Week 13 Fantasy Football Sleepers: Prescott, Gore to push backers into playoffs

Without much fanfare, Dak Prescott has posted top-10 numbers over the past several weeks. Another QB1-level line is on deck against New Orleans. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Without much fanfare, Dak Prescott has posted top-10 numbers over the past several weeks. Another QB1-level line is on deck against New Orleans. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

Each week the Noise highlights under-started names who he believes are destined to torch the competition. To qualify, each player must be started in fewer than 60 percent of Yahoo leagues. Speaking as an accountability advocate, I will post results, whether genius or moronic, the following week (Scoring thresholds – QB: 18 fpts, RB: 12 fpts, WR: 11 fpts: TE: 10 fpts; .5 PPR). If you’re a member of TEAM HUEVOS, reveal your Week 13 Flames in the comments section below.

Dak Prescott, Dal, QB (16 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $33)

Matchup: vs. NO
Vegas line/total: NO -7.5, 52.5

With playoff aspirations on the line, fantasy owners are unquestionably nervous. For millions of gamers, it’s do-or-die time. Unlike some so-called industry “experts” who would cowardly implore you to start Patrick Mahomes against the Raiders, rolling the dice on an under-publicized option could be the difference between you staving off elimination or stomaching a long, hurtful off-season.

That, my friends, is the #TeamHuevos motto.

This week, Prescott is the ideal option for matchup advocates banking on a quick Week 13 start. Lately, the Dallas passer has routinely traveled into QB1 territory. Since Week 6, he’s the eighth-most valuable QB in the virtual game. Raising his profile scoring via dual means, he’s amassed 244.3 pass yards per game, completing 67.7 percent of his attempts, 7.6 pass yards per attempt, 26.3 rush yards per game and a 13:1 TD:INT split (5 rush TDs).

The acquisition of Amari Cooper combined with Ezekiell Elliott’s steadily growing receiving role have done wonders. Against a forgiving Saints secondary, all parties should notch fruitful results. On the year, New Orleans has surrendered 8.4 pass yards per attempt, 302.9 pass yards per game, 1.9 pass TDs per game and the second-most fantasy points to signal callers. In total, five QBs have surpassed the 20 fantasy-point mark against Marshon Lattimore and friends. Whether by ground or air, Dak goes on the attack. Starting him ahead of Tom Brady (vs. Min), Andrew Luck (at Jax) or Matt Ryan (vs. Bal) isn’t lunacy.

Fearless Forecast: 276 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 24 rushing yards, 1 rushing touchdown, 27.4 fantasy points

Royce Freeman, Den, RB (16 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $16)

Matchup: at Cin
Vegas line/total: Den -3.5, 42.5

Showcasing humility is necessary for maintaining sanity and success in the fantasy business. No pundit is a true soothsayer. We crunch tape and punch numbers to derive a logical conclusion. Often, however, the calculus doesn’t align. Take my adoration for Freeman. A bull between the tackles, the rookie jumped off the screen during his Oregon days and in the preseason. His forward lean, sharp vision, elusiveness and devastating power were evidence in a convincing case. Phillip Lindsay, though, was the unaccounted for X-factor.

The UDFA’s extraordinary ascension and steady production relegated Freeman to secondary duty. As a result, the second fiddle, despite ranking No. 5 in yards after contact per attempt (3.51) and No. 12 in elusive rating, has sat on owner benches for much of the season. But this week he’s worth strong consideration at the FLEX spot in 12-team leagues. Why? It’s the Bungles. Do you need any additional reasoning?

The ghastliest defense in the NFL has given up 4.93 yards per carry, 125.0 rush yards per game, 11 ground touchdowns and THE most fantasy points to the position this season. Freeman has suffered from excessive stacked fronts (46.4 percent of time), but on 10-12 touches he’s a likely end-zone candidate.

Fearless Forecast: 11 carries, 50 rushing yards, 1 reception, 8 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 12.3 fantasy points

Austin Ekeler, LAC, RB (39 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $22)

Matchup: at Pit
Vegas line/total: Pit -3.5, 51.5

Drafting or managing your roster for depth in fantasy is critical to long-term survival. Without a golden parachute to deploy when tragedy strikes, a title-contending team can go from riches to rags overnight. Just look at the Melvin Gordon owner in your league. The prized rusher, expected to miss “weeks” with an untimely MCL injury, has his owners frantically scurrying for suitable, though scarce, options. If you’re one of the fortunate few who already had Ekeler on roster, the time to fully invest in his services is now.

An unlikely late-season hero, the product from tiny Division II school Western State in Gunnison, Col. has provided statistical outbursts in spurts. He’s efficient, versatile and tougher to tackle than one might surmise. He ranks No. 3 in yards after contact per attempt and elusive rating, trailing only Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the latter category. Also tops in breakaway run percentage among eligible RBs and boasting a 78.3 catch percentage, the diminutive Bolt packs plenty of electricity. The last time Ekeler was thrust into a featured role, he bombed. On 17 touches versus Tennessee in London he totaled a rather useless 68 yards.

Rookie Justin Jackson will complement him in his second audition, but he’s a near-lock for 15-plus touches Sunday night in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are a daunting foe, giving up just 3.98 yards per carry, 108.4 total yards per game and the eighth-fewest fantasy points to RBs. However, gashed by Denver speedster Phillip Lindsay last week, they’re far from invincible. Follow the volume.

Fearless Forecast: 13 attempts, 53 rushing yards, 4 receptions, 26 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 15.9 fantasy points

Quincy Enunwa, NYJ, WR (4 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $13)

Matchup: at Ten
Vegas line/total: Ten -8.5, 40.5

Labeling any Jet a fantasy “flame” with a playoff berth on the line is akin to the daunting excrement-filled journey Andy Dufresne faced when escaping Shawshank. However, similar to the iconic film’s climax, crawl through the (expletive) and chances are you’ll wind up clean and free on the other side. Employ Enunwa at WR3 this week and exuberant feelings are sure to wash over. Yes, even with Sam Darnold back. With only one touchdown and a pair of 70-plus yard performances on the year, it’s been an unmemorable fall for New York’s most reliable vertical weapon. He’s attracted 20.6 percent of the target share, but he doesn’t rank inside the position’s top-50 in a single advanced analytic. Not one.

Though a model of inefficiency, he’s an alluring off-the-grid play. Tennessee has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to wide receivers on the year. More specifically, human Salvation Army kettle, Malcolm Butler, has been nothing but generous to his assignments. On the season, he’s surrendered a 70.9 catch rate, 136.4 passer rating, 1.98 yards per snap and seven touchdowns. Adoree’ Jackson and Logan Ryan, who’ve accounted for a 103.2 passer rating allowed, haven’t executed much better. Jermaine Kearse hooked 12 targets out of the slot last week. This time around, Enunwa becomes the point of emphasis. Wheels up.

Fearless Forecast: 5 receptions, 72 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 15.9 fantasy points

Josh Doctson, Was, WR (3 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $19)

Matchup: at Phi
Vegas line/total: Phi -6.5, 44

Somewhere in a suburban Philadelphia Costco, Doug Pederson is scouring the aisles for well-built, athletic human beings. The man is desperate. Presumably down Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones again and already without the services of Ronald Darby rest of season, the Eagles may again feature Rasul Douglas (103.3 passer rating, 1.78 yards per snap allowed) and three undrafted free agents in its secondary. To call it a weakened unit would be the understatement of the century. On the year, even with all hands available for a sizable chunk, Philly has conceded the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers. Overall, 11 receivers have crossed 70 yards against it. Look for Doctson to join the crowd.

Much maligned during his three years in the league, the routinely dinged, largely underachieving former first-round pick might be starting to round a corner. Lined up in the cross hairs 17 times the past two weeks, he’s become a focal point in Washington’s vertical scheme. He isn’t a field stretcher, but his ability to haul in high-traffic catches (No. 11 in contested catch rate) and red-zone appeal are magnetic qualities. A favorite of Colt McCoy last week, Doctson, against Douglas, splashes six for the third time season. Weigh his services at WR3 or FLEX in deeper leagues.

Fearless Forecast: 4 receptions, 63 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 14.3 fantasy points

WEEK 13 SHOCKER SPECIAL (Under 10 percent started)

Frank Gore, Mia, RB (8 percent started; Yahoo DFS: $16)

Matchup: vs. Buf
Vegas line/total: Mia -5, 40.5

An Easter Island statue. ‘Sue’ the fossilized T-Rex. Antonio Gates. Add up the ages of each and they’re still younger than Gore. Despite his high mileage and Diner’s Club membership, the Dolphins’ elder statesman continues to run spryly. He’s RB10 in yards created per carry, RB13 in yards after contact per attempt (3.20) and has chipped in a noticeable 16.2 missed tackle percentage. His absent touchdowns and minimized pass game role are why many have turned a blind eye. Yet, the 35-years young rusher continues to pop visually. His yeoman’s work ethic and overall dedication to his craft warrant mad respect.

With Kenyan Drake (arm) a major question mark, he could greatly exceed his average 48.5 percent opportunity share. Yes, unremarkable rookie Kalen Ballage could see an uptick in snaps, but it’s the venerable rock who stands to benefit most. The Bills, trampled on the ground often this season, have surrendered an obscene amount of production to rushers. They’ve given up 4.24 yards per carry, 88.7 rush yards per game, 12 rushing scores and the ninth-most fantasy points to the position. In fact, edge defender Eddie Yabrough is the team’s only player who ranks inside the top-75 in run-stop percentage according to PFF. Start Miami’s megalodon in the FLEX with supreme confidence.

Fearless Forecast: 17 attempts, 76 rushing yards, 1 reception, 6 receiving yards, 1 touchdown, 14.7 fantasy points

BONUS WEEK 13 FLAMES (Under 50 percent started)

QB: Lamar Jackson, Bal (at Atl; $30) – Onlookers inside the Mercedes-Benz Stadium are going to experience déjà vu Sunday. Internally they’ll ask themselves, “Is that dude Michael Vick?” Jackson has shown flashes of the once vibrant fantasy star. He’s completed 61.4 percent of his attempts, but has raised the profile with 95 rush yards per game through two starts. Insanely athletic and versatile, the former Heisman winner is a matchup nightmare for a flaccid Atlanta defense. This season, the Falcons have allowed the second-most fantasy points, 7.9 pass yards per attempt, 284.5 pass yards per game and 2.3 passing TDs per game to QBs. Assuming he draws the start, Jackson taps the circle button multiple times. (FF: 213 YDS, TD, INT, 59 rush YDS, TD, 23.4 FPTS)

RB: LeSean McCoy, Buf (at Mia; $18) – Starting McCoy with a second season appearance on the line isn’t exactly a safe option. It’s why you purchased a $90 foot massager on Cyber Monday. The stress is real. However, McCoy’s consistent 15-20 touch volume paired with Josh Allen’s versatility and highly beatable opponent suggest he’ll be the least of owner worries. On the year, Miami has yielded the fifth-most fantasy points, 174.3 total yards per game, 4.84 yards per carry and 12 touchdowns to rushers. His advanced numbers are unsightly, especially in YAC per attempt and yards created per carry, but odds are reasonable he reaches 100 total yards and the end-zone for the third time, in each category, this season. (FF: 19 ATTS, 78 YDS, 3 RECS, 23 YDS, TD, 17.6 FPTS)

WR: Anthony Miller, Chi (at NYG; $17) – Slippery, dexterous and proficient in general, Miller is in the midst of a late-season breakthrough. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Memphis product was one of the best route runners in this year’s rookie class. He’s topped 50 yards in a game only once, but playing on over 70 percent of team snaps since Week 6, he’s become a fixture in Matt Nagy’s creative offense. As evidenced in his WR19 standing in fantasy points per target, Miller is productive when thrown to. This week against slot corner Grant Haley, he should deliver one of his finest efforts this year. The welcoming DB has allowed a 108.6 passer rating and 64.3 catch percentage to his assignments. No matter if Chase Daniel or Mitchell Trubisky spins him passes, Miller is a bankable WR3/FLEX in challenging formats. (FF: 5 RECS, 52 YDS, TD, 13.7 FPTS)

TE: Cameron Brate, TB (vs. Car; $18) – The tight end and Jameis Winston are inseparable, the Ren and Stimpy of the NFL. They’re besties. The numbers verify. In their past 19 games together, the duo has connected on eight touchdowns. Brate, with Winston, has averaged 9.5 fantasy points per game in PPR since the beginning of last year. Without him, he’s notched just 3.6 fantasy points per game. Rekindling their on-field romance last week (3-26-1), the tandem should again cash in for virtual game purposes. Carolina is the dandiest matchup imaginable for a tight end. This season, the Panthers have surrendered the most fantasy points to the position, giving up a 6.2-66.8-0.9 average line. Fire the cannons. (FF: 4 RECS, 37 YDS, TD, 11.7 FPTS)

DST: Kansas City Chiefs (at Oak; $18) – Between the misreads, misfires and heated verbal exchanges with head coach Jon Gruden, Derek Carr doesn’t exemplify “franchise quarterback.” Sacked 19 times over his past four games, he’s bound to endure constant harassment from a KC front that’s logged four more QB undercuts six times this season. Overall, the Raiders have coughed up the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing defenses. Reinvigorated off the one-week break, the Chiefs dominate the Silver and Black. (FF: 13 PA, 374 YDSA, 5 SCK, 2 TO, 11.0 FPTS)

Each week one fortunate guest prognosticator will have a chance to silence the Noise. Following the rules stated above, participants are asked to submit their “Flames” (1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 1 D/ST) by midnight PT Tuesdays via Twitter @YahooNoise. How large are your stones?

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Reader record: 33-54

Brad record: 58-75 (WK12: 5-6; W – Baker Mayfield, Gus Edwards, Peyton Barber, Sony Michel, Demaryius Thomas; L – Jordan Howard, Mo Sanu, Jordan Wilkins, Sterling Shepard, Vance McDonald, Bills D/ST)

Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise. Also check out his TV show, “The Fantasy Football Hour,” now available in 91 million households on various regional sports networks, and his award-nominated podcast, “The Fantasy Record.”

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