Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 13 (2020)
Once again, 2020 has dragged us into uncharted waters. Wednesday is typically the time to review waiver-wire claims and begin planning for the upcoming week. NFL fans are instead gearing up to watch an afternoon game between the Ravens and Steelers.
This Week 12 game leaves a lot in the air before researching Week 13 lineups. To avoid further confusion, let’s look beyond the Pittsburgh/Washington and Baltimore/Dallas matchups currently scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
Of course, this situation serves as a sobering reminder that the pandemic is far from over, and more cases are likely to keep wreaking havoc on the remaining NFL schedule. Plenty could change from Wednesday to Sunday. We can all only work with what we have, drawing help from the early Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR) for half-PPR leagues.
Start: Ryan Tannehill (TEN) vs. CLE: QB8 ECR
Each of Tannehill’s last four opponents (Colts twice, Bears, and Ravens) rank inside the top 10 of fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks prior to Baltimore’s atypical Wednesday contest. Prior to that stretch, he placed ninth among quarterbacks with 22.0 fantasy points per contest. He also fared fine in the last two weeks (QB6 and QB9) despite a lateral to Derrick Henry getting changed to a rushing touchdown. After playing through a brutal string of weather for three weeks, the Browns gave up 235 passing yards and two touchdowns to Mike Glennon in Week 12. They were allowing 31.6 points per game prior to Mother Nature’s heavy-handed intervention in Weeks 8-11, so this is a good matchup for a good fantasy starter.
Start: Kirk Cousins (MIN) vs. JAC: QB12 ECR
Here are Cousins’ weekly quarterback finishes over his last five games: QB25, 18, 11, 5, and 3. He’s guaranteed to finish first or second in Week 13! Maybe not, but he is well-positioned for another solid outing. Even without Adam Thielen, Cousins tossed over 300 passing yards with three touchdowns for the second game in a row. He might get Thielen back in time to face the Jaguars, who have permitted the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and the second-most yards per pass attempt. The only concern here is that the Vikings stay on the ground all day, but they have notched just one win by more than eight points this season. If Baker Mayfield can finish as the QB12 against Jacksonville despite missing a wide-open touchdown, Cousins should coast to a starting-caliber line.
Sit: Matt Ryan (ATL) vs. NO: QB16 ECR
There’s now little merit to citing the Saints’ 2020 defensive ranks after skewing their numbers against the quarterback-less Broncos. Right before that bizarre occurrence, however, they contained Ryan to 232 passing yards, no touchdowns, and two interceptions on 39 throws. The former MVP then hardly factored into a 43-6 triumph over the Raiders, going 22-of-39 for 185 yards, two touchdowns, and a pick. Having completed just 54.4% of his passes in three starts without Julio Jones, it’s an easy call to sit Ryan if Jones isn’t back from a hamstring injury. Getting his star wideout back at least brings Ryan into the QB1 conversation, but he’s already gone six games with one or zero passing touchdowns.
Sit: Carson Wentz (PHI) at GB: QB19 ECR
Wentz’s 20 fantasy points are highly deceiving for anyone who valued their time enough not to watch the Eagles play football Monday night. While it was far too late to swing the actual matchup’s outcome, he salvaged his fantasy outing with a 33-yard Hail Mary touchdown to Richard Rodgers. Wentz could once again produce garbage-time heroics, like Mitchell Trubisky also accomplished against the Packers on Sunday night, but he also could get benched for Jalen Hurts.
Start: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC) vs. DEN: RB17 ECR
Edwards-Helaire seems to fall down the ECR every week. Following a lackluster 39-yard display in Week 12, antsy managers might consider benching the disappointing first-round pick (both in fantasy and the actual NFL Draft) before he does any more damage. After all, he’s totaled just 44 carries in the last five games, all Kansas City victories in which the juggernaut averaged 34.6 points. Why waste time running when you have Patrick Mahomes? That pass-heavy plan certainly made sense against Tampa Bay’s NFL-best rushing defense. As 14-point home favorites against the Broncos, Edwards-Helaire could see a bit more work. If not, he should at least get some red-zone action in the league’s most explosive offense.
Start: Nyheim Hines (IND) at HOU: RB21 ECR
Someone is going to have a productive day in the Colts’ backfield against a Texans defense permitting the second-most fantasy points to running backs. The tricky part, if Jonathan Taylor returns from the COVID/reserve list, will be figuring out who takes center stage. It’s not necessarily a zero-sum game. While Adrian Peterson scored two rushing touchdowns against Houston on Thanksgiving, Kerryon Johnson also compiled 98 total yards. With or without Taylor, Hines could have similar all-purpose production to Johnson. Although still yet to stay hyperactive in two straight contests, Hines has now helped fantasy managers immensely in three of his last five games. The Colts feeding him more running opportunities offers enough tantalizing upside to take the risk.
Start: Frank Gore (NYJ) vs. LV: RB29 ECR
I’m not saying you should start Gore as much as you reasonably could if no stronger alternatives are available. You’re still not using him if you can play legitimate RB2 such as David Montgomery, Raheem Mostert, or Kenyan Drake instead. If digging beyond the top-25 running backs for a decent option, the old man is at least going to offer some points. His carries have risen in each of the last three games, and he’s even snagged two or three catches in his last three matchups. The Jets allotted him 18 carries and three targets in last Sunday’s 20-3 loss to the Dolphins, so he should receive another 15-20 touches regardless of the game script against the Raiders. Gore has also drawn nine red-zone opportunities in New York’s last two games without La’Mical Perine.
Sit: Latavius Murray (NO) at ATL: RB27 ECR
Sunday’s win over the Broncos barely counts as an actual NFL game, so don’t read too much into Murray’s 19 carries for 124 rushing yards (both season-highs) and two touchdowns. The Saints were running out the clock to victory the second the game began. Prior to this outburst, Murray was averaging 10.2 carries for 42.7 yards per game. While Taysom Hill changes their offense’s style, Murray mustered 49 rushing yards (and a season-best 36 rushing yards) against the Falcons in Week 11. He’s still merely a touchdown-dependent running back playing with a quarterback who has hogged four rushing touchdowns in two starts. The Falcons also have a clear weakness, ranking 31st against the pass and sixth versus the run.
Sit: Zack Moss and Devin Singletary (BUF) at SF: RB30 and RB33 ECR
Moss has 59 touches in six games since returning to Buffalo’s lineup. Singletary has 60. Neither back has exceeded 15 in any of those contests. While Moss is averaging a pedestrian 45 total yards per game this season, Singletary found the end zone once this season — all the way back in Week 4. Don’t trust either of this duo against an above-average San Francisco run defense yielding 4.0 yards per carry.
Sit: James White (NE) at LAC: RB33 ECR
White took an unusual path to fantasy success last weekend, punching in his first two touchdowns of 2020 on the ground. Backers will obviously take the points, but they certainly wouldn’t have started him if they knew he would post minus-one receiving yard on just one target. Not only was White a non-factor in a suppressed New England passing offense, but he played just 20 snaps. That’s not a sustainable road to weekly flex value.
Start: Jarvis Landry (CLE) at TEN: WR25 ECR
Recommending Landry in Week 10 flopped because of heavy rain and gusting winds. In Week 12, we finally saw what he could do without Odell Beckham Jr. in a neutral climate. Along with producing his first touchdown on the season, Landry shattered his previous 2020 high with 143 receiving yards on eight catches. He now brandishes a 28.2% target share in the last five games — Beckham got hurt at the beginning of Week 7 — with a pair of 11-target outings. Such a hefty workload could lead to another big day against Tennessee’s 28th-rated passing defense.
Start: Michael Pittman Jr. (IND) at HOU: WR28 ECR
Pittman and Phillip Rivers had seven misconnections all season before failing to complete seven of nine targets in Week 12. The rookie offered just two catches for 28 yards against the Titans, but trust the opportunities to yield better results versus another weak AFC South defense. Only five teams have allowed more yards per pass attempt than the Texans, who have served up the seventh-most fantasy points to wide receivers.
Start: Sterling Shepard (NYG) at SEA: WR34 ECR
Like Gore, Shepard is a solid floor play from the New Jersey squads. He has hauled in 33 of 40 targets in five games since returning in Week 7. Aside from a Week 2 contest he left early, he has at least six catches in every contest this season. Colt McCoy isn’t a tremendous downgrade from Daniel Jones, especially for a possession receiver relying on short strikes rather than one explosive play. Although the Seahawks’ defense has improved in recent weeks, they’ve still relinquished the most fantasy points to receivers. Shepard is a decent PPR bet for a six-catch, 60-yard type of showing.
Sit: Jerry Jeudy (DEN) at KC: WR35 ECR
Drew Lock is an actual NFL quarterback, but he’s still last in completion rate (55.6%) among all qualified starters. His accuracy has hampered Jeudy, who has brought home just 37 of 78 targets (one in the Week 12 game everyone should throw out) and only topped five catches or 75 yards against the Falcons in Week 9. But couldn’t he get a ton of chances in garbage time against Kansas City? That wasn’t the case in Week 7, where he caught two of four targets for 20 yards in a 43-16 loss. Just five teams have ceded fewer fantasy points to wide receivers than the defending champions, so Jeudy might require some late stat-padding just to reach his 53.5-yard average.
Sit: Mike Williams (LAC) vs. NE: WR39 ECR
This all depends on your risk tolerance. Williams has now finished five games with fewer than five fantasy points. He’s averaging 15.9 points in the other five. The targets aren’t reliable, and his misses can’t be predetermined by matchups either. (See his four yards against Jacksonville.) New England just stifled DeAndre Hopkins and the entire Arizona passing offense, so only deploy Williams if desperate for one of his big splashes.
Sit: Jamison Crowder (NYJ) vs. LV: WR43 ECR
What a weird season. Crowder went from receiving double-digit targets in each of his first four games to 11 combined in his last three. The good and bad divided conveniently into games started by Sam Darnold and Joe Flacco, respectively, but that changed when he caught three of five targets from Darnold for 31 yards last Sunday. There’s another explanation for his decline. Crowder’s last high-volume game came in Week 6. Denzel Mims made his debut in Week 7. The rookie has bested Crowder in targets, catches, and receiving yards in all three of their games together. Breshad Perriman, meanwhile, has also emerged as a dangerous deep threat even in a lethargic offense. Both Perriman (WR49) and Mims (WR51) should leapfrog Crowder in the ECR as WR4 depth pieces.
Start: Robert Tonyan (GB) vs. PHI: TE7 ECR
Two weeks ago, I wrote that Tonyan can’t be trusted with Davante Adams hogging all of Aaron Rodgers‘ attention in Green Bay. He proceeded to catch all five of his targets and post a touchdown in back-to-back games. Tonyan certainly delivers when called upon, securing 37 of his 42 targets this season. Excluding Jason Witten, who has snagged all 11 targets, Tonyan has the highest catch rate of any non-running back. He’s remarkably efficient alongside an MVP-caliber quarterback and has seven touchdowns to his name. It’s hard to require much more for the majority of us not rostering a set-and-forget tight end.
Start: Mike Gesicki (MIA) vs. CIN: TE9 ECR
Starting Gesicki would feel much better if Ryan Fitzpatrick gets another start. The second-year tight end snapped a seven-game touchdown drought last week, and all three of his 2020 scores have come from Fitzpatrick. He’s averaging 5.0 targets and 45.1 yards in seven games started by the veteran after collecting just 133 yards in four games started by Tua Tagovailoa. While he also endured plenty of duds with Fitzpatrick under center, the 38-year-old previously unlocked Gesicki’s upside with a standout performance (8 catches, 130 yards, TD) in Week 2. Even if Tagovailoa returns, Gesicki is playable as a low-end TE1 against the Bengals, who have surrendered 10.0 fantasy points per game to tight ends following Evan Engram’s 129 yards in Week 12.
Sit: Austin Hooper (CLE) at TEN: TE14 ECR
Since returning from an appendectomy, Hooper has registered six catches for 56 yards in three games combined. He caught a touchdown when given clear skies in Jacksonville, but that counted for one of his two targets. Although his floor should be higher than the typical TE streamer when healthy and in a reasonable spot, Hooper has only once finished with double-digit fantasy points (half-PPR) or higher than TE14. Considering we’re merely hoping for the glory weeks of a five-catch, 50-yard stat line, it’s reasonable to wait for more volume before slotting him back into starting lineups.
Sit: Kyle Rudolph (MIN) vs. JAC: TE15 ECR
Rudolph should dip down the ECR if Thielen and/or Irv Smith Jr. return to action. Before setting 2020 highs in targets (eight), catches (seven), and receiving yards (68) in Week 12, the 31-year-old was a fantasy afterthought averaging 2.1 catches for 26.6 yards per game. Cousins has only targeted Rudolph inside the 10-yard line three times this season, which is hardly ideal for a 6’6″ tight end whose limited fantasy worth relies upon hitting paydirt.
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