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More than plates will be full this week. The NFL schedule is also stuffed, as all 32 teams will take the gridiron for a crucial Week 13.
For some, this represents the last chance to secure a playoff spot or higher seeding. With no more pesky byes diluting the field, managers should elevate their standards for starting options. The complete player pool shows in the early half-PPR Expert Consensus Rankings (ECR), where fringe choices have fallen off the periphery while weekly plays suddenly demand closer deliberation.
More options should lead to stronger lineups. It also, however, creates more difficult decisions. Let’s highlight a few players who will likely find themselves at the center of those tough choices.
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Tom Brady (NE) at HOU: QB14 ECR
Deshaun Watson (HOU) vs. NE: QB11 ECR
Brady has finally shown some age by amassing just three touchdowns and 5.3 yards per pass attempt in his last three games. His yards per attempt (6.7) and completion rate (62.2%) this season are both at their lowest since 2013. Although he’s far from a must-start, it’s also not time to panic about the 42-year-old finally hitting a wall. Brady’s last three opponents (Eagles, Ravens, Cowboys) all rank 12th or better in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. The Texans reside all the way down at 26th, making this the future Hall of Famer’s easiest matchup since finishing Week 2 as the QB4 against Miami. Brady is more of a matchup play at this point in his career, especially with a depleted receiver corps. Luckily Sunday night’s matchup at NRG Stadium is the right spot for a bounce-park performance for a quarterback still slinging 39.9 passes per contest.
At the opposite end of this showdown, Watson draws the toughest adversary by a considerable margin. Nobody aside from Lamar Jackson has cracked New England’s secondary, and Watson has already got stuffed by the Jaguars, Panthers, and Ravens this season. It’d be perfectly reasonable to sit him for Jameis Winston or Kyler Murray. Benching him to stream Nick Foles or Ryan Tannehill, on the other hand, is going a step too far for a top-shelf talent capable of alleviating a middling passing performance with his legs.
Carson Wentz (PHI) at MIA: QB16 ECR
Jared Goff (LAR) at ARI: QB17 ECR
The matchups are too tempting to sit 2016’s top two draft picks, right? After all, the Cardinals and Dolphins have respectively relinquished the most and third-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Any reluctance to play either shows just how far they’ve fallen.
Wentz, who played without Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Nelson Agholor last week, has averaged 214.4 passing yards over the last five games with exactly one touchdown each time. In that stretch dating back to Week 7, Mitchell Trubisky, Kyle Allen, and Jeff Driskel (in two fewer games) are among the 25 quarterbacks who compiled more fantasy production than Wentz. While he’s had an even tougher schedule than Brady, the 26-year-old hasn’t done much against anyone. He’s only exceeded 260 passing yards, tossed more than two touchdowns, or attempted more than 40 passes two times apiece. Until he proves otherwise, a dreamy matchup at Miami may merely make him a high-end QB2 unless his pass-catchers return.
Goff has looked even worse. Last year’s QB7 has gone a full month without finding the end zone, giving him more picks (12) than touchdowns (11) in 2019. Since stockpiling 912 passing yards in consecutive losses to Tampa Bay and Seattle, he has just 1,346 in six combined games. Following last season’s stark home-road splits, he’s mustering just 6.7 yards per attempt away from the LA Memorial Coliseum. The Rams could also see this game as an opportunity to get the stagnant ground game back on track, so make Goff earn his way back into your circle of trust.
Ronald Jones (TB) at JAC: RB24 ECR
An ill-advised sit recommendation last week, Jones reversed an alarming role decrease by crossing pay dirt on one of his 15 touches. He only played half of Tampa Bay’s snaps, but that could be enough to explode in Week 13. Recently pummeled by Derrick Henry, the Jaguars have ceded 15 rushing touchdowns and an NFL-worst 5.4 yards per run. This is also a game the Buccaneers can win; they’re one-point underdogs on the road after plastering the streaking Falcons. Jones has tallied 54 touches in Tampa Bay’s last three wins and averages a dozen touches when eliminating double-digit defeats.
Tarik Cohen (CHI) at DET: RB34 ECR
The Lions have allowed the third-most receiving yards (638) and a league-high seven receiving touchdowns to running backs this season. That’s good news for Cohen, whose 70 targets tie Leonard Fournette for third at the position behind Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler. No running back has seen air more yards, so there’s downfield potential despite his made-for-PPR Week 12 line of seven catches for 29 yards. He also has 15 carries in the last two games and at least one red-zone touch in each of Chicago’s last five matchups.
Carlos Hyde (HOU) vs. NE: RB25 ECR
The Patriots have remarkably allowed the least fantasy points to quarterbacks, wide receivers, and running backs. Although Watson and Hopkins command a starting nod anyway, Hyde doesn’t require the same faith. Well on his way to 1,000 rushing yards while averaging 15.8 carries per contest, he’s typically a sturdy flex option in hopes of adding a touchdown to his volume. That workload, however, will take a hit if Houston doesn’t pull off an upset. Hyde has totaled just 43 handoffs in four losses. Making matters worse, he hasn’t recorded a single reception since Week 6.
Bo Scarbrough (DET) vs. CHI: RB29 ECR
An 18-carry, 98-yard line has to be considered a relative success from Scarbrough in his second career start. Those who scooped up the hot waiver-wire commodity can’t complain, but this game also displayed his limited potential. Playing in roughly half of Detroit’s snaps, Scarbrough didn’t see a single target in Detroit’s 19-17 loss to Washington. The Lions are home underdogs on Thursday against the Bears, who have permitted just 3.7 yards per carry. Only a goal-line score would leave investors satisfied with Scarbrough as a non-PPR flex piece.
DeVante Parker (MIA) vs. PHI: WR23 ECR
Parker is not only a start but a legitimate WR2 going forward. After playing all 63 snaps last Sunday, he’s seen double-digit targets in three straight games. He’s averaging 68.9 yards per game — only once falling below 55 — since Week 2’s catchless dud against the Patriots. Tenth in air yards among all receivers, he has a lofty floor and ceiling against an Eagles defense allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to wideouts. Lock Parker in starting lineups throughout a highly favorable stretch featuring the Jets, Giants, and Dolphins before a brutal Week 17 draw at Foxborough.
Dede Westbrook (JAC) vs. TB: WR34 ECR
Sure, he hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1. Chris Conley, a sneaky streamer in his own right, has more fantasy points. Westbrook is still knocking at the door. Take away a Week 8 contest in which he suffered a knee injury, and the 26-year-old has seen 7.7 targets per game with at least five per bout. He’s already caught 12 of 15 balls from Nick Foles in two games. Oh yeah, the matchup. Tampa Bay has a four-point cushion ahead of the Giants for the most fantasy points surrendered to wide receivers. Westbrook, Conley, and D.J. Chark can all contribute during a shootout in which Foles should air out another 45-plus throws.
Tyrell Williams (OAK) at KC: WR33 ECR
The days of chasing passing offenses against Kansas City are over. While still weak against running backs, the Chiefs have authorized the seventh-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers. They’re still not perfect; Williams caught five passes for 48 yards and a touchdown when last facing the AFC West foes in Week 2. However, he since has only three catches per game, an average eclipsed once in a four-reception game against the Bengals. Also yet to corral an end-zone target since Week 4, Williams is a higher-end WR4 despite Oakland losing Hunter Renfrow to a rib injury.
Deebo Samuel (SF) at BAL: WR35 ECR
Samuel kept the good times rolling with a 42-yard touchdown on Sunday night. Yet after attracting 21 targets in two games without George Kittle, the rookie received just two in the tight end’s return. He still makes a fine WR3 going forward, but don’t test his luck in shallower leagues against Baltimore. Although he’s played in a limited capacity, Emmanuel Sanders could also take on a bigger role akin to his involvement immediately after arriving in San Francisco.
Greg Olsen (CAR) vs. WAS: TE8 ECR
Olsen’s only two touchdowns have come against Arizona, and he’s only twice cleared the 75-yard threshold. While’s not quite a top-tier tight end, he’s still a step up from the rest. He’s repaired a creaky floor that crashed early in 2019 by offering at least 40 yards in each of Carolina’s last four games. The veteran has caught 21 of 28 targets during this hyperactive stretch while maintaining a snap rate of 92% or higher. It’s hard to envision playing him above the top-seven tight ends in the ECR, but there’s no reason to instead play any of the streamers below him.
Gerald Everett (LAR) at ARI: TE11 ECR [or Tyler Higbee if Everett is out]
A defense’s success (or lack thereof) against tight ends can often be misleading. That’s not the case for the Cardinals, who continued to get clobbered by the position on a weekly basis. They’ve yielded 79.2 yards per game to tight ends, nearly 7.5 more than the second-to-last Buccaneers. Olsen accounted for two of the NFL-high 12 touchdowns back in Week 3. Everett has managed to catch all three targets on 31 snaps combined in the past