Start’Em Sit’Em Week 13[the_ad id=”63198″]With 12 weeks of the regular season now complete, we are reaching the threshold of this year’s fantasy postseason. Some of you own teams that have already clinched a spot in the playoffs, while others are working feverishly to extend your seasons. As you continue your primary focus on this week’s matchups, I will continue my mantra regarding preparation for Weeks 14-16. Because I remain an advocate for examining those critical postseason matchups now, to make sure that your rosters contain the best components once the playoffs begin.
This is the optimal time to determine if the players that you are planning to trust during the postseason will be contending with formidable matchups, along with the degree to which you believe that they possess the ability to remain matchup proof amid those challenges. You should be confident that the players you will be extremely reliant on during your most crucial games of the season, will produce for you at the precise time that you need it most.
With that reminder now delivered, we will shift our attention back to Week 13, which includes the final bye week that will be inflicted upon fantasy owners in 2016. Those of you who own Titans or Browns will not have those players available. But when they return next week, we can expunge the topic of bye weeks from the conversation and our collective thought process.
Week 13 Byes:
Now, let’s progress to my Start ‘Em and Sit ‘Em recommendations for Week 13. As always, no space will be devoted to elite players that you should already be planning to deploy. Instead, the focus will remain on the Start and Sit options that are more uncertain. Enjoy the games, and good luck this week.
Start QB Philip Rivers vs. Buccaneers
The well-rested Rivers returned from his Week 11 bye to generate 243 yards and three touchdowns, versus a normally stingy Houston pass defense that was operating on a short week. The Texans entered the contest ranked third against the pass, but could not prohibit Rivers from producing multiple touchdowns for the seventh time this season. He is now fourth overall among all signal callers in yardage (3,128), fifth in touchdowns (23), and should sustain his highly productive season during this week’s encounter with Tampa Bay.
Despite being the recipients of favorable matchups against an underwhelming collection of starters – Case Keenum, Paxton Lynch, Derek Anderson, Jay Cutler and Alex Smith – the Buccaneers ranked just 25th in pass defense, and had managed allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing signal callers (24 PPG), before limiting Russell Wilson to 151 yards, and pilfering two of his passes in Week 12. Despite that performance, the Buccaneers have now been scorched for 20 touchdowns through the air, while repeatedly proving to be supremely overmatched when facing the league’s most proficient quarterbacks. That body of work during challenging matchups should provide owners with confidence that Rivers will deliver a successful outing. Expect him to amass multiple touchdowns again on Sunday.
Sit QB Cam Newton at Seahawks
At the onset of the season, the concept of sitting 2015’s NFL MVP would seem ludicrous. However, Newton owners require no reminder that he has failed to replicate last season’s success to a significant degree. Through his first ten games of 2015, he had already generated 20 touchdowns through the air. But after performing in 10 games this season (he missed Week 5 with a concussion), Newton has passed for only 13 touchdowns, which includes four in Week 2 against San Francisco’s highly deficient defensive unit, and two against an Oakland secondary that was missing David Amerson last Sunday.
Otherwise, his total would be even more unsightly. Newton’s output as a rusher has also diminished compared to one year ago, when Newton ran for 45 yards in seven contests while accumulating a season total of 636 yards and ten touchdowns. The 40 YPG average that he attained has dropped nearly 13 yards this season (27.4 YPG) as he has surpassed 43 yards only twice while managing just four touchdowns. His Week 12 production in Oakland should not camouflage the risk involved with starting him against the Seahawks. Seattle leads the league in scoring defense (17 PPG) and ranks a solid eighth in total defense. This unit has allowed just three signal callers to reach 300 yards and has yielded multiple touchdowns through the air only three times. Owners who desperately need fantasy points at the quarterback position during this critical week should look elsewhere for their starter.[the_ad id=”67766″]
Start RB Jordan Howard vs. 49ers
Another week… another running back running roughshod through San Francisco. That had become the anticipated scenario as this season unfolded before the 49ers limited Jay Ajayi to 45 yards in Week 12. However, the second-year runner labored extensively behind an offensive line that was devoid of three starters, which provided this weak run defense with a one-week reprieve from allowing substantial yardage. The 49ers still possess the league’s worst run defense, and Howard should accumulate sizable yardage against this 32nd ranked unit on Sunday.
Since ascending to the role of Chicago’s feature back in Week 4, the rookie has eclipsed 100 rushing yards in four different contests and has amassed at least 99 total yards in six of Chicago’s last eight games. In the aftermath of Jay Cutler’s injury, and Alshon Jeffery’s suspension, Howard currently functions as the Bears’ most dependable source for production. While this also enables opposing defenses to direct their focus upon containing him, it is doubtful that San Francisco can attain that goal. The Niners has been gashed for 171.8 YPG, while allowing opposing runners to average 5.1 YPC. They have also yielded 14 touchdowns on the ground, and are surrendering the most fantasy points to opposing backs (27.7 PPG). Howard could easily become the ninth back to reach 100 yards against San Francisco, and should unquestionably be cemented in all starting lineups.
Start RB Spencer Ware at Falcons
Ware has rushed for 60+ yards in eight of the 10 contests that he has performed in, and has averaged at least 4.1 YPC in seven different games. He has also exceeded 80 total yards eight times, including Week 12, when he accumulated 98 against Denver. Ware remains the most reliable component within the current configuration of Kansas City’s offense and will be presented with an appealing matchup this week. As he will be facing an Atlanta run defense that has yielded the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing backs this season (22.1 PPG). Since Week 6 alone, the Falcons have surrendered multiple touchdowns to Christine Michael, Melvin Gordon, and Ryan Mathews, and that trio is among the cluster of nine backs that have amassed over 70 total yards against the Falcons, including a whopping 161 by David Johnson in Week 12. Ware should approach 20 touches against Atlanta, which will present him with an excellent opportunity to produce over 80 total yards, and deliver a productive outing for his owners.
Sit RB Jay Ajayi at Ravens[the_ad id=”66786″]Since commandeering Miami’s feature back roll in Week 6, Ajayi has rumbled for over 200 yards in two games, surpassed 100 yards three times, and has gained at least 77 yards in five of six contests. The lone exception occurred in Week 12, when the aforementioned absence of starters Mike Pouncey, Branden Albert and Laremy Tunsil contributed significantly to Ajayi’s inability to maintain his recent level of production. While it may be difficult to sit the NFL’s seventh-leading rusher, it is wise to remember that Miami’s current injury situation resulted in Ajayi being limited to 45 yards by the NFL’s worst group run defenders last Sunday. More importantly, owners should be realistic regarding the formidable challenge that he will encounter this week, and the degree to which it will suppress his output. Baltimore’s currently leads the NFL in rush defense, allowing just 75 YPG, and have only surrendered four touchdowns on the ground this season. The Ravens have also yielded the fewest fantasy points to opposing backs, permitting 13.3 PPG. While Ezekial Elliott, Isaiah Crowell and Matt Forte have eclipsed 95 yards against this unit, Crowell was limited to 23 yards on nine carries during their second 2016 encounter (2.6 YPC), Le’Veon Bell was held to 32 yards on 14 attempts (2.3 YPC), and LeSean McCoy gained 58 yards on 16 carries (3.6 YPC). Forte was also the only back to amass over 44 receiving yards against the Ravens, who will prohibit Ajayi from producing enormous numbers.
Sit RB Rob Kelly at Cardinals
During his brief tenure as Washington’s feature back, Kelly is demonstrating that he is fully capable of accruing desirable numbers during favorable matchups but does not currently possess the ability to sustain productivity when contending with the league’s most formidable opponents. The rookie followed up his 137 yard, three touchdown explosion in Week 11 against Green Bay’s increasingly vulnerable run defenders, by manufacturing a paltry 37 yards on 14 attempts (2.6 YPC) versus a sturdy Dallas unit that ranks third in rush defense, while yielding only 81.8 YPG. While his status as a matchup dependent option places him into a broad category among all rushers, it also should create extreme hesitation for those who consider starting him this week. Not only has Arizona yielded the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing backs (14.4 PPG), but this unit is allowing just 3.7 YPC to opposing rushers, which is the NFL’s sixth-lowest average. While the Cardinals permitted 110 yards and two touchdowns to LeSean McCoy in Week 3, along with 95 yards and two scores to Jonathan Stewart in Week 8, only two other rushers have surpassed 70 yards, and no opposing back has attained 50 receiving yards all season. If you start Kelly against this unit, there’s significant risk involved in that decision.
Start WR DeVante Parker at Ravens
Parker did not receive more than four targets in four of Miami’s five games between Weeks 3-8 and exceeded 30 yards in only one of those contests. But the second-year wideout has garnered 24 targets since Week 10, which has enabled him to accumulate 246 yards (82 YPG) on 16 receptions. That does not include the two catches for 42 yards and a touchdown that were overturned by replay last Sunday. Barring a lingering issue with his back, he should remain highly involved in Adam Gase’s offense this week. As Baltimore’s forbidding run defense should restrict Ajayi and the Dolphin ground game with consistency. That will force Gase into a greater reliance on Ryan Tannehill and the passing attack than the team has needed since Ajayi became the focal point of the offense.
While that should include opportunities for Jarvis Landry in the slot, Parker will receive a sufficient number of targets in the perimeter to accumulate yardage and is always a viable red zone option for Tannehill. Baltimore has already surrendered 20 touchdowns and was also yielding the fifth most fantasy points to opposing receivers (26 PPG), before facing Cincinnati’s injury-depleted offense last Sunday. There is also a significant drop-off in talent at the cornerback position beyond Jimmy Smith, who has missed the Ravens’ past two contests with a back injury of his own. If he is sidelined again this week, no other Baltimore cornerbacks can matchup consistently with Parker. Even if Smith does return, Parker has the talent and size to deliver another productive outing. As of this writing, his injury should not force him to the sidelines, but owners should monitor his status as the week progresses.[the_ad id=”67766″]
Start WR Willie Snead vs. Lions
Snead remains a respectable third on the Saints in targets (70), receptions (51), yardage (593), and touchdowns (4). As he barely trails Brandin Cooks and Michael Thomas in each category and is an enticing, under-the-radar candidate to deliver high-quality production this week. Snead has received nine+ targets twice this season, and those were (unsurprisingly) his most productive outings of the year. He caught all nine of his targets on opening day against Oakland while assembling a massive 172 yards and a touchdown. Then he seized nine of his 11 targets while amassing 87 yards against the Chiefs in Week 7. Now, there is a sizable opportunity for Drew Brees to locate Snead by a large frequency once again, during this week’s appealing matchup with the Lions. T.Y. Hilton (6-79), Eddie Royal, (7-111-1), Jordan Matthews (4-65), and Jamison Crowder (7-108), have all delivered excellent numbers from the slot against Detroit this season, and this unit remains highly vulnerable when repeatedly attacked inside the perimeter. Brees should encounter little difficulty exploiting this weakness, and Snead should achieve his best production since Week 7.
Sit WR Allen Robinson vs. Broncos[the_ad id=”58835″]Robinson owners are acutely aware of the steep investment that was necessary to secure him for their rosters on draft day. Along with the frustration, that resulted from his limited production throughout most of the season. After Robinson averaged 45 YPG from Weeks 2-7, and manufactured three touchdowns during that span, his average rose to 84 YPG during Weeks 8-10, and he assembled three additional scores from Weeks 9-11. However, Robinson has managed just five catches for 42 yards in Jacksonville’s last two games, and will be confronted with a daunting task this week. As even the league’s premier wide receivers have their output reduced significantly, when matched up against Denver’s top-ranked pass defense. The Broncos are allowing 194 YPG, and have also yielded the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers (14.8 PPG). They also lead the NFL with 35 sacks, and their disruptive pass rush should compel Blake Bortles to make critical mistakes throughout this matchup. Denver’s stellar secondary has also been bolstered by the return of Aqib Talib in Week 12, and the nine-year veteran should draw Robinson in coverage. That provides sufficient foundation for choosing an alternative this week.
Sit WR DeSean Jackson at Cardinals
When Jackson exploded for 118 yards on four receptions in Week 12, it was the second time that he has eclipsed 100 yards this season and the first since opening day. In the eight games that he has played between those two high-quality performances, he has failed to exceed 40 yards in four contests, and did not surpass 51 yards in six games. The wide disparity in yardage totals is certainly not a revelation to anyone who has entrusted Jackson in their lineups during his career, as perhaps no resume can exemplify the overused term ‘boom or bust’ more appropriately than Jackson’s. Owners benefit significantly when he provides large output as he did against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, but forecasting when that will occur offers a sizable challenge. Which brings us to this week’s matchup with the second-ranked pass defense of Arizona. Anyone who has seen highlights of Taylor Gabriel bolting through the Cardinals in Week 12, might be tempted to visualize Jackson generating similar success. But this unit will be prepared in the aftermath of what took place against the Falcons. Plus, Gabriel was just the third receiver to reach 75 yards against the Cardinals and was not being shadowed by Patrick Peterson. But, the Pro-Bowl corner should be tracking Jackson this week. During their three previous matchups, Jackson has generated a 64- yard touchdown, but otherwise has averaged 43 YPG. The enticement of gambling on Jackson to supply another huge play is understandable and but not advisable.[the_ad id=”67766″]
Start TE C.J. Fiedorowicz at Packers
The third-year tight end received a grand total of four targets during Houston’s first three games this season. But he has averaged seven targets per game since Week 4, which has enabled him to garner at least five receptions in four of his last six contests, and manufacture 48 YPG during that sequence of games. His ongoing transformation into a TE1 that can be trusted an every-week basis will not be placed on hold this week. As he should flourish against a beatable Green Bay pass defense that had been struggling in lockstep with the overall degeneration of the entire team, before facing Philadelphia on Monday Night.
Injuries within the secondary and inefficient performances from players that remained in the lineup, have resulted in the inability to contain opposing receivers and propelled the Packers ranking downward to 24th overall versus the pass. This unit has been increasingly burned by opposing tight ends, having surrendered the fifth most fantasy points to the position this season, and the second most from Weeks 9-11. They were shredded by Delanie Walker (9-124-1) and Jordan Reed 5-79) in Weeks 10-11, and Fiedorowicz should capitalize on Green Bay’s recent issues during this week’s enticing matchup.
Sit TE Dennis Pitta vs. Dolphins[the_ad id=”58837″]The process depending upon Pitta for fantasy points this season has been melded with a favorable number of opportunities that ultimately result in disheartening results. He has received at least five targets in nine different contests, and has collected 10+ in three of those games. But, he has failed to surpass 42 yards in eight games, and has yet to locate the end zone this year. 12 weeks into the regular season, it has been proven that there is no reason to utilize Pitta in your lineups this week, or any other week this season. Any shred of doubt regarding that fact was eliminated last Sunday, when he managed just three catches for 34 yards, against the same Bengal defense that had allowed the most fantasy points to tight ends from Weeks 7-11, while being ripped for 420 yards by Rob Gronkowski, Gary Barnidge, Jordan Reed, and Vernon Davis.
This week, Pitta will line up against a Miami pass defense that has allowed 7.1 fantasy points per game to tight ends since Week 7. If you are considering him this week, stop what you’re doing, and look elsewhere.[the_ad id=”63633″]
Good Luck Everyone!
Phil is a proud Hoosier, who relocated in Nebraska, and began playing fantasy football nearly 20 years ago. In his first ever draft, he had the third overall pick and selected Barry Sanders. That choice was instantly mocked by several other owners, but Sanders ultimately scored 14 touchdowns and generated 2,358 total yards during an exceptional season. That instantly taught Phil a very important lesson – even though none of us will forecast with 100% accuracy, you should follow your gut instincts whenever you truly believe in a player. Phil began his writing career with RotoWire, later joined Fanball, and has since returned home to the Gridiron Experts. He remains firmly convinced that the key to happiness can be found through a subscription to the Sunday Ticket.