Fantasy Football Weekly Recap: Week 13 (2019)
As usual, there are a ton of intriguing fantasy angles to cover from another Sunday of NFL football, but first a quick dose of reality: 49ers-Ravens was a heck of a game and a very plausible preview of Super Bowl LIV. These are balanced, complete teams — they are the top two teams in points scored, and both rank inside the top five in fewest points allowed. I’m as big a fantasy fanatic as anyone, but even I found my eyes wandering across the screen of my eight-game DirectTV game mix just to see how this epic battle would play out.
From a fantasy perspective, Ravens QB Lamar Jackson has been so outrageously good this year that it’s hardly even newsworthy when he goes out and puts up 100 rushing yards and two touchdowns against what might be the best defense in the NFL. We basically know what we have in Baltimore’s supporting cast, too — the Marks (Ingram and Andrews) are weekly fantasy starters while the “Marq” (Marquise Brown) is more of a boom-or-bust WR3/flex option.
There are more moving parts in San Francisco, where Kyle Shanahan fosters a true competition at both running back and wide receiver. Over the last month, we’ve seen Deebo Samuel emerge from a messy wide receiver committee as a bonafide WR2 candidate, and Samuel’s fantasy arrow continues to point upward following his nice TD grab against the Ravens. But it’s San Francisco’s running back situation that took the more surprising twist in Week 13, and that’s where we’ll begin for this week’s top surprises.
Top 5 Surprises
Raheem Mostert (RB – SF)
With Matt Breida sidelined by an ankle injury, I’ve been on the Mostert sleeper train for a few weeks and it finally paid off in a big way in Week 13. I was also fading Tevin Coleman this week, but even I didn’t expect Mostert to overtake Coleman the way he did against Baltimore. Mostert ended up handling 21 touches for 154 yards and a touchdown, while Coleman managed a paltry 15 yards on his six touches, marking the 10th times in 12 games that Coleman has failed to top 72 yards from scrimmage. He’s averaging an ugly 2.48 yards per carry over the last five weeks.
Breida was initially expected to return this week, but the 49ers reportedly erred on the side of caution so he’d be good to go for Week 14. If that’s the case, this backfield could get complicated again. But if we’ve learned one thing from watching Kyle Shanahan over the years, it’s that his offense can support two viable fantasy running backs. For most of the season, those two backs were Breida and Coleman, but perhaps it will now be Breida and Mostert.
Derrius Guice (RB – WAS)
I thought that Guice was going to break out last week, but I was apparently a week too early on him. He only handled 12 touches in Week 13 against Carolina, but sure made them count to the tune of 137 total yards and two touchdowns. While Adrian Peterson continues to vehemently defy Father Time — he put up 99 yards and a TD himself — it’s beyond clear that the 22-year old Guice is Washington’s future at the position. Don’t expect AP to fade away completely down the stretch, but the logic behind featuring Guice is only going to grow stronger with each successive game for a team whose record currently sits at 3-9. With appealing matchups in Weeks 14 (@GB) and 16 (NYG), Guice could be a difference-maker in the fantasy playoffs.
Robert Woods (WR – LAR)
It’s been a frustrating season for Woods’ fantasy owners, but he looks to be hitting his stride just in time for the fantasy playoffs. Woods only managed to top 80 receiving yards once in his first eight games, but he’s now accomplished that feat in three straight contests, including a season-best 172 receiving yards against Arizona on Sunday. He saw a whopping 19 targets against the Cardinals and could be overtaking Cooper Kupp as Jared Goff‘s favorite security blanket on underneath routes. Woods is still searching for his first touchdown of the season, and the Rams won’t get to face Arizona’s swiss cheese defense every week, but this performance at least vaults him back into the WR2 discussion.
Tyler Higbee (TE – LAR)
It’s tough to say whether Woods or Higbee was a bigger Week 13 surprise, so I’ll go ahead and discuss both Rams. I liked Higbee as an under-the-radar streaming option even before Gerald Everett (knee) was ruled out, due in large part to the Cardinals’ inability to cover tight ends. But Higbee’s Week 13 stat line — seven catches for 107 yards and a TD — was even bigger than I imagined. The same dynamics that have helped Woods and Kupp (and hurt Brandin Cooks) could also help Higbee — the Rams’ offensive line is simply not providing Goff enough time to complete throws down the field, so the players that handle short- and intermediate routes will continue to be featured. Higbee had edged in front of Everett for playing time even before Everett tweaked his knee, so Higbee has a real shot to be a borderline TE1 for the rest of the season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB – MIA)
I was tempted to list Devante Parker here for his seven catches, 159 yards, and two scores. But the simple truth is that Parker has quietly been a good fantasy option all season long, whereas the “Fitzmagic” had been noticeably absent in 2019 prior to Sunday. Fitzpatrick’s 365 yard-three touchdown performance against the Eagles marked just the second time all season that he’s thrown for 300+ yards or three scores, but it’s the kind of numbers we’ve often seen from him in the past. With a very friendly upcoming schedule (@NYJ, @NYG, CIN), Fitzpatrick could have a Jameis Winston-like impact in the fantasy playoffs and serve as a viable high-upside QB1.
Top 5 Disappointments
Ronald Jones (RB – TB)
I recommended playing Jones to a couple of folks this week, so I’ll just have to eat some crow on this one. The set up looked beautiful on paper. Jones entered Week 13 having produced at least 67 yards and a touchdown in three of his previous four games, and he was facing a Jaguars defense that had surrendered four 100-yard rushing performances in the last three games. But I didn’t account for the fickleness of Bucs coach Bruce Arians, who decided to bench Jones for missing a blitz pickup, thereby allowing Peyton Barber to stumble his way to 17 carries for 44 yards (2.6 yards per carry) and two touchdowns while Jones played just 18 snaps. It’s impossible to say whether Jones will be in Arians’ dog house for more than one week, so he’s shaping up as a very dicey RB3/flex option moving forward.
Jonathan Williams (RB – IND)
Speaking of running backs I recommended whose playing time mysteriously evaporated in Week 13, Williams played just 14 snaps against the Titans while Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines each played 30. What. The. Heck. Williams only produced 14 yards on his eight carries, but that still feels like a small sample size to give up on a guy who had been running well coming into the game. Perhaps he missed a blitz pickup like Ronald Jones? Whatever the reason he was benched, there’s no sugarcoating it — this was a massive disappointment for a player who had rushed for over 100 yards in back-t0-back weeks. With his position on the depth chart uncertain at best and Marlon Mack targeting a Week 14 return, Williams can be safely returned to the waiver wire.
George Kittle (TE – SF)
Kittle could only be found on milk cartons on Sunday, as he produced a season-low two catches for a season-low 17 yards against Baltimore. Still, there’s no need to overreact to this disappointing performance. He was matchup up against one of the league’s best defenses in wet, messy conditions, and Jimmy Garoppolo attempted only 21 passes as the 49ers went with a run-heavy approach. Low passing volume is always a risk in this offense, but Kittle has at least six catches in 7-of-10 games he’s played in this season and remains the clear number one target for Jimmy G. He’ll be just fine.
Odell Beckham Jr. (WR – CLE)
Beckham’s disappointing first season in Cleveland hit another low point on Sunday, as he failed to top 30 yards for the first time since Week 5. The Browns’ passing game had been trending up prior to Week 13, but even then OBJ had just been decent, while Jarvis Landry was the far bigger beneficiary. With just four games left on the schedule, Beckham has just two touchdowns and two 100-yard games to his credit. It’s probably long past time to give up hope that Freddie Kitchens will unlock Beckham’s full fantasy potential in 2019. He currently the WR26, and that’s about what we need to expect going forward.
Sam Darnold (QB – NYJ)
After a series of head-scratchingly poor performances in October and early November, Darnold got his act together against mediocre defenses in Weeks 11 and 12, throwing for a combined 608 yards and six touchdowns against Washington and Oakland. It stood to reason, then, that we could squeeze another good fantasy performance out of Darnold against the Bengals’ bottom-of-the-barrel defense. Instead, he gave us just 239 scoreless yards despite throwing the ball 48 times. He didn’t turn the ball over, but I think I speak for many when I say we would gladly have traded a couple of interceptions for a couple of touchdown passes. Fantasy owners who took a chance and streamed him this week now know why you can’t spell Darnold without “Darn.”
Kareem Hunt played four more snaps (44) than Nick Chubb (40). The Browns’ offense hasn’t always been a pretty sight, but they have at least shown some creativity in how they’ve used Hunt, particularly as a pass-catcher. Meanwhile, Chubb had a relatively quiet game in a tough matchup with Pittsburgh, but he did still handle 17 touches and should continue to get around 20 touches most weeks.
Jack Doyle (11) and Zach Pascal (10) each had double-digit targets. The Colts were once again missing all sorts of playmakers on Sunday, including T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron. With Ebron done for the season, Doyle’s performance (six catches for 73 yards and a TD) further solidifies his low-end TE1 credentials, while Pascal looks like he’ll continue to be a decent WR3/flex option whenever Hilton is out.
Courtland Sutton is QB-proof. Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen, and now Drew Lock. No offense to Lock, who got a big win in his first career start, but the QB room in Denver has not exactly been full of Hall of Famers this season. It hasn’t stopped Sutton, who is on pace for 1,208 yards and eight touchdowns. Clearly, he’s talented enough to succeed no matter who’s throwing him the ball.
The Jaguars going back to Gardner Minshew is a good thing for fantasy owners. Jacksonville had evidently seen enough of Nick Foles after his three first-half turnovers against a Buccaneers defense that had been getting shredded by opposing passers all year. Foles may be the one with the Super Bowl MVP and the big contract, but it’s Minshew that has got the Jaguars’ passing game humming this year. Assuming Minshew starts for the rest of the year, it should be good news for D.J. Chark and Dede Westbrook.
Miles Sanders deserves a shot at feature back duties. Eagles coach Doug Pederson has long preferred a committee approach in his backfield, and he’s largely utilized Sanders as a passing-down specialist in his first year in the league. But Sanders has taken on more of the rushing work with Jordan Howard (shoulder) sidelined, and he turned a career-high 22 touches into 105 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins on Sunday. With the Eagles on a three-game losing skid and Howard’s rest-of-season outlook uncertain, Philadelphia ought to see what their 2019 second-rounder can do with an extended audition.
Andy Dalton has made the Bengals offense interesting again. This weekly recap wouldn’t be complete without acknowledging that the Bengals finally got their first win of the season. Dalton didn’t need to put up huge passing numbers given the lop-sided scoreline, but he did get Tyler Boyd (59 yards and a TD) and Auden Tate (66 yards) going a bit. Boyd and Joe Mixon suddenly look like weekly starters again while Tate could have some streaming appeal in plus matchups (like Week 16 at Miami).