My claim to fame is winning my $100 dollar money league fantasy football championship against nine other guys over the age of 45 the semester before I started college. I used my $232 dollars of earnings to buy all my college textbooks that semester.
This is my 13th season playing fantasy, and if you’re like me, you over obsess over who you should start each week. Do I know everything there is to know about the players you should start? Absolutely not. But, I know enough that many people throughout the week come asking me for advice, and follow it.
Now, while I’ll still be reading Jamey Eisenberg’s “Start Em, Sit Em” every week, probably more than once, I was talked into making my own predictions and giving it a shot.
I’ll do my best to keep to just three starts, three sits, one sleeper and one bust alert per position weekly (aside from kickers and defensive units), unless the matchup is just too good. My predictions will be based off of 10 team, No PPR leagues. But let’s be honest, if a receiver has a top-ten matchup, they’re going to be catching balls anyway. Might as well still read whether this is your exact set up or not.
Good luck to all looking to clinch a playoff spot this week and have a Happy Thanksgiving! Here are my top three starters by offensive position for week 13:
1) Sam Darnold, New York Jets @ Cincinnati
Darnold has seven touchdowns in his last two games and has 35 points in back-to-back weeks if you’re in a league where TDs count for six. He exploded for four passing scores two weeks ago against Washington and the Bengals have a weak secondary just like the Redskins. Darnold is spreading the ball around but utilizing not just his receivers, but running back Le’Veon Bell and tight end Ryan Griffin as well. Andy Dalton is back under center for Cincinnati, who will likely play with a vengeance, but if the score is closer than expected Darnold should be in line for a lot of scores again.
2) Drew Brees, New Orleans @ Atlanta
The Saints aren’t going to be embarrassed by Atlanta again. I think the game script writes a more back-and-forth contest, but let’s be honest — it doesn’t matter who wins the game as long as Brees plays like Brees. He has been in the league long enough to know how to adjust and he’s going to keep feeding the league’s number one wide receiver, Michael Thomas. He averages 10 catches per game and more targets. Running back Latavius Murray proved he could help Brees out last week and he should be factored in with how he played. Brees will eat the turkey leg.
3) Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee @ Indianapolis
I thought it was crazy that Tannehill was averaging 26.5 points in his previous four games before last week and that’s why he was my sleeper pick in week 12. But hello, four total TDs and a tenth of a point away from 40 fantasy points? Clearly he doesn’t need reliable WRs to get into the end zone, evident by his jump and flip over two Jacksonville defenders last week. Tannehill is in must-win mode for his team and the franchise is putting faith in him. A win puts the Titans as the division leader and Tannehill will make it happen.
1) Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago @ Detroit
The play calling in Detroit is horrible. While it helps Trubisky that head coach Matt Nagy refuses to run the ball, he’s finding that he isn’t ready yet to fully be in charge of a team. He only has multiple TDs in four of 11 games this season. The Lions have a favorable pass defense for Trubisky and the Bears but until Nagy isn’t calling the plays you shouldn’t expect much.
2) Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers @ Denver
In the teams’ last meeting in week five, Rivers had 211 yards on 32 passes. That’s all she wrote. He finished with 6.5 fantasy points, his worst fantasy performance of the season. The Broncos just gave up one of the worst second-half losses this season two weeks ago before their bye week, but they’re very familiar with Rivers and the Chargers. Rivers is also playing worse this season with a lackluster offensive line and him being too aggressive is costing the team wins. He has blown the game himself in the team’s last two games and has seven interceptions over that span.
3) Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami vs Philadelphia
Fitzpatrick has actually been a decent fantasy QB with the way he puts up points in garbage time. On paper this matchup looks intriguing with the injuries to Philadelphia WRs Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor, as well as RB Jordan Howard. However, even if the Eagles find themselves punting the ball away, the Dolphins will likely be down to WRs as well in Jakeem Grant (ankle) and Albert Wilson (ribs). With fellow WRs Preston Williams, Gary Jennings and Ricardo Lewis all on IR, they only have two active WRs on their roster (DeVante Parker and Allen Hurns). Without a run game, Fitzpatrick has been the team’s leading rusher too, but the Eagles defense will have an easier time stifling him.
Sleeper: Nick Foles, Jacksonville vs Tampa Bay
I like that Foles is going against the 31st ranked pass defense in the Buccaneers and he has a full set of healthy WRs. Foles should be able to use top wideout D.J. Chark more in this game, as well as factor in Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley and Keelan Cole with ease when needed. RB Leonard Fournette has performed better as of late, so his change of pace ability paired with being available in the passing game should give Foles and the Jaguars more than enough options. Additionally, with Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston’s interception troubles, Foles could end up with a short field where he’s able to attack quickly.
Bust Alert: Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams @ Arizona
This is the week where Goff turns it around right? We’ll see. He’s going against the worst pass defense in the league, but doesn’t have any TDs in three straight games. He now has more INTs (12) on the year than scores (11) and the Rams’ offensive line and run game are falling apart more and more each week. I was shocked when I saw he completed 26 passes against Baltimore and broke the 200-yard mark in their ugly game, but a lot of that came when the game was out of reach so Goff could easily continue to laugh all the way to the bank as the highest paid QB in the NFL.
1) Jonathan Williams, Indianapolis vs Tennessee
Williams has two consecutive games rushing for more than 100 yards and will earn the start again this week at home with Marlon Mack still out with a broken hand. The Titans allow more than 100 yards per game and have allowed 100 yards to RBs in each of the last three games. Fellow back Nyhiem Hines will jump in with Williams, but he did so last week and Williams still scored and had more than 100 yards.
2) Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay @ Jacksonville
Jones performs best when his team needs to be more involved in the passing game. It doesn’t make sense since he’s a RB, but it works for him and he produces. I just talked about Foles above, and like Williams’ scenario with Tennessee, Jacksonville has also allowed 100-yard rushers in each of its last three games. Furthermore, the Jaguars have given up five rushing scores in that same span. With how bad Winston is throwing the ball this season, if Tampa Bay finds itself in a deep red zone play, Jones will likely be the play-call option.
3) Miles Sanders, Philadelphia @ Miami
The Dolphins give up more than 140 yards on the ground per game and it looks like Jordan Howard has a chance of missing the game again. Even if Howard is in there in some capacity, Sanders should see more plays called for him. With the uncertainty of Philadelphia’s WRs, QB Carson Wentz will likely rely on Sanders as a pass-catching back as well to try and void a big hole. Because the NFC East is so poor, the Eagles are still fighting for a division title and with the way Miami can’t stop the run Philadelphia needs to pound the ball if it wants to win.
1) Tevin Coleman, San Francisco @ Baltimore
The 49ers are making a cross-country road trip to the best defense in the NFL. Coleman hasn’t been as dominant lately and San Francisco is back to splitting up carries between him, Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson and possibly Matt Breida again if he’s active after missing two games due to an ankle injury. I don’t like how he’s underperforming with all the offensive options and I don’t trust him against a stout rush defense team.
2) Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy, Kansas City vs Oakland
Williams is dealing with an injury that could keep him sidelined in favor of McCoy. However, McCoy was benched just a few weeks ago because the Chiefs weren’t comfortable trusting him with a heavy workload. Best case scenario for Kansas City is that both split time, which in turn doesn’t help you. Darrel Williams, its third-string back, has been known to get the bulk of carries out of nowhere (as seen last season), so who knows what kind of a factor he’ll be.
3) Jaylen Samuels, Pittsburgh vs Cleveland
It looks like starting RB James Conner will miss another game, but it’s Benny Snell who took over the backfield last week. Snell is now listed as the backup to Conner, ahead of Samuels, and will start against the 25th ranked Cleveland defense.
Sleeper: Josh Jacobs, Oakland @ Kansas City
Jacobs leads all rookie RBs in scrimmage yards (957) and rushing TDs (7) this season. If you think back to when Indianapolis played Kansas City it showed the keys to beating the Chiefs come on the ground. Kansas City has allowed more rushing scores than the Dolphins and just one less than the Bengals. Let that sink in. A rebound from a poor fantasy day last week in a blowout with the Jets should be in store.
Bust Alert: Carlos Hyde, Houston vs New England
The Patriots are actually extremely vulnerable to rushers. We’ve seen it with guys like Nick Chubb and Le’Veon Bell already this year, and New England is just barely in the top 10 in rushing now; it allows just under 100 yards per game. The Patriots have just five rushing scores against them this season, but Hyde actually has less on the year with four. Hyde has enough volume in carries this season that could help him, but he likely has to find the end zone in order to not be a bust.
1) Tyreek Hill, Kansas City vs Oakland
Hill is reported to take every practice repetition to begin the Chiefs’ practice week. He missed the week two matchup between the teams with his multiple-week injury but should be in line to lead the wideout core barring no setbacks. Oakland has a 26:8 TD:INT ratio this season and ranks 28th in the league. The Raiders have a long day ahead of them even if Hill isn’t 100-percent.
2) D.J. Chark, Jacksonville vs Tampa Bay
Along the same reasonings on why to start Foles, Chark is the number one receiving option against a poor pass defense in Tampa Bay. Chark and Foles have repertoire and I think this is the game that finds them connecting big. His targets and catches were way down last week in the team’s matchup with Tennessee and it made Jacksonville look elsewhere if it wanted to win…and it worked as the Titans blew our Chark and the Jaguars.
3) Julian Edelman, New England @ Houston
Edelman makes the most sense as the receiver to start for the Patriots this week, as long as the game script goes to plan in having a back and forth contest. Fellow wideouts Mohammed Sanu and Phillip Dorsett are still questionable with the injuries that kept them out last week. If Edelman is playing outside and in the slot it’s going to make him hard to cover. Additionally, he’s due a TD, having been held out of the end zone since week eight against Cleveland.
1) John Brown, Buffalo @ Dallas
Dallas is opening up its annual Thanksgiving game at home on Thursday to kickoff the Salvation Army donations it sponsors each year. The Cowboys and their sixth-ranked pass defense are in a familiar territory, while the young Buffalo team will likely come into the game on a short week unprepared. Brown salvages his days with long TDs, but unless a full breakdown occurs for Dallas, Brown is going to have a tough and uneventful day.
2) Kenny Golloday, Detroit vs Chicago
Golloday took a hit when QB Matthew Stafford went out with a multiple-week injury, but now backup QB Jeff Driskel is a game-time decision. If neither can go the Lions will turn to undrafted rookie David Blough out of Purdue who has only worked with the starters (if that) during preseason. Without knowing how the rookie plays or what relationship he’ll have with any WRs, especially in a lacking run game, I don’t see how Detroit puts up points on Thanksgiving.
3) Brandin Cooks, Los Angeles Rams @ Arizona
Cooks returned from a concussion that kept him sidelined for a few weeks, but caught just two passes for 32 yards in the teams’ blowout loss at home to the Ravens. He was pushed down to third on the depth chart, rightfully so, in favor of Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. Cooks’ two fellow WRs garnered most of the attention from Goff as he continues to struggle. A recipe of not getting passes from a struggling QB doesn’t add up to a smart fantasy play.
Sleeper: Allen Hurns, Miami vs Philadelphia
I want to ask if Miami could get more banged up or have worse luck, but then again, I don’t. With the team placing Jakeem Grant on IR and Albert Wilson reported to be close to landing on IR with a rib injury that kept him limited in practice, Hurns is suddenly the No. 2 WR on the team officially (even though he has played like it for the last few weeks). The Eagles will try and take No. 1 WR DeVante Parker out of the game, leaving Hurns to get extra targets. Hurns already has 13 targets in the team’s last two blowout losses.
Bust Alert: Emmanuel Sanders, San Francisco @ Baltimore
Sanders is still dealing with a minor injury, evident with his poor fantasy output over the last few weeks, but travelling cross-country to play Baltimore at 1 p.m. gives him a modified short week to prepare. He has fallen off the score sheet after his first two games after the trade looked promising as he scored in each. Injury or not, he’ll see top safeties and cornerbacks the entire game and struggle to produce again.
1) Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia @ Miami
The Dolphins have a much better pass rush than their run stop, but if Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor (or even just one of them) miss another game, I’m confident Ertz, Goedert and Sanders will be the most involved in the passing game. Miami just gave up 78 points in its last two games and for an Eagles team fighting to win the division still, using these guys could be pivotal.
2) Kyle Rudolph, Minnesota @ Seattle
Rudolph has four scores in his last three games and I think he’ll continue his red zone attention even with Adam Thielen likely returning from injury. I think this game could go back and forth and I think Minnesota is talented enough to get into the red zone and set up plays to play its game. QB Kirk Cousins has been relying on Rudolph in big moments as of late and nothing to me suggests that he’s going to stop now.
3) Travis Kelce, Kansas City vs Oakland
Kelce has caught seven passes in each of his last three games and has TDs in his last two. All three of his previous opponents have respectful to borderline great pass defenses and he torched them all. Oakland’s pass defense is WAY lower than all of them and if Hill is on any kind of snap count/limitations and Williams or McCoy can’t play a full game, Kelce becomes the Chiefs’ most important receiver.
1) O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay @ Jacksonville
If you didn’t listen to me last week about not playing either of these TEs, you will this week. They combined for one catch for 10 yards. I only need two sentences to prove my point.
2) Vance McDonald, Pittsburgh vs Cleveland
If McDonald showed the world how frustrated he was when QB Mason Rudolph was sailing balls over his head two weeks ago in Cleveland, he must’ve almost quit the NFL last Sunday. McDonald had a single yard. The Steelers are benching Rudolph for Devlin Hodges (likely so the Browns don’t target Rudolph to knock him out for good), so that may provide a light. However, when Hodges was in before he barely used him either.
3) Jason Witten, Dallas vs Buffalo
In fairness Dallas as a team last week scored just nine points, so in turn, Witten had just one catch for five yards. At least if you started Witten over McDonald you’re half smiling. The Bills’ pass defense is third in the NFL and they have just as many TDs as INTs (7). Witten won’t likely be targeted too much and this game as a whole could be low scoring.
Sleeper: Jared Cook, New Orleans @ Atlanta
Cook has TDs in back to back games and was one yard off of the century mark last week. He has 20 targets in the last three games and he plays on the same team as Thomas. The Saints are using him like their No. 2 WR at this point in the season and this game has revenge written all over it after Atlanta shocked them just three weeks ago.
Bust Alert: Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Rams @ Arizona
Arizona has given up the most points to opposing TEs this season, but it’s the story of struggling Goff, a depleted offensive line and a failing run game with Todd Gurley’s ailments. He has just three targets (and three catches) in the last two games after seeing 25 in the previous three.