It’s officially crunch time for Fantasy owners. For most leagues, Week 13 is the last week before the playoffs begin. Whether you’re fighting for position or just fighting to get in, this week is important for many owners. The decision becomes do you start a safe option or do you start a boom-or-bust type player? You clearly aren’t benching your studs, but when it comes to the flex position or just desperation, there are some guys that may be worth the start. Let’s weigh the risk factor for some of the popular adds over the past few weeks and see how they might help in Week 13.
Knowshon Moreno, RB, DEN (vs. TB)
Prior to Week 12, Moreno had eight carries for 15 yards and a touchdown. He was a healthy inactive from Week 3 through Week 11. And yet, in Week 12, despite Fantasy owners rushing to the waiver wire to pick up Ronnie Hillman, he had 20 carries for 85 yards and four receptions for 26 yards. Based on his performance, Moreno will likely continue to be the feature back in Denver. There were rumblings prior to the game that he might be the back to own (and savvy Fantasy owners picked him up prior to Week 12, especially after learning that he would be the starter). Those following football also picked up on reports that Peyton Manning appreciated a back that could block for him – which Moreno did better than either Hillman or Lance Ball. If Manning gets a say, you know his vote is going to Moreno. As long as Moreno doesn’t do anything to lose the job, it’s his. Tampa Bay has the top-rated rush defense in the league, so it will be a tough matchup for Moreno. He’ll be good for single-digit Fantasy points, but don’t expect a home run from him to win you the week.
Vick Ballard, RB, IND (at DET)
When Donald Brown was out, Ballard had an opportunity to take over as the feature back in Indy. However, while he did look strong between the tackles, he didn’t earn the job. Now that Brown is back, the two are splitting carries and neither is proving to be very effective. Andrew Luck keeps looking to throw the ball, and Ballard isn’t a pass-catching back. He has 11 receptions on the year; so don’t look for numbers to come from there. While Detroit is in the bottom half of the league in terms of rushing defense, Ballard isn’t a recommended Fantasy play unless you’re desperate. He hasn’t found the end zone since Week 8, despite multiple goal-line carries. He may be the starter, but that doesn’t mean he should start on your team – especially if you’re hoping for a win.
Brian Hartline, WR, MIA (vs. NE)
If you’re looking for consistency, Hartline isn’t going to help you. He’s had three games with over 100 yards receiving, but he’s also had seven games with less than 60 receiving yards. He had four games with eight or more receptions, but in the rest of the games he had four receptions or less. While it appears to be a good matchup with New England this week, it’s hard to trust Hartline, especially after last week’s 2/17/0 stat line. He has put up the best numbers of his career this year, but he still has only one touchdown. Don’t start Hartline this week, especially if you’re not in a PPR league. Owners are also looking at starting or picking up Davone Bess following his 7/129/0 stat line in Week 12 and his 6/50/1 line in Week 1. However, he’s also not a model of consistency with only two 100-plus receiving yard games so far this season and one touchdown. He’s good for around five receptions for 50 yards on average, so if you are looking for about five points in a standard league, go Bess over Hartline.
Chris Givens, WR, STL (vs. SF)
In Week 12, Givens had five receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. In the nine previous games he played in, he had 17 receptions for 352 yards and two touchdowns. In standard leagues, Givens is a good option. He is the deep play receiver. He’s not going to rack up receptions, but if Sam Bradford is looking to throw deep, odds are it is going to Givens. His average yards per catch is currently at 21.2. With Danny Amendola still limited by the heel injury, Givens is worth a start. Amendola didn’t practice Wednesday, but he didn’t practice last week and still played on Sunday. Even if Amendola is active, Givens is still worth a start against New England’s 29th ranked pass defense. They are tied at second-to-last in terms of receiving touchdowns allowed (with 22 on the year so far). Want to gamble that Givens adds to that? I would.
Cecil Shorts, WR, JAX (vs. BUF)
Likely not drafted in many leagues, Shorts was a great waiver wire pickup back around Week 7 or 8 when he started looking like the real thing. While it was tough to trust a receiver from Jacksonville, now that the Blaine Gabbert show is over, Shorts has value. Since the bye week (Week 6), Shorts has had three games with over 100 yards, and over 50 yards in each of the other three games. He also has four touchdowns in that span. He’s the No. 1 receiver in Jacksonville, and Buffalo has allowed 20 receiving touchdowns on the year (tied for third-worst in the league).
Josh Gordon, WR, CLE (@ OAK)
While Gordon hasn’t had a 100-yard receiving game, he has consistently helped the Browns – and Fantasy owners. Since Week 5, he’s had six of eight games with more than 50 yards (with 38 and 46 yards in the other two). He’s only scored four touchdowns on the year, but the odds of him finding the end zone against Oakland appear to be pretty good. The Raiders defense has been atrocious and Gordon led the Browns in targets last week. Brandon Weeden has been able to practice following last weekend’s concussion, so there should be no concern over who will be throwing him the ball. Gordon appears to be a good flex or WR3 option for Fantasy owners this week – in both PPR and standard leagues.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, IND (at DET)
Last week, I played against an owner that had Hilton – on his bench. And this is a league where return yards and touchdowns count! I was relieved, but a little bit jealous. I wanted Hilton on my team. If you have Hilton on your team, and your league counts return yards, don’t hesitate to start him. Detroit’s pass defense is middle-of-the-road and Indianapolis needs a win to stay in the wild card hunt. With the way Hilton has been playing lately, you can bet Andrew Luck is going to be looking for him. There is a consistency risk – he has a three point Fantasy week sandwiched between two 100-plus yard games. Hilton is certainly a boom-or-bust player, but he adds yards after the catch. He’s averaging almost 15 yards per catch, but he doesn’t get a lot of receptions per game. His high on the year is six (done twice in the two most recent 100 yard games).
Greg Jennings, WR, GB (vs. MIN)
If Jennings was dropped in your league, pick him up! He looks to be on track to play this week, and while no one is recommending him as a must-start, he can certainly help your team for the Fantasy playoffs. He’s been practicing this week for the first time since Week 4, following abdominal surgery. He will likely be eased back into the game plan, so he’s not a recommended start for Week 13. He has put together a very disappointing Fantasy season for owners that drafted him as their WR1. While the Fantasy mantra is always start your studs, hold off on Jennings for this week. Some players do come back from injury and put together a great performance, however, if you’re looking for a win this week, starting Jennings is too risky. See how he plays, see how much he plays and see that he plays successfully without a setback and then go from there.