Week 13 is critical in Fantasy leagues. In just about all leagues it is the final week of the regular season. Playoff tickets will be punched for some and dreams crushed for others. You love this crazy game if you win and curse it if you lose. If you are reading this it is my hope you were on the winning side, and not an owner of Jimmy Graham.
On paper, Graham had a fine matchup. Pittsburgh has given up the sixth-most points to opposing tight ends on the year. Over the last five games prior to Week 13, Graham logged 31 receptions for 294 yards and six touchdowns. All systems were go here. You never sit your studs. Graham is one of a select few players that are locked into Fantasy lineups regardless of matchup.
The Saints scored 35 points against the Steelers. Drew Brees threw for 257 yards and five touchdowns on the afternoon. Graham failed to even make a catch. In fact, he didn’t even receive a target. It boggles my mind that Pittsburgh was able to completely erase Graham from the game. Reports from the game had him absolutely swarmed with defenders every time he ran a route. It resulted in Brees targeting nine different receivers, eight of them finishing with 17 or fewer receiving yards. Kenny Stills did all the damage, hauling in five passes for 162 yards and a score. If there is one thing we have learned through the years it is that Brees won’t force what isn’t there. Hats off to Pittsburgh for a game plan that worked to perfection. They stopped the man they wanted to. They just failed at everything else. If Graham’s goose egg was the reason you lost this week and missed the playoffs, you should take solace in the fact that the likelihood something like this happens to you again should drop.
For those of you out there that were fortunate enough to nab Andrew Luck this season, well, you should consider yourselves lucky. He has thrown for over 300 yards in 10-of-12 games this season. He has also accounted for two or more touchdowns in 11-of-12 games. After completely dismantling Washington, Luck is now on pace to throw for 5,348 yards and 45 touchdowns along with 308 yards on the ground, with the possibility of adding to the two rushing touchdowns he has already logged. Luck was a good quarterback over his first two seasons. He is now among the elite. Entering drafts next season, only Aaron Rodgers should definitely be ranked above him. You could make an argument for Peyton Manning, but he will be 39-years old to start next season and it’s fair to expect some regression.
It took 12 weeks, but we finally got to see Johnny Manziel in some meaningful regular season action. Starter Brian Hoyer completed 18-of-30 passes for 192 yards and a pair of interceptions before he was replaced with 12:01 remaining in the fourth quarter and Buffalo in front 20-3. Browns coach Mike Pettine was unsurprisingly noncommittal in the post-game presser regarding his starter for next week. We won’t know until after the team’s Wednesday practice at the earliest, but that won’t stop me from making an educated guess. Through 12 games Hoyer has completed 56.2 percent of his passes for 3,056 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has also accounted for 11 turnovers. In just under one quarter of action Manziel scored one touchdown on the ground while completing 5-of-8 passes for 63 yards. His 13 yards rushing are just four yards less than Hoyer has for the season. His legs will add another dimension to this offense, and this is the reason Manziel will start next week. He should spark an offense in dire need of some life. Hopefully, he will use his legs to buy time to find an open Josh Gordon. One can only hope.
As a rookie last season, DeAndre Hopkins had a quality year, hauling in 52 passes for 802 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Remarkable when you throw in the fact that he was catching passes from the rotating quarterback carousel of Matt Schaub, Case Keenum and T.J. Yates. This year he has taken a step forward, highlighted by a huge Week 13 that saw him catch nine passes for 238 yards and a pair of touchdowns. For the season, he now has 60 receptions for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns on 90 targets. He has done his damage this year with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Mallett throwing him passes. See the pattern here folks? This kid posts big numbers with pedestrian quarterbacks. An absolute sure sign that Hopkins will indeed be a Fantasy force for years to come. Right now, he is on pace for 80 receptions and 1,388 yards receiving and eight touchdowns. That yardage total would have ranked him eighth in the league last year. He has clearly surpassed teammate Andre Johnson and should be viewed as a low end WR1 moving forward, with the potential for more with a quality option behind center.
After winning the Rookie of the Year award, plenty was expected from Keenan Allen heading into his second season. After three games he had 12 receptions for 109 yards. Fantasy owners that drafted him as a Top-20 option were screaming bloody murder and contemplating throwing in the towel. In Week 4, he eased concerns by catching 10 passes for 135 yards, but he followed that with just 12 receptions for 110 yards over his next three games. Allen didn’t score a touchdown until Week 8, and it seemed that he had finally turned a corner. Over his last five games he has 38 grabs for 408 yards and four scores. His strong last five games have him on pace to catch 96 passes for 1,014 yards with five touchdowns. Last year, he caught 71 passes for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. In leagues that use PPR scoring, he is actually going to have a better season than last year.
It’s been an up-and-down year for Washington’s Jordan Reed. Week 13 happened to be the highest of the highs, as he caught nine passes for 123 yards against the Colts. His 11 targets led the Redskins. When healthy, he has proven quite capable of putting up TE1 numbers. Unfortunately, Reed has dealt with hamstring injuries that have limited him to just seven games, some of which were cut short because of those injuries. DeSean Jackson was carted off the field with a fibula contusion and was spotted limping out of the locker room after Sunday’s loss. With the Redskins’ season in the toilet, it wouldn’t be a surprise for him to take a seat and heal up. Since Pierre Garcon is an afterthought in the Redskins’ passing offense, the door is open for Reed to get even more usage. Reed is currently available in over 75 percent of leagues on ESPN. If you need some help at tight end, this is the kind of talent that can put you over the top if he stays healthy for the next three weeks.
In a season that hasn’t featured many bell cow running backs, having a guy jump up and seize the job right when we head into the Fantasy playoffs is the equivalent of winning the lottery. In Week 9, Tre Mason was given a chance at the featured role for the Rams, and he ran with it. Over the last five games, he has 102 touches while never getting fewer than 17 in any one game. Over that time span, all other Rams’ running backs have seen a combined total of 34 touches. It’s easy to see the talent Mason has. His speed is among the best in the league at the position. He combines that with good vision and shake. The only knock on his game is pass protection, but that is an area many rookie backs struggle with. On paper, he has two tough matchups against Washington and Arizona and a cupcake against the Giants for the Fantasy playoffs. My money is on him producing like a RB1 during this timeframe. His usage and home run potential make him a guy you can’t sit right now.