Start ’em sit ’em for NFL Week 13

Sit and start is relative and league dependent, so consider some of these suggestions more “fliers” and “fades” (note that some are targeted for DFS).

Good luck with your Week 13 lineups.

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions

Start in DFS: Alexander Mattison ($18), Jamaal Williams ($16)

While he may cede some work to Kene Nwangu (a super sleeper worth stashing in deeper leagues who’s 98 percent available), Mattison should act as Minnesota’s new feature back with Dalvin Cook sidelined. Mattison has averaged 162 yards from scrimmage over two starts this season, including an earlier season matchup against these Lions in which he finished as fantasy’s RB6 that week. Detroit has been shredded by fantasy backs all season and Mattison has been a top-seven fantasy RB in three of his four career starts, so he’s tough to fade in DFS at this salary.

With D’Andre Swift out, Williams is looking at a workhorse role against a Minnesota run defense that ranks 29th in DVOA while allowing the most YPC (4.8) and the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs. I have Williams as a top-12 RB this week, so he’s another intriguing bargain in DFS.

Arizona Cardinals @ Chicago Bears

Start: Cardinals D/ST, Darnell Mooney

The Cardinals enter rested off their bye and will be facing either an injured Justin Fields coming off limited practice or Andy Dalton (without Allen Robinson). Arizona getting healthier on offense should lead to a favorable game-script as well.

Mooney has broken 120 receiving yards in each of his last two games and looks like a must-start in fantasy moving forward even when Allen Robinson returns and regardless of who starts at quarterback for Chicago. The Bears are touchdown+ underdogs and face an Arizona defense allowing the fewest fantasy points to tight ends, so plenty of volume should go Mooney’s way Sunday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons

Start: All Bucs, Kyle Pitts

Tampa Bay’s offense has performed better at home this season, but Sunday is a favorable matchup indoors versus a bottom-five defense in a game that projects to be fast-paced. Leonard Fournette has become a weekly top-five fantasy back, while Chris Godwin ($26) and Mike Evans ($28) deserve DFS consideration as good bets to bounce back after the Bucs saw their running backs score all five touchdowns last week and with Antonio Brown still out. Tom Brady’s career Passer Rating goes from 88.9 to 102.9 when Rob Gronkowski plays (and his YPA increases from 6.9 to 7.8), and the veteran tight end looks as healthy as he gets right now. The Falcons have allowed the eighth-most (or worse) fantasy points to QBs, RBs and WRs this season.

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It’s understandable if fantasy managers are frustrated enough to consider benching Pitts at this point, but the Falcons are going to be throwing far more than usual this week. Stick with Pitts.

Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans

Start in DFS: Jonathan Taylor ($41)

Start: Brevin Jordan

Taylor fell just three yards short of becoming the first player in NFL history to record 100+ yards from scrimmage with a touchdown in nine straight games, yet he still finished as fantasy’s RB8 last week even while “disappointing” in a tough matchup (and in a game that saw the Colts lose three fumbles and give up 38 points). In other words, Taylor is a fantasy machine right now, and this week he gets a run-funnel Texans defense that’s been surprisingly effective versus the pass but among the league leaders in fantasy points allowed to running backs. Taylor is easily fantasy’s No. 1 player right now, has scored nine touchdowns over five road games this season and is tough to fade in DFS this week, in what the kids call a “smash spot.” 

If you’re looking for a catatonic-level sleeper this week, Brevin Jordan has emerged as Houston’s top tight end, and the Colts have been the most favorable defense to the position when adjusting for opponents this season. With the Texans unlikely to run the ball with any success at all, and Brandin Cooks missing practice this week, Jordan is a flier looking at sneaky volume against a defense especially vulnerable to tight ends.

Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Jets

Start: Miles Sanders

Sit: All Jets but Elijah Moore

Sanders is coming off a frustrating fantasy game but got 7.1 YPC before leaving with a sprained ankle. Not only is he back practicing fully this week, but Boston Scott has missed multiple practices while dealing with an illness. Jordan Howard remains out, while Jalen Hurts will be compromised by his sprained ankle if he plays at all, so Sanders could easily be the center of Philadelphia’s offense Sunday. The Eagles get a Jets defense that ranks last in DVOA and has allowed nearly five fantasy points per game more than the second-worst team this season.

Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (26)

There’ve been signs of hope for Miles Sanders lately. (Brad Penner/AP Images for Panini)

The Jets are averaging almost a dozen fewer plays when Zach Wilson starts, and Philadelphia’s zone-heavy scheme may not be ideal, but the exciting rookie wideout should see good volume with Keelan Cole and Corey Davis both unlikely to play. Moore has been too impressive to sit in fantasy leagues with so many projected targets, even in a tougher matchup.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Cincinnati Bengals

Sit: Mike Williams

Start in DFS: Joe Mixon ($34)

Williams saw eight targets last week for the first time since early October, and he’s likely to be shadowed by Chidobe Awuzie. I’ve shied away from worrying too much about cornerback matchups, but if you’re looking for a tiebreaker, Williams’ setup doesn’t look particularly favorable this week (the Bengals have allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points to his primary side).

Mixon has totaled 12 touchdowns over his last eight games and is finally getting more targets; he’s seen more over the last four games than he had previously totaled over the first seven of the year. This week he gets the NFL’s premier run-funnel defense, as the Chargers invite opponents to run while allowing 4.7 YPC. I hesitate to pay for last week’s stats in DFS, but with the Bengals home favorites in a matchup tied for this week’s highest total (50.5 points), Mixon has a favorable setup for yet another big game Sunday.

New York Giants @ Miami Dolphins

Sit: All Giants but Saquon Barkley

Start: Dolphins D/ST

An easier schedule has helped but so has improved health, as Miami’s defense has played much better lately, allowing just 11.5 points during the team’s four-game winning streak. The Giants will be starting Mike Glennon after Daniel Jones was not cleared, with their entire receiving group hobbled as well (Kadarius Toney is unlikely to play). Barkley can be started in fantasy leagues (with lowered expectations), but it’s tough to trust any other Giants player right now.

Washington Football Team @ Las Vegas Raiders

Start: Logan Thomas, Foster Moreau

Thomas ran a full complement of routes during his return last week and finished top-five in air-yards share among tight ends. This week he faces a Raiders defense allowing the second-most fantasy points to TEs and could see extra work with J.D. McKissic highly questionable (it’s also a very good spot for Antonio Gibson, who saw a season-high seven targets last week).

Moreau played 95 percent of the snaps after Darren Waller left last week’s game early in the second quarter and finished as the TE4 the last game he started for an injured Waller earlier this season. Washington has allowed an NFL-high 26 passing touchdowns and a 106.4 Passer Rating this year, so don’t be surprised when Moreau finishes as a top-five fantasy tight end this week.

Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Start: Devonta Freeman, Ben Roethlisberger

Freeman is averaging 17+ touches over the last four games and gets a disappointing Steelers defense allowing an NFL-high 4.8 YPC and will likely be without T.J. Watt on Sunday.

Roethlisberger has without question looked bad this season, but he gets a pass-funnel Baltimore defense that ranks 24th against the pass and No. 5 against the run in DVOA. The Ravens have yielded 8.0 YPA this season — only the Lions and Jets have been worse. Baltimore has been one of the most favorable fantasy matchups for quarterbacks over the last month, and Pittsburgh is likely to bring its “A” game returning home after getting embarrassed last week (down 31-3 at half).

Jacksonville Jaguars @ Los Angeles Rams

Sit: All Jaguars

Start: Van Jefferson

The Rams enter losers of three straight and 13-point favorites, so the writing is on the wall for a blowout. James Robinson can be started if needed, but he’s not sure to be active after continuing to miss practice throughout the week. Trevor Lawrence has more turnovers than touchdowns on the year and is getting just 5.7 YPA on the road, while Laquon Treadwell has somehow emerged as Jacksonville’s favorite for targets.

Emerging from the bye with time to prepare for life without Robert Woods, Jefferson racked up nine targets and the second-most air yards in the NFL last week. Odell Beckham was also plenty busy, but Tyler Higbee has been phased out, and no other receiver saw a single target. Beckham has missed practice throughout the week while dealing with a hip pointer, so it’s not hard to see Jefferson getting 10+ targets against a pass-funnel Jacksonville defense.

San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks

Start in DFS: Elijah Mitchell ($27), Gerald Everett ($11)

Highly questionable to even play after undergoing finger surgery, Mitchell suited up last week and finished with the second-most opportunities (33 carries/targets) in the league. He’s averaging the third-most rushing yards per game among all backs this season. Mitchell is clearly San Francisco’s workhorse, and the team even designed some screens for him last week, when he finished with a career-high six targets. With Deebo Samuel out the next 1-2 weeks on an extremely run-heavy SF team, Mitchell can safely be projected for a ton of volume if health cooperates. The Seahawks have allowed the second-most fantasy points to running backs this year (and a bunch of volume), so Mitchell has a strong argument to be ranked as a top-three fantasy RB in Week 13.

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Everett has seen at least eight targets in two of the last three weeks and has taken over as Seattle’s full-time tight end. The Seahawks are unlikely to run with much success against the 49ers (No. 2 in DVOA), and Russell Wilson has gotten 9.6 YPA at home compared to 7.4 on the road this season. Look for Seattle’s passing attack to rebound Sunday.

Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs

Sit: Courtland Sutton

Start: Chiefs D/ST

Sutton has seen his target share drop from 25.7% without Jerry Jeudy on the field to 10.9% with him on it. This week Sutton must deal with a healthy Jeudy, a banged-up Teddy Bridgewater, and a KC defense that was playing quite well before getting an extra week off. Andy Reid is 19-3 coming off a bye, and Bridgewater could have compromised mobility while playing through a shin injury that (briefly) knocked him out of last week’s game (but doesn’t have him listed on this week’s injury report). Sutton can’t be trusted in fantasy lineups given his usage when Jeudy is healthy.

Bridgewater is getting 8.7 YPA when Denver is leading this season but just 6.9 (while committing all his turnovers) when the Broncos are trailing; the Chiefs are double-digit favorites Sunday night, so KC is a top-10 D/ST this week.

New England Patriots @ Buffalo Bills

Sit: Mac Jones, All Buffalo RBs

Jones has easily been the best rookie QB, but he’s been given plenty of help, and Monday night he goes on the road to face DVOA’s No. 1 pass defense in Buffalo. The Bills have allowed the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, and while the loss of Tre’Davious White hurts, Jones’ middling arm strength could be a problem during a game with possible serious weather issues that include 20 mph sustained winds and temps below freezing.

While running could prove vital given the weather conditions, the Bills struggle to run block and face DVOA’s No. 2 defense. Worse yet is the Bills’ RB timeshare, as work was still split with Zack Moss a healthy scratch last week, when Matt Breida and Devin Singletary combined for just three targets and one goal-line opportunity. It also sounds like Breida has earned more chances to make it even closer to a 50/50 split moving forward.

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