Week 13 marks the final matchup of the regular season for most fantasy football leagues. Playoff berths will be earned or lost based on the results of this week. Of course, that makes building the best possible lineup absolutely essential.
The most important thing is to keep relying on your stars. It's not the time to make any drastic chances, even if the results haven't been up to par in recent games. Filling out the rest of the lineup is where things tend to get tricky.
With that in mind, let's check out a top sleeper at each of the key positions to help fill any remaining voids heading into Sunday's action. These players may just provide that late boost a team needs to sneak into the postseason and make a run.
QB: Alex Smith (Kansas City Chiefs)
Alex Smith is the perfect quarterback for what the Chiefs are trying to accomplish. He's accurate, excels on short and medium routes and limits mistakes. But he's not an must-start fantasy option because he's not asked to carry the offense. That may change this week, though.
Kansas City goes up against a high-scoring Denver Broncos squad that's likely to pull the team out of its comfort zone. That equates to more of an onus on the passing game. The same held true when the division rivals faced off in Week 2, which Vlad Sedler of RotoWire notes led to a season-high effort:
Another thing Smith took advantage of in the previous meeting was a Broncos pass rush that likes to push upfield looking for the sack. It leaves room to run, which resulted in him gaining 42 yards on just eight rushing attempts. He should have similar opportunities this time around.
Ultimately, the combination of those factors allowed Smith to score 14 points without the benefit of a touchdown. He should add a couple of scores to the stat line in the rematch, pushing him into the 20s and making him worthy of a start for QB-needy fantasy teams.
RB: Jonathan Stewart (Carolina Panthers)
Over Cam Newton's first three seasons, his number of passing attempts dropped and his quarterback rating rose. But he's now throwing more times per game than ever before and his rating has dropped to its lowest point.
As the Panthers emerge from the bye week, there should be a concerted effort to change that. They need to renew their emphasis on the running game to take some pressure off their franchise quarterback, which is good news for Jonathan Stewart's fantasy value.
While he's had to split time in the Carolina backfield, he's been the most productive of the bunch. And if the Panthers make a commitment to getting the running game back on track, the veteran should see at least 15 touches on Sunday.
Given he's going up against a Minnesota Vikings defense that ranks 20th against the run, that should be enough work to start him. Don't expect a monster game, since he won't get a ton of carries, but a score in the mid-to-upper teens is within reach.
WR: Charles Johnson (Minnesota Vikings)
Charles Johnson is an example of what's mentioned above about teams reassessing things during the bye. His highest score in the first nine weeks was two points. Following the Vikings' week off, he's racked up 21 points over the past two contests.
The Grand Valley State product has intriguing raw talent and is finally getting a chance to showcase it as a featured player in the offense. Brian Hall of Fox Sports North passed along comments from the wideout about the opportunity:
I'm a big guy, I can run, I can jump, I can do everything any other guy can do. It's just about that chance. I was plagued with injuries and injuries limited me. I'm healthy now and I'm able to showcase a little.
His recent numbers aren't a fluke, either. He's seen 18 targets since the bye, showing that he's quickly becoming a favorite target for Teddy Bridgewater. It's a combination the Vikings should be excited about for the weeks—and years—ahead.
Johnson has a great chance to keep his recent hot streak alive against the Panthers, a team that ranks 26th in pass defense. His big-play ability is also a bonus because all it takes is one deep ball to make up for an otherwise mediocre game.
TE: Coby Fleener (Indianapolis Colts)
Last week was a disappointment for Coby Fleener. One week after catching seven passes for 144 yards, he made just two grabs. But with Dwayne Allen still sidelined for the Colts, the odds of a bounce back in Week 13 are good.
Of course, the standard is much lower for tight ends. Only three players are averaging more than nine points per game at the position. Therefore, given the lackluster production elsewhere, even 40 yards and a touchdown is considered a very good game.
Fleener should be able to reach that benchmark as he faces the Washington Redskins. They haven't been forced to face many productive tight ends in recent weeks. But they did allow 70 yards and a touchdown to Jason Witten, who's struggled this season.
After leaning more heavily on the run in last week's blowout win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, expect the Colts to get back to their pass-first approach on Sunday. That means more targets for Fleener and likely a double-digit score.