Fantasy Football: 5 Bold Predictions for Week 13
If you're reading this today, congratulations -- you are obsessed with fantasy football.
Week 12 wasn't the strongest week for this column. Christian McCaffrey did as Christian McCaffrey does and finished the week as the overall RB3 -- quite safely within RB1 status. Nick Chubb came close to the 30 fantasy points we projected for him but was a Kareem Hunt-vultured touchdown away from breaking that mark. Vance McDonald was a virtual no-show in a game that saw Mason Rudolph benched halfway through for Devlin "Duck" Hodges -- catching one pass for a single yard despite playing a team-high 85% of the offensive snaps.
Bo Scarbrough got the workload we were expecting, but a hamstrung Detroit Lions offense couldn't get to the goal line much and had to settle for field goals on most of their scoring chances. Of course, his lost fumble didn't help things either. And lastly, Anthony Miller put up a solid performance, but his 6 catches for 77 yards placed him just outside the top 25 wide receivers. Mitchell Trubisky's first interception came on a deep end zone target that would have put Miller up near the top performers of the week, but ultimately was a low-probability play with Miller in tight coverage.
So we didn't hit on any of our predictions last week, but I have faith in a bounce-back -- here are 5 Bold Predictions for Week 13.
Phillip Lindsay Will be a Top 6 Running Back
It's been clear to pretty much anyone who has watched the Denver Broncos over the past two years that Phillip Lindsay is a better running back than Royce Freeman. It seems the Broncos themselves have finally accepted this themselves -- a report came out a couple weeks ago stating the team was going to rely more on their undrafted free agent sensation than on third-rounder Freeman for the rest of the season. Since that report surfaced, Lindsay has handled 32 touches to Freeman's 13. It's nice when teams are true to their words, isn't it?
The issue is that we haven't really seen the effects of this shift on the stat sheet. The Broncos faced the Minnesota Vikings tough run defense in Week 11, and last week spent pretty much the entire game in a negative game script against the Buffalo Bills. Lindsay has averaged just 62 rushing yards per game since taking over the lead back workload, so it hasn't exactly paid dividends.
That will change this week when the Broncos take on the demoralized Los Angeles Chargers at home. Running backs have been barreling over the Chargers run defense all year, averaging 21.6 fantasy points per game, the eighth-most in the league. This comes in spite of the Bolts playing against some of the worst rushing offenses in the league, including the likes of the Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, and Pittsburgh Steelers, all of whom rank in the bottom 10 in the league in rushing production.
Lindsay himself ran all over this defense back in Week 5, racking up 114 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. He had similar results in 2018 as well, when he ran for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 11 carries. The Broncos have been struggling with Brandon Allen at quarterback and would be wise to lean on Phillip Lindsay in this divisional matchup. Lindsay will leverage his newly-increased opportunities and juicy matchup into a top-six finish at the running back position.
Sammy Watkins will be a WR1
Has there been a more frustrating player in fantasy football this year than Sammy Watkins? His performance in Week 1 was the stuff of legends -- he tore the Jacksonville Jaguars secondary apart, resulting in 198 yards and 3 touchdowns on 9 catches. With Tyreek Hill injuring his clavicle early on in that game, it appeared that Watkins was going to be one of the biggest values in the entire league.
And then...nothing. Despite having ample opportunities, Watkins hasn't scored since Week 1 and has maxed out at 64 yards. Sure, some of that time came while Patrick Mahomes was injured, but most of it came without Hill in the lineup and without very much proven competition for targets or production. If you drafted him -- or even worse, traded for him -- you've probably felt compelled to start him throughout the year. And that just frankly hasn't paid off.
Until now, that is. This week, Watkins and the Kansas City Chiefs get to take on the Oakland Raiders -- the same Raiders team that allowed the New York Jets to get their mojo back last week. The Raiders have given up the fifth-most passing yards in the league to opposing offenses, and have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts.
This sets up as a huge game for Tyreek Hill -- who is expected to play, despite the slight hamstring injury that sidelined him in Week 11 -- but secondary receivers have found a great deal of success against this Oakland defense. Robby Anderson torched them last week, Marquez Valdes-Scantling had one of his only good games of the season against them, the Broncos and Lions each had multiple receivers have great games against the Raiders, and Demarcus Robinson roasted them the last time these teams met. The Raiders will have their hands full with Hill, which should open things up for Watkins underneath.
Sammy Watkins has been brutal for fantasy this year, but you should be able to count on him in Week 13 against a shaky Raiders defense. He'll bounce back to WR1 status for the first time since Week 1.
Sony Michel Will Break 125 Rushing Yards
This season has been pretty, pretty bad for Sony Michel. Actually, that's an understatement -- it's been brutal. The 2018 first-round pick hasn't been able to get anything going all year, looking like he's stuck in mud behind the New England Patriots' banged-up offensive line and struggling to break any tackles at the second level. Per Pro-Football-Reference.com, Michel is averaging a broken tackle once per every 24.9 attempts. For reference, that puts him just ahead of Jamaal Williams (25.3) and the clearly-injured David Johnson (27.3), which is pretty awful considering one of his biggest draws as a prospect was his ability to "rip through arm tackles." He's done anything but rip through tackles this season.
Still, things are shaping up for the second-year back. The Patriots returned left tackle Isaiah Wynn last week and saw immediate dividends from Michel's college teammate -- runs to the left side of the field were highly successful against the Dallas Cowboys, adding positive expected points on 50% of those attempts while averaging 4.6 yards per attempt. The end result was one of Michel's best rushing games of the season.
This week the Pats will take on the Houston Texans, who have been alright against the run this year but have been springing leaks since their Week 10 bye. In the two games since then, they allowed the Baltimore Ravens to rush for a ridiculous 256 yards -- which is fair, considering the Ravens have the best rushing offense in the league by miles -- and another 175 rushing yards to the Indianapolis Colts and their fifth-string running back, Jonathan Williams.
This bodes well for Michel, who has been the Pats' lead back despite his struggles this season. The Patriots have the league's eighth-worst rushing offense according to numberFire's schedule-adjusted Power Rankings, but have still given Michel the eleventh-most carries in the league, with 174. If you could say one nice thing about Michel this season, it's that he's had one of the most reliable workloads in the league.
Things are looking up for the Patriots' offensive line, and that bodes well for Sony Michel. He has yet to break 100 rushing yards even once this season, but that's going to change in Week 13. Michel is going to break out for over 125 rushing yards against the Houston Texans.
Ronald Jones Will be an RB1
Ronald Jones might be one of the best turnaround stories of the season. Jones was historically bad in his rookie season -- he essentially looked like Kalen Ballage has this year, but at least the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were smart enough not to give him much work -- and has spent his sophomore year earning the trust of his coaching staff, which has resulted in him garnering a significant workload.
Despite some boneheaded plays this year -- like his untouched fumble against the Cardinals -- Jones has looked like an entirely different player, and it shows. He broke just 1 tackle on 23 attempts in 2018 while posting a Rushing Success Rate -- the percentage of a back's carries that add positive value to his team's expected points total -- of just 26.09%. In 2019, Jones is averaging a broken tackled every 5.7 attempts, the second-highest mark in the league behind only Alvin Kamara, leads his backfield in Rushing Success Rate with 39.5%, and has become a weapon in the passing game. It's been one of the biggest turnarounds we've seen since Jared Goff's sophomore leap in 2017.
The one thing we haven't really seen from Jones is the long speed he flashed at USC -- Jones was always a threat to take a run to the house in college but has a long run of just 25 yards over the past two years.
He'll have a chance to flash those wheels in Week 13 against the Jacksonville Jaguars terrible run defense. If it weren't for how much of a wreck the Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers run defenses have been this year, we would certainly be talking more about the Jaguars third-worst ranked defense against the run. We saw it last week against the Derrick Henry-led Tennessee Titans, but they've been bleeding yardage to opposing backfields all year. Only the Cincinnati Bengals, Jets, and Broncos have failed to put up more than 90 yards on the ground against this Jags defense, while the last three teams they've faced have each totaled over 200 rushing yards.
Jones has split the backfield work with teammate Peyton Barber all year and has ceded third-down passing work to Dare Ogunbowale, but the Buccaneers should have no problem establishing the run against the Jaguars. Ronald Jones will take advantage of this choice matchup and finish as an RB1.
Jack Doyle Will be a Top 5 Tight End
I distinctly remember agonizing over the Colts' tight end situation this summer, back when we all figured Andrew Luck would be leading this team to another playoff berth. Eric Ebron was a touchdown-machine in 2018, but could barely be found on the field whenever Jack Doyle was healthy. Doyle was one of Luck's favorite targets when things fell apart, but would Ebron's breakout 2018 season skew the targets more heavily in his direction in 2019?
Well, things didn't quite go as planned, and Luck retired shortly before the 2019 season. Jacoby Brissett, his replacement, made the answer to the "Ebron or Doyle?" question pretty simple -- neither. Brissett has performed admirably considering the circumstances, but he's more or less taken the tight ends off the board for fantasy football.
Until this week, that is. Eric Ebron landed on the injured reserve with an ankle injury this week, which should open up a significant number of snaps for Doyle -- Doyle's snaps have hovered in the 60-70% range all season. With star receiver T.Y. Hilton's status in doubt as well, Doyle should have every opportunity to step up and shine against the Titans this week.
The Titans have allowed the 11th-most points to opposing tight ends this season. The Colts tight ends didn't thrive when they faced the Titans earlier this year -- posting a combined 46 yards --, but they did manage to score a touchdown in that one. Fortunately, that's pretty much enough to guarantee a top finish at the tight end position if it were all consolidated into one player. Jack Doyle will reap the benefits of being the only healthy option in the receiving game in this one and finish as a top-five tight end.