Fantasy Football Start, Sit, Stream, or Fade: Week 13
2020 has been a year of chaos and discombobulation -- whatever the norm was, it's long been thrown out the window. However, despite all the pandemonium, the one thing that's bound to be a constant is the need to make fantasy football lineup decisions.
Imagine spending months searching for a vacation destination, finally finding one, and having absolutely no plan for when you arrive -- that would be all of us after weeks and months of researching for drafts and then not having a plan of action for when the season actually arrives.
If you had a good draft, you should have some tough lineup decisions to make on a weekly basis. If you don't have any tough lineup decisions, there's a good chance that your bench is thinner than LeBron James' hairline. The goal of this piece is to assist with some of those decisions.
Of course, leagues come in all shapes and sizes, so it's near impossible to tackle every start-or-sit scenario. A must-start for one team could be a bench option in another league.
With all that being said, we're here to help at numberFire! This column will try to highlight some of those tough lineup decisions you have to make every week, and will, hopefully, be able to sway you in one direction or another. In this piece, we'll be utilizing our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric (i.e., the expected points added on any given play), read more about it here.
Without further ado, let's get onto the best and worst plays of the week. We'll break down players into four categories:
Start: These players are good starts in any format unless you have one of the elites.
Stream: These will be players with either good matchups or higher-than-usual projected volume that can be streaming options in many formats.
Fade: This category will be reserved for higher-end fantasy studs who find themselves in a bad spot on that given week. Fade these players in DFS or if you have a loaded roster, but don't get too cute.
Sit: This category will feature players that should ride the pine unless you truly have no better options.
Let's get to it!
(When I reference fantasy points allowed, it is Yahoo settings for quarterbacks and half-PPR for the other positions.)
Ryan Tannehill (vs. Cleveland) - While the Cleveland Browns "only" rank as the 10th-worst team in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, our models have them 3rd-worst in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. This season, four passers have already posted at least 24.5 fantasy points against them, and with the Tennessee Titans having a 29.75 implied total, Tannehill could easily make it a fifth. The 32-year-old has posted 19 or more fantasy points seven times this season, suggesting that he's got a really solid floor. Tannehill is a QB1 in Week 13.
Kirk Cousins (vs. Jacksonville) - Speaking of implied totals, the Minnesota Vikings currently sit at 31.5 -- second-highest on the entire slate. Our models have the Jacksonville Jaguars as the sixth-worst adjusted defense, and they've allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing signal-callers. In fact, Jacksonville has ceded at least 18.4 fantasy points to the position seven times and more than 24 on six occasions. Meanwhile, Cousins has exceeded 18 fantasy points in five of his last six outings, and he's exceeded 20 in four of those six. Like Tannehill, Cousins is a back-end QB1 for this matchup.
Jared Goff (at Arizona) - Goff's floor is scary as hell, but there are very few streamers (if any) who come without risk. While the Arizona Cardinals have the 13th-best adjusted pass defense, they have allowed the 16th-most fantasy points to the position. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the Cards have given up the ninth-most opportunities (passes plus rush attempts) to quarterbacks. Volume usually equates to fantasy success. Four of the last five signal-callers to go up against Arizona have topped 20 fantasy points, and they've surrendered at least 18.5 seven times. In fact, the only quarterbacks who failed to reach 18.5 were Dwayne Haskins, Joe Flacco, Andy Dalton, and, most recently, Cam Newton. I'm not suggesting you put a ton of stock into this stat, but it is worth keeping in mind -- Goff is averaging 21.5 fantasy on the road this season versus just 11.1 at home.
Philip Rivers (at Houston) - I'll admit it -- the thought of starting Rivers on my fantasy squad doesn't excite me in the slightest, but this could be a week where it's worth it. The Houston Texans currently have the fifth-worst adjusted pass defense, and they've allowed passers to exceed 19 fantasy points in five of their last seven. At the same time, Rivers has recorded at least 19.8 in four of his last six contests -- that'll play. If you're in need of a somewhat-safe, but low-upside streamer, Rivers could be your guy.
Kyler Murray (vs. LAR) - Fading fantasy's QB1? Sure, why not. There are a number of things working against last year's first overall pick in this matchup. First, there's the matchup itself -- the Los Angeles Rams have yielded the fewest fantasy points per game to the quarterback position. Only to signal-callers have topped 17.6 against this defense, and each of Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, and Tom Brady all scored 17.6 or fewer. Second, there's the fact that Murray hasn't looked like himself over the last couple of weeks. After posted at least 24.7 fantasy points in each of his first nine games, Murray has posted just 20.3 and 8.9 in his last two. In two matchups with the Rams last season, Murray managed just 14.3 and 15.0.
Cam Newton (at LAC) - Suggesting Cam as a sit is always risky because he can drop a top-five performance on a whim, but this might not be the week where that happens. While the Los Angeles Chargers have ceded the seventh-most fantasy points to the position, they haven't allowed more than 16.5 to a passer since Week 8. Meanwhile, Cam has posted 19.2 or less in seven of his last eight outings and fewer than 17 in five of those. In other words, over the last couple of months, we've seen Cam's floor far more often than his ceiling.
Carson Wentz (at Green Bay) - I've had Wentz in the start or stream sections a number of times this season, but not this week. Right now, Wentz looks like a cross between Mitchell Trubisky and Nathan Peterman -- and that's putting it kindly. Wentz has had fewer than 17 fantasy points in three of his last four, and the only thing that saved him last week was a last-minute, garbage time hail mary. This week, Wentz will go up against a Green Bay Packers defense that's surrendering the seventh-fewest fantasy points and sixth-fewest opportunities to quarterbacks. At the freezing confines of Lambeau Field, Green Bay has yielded an average of just 14.7 fantasy points. Avoid Wentz in what should be the slowest-paced game on the slate.
David Montgomery (vs. Detroit) - This is a rather easy one. The Detroit Lions rank as the sixth-worst adjusted run defense, and they've allowed the most fantasy points and third-most touches to the running back position. This season, a whopping 12 backs have totaled at least 13.3 half-PPR points, with 9 of them exceeding 17.5. Meanwhile, Montgomery has seen a snap share of at least 80% in each of his last six healthy games, and he's averaging 18.9 opportunities (carries plus targets) per contest this season. Consider the 23-year-old an RB1 this week.
Jonathan Taylor (at Houston) - Just like the Lions, the Texans have been a matchup to attack from nearly any position, but that's especially the case with running backs. On the season, Houston ranks 10th-worst in adjusted run defense, and they've surrendered the 2nd-most fantasy points and most touches to opposing backfields. Of the 15 runners to rack up at least 10 touches against this defense, 13 have scored 11.3 or more fantasy points. That's good news for Taylor, who has been given 13 or more touches in 8 of his 10 games this season.
Damien Harris (at LAC) - Fantasy managers might have nightmares from Harris' 4.7-point output in Week 12, but I'd advise rolling with the youngster again in Week 13. Ten running backs have garnered at double-digit carries against Los Angeles this season, and nine of them posted at least 10 fantasy points. Overall, those 10 backs have averaged 15.1 half-PPR points. Meanwhile, Harris has received at least 10 carries in seven of his eight outings this season, and he's recorded at least 11.4 half-PPR points in three of his last five. Based on their pace in the last five weeks, this matchup should be the second-fastest-paced game on the Week 13 slate. Look for Harris to take advantage.
Melvin Gordon (at Kansas City) - The Kansas City Chiefs have their strengths and weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball, but defending the run is certainly not one of their strong suits. According to our metrics, the Chiefs have the worst adjusted run defense, and they've yielded the 12th-most fantasy points and 11th-most touches to opposing backfields. Meanwhile, Gordon recorded 15 half-PPR points in the first matchup between these two squads this season, and he possesses a similar, if not higher, ceiling this week. On the season, nine backs have seen more than 10 carries against the Champs, and those backs posted an average of 16.1 half-PPR points. Gordon has been tasked with more than 10 carries in 7 of his 10 outings in 2020.
Alvin Kamara (at Atlanta) - You could probably see this coming from a mile away, but yes, I am fading Kamara. This season, no team surrenders fewer points to running backs on the ground than the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons are ceding the sixth-most fantasy points to the position through the air, but Kamara has seen just three targets in the two games with Taysom Hill starting behind center. The days of Kamara being a surefire high-end RB1 are gone while Hill is leading this team.
Cam Akers (at Arizona) - You might've picked up Akers after his impressive fantasy outing in Week 12, but plugging him into your lineup this week is not something I'd recommend. First off, Akers saw just 27% of the snaps in that game -- not great, Bob! Secondly, the Cards have ceded the 13th-fewest fantasy points to the running back position. Only four backs have reached double-digit fantasy points against Arizona since Week 4, and of those four, three of them took at least 16 touches to get there. It's extremely hard to imagine any player in this backfield getting that kind of volume.
J.D. McKissic (at Pittsburgh) - For the second straight week, McKissic is featured in this spot. This week, the Washington Football Team will take on the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team surrendering the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs on the season. In 2020, Pittsburgh is ceding an average of 4.5 half-PPR points to backs through the air, good for second-fewest in the league. McKissic, who played a season-low 41% of snaps last week, could see his snap share and touches continue to dwindle.
Jarvis Landry (at Tennessee) - Last week's WR3 is in an excellent spot once again this week. First, there's the fact that the Browns are six-point underdogs in a game with a 53.5 total -- that should result in plenty of pass attempts. Second, there's the matchup, which is just delicious. To date, Tennessee has yielded the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts. They've also been particularly vulnerable to the slot. The Titans have allowed 27 half-PPR points to Justin Jefferson, 16.6 to Tyler Boyd, 14.8 to Keelan Cole, 13.0 to JuJu Smith-Schuster, and even 9.2 to Randall Cobb. Landry, who had 11 targets in Week 12, should be a great start this week.
DeVante Parker (vs. Cincinnati) - This one is largely dependent on whether Ryan Fitzpatrick or Tua Tagovailoa gets the start behind center for the Miami Dolphins. If it's Fitz, you should insert Parker into your lineups with confidence. In 2020, the Cincinnati Bengals have surrendered the 12th-most fantasy points to wide receivers, and that includes nine wideouts who have totaled at least 14 half-PPR points. In his last 11 games without Preston Williams in the lineup, Parker is averaging 9.6 targets and 15.2 fantasy points. Keep in mind, most of those came with Fitzmagic throwing him the ball. Parker is comfortably in WR2 territory if Fitz is the guy.
Corey Davis (vs. Cleveland) - If you exclude Week 9's goose-egg, Davis has scored at least 8.5 half-PPR points in every game he's played in this season. That includes scoring more than 11 fantasy points in five of his nine games. That's really solid consistency. This week, Davis gets a matchup that should tickle his fancy. So far in 2020, the Browns have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts. Sixteen receivers have totaled at least 9.9 half-PPR points against Cleveland, and 10 of those exceeded 14. Davis is an excellent flex option as you fight for a playoff spot.
Nelson Agholor (at NYJ) - The Las Vegas Raiders had a game to forget in Week 12, but they're in a dream bounce-back spot in Week 13. Going up against the New York Jets, Las Vegas will have a chance to work out their kinks on both sides of the ball during a live game. What more could you ask for? Even in last week's shitfest, Agholor still managed six targets and 7.9 half-PPR points. Believe me -- if you watched the Raiders' offense in that game, you'd be impressed by that output. It was the third time in his last six games that Agholor had garnered at least six looks, and he's also scored 12.4-plus fantasy points in five of his last eight. Meanwhile, the Jets have allowed at least that many points to a whopping 13 wideouts this season. Throw Agholor in your flex spot and reap the rewards.
DeAndre Hopkins (vs. LAR) - Those who drafted Hopkins have likely not enjoyed the rollercoaster that he's brought to their fantasy teams, and they might not be any happier following Week 13's bout with the Rams. On the season, no team has yielded fewer fantasy points per game than the Rams, who boast one of the league's premier lockdown corners in Jalen Ramsey. All wideouts not named Deebo Samuel have totaled fewer than 15 half-PPR points against this secondary. That doesn't bode well for Hopkins, who has recorded 8.3 or fewer fantasy points in five of his last eight outings.
CeeDee Lamb (at Baltimore) - On a per-target basis, only three teams have surrendered fewer fantasy points to receivers lined up in the slot than the Baltimore Ravens. That's not good news for Lamb, who was just held to 4.6 fantasy points against a Washington team that's similarly tough on slot receivers. In fact, Lamb has now scored 6.6 or fewer fantasy points in three of his last five games. Meanwhile, as a whole, the Ravens have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.
Marvin Jones (at Chicago) - Jones was in the same spot in Week 1 (no Kenny Golladay and going up against Chicago) and managed just 7.5 half-PPR points. That would be the first of eight games with fewer than eight fantasy points for Jones so far this season. The Bears haven't become an easier matchup for wideouts since. On the contrary, Chicago is surrendering the third-fewest fantasy points to receivers this season. You're better off with Jones on your bench in Week 13.
Mike Gesicki (vs. Cincinnati) - As is the case with DeVante Parker, Gesicki's outlook is dependent on whether Fitzmagic or Tua gets the start at quarterback. If it's the veteran, feel free to fire up Gesicki as a mid-level TE1. On the season, the Bengals are tied for the second-most fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends. Eight tight ends have totaled at least nine fantasy points against Cincy this season, and four of those topped 14 half-PPR points. Just for reference, nine half-PPR points would have been a TE1 performance in 7 of the last 10 weeks. Gesicki, meanwhile, has seen five or more looks in three straight, and he's scored eight or more points in four of his seven games with Fitzpatrick at quarterback.
Jonnu Smith (vs. Cleveland) - Jonnu is as touchdown-dependent as they come, and there's a good chance he finds paydirt this week. The Browns, who have ceded the fourth-most fantasy points to the position, have allowed four tuddies to tight ends over their last three games. Meanwhile, Smith has eight scores on the season, and he's recorded at least 8.5 fantasy points in 7 of his 11 outings.
Jordan Akins (vs. Indianapolis) - Akins is not listed here because of his matchup. In fact, the Colts have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends -- just one tight end has scored more than 10 half-PPR points against Indy. No, Akins is listed here because of the workload that might be coming his way. Between Will Fuller, Randall Cobb, and Kenny Stills, more than 13 targets per game are opening in this Texans offense. Akins should absorb at least some of those. In his six career games where he's seen five or more targets, Akins has posted an average of 9.6 half-PPR points. That'll play.
Hunter Henry (vs. New England) - Henry has been solid, especially as of late -- he's posted 11.0, 12.8, and 10.2 half-PPR points in his last three games. However, there's reason to be skeptical that he can produce a viable performance this week. In 2020, the New England Patriots have given up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends, and it's not just empty stats -- New England has held Darren Waller to 1.9 half-PPR points, Travis Kelce to 8.5, and Mark Andrews to 9.6. In fact, no tight end has scored more than 10.8 against the Pats this season.
Hayden Hurst (vs. New Orleans) - Despite Julio Jones' possible absence, I'm not in any rush to insert Hurst into my lineups. The Saints have allowed more than 8.7 half-PPR points to just one tight end since Week 3, and when he faced them in Week 11, Hurst posted zero fantasy points. Zilch. Nada. In fact, on the season, Hurst has totaled double-digit half-PPR points just twice. I'm keeping him on my bench.