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Week 13 NFL Recap: Injuries, Breakout Performers & Game by Game Analysis

As wonky as Week 13 might have been for some fantasy owners, at least there weren’t any major injuries to report. Like always, we’ll be diving into the more minor ailments in the individual games but before we do that here’s one last reminder about the fantasy playoffs.

Start your freakin’ studs. If it seems like I’m beating a dead horse over the last few weeks that’s because I am; it’s intentional. I’ve seen far too many people over thinking their lineups with the hopes of outsmarting their opponents in a win-or-go home scenario. The only person you’re going to outsmart this late is yourself. Stick with whatever brought you this far.

I’d imagine at least 75% of you reading this are playoff-bound so good luck in your quest for a title this year. And remember, don’t say I didn’t warn you about committing to your superstars. Now is not the time to tinker.

Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions

Questionable facemask calls aside, this game actually featured some key fantasy performances that could have easily decided your matchup before Week 13 could even get to Sunday. The final play of the game saw Aaron Rodgers heave a Hail Mary touchdown to tight end Richard Rodgers, giving Green Bay the win. I won’t get into the politics of how bad officiating has been this year but I will say that plays like that are insanely fluky regardless of what the calls on the field are. Richard Rodgers has turned out to be a usable fantasy asset this season, firmly entrenched in that 8-12 range at the tight end position. Sadly, Eddie Lacy was in the doghouse for this game so James Starks got the bulk of the work. I’d have to imagine Lacy gets back to his normal workload against the Packers this week, especially considering his back-to-back outings of 100+ yards prior to being punished.

The only noteworthy player on the Detroit Lions these days is wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Megatron has been turning it on as of late as he reeled in another touchdown in this game. Weeks ago I had claimed that I was a believer in Calvin down the stretch given his favorable schedule and that’s shaping up to be one of my better calls on the year. Other than that, the Lions are a team that’s hard to trust for the fantasy playoffs. I suppose Theo Riddick could be usable out of the backfield in a PPR format but I wouldn’t be in any rush to insert him into my lineup if I have better options.

New York Jets @ New York Giants

The Jets managed to squeak by with an overtime win here while the Giants basically blew this game in more ways than one. Still, you have to give credit where credit is due and the Jets offense continues to be extremely productive when it comes to their receiving tandem of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Marshall had 12 receptions for 131 yards with a touchdown while Decker racked up 101 yards of his own on eight catches. They’re both pretty much matchup proof at this point. Chris Ivory, on the other hand, isn’t really anything more than a low-end RB2 for the fantasy playoffs. He’s tailed off considerably as of late so I’d be nervous utilizing him in a win-or-go-home situation.

As for the Giants, the only player you can rely on a week-to-week basis is wide receiver Odell Beckham. He’s having himself a tremendous year despite of inconsistent play out of Eli Manning. I suppose Eli could be useful in a deeper league although I’d imagine if you’re alive in the fantasy playoffs your team is deep enough to overcome his shortcomings. This backfield remains a mess so it should be avoided at all costs.

Arizona Cardinals @ St. Louis Rams

There were two main takeaways from this game, both of which pertain to the respective team’s running backs. On the Arizona side of the ball, David Johnson filled in nicely for the injured Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington. He ended the day with 22 carries for 99 rushing yards with a receiving touchdown to boot. He’s clearly going to be a usable top-15 RB for the playoff push so if you were lucky enough to grab him this late in the year your team is probably in fairly good shape.

Todd Gurley had another down game here, making it two in a row for the rookie superstar. Given his previous level of production, I can’t imagine that you’re going to bench Gurley for anyone with considerably more upside but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a scenario where it’s possible. As an example, it’s within the realm of possibility that you drafted Adrian Peterson and picked up either some combination of Thomas Rawls, DeAngelo Williams, David Johnson, or Devonta Freeman. If that’s the case, you’re better off playing the matchups and riding the hot hand. Sometimes an embarrassment of riches is a nice problem to have.

Atlanta Falcons @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What on Earth has happened to the Atlanta Falcons? The days of them being undefeated this year feels like a lifetime ago. Virtually everyone not named Julio Jones has been struggling as of late and I’d even go as far as to say that Matt Ryan could have easily cost you a playoff spot. He’s been extremely inconsistent this year, something that’s really uncharacteristic for him. Luckily he’s still been able to get the ball to Julio with consistency so it isn’t all bad in Atlanta. As for Devonta Freeman, his insane numbers from early in the season are kind of impossibly to duplicate although you’d expect more than just 56 yards out of him. With two games within three weeks against the Panthers, Freeman could very well be the odd man out in that Todd Gurley example I mentioned earlier.

The Buccaneers saw the return of Austin-Seferian Jenkins in this game and the tight end had just three receptions for 31 yards. I can’t imagine suddenly scooping ASJ up and throwing him right into your lineup as I’m sure any playoff contender has grabbed a better option off the waiver wire by now. Still, we’ve seen this offense utilize him fairly well earlier in the year so he’s at least worth keeping an eye on. Vincent Jackson led the team in receiving yards while Mike Evans was the one who caught Jameis Winston’s sole touchdown pass. Jackson and Evans are a solid one-two punch that I actually think does more for Winston than anything else. Tampa Bay has enough weapons to make Winston a usable fantasy quarterback sometime in the future. Again, this isn’t a situation you’re likely to find yourself in during the playoffs but Winston should be viewed as a legitimate backup if anything were to happen to your starter.

Seattle Seahawks @ Minnesota Vikings

If you were to ask me who the hottest fantasy quarterback is right now I’d have a difficult time deciding between Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and Ben Roethlisberger. Wilson now has a total of eight passing touchdowns over his last two games, showing that the Seattle offense can air it out when they have to. Not only is the team getting it done via the pass but they’re also still running the ball efficiently as well. Thomas Rawls is looking like an excellent pickup while filling in for Marshawn Lynch. He had 101 yards and a score so it’ll be interesting to see how this backfield splits up once Lynch is able to return. That being said, we likely won’t have to worry about that for fantasy purposes since Beast Mode probably won’t return until the NFL playoffs. Until then, Rawls is locked in as an RB1 regardless of matchup.

Considering the fact that the Vikings were absolutely manhandled at home, there isn’t really all that much to discuss for fantasy purposes. Minnesota couldn’t get anything going offensively as evidenced by Adrian Peterson finishing the day with just 18 yards. This is a case of just an absolute dud of a game for a Minnesota team that can usually compete with the best the NFL has to offer. Stefon Diggs continues to struggle to recapture the big play status he held in the middle of the season but if there’s any positive to be had here it’s that he’s still racking up the targets. He had another six targets in this game, tying with Jerick McKinnon for most on the Vikings this week. Diggs is a boom or bust WR3/flex play that can’t really be trusted during the fantasy playoffs.

Houston Texans @ Buffalo Bills

The Houston Texans are going to live and die offensively by DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins is having himself an incredible year in spite of some shaky quarterback play earlier in the year. Brian Hoyer has actually been solid as of late, or at the very least solid enough to allow Hopkins to keep making ridiculous catches. Other than Hopkins, you’re not starting any Houston Texan unless you absolutely have to. Chris Polk is worth a look on the waiver wire given the fact that he out-touched Alfred Blue 12 to 4 in this game. Regardless of who gets the most carries in Houston this isn’t really a running game I’d be willing to depend on.

LeSean McCoy briefly left this game to be evaluated for a concussion but was able to return after being cleared by doctors. McCoy has been stellar during the second half of the season, adding another 112 yards on 21 carries against Houston. Karlos Williams missed this game so the once high-upside handcuff in Buffalo is looking like a droppable asset if you need help elsewhere. If Williams is able to get cleared in time for the team’s next game, however, McCoy owners should hold onto him as insurance. I know Sammy Watkins exploded once again here but the sad truth to his stat line from Sunday was that he actually only had three catches. If someone came to you and said “hey, Sammy Watkins is only going to catch three passes in this game” would you really have wanted to start him? I wouldn’t think so which is why he’s not someone I believe in from a fantasy standpoint. He’s a tremendous talent but he’s far too inconsistent to rely on.

Baltimore Ravens @ Miami Dolphins

Even in a losing effort this game was all about Baltimore running back Javorious “Buck” Allen. Allen had 17 carries for 63 rushing yards but it was 12 receptions for 107 and a receiving touchdown that stood out the most. When a team’s running back is going to be targeted 13 times you’re going to want to start that particular player regardless of what offense he plays in. The Marc Trestman system has shown us that a running back can rack up catches in bunches and it’s looking like the Ravens have figured out a way to make that work with Allen. Obviously this means he has significantly more value in PPR formats but the yardage counts all the same in standard scoring. He’s a legitimate RB2 in an offense that I would normally avoid like the plague. Allen has managed to prove me wrong on that front.

Do my eyes deceive me or did the Miami Dolphins finally learn their lesson with Lamar Miller? Miller ended up with 20 carries for 113 yards, something that might be coming too little to late for some fantasy owners who might have been on the borderline of playoff contention. Still, it’s nice to see the Dolphins get back to the ground game as the team has struggled to keep Lamar Miller involved. Over the last few seasons Miller’s problem wasn’t so much production related it was the simple fact that for whatever reason Miami refused to give him a heavy workload. It’s not even like they’ve increased Jay Ajayi’s touches by a significant margin either. I’m hoping this is a sign of things to come down the stretch and not just some one off strategy.

Cincinnati Bengals @ Cleveland Browns

Speaking of too little too late, Jeremy Hill of the Cincinnati Bengals racked up 98 yards and a score on 22 carries against the Browns. Granted, the Browns are one of the NFL’s worst run defenses so it’s basically a revolving door of fantasy production in that regard. Nevertheless the Bengals managed to find a useful running game through Hill, something that will be a tougher task against a solid Pittsburgh defense in Week 14. Hill is another player that is entirely dependent on who else it is you have at the position. Your team is likely loaded if you’ve made this far with Hill so just be smart about who it is your starting. Personally, I’d probably sit him against the Steelers before trotting him right back out there the following week in San Francisco.

Travis Benjamin left this game with a shoulder injury but it’s being said that he shouldn’t miss any playing time. Even with that positive report Benjamin is far too much of a high-risk play to put in a playoff lineup. He’s a low-end WR3 that basically needs a touchdown in order to justify starting. Tight end Gary Barnidge rolled his ankle in this game but was able to tough it out just fine. Other than Barnidge and maybe Benjamin if you’re desperate, there’s no Cleveland Browns player that should come close to so much as sniffing your starting roster.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans

Amazingly, this turned out to be one of the week’s highest scoring affairs with the Titans edging out the Jaguars 42 to 39. The major highlights of this game came from the team’s respective starting quarterbacks. Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota broke off an insane 87-yard touchdown run, reinforcing the idea that he can rack up fantasy points with his legs every now and then. Mariota looks like he has the potential to be a legitimate fantasy starter in a year or two so he’s worth considering holding onto in a keeper format. Delanie Walker had another great game here as well, proving he’s a dependable top five tight end. The other interesting takeaway from this game was the big outing from Dorial Green-Beckham. It might have taken an extremely long time for him to turn in a big game but it finally happened on Sunday. He’s one of the more intriguing late season pickups that’s worth a waiver wire add.

Fellow quarterback Blake Bortles threw an impressive five touchdowns here, three of which went to Allen Robinson. It seems like Robinson is having an under-the-radar type of year in which he might very well finish within the top five at the position. His numbers have been impressive all year and he too is looking like a rock solid keeper/dynasty league piece. The other notable Jacksonville receiver, Allen Hurns, missed this game with a concussion but has since been cleared to resume practicing as of Monday. Look for Hurns to step back into being a low-end WR2 upon returning from injury.

San Francisco 49ers @ Chicago Bears

In what could have easily been a blowout of epic proportions the San Francisco 49ers pulled off a huge upset by beating the Bears in Chicago. The Niners managed to edge out a win in overtime yet they still aren’t really providing us with a ton of fantasy production. The only player that’s worth consideration is (surprisingly) running back Shaun Draughn. Draughn is racking up the touches in San Francisco, something that’s certainly worthy of the attention of fantasy owners everywhere. He had 86 all-purpose yards on 18 total touches so he’s looking like a legitimate flex possibility, especially in PPR formats. Other than that, no one on the 49ers is start worthy.

You don’t need me to tell you how great Alshon Jeffery is when healthy despite the inconsistent play from his quarterback Jay Cutler. Instead, let’s focus on two more interesting developments taking place in Chicago. It would appear that the Bears are back to utilizing Matt Forte as their primary back as he out-touched Jeremy Langford in a big way. Forte finished with 26 total touches while Langford had just 14. It’s clear that Langford has earned himself more playing time but it looks like it won’t come at the expense of Matt Forte from a rushing perspective. Forte is back to being the reliable RB1 he was before he went down with an injury. The other bit of news is that Bears tight end Martellus Bennett has been put on injured reserve. That leaves Chicago with Zach Miller on a team that has managed to use the TE fairly well over the years. I wouldn’t bee all that confident in using Miller unless he puts up big numbers right away so I’m more intrigued to see where Bennett ends up next season. He’s all but finished with his run in Chicago.

Denver Broncos @ San Diego Chargers

Now that we know Brock Osweiler is likely to continue starting for the Broncos, we’re left trying to figure out what that means for the team’s other position players. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s even enough clarity just yet. Both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have had a roller coaster of a season so they’re both looking like mid-range WR2s at this point. In terms of the ground game, C.J. Anderson left this game with an ankle injury but the Broncos are saying that Ronnie Hillman will remain the starter regardless of the severity of Anderson’s injury. I take that to mean that they’re done with the hot hand approach and want to get back to using just one back at a time. As simple as that makes it in terms of deciding which RB is worth starting for fantasy purposes, it’s not like Hillman has done a whole lot this year. Barring a miraculous explosion in Week 14 I can’t imagine Anderson being too much higher than the RB15-20 range.

The Chargers were just plain old bad on offense in this game. The team only managed to score three points although Philip Rivers seems to be losing weapons every single week. Both Stevie Johnson and Dontrelle Inman left this game with injuries, leaving Rivers with just Antonio Gates in terms of reliable pass catchers. We’ll have to wait and see if Stevie and Inman are going to miss any time but honestly I’d probably bench Rivers regardless. This offense just can’t really seem to keep anything going for an extended amount of time and the more weapons they lose the worst it’s going to get. I’m not worried about Antonio Gates given his level of talent but I’d probably avoid all other Chargers this late in the year.

Kansas City Chiefs @ Oakland Raiders

Heading into this game the most attractive story line was how the Kansas City backfield would split up between Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware. Ultimately it was West who was given more touches but neither back really did anything with their respective workloads. The Chiefs get an underrated Baltimore run defense next so it might be best to give this another week to sort itself out before committing to one particular running back. Jeremy Maclin managed to score two touchdowns here so perhaps this was a case of game flow with the Chiefs expecting a soft Oakland secondary to yield them points. Maclin also saw 10 targets, a sign that he can be a PPR stud whenever coach Andy Reid decides to air it out.

It was nice to see Latavius Murray have himself a solid outing here, ending the day with 86 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Murray has struggled as of late and with Derek Carr out there heaving it up 48 times it’s difficult to envision Murray having huge performances to close out the season. That being said, he’s still the team’s top RB by a country mile so he’s worth starting regardless of your situation. As I’m sure you’ve heard a hundred times before, a legit starting running back in the NFL has value and that’s exactly what Latavius Murray is; he’ll get all of the touches in Oakland.

Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints

This turned out to be a highly exciting contest that saw Cam Newton light up the New Orleans defense. Five passing touchdowns with 331 passing yards and 10 rushing attempts netted Cam one of his best games of the year. It’s pretty amazing what Newton has been able to do without Carolina’s primary receiver Kelvin Benjamin this year. In fact, I’m actually starting to think Benjamin will end up being over valued upon his return but that’s a different conversation for a different day. Outside of Cam, Jonathan Stewart, and Greg Olsen, you can’t start any other Panthers with confidence so before you ask, no I’m not convinced that Ted Ginn’s two touchdowns are worth buying into.

Brandin Cooks continued his second half breakout here with six receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown. Outside of Cooks and Brees, the rest of the New Orleans offense was rather disappointing. I’m not really a big Benjamin Watson fan since this is a team that spread the ball around pretty thin so if you were lucky enough to benefit from his touchdown, more power to you. Mark Ingram ended his long standing touchdown draught by finding the endzone here and much like Latavius Murray, you have to keep starting him given that he’s the team’s top running back. His 56 yards aren’t all that great but hopefully he’s able to fall into the endzone a few more times before year’s end.

Philadelphia Eagles @ New England Patriots

How about this for an upset? The Philadelphia Eagles pulled off the unthinkable by knocking off the New England Patriots in Foxborough. What’s even more amazing is that Philly managed to win this game through its defense more so than its offense. No one really had a big game offensively for the Eagles with only Jordan Matthews finding the endzone. Matthews is far too inconsistent to rely on as anything more than a WR3 so he too is dependent on who else you have. Interestingly, it was Darren Sproles to had the most rushing attempts for Philadelphia, proving once again that Chip Kelly pretty much does whatever the hell he wants. Sproles is worth an add in all formats considering Ryan Mathews concussion injury and DeMarco Murray’s inconsistent workload to production ratio.

Despite throwing two interceptions in this game Tom Brady still managed to end up with a good fantasy outing. He had 312 yards and three passing touchdowns with one rushing TD to top it off. One of those touchdowns went to running back James White who finished up with a whopping 115 yards on 10 targets. It was only a matter of time before another New England RB entered the fold as far as receptions go so it was only fitting that it was White, the player we expected it to be once Dion Lewis went down. White should be the top waiver wire add of the week in all formats with an increased value in PPR leagues. Tight end Scott Chandler filled in nicely for the injured Rob Gronkowski, reeling in four receptions for 61 yards and a score. For as long as Gronk is out, Chandler will continue to see a plethora of targets so you can count on this level of production for the foreseeable future.

Indianapolis Colts @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Week 13’s Sunday night matchup featured a blowout of epic proportions the Steelers mopping the floor with the Colts in Heinz Field. Basically everyone in a Steelers Jersey had a great fantasy day in this game, Markus Wheaton included. Wheaton should also make the list of interesting waiver wire adds this week, especially as a non-traditional handcuff for Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Both Antonio and Bryant are putting up fantastic numbers while quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is flirting with top QB honors the rest of the way. This is probably the hottest offense in football so you’re essentially starting a Steeler if you have one.

Matt Hasselbeck left this game with an injury although considering how out of hand this game was it’s likely that the Colts didn’t want to risk further injury to their 40-year old backup quarterback. Hasselbeck should be good to go against the Jaguars this week, which should be good news for all of Indy’s key players. Regardless of who is out there under center for Indianapolis, however, this offense has been up-and-down all year so that shouldn’t really change anyway.


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