Is this the twilight zone? Groundhog day? I ask because for the past several weeks there haven't been many games that look exciting from a fantasy perspective. This week could be even worse, as most of the games that Las Vegas odds makers think are going to be high scoring look to be mostly one sided affairs. I mean, the highest over/under of the week is Carolina at New Orleans at 49.5 points, but is there any way you can trust Drew Brees and Co. at this point? Especially against the Panthers' stout defense? I don't think so. Coming in at the second highest point total of the week is Philadelphia at New England at 49 points. The Patriots have been devastated by injuries on offense and the Eagles have been even worse with Mark Sanchez at QB than they were with Sam Bradford, if that's possible. The projected third highest scoring game is Indianapolis at Pittsburgh, which finally gives us a little hope, but still, you get the idea. I'm sure I can scrounge up another game that could be a diamond in the rough.
The usual rules apply here, as we're looking for games that should involve good match-ups for multiple fantasy relevant players on both sides. Of course there will be high-scoring players in other games, but the ones highlighted here could provide good circumstances for fantasy players on both teams. Good luck to everyone in Week 13!
Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders - Dec. 6 4:05 p.m. ET, Over/Under: 44
Chiefs: QB Alex Smith has always been thought of as a game manager and that is likely the most apt description of him from a skills and ability standpoint. That being said, Smith is a very consistent quarterback and he does offer a decent baseline in most situations. He's thrown for only 12 TDs this season, but only has 3 INTs as well. He's completed about 64% of his passes and always offers more as a runner than most people expect, putting up over 300 yards rushing on 55 attempts so far this season. His opponent this week, the Raiders, are 29th in the league in passing defense and 26th against QBs in fppg allowed. Smith should be a decent streaming option this week and the entire Chiefs' team has been on a tear over the past five or so games. He's probably pretty cheap in DFS too.
WR Jeremy Maclin and TE Travis Kelce are the two main receiving options in this offense and are the only ones we're interested in here. Maclin has been up and down this season, but that likely has more to do with the Chiefs' offensive style and identity as a run first team. He's only managed double digits in fantasy points three times this season, but is coming off a strong game against Buffalo in which he totaled 9 catches on 11 targets for 160 yards and a TD. The Raiders are 11th against WRs in fppg allowed, but that's likely only because they're so bad against TEs and RBs in the receiving game. I'd consider Maclin a WR2 here. Kelce has been woefully underused in my opinion and hasn't received double digits in targets in a single game this season. Despite that, he's still managed to be the #5 TE in standard leagues up to this point and this is a great match-up, as we all know how bad Oakland has been against TEs this season. He's a Top-3 TE this week.
It apparently doesn't matter who plays RB for the Chiefs, they're going to be a Top-10 RB. Superstar Jamaal Charles went down with a season ending knee injury and was replaced by Charcandrick West, who put up at least 17 fantasy points in three straight games from Weeks 7-10 (bye in Week 9). Then West went down with a hamstring injury in Week 11 and was replaced by rookie Spencer Ware, who only ran for 96 yards and 2 TDs on 11 rushing attempts as his relief. Then he came out last week and ran 19 times for 114 yards and a TD. The only issue that could come up is if West comes back and doesn't get the full workload. If West splits time with Ware after he returns from injury, this could become messy. Hopefully the Chiefs will continue their trend of picking one guy and riding him, but with it looking like West will return this week, I'd consider both guys in the low-end RB2 or flex range until we see what the rotation is going to look like.
Raiders: Derek Carr is going to be a trendy pick next season in fantasy drafts as a Top-6 starting QB. He's still had a few games this season in which he's struggled, but overall has played very well in his sophomore season, completing almost 64% of his passes with 24 passing TDs and only 6 INTs. He's the 7th ranked QB in standard fantasy leagues on the season and could finish higher by the time all is said and done. This week he gets a Chiefs' defense that was very susceptible to the pass early on in this season but has been on a roll recently. The key here is that All-World linebacker Justin Houston was injured in last week's game and is reportedly week-to-week with a knee injury. If Houston is out this week, I like Carr and the Raiders' chances to get the passing game going against this Chiefs' secondary.
Carr's main weapons are WRs Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree, who can both put up strong WR2 fantasy numbers. Crabtree has received slightly more targets (104 to 97) and is more of the possession receiver, while Cooper has provided more big play ability, averaging 14.7 yards per catch to Crabtree's 11.7. Overall, the Chiefs' defense is dead last against WRs in fppg allowed and although a lot of those points came early in the season when they were struggling, Oakland's offense is Top-10 overall and it would be a huge blow to Kansas City's pass rush if Justin Houston can't go this week. I'd continue to view both Cooper and Crabtree as solid WR2 options with the upside for more in this game. For all their issues with WRs, the Chiefs are #1 against TEs in fppg allowed and the Raiders use two TEs in Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford anyway, neither of which are very involved in the passing game in most weeks. I think Walford could be very good in the future, but now isn't the time.
RB Latavius Murray is a bit of a mystery to me. I love his talent and he has the ability to carry a full workload and be a good receiver out of the backfield, but he hasn't really put it all together this season. Murray only has four games with double digits in fantasy points, has 20 carries only three times and has scored just 4 total TDs. I think he could be great with the proper amount of work, especially in what appears to be growing into a high-powered offense with several young, core players, but it hasn't completely worked out just yet. Kansas City has a solid rush defense that is 9th against the run and 7th against RBs in fppg allowed. Murray is still in the RB2 range this week, but I'm not expecting a huge game.
Indianapolis Colts at Pittsburgh Steelers - Dec. 6 8:30 p.m. ET, Over/Under: 48
Colts: Matt Hasselbeck is 4-0 this season as the starting QB in Indy. Who saw that coming? He's averaged 19.8 fantasy points per game in those four starts and the Colts are going up against a Steelers' defense that just got shredded by Russell Wilson to the tune of 5 touchdowns. I'm not recommending Hasselbeck as a streaming option over guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he should continue to have no problems getting his surrounding offensive weapons the ball and I don't think he's the worst you could do this week if you're desperate. He's completing almost 65% of his passes and has 7 TDs to only 2 INTs. Don't fear guys like T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief just because Hasselbeck is in the lineup.
Speaking of Hilton and Moncrief, they both had great games last week against Tampa Bay, with Hilton racking up 6 catches for 95 yards and 2 TDs on 12 targets and Moncrief getting 8 catches for 114 yards on 9 targets. Hilton appears to have secured his spot as the #1 WR in this offense, but Moncrief has had long stretches this season of being a reliable option, particularly with Andrew Luck. It just seems like it took a little while for Moncrief and Hasselbeck to get on the same page, but they appear to be in sync now and hopefully it stays that way. The Steelers are way down at 29th in the league against WRs in fantasy points per game (fppg) allowed and just got torched by the Seahawks -- Doug Baldwin in particular -- making this a juicy match-up for both of these guys. That basically sums up the receiving options for the Colts, as TEs Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener continue to sap each other's fantasy value, rendering them unfortunately useless in a good match-up against the Steelers' 28th ranked defense against TEs in fppg.
Veteran RB Frank Gore has run well for most of this season in Indianapolis, but it sounds like he's been struggling through some injuries for the past several weeks. He's managed to get you at least 7 fantasy points in standard leagues in three of the past four games, despite averaging only 2.5 yards per carry (ypc) over that timeframe. I know Ahmad Bradshaw is now out for the rest of the season with a wrist injury, giving Gore even more opportunities, but the Steelers are the 2nd ranked defense in terms of fppg given up to RBs. I don't see Gore being very effective here and I think the Colts will have to throw to keep up with Pittsburgh in this one, meaning more good things for Hasselbeck, Hilton and Moncrief.
Steelers: There's been dueling reports this week on whether or not Ben Roethlisberger does or does not have a concussion, but it looks like he'll play either way. Big Ben is one of the best quarterbacks in the league and he's been a great fantasy QB, but he's been severely hindered this season with multiple injuries. The Colts are 11th in fppg allowed to QBs, but I don't think that's indicative of what they can do against Roethlisberger here, especially with weapons like Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant at his disposal.
Brown and Bryant might be the best WR duo in the league and are definitely on the short list for that distinction. Brown is an All-World player at his position and Bryant is a physical freak who can break any play for a touchdown from anywhere on the field. Bryant is averaging almost 19 yards per reception, further cementing his ability as a big-play threat. It doesn't hurt that the Colts are down at 28th in the league against WRs in fppg allowed, right next to the Steelers. Like I said earlier, this pass defense shouldn't scare you away. Markus Wheaton is the #3 WR in this offense and I figured he at least deserved some mention since he exploded for 9 catches, 201 yards and a TD on 13 targets last week against Seattle. I can only assume that this was Pittsburgh taking advantage of a preferable match-up, as Wheaton hadn't even topped 100 yards in any other game this season. This was likely the biggest game of his career and I wouldn't chase the points this week. TE Heath Miller is the old faithful of this offense and Big Ben has trust in him, but he doesn't have enough consistent opportunities to make a fantasy impact and he has yet to practice this week with a rib injury anyway.
Veteran RB DeAngelo Williams has provided a big boost to the Steelers' running game, especially since he has been replacing one of the best young RBs in the league in Le'Veon Bell. Williams had a surprisingly tough game in a Week 10 match-up against Cleveland that looked it should've been a gold mine for fantasy purposes, putting up only 6 fantasy points. After the Steelers' Week 11 bye, Williams got just 8 carries in the game against Seattle (which I again assume must've been part of the game plan) but still managed 16 fantasy points because of a rushing TD and 88 yards receiving on 7 catches. This shows that Williams will be involved no matter what the game plan is or how the game is going. Indianapolis is 24th in both fppg allowed to RBs and overall rushing defense, so whether this turns out to be a shootout or a situation where Pittsburgh has to run down the lock with the running game, Williams should be a Top 5-10 play.