Sat Dec 5 11:09am ET
By BARRY WILNER
AP Pro Football Writer
Cincinnati Bengals safety Brandon Wilson (40) rushes for a 103-yard touchdown during the first half of NFL football game against the New York Giants, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones (45) runs toward the end zone for a touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders after his interception during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, left, reacts with down judge Danny Short during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) catches a touchdown pass against Buffalo Bills cornerback Taron Johnson (24) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus )
Green Bay Packers' Davante Adams catches a touchdown pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
New York Giants quarterback Colt McCoy (12) looks to throw during the second half of NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
In this strangest of NFL seasons in this weirdest of years, here's a matchup of division leaders you wouldn't expect: Seattle hosting the New York Giants.
Certainly the Seahawks on top of the tough NFC West is no stretch. They are 8-3, have a dynamic offense and improving defense, and plenty of pedigree under coach Pete Carroll. It's their opponent that makes little sense - except in 2020.
New York is 4-7, has yet to beat a team with a winning record, and enters the most difficult portion of its schedule. Yet the Giants are tied atop the awful NFC East with Washington, which it has beaten twice.
''If you win your division, you win your division,'' Carroll says, and he knows: Seattle went 7-9 in 2010 and won the NFC West, then beat New Orleans in a playoff game. ''That's the way it was then, that's the way it is now, and I don't think there's any problem with it. Whoever comes out of that division, the division champ, whoever plays them better look out. There's a lot going on that side of it in what you want to prove and how you want to go about it.''
The Giants' defense has played well during a three-game win streak, but starting quarterback Daniel Jones has a hamstring issue and might sit in favor of Colt McCoy.
''Just being prepared, that's the name of the game,'' McCoy says. ''That's why the Giants brought me here. I think that's the expectation. If your number is called, whether it's quarterback, receiver, on the other side of the ball on defense, when you have to step up, you have to step up. I just have to be mentally prepared for whatever happens.''
Off this week with the final byes for the season, are Tampa Bay (7-5) and Carolina (4-8).
Cleveland (8-3) at Tennessee (8-3)
While Cleveland is chasing a wild-card playoff berth thanks to Pittsburgh's dominance - and it is odd to be mentioning the Browns and the postseason together - the Titans are atop the AFC South. They come off impressive away victories against Baltimore and Indianapolis and can establish themselves as true contenders with another strong showing.
The Browns have benefited like no one else from a weak schedule. Teams they have beaten are a combined 17-47-2 right now. They should get back star defensive end Myles Garrett after missing the past two games with COVID-19. Garrett is tied for second in the NFL with 9+ sacks. He certainly will be tested by the league's leading rusher, Derrick Henry.
Los Angeles Rams (7-4) at Arizona (6-5)
Think the Rams like playing the Cardinals? LA has won six straight in the series and five straight in Arizona. Rams coach Sean McVay is 6-0 against the Cards; LA has outscored Arizona 195-56 in McVay's tenure.
''What's occurred in the past has nothing to do with this game,'' McVay predictably says. ''There is continuity at the coordinator spots, but these guys are playing really well. They have great playmakers in all three phases.''
The Rams top the league with 17 points allowed per game, and second with 297 yards allowed a game, with an NFL-low 11 touchdown passes allowed.
Arizona has lost three of its past four games, the only win coming on the desperation heave from Kyler Murray to DeAndre Hopkins with 2 seconds left against Buffalo.
Cincinnati (2-8-1) at Miami (7-4)
As bad as things have been for the Bengals, Brandon Wilson returned a first-quarter kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown, the longest scoring play in team history, against the Giants. Wilson is tied for first in the NFL with five kickoff returns of at least 40 yards.
Miami knocked off the Jets with Ryan Fitzpatrick subbing for Tua Tagovailoa (thumb) and now FitzMagic gets a shot at another of his many former teams. He got top wideout DeVante Parker going again: Parker had a season-high 119 yards receiving against the Jets, more than in Tagovailoa's four starts combined.
Washington (4-7) at Pittsburgh (11-0), Monday
The Steelers stand on the verge of a playoff spot. They can wrap up the AFC North with a win and a Browns loss. And they get a playoff spot with a win or losses by the Raiders, Dolphins or Colts. But they probably need to keep winning with Kansas City right behind in the conference standings and only one bye available this postseason.
Washington has won two straight to remain in the muddled mix of the NFC East.
Dallas (3-8) at Baltimore (6-5), Tuesday
After playing the Steelers tough if not artistically in a loss on Wednesday, the Ravens hope to be far less undermanned because of COVID-19 issues when they host the Cowboys. Baltimore should have starting quarterback Lamar Jackson and several other regulars back, but remains almost as injury-ravaged as Dallas, which has dropped five of six.
Las Vegas (6-5) at New York Jets (0-11)
The Raiders need a rebound after that fiasco in Atlanta, and the Jets might be just the tonic. Sure, the Raiders tend to struggle in the East, but the Jets, as their record indicates, struggle everywhere.
Still, Las Vegas has lost six straight road games against the Jets since a 34-13 win in 1996. The Jets' 11-game losing streak is their longest in a single season. Another loss would tie the team mark for longest overall skid, which spanned the 1995 and '96 seasons under Rich Kotite.
Indianapolis (7-4) at Houston (4-7)
Indy has not lost consecutive games this season, but was routed at home by Tennessee last week. The Texans have won two straight for the first time this season, but had receiver Will Fuller and cornerback Bradley Roby suspended for six games each this week for violating the league's policy on performance enhancers drugs.
The Colts have won five of the past seven in this series. Philip Rivers is expected to make his 236th consecutive start, breaking a tie with Charles Woodson for ninth overall starts in league history.
Denver (4-7) at Kansas City (10-1)
Denver is expected to have all its quarterbacks after COVID-19 issues forced the Broncos to use rookie wideout Kendall Hinton at QB last week against New Orleans. Hinton was 1 of 9 for 13 yards with two interceptions, and the Broncos gained 112 yards in the loss.
Kansas City clinches the AFC West with a win and a Las Vegas defeat. The Chiefs are trying to go 11-1 for the second time in franchise history (2003). Patrick Mahomes has thrown for at least 300 yards seven times this season and has 22 straight games with at least one TD passing.
New Orleans (9-2) at Atlanta (4-7)
Simply put, a win for the Saints and a loss by the Bears clinches a playoff berth for New Orleans. There are other scenarios involving ties.
New Orleans has won five of the past six in this heated rivalry, getting to Matt Ryan often. The Saints have sacked Ryan a total of 17 times in their past two meetings, and Cameron Jordan has 21 career sacks of Ryan, an NFL record by one defender against a single QB.
Though Atlanta's defense is susceptible to the pass, there is danger lurking. Linebacker Deion Jones has returned five interceptions for touchdowns, the most by any player since Jones entered the league in 2016, and the most by any linebacker since 2006. His latest was a 67-yard pick-6 against the Raiders.
Philadelphia (3-7-1) at Green Bay (8-3)
While Philadelphia's offense has become dysfunctional with slumping quarterback Carson Wentz, a sievelike line and mediocre receivers, the defense has kept the Eagles competitive in three straight losses.
Things are much brighter in Titletown. Aaron Rodgers is playing at the highest level and, despite no top-line wideout to join him, Davante Adams has 11 TD receptions, behind only Kansas City's Tyreek Hill (13). Adams has the most touchdown catches by a Packer through 11 games since Billy Howton had 12 in 1956.
''Aaron obviously has a great command of the offense and everything runs through him and how he controls things,'' says Eagles coach Doug Pederson, ''and that's kind of what you see in games and on tape - just how smooth things are operating and Aaron really kind of thinking the same way the play caller's thinking.''
Buffalo (8-3) at San Francisco (5-6), Monday
The game is being played at the Cardinals' stadium in Arizona after COVID-19 rules prohibited games at San Francisco's home stadium. The Niners also practiced this week in Arizona and will spend about three weeks there.
Buffalo is on track for its first AFC East crown since 1995. The defense is coming on: the Bills have 19 sacks and 10 takeaways in the past five games after 11 sacks and seven takeaways in the first six outings.
New England (5-6) at Los Angeles Chargers (3-8)
Strangely, this is the Patriots' first trip to Los Angeles in 28 years, and it's a doubleheader. They are at SoFi Stadium again on Thursday night to play the Rams.
New England has won the past five meetings, including a 2018 divisional playoff game. The Patriots are getting a boost from placekicker Nick Folk. With his 50-yard, game-winning kick as time expired last week against Arizona, Folk became the first kicker in one NFL season to convert multiple such field goals of 50-plus yards as time expired.
Chargers WR Keenan Allen leads the NFL with 85 receptions and has a TD catch in five straight games.
Jacksonville (1-10) at Minnesota (5-6)
Over the past five games, four of them wins, Vikings QB Kirk Cousins leads the NFL with a 124.3 passer rating and is third with 12 passing touchdowns.
The Jaguars have lost 10 straight, the longest single-season streak in team history, and fired general manager Dave Caldwell. They lost 13 consecutive games from Dec. 2, 2012, through Oct. 27, 2013, for the longest overall slide.
Detroit (4-7) at Chicago (5-6)
Could the Bears go from 5-1 and in playoff contention to last place in the NFC North? With the way the offense is sputtering and the defense no longer so fearsome, why not?
Darrell Bevell makes his interim head coach debut after Matt Patricia (and general manager Bob Quinn) were fired following an ugly home loss to Houston on Thanksgiving.
Five Hot Plays: Week 13
The Washington Football Team defense has been good for fantasy at times this season, but they are not a recommended option in Week 13. Washington's strength has been it's ferocious defensive line featuring Ryan Kerrigan and Chase Young. The Steelers, however, have allowed a league-low 10 sacks this season as the undefeated unit has shredded defenses all year. Overall Pittsburgh allows the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing defenses. Washington is best left on the bench this week.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins looked earlier this season as if he would benefit immensely within the team's offense after the loss of Odell Beckham Jr. (knee) for the remainder of the season. But after logging his fifth game of the year last week with one catch or fewer, Higgins has lost any season-long or DFS fantasy appeal that he may have previously established. A large reason for this is the run-heavy nature of the Cleveland offense, which has led to fewer pass attempts for quarterback Baker Mayfield. Having to jockey primarily with Jarvis Landry, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Austin Hooper for targets, Higgins has simple slipped too far out of relevance, even in deep season-long formats to garner appeal against Tennessee in Week 13.
Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson Jr. led his team in carries (10) last week versus San Francisco, but he managed just 19 yards rushing. That lack of production has become glaring for Henderson, whose production has ebbed throughout 2020. Cam Akers and Malcolm Brown loom as perpetual threats to chip away at Henderson's carry load, with the second-year back not having seen 15 or more rush attempts since Week 7. Entering Week 13, Henderson is entirely a touchdown-dependent RB option in season-long and DFS formats, although projecting which Los Angeles back will get the ball close to the goal line is a risk within itself.
Washington Football Team running back J.D. McKissic has been quiet in recent weeks and faces another tough test Monday against the Steelers. McKissic burst onto the fantasy scene when Alex Smith took over at QB for Washington as the veteran peppered McKissic with 29 targets in his first two games. Since then, however, McKissic has just six targets in the last two games. He's also not been involved in the running game with no more than eight carries in any game this season. This is not good news against a Steelers Defense that allows the fewest receptions and receiving yards to running backs. McKissic is a risky flex-option at best in Week 13.
Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson will face a stiff test in his first game since shredding the Cowboys for 128 yards and three touchdowns. The rookie running back introduced himself to the nation with the huge Thanksgiving performance, but now faces a Steelers Defense that allows the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. Fantasy managers should keep Gibson locked into lineups despite the daunting opponent. Gibson has found the end zone in five straight games and has three 90-plus yard performances in that span. His ceiling is lower than most weeks with Washington likely facing a pass-happy game-script, but the rookie has earned must-start status in fantasy regardless of matchup.
Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. is in line to be the team's top wideout target Sunday versus the Bears with Kenny Golladay (hip) once again out of the mix. But unfortunately for Jones, he has the double whammy of catching passes from a banged-up quarterback (Matthew Stafford, hip) and facing a stout defense in Chicago. Jones hauled in four receptions for 55 yards against the Bears Defense back in Week 1, albeit with a healthy Stafford and Golladay on the field. While there is some WR3/Flex appeal for Jones in season-long formats, he'll be something of a risk even as he comes off a season-high 12-target performance last week.
Veteran running back LeGarrette Blount announced his retirement from the NFL on Saturday, ending a nine-year career that ended three times with a Super Bowl victory. Blount's best individual season came in 2016 when he led the NFL in rushing touchdowns (18) with the Patriots. Known for his bruising rushing style, Blount carried considerable fantasy intrigue when on the field due to his propensity for receiving carries near the goal line. Having been out of the league since an '18 stint with the Lions, Blount was firmly off all season-long radars, but he can now receive an official tip of the cap from fantasy managers for his years of production.
Tennessee Titans tight end Anthony Firkser will fill in for injured Jonnu Smith this week against the Browns. Fantasy players should have all the confidence in the world in firing up Anthony Firkser, who accrued a team-high 21.9% target share with 29 routes on Ryan Tannehill's 46 dropbacks in his only spot-start for Smith this year. Smith wasn't able to practice at all this week after his egg in the box score from Sunday, so Firkser should play quite nicely in DFS and should be spot started if you are looking for help at tight end.
Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt (COVID-19 list) was activated off of the COVID-19/reserve list Saturday, paving the way for a potential return to action in Week 13 for Monday's game versus Washington. Having landed on the list prior to last week's game versus Baltimore, Tuitt has now cleared protocols and is eligible to return to practice. Tuitt has started all 10 games that he has appeared in this season, having compiled a career-high seven sacks to this point in 2020. His addition to the Steelers Defense solidifies the group as one of the top defensive units in fantasy, one that should undoubtedly be rostered in a favorable matchup against Washington this week.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown has put his explosive ability on display with eight receiving touchdowns in his last eight games, and Tennessee's top option in the passing game will look to get back into the end zone in Week 13 against a Browns team that has allowed 13 touchdowns to wide receivers this season. The team leader in target share could be in for a monster day against weaker Browns Defense. He's a low-end WR1 this week, though his range of outcomes is probably wider than most WR1 options. He could very well see top 5 value if the game script falls in his favor.
Tennessee Titans wide receiver Corey Davis has racked up at least 67 yards in six of his nine appearances for the Titans this season, and he'll continue to serve as the team's No. 2 receivers behind A.J. Brown when the Browns come to town in Week 13. Davis has quietly established something of a decent fantasy floor as the team's secondary option behind Brown. He should be in the high-end WR3 conversation next week against the Browns.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill picked up his 23rd passing touchdown and second rushing touchdown last week, and he'll be relied upon to lead Tennessee's offense in Week 13 against a Browns Defense that's right around league average against the pass while ranking a bit tougher against the run. Tannehill has a sneaky great matchup as the passing attack should be more heavily featured. The Browns will likely try to shut down Derrick Henry first. He'll be a borderline QB1 and a solid play in DFS.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry exploded for three touchdowns in last week's blowout win. He's been running as a man possessed. The Titans host a Browns team that's limiting opponents to 108 yards per game on the ground, but that should be no issues for Henry who is in mid-season stride. Titans coach Mike Vrabel has also said the team has to "be able to throw the ball" to Derrick Henry more. If he's to see more targets via the passing attack, this could bode well for Henry's owners who already have been enjoying an amazing season from him. He's a locked and loaded RB1, and should see 25+ touches again in week 13.
The Cincinnati Bengals Defense is not worth starting this week against a Dolphins squad that has a capable QB in Ryan Fitzpatrick. In nine of 11 games this season, this unit has allowed at least 20 points and features no elite names. Add in the fact that this unit ranks near the bottom of the league in many defensive categories, and it means the Cincy defense is best left on waivers.
Cincinnati Bengals kicker Randy Bullock is better left on the bench this week. The kicker is coming off a miserable performance just a couple of weeks ago with two missed field goals and a missed extra point. On the season, Bullock has gone for 21-for-25 in field goals and 23-for-24 in extra points. The Dolphins allow the fewest points to fantasy kickers, making Bullock a risky choice this week.
Cincinnati Bengals tight end Drew Sample is not a starting option this week. Sample has gotten 40 and 29 yards along with nine total targets the past two weeks, but his role has been inconsistent all season. Look no further than several games where he posted little to no yards. Add in a backup QB and a generally small role in this offense, and Sample is best left on waivers.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins is a solid flex play this week against the Dolphins. Higgins has seen at least five targets in all 10 games played this season. He has also gotten at least 60 yards in six of 10 games. In the past two games, Higgins hasn't eclipsed more than 44 yards, so it still shows a bit of inconsistency. Nevertheless, the rookie's role in this offense is growing, so he's worth a flex versus a Miami team that is middle-tier against fantasy wideouts.
While the matchup isn't great against the Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans wide receiver Isaiah Coulter has appeal in some formats this week under the assumption that he'll take over as the team's second outside receiver now that Will Fuller V is suspended. Coulter -- who had been on the IR with a neck injury -- has never appeared in an NFL game, but necessity will get him on the field this week barring an injury setback. If you need to take a big swing in a 16-team league or want to get weird with things in DFS, Coulter's got intrigue.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is a very risky play this week. After a couple of solid games in October, Green has regressed. The WR has seen 17 targets in the past three games but has only managed four receptions for 41 yards total in those three games. In two of the past three games, the veteran has no yards receiving at all. With a backup QB now starting along with the fact that Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins have risen above him on the depth chart, Green is better left on the bench this week.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard is worth RB3 consideration this week. Bernard has been the lead back on the Bengals for a bit now but has only gotten more than 40 rushing yards once in the past five games. The RB provides modest value in the passing game too and he has seen at least five targets in three of the past five games but only more than 40 receiving yards in one of those last five games. The Dolphins are middle-of-the-pack against fantasy backs, so Bernard is certainly worth considering this week given his larger role.