Fantasy Football: 10 Stars Who Should Remain on Your Bench in Week 13
Just as NFL teams are scrambling for playoff position, plenty of fantasy owners are down to the wire for their own playoff push. With only a game or two remaining in most formats, however, owners should be able to count on 2013 stalwarts like Andrew Luck and Knowshon Moreno to power their teams to victory, right?
Well, maybe that coveted playoff spot won't be so easy after all.
The bye weeks may be over, but that doesn't make every top player an automatic start in Week 13. In fact, several fantasy stars could be in for a rude awakening in this Sunday's matchups.
It may seem sacrilegious to bench a superstar with the playoffs on the line, but the smart fantasy owner can't always follow the projections. Not all teams will have the options available to work around these stars, but the following players are most likely to fall short in Week 13.
All statistics and rankings are based off of ESPN.com standard scoring and rankings, unless otherwise noted.
Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta Falcons
While Matt Ryan is still the No. 11 quarterback in fantasy football, he's been in free fall since Week 7.
Over the last five weeks, he's had only one game with multiple touchdown passes and has compiled a total of only five. Compared to nine interceptions over that span, Ryan has been plummeting down the fantasy ranks.
On the other side of the matchup, the Buffalo Bills have put up three respectable showings in a row in the secondary. Since being shredded by Saints quarterback Drew Brees in Week 8, the Bills have allowed only one 200-yard game and two total touchdowns in the last three games.
As Andy Benoit of MMQB.com notes, injuries to Ryan's supporting cast have taken their toll on the Atlanta Falcons this season. However, team injuries and excuses don't put up fantasy points on Sundays, so it's tough to trust Ryan to take you to the Promised Land.
Andrew Luck, QB, Indianapolis Colts
Yes, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is the sixth-ranked fantasy quarterback. However, there's no denying that the Colts have not been not the same without wide receiver Reggie Wayne in the lineup.
Luck has two passing touchdowns against four interceptions over the past three weeks, as well as a lost fumble. That span includes a prior bout with Indianapolis' Week 13 opponents, the Tennessee Titans.
While Luck scrambled for a touchdown in that game, his passing line included just 232 yards and zero scores. Rushing touchdowns are hard to rely on for a quarterback like Luck, and the Titans have fielded an impressive secondary this season.
Tennessee has allowed just two touchdowns through the air since Week 4, good for the No. 5 fantasy defense against quarterbacks this season. Those trends don't point to an MVP-caliber performance for Luck.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos
Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno is coming off of the best game of his career, with 224 yards on 37 carries against the New England Patriots on Sunday night, including a touchdown.
However, the added workload appeared to take its toll. Joan Niesen of The Denver Post reports that Moreno was on crutches on Monday and is questionable to play against the Chiefs on Sunday.
While Moreno reportedly has a good chance to play, his workload is much less certain, and a 4:25 ET start makes him tough to rely on with few options remaining in relief. If you have more reliable options to play on Sunday, it may be better to avoid the gamble on Moreno's health.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers
That said, Green Bay is looking at either Scott Tolzien or Matt Flynn under center in Thanksgiving's showdown with the Detroit Lions, who boast the No. 9 fantasy defense against running backs. The Lions also haven't allowed a rushing touchdown to a running back since Week 4.
Since limiting the Cleveland Browns to 61 yards on the ground in Week 6, they haven't allowed more than 51 rushing yards in any game. This includes a stretch of three straight performances of fewer than 40 rushing yards for Detroit's opponents.
The catch? Their last opponent to reach 100 yards was none other than Eddie Lacy and the Packers.
However, that game featured Aaron Rodgers under center for the Packers. Something's gotta give here, and Detroit is desperate for a victory. Bank on that ferocious front seven to sell out on stopping Lacy.
Stevan Ridley, RB, New England Patriots
Patriots running back Stevan Ridley has now lost a fumble in three straight games, and coach Bill Belichick has not been impressed. The lead back in New England was benched after just four carries in a primetime showdown against Denver, which ruined several evenings for fantasy owners.
Even worse, replacement back Brandon Bolden thrived with 13 carries for 58 yards and touchdown in his place.
Ridley has clearly earned the ire of Belichick, which is obviously bad news. Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com broke down the Patriots' running back situation, reporting that Ridley's role could likely be compensated for with the combination of Bolden, LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen.
With such a loaded backfield, it'd be wise to see what the team has in store for Ridley going forward before thrusting him back into your starting lineup. In these crucial weeks, you can hardly avoid a timeshare stealing your points on Sunday.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton started hot in place of the injured Reggie Wayne, starting with a three-touchdown performance in Week 9 against Houston and two consecutive 100-yard games.
In two weeks since, however, Hilton has totaled just 82 yards and 10 catches. The entire offense has struggled, and Tennessee is not exactly the best secondary to try and right the ship against.
The Titans have allowed only two touchdowns to wide receivers all season, in Weeks 1 and 2. Overall, this is the No. 1 fantasy defense against wide receivers in 2013.
As with his quarterback, Hilton is a risky play against a stingy defense. Unless you have faith in the big play, find a better wide receiver option for Week 13.
Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The leading receiver for the Buccaneers in 2013, Vincent Jackson is the No. 12 fantasy wide receiver this season. Jackson has clicked with new quarterback Mike Glennon, and the numbers are there to back it up.
While Jackson put up a five-catch, 79-yard performance against the Carolina Panthers in Week 8, Carolina still boasts the third-ranked fantasy defense against wide receivers. Before surrendering a touchdown to Miami's Mike Wallace this past Sunday, Carolina hadn't allowed a touchdown to a wideout since Week 2.
The Panthers' defense is dominating the opposition this season, which makes any offensive player going against them a tough start in 2013. Jackson has been underwhelming this season in games without a touchdown, and it'll be especially hard to rely on a score this Sunday.
Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins
Washington receiver Pierre Garcon made the cut on this list last week, and he'll deservedly earn a spot here again for Week 13. Despite putting up a career season so far this year, Garcon is struggling along with the entire Redskins offense as of late.
Against a stingy New York Giants secondary, Garcon will enter a matchup against the No. 11 fantasy defense against wide receivers. After an uncharacteristically rocky start, the G-Men haven't allowed a touchdown to a wide receiver since Week 6.
Meanwhile, Garcon has just one touchdown since Week 4. In the last two games, the veteran wideout has put up 68 yards and 48 yards, respectively.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III and the entire Redskins team have been spiraling out of control late in the season. Until the situation starts to straighten itself out—if it ever does—it would be wise to avoid playing their top receiver.
Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers
Another returning player from last week's list, Chargers tight end Antonio Gates laid an egg in Sunday's 41-38 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chargers managed to put up 41 points against one of the NFL's top defensive units, but Gates only tallied a meager three catches and 21 yards. The seventh-ranked fantasy tight end in 2013 has been fairly boom-or-bust all year, but now, his role in the team's offense is coming into question.
That's because Gates' backup, Ladarius Green, recorded three catches in last week's game as well. The difference was seen in the damage done with those catches, as Green went off for 80 yards and a score.
This is Green's second consecutive 80-yard game. Until we know what the Chargers plan to do with this tight end tandem, it might be smart to look for an alternative this Sunday.
Kansas City Chiefs D/ST
Well, it was a fun run while it lasted, wasn't it?
Still the No. 1 fantasy defense on the season, the Kansas Chiefs have now posted two consecutive outings with negative fantasy points against Denver and San Diego. Facing off against Denver once again, the Chiefs could very well be in for another rough outing in Week 13.
In addition, linebackers Tamba Hali (ankle) and Justin Houston (elbow) could both be missing from the lineup against the Broncos. As Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports reports, Hali is dealing with an ankle sprain while Houston is expected to miss the game with a dislocated elbow.
Whether neither or both play, the Chiefs' run could simply be over as an elite fantasy defense. Get rid of them now while you still have alternatives, before it's too late to save your season.
Tom Smeaton primarily covers the San Francisco 49ers as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. For thoughts on the 49ers and the NFL, reach out on Twitter by following @smeaton49.