Fantasy Football Week 13: Confident Calls on Toughest Lineup DecisionsNovember 30, 2018
Fantasy Football Week 13: Confident Calls on Toughest Lineup Decisions
If you're in a larger fantasy league, the 13th week of the NFL season likely marks the start of your playoffs. Even if your postseason is still a couple of weeks away, though, this matchup is going to be a critical one.
With bye weeks a thing of the past, you shouldn't have too many questions about the top end of your lineups. However, filling out your roster and finding injury replacements could still be issues. We're here to help by examining some of the week's toughest decisions.
We'll take a look at some fringe starters and determine who to start and who to sit, based on factors such as opponent, performance to date and player health. Our choices are based on point-per-reception (PPR) scoring formats.
QB Baker Mayfield at Houston Texans
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield is developing into a strong fantasy starter. He's thrown at least two touchdown passes in five consecutive games, and he recently became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to post a passer rating of at least 140 in consecutive games.
The question this week is whether you can really trust Mayfield against a stout J.J. Watt- and Jadeveon Clowney-led Texans defense.
We believe so. While Houston will likely force Mayfield into one or two rookie mistakes, the Browns offense has been extremely efficient ever since Freddie Kitchens took over as coordinator. We expect this to be a high-scoring game that features plenty of production from Mayfield.
Marcus Mariota amassed 303 passing yards and two touchdowns in a loss to the Texans last week. Mayfield can and should have similar numbers.
Projection: 290 passing yards, 15 rushing yards, three TDs, one INT
Start Over: Marcus Mariota, Carson Wentz
QB Matthew Stafford vs. Los Angeles Rams
While we trust Mayfield against the likes of Watt and Clowney, we don't feel the same about Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford against Aaron Donald and Dante Fowler.
This doesn't have as much to do with the Los Angeles Rams defense—which actually allows the 14th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks—as it does with Detroit's lack of offensive weapons. Running back Kerryon Johnson is still dealing with a knee injury, and the Lions placed wideout Marvin Jones on injured reserve.
While Stafford should be able to find some open receivers against the Rams, Los Angeles will be able to bait him into forcing the ball to guys like Kenny Golladay and Theo Riddick. This will likely lead Stafford to make mistakes, as he did against the Chicago Bears last week with two interceptions.
Projection: 265 passing yards, one TD, three INTs
Sit For: Lamar Jackson, Derek Carr
RB Austin Ekeler at Pittsburgh Steelers
Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is one of the players we were alluding to when mentioning injury replacements in the opening slide. Gordon is dealing with an MCL sprain and won't be available against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Fortunately, if you managed to scoop up Austin Ekeler as a handcuff, you already have a start-worthy back for Week 13.
While the Steelers and their ninth-ranked run defense (101.8 yards per game) don't represent the most favorable matchup, there are a couple of reasons to stick by Ekeler. The first is his PPR value—he had a whopping 10 receptions last week against the Arizona Cardinals.
The second reason is that the Pittsburgh run defense hasn't been quite as good as it was earlier in the season. Denver Broncos back Phillip Lindsay produced 110 rushing yards and a touchdown last week against the Steelers.
Projection: 45 rushing yards; six receptions, 65 receiving yards
Start Over: Lamar Miller, James White
RB Jordan Howard at New York Giants
Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard has been one of the bigger fantasy disappointments of 2018. While he has produced 536 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, he's only had two games with more than 80 rushing yards.
Howard has been hard to trust this season, but he's a tempting play with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky set to sit again in Week 13. The Bears could lean on Howard and the run against the New York Giants with Chase Daniel under center.
We don't believe they will, though. This wasn't the game plan against the Lions last week, and Howard finished that game with just seven carries and 13 yards. Bears coach Matt Nagy has faith in Daniel—and apparently more faith in Tarik Cohen when it comes to his backfield.
Cohen had 10 total touches in Week 12, compared to Howard's eight.
Projection: 38 rushing yards; one reception, eight receiving yards
Sit For: T.J. Yeldon, Duke Johnson
WR Keke Coutee vs. Cleveland Browns
As previously mentioned, we expect Sunday's game between the Browns and Texans to be a high-scoring, back-and-forth affair. This adds fantasy value to the pass-catchers involved in the game, including Texans wideout Keke Coutee.
Coutee suffered a hamstring injury last week against the Tennessee Titans, but in the previous game, he produced five catches and 77 yards. It's looking like Coutee will be a go this week against Cleveland, so we'd feel comfortable starting him.
"It's day to day," Texans head coach Bill O'Brien told reporters Tuesday.
With DeAndre Hopkins commanding most of Cleveland's defensive attention, Coutee could be in for a strong fantasy day.
Projection: Six catches, 87 receiving yards, one TD
Start Over: Josh Doctson, John Brown
WR Golden Tate vs. Washington Redskins
Wide receiver Golden Tate hasn't been a reliable fantasy option since being traded to the Philadelphia Eagles. He has caught just 11 passes for 97 yards since arriving in Philadelphia, though the Eagles have tried to force him the ball.
As Reuben Frank of NBCSports.com recently pointed out, Tate has been targeted nine more times than Alshon Jeffery since arriving—and just three fewer times than Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews.
At some point, the Eagles have to stop trying to force-feed Tate. That time could come against the rival Washington Redskins on Monday night. It's a shame because Washington has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing receivers this year.
Tate has struggled to find his way in the Philadelphia offense, and we can't recommend trusting him in what may be a fantasy playoff matchup.
Projection: Two receptions, 32 receiving yards
Sit For: Sammy Watkins, Adam Humphries
WR Josh Reynolds at Detroit Lions
Los Angeles Rams receiver Josh Reynolds is not quite a fantasy must-start yet, but he's done a great job of filling in for an injured Cooper Kupp.
Reynolds has seen a fluctuation in usage over the past month. He didn't register a catch in Weeks 9 and 10, not seeing the field much in either game. In Weeks 8 and 11, though, he racked up nine receptions, 122 yards and three touchdowns.
What fantasy owners need to determine is whether Reynolds will have a significant role in this one. We believe he'll see a fair amount of action, even though the Lions don't bring as much shootout potential as the Chiefs or Packers. Reynolds was called upon often in duels against Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes. As we've already mentioned, though, Stafford isn't going into this game with a full arsenal.
We don't believe Reynolds is going to have as big a day as he had against the Kansas City Chiefs (six catches, 80 yards and a touchdown). However, we do see him getting a handful of receptions and finding the end zone for a third straight game.
Projection: Three receptions, 42 receiving yards, one TD
Start Over: David Moore, Demaryius Thomas
WR Calvin Ridley vs. Baltimore Ravens
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley continues to be one of the more unpredictable options in fantasy. Over his last three games, he's had two outings with fewer than 40 yards and one with eight receptions, 93 yards and a touchdown.
That good game came against a New Orleans Saints defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season. Still, that strong performance is going to tempt a lot of people to start Ridley over more reliable players in Week 13.
Don't let that be you.
This week, the Falcons are battling the Baltimore Ravens, who sit at the opposite end of the spectrum from the Saints. No team has allowed fewer fantasy points to opposing wideouts in 2018. Ridley should get a lot of targets and a handful of catches, but don't expect him to go off like he did in New Orleans.
Projection: Three receptions, 36 receiving yards
Sit For: Jarvis Landry, Nelson Agholor
TE Cameron Brate vs. Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate has been a fantasy afterthought for most of the season. However, now that Jameis Winston is back under center for the Buccaneers and tight end O.J. Howard has been placed on injured reserve, Brate is fantasy-relevant again.
Last week against the San Francisco 49ers, Brate had three catches for 25 yards and a touchdown—his fourth of the season. He could be in store for an even bigger game Sunday.
While the Panthers have a lot of defensive talent, they've been terrible at stopping opposing tight ends. No team has allowed more fantasy points at the position than Carolina.
Not only is Brate a viable fantasy starter for Week 13, but he could also end up being one of the top scorers at the position.
Projection: Five catches, 68 yards, one TD
Start Over: Jordan Reed, Trey Burton
Baltimore Ravens D/ST at Atlanta Falcons
We mentioned that the Ravens defense has been strong against fantasy WRs this season. It's also been a tough unit for teams to match up against in real life. No unit is allowing fewer than the 18 points per game the Ravens are allowing this season.
However, we don't like the matchup for the Ravens D/ST against the Falcons in Atlanta.
The Falcons have averaged 30 points per game at home this season. While they may not reach that threshold in Week 13, we don't expect the Ravens to come close to pitching a shutout either.
Projection: 24 points allowed, one interception, two sacks
Sit for: Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins
Fantasy rankings via FantasyPros.