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Overcoming injuries is going to be a big key for NFL teams making their playoff push, and Fantasy owners as well. If you have the ability to survive the loss of a star and still produce at a high level then you deserve whatever success you achieve.
No one knows this more than the Patriots. Already down Dion Lewis (torn ACL), Julian Edelman (foot) and Danny Amendola (knee), New England watched Rob Gronkowski suffer a knee injury Sunday night at Denver. While Amendola is expected to return in Week 13 against the Eagles, Gronkowski's timetable remains unknown with what is being reported as just a bruised knee.
He's not expected to play against Philadelphia, but he could return in Week 14 at Houston or sit out until the NFL playoffs. This clearly leaves a huge hole in New England's offense, and Fantasy owners will struggle to replace Gronkowski as well since he's the No. 1 tight end in all leagues.
We also lost Jimmy Graham in Week 12 for the season with a torn patellar tendon in his knee. Even though Graham has been less than stellar as a Fantasy option this year, he was being started in the majority of leagues. And you have to keep an eye on Tyler Eifert (neck), who was hurt in Week 12 but is expected to play in Week 13 at Cleveland.
Finding a standout tight end off waivers isn't easy, and of course these injuries occurred after the trade deadline in most leagues has passed. The Fantasy playoffs in most formats start in Week 14, so you should approach replacing Gronkowski and Graham as a week-to-week scenario, especially for Gronkowski since there's still a chance he can return before the regular season ends.
The No. 1 priority off waivers this week is Scott Chandler, who is owned in just 3 percent of leagues on CBS Sports, and we'll get more into these tight ends below. He's not going to play at Gronkowski's level, but he'll be the starting tight end for Tom Brady, which is a plus. And he showed you a respectable stat line against the Broncos with increased looks since he had season highs in targets (11), catches (five) and yards (58) with a touchdown. Any Fantasy owner down Gronkowski or Graham would sign up for those stats in a second, and the Eagles are a favorable opponent in Week 13.
The other tight ends I would target are, in order: Richard Rodgers (50 percent ownership) at DET, Jacob Tamme (26 percent) at TB, Kyle Rudolph (42 percent) vs. SEA and Crockett Gillmore (63 percent) at MIA. You also have these tight ends with good matchups in Week 13: Cameron Brate (0 percent) vs. ATL, Vernon Davis (65 percent) and Owen Daniels (18 percent) at SD and Coby Fleener (43 percent) at PIT.
And there are a few tight ends you can look at who are coming off good performances of late, but they have some tough matchups in Week 13 like Zach Miller (47 percent) vs. SF, Brent Celek (11 percent) at NE, Vance McDonald (0 percent) at CHI and Ryan Griffin (0 percent) at BUF. The Seahawks also will replace Graham with Luke Willson (0 percent) at MIN if you're looking for a tight end in deeper leagues.
As stated earlier, it's hard to replace Gronkowski or even Graham off waivers, but you can see there are options out there in the majority of leagues. We just hope the tight end you add this week can deliver a quality performance to help your Fantasy team at this crucial point in the season.
Injuries: Ben Roethlisberger (concussion), Tony Romo (collarbone) and Josh McCown (collarbone)
Priority list (Add them in this order):
Ownership percentage71 percent
Cutler has struggled the past two games against tough opponents in Denver at home and Green Bay on the road in a short week. He combined for just 22 Fantasy points in a standard league in those outings after scoring at least 21 points in each of his previous six games. He should get back on track this week against the 49ers at home. San Francisco (20.1 point average) is middle of the pack in Fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. And most of the 49ers bad games have come on the road with Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning and Russell Wilson all scoring at least 22 Fantasy points against them away from home. Cutler also could have a healthy receiving corps if Martellus Bennett (ribs) returns this week.
Ownership percentage52 percent
Fitzpatrick put to rest any concerns about his job with a strong performance against the Dolphins in Week 12 with 277 passing yards and four touchdowns for 37 Fantasy points in a standard league. He's an inconsistent Fantasy quarterback, but he has scored at least 22 points in four of the past six games he has been able to finish. This week, Fitzpatrick faces the Giants in a "road" game in his same building. He's scored at least 22 Fantasy points in three of his past four in New York, and the Giants have allowed three of their past four opposing quarterbacks to score at least 21 Fantasy points.
Ownership percentage59 percent
Mariota faces the Jaguars in Week 13, and he just played at Jacksonville in Week 11 on a Thursday night game. He scored 17 Fantasy points in that matchup, and we'll see how he adjusts to facing a familiar foe in such a short period of time. The 17 points allowed to Mariota is actually the fewest points Jacksonville has given up in its past six games, and Philip Rivers just went off for 36 Fantasy points against the Jaguars in Week 12. Mariota struggled in Week 13 against Oakland with 218 passing yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, but he still scored 24 Fantasy points. We could see a similar point total this week against Jacksonville at home.
Ownership percentage25 percent
Hasselbeck is Mr. Perfect for the Colts since he's 4-0 in place of the injured Andrew Luck (kidney). And he's coming off his best Fantasy performance with 24 points against Tampa Bay heading into what should be a dream matchup at Pittsburgh. The Steelers were just abused by Russell Wilson for 44 Fantasy points, and Derek Carr also went off against Pittsburgh for 34 points in Week 9. If this were a healthy Luck, we'd be talking about potentially the No. 1 ranked quarterback for Week 13, but Hasselbeck is obviously limited at 40 and is just a solid option in two-quarterback leagues. Hasselbeck also faces Jacksonville in Week 14, so he could help you over the next two starts if Luck remains out as expected.
Ownership percentage44 percent
Like Hasselbeck, all Osweiler does is win. He's now 2-0 in place of the injured Peyton Manning (foot), and he could be a solid starting option for you over the next three games with favorable matchups against San Diego, Oakland and Pittsburgh. It doesn't appear like Manning will return before then, and it's not a guarantee he'll get his job back from Osweiler even when healthy. Osweiler scored 22 Fantasy points at Chicago in Week 11 and only had 14 points at home in a tough matchup with the Patriots in the snow. Seven quarterbacks have scored at least 21 Fantasy points against the Chargers this season, which bodes well for Osweiler, but the Broncos could also have plenty of success running the ball this week and that could limit his upside. He's a great option in all two-quarterback leagues.
Potential drop candidates: Matt Ryan (99 percent), Andrew Luck (88 percent) and Jameis Winston (75 percent)
- You're probably never going to feel comfortable starting Kirk Cousins (35 percent) in anything more than a two-quarterback league in seasonal formats, but it's hard to overlook his performance at home. He has scored at least 23 Fantasy points in each of his past four home games, and we'll see how he does this week against Dallas. The Cowboys haven't allowed a quarterback to score more than 18 Fantasy points in six games in a row, so we'll see which streak continues in this matchup.
- Alex Smith (56 percent) isn't the type of quarterback who takes advantage of good matchups, but he has a great opportunity for a big game this week against the Raiders. Oakland has allowed every quarterback but Peyton Manning in Week 5 and Teddy Bridgewater in Week 10 to score at least 20 Fantasy points. Smith did score 25 Fantasy points against Buffalo in Week 12, but that was just his fourth game with 20-plus points this season. If you're into history, Smith has three games in a row with at least 234 passing yards and two touchdowns against the Raiders and has seven touchdown passes in his past two trips to Oakland, so he's a sneaky starting option in two-quarterback leagues this week.
- It appears like Matt Cassel (4 percent) will start for Romo for the rest of the season, but he's a terrible Fantasy quarterback. In four starts for Romo this year he has just one game with more than nine Fantasy points, which was Week 9 against the Eagles. He's not worth using in most formats in Week 13 at Washington.
Injuries: Chris Johnson (leg), Andre Ellington (foot), Ahmad Bradshaw (wrist), Karlos Williams (shoulder) and Jeremy Hill (ankle)
Priority list (Add them in this order):
Ownership percentage29 percent
The Cardinals are expected to be without Chris Johnson and Ellington for Week 13 and potentially longer. That should give David Johnson the chance for an extended workload for the first time all season. He started off the year scoring double digits in Fantasy points in four of his first five games despite not getting more than 10 touches in any of those outings. He has scored in consecutive games coming into this matchup at St. Louis in Week 13, and he had three carries for 18 yards and four catches for 63 yards and a touchdown against the Rams in Week 4. St. Louis has allowed a running back to score at least nine Fantasy points in a standard league in four games in a row, and Johnson should be considered a solid No. 2 running back in all leagues this week. Kerwynn Williams (0 percent) will move to No. 2 on the depth chart while Chris Johnson and Ellington are out.
Shaun Draughn (53 percent ownership):
It doesn't appear that Carlos Hyde (foot) will be back in Week 13 at Chicago or any time soon, which should allow Draughn to continue operating as the lead back for the 49ers. And he's done a nice job, especially for Fantasy owners in PPR leagues. He had 15 carries for 51 yards and five catches for 35 yards against Arizona in Week 12, and this is now at least 12 Fantasy points in a PPR league in three games in a row, with at least 77 total yards in each outing. The Bears have allowed a running back to score or gain over 100 total yards in five games in a row.
Ownership percentage12 percent
James White and Bolden have alternated big games each of the past two outings as the Patriots continue to try to replace Lewis. Bolden has gotten more touches, so he appears to be the safer of the two options if you're looking for help in deeper leagues. It's doubtful you'd feel comfortable starting Bolden or White as long as LeGarrette Blount is healthy. But Bolden just had a season-high eight touches at Denver and finished with four carries for 11 yards and four catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. Now, the downside for Bolden is he played just 15 snaps against the Broncos compared to 31 for White. But White only had five touches for a combined 6 yards, and I'll always lean toward touches over snaps when deciding on a player's worth.
Ownership percentage56 percent
You're not likely going to feel comfortable starting Riddick in most standard leagues because he's better suited for PPR formats. But he has scored at least eight Fantasy points in a standard league in consecutive games against Oakland and Philadelphia and has at least six points in four of five home games this year. In PPR leagues, Riddick should be considered a quality option at home with at least 13 points in four of five games in Detroit. He has seven games this season with at least five catches.
Ownership percentage2 percent
Herron is worth a look in deeper leagues now that he's back with the Colts and Bradshaw is out for the season. Frank Gore is struggling of late, and the Colts could give Herron an extended look down the stretch to help keep Gore somewhat fresh for the playoffs. Last year, Herron was the lead back for the Colts in the playoffs and had over 90 total yards and a touchdown in wins against the Bengals and Broncos in the postseason. He should be added in all leagues if you own Gore.
Potential drop candidates: Chris Johnson (99 percent), Marshawn Lynch (93 percent), Melvin Gordon (87 percent), Rashad Jennings (78 percent) and Andre Ellington (77 percent)
Some of the more prominent handcuff options to own right now are Jay Ajayi (40 percent), Robert Turbin (22 percent), Bilal Powell (16 percent), Jerick McKinnon (9 percent), Fred Jackson (7 percent) and Terrance West (4 percent). They could be starting Fantasy options in various formats if an injury occurs, and you should plan ahead now while they are still available. Every Adrian Peterson owner should definitely own McKinnon, and Turbin should be a priority given Darren McFadden's injury history.
Injuries: Allen Hurns (concussion) and Rishard Matthews (chest)
Priority list (Add them in this order):
Ownership percentage74 percent
I've gone back and forth between Moncrief and Doug Baldwin for owners in 10-team leagues where both are available, but I'd take Moncrief for this week and potentially the rest of the season. He's coming off a great game with eight catches for 114 yards on nine targets in his best game from Hasselbeck, and this week he faces the Steelers, who couldn't stop Baldwin or Jermaine Kearse in Week 12. Moncrief also has the potential of getting Luck back, and that would definitely improve his value to close the season. I like Moncrief as a potential starter in Week 13.
Ownership percentage74 percent
Baldwin has four games this season with at least eight targets, and he's scored at least 15 Fantasy points in three of them, including two in the past three outings. He was awesome against the Steelers in Week 12 with six catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns on eight targets, and now the Seahawks are down Graham. We could also see more from Tyler Lockett (22 percent) and Jermaine Kearse (8 percent), who both have two touchdown games in the past two weeks, but this is a tough matchup at Minnesota in Week 13. The Vikings have two standout cornerbacks in Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman, and it could be tough for Baldwin and his teammates to make plays this week. Baldwin is a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in Week 13, but you can avoid Lockett and Kearse in most formats.
Ownership percentage58 percent
Wright was quiet in Week 12 against Oakland with two catches for 19 yards on seven targets, but he was likely shaking off the rust from a three-game layoff due to a knee injury. Prior to getting hurt in Week 8 he had double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league in three of six games, and this is a good matchup against the Jaguars, who have allowed a touchdown to a receiver in four of the past five games, with nine touchdowns scored over that span. Wright missed Week 11 at Jacksonville with his knee injury, but he should be ready to go in the rematch now that he's healthy.
Ownership percentage38 percent
Funchess is worth buying into this week because of the matchup with the Saints. As we're all well aware by now, the New Orleans defense is terrible with 16 touchdowns allowed to receivers, including eight in the past four games. Funchess has been hit or miss lately with at least 12 Fantasy points in two games and four points or less in two others, but he's a high-upside No. 3 receiver given the matchup at New Orleans.
Ownership percentage7 percent
The Dolphins might start to feature Parker now that Matthews is hurt and the season is lost, and it would make sense to develop their first-round pick. He had four catches for 80 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets in Week 12 at the Jets, and this is a favorable matchup in Week 13 against Baltimore. The Ravens have been miserable against receivers all season with 18 touchdowns allowed, including seven in the past four games. We hope Parker can finish the season strong, and he should benefit as long as Matthews is out.
Potential drop candidates: James Jones (98 percent), Stefon Diggs (96 percent), Rishard Matthews (74 percent), Pierre Garcon (72 percent) and Terrence Williams (68 percent)
- Anquan Boldin (59 percent) has quietly done a nice job the past two games and should be considered a safer Fantasy option than Funchess or Parker in the majority of leagues. Those rookies might have more upside this week, but Boldin has nine Fantasy points in each of his past two games at Seattle and vs. Arizona. His stats in those two outings are 13 catches for 186 yards on 18 targets, and he's a solid No. 3 Fantasy receiver against the Bears.
- There are several receivers who had big games in Week 12, including Cecil Shorts (11 percent), Dontrelle Inman (9 percent), Markus Wheaton (6 percent), Devin Smith (1 percent) and Seth Roberts (0 percent). Of this group, the only two worth considering at Shorts and Inman, but none are worth adding in most 12-team leagues or smaller. Shorts is the No. 2 receiver behind DeAndre Hopkins, but he only has two receiving touchdowns on the year. And Inman has a brutal matchup in Week 13 against Denver and could lose playing time as Malcom Floyd continues to improve coming back from his shoulder injury.
Injuries: Jimmy Graham (knee), Rob Gronkowski (knee), Tyler Eifert (shoulder), Heath Miller (ribs) and Garrett Celek (ankle)
Priority list (Add them in this order):
Ownership percentage3 percent
Is Chandler a lifesaver for your Fantasy team? Maybe. But let's be clear, he's not Gronkowski, so keep your expectations in check. He did play well against the Broncos in Week 12 with five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets, and we hope those targets remain consistent as long as Gronkowski is out. Gronkowski averaged 8.4 targets a game, and he leads the NFL with 17 red-zone targets. Chandler has eight red-zone targets, and he could be a favorite target for Brady all over the field. Amendola could return this week, but if he's out, Brady will rely heavily on Brandon LaFell and Chandler, which could be a great thing. He has tough matchups ahead against the Eagles and Texans, but it shouldn't matter if you expect Chandler to get Gronkowski's targets from Brady.
Ownership percentage50 percent
Rodgers is a tricky Fantasy option because we've seen his production be minimal when he doesn't score a touchdown since he had three Fantasy points combined against Minnesota and Chicago the past two games. But he has at least five targets in four games in a row, and he scored against the Lions in Week 10 with five catches for 32 yards on five targets. Justin Perillo also scored for the Packers in that game on five catches for 58 yards on six targets, and Green Bay's receivers have been terrible. Detroit has allowed nine touchdowns to tight ends for the season, including four in the past five games.
Ownership percentage26 percent
You have to keep an eye on Tamme and what happens with Leonard Hankerson, because that typically impacts how Tamme does. Hankerson missed Week 12 against Minnesota with a hamstring injury, and Tamme had five catches for 69 yards on six targets. Hankerson missed the first game with Tampa Bay in Week 8, and Tamme had 10 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown on 12 targets. He also had six catches for 61 yards on 10 targets at San Francisco in Week 9 when Hankerson was out. Tampa Bay hasn't allowed a tight end to score since the first game with the Falcons, but Tamme would see a hefty amount of targets again if Hankerson is out and is worth using as a low-end starting option.
Ownership percentage42 percent
The Vikings have finally decided to use Rudolph the past two games against Green Bay and Atlanta, and the results have been encouraging. He had six catches for 106 yards and a touchdown on eight targets against the Packers and seven catches for 53 yards on 10 targets against the Falcons. We hope the targets continue at a high rate, and this is actually a good matchup for him against Seattle in Week 13. The Seahawks have allowed seven touchdowns to tight ends, including two in the past three games to Vance McDonald and Jermaine Gresham. Rudolph, if the targets remain at eight or more, should have the chance for a quality outing this week.
Ownership percentage63 percent
Gillmore didn't play great in Week 12 at Cleveland with three catches for 20 yards on four targets, and that was the first game with Matt Schaub starting for the injured Joe Flacco (knee), which could be troubling. But I can't get past the matchup against the Dolphins, who are terrible against tight ends. Miami has only allowed three touchdowns to tight ends this season, but five tight ends have at least seven targets against the Dolphins, with four scoring at least nine Fantasy points in a standard league. Prior to Week 12, Gillmore had either a touchdown or 100 receiving yards in three consecutive games, and we hope Schaub looks for him often at Miami.
Potential drop candidates: Jason Witten (92 percent) and Martellus Bennett (82 percent)
- You'll have to keep an eye on the status of Bennett (ribs) heading into Week 13 against San Francisco. If he's out, Zach Miller (47 percent) has a good chance to help Fantasy owners this week. He has at least five targets in each of his past three games, and he has scored three touchdowns over that span. If Bennett is active, I would downgrade Miller and look for someone like Gillmore or Brate, and the 49ers matchup is tough since only one tight end has scored double digits in Fantasy points against them and no tight end has scored since Week 5.
- Vance McDonald is worth a flier in deeper leagues coming off two outstanding performances against the Seahawks and Cardinals with 10 catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 11 targets over that span. Garrett Celek is likely out, and McDonald should be the recipient of at least five targets. But the Bears have been great against tight ends all season with only two touchdowns allowed and Graham the only one scoring double digits in Fantasy points. But in a 14-team league or larger you can take a chance on McDonald given his expected workload.
- At some point Austin Seferian-Jenkins (shoulder) is going to return to action, but until he does you can look at Brate in deeper leagues. He has scored double digits in Fantasy points in three of his past five games, but he's somewhat touchdown dependent. Three of his 12 catches in his past five outings have found the end zone, although he had five catches for 53 yards on six targets at the Colts in Week 12.
- Luke Willson (0 percent) will start for the Seahawks now that Graham is out. He has a great opportunity, but just keep in mind Graham had eight games with single digits in Fantasy points, including six games with four points or less. It's doubtful Willson will be a difference maker in the majority of leagues even with the increased playing time.
Texans (at BUF): 61 percent
Dolphins (vs. BAL): 35 percent
Bears (vs. SF): 12 percent
Cairo Santos (at OAK): 57 percent
Jason Myers (at TEN): 7 percent
Ryan Succop (vs. JAC): 4 percent