By Matt Citak
Week 13 of the NFL season is finally here, which means that we have reached the final week of the fantasy football regular season. Most fantasy leagues’ playoffs begin in Week 14, so this represents your final chance to push your team towards the postseason. If your leagues are anything like mine, then multiple playoff spots are still up for grabs. Every point matters in fantasy football, which means every lineup decision you make counts.
With that in mind, here are CBS Local Sports’ Week 13 Starts and Sits.
QB: Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
Rivers has been on a tear over the last two weeks, tossing for 685 yards, five touchdowns, and zero interceptions while completing 72.3 percent of his passes in Chargers’ wins over the Cowboys and Bills. In Week 13, Rivers has one of the best matchups possible as the Chargers welcome the Cleveland Browns to Los Angeles. The Browns are surrendering the third-highest passer rating to opposing quarterback this season, while also allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per dropback. Rivers has the Chargers’ offense firing on all cylinders, and with LA firmly back in the playoff picture, look for the Bolts to keep the momentum going against the Browns. I like Rivers as a strong QB1 this week.
QB: Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins
Cousins hasn’t been blowing opponents out of the water this year, but the Redskins QB has quietly put together a rather impressive season thus far. The 29-year-old quarterback has completed 66.2 percent of his passes for 3,038 yards (trailing only Tom Brady’s 3,374 yards) and 19 touchdowns while throwing six interceptions. Cousins ranks fourth in fantasy points per game among quarterbacks, and his matchup this week should help boost those stats even more. Cousins will face off against a Cowboys defense riddled with injuries, as Dallas will be without starting linebacker Sean Lee for the fourth straight game. In their previous three contests, opposing quarterbacks are averaging 22.8 fantasy points per game on the Lee-less Dallas defense. Cousins could finish as a high-end QB1 this week.
QB: Case Keenum, Minnesota Vikings
Keenum’s performance could be one of the biggest surprises of the 2017 NFL season. The journeyman quarterback has helped lead the Vikings to seven straight victories, and has thrown for 1,154 yards, nine touchdowns, and three interceptions in the last four games alone. The Week 13 contest against the Falcons isn’t the easiest of matchups, but Atlanta cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Brian Poole are both dealing with injuries and are questionable this week. If either (or both) cannot go, it will make Keenum an even stronger play. Regardless, it is finally time for everyone to start taking Keenum seriously and trusting him as a starting fantasy quarterback.
RB: Jerick McKinnon, Minnesota Vikings
Of the two Vikings running backs, you may be surprised to see McKinnon on this list ahead of Latavius Murray. In the last three games, Murray has looked impressive, totaling 247 rushing yards and four touchdowns, but those stats came against the Lions, Rams, and Redskins, three teams that have struggled to stop the run this year. In Week 13, the Vikings face a Falcons defense that has been surprisingly stingy against opposing running backs on the ground, allowing the ninth-fewest rushing fantasy points per game to opposing backs. However they are giving up the sixth-most receiving fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, and finished last in this category last season. McKinnon is likely to play a big role in the passing game this week, which makes him a solid RB2.
RB: Dion Lewis, New England Patriots
Lewis has found his way onto this list several times over the last month-and-a-half, and for good reason. The 5-foot-8 back has seen 10-15 carries in each of the last six games, and is averaging 5.3 yards per carry since Week 5. Rex Burkhead also makes for a solid play this week, but facing off against a struggling Buffalo defense, Lewis gets the slight nod. Buffalo has allowed the most rushing fantasy points per game to opposing running backs this season, and that includes Kareem Hunt’s complete dud of a performance last week. There’s a chance Burkhead could vulture the goal line work from Lewis, but both backs have a good chance of putting together strong fantasy games. Both Patriots backs should be starting this week, but I feel slightly more confident with Lewis.
RB: Alex Collins, Baltimore Ravens
Despite the return of Danny Woodhead to the Baltimore backfield, it is clear that Collins has solidified himself as the team’s lead rusher. The second-year back has carried the ball 36 times over the last two games, scoring a touchdown in each contest, while accumulating six receptions on nine targets. The Ravens will take on a Lions defense this week that has struggled to stop opposing running backs. Detroit has surrendered the fifth-most fantasy points per game to opposing backs, allowing 116.2 rushing yards per game and 14 rushing touchdowns on the season. Collins has just two touchdowns on the season, but has a very good chance of adding to that total on Sunday.
WR: Jamison Crowder, Washington Redskins
We saw on Thanksgiving what the Redskins offense will look like for the rest of the season with Chris Thompson and Terrelle Pryor now on IR, and it was great news for anyone with Crowder on their team. Cousins targeted Crowder a game-high 10 times, giving the receiver double digit targets in three of his last four games. The 5-foot-9 speedster converted those 10 targets into seven receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown, and has emerged as Washington’s No. 1 wide receiver. The Cowboys are giving up the third-most fantasy points to receivers out of the slot, which is where Crowder runs almost 75 percent of his routes. Crowder is going to carve up an NFC East rival for the second consecutive week on Thursday.
WR: Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
I’ve been high on Kupp all season, but it was his performance in Week 12 that finally showed off his true potential. With Robert Woods sidelined, Kupp was targeted a game-high 11 times, catching eight of those passes for 116 yards as the Rams defeated the Saints. His targets, receptions, and yards represented career-highs for the rookie receiver, but with another great matchup this week, those career-marks may not last long. The Rams travel to Arizona to take on the Cardinals this week, who are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing slot WRs. Patrick Peterson will likely shadow Sammy Watkins, leaving Kupp free to terrorize the rest of Arizona’s secondary. Kupp could finish as a strong WR2 or better this week.
WR: Marqise Lee, Jacksonville Jaguars
After scoring touchdowns in two straight games, Lee has been quiet over the last two weeks, catching a combined six passes for 58 yards. In Lee’s defense, the last two outings have been against two of the league’s top corners in Peterson of the Cardinals and Jason McCourty of the Browns. But things are looking up for the veteran receiver this week, as the Jaguars play the struggling Indianapolis Colts in Jacksonville. The Colts enter this Week 13 matchup already giving up the ninth-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers, and will be without their top corner Rashaan Melvin. I like Lee’s chances of finding his way back into the end zone this week.
TE: Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers
Henry’s volume has been incredibly frustrating for fantasy owners this season. One week he might see eight targets, while the next week he could only get one. While Henry has been a little tough to trust this year, one thing has become abundantly clear- start whatever tight end is facing the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland has given up touchdowns to opposing tight ends in each of the last four games, and have surrendered nine touchdowns to the position on the year. Even with his inconsistency, Henry has seen between five and eight targets in five of the last seven games. He’s a strong TE1 in Week 13.
TE: Jared Cook, Oakland Raiders
Henry may have the best matchup among tight ends this week, but Cook comes in a close second. The Raiders tight end is coming off two consecutive rough outings in which he caught a combined 3-of-10 targets for 38 yards. However this week, he faces a Giants defense that has struggled immensely at keeping opposing tight ends out of the end zone. New York gave up a touchdown to an opposing tight end in each of their first nine games of the season, and allowed Travis Kelce to catch eight passes for 109 yards in the 10th game of the year. The Raiders will be without Michael Crabtree (suspension), and likely won’t have Amari Cooper (ankle, concussion) for this Week 13 matchup either, which raises Cook’s touchdown-upside. I’m firing Cook up as a strong TE1 this week.
QB: Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Stafford has looked good over the last few games, throwing for at least 249 yards and two touchdowns in each of his last four outings. But that streak is likely coming to an end this week with the Lions set to face off against the Ravens in Baltimore in Week 13. The Ravens enter this matchup ranked first in opposing passer rating and second-best in fantasy points allowed per dropback. The Baltimore defense is allowing a measly 190 passing yards per game, with just 11 passing touchdowns and 18 interceptions on the year. Blake Bortles is the only quarterback to register more than 18 fantasy points on the Ravens defense in 2017, and that came all the way back in Week 3. Stafford should be seen as a QB2 against the Ravens’ elite secondary.
QB: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
After struggling a bit to start the season, Ryan has picked it up over the last few weeks. The Falcons QB has finished with a completion percentage over 70 percent in each of his last three games, throwing for five touchdowns and one interception over that span. Even with his improved play, I would feel very hesitant to start him against the Vikings this week. Minnesota has given up only 12 passing touchdowns on the year, which is tied for the third-best mark in the league. The Vikings have done a great job of limiting Stafford and Jared Goff over the last two games, and both of those quarterbacks have played better than Ryan this season. Options may be limited, but I would look elsewhere for my starting quarterback this week.
QB: Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
Dalton enters this game on a hot streak, having thrown seven touchdowns with no interceptions over his last three games. In fact, his last interception came in Cincinnati’s Week 7 loss to the Steelers, where Dalton tossed for just 140 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Well in Week 13, the 30-year-old quarterback out of TCU will once again face off against the Steelers and their strong pass defense. Dalton has struggled to produce against Pittsburgh over the last few years, finishing with 13 fantasy points or fewer in four of his past five games against them. Considering his recent play, it wouldn’t shock me if Dalton puts together a solid performance on Monday night. However it seems a lot more likely that the Steelers shut Dalton down. This isn’t the week to roll the dice on Dalton.
RB: Demarco Murray, Tennessee Titans
Believe it or not, Week 5 was the last time Murray averaged 4.0 yards or more per carry in a game. Since then, the veteran back has not been able to garner more than 3.3 yards per carry, and is coming off an abysmal performance against the Colts in which he carried the ball 12 times for only nine yards. Murray has had three games with under 20 rushing yards in his last four outings, and hasn’t crossed the 60-yard plateau in eight games. The 29-year-old running back’s luck is unlikely to change this week, as he faces the Texans, who have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. Murray is nothing more than a flex play.
RB: Ameer Abdullah, Detroit Lions
To put it plain and simple, Abdullah has looked bad this season. The third-year back out of Nebraska is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry on the season, and has seen his production wane even more over the last two games. During that stretch, Abdullah has totaled just 17 carries for 36 yards to go along with five receptions for 42 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens have not allowed an opposing running back to run for more than 57 yards in their last four games, with Lamar Miller being the only back to reach double digits in fantasy points against them over that span. Abdullah has been way too inconsistent this season, and with the playoffs potentially on the line this week, he should be nowhere near your lineup.
RB: Jay Ajayi, Philadelphia Eagles
Many people (myself included) thought the trade to Philadelphia would do wonders for Ajayi’s fantasy value this season. While he has looked good when given the ball, Ajayi has not received nearly enough volume to warrant a spot in fantasy lineups. In the three games since being acquired by the Eagles, Ajayi has received just 20 carries, but has turned that into 194 yards. The production has been there for the 24-year-old back, but until Doug Pederson starts giving him more carries, it’ll be very tough to trust Ajayi. And given the way LeGarrette Blount has run with the ball since Ajayi joined the team, I can’t imagine Pederson naming Ajayi the team’s starting back anytime soon.
WR: Sammy Watkins, Los Angeles Rams
No one seemed to benefit more from the injury to Woods than Sammy Watkins, who saw a season-high nine targets in last week’s win over the Saints. Watkins turned those nine targets into four receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown, and now has three touchdowns in his last four games. But in Week 13, Watkins has the unfortunate luck of having to face Patrick Peterson and the Cardinals. Peterson ranks second-best in fantasy points allowed per route run among qualifying cornerbacks, which includes matchups against DeAndre Hopkins, Mike Evans, Alshon Jeffery, Dez Bryant, and more. When Watkins faced Peterson in Week 7, the elite corner shadowed the veteran receiver on 50 percent of his routes, and Watkins failed to see a single target against him. With Woods still out, Watkins will see even more of Peterson. I’m keeping Watkins firmly on my bench this week.
WR: T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
Once one of the league’s premier wide receivers, Hilton has looked lost for most of the season. The veteran receiver has had three games of 150 yards or more over his last nine contests, but during the same span, has had six games of 30 or fewer yards. Hilton does not look like the same receiver without Andrew Luck throwing to him, and things aren’t going to get any easier this week. The Jaguars rank first in fantasy points per game and fantasy points per target allowed to opposing wide receivers, both outside and in the slot. Only two receivers have scored on the Jaguars all season, and in their Week 7 meeting, Hilton finished with just two catches for 27 yards on eight targets. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye will have their way with Hilton and the Colts receivers this week, so I’m staying away from everyone on the Colts in Week 13.
WR: Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys have not looked the same since Ezekiel Elliott began serving his six-game suspension. However Bryant’s struggles extend further than just Elliott’s absence. After reaching the end zone in four of Dallas’ first six games, Bryant now enters Week 13 on a five-game scoreless streak. To make matters worse, the talented 29-year-old receiver has gone 18 regular season games without gaining 100 receiving yards. If he isn’t scoring touchdowns, then it’s difficult to trust Bryant as anything more than a WR3. And with a matchup against the Redskins and his cornerback nemesis, Josh Norman, in Week 13, I’m avoiding Bryant altogether.
TE: Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brate was one of the biggest surprises towards the beginning of the season, catching a touchdown pass in four of Tampa Bay’s first five games. But the third-year tight end out of Harvard has not been able to find the end zone in any of his last six games, and has gained 15 yards or more only twice during that stretch. Brate has been completely unreliable over the last month, as the big tight end has caught only one pass in each of the last four games for a combined 37 yards. Yes, you read that correctly- four receptions for 37 yards TOTAL in his last four games. The return of Jameis Winston should help Brate, but the Packers have allowed just one touchdown and one 50-yard game to opposing tight ends all year. Brate could still turn it around this season, but it won’t start this week.
TE: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, New York Jets
ASJ hasn’t been playing his best football lately, recording less than 30 yards in four of his last five games. He’s only topped 46 yards once all season, but his three touchdowns earlier in the year helped save the day for fantasy owners. This week the Jets face a Chiefs defense that has struggled at times in 2017, but has been consistently strong against the tight end position. Kansas City has surrendered the third-fewest receptions and are tied for the fewest touchdowns allowed to opposing tight ends this season, making ASJ an unappealing option in Week 13.
Matt Citak is a producer for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.