- The Falcons are struggling and Lamar Jackson has won two straight, but Matt Ryan is clearly the QB to play in their match-up this week.
The Falcons are suffering through a crushing season that few in the football world saw coming. Two years removed from the Super Bowl (and you’ve probably heard that they were up 28-3), and coming off consecutive trips to at least the divisional round of the playoffs, the Falcons were once again viewed as viable Super Bowl contenders. Instead, they’re 4-7, and in need of a ton of help to get back to the playoffs, even if they win out.
The Ravens, meanwhile, are headed in the right direction. After getting shut out of the playoffs in the final play of the regular season last year, they’ve rebounded to go 6-5 thus far, holding onto the second AFC wild card spot going into Week 13. Joe Flacco remains out with a hip injury, but Lamar Jackson has more than held his own as the starter, helping the team go 2-0 while bringing a completely different style to the offense. The defense has been among the best in the league all year, ranking first in total yards, passing yards, yards per attempt and points allowed, and fifth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.
Having said all that, when these two teams meet in Atlanta on Sunday, I will be starting Matt Ryan with confidence.
It’d be awfully hard to tell the Falcons’ record from Ryan’s stats. The 11th-year quarterback has thrown for 3,683 yards, 8.49 yards per attempt and 24 touchdowns against five interceptions this season. He has multiple scores in seven games, including four with at least three. He has thrown for at least 300 yards seven times, and crossed the 370-yard mark four times. Ryan has racked up at least 9.0 YPA in six games this season. All those numbers haven’t translated to wins, but they have added up to fantasy success. Ryan ranks fourth among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring, trailing only Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees and Cam Newton. He has had seven QB1 weeks, including three where he finished in the top five.
Baltimore’s defense has been a nightmare matchup this season, but they haven’t exactly shut down the quarterback position, especially at the high end. Ben Roethlisberger put up 25.2 points on them in Week 9, while Cam Newton torched them for 27.96 points the week before that. They surrendered a 265-yard, four-touchdown game to Andy Dalton in Week 20, then let him go for just shy of 20 fantasy points in Week 11 without A.J. Green. Their most impressive performance of the season came in Week 7 when they limited Drew Brees to 14.78 points, though he lost two points on a fumble. Brees still threw for 212 yards, 7.07 YPA and two touchdowns in that game, leading the Saints to a win in Baltimore.
The Ravens may cap Ryan’s ceiling lower than the average defense, especially if they can slow the game down, something they’re better equipped to do with Lamar Jackson at the helm than Joe Flacco. Still, as good as they’ve been, the best quarterbacks they’ve faced have turned in useful fantasy performances. It may be a down year for the Falcons collectively, but it isn’t for Ryan individually. Don’t overrate the matchup here. He belongs in your lineup.
With that, let’s get to the rest of the Week 13 Start ’Em, Sit ’Em.
Kirk Cousins, Vikings (at Patriots)
Think of this situation as the light version of Ryan against the Ravens. Sure, Cousins hasn’t been perfect this year, but he ranks 13th among quarterbacks in scoring and has arguably the league’s best receiver duo at his disposal in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. He brings the overall QB1 ceiling into every game, and so long as he doesn’t get turnover-happy, he has a high floor, as well. The over/under on this game is 48.5, the fourth-highest on the board this week.
Philip Rivers, Chargers (at Steelers)
I’m not sure why we have to have this discussion every week. Rivers is locked in as a QB1, yet my fellow rankers over at FantasyPros want to put him on the start/sit border every week. They did so last week against the Cardinals, and then he went out and threw for 259 yards, 8.93 YPA and three touchdowns. The future Hall of Famer (he should be, at least) is in the midst of one of the best years of his career, and is a couple wins away from getting the Chargers back into the playoffs. Their showdown with the Steelers on Sunday night isn’t just appointment television, but a possible AFC Championship Game preview.
Carson Wentz, Eagles (vs. Redskins)
The gaudy numbers that characterized Wentz’s 2017 season have eluded him, but he has been a mostly reliable quarterback, ranking 17th at the position in points per game. In other words, you’re going to need a rock-solid second option to fade him most weeks. Don’t be scared off by a fraudulent Washington team that is league-average against quarterbacks in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric (aFPA). The Eagles are playing at home and are favored by a touchdown. This is a great spot for Wentz.
Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins (vs. Bills)
Tannehill returned last week after missing five games with a shoulder injury and played well in a tough spot, throwing for 204 yards, 8.16 YPA and two touchdowns in a 27-24 loss at Indianapolis. Things likely won’t be much easier with a Bills defense that’s ranked first in quarterback aFPA in town, but we’re just looking for top-20 numbers out of him. The Dolphins are 4.5-point favorites and have an implied team total of 22.25, a couple of numbers that work in Tannehill’s favor.
Tom Brady, Patriots (vs. Vikings)
After amassing an unassailable track record across nearly two decades in the league, everyone understands at this point why there’s no sense in doubting Brady. Still, it must be mentioned that he hasn’t been the fantasy force this year he typically is. Brady has just four QB1 weeks this season, and he has ranked 16th or worse at the position in each of his last four games. He has as many games outside the top 20 (3) as he does inside the top 10. If you own him, you’re almost certainly playing him, but keep your expectations in check against a tough Minnesota defense. If Brady turns in low-end QB1 numbers, consider it a win.
Lamar Jackson, Ravens (at Falcons)
Jackson delivered again last week, throwing for 178 yards and one touchdown while running for 71 yards and another score on 11 carries in the Ravens’ 34-17 win over the Raiders. He gets a great matchup this week against a Falcons defense ranked 32nd in quarterback aFPA. So why isn’t he a slam-dunk start. Well, Jackson isn’t equipped to take advantage of Atlanta’s defense the way most quarterbacks have this season. The matchup is nice, but it’s almost immaterial to a quarterback who will derive a large chunk of his success from his legs. As good as Jackson has been in his two starts, that’s always a riskier bet than if it were someone like Baker Mayfield with this cushy of a matchup. I am starting Jackson in the one league where I have him, though it’s a superflex league and my other quarterbacks are Aaron Rodgers (who I will also be starting) and Matthew Stafford.
Marcus Mariota, Titans (vs. Jets)
Mariota was hyper-efficient last week, completing all but one of his 23 pass attempts for 303 yards, 13.17 YPA and two touchdowns in the Titans’ 34-17 loss to the Texans. The concern this week is the potential pace of play. The Jets and Titans rank 25th and 28th, respectively, in plays per game this season, and the over/under in this one is just 40.5 points. If Mariota is going to register from a fantasy perspective, he’ll need the Titans to hit their implied total, and he’ll have to hog all the touchdown glory to himself. That’s an awfully tough needle to thread.
Matthew Stafford, Lions (vs. Rams)
No team plays at a slower pace in neutral game script than the Lions. That alone is almost worth writing off Stafford, not only for this week, but for the rest of the season. His lone saving grace could be the Rams’ offense, which may force him to attempt 40-plus passes, but that’s a thin premise to go on when looking for a starting fantasy quarterback. Golden Tate is long gone, now Marvin Jones is done for the year and the Lions could also be without Kerryon Johnson. There’s just no reason to trust Stafford this week, and if you’re in a one quarterback league, you can likely cut him loose at this point.
Doug Martin, Raiders (vs. Chiefs)
Martin came through again last week, totaling 72 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown on 14 touches. In the five games the Raiders have played since placing Marshawn Lynch on IR, Martin has averaged 76 total yards and 0.2 touchdowns on 14.2 touches. He’s not winning you weeks on his own, but he’s more than carrying his weight as an RB2 or flex play. That shouldn’t change against the Chiefs this week.
LeSean McCoy, Bills (at Dolphins)
This is a great spot for McCoy, going up against a Dolphins defense that’s ranked 31st in running back aFPA in standard leagues and 30th in PPR formats. The only way this one gets away from McCoy is if it gets away from the Bills completely, and that’s unlikely to happen. The Dolphins are favored by 4.5 points, which suggests that oddsmakers feel these are nearly even teams on neutral ground. If the Bills can keep this within one score for most of the afternoon, McCoy should get close to 20 opportunities. The Bills have played four games this year that they either won or lost by one score. In those four games, McCoy has averaged 20.75 carries.
Carlos Hyde, Jaguars (vs. Colts)
Leonard Fournette will miss this game due to suspension, opening the door to both Hyde and T.J. Yeldon. I looked at the likely breakdown between the two in this week’s Target and Snap Report. In short, Hyde should handle most of the early-down and short-yardage work, while Yeldon will be in line for most, if not all, of the running back targets. Carries are more bankable, especially for a couple of players dependent on volume. Hyde could be in trouble if the Colts run away with this game, but if they don’t he should be just fine. The Colts rank 24th in running back aFPA in standard leagues.
James White, Patriots (vs. Vikings)
This one might seem obvious given White’s performance this season, but he carries a ranking this week of 27th among running backs on FantasyPros, which keeps track of fantasy rankings across the entire industry. That suggests White is not an RB2 for Week 13, which is an overreaction to his last two games, as well as the matchup with the Vikings. Sure, it has been nearly a month since White found the end zone, but he has had at least 10 touches and 78 yards from scrimmage in all but two games this season. All it takes is for him to score one touchdown or pop one big play to turn that floor into a huge game. White has one of the safest floors among non-elite fantasy backs, and a higher ceiling than most of them, too. Do not let recency bias or matchup concerns sway you into benching White this week.
Jordan Howard, Bears (at Giants)
The Bears are enjoying a resurgence under first-year coach Matt Nagy, but Howard’s fantasy value was set adrift with John Fox. He has 536 yards and five touchdowns on 162 carries this season, ranking 28th among running backs in total fantasy points, and 35th in points per game. Tarik Cohen has taken off under Nagy, and that has come at Howard’s direct expense. Howard has yet to rush for 100 yards in a game this season, and has topped 70 yards just twice. Even when he gets plenty of volume, as he did against the Vikings two weeks ago, he has regularly failed to deliver. He ran for 63 yards on 18 carries in that game, his fourth game this season with at least 14 rushes and fewer than four yards per carry.
LeGarrette Blount, Lions (vs. Rams)
Blount’s drawing some attention in the fantasy community after running for 88 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries in last week’s Thanksgiving Day loss to the Bears. That game script worked in his favor, with neither team leading by more than one score at any point of the afternoon. That isn’t likely to be the case this week, with the Rams favored by 10 points in Detroit. Should the Rams get out to a big lead, Blount will be scripted out of the game. There’s a real risk of him getting fewer than 10 touches on Sunday.
Frank Gore, Dolphins (vs. Bills)
Gore is stuck in a weird sort of fantasy purgatory this season. He plays more than enough to warrant being on a team in most leagues, yet he doesn’t produce enough on a consistent basis to be a regular starter. He has had a couple of big games on the ground, but has rushed for fewer than 70 yards in six of his last eight games, despite getting double-digit carries in all of them. He has almost no role in the passing game, and he has just one touchdown on the year. Kenyan Drake is the better bet this week, even though Gore will almost certainly lead the team in carries.
T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars (vs. Colts)
Go back to this week’s Target and Snap Report to find the definitive case against Yeldon this week. He’s not an outright sit given that this game has sneaky shootout potential. Should it reach that status, the Jaguars would need as much Yeldon as they could possibly get. Still, it’s hard to trust a pass-catching back when he’s playing with Cody Kessler, and Yeldon simply isn’t likely to get a meaningful number of carries in this game. Yeldon is a low-end flex, at best, this week, and you really should do what you can to find another, more palatable direction.
Adam Humphries, Buccaneers (vs. Panthers)
I’m going to steal a paragraph from 4for4’s John Paulsen, who you can find on the pages of SI.com in our waiver wire and rankings, as well as with his own Sneaky Starts column every Thursday. Take it away, John.
This season, Humphries has been targeted on 18.1% of Winston’s 204 pass attempts and has accounted for 19.0% of his completions, 17.1% of his yards and 20.0% of his touchdowns. Assuming Winston continues to average 25.2 completions on 39.0 attempts for 315 yards and 1.73 touchdowns per game—his averages over his last 16 games that he started and finished—Humphries would average 4.8 receptions for 53.9 yards and 0.35 touchdowns on 7.1 targets per game. This equates to 9.9 points per game in half-PPR leagues, which is about what Allen Robinson, Sterling Shepard, Jarvis Landry and Corey Davis are averaging this season as low-end WR3s. He’ll definitely be startable in the next couple of games against the Panthers and Saints.
What he said.
John Brown, Ravens (at Falcons)
Brown hasn’t exactly been raiding defenses with Lamar Jackson at the helm, catching two passes for 48 yards. There are, however, a couple of silver linings. Or a silver lining made up of two parts. I’m not totally sure how sliver linings work. First, both of Brown’s catches have been for 20-plus yards. He’s at his best when he’s making plays down the field, and while they’ve been few and far between with Jackson, he has made them. Second, he got seven targets last week after getting just one in Jackson’s first start. (The MMQB’s Robert Klemko also wrote about a successful deep ball to Brown that was wiped out by a holding penalty.) The Falcons have one of the friendliest pass defenses in the league, ranking 29th in receiver aFPA in standard-scoring leagues. There’s enough upside here to trust Brown as a WR3 or flex play in a 12-team league.
Courtland Sutton, Broncos (at Bengals)
Sutton hasn’t taken off as expected since the Broncos traded Demaryius Thomas, turning 15 targets into seven receptions for 149 yards in his last three games. This is a great matchup for him, though, facing off with a Bengals defense that ranks 29th in quarterback aFPA. They’ve been much better than that against receivers on a schedule-adjusted basis, ranking 11th against the position, but they’ve still allowed 25 passing touchdowns—tied for second-most in the league—and 8.04 YPA. If it doesn’t happen for Sutton this week, it might not happen until 2019.
Josh Reynolds, Rams (at Lions)
Reynolds looked great in his first game as a starter since the Rams placed Cooper Kupp on IR, catching six of eight targets for 80 yards and a touchdown in the team’s 54-51 win over the Chiefs in Week 11. Over his last two games without Kupp, he has nine catches for 122 yards and three scores. The touchdown rate is unsustainable, but there is no bad way to get invested in the Rams, especially in a game with an over/under of 55 in which they are favored by 10 points. That translates to an implied total of 32.5 points. Reynolds can easily get his fair share of that against a Lions defense that has struggled against outside receivers all season.
Sterling Shepard, Giants (vs. Bears)
Shepard has been a ghost the last four weeks, catching 12 passes for 102 yards in that span. This week brings a matchup with the Bears, which likely means a healthy dose for him of Bryce Callahan, who has turned himself into one of the best slot corners in the league. Even with Evan Engram banged up, it’s hard to have much confidence in Shepard on Sunday.
Golden Tate, Eagles (vs. Redskins)
Tate has played three games with the Eagles, catching 11 of 20 targets for 97 yards. It’s encouraging that he has had eight targets in both of the last two games, but all he has to show for those 16 looks is nine catches and 78 yards. That doesn’t move the needle in fantasy leagues. Betting on the volume Tate has seen the last two weeks isn’t a terrible move, but it’s not advisable either. There’s some value here, but a WR5 floor. You shouldn’t have to mess around with that much risk at this stage of the season.
Anthony Miller, Bears (at Giants)
Mitchell Trubisky is going to miss his second straight game with a shoulder injury. Miller caught three of four targets for 41 yards from Chase Daniel in the Bears’ win over the Lions last week, his lowest fantasy output since Week 7. The floor is too low to have any confidence in Miller as a fantasy option with Chase Daniel starting.
Mike Williams, Chargers (at Steelers)
Williams scored two touchdowns last week, but he did so on just four targets. That’s his role in this offense, and every now and again it’s going to translate into a big fantasy day. It also makes him easy to fade, especially in a matchup with a Pittsburgh defense ranked third in receiver aFPA in standard-scoring leagues and fourth in PPR formats. Even without Melvin Gordon, there’s unlikely to be more volume for Williams this week.
Gerald Everett, Rams (at Lions)
Everett got in on the fun in the Rams’ 54-51 win over the Chiefs in Week 11, catching three passes for 49 yards and two touchdowns. One of his scores came on a 40-yard strike from Jared Goff on which he was lined up as a receiver outside the numbers. That’s huge for him, given that Robert Woods has taken over much of the slot work left behind by the injured Cooper Kupp. If Everett can run even just a handful of receiver routes, he’ll bring significant streaming value to the table.
Trey Burton, Bears (at Giants)
Burton had a rough Thanksgiving Day against the Lions, losing a fumble and committing a few key penalties, but that’s all in the rear-view mirror. He got seven targets from Chase Daniel, which bodes well for him with the backup making another start this week. Burton remains a low-end TE1, even with Mitchell Trubisky on the sidelines.
Jordan Reed, Redskins (at Eagles)
Reed scored his first touchdown since Week 1 two weeks ago after Colt McCoy took over for an injured Alex Smith. He then caught six of eight targets for a season-high 75 yards in Washington’s 31-23 loss to Dallas in Week 12. Reed seems to be in a better spot with McCoy than he was with Smith, getting him back on the TE1 radar.
Jonnu Smith, Titans (at Jets)
Smith is on a bit of a hot streak, catching 13 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns in his last four games. Unlike most tight ends on the streaming radar, his touchdowns have been big plays, including last week’s 61-yard catch-and-run. Still, it’s hard to bet on a guy averaging fewer than three targets per game, and Titans-Jets may be the slowest game of the week.
Chris Herndon, Jets (vs. Titans)
Nearly everything I just said about Smith applies to Herndon, except he’s getting about 3.4 targets per game. He has been a bigger part of the offense of late, totaling 25 targets in his last five games, but you’re likely still counting on a touchdown for him to give you TE1 production, and the Jets offense has fallen off a cliff since the middle of October. The Jets have scored 13 points or fewer in each of their last five games.
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings (at Patriots)
We pick on Rudolph a lot in this space, but the bottom line is that it’s hard to trust a tight end when he plays with two elite receivers who regularly command 55% to 60% of his team’s targets in any given game. The Patriots have been soft on tight ends this season, and it’s likely that their game plan will call for taking away Adam Thielen or Stefon Diggs, but that’s much easier said than done.