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Week 13 Fantasy: “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down”

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Thumbs Up of the Week: Lamar Jackson (v DAL)

Jackson could be a player that fantasy owners are wary about if he has little to no preparation for next Tuesday’s game against Dallas, but I actually think he could have one of his best games of the season. A simplified game plan might help Jackson get back to what made him such a difference-maker in 2019, and the Cowboys’ struggles with tackling is an added boost. I am optimistic for high-end QB1 value in Week 13.


Thumbs Up: Taysom Hill (@ ATL)

While fantasy owners probably would have liked more out of Hill last week, it’s kind of hard to complain about 17.5 fantasy points in a game where the teams combined for 91 passing yards—which shows the stable floor New Orleans’ current starter has thanks to his rushing production. I’d expect the passing numbers to increase starting this week, and Atlanta’s offense should have a better showing to perhaps make it more of a back-and-forth game. Hill remains a midrange QB1 for me.


Thumbs Up: Jared Goff (@ ARI)

Along with multiple others at quarterback, Goff was a massive disappointment last week, but he absolutely shredded the Cardinals last year (371.5 yards per game with a 5:0 touchdown-interception ratio), and I would be surprised if he didn’t come out hot after being publicly challenged by Sean McVay. Remember, the Rams are just one week removed from shredding Tampa Bay on Monday Night Football, and Goff has quickly bounced back before.


Thumbs Up: Derek Carr (@ NYJ)

Carr is one of the other Week 12 disappointments, but the cross-country trip—perhaps combined with a “moral victory” against the Chiefs—seemed to affect the entire team. It would be a shock if Jon Gruden allowed it to happen again (especially after they got blown out by the Jets in New York last year), and the weapons for Las Vegas are too good for Carr to not at least be a solid QB2 play.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Deshaun Watson (v IND)

Those with Will Fuller are obviously hurt by his six-game suspension to end a breakout 2020 season, but Watson will also be significantly impacted without his top wideout down the stretch—and the timing couldn’t be worse with a string of brutal matchups starting this weekend against the Colts. Now, the Texans will be counting on Keke Coutee and rookie Isaiah Coulter (who I really like, but he hasn’t even appeared in an NFL game) to fill out the starting trio behind Brandin Cooks; Watson likely needs to do plenty of damage with his legs to clearly stay on the QB1 map.


Thumbs Down: Matthew Stafford (@ CHI)

A coaching change can sometimes provide a boost for a team and/or offense, but I don’t think that’s something you can count on in Detroit. Over the past three matchups, Chicago has limited Stafford to a 3:5 touchdown-interception ratio (all of which were losses for the Lions), and they should come out ready to play—at home—after what happened against Green Bay. Stafford is a low-upside play this weekend.


Thumbs Down: Andy Dalton (@ BAL)

The weapons for Dallas can make Dalton a tempting play, but Baltimore’s secondary remains one to avoid, and he’s been held to just 228.0 yards per game in three fully healthy starts. Streamers such as Ryan Fitzpatrick or Mitchell Trubisky in a better matchup are recommended options over Dalton on the road, and it’s worth noting that the Ravens have limited him to a 76.6 quarterback rating in a season’s worth of matchups.


Thumbs Down: Cam Newton (@ LAC)

Josh Allen was able to rush for a touchdown against the Chargers last week, but Gus Bradley’s defense was very aggressive up front for most of the day, and a similar game plan could be implemented this week to slow down Newton. Although we know the kind of upside Cam can bring, he’s yet to throw for multiple scores in a game with New England, and the Patriots are fine with that remaining the case if they can stay hot (3-1 over the past four games).


Running back


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

The Eagles only giving Sanders six carries last week—and 11.7 attempts per game since the start of October—is a mystery, but the excuse was that Seattle is better attacked through the air, which isn’t the case for the Packers (4.6 yards per carry allowed). Last year, Jordan Howard and Sanders combined for 187 total yards and three touchdowns in a win over Green Bay, so I’m hopeful that Doug Pederson will remember that on Sunday. I have Philly’s starter as a top-five play.


Thumbs Up: Jonathan Taylor (@ HOU)

Taylor is already cleared to return after self-isolating last week, and the Colts should immediately feature him and the running game against a Houston defense that is allowing the second most rushing yards per game (154.7) and the most yards per carry (4.9) in the league. Indy’s second-round pick was instrumental in their win over the Packers two weeks ago by grinding out 114 yards on 26 touches, so don’t waste any time getting Taylor back in lineups.


Thumbs Up: J.K. Dobbins (v DAL)

The Cowboys are the only team allowing more yards per game on the ground (156.4) than Houston, and I anticipate a feature role for Dobbins this month with Baltimore hoping to get the offense rolling. Like the aforementioned Jonathan Taylor, the Ohio State product started to separate in the backfield with a season-high 16 touches a couple of weeks ago, and his explosiveness will be a challenge for the Cowboys on Tuesday. Dobbins is a top-15 option for me in Week 13.


Thumbs Up: Damien Harris (@ LAC)

Harris not gaining more red-zone work with Rex Burkhead (knee) out for the season wasn’t what fantasy owners wanted to see, but he remains the clear leader for early-down work, and that shouldn’t change down the stretch. Los Angeles just allowed Devin Singletary to have his most productive day on the ground (11 carries for 82 yards), so the defense focusing on Newton could open up some running lanes for Harris. Keep starting him as an RB2 or strong FLEX.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Ezekiel Elliott (@ BAL)

Just when it looked like Elliott was gaining momentum with his first 100-yard game of the season in Week 11, he followed it up with 2.4 fantasy points on Thanksgiving, and the former All-Pro has more lost fumbles (three) than rushing touchdowns (zero) over the past six games. The impending returns of Brandon Williams (ankle) and Calais Campbell (calf) will only make it tougher for Zeke to find running room; I don’t see how he can be viewed as an RB1 or even high-end RB2 at this point.


Thumbs Down: Le’Veon Bell (v DEN)

To his credit, Bell has reportedly been a great teammate for the Chiefs despite 5.6 carries per game (it helps being 5-0), but the touches simply aren’t there for him to pay dividends behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire on a pass-happy offense. Jamaal Williams, Devontae Booker, and J.D. McKissic are all No. 2 backs that I would rather play over Bell this week if you are struggling for a FLEX option.


Thumbs Down: Zack Moss (@ SF)

Moss played a season-high 60% of the snaps last week and handled 11 touches, but the matchup is reason to avoid the rookie on Monday night, as San Francisco—already allowing the seventh-fewest points per game to opposing backs—should come out fired up after their season-saving win over the Rams. Overall, Buffalo has changed their game plan from week-to-week depending on opponent, and I think they could opt for quick-strike throws rather than trying to establish the run.


Thumbs Down: Darrell Henderson (@ ARI)

Cam Akers getting an expanded role out of the bye hasn’t been a surprise, but it’s led to Henderson completely falling off (2.1 yards per carry on 25 attempts over the past three games), and now the rookie appears to be the back to own after rushing for 84 yards and a score last week. Even if Henderson remains the starter, he might need to show something early to avoid falling out of the rotation in an important game for LA.


Wide receiver 


Thumbs Up of the Week: Deebo Samuel (v BUF)

The chess match between Kyle Shanahan and Sean McDermott will be a fun battle, but Samuel is a tough player to eliminate from the game plan because of how many ways you can get the ball in his hands, so look for him to again be featured after 11 receptions for 133 yards in last week’s win. It’s no coincidence that San Francisco is 3-0 over Samuel’s past three outings (65+ receiving yards in each game), and his play style should help him avoid Tre’Davious White. The Niners’ most versatile weapon is a borderline top-20 option.


Thumbs Up: Cole Beasley (@ SF)

Perhaps the success Robert Salah’s defense has had defending Cooper Kupp out of the slot will be bad news for Beasley, but I think the smaller, shiftier option for Buffalo should be able to find the holes for what—again—could be a pass-heavy plan of attack. In games with at least five targets this year, Beasley has gone for lines of 4/58, 5/70, 6/100, 6/53, 4/45/1, 11/112, and 11/109/1. Consider him a low-end WR2/FLEX in 0.5 PPR leagues.


Thumbs Up: Michael Pittman Jr. (@ HOU)

Last week was a struggle for Pittman Jr. with two receptions for 28 scoreless yards, but he saw a season-high nine targets, and the opportunities were a good sign for a strong December potentially coming. I would say Houston holding Marvin Jones to 48 yards last week said more about the Lions than anything else, and Pittman Jr. has the size/speed to give the cornerbacks some problems on Sunday. He and T.Y. Hilton—who has killed the Texans throughout his career—are both worth a start.


Thumbs Up: Sammy Watkins (v DEN)

Watkins is another player that didn’t have a big game in Week 12, but he returned to the lineup to see seven targets and play 72% of the team’s offensive snaps; it’s only a matter of time before he goes off in the NFL’s most high-powered attack. If Vic Fangio does what he can to take away Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, Watkins could see plenty of single coverage as an upside FLEX.


Others: Nelson Agholor (@ NYJ), T.Y. Hilton (@ HOU)


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

A brutal schedule in the second half of the season was reason we weren’t quite as high on Hopkins in Arizona, and the shoulder injury to Kyler Murray is another factor thrown in to create some recent struggles for the 28-year-old. Now, he has to face old AFC South rival Jalen Ramsey, and Hopkins is a Hail Mary touchdown away from having just 220 scoreless yards over the past four games. I have him outside WR1 territory.


Thumbs Down: Amari Cooper (@ BAL)

Although Cooper has actually been more consistent this year despite playing with various quarterbacks (at least five receptions and 67 yards in all but two games), it feels like one of those disappointments could be coming just when fantasy owners might be counting on him to make the playoffs. A collection of wideouts for Tampa Bay and Carolina being on a bye moves everyone up some, but Cooper isn’t a confident WR2 for me in Week 13. He might need to turn Marcus Peters around to exceed expectations.


Thumbs Down: Tee Higgins (@ MIA)

A touchdown saved Higgins last week in the first game without Joe Burrow (knee), but the rookie will be covered by Xavien Howard and/or Byron Jones this week—which is a tall task for anyone. In recent weeks, Miami has slowed down DeAndre Hopkins (3/30), Mike Williams (2/38), and Jerry Jeudy (3/37) on the outside. At best, Higgins looks like a touchdown-dependent FLEX catching passes from Brandon Allen.


Thumbs Down: Jalen Reagor (@ GB)

I think a more accurate quarterback would clearly help, but Reagor deserves his share of blame for Year 1 struggles—most notably not seeming to have a full grasp of the offense. Philadelphia’s first-round pick could see a lot of Jaire Alexander on Sunday assuming Green Bay decides to play sides with their cornerbacks, so the chances of a deep ball don’t seem great. None of the wideouts are worth trusting for the Eagles based on how the offense has looked.


Others: Giants WRs (@ SEA)


Tight end


Thumbs Up of the Week: Noah Fant (@ KC)

The Chiefs have been absolutely ripped by tight ends in back-to-back weeks—Darren Waller (7/88/1) and Rob Gronkowski (6/106)—so now is the time to hop back aboard the Fant bandwagon. A week of almost all runs could lead to offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur wanting to air it out, and it makes sense to open things up for Drew Lock to showcase his talent over the final five games for Denver. Fant is a top-five option for me.


Thumbs Up: Jonnu Smith (v CLE)

Smith’s struggles hit a low point last week with zero targets, and he’s averaged just 19.5 yards per game since Week 6 after looking like an elite TE1 in the first quarter of the year. That said, Cleveland is just about the best matchup possible to re-emerge, and it’s not like the talent isn’t there for Smith. I would give him one more week, and Anthony Firkser is also a quality flier for those hurting at the position.


Thumbs Up: Jordan Akins (v IND)

It was frustrating that Akins didn’t work out in Week 12, but he was missed on two would-be touchdowns (Deshaun Watson even said so after the game), and I’d expect him to remain a huge part of the offense without Will Fuller. While the Colts remain stingy against tight ends, Akins will hopefully see enough snaps out of the slot and in scoring territory to return TE2 value.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Jimmy Graham (v DET)

He had some late production, but Graham was held without a catch until the fourth quarter of Monday night’s loss, and he played a season-low 35% of the snaps for Chicago. Plus, with Allen Robinson finally being used as the top red-zone threat that he should have been all year, the touchdown potential takes a significant hit for Graham. Don’t be surprised if the gap between he and Cole Kmet (79% snaps played) narrows this month.


Thumbs Down: Tyler Higbee (@ ARI)

Higbee has mostly played through multiple injuries in 2020, but he’s certainly not 100%, and the late-season surge doesn’t appear to be in the cards with 25 scoreless yards over the past two games. Other than a three-touchdown game against the Eagles in Week 2, Higbee hasn’t scored this year, and Arizona is allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points per game to enemy tight ends.


Thumbs Down: Will Dissly (v NYG)

I thought Dissly might get some chances last week against the Eagles, but it was mostly D.K. Metcalf and the running backs in a balanced attack (in terms of run versus pass), as the 24-year-old wasn’t even targeted despite playing 72% of the team’s offensive snaps. You’ll need a touchdown out of Dissly for him to be worth a start on Sunday.



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