Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 13
There was a study done in 2011 that looked at the factors that impacted whether or not a judge approved a criminal for parole. The study looked at over 1,100 rulings, and when most would think the type of crime, or perhaps the degree of the crime, would influence a judge's parole stance, the biggest factor that impacted the decision was...time of day.
Criminals seeking a release from jail who saw the judge early in the day had roughly a 65% chance of having it approved, while that number dropped steadily as the day went on.
What the study revealed is what's referred to as decision fatigue, a notion in psychology that refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long decision-making period.
Essentially, we lose willpower when we make a ton of decisions throughout a day. And eventually, all of those decisions lead to you making the easiest choices, rather than the smartest ones.
So this week, instead of mulling over a start/sit choice during one of the most important weeks of the fantasy season, let me help. Let me make the decisions for you, so that you can be smarter.
See how nice of a person I am? (I promise I'm writing this column to help your decision fatigue, and not because it's my actual job to write this article. I promise.)
Quarterbacks to Sit
Philip Rivers (vs. Denver): Only Tom Brady and Andrew Luck have been able to produce top-15 numbers against Denver this season. Meanwhile, Philip Rivers is dealing with injuries at receiver and offensive line. Yes, Rivers performed well last week against Jacksonville, but the Jags also rank 29th against the pass according to our schedule-adjusted metrics. Denver is first. Starting Rivers is just not a necessary risk given all the good streaming options this week.
Tyrod Taylor (vs. Houston): Houston ranks 13th in fantasy points against to the quarterback position, but quarterbacks only really played well against them earlier in the year. You know, before the defense decided to be good at football.
The truth is, over their last four games, no quarterback has scored more than 16 fantasy points against Houston, while Zach Mettenberger, Andy Dalton and Drew Brees failed to even hit the double-digit mark. Houston's playing just as well as anyone right now defensively, so trotting Taylor out in your lineup isn't all that safe.
Start These Quarterbacks Instead
Ryan Fitzpatrick (at New York): Fitzpatrick's floor has been great this season, as he's never scored fewer than 13 fantasy points in a single game. But his ceiling could look nice this week, too, against a Giants' secondary that's allowed 18 or more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in each of their last four games. They've also surrendered at least 227 passing yards and one touchdown (including rushing) per contest. We shouldn't expect another four-touchdown performance from The Beard, but he does have top-five upside once again this week.
Alex Smith (at Oakland): Like Fitzpatrick, Alex Smith is all about that floor, homie. The only time Smith scored fewer than 13 fantasy points was against the aforementioned Denver Broncos, so it's easy to give him a pass there. Otherwise, he's been fine, providing safety both in real life and in fantasy football.
The Raiders aren't a tough opponent for quarterbacks, as they've allowed 17 or more fantasy points to every quarterback they've faced not named Teddy Bridgewater or Peyton Manning. Bridgewater has been a fantasy football disaster, and Manning isn't even the starter of his team anymore. Yes, please.
Running Backs to Sit
Frank Gore (at Pittsburgh): Head coach Chuck Pagano said Frank Gore is "beat to crap". That tells me that he's not 100%. And the numbers back this notion up -- over the last two weeks, Gore's run the ball 33 times for just 58 yards.
This week, he'll get a Pittsburgh rush defense that's allowed the fewest amount of fantasy points to opposing running backs this season. The unit also ranks first against the run according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics. The Colts will look to air it out against a porous Steeler secondary, which doesn't help Gore -- who needs opportunity to succeed in fantasy thanks to his inefficiency -- with volume.
Latavius Murray (vs. Kansas City): After starting the season hot, Latavius Murray has really struggled in fantasy, topping 13 full PPR points just once since Week 3. He's seeing volume, sure, but he's not converting that to much fantasy success. Against Kansas City, a squad that ranks fourth against the run according to our numbers, he's an easy sit in shallower leagues this week.
Start These Running Backs Instead
C.J. Anderson (at San Diego): Whether this is a simple narrative or not, Anderson really may be back. With Brock Osweiler under center, you now have a quarterback fit for the Gary Kubiak offense. And if you recall, it was this offense that got people excited about Anderson's potential entering the season.
There's no doubt that he's outperformed Ronnie Hillman since the quarterback change, and the hope -- for fantasy owners, at least -- is that he sees a larger share of the workload moving forward for Denver. Even at his 10 to 15 carry pace, he should still be able to produce against a Chargers rush defense that has given up the most fantasy points to running backs this season.
Jonathan Stewart (at New Orleans): We all know the Saints can't stop the pass, but they can't stop the run, either -- according to our numbers, the Saints rank 25th against the run. They've been especially bad of late, having surrendered three top-15 running back performances (PPR) over their last two games. The upside is there, too, as the Saints have given up four top-five weekly PPR games to backs this season. While everyone will be pumped for Cam Newton against this secondary -- and rightfully so -- make sure you don't forget about J-Stew.
Javorius Allen (at Miami): Allen had a nice 18.4 PPR point outing against the horrible Browns rush defense last week, and while the matchup isn't as good in Week 13, it's still a plus one. Vegas sees this game as a fairly low-scoring one, but Miami isn't a huge favorite, meaning Allen should be involved throughout. And it's not as though he'll get game scripted out -- he saw five targets out of the backfield this past week, which is significant at the running back position.
Wide Receivers to Sit
Steve Johnson (vs. Denver): If I'm not into Rivers this week, I'm more than likely not into his pass-catchers, right? Denver has been insane against opposing wide receivers this season, having allowed just one touchdown and two top-20 PPR performances all freaking season long. Johnson, as a result, should be on your bench this week.
Vincent Jackson (vs. Atlanta): Atlanta doesn't rank well against the pass according to our numbers, but they've been strong enough against opposing wide receivers to make you question starting a guy like VJax. The Falcons have allowed just five top-20 PPR performances all year, and those wide receivers saw 22, 12, 13, 10 and 8 targets. That type of volume isn't close to guaranteed for Jackson, who's seen more than six targets just three times in eight games this year. That makes him a risky play.
Start These Wide Receivers Instead
Donte Moncrief (at Pittsburgh): The Steelers are back to their old terrible-at-stopping-the-pass ways, having allowed 300 or more passing yards in each of their last three games. Though Matt Hasselbeck doesn't seem like a formidable opponent at quarterback, he's been effective this year, ranking sixth in the NFL in Passing NEP per drop back. That efficiency matched with Moncrief's 7.54 targets per game average against this now-miserable secondary should make fantasy owners excited about the passing attack this weekend.
Brandon LaFell (vs. Philadelphia): The Eagles have now allowed 10 touchdown passes over their last two games. 10. One-zero.
Top wideouts against the Eagles have generally torched Byron Maxwell, and 10 -- hey, there's that number again -- wideouts have ranked as WR1s (top 12) in a given week against Philly this year. That's nearly one per week. And that makes LaFell, who's seeing over seven targets per game since returning from injury, a great play.
DeVante Parker (vs. Baltimore): With Rishard Matthews out for nearly the whole game last week, Parker stepped up and played over 80% of the Dolphins' snaps. In turn, the rook turned 10 targets into 4 catches for 80 yards and a score. With Matthews out again this week and Parker getting the start, there's a chance -- especially against a Ravens team that's allowed the third most points to wideouts this year -- Parker has a breakout day.
Tight Ends to Sit
Jason Witten (at Washington): It's been tough to trust Jason Witten this year, and it's even harder to plug him into your lineup with Matt Cassel under center. When the matchup is tough like this one against Washington, a team that's allowed the sixth fewest fantasy points to tight ends this year, he's an obvious bench.
Start These Tight Ends Instead
Kyle Rudolph (vs. Seattle): Seattle can stop wide receivers better than almost any other team, but they tend to give up big games to tight ends. If you recall last week, Heath Miller left the contest against Seattle with a rib injury in the third quarter, but he was on pace for nine targets and about seven catches. In PPR leagues, Seattle has now allowed eight top-15 tight end performances, making them one of the worst teams at defending the position. Rudolph, meanwhile, has seen 19 targets over his last two games. The Vikings will surely try and get him involved this week.
Julius Thomas (at Tennessee): That Jags have really gotten Julius Thomas involved over the last two weeks, pelting him with 18 targets. And now Allen Hurns is unlikely to suit up on Sunday, which makes Thomas' potential volume even more attractive. Add in the fact that the matchup isn't bad against Tennessee and that he scored against them just a couple of weeks ago, and you've got yourself a great tight end option this week.
Defenses to Sit
St. Louis Rams (vs. Arizona): It's true that St. Louis had a good outing against Arizona earlier in the season, but this Rams defense looks completely different than it did then. Over the last four weeks, the unit has ranked no higher than 15th in weekly defensive scoring, despite facing Minnesota, Chicago and Baltimore. It's tough to really get behind them against one of the best offenses in football this week.
Other defenses to sit: Kansas City Chiefs (at Oakland), Indianapolis Colts (at Pittsburgh)
Start These Defenses Instead
Washington Redskins (vs. Dallas): In Matt Cassel's four starts this season, opposing defensive units ranked 3rd, 17th, 3rd and 7th in weekly scoring against the Cowboys. Three of these teams were able to pick Cassel off, while each recorded a sack. It's not rocket science -- the Redskins are at home against Cassel in a low-scoring game, per Vegas, where they're favored. That's the perfect recipe for a streaming defense.
Other defenses to start: Chicago Bears (vs. San Francisco), Miami Dolphins (vs. Baltimore)