The fantasy regular season is quickly winding down. For most leagues, Week 13 is the last week of the regular season (yes, some league start their playoffs in Week 13 and others wait until Week 15). This will be the week where games matter. While it is a long season and in Week 1, if you lost, there was still plenty of time, now is when it matters the most.
So instead of coming up with questions from the past week's observations, let's focus on a few things that we've learned in the last few weeks and can directly apply to Week 13.
1. Start your studs
If DeAndre Hopkins owners didn't learn this lesson in Week 11, A.J. Green owners learned this lesson in Week 12. Let's rewind. Hopkins was facing Darrelle Revis and the Jets, who were a tough matchup against opposing wide receivers in Week 11. He had been struggling and he had backup T.J. Yates as his quarterback. All signs pointed to him having a rough game. Hopkins ended the week as the No. 1 wide receiver with more than 30 fantasy points in PPR leagues. He had five receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
In Week 12, Green owners were understandably frustrated. He hadn't had a 100-yard receiving game since Week 8. He hadn't found the end zone since then either. He faced St. Louis, which had shut down No. 1 WRs (Alshon Jeffery in Week 10 is the most recent example) entering this contest. It was tempting to sit Green for Week 12. However, had you done that, your bench would have benefited from his 6-61-2 stat line. At the end of the day, don't question the matchups. Sure, there are some where it works (sitting Dez Bryant in Week 12 would have been beneficial) but overall, if there is a doubt, start your studs. (Keep this in mind as Julio Jones faces Carolina in Weeks 14 and 16).
2. Use the waiver wire
It may sound obvious, but just because you drafted guys to be your starters doesn't mean they have to be. Is Frank Gore still in your starting lineup, but David Johnson is available on the waiver wire? Don't drop Gore for Johnson, but certainly consider benching Gore for Johnson. With Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington likely out for Week 13 and beyond, David Johnson will be the starting running back for the Cardinals. He has 19 receptions for 241 yards and three touchdowns so far on the year. He also has 139 rushing yards, but he has the most value in PPR leagues as the Cardinals will use him on passing downs.
Look through the waiver wire to see who has been dropped in your league. Be sure to sort the available players by a number of different ways (projections for Week 13 aren't always going to get the guys you want to the top of the list; sorting by total points so far this season is going to eliminate guys that are getting a chance because of injury to the starter). Drop players at the end of your bench for guys that have upside. DeVante Parker is an example of a guy to pick up if you are still holding on to someone like Eddie Royal. Drop Royal, who is still not practicing, for Parker, who just had a 4-80-1 stat line (in garbage time). He's coming back from injury, but the Dolphins will likely look to use him in the upcoming weeks.
3. Look at stats
Two stats in particular are important to look at for fantasy owners: defensive rankings and targets. By this point of the season, we have plenty of knowledge on opposing defenses. Know which defenses are tough against each position and make your flex decisions accordingly. Per point No. 1, don't sit your studs because of matchups, but if you are debating between two different guys for a flex spot, go with the guy with the better matchup. For example, the Philadelphia Eagles allow the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, but the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. Seattle is the reverse; they allow the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers and the third-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. While defensive injuries and coaching changes may play a role in how defenses perform, these stats are good information to have.
The other stats to have are targets for wide receivers (and other pass catchers). When players consistently have a lot of targets, they are a better start than someone who just posted a good stat line. The box score often doesn't tell the whole story. For example, guess who tied for the second-most targets for the Miami Dolphins in Week 12? In looking at the box score, it was a guy with a stat line of 2-12-0. Yup, Kenny Stills had 10 targets, tied with DeVante Parker (who converted his 10 targets for a 4-80-1 stat line). Does that mean you should start Stills next week? No, but keep targets in mind because those are the guys quarterbacks like to look for. This stat can help even more than defensive rankings when looking at your roster and trying to decide who to start.
— 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.