The bad weather came early in 2020 and produced memorable games with rain and heavy winds throughout November. I expected that trend to continue into December, but instead, the first weekend of this final NFL month looks rather calm. Northern cities such as Chicago, Green Bay, and Pittsburgh have forecasted temperatures south of 40 degrees Fahrenheit, in the range that has a subtle impact of cutting completion percentage and yards per pass attempt by 3% and 4%, respectively. But by and large, your Week 13 start and sit decisions will center on opponent matchups, of which there are many with marked plus and minus tendencies.
The following tables feature the players with the best and worst matchups of the week. Each listed player shows a true-talent (TT) ranking that represents how I would rank him within a perfectly neutral game context. Then, that ranking is adjusted by adding the context of the venue (Ven) -- home and road and dome and outside -- the forecasted weather (Wea), and opponent tendencies (Opp). The line beneath those rankings shows how much those contextual factors move projected PPR fantasy points. That total (Tot) number gives you a comprehensive estimate of how many fantasy points the player will score this week more or less than his typical total.
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|Best Week 13 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
Justin Herbert suffered his worst start since Week 3 with a lone passing touchdown on Sunday in Buffalo, but that isn't too surprising. The Bills have shown marked improvements from their defensive nadir in Week 7 when they had the 28th-ranked DVOA pass defense and were promoting passing touchdowns by 14% per attempt. Just six weeks later, they are up to 15th in pass defense and cutting passing touchdowns by 16%. As such, Herbert remains a true-talent top-seven quarterback, and I have him first this week with the dual bonuses of playing at home in Los Angeles and facing a Patriots defense that remains in the bottom three in DVOA pass defense. Herbert has averaged 4.2 more fantasy points per game at home than on the road this season. And while it may not be fair to put trust in a split with so small a sample size, that tendency is typical of quarterbacks who play their home games in a dome.
Beyond the tier of every-week fantasy starters, Kirk Cousins and Philip Rivers become QB2s for me this week because of their beneficial matchups. But if you can only pick one, I recommend Cousins. He may have Dalvin Cook on his team, but his Jaguars opponent is (maybe surprisingly) less extreme of a play-call shifter from the pass to the run. They increase run plays by 5%, top-10 in football. For comparison, Rivers' Texans opponent increases them by 17%, the most in football. Those extra pass plays should allow Cousins to rack up fantasy points against the No. 2 increaser of passing yards and touchdowns per attempt. And playing at home with both Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson in the lineup should make that even easier. Cousins is top-10 among the current starters with a 2.6-fantasy-point homefield advantage since 2017.
|Worst Week 13 Matchups - Quarterbacks|
Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes lose two and one ranking spots because of difficult opponent matchups in the Eagles and Broncos this week. Those defenses are the No. 5 and No. 7 cutters of passing touchdown rate. But with quarterbacks that talented, I wouldn't stress the matchups. Just last week, Rodgers and Mahomes threw for four and three touchdowns against Bears and Bucs defenses that, at least entering Week 12, were cutters of passing touchdowns too. The Bears were No. 1 in that respect until Rodgers carved them up.
If you're making a start/sit decision with a shallow-league quarterback this week, it's probably for Matthew Stafford. He has fallen from the top 20 in average fantasy points per game with fewer than 500 yards and just one touchdown combined over the last two weeks, but he has done that without his normal No. 1 receiver Kenny Golladay. As I have moved Golladay in and out of the projections in recent weeks as he has seemed poised to return and then hasn't, I have noticed that Stafford tends to improve by four of five ranking spots when Golladay is projected to play. That's why Stafford shows a ranking of 13th in my true-talent rankings this week. But of course, his road matchup with the Bears in Chicago knocks him down to 16th. Even accounting for Rodgers' four touchdowns against them last week, the Bears decrease passing touchdowns by 21% per attempt. And Stafford will have to contend with a forecasted kickoff temperature near freezing rather than his typical comfort in the dome in Detroit, where he has averaged 2.3 more fantasy points per game than on the road since 2017.
|Best Week 13 Matchups - Running Backs|
Assuming the Bears defense can keep the Lions offense in check and build a run-positive game script, David Montgomery could be in for another excellent fantasy day. He took advantage of a plus Packers matchup last week with 143 total yards and a touchdown. But Montgomery enjoys a top-five true-talent ranking for me as well as he has seen his target rate balloon to 13.1% since Week 4 after Tarik Cohen went out for the year. That rate is top-seven at the position.
Chris Carson had a successful trial return from his foot injury on Monday night, outproducing teammate Carlos Hyde 59 yards to 29 despite seven fewer touches. With that demonstration of his health, expect Carson to return to his pre-injury carry share of 52.1% -- top-20 in football -- this week. And that timing is excellent with the Seahawks poised to host the Giants, a plus matchup for running back receiving and an opponent the No. 9 DVOA Seahawks could build a lead against and rely on the run to kill clock.
I'm comfortable writing off everything the Ravens did on Wednesday after a COVID outbreak cost them so many of their regular starters. Looking back to their last healthy game in Week 11, J.K. Dobbins seems to have enjoyed a breakout. His 17 touches that week were 12 more than teammates Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards had combined. That explains Dobbins' true-talent top-30 ranking in an offense where quarterback Lamar Jackson is so heavily involved in the running game. Meanwhile, Dobbins climbs close to an RB2 ranking this week at home against a Cowboys team that is a top-seven promoter of opponent running plays (17%), yards per carry (13%), and touchdowns per carry (20%).
|Worst Week 13 Matchups - Running Backs|
Todd Gurley missed the Falcons' Week 12 drubbing of the Raiders with a mysterious knee injury. He may be back at practice now, but I couldn't be more nervous after knee arthritis issues caused Gurley to miss time in each of the previous two seasons. Given that and the Falcons' difficult matchup against the No. 2 DVOA Saints run defense that also cuts run plays by 12%, this may be a week to leave Gurley on your benches to evaluate. At so thin a position, he remains at the back end of my top 20 with the difficult matchup, but you may be able to find better options such as Wayne Gallman and Devontae Booker (if Josh Jacobs misses time with his ankle injury) on the waiver wire.
D'Andre Swift faces similar challenges as Gurley in his (hopeful) return to action against the Bears this week. Their run defense (No. 5 in DVOA) is even better than their pass defense (No. 8). But unlike Gurley, Swift still lands in my top 10 this week. Since his injury was a concussion, I will be confident it is behind him if Swift is cleared to play this week. Meanwhile, his heavy involvement in the Lions' passing game -- he has at least four targets in six straight games -- makes Swift's fantasy value less sensitive to touchdown-scoring, which is a tall order against a defense that cuts them by 26% per carry.
No fantasy manager is going to bench Antonio Gibson after he ran for 115 yards and three touchdowns against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. And while my No. 24 ranking doesn't disagree per se, take note of how extreme the difference is between his matchup then and his matchup this week. The Cowboys are the No. 2 booster of run plays (17%) and No. 7 booster of touchdowns per carry (20%). In contrast, the Steelers are the No. 8 cutter of run plays (9%) and No. 7 cutter of touchdowns per carry (28%). Gibson will almost certainly fare better than Gus Edwards managed on Wednesday on an offense full of replacement players. But Gibson will likely yield some of his recent spike in workload to receiving back J.D. McKissic. McKissic out-touched Gibson 27 to 26 in Weeks 9 and 10, Washington's two most recent losses.
|Best Week 13 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
The Patriots may not be as poor a pass defense now as their No. 30 DVOA ranking would suggest. Their many opt-out and free-agent losses at linebacker won't be walking back through their doors, but cornerback Stephon Gilmore played against the Texans and Cardinals the last two weeks after missing three weeks with a knee injury. And, at least last week, he looked to be back to his Defensive Player of the Year ways, limiting target magnet DeAndre Hopkins to five catches and 55 yards. That gives me some pause at the matchup boost that suggests Keenan Allen is the No. 1 receiver this week. Indications are that Gilmore will aim to stick to the Chargers' No. 1 receiver, even if we don't have much game history between the two to provide evidence of it. But Allen is also second among all wide receivers with a 29.9% target share this season. It may be different in daily formats depending on his salary, but Allen can't be benched in traditional formats.
The Saints have an excellent cover corner in Marshon Lattimore, but that will only be a problem for Calvin Ridley if Julio Jones misses another week. I don't expect Jones to do that, and as such, Ridley draws the plus side of a Saints pass defense that cuts No. 1 receiver yards per target by 6% but increases No. 2 receiver yards per target by 21%, third-most in football.
Across the field, Michael Thomas has suffered something of a lost year, first with his ankle injury and then with a suspension after he fought with one of his teammates. Head coach Sean Payton's decision to start run-first quarterback Taysom Hill over gunslinger Jameis Winston seemed poised to continue that trend. After all, Hill has thrown just 39 pass attempts in his two starts, a total that 10 different quarterbacks either matched or exceeded in Week 12 alone. However, the quarterback switch has not been as detrimental as I feared since Hill is doing what Drew Brees surprisingly wasn't before he injured his ribs: targeting Thomas to a ridiculous degree. Thomas led the position in 2019 with a 33.3% target share en route to an NFL-record 149 receptions. But Brees targeted Thomas on just 20.7% of his passes in Weeks 1, 9, and 10. That was outside the top 25 at the position those weeks. Since Hill has taken over in Week 11, Thomas has ballooned to a 48.6% target share that is a full 10% ahead of the rest of the position. And as such, Thomas has reached a top-20 true-talent threshold of 9.0 targets per game the last two weeks even while his team is seeing so few aimed attempts. The Falcons have settled into a better pass defense than you might expect -- they are 19th in DVOA. But with the gains Thomas can expect playing at home in the dome in New Orleans, you can start him this week as a high-end WR2 for the first time all season.
|Worst Week 13 Matchups - Wide Receivers|
Keke Coutee is more interesting in a general value sense than for Week 13 specifically when his Colts matchup -- on an assumption that defensive tackles DeForest Buckner and Denico Autry will be back from the COVID reserve list -- knocks him out of the top 50 at the position. The Texans lost a pair of receivers in the released Kenny Stills and suspended Will Fuller, and my guess is that will elevate Coutee to the No. 2 target behind Brandin Cooks. I wouldn't want to start him this week, but pick up Coutee if you can. He's 40th in my true-talent wide receiver rankings.
Among the receivers you probably will start this week, A.J. Brown will only have a scary matchup if top Browns corner Denzel Ward is able to play. Ward is allowing just 6.1 yards per target and is the biggest reason that the Browns cut No. 1 receiver yards by 13% in favor of increasing No. 2 receiver yards by 11% per target. But Ward is trending down as he tries to recover from a calf injury.
Tyler Boyd and the other Bengals receivers don't have personal injuries to affect their fantasy potential, but Joe Burrow's season-ending knee injury is just as bad for them. Burrow propped up an otherwise undertalented team that of particular import has a bottom-10 pass-blocking line with a 7.5% adjusted sack rate. In his first start, Brandon Allen managed just 4.7 yards per pass, 2.0 less than Burrow for the season. That declining efficiency will hurt the team's receivers both on a per-pass basis and because it will reduce plays as the team fails to generate first downs and is forced to punt. Even if Boyd had a neutral Week 13 matchup, he'd be outside the top 45 at the position for me. Against the Dolphins' ascendant No. 10 DVOA pass defense, he needs to be on fantasy benches.
|Best Week 13 Matchups - Tight Ends|
Kyle Rudolph has looked like his old fantasy self in Weeks 10 and 12 with tight end teammate Irv Smith sidelined. Those are the only games all season when Rudolph has reached five targets and 60 yards. That said, I think Rudolph is startable in at least deeper formats this week even if Smith makes it back on the field. That's the benefit of a Jaguars matchup. They are a top-two increaser of both yards and touchdowns per target to the position.
The Bills have been one of the bigger second-half defensive risers, improving from their nadir of 27th to 16th in defensive DVOA. But I'm not sure that improvement extends to their defense of tight ends. For the season, the Bills are allowing the second-most yardage per game to the position even though their opponents from the last four weeks -- the Jets, Patriots, Seahawks, and Cardinals -- rely less on their tight ends than typical teams. The last two times the Bills have faced a fantasy-worthy tight end, they allowed Travis Kelce and Jonnu Smith to catch five balls and two touchdowns apiece. It would be nice if George Kittle had the benefit of this matchup, but Jordan Reed is not a bad consolation. He has six or more targets in four of his five starts in place of Kittle this season, and with the matchup bump, Reed is 16th at the position for me this week.
|Worst Week 13 Matchups - Tight Ends|
Jordan Akins received some fantasy buzz when Randall Cobb went down that I didn't totally understand. But now that Stills and Fuller have joined Cobb on the sidelines, Akins may receive a workload bump with few other healthy options for Deshaun Watson to target. I have Akins 14th in true talent this week. Unfortunately, it may not be the week to start him with his improved fantasy circumstances since the Colts are a top-two cutter of yards and touchdowns per target to tight ends.
Dallas Goedert has reasserted his fantasy value with consecutive games of 75 yards and a touchdown. That's really all you need to do to make the top five at so thin a position this season -- I have him fourth even losing a fraction of a projected fantasy point with a road matchup in cold Green Bay. But teammate Zach Ertz was activated from injured reserve and could play this week as well. I don't think that hurts Goedert significantly since the Eagles have traditionally been the No. 1 deployer of 12 personnel. But Ertz did enjoy a top-five tight end target share before he injured his ankle this season. He is one of the many Eagles surrounded by drama this year, but he's back in my top 10 at the position if he can play this week.
|Best Week 13 Matchups - Kickers|
The themes of this week's kicker rankings are domes and bad defenses. That's pretty much the formula every week. Dan Bailey and Michael Badgley should be the top beneficiaries of those factors this time -- the former at home in Minneapolis facing a Jaguars defense that is a top-10 booster of both short and long field goal attempts; and the latter at home in Los Angeles facing the previously mentioned undermanned Patriots defense. They jump 10 and seven ranking spots relative to their true talent.
Jason Myers earns the matchup distinction despite a lack of a dome. But after a slow start to his field goal season while Russell Wilson was leading the MVP race with extreme red zone efficiency, Myers has exploded for more than two makes per game since Week 7. He has made it to my true-talent top 10, and he snuck into my top five this week since the Giants are small increasers of both short and long field goal tries.
|Worst Week 13 Matchups - Kickers|
Ordinary cold temperatures have less of an impact on field goal attempts than precipitation and wind. As such, few kickers face notable adversity this week with sun and mild wind forecasted across the country on Sunday. Cody Parkey suffers the biggest fall in his projections, but that comes courtesy of a matchup against a Titans defense that is bad enough that it limits long field goal attempts by 46%. Why kick long field goals when you can simply generate first downs and play for touchdowns?
I doubt that logic motivates the similar trends the Ravens and Chiefs have sparked on short field goal attempts this season. Instead, I suspect their 31% and 23% reductions there result from decent-to-better defensive play -- the teams are seventh and 17th in defensive DVOA, respectively -- and the fear their opponents have in their offenses. In close to the goal line, it is dangerous to settle for field goals against teams that, at their best, can hang 30 points against almost any defense. As such, Greg Zuerlein and Brandon McManus fall from their usual perches of fantasy rankings, the latter from K1 to K2 consideration for the week.
|Best Week 13 Matchups - Defenses|
Defensively, Week 13 is all about the AFC North. The Steelers and Ravens are always top fantasy options with their top-seven DVOA defenses, but that value is improved further by home matchups against offensively challenged NFC East teams in Washington and Dallas. I have the AFC North rivals ranked first and fifth for the week in fantasy.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins have become defensive mainstays for fantasy with their streak of at least one forced turnover every game this season. That effort seems much more likely to continue this week facing the Bengals with Brandon Allen at quarterback rather than Joe Burrow. They couldn't leap over some other strong defenses with plus matchups, but the Dolphins are eminently playable as my No. 6 fantasy defense. The Bengals have been the No. 5 promoter of sacks per pass attempt even with Burrow as their primary starter.
|Worst Week 13 Matchups - Defenses|
Washington is a sneaky top-five DVOA defense, but that likely won't translate to fantasy this week as the team travels to face the undefeated Steelers in Pittsburgh. The Steelers are not the offensive juggernaut one might expect given their roster full of fantasy stars such as JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, and Chase Claypool -- they are just 15th in offensive DVOA, weighted down by the No. 24 rushing offense. But Ben Roethlisberger has made a smart and impressive late-career pivot to have the shortest average time to throw according to Next Gen Stats. That has transformed the Steelers into the No. 1 cutter of sacks per pass attempt. Chase Young and company will have a tall order to disrupt such a savvy veteran offense. I'd rather look elsewhere for a fantasy defense this week.