Fantasy football Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Brees, Wilson take center stage
Now that you've finally made it through what seemed like 19 weeks of byes, you're faced with a Week 13 in a possible do-or-die situation. This week could be the difference between you playing in Week 14 (playoffs) or you searching for 2014 Fantasy Baseball rankings.
Some stud quarterbacks are facing some very difficult matchups (Peyton Manning at Kansas City and Drew Brees at Seattle), which also means some stud defenses are facing some lethal quarterbacks.
Some money running backs are dinged up, like Knowshon Moreno and Zac Stacy, forcing you to make some last-second decisions.
After Thursday's three games, you could be in a deep, deep hole, or you could be up by a big margin, hoping all that turkey and gravy doesn't slow down your stars on Sunday.
Coming off byes: Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia Eagles and Seattle Seahawks
These Week 13 Start 'em, Sit 'em recommendations are based on standard scoring, non-PPR, 12-team leagues that start 1-QB, 2-RB, 2-WR, 1-TE, 1-FLEX, 1-K and 1-DST. I've tried to list most of the possible players at each position, but if you find one missing -- please comment below, and I'll share my recommendation.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns
• Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew
MJD has scored a touchdown in each of his past three games and he's coming off his best effort of the season. The Browns aren't great against the run, although they have allowed an average of just 87 rushing yards to teams in the past three weeks. Even so, the Jaguars will rely on Jones-Drew's legs once again in Week 13.
• Browns: Chris Ogbonnaya, Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron, Browns DST
The Jaguars have one of the worst defenses against the run, and even though Ogbonnaya didn't get a lot of touches in Week 12, he is still the Browns' best rushing option. Gordon remains a fantasy superstar, catching 14 passes for a team-record 237 receiving yards. Cameron hasn't scored since Week 7, but only the Cardinals are worse defensively against opposing tight ends than the Jaguars. The Browns have allowed 68 points in their past two games, but defenses have a way of playing well against Jacksonville, which is averaging below 13 points per game (an NFL low).
• Jaguars: Chad Henne, Cecil Shorts, Mike Brown, Ace Sanders, Marcedes Lewis, Josh Scobee, Jaguars DST
The Jaguars defense could be a sneaky start in weekly fantasy leagues, considering the Browns offense ranks just one notch above the Texans, which Jacksonville held to six points in Week 12.
• Browns: Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell, Willis McGahee, Fozzy Whitaker, Greg Little, Billy Cundiff
Weeden will likely start Week 13, with Campbell sidelined with a concussion, but there are at least 20 better quarterback options out there for you to rely on.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers
• Buccaneers: Bobby Rainey, Vincent Jackson, Tim Wright
The Bucs running game took a big step back in Week 12 against the Lions, and things look just as bleak against the Panthers. The last time these teams played, in Week 8, the Buccaneers rushed for just 48 yards. Rainey is just a flex play this week. The Lions clamped down on Jackson in Week 12, but he remains the Buccaneers' best offensive player. You might have to ride some bad days to go with many more good days, but he did catch five passes for 79 yards in Week 8. The Panthers defense is average against the pass, making Tim Wright a borderline option this week. He scored the first NFL touchdown in his career against the Panthers earlier this season.
• Panthers: Cam Newton, Steve Smith, Greg Olsen, Graham Gano, Panthers DST
The Panthers scored three rushing touchdowns against the Bucs in Week 8, but really, Newton's the only runner you want to start in Week 13. The Bucs could be missing star cornerback Darrelle Revis (groin), which makes Smith a good start once again.Olsen also scored against Tampa Bay, and that game started a stretch of four touchdowns in five games for the former Hurricanes star. Gano has six field goals over 50 yards this season.
• Buccaneers: Mike Glennon, Brian Leonard, Tiquan Underwood, Rian Lindell, Buccaneers DST
Glennon will soon be a recommended fantasy starter (he won the NFL Rookie of the Month award for November), but just not against a Panthers defense that has allowed just nine passing touchdowns this season. Glennon has 10 touchdown passes and just one interception over the past six games, which bodes well for future weeks. He's also the first rookie quarterback to throw a touchdown pass in each of his first eight NFL starts. While Underwood and his high-top fade had a career day against the Lions, remember that he's basically still Glennon's third option in the passing game.
• Panthers: Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr.
Tolbert hasn't scored a touchdown in his past three games, which is right about when Jonathan Stewart came back from injury. LaFell has actually been a pretty good super-cheap option in weekly fantasy leagues, although this week he's facing a Bucs team that held him to three catches for 23 yards in Week 8.
Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings
• Bears: Josh McCown, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett
McCown's a great start once again, as Minnesota's pass defense has allowed an NFL-high 24 passing touchdowns this season. Only the Jaguars and Bears have allowed more rushing touchdowns than the Vikings' 13, so Forte and Adrian Peterson should both be comparing fantasy stats by day's end. Bennett finally had another good fantasy game in Week 12, and now he goes up against a Vikings team that allowed him to catch two touchdown passes in Week 2.
• Vikings: Adrian Peterson
The Bears gave up 100 yards to Peterson in Week 2, but he was held out of the end zone. He has scored in four of his past five games, however, and he should punch one in this week, also.
• Bears: Jay Cutler, Michael Bush, Robbie Gould, Bears DST
Cutler's high ankle sprain should keep him out of one more game at least. The Bears defense gave up 30 points to the Vikings in their last meeting and are just too inconsistent to rely on in fantasy.
• Vikings: Christian Ponder, Toby Gerhart, Greg Jennings, Cordarelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright, John Carlson, Blair Walsh
Ponder has five touchdown passes compared to three interceptions in his past four games, but he was sacked six times against St. Louis. While Gerhart rushed for 91 yards against the Rams in Week 12, he's still the second banana behind future Hall of Famer Peterson. Jennings had one of his best games of the season against the Bears in Week 2, although he didn't score. He hasn't had a good fantasy game since Week 4. Patterson led the Vikings in Week 12 with eight catches for 54 yards, and he has been targeted a team-high 20 times in his past two games. He's a better play in PPR leagues for now.
New England Patriots at Houston Texans
• Patriots: Tom Brady, Shane Vereen, Rob Gronkowski, Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots DST
Brady has thrown for at least three touchdowns in two of his past three games, and despite going up against the top pass defense in the NFL, he deserves a look in this game. The Texans defense hasn't allowed a 300-yard passer yet this season, but if the Patriots play like they did in the second half of Sunday night's game against Denver, they'll notch 300 passing yards. Vereen led the team with 18 touches in Week 12, and he should be leaned on more in the passing game this week. Gronk will look to score a touchdown in his fourth consecutive game, against a Texans defense that has given up five scores to tight ends this season.
• Texans: Ben Tate, Andre Johnson
Tate totaled just one yard on seven carries, and backup RB Dennis Johnson led the team in rushing in Week 12, so it's tough to rely on either Texans running back this week. The Patriots allowed 280 rushing yards to the Broncos, but that was offset by Peyton Manning's pass attack. Andre Johnson had his first bad game since Week 4, catching just two passes for 36 yards against the Jaguars. He's still the best player on this offense with Arian Foster sidelined.
• Patriots: Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson
Ridley fumbled for the third consecutive game, opening the door for Brandon Bolden to lead the team in carries against Denver. It's tough to rely on Amendola or Edelman this week, as the former should see more targets, and both will be facing a tough pass defense. Edelman scored two touchdowns in Week 12, which are his first scores since Week 1.
• Texans: Case Keenum, Dennis Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Garrett Graham, Randy Bullock, Texans DST
Keenum had a horrible game against the Jaguars when many expected a big week, and now he has just one touchdown pass in his past two games. After getting benched in Week 11, Hopkins followed up with another bad game, making just one catch in Week 12.
Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts
• Titans: Chris Johnson, Kendall Wright
The Colts are giving up over 125 rushing yards per game this season, and Johnson has put together some good games recently. Wright scored his second touchdown of the season against the Raiders and posted his first 100-yard game. He's consistent and remains a top-20 wideout against a mediocre Colts pass defense.
• Colts: T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, Delanie Walker, Adam Vinatieri
In spite of a tough passing matchup, both Hilton and Fleener remain good starts. Fleener ranks among the fantasy leaders at tight end over the past three weeks, with 16 catches for 195 yards and a touchdown. Walker had his best game of the season in Week 11 against the Colts, with 10 catches for 91 yards and a touchdown.
• Titans: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Shonn Greene, Nate Washington, Rob Bironas, Titans DST
The Titans defense gave up 30 points to the Colts just a couple weeks ago, and while that's not expected to happen again, this defense is a better reserve than starter. Washington is averaging just 42 receiving yards over his past three games.
• Colts: Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson, Donald Brown, Dan Herron, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Colts DST
Luck struggled against Arizona, and things get tougher against a Titans defense that has allowed an NFL-low eight passing touchdowns this season. He has just two touchdown passes in his past three games. Richardson hasn't rushed for more than 22 yards in his past four games, and Brown has proven to be the more dynamic runner. But Brown had just a pair of rushes against Arizona, as the Colts had to go to the pass early. The Titans have allowed an NFL-high 15 rushing touchdowns this season, so either of these guys could score -- but who wants to roll the dice on a possible 30-yard day.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
• Dolphins: Lamar Miller, Mike Wallace, Charles Clay, Dolphins DST
Now that Daniel Thomas could be sidelined for the rest of the season, Miller is suddenly thrust into the featured back role for Miami -- something fantasy owners have been praying for. The Jets defense leads the NFL in rushing defense, allowing fewer than 73 rushing yards per game, so consider Miller as a flex player.
On a week I suggested to sit him, Wallace blew up against a tough Panthers defense and had his best game of the season. The Jets still have a pretty good defense, holding the Bills and Ravens under 315 total yards each in their past two games. But they're giving up an average of one touchdown pass per game to a wide receiver this season. They have also given up six touchdown catches to tight ends. Only the Jaguars are averaging fewer points per game than the Jets, so consider the Dolphins defense a nice sleeper unit.
• Jets: Chris Ivory, Jets DST
Chris Ivory injured his ankle early, which cost him some snaps, and that allowed Powell to lead the team in rushing against Baltimore. If Ivory can't play, upgrade Powell's fantasy value this week. The Jets DST will face the 23rd-ranked scoring team in the NFL, and they should be able to get to Tannehill regularly, considering the Dolphins' offensive line woes. The Fins' 44 sacks allowed lead the league.
• Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, Brian Hartline, Rishard Matthews, Caleb Sturgis
Tannehill has just four touchdown passes in his past four games. After blowing up in Week 10 against Tampa Bay, Matthews has just 54 receiving yards on seven catches in two games.
• Jets: Geno Smith, Bilal Powell, Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley, Greg Salas, Stephen Hill, Kellen Winslow, Nick Folk
Holmes did very little against the Ravens, but he caught nine passes for 147 yards in a game against the Dolphins last September. He'll need QB Geno Smith to complete more than nine passes, however.
Arizona Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles
• Cardinals: Carson Palmer, Andre Ellington, Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Cardinals DST
The Cardinals continue to split touches between starter Rashard Mendenhall and rookie Andre Ellington. We continue to suggest playing Ellington over Mendenhall because he's a better home run threat -- and this week he faces an Eagles defense that has allowed 489 receiving yards to running backs (fifth-highest in the NFL). Palmer, Fitzgerald and Floyd are all suggested starts, as they will be going up against the worst pass defense in the NFL. The Eagles are allowing 300 passing yards on average, with a total of 17 passing touchdowns.
• Eagles: Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Riley Cooper, Alex Henery
After throwing 10 touchdown passes in two games, the Redskins kept Foles from throwing any touchdowns back in Week 11. Coming off a bye week, he should be back in the paint against a Cardinals defense that has allowed 19 touchdown passes. Cooper was held to just 37 receiving yards in Week 10, before the bye, but he has 241 receiving yards in the previous two games.
• Cardinals: Rashard Mendenhall, Andre Roberts, Rob Housler, Jay Feely
While Housler has been very good in the past three weeks (seventh in receiving yards among tight ends in that span), the Eagles defense has allowed just one touchdown pass to a tight end this season.
• Eagles: Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, Eagles DST
It's difficult to recommend either of the Eagles tight ends because they have a combined total of five targets in their past two games. But weekly fantasy players should definitely consider rolling the dice on the cheaper option of the two because no team is as bad against tight ends as the Cardinals. Arizona's defense has allowed 10 receiving touchdowns to tight ends this season.
Atlanta Falcons at Buffalo Bills
• Falcons: Harry Douglas, Tony Gonzalez
Douglas has 15 catches for 213 yards and a touchdown over his past two games, and Ryan has targeted him 29 times in the past three games. Only nine other wide receivers have more in that span. And there are just four tight ends with more than Gonzalez's 14 catches since Week 9.
• Bills: Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, Dan Carpenter, Bills DST
Jackson and Spiller continue to split carries, which is disappointing for both owners, although, Jackson should still see more action near the goal line. Don't let his vultured touchdown in Week 11 change your opinion of them, both are good plays after a bye week against the Falcons. The Bills defense has four sacks in three of their past four games, and the Falcons still aren't 100 percent.
• Falcons: Matt Ryan, Steven Jackson, Roddy White, Jacquizz Rodgers, Antone Smith, Matt Bryant, Falcons DST
Just five touchdowns for Ryan in his past five games, although he did complete 30 of 39 passes against the Saints in Week 12. White might be ready to help you soon, but the Bills have allowed just one team to throw for over 200 passing yards in their past five games. The Bills defense has also allowed just four rushing touchdowns this season, and even though Jackson is coming off his best game in a Falcons uniform, he's a borderline play again.
• Bills: E.J. Manuel, Stevie Johnson, Robert Woods, Scott Chandler
Manuel has three touchdown passes and just one interception since returning from injury, and the Falcons are certainly susceptible to the pass. He's a player to consider for weekly leagues because he'll have a low price tag, but there are better options in traditional play. Johnson has just one touchdown catch in his past seven games, and he's coming back from a groin injury, so use caution here. Woods is averaging under three catches per game over his past four outings, and he's also coming back from an injury (ankle).
St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers
• Rams: Zac Stacy, Rams DST
If Zac Stacy (head) is unable to play Sunday, Cunningham will get another chance to impress, like he did in Week 12, rushing for 109 yards and a touchdown against the Bears. Unfortunately, the 49ers are a much tougher defense, so whichever running back starts should just be considered a flex play.
• 49ers: Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, 49ers DST
Kaepernick is in the midst of his best stretch of the 2013 season, with five touchdown passes in his past two games, and he threw two touchdown passes against the Rams back in Week 4. Boldin actually caught one of those touchdown passes, and he now has three touchdown grabs in his past two games. By Week 8, Gore was looking like a top-10 running back, but he has since faltered, rushing for just 161 yards and no touchdowns in his past three games. Luckily, the Rams are coming to town, and they allowed him his best game of the season -- 153 rushing yards and a touchdown.
• Rams: Kellen Clemens, Benny Cunningham, Tavon Austin, Chris Givens, Brian Quick, Austin Pettis, Jared Cook, Greg Zuerlein
One might be surprised to see Austin on the "sit" list, since he has three touchdowns in the past two weeks. But he has just four catches in that span, and the Rams don't seem to be highlighting him the way Austin's owners would hope. Cook has played very well recently, especially with Clemens under center, but Cook faces one of the toughest defenses against tight ends in the NFL.
• 49ers: Kendall Hunter, Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, Phil Dawson
Crabtree (Achilles') was activated from the PUP list, but if you're desperate for a Week 13 win, you should lean on more reliable players this week. The return of Crabtree from injury means Manningham will get even fewer targets in Week 13. He has eight catches in his past three games for 83 yards. Dawson has seven field goals in his past three games, but there are a lot of good kicking options this week.
Cincinnati Bengals at San Diego Chargers
• Bengals: Giovani Bernard, A.J. Green
Bernard has seven touchdowns on the season, and the Bengals like working him into their passing game. The Chargers defense is actually pretty good against fantasy running backs, but Bernard has the ability to score in multiple ways. Green is coming off his worst game of the season, as Browns CB Joe Haden shut him down for just two catches for seven yards in Week 11. Look for a big rebound game against a Chargers team that is second-worst against wide receivers.
• Chargers: Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Nick Novak
The Bengals are tough against the pass, but so were the Chiefs, and Rivers shredded them for three touchdown passes and nearly 400 yards. Mathews has been a top-10 running back in fantasy over the past three weeks, with 241 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Allen was expected to be held in check against the Chiefs in Week 12, but instead he posted one of his best games of the season, catching nine balls for 124 yards. It was his fourth 100-yard game this season.
• Bengals: Andy Dalton, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Tyler Eifert, Jermaine Gresham, Mike Nugent, Bengals DST
Dalton has five touchdown passes in his past two games, but he also has five interceptions, and he was held under 100 passing yards in his last game out against the Browns. He's a top-15 QB this week, going up against a Chargers defense that is allowing over 275 passing yards per game. The Bengals defense has been playing well, but it hasn't played an offense as good as San Diego's since Week 7 against Detroit, when it gave up 357 passing yards.
• Chargers: Vincent Brown, Eddie Royal, Chargers DST
The Chargers defense has allowed nearly 30 points per game over their past four games, with just five forced turnovers in that span. The Bengals have several offensive weapons, so look elsewhere for fantasy defense help.
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
• Broncos: Peyton Manning, Montee Ball, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker, Eric Decker, Julius Thomas, Matt Prater
Moreno was on crutches midweek after injuring his ankle during Sunday's overtime loss to New England. If he's unable to go, rookie RB Montee Ball will become the main tailback (he scored two short touchdowns against K.C. two weeks ago). Manning has seven touchdown passes in his past three games, but just three in his past two games. His pace has slowed recently, but he's still on pace (52) to break Tom Brady's single-season NFL record of 50 touchdown passes. But fantasy owners that own him should note that in Week 16, when many will be playing in their fantasy Super Bowls, he'll be playing at Houston -- the best pass defense in the NFL so far.
Only a handful of teams have allowed fewer passing touchdowns to receivers than the Chiefs' eight. Welker has just 124 receiving yards in his past three games since the bye week. He's still a flex play this week, as he caught eight passes against the Chiefs in Week 10. Julius Thomas (knee) should be back and ready to rock against the Chiefs, who he caught a touchdown against two weeks ago.
• Chiefs: Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe
Charles was held in check against the Broncos in Week 10, totaling just 72 yards on the day. Even so, he's their best chance to win this game. Bowe, meanwhile, has scored in back-to-back games, including one touchdown against the Chiefs. He's a borderline play, though, now that 32 teams are playing this weekend.
• Broncos: Knowshon Moreno, Broncos DST
Moreno rushed for a career-high 224 yards against the Patriots, but he hurt his ankle in overtime. It's good to note that 37 carries isn't very good for the body. He had 79 rushing yards against the Chiefs in Week 10. The Broncos defense gave up over 30 points in Week 12 for the third time in the past seven games.
• Chiefs: Alex Smith, Donnie Avery, Dexter McCluster, Anthony Fasano, Ryan Succop, Chiefs DST
The Chiefs defense gave up 427 yards to the Broncos in Week 10, so steer clear this week -- but don't cut this defense. This unit has had two tough games against great offenses (Denver and San Diego), and have Denver and Washington coming up -- before a soft Week 15 matchup at Oakland.
New York Giants at Washington Redskins
• Giants: Andre Brown, Victor Cruz
No NFL team has allowed as many rushing touchdowns as the Redskins' 15, which is great news for Brown's fantasy owners. He has rushed for over 100 yards twice in the three games he has been active. Cruz caught just two passes in Week 12 against Dallas, but in two games against the Redskins last season, he caught 12 passes for 235 yards and one touchdown.
• Redskins: Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon
RGIII was unable to throw even one touchdown pass against the 49ers in Week 12, but the Giants defense is a bit more forgiving. He had most of his success last year against them on the ground, which isn't going to happen this week, but the Giants are allowing a mediocre 235 passing yards per game. Garcon has been targeted over 10 times in nine games this season.
• Giants: Eli Manning, Brandon Jacobs, Rueben Randle, Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Myers, Josh Brown, Giants DST
The Giants passing game would love to get back on track against this Redskins defense (22 passing touchdowns allowed), but who wants to trust Manning, Randle or Nicks (abdominal) right now? Rolling the dice on them in weekly leagues makes more sense, since their values will be lower.
• Redskins: Roy Helu, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Jordan Reed, Kai Forbath, Redskins DST
Helu has looked very good when he gets a good amount of touches, but he hasn't had more than 10 since Week 7. Reed is dealing with a concussion, but he was able to practice in a limited fashion on Wednesday. If he plays, he's worth a look this week, as the Giants have given up six touchdowns to tight ends this year.
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks
• Saints: Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas, Jimmy Graham, Garrett Hartley
Brees has just three touchdown passes in his past two games -- his quietest stretch since the start of the season. Even so, he has four 300-yard games in his past five games. Even though Seattle's a tough place to play, and the Seahawks defense is fantastic, and the weather is expected to be in the '40s with a 60-percent chance of rain ... Wait, what was my point? Oh yeah -- you can't sit Brees or Graham this season if they're healthy. Graham was healthy enough to catch a touchdown and go for 100 yards in Week 12.
• Seahawks: Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Steven Hauschka, Seahawks DST
The Saints have a very tough pass defense, but Wilson can make things happen with his legs, and he rarely makes mistakes (just two interceptions in his past six games). Lynch is averaging 4.4 yards per carry this season, after rushing for 5.0 yards per carry in 2012. He has 324 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns in his past three games. While the Saints are still dangerous with Brees at the helm, there are several elements going against that offense, so we have the Seahawks defense ranked as a second-tier starter this week.
• Saints: Darren Sproles, Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, Kenny Stills, Lance Moore, Saints DST
Sproles is averaging just four catches in his past four games, and the Saints prefer to run more plays through Thomas right now. Colston has one very good game, one mediocre and five bad games in his past seven, and the Seahawks still have a very good secondary, no matter how many suspensions they get.
• Seahawks: Percy Harvin, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Zach Miller
Harvin is someone to roll the dice on in weekly fantasy leagues, especially since they'll give him a few more touches and he's coming off a bye week in which he has built up more confidence in his surgically repaired hip.
David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and over 100 fantasy football leagues. You can also follow him @davidgonos on Twitter. If you have some good Week 13 Start 'em, Sit 'em opinions, drop them in the comments below.
MORE WEEK 13 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Benny Cunningham could start if Zac Stacy cannot play
McQUADE: Risers, Sliders -- Philip Rivers, Maurice Jones-Drew turn it on in Week 12
BELLER: Early Advice -- It's time to sit Andrew Luck, who's struggling without Reggie Wayne