4:25PM ET Games
Cincinnati @ San Diego
The Bengals return from a bye to face a San Diego defense that does nothing well. The Chargers lack effective pass rushers and cover corners, and therefore rank 27th against the pass. San Diego coughs up 4.94 yards per carry on the ground, the second highest average in the NFL. So there isn't a member of Cincinnati's offense that lacks a favorable Week 13 matchup. ... Andy Dalton is worth a look as a QB1 streamer against a Bolts defense allowing the league's highest completion rate (67.9%) and second highest passer rating (102.7). ... Dalton's target distribution over his last three games: A.J. Green 39; Mohamed Sanu 22; Giovani Bernard 17; Marvin Jones 16; Tyler Eifert 15; Jermaine Gresham 13; Andrew Hawkins 4. ... Enemy No. 1 wide receiver stats versus San Diego since its Week 8 bye: Pierre Garcon 7-172; Demaryius Thomas 7-108-3; Mike Wallace 4-39; Dwayne Bowe 5-51-1. Might want to start Green. ... Despite his relatively high target numbers the past three games, Sanu has managed a 33-yard per-game average with one touchdown all season. Severely lacking playmaking ability, Sanu would be a lower-end WR3 shot in the dark against the Bolts. Coming off the bye, I am interested to see whether the Bengals promote Jones into the starting lineup. There's no great reason for confidence in part-time player Jones, either, but if forced to choose between the two, I'd take my chances with him over Sanu.
You know the drill with Cincinnati's tight ends; they cancel each other out in weekly box scores. The Chargers are 22nd in receptions allowed to tight ends and 21st in yards, so of all Bengals skill-position players, Eifert and Gresham have the most difficult on-paper matchup. If Eifert and Gresham were one player, then they'd be in business. ... Because the Bengals ham and egg two running backs based essentially on OC Jay Gruden's in-game feel, a lack of consistent volume has contributed to a lack of consistency for Bernard. His touch totals the past five weeks are 12, 6, 13, 22, 14. I still like him as an every-week flex play and RB2 in plus matchups such as this. On pace for 62 catches, Gio offers much more stability in PPR leagues. ... BenJarvus Green-Ellis is similarly inconsistent with touch totals of 10, 11, 21, 9, 16 over that same stretch. Because Green-Ellis lacks Bernard's big-play ability and passing-game role, his fantasy ceiling is far lower. He needs goal-line TDs to pay fantasy dividends. Law Firm hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 5.
The Bengals have played stout pass defense since losing top cornerback Leon Hall (Achilles') and All-World DT Geno Atkins (ACL) to year-ending injuries, but skepticism is advised when the last four quarterbacks they've faced are Geno Smith, Ryan Tannehill, Joe Flacco, and Jason Campbell. San Diego's No. 4-ranked pass offense is a different animal altogether, especially with Philip Rivers catching fire again. As this game will be played in sunny San Diego, I'd view Rivers as a confident QB1 against a Cincy defense that starts 35-year-old LCB Terence Newman and 30-year-old RCB Pacman Jones, and uses 33-year-old converted safety Chris Crocker at slot corner. The Bolts may have to lean on the pass with lead runner Ryan Mathews nursing a balky hamstring. ... Rivers' target distribution since San Diego's Week 8 bye: Keenan Allen 34; Antonio Gates 32; Danny Woodhead 23; Vincent Brown and Eddie Royal 17; Ladarius Green 12; Ryan Mathews 6. ... Chiefs outside CBs Marcus Cooper and Sean Smith both got embarrassed by Allen last week. A devastating route runner with slick run-after-catch skills, Allen repeatedly dog-walked Kansas City's secondary en route to 124 yards on nine catches. Newman and Pacman pose an even easier test for Allen. I'd lock in the rookie as a mid-range WR2 against Cincinnati.
Saturday Update: Mathews returned to a full practice Friday and is listed as probable. I wouldn't want to trust Mathews in a fantasy lineup at less than 100% and facing Cincinnati's top-ten run defense, but the Chargers seem to believe he'll be available for his normal role. He's a shaky flex option with a poor track record of playing through injuries. I still prefer Woodhead as a Week 13 fantasy start.
The Bengals are 26th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, but I still think Gates is a better bet than not to rebound from last week's 3-21 clunker against Eric Berry. I'd view him as a low-end TE1 at worst. ... Although Green is an exciting talent and seam-running No. 2 tight end, his limited offensive role leaves Green without serious re-draft league value. He hasn't played 30 snaps in a game all year. For perspective, Gates is averaging 63 snaps per game. Green is a much better Dynasty league hold. ... Brown hasn't scored a touchdown since the season opener and has failed to clear 40 receiving yards in six straight games. He went catch-less in Week 12, seeing just one target. Brown has no re-draft-league value. ... With at least 80 total yards and/or a touchdown in eight of his last nine games, Woodhead enters Sunday's clash as a consistent RB2/flex play. His value is enhanced by the possibility that Mathews will either be inactive or limited against Cincy. The Bengals field a top-ten run defense, but matchups matter less for backs like Woodhead who are utilized almost like wide receivers and schemed by their coaching staffs into space. I like Woodhead as an RB2 on FanDuel and would fire him up in weekly leagues wherever possible.
Saturday Update: Despite being listed as probable on the injury report and practicing fully, Gates expressed worry late Friday about a hamstring injury that prevented him from practicing Wednesday and Thursday. The probable tag indicates the Chargers expect Gates to be full-go against Cincinnati, but fantasy owners can use the injury as a tiebreaker to shy away from Gates in close lineup decisions.
Score Prediction: Chargers 24, Bengals 23
Denver @ Kansas City
The Chiefs received a tuneup for this likely high-scoring affair in last Sunday's 41-38 loss to San Diego, where Alex Smith engineered six scoring drives. With his defense deteriorating primarily due to injury, Smith has been forced out of his game-managing comfort zone. He's responded by completing 92 of his last 151 throws (60.9%) for 892 yards (5.91 YPA), and a 7:1 TD-to-INT ratio. This game's 48.5-point over-under is tied for third highest of Week 13, giving Smith desperate QB1 streamer appeal. Minus OLB Justin Houston (elbow) and with OLB Tamba Hali (ankle) at less than full speed, Kansas City is going to have to put up yards and points to keep pace with Peyton Manning on the scoreboard. At the very least, Smith is a quality two-quarterback-league play. ... Smith's target distribution over his last three games: Dwayne Bowe 32; Dexter McCluster 22; Jamaal Charles 21; Donnie Avery 13; Anthony Fasano 10; Anthony Sherman 5; Sean McGrath 4. ... Bowe's stat lines during that three-game stretch: 5-51-1; 4-57-1; 7-67. Bowe is a high-end WR3 against a Denver defense that'll look to break in Champ Bailey (foot) following a five-week absence. ... Slot receiver types have been giving Denver's defense fits of late. Julian Edelman tagged the Broncos for a 9-110-2 number in Week 12, one week after McCluster caught five passes for 53 yards against Denver. McCluster is a viable WR3 in return-yardage leagues.
Averaging 4.3 targets per game the past three weeks, Avery's four catches for 91 yards and a score from last Sunday are hard to take seriously because he's played in all 11 Chiefs games and cleared 40 yards in three. In these clubs' Week 11 meeting, Denver held Avery to one 20-yard catch. There are better WR3 shots in the dark. ... Plodding in-line tight end Fasano scored a red-zone touchdown in the Week 11 contest and will pay fantasy streamer dividends if and only if he finds pay dirt from a short distance again. Fasano is averaging three catches for 22 yards per start. ... Denver held Charles to 72 scoreless yards on 18 touches two weeks ago. To date, it's been Charles' slowest game of an arguably MVP-caliber campaign. Although his matchup is difficult against the Broncos' top-five run defense, Charles remains an every-week RB1 based on volume and sheer talent. It can't hurt Charles' outlook that Broncos DT Kevin Vickerson (hip) is lost for the season. Pro Football Focus has graded Vickerson as an impact run defender this year.
Two weeks removed from pouring 323 yards on Kansas City, Peyton Manning will take on a Chiefs defense depleted compared to its condition the first time around. All quarterbacks perform with higher efficiency in clean pockets, and Peyton is likely to have them this week. As Drew Brees faces Seattle, Manning is the No. 1 fantasy quarterback in Week 13. With feature back Knowshon Moreno (ankle) hobbled and his backups all enduring fumbling woes, it's conceivable the Broncos will lean heavily on the pass against Kansas City's diminished pass rush. ... Peyton's target distribution since Denver's Week 9 bye: Demaryius Thomas 32; Wes Welker 24; Eric Decker 15; Julius Thomas and Moreno 10; Montee Ball 7; Jacob Tamme 5; Virgil Green 3. ... The Broncos attacked outside CBs Marcus Cooper and Sean Smith with Demaryius in Week 11, as Manning targeted Thomas a team-high 13 times, converting five for 121 yards. There's no good reason to believe Denver would veer from that approach after emerging with a 27-17 victory. Demaryius has at least 100 yards and/or a touchdown in five straight games. Only Calvin Johnson is outscoring him among fantasy wideouts. ... Welker has separated from Decker as Manning's clear-cut No. 2 receiver and will match up again with Brandon Flowers in the slot. Welker caught eight balls in the Week 11 game. Every last one of the completions came in Flowers' coverage.
Orange Julius returns from missing Week 12 to take on SS Eric Berry, whom the Chiefs use to shadow tight ends in coverage. Thomas beat Berry for a nine-yard touchdown in Week 11. Only Jimmy Graham (11) has more TDs among tight ends than Thomas this year. He's a top-five TE1 start. ... Decker has been the odd man out in Denver's pass-catching corps of late. He's scoreless since Week 7. I'd still be very hard pressed to sit Decker in any fantasy league that requires three starting receivers. This is a full-time player in a Peyton Manning offense capable of racking up catches and multiple scores in any given week. Consider Decker an every-week WR3 with WR2 upside. ... Unless Adam Schefter or Jay Glazer reports Sunday morning that Moreno will be inactive, the Broncos' fantasy backfield is shaping up as a very dicey one to project. The Denver media has dropped hints that Moreno's playing time could be "limited" against the Chiefs. Next up on the depth chart is Ball, though he'll surely be on a short leash coming off a game where he was benched for a lost fumble. Ronnie Hillman has already been benched for fumbling. C.J. Anderson has not been publicly discussed as a candidate for primary carries at Arrowhead. Fantasy owners eyeballing this backfield in lineup quandaries will just have to gather as much info as possible heading into Sunday and make the best decision they can Sunday morning and/or afternoon. My pick is Moreno to lead the corps in fantasy points, but I don't feel confident in that prediction at all.
Friday Update: We received some clarity on Denver's running back situation when Moreno was listed as probable after participating in practice for a second straight day. Beat writers observed Moreno "moving better" on the field Friday. I now feel more confident about categorizing Moreno as a high-end RB2 at Kansas City. Ball projects as the complementary back and possible goal-line threat. Anderson is No. 3, and Hillman has been a healthy scratch for every game since Week 7.
Score Prediction: Broncos 27, Chiefs 23
Sunday Night Football
NY Giants @ Washington
The Redskins return from an embarrassing Monday Night Football showing against the 49ers to square off with a slightly improved Giants defense when compared to early-season performance. Top G-Men defender Jason Pierre-Paul has been rendered ineffective by shoulder woes despite team efforts to limit his snaps. JPP has two sacks in 11 appearances this season, and just one over his last ten games. Meanwhile, Robert Griffin III gets back emerging star tight end Jordan Reed from a concussion. Facing a Giants defense that ranks 15th against the pass and last in the NFC in sacks, RG3 is a far better bet for a productive box score than he was last week. Griffin remains a low-end QB1 option. ... RG3's target distribution since the Skins' Week 5 bye: Pierre Garcon 76; Reed 44; Santana Moss 26; Roy Helu 19; Logan Paulsen 13; Aldrick Robinson and Josh Morgan 11. ... This is the G-Men and Skins' first battle of 2013. When Garcon faced the Giants last December, he hung an 8-106-1 line on DC Perry Fewell's group. Now on a five-game streak of six-plus catches, Garcon is an every-week WR1/2 in fantasy. ... The 49ers game showed Morgan will primarily handle Leonard Hankerson's (ACL, LCL surgery) old Z receiver role. Morgan got the start and saw six targets, playing 57% of the offensive snaps. Blocking frequently and running possession-type pass patterns, Morgan is barely in the WR4 fantasy discussion.
34-year-old slot receiver Moss has one touchdown on the season and hasn't reached 50 yards since Week 3. He isn't a fantasy option. ... Jason Witten could tell you the Giants' linebackers struggle in coverage; he's scored four TDs against New York in two 2013 meetings. The G-Men are allowing the ninth most fantasy points in the league to tight ends. Fire up Reed as a top-six TE1. ... Playing top-seven run defense, the Giants are legitimately stout up front with Jon Beason installed at middle linebacker behind red-hot DT Cullen Jenkins. This isn't an easy draw for Alfred Morris. The Redskins are still going to feed Morris as they always do; he is sixth in the NFL in carries, and only Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy have rushed for more yards. I could see downgrading Morris from RB1 to RB2 based on Week 13 matchup. I couldn't see benching him.
Fantasy owners in quarterback quandaries ought to give Eli Manning a look as a rest-of-season QB1. With the exception of Week 15 versus Seattle, the Giants face a cakewalk pass-defense schedule through Week 16, beginning in D.C., then traveling to San Diego for Week 14, and ending inside Detroit's Ford Field dome in fantasy Super Bowl week. Eli hasn't played well this season, but that's precisely the reason this approach could be available to some fantasy leaguers. Although Manning is currently 19th in fantasy QB scoring, I think he's a fair bet to produce as a top 10-12 option the rest of the way. ... The G-Men are leaning on Brown, utilizing him as an offensive focal point since his return from short-term I.R. In three games since, Brown is averaging 26 touches for 117 total yards, with a touchdown and two-point conversion thrown in for good measure. Only Adrian Peterson and Knowshon Moreno have more rushing attempts over that span. If Brandon Jacobs wasn't a threat to vulture goal-line TDs, Brown would be a borderline RB1. As is, he's a high-end RB2 with increased upside this week taking on Washington's No. 14 run defense. Brown is a high-floor play with a somewhat limited ceiling.
Friday Update: Brown's Week 13 scoring potential improved Friday when Jacobs was ruled out following an apparent setback with his chronically pained knee. The Giants will likely dress Peyton Hillis as their No. 2 tailback this week. Hillis shouldn't be viewed as a fantasy factor. Brown is a legit RB1 play. Scratch that "limited ceiling" talk.
Eli's 2013 target distribution: Victor Cruz 102; Hakeem Nicks 76; Rueben Randle 58; Brandon Myers 48; Jerrel Jernigan 16; Peyton Hillis 13; Brown 12. ... In his last two meetings with Skins DC Jim Haslett, Cruz has dropped stat lines of 5-104 and 7-131-1. Nicks' return from a groin injury is actually good news for Cruz, preventing defenses from selling out to stop New York's slot receiver as Dallas did last week. Cruz has always been more effective with an isolation route runner along the sideline to take coverage from the middle of the field. I'd lock in Cruz as a WR2. ... Nicks is more effective as a decoy than standalone producer these days. He's still scoreless on the season and hasn't so much as reached 70 yards in a game since early October. Despite the favorable matchup with Washington's No. 26 pass defense, Nicks is a low-end WR3. ... Randle tends to produce when we don't expect it, and come up short when we do. Such was the case last week, as Nicks was inactive, giving Randle the start. So Randle delivered 64 scoreless yards. I'd love to see what Randle could do as a full-time receiver for an extended stretch of games. In his current role, he's an unpredictable boom-or-bust guy. ... The good news for Myers is the Redskins yield the seventh most fantasy points to tight ends. The bad news is that Myers isn't a good player. Tight end is a position the Giants will undoubtedly look to upgrade in the offseason.
Score Prediction: Redskins 24, Giants 21
Monday Night Football
New Orleans @ Seattle
The Seahawks are suddenly minus 66% of their nickel sub-package following suspensions to slot corner Walter Thurmond III and RCB Brandon Browner. Seattle remains likely to play stout defense with elite safeties, All-World LCB Richard Sherman, and one of the league's deepest pass-rusher corps, but it's going to be hard to keep living up to their No. 2 ranking versus the pass. Especially against Drew Brees. Expect Brees to attack fill-in RCB Byron Maxwell, a usual special teamer, and substitute slot corner Jeremy Lane. X/slot receiver Marques Colston typically would've aligned across from the above defenders. I like Brees as a top-five QB1 even in this still-difficult matchup, and Colston's odds of delivering sound WR3 stats. ... Brees' target distribution since Colston returned from a knee injury three games ago: Jimmy Graham 23; Colston 22; Pierre Thomas 18; Darren Sproles 11; Kenny Stills 9; Lance Moore 8; Robert Meachem 6; Mark Ingram, Ben Watson, and Josh Hill 5. ... I've seen some thought around fantasy land that the Seahawks could assign Sherman to Graham in shadow coverage. Doing so would be a major deviation from how Pete Carroll has always called defense with the Seahawks. Sherman has been a stationary left cornerback, sometimes playing in the slot but never mirroring opposing top weapons. Hold your breath, but keep trotting out Graham as a difference-making TE1. The Seahawks allow the 14th most receptions to tight ends, and movable-chess-piece Graham plays enough snaps at X wideout and in the slot that he should have opportunities to man up against Maxwell and Lane.
Another reason for confidence in Graham is Carroll's tendency to play straightaway defense. The Seahawks rarely use bracket or double coverage to eliminate a select player on the other side of the ball. Following a Thursday night win over Atlanta, Graham is also coming off an extra long week to rest his once-balky foot. ... Despite Seattle's defensive losses, it'd be a major stretch to count on any Saints pass catcher not named Graham or Colston. The Seahawks don't give up long pass plays -- they're 32nd in 20-plus and 40-plus-yard completions allowed -- creating a matchup to avoid for deep threats Stills and Meachem. Passed on the depth chart by Stills and even Meachem in some games, Moore isn't playing many snaps or having enough balls thrown his way. ... The Seahawks are slightly more vulnerable on the ground than in the air. They're a middling 16th in run defense and permit 4.18 yards per carry, an average mark. The lone New Orleans back not giving fantasy owners headaches is Thomas, who has the appearance of a low-ceiling flex at CenturyLink Field. Sproles' health (ankle/knee) and usage have both been problematic. Ingram only sees extensive snaps when the Saints are blowing teams out. I'd feel reasonably good about starting Thomas on Monday night. I'd put Sproles on a wait-and-see week, and drop Ingram for a higher-upside stash.
There is some reason to believe this game has high-scoring potential with a 47-point over-under, Drew Brees' No. 3 offense on one side of the field, and Russell Wilson's top-four scoring offense on the other. Wilson has a 17:5 TD-to-INT ratio over his last nine games, with an 18th score on a scramble. On the season, only seven NFL quarterbacks have scored more fantasy points. New Orleans poses a genuinely stiff test -- Rob Ryan's defense ranks third against the pass, tied for first in sacks, and has permitted the third fewest passing touchdowns (11) in football -- but Wilson has earned every-week QB1 treatment. His Week 13 ceiling will rise if the Saints can score on Seattle's defense, an increased possibility minus Browner and Thurmond. ... The Seahawks' most likely plan of attack remains a run-first approach that not only challenges the Saints' main defensive vulnerability, but keeps Brees off the field. New Orleans' No. 15 run defense is coughing up 4.81 yards per carry, the fourth most generous clip in football. Expect heavy doses of Marshawn Lynch, who could be argued as this week's No. 2 fantasy running back play behind only Adrian Peterson.
Percy Harvin will be a full-time player for the first time in Week 13, likely lining up at slot receiver to match up with Saints rookie slot defender Kenny Vaccaro. It's worth noting that Harry Douglas -- an obviously inferior talent to Harvin -- racked up nine catches at slot receiver in New Orleans' last game. Harvin's weekly target counts could be something of a concern in Seattle's run-first offense, but I'd want to fire him up as a WR2/3 in this game. ... Here are the stat lines of the last eight "No. 1 receivers" to face New Orleans: Brandon Marshall 4-30-1; Mike Wallace 3-24; Larry Fitzgerald 5-64; Vincent Jackson 5-77; Aaron Dobson 6-63; Stevie Johnson 7-72-1; David Nelson 1-19; Dez Bryant 1-44; Anquan Boldin 6-56-1, Roddy White 2-24. Most of them faced Saints top CB Keenan Lewis on the majority of snaps. The "No. 1 receiver" designation applies more to Golden Tate than Harvin at this point, because Lewis won't follow Harvin into the slot. He'll match up with Tate, and to a lesser extent Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. For Week 13, at least, the lone Seahawks pass catcher I'd feel comfortable starting is Harvin. Tate is a low-end WR3. Baldwin is in wait-and-see mode as his role is established with Harvin playing full time. The Saints are 30th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, giving Zach Miller an unfavorable matchup.
Saturday Update: Fantasy owners need to monitor Harvin (hip) closely on Saturday and Sunday. He did not practice on Thursday, and would not have practiced Friday had the Seahawks held drills, per the team. The Seahawks will release their final injury report of the week on Saturday. Stay tuned.
Score Prediction: Seahawks 24, Saints 21