Fantasy Football Matchup Upgrades and Downgrades: Week 13

A Super Bowl MVP enters startable range, press pause on the Seahawks running back changing of the guard, and which New York Giants pass-catchers can have a good game this week?

I'm not here to tell you if and when Christian McCaffrey and Michael Thomas have good or bad matchups, because you're starting them each and every week. While it's good to know the strength of matchups for all of your players, it's much more valuable in relation to the fringe starters and high-end bench players than it is for your studs. Matchups should be one of the final components in making roster decisions, whether drafting for season-long strength of schedule or making a start/sit decision. It's a piece of the puzzle, but it should not be a primary consideration.

This series looks at borderline start/sit players and identifies particularly good or bad matchups that could influence those decisions. These are not specifically start/sit recommendations, as the alternative options are always relevant. This advice needs context, but it can be used to upgrade or downgrade players in your weekly rankings.

For Week 13, I will be using players near the start/sit cutoff in the FantasyPros Expert Consensus Rankings and comparing them to numberFire's weekly rankings (both half-PPR). The start/sit cutoffs assume 12 teams, starting 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 3 wide receivers, 1 tight end, and 1 flex. With that established, let's look at some borderline options with significant upgrades and downgrades.


Good matchup: Nick Foles (vs. TB) - It's time for the Super Bowl MVP to be inserted into some fantasy football starting lineups. Foles has been pretty mediocre since returning from injury, at least in fantasy terms. However, he gets to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home this week, and the Bucs are allowing the second-most passing yards and the second-most passing touchdowns this season. They also have just seven interceptions, which is tied for seventh-lowest. Foles isn't particularly mobile, but even without running, he should have no problem posting a very usable week in fantasy terms just through the air.

Bad matchup: Josh Allen (at DAL) - Allen has bullied his way into a decent floor in fantasy football by adding with his legs -- he's unafraid to take hits for extra yards and risk his body near the goal line for rushing scores, all of which is great for fantasy purposes. However, Allen has faced one of the easiest schedules of passing defenses in the league so far this year, and that changes dramatically on Thanksgiving day with the Dallas Cowboys. Dallas is allowing just 6.7 yards per pass attempt, which is fifth-lowest in the league. They are also allowing the sixth-fewest total passing yards and passing touchdowns this season. Allen will likely need a monster day rushing in order to pay off this week, as he has not been a reliable passer this year (or ever, really).

Running Back

Good matchup: Miles Sanders (at MIA) - Don't overthink this one. Sanders has logged over 80% of the snaps in two straight games and has at least 15 opportunities (carries plus targets) in both games. With Jordan Howard still limited to individual drills early in the week, Sanders should be in line for a lead back role against the Miami Dolphins. Need I say more? I will anyway. The Dolphins are allowing the second-most rushing yards in the NFL this year and have allowed 11 rushing scores, ranking among the ten worst teams in the league. The Fins are also surrendering 4.7 yards per carry, a bottom-ten mark. Sanders should have a nice day with 12-15 carries (and maybe more if the Philadelphia Eagles lead early) plus a few targets. He's a sure-fire start in fantasy if Howard is inactive again.

Bad matchup: Rashaad Penny (vs. MIN) - Few things in life would make me happier than a Rashaad Penny full-blown breakout. However, even though he was worth emptying the FAAB bank for, temper expectations this week. The Minnesota Vikings have been stout against the run all year, allowing under 100 rushing yards per game (sixth-lowest) and just three rushing scores (league-best). Their 4.1 yards per carry mark is just under the league average, but the Vikings also rank top-three in preventing targets and receiving yards to opposing running backs, so Penny is going to need a long run on a broken play or a short touchdown plunge to pay off.

Wide Receiver

Good matchup: Chris Conley (vs. TB) - Would you believe that Conley has five straight games with at least seven targets? In his last two contests (with Nick Foles under center), Conley has eight and nine targets, which haven't materialized into enough to make him a hot waiver pickup or sneaky start. However, add that volume to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers matchup and Conley is in a great spot this week. The Bucs are second-worst in passing yards and touchdowns allowed this season, and a good chunk of that is attributed to opposing wide receivers, including a massive 18 touchdowns allowed to wideouts, just one off the league lead. Conley's target volume should finally pay off this week.

Bad matchup: Sterling Shepard (vs. GB) - Shepard returned from injury to the tune of nine targets last week against the Chicago Bears. This week, Shepard and company play host to the Green Bay Packers, who are allowing a fair amount of passing production overall, but locking down the defense in the red zone. The Packers have allowed more yards than average, but just 14 scores through the air (top-ten in the league). What's worse for Shepard is that the Packers are especially adept at limiting wide receivers against them. Opposing teams are targeting wide receivers against the Packers at the second-lowest rate in the league, and the Packers have allowed a below average share of yardage and just seven touchdowns to wideouts this year. It appears Evan Engram is on track to return at the perfect time.

Tight End

The tight end position remains brutal, so if you have a reliable option, start him. There are six must-starts this week, and then TE7 through TE20's projections are separated by two points. If you start any of the streaming options, just hope he falls into the end zone. There are a few priority streamers this week including Gerald Everett (the Arizona Cardinals are the worst team at defending tight ends in every way possible), Jacob Hollister (27.23% of pass attempts against the Minnesota Vikings are to the tight end, second-highest rate in the league), and Kyle Rudolph (the Seattle Seahawks are top five in share of receiving yards allowed to tight ends at almost 24%). Otherwise, don't overthink it, as there are not enough reliable options at the position.