Week 13 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Titans a welcome host for Schaub, Texans
Titans defense among the worst in fantasy against QBs, RBs and WRs this season
Jamaal Charles may have one of his best days against Panthers' poor run defense
Expect Peyton Manning to pass often Sunday versus Bucs' poor pass defense
Some fantasy football owners have long since given up on their seasons, but for others Week 13 is crucial. It marks the end of the fantasy regular season in standard leagues, so consider this the last real competitive week for waiver pickups.
If you've clinched a playoff spot, enjoy the mostly pressure-free week. If you need to win this week to secure a postseason berth, we're here to help clinch your decisions with the weekly Start 'Em, Sit 'Em.
Saints -- Drew Brees, Darren Sproles, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham: Sproles is the only real question mark here, but after his seven catches for 65 yards last week, he's a must-start running back or flex in PPR formats. Graham should also rebound against the seventh-worst team in fantasy versus tight ends.
Falcons -- Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Jacquizz Rodgers, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez, Matt Bryant: Facing the Saints has been a start-all game all season, and this week even offers the chance to use Rodgers. The Falcons gave Rodgers a bigger piece of the timeshare with the slowing Turner last week, and the Saints are dead last in fantasy against running backs. The Saints are also last against quarterbacks, third-worst versus wide receivers and in the bottom 10 against tight ends. Start both Falcons backs in addition to all of your weekly Falcons must-starts.
Saints -- Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory, Pierre Thomas, Lance Moore, David Thomas, Garrett Hartley, Saints D/ST: The return of Sproles ruins the rest of the Saints' running back options, even if the Falcons are 11th-worst in fantasy against the position. It's just impossible to be sure which back will get the bulk of the carries or the goal-line work. Also, Moore is off the fantasy radar this week because the Falcons have done a good job against opposing wide receivers (seventh-best in fantasy).
Falcons -- Falcons D/ST: This is a marginal unit, and the Saints are a dangerous offense.
Texans -- Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels, Shayne Graham, Texans D/ST: The Titans are one of the most fantasy-friendly opponents in the NFL, ranking in the bottom 10 against quarterbacks (seventh-worst), running backs (fourth-worst), tight ends (third-worst), kickers (fifth-worst) and D/STs (eighth worst). It all makes Schaub a sleeper starter this week.
Titans -- Chris Johnson: He is facing the No. 1 team in fantasy versus running backs, but Johnson has been at his best in the toughest matchups this season. Also, Johnson is the only back to top 100 yards against the Texans' run defense this year, rushing for 141 in Week 4.
Texans -- Justin Forsett, Ben Tate, Kevin Walter, Keshawn Martin, Garrett Graham: Forsett is the one many will take a chance on here because of the favorable matchup, but remember that his long touchdown on Thanksgiving really shouldn't have counted. Also, Tate is going to return from injury and could affect the touches Foster's backup gets in garbage time.
Titans -- Jake Locker, Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright, Jared Cook, Rob Bironas, Titans D/ST: Not only is the Texans' defense better than it has shown in recent weeks, but also the Titans have some uncertainty with quarterback coach Dowell Loggains taking over as offensive coordinator. Expect the Titans to go to a rhythm passing game to set up the run, throwing to the backs and tight ends on the early downs. That makes Cook a potential sleeper, but all of the receivers are a risk until the results sort themselves out.
Colts -- Reggie Wayne, Adam Vinatieri: The Lions' defense hasn't been all that forgiving for fantasy opponents this season, ranking near the top 10 against most positions. If you're looking for a sleeper, Vinatieri (the Lions rank fourth-worst versus kickers) and tight end Dwayne Allen (the Lions rank fifth-worst versus tight ends) face a favorable matchup. But Allen will have to deal with the potential return of fellow rookie Coby Fleener (shoulder).
Lions -- Matthew Stafford, Mikel Leshoure, Calvin Johnson, Ryan Broyles, Brandon Pettigrew, Jason Hanson: Leshoure is one of the best plays of the week at his position, facing the ninth-worst team in fantasy versus running backs. Also, Broyles has taken over as a starter with Titus Young still being punished for personal conduct issues. Pettigrew is a marginal option, especially after his drops and fumble on Thanksgiving. Plus, he faces the second-best team in fantasy versus tight ends. He still rates among the top 12 in fantasy at the position this week, because the top tight ends have been so inconsistent as a group this season.
Colts -- Andrew Luck, Vick Ballard, Donald Brown, T.Y. Hilton, Colts D/ST: Luck has been much better at home and he hasn't been fantasy-starter worthy of late in general. It is probably time to bench him for a quarterback with a more favorable matchup. The Lions are in the top half of fantasy against quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers. Ballard would be a better play if Brown weren't expected to get more and more of the timeshare as the weeks move on. Hilton is just out of the range of fantasy starters with bye weeks no longer affecting depth at wide receiver.
Lions -- Joique Bell, Kevin Smith, Titus Young, Tony Scheffler, Lions D/ST: Bell is the one to resist here. Smith has played more snaps than Bell in each of the past two weeks because of his better pass-protection skills. Also, Leshoure is his own goal-line back now.
Jaguars -- Rashad Jennings, Cecil Shorts, Justin Blackmon: Jennings resumes feature-back duties with Jalen Parmele (groin) going on IR and it comes just in time to face the second-worst team in fantasy versus running backs. Also, Chad Henne faces the 10th-worst team in fantasy versus quarterbacks, and while he isn't yet starter-worthy in crunch time, he makes the consistent Shorts and surging Blackmon solid starters in all fantasy leagues now.
Bills -- C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Stevie Johnson: Spiller will get 60 percent of the touches, which makes him a must-start, while Jackson's 40 percent use is enough to play him against the sixth-worst team in fantasy versus running backs. The Bills' running game in a favorable matchup will also make kicker Rian Lindell an option for those without an elite kicker to trust week to week.
Jaguars -- Marcedes Lewis, Josh Scobee, Jaguars D/ST: Henne's down-field pluck makes these options a consideration, but not quite starter-quality for contending teams in crunch time. Watch Lewis for potential rewards down the stretch, though.
Bills -- Ryan Fitzpatrick, Donald Jones, Scott Chandler, Bills D/ST: Even the most favorable of matchups won't give these options enough value in the post-bye season.
Seahawks -- Marshawn Lynch: An awful performance against the Dolphins was an eye-opener, but expect the Seahawks to do a better job game-planning against the third-best team in fantasy versus running backs. Lynch still rates among the top 25 running backs to start, even in the toughest of matchups.
Bears -- Michael Bush, Brandon Marshall, Bears D/ST: We are assuming Matt Forte (ankle) will be out or not at full strength this week, so consider Bush a low-end starting option in a run-heavy offense. The Seahawks' run defense is better than it showed last week, but if the Dolphins could figure out how to run on Seattle, you can bet the Bears will, too.
Seahawks -- Russell Wilson, Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, Zach Miller, Steven Hauschka, Seahawks D/ST: The Bears are third-best against quarterbacks and sixth-best against wide receivers, so expect the Seahawks' passing game to prove too weak to trust against the Bears, whose defense ranks in the top half of fantasy against just about everything. The Seahawks' defense showed last week that it can't be trusted when away from home.
Bears -- Jay Cutler, Earl Bennett, Kellen Davis, Robbie Gould: With Alshon Jeffery (knee) out and Devin Hester (concussion) banged up, Bennett should get the targets that don't go to Marshall. This is still a tough Seahawks defense, ranking third-best against quarterbacks and second-best against wide receivers. The suspended corners are going to play amid appeal, by the way.
49ers -- Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, David Akers, 49ers D/ST: This is virtually a start-all game for the 49ers, assuming they keep the continuity with Kaepernick at quarterback. The 49ers will also be motivated, knowing they blew an opportunity against the Rams in San Francisco earlier in a 24-24 tie. If you're looking for a sleeper running back, consider the long-lost Brandon Jacobs, who assumes the backup running back job with Kendall Hunter (Achilles) out for the season.
Rams -- Steven Jackson, Danny Amendola: If not for Jackson having his best performances in recent weeks against elite run defenses and Amendola staving off injury concerns, this would be a sit-all week for the Rams. Jackson ran for 101 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers on the road, so you have to consider him among the Top 25 running backs to start. Also, Amendola, if healthy, figures to be useful in PPR formats as a frequent target underneath, especially because there should be ample garbage time against a resurgent contender.
49ers -- Mario Manningham, Randy Moss: The Rams are quietly in the top 10 of fantasy against wide receivers. These two are marginal options.
Rams -- Sam Bradford, Daryl Richardson, Chris Givens, Lance Kendricks, Greg Zuerlein, Rams D/ST: There's no need for a reminder about how good the 49ers defense is, but just in case: fourth-best versus quarterbacks, second-best versus running backs, third-best versus wide receivers, fifth-best versus tight ends, No. 1 versus kickers and 10th-best against D/STs.
Vikings -- Adrian Peterson, Jarius Wright, Kyle Rudolph, Blair Walsh: Wright and Rudolph are the sleepers here against a Packers defense that is seventh-worst in fantasy versus wide receivers. Wright gets targets with Percy Harvin (ankle) expected to be out, and Rudolph figures to be the primary receiving option on most play-action plays.
Packers -- Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Mason Crosby, Packers D/ST: Expect a rebound week for Rodgers and company. Greg Jennings (sports hernia) should play, but he'll be limited, so keep Nelson and Cobb among your wide receiver starters, along with the kicker and defense.
Vikings -- Christian Ponder, Jerome Simpson, Michael Jenkins, Vikings D/ST: The only real consideration here is the defense. Figure that the Packers will scheme better pass protection here, and the Packers are still eighth-best in fantasy against opposing D/STs. Find a one-week replacement for the Vikings' D/ST.
Packers -- James Starks, Alex Green, James Jones, Jermichael Finley: The Packers haven't settled on which running back they're going to trust, and only the Dolphins, Chargers, Steelers, Broncos, 49ers and Bucs have allowed fewer yards per carry than the Vikings (3.8) this season. Also, Jennings' return figures to push Jones and Finley further down Rodgers' pecking order in the passing game.
Panthers -- Cam Newton, Steve Smith, Greg Olsen: Fantasy owners should feel a lot better with Newton now than they did early in the season, but only start these primary Panthers options against a Chiefs' defense that has played better in the second half of the season.
Chiefs -- Jamaal Charles: The seventh-worst team in fantasy versus running backs allowed rookie Bryce Brown to announce himself with authority last Monday night. Charles should be in for one of his best days, particularly at home, assuming the Chiefs don't screw it up and limit his touches again.
Panthers -- DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Mike Tolbert, Brandon LaFell, Louis Murphy, Gary Barnidge, Graham Gano, Panthers D/ST: There will be a temptation to try to take advantage of a non-contending Chiefs team with Williams (who will presumably be the starter with Stewart [ankle] expected to be out), LaFell and the defense. Resist that temptation. The Chiefs played well against better opponents like the Steelers and Ravens and they have allowed the fewest receptions to wide receivers in the NFL to date, making LaFell a poor play. Sure, the Chiefs are second-worst in fantasy against D/STs, but the Panthers' awful run defense can really hurt them here.
Chiefs -- Brady Quinn, Peyton Hillis, Dwayne Bowe, Jon Baldwin, Dexter McCluster, Tony Moeaki, Ryan Succop, Chiefs D/ST: The Panthers are quietly fifth-best in fantasy against wide receivers and top 10 against quarterbacks. If you consider anyone here, it should be Hillis against the Panthers' iffy run defense, but Hillis hasn't been fantasy-worthy all season.
Patriots -- Tom Brady, Stevan Ridley, Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez, Stephen Gostkowski, Patriots D/ST: The Dolphins are mostly middle of the pack against everything in fantasy, save for running backs, where Miami ranks fifth-best. This is an important test week for Ridley owners. If Ridley handles a matchup Marshawn Lynch failed in a week ago, you should feel fine starting Ridley against the No. 1 Texans (Week 14) and No. 2 49ers (Week 15). Hernandez should also prove to be more of a factor than he was in his return a week ago.
Dolphins -- None: Explanation in the sits section below.
Patriots -- Shane Vereen, Brandon Lloyd, Julian Edelman, Visanthe Shiancoe: Vereen is a consideration off of his big week, but the Dolphins' staunch run defense is enough to give pause. Lloyd is a potential sleeper if Edelman doesn't play, and Shiancoe figures to get more targets the longer Rob Gronkowski (arm) sits, but these guys aren't trustworthy options this week.
Dolphins -- Ryan Tannehill, Reggie Bush, Daniel Thomas, Brian Hartline, Davone Bess, Anthony Fasano, Charles Clay, Daniel Carpenter, Dolphins D/ST: This a sit-all game for the Dolphins, not because of what the Pats do defensively as much as what the Dolphins do offensively. They spread the ball around and it's unclear where the yards, targets or touchdowns are going to come from.
There will be some offensive numbers put up against the Pats, particularly in garbage time, but which running back do you trust? Bush against a top-10 run defense or Thomas for a potential score against a defense that has given up just six touchdowns to running backs in 12 weeks? Only five teams (Cardinals, Giants, Bears, 49ers and Texans) have allowed fewer touchdowns to running backs. And in the passing game, the Dolphins went to Bess over Hartline last week, leaving this week's primary target a mystery. Consider Bess and Hartline low-end options in PPR formats, at best.
Pro Football Now: Teams who are better and worse than previously thought
SI Now: Mark Wahlberg on his new movie "Lone Survivor"