As Week 13 of the NFL season dawns upon us, most fantasy football leagues are entering the last week of their regular seasons. It is a fretful time for most: You have either locked up your spot in the playoffs and are praying to avoid the epidemic of injuries that has killed many fantasy seasons this year, or you are battling for the last playoff spot — I’ll assume that no one currently out of the playoff hunt would take the time to read a fantasy football advice column, a pretty safe bet in my opinion.
Lucky for you, this column carries some golden nuggets that can help guide you and your team to the championship. The primary one is to take note of the matchups against poor defenses.
Two defenses have stood out above others as being absolutely dreadful the past few weeks, especially against the pass: the Philadelphia Eagles and the New Orleans Saints. The Eagles are fresh off giving up 45 points in back-to-back games, allowing Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston and Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to throw five touchdowns each, in Weeks 11 and 12, respectively. Needless to say, you’re starting Tom Brady against this porous secondary this week. Patriots wide receiver Brandon LaFell should also be bumped up your cheat sheet and deserves consideration, especially because of the rash of injuries to the Patriots receiving corp.
What is perhaps less obvious is that the Eagles play the Redskins and quarterback Kirk Cousins in Week 16, when most fantasy leagues have their championship matchups. Cousins has played good football as of late and could be fantasy gold if you somehow make it to the championship by rotating quarterbacks. Moreover, in Week 13 the Eagles square off against Tyrod Taylor and the Bills. Taylor is coming off a huge game against a usually stingy Chiefs pass defense and would be a no-brainer start in Week 13 — I would go as high as to put him as a top-three option. Owned in just under 30 percent of NFL.com fantasy football leagues, I would advise you to go pick up Taylor.
As for the Saints, they gifted Cousins 324 yards and four touchdowns a couple of weeks back. The Saints defense is so poorly equipped against the pass that Houston Texans quarterback Brian Hoyer was a unanimous top-10 option at quarterback this past week. On the year New Orleans has given up by far the most pass touchdowns in the league with 30 — outpacing the Eagles in second place with 25 — and only have five interceptions.
To give a sense of how bad this defense is against the pass, quarterbacks that played the Saints every game this year are on pace for 4547 yards, 44 touchdowns and seven interceptions. That is insane. The Saints’ upcoming schedule is interesting because after they play the Panthers this weekend — you are playing Cam Newton in this game, obviously — they face off against the Buccaneers, Lions and Jaguars, three teams with quarterbacks that are usually fringe starters in fantasy: Winston, Stafford and Blake Bortles. While none of these names inspire boatloads of confidence, all three are playing extremely well and would be front-line starters if you are in need of a quarterback.
Now, for those of you who are well-equipped in the quarterback department — at this stage the only clear-cut, no-doubt starters are Brady, Newton, Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer — you might be wondering which rush defenses you should try to exploit in the coming weeks. To no one’s surprise, the Saints are right up there, giving up the most yards per carry in the league at 4.9 and the third-most yards on the ground. This is good news if you’re debating starting Jonathan Stewart, Doug Martin or T.J. Yeldon in the playoffs. Other defenses to focus on: the Cleveland Browns — Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard are both worthy starters this week against them — and the Miami Dolphins — another good matchup for new Raven tailback Javorius Allen who took advantage of the Browns defense this past week. The San Diego Chargers are another good option — C.J. Anderson seems to have taken the lead role from Ronnie Hillman in the Broncos backfield; whoever gets the start this Sunday is definitely worth the start on your fantasy roster.
Best of luck in getting to the playoffs and beyond. Until next time, fantasy lovers, play on.
Joe Lanzilla is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. This is the final appearance of Fantasy Football Corner this semester.
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