This article is part of our Exploiting the Matchups series.
- Anything that tastes good with stuffing and gravy on top of it
I refuse to rank pies because they're an inferior dessert, one that's rarely worth eating apart from this one day when tradition demands it. Superior desserts include cookies, cake, ice cream, mousse, chocolates, gelato, pastries and a bunch of other things I can't remember.
In fact, I blame 40 percent of my problems on whomever decided it was a good idea to celebrate a major holiday with pecan pie rather than French pastries or cheesecake. (Nothing says 'gratitude' like being irrationally angry about pie on the internet...happy holidays!)
Before we get into specific players to upgrade or downgrade for Week 13, here are some of my favorite tools for analyzing matchups:
- Jeff Erickson's value meter
- RotoWire's weekly projections
- RotoWire's weekly composite rankings
- Betting odds
- RotoWire's pages for advanced stats and TE route data.
- Pace stats and DVOA from Football Outsiders
- Next Gen Stats from NFL.com
- Player Grades and Premium Stats from Pro Football Focus
- Personnel Grouping Frequencies and Run:Pass Ratios from SharpFootballStats.com
- Opponent and teammate injuries
- Target share
- Snap counts
- Defense vs. Position stats
Note: Discussion below mostly is limited to players that are being started in 10-to-90 percent of lineups on Yahoo. There are plenty of other players with good or bad matchups, but we'll focus our energy on the guys most likely to be involved in difficult lineup decisions.
Note, Pt. 2: References to 'fantasy points' are based on scoring with 25/10 yardage, 4/6 TDs and 0.5 PPR, i.e., standard settings on Yahoo and FanDuel.
- Jared Goff, LAR at ARZ
Goff has been matchup-dependent to an unrivaled extent, averaging 21.0 points in six games against teams in the bottom half of the league for fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, compared to 6.0 in five matchups with teams in the top half. His upcoming opponent lands in the first category, allowing league-high marks for fantasy points (25.3 per game), passing yards (315.5) and passing TDs (2.6) to QBs.
Goff and his pass blockers don't inspire confidence, but they're at least no worse than Arizona's defense, and the Rams finally have all their key receiving weapons healthy. This is also a nice matchup for each of Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks, while Gerald Everett theoretically gets the best draw of them all but can't be started with any confidence after he played 26 and 31 percent of snaps the past two weeks (with three total targets).
- Honorable Mentions: Drew Brees, NO at ATL; Aaron Rodgers, GB at NYG; Nick Foles, JAX vs. TB; Sam Darnold, NYJ at CIN; Carson Wentz, PHI at MIA
- Ronald Jones, TB at JAX
The Jaguars are addicted to chasing sacks and allergic to tackling, which explains how they've allowed 5.6 yards per carry to running backs (no other team has allowed more than 5.1). Now sitting 32nd in run defense DVOA (10.5%) after three straight weeks allowing more than 200 rushing yards, Jacksonville has been shredded by the likes of Carlos Hyde and Jonathan Williams, in addition to the customary abuse from Derrick Henry.
Next in line for a big game is Jones, who has averaged 11.3 carries, 4.3 targets, 67.3 scrimmage yards and 0.75 touchdowns in four games since he was elevated to the starting role. That isn't exactly top-notch stuff, but it does include a complete no-show in a blowout loss to the Saints, whereas each of his other three starts yielded at least 15.7 PPR points and 12.7 standard points. Meanwhile, Peyton Barber has averaged 6.5 carries, one target and 14.5 snaps over the same stretch.
- Benny Snell, PIT vs. CLE
Snell returned from a knee injury last week and stepped right in as the Steelers' lead runner, taking 22 touches for 103 yards while playing 49 percent of snaps in a win over the Bengals. He should get at least one more game atop the backfield pecking order, in light of James Conner's Monday comment about needing more time to recover from his shoulder injury. We know the Steelers will lean on their rushing attack with Devlin Hodges at quarterback, and the rookie provides enough of a running threat to help free up lanes for Snell if the Steelers use zone-read or other option concepts (something they did Week 6 against the Chargers when Snell had 75 rushing yards in Hodges' first NFL start).
The Browns shut down the Steelers a couple weeks ago and got along just fine against the Dolphins in the first game without Myles Garrett (suspension), but a road trip to Pittsburgh with no Mason Rudolph involvement could be a different story. Cleveland has been subpar at stopping the run overall, allowing 4.6 YPC to RBs and ranking 22nd in rush defense DVOA (-2.2%).
- Honorable Mentions: Tarik Cohen, CHI at DET; Sony Michel, NE at HOU; Jordan Howard (shoulder) and/or Miles Sanders, PHI at MIA; Damien Williams (ribs) and/or LeSean McCoy, KC vs. OAK
- DK Metcalf, SEA vs. MIN
It's open roads ahead for Metcalf, whose primary alignment wide left (60 percent of snaps, per PFF) puts him up against Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Once known as a top-20 player at his position, Rhodes is now struggling for a second straight year, allowing a 47-525-3 receiving line on 55 targets (9.5 YPT) into his coverage, per PFF. The Vikings are still a tough matchup for running backs and tight ends, but they're 14th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks (17.0) and 29th against wide receivers (33.1).
Rhodes hasn't been the only problem, with fellow cornerback Trae Waynes yielding a 45-555-4 line on 65 targets (8.5 YPT). Among 96 cornerbacks with 200 or more cover snaps, Rhodes is No. 62 in yards allowed per snap (1.32) and Waynes is No. 90 (1.62). My only concerns? Rhodes is quick to commit penalties (nine) when he know he's beat, and Metcalf has struggled with drops (five). Completing plays will be more difficult than getting open, but I'm guessing DK will be open so often that it doesn't matter.
- Anthony Miller, CHI at DET
Coming off back-to-back games with six receptions, Miller appears headed for another busy week, with Taylor Gabriel (concussion) expected to sit out and the Bears potentially down to fourth- and fifth-string players at tight end. The Lions may use top cornerback Darius Slay to shadow Allen Robinson, while Miller's role inside puts him up against slumping slot corner Justin Coleman, who initially justified his four-year, $36 million contract but more recently has been a disaster. He gave up 154 yards on 33 targets (4.7 YPT) into his coverage prior to a Week 5 bye, compared to 516 yards on 48 targets (10.8 YPT) since the break, per PFF. Coleman has allowed a league-high five touchdowns in slot coverage, and his mark of 1.40 yards per cover snap places 29th among 38 cornerbacks (100-snap min.).
- Honorable Mentions: Brandin Cooks, LAR at ARZ; Sammy Watkins, KC vs. OAK; Darius Slayton, NYG vs. GB; Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley, JAX vs. TB
- Jack Doyle, IND vs. TEN
Doyle is perfectly positioned for a workload bump, with Eric Ebron (ankle) on IR, Devin Funchess (collarbone) out at least one more week and T.Y. Hilton (calf) potentially limited if he even ends up playing. Lucky for us, the timing of Ebron's injury coincides with a nice matchup for Doyle — the Titans are No. 22 in fantasy points (10.2) and No. 26 in DVOA (17.4%) against tight ends. Doyle mostly has been quiet this season, but a big part of that is a product of running a route on 57 percent of the Colts' QB dropbacks, per PFF. The current situation provides reasonable grounds for a return to his 2017 mark of 84 percent, which could push him closer to his target numbers (7.2 per game) from the initial Jacoby Brissett season.
- Josh Lambo, JAX vs. TB
Lambo has been one of the better kickers in 2019, converting 24 of 25 field-goal attempts and 13 of 14 extra-point tries. Opportunity has been an issue of late, but that shouldn't be the case Week 13 against a Tampa Bay squad that's given up a league-high 11.2 fantasy points per game to kickers. Only five teams have faced more PATs (31) and none has faced more FGAs (30).
- Baker Mayfield, CLE at PIT
It's tempting to believe that Mayfield and the rest of the Cleveland offense have been fixed, finally meeting the lofty expectations so many of us had back in August. Unfortunately, it's a bit more complicated than that, as last week's outburst against Miami was preceded by six consecutive games in which Mayfield fell shy of 7.0 yards per pass attempt. Even his three-TD game against the Steelers a few weeks ago was far from spectacular, with the 24-year-old completing 53.1 percent of throws for 6.0 YPA while doing little of note after the first 20 minutes of the game.
For all their other issues, the Steelers have become a monster on defense, pushing up to No. 4 in DVOA against the pass (-10.9%) and No. 9 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks (15.2). Mayfield is the only QB to reach 17 FPs against the Steelers since Week 2, and he did it in the aforementioned Nov. 14 performance with 193 passing yards on 32 throws (he had a one-yard rushing TD).
- Not-so-Honorable Mentions: Philip Rivers, LAC at DEN; Jimmy Garoppolo, SF at BAL; Jeff Driskel (hamstring), DET vs. CHI; Ryan Fitzpatrick, MIA vs. PHI
- Joe Mixon, CIN vs. NYJ
A home matchup with the Jets sounds like good news, especially now that Andy Dalton will be stepping back in for Ryan Finley at quarterback. The possibility of a competitive game bodes well for Mixon's workload, but efficiency figures to be lacking against a defense that's limited running backs to a league-low 3.0 YPC. Ezekiel Elliott is the only player to run for more than 76 yards against the Jets this year, and it's been five weeks since anyone even got to 35. If you don't believe this run defense is for real, feel free to check the game logs on Josh Jacobs (10-34-0) and Saquon Barkley (13-1-0, not a typo).
- Tevin Coleman, SF at BAL
Remember back in October when we all thought the San Francisco backfield would be able to support at least one — and maybe two — start-worthy RBs every week? Well, that hasn't been the case of late, even with Matt Breida (ankle) missing the past two games. Raheem Mostert hasn't quite seen enough work to warrant a lineup spot, but he has poached enough to keep Coleman at 15 or fewer touches in each of the past five games. The first of those five was a four-TD explosion, while the subsequent four weeks produced averages of 11.0 carries, 4.0 targets, 54.8 scrimmage yards and 0.25 touchdowns.
Coleman's Week 13 opponent hasn't been dominant against the run by any means, but the Ravens' overall team strength creates a tough matchup, typically depriving running backs of carries and TD opportunities. Baltimore has allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to the position, with Nick Chubb in Week 4 singlehandedly accounting for 19.4 percent of the season total. Coleman's failure to take advantage of favorable matchups in recent weeks makes it hard to muster up optimism when the 49ers have an implied total of 20.25 points.
- Not-so-Honorable Mentions: Devonta Freeman, ATL vs. NO; Kareem Hunt, CLE at PIT; Carlos Hyde, HOU vs. NE
- Kenny Golladay, DET vs. CHI
A healthy Matthew Stafford allowed Golladay to flirt with WR1 status, while the downgrade to Jeff Driskel (hamstring) has resulted in three-week averages of 2.7 catches for 50.7 yards and 0.33 TDs on 6.0 targets. Things may now get even worse, with the Lions either starting a banged-up Driskel or someone named David Blough. Golladay is a terrific player, but he doesn't get enough volume to survive such a terrible situation, and his reliance on deep throws makes him especially sensitive to poor quarterback play. I can easily name 25 wide receivers I'd rather start this week, and the number probably goes up above 30 in PPR leagues.
- Emmanuel Sanders, SF at BAL
Initial returns suggested the trade to San Francisco was dynamite for Sanders' fantasy value, but a rib cartilage injury combined with Deebo Samuel's emergence left the 32-year-old M.I.A. throughout November. It's now unclear whether Sanders is the second or third option in the San Francisco passing attack, which isn't exactly prolific in the first place. A matchup with Baltimore's four-deep cornerback group compounds the problem, as Sanders likely will take most of his snaps against Marcus Peters or Marlon Humphrey. The Ravens have allowed just two touchdowns to wide receivers in five games since they traded for Peters, and only Robert Woods has reached 90 yards in that time.
- Not-so-Honorable Mentions: John Brown, BUF at DAL; Will Fuller, HOU vs. NE; Deebo Samuel, SF at BAL; Marquise Brown, BAL vs. SF; Terry McLaurin, WAS at CAR
- Jacob Hollister, SEA vs. MIN
I've mentioned the Vikings as a tough matchup for tight ends on a number of occasions this season, typically noting that the trend has carried over from 2017 and 2018. There isn't much to see if we merely look at fantasy points, but that's because Minnesota has faced a league-high 108 targets to tight ends — a product of matchups with Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, Noah Fant, Evan Engram and Austin Hooper, i.e., all the high-volume TEs besides Kittle, Mark Andrews and Hunter Henry. Despite drawing those matchups, the Vikings are second in YPT (5.9) and tied for first in touchdowns allowed (one) to the position.
Hollister still has TD upside as the No. 1 tight end in a Russell Wilson production, but he slipped to 69 percent snap share and four targets in last week's win over the Eagles, with Seattle finding a bunch of snaps for Tyrone Swoopes (28 percent) and sixth lineman George Fant (34 percent). A foot injury may have played a role in the reduced role, but there's a decent chance Hollister is still bothered by the ailment Monday night against the Vikings.