In our Week 13 fantasy football start ’em and sit ’em, we let the data give you another perspective that likely varies from the expert consensus.
There is a weird phenomenon happening in the NFL right now.
Never in the history of football has the general public been more interested in offense, in high-scoring games and teams and players. We can thank any number of areas for this interest – gambling, the increase in popularity of fantasy football, even social media built for short and quick highlights.
- NFL teams are averaging 21.6 points per game this season. That is the lowest mark since 2009 (21.5).
- NFL teams are averaging 5.25 yards per play. That is the lowest mark since 2007 (5.18).
- NFL teams are averaging 6.00 yards per pass play. That is the lowest mark since 2006 (5.97).
- Across the NFL, the average reception this season is 10.7 yards. That mark would be the lowest recorded figure in NFL history.
- Each NFL game so far this season has seen an average of 4.05 field-goal attempts per game. Never in the history of football has there been a season in which more than four field goals were attempted per game.
Of course, in our delightful – and sometimes frustrating – world of fantasy football, we root for teams to move the ball up and down the field with ease, ultimately hoping that drives end in touchdowns for our players.
But that hasn’t been happening this year. And there are many reasons for it. But it’s hard to overlook maybe the simplest explanation of all.
Here is the list of teams that have started (or in the case of the New England Patriots, are seemingly about to) a backup quarterback so far this season either because of injury or poor play from the guy atop the depth chart: New York Jets (32), New England Patriots (30), Cleveland Browns (18), Cincinnati Bengals (25), Indianapolis Colts (12), Tennessee Titans (27), Las Vegas Raiders (26), New York Giants (31), Minnesota Vikings (11), Chicago Bears (15), Atlanta Falcons (23), Carolina Panthers (29), Los Angeles Rams (16) and Arizona Cardinals (24).
Now, two things to highlight about this list. First of all, among that list of 14 teams, only the Browns (7-4) and Colts (6-5) have winning records. Secondly, that number in parentheses next to the team names in the paragraph above: That number is where each team ranks in offensive points scored.
And guess what? That matches the eye test. How many players from that cadre of teams have meaningfully contributed to your roster this year? From a running back perspective, only two of the top 13 RBs by PPR points come from those teams – Josh Jacobs and Bijan Robinson.
At the wide receiver position, only Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and DJ Moore are in the top 10 in PPR points per game. But remember, all of Jefferson’s points came with Kirk Cousins as his QB, two of Chase’s five worst games have come in the last two weeks with Jake Browning, and Moore is averaging 20.65 in Justin Fields’ starts, versus just 9.8 in Tyson Bagent’s starts.
And finally, at tight end, of the nine tight ends averaging more than 10 PPR points per game, only T.J. Hockenson and Cole Kmet have had a backup QB start a game this season.
All told, one of the defining trends of this season has been the number of backup quarterbacks forced into action. Seven games this weekend will include a backup quarterback, and if you can help it, unless your guy is considered one of the best players at their position, fantasy managers might want to avoid playing those guys altogether.
The Yays: Week 13 Fantasy Plays Projected Higher Than Expert Consensus
Note: We’re comparing our rankings to the expert consensus rankings (ECR) from Fantasy Pros. These rankings update throughout the week (we pulled these numbers from Wednesday). Once again, we are using PPR unless noted otherwise.
Jared Goff, QB (DET) vs. NO (ECR: 12, Our Rank: 7, Projected Points: 20.30)
One team that hasn’t had to deal with a backup quarterback so far this season is the Detroit Lions as Goff has attempted all 405 passes thrown by the team so far this season. And guess what, he’s been really good!
All you need to know about this game is that even though the Lions have to go on the road, the New Orleans Saints play in a dome. Goff, this year, averages 8.06 yards per attempt indoors, over a yard better than his mark in outdoor games. Indoors, he has 14 touchdown passes in seven games. Outdoors, just four touchdown passes in four games.
Meanwhile, the Detroit defense has surrendered 93 points and eight passing touchdowns in its last three games. The Saints are likely to have some success moving the ball on this Lions defense, and Goff, who averages over 282 passing yards per game indoors, will have a good chance to exceed that mark in a game in which the Lions will need to score quite a bit. He’s a QB1 this week.
Zach Charbonnet, RB (SEA) vs. DAL (ECR: 23, Our Rank: 4, PP: 18.96)
This is a matchup of two teams heading in exactly the opposite direction. There has been lots of Dallas Cowboys buzz going around this week. There’s even been some MVP chatter surrounding QB Dak Prescott. For the Seattle Seahawks? They’re 1-3 in their last four games, and despite having a winning record, they maintain a negative point differential on the year.
For them, fans and pundits alike are wondering if they have enough to remain in the playoff race. One thing that would help the Seahawks is getting Ken Walker back, but with Walker listed as doubtful for tonight’s game, the model expects Charbonnet to step up big time. See, lost in the shuffle of a defense that has been excellent, led by a second-year player in DaRon Bland who notched his fifth Pick-6 of the season last week, is that the Cowboys are merely in the middle of the pack defending the run and are dead last in the NFL in allowing touchdowns when a team can force them into a goal-to-go situation.
Charbonnet was the Seahawks’ undisputed lead back last week with 14 carries. He also led the team in receptions, as he and Geno Smith combined four times in the passing game. With that type of volume, and with a solid chance of finding the end zone, Charbonnet is a must-start against the Cowboys.
Zack Moss, RB (IND) vs. TEN (ECR: 22, Our Rank: 5, PP: 18.68)
Another Zack! This time, it’s the Colts’ backup running back who is being thrust into the limelight. With Jonathan Taylor nursing a thumb injury that he suffered against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, it’ll fall onto Moss to lead this backfield, something he showed early in the season he’s more than capable of.
From weeks 2-5, while Moss was the lead guy in this offense, he averaged 111.3 rushing yards per game and scored four touchdowns in four games. Best of all, the final game of that stretch was the first time these two teams squared off and Moss finished with 165 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
This Titans defense has historically been very good against the run, finishing first and second in rushing yards allowed per game in each of the last two years. But they’ve been vulnerable on the ground this year and our model expects Moss to take advantage. It’s a Zach(k) attack this week. If you have one (or both!), start them.
Christian Watson, WR (GB) vs. KC (ECR: 36, Our Rank: 25, PP: 12.58)
Is it possible that the Green Bay Packers have yet again found their quarterback of the future? Jordan Love is averaging 293 passing yards per game over the last three weeks, and he’s thrown for eight touchdowns during that span.
Watson, meanwhile, now has a touchdown in back-to-back games and is coming off his best game of the season against the Lions on Thanksgiving. He’s one reception shy of qualifying for all the leaderboards, but if he were, he’d rank second in the NFL in yards per reception, and his big-play ability meshes perfectly with Love’s cannon of an arm.
At home against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, the model is optimistic that Watson can continue his recent stretch of solid performances. He’s a WR2 this week.
The Nays: Week 13 Fantasy Plays Projected Lower Than Expert Consensus
Jalen Hurts, QB (PHI) vs. SF (ECR: 1, Our Rank: 6, PP: 20.63)
Teams, players, fans and everyone who enjoys football have had this game circled on their calendar since the second Brock Purdy hurt his elbow in last year’s NFC Championship game. Or at least since the schedule came out.
No need to spend too much time on Hurts, because if you have the Philadelphia Eagles star, you’re playing him. But in the game of the year, or at a minimum, the game of the week, we’re expecting a close and lower scoring game. With the Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen on bye this week, it’s Houston Texans rookie sensation C.J. Stroud who is our model’s top QB for the week.
Kyren Williams, RB (LAR) vs. CLE (ECR: 6, Our Rank: 25, PP: 11.65)
Running backs in a Sean McVay offense that earn his trust usually produce major numbers (see: Gurley, Todd). This year, it’s Williams’ turn. His 21.4 fantasy points per game is second in the NFL among running backs. Despite last week being his first game since Week 6, Williams was immediately thrust into the fire with 22 touches. Oh, by the way, he finished with 204 scrimmage yards, two touchdowns and as the week’s RB1.
Meanwhile, despite some recent slippage (the Denver Broncos just hung 29 on Cleveland last week), the Browns are still on track to become the first defense since the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers (they won the Super Bowl) to allow fewer than 250 yards per game. And other than one Jaylen Warren explosion, the Browns haven’t allowed more than 71 scrimmage yards to any running back over the last five weeks.
Without a strong likelihood of scoring a touchdown, despite his projected volume – our model is projecting him to receive 16 touches – Williams settles in as an RB2 for the week.
Deebo Samuel, WR (SF) vs. PHI (ECR: 14, Our Rank: 26, PP: 12.50)
As we’ve alluded to before, there may not be a more unique player in the NFL than Deebo. What might be especially true is that there may not be a bigger discrepancy between a player’s importance to an offense and their value in terms of fantasy.
He’s not the best running back on his team. That would be Christian McCaffrey. He’s not the best route runner. That would be Brandon Aiyuk. He’s not the deep-play threat either. Aiyuk’s 19.6 yards per reception is by far the highest in the NFL.
He’s not the best blocking offensive weapon on his team. That would be George Kittle. But there’s also not a single player on the San Francisco 49ers, or maybe even in the league, more versatile and more dangerous with the ball in his hands.
In three games without Deebo this year, the Niners scored exactly 17 points in each game. With Deebo this year, the 49ers are averaging 32.4 points per game. But despite his importance to the 49ers overall success, he’s also only 29th in fantasy points per game, and this week against an Eagles team that especially struggles to cover tight ends, our model doesn’t expect Deebo to have enough volume to be anything other than a WR2.
Terry McLaurin, WR (WSH) vs. MIA (ECR: 20, Our Rank: 34, PP: 10.77)
There are 18 players with more than 90 targets this season. Among that group of players, only McLaurin has fewer than three touchdowns (poor Evan Engram of the Jacksonville Jaguars has 82 targets and zero touchdowns) and only Marquise Brown has fewer receiving yards. He has at least four receptions in every game since Week 2, but he also only has one game with more than six receptions.
That isn’t likely to get better against a Miami Dolphins defense whose strength lies on the outside with Jalen Ramsey and Xavien Howard at cornerback.
So even though Sam Howell and the Washington Commanders will likely need heaps of points to keep up with Tyreek Hill and the high-powered Dolphins, expect McLaurin, despite being the Commanders’ best wide receiver, to finish with four catches for 52 yards. He is a risky flex play this week.
Looking for more on trending players like Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf? Don’t forget to check out our weekly waiver wire takes, complete fantasy football rankings and start/sit comparison tool, as well as our NFL predictions and statistical leaderboard. Happy exploring. And follow along on Instagram and X.