Week 13 Start 'Em Sit 'Em: Smart Matchup Plays, Sleepers and More

Andrew GardaFeatured ColumnistNovember 26, 2013

Week 13 Start 'Em Sit 'Em: Smart Matchup Plays, Sleepers and More

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    Most leagues have one week left before fantasy playoffs. You have one last chance to sneak in, shore your team up and get a better seed. 

    Of course, it's Thanksgiving week—when you have three early games to deal with instead of just one. So you have to make sure you're on point with your choices; otherwise, your indigestion will be from more than 14 helpings of Aunt Jenny's stuffing.

    Although, damn, that stuffing is good.

    *All statistics are drawn from NFL.com or ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.

START: Jarrett Boykin at Detroit Lions (Thanksgiving Day Game)

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    Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien looked for second-year wide receiver Jarrett Boykin with great frequency during his starts, and the two have proven to possess a great deal of chemistry.

    That might make you worry about Boykin’s continued success after Tolzien was yanked for backup Matt Flynn. What if Flynn holds onto the job?

    No worries, folks, because either quarterback will target Boykin when he is throwing the ball. 

    Boykin has shown a knack for taking advantage of the extra attention fellow receivers Jordy Nelson and James Jones get. This past weekend, with Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes all over Nelson, Boykin played a big role, catching five passes for 60 yards and a touchdown.

    If he hadn’t been able to produce, the Packers would have lost Sunday’s game.

    For a guy who looked decidedly mediocre when he got his first start against Baltimore back in Week 6, Boykin has made some incredible progress since. His routes are much sharper, he is more reliable with the ball and he’s shown a good nose for open space.

    The defense he faces is sort of a mixed bag.

    The Detroit Lions have a fearsome front seven, but they’ve only accrued 20 sacks, the fourth-lowest total in the league. They can pressure quarterbacks, but they aren’t hitting them a ton.

    The defense does force turnovers, but it's in the middle of the road in interceptions with 11 to date.

    By and large, the secondary isn’t very deep. Aside from Chris Houston, none of the corners have been terribly productive. The safeties—Louis Delmas and Glover Quin—are solid and do help by coming over the top to assist, but this isn’t a deeply talented group.

    It can cover Nelson or Boykin, and it will likely focus on Nelson, who is far more dangerous. Boykin should have a lot of open space, resulting in another very solid day.

SIT: Eddie Lacy at Detroit Lions (Thanksgiving Day Game)

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    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    As much as we like receiver Jarrett Boykin and his matchup with an overmatched Detroit secondary, we can’t say the same about what Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy faces.

    The Lions are ranked fourth in the league against the run, allowing just 88.0 yards per game, and have given up just five touchdowns on the ground.

    Lacy has struggled when he's faced clogged running lanes and stacked fronts—both things the Lions excel at creating. He’ll become more effective with experience, such as when he learns to follow his blockers a bit more consistently or how to adjust when a running lane closes. But for now, his effectiveness will be limited.  

    The Lions won’t let the Packers establish a ground game. They’ll want to put Scott Tolzien in a position of having to throw the ball in the hopes they can pressure him into mistakes.

    Lacy had issues against the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles, both of whom clogged the lanes and limited his choices.

    While he’ll have some nice games as the season closes, keep him out of your lineup this week. 

START: Rashad Jennings at Dallas Cowboys (Thanksgiving Day Game)

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    While the Oakland Raiders are in rebuilding mode, they can move the ball on the ground. Their No. 4-ranked rushing attack is currently led by Rashad Jennings, who has been solid since taking over for Darren McFadden in Week 9.

    Since then, he’s had a pair of 100-yard games and scored two touchdowns. This past weekend, he failed to top 100 yards, but that was because the Raiders got away from the ground game a bit, limiting him to just 16 carries. 

    The Dallas Cowboys are on a short week, which doesn’t bode well for a defense which is ranked No. 30 against the run, allows an average of 133.6 yards a week and has given up 11 touchdowns on the ground to date.

    They're also coming off a game in which they were obliterated by the New York Giants running backs, allowing 202 yards. Sure, they won the game, but they were completely overmatched on the ground.

    The Cowboys should be able to win on Thanksgiving, but they are vulnerable on the ground and Jennings has been pretty hot lately.

    Get him in your lineup as a No. 2 or No. 3 running back and enjoy your turkey and mashed potatoes in peace.

SIT: Joe Flacco vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Thanksgiving Day Game)

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    Lately, it seems as if for every touchdown Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco throws, he throws an interception.

    The Ravens offense has been struggling across the board—nobody has really played well on a consistent basis. You can argue that it starts with the quarterback, and you probably wouldn’t get an argument from most Ravens fans.

    Flacco and the offense looked good this past weekend, but let’s face it—almost everyone looks like a Super Bowl contender against the New York Jets these days.

    Meanwhile, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the No. 10 pass defense in the league—and that’s despite some terrible games early on. While they’ve allowed 13 touchdowns through the air so far, four of those came in one game when New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady blew up the defense in Week 9.

    Aside from that game, they’ve kept teams out of the end zone more often than not.

    And this past weekend, they absolutely beat the tar out of the Cleveland Browns quarterbacks, sacking them five times and knocking Jason Campbell out of the game

    Flacco’s 14 touchdowns and 14 interceptions are disturbing indicators of the type of season he’s had. Between that and the defense he is facing, save your indigestion for the third slice of pumpkin pie and keep him on the bench.

START: Josh Gordon vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Unfortunately for Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon, his season has been as up and down as his team's. Part of that is the many quarterback changes, but some of it is the immaturity still present in Gordon’s game.

    On the other hand, even when things completely spin out of control—as they did against the Pittsburgh Steelers this past Sunday—Gordon can still perform.

    He may have told Cleveland.com that his 14-catch, 237-yard and one-touchdown game didn’t mean much because his team lost, but his fantasy owners certainly walked away happy.

    This week he sees the Jacksonville Jaguars, the No. 18 pass defense in the NFL. They’ve allowed 20 passing touchdowns so far and only generated five interceptions.

    There is nobody in the Jaguars secondary who can match up with Gordon, so if whichever Browns quarterback is left upright can get him the ball (and Gordon can haul it in consistently), he should have a pretty big day against Jacksonville.

SIT: Bobby Rainey at Carolina Panthers

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    Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Bobby Rainey looked great against the Atlanta Falcons, but came crashing back down to earth against the Detroit Lions.

    This weekend, he faces the Carolina Panthers defense, which functions on a whole other level. The No. 3 defense against the run allows a super-low 81.5 yards a game and has given up just three touchdowns so far this year.

    The Panthers are going to shut down any running attack and make rookie quarterback Mike Glennon beat them.

    For the most part, it’s a sound plan, and the Panthers have the personnel to make it work. The Lions did last weekend, stifling Rainey and limiting him to a tiny 1.9 yards-per-carry average.

    Rainey is an exciting player who runs with a lot more power than his small frame leads you to believe he’s capable of, but he’s going to be overmatched by the fast—and big—front seven of the Panthers.

    This is a good week to find a better matchup for your lineup.

START: Josh McCown vs. Minnesota Vikings

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    Chicago Bears quarterback Josh McCown has had to step in for quarterback Jay Cutler more than once this season, and it’s been a mixed bag.

    He looked solid against Washington in Week 7 and Green Bay in Week 9. Then, he held his own against Baltimore in bad weather before struggling against the St. Louis Rams this past weekend. And even then, he put together a pretty good fantasy day.

    This week, he faces the Minnesota Vikings, who struggle against the pass both in bringing pressure and containing opposing wide receivers.

    Rookie cornerback Xavier Rhodes did a fine job on Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, but he’s just one guy.

    There is no way that the Vikings secondary can contain Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte. McCown has too many weapons, and head coach Marc Trestman’s offensive scheme puts him in a position to succeed on almost every down.

    The Vikings are always a team you want your fantasy receivers and quarterbacks to facethis week is no different.

SIT: Knowshon Moreno at Kansas City Chiefs

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    Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno is currently listed as day-to-day after leaving Gillette Stadium in a walking boot after the Broncos’ loss to the Patriots.

    According to ESPN.com’s Jeff Legwold, coach Jack Del Rio thinks Moreno will play this coming weekend, so you will definitely have a decision to make, especially after his 224-yard, one-touchdown Sunday night.

    Keep in mind, though, last time these two teams met, Moreno only totaled 79 yards, and it took him 27 carries to do it. That’s a 2.9 yards-per-carry average, and it won't get the job done. 

    On top of it, both rushing touchdowns in the Kansas City game were swiped by rookie Montee Ball. When the offense was down at the goal line, the Broncos gave the carries to Ball. 

    The Chiefs may have lost that first game, but they are stingy against the run in the red zone. The opportunities for a rushing touchdown are going to be few and far between and will likely go to Ball.

    Sunday's game was the only time this year Moreno topped 100 yards on the ground, though he does tend to catch enough balls to combine for close to it.

    However, the Chiefs shut him down pretty thoroughly in Week 11. At home, when they desperately need the win, they’re going to be even tougher.

START: Eli Manning vs. Washington

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    Let’s be blunt here: Eli Manning has had a bad season. In fact, you could call it horrible and not be accused of hyperbole.

    On the other hand, during the last few weeks, Manning has been trending upward. While he still struggles with interceptions, he’s thrown fewer of them. The New York Giants have started to have an effective run game as well, and as that has developed, he has found more time to make good decisions.

    The Week 12 game against Washington is a great matchup against one of the worst secondaries in the NFL.

    The Giants will pound the ball on inside runs, and Manning will be able to take advantage of the defense when it has to shift its attention to Giants running back Andre Brown.

    Washington tends to back off the quarterback when it gets punched in the mouth by a running back—advantage, New York.

    If you have injury issues or are just playing matchups, this is one to jump on.

SIT: Carson Palmer at Philadelphia Eagles

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    Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer has finally strung together a good series of games, but that will end against the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Yes, the Eagles are ranked near the bottom of pass defenses in the NFL, but that isn’t representative of how well they have played recently. Over the last three games before the Week 12 bye, they generated five interceptions while allowing just three passing touchdowns, two of which were in garbage time against Washington.

    Of course, with the exception of Robert Griffin III, none of the quarterbacks they faced were what you might consider quality. Oakland Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor and Green Bay Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien have shown some talent, but beating them isn’t really noteworthy.

    Shutting the New York Giants’ Eli Manning out of the end zone and picking off Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo are a bit more of resume-builders, though, and show you they can play with the best.

    A group which, let’s face it, Palmer doesn’t belong to anymore.

    Sure, Palmer has thrown a pair of touchdowns each week over the last four weeks, but those came against Atlanta, Houston, Jacksonville and Indianapolis—none of which are pass-defending powerhouses.

    Carson Palmer is red-hot right now, but it’s come against inferior opponents. The Eagles—whatever they were in the first half of the season—are no longer an inferior pass defense.

    This is a week to avoid Palmer.