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Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Who to start in final week of fantasy's regular season

Having your entire fantasy football roster at your disposal guarantees that you’ll have all your studs active in Week 13, 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.

Audibles Podcast: Flaws that could derail playoff contenders

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.

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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.

Fantasy Football Week 13 stat projections

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.

A closer look at the NFL playoff picture through Week 12

Washington Redskins at Indianapolis Colts

Start 'em:

Redskins: Alfred Morris, DeSean Jackson

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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.

Sit 'em:

Redskins: Colt McCoy, Roy Helu, Pierre Garcon, Niles Paul, Jordan Reed (hamstring), Redskins DST

It’s hard to believe that it was just two years ago that Griffin was the darling of the NFL, leading Washington to a division title and looking like the Next Big Thing at the quarterback position. Now he's getting benched for the one and only McCoy. Garcon has a total of 102 yards in his last four games. There shouldn’t be a point for the rest of the season where you have to start him.

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

Start 'em:

Titans: Delanie Walker

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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.

Sit 'em:

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

Start 'em:

Browns: Isaiah Crowell, Josh Gordon

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​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.

Sit 'em:

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

Start 'em:

Chargers: Ryan Mathews, Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates

Ravens' unlikely trio of heroes leads them to crucial win over Saints

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.

Sit 'em:

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

Start 'em:

Giants: Rashad Jennings, Odell Beckham Jr., Larry Donnell, Giants DST

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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.

Sit 'em:

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

Start 'em:

Bengals: Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, A.J. Green

Target Report: Mike Evans stands above the rest of the rookie receivers

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.

Sit 'em:

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

Start 'em:

Raiders: Latavius Murray

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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.