The fantasy football playoffs are almost here, and for some of you, this week is the difference between paying attention to the next few weeks or sitting out the remainder of the NFL season.
And no, playing in the consolation bracket of your fantasy football league doesn’t count.
If you have been streaming quarterbacks all year, the choice you make this week could make or break your season or solidify your place in the standings. Luckily, there are some excellent options in Week 13.
Good Calls for Week 12...
Start Ben Roethlisberger (30.54 fantasy points) – Yes, Big Ben was at home, but ever since he said “maybe he doesn’t have it anymore,” he’s been one of the best fantasy QBs going.
Sit Dak Prescott (3.16 FP) – Prescott has been a major letdown since Ezekiel Elliot started serving his suspension and he isn’t worth starting until he proves he can do it
Bad Calls for Week 12...
Sit Josh McCown (25.08 FP) – McCown and the Jets aren’t going down without a fight as he threw for 307 yards and three TDs against the Panthers last week.
START THESE QBs...
Marcus Mariota, TEN (vs. HOU)
One of these days, Mariota will finally break out in a good matchup. He failed last week, but he gets the best matchup possible this week. The Texans allow the most fantasy points to QBs (21 per game), and before Joe Flacco's zero-TD game Monday night, they had given up 12 TD passes in four games.
Josh McCown, NYJ (at KC)
The Chiefs return to New Jersey two weeks after their stunning loss off a bye week to the New York Giants. This week, McCown and his teammates get a shot at the reeling Chiefs. McCown is coming off a 300-yard, three-touchdown game against the Panthers. Both Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson went for more than 100 receiving yards. There were concerns McCown could be running out of gas as he entered new territory as far as the number of passes thrown, but he came out of the bye week sharp. There is no reason to think he won’t continue his solid play against the generous pass defense of Kansas City.
Trevor Siemian, DEN (at MIA)
Miami is ranked 24th against quarterbacks in fantasy. Last week, Tom Brady barely broke a sweat despite a strong pass rush from the Dolphins. Meanwhile, Siemian entered last week’s game against Oakland in the fourth quarter and led the Broncos on two touchdown drives. Siemian is eager to show that behind a slightly improved offensive line, he can win more games for Denver. He is the most accurate of the trio of passers the Broncos have used this season and his receivers are comfortable with his throws. Watch for the Siemian-led offense help Denver put together a couple of wins. It starts with a streamer-worthy three-touchdown performance in Miami.
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Brett Hundley, GB (vs. TB)
With a very solid performance at Pittsburgh in Week 12, Hundley seems like he may have turned a corner. It was easily his best game yet and came against a Steelers D that has been stout against the pass all season. Hundley now gets the Buccaneers, who are giving up the most passing yards in the league and plenty of scoring strikes as well. After a game like that against the Steelers, the Bucs should be a piece of cake.
SIT THESE QBs...
Alex Smith, KC (at NYJ)
At one point this season, Smith was a legit MVP candidate with a rookie of the year running back and two playmakers catching passes. One was even a wide receiver! Now the NFL has collectively figured out Mr. Smith, and the Chiefs look pedestrian. Smith is back to the 12-20 range he’s been for most of his career, and we must move on. Even against the Jets. Sad.
Derek Carr, OAK (vs. NYG)
Only three teams are ranked worse in fantasy defense against quarterbacks than the New England Patriots. One of them is the 30th-ranked New York Giants. Among their claim to fame is giving up 28 fantasy points to C.J. Beathard in San Francisco’s only victory of the season. But now the Giants are coming off back-to-back games where they held Alex Smith to 7.9 fantasy points and Kirk Cousins to 16. Carr is no Cousins and he will be missing at least one of his top receivers. Look for the Giants’ defense to continue its resurrection in front of the home crowd at the expense of a struggling Carr.
Matthew Stafford, DET (at BAL)
Stafford and the Detroit coaching staff apparently think it is a good idea to play hurt. Whether they think it shows leadership or they just don’t have an iota of faith in their backups, Stafford has ended several games with additional tape and splints holding his body together. In Week 12, it appeared to be catching up to him. Stafford had some solid throws, but way too many sailed all over the field. Against Baltimore’s top-ranked defense, and second-ranked fantasy defense against quarterbacks, several of those passes would have been interceptions. The Ravens will get after Stafford in Baltimore. If he isn’t 100 percent, it could be a long day for the Lions’ signal-caller.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Matt Ryan, ATL (vs. MIN)
The Falcons balled out in Week 12 and Julio Jones finally flashed his full potential this season. Unfortunately, this passing attack should come crashing back to earth against a much tougher Vikings D. Minnesota has given up only 12 TD passes this season (tied for fourth-fewest in the league) – allowing multiple scoring strikes in a game only three times, and never more than two. The Vikings also have held teams to no TDs through the air three times (two of those games coming against Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff). Matty Ice has a really low ceiling this week.
Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)
START THESE DSTs...
Los Angeles Chargers (vs. CLE)
One of the hottest fantasy DSTs, the Chargers have had six sacks, 10 takeaways, and three defensive TDs the past three games. And now they face the Browns.
Pittsburgh Steelers (at CIN, Mon.)
The Bengals managed just 14 points while allowing four sacks and two takeaways when these teams met in Week 7. And while this game is in Cincinnati, the Steelers’ fierce pass rush will travel and make life difficult for Andy Dalton, who's notorious for struggling in prime-time games.
SIT THESE DSTs...
Buffalo Bills (vs. NE)
Don’t get too caught up in last week’s defensive showing on the road against the formerly high-powered Chiefs offense. The Chiefs are regressing and the Bills’ performance was an outlier. Coming off that game, they get to face the Patriots, and that’s never good for your fantasy defense.
Atlanta Falcons (vs. MIN)
The Falcons have strung together some solid defensive performances recently, enough to rank as the DST-7 over the past four games. But this week they face the Minnesota Vikings. On the season, Case Keenum’s unit has surrendered an average of only three fantasy points per game to opposing DSTs. Minnesota doesn’t turn the ball over, doesn’t take sacks, and won’t be impressed by Atlanta’s recent success. Don’t stream the Falcons this week.
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.