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NFL Week 13 Predictions: Projecting Top Fantasy Star at Each Skill Position

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 14:  Chris Johnson #28 of the Tennessee Titans carries the ball against the Indianapolis Colts in the second quarter at LP Field on November 14, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Mike MoraitisAnalyst INovember 29, 2013

Several tough matchups for some of fantasy football's best players have greatly skewed the rankings this week for some of the skill positions owners have come to know and trust.

Quarterback Peyton Manning's ranking is taking a hit this week, as he has to deal with cold weather and is up against a Kansas City Chiefs defense that ranks No. 15 against the pass and has one of the finer pass rushes in all of football.

Tight end Jimmy Graham is another superstar in fantasy who is a risky bet this week, as he and the New Orleans Saints have to deal with a vaunted Seattle Seahawks defense that ranks No. 2 against the pass and has the kind of physical corners to deal with the talented tight end.

Those are just a couple of the top skill-position players who will have difficult matchups.

Let's take a look at the top skill-position players for each position and highlight the best of the best for Week 13.

 

Note: Fantasy rankings are based on ESPN Standard Leagues.

 

Quarterback: Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 24:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers attempts to pass the ball in the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on November 24, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

With so many top quarterbacks off the board after the slate of Thanksgiving games, the circumstances lead to Cam Newton being the No. 1 QB for this weekend's games.

Newton, who can affect a game with both his arms and legs, will be a threat to move the ball in both facets once again in this game. His opponent, Tampa Bay, is ranked No. 20 against the pass this season, which should allow the Carolina Panthers to move the ball through the air.

The Bucs are far stingier against the run, with a No. 9 ranking, but if Newton can beat them through the air early, it will not only open things up on the ground for the running backs but also allow the third-year QB to pull it down and run with extra defenders worried about maintaining their pass coverage downfield.

Just like his game overall, Newton can enter the end zone both on the ground and in the passing game, as he has thrown for 17 touchdowns and has run it in another five times from close range. Newton burned the Bucs for over 270 yards of total offense and three touchdowns (one rushing) in the Panthers-Bucs Week 8 meeting, so expect more of the same this time around.

Projected points: 25

Quarterback Rankings for Week 13
RankPlayer
1Cam Newton (CAR vs. TB)
2Josh McCown (CHI at MIN)
3Tom Brady (NE at HOU)
4Peyton Manning (DEN at KC)
5Drew Brees (NO at SEA)
Mike Moraitis

 

Running Back: Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans

Nov 14, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson (28) breaks the tackle attempt by Indianapolis Colts strong safety LaRon Landry (30) (not pictured) and rushes for a touchdown during the first half at LP Field. Mandatory Credi
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Johnson was on pace to have a career day the last time he and the Tennessee Titans faced off with the Indianapolis Colts, but CJ2K was only able to muster 16 yards through the final three quarters after compiling 70 yards and two scores in the first frame alone.

It was still a solid day for fantasy owners, but clearly it could've been much better. This week, Johnson will have another chance at a big game against a porous Colts defense that ranks No. 26 against the run this season.

There's no question that while Indy's defense looked solid in the first half of the season, it now looks as weak as many of us expected it to be following a Week 12 performance that saw the Arizona Cardinals drop 40 points and break the 400-yard mark (120 yards and a score on the ground) as a whole offensively.

Johnson has only four touchdowns on the ground this season, but all four have come in the span of the past four weeks, and he's also added two through the air, which is another way Johnson has proved he can contribute this season.

Projected points: 23

Running Back Rankings for Week 13
RankPlayer
1Chris Johnson (TEN at IND)
2Adrian Peterson (MIN vs. CHI)
3Marshawn Lynch (SEA vs. NO)
4Matt Forte (CHI at MIN)
5Knowshon Moreno (DEN at KC)
Mike Moraitis

 

Wide Receiver: A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 31: A.J. Green #18 of the Cincinnati Bengals is forced out of bounds by Philip Wheeler #52 of the Miami Dolphins during a game  at Sun Life Stadium on October 31, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Im
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The first reason A.J. Green is such an attractive start, aside from his status as an elite receiver, is that he is due to go off in Week 13. Green had a depressing two receptions for just seven yards in Week 11 against the Cleveland Browns, who own a far better pass defense (No. 5) than this week's opponent, the San Diego Chargers (No. 28).

On top of that, the weather should be far better and friendlier to the passing game, as the contest will be played in normally sunny San Diego.

Against receivers this season, the Chargers are ranked No. 28 and have allowed 12 touchdowns to the position, with five of those scores coming in the past three weeks. Green has found the end zone six times, but he's only scored once in his past four games, so there's another place he's due.

The second-most targets in all of football ensures that Green will get his looks this week and every week versus opposing defenses, and that should translate into a big-time game against the Chargers and their pass defense, which resembles a piece of swiss cheese.

Projected Points: 21

Wide Receiver Rankings for Week 13
RankPlayer
1A.J. Green (CIN at SD)
2Brandon Marshall (CHI at MIN)
3DeSean Jackson (PHI vs. ARI)
4Pierre Garcon (WAS vs. NYG)
5Vincent Jackson (TB at CAR)
Mike Moraitis

 

Tight End: Vernon Davis, San Francisco 49ers

LANDOVER, MD - NOVEMBER 25: Tight end Vernon Davis #85 of the San Francisco 49ers catches a touchdown pass during the third quarter against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on November 25, 2013 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

Many of the top tight ends in fantasy have unfavorable matchups this week, but Davis' matchup is as close to desirable as you're going to get.

The San Francisco 49ers' Week 13 opponent, St. Louis, ranks No. 21 against the pass this season but has been surprisingly good against opposing tight ends, having allowed the third-fewest points in fantasy.

Still, Davis is good for nearly a touchdown per week even when he isn't at his best, and the Niners tight end has found the end zone twice in his past two games, which were both contests in which Davis compiled 70 yards or less.

In the past two games, the Rams defense has helped St. Louis jump out to big leads early, and if the same happens this week, the Niners may be forced to abandon the pass, thus helping add to Davis' production.

Tight End Rankings for Week 13
RankPlayer
1Vernon Davis (SF vs. STL)
2Rob Gronkowski (NE at HOU)
3Julius Thomas (DEN at KC)
4Jimmy Graham (NO at SEA)
5Jordan Reed (WAS vs. NYG)
Mike Moraitis

Projected points: 18

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