For some NFL players, week 13 was an unlucky time. From suspensions to injuries, some star players will no longer provide their services for their teams, as well as ours. Fantasy football managers, must nonetheless move on and prepare for the playoffs. Here are 10 things that we learned in week 13.

1Dominant Dallas Defense

The Cowboys defense has been playing extreamley well all year. No team has scored 30 points against them in 2018, and only three teams have put up more than 20. The Saints are not one of those teams as they only managed to score 10 points. That is an impressive feat for the Dallas defense, considering that this was only the third time this season that New Orleans was held under 20 points. Their previous season-low was the 21 points that they put up against the Browns. All of this to say that this was the game where the Cowboys proved that they are one of the best defenses in the NFL. For fantasy purposes, Dallas has become a defense to avoid. In the fantasy football playoffs, they face the Eagles the Colts and the Buccaneers. I would strongly consider not playing any players from of those teams when they go up against the Cowboys.

2No Off Matchups, Only SaquON

We all know how great Saquon Barkley is. He is approaching 1,00 yards rushing, already has over 500 yards receiving and has scored 12 TDs. Before week 13, however, the Giants had not played an opponent quite like the Bears. Chicago’s defense has been a big factor as to why that team will probably make the playoffs this year. They have been stout against all positions but especially RBs. Entering week 13, the Bears were allowed the 3rd fewest fantasy points to RBs in PPR (points per game) and non-PPR settings. Barkley just proved he is matchup proof by putting up 125 rushing yards against Chicago, the most that they have allowed to one player in 2018. There was probably 0% chance that anyone would have benched Barkley during the fantasy playoffs, but now everyone can have full confidence in him. What we did learn is that there is a strong case to be made for him to be the first overall pick in drafts next year.

3Jordead Howard (Or Not)

Count me among the many who though Jordan Howard was done for in Chicago. In week 12, he received a season-low 7 rushing attempts and could only muster 13 yards with them. It was indeed a strange occurrence as he out snapped Tarik Cohen 35-22 in that contest. What followed in week 13 was even more difficult to fathom. Howard played in a season-low 41.2% of offensive snaps yet managed to get 16 carries. The 76 rushing yards produced gave Howard only his 3rd game this season where he ran for over 4.0 yards per carry (YPC). The only part of this scenario that offered some predictability is the fact that the Giants have been generous to RB production, especially since Damon Harrison was traded. Howard does not get as good a matchup in the fantasy playoffs, but the 49ers in week 16 offers an opportunity to play him. His fantasy value isn’t completely dead.

4Bills Best Back

We all know that LeSean McCoy is the Bills top RB. However, for the 2nd week in a row, McCoy did not lead the team in rushing yards. That distinction belongs to QB Josh Allen who ran for 99 and 135 yards in weeks 12 and 13 respectively. In both instances, Allen’s running ability kept the Bills competitive in football games, and they even managed to beat the Jaguars 2 weeks ago. It is not as if McCoy was taken out of the game plan as he received 32 carries and 3 targets in those two games combined. However, even with a running threat at QB to keep defenses from focusing fully upon him, McCoy has been ineffective by averaging just over 3 YPC in those two contests. It would be very difficult to trust McCoy in the fantasy playoffs. Allen however, offers a high-risk high-reward option at QB.

5Everybody Hurts

It can be difficult to trust players returning from injury. Many questions arise when a recovering player is declared active: will he reaggravate the injury, will simply be a decoy, will he be on a snap count? In week 13, we saw the return of Bengals WR A.J. Green. Foot injuries are notoriously difficult for receivers to navigate through since, imagine that, players use their feet to run routes. It was the worst-case scenario for Green who decided to avoid surgery and in order to return this season. Well, after reinjuring his foot, Green may very need surgery. Certainly, he is out for the remainder of the season where Cincinnati hardly has a playoff life to cling to. It was an unfortunate yet expected occurrence.

Just last season, we saw Greg Olsen attempt to return from a foot injury early and it ended up costing him more time. While he seemed healthy most of this season, Olsen injured that foot once more in week 13 and he is also out for the rest of 2018. Fantasy managers are waiting in anticipation for Melvin Gordon‘s return from a hamstring injury. Especially during the fantasy playoffs, it would be incredibly tempting to put him into lineups if he is declared active. Just remember what happened to Green. After beating the Steelers on Sunday night, the Chargers improved to 9-3. With a playoff appearance seemingly imminent, the Chargers may hopefully wait for Gordon to be close to 100% before sending him back out there. It would certainly help fantasy managers in terms of clarity.

6Pirating the Top Spot

While the Panthers did a nice job limiting Mike Evans, they did not have the same success against other Buccaneers receivers. Evans managed to catch 4 passes for 48 yards in the first half but was shut out during the final two quarters. Chris Godwin and Adam Humphries picked up the slack as they each managed to get into the end zone. Their combined 15 targets accounted for half of Jameis Winston‘s pass attempts. Godwin especially demonstrated his big play ability with a 48-yard reception and a 20.2 yards per catch average. Cameron Brate also mustered 6 targets but could only catch half of them for 36 yards. This was especially disappointing considering that Carolina had been allowing the most fantasy points to TEs in 2018, regardless of format. What this tells us is that both Godwin and Humphries are here to stay. Even when DeSean Jackson returns, I do not believe that either player will be phased out of the offense.

7Banner Role for Bruce

With the departure of Golden Tate and the season-ending injury to Marvin Jones, the Lions were in need of a receiver to step up and compliment Kenny Golladay. Theo Riddick has spent more time in the slot than in the backfield and that has helped. The other player who has gained Matthew Stafford‘s attention is Bruce Ellington. The WR was cut by the Texans earlier this season and joined Detroit less than a month ago. In the 3 games that he has played for the team, Ellington has received 9, 7 and 10 targets respectively. In those contests, he was either first or second on the team in targets. Although it is not like he was a Hulk as 52 yards was the most that he produced in those games. The Lions can, however, celebrate the fact that they have found a reliable target to compliment their team.

8On the Hunt for RBs

With the recent news regarding Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs released their star RB. For their game against the Raiders, Kansas City had little choice but to air it out 38 times. There were only 3 games in 2018 where Patrick Mahomes had more pass attempts. The nature of this week 13 game dictated that the Chiefs stay aggressive as the Raiders managed to keep it close. Down the stretch, Kansas City may transition into an even more pass-happy team. That being said, the Chiefs still ran the ball effectively in the first game without Hunt. The RBs ran for 122 yards on 21 carries which gave them a 5.81 YPC average. Spencer Ware received 14 of those 21 rushing attempts and while he managed to score a TD, he was not overly effective as he ran for only 3.4 YPC. Still, he can be considered at least a flex option in the fantasy playoffs, although next week against the Ravens may be a matchup to avoid. Ware was not the only rusher of note for Kansas City. Damien Williams saw 5 carries after only getting 3 prior to week 13. Mahomes himself even got in on the action some more with a career-high 9 rushing attempts. This seems like a game plan that will continue for the Chiefs.

9On A Pettistal

The 49ers may have just found their top WR of the future… and the future is now. In the absence of Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin, it was Dante Pettis who led the charge on the outside. The rookie WR has come on strong of late with at least 4 catches in each of the last 3 games, after having only 3 receptions prior. Last week, against the Buccaneers, he caught 4 of his 7 targets for 77 yards and 1 TD. In week 13, he managed 5 receptions on the same number of targets, and he managed to produce 125 yards and 2 TDs. TE George Kittle had 9 targets which tied him with RB Jeff Wilson for the team lead against the Seahawks. Wilson will probably see an expanded role next week as Matt Breida has already been ruled out with an injury. Still, Pettis’ success should ensure him a permanent spot in the starting lineup. In a pinch, he can probably be used this year during the fantasy playoffs. At WR, there are no other players in San Francisco that can be trusted during these next few games.

10Here Comes the RB-Rex

Rex Burkhead returned to the Patriots lineup in week 13. Many wondered how this would affect RB usage in New England and the answer so far is: only somewhat. James White saw his lowest snap count of the season at 44.6%. However, he still led the Patriots in every receiving category by catching 7 of 9 targets for 92 yards. Sony Michel, meanwhile, bearly saw a dip in playing time, going from 42.9% of the offensive snaps in week 12 to 40.5%. What he did manage to achieve was getting 43.6% of the New England rushing attempts, although he was not overly effective gaining 63 yards (3.7 YPC). For his part, Burkhead rushed 7 times and could only manage 20 yards (2.9 YPC). Both Burkhead and Michel were somewhat involved in the passing game with 2 and 1 targets respectively. We will need to monitor this situation down the stretch. For now, both Michel and White appear to be safe plays in fantasy football.

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Thank you for reading. For any comments or questions, I can be found on Twitter @nyama_ks. For all of you fantasy football needs, be sure to check out Going for 2 often through the fantasy playoffs.

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