Week 13 is usually the last regular season game of the year in most fantasy leagues. Hopefully, your fantasy team is still playing meaningful football. In the case that it isn’t, I will try to mix it the odd dynasty stash to both keep the column fresh for the half of the fantasy community that is out at this point as well as covering for the fact that viable fantasy football free agents are very few and far between at this stage in the season. Most leagues can’t trade at this point in the season so the advice I have for teams is very general in nature. In short, if you are in the dance, look to bolster your week 14 lineup by forecasting some quality matchups as best you can and targeting free agents that might be able to capitalize on those matchups. Saints/Falcons, Eagles/Rams and maybe Redskins/Chargers look like those kind of games. The teams that are in win or go home mode already might need to cut some decent players with poor week 13 matchups in order to win this week and get in. Take a few minutes to see where your team is at and make moves according.
Sneaky plays Jaylon Smith and Justin Durant were both solid in Thanksgiving action despite Anthony Hitchens managing to play through a groin injury. Durant scored 5 total tackles on a very skinny 35% usage against the Chargers. Jaylon Smith scored a pass defensed and 8 total tackles (7 solo) to lead the Cowboys in tackles on 56% usage. The usage doesn’t give me a whole lot of confidence in using either player going forward however. Reggie Ragland continued to put in his case as top dog for the middle of the Chiefs’ defense in a loss to the Bills. The sophomore ILB logged 8 solo tackles and an assist on 60% usage. Kevin Pierre-Louis was the next most productive ILB for the Chiefs with 3 solo tackles and an assist on 37% usage. Derrick Johnson was the least productive yet most utilized ILB with 3 total tackles on 63% usage. While the Blake Martinez show was in full effect on Sunday night, Jake Ryan proved to be a decent plug-and-play against a running attack led by Le’Veon Bell as the former Wolverine chipped in 8 total tackles on 70% usage. Finally, Tahir Whitehead put up a monster game on Thanksgiving. Similar to last week, it was Whitehead that was the lone 100% usage linebacker as MLB Jarrad Davis was used on only 74% of snaps. That increased usage translated to a monster 10 solo and 3 assisted tackle effort, good for a tie at 3rd in the NFL in total tackles this week.
Josh Bynes ARI LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB2 – LB3
Deone Bucannon suffered an ankle injury early in the Cardinals’ win over the Jaguars in week 13. Unfortunately, it is the same ankle that ended Bucannon’s season last year and necessitated offseason surgery. Josh Bynes, who did not see action at the start of the year in favor of first-round pick Haason Reddick, came into the game in relief of Bucannon and scored a team-high 9 total tackles (8 solo) to go with a forced fumble on 91% of the snaps. Reddick was moved to the outside after starting the season at ILB. No updates have been provided on the longer term availability of Bucannon but anything related to a re-injury of a surgically repaired body part is cause for concern. My guess is that Bynes continues to see work inside given his recent effectiveness but check the newswire to make sure that this is the case along with injury updates on Bucannon. In addition, the Rams visit the Cardinals in week 13 and represent a pretty good matchup for Bynes should be drawn into a big workload again.
AJ Klein/Craig Robertson NOS LB – 4-3 SLB/WLB Value: LB2 – LB3
In week 12, AJ Klein returned from an ankle injury that effectively had him out two weeks. While that might not be long enough to have seen him returned to waiver wires, his weaker production prior to his injury might have. Last week, he returned to form with 8 total tackles in a losing effort against the Rams while not missing a snap. Craig Robertson also proved to be a solid option in the same game with 7 total tackles and a sack on 83% usage. The Saints are going to be in a good stretch against some above average offenses in the Panthers in week 13 and the Falcons in weeks 14 and 16. Robertson is a riskier play than Klein but is more likely to be unowned as well.
Jayon Brown TEN LB – 3-4 ILB Value: Dynasty Stash
Jayon Brown, a 5th round pick this year out of UCLA, has already been integrated into the Titans’ defense as he has played in just under 50% of Tennessee’s defensive snaps. With those snaps, he has logged 36 total tackles, a half sack and 3 passes defensed in rotation with Avery Williamson. The big reason I like Brown as a dynasty stash is because of who is in front of him on the depth chart. Former Bronco Wesley Woodyard is the lead dog in the middle of the Titans’ defense and has taken almost every snap for them since week 4. This hasn’t always been the case as Avery Williamson was the snap count leader last year when he was healthy. He is currently under contract for another two years after 2017 for a manageable $3.5 million in total compensation but could be cut with no dead money in the offseason. Avery Williamson, whose playing time has been reduced this year versus last year, is a free agent after this year. It’s not a stretch to see Brown taking significant snaps in 2018. If it happens, you’ll want to have bought him now when he is worth his minimum.
Sneaky play of the week – Paul Posluszny JAC LB
Telvin Smith was knocked from the Jaguars’ week 12 games against the Cardinals with a potential concussion. He actually was on his way to a great game with 6 solo tackles and an assist on 40% of the game’s snaps. Former LB1 Paul Poslusnzy stepped back into a significant snap count of 73% after a utilization percentage of 31% through 11 weeks. With that increased usage, Posluszny turned in 6 total tackles and a pass defensed. The Jaguars play the Colts in week 13 in Jacksonville. When the Jaguars last played the Colts in week 7, Telvin Smith turned in 10 total tackles. Poslusnzy is likely on the scrap heap in most leagues given his sparse usage this year so if it looks like Smith misses a week or two due to concussion, the 11-year vet could be a available stopgap.
Sneaky play of the week – Jordan Evans CIN LB
Same concept as the Poslusnzy add but admittedly, it is a deeper dig here. Until week 12 against the Browns, Nick Vigil had only missed one snap on defense for the Bengals. In week 12 however, he suffered an ankle injury that caused him to leave the game after 32 snaps (48%). No updates have been given on his future availability but from what I saw, he was limping badly. I’d be surprised if he plays in week 13, maybe even further out. What is messy is who is going to backfill those snaps. Kevin Minter saw his first action on defense after not playing a defensive snap for 4 weeks but he only got 17 snaps. Carl Lawson didn’t really receive any uptick in snap count despite reports that he would pick up the slack for the injured Vincent Rey (hamstring). Interestingly enough, 6th round rookie out of Oklahoma Jordan Evans received the most usage after the Vigil injury with 38 snaps (54%) and was able to turn in 7 total tackles with that utilization. Rey didn’t practice at all last week and might not be ready for week 13 so despite the lack of clarity, Evans might be in line for significant snaps unless the coaching staff prepares Minter for the role. Given their usage in the four weeks prior to this game (0 snaps for Minter to 34 snaps for Evans), my guess is that Minter remains the backup plan to Evans. The Steelers visit the Bengals in week 13. In week 7 when these two teams last played, both Vincent Rey and Nick Vigil posted 8 total tackles so the potential for scoring is there.
Defensive linemen plays
Anyone who was able to mix in members of the Bengals pass rush were rewarded. Carl Lawson scored 1.5 sacks to lead the Bengals. Geno Atkins, Chris Smith and Carlos Dunlap each got a half sack but bolstered those numbers with 6, 3 and 5 total tackles respectively. Michael Johnson was unable to get into the sack party but managed to nab 4 total tackles. Trey Hendrickson failed to score and was not rewarded with an increased snap count in the absence of Alex Okafor. That looks to be a pass rush by committee situation that is unlikely to reward fantasy owners. Davon Godchaux turned in 5 total tackles against the Patriots on 57% usage as I expected. He remains a solid DT especially where tackles are valued higher.
Full disclosure readers, it is a skinny week for defensive linemen adds. Very few worthwhile adds that are available in most leagues.
Jaguars Pass Rush JAC DL – 4-3 DL Value: DL1 – DL2
I realize that much of the Jaguars pass rush is going to be unavailable. Calais Campbell is likely to be a top 5 DL in your league regardless of scoring so I’m not referring to him. However, depending on your scoring system and depth, Yannick Ngakoue and Dante Fowler might be available for defensive ends and Malik Jackson for defensive tackles might be free. The Colts visit the Jaguars in week 13 and through week 12, they are the most sacked team in football at 4.2 sacks given up per game. They are also coming off of an ugly 8 sacks given up against the Titans in week 12. Jacksonville as a team is also leading the NFL in sacks generated per game at 3.4 sacks per game. That spells out a messy game that fantasy owners can capitalize on if there is a player available to do so with.
Sheldon Richardson SEA DT – 4-3 DT Value: DL 2 – DL3 (DT1 – DT2)
I’ve mentioned Richardson before in this column but that was more as a speculative pickup in leagues were DTs are valued. Lately, he has been producing as a higher end defensive end with 8 solo tackles, 4 assists and a sack over his last two games all accomplished on only 86 snaps. The Seahawks play the Eagles in Seattle in week 13 which is almost assured to be an exciting one. The matchup isn’t ideal but run stuffing tackles like Leger Douzable and DeForest Buckner have scored well against the Eagles. Richardson also has some pass rushing chops but Philadelphia is only giving up an average of 2.3 sacks per game so upside might be capped there.
Defensive back plays
It was a rough week for defensive back plays in week 12. Adoree Jackson turned in his lowest tackle total of the season with 2 total as the Colts were too busy getting sacked to complete more than 17 passes. Clayton Geathers‘ return to the Colts lineup was not a start as the former 4th round pick took a backseat to Darius Butler and TJ Green. Seven snaps isn’t enough to get a fantasy day put together. Anthony Harris didn’t start as Andrew Sendejo was able to draw back into the lineup for Thanksgiving. Sendejo scored a team-high 7 total tackles against the Lions. The lone bright spot was Vonn Bell who, despite the return of Kenny Vaccaro from a groin injury, was able to log a DB1 performance with 9 solo tackles, 2 assists and a sack against the Rams. Vaccaro struggled with a penalty-ridden day to a 5 total tackle effort in the loss.
Patrick Chung NEP S – 4-3 SS Value: DB2 – DB3
Patrick Chung’s playing time has increased substantially after week 4 to over 90% in every game. Those are snaps that were yielded to Duron Harmon earlier in the season. While that bodes well for future performance for sure, it has only been since the Patriots’ week 9 bye that Chung has turned it on and largely at the expense of free safety Devin McCourty’s production also. Since the break, McCourty’s production has only 8 total tackles over 3 games while not missing a snap. Chung’s production over that timeframe: 21 solo tackles, 2 assist, 2 fumble recovered and an interception. Although difficult to pinpoint why scheme-wise, following the recent trend doesn’t seem too difficult to do especially if you already own McCourty and were already enjoying his DB1 production over the first nine fantasy weeks. The Bills are an ok matchup depending on how Chung continues to be used but the Dolphins and Steelers in weeks 14 and 15 are great matchups given recent history.
Chris Conte/Justin Evans TBB S – 4-3 FS/SS Value: DB2 – DB3
While Brett Hundley might not convince you that an opposing safety is a solid addition to your lineup, the Packers have been surprisingly generous to opposing safeties over the past 4 weeks with five different safeties scoring double digits against them. TJ Ward and Chris Conte has been unable to carve out decent fantasy outputs as they have split snaps almost half and half over the last seven weeks but Ward was unable to finish week 12 against the Falcons after suffering a concussion. If he’s unable to suit up week 13 against the Packers, then Conte would receive a big upgrade simply due to usage. Justin Evans is the safer play with almost 100% usage since week 4 but is also most likely to be owned as well.
Bradley McDougald SEA S – 4-3 SS Value: DB2 – DB3
With news that Kam Chancellor is out for the year with the neck injury that has kept him out of action since week 10, Bradley McDougald is all of a sudden a rest of the year starter barring injury. McDougald has piled up 13 total tackles over games against Atlanta and San Francisco which isn’t earth-shattering but nothing to scoff at either. Seattle faces maybe it’s biggest test of the year in Philadelphia in week 13 in Seattle. Opposing strong safeties have averaged 6 total tackles over the Eagles’ last three games which is right in the expectation given McDougald’ recent production. If McDougald is free in your league, he is a safe option given his playing time and recent tackle numbers.
Sneaky play of the week – Deshazor Everett WAS S
Well, I was a week early but DeShazor Everett finally got his start with Montae Nicholson out with a concussion and DeAngelo Hall active but not taking a snap likely due to a bone bruise in his knee. Everett played every snap alongside DJ Swearinger and managed to log 7 total tackles against the Giants. The Cowboys, who face the Redskins in Washington, have provided double digit fantasy scoring to 10 defensive backs over their last three games, 6 of them to safeties. Everett is virtually unowned in every format and should be a cheap add.