Week 13 in the Fantasy Football season is always one of the most important. For some leagues the playoffs are under way and for many more it’s the last chance to either win and get in or to lock up that playoff seed you’ve been searching for. It’s an important week and there are some great matchups. Like we did last week, I’ll break down each game and give you my pick against the spread (taken from ESPN’s Pigskin Pick’em game) and then give you some quick notes on players that should be either upgraded or downgraded significantly because of the matchup or injury. The home team is indicated by all caps and you can find my record for last week and for the year down at the bottom. Today we’ll focus on the first half of the schedule starting with tonight’s Thursday Night Football game and after the jump we’ll go through the early games on Sunday. Choose wisely headed into this weekend, it could make or break the rest of your season…
Eagles (-2.5 ) over SEAHAWKS
Analysis: Seattle has been a far different and better team at home than they are on the road. They beat Baltimore and hung right with Atlanta. Last week they were up 10 on Washington in the 4th quarter before they coughed up the lead and let Rexy lead the ‘Skins to a come-from-behind win. At the same time they were losing that game, the Eagles were getting trounced on the opposite coast in their home stadium by the New England Patriots. Philly hasn’t had to travel to the West coast for any games yet this year, so this’ll be the longest trip of the year for them. Many of the fantasy folks across the web are saying to expect huge games for all the Eagles, but I’m not so sure. I do think the Eagles will win, but I don’t see them putting up huge numbers. On a short week I think both offenses will struggle and the Eagles will end up winning 17-10.
Player Notes: Not only did the ‘Hawks lose the game last week they also lost Sidney Rice for the year to his 2nd head injury in 3 weeks. The Seattle passing game is one to avoid but it will be interesting to see if Golden Tate can step up and take advantage of his opportunity and make himself a bigger part of Seattle’s plans going forward. Marshawn Lynch is a decent start against a Philly D that’s given up plenty of points in recent weeks but other than him stay away from Seattle… On the Philadelphia side of things, Vick and Maclin are out again, but it does look like LeSean McCoy will play through is questionable tag due to his toe. McCoy could find things tough against a Seattle D ranked 11th against the run, but is still a RB1. Vince Young gets his 3rd start in place of the injured Vick and some are expecting big things from him. I think he’s a high QB2, but don’t be fooled by his big total yards from last week’s junkball time against NE. Riley Cooper, Jason Avant, and DeSean Jackson all make decent wr3 starts, but could all take catches from each other and I don’t foresee a huge game for any 1 individual in this one. If you’ve got other options, go with them on Sunday especially since the weather could get dicey and the Seattle D can be feisty too.
Falcons (-2.5 ) over TEXANS
Analysis: Moving to the Sunday games, T. J. Yates doesn’t get an easy one in his first game and Atlanta once again catches a team at the perfect time. The Falcons got the Vikings without Adrian Peterson last week and now get a 3rd-string QB in his first NFL start. Yates managed the lead he was given last week well enough but didn’t show much ability to move the offense down the field. The Falcons meanwhile have won 5 of their last 6 with the only loss being the OT loss to the Saints. Atlanta’s offense has been redefining itself all year and has gone from pass-heavy to run-heavy and now it looks to just be Roddy-heavy as Hot-Roddy White has been the focus of the passing game the last 2 weeks. The Texans D is much improved and will be keyed in on White so Julio Jones will need to get back involved in the offense and Tony Gonzalez will need to play a pivotal roll as well. The Texans offense will be straight Arian Foster with a twist of Ben Tate every now and then as they try to shorten the game and make T. J. Yates’ life as easy as possible. In the end I expect Atlanta to come out with a big road victory since it’s just too much to ask Yates to win his first start. Atlanta 27, Houston 23.
Player Notes: The most troubling question in all of this game is what to do with Andre Johnson. You know what you’ll get from the Falcons, and you’re probably starting Turner, White, and Ryan if you have them and have been starting them. Gonzalez and Jones are a little bit riskier, but still you pretty much know what to expect. The same is true of Arian Foster since he’s almost sure to have a monster game. The rest of the Texans receiving corps is just a stay-away, but it’s not that easy with Johnon. He’s obviously an elite receiver, but he’s still just coming back from a major injury and his QB is unknown at best. On the positive side for AJ owners, the Falcons secondary is bad (23rd overall) AND they just lost their #1 CB Brent Grimes and their nickel back Kelvin Hayden is also expected to be out. The Falcons are ranked 2nd agains the run so the Texans may be forced to the air. In the interest of full disclosure, I drafted Johnson as my #1 in my most important league. I am playing him this week over Antonio Brown. It’s high-risk but it could also be high-reward if the Falcons take the lead and Yates finds a comfort-zone with Johnson. I’d rank him as a high WR2, but know it’s risky.
Titans (+1.5 ) over BILLS
Analysis: The Bills looked much better last week, but struggled throughout the month of November. I think last week was more a result of the Jets playing bad than of the Bills turning things back around. They’d like to forget November as quickly as possible as they went 0-4 and were outscored 134-50… The Titans got a big win to keep the pressure on the Texans and T.J. Yates over the imploding Buccaneers last week. The most encouraging news was the breakout of Chris Johnson as he had his first monster game of the year. The Bills rush defense has struggled with CJ in the past and is ranked 21st against the run this year. Look for Johnson to carry the Titans to another victory as they beat the Bills 28-17.
Player Notes: This game is going to be a rushfest with Johnson exploiting the Bills on one side and I expect C. J. Spiller to have a big game on the Bills side of things. The Bills committed to him last week against the Jets but he found it tough going against their rushing D. He should have a much easier time against the 22nd ranked Tennessee run defense at home. In PPR leagues he’ll be even better as he takes over for Fred Jackson as the focal point of the Bills offense. The QBs and receivers will be under-utilized but rank about in their normal positions.
BEARS (-8.5 ) over Chiefs
Analysis: Caleb Hanie looked rough in his first NFL start throwing 3 picks in the first half but also showed some promise in the second half throwing 2 TDs and complete 10 of 18 4th quarter passes for 175 yards. The Bears are hoping that’s the Hanie they get the rest of the year. The Chiefs have QB issues of their own and it’s still unclear as of now (check back later in the week at FantasyCPR for updates) who exactly the starter will be. Right now, Coach Todd Haley appears to be leaning toward Tyler Palko who would get eaten alive by the Bears D. Kyle Orton is probably the better choice but is still getting acclimated to the offense. If this game was in Arrowhead it would be a close one, but it’s at Soldier Field and I can’t see the Chiefs hanging in. I think this one’ll get ugly early and the Bears win 38-7.
Player Notes: The two-headed backfield of Forte and Marion Barber should get plenty of work against the Chiefs 26th ranked rush defense and make great starts this weekend. Caleb Hanie makes a decent QB2 as they try and get him involved and comfortable in the offense. On the Chiefs side, DBowe is the only guy I’d even consider starting since the backfield is so split there isn’t much value there and either Orton or Palko will find the going rough against the Bears D in Chicago.
Bengals (+7.5 ) over STEELERS
Analysis: Both the Bengals and the Steelers looked bad last week in their wins. Pittsburgh is on a short week following a victory on the road in KC, and the Bengals are coming off a late home victory over the in-state rival Browns. So let’s just throw out last week and look back at 3 weeks ago when these 2 teams met. Pittsburgh beat Cincy in Cincy 24-17 in a close game. This has the hallmarks of another tough AFC North blood feud game which means probably close and whoever plays better in the 4th quarter is going to take it. Big Ben has made his living by winning these divisional games expecially at Heinz field. The young Bengals will play it close again, so I’ll take the points and guess they keep it within 7 and have a shot at winning but I think ultimately they lose to Pittsburgh 20-17.
Player Notes: Jerome Simpson and Cedric Benson are both battling injuries but are expected to play as are their Steelers opponents on defense LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu. This could be a low-scoring affair so downgrade all your Steelers and Bengals slightly since both are playing very good defenses, but are all still usable across the board.
Broncos (+1.5 ) over VIKINGS
Analysis: Someone need to explain this line to me. The Broncos have won 4 in a row; the Vikings have lost 3 in a row and 5 of their last 6. Tim Tebow has his flaws but wins games; Christian Ponder has his flaws and is 1-4 as a starter. The Broncos will run all day long and not turn the ball over; the Vikings won’t have “All Day” Adrian Peterson for the 2nd week in a row. The Broncos D has been on fire lately bothering and harassing QBs into turnovers and keeping Tebow in the game so he can win it; the Vikings D has given up 20+ points in their last 6 games. How are the Vikings favored? really? I’ll take the Broncos 17-13
Player Notes: Percy Harvin will once again be the go-to guy on the Minnesota offense and is about the only playable Viking you want. Toby Gerhart is a decent flex play if you’re desperate but hopefully you’ve got better options… McGahee and Tebow are good starts, but remember the Vikes run D is top 10 and gives up less than 100 yards a game. They’ll be ok, but temper your expectations. Eric Decker is a nice spot start against the 29th ranked Vikings pass defense and is the only receiver Timmy T has any kind of consistent connection with.
PATRIOTS (-20.5 ) over Colts
Analysis: The Colts are horrible. They’re planning on switching QB’s and Bill Belichick is trying to convince the Pats that it’s a real game. The Brady bunch will be able to put up points and should cover no problem. This one will be ugly early as the Pats roll to an easy win and the 1 slot in the AFC (once the Texans lose). New England 45-Indianapolis 7.
Player Notes: The Pats will score in bunches, but trying to figure out exactly who will score is tricky. If they go rush-crazy BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Shane Vereen could both have nice days. Brady should be money as usual. Welker and Branch are both good starts, but if the Pats run away and hide they may rein back the offense at some point. If you’ve got either New England TE, you’ve got to roll with them too as Gronkowski has been a non-stop elite option and Aaron Hernandez seems due for a TD or 2… As for the Colts, if you own them, I’m sorry. Play Reggie Wayne if you’ve got nothing else, but try something else if possible.
DOLPHINS (-2.5 ) over Raiders
Analysis: Where did this Dolphins team come from, and where were they the first half of the season? The ‘Phins lost some close games early, then lost their QB and most left them for done after they fell to 0-7 and even suggested they go in the tank in order to try and get Luck-y. All they’ve done since then is win 3 of 4 and almost beat the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. With the extra time to prepare expect Tony Sparano’s team to be fired up and ready to welcome the AFC West leading Raiders to the east coast. Carson Palmer, Michael Bush, and company will roll into town having won their last 3 (albeit over diminished opponents for different reasons). I’m still not totally sold on the silver-and-black and facing a hot QB with that pass defense is a recipe for disaster. The Dolphins have been good against the run so expect them to focus on stopping Michael Bush and ride Matt Moore and the rejuvenated offense to a 27-21 victory.
Player Notes: Matt Moore continued his exceptional play of late and got Brandon Marshall involved too. Both make very good plays against the Raiders very beatable secondary. Reggie Bush also could play a big roll in the passing game and continues to get the most work in the backfield split with Daniel Thomas. All the Dolphins get a slight up-tick in value thanks to Mr. Moore’s hot play… On the other side of things Carson Palmer and Michael Bush are putting out an all-call for any healthy receivers to help ‘em out on offense. Darrius Moore was “encouraged” by his workout session yesterday and may be back, and Darrius Heyward-Bey should be good to go again. Jacoby Ford and Darren McFadden don’t look to be ready to go this weekend.
REDSKINS (+3.5 ) over Jets
Analysis: The ‘Skins return home after getting a big come-from-behind win on the road in Seattle. Rex Grossman did enough to get them the win and Roy Helu is now ready according to Make Shanahan to be the feature back. He sure looked like it last week. This week they’ll face a Jets D that always plays the run tough but got shredded last week through the air. Fortunately for the Jets, the Bills pass defense was even more abysmal and allowed Mark Sanchez to throw for a career high 4 TDs. The verdict is still out on the Sanchize and his regression was still apparent even in the victory last week. The Jets are just 1-4 on the road this year, and although it’s not a long trip, I think Rexy will play well enough at home to at least keep this one close and the 10th ranked pass D of the Redskins will force the Jets to run, which they haven’t been able to do. I’ll say the Redskins pull this out 24-20.
Player Notes: Grossman had better use Fred Davis all game long and not just on the first drive if he wants to have a big day throwing the ball. Santana Moss it back and he and Jabar Gaffney could both be in for decent games after what the Jets D showed last week. Roy Helu makes a great start for the ‘Skins if you trust Mike Shanahan to keep the same RB for 2 games in a row… For the Jets, Shonne Greene makes an interesting play against a s0-so Redskins rush D. The rest of the Jets, feel free to deploy as you normally would.
Panthers (+1.5 ) over BUCS
Analysis: The Cats took down the Colts last week to extend their misery behind the always-dynamic Cam Newton. This week they head south to face their division-rival Bucs. The Bucs are officially in freefall now losing 5 in a row and 6 of their last 7. It’s very possible a banged up Josh Freeman doesn’t play in this one meaning the Bucs will look to Josh Johnson to end their current skid. The Bucs rank 30th against the rush and as the Panthers showed last week, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Newton are all capable of big rushing games. Carolina will run, run, and run some more as they cruise to a 24-13 victory in Tampa.
Player Notes: If you own Josh Freeman you’ll have to monitor his progress very carefully leading up to gameday and have a backup plan in place in case he doesn’t go. The uncertainty (and general suckiness) in the pass game doesn’t bode well for any receivers on the Bucs side either and try to get them all on your bench if possible, except for Kellen Winslow who makes a marginal TE start. LaGarrette Blount may be asked to carry this offense and against the 28th ranked rushing D of the Panthers he should have a nice game. Much like the Bills/Titans this will be a rushing spectacular as all Panthers backs and Blount will be the main scorers. Start Steve Smith if you’ve got him and maybe Greg Olsen if he’s all you’ve got, but other than that use only RB’s (and Cam Newton) from this one.
record this year: 98-75
last week: 10-6