Aaron Rodgers may not be as productive this week because of a hamstring injury and a matchup with Houston
With just Cleveland and Tennessee on bye in Week 13, fantasy owners shouldn’t have to dig too deep into their rosters to put together a starting lineup. However, this is still a pivotal week, as for most leagues it’s the last one before the playoffs. So in a win-and-you’re-in situation, lineup decisions are more important than ever.
Please note the five up/five down column is a guide on players that should exceed or fall below their rank this week. This is based on past performance, injury status and matchup. Five up/five down is not a start/sit column, but rather a guide.
Teams on bye: Cleveland, Tennessee
Alex Smith, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
While Alex Smith hasn't exactly been lighting up the box score, he has been fairly consistent for fantasy owners. He's established a connection with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce is always in the picture. If Jeremy Maclin can make his way back this week, another option will be available to Smith. The Chiefs face Atlanta in Week 13, and the Falcons allow the second-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. He's not going to finish in the top 10, but he is a QB2 this week, and should finish higher than his No. 21 ranking.
Dion Lewis, RB, New England Patriots
The Patriots are going to be without Rob Gronkowski (for the rest of the season), and Martellus Bennett has been banged up. A team in need of a pass catcher with a guy that Tom Brady trusts coming back from injury? This sounds too good to be true. Lewis has been slowly making his way back into the game plan, competing with James White for targets. While White did have more targets (nine compared to Lewis's seven) last week, look for Lewis to have a bigger role in Week 13. He's ranked No. 31, but should finish as a low RB2.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Buffalo Bills
Watkins is the 25th-ranked wide receiver for Week 13, but given all of the injuries Buffalo is dealing with, Watkins could easily exceed that. Robert Woods is likely out. Marquise Goodwin injured his wrist in practice. Percy Harvin is still battling migraines. This leaves Charles Clay and LeSean McCoy to carry the offense. While Watkins may be on a snap count (and he's still experiencing soreness in his surgically-repaired foot), look for the Bills to find ways to get him the ball on those limited snaps. It's a risky play, but he could pay off for fantasy owners.
Marquess Wilson, WR, Chicago Bears
This is another risky play, but a risk/reward play that could pay off in a week where fantasy owners need to win. Wilson was the leading receiver and had the most targets on the Bears in Week 12 with Matt Barkley as his quarterback. He had eight receptions (on 11 targets) for 125 yards and a touchdown. He should have had a bigger day, but he did drop two potential touchdowns as well. The Bears face the San Francisco 49ers, who allow the third-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers. Wilson is ranked No. 39, but could finish as a WR2.
Vance McDonald, TE, San Francisco 49ers
With at least three receptions in the last four weeks, McDonald is a viable fill-in tight end for Delanie Walker or Rob Gronkowski owners. The Chicago Bears have been tough against opposing tight ends, but they have allowed opposing tight ends to score touchdowns in the past three weeks. Colin Kaepernick has been red hot, and he does use his tight end. McDonald is the 12th-ranked tight end, but he may sneak his way into TE1 territory. He's not a must-add, but he should help fantasy owners in need of a fill-in.
Aaron Rodgers, QB, Green Bay Packers
It's Aaron Rodgers. If you have him, you're starting him. However, he's the sixth-ranked quarterback (ranked even higher by other sites) and he's going to be hampered by the hamstring injury. It's unclear how much the injury will hold him back, but he likely won't be as mobile as he usually is. The Packers face the Houston, who allow the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. In recent weeks, signal-callers have fared better against the Texans, who have given up multi-touchdown games the past three weeks. Rodgers will be fine, but avoid him in DFS.
Jay Ajayi, RB, Miami Dolphins
When Ajayi has gotten at least 20 carries in 2016, he has at least 100 yards. However, that hasn't happened since Week 9. The offensive line in Miami has suffered a number of injuries, and it's hurt Ajayi's performance. He faces Baltimore this week, the NFL's No. 1 rushing defense. The Ravens haven't allowed a running back to score a touchdown since before their Week 8 bye. Ajayi is ranked No. 13 this week, but he may struggle to break the top 20.
Rob Kelley, RB, Washington Redskins
After a huge Week 11, when Kelley scored three touchdowns against Green Bay, he came back down to earth in Week 12. He had 14 carries for 37 yards and no touchdowns. Kelley now faces the Arizona Cardinals, who have allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing running backs. It's possible that the Redskins may not be trailing this game, but Kelley is still a risky running back to start in Week 13. He's the 23rd-ranked running back, but may finish outside the top 30.
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Arizona Cardinals
While it is possible Fitzgerald doesn't see a lot of Josh Norman, the possibility of this happening does not bode well for Fitz. Carson Palmer has been struggling (and has missed some practice time this week), so it's been up to Fitzgerald to make plays with what he's being given, which isn't a lot. In Week 12, with what should have been a great matchup, Fitz only had four targets. He caught all of them for 53 yards, but Palmer just wasn't getting his wide receivers the ball. Fitzgerald is the No. 12 wide receiver for Week 13, but he could finish as a WR2.
Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After a three-game touchdown streak, Brate has come back down to earth over the past two weeks. He has six receptions for 67 yards in the past two games, and he faces a Chargers defense that has only allowed three touchdowns to tight ends all season. Brate has proven that he is a touchdown-dependent fantasy TE. He's ranked ninth for Week 13, but could very well finish outside the top 10.
Full Disclosure (Week 11):
Andy Dalton, QB, Ranked: 14, Finished: 18
C.J. Prosise, RB, Ranked: 21, Finished: 6
Rob Kelley, RB, Ranked: 17, Finished: 1
Steve Smith Sr., WR, Ranked: 30, Finished: 8
Julius Thomas, TE, Ranked: 10, Finished: 29
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Ranked: 7, Finished: 26
Todd Gurley, RB, Ranked: 13, Finished: 9
Ryan Mathews, RB, Ranked: 25. Finished: 49
Jarvis Landry, WR, Ranked: 24, Finished: 27
Cameron Brate, TE, Ranked: 13, Finished: 33
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor network and lives, eats, and breathes fantasy football. She also writes for SoCalledFantasyExperts.com among other sites. Have a fantasy football question? Send it to her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.