Wishful thinking can be a dangerous force in Fantasy sports. We've had a running joke on Fantasy Football Today for the past month that every new week is "Javonte Williams Week," after one person or another declared that this week would finally be the week Williams emerged from his timeshare with Melvin Gordon to be the every-down back we want him to be.
And, while Williams has been pretty good for Fantasy while seeing his role tick up, he's still basically splitting carries with Gordon 50-50. The problem is, while we want the Broncos to turn things over to Williams, the Broncos are perfectly content to leave the split as it is. What we want doesn't really matter.
I worry something similar is happening with Tony Pollard in tonight's game against the Saints. We got reports last week that the Cowboys were considering altering Ezekiel Elliott's role or even giving him some time off to deal with a lingering knee issue, but Jerry Jones refuted those reports earlier in the week and then Elliott went out and practiced without limitations three days in a row leading up to Thursday's game. It all might be a smokescreen, but it sure seems like the status quo is going to reign in Dallas.
Which means Pollard is likely heading into a game with the toughest matchup in football for a running back in a role that has seen him get double-digit touches twice in his past five games. Pollard is an exciting player, one who certainly brings a lot more big-play ability to the table than Elliott at this point in their careers. It makes sense why we want to see him get more touches. I'm just not sure this is actually the week to be putting all your eggs in Pollard's basket.
Of course, you may not have a choice given the state of the running back position this week. Dave Richard answered a bunch of your questions for this week in hisas he goes through every game on the schedule trying to help you figure out who should be in your lineup. We'll take a look at some of his calls in today's newsletter before getting to all of the injury news you need to know about and a preview of tonight's game.
And, in case you missed it, Jamey Eisenberg's Start 'Em & Sit 'Em column came out yesterday with all of his favorite picks to start and players to avoid. If you still have questions after all that, make sure to subscribe to the Fantasy Football Today YouTube channel and join Adam Aizer, Heath Cummings, and me at 2 p.m. ET today for our start/sit live stream, where we'll be answering as many of your questions as we can for Week 13. And, if you have any other questions, make sure you send them to me at Chris.Towers@ViacomCBS.com with the subject line "#AskFFT" to be included in Sunday morning's mailbag.
Get ready for Week 13 with our other preview content here:
- Week 13 Start 'Em & Sit 'Em: QB | RB | WR
- Week 13 Position Previews: QB | RB | WR | TE
- My Week 13 Rankings: Flex Top 150 | QB | RB | WR | TE
Keep an eye out for tomorrow's newsletter, where I'll preview every game this week, including full injury report updates from around the league. Here's what else today's newsletter will cover:
- 1️⃣3️⃣Dave Richard's Week 13 Preview
- 🚑Week 13 Injury Watch
- 🆚TNF Preview: Cowboys at Saints
There are the obvious calls, and then there are the ones you need help with. Dave Richard goes through each game to identify the most interesting matchups and biggest lineup dilemmas for Week 13. Here are some of his top picks for this week..
- Kirk Cousins -- "Only two of the last eight quarterbacks to take on the Lions have posted 20 or more Fantasy points, but it's not because they're some sort of incredible defense. It's a combination of facing mediocre quarterbacks and teams running the ball down their throats. In two games without Dalvin Cook this year, including Week 5 versus the Lions, the Vikings dialed up a minimum of 34 pass attempts while also giving Alexander Mattison over 25 carries. In both games Cousins hit at least 275 yards, but he failed to record two touchdowns once -- against Detroit. It's fair to say the Vikings can win this one without a monster game from Cousins, but it's also fair to say Cousins was two Fantasy points from recording four straight games with at least 21, and he's completed multiple scores in each of his past four. He's not doing a bad job passing in the least. He's just not crushing defenses. Expect a modest game from Cousins, making him a low-end starter."
- Odell Beckham -- "Matthew Stafford could have given up on looking his way after not connecting on three of four first-half throws. Instead, he fired six more passes his way (three of them deep), eventually connecting on a 54-yard bomb thanks to a perfect sluggo (slant and go) route by Beckham. Honestly, the veteran receiver moved fine and had good speed, just as he did earlier this year in Cleveland. But last week he simply had a quarterback he was on the same page with, and one who gave him a 25.6% target share last week. We've noticed the Jaguars pass defense getting a little better overall but in five games since their bye they're seeing outside receivers land at least 11 targets per game with a 73% catch rate. The Jags are also playing way less man coverage; Beckham's catch rate is 20% higher against zone and he's had more explosive plays against zone (six) than man (two). The only reason why I won't call Beckham a must-start is because there's a good chance the Rams won't have to throw a ton like they did last week."
- Taysom Hill -- "Doesn't it say something that the Saints are turning to Hill a full month after Jameis Winston's injury and after Trevor Siemian couldn't lead the team to a win in four full games? Hill didn't win the starting job in training camp because he was sloppier with the football than Winston was and didn't throw with as much velocity as Winston did. And I know we all loved what we got from Hill last year, but a whopping 30.6% of his passes went to Michael Thomas; no one on the Saints in 2021 can compare to Thomas. And as efficient as a rusher Hill was in 2020, the Saints would be a little silly to lean too heavily on that element given their other backs. Point is, it's going to be harder for him to reach the 20 Fantasy point threshold this year, and taking on the Cowboys 10th-ranked run defense won't help his cause. I don't mind stashing Hill to see how he does this week, but I wouldn't start him unless you were a little desperate."
- Zach Ertz -- "Ertz will face a Bears pass defense that's allowed at least 11 half-PPR points to a tight end in each of their past three games. That includes a low-volume game from T.J. Hockenson last week (he scored) and two high-volume performances from Mark Andrews and Pat Freiermuth. There are still a bunch of changing factors for Ertz, the largest of which being Kyler Murray starting at quarterback for Arizona. In two games together (Weeks 7 and 8), Ertz had a 15.5% target share and caught 7 of 9 throws for a 15.4 yard per catch average (a higher number than what he had with Jalen Hurts or Colt McCoy). He's a more likable starter if DeAndre Hopkins is out or limited, but the middle-field targets should be dominated by Ertz against a Bears defense that's allowed a ridiculous 79% catch rate to tight ends since Week 10."
- Josh Reynolds -- "Trusting Lions receivers based on their previous week's numbers has been a disaster this year. But Reynolds has played 88%-plus of their snaps since arriving in Motown two games ago and somehow leads the Lions wideouts on receiving yards in that timespan despite not getting a single yard in Week 11. Reynolds looks like their best wide receiver, gliding through defenses and finding soft spots in zone coverage while also having the benefit of working with Jared Goff in their days together in L.A. Really it's more a byproduct of Reynolds being the best target in an ugly receiving corps, but if the volume is going to stick with him against a suspect Vikings secondary, then at the very least he's worth rostering if not using as a desperation flex."
- Kyle Pitts -- "The Falcons have run 35 red-zone plays since their Week 6 bye and Pitts has collected one target in them. Kind of reminds you of Julio Jones' red-zone woes with the Falcons, doesn't it? Defenses are clearly honing in on Pitts with double-teams, making it hard on him but easier for Matt Ryan to find other guys (like Russell Gage last week). Sadly, failing to score short touchdowns isn't Pitts' only problem -- last week Pitts ran four (!) routes longer than 10 yards, a steep drop-off from Week 11's 13 11-plus-yard routes (which is also sort of low). Even a modest matchup like Jacksonville last week was enough to overlook all of this and still start Pitts, but he still faltered. This week's showdown figures to be tougher: Tampa Bay has allowed eight touchdowns to wide receivers and tight ends combined over its past eight games with no 100-yard performances. Pitts had five grabs for 73 yards against them in Week 2 -- that might be closer to his ceiling than his floor at this point."
- Michael Pittman -- "Chances are you won't have a better option, or at least one with as much upside, as Pittman on your roster. But in six games the Colts won this season, Pittman's averaged 5.2 targets per game. In the six games the Colts lost, he's been at 10.0 targets per game. The expectation is that the Colts will win this matchup, and they might do it on the back of Taylor, which is why Wentz wasn't someone I was enthused to start. Houston has allowed a receiver to nab at least seven receptions in four of its past five games, but what are the odds Pittman will get that kind of volume? He hasn't exceeded five grabs since Week 9."
🚑Week 13 Injury Watch
I'll have a full breakdown of the injury report in Friday's newsletter along with my preview of each game, but here's a quick look at the notable injuries we'll be watching this week based on Wednesday's practice participation reports.
Injuries to watch for Week 13
It's not clear what these injuries mean quite yet.
- Kyler Murray (ankle) -- Limited practice. Murray hasn't played since Week 8, but you have to think he's going to make his return coming off the bye this week. That's the assumption I'm making, though I'd like to see him get a full practice in before I feel 100% confident in starting him.
- Jalen Hurts (ankle) -- Limited practice. The Eagles had a walkthrough rather than a full practice Wednesday, so Hurts' participation was an estimation, but this seems like a positive sign either way. The concern here would be that, if Hurts plays but is limited by the ankle injury, he probably wouldn't be nearly as effective as usual with his rushing, so we'd like to see him get a real (full) practice in.
- Daniel Jones (neck) -- Limited practice. Jones was out there on the practice field, but there are definitely questions about whether he'll be able to play this week. Mike Glennon would start if Jones is forced to sit out against Miami, and that would be a downgrade for the offense as a whole. I would expect even if Jones does play we'll see less rushing from him, which makes him an even less attractive Fantasy option than usual.
- Darrell Henderson (thigh) -- Did not practice. Henderson was held out Wednesday, though Rams coach Sean McVay did tell reporters he expects Henderson to be active for Sunday's game against the Jaguars. Henderson has dealt with a bunch of different injuries this season but has managed to play through them, though I continue to wonder whether they might not limit his role at some point just to try to keep him fresh. If Henderson can't go this week, Sony Michel would be a top-15 RB.
- Miles Sanders (ankle) -- Limited practice. Again, this is just an estimate from a walkthrough, but that's a good sign for Sanders' chances of playing. Obviously, Thursday and Friday will be worth watching, but Jordan Howard (knee) was unable to practice, and Boston Scott was held out due to a non-COVID illness. Scott figures to be the main RB if Sanders can't get, assuming he can get back from that illness in time. But Sanders will split work with him even if he is active.
- Melvin Gordon (hip/shoulder) -- Did not practice. Gordon is no stranger to the injury report this season and it hasn't kept him out of games yet, but this is one to keep an eye on just in case. Javonte Williams might be a top-12 RB if Gordon were to ever miss time, given how much the Broncos use their running backs.
- J.D. McKissic (concussion) -- Did not practice. McKissic suffered the concussion during the fourth quarter of Monday's game and at this point, you have to assume he won't be playing this week. Antonio Gibson had seven targets in Week 12 and could be an RB1 if McKissic is out and he takes on more of his pass-catching responsibilities.
- Deebo Samuel (groin) -- Did not practice. Samuel is expected to miss at least one week with this injury, so this is no surprise. Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle should dominate targets in Week 13 against the Seahawks.
- DeAndre Hopkins (hamstring) -- Limited practice. Hopkins was back at practice for the first time since Week 8, a good sign for his chances of returning. However, I won't feel 100% confident until he gets a full practice session. Hopkins is more like a WR2 for me at this point.
- Odell Beckham (hip) -- Limited practice. Beckham seemed to suffer the injury sometime during Week 12's game and was favoring the hip at times, but he also played all but one snap and had a breakout game, catching five passes for 81 yards and a touchdown. I've got Beckham as a top-15 WR for this week, though as I noted in yesterday's newsletter, that does make me a bit of an outlier among my colleagues.
- Cole Kmet (groin) -- Did not practice. This is a new injury for Kmet, and it's a concern for an already short-handed Bears offense. Kmet has seen his role increase in recent weeks and he had eight catches for 65 yards on 11 targets in Week 12, so he would be a viable streaming option against the Cardinals if healthy. Now, you might want to find another option.
Trending up for Week 13
This doesn't mean they will play, but we got good news about them Wednesday.
- Justin Fields (ribs) -- Limited practice. Andy Dalton still took the starter's reps Wednesday, according to coach Matt Nagy, so we'll see if Fields increases his participation by Friday. Fields is recovering from cracked ribs, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see them rest him again in Week 13 against the Cardinals.
- DeVante Parker (hamstring) -- Returned to practice Wednesday, opening up his 21-day window to return from injured reserve. Parker would be Fantasy relevant if he is able to play, but I wouldn't want to throw him right back in my starting lineup just yet.
- Pat Freiermuth (concussion) -- Full participation. Freiermuth was evaluated for a concussion after Sunday's game, but it appears to be just a minor issue. He's in the concussion protocol so he'll still have to be officially cleared, but it does look like he's trending in that direction. Freiermuth is in the top-12 range if healthy.
Trending down for Week 13
This doesn't mean they won't play, but they aren't moving in the right direction yet.
- Dalvin Cook (shoulder) -- Did not practice. Cook is expected to miss at least two weeks as a result of this injury, so it's no surprise that he wasn't out there in practice Wednesday. Alexander Mattison figures to start the next two games, with Cook reportedly eyeing Week 15 as his return date.
- D'Andre Swift (shoulder) -- Did not practice. ESPN reported Wednesday that Swift may end up missing multiple weeks as a result of his shoulder injury, so it's no surprise he was held out Wednesday. Jamaal Williams figures to be the lead back and is a top-18 RB back for me against the Vikings in Week 13. Jermar Jefferson and Godwin Igwebuike will also see some work out of the background, but I expect something in the neighborhood of 20 touches for WIlliams.
- Antonio Brown (ankle) -- Did not practice. Brown is making progress and the Buccaneers hope he can be back in Week 13, but this isn't a good start. His return would make it tougher to trust Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Rob Gronkowski, but you would also want to start all of them no matter what, so it's not like you need to be sitting around waiting for news on Brown. If he plays, start him.
- Sterling Shepard (quad)/Kadarius Toney (oblique/quad) -- Did not practice. Until they put in full practices, I'm assuming both will remain out. The oblique is a new injury for Toney, and it's not clear if that or the quad is why he's out.
- Allen Robinson (hamstring) -- Did not practice. Robinson hasn't played since before the team's Week 10 bye, and this isn't a great start. Darnell Mooney is a WR2 as long as Robinson is out -- and maybe even when Robinson is healthy.
- Corey Davis (groin) -- Did not practice. Davis told reporters Wednesday he is feeling better, but it didn't translate to increased work. He has been out since suffering the injury in Week 11.
- Darren Waller (knee) -- Did not practice. Waller was called "week-to-week" earlier in the week, so this isn't terribly surprising. While I suppose there's a chance Waller could be back in time for Week 13, I'm assuming Foster Moreau will start against Washington, and that matchup puts him in the low-end TE1 discussion as a streamer.
🆚TNF Preview: Cowboys at Saints
All lines from Caesars Sportsbook
- Line: Cowboys -4.5; 47.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Cowboys 26-Saints 21.5
The Saints are turning to Taysom Hill to start at quarterback this week, though there are still plenty of questions about this offense to be answered even with that clarity. At the very least, Hill getting through three straight practices without issue does suggest his foot injury won't limit him. He's a very intriguing streaming QB for this week.
- Key injuries: Alvin Kamara (knee) -- Kamara will be inactive against the Cowboys and the Saints will also be missing both starting offensive tackles. The good news is, Mark Ingram was able to practice in full all week and will make his return from a one-game absence due to his ankle injury. If Kamara plays, he's a top-10 RB; if he doesn't, Ingram is top-15 ... Amari Cooper (COVID) -- Cooper cleared the COVID protocols and will travel with the team for Thursday's game. He was limited at Wednesday's practice and is officially questionable, but the expectation is he will play assuming he doesn't have any kind of setback with his symptoms. Cooper has had a lingering cough as a result of his bout of COVID, but there hasn't been any reporting indicating he will be limited ... Ezekiel Elliott (knee) -- Elliott practiced without limitations all week, so despite reports from last week that he may be held out or limited as a result of his lingering soreness, it seems like he's going to be a full-go for Thursday's game.
- What to watch for: The question is whether "seems like" is enough to go on. Elliott has clearly been limited by his knee lately, and the Cowboys haven't really tried to hide it, so the idea of them limiting his workload on a short week makes a lot of sense even without those reports from last week. That all makes him a very, very risky play for Fantasy, one I would prefer to avoid against the best defense in the NFL against running backs. And it's not like I'm going to trust Tony Pollard either; it's possible Pollard takes on a larger role, but again, given the uncertainty and the matchup, why take the risk? On the other side of the field, we've got Kamara's status to worry about, but we've also got a new starting QB to keep an eye on. We saw Hill start four games last season, but that was on a Saints team that had Michael Thomas and wasn't nearly as conservative as this one has been. Hill's rushing ability makes him a viable starting option at QB for Fantasy, but given how rarely he threw to running backs last season and his goalline dominance, it's fair to wonder if he might suck all of the oxygen out of the room, so to speak. It'll be interesting to see how the running backs are used, whether it's Kamara, Ingram, or both.
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