Sneaky Starts: Week 13
All but the luckiest fantasy owners at some point need to find the proverbial diamond in the rough—a waiver wire or bench player capable of putting up some points in a pinch. This weekly feature is dedicated to that part of fantasy football. It's not pretty, but it's part of the game.
A good 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.
As of Week 4, the aFPA Hot Spots reports that you see on the site are now using 2020 data, so we can now pay serious attention to positional strength of schedule. A defense’s ranking against a particular position is listed in parenthesis next to each player.
As always, when faced with lineup decisions, it’s best to look at the custom projections for your league.
Let’s take a look at the top Sneaky Starts for Week 13...
Taysom Hill, Saints (@ ATL, 32)
Hill only threw for 78 yards last week against the Broncos but still managed to score 17+ fantasy points thanks to 44 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He now has 95 rushing yards and four touchdown runs in two starts. I worry a bit that the Falcons might have a better plan to stop Hill after he scored 24.4 against them in Week 11, but the matchup still favors Hill and the Saints.
Kirk Cousins, Vikings (vs. JAX, 28)
In the last four weeks, Cousins has posted 220/3, 292/2, 314/3 and 307/3. Meanwhile, the Jaguars have yielded at least 258 yards and two scores in four straight weeks (to Baker Mayfield, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson). The key for Cousins is that the Jaguars need to keep this game close so that Minnesota doesn’t go run-heavy to milk the clock.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, Dolphins (vs. CIN, 30)
In his first start since being benched midseason, Fitzmagic posted 257/2 with 10 rushing yards against the Jets. This week he has the Bengals, who have given up the sixth-most passing touchdowns this season.
Derek Carr, Raiders (@ NYJ, 21)
Carr was a Sneaky Start last week and turned in a dreadful performance in a great matchup against the Falcons. I’m a little leery about recommending him again, but the last time he failed to throw a touchdown (Week 10), he threw three the following week. The Jets have given up 257/2 to Ryan Fitzpatrick, 366/3 to Justin Herbert and 416/5 to Patrick Mahomes in recent weeks.
Jared Goff, Rams (@ ARI, 22)
Goff has a tendency to produce against the Cardinals. Last year, he posted 319/3 and 424/2 against Arizona. Prior to a good defensive effort against Cam Newton in Week 12, the Cardinals had yielded 2+ touchdown passes in four straight games.
Philip Rivers, Colts (@ HOU, 25)
Rivers has gotten better as the year has worn on. He has scored at least 16.3 fantasy points in five of his last six games. In recent weeks, the Texans have given up 295/1 to Matthew Stafford, 365/1 to Cam Newton, 283/4 to Aaron Rodgers, 364/4 to Ryan Tannehill and 301/2 to Gardner Minshew.
Baker Mayfield, Browns (@ TEN, 27)
In his first decent-weather game since Week 7 (when he threw for 297 yards and five touchdowns against the Bengals), Mayfield posted 258/2 against the Jaguars. The Titans have yielded the seventh-most passing yards and the second-most passing touchdowns to quarterbacks this year.
Mitch Trubisky, Bears (vs. DET, 13)
It wasn’t pretty, but Trubisky mustered 18.8 fantasy points against the Packers in his first start since Week 3. The Lions just gave up 318/4 to Deshaun Watson on Thanksgiving, and yielded 262/3 to Philip Rivers and 220/3 to Kirk Cousins in Week 8 and Week 9.
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