Jacksonville @ Cleveland
A virtual lock to be a low-scoring snoozefest at chilly Browns Stadium, Vegas' 40-point over-under for this one seems awfully generous. The Browns are playing top-four defense. The Jags' defense is better than paper stats indicate. And both offenses stink. In Week 13 fantasy lineup decisions, avoid this one wherever possible. ... The lone Jaguars skill-position player who should be locked into starting lineups is Maurice Jones-Drew, who has 100-plus total yards and/or a touchdown in five of his last six games. And even his ceiling is capped by Cleveland's No. 6 run defense, which is holding enemy runners to the second lowest yards-per-carry average (3.43) in football. Jones-Drew is a low-end RB2/flex. ... With a 4:9 TD-to-INT ratio on the season, Chad Henne isn't even worth two-quarterback-league discussion versus the Browns' top-five pass defense in this weather-affected game. I'd start Christian Ponder over Henne 100 times out of 100 this week. ... Henne's target distribution since Justin Blackmon's year-ending suspension: Cecil Shorts 20; Ace Sanders 16; Marcedes Lewis and MJD 14; Mike Brown 7; Kerry Taylor 4; Jordan Todman 2.
Shorts will surely get the Joe Haden treatment on Sunday, rendering the Jags' top receiver a low-end WR3. Jacksonville is simply unlikely to have passing success as a team. ... With Brown due back from his shoulder injury, the Jaguars' complementary pass catchers are useless. Sanders' snaps will drop. Brown has flopped since the Blackmon suspension. Lewis is a total fantasy non-factor. ... The Jaguars got Todman a season-high 12 touches in last week's win over Houston. It's always easy to involve change-of-pace backs more when you're playing with a lead or in a tight game. If you think the Jags will be playing with a lot of leads or in tight games the rest of the way, view Todman as a threat to Jones-Drew's workloads. If you think they are more likely to face large deficits, Todman is a non-issue. I tend to project more of the latter scenarios for Jacksonville.
We've seen enough of Brandon Weeden's act by now to know his reinstallation in place of Jason Campbell (concussion) isn't going to light a fire in Cleveland's offense. Weeden is a slow-twitch mover and decision maker prone to sacks and head-scratching mistakes. Even against the Jags' No. 18 pass defense, Weeden should be avoided in two-QB-league lineups. ... Weeden's target distribution over his past five appearances: Josh Gordon 29; Jordan Cameron 27; Greg Little 23; Chris Ogbonnaya 19; Davone Bess 18; Fozzy Whittaker 8; Gary Barnidge 5; Willis McGahee 4. ... Although Gordon has been prone to sporadic clunkers due to quarterback woes, he's an every-week starter because he can dominate in any given game and almost single-handedly win fantasy owners' head-to-head matchups. You'll want to start him against the Jags. ... There is some reason to think Weeden's reinsertion could kickstart Cameron, whose statistics had bottomed out with Campbell behind center. These are Cameron's stat lines in the five games where Weeden has attempted at least 25 passes this season: 9-108-1; 5-95; 5-64; 7-55-1; 3-32. Jacksonville is allowing the second most fantasy points in the league to tight ends.
On pace for 46 catches, 526 yards, two touchdowns, and nine drops, Little is fantasy waiver-wire fodder regardless of league size. ... Same goes for Bess, whose two touchdowns in Week 10 have been exposed as an obvious illusion. He hasn't cleared 70 yards in a game all year and has hit pay dirt in 1-of-11 appearances. ... The Browns' running game matchup is attractive on paper versus Jacksonville's No. 29 run defense, but the lack of workload clarity and defined roles prevents any of Cleveland's tailbacks from being a reliable Week 13 fantasy option. The Browns used Ogbonnaya sparingly in last week's loss to Pittsburgh following a second-quarter lost fumble. Whittaker led the backfield in touches with seven, gaining all of 21 scoreless yards. McGahee doesn't belong on an NFL roster. Ogbonnaya remains the best fantasy bet this week, but only as a low-ceiling flex option. There are no strong indications that Whittaker's role is growing. At least not yet.
Score Prediction: Browns 20, Jaguars 13
4:05PM ET Games
Atlanta @ Buffalo
Marred by skill-position injuries, the Bills return from a much-needed bye to face a lousy Falcons defense allowing the fourth most points and sixth most yards per game in football. Particularly vulnerable on the ground, Atlanta has been annihilated by Pierre Thomas, Bobby Rainey, Marshawn Lynch, Carolina's backfield, and Andre Ellington over its past five games for 666 yards and six touchdowns on 112 carries (5.95 YPC). The Bills lead the NFL in rushing attempts per game (33.0), so this is an ideal setup for coach Doug Marrone's ground-based attack to take off. View C.J. Spiller as a high-ceiling RB2 play, and goal-line favorite Fred Jackson as a good bet to score. For Spiller, this game could be the prelude to a spectacularly fast finish. During the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16), Buffalo faces the league's Nos. 9 (TB), 29 (JAX), and 26 (MIA) run defenses ... Nearly as inept against the pass, Atlanta has allowed enemy quarterbacks to pile up a 23:6 TD-to-INT ratio and league-high 106.7 passer rating. The Falcons are 28th in sacks. E.J. Manuel turned in arguably his best outing of the season against the Jets before the open date and should be stapled into two-QB-league lineups. The up-and-down rookie still isn't a QB1 streamer.
In terms of secondary play, Atlanta has struggled in the slot more than anywhere else, attempting to mix and match Robert McClain and rookie Desmond Trufant. Stevie Johnson is Buffalo's go-to slot weapon. He's a recommended WR3 play this week. ... I'm interested to see whether the Bills commit more snaps to game-breaking rookie Marquise Goodwin coming off the bye. Goodwin has ripped off gains of 40, 26, 59, 17, and 43 yards over Buffalo's last six games. He smoked Antonio Cromartie one on one for the 43-yard scoring bomb in Week 11. Goodwin is an enticing Hail Mary WR3 in such a favorable matchup, and it's worth noting this game will be played indoors beneath Toronto's Rogers Centre dome. The Falcons have allowed the third most 40-plus-yard passing plays in football (12) and can't rush the passer, which will give Manuel time to deliver shot plays. ... Robert Woods is due back from his high ankle sprain. He'll run most of his routes into Falcons top CB Asante Samuel's coverage and is a WR4. ... Scott Chandler has consistently come up short in plus matchups, so the fact that Atlanta is allowing the 12th most fantasy points to tight ends doesn't help much. Because Chandler is on pace for just 54 receptions and 623 yards, he only pays off as a TE1 streamer when he scores TDs. He has two touchdowns on the season.
Although early-year pass defense woes skew some of their season totals, the Bills have cobbled together arguably the league's most underrated defense under Rex Ryan disciple Mike Pettine. Now top 15 in yards allowed, Buffalo is tied for first in the NFL in both interceptions (16) and sacks (37), and returns from a bye week to freshen up for Sunday's clash with Atlanta. This is far from the cakewalk matchup for Matt Ryan it may have seemed destined to be during the season's first month. With just one 300-yard outing and a combined TD-to-INT ratio of 5:9 over his last five games, Ryan can't be trusted as a fantasy QB1 in this difficult road affair. I'd rather start the Bills' fantasy defense. ... Ryan's target distribution since Roddy White's Week 10 return: Harry Douglas 28; Tony Gonzalez 19; Darius Johnson 17; White 15; Jacquizz Rodgers 12; Steven Jackson 11; Jason Snelling 6; Drew Davis 2. ... Not being heavily targeted in a struggling passing offense, White is just a mid-range to low-end WR3 option until something changes. He still has a chance to make fantasy playoffs noise against Green Bay and Washington's weak pass defenses in Weeks 14-15, but White is 60th in fantasy receiver scoring over the past three weeks.
While White does battle with Stephon Gilmore and Leodis McKelvin on the perimeter, look for Douglas to run most of his routes against rookie slot CB Nickell Robey. Robey deserves credit for a strong first year, but he's an undrafted rookie taking on Atlanta's most productive receiver on high-percentage pass patterns. Look for Douglas to lead the Falcons in catches again this week. ... Buffalo is allowing the sixth fewest fantasy points to tight ends, giving Gonzo an underwhelming Week 13 matchup. Still seventh among tight ends in fantasy scoring on the year, Gonzalez is entrenched as a mid-range to back-end TE1. Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham owners have a major head-to-head advantage on those starting the likes of Gonzo, Greg Olsen, and Charles Clay on a weekly basis. ... S-Jax found pay dirt for the first time all season in last week's loss to New Orleans. Since returning from a hamstring injury five games ago, Jackson has 178 yards on 60 carries (2.97 YPC). Just from watching almost all of those runs, I do think there is reason to believe S-Jax is moving quite a bit better than he was a month ago. He'll be a low-ceiling RB2/flex against Buffalo's 23rd-ranked run defense. It's worth noting the Bills have permitted just four rushing touchdowns on the season -- third fewest in the NFL -- and are holding opponents to 4.10 YPC, which is a middling average. They're a better run defense than the No. 23 ranking suggests.
Score Prediction: Bills 23, Falcons 20
St. Louis @ San Francisco
49ers OC Greg Roman promised last week his offense would "pop" and that an explosion was "coming." It did in Monday's 27-6 demolition of Washington, as Colin Kaepernick dropped 255 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. Kap has accounted for 11 TDs compared to three turnovers over his last six games. His yardage totals remain disappointing as a runner and passer, but in a favorable-weather game versus the Rams' No. 22 pass defense, Kaepernick is worth back-end QB1 consideration. In these clubs' September meeting, Kap managed 178 total yards against the Rams but threw for two scores. Because the 49ers' dominant defense doesn't allow for shootout scenarios or high pass attempt totals, Kaepernick must compensate with sheer playmaking ability. And that limits his upside a bit. ... Kap's target distribution since San Francisco's Week 9 bye: Anquan Boldin 20; Mario Manningham 17; Vernon Davis 14; Frank Gore 7; Vance McDonald 5; Bruce Miller 4; Jon Baldwin 3. ... Even with Michael Crabtree (Achilles') due back this week for 12-15 snaps, Boldin remains a quality WR3 play. He tagged St. Louis for a 5-90-1 line in Week 4. Other notable enemy receiver stats given up by the 2013 Rams: Brandon Marshall 10-117-1; T.Y. Hilton 7-130; Golden Tate 5-93-2; Justin Blackmon 5-136-1; Cecil Shorts 5-74-1; Larry Fitzgerald 8-80-2; Dez Bryant 4-38-1; Julio Jones 11-182-1; Steve Smith 5-69-1; Andre Johnson 7-88.
The savviest fantasy owners will put Crabtree on a wait-and-see week and view it as a plus if he does well against the Rams. Because injuries like his can be so debilitating and he's clearly not going to be an every-down player in his 2013 debut, Crabtree is best left benched. ... Manningham and Baldwin's roles will be scaled back with Crabtree returning. And even more so once Quinton Patton (foot) gets back. Patton practiced this week on a limited basis. Baldwin is unworthy of a fantasy roster spot, while Manningham is just a WR4/5 in 14-team leagues. ... Although the Rams are statistically stingy versus tight ends, Davis is always a good bet to reach pay dirt when healthy. He's 100% this week. Only Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham are better fantasy tight end starts. ... Gore's recent box-score stats suggest he's beginning to hit something of a late-season wall, understandable in his age-30 campaign. He's still a high-end RB2 against a Rams defense Gore absolutely torched for 153 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries (7.65 YPA) in the Week 4 game.
Since losing Sam Bradford to a torn ACL, the Rams have been playing Hide the Quarterback, leaning on a high-volume run game and average to above-average defense to stay competitive week in and week out. They're going to have trouble executing the formula against a Niners team that ranks No. 12 in run defense. If Zac Stacy (concussion) plays in Week 13 -- and here's betting he will -- he'll only be a mid-range to low-end RB2. If Benny Cunningham gets the nod, he will be a dicey flex. Despite last week's box score against the hapless Bears, Cunningham won't be start-able if Stacy is active for this game. ... Kellen Clemens' target distribution on the season: Chris Givens 24; Jared Cook 21; Stacy 15; Tavon Austin 13; Lance Kendricks 10; Austin Pettis 8; Brian Quick 7. ... The only St. Louis pass catcher worth a serious mention is Austin, whose four TDs the past two games are unsustainable on his current minimal usage. He only has eight targets, four receptions, and six touches combined during that span. Austin is playing 40.2% of the Rams' snaps. He's a Hail Mary flex/WR3. ... Some desperate fantasy owners may be tempted to chase Jared Cook's last-week points. He caught 4-of-5 targets for 80 yards and a touchdown against Chicago. Resist that temptation. San Francisco allows the fewest fantasy points in the NFC to tight ends, and held Cook to 45 scoreless yards on four catches in these team's Week 4 meeting.
Saturday Update: Stacy received full medical clearance on Friday, practiced fully, and will start Sunday against San Francisco. He's still an every-week fantasy starter, but an RB2 option only in this difficult matchup with some threat of Cunningham handling 6-9 carries as a complement.
Score Prediction: 49ers 24, Rams 10