Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 13
Another day, another question from a fantasy football commissioner who's got a league member losing a matchup on purpose in order to catapult another squad into the playoffs.
And I'm not talking about a nine-win team benching their entire roster in order to face weaker competition once the playoffs hit. I'm talking about teams that are completely out of it -- two- or three-win teams -- throwing games because they don't want to see specific league owners make the playoffs.
I'm old enough to remember when people didn't suck.
We know fantasy football is about fun. It's all about entertainment. But just because you lose -- just because you were bad at it -- doesn't mean you should have the authority to dictate who else in your league has fun. That's messed up, man. And it's unbelievably selfish.
Now, I know I'm preaching to the choir here. Or, at least, I hope I am. But I thought before today's starts and sits, it would be beneficial to bring up a question that's been hitting my mentions consistently over the last couple of weeks.
Don't lose games on purpose. Don't ruin the fun for others in your league.
Don't be obnoxious.
Instead, use the information below to help create your optimal lineup.
Start Brett Hundley (deeper play, vs. Tampa Bay): Perhaps there's some Recency Bias at play here -- Hundley went off against the Steelers in Week 12 for more than 22 fantasy points -- but there's more to starting Hundley this week as a streamer than just that. He'll be at home (that's usually a plus for quarterbacks), the Packers are favorites (another plus), and, oh, Hundley will be facing numberFire's third-worst schedule-adjusted secondary in the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay's allowed double-digit fantasy points to a quarterback in each game this year, having surrendered the 10th-most points to the position. Hundley's in a good spot as a passer to snag and start off the waiver wire.
Sit Matthew Stafford (at Baltimore): Plenty of NFL teams have faced poor quarterback competition this year because the position has become a mess across the league. Baltimore's one of those squads. Even still, it's insanely impressive that only one quarterback -- Blake Bortles in that weird-as-hell contest in London earlier this year -- has ranked higher than 17th in weekly scoring against the Ravens this year. Even when you adjust for strength of opponent, Baltimore has the second-best secondary in football, per our numbers. And over the last half decade, Matthew Stafford has averaged about 0.8 yards per attempt and 0.3 touchdowns more at home than on the road. With this one being in Baltimore, you can sit him.
Start Philip Rivers (vs. Cleveland): We know that Cleveland's a strong matchup for opposing quarterbacks, as they've given up the eighth-most fantasy points to the position this year while allowing six top-12, QB1 performances. But what I like even more about Rivers' matchup against them is that, through the air, the team's biggest weakness has been against the slot and to the tight end position. Jason McCourty has been strong on the outside this season for Cleveland but, per Pro Football Focus, he's traveled to the slot on just seven snaps this year. That's where Chargers' top target Keenan Allen will be. And while the Chargers haven't utilized their tight ends (mostly Hunter Henry) as much as expected, that position is certainly not a weakness for them. That's why Rivers could have a really big day.
Sit Derek Carr (vs. New York): On paper, this matchup is great. The Giants will be without Janoris Jenkins, they'll be starting Geno Smith, the Raiders are playing at home, and they're big favorites, too. My fear with Carr, though, is two-fold. First, he'll have depleted weapons -- Michael Crabtree is suspended this week, and Amari Cooper is banged up. Second, he hasn't been all that great from a fantasy perspective this year. He ranks outside the top-20 in fantasy points scored per game, and he's recently failed to make much noise fantasy-wise in plus matchups against the Dolphins and Patriots. It wouldn't shock me at all if he came through with a usable performance, but there's still risk involved, especially if you're in a shallower league.
Start Jerick McKinnon (at Atlanta): After four weeks of semi-domination from McKinnon post-Dalvin Cook injury, his production has dipped quite a bit over his last three, ranking no higher than 28th in weekly PPR scoring at the running back position. Part of that is because Latavius Murray is seeing more touches: during those four games where McKinnon was going nuts, Murray out-attempted him 64 to 59. Over the last three contests, he's out-rushed him 52 to 37. Murray's also seen four more goal-line carries over the team's last three games, when both players previously were splitting goal-line work.
McKinnon's overall volume hasn't dropped a whole lot, though, because the Vikings continue to win and see positive game scripts. But they'll be tested this week against the Falcons -- Minnesota's actually a road underdog. As the primary pass-catcher in the Minny backfield, McKinnon could benefit from that semi-negative game flow. Moreover, Atlanta not only led the league in running back receptions allowed last season, but they've given up 68 this year, which is just one off from the league lead.
Sit DeMarco Murray (vs. Houston): As mediocre as DeMarco Murray's been on the ground, he's still been a pretty decent PPR asset. Over his last six games, he's averaged 14.58 PPR points, scoring below the 9.7 mark just once. Much of that has to do with what he's done through the air, though. Murray's averaged 4 targets and 31 receiving yards per game over this time -- he's actually averaging fewer rushing than receiving yards per game during this stretch.
No running back in the league has outperformed his teammates on the ground more than Derrick Henry this year. At least according to our numbers. When there's such a discrepancy, the worry is that a team -- in this case, the Titans -- will begin to realize they're utilizing their running backs incorrectly and make a change. But even if a change isn't made this week, Murray faces a Houston Texans front that's allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the running back position this year. They've also given up the third-fewest receptions to the position. With the Titans as big seven-point favorites, you may be relying on Murray's rushing ability to get fantasy points, and that's not exactly enticing right now.
Start Alex Collins (vs. Detroit): In two games with Danny Woodhead back in the Baltimore lineup, Alex Collins has carried the ball 36 times while seeing 9 targets. Woodhead's role just doesn't really impact Collins, but it's been two nice positive scripts for the Ravens in consecutive weeks. That'll help a lead early-down back.
This week, Collins shouldn't have a ton of trouble against Detroit. Our metrics say they've got a below-average rush defense, and it's one that's allowed a top-12 running back performance in four of their last five outings. That just happens to coincide with defensive tackle Haloti Ngata's season-ending injury in Week 5.
Sit Jay Ajayi (at Seattle): There's no way you'd be sitting Ajayi if he was the clear lead back for the Eagles, but that's not the case. In three games, Ajayi's carried the ball a total of 20 times. For some perspective, he hit the 20-carry mark in four of seven games with Miami this year. He's got a sub-20% rushing attempt share during his time as an Eagle. Will this be the week they decide to feature him? Maybe, but I'm not betting on it considering the team is rolling right now. Putting Ajayi in your lineup isn't worth the risk.
Start J.D. McKissic (deeper play, vs. Philadelphia): No team has faced more pass plays (459) this year than the Eagles. That's partially because they're very good and usually leading games, but it's also because they've got a top-five rush defense that's surrendered the fewest rushing yards this year. It's hard to imagine Seattle -- whose running backs have rushed for the least amount of yards in the NFL this year -- having much success on the ground against Philly. So, enter McKissic, who's tallied 18 targets over the team's last three games as the team's top pass-catching back. Even with Mike Davis returning from injury, McKissic has interesting potential as a deeper play this week.
Start Davante Adams (vs. Tampa Bay): While Jordy Nelson's fantasy value has burst into flames without Aaron Rodgers, Davante Adams has been surprisingly OK with Brett Hundley under center so far. He's averaging 8.4 targets per contest with Hundley, good for a 28% target share in the offense. As noted above, the Packers are facing one of the more beatable secondaries in football this week -- Tampa Bay -- at home. The Bucs not only were just destroyed -- dee-stroyed -- by Julio Jones last week, but they've now allowed four top-10 PPR performances to wideouts in two weeks. All of the Adams this week, please.
Sit T.Y. Hilton (at Jacksonville): As I talked about in this week's 15 Transactions column, Hilton has essentially been worthless -- from a fantasy perspective, that is -- in all but three games this year. Against the Browns, 49ers, and Texans -- three very mediocre secondaries -- he's averaged over 168 yards per game. In all other contests, he's averaged fewer than 30 receiving yards per game. There's absolutely no reason you should be using him this week against the league's best secondary.
Start Marqise Lee (vs. Indianapolis): Lee has 11 targets over his last two games, while rookie Dede Westbrook has a combined 16. Is there a number-one wide receiver change happening in Jacksonville? Not necessarily. Two weeks ago, Lee saw McCourty coverage who, as mentioned earlier, has been good this year. And last week, Lee was shadowed by Patrick Peterson. The good news is that top cornerback Rashaan Melvin is out for the Colts in Week 13, giving Lee a plus matchup. He should be able to bounce back.
Sit DeVante Parker (vs. Denver): Even with Aqib Talib suspended, it'd be hard to throw Parker into a lineup. Parker's averaged eight targets per game in contests that he's finished this year, but he hasn't topped 80 yards since Week 2. And he hasn't scored since Week 3. Why? Because he's being out-targeted by Jarvis Landry 13 to 8 in the red zone, and 9 to 4 from within the opponent's 10-yard line. Having Jay Cutler back should help, but I'm not in love this week.
Start Cooper Kupp (at Arizona): Without Robert Woods last week, Kupp ended up seeing a season-high 11 targets, hitting the century mark in the yardage department for the first time all year. In Week 13, he'll be running out of the slot while Sammy Watkins gets shadow treatment from Patrick Peterson. As a result, it wouldn't be shocking at all if he ends up with another double-digit target day.
Start Jared Cook (vs. New York): Perhaps the New York Giants figured out their problem against tight ends last week, as they allowed just 16 yards to Washington tight ends. But probably not, because we have a 10-week sample of them getting absolutely roasted by the position. With Michael Crabtree suspended and Amari Cooper banged up, Jared Cook is a top-notch play against a Giants defense that's still -- even with last week -- allowing by far the most fantasy points per game to the position.
Sit Tyler Kroft (vs. Pittsburgh): Kroft ranked as the ninth-best tight end in PPR formats the last time he faced Pittsburgh, but it was only because he found the end zone. He's actually just one of two tight ends to score against the Steelers this year, and he's one of two tight ends to rank higher than 14th in weekly scoring against them. In other words, the Steelers have been pretty stingy against the position. Averaging fewer than four targets over his last four games, he can find your bench if you have a better option this week.
Start Vernon Davis (at Dallas): Like I just said, Washington's tight ends barely did a thing against the G-Men last week, which was strange considering how great the matchup was. Vernon Davis, despite playing 92% of Washington's snaps while running 28 routes, was held without a catch. And he was targeted just once.
Davis was averaging nearly nine targets per game over his three previous outings before last week, and as a result of this larger sample, I fully expect him to be involved against the Cowboys, who've been a bottom half team against the position this year.
Start the Oakland Raiders (deeper play, vs. New York): The Chargers are an obvious team to play this week at defense, but let's dig a little deeper and look at the Raiders, who'll be facing Geno Smith. The last time Smith started a meaningful football game and ended it was back in 2014 and, that season, he threw an interception in 10 of his 13 starts. He actually averaged a full interception per game. And on top of that, he took over two sacks per contest. Even though the Raiders have the worst secondary according to our metrics, this matchup is pretty juicy for Oakland. They're big home favorites, too, which is something you always want from a streaming D.
Sit the Carolina Panthers (at New Orleans): If you used the Panthers defense last week, you better be thanking the fantasy football gods for the pair of touchdowns they scored, otherwise you were looking at a pretty miserable outing. That type of output may hit this weekend in New Orleans, though, as the Saints are four-point favorites, having allowed just one top-12, usable defensive performance in fantasy football this year.
Other defenses to start: Los Angeles Chargers (vs. Cleveland), Tennessee Titans (deeper play, vs. Houston)
Other defenses to sit: Atlanta Falcons (vs. Minnesota Vikings), Seattle Seahawks (vs. Philadelphia)