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Week 13 Fantasy: “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down”

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Thumbs Up of the Week: Aaron Rodgers (@ NYG)

Those who have played Rodgers over the past three weeks might be lucky to still be in contention after he threw for 166.0 yards and 0.67 touchdowns per game, but the Green Bay offense has been quiet for far too long, and an explosion could be coming this weekend. The Giants have surprisingly held opponents to zero or one passing touchdown in more games (six) than they’ve allowed multiple scores (five), but that should be corrected on Sunday. Benching Rodgers shouldn’t even be a consideration.


Thumbs Up: Tom Brady (@ HOU)

Brady is another struggling option with just five touchdown passes since Week 6, but the volume has been there (42.0 attempts per game over that span), and the offense is getting healthier ahead of a big Sunday Night Football matchup in Houston. Two years ago, Brady threw for 378 yards and five touchdowns against the Texans, and last season, he had 277 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Most have him ranked as a QB2, but Brady is a top-five play for me.


Thumbs Up: Josh Allen (@ DAL)

The Bills went to a more fast-paced, no-huddle attack two weeks ago, and the change has seemed to unlock Allen’s rushing potential after a more conservative approach earlier in the season. Overall, the dual-threat gunslinger has 14 touchdowns compared to just two turnovers over the past six weeks, and he could do serious damage on Thanksgiving against a Dallas defense that has already struggled to contain Daniel Jones (six attempts for 54 yards) and Jeff Driskel (eight attempts for 51 yards and a touchdown) this month.


Thumbs Up: Jared Goff (@ ARI)

Based on how bad the Rams have looked in recent weeks, the thought of starting Goff with a potential playoff berth on the line might be too risky for most fantasy owners, but I have faith he can return low-end QB1 value on Sunday. Los Angeles has scored 32.5 points per game in four meetings with the Cardinals since Sean McVay took over—and that was with Arizona totaling just 25 points, which is sure to change in the Kliff Kingsbury/Kyler Murray era to give us more of a back-and-forth shootout. If given time, Goff can carve up the Cardinals secondary.


Others: Daniel Jones (v GB), Nick Foles (v TB)


Thumbs Down of the Week: Dak Prescott (v BUF)

Being back at home will help, but Prescott gets another tough draw in Week 13 with the Bills coming to town, as Sean McDermott’s defense has only allowed one multi-score game to opposing quarterbacks this year, and for the season, they’ve ceded just 11.5 fantasy points per game to the position. Dak seems to come through in big moments, but he’s actually been less than spectacular on Thanksgiving with 221.0 yards per game and a 3:2 touchdown-interception ratio. Prescott remains a low-end QB1, but those with another strong option may want to avoid him.


Thumbs Down: Derek Carr (@ KC)

Following a dud last week in New York, the weather needs to be viewed as a significant factor for Carr, who is now 2-9 in sub-50-degree temperatures—including an 0-4 record when it’s below 40 degrees, which will be the case this weekend in Kansas City. Even if Carr goes out and has a solid game to quiet the critics, the upside probably isn’t there compared to other options with bye weeks now concluded. I’m expecting runs and short passes to keep the chains moving for Oakland.


Thumbs Down: Philip Rivers (@ DEN)

Including an upset loss at home earlier this year, Rivers has tossed two interceptions in each of the past three matchups against the Broncos, and he is unfortunately playing perhaps the worst football of his career (seven interceptions over the past two games). The weapons are there for Rivers to have a big day, but the passing attack has frankly been terrible since Ken Whisenhunt was fired, as there is no way a player of Mike Williams’ caliber should see 4.0 targets per game. It’s safe to leave Rivers on the waiver wire.


Thumbs Down: Jimmy Garoppolo (@ BAL)

A four-touchdown showing on Halloween started a hot streak for Jimmy Garoppolo that hasn’t been stopped, but heading into Avon Barksdale’s territory (if you didn’t get enough references of The Wire on Monday Night Football) may put an end to San Francisco’s offensive outburst. Since their Week 8 bye, Baltimore has limited opposing passers to 7.7 fantasy points per game with sub-par performances from Tom Brady (13.4), Deshaun Watson (4.0), and Jared Goff (4.4) over that stretch. Jimmy G is my 28th-ranked quarterback for Week 13.


Others: Baker Mayfield (@ PIT), Jeff Driskel (v CHI)


Running Back


Thumbs Up of the Week: Miles Sanders (@ MIA)

It sounds like Jordan Howard (shoulder) will miss another game and potentially longer, so Sanders—coming off a career-high 15 touches—should again lead the backfield for Philadelphia. The rookie had a respectable 10.1 fantasy points last week, and there was some significant production left on the field with Carson Wentz either missing the throw or not even looking in Sanders’ direction when he was wide open. I have the second-round pick as a top-15 play with the hopes that the offense can get back on track in Miami.


Thumbs Up: Sony Michel (@ HOU)

Michel somewhat quietly saw 20 carries in last week’s win over the Cowboys, and that workload should continue down the stretch as New England gears up for January football. Houston’s run defense has collapsed since their return from London with 34.6 fantasy points per game allowed to enemy backs, so the Patriots should be able to move the ball (and punch it in) on the ground whether it’s a slugfest or shootout on Sunday night. Michel is a top-20 option.


Thumbs Up: Benny Snell (v CLE)

I am a little worried about this one because there is a chance both teams are so fired up for the Browns-Steelers rematch that neither running game is able to get going, but Snell rushed 21 times for 98 yards in last week’s win over the Bengals, and the rookie has been a factor for both games in which Devlin Hodges has seen extensive action (17 carries for 75 yards in the other). Still looking for his first career touchdown, Snell is firmly on the FLEX radar and should return RB2 value if Pittsburgh can play from ahead.


Thumbs Up: Devin Singletary (@ DAL)

Singletary—the third rookie runner to appear as a “Thumbs Up” option this week—is averaging 5.8 yards per carry on 84 attempts to start his career, and things continue to trend in the right direction for him with 16+ touches in three of the past four games, including his first 100-yard rushing performance in last week’s win over Denver. I’m not concerned about the matchup in Dallas, as their defense was already a little overhyped and will be without star linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and run-stuffing defensive tackle Antwaun Woods.


Others: Royce Freeman (v LAC), Derrius Guice (@ CAR)


Thumbs Down of the Week: Chris Carson (v MIN)

Seattle is different than other teams in that they try to build confidence in players that make mistakes rather than put them in the doghouse, but Carson has dangerously toed the line with seven fumbles in 11 games this season, and he could now be faced with an even timeshare after Rashaad Penny had a career day in Week 12. Plus, the Vikings have played stout run defense this year (sixth in the league), including an NFL-low three rushing touchdowns allowed. Carson is more of a risky low-end RB2 than RB1.


Thumbs Down: Joe Mixon (v NYJ) 

The Jets have been extraordinarily stingy against the run in November, and they now lead the league in rushing yards per game allowed (78.1) and yards per carry allowed (3.0; or 2.99 if you go to hundredths) heading into the final month of the season. Mixon’s workload and individual talent makes him tough to take out of lineups—and he remains a borderline top-20 play—but a decreasing role in the passing game puts him at added risk for a Week 13 disappointment.


Thumbs Down: Bo Scarbrough (v CHI)

Despite mostly struggling since defensive end Akiem Hicks (elbow) went down in Week 5, the Bears still have the personnel to stop the run, and they’ve been better recently, including just 17 days ago against Detroit (22 attempts for 61 yards). Scarbrough wasn’t even on the active roster at that point for the Lions, but I don’t see the rookie making a marked difference for a rivalry Chicago has owned recently. Consider Scarbrough a touchdown-dependent FLEX.


Thumbs Down: David Johnson (v LAR)

Seeing is believing, so while I’m probably more optimistic than I should be that Johnson will be rejuvenated coming off the bye, he’s simply too difficult to trust in fantasy lineups until if/when something changes. In his three “active” games over the past month, DJ has handled seven touches for 12 yards, and now the Cardinals will be getting Chase Edmonds back in the fold to throw the backfield into complete disarray. Look elsewhere.


Others: Carlos Hyde (v NE), Latavius Murray (@ ATL)


Wide Receiver


Thumbs Up of the Week: Cooper Kupp (@ ARI)

This may seem obvious, but I’ve seen others call Kupp more of a WR2/WR3 down the stretch, and that valuation seems ridiculous. For this week, Arizona has really struggled to defend the middle of the field in coverage, and Kupp should be able to shred them on intermediate routes. Remember, LA’s slot receiver broke his previous slump last month with a 7/220/1 line across the pond. I have Kupp as a top-five play.


Thumbs Up: Sterling Shepard (v GB)

Golden Tate (concussion) and Evan Engram (foot) both seem likely to miss Week 13, so Shepard could be in for an increased role as New York attempts to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers this weekend. He’s getting overlooked a bit because of a 15-yard performance last week, but Shepard has caught at least five passes in every game this season and will hopefully be more effective after a week to knock off the rust.


Thumbs Up: Phillip Dorsett (@ HOU)

The Texans’ struggles to contain speed at receiver are well documented (even at less than 100% and on a pitch count, T.Y. Hilton left some big-time production on the field last Thursday night with two drops), and Dorsett certainly fits the billing on a New England offense that hopes to get him back on Sunday night. In the opener last season, Dorsett caught seven-of-seven targets for 66 yards and a touchdown against a better Houston secondary, and he should be an excellent late-game flier for those that need a monster performance to get into the fantasy playoffs.


Thumbs Up: Sammy Watkins (v OAK)

Watkins saw 13 targets against the Raiders in Week 2, and while it resulted in just six receptions for 49 yards, I expect him to sacrifice volume for more chunk plays like we saw from Demarcus Robinson (6/172/2) and Mecole Hardman (4/61/1) as secondary options with Tyreek Hill out in the first AFC West matchup. Hill (hamstring) is expected to play this week, so it might be Watkins’ turn to go off if Oakland keys on Patrick Mahomes’ No. 1 receiver.


Others: Alshon Jeffery (@ MIA), Mike Williams (@ DEN)


Thumbs Down of the Week: DeAndre Hopkins (v NE)

Amari Cooper was an obvious fade last week against the Patriots, but being held without a catch speaks to just how dominant the Patriots are in coverage, and Hopkins is in line to be the next victim of shadow coverage from Stephon Gilmore. Even before signing Gilmore as their top corner, New England has historically held Hopkins in check (zero touchdowns and zero games with 80+ yards in six meetings). He probably can’t be benched, so you’re basically hoping for a solid, low-end WR2 showing for Hopkins.


Thumbs Down: Keenan Allen (@ DEN)

Allen will be determined to put up numbers this week after being held to 18 scoreless yards against Chris Harris Jr. in October (which led to more trash talk afterwards), but the Chargers haven’t been efficient enough to force the ball in his direction, and there are enough weapons at full strength for Philip Rivers to spread the ball around instead. A formula similar to LA’s last win (when Allen saw just four targets against Green Bay) could be the approach on Sunday.


Thumbs Down: Brandin Cooks (@ ARI)

The receiving lines for Cooks in four healthy games since September (1/29, 3/18, 4/59, and 2/32) is a bigger concern for this week than possible coverage from Patrick Peterson is, and he’s basically a borderline top-40 option at the position because of how loaded it is with bye weeks now concluded. Cooks doesn’t have the touchdown potential to make up for seeing barely five targets per game.


Thumbs Down: Christian Kirk (v LAR)

Kirk has spent most of his time on the perimeter in recent weeks, so unless Kliff Kingsbury comes out of the bye with a changeup to get his top receiver the ball out of the slot, he will see plenty of Jalen Ramsey—which doesn’t bode well for the chances of a big game with the turnover-averse Kyler Murray throwing passes. I would consider him a low-floor FLEX to conclude the fantasy regular season.


Others: Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel (@ BAL)


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