Sneaky Starts: Week 13
Welcome to Week 13! In most leagues, this is the final week of the fantasy (regular) season, and many owners are finding themselves in a must-win situation to make the fantasy playoffs in Week 14. Complicating matters, Melvin Gordon (MCL) is out a couple of weeks, Leonard Fournette has been suspended for a week and Marvin Jones has been placed on injured reserve. Moreover, Kenyan Drake has a sprained shoulder and Marlon Mack is in the concussion protocol, so even though the byes are over, owners may need to find a quality spot start in a very important week.
A great way to identify a potential spot start is to leverage 4for4’s signature strength-of-schedule metric, adjusted fantasy points allowed (aFPA). Many sites publish raw fantasy points allowed by position, but 4for4 goes a step further and adjusts those numbers for a defense’s relative year-to-date schedule strength. So if a defense has seen a murderer’s row of running backs, it will be reflected in the defense’s aFPA. As a ranker, I use this metric weekly when putting together our award-winning projections.
Last week, I discussed Jameis Winston, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Gus Edwards, Peyton Barber, Josh Adams, Austin Ekeler, John Ross, Cameron Brate and Jonnu Smith in this space. Let’s see if we can dig up a few more gems for Week 13:
Lamar Jackson, Ravens (@ ATL, 32)
Jackson is no longer sneaky, but owners can and should continue to roll with the rookie as he draws his third start this week against the Falcons, who are last in the league in QB aFPA.
Marcus Mariota, Titans (vs. NYJ, 23)
In three non-injury games since his Week 8 bye, Mariota has posted 240/2 against the Cowboys, 228/2 against the Patriots and 303/2 against the Texans while adding 77 total rushing yards and a touchdown as a runner. This works out to a 22.3-point average, though he was putting up a stinker against the Colts in Week 11 before being knocked out of the game just after a half. In other words, he should produce, but he’s not without risk. That’s what makes him sneaky. That, and a good matchup with the Jets, who gave up 283/2 to Tom Brady and 232/2 and (9.3 yards per attempt!!!) to Matt Barkley in the last two weeks.
Baker Mayfield, Browns (@ HOU, 18)
Mayfield has been playing lights out under new OC Freddie Kitchens, who took over play-calling duties in Week 9. Since then, Mayfield has thrown for 297/2 against the Chiefs, 216/3 against the Falcons and 258/4 against the Bengals, with an elite-level 8.76 yards per attempt and 10.2 percent touchdown rate. Kitchens and Mayfield will face their toughest test yet, but the Texans are still only mediocre against the quarterback position. They yielded 303/2 to Marcus Mariota last week and gave up 290/1 to Case Keenum back in Week 9. In Week 11, they limited Washington QBs to 189 yards and one touchdown while picking off Alex Smith twice.
Matthew Stafford, Lions (vs. LAR, 31)
I’ve long been a big fan of Stafford, at least from a fantasy perspective. But his weapons have been decimated. Eric Ebron walked in the offseason, the team traded away Golden Tate and then Marvin Jones suffered a season-ending knee injury. Even so, Stafford is worth a look this week against the Rams, who are No. 31 in QB aFPA. This game could get out of control quickly, making garbage time pointless, but if the Lions can keep it relatively close, Stafford should attempt 40+ passes. In four such games this season, he has averaged 16.4 fantasy points.
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