Fantasy Football Week 13: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystDecember 2, 2021

Fantasy Football Week 13: Start 'Em, Sit 'Em

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    Lon Horwedel/Associated Press

    It's white-knuckle time in fantasy football leagues.

    In most leagues, just one or two more weeks remain in the fantasy regular season. For some teams, that doesn't mean much—they have either locked in a playoff spot or are playing out the string after a disappointing season.

    However, for every team whose fate has been determined, there are two that haven't. Many leagues are loaded with six and seven-win teams whose fates will be decided over the next couple of weeks. Win, and it's on to the second season. Lose, and it's time to start waiting for fantasy baseball.


    With the stakes higher than ever, every fantasy point is more important than ever. Every lineup call could be the difference between making the playoffs and missing them. There's just no room to be wrong.

    This column aims to help make sure you aren’t.

    As I do every week here at Bleacher Report, I looked at fantasy lineup questions on the B/R app and picked out some that should aid both the fantasy managers who asked them and others in setting their Week 13 lineups.

    Let's get to it. 

When Overthinking Isn't Overthinking

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    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    I know Lamar Jackson seems like an always must-start QB, but this week I have Kirk Cousins playing against the Detroit Lions broken defense. Should I start Lamar or Kirk for Week 13? -- @Bigluscious68

    This is the sort of question I'd generally chalk up to overthinking. But given Lamar Jackson's horrific Week 12, this may not be overthinking after all.

    Jackson's effort against the Cleveland Browns was one of the worst of his career. His 165 passing yards were a season low, he managed just 68 rushing yards on 17 carries, and Jackson threw four interceptions for the first time as a pro.

    It was ugly. And it raises the question of whether defenses have found a way to contain Jackson. Get in his face, make him uncomfortable and keep him from getting into a rhythm. It worked first for the Dolphins and then the Browns in back-to-back weeks.

    And yet, even though Jackson has averaged just 12.4 fantasy points in his last two outings, he's still the start here.

    There's no denying that the Detroit Lions are a mess. But those struggles have not translated to fantasy points for opposing quarterbacks—the Lions rank 20th in points per game surrendered to the position. In their first meeting with Detroit this season, Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings posted a modest 275 passing yards to go along with a touchdown and an interception.

    Meanwhile, the Baltimore Ravens face a Steelers team Sunday that actually ranks 13 slots higher than the Lions in average points allowed to quarterbacks. And with star edge-rusher T.J. Watt on the COVID-19 list and unlikely to play, it's not going to be easy for Pittsburgh to generate the kind of pressure that Miami and Cleveland did.

    Jackson rebounds in Week 13.

    The Call: Lamar Jackson

Knowing When to Say When

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Well I'm in need of a win to make the playoffs. Full PPR. 1 WR and 1 RB. Been suffering through Saquon (Barkley) and DK (Metcalf) poor performances. Either start them again or get risky with it. Alternative for WR is (Brandon) Aiyuk and alternatives for RB are Javonte Williams and Alexander Mattison. -- @dickfro

    There isn't a harder call to make in fantasy football than knowing when to say goodbye and sit big names who just aren't meeting expectations.

    An argument can be made that we hit that point weeks ago with Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants. It's not just that Barkley has missed considerable time again in 2021. When the fourth-year pro has been out there, he has only averaged 3.6 yards per carry and hasn't had even 60 rushing yards in a game.

    Throw in the stacked fronts that Barkley is sure to see this week in Miami with either a limited Daniel Jones or Mike Glennon under center, and it becomes that much more evident that he needs to sit.

    The question of who replaces him comes down to two factors: touches and matchup. With Dalvin Cook on the shelf, Alexander Mattison of the Vikings will be Minnesota's unquestioned lead back in Week 13, whereas Javonte Williams shares carries with Melvin Gordon in Denver. Mattison also draws a Detroit Lions defense that has surrendered the fourth-most PPR points per game to running backs.

    On some level, it's a similar situation with Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf, who has been in a wicked slump over the last month. It's tempting to sit him and roll with San Francisco's Brandon Aiyuk, who will be the team's No. 1 receiver in Week 13 with Deebo Samuel out.

    But the matchups are more similar here, and both Seattle quarterback Russel Wilson and head coach Pete Carroll said that the team needs to get Metcalf more involved offensively.

    Aiyuk is a solid WR2, but Metcalf's ceiling is in the top five.

    That ceiling is worth the risk in a must-win game.

    The Calls: Alexander Mattison, DK Metcalf

Getting Better with Butter

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    Scot Tucker/Associated Press

    Hey @GDavenport, your columns are always filled with great advice and I need it now more than ever! With A.J. Brown and Michael Carter on IR, 12-team PPR. Need 1 TE, 2 WR and 2 FLEX. (T.J.) Hockenson or (Pat) Freiermuth? (Michael) Pittman, OBJ, (Emmanuel) Sanders, Elijah Mitchell and Tony Pollard. Thanks as always! -- @Klutch36

    Like I'm going to pass up an opportunity to see praise of me published. I really am just that needy.

    The easiest call among this trio of inquiries is the flex spots. Elijah Michell of the San Francisco 49ers is in the RB1 conversation this week against a Seattle Seahawks team that leads the NFC in fantasy points per game allowed to running backs—especially after torching the Minnesota Vikings for 133 yards and a score on 27 carries.

    Tony Pollard of the Dallas Cowboys doesn't have the same sort of favorable matchup, but he should see a sizable bump in touches Thursday with Ezekiel Elliott banged up...Jerry Jones' comments to the contrary notwithstanding.

    At tight end, the question may answer itself—Pat Freiermuth of the Pittsburgh Steelers is in in the NFL's concussion protocol. If he's out, then Detroit's T.J. Hockenson is the de facto start. But if Freiermuth is cleared to face a Ravens team giving up the fifth-most PPR points per game to tight ends, then he's a go. Since Week 8, the rookie has been fantasy's No. 1 tight end.

    That leaves the wide receivers. Michael Pittman Jr. of the Colts has been a top-20 fantasy option this season and is an easy "yes." The final spot comes down to Odell Beckham Jr. of the Los Angeles Rams and Emmanuel Sanders of the Buffalo Bills. Bot veterans have potentially high ceilings and alarmingly low floors.

    But while Sanders faces a New England Patriots team with one of the best pass defenses in the NFL, Beckham draws a Jaguars team averaging the sixth-most PPR points given up to wideouts in 2021.

    The final spot is his.

    The Calls: Elijah Mitchell, Tony Pollard, Pat Freiermuth (if healthy), Michael Pittman Jr., Odell Beckham Jr.

Quarterback Quandary, Bye Week Edition

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    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    Need help at QB with ARod on a bye. (Taysom) Hill, (Derek) Carr or (Carson) Wentz? -- @amitaigutnicki

    Fantasy football is a multibillion-dollar industry that has had a substantial impact on helping to grow the game's popularity. As a reward, the NFL scheduled four-team byes in both Week 13 and Week 14—the heart of the fantasy stretch run.

    Thanks for nothing, Roger. You big meanie.

    My pouting aside, at least there are some solid Plan B options here. Taysom Hill of the New Orleans Saints, however, isn't one of them. Hill's rushing upside is tempting to fantasy managers, but his limitations as a passer and the Saints' lack of receiving options are deal-breakers.

    From Week 11 to Week 14 last year, when Hill was starting in place of an injured Drew Brees, he was ninth in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks. But that was with a healthy Michael Thomas out there, and Hill has a bad foot of his own.

    While Carson Wentz of the Indianapolis Colts has been an adequate streaming option thus far, he faces a Houston Texans team that is just a middling matchup for quarterbacks because opponents don't have to throw to beat them. Jonathan Taylor is more likely to go bananas against Houston's awful defense than Wentz.

    That brings us to Derek Carr of the Las Vegas Raiders, who is a low-end QB1 in terms of fantasy points for the season. But Carr has quietly led the entire NFL in passing yards per game this season, and the Raiders host a Washington team Sunday that leads the league in points per game given up to quarterbacks.

    It's close, but Carr gets the nod.

    The Call: Derek Carr

Don't Be Done in by Bunk

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    I've got a dilemma because I'm torn on who to start between Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen—I'm also starting the Patriots defense (who Allen is playing). I also need a flex between Tee Higgins, Elijah Moore and Amari Cooper. -- @TheProfessorDMA

    The only thing more likely to trip up fantasy managers than worrying about offensive players starting against their own team defense is the notion of not starting a wide receiver because your opponent has their quarterback.

    Both are bunk. Hokum. Hooey. Nonsense.

    The only consideration is whether Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles or Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills will score more fantasy points. The Patriots defense is irrelevant.

    Were Hurts healthy, he'd probably get the nod here—he's second in fantasy points among quarterbacks and has a much better fantasy matchup with the Jets in Week 13. But Hurts isn't healthy, at least not completely, as he rolled his ankle against the Giants in Week 12. And the only quarterback he trails in the standings is Allen.

    Hope that Allen throws four touchdowns and a pick-six—you can have your cake and eat it too.

    Where the flex spot is concerned, Elijah Moore of the Jets is a pass. As good as the rookie has been, his QB situation is garbage, and he will likely draw Darius Slay against the Eagles. Tee Higgins of the Cincinnati Bengals has been solid this season, but he plays a Chargers team that has given up second-fewest PPR points per game in the NFL to the position.

    With Amari Cooper off the COVID-19 list and looking good to face a Saints secondary that has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to receivers, the flex spot is his.

    The Calls: Josh Allen, Amari Cooper

Running Back Rubbish

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    John Munson/Associated Press

    Thanks again for the advice last week. We got the W, Column always helps out. This week I got a tough one. Full PPR. (Alex) Collins, Rhamondre (Stevenson), (Devonta) Freeman, Boston (Scott). The RB position is tough again this year. Thanks again! -- @fsjetset23

    The running back position is indeed tough again this year. The entire top five in terms of average draft position at FantasyPros is either banged up or out. The season is over for at least two of those backs.

    Good times.

    This batch of options is, um, yeah. But as in life, in fantasy football, you have to play the hand you're dealt.

    Alex Collins of the Seattle Seahawks is out. Collins averaged just two yards a carry Monday against Washington, and he hasn't had 50 rushing yards in a game since lighting up the Steelers for 101 yards on 20 carries in Week 6.

    Rhamondre Stevenson of the Patriots is also a pass. The rookie has shown some upside of late, but he's splitting time with Damien Harris and gets a Buffalo Bills defense in Week 13 that has given up the seventh-fewest PPR points per game to running backs this season.

    Devonta Freeman of the Ravens is ostensibly Baltimore's lead back heading into a game with a Steelers defense that has been gashed on the ground of late. Freeman also has 32 carries over the last two games. But his upside is limited—he's averaging just 3.2 yards per carry over that span and has been ceding goal-line work to Latavius Murray.

    If Miles Sanders is out, Boston Scott of the Eagles would be a great play against a Jets team that has allowed the most points on average to running backs in the league. But even with Sanders in there, he's still the play. Both Sanders and Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts are nicked up, which opens the door for 15-plus touches against a Jets team that has allowed 4.5 yards per carry in 2021.

    The Call: Boston Scott

Which Three Will Set You Free?

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Love your recommendations man! You've saved me in a few weeks, Need 1 Flex, 1 TE (I have Waller). 1 DEF. (Saquon) Barkley, (Brandon) Aiyuk, (Pat) Freiermuth, (Fabian) Moreau, Dolphins, Cowboys. Thank You! -- @broiceken

    First off, if this column has been useful to the folks who read it, then that pleases me greatly. It's rather the point of the whole exercise. Well, that and I love the sound of my own voice.

    Second, as a Darren Waller manager in several spots, I feel your pain. That was an absolutely brutal injury.

    Your alternate options are pretty solid, though. I've already mentioned Freiermuth's hot streak, and Moreau was productive in Waller's stead earlier this year. That call is easy. If Freiermuth clears concussion protocol, he's a go. Moreau is the backup plan.

    At the flex spot, I generally favor running backs. They touch the ball more than wide receivers and touches equal opportunity. With that said, Saquon Barkley is a running back that screams "fade" in Week 13. He's struggling to produce on a bad offense that will be starting Mike Glennon or an injured Daniel Jones under center. The play is San Francisco's Brandon Aiyuk, who will be the 49ers' No. 1 receiver this week with Deebo Samuel out.

    At defense, the Dallas Cowboys have been productive this season—no NFC defense has more fantasy points. But the Miami Dolphins haven't been cat food in their own right, as they are eighth in fantasy points for the season and second over the past four weeks.

    What seals the deal here is Miami's matchup with the Giants at home. New York has been a top-10 fantasy matchup this year for defenses with Jones at quarterback, and Miami remains the better option regardless of who starts for the Giants. 

    The Calls: Pat Freiermuth (if healthy), Brandon Aiyuk, Miami Dolphins

DraftKings DFS Question of the Week

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    With so many elite running backs out, injured or on bye, who is the best high-end ball-carrier to build a roster around in the DraftKings Week 13 Fantasy Football Millionaire Contest? -- @RodTidwell

    There is undoubtedly a lot of carnage at the top of the running back rankings right now. However, there are still plenty of quality options for DFS managers to choose from in Week 13.

    There hasn't been a more productive back in all of fantasy football this year than Jonathan Taylor [DK DFS VALUE: $9,200of the Indianapolis Colts. Taylor leads the league in rushing, has found the end zone in each of the last nine games and faces the league's second-worst run defense this week. But the Houston Texans are just a middling matchup in terms of DK points allowed to running backs, and Taylor is ex-pen-sive.

    For over $1,000 less, DK managers can anchor their lineup with Joe Mixon [DK DFS VALUE $8,100] of the Cincinnati Bengals, who has been supernova-hot in recent weeks. Over the past month, only Taylor has more fantasy points per game among running backs, and this week Mixon and the Bengals face a Los Angeles Chargers defense that has been horrendous against the run.

    However, as with Taylor, Mixon carries a fat price tag.

    In fantasy football (be it seasonal or DFS), success is all about finding value. And at running back, there's a clear No. 1 in that regard this week.

    Elijah Mitchell of the San Francisco 49ers didn't enter the NFL with a ton of hype, but after piling up 27 carries for 133 yards and a score last week against Minnesota, he's the clear workhorse back for one of the more run-heavy teams in the league.

    Twenty touches, 100 yards and a touchdown are closer to Mitchell's fantasy floor than his ceiling in Week 13 against a Seattle Seahawks team surrendering the most DK points to running backs in 2021.

    And he comes in over two grand cheaper than Mixon.

    The Call: Elijah Mitchell 

Rapid Fire

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Just as happens every week, we'll finish out this week's Start/Sit column by wailing out some answers to app user questions in rapid-fire style.

    It's a two-minute drill of helpful advice. Abject incompetence. Maybe a combination of the two.

    Have more Start/Sit questions? Leave them in the comments. I try to spend a few hours there on Friday and/or Saturday, answering as many as possible.


    Was offered Diontae Johnson and Aaron Jones for Najee Harris and Jarvis Landry. Thoughts? -- @SuperMarioGotze

    OK, this isn't technically a Start/Sit question, but it's still interesting. Making this trade will leave this user short a back in Week 13 (Jones is on bye), but they are getting a sizable upgrade at wide receiver for what amounts to a lateral move at running back. It's selling high on Harris, buying low on Jones post-injury and bolstering the wideouts in the process. I like this trade.


    At a loss at QB. Don't know who to trust at QB between (Joe) Burrow and Russ (Wilson). Need to stop my two-game losing streak. Who do I start? Thank You! -- @cd00421

    I'm not at a loss even a little here. Wilson actually outscored Burrow in Week 12, but that's because Cincinnati barely threw the ball in the second half. This comes down to one thing for me. The Seattle offense is an absolute disaster at present. There's been nothing to indicate that script will flip Sunday against the 49ers, so Burrow is the play at home against the Chargers.


    Tyler Lockett or DeAndre Hopkins -- @AthletesOfChrist

    Lockett has emerged as the No. 1 target in the Seattle passing game in recent weeks, while Hopkins hasn't seen the field since Week 8. However, with both Hopkins and Kyler Murray set to return this week, it's not unreasonable to expect the Cardinals to make a concerted effort to get Hopkins going against a shaky Bears pass defense. Hopkins is the "winner" here by a fair margin.


    Do I start (Dawson) Knox vs. Pats or go with (Zach) Ertz vs. Chicago? -- @codytompkins

    Knox would appear the better play on the surface, as he's fourth in fantasy points per game among tight ends this season. But he also draws a Patriots defense that ranks dead last in the league in fantasy points per game allowed to tight ends in 2021. Ertz's massive stat line before his bye against Seattle also narrows the gap between this duo, but Knox's 46.1 receiving yards a game this season wins the day.


    Start 3 PPR. (Jaylen) Waddle, (Ja'Marr) Chase, (Adam) Thielen, (Keenan) Allen. -- @michelebonifer

    It rather feels like Michele is humblebragging here—"which of my four awesome receivers should sit this week?" Waddle just had one of the best games by a rookie in Dolphins history—he's in. So is Allen, who ranks third in the NFL with 116 targets this season. That leaves Thielen and Chase, both of whom have bottom-12 matchups for wide receivers in Week 13. Go with the higher ceiling in Chase and hope the Chargers-Bengals contest goes full shootout.


    Need 2 RB and a Flex out of (Alvin) Kamara, (James) Conner, (Cordarrelle) Patterson and (Leonard) Fournette. -- @joshiboy34

    Oh, come on! This makes Michele look genuinely humble by comparison. Fournette scored four times last week and gets a great matchup for running backs in the Falcons. He's in. So is Kamara provided he plays—he's an every-week must-start. Cordarrelle Patterson's matchup with the Buccaneers is terrible for running backs, but if this is a PPR league, he could still salvage a solid day with dump-offs in catch-up mode. If it's standard scoring, though, roll with Conner, who has been a touchdown-scoring machine for the Cardinals. You really can't go wrong here.


    Colts or Cardinals defense? -- @joker_95

    Both of these defenses are outstanding Week 13 fantasy plays who rank among the top five options at the position for the season. Both also have favorable Week 13 matchups against struggling offenses that rank as top-10 fantasy matchups. The tiebreaker here is the fact that no team in the league has surrendered more sacks than the Bears. That hands the edge to the Redbirds.


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    Fantasy points allowed and scoring data courtesy of My Fantasy League.

    Gary Davenport is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association Football Writer of the Year. Follow him on Twitter at @IDPSharks.