cook to 45 scoreless yards on four catches in these team's Week 4 meeting.
Saturday Update: Stacy received full medical clearance on Friday, practiced fully, and will start Sunday against San Francisco. He's still an every-week fantasy starter, but an RB2 option only in this difficult matchup with some threat of Cunningham handling 6-9 carries as a complement.
Score Prediction: 49ers 24, Rams 10
4:25PM ET Games
Cincinnati @ San Diego
The Bengals return from a bye to face a San Diego defense that does nothing well. The Chargers lack effective pass rushers and cover corners, and therefore rank 27th against the pass. San Diego coughs up 4.94 yards per carry on the ground, the second highest average in the NFL. So there isn't a member of Cincinnati's offense that lacks a favorable Week 13 matchup. ... Andy Dalton is worth a look as a QB1 streamer against a Bolts defense allowing the league's highest completion rate (67.9%) and second highest passer rating (102.7). ... Dalton's target distribution over his last three games: A.J. Green 39; Mohamed Sanu 22; Giovani Bernard 17; Marvin Jones 16; Tyler Eifert 15; Jermaine Gresham 13; Andrew Hawkins 4. ... Enemy No. 1 wide receiver stats versus San Diego since its Week 8 bye: Pierre Garcon 7-172; Demaryius Thomas 7-108-3; Mike Wallace 4-39; Dwayne Bowe 5-51-1. Might want to start Green. ... Despite his relatively high target numbers the past three games, Sanu has managed a 33-yard per-game average with one touchdown all season. Severely lacking playmaking ability, Sanu would be a lower-end WR3 shot in the dark against the Bolts. Coming off the bye, I am interested to see whether the Bengals promote Jones into the starting lineup. There's no great reason for confidence in part-time player Jones, either, but if forced to choose between the two, I'd take my chances with him over Sanu.
You know the drill with Cincinnati's tight ends; they cancel each other out in weekly box scores. The Chargers are 22nd in receptions allowed to tight ends and 21st in yards, so of all Bengals skill-position players, Eifert and Gresham have the most difficult on-paper matchup. If Eifert and Gresham were one player, then they'd be in business. ... Because the Bengals ham and egg two running backs based essentially on OC Jay Gruden's in-game feel, a lack of consistent volume has contributed to a lack of consistency for Bernard. His touch totals the past five weeks are 12, 6, 13, 22, 14. I still like him as an every-week flex play and RB2 in plus matchups such as this. On pace for 62 catches, Gio offers much more stability in PPR leagues. ... BenJarvus Green-Ellis is similarly inconsistent with touch totals of 10, 11, 21, 9, 16 over that same stretch. Because Green-Ellis lacks Bernard's big-play ability and passing-game role, his fantasy ceiling is far lower. He needs goal-line TDs to pay fantasy dividends. Law Firm hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 5.
The Bengals have played stout pass defense since losing top cornerback Leon Hall (Achilles') and All-World DT Geno Atkins (ACL) to year-ending injuries, but skepticism is advised when the last four quarterbacks they've faced are Geno Smith, Ryan Tannehill, Joe Flacco, and Jason Campbell. San Diego's No. 4-ranked pass offense is a different animal altogether, especially with Philip Rivers catching fire again. As this game will be played in sunny San Diego, I'd view Rivers as a confident QB1 against a Cincy defense that starts 35-year-old LCB Terence Newman and 30-year-old RCB Pacman Jones, and uses 33-year-old converted safety Chris Crocker at slot corner. The Bolts may have to lean on the pass with lead runner Ryan Mathews nursing a balky hamstring. ... Rivers' target distribution since San Diego's Week 8 bye: Keenan Allen 34; Antonio Gates 32; Danny Woodhead 23; Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal 17; Ladarius Green 12; Ryan Mathews 6. ... Chiefs outside CBs Marcus Cooper and Sean Smith both got embarrassed by Allen last week. A devastating route runner with slick run-after-catch skills, Allen repeatedly dog-walked Kansas City's secondary en route to 124 yards on nine catches. Newman and Pacman pose an even easier test for Allen. I'd lock in the rookie as a mid-range WR2 against Cincinnati.
Saturday Update: Mathews returned to a full practice Friday and is listed as probable. I wouldn't want to trust Mathews in a fantasy lineup at less than 100% and facing Cincinnati's top-ten run defense, but the Chargers seem to believe he'll be available for his normal role. He's a shaky flex option with a poor track record of playing through injuries. I still prefer Woodhead as a Week 13 fantasy start.
The Bengals are 26th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, but I still think Gates is a better bet than not to rebound from last week's 3-21 clunker against Eric Berry. I'd view him as a low-end TE1 at worst. ... Although Green is an exciting talent and seam-running No. 2 tight end, his limited offensive role leaves Green without serious re-draft league value. He hasn't played 30 snaps in a game all year. For perspective, Gates is averaging 63 snaps per game. Green is a much better Dynasty league hold. ... Brown hasn't scored a touchdown since the season opener and has failed to clear 40 receiving yards in six straight games. He went catch-less in Week 12, seeing just one target. Brown has no re-draft-league value. ... With at least 80 total yards and/or a touchdown in eight of his last nine games, Woodhead enters Sunday's clash as a consistent RB2/flex play. His value is enhanced by the possibility that Mathews will either be inactive or limited against Cincy. The Bengals field a top-ten run defense, but matchups matter less for backs like Woodhead who are utilized almost like wide receivers and schemed by their coaching staffs into space. I like Woodhead as an RB2 on FanDuel and would fire him up in weekly leagues wherever possible.
Saturday Update: Despite being listed as probable on the injury report and practicing fully, Gates expressed worry late Friday about a hamstring injury that prevented him from practicing Wednesday and Thursday. The probable tag indicates the Chargers expect Gates to be full-go against Cincinnati, but fantasy owners can use the injury as a tiebreaker to shy away from Gates in close lineup decisions.
Score Prediction: Chargers 24, Bengals 23
Denver @ Kansas City
The Chiefs received a tuneup for this likely high-scoring affair in last Sunday's 41-38 loss to San Diego, where Alex Smith engineered six scoring drives. With his defense deteriorating primarily due to injury, Smith has been forced out of his game-managing comfort zone. He's responded by completing 92 of his last 151 throws (60.9%) for 892 yards (5.91 YPA), and a 7:1 TD-to-INT ratio. This game's 48.5-point over-under is tied for third highest of Week 13, giving Smith desperate QB1 streamer appeal. Minus OLB Justin Houston (elbow) and with OLB Tamba Hali (ankle) at less than full speed, Kansas City is going to have to put up yards and points to keep pace with Peyton Manning on the scoreboard. At the very least, Smith is a quality two-quarterback-league play. ... Smith's target distribution over his last three games: Dwayne Bowe 32; Dexter McCluster 22; Jamaal Charles 21; Donnie Avery 13; Anthony Fasano 10; Anthony Sherman 5; Sean McGrath 4. ... Bowe's stat lines during that three-game stretch: 5-51-1; 4-57-1; 7-67. Bowe is a high-end WR3 against a Denver defense that'll look to break in Champ Bailey (foot) following a five-week absence. ... Slot receiver types have been giving Denver's defense fits of late. Julian Edelman tagged the Broncos for a 9-110-2 number in Week 12, one week after McCluster caught five passes for 53 yards against Denver. McCluster is a viable WR3 in return-yardage leagues.
Averaging 4.3 targets per game the past three weeks, Avery's four catches for 91 yards and a score from last Sunday are hard to take seriously because he's played in all 11 Chiefs games and cleared 40 yards in three. In these clubs' Week 11 meeting, Denver held Avery to one 20-yard catch. There are better WR3 shots in the dark. ... Plodding in-line tight end Fasano scored a red-zone touchdown in the Week 11 contest and will pay fantasy streamer dividends if and only if he finds pay dirt from a short distance again. Fasano is averaging three catches for 22 yards per start. ... Denver held Charles to 72 scoreless yards on 18 touches two weeks ago. To date, it's been Charles' slowest game of an arguably MVP-caliber campaign. Although his matchup is difficult against the Broncos' top-five run defense, Charles remains an every-week RB1 based on volume and sheer talent. It can't hurt Charles' outlook that Broncos DT Kevin Vickerson (hip) is lost for the season. Pro Football Focus has graded Vickerson as an impact run defender this year.
Two weeks removed from pouring 323 yards on Kansas City, Peyton Manning will take on a Chiefs defense depleted compared to its condition the first time around. All quarterbacks perform with higher efficiency in clean pockets, and Peyton is likely to have them this week. As Drew Brees faces Seattle, Manning is the No. 1 fantasy quarterback in Week 13. With feature back Knowshon Moreno (ankle) hobbled and his backups all enduring fumbling woes, it's conceivable the Broncos will lean heavily on the pass against Kansas City's diminished pass rush. ... Peyton's target distribution since Denver's Week 9 bye: Demaryius Thomas 32; Wes Welker 24; Eric Decker 15; Julius Thomas and Moreno 10; Montee Ball 7; Jacob Tamme 5; Virgil Green 3. ... The Broncos attacked outside CBs Marcus Cooper and Sean Smith with Demaryius in Week 11, as Manning targeted Thomas a team-high 13 times, converting five for 121 yards. There's no good reason to believe Denver would veer from that approach after emerging with a 27-17 victory. Demaryius has at least 100 yards and/or a touchdown in five straight games. Only Calvin Johnson is outscoring him among fantasy wideouts. ... Welker has separated from Decker as Manning's clear-cut No. 2 receiver and will match up again with Brandon Flowers in the slot. Welker caught eight balls in the Week 11 game. Every last one of the completions came in Flowers' coverage.
Orange Julius returns from missing Week 12 to take on SS Eric Berry, whom the Chiefs use to shadow tight ends in coverage. Thomas beat Berry for a nine-yard touchdown in Week 11. Only Jimmy Graham (11) has more TDs among tight ends than Thomas this year. He's a top-five TE1 start. ... Decker has been the odd man out in Denver's pass-catching corps of late. He's scoreless since Week 7. I'd still be very hard pressed to sit Decker in any fantasy league that requires three starting receivers. This is a full-time player in a Peyton Manning offense capable of racking up catches and multiple scores in any given week. Consider Decker an every-week WR3 with WR2 upside. ... Unless Adam Schefter or Jay Glazer reports Sunday morning that Moreno will be inactive, the Broncos' fantasy backfield is shaping up as a very dicey one to project. The Denver media has dropped hints that Moreno's playing time could be "limited" against the Chiefs. Next up on the depth chart is Ball, though he'll surely be on a short leash coming off a game where he was benched for a lost fumble. Ronnie Hillman has already been benched for fumbling. C.J. Anderson has not been publicly discussed as a candidate for primary carries at Arrowhead. Fantasy owners eyeballing this backfield in lineup quandaries will just have to gather as much info as possible heading into Sunday and make the best decision they can Sunday morning and/or afternoon. My pick is Moreno to lead the corps in fantasy points, but I don't feel confident in that prediction at all.
Friday Update: We received some clarity on Denver's running back situation when Moreno was listed as probable after participating in practice for a second straight day. Beat writers observed Moreno "moving better" on the field Friday. I now feel more confident about categorizing Moreno as a high-end RB2 at Kansas City. Ball projects as the complementary back and possible goal-line threat. Anderson is No. 3, and Hillman has been a healthy scratch for every game since Week 7.
Score Prediction: Broncos 27, Chiefs 23
Sunday Night Football
NY Giants @ Washington
The Redskins return from an embarrassing Monday Night Football showing against the 49ers to square off with a slightly improved Giants defense when compared to early-season performance. Top G-Men defender Jason Pierre-Paul has been rendered ineffective by shoulder woes despite team efforts to limit his snaps. JPP has two sacks in 11 appearances this season, and just one over his last ten games. Meanwhile, Robert Griffin III gets back emerging star tight end Jordan Reed from a concussion. Facing a Giants defense that ranks 15th against the pass and last in the NFC in sacks, RG3 is a far better bet for a productive box score than he was last week. Griffin remains a low-end QB1 option. ... RG3's target distribution since the Skins' Week 5 bye: Pierre Garcon 76; Reed 44; Santana Moss 26; Roy Helu 19; Logan Paulsen 13; Aldrick Robinson and Josh Morgan 11. ... This is the G-Men and Skins' first battle of 2013. When Garcon faced the Giants last December, he hung an 8-106-1 line on DC Perry Fewell's group. Now on a five-game streak of six-plus catches, Garcon is an every-week WR1/2 in fantasy. ... The 49ers game showed Morgan will primarily handle Leonard Hankerson's (ACL, LCL surgery) old Z receiver role. Morgan got the start and saw six targets, playing 57% of the offensive snaps. Blocking frequently and running possession-type pass patterns, Morgan is barely in the WR4 fantasy discussion.
34-year-old slot receiver Moss has one touchdown on the season and hasn't reached 50 yards since Week 3. He isn't a fantasy option. ... Jason Witten could tell you the Giants' linebackers struggle in coverage; he's scored four TDs against New York in two 2013 meetings. The G-Men are allowing the ninth most fantasy points in the league to tight ends. Fire up Reed as a top-six TE1. ... Playing top-seven run defense, the Giants are legitimately stout up front with Jon Beason installed at middle linebacker behind red-hot DT Cullen Jenkins. This isn't an easy draw for Alfred Morris. The Redskins are still going to feed Morris as they always do; he is sixth in the NFL in carries, and only Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy have rushed for more yards. I could see downgrading Morris from RB1 to RB2 based on Week 13 matchup. I couldn't see benching him.
Fantasy owners in quarterback quandaries ought to give Eli Manning a look as a rest-of-season QB1. With the exception of Week 15 versus Seattle, the Giants face a cakewalk pass-defense schedule through Week 16, beginning in D.C., then traveling to San Diego for Week 14, and ending inside Detroit's Ford Field dome in fantasy Super Bowl week. Eli hasn't played well this season, but that's precisely the reason this approach could be available to some fantasy leaguers. Although Manning is currently 19th in fantasy QB scoring, I think he's a fair bet to produce as a top 10-12 option the rest of the way. ... The G-Men are leaning on Brown, utilizing him as an offensive focal point since his return from short-term I.R. In three games since, Brown is averaging 26 touches for 117 total yards, with a touchdown and two-point conversion thrown in for good measure. Only Adrian Peterson and Knowshon Moreno have more rushing attempts over that span. If Brandon Jacobs wasn't a threat to vulture goal-line TDs, Brown would be a borderline RB1. As is, he's a high-end RB2 with increased upside this week taking on Washington's No. 14 run defense. Brown is a high-floor play with a somewhat limited ceiling.
Friday Update: Brown's Week 13 scoring potential improved Friday when Jacobs was ruled out following an apparent setback with his chronically pained knee. The Giants will likely dress Peyton Hillis as their No. 2 tailback this week. Hillis shouldn't be viewed as a fantasy factor. Brown is a legit RB1 play. Scratch that "limited ceiling" talk.
Eli's 2013 target distribution: Victor Cruz 102; Hakeem Nicks 76; Rueben Randle 58; Brandon Myers 48; Jerrel Jernigan 16; Peyton Hillis 13; Brown 12. ... In his last two meetings with Skins DC Jim Haslett, Cruz has dropped stat lines of 5-104 and 7-131-1. Nicks' return from a groin injury is actually good news for Cruz, preventing defenses from selling out to stop New York's slot receiver as Dallas did last week. Cruz has always been more effective with an isolation route runner along the sideline to take coverage from the middle of the field. I'd lock in Cruz as a WR2. ... Nicks is more effective as a decoy than standalone producer these days. He's still scoreless on the season and hasn't so much as reached 70 yards in a game since early October. Despite the favorable matchup with Washington's No. 26 pass defense, Nicks is a low-end WR3. ... Randle tends to produce when we don't expect it, and come up short when we do. Such was the case last week, as Nicks was inactive, giving Randle the start. So Randle delivered 64 scoreless yards. I'd love to see what Randle could do as a full-time receiver for an extended stretch of games. In his current role, he's an unpredictable boom-or-bust guy. ... The good news for Myers is the Redskins yield the seventh most fantasy points to tight ends. The bad news is that Myers isn't a good player. Tight end is a position the Giants will undoubtedly look to upgrade in the offseason.
Score Prediction: Redskins 24, Giants 21
Monday Night Football
New Orleans @ Seattle
The Seahawks are suddenly minus 66% of their nickel sub-package following suspensions to slot corner Walter Thurmond III and RCB Brandon Browner. Seattle remains likely to play stout defense with elite safeties, All-World LCB Richard Sherman, and one of the league's deepest pass-rusher corps, but it's going to be hard to keep living up to their No. 2 ranking versus the pass. Especially against Drew Brees. Expect Brees to attack fill-in RCB Byron Maxwell, a usual special teamer, and substitute slot corner Jeremy Lane. X/slot receiver Marques Colston typically would've aligned across from the above defenders. I like Brees as a top-five QB1 even in this still-difficult matchup, and Colston's odds of delivering sound WR3 stats. ... Brees' target distribution since Colston returned from a knee injury three games ago: Jimmy Graham 23; Colston 22; Pierre Thomas 18; Darren Sproles 11; Kenny Stills 9; Lance Moore 8; Robert Meachem 6; Mark Ingram, Ben Watson, and Josh Hill 5. ... I've seen some thought around fantasy land that the Seahawks could assign Sherman to Graham in shadow coverage. Doing so would be a major deviation from how Pete Carroll has always called defense with the Seahawks. Sherman has been a stationary left cornerback, sometimes playing in the slot but never mirroring opposing top weapons. Hold your breath, but keep trotting out Graham as a difference-making TE1. The Seahawks allow the 14th most receptions to tight ends, and movable-chess-piece Graham plays enough snaps at X wideout and in the slot that he should have opportunities to man up against Maxwell and Lane.
Another reason for confidence in Graham is Carroll's tendency to play straightaway defense. The Seahawks rarely use bracket or double coverage to eliminate a select player on the other side of the ball. Following a Thursday night win over Atlanta, Graham is also coming off an extra long week to rest his once-balky foot. ... Despite Seattle's defensive losses, it'd be a major stretch to count on any Saints pass catcher not named Graham or Colston. The Seahawks don't give up long pass plays -- they're 32nd in 20-plus and 40-plus-yard completions allowed -- creating a matchup to avoid for deep threats Stills and Meachem. Passed on the depth chart by Stills and even Meachem in some games, Moore isn't playing many snaps or having enough balls thrown his way. ... The Seahawks are slightly more vulnerable on the ground than in the air. They're a middling 16th in run defense and permit 4.18 yards per carry, an average mark. The lone New Orleans back not giving fantasy owners headaches is Thomas, who has the appearance of a low-ceiling flex at CenturyLink Field. Sproles' health (ankle/knee) and usage have both been problematic. Ingram only sees extensive snaps when the Saints are blowing teams out. I'd feel reasonably good about starting Thomas on Monday night. I'd put Sproles on a wait-and-see week, and drop Ingram for a higher-upside stash.
There is some reason to believe this game has high-scoring potential with a 47-point over-under, Drew Brees' No. 3 offense on one side of the field, and Russell Wilson's top-four scoring offense on the other. Wilson has a 17:5 TD-to-INT ratio over his last nine games, with an 18th score on a scramble. On the season, only seven NFL quarterbacks have scored more fantasy points. New Orleans poses a genuinely stiff test -- Rob Ryan's defense ranks third against the pass, tied for first in sacks, and has permitted the third fewest passing touchdowns (11) in football -- but Wilson has earned every-week QB1 treatment. His Week 13 ceiling will rise if the Saints can score on Seattle's defense, an increased possibility minus Browner and Thurmond. ... The Seahawks' most likely plan of attack remains a run-first approach that not only challenges the Saints' main defensive vulnerability, but keeps Brees off the field. New Orleans' No. 15 run defense is coughing up 4.81 yards per carry, the fourth most generous clip in football. Expect heavy doses of Marshawn Lynch, who could be argued as this week's No. 2 fantasy running back play behind only Adrian Peterson.
Percy Harvin will be a full-time player for the first time in Week 13, likely lining up at slot receiver to match up with Saints rookie slot defender Kenny Vaccaro. It's worth noting that Harry Douglas -- an obviously inferior talent to Harvin -- racked up nine catches at slot receiver in New Orleans' last game. Harvin's weekly target counts could be something of a concern in Seattle's run-first offense, but I'd want to fire him up as a WR2/3 in this game. ... Here are the stat lines of the last eight "No. 1 receivers" to face New Orleans: Brandon Marshall 4-30-1; Mike Wallace 3-24; Larry Fitzgerald 5-64; Vincent Jackson 5-77; Aaron Dobson 6-63; Stevie Johnson 7-72-1; David Nelson 1-19; Dez Bryant 1-44; Anquan Boldin 6-56-1, Roddy White 2-24. Most of them faced Saints top CB Keenan Lewis on the majority of snaps. The "No. 1 receiver" designation applies more to Golden Tate than Harvin at this point, because Lewis won't follow Harvin into the slot. He'll match up with Tate, and to a lesser extent Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. For Week 13, at least, the lone Seahawks pass catcher I'd feel comfortable starting is Harvin. Tate is a low-end WR3. Baldwin is in wait-and-see mode as his role is established with Harvin playing full time. The Saints are 30th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, giving Zach Miller an unfavorable matchup.
Saturday Update: Fantasy owners need to monitor Harvin (hip) closely on Saturday and Sunday. He did not practice on Thursday, and would not have practiced Friday had the Seahawks held drills, per the team. The Seahawks will release their final injury report of the week on Saturday. Stay tuned.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 24, Saints 21
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