Finally, the bye weeks of the 2019 season are over. But not helping matters was yesterday’s three-game slate for Thanksgiving. That erased six teams worth of players from eligibility for the upcoming Sunday and Monday slates, so you won’t be able to put any of those who already played in your lineup if you decided to skip Thursday’s games. So, what does all of this mean? You’ll have tough decisions on which of your usual reserves—or even waiver wire pickups—deserve a start this weekend. Now is the time to prove yourself as the best GM of your league by building a lineup full of win-not-kill guys for Week 13.
Whether you’re playing in an 8-, 10-, 12-team or larger leagues, you probably have doubts about who to put in that widely open flex position, who to stream at quarterback, or how you could address all of the uncertainty surrounding the tight end slot. Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst options you should consider.
Jared Goff, LAR (at ARI) - START
Goff is in his third year as a full-season starter for the Rams. In all of that time he has never been in a slump like he is right now. Goff is stuck in a three-game valley of scoring under nine fantasy points (against Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Baltimore) and not throwing even a single touchdown while being picked five times combined. Can you think of a better team to solve that than the Cardinals? Arizona is dead-last against quarterbacks this season, allowing the most fantasy points per game to the position (almost 30!). They have conceded 29 touchdowns (2.6 per game) and the most passing yards (3471) through 11 games while only intercepting six passes (fifth-least). In his first eight games, Goff threw at least a touchdown on seven occasions and was able to avoid being intercepted in Weeks 6 through eight before Los Angeles’ bye week. After facing a couple of tough teams Chicago ranked sixth against QBs and Baltimore fifth), Arizona is the perfect matchup to get back on track.
Carson Wentz, PHI (at MIA) - START
As is always the case in Philly, the pressure is starting to pile on Wentz’s name. The quarterback has been disappointing and doubts about how good he truly is are often heard these days. Same as with Goff, though, this weekend happens to project as a real get-it-right chance for Wentz to make amends and get a very needed win. Although Wentz has not scored big-time fantasy points since Week 6, he’s thrown a touchdown in every game he’s played this season and only six interceptions through 11 games. It’s been more about the Eagles lack of options on offense due to injury than Wentz’s own miscues. Miami is not as atrocious a team as it was during the first few weeks of the season, but the Dolphins still rank 27th against the position and have allowed the second-most passing touchdowns in the league. They don’t rank badly on attempts and completions allowed, but that comes down to teams not needing to risk possession through the air. The Dolphins’ rank much worse in YPA allowed (8.23, fifth-worst mark), which is closer to reality. Wentz should bounce back this weekend and reach the 20-point mark again after not doing so for six consecutive weeks.
Philip Rivers, LAC (at DEN) - SIT
This is clearly not the year of the quarterback in Los Angeles, and it doesn’t look brighter for Rivers in the short-term future. While Goff has a cupcake of a rival in Arizona, Rivers will face a stout Denver defense on Sunday on the road. The Broncos boast the fourth-best defense in points per game allowed to opposing QBs and just last weekend held Josh Allen to 185 passing yards. They have not been as great as they were during the first half of the year, but they’re still putting up good numbers. Rivers, on the other hand, hasn’t been very successful even with his high-volume profile—which has worked good enough for other such passers as Jameis Winston. Rivers has completed at least 17 passes in each of his last four games and reached 294 yards in two of them while also surpassing the 200-yard mark in the other two. The problem is that in his last two outings he has become a turnover machine, throwing seven (!) interceptions combined to only three touchdowns. His completion percentage in those two games was a paltry 54% and his average pass distance 6.7 yards. Downtrend plus bad matchup equals disaster at sight.
Jimmy Garoppolo, SF (at BAL) - SIT
At this point, it is perfectly possible that the 49ers go on to win the Super Bowl with Garoppolo as their quarterback. Even in that scenario, I think I will still be doubting him and not trusting him in my fantasy lineups. Garoppolo feels like a true game-manager to me. He’s had three 20-plus fantasy points games this season (all against mediocre teams, Cincinnati once and Arizona twice) and has not topped 18 in any other of his matches. Garoppolo goes with what is handed to him, and I’m not sure if Baltimore (fifth-best defense against QBs is going to allow him much room). Garoppolo’s last three non-Arizona games finished with him averaging 15 fantasy points, 225 passing yards, and 1.5 TDs in around 19 completions. Those numbers just don’t cut it for a fantasy starter. That is low-volume passing paired with low-scoring upside. The fact that Garoppolo has only performed against bad teams also makes this decision easier.
Josh Jacobs, OAK (at KC) - START
Not a lot left on the table for Jacobs to take. The rookie has made a name for himself in the league from day one and should be a lock in your lineup weekly by now. Even with that, some people are still sitting him here and there. Unreasonable. This week might be one causing doubts in your mind about what to do with Jacobs, as the Chiefs defense has improved against the run lately and has allowed 100-plus yards only once in their last five games. Even with that, though, Kansas City has given up 30 or more fantasy points per game to RBs in their last three games and 60 (!) to Green Bay’s backfield in Week 8. They suffer against rushers both on the ground and through the air. Jacobs is much more of a runner than a receiver, but even with that his rushing prowess should be alone for him to have a field day. Jacobs is the RB11 on the season and has the fifth-most rushing yards in the league—no, not among rookies, but the whole league. The Raiders as a whole were a dud last week, but they should rebound at least a bit this Sunday and that should be enough to make Jacobs a go-to guy in the offense and a must-play in fantasy.
Le’Veon Bell, NYJ (at CIN) - START
Bell has been at least a little bit disappointing since joining the Jets. New York bet on him and Bell hasn’t played to his standards. Even with that, though, Bell has had a renaissance of sorts since Week 9. He is on a four-game streak in which he has logged at least 68 yards from scrimmage while scoring 15-plus fantasy points. Bell’s average on the season is 15.4 points, and his floor isn’t under 12 on average. He is more than capable both on the ground and through the air (33-plus receiving yards in each of his last four games), so he’s got the complete package though he might have accused both the rust and playing in a bad team all around the field—plus he missed Sam Darnold while he was out with mono. Cincinnati hasn’t been able to stop opposing rushers all season long and is sitting at the 28th place in points allowed to rival backfields. Both Oakland’s and Pittsburgh’s rushers reached more than 145 yards from scrimmage against them in their last two games and scored more than 20 fantasy points each.
Carlos Hyde, HOU (vs NE) - SIT
Not only is New England posting unbelievable numbers on defense, but they’re also winning games on a weekly basis without almost any fault. That has meant one thing for his rivals: no runs allowed as they’ve needed to pass to try and catch up. Houston happens to have one of the best quarterbacks around the league in Deshaun Watson and they’d be fools not to use him instead of turning to the rushing game. Hyde should be the No. 1 guy in Houston’s backfield and the one getting the most opportunities if Houston goes that way, but even with that his upside might be completely shut down by the Patriots defense. New England has held backfields to under 100 yards rushing in four of its last seven games, and just this past weekend they limited stud Ezekiel Elliott to 86 on the ground. Hyde is a non-factor in the passing game (14 yards all season...) and he has topped 85 yards rushing just once in his last five games with an average of 82 yards per game in that span and only one score in those five outings. I’d expect him to one see low volume, and to fall this side of 10 fantasy points.
Derrick Henry, TEN (at IND) - SIT
Truth be told, Henry has been on a tear lately. He’s been able to string three games of scoring a touchdown at least and posting up at least 25 fantasy points—two of the performances surpassed the 30-point mark. He’s rushed for 410 yards in those three games and added 55 combined yards through the air and another score receiving. Those numbers are mind-blowing, but don’t correlate much with his early-season ways. Prior to Week 9, he had the same amount of touchdowns in almost three times the number of games, and 581 rushing yards. That means Henry has suddenly turned into a 137-yard rusher per game when he was averaging 73 in the first eight weeks of the season. Are you buying that? Considering he has faced the 29th-, 32nd-, and 26th-worst defenses against RBs lately, it’s hard to do so. He’ll face a much tougher team in Indianapolis this weekend. The Colts rank seventh in points allowed to the position and haven’t allowed 100 yards on the ground since Week 4, and only one touchdown in all of the time since then. Expect Henry to come back to Earth on Sunday.
Tyler Boyd, CIN (vs NYJ) - START
Andy Dalton is back at the Bengals helm and that can only bump up Boyd’s upside this weekend. Sure, Cincinnati is a mediocre team and Dalton was benched earlier in the season because, well, let’s say he wasn’t too good. Even in the three games he’s played under a backup quarterback, Boyd has still been able to produce good and great numbers in two of them respectively. He caught six passes for 62 yards and 12.2 fantasy points in Week 10 against Baltimore, had a forgettable performance in Week 11, but came back to his true-talent level last weekend against Pittsburgh by catching five passes for 101 yards and a touchdown, giving his fantasy owners 21.1 fantasy points on the day. The Bengals have nothing to lose at this point in the season and they won’t have a problem letting Dalton throw the ball downfield constantly. There are not many more options for the Bengals on offense, so Boyd should see—and potentially top—10 targets at the very least while facing the 27th-worst defense against WRs in the nation. The Jets get burned easily and often, and are giving up 38.5 fantasy points per game to opposing receivers this year.
Cooper Kupp, LAR (at ARI) - START
Can we trust Kupp and the Rams this weekend? The matchup says yes, but if you’ve read Goff’s blurb above then you know the Rams have been a little been underwhelming this season. Kupp himself had a great run to start the season with four of five games in which he broke the 100-yard mark and scored four touchdowns combined. In his last six games, though, Kupp has only reached 11 fantasy points once and even logged a zero-score back in Week 10, which I am still trying to process. The after-bye week run for Kupp has been atrocious, but a cupcake Cardinals defense should make for a positive rebound. We’re talking about a guy that didn’t find it hard to top 100 yards and score touchdowns as he pleased no more than two months ago. Arizona has surrendered at least 180 receiving yards to WRs in each of its last four games while allowing five touchdowns in the same span. If there is a game for Kupp to get back on track it must be this one.
Keenan Allen, LAC (at DEN) - SIT
I told you to leave Rivers on the bench (read above) and now I’m telling you to do so with teammate Keenan Allen. Although he’s been able to put things together lately, I still need a little bit more from him to trust him as a starter. Allen was a massive performer to start the year with games of 123, 98, and 183 yards and three combined touchdowns, but after those three outings he did basically nothing until Week 10. It was then against Oakland that he topped 61 receiving yards for the first time since Week 3, though he couldn’t find the end zone. In fact, he has only scored another touchdown in this span as he did so against Kansas City on Week 11. Allen has been far from his early-season version and although he’s been able to get 16.6 and 21.1 fantasy points in his last two games he has yet to top 71 yards this season from Week 4 onward. Allen is actually averaging 11 fantasy points from weeks 4 to 11 and Denver is giving up just 28.3 points per game to whole wide receiver corps—sixth-best mark in the league. This will be a good test to know if Allen is back for good or done for the season. Wait for Allen to pass it before playing him again.
Will Fuller, HOU (vs NE) - SIT
Well, the prince of boom-or-bust is back! Fuller is the definition of an all-or-nothing player, and he even brings injury concerns to the table weekly. There is just no other guy in the league like him, that’s for sure. Do you remember Fuller’s 53.7-point explosion back in Week 5? Nice, huh? Well, he followed that one with a 9.4-point performance and then he fell injured in Week 7 after playing three snaps. Four weeks later Fuller made it back to the field and in his game against Indianapolis last weekend he went for another massive game of 140 yards on seven receptions for a score of 21 fantasy points. Fuller is a good player, sure, but can you really trust him on a weekly basis? I’m not doing so, and much less this weekend against New England. DeAndre Hopkins will draw man coverage from No. 1 cornerback Stephon Gilmore, but even with that Fuller can end the day with five fantasy points after catching two passes for seven yards easily. There is no way I play Fuller. Watson will probably be forced to throw the ball often, but that can only mean long, risky, hard-to-catch passes going Fuller’s way. I’m staying away from that.
Darren Waller, OAK (at KC) - START
Waller is not the incredible player we all believed he was after he had a massive and surprising start to the season. Even with that, though, he’s got enough skill to be considered a borderline weekly starter and plays under a quarterback that—more often than not—does enough to give him good opportunities. Current Waller (8.6 fantasy points per game in his last five) is far from start-of-the-year-Waller (18.5 points per game in his first six games), but he’s good enough and has a good matchup ahead as to give him the start. While not putting up big fantasy numbers, Waller has logged at least 40 receiving yards in his last four games and even reached 78 yards a couple of weeks ago when he went all the way up to get 12.6 fantasy points. He’s lacked the touchdowns and getting in the paint would give him a ceiling of around 15-to-20 points in a good day. The Chiefs might allow him to reach it, as they rank 27th in fantasy points allowed to opposing TEs this year.
Kyle Rudolph, MIN (at SEA) - START
You won’t believe this, but Rudolph (a tight end, remember) has scored at least one touchdown and reached 11-plus fantasy points in four of his last five games. That, folks, is unheard of in this the year of the dead tight end. Rudolph has been incredible as of late and his three-game scoring streak (one, two, and another touchdown) is unparalleled. He’s been targeted five times in each of his last three games and he’s caught three, four, and the five passes respectively. He has not racked up a ton of yards (23, 14, and 67), which makes him a little touchdown-dependent but his scoring has made up for it and Kirk Cousins’ efficient ways have made Rudolph look as good as possible. Don’t be surprised if he goes for another score and winning-performance against the Seahawks, as Seattle has a mediocre 29th-ranked defense against TEs and let the Eagles hang a touchdown on them last weekend through the tight end position.
Tyler Eifert, CIN (vs NYJ) - SIT
I won’t forget the week Cincinnati faced the league-worst Arizona’s defense and we all jumped into Eifert’s train hoping for a great performance from the tight end. Some things will never change, no matter how good the matchup is. Eifert went against the Cardinals and put on a superb two-reception, 14-yard performance for 3.4 fantasy points. He has had a couple of moderately good games (six receptions and 74 yards in Week 12, 20 yards and a score in Week 10) but that has been it for Eifert this season. Cincinnati will welcome Andy Dalton’s back this weekend, but that doesn’t mean you should trust Eifert going against the Jets. New York has the fourth-best defense against the position this year and even if you’re streaming the position you will probably find someone else to put on your lineup this weekend. Sad, but it looks like Eifert’s quality days are just about over.
Noah Fant, DEN (vs LAC) - SIT
Although I’m a Fant stan, I have serious doubts about his production entering this weekend. Fant has topped 60 yards in two of his last three games, and even scored a touchdown in Week 9 against Cleveland on a massive 115-yard day. That was nice, but he suffered a lot against the No. 1 defense against tight end last weekend (Buffalo) and on top of that Denver will probably flip his backup-quarterback for the backup of the backup on Sunday. That doesn’t bode well for Fant’s upside. While inexperienced quarterbacks tend to defer and look for simple, safe passes, the Chargers will make even that hard to accomplish for Drew Lock as they rank 10th against TEs on the year. Fant didn’t truly explode until Week 9, and other than that he has not done a lot. He had his moment but it might be time to fade him again at least until the connection with Lock shows.