Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Who to start in final week of fantasy's regular season
Remember when the NFL hated fantasy football? Neither do I.
It wasn’t that long ago that the league didn’t want to have anything to do with our fantasy world. Now the league seemingly does all it can to promote it. From NFL.com’s commissioner service to the proliferation of various red-zone channels to well-documented injury reports, so much of what the NFL does seems tailored to the fantasy owner in all of us. Even the league’s bye schedule comes to a close right before the most important week of the fantasy regular season.
Every league is different, but in more leagues than not, Week 13 is the final week of the regular season. Countless fantasy owners need one more win to get into the playoffs. A large portion of the fantasy community is just one more triumph away from hoisting a regular season trophy, an accomplishment that is, quite frankly, a whole lot harder than winning a playoff championship. Still others are closing in on a total points crown and are happy to have their full complement of players available in this most crucial of weeks.
Having your entire roster at your disposal guarantees that you’ll have all your studs active, but it also can make for more challenging decisions at the fringes of your lineup. Over the course of the entire season, there may not be much difference between a Torrey Smith and a Julian Edelman. There could be a chasm between the two, however, in any given week, and the wrong choice could have you looking ahead to 2015 a month before you had hoped to do so.
With that, let’s get to the rest of our recommendations in the SI.com Start 'Em, Sit 'Em for Week 13.
The following recommendations are based on 12-team leagues that start one quarterback, two running backs, two receivers, one RB/WR flex, one tight end and one defense. Starters include the top-12 quarterbacks, tight ends and defenses and top-24 running backs and receivers. The remaining backs and receivers are considered for the flex position, with the best 12 players making it as starters.
Washington Redskins at Indianapolis Colts
Redskins: Alfred Morris, DeSean Jackson
Morris continues to be one of the more underappreciated backs in the league, largely because of the circus around him in Washington. He now has the ninth-most fantasy points among running backs this year and should soon eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the third season in a row. He’s sixth in the league in rushing yards and has done a bit more in the passing game this season, as well. Even with all the quarterback issues in Washington, I’m playing Jackson this week. All he needs is one play to put up WR1 production, and he has been among the best at getting those huge plays down the field this season. Beware Vontae Davis, though.
Colts: Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson, T.Y. Hilton, Coby Fleener, Colts DST
Washington has surrendered the fourth-most points to quarterbacks this year, making this a great matchup for Luck. Of course, he doesn’t need any help from a bad defense, but his fantasy owners will happily take it. Richardson was again the less effective runner in a timeshare last week, but he got the goal-line work and will continue to do so. That makes him a worthy flex play in Week 13. Dwayne Allen may be out again with an ankle injury, once again making Fleener a slam-dunk start for his owners. Even if Allen is able to go, Fleener would rank as a low-end TE1.
Redskins: Colt McCoy, Roy Helu, Pierre Garcon, Niles Paul, Jordan Reed (hamstring), Redskins DST
Colts: Dan Herron, Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks, Dwayne Allen (ankle)
Herron was clearly the superior back for the Colts last week, running for 65 yards on 12 carries and catching five passes for 31 yards. In just one week, he took over the role Ahmad Bradshaw had made so valuable in the Indianapolis offense. Still, Herron lost a fumble last week, and Richardson is going to get the goal-line work. He’s great for depth down the stretch, but you shouldn’t have to dig this deep to start him this week. Wayne just barely misses out on being a starter this week. I’ve got him valued as a mid-tier WR3.
Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans
Titans: Delanie Walker
Walker returned last week after missing one game due to a concussion and put up a monster effort for his fantasy owners. He caught five passes for 155 yards, looking like the most dangerous pass-catcher in the Tennessee offense. The Texans have done well against tight ends, but Walker has been one of the few reliable players at the position from wire to wire this year. So long as he’s healthy, he’s easily a starter every single week.
Texans: Arian Foster (groin), Texans DST
Foster missed his second straight game because of a groin injury, but the Texans expect to have him back this week. Assuming he is able to play on Sunday, he should be among the best running backs in Week 13. The Titans have allowed the most fantasy points to running backs this season. Foster himself racked up 173 total yards and three touchdowns in Week 8. Since then, the Titans have surrendered a total of 446 rushing yards, 49 receiving yards and four scores to Justin Forsett, Le’Veon Bell and LeSean McCoy.
Titans: Zach Mettenberger, Bishop Sankey, Shonn Greene, Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Titans DST
Mettenberger has had his best games as a starter the last two weeks, throwing for a total of 608 yards, 9.65 yards per attempt, four touchdowns and two interceptions. The good news is that Mettenberger has earned a chance to be the man for the Titans heading into 2015. Unfortunately, he’s not yet the man for fantasy owners. Wright and Hunter have been among the biggest disappointments at the wide receiver position, especially from a fantasy perspective. The Texans have allowed the second-most points to receivers this year, which could make Wright or Hunter a sneaky play if you need help at the position. My preference would be for Delanie Walker.
Texans: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Alfred Blue, Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Garrett Graham
Ryan Mallett is out for the season with a torn pectoral, and that means the Texans will turn back to Fitzpatrick this week. At some point they may give a chance to rookie Tom Savage, but for now fantasy owners should know what to expect from the quarterback position in Houston, and that’s not a whole lot. Hopkins had been a top-15 receiver with Fitzpatrick under center, and the Titans have been average in coverage this year. Hopkins is part of the glut of receivers that could be a WR3 depending on your roster composition, but he’s outside my top-30 receivers for the week.
Cleveland Browns at Buffalo Bills
Browns: Isaiah Crowell, Josh Gordon
Crowell got two fewer carries than Terrance West last week, but he picked up 88 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 totes. This will likely be a pretty even timeshare for the rest of the season, but Crowell is clearly the more explosive back. If you can only have one running back in Cleveland, you want it to be him. Gordon led the league in targets in his first game of the season, catching eight passes for 120 yards. He’s picking up right where he left off last year when he had 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns. You’ll be playing him as a WR1 every single week for the rest of the season.
Bills: Fred Jackson, Sammy Watkins, Bills DST
Jackson ran for 32 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries in the Bills’ dismantling of the Jets last week. He also got four targets, catching three of them for 13 yards. Anthony Dixon got more carries, but he did most of his damage when the game was out of hand. Jackson looks healthy and is back atop the depth chart in Buffalo. The Browns have allowed 4.38 yards per carry this season to running backs. Watkins may see a good deal of Joe Haden this week, but he’s still an easy WR2 play. The Bills could very well have the best defense in the league, thanks to their ferocious pass rush.
Browns: Brian Hoyer, Terrance West, Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin, Jordan Cameron (concussion), Gary Barnidge, Browns DST
Hoyer played terribly in Gordon’s return from suspension, throwing three interceptions and forcing a few passes to his supremely talented receiver. He’s a good insurance policy for the rest of the year in one-quarterback leagues, but you don’t want to count on him as your starter. West is a borderline flex play, but it’s obvious to anyone paying attention that Crowell’s ceiling is higher. Cameron may return from a concussion this week, but he shouldn’t yet be on the fantasy radar.
Bills: Kyle Orton, Bryce Brown, Anthony Dixon, Robert Woods, Scott Chandler
Woods had a huge game last week, catching nine of 11 targets for 118 yards and a score. Of course, that was against the putrid Jets pass defense. His previous season-high in yards was 78, and he had more than five receptions in a game just twice before last week. With Jackson looking healthy, Brown and Dixon lose the scant fantasy value they held for about a month.
San Diego Chargers at Baltimore Ravens
Chargers: Ryan Mathews, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates
Mathews has been great since returning from his knee injury, running for 175 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. The Ravens have allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs this year, but Mathews is matchup-proof. Consider him a strong RB2 for this week. Allen caught six passes for 104 yards and a score a week ago and now draws a Ravens defense that has allowed the third-most points to receivers this year. Meanwhile, Gates is an every-week start in the suddenly shallow tight end pool, but he has slowed down of late. In his last three games, he has just eight catches for 74 yards.
Ravens: Justin Forsett, Steve Smith, Torrey Smith
Where would the Ravens and Forsett’s fantasy owners be without him? After running all over the Saints for 182 yards and two touchdowns, he’s the seventh-ranked running back in standard-scoring leagues. Only DeMarco Murray and Le’Veon Bell have more rushing yards, and all six backs who have scored more points than him this year (Murray, Bell, Matt Forte, Marshawn Lynch, Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles) were first- or second-round picks. Forsett was an afterthought. He’s the odds-on-favorite to be the return-on-investment MVP this season. Both of the Smiths have been playing like WR2s and are worth a start in what is a decent matchup for the Baltimore passing game.
Chargers: Philip Rivers, Branden Oliver, Eddie Royal, Malcom Floyd, Ladarius Green, Chargers DST
After tearing up the Jaguars, Raiders and Jets in consecutive games, Rivers has been among the worst fantasy quarterbacks in the league. In his last five games, he’s averaging just 12.78 points in standard-scoring leagues. That’s equal to Derek Carr’s season-long pace. The Ravens have been friendly to quarterbacks this season, but at this point a matchup isn’t going to save Rivers. He belongs on fantasy benches in Week 13 and may not be worthy of a start again this season.
Ravens: Joe Flacco, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Bernard Pierce, Owen Daniels, Ravens DST
Flacco is to two-quarterback leagues what Jay Cutler is to one-quarterback leagues. You’re usually going to get steady production out of him, every so often he’ll jump up and have a huge game, and almost as often he’ll completely fall apart and crush your dreams. He’s in the first group outside the starting class of quarterbacks this week. Meanwhile, Daniels hasn’t ascended in the tight end rankings like many -- myself included -- expected when Dennis Pitta suffered a season-ending hip injury.
New York Giants at Jacksonville Jaguars
Giants: Rashad Jennings, Odell Beckham Jr., Larry Donnell, Giants DST
Beckham’s highlight-reel catch is justifiably getting all the attention, but he had nine other grabs that went for a total of 103 yards and a score last week, in addition to his ridiculous one-handed 43-yard touchdown catch. He has ascended into must-start territory and should feast on the Jaguars. Jennings racked up 120 total yards against the Cowboys last week but failed to get in the end zone. Consider him a strong RB2 this week. Any defense that plays the Jaguars is a good fantasy option, making the Giants an attractive stream option for Week 13.
Jaguars: Denard Robinson
Robinson had his first bad game as a starter last week, running for just 25 yards on 14 carries. He did help his cause with four catches for 47 yards, but it still likely wasn’t enough for his fantasy owners. That’s always going to be the risk when you trust a Jaguar in your starting lineup. Luckily for him and his owners, the Jags should be able to keep this game close, as the Giants' offense isn't exactly setting the world on fire either this year. That should result in Robinson getting upwards of 20 touches on Sunday, making him a solid RB2.
Eli Manning, Andre Williams, Rueben Randle, Preston Parker
Manning may have had nice stats last week, but he played rather poorly. He got away with a few horrible throws and missed a few wide-open receivers on what would have been big plays. Beckham’s emergence coupled with the matchup make him a high-end QB2, but he’s a QB2 nonetheless. Williams got 10 carries last week and vultured a goal-line touchdown from Jennings, but he can’t subsist on so few touches from a fantasy standpoint.
Jaguars: Blake Bortles, Toby Gerhart, Cecil Shorts, Allen Hurns, Marqise Lee, Clay Harbor, Jaguars DST
It has been a nightmare season for both Bortles and Gerhart, who both actually inspired some excitement in Jacksonville over the summer. Bortles was terrible last week, throwing for 146 yards and an interception in the loss to the Colts. It should go without saying that none of these Jaguars belong within spitting distance of a fantasy starting lineup, unless your league goes 16 teams deep.
Cincinnati Bengals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bengals: Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, A.J. Green
Bernard returned to a 50/50 workload split in the backfield, but it was Hill who was clearly the more effective runner last week. Bernard had 45 yards on 17 carries, while Hill racked up 87 yards and a score on 18 carries. The Bengals can’t excise Hill from the offense after how well he has run the ball over the last four weeks. Expect this sort of division of labor for the rest of the season. Against a team like the Buccaneers, that should be enough to make both of them RB2s this week. Green set a career high with 12 receptions a week ago and nearly makes Andy Dalton worth starting this week simply by his presence.
Buccaneers: Mike Evans
Evans did not surpass the 100-yard mark last week, but he did return to the end zone. He has now hit paydirt six times in his last four games, and eight times in his last seven. The Bengals have surrendered the second-fewest points to receivers this year, but Evans has to be considered a WR1 with the way he is playing. In my opinion, he’s the best in this extremely deep class of rookie receivers.
Bengals: Andy Dalton, Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Tate, Jermaine Gresham, Bengals DST
Dalton is my first quarterback out of the starting class, but that’s mainly an endorsement of Green’s talent. Sanu salvaged his game with a touchdown last week, but he had just 48 yards through the air. It was his third game in a row in which he had fewer than 50 yards. That coincides exactly with when Green became Green again. It appears that this offense may not be capable of supporting two regular fantasy starters at receiver, and it’s pretty easy to tell which of the two will come out ahead. Sanu is back to being a depth receiver for fantasy owners.
Buccaneers: Josh McCown, Charles Sims, Doug Martin, Bobby Rainey, Vincent Jackson, Louis Murphy, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Buccaneers DST
I have no problem with fantasy owners completely divesting their shares in the Tampa Bay backfield. It’s pretty clear that you’re never going to be playing any of these guys for the rest of the season. Jackson is a casualty of the deep pool of wide receivers this week. You have all your options available to you, Evans has emerged as the No. 1 receiver in Tampa, and the Bengals have kept a tight lid on wide receiver production this year. Add it all up, and Jackson is a mid-tier WR3 for Week 13.
Oakland Raiders at St. Louis Rams
Raiders: Latavius Murray
On one single play, Murray gave the Raiders more excitement than they got in 10 weeks from Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew combined. In typical Raider fashion, though, he suffered a concussion on the first carry after his 90-yard touchdown last week, and missed the rest of the game. He’s expected to be ready for Sunday’s matchup with the Rams and is a low-end RB2 or flex play this week. He may have rushed for 112 yards and two scores on just four carries, but he’s still on the Raiders. Let’s not get too excited just yet.
Rams: Tre Mason, Rams DST
Mason hasn’t been the weapon some expected him to be when he emerged as the starter in St. Louis, but that’s largely because of the failings of the Rams’ offense. The Rams are favored by a touchdown in this game, and the Raiders have allowed the fourth-most points to running backs this season. Don’t be surprised to see the Rams feature Mason early and then lean on him with a lead in the second half. He could easily rack up 25 touches in this game, and that would make him a solid RB2 for Week 13. Any defense that plays the Raiders is worth starting, and the Rams can get after the quarterback.
Raiders: Derek Carr, Darren McFadden, James Jones, Andre Holmes, Kenbrell Thompkins, Mychal Rivera, Raiders DST
Carr has had less than seven yards per attempt in each of his last six games, and all but one start this year. He’s thrown for fewer than 200 yards in every game this month and has had more than five yards per attempt just once since Halloween. That’s about as futile as a passing attack can get. Stay far, far away from anyone who has anything to do with the Raiders’ passing game.
Rams: Shaun Hill, Benny Cunningham, Kenny Britt, Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Lance Kendricks
It has been encouraging to see the Rams get Britt, Bailey and Austin involved in the offense over the last few weeks. There’s no doubt that the Rams have some talent out wide. The issue has always been getting the ball in their hands in ways that maximized their respective abilities. They’ve been doing that recently, hitting Britt on big plays down the field and getting the ball to Austin in space. That bodes well for next season, perhaps, but these are desperation plays, at best, for the rest of this year.
New Orleans Saints at Pittsburgh Steelers
Saints: Drew Brees, Mark Ingram, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham
What happened to the Saints? Once the poster children for high-octane offense, they just can’t seem to get out of their own way this year. And it all starts, shockingly, with Brees. He has turned the ball over 13 times this year and is fourth in the league with 11 interceptions. Still, he threw for 420 yards and three touchdowns on Monday night and remains a slam-dunk fantasy starter every week. Colston took advantage of Brandin Cooks’ absence, catching four passes for 82 yards and a score a week ago, and he matches up well with the Steelers. Ingram has had a couple down games in a row and now has to welcome back the pass-catching stylings of Pierre Thomas.
Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant
In their last two games, the Saints allowed a combined 334 yards on 49 carries to Jeremy Hill and Justin Forsett. That comes out to a robust 6.82 yards per carry. What do you suppose Bell can do against this defense? This could be a monster game all around for Pittsburgh’s offense, as the Saints have allowed the ninth-most points to quarterbacks and the seventh-most to receivers. If you own any of the four players listed above, you should be playing them with the utmost confidence.
Saints: Pierre Thomas, Khiry Robinson, Kenny Stills, Saints DST
Stills just barely falls here, and is a strong play in plenty of leagues, depending on your parameters. However, the constrictions of this column force him into the sit category. He had nine targets last week, catching eight of them for 98 yards. While Colston had the touchdown, Stills also benefited from Cooks’ absence. Thomas returned to eight targets and five carries. He hasn’t been nearly the weapon he was last year, but he should continue to get 10-plus touches per game for the remainder of the season.
Steelers: Markus Wheaton, Heath Miller, Steelers DST
The Steelers have become just like the Packers for start/sit purposes. They are extremely top heavy, with a handful of studs you start every single week. Outside of that group, they have players who deserve to be rostered in most fantasy leagues, but you’re only starting them if you’re in trouble at a certain position. Many people thought Wheaton could be the guy that Bryant has become this year. However, Bryant has the type of size that Wheaton just cannot match, and that has made the difference in determining the second receiver within this offense.
Carolina Panthers at Minnesota Vikings
Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen
With all the love being showered on Odell Beckham and Mike Evans recently, people seem to be forgetting that Benjamin, too, is a member of this rookie class. He had nine catches for 109 yards and a touchdown his last time out and is an easy WR2 this week. The Vikings have actually done pretty well against tight ends this year, holding Jimmy Graham to 54 yards on six catches and the pre-dominant version of Rob Gronkowski to four receptions for 32 yards. Having said that, if you own Olsen you play him every single week. He’s a strong TE1 option for Week 13.
Vikings: Jerick McKinnon, Kyle Rudolph
Everyone is all over McKinnon, but he has had three down games in a row. He also hasn’t been north of 100 total yards since Week 7, when he ran for 103 yards against the Bills. If he can’t get back on track this week, it may be time to recalibrate our expectations for him. The Panthers have allowed the ninth-most points to running backs this year. Rudolph hasn’t shown up for fantasy owners since returning from a hernia, but he makes it into the starting group as my 12th-ranked receiver, primarily due to the softness of the Carolina defense and the shallowness of the tight end pool.
Panthers: Cam Newton, Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, Jerricho Cotchery, Philly Brown, Panthers DST
Here’s why it’s hard to trust Newton as a starter: Week 11 was his best game since Week 6, and he threw for 292 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, while running for 30 yards in the loss to the Falcons. It was the first time he had more than 16 points in standard-scoring leagues since that Week 6 tie with the Bengals. If you’re a Newton owner, you’ve definitely turned to another quarterback many times this season. In most instances, that other quarterback is going to be a better play this week.
Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater, Ben Tate, Matt Asiata, Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings, Charles Johnson, Vikings DST
Let’s take a minute to talk about Johnson, who might be the best receiver in Minnesota. He played 53 percent of the team’s snaps two weeks ago and caught six passes for 87 yards. That apparently opened up the eyes of the coaching staff, because he played 97 percent of the snaps last week. He caught just three passes for 52 yards, but got in the end zone and had a team-high 11 targets. He’s well worth adding for depth at the receiver position, and he could develop into Bridgewater’s top target in 2015.
Arizona Cardinals at Atlanta Falcons
Cardinals: Andre Ellington, Cardinals DST
Ellington has rushed for fewer than three yards per carry in each of the last three weeks. In those three games, he has a total of 171 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown. With Drew Stanton struggling, the Cardinals are going to have to lean on him a bit more, and this is the perfect matchup to do just that. The Falcons have been a sieve against the run this year, allowing the second-most points to running backs. They’ve given up 4.15 yards per carry and a league-high 14 rushing touchdowns to backs. Backs have also racked up 555 receiving yards against the Falcons, the fourth-highest total in the league.
Falcons: Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White
Ryan keeps on finding ways to come up short, even when his top two receivers have strong fantasy performances. He threw for 273 yards, two touchdowns and one interception last week, finishing as the No. 13 quarterback in standard-scoring leagues. The Cardinals have been tough on quarterbacks this year, but at some point Jones and White are going to lift Ryan from the doldrums. I’m willing to bet on him playing at home on the carpet of the Georgia Dome. Ryan is my No. 12 quarterback, which just sneaks him into the starting group for Week 13.
Cardinals: Drew Stanton, Larry Fitzgerald (knee), Michael Floyd, John Brown, John Carlson
The twin knee injuries to Carson Palmer and Fitzgerald have really sapped the Cardinals’ offense of any explosiveness. Notwithstanding last week’s tough matchup in Seattle, the Cardinals looked totally inept with Stanton at the helm. Floyd didn’t catch a pass, while Brown had three catches for 61 yards. It’s a much better matchup this week, but I expect that to only really show up in Ellington’s stat line. The Cardinals are going to have to win this game with their running game and defense.
Falcons: Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Devonta Freeman, Harry Douglas, Devin Hester, Levine Toilolo, Falcons DST
The end of the football season always makes me sad, but one silver lining is that I won’t have to type this laundry list of Falcons into the sit portion of this column for nine months. Jackson has scored in three of his last four games, but the Cardinals are just about the worst matchup for a plodding runner. They’ve yet to allow a 100-yard rusher this season and have surrendered just five scores on the ground. Jackson should be planted firmly on your bench.
New England Patriots at Green Bay Packers
Patriots: Tom Brady, Shane Vereen, Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski
Fun with numbers, part one: During the Patriots’ current seven-game win streak, Brady has 2,207 yards, 7.88 yards per attempt and 22 touchdowns against four interceptions. Gronkowski is as easy a start as there is in fantasy leagues, but when Brady is playing like this, you want to be as invested as possible in the New England passing attack. That makes LaFell, Edelman and Vereen all strong options this week. For the purposes of this column, LaFell slots as a WR2, while Vereen and Edelman are flex plays. Either way, the Patriots should light up the Lambeau Field scoreboard.
Packers: Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb
Fun with numbers, part two: In his last eight games, during which the Packers have gone 7-1, Rodgers has 2,259 yards, 9.41 yards per attempt, and 25 touchdowns against two interceptions. Just for the record, he sat out all or most of the fourth quarter in three of those games, as well. Lacy is quietly the No. 7-ranked running back in standard-scoring leagues, after totaling 552 yards from scrimmage and five touchdowns in the last four weeks. The over/under on this game is 59.5. If you own any high-profile Patriots or Packers, you are going to be very happy come Sunday night.
Patriots: Jonas Gray, LeGarrette Blount, Danny Amendola, Tim Wright, Patriots DST
In the last six weeks, Wright has five touchdowns. In that same timeframe, he has had more than two receiving yards (seriously, two yards), twice. He’s a real-life weapon for the Patriots, but he’s too gimmicky for fantasy owners. Two weeks ago it was Gray, and last week it was Blount. The Patriots don’t follow any predictable script with their running backs, and it just isn’t worth the headache trying to figure out which one will lead the team in carries. Moreover, they’re always going to rely on Brady’s arm in a game that is actually close. Remember, they’ve blown out their last two opponents. That is primarily why Gray and Blount were featured in their big games.
Packers: Davante Adams, Andrew Quarless, Richard Rodgers, Packers DST
Quarless has become a bit more active in the Green Bay offense over the last few weeks, catching passes of 20-plus yards in consecutive games. He remains comfortably off the radar for the starting tight end group, but he could be worth an add as an insurance policy if you have some roster space with which to play.
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs
Broncos: Peyton Manning, C.J. Anderson, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Julius Thomas (ankle), Broncos DST
The Broncos emerged with a 24-17 win in the first meeting between these two teams back in Week 2. Manning threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns in that game, and that qualifies as one of his worst games of the year. The Chiefs actually held Demaryius Thomas in check, as he had just five catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. The Broncos didn’t play Anderson in that game, and he could go off if the Chiefs try to drop seven in coverage while trusting their great pass rush to get home against Manning. Hopefully, we hear something definitive on Julius Thomas early on Sunday. Otherwise, owners are going to have to decide if they want to roll the dice on him. Make sure you have a second prime-time option at tight end if you’re planning on waiting for Thomas.
Chiefs: Jamaal Charles, Travis Kelce
The first meeting between the Broncos and Chiefs was when Charles suffered his high ankle sprain. He left early in the first quarter, giving way to Knile Davis. The backup ended up running for 79 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, and catching six passes for 26 yards. Despite a strong defense, the Broncos have allowed the ninth-most points to running backs this year. You’re obviously starting Charles no matter what, but know that he is a top-three back this week. Kelce caught four of his five targets for 67 yards last week. It is beyond frustrating that he doesn’t get more chances to make plays, but he remains a middle-of-the-road TE1 for the remainder of the year.
Broncos: Juwan Thompson, Wes Welker
In his last five games, Welker has 17 catches for 106 yards and one touchdown. He is a total afterthought in the Denver offense, which is running at high-speed without his involvement. I would hold onto him simply because of how deadly this offense is, but chances are you won’t play him for the rest of the year.
Chiefs: Alex Smith, Knile Davis, Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs DST
Smith showed up from a fantasy perspective for the first time in weeks, throwing for 234 yards and two touchdowns in Kansas City’s loss to Oakland a week ago. Don’t bet on there being any momentum carrying him into Sunday night’s showdown with the Broncos. The Chiefs formula for pulling off the upset and staying alive in the AFC West rests on Charles’ legs and keeping Manning and the Denver offense on the sidelines for as long as possible. You don’t want to play the Chiefs defense this week, and should feel comfortable dropping them for another unit if you don’t have any roster flexibility.
Miami Dolphins at New York Jets
Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller, Mike Wallace, Dolphins DST
This could not be much better of a matchup for Tannehill. The Jets have allowed the third-most points to quarterbacks this year. They’ve yet to really face a quarterback who runs this year, but one of the two they’ve played who does use his legs a bit -- Aaron Rodgers -- picked up 28 yards on six carries. Tannehill has thrown for 468 yards and five touchdowns against one pick in the last two weeks. Miller draws the tough Jets run defense, but he picked up 86 yards on 15 carries against a similarly stout Bills defense two weeks ago. Consider him an RB2 for Week 13.
You only saw the Jets play last week if you live in New York or subscribe to Sunday Ticket. I subscribe to Sunday Ticket. Let me tell you something: It was not pretty. You don’t want anyone from this offense to even look at your fantasy lineup this week.
Dolphins: Daniel Thomas, Jarvis Landry, Brian Hartline, Charles Clay
Landry caught seven passes for 50 yards and two scores, and has undoubtedly become a key player in the Miami offense. Still, he’s too touchdown-dependent to count on in fantasy leagues. His season-high for yards in a game is 78, and he has reached the 50-yard mark just three times. Landry has a bright fantasy future, but that starts in 2015, not in Week 13 of this year.
Jets: Geno Smith, Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson, Percy Harvin, Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, Jace Amaro, Jeff Cumberland, Jets DST
The Jets rank last in the league in passing offense, and in today’s NFL, it’s nearly impossible to get anything going when you’re getting the sort of quarterback play the Jets have had with Michael Vick and Geno Smith this year. They had been productive on the ground earlier in the year, but they haven’t had a rusher pile up more than 70 yards since Ivory ran for 107 against the Patriots in Week 7. There’s just nothing to like about this offense as a whole and no one you want to get tied up with for fantasy purposes.