Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 13
Thanksgiving is great because of what it is: a day to eat your face off and watch football. And to give thanks, of course.
But it also serves as a reminder. Once Thanksgiving comes and goes, we know Christmas -- the holidays -- is coming. That means Andy Williams (the GOAT holiday singer, don't argue this) will be in your (my) ears for a month, retail stores won't have any parking, and, most importantly, the fantasy football playoffs are arriving.
For many leagues, this is the last regular season week. Some of you are sitting pretty with a playoff spot locked up, but others are closely contemplating their every move this week, ensuring they get the W and the playoff berth.
As always, the hope is this start-sit column helps you. If not, please don't set my Twitter mentions ablaze.
Start Colin Kaepernick (at Chicago): Since regaining his spot as starter for San Francisco, Kap has averaged 62 rushing yards per game, finishing as a top-nine quarterback in each of his last four contests. In order to be a relevant fantasy starter, we're only asking him to throw for 150 to 200 yards and a score, given his rushing floor. He'll face a Bears' secondary this week that ranks 12th-worst against the pass, according to our schedule-adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, so he should be able to do just that. The fear with Kap this week is his ceiling, as the game has just a 43.5-point over/under, and the Bears are starting backups throughout their offense. In other words, Kaepernick may not be asked to do a whole lot. He still makes for a solid play, though.
Sit Andy Dalton (vs. Philadelphia): Dalton doesn't have A.J. Green at his disposal, and Giovani Bernard is out for the year with an ACL tear. Though he's at home, Cincinnati's signal caller will be throwing to Brandon LaFell and Tyler Boyd against an Eagles' secondary that has surrendered the ninth-fewest fantasy points to the quarterback position this year. Philadelphia is also a road favorite. At a position as replaceable as quarterback in fantasy football, there's no reason to force Dalton in your lineup.
Start Ryan Fitzpatrick (vs. Indianapolis): The Colts' secondary is bad. They rank 31st against the pass, according to our numbers, and, since Week 4, they've allowed Blake Bortles, Brock Osweiler, Brian Hoyer, and, in just a portion of the game, Nick Foles to post 16 or more fantasy points. Though Fitzpatrick has thrown multiple touchdown passes in just 20% of his starts this year, the matchup is good enough to make him a higher-end quarterback streaming option.
Sit Blake Bortles (vs. Denver): Speaking of Bortles, he gets the worst possible matchup for a fantasy quarterback this week as the Jags face off with the Broncos. Though the Jags are at home, Denver's allowed more than 15 fantasy points to a quarterback just once since Week 1. And it was in New Orleans to Drew Brees, where the Saints have averaged more than 30 points per game over the last five years. Bortles is an easy sit.
Start Jordan Howard (vs. San Francisco): Color me surprised after seeing Howard post a nice fantasy day in the Bears' offense last week. He could do it against this week against the 49ers, too.
San Francisco ranks as our least-efficient rush defense, and they've allowed eight top-10 running back performances (PPR) this season. That math alone tells you that Howard has a 72% chance to be a top-10 back this week.
What Howard has going for him in this offense is volume -- over the last five weeks, he ranks fifth in running back market share (percentage of team rushes) at 72.81%. San Francisco, meanwhile, has allowed the second-most rushing attempts to opposing offenses this year. Those two things combined with the lack of rush defense efficiency makes Howard a fantastic play in Week 13.
Sit Rob Kelley (at Arizona): Kelley was a sit in this column last week, mostly because I was worried about a negative game script and too few touches against a Cowboys team that allows very few rushing attempts. This week, it's a bit different. The negative game script issue is still there, as Washington will be on the road as 2.5-point underdogs, but it's not as big of a factor. What is a factor is that Arizona has been great against opposing running backs all season long, giving up the second-fewest points per game to the position. They've allowed four top-seven performances this year in PPR leagues (every other running back has finished 23rd or worse in weekly scoring), but each one of those games were on the road. This one's in Arizona.
Start Spencer Ware (at Atlanta): Spencer Ware hasn't been the same Spencer Ware we watched earlier in the season, but this week may be one where things turn around. The Falcons have given up the third-most fantasy points per game this year to running backs, and they've also allowed 91 receptions to the position, by far the most in the league.
The problem for Ware lately hasn't necessarily been volume on the ground (17 touches in each of his last two games), but rather volume through the air, as he's averaged 2.17 targets per game over his last six contests. The matchup -- again, the Falcons give up a lot of catches to running backs -- could alleviate that a bit, boosting his overall appeal. It doesn't hurt that the game has close to a 50-point Vegas total.
Sit Terrance West (vs. Miami): We've gradually been watching Kenneth Dixon steal more touches from West in the Ravens' offense, and the passing of the torch sort of happened in last week's game against the Bengals, as both backs saw 13 rushes with Dixon -- not West -- leading the team in snaps. Dixon had seen his snap rate rise each week, but that was the first time he played more than West this year. So despite this matchup being a good one in general for a running back (Miami has the second-worst rush defense in the NFL, per our numbers), if the trend continues, West could become even more irrelevant.
Start Tim Hightower (vs. Detroit): Of course, Mark Ingram is the ideal back in New Orleans to start this week (he played 57% of the team's snaps last week) but I'm intrigued by Hightower (he played 34%), as well. Even with Ingram becoming the starter again in the offense, Hightower still has 27 carries over the team's last two games to go along with 11 targets. The Saints are 5.5-point home favorites in a game with the largest over-under on the slate, too, which means there could be a nice, high-scoring positive game script for New Orleans. That leads me to believe Hightower -- against a bottom-three defense -- should see enough action to warrant a flex look in your lineup this week.
Start Doug Baldwin (vs. Carolina): Baldwin had an average depth of target of 1.0 yards in last week's game versus Tampa Bay, per Pro Football Focus (PFF), when his season average entering the game was 8.4. A big reason for that was the offensive line issues, but center Justin Britt should be back in action in Week 13. If there's more time for Russell Wilson to throw, that should help Baldwin in a great slot matchup against cornerback Robert McClain, who ranks as PFF's 112nd-best cornerback.
Sit Allen Robinson (vs. Denver): A-Rob has a respectable 24.03% market share in an offense that's dropped back to pass more than all but five NFL teams this year, but volume won't help him dramatically enough against Denver to warrant a start. Not only has he barely scored more than 15 PPR points over his last two games combined, but Denver's given up just three top-20 wide receiver performances (PPR) since Week 1. Two of those three wideouts were Saints in the Superdome, the Coors Field of the NFL, while the third came from Tyreek Hill this past week, where Hill had just 52 receiving yards. It's definitely a matchup to avoid.
Start Willie Snead (vs. Detroit): Targeting a slot receiver against the Lions is almost always a good idea, as they face off against Quandre Diggs, who's allowed 40 receptions on 44 targets this year. On the season, we've watched slot guys like Eddie Royal (WR7 in Week 4) and Jamison Crowder (WR20 in Week 7) tear this bottom-ranked secondary apart, and I'd expect the same from Snead, who's seen seven or more targets in all but one completed game this year.
Sit Jarvis Landry (at Baltimore): Sitting Landry isn't so much about the matchup as it is Landry himself. With the change in philosophy in Miami -- basically since Jay Ajayi's emergence -- Landry's target market share and volume has dropped. After seeing double-digit targets in each of his first four games, Landry has averaged 6.29 targets per contest since, scoring no more than 16.1 PPR points. In a deeper league, I can understand starting him for his floor, but in most formats, his lack of volume is troubling.
Start Marvin Jones (at New Orleans): Jones' target market share is just above 20% on the season, which is surprising after his red-hot start to the year. And when you combine that with tough matchups -- he saw Josh Norman coverage, faced the Texans, faced the Vikings twice -- things haven't been pretty at all.
But, like I've said many times above, this Saints-Lions game should be a home run derby-equivalent for fantasy owners. That's especially true for Lions' pass-catchers -- they should be in a negative game script, which could mean a faster pace (the Lions run at the sixth-slowest pace in the league) and more volume through the air. Jones will also see a lot of Delvin Breaux, who, despite his name recognition, has just a 45.1 rating on Pro Football Focus this season.
Start Vance McDonald (at Chicago): McDonald's 18.18% target market share over the last five weeks is 10th-best at the tight end position and just below Jimmy Graham's. As I mentioned above with Kaepernick, the Bears have a bottom-half secondary, and they'll be without Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman, two guys who would help stop the tight end position dramatically. Chicago's given up 16 receptions and 3 scores to opposing team's top tight ends over the last three weeks, too. McDonald is a great streaming option as a result.
Sit Austin Hooper (vs. Kansas City): Hooper saw his snap rate fall from 72% in Week 10 to 47% in Week 12 (they had a Week 11 bye), more than likely because the pass-catching tight end wasn't needed in a game where the Falcons were leading. That, and Arizona is the best team in the league at defending the position. This week, Atlanta is in a similar spot: at home as favorites against a team that's allowed the fourth-fewest points this year to the tight end position. That makes Hooper a guy you can either bench or leave on the waiver wire.
Start Eric Ebron (at New Orleans): We can't let the goose egg from last week dictate how he feel about Ebron, as ugly as it was. The fact is, you want to target this Saints-Lions game, and the matchup is nice for Ebron, as New Orleans is 11th-worst in fantasy points against to tight ends. Remember, Ebron had averaged 6.86 targets per game prior to last week. That type of volume at tight end is plenty good in this type of matchup.
Start the Green Bay Packers (vs. Houston): Two words: Brock Osweiler. Defenses against the Texans have ranked in the top-16 (top half-ish) in weekly scoring in all but two games this year -- the Colts didn't (because they've got a bottom-ranked defense, per our numbers) and the Jaguars didn't (because they're the Jaguars). The Packers are 6.5-point favorites at home, and Osweiler has thrown a pick in all but two games this year. They're the perfect streaming option.
Sit the Buffalo Bills (at Oakland): Buffalo has a tough task traveling to Oakland this week, as the Raiders have allowed the fewest sacks per game this year. They've been good at not turning the ball over, too, which has forced just one fantasy defense to rank higher than 10th in weekly scoring against them all season long. Even if the Bills were at home, I wouldn't have much confidence.
Other defenses to start: New England Patriots (vs. Los Angeles), Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Philadelphia)
Other defenses to sit: New York Giants (at Pittsburgh), Minnesota Vikings (vs. Dallas)