Forgive me for I got lost in the side dishes. Last week was all sort of a blur of gravy boats, game-clinching interceptions by Darius Slay and Black Friday shopping on Thursday. Ain’t America grand?
I didn’t have a chance to touch base with all of you about fantasy football, so let’s shake off the effects of that turkey hangover and get right into the studs and duds, the players worth starting and the players to put to the pine in Week 13.
Start ‘em - QBs
Matt Ryan vs. Kansas City
It’s really a no-brainer at this point: start Matt Ryan each and every week. There was a bit of a lull he experienced in Weeks 5-7, but Matty Ice is averaging the fifth most FPts among quarterbacks this season, making him a bonafide QB1. Ryan’s trailing only the likes of top-tier QBs such as Brady, Rodgers, Brees and... Kaepernick in FPts/G.
Ryan gets another game at home in the Dome, this time when the Chiefs—the 22nd ranked defense against opposing quarterbacks in FPts—come to town. Last week, Trevor Siemian, the 24th ranked quarterback in fantasy this year, had the fourth most FPts among QBs last week against Kansas City; he put up 15 points higher than his average by going 20 of 34 for 368 yards and three touchdowns. Translation: start Ryan.
Tyrod Taylor at Oakland
Mr. Taylor has been hanging right around the middle of the pack this season in terms of fantasy production at the quarterback position. His passing numbers aren’t spectacular—2,101 yards and 11 touchdowns—but he’s been very careful with the football, throwing only four interceptions and only fumbling it three times this season. Three fumbles might not seem impressive, but a lot of Taylor’s fantasy production is with his feet—his 70 rushing attempts are the most by any QB this season and his five rushing touchdowns are tied with other dual-threat QBs Cam Newton and Dak Prescott.
Oakland’s pass defense has steadily gotten better this season, but they’ve ceded more FPts than the league average to opposing QBs in six of their 11 games this season.
Sit ‘em - QBs
Blake Bortles vs. Denver
There are two quarterbacks that the Denver defense has given up more than the league average in FPts to in 2016: Cam Newton and Drew Brees. Blake Bortles is, by all accounts, not either of those players.
Andy Dalton vs. Philadelphia
Dalton and the Bengals offense has been a shell of itself. Some of it has to do with the talent that left town—Sanu and Jones—but a lot of it has to do with the departure of Hue Jackson. The loss of A.J. Green to injury isn’t going to do any favors for Dalton this week against a Philadelphia defense that is surrendering the ninth least FPts to opposing quarterbacks.
Start ‘em - RBs
David Johnson vs. Washington
David Johnson is, without a doubt, the most productive player in fantasy this season. His 1,534 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns rank him first in the league among all running backs and receivers. He’s caught as many passes this season as DeAndre Hopkins. He’s finished among the top 5 in running backs six times this season, and he’s one of only two running backs to average at least 20 FPts/G in 2016. He’s really flippin’ good and it’s a shame the rest of the Cardinals offense isn’t up to snuff.
Against Washington, a team that has surrendered the seventh most fantasy points to opposing running backs, David Johnson should have a huge day. The Cardinals are playing for their playoff lives from here on out, so their best player should be utilized early and often.
Theo Riddick at New Orleans
A little home cookin’ from Pride Of Detroit, but Week 13 has all the makings of a big week for skill players involved in this game. Riddick’s season has been a case of ho-hum performances that warrant a flex start, and then some truly RB1 outings. In Weeks 1, 5 and 8, Riddick finished fourth, sixth and fourth respectively among running backs, while scoring over 20 FPts in each of those contests.
The Saints defense is still not good, and they’re giving up a ton of points to running backs, the fifth most FPts/G to RBs this season. The Lions have had a few extra days to rest up and get ready for this one, and with two explosive offenses squaring off, there’s going to be plenty of scoring to go around.**
Sit ‘em - RBs
Jay Ajayi at Baltimore
The midseason fantasy darling that nearly everyone has hitched their fantasy championship aspirations to isn’t going to help your team this week. The Baltimore Ravens’ run defense has been lights out this year, currently ranked first in DVOA, and that metric is even proving true in fantasy as well: Baltimore is giving up the least amount of FPts to opposing RBs in the league. In fact, they’re giving up almost five fantasy points less per game than the league average defense against running backs, which has a lot to do with the team only giving up three rushing touchdowns to RBs in 2016. Hard pass on Ajayi this week.
Jonathan Stewart at Seattle
Stewart makes his money in fantasy scoring touchdowns. Seattle’s defense has given up six rushing touchdowns to their opponents this season, but there are eight games where Seattle hasn’t let a running back get into the end zone. Stewart isn’t going to make his money this weekend.
Start ‘em - WRs
Julio Jones vs. Kansas City
Once again, sort of a no brainer to start Julio each and every week, but this week especially. As I mentioned earlier when talking about Matt Ryan, Kansas City gives up fantasy points, and boy do they just bleed fantasy points to wideouts; the Chiefs give up the most FPts to receivers in the league, almost five more points than the league average. This is one of those instances in which they have the talent, Marcus Peters is a No. 1 corner without question, but they just give up points in fantasy.
Julio’s been fantastic this season, but he’s had three games this season that have been uncharacteristically bad and out of place when looking at his week-to-week numbers. Against a bad New Orleans secondary, only one catch for 16 yards. Week 3 against Green Bay, another team that definitely struggles in pass coverage, three receptions for 29 yards. The fear is that a struggling pass defense is going to turn all their attention towards Julio and making sure he doesn’t burn them, which means less targets and thus another low floor for the Falcons No. 1 receiver. I think Julio bounces back this week after a talented Cardinals secondary did everything to keep him in check.
Golden Tate at New Orleans
More home cooking at no additional charge. People might scoff at the prospect of Tate having a big day on Sunday, but I think he’ll have a big day on Sunday. When the Lions visited New Orleans last year, Tate caught all six of his targets for 45 yards and two touchdowns. The Saints are right around the league average in terms of how many fantasy points they allow to opposing wide receivers, but Tate could be in for a bigger day than expected from most.
This season, Tate is Detroit’s leader in targets with 85, and it’s pretty clear Stafford and Cooter like to get the ball to him in areas where he has space to create after the catch. Tate is third in the NFL in yards after catch (YAC), with 422 of his 617 yards coming after the reception. New Orleans’ defense is 25th in the league in yards allowed after the catch, giving up 132.9 YAC/G. Look for the Lions to capitalize on the Saints poor pursuit and tackling on Sunday.
**For those of you who have read this far, here’s a bonus tidbit of advice for you: remember Theo Riddick who I said was a start this week? He’s seventh in the NFL in YAC, gaining 7.6 YAC per reception.
Sit ‘em - WRs
Davante Adams vs. Houston
He’s had quite the resurgence since his breakout game in Week 7 against the Bears, but the Texans’ secondary ain’t no joke: it might be one of the biggest reasons why they find themselves atop the AFC South for the time being. The timing might seem right, but I would go another route and find a better matchup than Adams, who’s facing the a secondary that’s allowed the third fewest amount of fantasy points to opposing wideouts.
Demaryius Thomas at Jacksonville
Thomas has had yet another disappointing season when it comes to fantasy production, and it looks like it might be time to accept him for what he actually is: a high-floor WR3 the potential to tread into WR1 waters given the matchup. For this matchup, I don’t see a lot of upside against a stout pass defense led by Jalen Ramsey. When Jacksonville played Detroit, they allowed 11 receptions to Lions’ wideouts total and six of those completions were to Anquan Boldin, primarily a slot receiver. Prepare for the Broncos to run the football in this one.