Fantasy Football Week 13: Biggest Takeaways from Last Week
The fantasy football season might be winding down, and the nights are getting colder, but the drama is only heating up. Critical NFL games are making for a lot of big performances and developments for fantasy owners.
Fumbles are getting guys benched, inclement weather and injuries are becoming tougher to deal with, and the hot hands are in places we didn't expect coming into the season.
We break down fantasy's top takeaways every Monday morning of the season and do it this week with a 10-part slideshow.
Another Week, Another Stevan Ridley Benched-for-Fumbling Story
Kiss goodbye to Stevan Ridley's immediate fantasy value. Despite showing some promising runs early, Ridley fumbled again in the first quarter Sunday night and hit the bench the rest of the game. He is going to have to hit the bench in fantasy now, too.
Ridley finished with four carries for 14 yards and had to suffer the indignity of watching LeGarrette Blount fumble the ball away—and the feature-back role—after him. Brandon Bolden finished up for the Pats with 13 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown. Receiving back Shane Vereen chipped in 10 carries for 31 yards and eight catches for 60 yards.
The saving grace, perhaps the only reason Ridley spoke to WEEI's Mike Petraglia after the game, was the Pats were able to rally to win the game in overtime:
My team deserves better than what I'm doing out there and putting on the field. It's been consecutive weeks with putting the ball on the ground and, as a running back, you can't do that. I've said that multiple times.
I work too hard to make the small mistakes, and I keep setting myself back and setting this team back. The offense depends on me and to go out there and get the job done, and when I put the ball on the ground, they have no option but to take me out; and it's sickening, honestly. I'm frustrated, but it's part of the game.
I think that as a player you're going to have your ups and your downs, but the main thing is you just have to stay focused and keep your eyes on the prize at the end of the day. I'm not going to get too far down. I'm going to put a little more pressure on myself to go out there and practice and try to change up some things, because I can't keep doing this, and it's sickening.
Vereen is now the fantasy back of choice for the Pats, although Bolden might hold some value, too. Blount is toast, and Ridley might be benched entirely this coming Sunday at Houston.
Ridley continued to WEEI's Petraglia:
It shows the strength of our run. We've been talking about that since early in camp; and for us, we need to have players step up when somebody goes down. So we did some things and shot ourselves in the foot, and [Bolden and Vereen] did exactly what I expected them to do. If they have to go with another guy and those guys stepped up and got it done, and that's what a team is about. And that's what we have here is two guys that stepped in and played the role exactly how they're supposed to.
Vereen is already owned in your fantasy league, but Bolden—owned in 15 percent of CBS Sports leagues—is going to be popular off waivers this week.
Knowshon Moreno Proves to Be a Beast, but He's Now a Beast on Crutches
Not only did Knowshon Moreno look like arguably the best back in all of fantasy football Sunday night with his 224 yards and a touchdown on 37 carries, but he also solidified his status as a must-start back in fantasy crunch time, too—as long as his overtime ankle injury doesn't prove serious.
Moreno did return to the game after limping off in overtime, but Mike Klis of The Denver Post reported seeing the veteran back on crutches and in a walking boot in the locker room.
The silver lining for Moreno owners is the Broncos showed how they will handle the cold and windy conditions of December football: feature the running game. You should expect a lot of the run at Kansas City next Sunday.
The problem for fantasy owners will be Moreno's status. We should expect him to miss practice time this week at the very least.
If not for another costly Montee Ball fumble, we could feel confident in the rookie back taking a larger piece of the pie. Ball wasn't benched like Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount were, but he did give way some to C.J. Anderson. The Post's Klis also tweeted during the game that Ronnie Hillman might move back into the mix.
Ball, available in almost 30 percent of CBS Sports leagues, should be popular off waivers this week. The Broncos seem to be more diplomatic with the fumbling issues of their rookie running back than the Pats are with their veterans.
Anderson or Hillman shouldn't be anything more than deep handcuffs off waivers this week.
Forget Wes Welker or Danny Amendola, Week 12 Was the Julian Edelman Show
The Pats receiving corps, outside of the now sure-thing Rob Gronkowski, is as messy as their running backs. This is a timeshare no one will be able to get right down the stretch of fantasy, apparently.
As the weeks wear on, it is looking more and more like Danny Amendola is a bust. He is at least healthy now, but he was limited to just three catches for 17 yards Sunday night and had just one catch after halftime, despite the fact the Pats were storming back from a 24-point deficit.
Julian Edelman was Tom Brady's feature performer out of the slot in lieu of Amendola, racking up nine catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
"He's been a good receiver," said Wes Welker, who, even after a tough loss, was effusive with his praise to ESPN's Field Yates. "I've told a lot of people that he's a good player. People are finally starting to take notice."
Edelman wasn't the only surprise contributor off the bench for the Pats. Kenbrell Thompkins added six catches for 56 yards. Aaron Dobson was held without a catch.
We went into the game thinking Amendola and Dobson were the leading threats on the outside. Naturally, Bill Belichick has to make a star again out of Edelman and feature Thompkins again over Dobson.
Heck, Thompkins was a healthy inactive in Week 10. Now, Edelman and him are back to being potential fantasy options.
The biggest takeaway from Edelman's performance, though, is he drew Belichick's praise and has his head coach's confidence. Those are not easy to achieve. Belichick told Yates:
Julian did a great job. First of all, he did a good job of handling the ball, especially in the third and fourth quarter there—made a couple good runs with the ball in his hands, also got open, caught the ball. The end route he got there gave us the field position in the overtime. It was a big play.
Perhaps equally important is the fact Edelman has his quarterback's confidence. Tom Brady told Yates:
He's been so dependable and consistent all year for our team. He's been the one veteran player on our offense that's been in there and has been around. He always does a great job. He's tough, smart, disciplined. It's fun to see him do well, because he deserves it.
Edelman, owned in just 42 percent of CBS Sports leagues, might be just as likely to be held without a catch next Sunday at Houston as he is to star, but you have to take notice of him off waivers in all leagues.
When the chips were down, Belichick and Brady went to the veteran they could trust.
Broncos Save Julius Thomas (Knee) for More Important Games Down the Stretch
- He needs to get healthy.
- The Chiefs game is more important for the Broncos in the AFC West race than that Pats game was.
- The Broncos had ample depth at the position to get by.
- The cold and windy weather conditions Sunday night called for more run blocking than tight end pass receiving.
Fantasy owners had to wait a week on tight end Julius Thomas (knee), but we should expect him to return in a big division game at Kansas City next Sunday. The Denver Post's Mike Klis laid out myriad reasons for the Broncos holding him out of Sunday night's game with his knee issue:
You have to feel a lot better about Thomas' Week 13 status after reading Klis' explanations. You should feel confident starting him in the fantasy regular-season finale, despite the fact the Chiefs have been No. 1 in fantasy against tight ends.
Chiefs and Fantasy Owners Going Back to Dwayne Bowe
Don't look now, but the Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe has scored in back-to-back games. One of fantasy's biggest busts is back to being a solid fantasy option in crunch time.
The Broncos have the third-worst pass defense in football this season, so we should feel confident Andy Reid and quarterback Alex Smith are going to get the ball to Bowe in a must-win division game at home next week. Bowe, active in just 51 percent of CBS Sports leagues Sunday, just might be the shot in the arm your fantasy receiving corps needs.
Five catches for 51 yards might not seem like much, but Bowe is a legitimate red-zone threat because of his size. The Chiefs-Broncos game figures to be wide open, especially late.
That makes Alex Smith a fantasy sleeper, too, by the way. Smith threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns Sunday. It should be a busy game for him against the Broncos.
Cards Up the Sleeve: Fantasy Owners Can Lean on Carson Palmer and Co.
Speaking of favorable matchups for quarterbacks and pass receivers, look out for the Arizona Cardinals. A shootout with the uptempo Eagles is on deck.
Philly has the worst pass defense in the NFL to date and has been dead last in fantasy against wide receivers, allowing a league-high 184 receptions for 2,356 yards. It also helps that the Cardinals are clicking on all cylinders in Bruce Arians' vertical passing game.
Carson Palmer had another 300-yard performance, while Larry Fitzgerald (two touchdowns) and Michael Floyd (seven catches for 107 yards) appear to be peaking. Even unheralded tight end Rob Housler (four catches for 51 yards) is in the fantasy mix.
Fitzgerald and Floyd are starts in all fantasy leagues right now, but Palmer (available in one-third of CBS Sports leagues) and Housler (available in 60 percent) are the sleepers. The matchup next Sunday in Philly looms large for their value off waivers.
"Any time you have Larry 1-on-1 down in the red zone, it's not a good matchup for the other team," Palmer told Kyle Odegard of the Cardinals' official website.
Even if you cannot get your hands on Fitzgerald, the attention he draws from defenses is going to benefit the Cardinals, Palmer, Floyd and Housler.
There's No Sleeping on Nate Burleson Now
Matthew Stafford and the Lions have desperately needed someone to take the pressure off opposite Calvin Johnson in the passing game. Welcome back, Nate Burleson.
Available in almost 65 percent of CBS Sports leagues, Burleson went off early Sunday, reeling in seven passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. The receiver, who broke his arm in a car accident trying to get a pizza home safely, got in the end zone and delivered a pizza celebration, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported.
"It all seems foolish after a loss," Burleson told Birkett. "It'd be easier to talk about after a win. So hopefully I'll score again, do a dance, and I'll be talking about it after a victory on Thursday."
Burleson will be a popular player off waivers. Megatron's double coverage will make him a superb sleeper in fantasy leagues going forward.
Benny Cunningham Proves to Be Ram Tough in Place of Zac Stacy
A scorching start Sunday had Zac Stacy's fantasy owners elated. They cannot like where Stacy sits now, dealing with a head injury and possible concussion, according to Joe Lyons of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Fellow rookie running back Benny Cunningham did pick up where Stacy left off, though, rushing 13 times for 109 yards and a touchdown. Cunningham told Lyons:
When Zac went down, I felt like Coach 'Schotty' (offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) definitely showed trust in me, giving me some touches, and I just tried to make the most of the opportunity. Coach Ben (running backs coach Ben Sirmans) told me it was time to put my big-boy pants on and step up.
In practice, I always try to prepare as if I'm a starter. I'm very familiar with the offense, with the schemes, and when the O-line is opening holes like they were today, there's not much a defense can do about it.
Cunningham, available in almost all fantasy leagues (99 percent at CBS Sports), is a potential starter next Sunday at San Francisco, if Stacy fails to pass the baseline concussion protocol this week. That is a bad matchup, but the Rams are a team that relies heavily on the running game.
Cunningham told Lyons:
It's a great feeling to be productive and to help the team. The O-line did an excellent job. I just felt like they took control of the game today. On that last drive, they told me to protect the ball and they'd do the rest.
Consider Cunningham a must-have Stacy handcuff. If you are a Stacy owner, the matchup and possible concussion make him a difficult guy to trust in fantasy Week 13. Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson still have virtually no fantasy value because of Cunningham's emergence.
Sit Adrian Peterson? Foolish
Anyone who thought about sitting Adrian Peterson (groin) is a fool. Peterson showed that Sunday, rushing 32 times for 146 yards and a touchdown.
Sure, he was questionable on the NFL injury report, but Peterson held up against the Seahawks run defense in Week 11 and wasn't going to sit against the Packers.
He gets the Bears run defense in Week 13, the worst run defense in the NFL.
Yeah, Peterson is just fine, thank you.
Do Packers, and Fantasy Owners, Need an Aaron Rodgers Return?
Flynn threw for 218 yards and a touchdown, and Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes "it doesn't take a genius to know Flynn will be the starter if Rodgers isn't." Coach Mike McCarthy told Silverstein:
I thought Matt Flynn came in on offense and gave us the spark that we needed. We transitioned into some no-huddle that, frankly, we hadn't worked on in a number of weeks. Just the configuration of getting Matt in and out of the huddle and doing things at the line of scrimmage where our offense was able to press their defense gave us a spark.
The Packers quarterback situation is a must-watch item early this week, because Thursday games on a short week tend to be put in the quarterback's hands in the passing game. It is tough for running backs to get a heavy dose of usage with so little rest.
Also, the matchup against the Lions will lead to that, too. Detroit is No. 4 against the run and fifth-worst against the pass. Additionally, the Lions are in the bottom 15 of fantasy against quarterbacks (11th-worst) and wide receivers (second-worst). The Lions even allowed Tiquan Underwood to go off for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin will all be important fantasy contributors against the Lions, regardless of Rodgers' status.
Eric Mack, one of the giants among fantasy writers, is the Fantasy Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report this season. Follow him on Twitter, where you can ask him endless questions about your team, rip him for his content and even challenge him to a head-to-head fantasy game. You can also listen to him on his podcast that he deprecatingly dubbed the Fantasy FatCast.