Four Week 13 Storylines: Division Rivals Seek Revenge

Knowshon Moreno's injury could make a big impact against the Chiefs this week.

Christmas Rule Number 1: You can’t listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving.

I love Christmas music. More than you can even imagine, actually. For a month straight (less than a month with Thanksgiving being so late this year, unfortunately), it’s all I listen to. Nerdy? Stupid? Obnoxious?

All of the above.

Even if you’re not a Christmas music fan (What’s wrong with you?), the sound of these December tunes should at least remind you that we’re closing in on the end of the NFL season. And, like every year, the end of professional football's regular season brings instant classics, the fantasy football playoffs and tons of stress. For football fans, at least.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the top Week 13 storylines – ones that will be getting this time of year started.

How many rushing yards will Adrian Peterson rush for against the Bears?

I mentioned Zac Stacy against the Bears defense last week, showing that Chicago has been gashed by running backs for the majority of the NFL season. Though Stacy left the game with a concussion, he still finished with a good half game worth of fantasy points, and the Rams were able to still post 196 running backs yards and two scores.

That was Zac Stacy and Benny Cunningham. This week, the Bears get Adrian Peterson.

Chicago has now allowed at least 123 running back rushing yards in all but one game since Week 4, and rank dead last in our Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP metric. Over the last five weeks against the running back position, the Bears have allowed 12 ground touchdowns (third-most in the league) and a league-high 1,383 rushing yards.

If you’re facing Adrian Peterson in fantasy football this week, be prepared for a potential monster game. He holds our top running back projection.

Will the Titans get revenge?

On Thursday Night Football two weeks ago, the Titans lost a lead to the Colts, losing the game 30-27. The first half was all Tennessee, but Andrew Luck and company took over in the second half, scoring 24 second half points.

In the game, Kendall Wright and Delanie Walker combined for 19 receptions from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Everyone else? Three – Nate Washington caught one, and Chris Johnson caught two.

The Titans will need to spread the ball around a little more if they want sustained success in the game, so expect players like Justin Hunter to get a little more involved in the passing attack.

The key in this game for the Titans offense, however, is Chris Johnson. CJWhateverK dominated the Colts defense in the first half of the Week 11 game, but was completely shut down in the second half. The Colts have a schedule-adjusted rush defense that ranks 23rd in the league, so they’re certainly beatable on the ground. Like we saw two weeks ago, when the Titans controlled the clock, they completely dominated the game.

Andrew Luck against the Titans secondary is going to be a great battle to watch, too. Tennessee has given up just two passing touchdowns over their past seven games, and now rank fourth in the league at defending fantasy quarterbacks. However, keep in mind that they’re pass defense ranking when adjusted for strength of schedule doesn’t appear nearly as strong, ranking 18th in the league.

Donald Brown posted a 20-plus fantasy point game against the Titans in that game, and if the Titans continue to hold passers in the red zone like they have, he could be in for another solid performance. Don’t be afraid to play him in a flex spot this week in fantasy.

Can the Chiefs get back on track?

After starting 9-0, the Chiefs have lost two straight games to two divisional rivals. The Broncos loss didn’t come as a surprise, but the one last week against the Chargers certainly did. For some perspective, the Chargers entered the week as our 25th power-ranked team, mostly due to an atrocious defense. Kansas City, on the other hand, was ranked number two.

The Chiefs are now our sixth-best team, and things aren’t getting any easier this week with a rematch against the Broncos.

The good news for Kansas City is that Knowshon Moreno, Denver’s top back and the player with the best Rushing NEP in the league this year, probably won’t be 100 percent even if he does play. That’s an important piece to this game’s puzzle, as KC’s rush defense is much more vulnerable than their pass D (19th ranked vs. 2nd ranked). Though Justin Houston is out, a lack of running game for Denver could give KC a bigger edge than most realize.

In the end, Alex Smith is going to have to play better than he did in the Chiefs first contest in Denver for Kansas City to have a shot at winning this weekend. In that game, Smith completed just 46.67% of his passes, and dropped his Passing NEP total from 1.27 to -3.68. In essence, he was a detriment to the Chiefs offense, which can’t happen again if the Chiefs want a W.

Will Drew Brees find success against Seattle’s secondary?

In a normal week, we’d be advising you to watch out – in context, of course – with regards to Brees against Seattle. But things are different this week, as Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner will be out against the Saints because they violated the league’s substance abuse policy.

It’s certainly a big deal – Seattle owns the best pass defense according to our metrics, coming in with a -48.45 Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP. To give that some context, Arizona, one of the better pass defenses in the league, has an Adj. DPNEP of -12.34. In other words, if the Seahawks pass defense played for Arizona, the Cardinals would have seen a 36.11-point swing in their favor over the course of the season. That’s well over a field goal per game.

And that has nothing to do with a bad Cardinals pass defense. In fact, the Cardinals rank eighth in the league under the metric. That’s just how good the Seahawks secondary has been.

But with the suspensions, it’ll be interesting to see who steps up against the league’s second-best passing offense. This will certainly be a matchup to watch in Week 13.