Jacksonville @ Buffalo
Resurrecting Jacksonville's offense from the subterraneous depths of the Blaine Gabbert "era," Chad Henne is playing with aggressiveness and urgency and challenging defenses downfield. It's fair to wonder whether the Jags might be AFC Wild Card contenders had Henne played from the start. Preying on an admittedly friendly schedule, Henne has completed 33-of-59 passes for 615 yards (10.42 YPA), and a 6:1 TD-to-INT ratio over his last two games. He gets another plus draw Sunday against Buffalo's No. 18 pass defense, a group that has played better lately but hardly intimidates. Armed with legitimately impact receivers, consider Henne a quality two-QB league starter until he slows down. ... The Jags' "X" receiver, Cecil Shorts has established himself as a big-play threat with vertical tools and run-after-catch ability. Shorts has at least 100-plus yards and/or a touchdown in five of his last six games, settling in as an every-week fantasy WR2. ... Whereas Shorts figures to draw improving Bills rookie CB Stephon Gilmore in coverage, Justin Blackmon arguably has the superior on-paper Week 13 matchup against LCB Leodis McKelvin and slot CB Justin Rogers. A physical, Boldinian possession receiver, Blackmon will take on shaky McKelvin on early downs and lightweight Rogers (5'11/181) in obvious passing situations. Shorts (hamstring) and Blackmon (groin) missed Thursday’s practice, though I suspect their absences were rest related. We’ll know more today.
Friday Update: Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey stated Friday that Blackmon and Shorts were held out of Thursday's practice as a "precaution." They both practiced on Friday, and Mularkey confirmed Blackmon and Shorts will play against the Bills.
Henne's updated target distribution on the season: Blackmon 24, Shorts 23, Marcedes Lewis 11, Rashad Jennings and Jalen Parmele 7. ... Although Lewis has been a distant third in the pecking order, he's a viable Week 13 desperation play with top-five combined tight end stats over the past three weeks. The Bills have been a middling defense against tight ends, allowing the 18th most fantasy points to the position. Lewis is never a 100-yard threat, but he's 6-foot-6, 275 and Henne's best red-zone target. ... Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) will miss least one more week, and Parmele (groin) is out for the year. Rashad Jennings rejoins the starting lineup, but coach Mike Mularkey is promising a "rotation" of running backs. Despite a favorable matchup with Buffalo's AFC-worst run defense, the Jaguars' backfield is a Week 13 fantasy situation to avoid. Jennings has 220 yards on his last 83 carries (2.65 YPC), and Mularkey has demonstrated a willingness to bench him for street free agents. Jennings would be a low-upside, high-risk flex play in fantasy.
Former Eagles DE Jason Babin is capable of improving the Jaguars' pass rush once he learns Mel Tucker's defense and earns a significant on-field role. He was claimed on waivers just this past Wednesday and seems unlikely to be more than a bit player in Week 13, if he's active at all. The Jags acquired Babin because they're tied for last in the league in sacks and silver platter clean pockets for opposing quarterbacks on a weekly basis. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a fantasy tease, but he has a favorable enough matchup to be worth a long look in two-quarterback leagues this week. Jacksonville ranks 28th against the pass. ... Finding a midseason stride, Stevie Johnson has at least five receptions in six of his last seven games and is coming off a six-catch, 106-yard effort at Indianapolis. He's a strong WR2/3 versus the Jaguars. ... The rest of Buffalo's pass catchers should be dropped for the fantasy stretch run. Slot man Donald Jones has failed to clear 20 yards in two straight games. Touchdown-dependent Scott Chandler has never surpassed TE2 value, and Week 13 foe Jacksonville has permitted the sixth fewest fantasy points to tight ends.
Friday Update: The Jaguars have ruled out CB Derek Cox due to a hamstring injury suffered in Week 12. Cox's absence makes Johnson a more attractive Week 13 fantasy WR2. Cox is Jacksonville's top cover corner, and would have mirrored Johnson on the majority of Sunday's snaps.
Coach Chan Gailey confirmed this week that C.J. Spiller will remain the Bills' starting running back going forward, and there will be an emphasis on increasing his workloads. "I still see C.J. getting the majority of the plays and I do not see anything changing our mind in the immediate future about that," Gailey said. "It balanced out this past week because of some throwing situations that we needed the protection in there. I think as time goes on we will see C.J. get more of the reps." Due to superior blitz-pickup ability, Fred Jackson wound up playing more snaps (32) than Spiller (29) in last week's loss to Indianapolis. Buffalo should have more running downs in a home game against the Jaguars. Facing Jacksonville's No. 29 run defense in Week 13, Spiller is a high-upside RB1 play. Jackson's role has diminished to the point that he's no better than a weekly flex option.
Score Prediction: Bills 24, Jaguars 21
Indianapolis @ Detroit
With the exception of Week 11 against the Packers, Matthew Stafford has played well in four of his past five games. His stats over that span: 132-of-224 for 1,673 yards (7.47 YPA), 9:4 TD-to-INT ratio and one rushing score. Indianapolis is defending the pass better recently than its No. 19 ranking suggests, but the Colts have continued to be exposable in the back end due to a litany of injuries. The Indy defense has allowed the tenth most passing touchdowns in football (19) while recording an NFL-low five picks. Back home at domed Ford Field, Stafford has reasserted himself as a top-eight fantasy quarterback despite maddening inconsistency. He has too much upside to bench in this matchup. ... Calvin Johnson has overcome Stafford's peaks and valleys to lead all wideouts in fantasy scoring over the past five weeks. Megatron is putting fantasy teams on his back. ... With Titus Young all but removed from the rest-of-season picture, rookie Ryan Broyles has emerged as second in line for targets in Detroit's receiver corps. Playing inside and out on Thanksgiving and flashing game-breaking run-after-catch skills, Broyles secured 6-of-12 targets for 126 yards, consistently getting early looks in Stafford's reads. Welker to Megatron's Moss, Broyles will draw favorable coverages and be difficult to bench in PPR leagues going forward. This is a promising young receiver with an awful lot of potential in Detroit's pass-first offense.
The Colts have allowed the fewest catches and yards to tight ends in the AFC, often smothering them with underrated SS Antoine Bethea. Brandon Pettigrew is used differently than most tight ends, however, running five-step buttonhook post-up routes rather than stretching the seam. He's a checkdown tight end. With Young inactive, Pettigrew was targeted 15 times last Thursday and is always a threat for 6-9 receptions. ... Mike Thomas and Tony Scheffler will be the Lions' No. 4 and 5 pass options moving forward, behind Megatron, Broyles, and Pettigrew. Thomas and Scheffler are not worth rostering for the fantasy stretch run. ... The Colts rank 20th versus the run and permit the league's fourth highest yards-per-carry average. They also lost starting RE Fili Moala to a torn ACL last week. Mikel Leshoure's rush-yardage numbers have underwhelmed of late, but he's found pay dirt in back-to-back weeks and this is a game where he could be Detroit's offensive focal point. Start Leshoure as an RB2 with high-scoring potential. ... Joique Bell broke off a 23-yard touchdown run on Thanksgiving Day, but is sharing No. 2 back duties with Kevin Smith. Bell is no better than a late-season roster stash. He'd need Leshoure to get hurt to matter in fantasy.
Andrew Luck has a favorable Week 13 matchup at Detroit, but the hype has exceeded his on-field performance. Luck has a 13:13 TD-to-INT ratio through 11 starts, and he's 30th in passer rating behind the likes of Christian Ponder, Jake Locker, and Blaine Gabbert. Luck ranks 11th in fantasy quarterback scoring in large part because he's scored five rushing touchdowns. Luck wouldn't be a poor fantasy start against the Lions, but he's just a back-end QB1. ... The Lions don't have a defensive back capable of staying with Colts "move" receiver Reggie Wayne, who plays X, Z, and the slot in Bruce Arians' offense. Wayne leads the NFL in receptions and is on pace for 1,608 yards, which would be his career high at age 34. He's the No. 6 fantasy wideout and a locked-in WR1 in this possible pass-heavy track meet. ... Luck's target distribution over the past month: Wayne 52, T.Y. Hilton 32, Donnie Avery and Dwayne Allen 26, LaVon Brazill 12, Vick Ballard 10, Donald Brown 5. ... Although third receiver Hilton plays fewer snaps than starter Avery, the target stats suggest the rookie has surpassed the injury-prone veteran as Luck's No. 2 pass option. At the same time, keep in mind Hilton's targets have been inconsistent (11, 1, 9, 3) over that span. Oozing with playmaking ability, Hilton offers upside but is ultimately a weekly WR3 roll of the dice.
54th in receiver scoring, Avery is exactly the kind of fantasy player owners should drop in favor of higher-upside late-season stashes. Avery might have a decent game against the Lions, but he's not a top-35 option and offers no prayer of consistency. ... Coby Fleener returns Sunday from a four-week shoulder injury, throwing a wrench into Allen's start-ability. Detroit has allowed the fifth most fantasy points to tight ends, but Allen is a more dicey, low-end TE1. ... Showing his true colors as a low-upside flex option only, Ballard is scoreless in four straight weeks and his pass-game role is dwindling. He lost significant second-half playing time to Brown in last week's win over Buffalo, and it's fair to wonder if the Colts will resume a 50:50 timeshare if Ballard doesn't pick it back up. The Week 13 matchup with Detroit's No. 21 run defense is favorable, but the Indy running back corps lacks an outstanding talent and has become increasingly muddled. Avoid the situation.
Score Prediction: Lions 30, Colts 24
Carolina @ Kansas City
That was the Cam Newton we all expected to see. Dissecting a talented if underachieving Eagles defense for four all-purpose TDs and 358 yards last Monday night, Cam hit chunk-yardage throws in the vertical pass game, set his feet and threw with precision in the short to intermediate, and used his legs to execute in scoring position. "It was impressive to watch," ESPN's Trent Dilfer observed afterwards. "I think (Week 12) showed the trajectory for Cam Newton is still very high." Newton is every bit capable of a lightning-fast finish, carrying owners to fantasy title games. The Chiefs' defense has allowed the sixth most points in the NFL this season, struggling especially versus the run. This is a great matchup for Newton the dual threat and top receiver Steve Smith. ... Kansas City continues to stubbornly leave top CB Brandon Flowers at left corner on virtually every defensive snap. Smith runs the majority of his routes versus RCBs, where much more burnable Jalil Brown and Javier Arenas play. Barring a dramatic and unforeseen change in the Chiefs' "sides" philosophy, Smith will get arguably his most favorable matchup of the year in Week 13.
Brandon LaFell missed Week 9 with a concussion. Cam's target distribution in the three games since: LaFell 22, Smith and Greg Olsen 21, Louis Murphy 8, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert 6, DeAngelo Williams 2. ... LaFell's role has seemingly grown; the bigger concern for him is Flowers' coverage. He's a shaky WR3. ... Olsen and LaFell have traded off all season as the No. 2 pass option in Carolina, rendering each other maddeningly inconsistent. Neither has a particularly inviting Week 13 matchup. Olsen is the No. 11 overall fantasy tight end and a back-end TE1. ... With Stewart battling a high ankle sprain, Williams will be thrust into the starting lineup against Kansas City's 24th-ranked run defense. I'd feel a lot better about Williams' spot-start prospects had he capitalized on previous opportunities like this. In Stewart's two missed early-season games, Williams combined for 49 rushing yards on 17 carries (2.88 YPC) and caught three passes for 28 yards, failing to score a touchdown. Williams is a dice-roll flex play with plenty of downside.
The Panthers' defense was shredded last week by Eagles seventh-round rookie Bryce Brown (19-178-2) and lost NT Ron Edwards to a season-ending elbow injury in the process. This is a tasty matchup for Jamaal Charles. After a disappointing midseason lull, Charles has strung together three consecutive games of 100-plus total yards, locking himself back in as an every-week RB1. Officially, Carolina ranks 25th versus the run. ... The rest of Kansas City's roster is a fantasy wasteland and is a virtual lock to stay that way. Now locked in as the Chiefs' starting quarterback, Brady Quinn has played two games start to finish this year and in neither has a Kansas City pass catcher exceeded 41 receiving yards. It's a shame, but Dwayne Bowe isn't even a WR3 at this point. Dexter McCluster, Tony Moeaki, and Steve Breaston should all be on fantasy waiver wires.
Score Prediction: Panthers 24, Chiefs 10