START: RYAN TANNEHILL, TENNESSEE TITANS
You’ve been warned. This week’s article will feature a helluva lot of Tennesse Titans players because it’s hard not to love them versus the Cleveland Browns. This Week 13 game has the highest projected point total on the main slate (54), and Ryan Tannehill has posted impressive back-to-back offensive showings.
Despite playing two of the NFL's tougher matchups, Tannehill has finished as a top-nine quarterback over the past two weeks. Just last week, the Browns’ defense allowed Mike Glennon to finish as a top-15 quarterback, so it’s not hard to imagine Tannehill finishing inside the top 10. The Browns have allowed four top-10 QB performances in normal-weather games this season.
Cleveland will get Myles Garrett back in the fold, and his presence creates a mismatch for the Titans’ OL because they are currently starting third-string tackle David Quessenberry. But fantasy managers can remain steadfast playing Tannehill, as he should still post solid fantasy numbers even if pressure is evident. He is tied with Russell Wilson and Josh Allenfor the league lead in touchdown passes thrown under pressure (nine).
START: KIRK COUSINS, MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Among all the QB streamers on the waiver wire, there’s no better option than Captain Kirk Cousins this week. The Minnesota Vikings quarterback gets a plus matchup at home versus the Jacksonville Jaguars, who have allowed the third-most fantasy points to QBs this season. Only one QB has failed to eclipse 20 fantasy points against them in 2020.
This game has the second-highest projected total on the main slate. The Vikings also have the second-highest implied team total (30.5), which means Cousins is bound to fall into fantasy points one way or another.
I’d be slightly concerned that this could be a “trap game” for Minnesota if they were on the road, as Cousins has averaged just 12.3 fantasy points per game on the road this season. But because this game is at home, that gives me loads of confidence going right back to the captain, who has averaged 25.3 fantasy points per game at home this season.
START: MATT RYAN, ATLANTA FALCONS
I wrote up Matt Ryan’s blurb in PFF’s huge Week 13 preview, highlighting the fact that his splits with and without a healthy Julio Jones playing are quite alarming. So, the recommendation to start Ryan this week comes with the caveat that Jones is in the lineup. Ryan has averaged 23.7 fantasy points per game when the two have played together this season.
The New Orleans Saints allowed the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks from Week 8-11; they have also allowed the third-most targets, fourth-most catches and fifth-most receiving yards to wide receivers. Because Ryan’s fantasy production comes and goes with Jones and Calvin Ridley, Ryan will surely come along for the ride if those two have big days.
The Falcons’ quarterback also ranks No.1 in the league in terms of fantasy points scored under expectation over the past two weeks, so I would expect some positive regression to kick in.
Let’s also not forget that before Jones got hurt in Week 11 — when the Falcons first played the Saints — Ryan was DICING the Saints’ secondary. In the first quarter, Ryan was 6-of-7 for 81 yards (11.6 yards per attempt). But once Julio got hurt, the offense crumbled as it has done all year when Jones has been on the sidelines.
It takes stones to bench Kyler Murray a week away from the fantasy playoffs, but there are so many other QB alternatives available on the waiver wire. I think Murray can be sat out for a week until we see his rushing attempts tick back up.
Murray scored fewer than 20 fantasy points for the first time all season (7.9) in a smash spot versus the New England Patriots in Week 12 and failed to live up to expectations a week prior versus the Seattle Seahawks.
His shoulder injury is clearly hampering him — his rushing attempts per game (9.4 vs. 5) and his average depth of throw (8.6 yards vs. 7.1) have substantially dropped since he suffered the injury back in Week 11.
If we don’t hear positive reports about Murray’s shoulder heading into Week 13, temper expectations for the Arizona Cardinals’ quarterback who will face a stout Los Angeles Ramsdefense that has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to QBs over the past four weeks. Only two QBs have scored more than 20 fantasy points against them all season.
Murray averaged less than 16 fantasy points per game and rushed six times for 28 yards in two games versus Los Angeles last season.
And even if Murray’s shoulder does fully heal, teams will still look to take away Murray’s impact on the ground. Per Kyler himself, the Patriots were keyed in on Murray running on zone-read plays, which is why Kenyan Drake saw so many carries.
I’d have to assume the Rams would follow a similar approach, as both Seattle and New England emerged victorious in their games versus Arizona due in part to limiting Murray on the ground.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt (27) carries the ball during the fourth quarter of a Week 7 NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. The Cleveland Browns won 37-34. Credit: Imagn
START: KAREEM HUNT, CLEVELAND BROWNS
Since Nick Chubb‘s return to the lineup in Week 10, it’s been pretty clear that he’s been the go-to guy in the Browns’ backfield. He leads Kareem Hunt in carries (58 versus 42) and reclaimed his role as the goal-line back in Week 12.
But when the two have played together this season, Hunt has still been the favorite in the passing game (17 versus 7 targets), and that’s where he can be serviceable in this Week 13 clash against the Titans.
Tennesse has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to RBs over the past four weeks, with much of that production coming from receiving work. They have faced the most RB targets over that timespan primarily due to the fact that they have been playing with a lead.
As 5.5-point road dogs, the Browns will see some negative game script, which would force Hunt into action as a receiver, especially on third downs. Hunt has out-snapped Chubb on third down (81% versus 16%) in every full game Chubb has played.
START: DAMIEN HARRIS, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
PFF’s highest-graded running back this season (90.6) needs to be in starting lineups for Week 13. Without Rex Burkhead in the fold last week, Damien Harris saw his highest percentage of snaps played (65%), which was well ahead of James White (37%). Sony Michel played just one snap, indicating to me that Harris is the guy moving forward.
The second-year running back should find success on the ground against a Los Angeles Chargers defense that has allowed the fourth-most rushing yards and 5.6 yards per attempt to opposing RBs. Harris is averaging 5.1 yards per attempt this season, which ranks top-five among running backs with at least 100 carries.
Harris also had two scoreless carries inside the 5-yard line in Week 12 because the touchdowns ended up going to White. It’s going to be a rotating carousel between Harris, White and Cam Newton every week for scores, but it’s encouraging that Harris got those carries at all. He only saw one carry inside the 5-yard line in all his games before this year.
Even as the RB1 in the Bengals’ backfield, Giovani Bernard can’t be trusted with Brandon Allen under center. The team averaged a meager 3.4 yards per play and totaled just 176 offensive yards from scrimmage in the backup’s first start.
Miami owns PFF’s seventh-highest-graded run defense since the team came off their bye week, so even if Bernard sees 10-15 touches, his efficiency and scoreless yards in this offense won’t translate to fantasy points.
Gio’s usage as a bell cow has also been shaky in recent weeks. After seeing 18-plus touches per week filling in for Joe Mixon, Bernard’s touch share has fallen to around 12 touches per game. His snaps haven’t diminished, but Bernard's fantasy stock is being impacted because the offense as a whole is running fewer plays.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis (84) comes up short of receiving a pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the second quarter at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. Credit: Imagn
START: COREY DAVIS, TENNESSE TITANS
Corey Davis is having the least-talked-about fourth-year breakout season. The former top-five pick is averaging 13.5 PPR fantasy points per game — his only blemish this season was a goose egg back in Week 9. If that game is removed, Davis’ average rises to 15.2 fantasy points per game (19th), just a few points shy of A.J. Brown’s output this season (16.9, 11th).
The Titans’ wide receiver has PFF’s fifth-highest receiving grade this season (86.3) and ranks fourth in the NFL in yards per route run (2.48). The 2021 impending free agent picked the perfect year to break out, and his production should continue to rise in Week 13 against the Cleveland Browns.
Cleveland will be without No. 1 cornerback Denzel Ward for another week, which means fantasy points will be plentiful for all Titans wideouts. We saw Jaguars wide receivers post solid fantasy numbers in Ward's absence in Week 12, and the Browns secondary has been bad this year even when Ward has played.
In all eight games played this season — excluding the three adverse weather games — their defense has allowed the third-most passing yards, the fifth-most targets and the eighth-highest touchdown pass rate to wide receivers.
START: D.J. CHARK JR., JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
I listed D.J. Chark Jr. as a “sit” last week and got bailed out when he was ruled out before game time. I say that because Mike Glennon looked surprisingly good in his first start of the season, supplementing solid fantasy performances from Keelan Cole and rookie Collin Johnson.
His deep-ball rate (17.1%) and deep-ball attempts both ranked third among all QBs in Week 12, which should translate well for Chark, who does his fair share of damage downfield. The third-year wideout leads the Jags in targets from passes thrown 20 or more yards downfield this season (18) despite missing two games.
The Vikings have allowed the third-highest completion percentage (48.6%) and grade as PFF’s sixth-worst coverage unit (27.9) on passes thrown to WRs 20-plus yards downfield.
As previously mentioned, the Jags’ game total is the second-highest on the main slate and has moved up since the line opened. Most of those points are going to be scored by the Vikings, but we’ll see the Jaguars move the ball and score on offense, as well.
Kirk thrives as the team’s vertical threat, but that skill set does not match up well against the Los Angeles Rams. They have faced the third-fewest targets of 20 yards or more to WRs this season and have allowed a league-best 17.2% completion percentage (5-of-29) on those throws.
Two of Kirk’s best weeks this year have come in games where he has hauled in a few long balls, so this makes him an easy sit this week. He has yet to finish as a top-30 WR this season in weeks he has been held without a score. The Rams have allowed the second-fewest receiving touchdowns to WRs this season.
It’s been tough sledding for the highly touted waiver wire addition in recent weeks, as Carson Wentz’s erratic play has made it almost impossible to trust any Eagles wide receiver. Travis Fulgham has arguably suffered the most from not only poor quarterback play but other Eagles pass-catchers being injected back into the offense.
The matchup in Week 13 also projects Fulgham to see a hefty amount of Jaire Alexander, PFF’s fifth-highest-graded cornerback this season.
Oct 13, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith (81) celebrates with Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) after scoring during the second half against the Buffalo Bills at Nissan Stadium. Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
START: JONNU SMITH, TENNESSE TITANS
I wasn’t excited about Jonnu Smith last week because of his recent production solely being attached to touchdown scores combined with other tight ends getting a run in the Titans’ offense. Not to mention the matchup on paper was bad against the Colts, who have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends this season and limited his production to just two catches for 14 yards in a previous matchup.
So, while it wasn’t surprising to see Smith put up a goose egg in Week 12, that doesn’t mean you shy away from him in consecutive weeks. The Cleveland Browns present arguably the best matchup for opposing TEs — Cleveland has the second-most fantasy points allowed to tight ends this season and most fantasy points allowed to tight ends over the last four weeks.
START: EVAN ENGRAM, NEW YORK GIANTS
Evan Engram has seen at least nine targets in four of his last five games, ensuring that he is an auto-start should Daniel Jones be under center. Jones’ mobility will be limited because of his hamstring injury, so less running will mean more pass attempts from the New York Giants’ quarterbacks, so targets should continue to find their way to Engram.
Engram’s stock takes a hit if Colt McCoy is under center, especially since McCoy only targeted him once in relief on Sunday. But as pointed out by Sam Hoppen on Twitter, McCoy’s career target rate to the tight end position (26%) aligns with the 27% share the Giants have targeted TEs overall this season.
It’s also important to note that Engram’s usage drastically changed, as he was seeing more targets downfield than ever before. His aDOT (12.6) in Week 12 was more than double his seasonal average (6.1).
Sending Engram down the seam versus Seattle will prove to be successful because the Seahawks have allowed the most catches to tight ends on 20-plus-yard throws this season.
All of Thomas’ touchdown catches this season have come against NFC East opponents, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the current state of the division. It’s filled with bad defenses, so Thomas has been able to flourish on a low target volume.
I don’t anticipate that trend to continue with the Pittsburgh Steelers up next. The Steelers have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points per game to tight ends this season. With no more than five targets in a game and a low aDOT of 7.1 yards with Alex Smith under center, fantasy managers are much better off targeting tight ends on the waiver wire for Week 13.