If your ears are picking up a high-pitched whining sound, it might not be tinnitus. That sound is actually fantasy managers bleating about all the great players on their bye in Week 13. I get it. The Ravens, Bills, Bears, Raiders, Vikings and Giants just so happen to be taking the week off during the most important final stretch before the fantasy football playoffs (most begin in Week 15).
Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen? Gone. Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs? Unavailable. Davante Adams, Justin Jefferson and Zay Flowers? No times three. It’s rough out there in these streets, especially for people who loaded up on Bills and Ravens this offseason (me). Pour one out for the manager who lost all his starting QBs to injury, then lucked into Tommy DeVito off waivers.
Similar to the antiquated refrain of the curmudgeons who hate taunting and players having fun, “Act like you’ve been there before” can also apply to those of us in dire straits with our lineup decisions this week. I sincerely hope you’ve built enough bench depth in preparation for this most daunting slate, with playoff chances suspended in fantasy purgatory. If not, let it be a learning experience on how insufferable some of us can be lecturing about this sort of thing and boasting about “having no trouble at all” plugging the next league-winner in off the bench.
It’s as if this game is that easy. We’ve been hit with just as many Mario Kart red shells as we’ve dodged, and the growing sentiment is that luck has played a more prominent role this season than in recent memory. I concur. Those of us who create fantasy football content are forced into impartiality because we’re in so many leagues that our fortunes run the gamut.
The best we can do is maneuver ourselves into the most favorable odds of winning possible. Dealing in absolutes does not vibe with the fantasy football experience. It’s all grayscale, and most of us live in parallel universes where Kyle Pitts was always properly utilized and dominated from the jump. It might require that level of delusion to survive Week 13 and advance with our marbles cinched in a Crown Royal pouch (separate from the POGs).
Let’s dive in.
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Week 13 Fantasy Football Storylines (2023)
Climbing the Rocky Steps
“Adriaaaaaan!” Rocky Balboa is a prominent figure in Philadelphia, just as much as cheesesteaks and cream cheese. The 10-1 Eagles were the team that knocked out Brock Purdy and dumped the 49ers from the playoffs last season. The 49ers Faithful, the most obnoxious and delusional fanbase in the NFL (yes, even worse than Cowboys and Eagles fans), have taken to Philly early to wheeze up the famous Rocky steps in hopes that San Francisco can exact revenge on the Birds. The Niners are even favored in this road game somehow. Make it make sense.
Jalen Hurts is winning games throughout this brutal stretch of the schedule with a bum knee. A lot of press will cover the lack of pass defense in Philadelphia this season while ignoring the same challenges on the other sideline. I expect DeVonta Smith to shred the San Francisco zone along with AJ Brown. Brock Purdy has continued his sharp play from last season, especially when all of his weapons and all-world left tackle are on the field. This is a measuring stick game for both clubs and one that carries fantasy interest concurrently.
THE Quarterback of the Future… Unlimited
One overlooked tidbit behind C.J. Stroud‘s incredible rookie campaign is how the Houston Texans have executed one of the most brilliant and rapid rebuilds in league history. Demeco Ryans and Bobby Slowik are stupendous. Picks two and three overall in the 2023 NFL Draft have produced the runaway favorites for Offensive (Stroud) and Defensive (Will Anderson) Rookie of the Year. The best part? The team is winning and in prime playoff contention.
Tank Dell has been a revelation in his own right. The BMI debate for WRs is a long-dead stigmatization thanks to his exploits in a continuation of (Devonta) Smith’s work.
Houston has their work cut out for them at home against the red-hot Denver Broncos, who have won a league-high five games in a row (tied with Philadelphia). Dell and Nico Collins are each nursing injuries leading into the game and are questionable. Dameon Pierce returned from his ankle injury last week but worked behind upstart veteran Devon Singletary. Russell Wilson is cooking in Sean Payton’s offense, while the same defense that allowed 70 to Miami earlier this year has been very stout for a month now. This is going to be a stellar game to watch on Sunday.
We Might Need a Cold Shower at FedEx After Miami Swims Through
The NFL record for passing yards in a single game is 554 by Norm Van Brocklin in 1951. It might fall this week with Tua Tagovailoa going up against the Washington Commanders and their horrendous secondary. Tyreek Hill is still right on pace to keep his promise of breaking Calvin Johnson’s record and surpass 2,000 receiving yards this season. This is a place where he can put a huge dent in his yards remaining to that end.
Don’t forget about Jaylen Waddle either. Just in case we weren’t spoiled enough, we might also see rookie phenom De’Von Achane back from his knee injury. FedEx Field famously didn’t even have hot water after their last home game. The Dolphins might need a cold shower to pass the glycerin test at the TSA checkpoint. One more point is that Sam Howell leads the NFL in passing yards and is in line for a dream game flow to continue padding those stats. This will be a scoring bonanza.
When the Levee Breaks in Duuuuuval
Evan Engram has the most targets in the NFL for a player without a single touchdown (82). He knows it. Trevor Lawrence knows it. It’s hard to tell whether or not Doug Pederson knows it since the scoring looks haven’t been there all season. I’m calling it now. Engram will get the albatross off his back on Monday night against the Bengals. The Jaguars, in general, have not cashed in on many opportunities in recent weeks. Cincinnati is the perfect opponent to right the ship.
Lawrence, unbelievably, has only 12 touchdown passes this season. Travis Etienne has scored seven rushing touchdowns to counteract the talented QB’s inefficiency, and I expect that to continue even as Lawrence rounds into playoff-ready form down the stretch. Calvin Ridley and Christian Kirk have been great the last two games, both wins by Jacksonville. Duval County will be rocking on “Monday Night Football,” and not even Jake Browning, the most decorated high school QB in history, can overcome the deluge of scoring that will rain down on Cincy’s defense.