The past month has been devastating for fantasy rosters with all the injuries, especially at the running back position. And to make matters worse, all the injuries are coming at a point in the NFL season where the waiver wire has already been picked cleaner than a Thanksgiving turkey! The only thing owners can do at this point is scour the wire to see what is there, and trust that the depth you have is good enough to carry you into the playoffs.
Speaking of playoffs, most fantasy leagues start the playoffs in Week 14, so this is the last chance a lot of people have to get their team ready for the title run. Now isn't the time to get cute with the line-ups, so let the other teams in your league swing for the fences while you settle for doubles with men on base.
Cam Newton – Panthers: The Panthers are the last undefeated team in the NFL, I bet nobody thought we'd be saying that in Week 13! But this pick is more than just about the Panthers; it has a lot more to do with the state of affairs in New Orleans. The defense is allowing 27.4 PPG to opposing QBs, the most in the NFL by almost 4 PPG! On top of that, the Head Coach has one foot out the door, and everyone in WhoDat Nation is already looking to 2016. I wouldn't be shocked if Cam I Am finished #1 overall for QBs this week.
Andy Dalton– Bengals: Dalton and the Bengals get to reload the Ohio in-state rivalry this week as they take on the Browns. This game however is going to be different than the ones these two teams played back in Week 9 in that Josh McCown is done for the season (broken collarbone), Johnny Manziel can't stay on the field because of his activities off it, and now little used QB Austin Davis has been named the Week 13 starter. I know that is all on the offensive side of the ball, but the defense has struggled with Joe Haden missing 3 straight games. If Haden is out, A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Tyler Eifert will have a field day. Even if Haden plays, the Browns are a mess.
Blake Bortles – Jaguars: This is one of those weeks that fantasy owners might consider sitting Bortles down given Allen Hurns likely being out, but I'd say that is a mistake. While Hurns has been as consistent as it gets, the Titans give up a healthy 21.5 PPG to QBs this season, and have allowed 20 TD passes (tied for 6th most in NFL). Allen Robinson is a No. 1 fantasy WR, and Julius Thomas is coming around and is worth a play as a TE1 this week as well. Don't sleep on the Jaguars in Week 13!
Doug Martin – Buccaneers: Martin went over 1,000 yards for the first time since the 2012 season last week, and this week he gets a Falcons defense that allows 23.1 PPG to RBs this season, the 4th most in the NFL. Martin has been up and down all season long, with either really good games, or really bad games. This week however I see a potentially great game from the Bucs RB. I could see him finishing as a top-5 fantasy RB when all is said and done.
Jeremy Hill– Bengals: Hill's usage has increased the past few weeks, and this is the best chance he will have all season to reach the 100-yard [rushing] mark. If the Bengals get up early, due to their offense or defense, Hill will grind the ball on the ground to control the clock. This is where owners who have held on to him all season start to see their patience pay off.
DeVante Parker – Dolphins: Rishard Matthews suffered multiple fractured ribs in Week 12, and his injury pole-vaults Parker into the starting role as long as he is out. This week the Dolphins get a Ravens defense that gives up the 4th most fantasy points to fantasy WRs this season. Parker is a sneaky waiver wire add as we head into the playoffs.
Brandon LaFell – Patriots: Danny Amendola is expected to return for Week 13, but Rob Gronkowski's status is questionable at best. With Gronk likely out, the RB passing game less than impressive, Julian Edelman out, and Amendola rusty, I am looking for Tom Brady to turn to LaFell when he needs to move the ball downfield. I'd consider him a WR2 this week, and someone to give a look in DFS leagues if the price is right.
Julius Thomas – Jaguars: Thomas now has back-to-back games with a touchdown, and last week marked the first time this season he reached the 100-yard mark (116). As I mentioned with Bortles, Thomas' role will increase even more this week with Hurns out, and when it comes to TEs, even a small bump can be huge. I like Thomas as a value play in DFS leagues, and someone that can be picked up off most waiver wires still.
Miami Dolphins defense: The Dolphins are a healthy team, both on offense and on defense. But, the Ravens are one of the more injury riddled teams in the NFL. The Ravens are starting back-ups at QB, RB, WR, LT, and LG, putting all their skill position players in a hole. The Dolphins are well out of the playoff picture, but you can be sure they are going to push hard to finish the season on as high of a note as possible. I'd consider the Dolphins a sleeper defense this week.
Drew Brees – Saints: Brees is coming off a very unimpressive game against the Texans, where he managed to throw for just 228 yards, 1 INT, no TDs. As bad as that game was, this week's game should be even worse against the undefeated Panthers defense. The Saints are a team in transition, the offense is devoid of true playmakers outside of maybe Mark Ingram, and their defense is one of the worst in the NFL this season. I'd find other options if I own Brees this weekend.
Tyrod Taylor – Bills: Taylor has been a pleasant surprise this season, racking up 1,960 passing yards, 290 rushing yards, 16 total TDs (14 passing, 2 rushing), and just 4 INTs. This week however he runs into a Texans defense that started off slow, but has stepped their game up enough over the past month to rank them as the 10th best fantasy defense in that span. The Bills are a running team, and Taylor's ability to move around makes them look more versatile than they really are at times. The truth is the Texans have more to play for than the Bills do since they are tied for the division lead in the AFC South, whereas the AFC East was decided long ago.
Frank Gore – Colts: It's never a good thing when your Head Coach admits that his starting RB is "beat to crap". The truth is Gore is 32-years-old, and running on fumes these days. The Colts are without their franchise QB in Andrew Luck, they are giving up more points than they score (249 points for - 260 points against), and Gore is averaging just 3.6 YPC and has just 4 TDs to his credit this season. Even though Gore ranks 5th in touches, I see him slowing down with each passing week, and he's going up against a Steelers run defense that gives up the fewest points to fantasy RBs this season at 13.2 PPG.
David Johnson – Cardinals: It's not that I think Johnson is a guy you must sit this week, but I do think the "starter" label has caused too many of those big-box websites to jump on his bandwagon and pump him a little too hard. Johnson is a rookie, and his most meaning impact thus far has come on special teams, not on offense. He's also starting by default with Chris Johnson on the I.R., and Andre Ellington battling a case of turf toe. It's not like [David] Johnson stepped his game up and snatched the starting job out from under CJ2K and Ellington. Johnson is much more of a flex play than he is the high upside RB2 I see those other websites touting him as.
Brandin Cooks – Saints: Josh Norman is likely to shadow Cooks this week, and Norman has been shutting WRs out all season long. Cooks has been consistent with his receptions with 5.0 per-game, but his yardage totals range from a low of 35, to a high of 107, and every number in between. The Panthers give up the 6th fewest fantasy points to WRs this season at 17.9 PPG, and Norman and Co. are too dangerous to be against until we see otherwise.
Travis Benjamin – Browns: This is all about the guy throwing the ball to Benjamin. With the turmoil going on in Cleveland with Manziel, and Davis having to go from 3rd on the depth chart just a few weeks ago, to now being anointed the starter, and coupled with the fact that the Browns have no running game, this one could get ugly fast with the Bengals D-Line!
Scott Chandler – Patriots: The Patriots are likely to be without Gronkowski this week, which puts Chandler in the driver's seat at TE. But, let's not forget that Chandler isn't even in the same general league as Gronk when it comes to pass-catching TEs in the NFL. Too many people are running to the waiver wire and pinning their hopes on a guy who saw a season-high 11 targets last week, but turned them into just 5 catches for 58 yards and a touchdown. Brady won't waste throwing to a guy who can't get out of his own way after he catches it for long.
Washington Redskins defense: The Redskins defense is on an impressive 3-game streak, racking up 7 sacks, 5 INTs, a safety, and even scoring a defensive touchdown. And even though the Cowboys are now forced to turn back to Matt Cassel with Tony Romo done for the season, I have a feeling this game won't be as easy for the defense as it looks on paper. You can be sure that Dez Bryant and Darren McFadden have enough left in the tank to push the offense forward, and HC Jason Garrett knows that owner Jerry Jones is not going to be satisfied with missing the playoffs. I'd be careful playing the Redskins defense in this divisional rivalry game.