Fantasy Football: Week 13 Matchups

Derek Anderson

It’s Week 13 of the NFL season, which means it’s hero time. Like Mr. Bennett hero time. You embarked on a long, grueling march to get here over three months ago, and now’s the time to seal the deal and get your ass in the fantasy playoffs. Yes, you need our breakdowns of a few key fantasy matchups at all the positions that matter (kickers are for the birds). For each roster spot we’ve listed Five Strong Plays, a few players to Temper Your Expectations for, one Sneaky Play of the Week, and one Dud of the Week.

As always, these are not necessarily the guys we think will score the most points or score the least points: there will always be obvious situations and choices we dismiss. These also aren’t all sneaky plays. These are just the matchups that we think deserve mention*.

Looking for signs of life in Providence, Rhode Island, it’s ETB’s Week 13 Fantasy Football Matchups.

Five Strong Quarterback Plays

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh vs. CIN
Matt Schaub, Houston @ TEN
Derek Anderson, Cleveland @ ARZ
Jon Kitna, Detroit @ MIN
Brett Favre, Green Bay @ DAL

Fortune Cookies: The monsoon Monday night in Pittsburgh made for one of the NFL’s lowest-scoring, most boring broadcasts ever, and was a bigger factor in limiting Ben Roethlisberger than the Miami defense was. Assuming the rains move out and the grounds crew figures out how to fix that field, Big Ben should rebound nicely against Cincy’s poor pass defense… The Texans have no running game to speak of, which should mean 35+ pass attempts for Matt Schaub, who has Andre Johnson back at full strength and has thrown 2 TD passes in each of the last two games; make it three straight against Tennessee’s faltering, Haynesworth-less defense… Arizona’s secondary is far from the laughingstock it has traditionally been, but broke down last week against Trent Dilfer of all people, who threw for over 250 yards and 2 TDs. The strong-armed Derek Anderson has many, many more weapons than Dilfer (not to mention considerably less girth), and should be good for 2-3 TD passes… The turnovers and sacks are always a concern, but we’re assuming the Vikings’ top-rated rush defense shuts down Kevin Jones and forces Jon Kitna to throw 40+ times for the fourth straight week. Honestly, you never know if you’re going to get the good or the bad Kitna, but no one allows more passing yards/per (283) than Minny… Only Tom Brady is having a better season than Brett Favre, who has seen his legend reach new stratospheric heights in the midst of leading his team to a 10-1 record. He’s an all-time great in one of the best seasons of his career. In what should be a high-scoring affair in Dallas, expect nothing less than 300 yards and 2 TDs from John Madden’s muse.

AJ Feeley

Temper Your Expectations

Philip Rivers, San Diego @ KC
A.J. Feeley, Philadelphia vs. SEA

Fortune Cookies: It’s been a study of contrast all season long for Philip Rivers; he’ll have games like last week against Baltimore (25-35, 249 yards, 3 TDs) and efforts like Week 6 against Oakland (14-21, 156 yards, 1 INT). He hasn’t really been able to string together two solid games in a row, and in the Arrowhead Stadium pressure-cooker, we expect only modest returns as the offense leans heavily on LT… Eagles HC Andy Reid is still him-hawing about who’ll start this week, saying he wants to see Donovan McNabb at 100% before making a decision, but we have a feeling it’ll be A.J. Feeley who ultimately gets the nod. Don’t expect another effort like last week, however, against Seattle’s solid, 14th-ranked pass defense.

Sneaky Play of the Week

Tarvaris Jackson, Minnesota vs. DET

Fortune Cookie: We can’t consciously recommend starting Tarvaris Jackson if your team is a) fighting for one of the final spots in your fantasy playoffs, or b) trying to secure a #1 or #2 seed and a bye week. But, if your team is pretty much done for and you’re playing the role of spoiler, why not take a gamble on Jackson, at home, against the NFL’s 26th-ranked pass defense? He actually looked very good running and throwing against the Giants last week. Hey, he’s bound to cross the 200-yards passing mark and throw for more than 1 TD at some point in his career, right?

Dud of the Week

Baby Eli Manning, New York Giants @ CHI

Fortune Cookie: With their overtime win last week over the Broncos, the Bears are (foolishly?) still clinging to hopes of a playoffs berth. Expect them to be all sorts of revved up in front of the home crowd, and we know that Baby Eli Manning does not perform especially well in these kinds of situations. He won’t throw 3 picks for TDs like last week, but he’s not going to have a good game.

Brian Westbrook

Five Strong Running Back Plays

Travis Henry/Selvin Young/Cecil Sapp, Denver @ OAK
Chester Taylor/Adrian Peterson, Minnesota vs. DET
Steven Jackson, St. Louis vs. ATL
Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia vs. SEA
Fast Willie Parker, Pittsburgh vs. CIN

Fortune Cookies: Basically you can feel confident starting just about anyone–even washed-up backs like Ricky Williams–against the laughable Raiders rush defense right now. They’re allowing over 150 yards/per, and have watched Chester Taylor and Kolby Smith run roughshod on them in successive weeks. Whether it’s Selvin Young, Travis Henry or Andre Hall (keep an eye on the injury/suspension reports) who starts, you should have them in your lineup… The second of our “start whoever gets the nod” matchup is Chester Taylor, who’s certainly made the most of his time subbing for Adrian Peterson. Peterson looks good to go after sitting out a few with a LCL injury. The Lions rush defense is not as bad as you think, yielding just 95 yards/per, but the Vikings lead the NFL in rushing, averaging 30 more yards on the ground than the league’s second-best rushing attack. These two will likely split carries, and we think it’s worth starting both unless you have much better options… Finally, Steven Jackson is back. He may never be fully healthy this season, but that 53-yard TD run showed us all we needed to see. He’s also getting back involved in the passing game and will be leaned on heavily if Marc Bulger is out with due to the concussion… Brian Westbrook has accounted for over 90 total yards in every game this season, has 10 TDs and 62 receptions. Wow. You would be insane to bench him under any circumstances, even against the stingy Seattle defense that’s only giving up 16.6 points per game… A month ago Fast Willie owners were looking at the coming schedule and licking their chops with games against the Browns, Jets, Dolphins and Bengals lined up. Parker is now in the last game of that stretch and hasn’t scored yet. That last time he did score was Week 8 against the Bengals though, a game where he went off for 126 yards on 22 carries (5.7 YPC) and 1 TD. That was on the road, and we expect even more fantasy points from Parker at home against the Bungles this time around.

Temper Your Expectations

Kevin Jones, Detroit @ MIN
Willis McGahee, Baltimore vs. NE

Fortune Cookies: We were pretty shocked to see Mike Martz and the Lions dedicate themselves to Kevin Jones and the running game on Turkey Day against the Packers (20 carries, 93 yards, 1 TD), but it’d be silly to do that again this week against the NFL’s best rush defense. Jones could still be in line for some short TD plunge opportunities, and will catch some passes, but don’t expect much out of the backfield and feel comfortable benching him if you have other strong options… Willis McGahee has quietly scored a touchdown six straight weeks, but the Patriots know he’s all they have on offense and should zero in on stopping him and forcing Kyle Boller to throw. The Pats are the best defense in the NFL at taking individual players out of the game. That’s not a good thing if you’re a Baltimore fan; McGahee’s TD streak ends.

Sneaky Play of the Week

Justin Fargas, Oakland vs. DEN

Fortune Cookie: As we mentioned in the Hangover, Justin Fargas is now averaging 96 rushing yards and 3 receptions for 21.3 yards to go with 2 TDs in his four games as a starter. Denver is giving up 146.7 yards on the ground and 4.7 yards per carry, ranking in the among the three worst teams in the NFL in both categories. Fargas, with his 4.8 YPC on the season, should have little trouble marching on Denver while the Raiders shy away from the passing game against the strong Denver secondary.

Dud of the Week

Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati @ PIT

Fortune Cookie: We’ve reminded you of this simple fact a few times here, but just to nail it home once more: you don’t run on the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. You generally don’t meet with any success from your running backs, period, as only one player–the Jets’ Thomas Jones, of all people–has crossed the century mark against the Steelers in their last 36 games. Rudi Johnson hasn’t looked good and has been outplayed by his backups all year long. That won’t change this week, especially if that turf is still all torn up. He also doesn’t get involved in the passing game if/when the Bengals get down.

(Rod Mar/The Seattle times)

Five Strong Wide Receiver Plays

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona vs. CLE
Wes Welker, New England @ BAL
Roy Williams, Detroit @ MIN
Hines Ward, Pittsburgh vs. CIN
Greg Jennings, Green Bay @ DAL

Fortune Cookies: After a slow start to the season Larry Fitzgerald has been on an absolute tear over the last eight weeks. He’s been especially red hot in the last three games, going for 5 TDs, 25 receptions and 323 yards. Already at 75 receptions and over 1,000 yards on the season, Fitzy should continue his monster campaign against a toothless Cleveland secondary this week… We don’t expect the beatable Ravens secondary to hold Moss in check as much as Philly did last week, but they’ll no doubt try to follow suit and limit Tom Brady to underneath routes. Wes Welker owners will be thrilled if such a scenario unfolds again and he duplicates last week’s stats (13 catches for 149 yards). Welker is the best slot reciver in the NFL right now… Roy Williams isn’t having a terrible season, but he’s not living up to the big expectations we had for him so far and has been incredibly streaky. He only has 2 TDs in the Lions’ last eight games, but we think he’ll find paydirt this week against a porous Viqueens secondary that could be missing Antoine Winfield again. Something like Plaxico Burress’ 7 receptions for 93 yards and 1 TD from last week sounds about right… The Bengals defense has allowed 22 TD receptions this year, second-most in the NFL, and gives up 243.2 yards a game through the air. Hines Ward should have little trouble finding the endzone and racking up 5-8 receptions… We both think this Dallas/Green Bay game will be a high-scoring affair. Greg Jennings has emerged as Brett Favre’s favorite deep threat this season and should be very active in this one versus the suspect Dallas corners. Jennings has 9 TDs in nine games this season, and has a great shot to keep that impressive ratio alive.

Temper Your Expectations

Reggie Williams, Jacksonville @ IND
Reggie Brown, Philadelphia vs. SEA

Fortune Cookies: Behind strong overall play from their Bob Sanders-led secondary, the Colts are quietly fielding the league’s second-rated defense against the pass, giving up just under 162 yards/per. Reggie Williams has been the Jags’ big-play threat during the second half of the season, but he’s still a hit-or-miss guy. This week, it’s a miss… He scored last week against the Pats, but Reggie Brown has turned in a pretty disappointing campaign in his first real chance at establishing himself as a WR1 in Philly. The ‘Hawks will keep him relatively quiet this week no matter who’s throwing the passes.

Sneaky Play of the Week

Sidney Rice, Minnesota vs. DET

Fortune Cookie: You start Sidney Rice this week as your Sneaky Play for the same reasons we list for his quarterback, above. The smallish Lions corners could struggle with Rice’s combination of size and speed, and there’s not much else at wideout for Minnesota. Call it a hunch–we think he finds the endzone for the second week straight.

Dud of the Week

Lee Evans, Buffalo @ WSH

Fortune Cookie: The worst news Lee Evans owners could have possibly gotten this week is that rookie Trent Edwards will retain the starting job at QB for Buffalo. It’s not so much that JP Losman is better than Edwards–he’s not–but Losman most certainly has a more pronounced penchant for bombing it to Evans. Clearly, the ‘Skins are bringing a lot of baggage to this one after the death of Sean Taylor, but nevertheless we don’t like Evans’ chances.

Jason Witten

Five Strong Tight End Plays

Chris Cooley, Washington vs. BUF
Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City vs. SD
Jason Witten, Dallas vs. GB
Donald Lee, Green Bay @ DAL
Dallas Clark, Indianapolis vs. JAX

Fortune Cookies: It’s looking like Chris Cooley is going to establish a new career high for touchdowns in a season after hauling in his seventh last week, which equals his total from ’03. He has 14 receptions for 185 yards and 2 TDs over the past two weeks, and has a very good chance for another monster game against a Bills secondary that really struggles on the road… Tony Gonzalez clearly relishes the head-to-head matchups with Antonio Gates, as he’s caught 51 passes for 666 yards and 2 TDs over the past seven games against San Diego… Jason Witten needs to average 50 yards receiving over the Cowboys’ last five games to reach 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. He’s also just one touchdown short of a career high in a single season; we think he’ll hit the 50 mark and score, too… Last week against Detroit was the first time all year that Donald Lee failed to catch at least three passes in any given game this season. We don’t expect that to become a trend as Lee gets back in the game like Mitch Yost against a ‘Boys D that’s vulnerable over the middle… As of Wednesday it’s not looking good for Marvin Harrison’s chances to get back in the lineup this week, which means Dallas Clark, who’s already a favorite target of Peyton’s, should get more targets than usual. He’s working his way back from an injury, which accounts for the downtick in production as of late.

Temper Your Expectations

Randy McMichael, St. Louis vs. ATL
Jeremy Shockey, New York Giants @ CHI

Fortune Cookies: If we were to name the tight end who most personifies the “Temper Your Expectations” category this season, Randy McMichael would most definitely be a frontrunner. He’s talented, playing in what used to be a high-powered offense… and hasn’t done much of anything except tease his owners every now and again with a respectable game. Maybe he’ll have one this week, maybe not… Something tells us it could be a slugfest in Chicago this weekend, and we don’t like Jeremy Shockey’s chances of scoring. Also, we don’t like him, so it’s personal.

Sneaky Play of the Week

Chris Baker, New York Jets @ MIA

Fortune Cookie: Some of it probably has to do with a rookie quarterback behind center who’s getting little to no pass protection and doesn’t have the patience/time to wait for deeper routes to open up, but Chris Baker has achieved a small level of consistency lately. He has 11 catches, 112 yards, and 1 TD over his past three games, and draws a Dolphins team that, well… you know how bad they are.

Dud of the Week

Alge Crumpler, Atlanta @ STL

Fortune Cookie: He’s sulked about at times, battled various injuries, and been faced with Joey Harrington as his quarterback for most of the year. It’s all added up to one of Alge Crumpler’s worst professional seasons since entering the NFL back in ’01. Crump hasn’t caught more than 3 passes, or gone over 39 yards receiving, in any single game since Week 3. Don’t start him, okay?

Purple People Eaters

Five Strong Team Defense Plays

Minnesota Vikings vs. DET
Chicago Bears vs. NYG
New York Giants @ CHI
Washington Redskins vs. BUF
Denver Broncos @ OAK

Fortune Cookies: Jon Kitna gets sacked more times (44 and counting) than anyone quarterback in the league. Jon Kitna fumbles more (11) than your average NFL quarterback. Jon Kitna also throws quite a few interceptions (12, tied for third-worst overall). You’re not paying attention if you need any more reasons to start the Minnesota Vikings DEF at home this week… The Chicago Bears DEF is a leading candidate to headline that roster spot on our upcoming All Fantasy Busts Team, and they were torched last week, at home, by a Broncos offense that has struggled to punch it in all year. Still, with their season on the line and a deer-in-the-headlights quarterback coming to town, we think they could be in for a fair share of sacks, picks, and maybe even a TD… And, yes, the Bears opponent also fields a defense that excels at getting to the quarterback. The New York Giants DEF isn’t all that great talent-wise, but that defensive line is one of the best in the NFL, leading the league in sacks with 38… Buffalo will start a rookie quarterback who’s conservative in his throws, and a no-name running back (Fred Jackson) on the road in Washington. Again, the tragic death of safety Sean Taylor hurts the Washington Redskins DEF in more ways than one, but we think they’ll turn in a big-time performance… Justin Fargas is performing nicely at the moment, but that’s about all the Raiders have on offense. The Denver Broncos DEF has been generally abysmal this season for fantasy purposes, but we think they’ll get some turnovers and not allow too many points this week.

Temper Your Expectations

Green Bay Packers @ DAL
Detroit Lions @ MIN

Fortune Cookies: The Green Bay DEF has played a pretty big role in the team’s 10-1 record, though that simple fact probably offends John Madden and his unique feelings for Brett Favre. Tony Romo turns it over at times and can be rattled, but he can also burn you for 350 yards and 3 TDs. On the road against the free-wheeling ‘Boys, it’s not a great matchup for the Packers D this time around… They’ve been overachieving all season long, but cracks are starting to turn into full-blown leaks in the Detroit Lions DEF lately, especially in the secondary. They’re still a pretty solid start with Tarvaris Jackson back there and not much of a passing game, but Minnesota’s offensive line is excellent, and if you can stop penetration by Shaun Rogers, Cory Redding, Dwayne White, etc on the Lions defensive line, you make things very difficult on the linebackers and D-backs.

Sneaky Play of the Week

Carolina Panthers vs. SF

Fortune Cookie: The Carolina Panthers DEF has been very disappointing this season (when are they going to give up on MLB Dan Morgan once and for all?), but those owners strapped for help at their DEF roster spot should at least consider them this week. Last week’s 37-point explosion by The Rotund Wonder-led 49ers has to be considered an anomaly; coming in they were averaging something like negative 7 points and 30 total yards a game. They’re still not a very good unit, though Frank Gore could–could–be on the verge of producing with some degree of consistency.

Dud of the Week

Baltimore Ravens vs. NE

Fortune Cookie: Last week we saw that the Patriots offense, which averages NFL bests of 40.2 points, 434 total yards, and 310 passing yards a game, is very good even when they’re a little off. The Baltimore Ravens DEF is third in the league at stopping the run, but that might have something to do with the fact that their pass defense isn’t all that great. The Pats mostly pass and only run when they want to mix it up, which is not a good thing for Baltimore. So, um, yeah… don’t start BAL this week.

More Free Fantasy Football Advice for Week 13

ETB’s Week 13 Stock Report

ETB’s Week 13 Position Ranks

ETB’s Week 13 Cheat Sheet

*Disclaimer: There are some players who are always must starts, and you should know who they are. To make things easy, we’ve picked a few guys at each position who will never be listed in our Top Matchups because it just wouldn’t be fair– they’re studs, simple as that. They are: QB Peyton Manning, QB Tom Brady, RB LaDainian Tomlinson, RB Adrian Peterson, WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR Randy Moss, TE Antonio Gates, and DEF New England.


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