Week 13 is unique from just about every other week of the fantasy
season. Fantasy teams typically find themselves in one of three
spots: (1) "get this over with so my team enjoy its first-round
bye and move onto Week 15"; (2) I don't care what it takes,
just get me into the playoffs" or (3) "please end the
existence of my terrible team already!"
Hopefully, most readers find themselves with a 3:1:1 ratio or
better for every five teams they own. All the preparation and
knowledge in the world isn't going to help your team overcome
significant injuries to your top option at every fantasy position.
However, if you are fortunate enough to diversify your player
portfolio enough in August and September, then there's a good
chance you have several more (1) and (2) teams and less of the
Regardless of how well our fantasy teams are doing, however,
our job is far from over. The truth of the matter is there is
almost always someone on the waiver wire - assuming the trade
deadline has passed as it has in the overwhelming majority of
leagues - that is (or will be) an upgrade over what you currently
have. In other cases, the path to winning is making sure that
a potential league-winner is on your bench and not in the lineup
of another owner.
Especially as we enter December, the point is simple: every transaction
you make should either push your team one step closer to a title
or, to a lesser extreme, keep a fellow owner from doing the same.
December may be the month of giving in reality, but it is the
best time to be selfish in fantasy. Now is not the time to be
a nice boy or girl. With the odds of at least half of your league
having checked out by now reasonably high, it makes your job that
Generally speaking, the players that have carried their teams
this far are the same ones owners must (or will) trust to take
them the rest of the way. As such, this week will be all about
trying to find players likely to be on most waiver wires that
have a chance to join a group that includes the likes of Billy
Volek, Bilal Powell and Drew Bennett as players who unexpectedly
put fantasy teams on their back and made late December the most
wonderful time of the year for their fantasy squads.
Each player below is a player that is available in at least some
of my high-stakes leagues (I play on multiple sites, so an ownership
percentage here would be pointless), so I'm going to assume they
will also be available in some mid-stakes and low-stakes leagues.
After each player's name, I will list his matchups during the
fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16 in the majority of leagues).
Disclaimer: Hopefully at this point of the season, streaming
this position is no longer a necessity. Given the number of quarterbacks
like Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and even Justin Herbert that
are routinely scoring 30 or more fantasy points, it will be extremely
difficult to overcome the double-digit advantage those teams will
have on your team if you don't have one of the elite (or near-elite)
It seems like we find ourselves at this point every year with
Cousins, who tends to ramp things up for his fantasy owners about
this time of the season just so he can let us down during the
fantasy playoffs. I can't promise this year will be any different,
but fantasy owners need to remember each year is its own entity.
Players might crack under the pressure of the real playoffs, but
I'm relatively certain they don't crack under the pressure of
the fantasy playoffs.
Here is what is working in Cousins' favor right now: the Dalvin Cook gravy train that many fantasy owners rode over the first
half of the season is slowing down (5.9 YPC and 12 rushing touchdowns
through seven games, 3.6 YPC and one TD over the last three).
Over the latter stretch, Cousins is averaging 37 pass attempts
(26.1 through Week 9). Defenses understand they must stop Cook
first and make Cousins beat them. Minnesota's most recent opponents
have been able to achieve the former with some success, but doing
so usually comes at the cost of leaving Adam Thielen and/or Justin Jefferson in single coverage. Right now, Cousins is taking advantage.
I can't speak to how readily available Cousins is in your leagues,
but he is the overall QB3 over the last three weeks (total points)
and the overall QB8 since Week 6. What makes him risky is that
unlike Mahomes, Rodgers and Herbert, he is not the focal point
of his offense. What makes him less risky is the quality of run
defenses the Vikings will face AND the quality of receivers he
has at his disposal. He has three TD passes in four of his last
six games. Each of his last three games will be played in warm
weather or under a roof. Given the quality of run defenses Minnesota
will face, it's hard to imagine Cook taking any of those games
over. No one should feel great about needing to rely on Cousins
now, but he's probably the quarterback I would feel the most comfortable
starting that has a decent chance at being available.
Going from a quarterback that should be on just about every roster
to one I know is available in just about every league, this one
is only for the truly desperate. I wouldn't blame you if you decided
to skip this entry. Frankly, most fantasy teams that have reached
this point of the season should not even need to consider someone
like Trubisky an option. But let's just pretend for a moment that
you are carrying only one quarterback on your roster and that
quarterback - be it Mahomes, Rodgers, Kyler Murray or Herbert
- gets hurt in the next week or two. Options will be scarce in
most leagues with the top 20 or so often unavailable. Even then,
how can we put our fate in the hands of someone like Trubisky?
Even in a largely uncompetitive contest against the Packers in
which Trubisky threw two interceptions, I saw some improvement
in his game - believe it or not. His second interception was one
that can't and shouldn't have been thrown - a deep throw to Anthony Miller in triple coverage when an intermediate receiver was open
underneath. However, his first one was a pure shot play - something
HC Matt Nagy admitted to NBC's Kathryn Tappen at halftime. Even
if Trubisky does nothing more than consistently target Allen Robinson
13 times against those defenses as he did versus Green Bay, good
things will happen. And we also can't ignore the possibility that
if/when Nagy decides to allow him to run, he could finish out
the season on a much higher note than anyone expects.
Obviously, Trubisky wouldn't find his way into an article like
this under normal circumstances, but it's difficult to ignore
the defenses he will face in Weeks 14-16. Houston's awful defense
got worse this week when top CB Bradley
Roby was suspended for the rest of the season for PEDs. The
only times Jacksonville hasn't let a quarterback score at least
20 fantasy points is when it gave up a huge game to the opposition's
running back(s). Maybe Week 16 will be the week David
Montgomery hits, but is that a good bet for a team that has
mustered four TDs from the running back position this season?
Again, rolling the dice on someone like Trubisky in one or two
games during the fantasy playoffs would be a pure desperation
play, but I think there's at least a reasonable chance he will
be a top 15 option versus the Texans and Jaguars.
Disclaimer: It is extremely unlikely a clear starter from
any NFL team will be available on your league's waiver wire, so
the options below will be more of the need-one-break variety than
1B backs who may overtake the 1A option to become the lead back
of the committee.
A few weeks ago, fantasy owners were reminded of the upside Las
Vegas' running game possesses. In back-to-back games, Josh Jacobs
and Booker posted remarkably similar lines against overmatched
defenses as the Raiders went ground-and-pound on the Chargers
and Broncos. Last week, visions of the 2019 fantasy playoffs were
undoubtedly dancing around in the mind of some owners who rode
DeAndre Washington to a fantasy title after likely scooping him
off waivers in either Week 14 or 15. Jacobs was forced to leave
with an ankle injury that may or may not keep him out of Week
13 against the Jets, but a decent matchup this week is not the
primary point to be made here. Few running backs run with more
power and generate more yards after contact than the Alabama product.
That kind of physicality often comes at a price, so while this
ankle injury may not be as serious as last year's shoulder injury,
it should serve as a warning to Jacobs' fantasy owners that time
is running out - and likely already has in many leagues - to protect
As long as they get back DT DeForest Buckner and LB Bobby Okereke
in time (and they likely will), the Colts are not a matchup any
fantasy owner should be excited about. In the event Jacobs is
forced to miss Week 15 or Week 16, those are the matchups Booker's
fantasy owners would want to take advantage of. The Chargers (11th)
and Dolphins (16th) aren't pushovers against fantasy running backs
on paper, but a closer look at their recent competition reveals
they have allowed the likes of Frank Gore and Kalen Ballage to
produce at an RB2 level in recent weeks. Booker is at least at
their level and running behind a better offensive line. While
he may not the handcuff with the most rest-of-season upside, no
other true backup this year may have a clearer path to a feature-back
workload if the starter goes down.
There's no question Chris Carson is the starting running back
in Seattle. That's not up for debate. What is more of a question
is whether his recent foot injury will be the last of his injury
issues in 2020. Probably even more so than Jacobs, Carson's running
style is fun to watch but makes him a poor bet to hold up for
an entire season. He is a near certainty to appear on the injury
report again at some point over the final five weeks of the season.
If/when we can say that with some degree of certainty, why would
his fantasy owners leave it up to chance and not make sure his
handcuff is stashed away?
Hyde appears to be that guy at the moment, but Penny is expected
back at practice soon. It is likely Penny won't be worth considering
in fantasy until the NFL Playoffs begin, but he could just as
easily get thrown into the fire as soon as Week 15 if he looks
good in practice. When he is right, he is more of a threat in
the passing game than Hyde, and that alone gives him some fantasy
value if Carson is sidelined. HC Pete Carroll seems to like the
Carson-like physicality Hyde brings to the table, so last week's
shared backfield may have been a preview of things to come (in
terms of the workload split between him and Carson) and not just
an easing-in period for the starter. I tend to believe that is
not the case, but the possibility cannot be discounted.
Hyde has already proven to be a capable replacement for Seattle
and a solid RB2 option - albeit one with less upside. He is exactly
the type of player owners should be stashing ahead of the fantasy
playoffs, in part because of Carson's aforementioned injury risk
and in part due to a schedule that features at least two games
that should allow him to accumulate a ton of volume. The Jets
are the Jets. Despite Washington's recent surge, the Football
Team is not an offensive juggernaut and could struggle to build
or hold a lead against Seattle. The Rams always seem to give the
Seahawks trouble, but that matchup in Week 16 would not be enough
to make shy away from starting Hyde either if Carson can't go.
For whatever reason, the fantasy gods chose to smile favorably
on the one player this year (Derrick Henry) who doesn't need a
lot of help to almost singlehandedly carry teams to fantasy titles.
In the Jaguars (fifth), Lions (first) and Packers (third), Tennessee
faces three of the five teams during the fantasy playoffs that
surrender the most fantasy points to running backs. Not only are
the defenses significantly challenged against the run, but the
first two of the three don't possess much offensive firepower
either. This bodes well for the Titans to pound the rock early
In fantasy football (as in life), it is often smart to prepare
for the worst and hope for the best. Henry is a great bet to handle
as much work as possible in some of the most favorable matchups
he will see all year. But what happens if he has to miss time
and/or finds himself in a situation like last year where the Titans
rest him for a game with nothing to gain in terms of their playoff
seed? The first scenario is unlikely given his track record and
the second is unlikely to be repeated anytime soon, but it raises
an important question: who takes over for King Henry if he needs
to be away from his throne for a week? There's a decent chance
Foreman and Jeremy McNichols form a committee, but I don't think
there's any question the 235-pound Foreman offers more of the
thump that Henry possesses and would be the most likely candidate
to handle most of his workload in the running game.
Foreman should not be expected to match the prodigious statistical
heights Henry typically does in such a scenario, but 100 rushing
yards and a touchdown from a true backup is something just about
every fantasy owner will accept if their stud can't go. Those
totals are more than attainable in any one of the three aforementioned
plus-matchups if Foreman is allowed to handle 20 carries. At the
very least, Henry's fantasy owners need to start locking Foreman
up now. In deeper leagues, stashing McNichols and/or Darrynton Evans makes a lot of sense as well.
Much like the Cadbury bunny around Easter or Santa around Christmas,
this is about the time of year where Perriman awakes from his
peaceful slumber to deliver all kinds of goodies. It's a bit disingenuous
to Perriman that he just decides to turn it on late every season
by choice. Injuries and depth chart issues have kept him from
realizing his full potential over his five-year NFL career - especially
in recent years. Either way, it appears he's ready to deliver
in the fantasy playoffs for a third consecutive season.
A few fantasy owners started to pick Perriman up off waivers
shortly after his two-TD eruption against New England in Week
9. That performance was generally dismissed as a fluke in part
because Stephon Gilmore sat out due to injury. Well, he's played
two more games since then - including his first with Sam Darnold
last week - and he has been the Jets' top fantasy wideout in all
three games. He is the overall WR24 since the Patriots' game and
has scored more points over that stretch than DeAndre Hopkins
has over his last four. He has scored the same number of fantasy
points as Robby Anderson in that span. Perriman is averaging 17.5
fantasy points in those outings, putting him in the same class
as Allen Robinson (17.6) and DK Metcalf (17.5) and slightly ahead
of Chase Claypool (15.9).
Winless teams are winless for a reason, but it doesn't mean they
don't have players that can help us in fantasy. Perhaps if Perriman
had not already shown us he can be a lead receiver with the Bucs
last year, we could write him off as a fluke this season. He is
basically doing now what he did in the last two years …
he's just doing it earlier this time around.
Not convinced? He beat J.C. Jackson for two of the three touchdowns
he's allowed in his coverage this season in Week 9. In Week 11,
he got all of his production (two catches on three targets for
54 yards and a touchdown) in Casey Hayward's coverage. Last week,
three of his four receptions came in the coverage of Byron Jones
or Xavien Howard. None of those cornerbacks are chumps, folks.
I obviously would not trust Perriman in Week 15 against the stout
Rams' secondary and I recognize Seattle's defense isn't nearly
as bad as it was early in the season, but the Seahawks and Browns
don't have cornerbacks (at least not at the moment) on par with
the ones I just mentioned. I realize trusting a Jet is not good
for the heart, but maybe it's about time we recognize Perriman
may not be the bust we thought he once was and embrace him as
the first-round talent he was drafted as in 2015.
With exactly eight targets in each of his last three games, a
strong case can be made to pivot toward Denzel Mims instead of
Perriman. In typical Adam Gase fashion, his offense seems to be
moving away from the one player that has proven he can produce
(Jamison Crowder). Until that changes (and there's not much of
a reason to suspect it will since Crowder has a total of 10 targets
in his last three games), it's rarely ever a bad idea to follow
the targets. A bonus for future fantasy owners of Mims: Perriman
will likely draw the opponent's top corner more often than not.
Mims is a dynamic talent that was held back early by injury and
being held back now somewhat by his situation. Given the good
matchups he has in two of the three games during the fantasy playoffs,
perhaps not even Gase will be able to keep him from erupting at
This recommendation is based solely on whether or not John Brown
(ankle) returns from IR after his required three-game stint expires
following the completion of Week 14. In the three games Brown
has already missed, Davis is averaging 9.9 fantasy points and
has scored at least 10.8 twice. In Buffalo's other eight contests,
the rookie is averaging 6.5 fantasy points and has failed to reach
double figures in all but two games.
Unlike Perriman and Mims, Davis can't be considered a strong
add outside of the fact he is a bigger receiver (6-2, 210) with
very good ball skills who has the trust of Josh Allen and the
coaching staff in the red zone. He has been limited to four or
fewer targets in all but one game, so fantasy owners taking the
plunge with him need to understand he has a low floor. With that
said, he's played at least 60 snaps in the three games Brown has
missed, which is a very promising number for a team that has seemingly
embraced the idea that it is an offensive team (as opposed to
the defensive squad it was in previous years under HC Sean McDermott).
Davis is a calculated risk, not only because he is a rookie that
could get his playing time cut soon, but also because no one should
be surprised if Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley each see 10-plus
targets in each of the next two games. Yet, touchdowns are the
lifeblood of fantasy football and Davis is tied with Diggs for
the team lead with four receiving scores. Combine that with the
fact he has Brown's deep role in this offense for at least two
more weeks and there is reason to believe his production could
mimic Brown's in games where we should expect the Bills to throw
a lot, namely in Week 14 versus the Steelers and possibly in Week
16 against the Patriots. There's also a slight chance Buffalo
decides to put Brown in bubble wrap for the playoffs if it becomes
clear in two weeks that Buffalo will win the AFC East.
What a long and strange trip it has been for Coutee. Midway through
the season two years ago, he was the clear long-term answer in
the slot. The inability to stay healthy and some disappointing
play when he was on the field in 2019 was a small part of the
reason Houston overspent on Randall Cobb this offseason. Entering
2020, there was talk of Coutee getting released before the opener.
Prior to Week 11, he saw a total of five snaps for the season.
Lo and behold, he found his way back into our lives mere minutes
after Cobb got hurt against the Patriots. It was just over one
more week later before he turned from a potential flash in the
pan to a player the Texans need to rely on from here on out. Will
Fuller's six-game PED suspension will keep him out for the remainder
of the season - barring an unlikely successful appeal - which
means Coutee should serve as the clear No. 2 option in this passing
game behind Brandin Cooks.
One of the most important things for fantasy owners to keep in
mind is that opportunity does not always lead to success. It's
our job to identify opportunity as fantasy owners when situations
like this arise. It's on the players, coaches and the opposing
defense to determine if that opportunity leads to success. Coutee
has that opportunity now, and we know from the pair of 11-catch
games he had as a rookie in 2018 that he has the talent to get
open and Deshaun Watson's trust. Houston's running game is atrocious
and its defense is pathetic most weeks, so we also know there
is volume to be had (beginning with the seven targets per game
Fuller leaves behind).
Given the difficulty of the Texans' fantasy playoff schedule
for their receivers, picking up Coutee for the stretch run is
a bet-on-talent, bet-on-quarterback play rather than a smart add
based on soft matchups. Most of what he has done in his Texans'
career has come out of the slot, but it seems reasonable to assume
he will spend most of his time on the perimeter moving forward
while one of Houston's handful of tight ends - likely Jordan Akins
- soaks up more of the slot routes. I have my doubts about him
being useful in fantasy before Week 16, but a Week 13 clash with
the Colts should be able to shed some light on that subject.
This one feels like cheating, so I'll keep it short. I picked
Kittle up for $1 in a league last week and hope to do so in another
league this week now that I am closing in on a first-round bye.
In the latter league, it makes no difference I already have T.J. Hockenson and Zach Ertz on my roster already. Kittle recently
expressed confidence he will be able to return before the projected
eight-week timeline. The fact is we don't know, but this is the
kind of thing I was talking about in the first few paragraphs.
I would rather have someone with his league-winning potential
taking up a spot on my bench injured than in an opponent's lineup
healthy because I was afraid to "waste a spot" on him
in Week 13. Even the most inexperienced fantasy player knows that
Kittle is one of about 2-3 tight ends who has a realistic chance
to score 20 or more fantasy points. If he was dropped, find a
way to get him on the roster in the leagues. Kittle at even 80
percent is probably no worse than the overall TE5.
Even in an age where coaches seem more willing than ever before
to put tight ends in the slot, it still doesn't seem like it happens
nearly enough. Only Logan Thomas, Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki
have exceeded 200 slot snaps this year, and only 11 tight ends
who have played at least 10 games have lined up inside on at least
half of their snaps. One of the few tight ends who has lined up
in the slot on 60 percent of their snaps is Akins, whose 107 snaps
inside are just two less than Travis Kelce (despite playing three
fewer games). That little nugget became more important recently
after Kenny Stills was waived and Will Fuller learned of his PED
suspension. Keke Coutee will almost certainly be forced outside
- unless the Texans decide rookie speedster Isaiah Coulter is
ready to handle those duties despite not having logged a single
snap in his pro career - which paves the way for the Texans to
use more of the heavy sets they wanted to use after drafting three
tight ends in the last three years.
Rather than rehash what I said in Coutee's space earlier, let's
focus on why Akins has a chance to be useful during the fantasy
playoffs. In the likely event Coutee is overmatched or not ready
to live outside, it's unreasonable to expect Brandin Cooks to
attract 15 targets per week. We already have a pretty good idea
Houston will be forced to pass (a lot) if only because the running
game is so poor. We also already know Akins has flirted with fantasy
relevancy earlier in the season even when the Texans were mostly
intact. We also know that Indianapolis and Chicago figure to be
brutal matchups for the remaining Houston receivers. It means
we should expect running backs and/or tight ends to pick up the
slack. Considering how often the Texans were using Akins out of
the slot in "normal" times and the fact he is 6-4 and
240-plus pounds, he is the closest thing Houston has to a "mismatch
weapon" now. Assuming Randall Cobb does not return this season,
fantasy owners should not be surprised if Akins is a top-15 option
at tight end from here on out.
Generally speaking, owners with an eye toward the fantasy playoffs
should be targeting any matchup over that time that involves the
Jets and Bengals. Cases can also be made for any defense going
up against the Bears, Broncos, Eagles, Jaguars and Lions. The
good news is half of the 32 teams in the league have at least
one game against those struggling offenses during the fantasy
playoffs. The bad news is only three of those 16 teams have two
such matchups. And, you guessed it, none of the three are defenses
we can trust: Dallas, Houston and Tennessee.
I've stashed the Browns' defense whenever and wherever possible
for their Week 16 matchup against the Jets (mostly because I don't
want my opponent to use them), but I'm in the enviable position
of owning the Steelers, Ravens, Colts or Dolphins D/ST in just
about every meaningful league. It's one of the many roster management
questions successful fantasy owners must ask themselves: how many
roster spots can I use to keep a player/unit from my opponent
before the benefit of such a strategy becomes counterproductive?
The Rams (NE, NYJ, @SEA) were available recently in a couple
of my leagues, but they shouldn’t be on the wire anywhere
at this point. They are probably the best option of the ones I
haven't already mentioned. The Bears (HOU, @MIN, @JAC) and Browns
(BAL, @NYG, @NYJ) are two D/STs that have a reasonable chance
of being available that could be effective three-week stop-gaps
in lieu of the elite options. The Cardinals (@NYG, PHI, SF) and
Panthers (DEN, @GB, @WAS) are two other possibilities, albeit
less attractive ones.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.