The beard is glorious.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has always had a special place in my heart. Between his Fitz-Magic with my beloved Bills and his awesome special guest appearance on The League, he’s a guy I constantly root for. Meanwhile, Week 13 is (already) upon us, and fantasy owners will also be looking for some Fitz-Magic to keep their playoff hopes alive. And guess what? No more byes.
Let’s get to the starts and sits.
Thumbs Up; Quarterbacks
Carson Palmer @ Philadelphia Eagles: Remember when Palmer had more interceptions than touchdowns? Not anymore. After two straight two-touchdown performances, Palmer now has 16 scores on the season, compared to 15 picks. He’s been awesome during that span, averaging 26.51 fantasy points per game. He’ll get another favorable matchup this week against an improving Eagles defense, but I’m still not sold. This unit has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points per game to opposing signal callers, and as the league’s worst-ranked pass defense, have surrendered 300 yards per game and 17 scores through the air. Michael Floyd is emerging, and Larry Fitzgerald kills the Eagles, scoring five times in his last three games against them. His receivers will get open against this weak secondary, and Palmer will reap the benefits.
Josh McCown @ Minnesota Vikings: Start all your Bears. All of them. Even with Jay Cutler still sidelined, McCown may be the better option for the Bears. Since taking over, he’s thrown just one interception, compared to seven scores. He looks strong in the pocket, and his weapons and matchup alone make him a great start this week. The Vikings secondary is atrocious, allowing 25.30 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks (2nd-most). They have allowed a league-high 24 scores through the air this season, and opposing signal callers are averaging 40.3 pass attempts per game against the Vikings. Minnesota is also allowing a league-high of 2.2 passing touchdowns per game.
Ryan Fitzpatrick @ Indianapolis Colts: What a birthday performance from the Harvad graduate. On Sunday, Fitzpatrick eclipsed 300 yards for the first time in 14 games, while slinging two scores, one of which came in the last seconds to win the game. Fitz has been awesome, tossing five touchdowns and zero interceptions since taking over for the injured Jake Locker. He’s also averaging six rushing attempts per game, so there’s some rushing appeal as well. The Titans have a huge game against division rival Indianapolis this week, as Tennessee can still compete for the AFC South. This Colts secondary has been awful lately, surrendering 11 passing scores during their last five games. I love Fitzpatrick.
Joe Flacco vs Pittsburgh Steelers: Flacco is not worth that contract. There, I said it. He’s been pretty brutal this season, especially as of late. Over his last three games, he has four scores and five interceptions. I bounceback performance isn’t likely against the vaunted Steelers secondary. This unit is allowing less than 18 fantasy points per game to passers, and Flacco has a bad history against Pittsburgh. During his last five outings, Flacco is averaging a very weak 218 passing yards per game, tossing just six touchdowns in that span. In Pittsburgh, a big divisional game, I think we see a defensive showdown that lacks a ton of fantasy points.
Robert Griffin III vs New York Giants: I am done with RG3. He is the polar opposite of his rookie self. He’s been inconsistent, skittish in the pocket and far less accurate. The Redskins and that offense are a mess, and I’m not trusting RG3 this week. The Giants defense has been better lately, including their defensive line. Having said that, the Redskins offensive line has been atrocious, which doesn’t bode well for Griffin. The Giants are quietly only allowing 236 passing yards per game this season, and RG3 hasn’t thrown for 300 since Week 3.
Thumbs Up; Running Backs
Rashad Jennings @ Dallas Cowboys: Veteran Darren McFadden is on track to return this week, but I don’t care. Jennings has vastly outplayed McFadden this season, and has earned his keep. Head coach Dennis Allen stated that as long as he keeps running effectively, he’ll have plenty of opportunity. If he has just a little bit of opportunity this week, it could result in massive fantasy production. Dallas has been terrible against the run this season, allowing a league-high 27 fantasy points per game to opposing runners. However, they have been especially bad since linebacker Sean Lee went down in Week 10. Since then, running backs are averaging 223 rushing yards and 63 receiving yards per game. Meanwhile, Jennings has hauled in 15 passes since taking over at running back, so he should get the carries, but also some pass-catching chances. Even if McFadden returns, Jennings is a very good play.
C.J. Spiller vs Atlanta Falcons: Now, now is the time. After a bye week to rest, his ankle should as close to 100 percent as it can possibly be. Spiller is about to go off. Sure, Fred Jackson is still very much in the mix, but I foresee a handful of long runs in Spiller’s future for Sunday, one of which will go for a touchdown. The Falcons defense is one of the worst in football, allowing a healthy 4.6 yards per rush attempt and 130 yards per game on the ground. Atlanta has also allowed a running back to eclipse 100 total yards in three straight weeks. This week is the start of a handful of good matchups for Spiller, so he could salvage that first round pick with a fantasy championship for you.
Donald Brown vs Tennessee Titans: After being absolutely dominated on Sunday, I think the Colts try to maintain balance on offense this week, and because Trent Richardson is so bad, that will start with Brown. To be successful, the Colts will have to mix in the running game, and Brown has clearly been the more effective back, averaging a very strong 5.7 yards per carry. He gets the Titans this week, a team that has allowed the 4th-most fantasy points per game to backs (25.40) and have surrendered a league-high 15 scores on the ground this year. Brown found the end zone twice against them a few weeks back.
Le’Veon Bell vs Baltimore Ravens: One. The Ravens have allowed just one rushing touchdown all season long. That certainly doesn’t bode well for Pittsburgh’s rookie back, who has only found the end zone one in his last three games. He’ll see plenty of work as the Steelers lead back, but like I said, I don’t expect a lot of points in this contest, and Baltimore has been stout against the run.
Lamar Miller @ New York Jets: With Daniel Thomas sidelined for the rest of the season, many people will be intrigued by the idea of inserting Miller into their lineup. Don’t be one of those guys. You would think the Dolphins would unleash Miller and give him 20-plus carries, but it just doesn’t seem like they envision him as three-down back. Meanwhile, the Jets and their top-ranked run defense aren’t kind to backs, allowing a league-low 14.34 fantasy points per games to back.
Thumbs Up; Wide Receivers
Harry Douglas @ Buffalo Bills: Douglas continues to serve as one of the most underrated fantasy wideouts, especially in PPR formats. Over his last six games alone, Douglas has been targeted a whopping 51 times, and during that span, he’s caught at least six balls in all but one. He’s been awesome, the Falcons atrocious defense has force them to throw a lot, which has been great for his fantasy value. Douglas is a top-15 play this week against the Bills weak secondary. They are allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season. Buffalo has allowed seven receivers to eclipse 100 yards against them, and have surrendered 22 passing touchdowns on the year. Atlanta’s inability to run may leave them throwing a lot, and Douglas could go off.
Michael Floyd @ Philadelphia Eagles: Floyd has been red hot as of late, hauling in 13 passes for a whopping 297 yards and a touchdown over his last two games. Now is the time to continue riding his hot hand, as the Eagles defense is up next. Philadelphia is surrendering the most fantasy points per game to opposing receiving corps (39.28), and opposing offenses are attempting a league-high 44 passes per game this year, so Floyd should see plenty of chances.
Alshon Jeffery @ Minnesota Vikings: I’m not sure people realize it, but Jeffery is clearly looking like a top-20 fantasy receiver for redraft purposes. He’s been the perfect compliment to Brandon Marshall, and has actually been better in many weeks. He is currently the number 14 wideout in fantasy land, averaging an impressive 13 fantasy points per game this year. The matchup is great, as the Vikings are allowing a league-high 24 passing touchdowns on the year, so Jeffery should be considered a top-10 wideout this week.
Cecil Shorts @ Cleveland Browns: Shorts is a very talented wide receiver, but I don’t think he is one of those guys you can feel comfortable starting against shutdown corner Joe Haden. Haden has only allowed three touchdowns in coverage all season long, and Shorts is more of a PPR guy, having only found the end zone once all season long. The Jaguars have no other viable options in the passing game, so Haden will be blanketing Shorts all day long.
T.Y. Hilton vs Tennessee Titans: Hilton was held to just five catches for 38 yards on Sunday, as the Colts mostly struggled on offense. I don’t like him to bounce back this week against arguably the league’s best pass defense. Tennessee is top-10 in passing yards allowed and are the only team in football to allow fewer than 20 fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts. The Titans have also surrendered the fewest passing touchdowns in the league (8), and cornerback Alterraun Verner is playing out of his mind. According to Pro Football Focus, Verner has picked off five passes, while allowing just 22 catches and zero scores. I think Andrew Luck struggles again this week.
Thumbs Up; Tight Ends
Jordan Cameron vs Jacksonville Jaguars: Cameron has been brutal since his scorching start, but it wasn’t entirely his fault. The shuffling of quarterbacks hasn’t been kind to Cameron owners. In fact, according to Dave Richard of CBS, Cameron was targeted on less than 15 percent of Jason Campbell’s passes, and he only saw one end zone target. Looking for a guy of his caliber and size just once in the end zone is ludicrous. After an injury, it looks like Brandon Weeden will be under center, and Weeden has targeted Cameron slightly over 20 percent of his passes. That uptick in volume should bode well in a friendly matchup against the Jaguars, who are allowing second-most fantasy points per game to tight ends.
Charles Clay @ New York Jets: I’m not a fan of the Dolphins passing game this week, but if anyone can put up fantasy numbers, I think it’ll be Clay. Miami’s offensive line is in shambles, as quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been sacked more than anyone in football (50 times). The Jets, meanwhile, have one of the better defensive fronts in football, so I think Tannehill will be pressured quite a bit. That means a ton of potential checkdowns for Clay. It also helps that the Jets have surrendered the 8th-most fantasy points to the position.
Antonio Gates vs Cincinnati Bengals: I’m still a fan of Gates, but it’s becoming more difficult to trust him. He was held to just three catches for 21 yards last week, and talented tight end Ladarius Green has seen an increase in snaps in each of the last three weeks. Quarterback Philip Rivers is constantly looking towards Keenan Allen, and the Bengals are tough against tight ends this season.
Thumbs Up; D/ST
Steelers defense @ Baltimore Ravens: I already said I expect this game to be fairly low-scoring, and because Flacco struggles so much against the Steelers, I think he turns the ball over at least two times. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh’s defensive unit has been improving lately, and opposing defenses are scoring the 10th-most fantasy points per game against Baltimore.
Chiefs defense vs Denver Broncos: I’m not sure that the Chiefs are a must-start option any longer. They haven’t produced those turnovers as of late, and are likely going to be without Justin Houston, and could very well be missing Tamba Hali as well. After a frustrating loss, I think Denver comes out firing in this rivalry.
Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy sports columnist for Rant Sports.
You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.