It’s Week 13 and it’s a crucial week for fantasy as we either face the playoffs or disappointment because we are missing them. To make matters worse, Sunday’s games took some odd twists and turns and some of the steadfast fantasy producers came up short. Of course, they did. It’s fantasy football and the most important week of the season. 2020, am I right?
Every game on Sunday had some kind of headline, but here is a snapshot of some of the more notable storylines to emerge after yesterday's battles.
Notable Headlines from Sunday Matchups
Historic Game for Baker Mayfield
The 8-3 Cleveland Browns traveled to Nashville to face the 8-3 Tennessee Titans in a pivotal AFC matchup. The Titans were coming off of a two-game winning streak on the road against stout defenses in the Ravens and the Colts and looked ready to take on the Browns with their three-game winning streak.
Then kickoff happened and the Titans were left flummoxed and losing 38-7 by halftime.
Mayfield harnessed his inner 2018-self in the first half throwing four touchdowns. It was the first time that has happened in Browns’ history since Otto Graham in 1951. He also completed 20 of his 25 attempts for 290 yards in an offensive scheme that primarily centers on the run between RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
The Browns dominated the Titans in the first half in every facet of the game. They led in time of possession 21:12 to the Titans' 8:48, had 22 first downs to the Titans' six, totaled 344 yards to the Titans' 148, and committed no turnovers where the Titans had two. Even Kendall Lamm, an offensive lineman, caught a touchdown for the Browns.
Where the magic began for the Browns, it also ended. The Titans came out swinging in the third quarter and posted four touchdowns while the Browns were forced to settle for a single field goal. Two of the Titans' touchdowns went to TE MyCole Pruitt who was filling in for an injured Jonnu Smith. Haven’t heard of him? This was his sixth game for the Titans this season after scoring a touchdown in Week 1 against Denver on one target for one yard. His second touchdown was scored on a fumble by WR A.J. Brown that Pruitt recovered.
It was a crazy game and epitomizes how Sunday’s fantasy football would play out.
Taysom Hill Passes For the First and Second Touchdowns of His Career
I highlighted the Saints-Falcons game on Friday as the game to watch with the most fantasy implications moving forward. The biggest reason was to see how Hill could perform against a team that has had a chance to scheme against him in a deep-seated division rivalry. Not only does this performance show what Hill is capable of now, but what he can be for the Saints in the future.
I think the future is very, very bright.
After two games without throwing a touchdown (he rushed in two in each of those games), the pressure was on to be a better passer. Interim HC Raheem Morris was going to find any way possible to limit his rushing ability. Well, it sort of worked. Hill did not rush in a touchdown (or two) this game but he did rush 14 times for 83 yards. He also threw his first and second career touchdowns to WR Tre’Quan Smith and TE Jared Cook for the 21-16 victory.
RB Alvin Kamara has been eclipsed by his counterpart Latavius Murray in the last two weeks since Hill has been a starter. However, Kamara’s ship looks to be righting itself after a sluggish start with 15 attempts, 88 yards, and a touchdown. If you didn’t notice, that’s only one more attempt and five yards more than the quarterback. Murray was held to only five attempts for 17 yards, so perhaps the heat is off of Kamara managers struggling with what to do in fantasy.
Jaguars-Vikings Goes into Overtime
This was head-scratching and the last game I expected to see tied 24-24 at the end of regulation. The Jaguars started veteran backup Mike Glennon at quarterback for the second week in a row and it has given the beleaguered team a bit of life. However, the fantasy points were lopsided in favor of the Vikings who had Kirk Cousins, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and Adam Thielen all in the top-10 of their respective positions in PPR scoring. Jaguars RB James Robinson was the only player for Jacksonville to reach the top-10.
Five Players Ejected in Bengals-Miami Game
It all started near the end of the first half. Bengals WR Tyler Boyd had just broken off a huge, 72-yard touchdown on a short pass from backup QB Brandon Allen. Miami punted on their next drive, which gave the ball back to the Bengals. Allen again targeted Boyd on third and ten but the pass was incomplete. Somehow, CB Xavien Howard and Boyd got into a bit of scuffle out of bounds with mutual shoving and flying hands.
The refs put an immediate stop to the silliness by disqualifying both players. Thank goodness Boyd had just scored over 14 points on that one reception and touchdown. The call seemed like an overreaction, but it seemed like the refs knew something we didn’t.
As the game continued, so did the chippiness that culminated in the fourth quarter. Miami HC Brian Flores took exception to a bad hit on WR Jakeem Grant and marched his way across the field to have words with the Bengals but was pulled back by security. Bengals safety Shawn Williams shoved WR DeVante Parker which led to his teammate, WR Mack Hollins, standing up for Parker and it became a mess. Williams, Parker, and Hollins were also disqualified.
This would have been completely normal had this been a Ravens-Steelers game, for example, but Bengals-Miami? Who knew?
Eagles Bench Carson Wentz
Philadelphia fans have been calling for it, the Eagles have flirted with it, and they finally pulled the trigger on Sunday and benched Wentz in favor of Jalen Hurts.
The difference wasn’t exactly night and day, but the team started to look better with the rookie under center. It went from stalling out and disjointed to within striking distance of the Packers who had a commanding 23-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Before his benching, Wentz completed six of his 15 attempts for only 79 yards and was sacked four times for a loss of 22 yards. Hurts took over early in the second half and completed five of his 12 attempts for 109 yards, a touchdown, an interception, and three sacks for a loss of only five yards. HC Doug Pederson was noncommittal about whether Wentz or Hurts will be the starter in Week 14. Either way, it will affect the fantasy values of the rest of the offense.
It’s clear that a change at quarterback was desperately needed, but their offensive woes won’t stop with a new QB. The Packers’ run defense is one of the worst in the league having allowed over 1,000 yards on the ground and 11 rushing touchdowns. This should have been a get-right game for RB Miles Sanders who hasn’t broken double-digits since Week 10 with 13.5 points. Instead, he had just 31 yards, one target, and zero receptions for 3.1 points. Jordan Howard who was recently signed to the team had four attempts for 19 yards and Boston Scott logged two attempts for nine yards.
There is more work to be done for the Eagles but a new QB may just be the ray of hope the team needs to pull themselves together.
Giants Stun the Seahawks With an Upset Victory in Seattle
Yep. You did read that correctly. The Giants with backup QB Colt McCoy traveled to Seattle and took the win in 17-12 victory. The story of the first half was the Giants’ defense holding Seattle to a field goal and a safety and only five points heading into halftime.
The Giants Offense pulled themselves together and came out with two scoring drives in the second half with RB Alfred Morris, of all people. K Graham Gano tacked on another three points in the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 17-5.
Seattle didn’t score a touchdown until 6:09 of the fourth quarter with a 28-yard pass to RB Chris Carson, which barely saving the RB’s fantasy day to finish with 20 points. It was too little too late for the Seahawks and the Giants went on to win the game after a hail mary from Russell Wilson failed to connect. Wilson continued to struggle with an interception and five sacks for a loss of 47 yards. The touchdown padded his numbers a bit, but hey, we’ll take it in fantasy football.
The Giants are now in the lead in the NFC and the Seahawks drop to 8-4 after a two-game winning streak.
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Patriots Shut Out the Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers need help on special teams. I mean, they need serious help on special teams. Their struggles are surprising considering HC Anthony Lynn’s history playing and coaching the position group, but here we are.
In the first half alone, the Chargers whiffed on two punt returns, had a field goal blocked for a Patriots’ touchdown, a punt return for a touchdown, and K Mike Badgley missed his fourth of six field goals on the season. They also had only 10 men on the field at one point after a penalty for having 12 men on the field. You can’t make this up.
Herbert also had a tough game with two interceptions and three sacks for a loss of 22 yards. He completed only 26 of his 53 attempts for 209 yards but (obviously) failed to connect with anyone in the end zone. The Patriots also bottled up the run game. RB Austin Ekeler had eight carries for 36 yards and Kalen Ballage had seven for 34. Even WR Keenan Allen and TE Hunter Henry, Herbert’s go-to options, were held in check.
It wasn’t just embarrassing for the Chargers, but it has the potential to be devastating in fantasy. Herbert, Ekeler, Allen, and Henry are normally fantasy studs when healthy. This showing may just have sealed the fate for many people relying on their production to get a leg up on the three remaining games on Monday and Tuesday.
Fantasy Studs and Duds
I’ll quickly run through the fantasy impacts at each position so you can get to your day and either celebrate or lament fantasy football.
Where were you last week in an incredible matchup against the Falcons, Derek Carr? After putting up a dud against Atlanta, he bounced back admirably against the Jets who made this came distressingly close. He tops our Sunday QB leaderboard with 31.74 points on 381 passing yards and three touchdowns. Mayfield, of course, is on this list after his historic performance and 29.46 points. Ryan Tannehill’s fantasy day and 27.56 points came courtesy of his team's second-half comeback attempt, but managers were undoubtedly sweating early. Lions QB Matthew Stafford is finally in the top-five with 26.08 points, even without WR Kenny Golladay who is still nursing a bad hip. There are some whispers that Stafford may not be a Lion in the foreseeable future. Rams QB Jared Goff rounds off the list with 24.14 points.
That’s not exactly the list of top-five producing quarterbacks I expected in Week 13. The usual suspects disappointed. Kyler Murray (16.42) and Tua Tagovailoa (16.14) didn’t live up to potential high ceilings, just like Russell Wilson (15.02) and Matt Ryan (12.92). However, Herbert by far was the biggest let down scoring only 4.36 points.
If you read my previous articles about trading for the Bears RB David Montgomery, then you certainly weren’t disappointed with the move. He leads the RBs so far in Week 13 with two touchdowns for 27.1 points. Dalvin Cook (23.9), Aaron Jones (23.8), and James Robinson (22.8) had excellent fantasy outings. Surprise! It’s Colts rookie RB Jonathan Taylor who made an appearance in the top-five with 22.5 points on 91 rushing yards and three receptions for 44 yards and a receiving touchdown.
Despite filling in for an injured Josh Jacobs against the Jets, who rank 24th against the run, RB Devontae Booker let managers down with only 6.10 points. However, it was Derrick Henry who probably did the most damage in fantasy lineups being held to only 5.9 points in a game script that forced Tannehill to pass early and often. Saints RB Latavius Murray (3.7) took a back seat this week to Alvin Kamara (17.7) after back-to-back double-digit games with Hill at QB. Miles Sanders failed to get anything done with only 3.1 points, but it was Clyde Edwards-Helaire that broke hearts in fantasy. After being questionable with an illness, he was upgraded to healthy before the evening game against the Broncos. Did he play? No. That’s a big ZERO if you started him in the hopes he would at least see some work after being declared active and ready to go.
Like the QB leaderboard, we have some surprising names at WR, and leading the charge is the Titans WR Corey Davis who had a monster game. He had 11 receptions, 182 yards, a touchdown, and 35.2 points. While not a surprise, Davante Adams was on his heels with 10 receptions, 121 yards, two touchdowns, and 34.1 points. Justin Jefferson (27.3) and Marvin Jones (25.6) comprise the Sunday’s WR3 and WR4, but it’s T.Y. Hilton’s appearance in the top-five that is a shocker. Just when it seems like rookie WR Michael Pittman (9.6 points) is about to break out, Hilton has to go and ruin it with eight receptions, 110 yards, a touchdown, and 25 points.
Although not on the top-five leaderboard, shout out to (or shout at) Patriots WR Gunner Olszewski who had a punt return for a touchdown and one reception for 38 yards and a touchdown and 16.8 points. N’Keal Harry (9.6), Damiere Byrd (3.6), and Jakobi Meyers (3.5) probably didn’t care since they won, but us managers sure did.
Despite the Giants’ upset win over the Seahawks, WRs Darius Slayton (2.4) and Sterling Shepard (5.2) weren’t involved thanks to RB Wayne Gallman (13.5). DeVante Parker was underutilized before his disqualification in the fourth quarter with only four receptions for 35 yards and 7.5 points. Allen Lazard was simply a warm body WR2 next to Adams for the Packers with eight points.
Holy cow, Darren Waller. In case you missed it, and in case Carr has forgotten, he is really good at being a tight end in football. He hauled in 13 receptions for 200 yards and two touchdowns posting 45 fantasy points on the day. I am pretty sure he will remain the TE1 for Week 13. Travis Kelce was second with 27.6, followed by Mike Gesicki with 23.8. I bet you didn’t see Cardinals TE Dan Arnold scoring two touchdowns for 20.1 points, but if you did, I hope you made some money off of it. T.J. Hockenson rounds out our top-five with 15.4 and is becoming Stafford's security blanket, especially with Golladay sidelined.
Hunter Henry (1.5), Hayden Hurst (1.9), Jordan Akins (3), Austin Hooper (4.4), and Zach Ertz (5.1) are among the tight ends who hurt you this week. It’s games like these that make me rethink having a TE position for fantasy in the first place. I am curious to see just how long Ertz stays low on the tight end finishers.