Thumbs Up of the Week: Cam Newton (@ NO)
I am usually higher on Newton than most people are because of his unique upside, but the last time I had him in “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” was following the Kelvin Benjamin trade. Since then, he’s averaged 23.3 fantasy points per game, including 11.3 fantasy points per game as a rusher alone. Cam will continue to do damage with his legs in a pivotal NFC South matchup, and I’m not worried about his three-interception performance against New Orleans in September. Newton is a top-three option for me, and a monster day could be in store if the Saints are without their starting cornerbacks for the second-straight week.
Thumbs Up: Brett Hundley (v TB)
Some people might not be able to comprehend this, but playing in the NFL isn’t easy, and not everyone—particularly quarterbacks—are able to immediately play like an All Pro. Brett Hundley has mostly struggled in five career starts, but he was phenomenal in last Sunday night’s loss to Pittsburgh with 245 yards, three touchdowns, and no turnovers. As I’ve said before, I really liked Hundley coming out of UCLA, and he has the tools to be a successful starting quarterback in the NFL. The Bucs have allowed the most passing yards, the second-most yards per attempt, and have the fewest sacks in the league, putting Hundley on the QB1 map in 12-team leagues.
Thumbs Up: Case Keenum (@ ATL)
Fantasy owners might be hesitant to buy into Keenum after four years of below-average quarterback play, but the 29-year-old is in the best situation of his career with a great combination of coaching and supporting cast in Minnesota. And it’s not just like he’s putting up numbers, as he’s been poised in the pocket, kept his eyes downfield, and has made plays with his legs when the opportunity is there. Keenum is a quality streaming option as the Vikings look to extend their winning-streak to eight games.
Thumbs Up: Geno Smith (@ OAK)
This will probably be more of a daily-fantasy play because there might not be anyone out there with the courage to have Geno Smith in their lineup with fantasy playoffs potentially on the line, but hear me out. Despite all the jokes you’ll probably come across over the next few days, the former second-round pick has talent, and while I think benching Eli Manning is ridiculous for what he’s meant to the franchise, the silver lining is that New York will get to see what they have in Smith for 2018 and beyond. And honestly, I think Ben McAdoo is trying to save his job by making the change when the Giants get to face the awful Oakland defense. Maybe I’m crazy, but I have Geno ranked ahead of Matthew Stafford, Dak Prescott, and Jameis Winston this week.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Matthew Stafford (@ BAL)
Coming off a heart-stopping ankle injury (for Lions fans) on Thanksgiving, Matthew Stafford is in just about the worst spot imaginable on Sunday. The only good news is that the Ravens played on Monday and Detroit played on Thursday, but that’s not enough to be confident about Stafford in lineups. Baltimore has a league-high 18 interceptions and have held opposing passers to a 65.9 quarterback rating through 11 games, while Stafford has been sacked 36 times this year, which is the third most in the NFL. A big game in Week 13 would surprise me.
Thumbs Down: Dak Prescott (v WAS)
How disappointing has Prescott been over the past two weeks for fantasy owners? Well, he has six times as many turnovers (six) as he does fantasy points (one). I’m certain that the Cowboys quarterback is a lot better player than he’s shown recently, but I don’t think anyone wants to rely on an ice-cold quarterback as the stakes rise with fantasy titles to be won. If he doesn’t produce as a runner, there’s a really good chance Dak has another single-digit performance. Not good.
Thumbs Down: Ben Roethlisberger (@ CIN)
For as cold as Dak Prescott has been over the past two weeks, Big Ben has been just as hot. Roethlisberger threw for four touchdowns against the Titans and Packers in primetime, and now he gets another primetime matchup against Cincinnati on Monday night, but if you have other options, it’s time to bench the hot hand. First of all, the game is on the road, and the home-road splits are a real thing for Roethlisberger. Also, Pittsburgh should feed Le’Veon Bell like they did in October when he handled 38 touches against the Bengals. He’s still a low-end QB1 just because he’s on fire, but keep expectations in check this week.
Thumbs Down: Matt Ryan (v MIN)
Matt Ryan is also a borderline QB1 option, but the Vikings coming to town is reason enough to play someone else if possible. Mike Zimmer is 2-0 in his career against Ryan, and his defense has forced him to toss two interceptions in both meetings (in 2014 and 2015). The unit has only gotten better since then, and I don’t think this is the spot for the reigning NFL MVP to have his first game of the season with 3+ touchdowns.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Jordan Howard (v SF)
Chicago did the opposite of what I thought they needed to do in Philadelphia last week, as Jordan Howard carried it just seven times for six yards in the blowout loss, but they should get back to what they do best against San Francisco. When the fantasy world lost their minds in September after Howard had nine carries for seven yards, he blew up for 140 yards and two touchdowns against the Steelers the following week. One of the only old-school workhorses still around, Howard is an elite RB1 play in standard leagues.
Thumbs Up: Latavius Murray (@ ATL)
This is the fourth week in a row that I’ve had Murray as a “Thumbs Up,” but he’s still ranked too low almost everywhere. Since the bye week, only Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram have more fantasy points than Murray does, and he’s rushed 52 times for 247 yards (4.8 yards per carry) and four touchdowns over the past three games. A legitimate RB1/RB2 since the start of 2016, hopefully people catch up to how good Latavius is by the fantasy playoffs. I have him eighth in the rankings heading into a good matchup with Atlanta.
Thumbs Up: Samaje Perine (@ DAL)
Concerns about ball security in the preseason caused Samaje Perine to fall behind Robert Kelley as the early-down runner for the Redskins this year, but he’s only fumbled once through 11 games, and the coaching staff hasn’t been afraid to feature him when they need to. In three starts, the rookie is averaging nearly 24 touches per game, including 23+ carries in each of the past two weeks—both 100-yard performances on the ground. Facing a Dallas defense that will be without Sean Lee again, Perine is a top-10 play for me. In the four games Lee has missed this year, running backs have combined for 531 yards on 99 attempts (5.4 yards per carry).
Thumbs Up: Tevin Coleman (v MIN)
Devonta Freeman’s return and a matchup with the Vikings could give owners reason to go away from Coleman, but that’s a mistake without any really, really good alternatives to play. The dynamic back earned more touches as the Falcons make a playoff push, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s on the better end of a split with Freeman for at least one week. I have Coleman as a borderline RB1 and Freeman as a solid RB2 for Week 13.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Jay Ajayi (@ SEA)
If fantasy owners were told Jay Ajayi would average 9.7 yards per carry after a trade to Philly, many probably would have started to clear space on their mantle for a championship trophy. Unfortunately, while the talented 24-year-old actually is averaging nearly 10 yards a pop, he has just 20 carries through three games, and his workload is heading in the wrong direction. Maybe he will be unleashed in Seattle on Sunday night, but Ajayi is just a very risky FLEX option until we see something change.
Thumbs Down: LeSean McCoy (v NE)
Most informed football fans or weekly readers probably know that Bill Belichick usually focuses on taking away the opposing team’s best player and making the others beat them, and LeSean McCoy will be the target in Week 13. New England has only allowed four rushing touchdowns to running backs this season, and they probably want to destroy Buffalo’s morale with two games against them over the final five weeks. That should start with suppressing McCoy and the running game, which will be easier than usual due to a lack of threatening playmakers on the perimeter.
Thumbs Down: DeMarco Murray (v HOU)
He’s been saved by touchdowns, but DeMarco Murray is clearly not himself this season, as he’s averaging just 3.5 yards per carry and has been held to fewer than 20 yards in three of the past four games. The 29-year-old was out-gained and out-touched by Derrick Henry in last week’s win, and he’s only has more than 14 carries once in 2017. I think the hamstring injury from a few weeks ago hasn’t gone away for Murray, and it might not until the offseason. He’s just a FLEX.
Thumbs Down: Ameer Abdullah (@ BAL)
Hopefully you didn’t have to watch Abdullah get held to 14 yards on six carries to ruin your Thanksgiving, as Detroit decided to air it out against Minnesota, which led to a loss (unlike Week 4 when Abdullah rushed 20 times for 94 yards in a win over the Vikings). The Lions might attempt to establish the ground game in Baltimore on Sunday with an ailing quarterback, but there’s not much reason to be confident in strong volume or efficiency against one of the league’s best defenses.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Devin Funchess (@ NO)
Funchess has looked great since Kelvin Benjamin was traded, as the team’s new number-one receiver has put up lines of 5/86, 5/92/1, and 7/108 in three games since. The 23-year-old has consistently hauled in targets that aren’t exactly right on the money from Cam Newton, and he’s made it look easy at times on the outside. This week, he will face a banged-up Saints secondary that just allowed 82 yards and a score to Sammy Watkins with quite a bit of production left on the field. Funchess is a legitimate WR1 option.
Thumbs Up: Demaryius Thomas (@ MIA)
Suddenly one of the worst teams in the league, Denver doesn’t have much going for them at 3-8. A change in offensive coordinator didn’t have much of an impact in terms of putting points on the board against Oakland, but there were some good signs for Demaryius Thomas at least. He was held to 18 yards, but DT caught five passes, and most of his targets came near the line of scrimmage. If that continues, he has a really good chance of breaking one like he used to do with Peyton Manning under center, though I would like to see a flanker screen rather than a bubble screen. Nonetheless, Thomas is back as a WR1/WR2 in Miami after an unfavorable matchup with Oakland’s bigger cornerbacks, especially since Trevor Siemian is an upgrade on Paxton Lynch.
Thumbs Up: Cooper Kupp (@ ARI)
Kupp capitalized on a bigger role with Robert Woods sidelined with a shoulder injury in Week 12, and the rookie set new highs in receptions (eight) and yards (116) in the win. I really like his chances to keep it going against Arizona on Sunday, as Patrick Peterson is fully expected to shadow Sammy Watkins. Kupp is a low-end WR2 for me, and for what it’s worth, he caught four passes for 51 yards and a touchdown in Week 7’s meeting with the Cardinals, and that was with Woods healthy.
Thumbs Up: Jordy Nelson (v TB)
It’s been difficult for Nelson since Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone, but as I’ve said before, there’s no way I would drop the All-Pro receiver. Green Bay still clearly trusts Jordy as evidenced by a key third-and-one where he was the only receiver on the field and converted on a quick pass to keep the eventual game-tying drive alive, and this would be a good time to get him in fantasy lineups. We just saw what Julio Jones did to Tampa Bay’s secondary, and Brett Hundley’s confidence should be high as the Packers return home. I’d be comfortable with Nelson as a FLEX this week.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Doug Baldwin (v PHI)
Coming off his worst game of the season where he was held to two receptions for 25 yards, Doug Baldwin gets another difficult matchup for slot receivers when the Eagles come to town on Sunday night. Philadelphia has limited Jamison Crowder (twice) and Larry Fitzgerald from the slot so far this season, and Jim Schwartz is unlikely to let Baldwin beat them in a huge NFC clash. He’s outside of the top-12 for me.
Thumbs Down: Larry Fitzgerald (v LAR)
Fitzgerald is so good that it might not matter who he faces, but Los Angeles held him to a 3/29 line in October, and like Baldwin, he’s coming off his worst game of the season with just 12 yards in a win over the Jaguars. The future Hall of Famer is still worth inserting into lineups as a low-end WR2 in PPR leagues, but I would shy away from him in standard leagues. Wade Phillips is one of the best defensive coordinators in the game, and the attention Fitzgerald gets from his defense will be a sure sign of respect.
Thumbs Down: Dez Bryant (v WAS)
Set to have his third-straight season with less than 1,000 yards, Dez Bryant just isn’t creating much separation, but that isn’t really anything new. If you listen to Tony Romo when he calls a Cowboys game, it’s pretty clear he believes Dak Prescott doesn’t know how to throw to Dez, and he’s probably right. Romo used to give Bryant chances—for good or for bad—to make plays downfield on 50/50 balls, and Prescott is a more conservative passer that wants to hit the open man. I don’t see that being Dez on Thursday night against his buddy Josh Norman.
Thumbs Down: Martavis Bryant (@ CIN)
There is just too much uncertainty for me to recommended Bryant for fantasy lineups in Week 13. First of all, if JuJu Smith-Schuster is back, he’s a WR2 and Bryant is barely a top-50 option at the position. Also, because the Steelers play on Monday night, there might not be clarity on JuJu’s status before you need to make a lineup decision. Even if the rookie sits again, Bryant would be a low-end FLEX option at best on the road, and I wouldn’t want my season on the line with a guy that hasn’t surpassed 50 yards since Week 2 as my last hope.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Hunter Henry (v CLE)
I said last week that I’m hoping Henry would be showcased for a national audience in a game Los Angeles could assert themselves as contenders in, and that’s what happened on Thanksgiving. The 22-year-old tight end found the end zone for the first time since early October, and he could have had an even bigger game if Dallas kept it close in the second half. This week, Henry gets one of the premier targets in the Browns, making him a top-five play for me.
Thumbs Up: Jared Cook (v NYG)
Jared Cook was surprisingly held to just one reception in last week’s win over the Broncos, but he also had a touchdown overturned on review. I like his chances to make up for the zero-point performance in another premier tight-end matchup when the Giants come to town. Despite not allowing the position to score over the past two weeks, New York still allowed 68 yards per game in those games
Thumbs Up: Cameron Brate (@ GB)
Brate’s outlook is directly tied to Jameis Winston’s status, and because Winston will make his return on Sunday, Brate should be back in the streaming conversation. People are excited about O.J. Howard, but the veteran is still the guy to own in redraft leagues over the final five weeks if Winston stays healthy.
Thumbs Up: Antonio Gates (v CLE)
I’m all in on Hunter Henry, but the Browns are so bad against tight ends that Gates might be worth a look, too. The future Hall of Famer hasn’t caught a pass in either of the past two games, but there’s a good chance that he’s involved in Week 13. If he’s going to score another touchdown to add to his all-time numbers, this would be the time.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Greg Olsen (@ NO)
Olsen left his first game since Week 2 early when his foot acted up, but it could have been worse, as he at least caught a 10-yard pass before exiting and is said to be OK. Still, the great tight end is going to have in-game-setback concerns until we see him for 60 minutes, so he’s off the TE1 map for me.
Thumbs Down: Austin Hooper (v MIN)
Hooper was a popular breakout pick for some over the summer, but outside of a fluky, 128-yard performance in the season opener, he’s yet to surpass 50 yards in a game and has only scored twice. The second-year tight end isn’t a recommended fantasy option against Minnesota’s stingy defense.
Thumbs Down: David Njoku (@ LAC)
I’m a big fan of Njoku in dynasty leagues, but he could take a hit for the rest of the season with Josh Gordon’s return, as the offense isn’t good enough to support more than a couple fantasy options—and even that’s pushing it. The Chargers have shut down more experienced and accomplished tight ends like Travis Kelce this season, so I’d avoid the talented rookie.
Thumbs Down: O.J Howard (@ GB)
Speaking of talented rookies, I think Howard’s time as the tight end to own in Tampa Bay has come to an end for 2017, as Cameron Brate has better chemistry with Jameis Winston. That leaves Howard too game-plan/play-calling dependent to be confident in for Week 13 and beyond.
For defense and kicker advice—and all your start/sit decisions—check out our full Week 13 rankings, and good luck to those fighting for a playoff spot.