QB: DeShone Kizer (@ LAC)
While it’s been a rocky rookie year so far for the quarterback from Notre Dame, his season looks to be on the upswing from here on out. Kizer had his best game of his season last week against Cincinnati, going for 268 yards and finishing with the 3rd highest rating of any quarterback per PFF.
More than anything, however, Kizer now has an offense around him. Week 13 marks the long-awaited return of wide receiver Josh Gordon from suspension, and Kizer’s #2 Corey Coleman looks back to being himself following an extended absence due to injury.
While Los Angeles’s secondary is ranked 11th in defending wide receivers (per ESPN standard scoring), I don’t think that holds on this week. Los Angeles doesn’t have the speed to counter both Gordon and Coleman, and when you factor in dual-threat running back Duke Johnson against a Chargers defense which has had struggles defending running backs, I predict the Browns offense will show major signs of life in Los Angeles this week, and DeShone Kizer will have his breakout performance.
RB: Javorious Allen (vs. DET)
With starter Alex Collins likely out on Sunday, it is going to be Allen’s time to shine in Baltimore.
Yes, I understand that Danny Woodhead is finally back healthy. However, I still struggle to believe that he can effectively be the feature runner Allen has proven he can be. Don’t get me wrong, I think Woodhead is going to effective as well on Sunday, but I expect him to be more involved in the passing game than the running game, and I don’t expect it to be as valuable.
Allen got the goal-line carries that Collins did not corral during the Ravens’ matchup with Houston, not Woodhead. While neither played particularly well, Detroit is a lot worse rushing defense than Houston was. Detroit is ranked 28th against running backs, while Houston is ranked third.
Allen managed 8.7 points last week as the backup against an exceptional run defense, so I don’t see why he won’t top that this week.
WR: Josh Gordon (@ LAC)
Gordon, one of the most electrifying receivers in the league, returns for his first NFL game since the 2014 season this week. He had previously been suspended for substance abuse.
I have no reason to doubt that Gordon is still the best receiver on his team, and therefore the number one target. During his suspension, he was reportedly clocked at a 4.35-second 40-yard dash, leaving no questions about whether or not he is fit to play.
Los Angeles does have a good pass defense, but they don’t have a fast one, which could hurt them. Both Gordon and Corey Coleman have blazing speed, and as I mentioned earlier, names like Duke Johnson and David Njoku make the Browns offense unpredictable, which should help Gordon get some open looks.
While some may, I do not doubt in the slightest that Gordon will be pre-suspension self and jump right back into being an elite level wide receiver.
TE: Jared Cook (vs. NYG)
The Giants struggles defending the tight end have been well-documented this year, as they gave up a touchdown to a tight end in their first ten games, by far an NFL record. Somehow, that streak came to a close last week against the game’s greatest tight end, but any tight end facing the G-Men should always be considered a sleeper.
For Cook though, it’s more than just his opponent. After the injury last week to Amari Cooper and the suspension Michael Crabtree got for fighting Aqib Talib, Cook is now likely the Raiders’ best receiver.
It’s not fully clear whether or not Cooper will play, but given that he did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, it’s a safe bet to think he won’t. This lends itself to Cook playing a massive role in the passing game in a game the Raiders must win to keep their division hopes alive.
I’d expect at least a touchdown from Cook, who is still unowned in 20% of ESPN leagues as of Thursday afternoon.