It’s getting to be crunch time in fantasy as most leagues will conclude their regular season with week 13. The good news? Week 13 is the first week with no NFL teams on bye since week 3. The bad news? Three games on Thanksgiving, while fun to watch, might play wreak havoc on your roster if you are struggling with injury. Saints, Falcons, Bills and the teams synonymous with Thanksgiving, the Lions and Cowboys, all play on Thursday.
If you are still playing meaningful fantasy games but aren’t locked into a playoff spot, understanding your position is critical. Failure to win any of the next four games win result in you falling short of your goal of a championship. Therefore, you need to play as though your fantasy life depends on it. Because it does. Players that suffer injuries that will see more than a few weeks recovery might be worth considering a drop if you need the roster space. Strength of schedule matters. Weather matters. Do your homework to give yourself the maximum chance to win. For those whose season is over, I’ll try to add in a couple keeper league nuggets to give you the best chance to kick off the 2020 season in the right direction.
Neville Hewitt led a decent linebacker outing from last week’s recommendation. Hewitt logged 7 total tackles and a PD against the Raiders while playing every snap but one. The Jaguars took one last kick at me by playing Quincy Williams every snap over Najeh Goode. Williams logged 6 total tackles on every down usage. Nate Gerry logged 6 total tackles, a half sack, a PD and fumble recovery on 54% usage against the Seahawks. His usage took a bit of a hit due to the return of a player the be mentioned later in the article. Kiko Alonso continued his higher usage at 62% and logged 5 total tackles against the Panthers.
Nigel Bradham PHI LB – 4-3 WLB Value: LB2
In week 12 against the Seahawks, Nigel Bradham returned from an ankle injury that kept him out of action for five weeks. Bradham played every snap and turned in 9 total tackles. Other Eagles LBs played significantly less snaps with Nate Gerry playing only 54% and Kamu Gruger-Hill playing 34%. Admittedly, the Dolphins, Giants and Redskins throughout the next three weeks aren’t awe-inspiring matchups but the Cowboys on fantasy superbowl week 16 is. If the usage continues this way, Bradham will be the only Eagle LB that is startable regardless.
Sean Lee DAL LB – 4-3 WLB Value: LB2 – LB3
Leighton Vander Esch’s neck has become problematic for him again. Those who have followed Vander Esch’s career back to when he was a Boise State Bronco know that any neck issues for Vander Esch are a problem. While the Cowboys coaching staff have been quick to acknowledge that the conditions isn’t career-threatening, it sounds serious enough that I’d be surprised if it is only a one-week thing for the sophomore. Veteran Sean Lee has drawn between 70% and 85% of the snaps with Vander Esch out of the lineup, scoring an average of 16 fantasy points per game over those games. The Bills in week 13 haven’t always carried two fantasy LBs over the course of the year but if you were counting on Vander Esch as an every-week starter, you might be pot-committed on a Dallas LB down the stretch. The Cowboys schedule is Bills, Bears, Rams and Eagles to round out the fantasy season.
Quincy Williams JAC LB – 4-3 WLB Value: LB3
As much as I’m tired of the Jaguars making a fool of me, the gameplan was for Williams to play in week 12. He was the only Jaguars LB to play every snap. Even Myles Jack (87%) didn’t get used as heavily as Williams did although Jack outscored Williams seven tackles to six. The Jaguars actually have a really good schedule for opposing LBs down the stretch with the Buccaneers, Chargers, Raiders and Falcons to round out the fantasy regular season. Understand that Williams carries a mammoth amount of risk as the coaching staff has shown a willingness to bench him a few times in the past but very few linebackers are going to see 100% of a team’s snaps and still be a free agent at this stage in the season.
Germiane Pratt CIN LB – 4-3 MLB Value: LB3 – flex (dynasty stash)
Since Preston Brown was released, Germaine Pratt’s usage has been over 60% in two successive games and the 2019 third-round pick has amassed 14 total tackles over that time period. Nick Vigil is still the highest volume Bengal LB this year but it is worth mentioning that 2019 is Vigil’s walk year and he may not be a Bengal in 2020. Pratt is one of a handful of young LBs that could pick up the mantle if that happens and based on current snap counts, should be the best bet. The Jets, Browns, Patriots and Dolphins round out the Bengals schedule down the stretch. The Patriots are an obvious plus matchup for opposing LBs but don’t sleep on the Jets matchup either if New York continues to roll as they have lately.
Defensive Lineman Plays
The Tennessee Titans, league-worst in pass protection entering week 12, did a commendable job in keeping Ryan Tannehill upright, allowing only a single sack. That sack went to Yannick Ngakoue, who added two solo tackles, a PD, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, no other Jaguars defensive lineman recorded any stats of note. Chad Thomas logged 68% of the Browns’ snaps against the Dolphins and scored 5 solo tackles. Olivier Vernon was unfortunately unable to play due to a knee injury despite his head coach’s estimation that he’d play earlier in the week. It’s worth noting that Sheldon Richardson was dominant in that game with 5 total tackles, 2 sacks, a PD and a forced fumble. Browns’ DLs might be a decent hold as well with a third-string QB potentially starting in Pittsburgh in week 13 and a beleaguered Bengals squad visiting Cleveland in week 14.
Eagles pass rush PHI DL – 4-3 DL Value: DL1 – DL2
Chasing the Dolphins around for the matchup isn’t exactly the hard-hitting deep analysis that you might expect but it has been an effective strategy for streamers. As of the end of week 12, the Dolphins have allowed the most sacks in the NFL at 4.2 sacks allowed per game. Over their last three games against 4-3 defenses, they have allowed 14 sacks, 10 of which went to the defensive line. I like those odds for the Eagles who face the Dolphins in week 13. In order of preference, Brandon Graham would be my top choice but he is also most likely to be owned. Derek Barnett has high usage but hasn’t produced stats and might be a breakout candidate who could be had cheap. Finally, Fletcher Cox might be a sneaky play as the interior of Miami has been exploitable with 6 of those 10 sacks going to interior linemen.
Lions pass rush DET DL – 4-3 DL Value: DL1 – DL2
Similar to the Dolphins, the Bears have been a fantasy goldmine over the past few weeks. Ignoring the Giants’ abysmal pass rush in week 12, opposing defensive lines have scored over 30 fantasy points per game against the Bears in the month of November, including a week 10 Lions loss to the Bears that saw Damon Harrison and Trey Flowers score well. With Trey Flowers likely out with a concussion for Thanksgiving, a returning Romeo Okwara should play a big role along with Damon Harrison and A’Shawn Robinson.
Defensive Back Plays
Ricardo Allen was the lone standout from last week’s recommendations with a solid 9 total tackle, 1 PD performance on 91% usage against the Buccaneers. Darian Thompson‘s output was hampered by a quick return from injury by Jeff Heath and Sheldrick Redwine only scored 3 total tackles due to the Browns playing safety-by-committee using cornerbacks. Redwine logged only 40% of the snaps against the Dolphins. Here’s to hoping for a better showing in week 13.
Derwin James/Adrian Phillips LAC S – 4-3 SS Value: DB1 – DB2
Starting off strong, Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn discussed that two of his safeties that have missed significant time due to injury may be available as early as this week against Denver. Adrian Phillips hasn’t played since week 2 where he suffered a broken arm. A stalwart tackler, Phillips would slide in as a solid DB2 on balanced or tackle-heavy scoring fantasy squads. Derwin James hasn’t played at all this season after offseason surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot. When healthy, James is a transcendent talent and would be in contention for DB1. Certainly worth a gamble for any fantasy squad. Based on Lynn’s comments, Phillips might be ready before James but James is the bigger prize. Watch the transaction reports prior to the game against the Broncos in week 13. Rookie Roderick Teamer figures to lose his snaps if either safety returns.
Jaquiski Tartt SFO S – 3-4 SS Value: DB2
This is a matchup play more than anything. The Baltimore Ravens looked like an unstoppable offensive juggernaut on the Monday nighter against the Rams. On top of that, the Ravens have afforded over 82 points against the top two opposing safeties over their last three games, an average of 13.7 points per game per safety. Tartt isn’t a household name for IDP circles but I’d be willing to gamble of a high snap count safety to potentially have a big game against one of the more dynamic offenses in the NFL right now. Tartt is averaging 10.6 fantasy points per game over his last four games so he’s on a personal roll as well.
Julian Love NYG CB/S – 3-4 FS Value: DB2 – DB3 (dynasty stash)
With Jabrill Peppers likely missing some time with some fractures in his back, fourth-round rookie Julian Love figures to get an extended look. Already handling third safety duties for the Giants, my expectation is that the Giants go with the former golden domer against the Packers in week 13. Both Giants safeties have been valuable fantasy commodities as New York’s linebackers are among the weakest in the NFL and they just can’t seem to cover the middle of the field. Love is a touch of a gamble as the Giants haven’t officially announced him as the replacement but he, and not Michael Thomas, saw the increase in snaps when Peppers was unable to return to the game. Love also carries some minor keeper value in deeper leagues as Antoine Bethea is an easy cap casualty should the Giants decide to move on from him.