Crunch time is here.
Some of you enter the fantasy playoffs this week, while others are still looking to clinch a spot in the money round. Whatever situation you’re in is irrelevant. The only thing that matters heading into Week 13 is that you stay on top of your game and put the best possible team on the field.
Before we get into the NFP’s Starts and Sits, let’s preview the Thursday night AFC East divisional showdown between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.
New York Jets (5-6, 2-3 road) at Buffalo Bills (4-7, 2-3 home)
Note: This game is being played at the Rogers Centre in Toronto.
New York Jets: Second vs. pass (175.7 yds/gm), 13th vs. run (108.2 yds/gm), sixth in scoring (17.7 pts/gm)
Buffalo Bills: Seventh vs. pass (197.8 yds/gm), 32nd vs. run (165.1 yds/gm), 17th in scoring (22.0 pts/gm)
1. Bills wide receiver Terrell Owens has been hot lately, hauling in 17 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns in his past three games. However, owners need to send him to the bench in Week 13.
T.O. will be matched up with Jets shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis, who has held wide receivers Randy Moss (twice), Marques Colston, and Andre Johnson all to under 40 yards receiving. In those four games, Moss, Colston, and Johnson combined to score just one touchdown (Moss).
2. Expect a big night out of Jets running back Thomas Jones. No defense in the NFL has been burned for more fantasy points on the ground this season than the Bills. Through 12 weeks, Buffalo is giving up an average of 28.5 fantasy points per week to opposing running backs (standard scoring).
3. Both defenses rank in the top seven in the NFL against the pass, and with inexperienced quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick (Buffalo) and Mark Sanchez (New York) under center, it should be a rough night for fantasy wide receivers.
4. However, don’t be surprised if Lee Evans has a productive night. With Revis locking down Owens, the Bills are going to have to throw the ball somewhere. When Fitzpatrick stepped in for injured QB Trent Edwards (concussion) earlier in the season, Evans was his favorite target. The wide receiver caught 11 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns in three games with Fitzpatrick looking his way (Weeks 6-8).
5. Buffalo running back Fred Jackson was the hot name on waivers this week as he picked up 116 total yards and two touchdowns in a 31-14 win over the Miami Dolphins in Week 12. However, owners should be cautious starting him against the Jets. The last time these teams met (Week Six), Jackson had 15 carries for 52 yards (3.5 YPC), no receptions, and no touchdowns.
GET ‘EM IN YOUR LINEUP
Jeremy Maclin and Jason Avant, WRs, Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson is likely out for the Birds’ Week 13 game at Atlanta due to a head injury he suffered last Sunday against the Redskins. Owners in medium-sized to deeper leagues should seriously consider getting Avant or Maclin in the starting lineup.
The Falcons rank 27th in the NFL against the pass (252.6 yds/gm) and are giving up 20.6 fantasy points per week to opposing wide receivers (24th). Avant looked impressive against a tough Redskins pass defense last Sunday in place of D-Jax when he caught five passes for 94 yards.
Also Start…Quarterback Donovan McNabb, who is our ninth-ranked quarterback in Week 13. The Eagles absolutely love to throw the football. They currently rank sixth in the NFL in pass-to-run ratio, as Andy Reid’s team is putting the ball in the air 61.4 percent of the time in 2009.
Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears
There’s no denying that Forte has been a complete bust this season, which is exactly why owners should jump at the opportunity to confidently lock him into their starting lineups. The Monsters of the Midway play host to a St. Louis Rams defense that’s giving up an average of 25.2 fantasy points per week to opposing running backs (29th).
In addition, you should never discredit a motivated man, which Forte will be after being called out by injured linebacker Brian Urlacher for “not making defenders miss.”
Visanthe Shiancoe, TE, Minnesota Vikings
Has any player in the NFL been flying further below the radar than Shiancoe this season? The guy ranks seventh in scoring among tight ends and is second only to 49er Vernon Davis in touchdown receptions (eight). Shiancoe has found the end zone seven times in his last eight games and is frequently targeted by quarterback Brett Favre when the Vikings get inside their opponents’ 20-yard line.
Start him with confidence against an Arizona defense that will have its hands full trying to slow down running back Adrian Peterson and wide receivers Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos
What’s not to like about this matchup? There’s a reason Moreno is one of my highest “Buy Recommendations” heading down the home stretch.
For starters, he’s coming off 10 days of rest after posting 107 total yards and a touchdown in the Broncos’ 26-6 win over the New York Giants on Thanksgiving.
In addition, he gets a crack at a Kansas City Chiefs defense that has been torched on the ground this season. The Chiefs are giving up 22.9 fantasy points per week to opposing running backs (26th), not to mention the fact they rank 27th against the run (134.5 yds/gm). Be advised that running back Correll Buckhalter will get a piece of the workload as well.
San Diego Chargers D/ST
This unit may have gotten off to a slow start, but after 12 weeks of NFL football, the Bolts’ defense currently ranks fifth in standard-scoring formats.
As if that information wasn’t promising enough, you couldn’t ask for a better defense to start in Week 13 than the Chargers, as they head to Cleveland to take on a Browns offense that ranks dead last in the NFL in yards per game (230.6) and 31st in scoring (11.1 pts/gm). Cleveland’s offense not only lacks playmakers, but quarterback Brady Quinn struggles with his accuracy when taking shots down the field.
When is your trade deadline?
This question is important because Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson is about to hit a rough stretch of games that could sink your team in the playoffs.
Despite the fact that LT has scored seven touchdowns in his last five games and will no doubt shred the Browns on Sunday, his final four games take place at Dallas, vs. Cincinnati, at Tennessee, and vs. Washington. Not exactly the friendliest run defenses in the league, especially for a guy who’s averaging just 3.4 yards per carry.
If you play in a deeper fantasy league or are in desperate need of some quarterback help this weekend, look no further than the 49ers-Seahawks showdown. Matt Hasselbeck and Alex Smith are respectable starts as both Seattle and San Francisco rank in the bottom eight in pass defense this year.
SEND ‘EM TO THE BENCH
Beanie Wells, RB, Arizona Cardinals
For those of you in keeper leagues, Wells is going to be an excellent value pick to carry over into 2010. For those of you looking for a big day out of him in Week 13, it’s time to start looking elsewhere for three reasons.
The rookie from Ohio State is about to run into the NFL’s second-ranked rushing defense (81.6 yds/gm) on Sunday when the Cardinals host Jared Allen and the Minnesota Vikings. Second, as always, Wells is going to lose touches to running back Tim Hightower.
Last—and most worrisome—is that the Vikings are giving up just 12.5 fantasy points per week to opposing running backs, which is tops in the NFL in 2009.
Roddy White, WR, Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons’ top target has scored only one touchdown in his past four games and has topped 100 yards receiving in just two outings all season. Yes, his most recent touchdown came last week, but it was thrown by backup quarterback Chris Redman, who will get the start in place of the injured Matt Ryan against the Philadelphia Eagles.
For those who think Redman can duplicate last week’s success, think again. His 243 passing yards and two touchdowns came against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are giving up an average of 20.6 fantasy points per week to opposing quarterbacks (28th). The Eagles, on the other hand, are allowing just 16.2 fantasy points per week to opposing wide receivers, good for fourth in the NFL.
Eli Manning, QB, New York Giants
There’s nothing about this matchup that can make you feel confident about starting Peyton’s younger brother. For starters, Manning’s foot injury continues to get worse, which affects his movement in the pocket.
Second, now that we’ve hit the month of December, the swirling winds at the Meadowlands are about to pick up. Don’t think that matters? For his career in December at the Meadowlands, Manning is 3-7 with a QB rating of 74.2, a completion percentage of 54.0 percent, and eight interceptions.
If that’s not enough to scare you off, the Cowboys are coming to town and are allowing just 16.5 points per game in 2009 (second in NFL).
Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit Lions
He’s battling a knee injury and has caught only 20 passes with two touchdowns in his last five games. In addition, quarterback Matthew Stafford continues to battle a shoulder injury he suffered two weeks ago against the Cleveland Browns.
Not exactly the type of news you want to hear when your star wideout is heading to Cincinnati to face a Bengals defense that’s giving up fewer points than any other team in the league this season (15.8).
In addition, the Cincy defense is allowing an average of only 16.3 fantasy points per week to opposing wide receivers, good for fifth in the NFL.
Brent Celek, TE, Philadelphia Eagles
There are worse tight ends out there heading into Sunday, but be cautious about how much faith you put in Celek.
The Eagles TE sprained his thumb in last Sunday’s win over the Redskins, resulting in four dropped passes—something rarely seen from the normally sure-handed Celek. He’ll continue to see a healthy dose of targets, but if his thumb acts up, you may be in for a long day.
Hit me up on Twitter: @JoeFortenbaugh