Fantasy Football

Shorts earns start for Week 13

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Michael Harmon

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The week opened with what appeared to be a glorious matchup between the Falcons and Saints. Owners undoubtedly read the projections and started to pencil in high double-digit point totals for their studs while examining their head-to-head matchups. Instead, the top receiver in the game was Lance Moore with 123 receiving yards. Julio Jones, Marques Colston and Roddy White (one reception for 20 yards!) were non-factors in the fantasy realm during the Falcons’ 23-13 victory.

Are there other landmines on the radar in this final week of the fantasy regular season? There’s no question about it. Brandon Marshall faces off in Chicago against the aggressive, physical Seattle cornerbacks. He’s still in your lineup. Many of the other wide receivers who lined up as draft-day heroes find themselves tossed into Sit-Start debates with waiver wire pickups. It’s been a long, strange season, and I don’t expect much to change this week.

Let’s dig inside the white lines for Week 13.


(Exclude Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas, Dez Bryant, Victor Cruz, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker)

Hakeem Nicks at WAS
Nicks is finally healthy, and you could see how much Eli Manning missed having him at 100% when the Giants played Green Bay in Week 12. Nicks was targeted 13 times, producing five receptions for 77 yards with a touchdown in the rout. He’s been targeted 27 times in the past two weeks.

Look for him to play a huge role this week against the Washington secondary. The Redskins have allowed the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers. The secondary gambles and may induce a couple turnovers, but they leave themselves susceptible to big plays downfield.

Eric Decker vs. TB
I know that it’s been a quiet period for Decker of late. He’s produced 102 receiving yard on eight receptions in the past three weeks with a touchdown reception against the Chargers. Decker’s still a top-WR2 option this week against the generous Tampa Bay pass defense. Opposing wide receivers have averaged 227.5 receiving yards per game against the Buccaneers this year.

Randall Cobb vs. MIN
The Packers were downright terrible in Week 12 against the Giants. I’ll be curious to see how the offense changes to account for offensive line issues and how Greg Jennings reenters the offense.

Cobb has been the team’s most consistent receiving option for Rodgers. He’s been targeted at least seven times in all but two games this season, generating three or more receptions in nine games with seven touchdowns. Don’t fear Jennings’ return. Cobb will keep his place in the target distribution.

Cecil Shorts III at BUF
Repeat after me. Cecil Shorts III is not a “sleeper.” Do not accept or propagate that notion. He’s been a beast since the Jaguars’ Week 6 Bye, producing at least 79 receiving yards and a touchdown in five of his past six games (three 100-yard games). He’s firmly entrenched as a mid-WR2 this week against the Bills. The Buffalo defense has allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season (14 touchdowns).

- You can confidently slide Justin Blackmon into your WR3 slot while we’re at it.

Pierre Garcon vs. NYG
Fantasy owners were reticent to put Garcon back into their lineups for Week 12 against the Cowboys. He produced four receptions for 86 yards, including a 59-yard touchdown, during the Redskins’ Thanksgiving Day victory. Garcon was targeted six times in the win.

Perhaps I’m too optimistic and overlooking the potential for a setback, but Garcon cracks my rankings as a mid-WR2 this week.

Stevie Johnson vs. JAC
Johnson hasn’t scored since Week 7, but he remains a heavily-targeted option with a strong matchup. He’s recorded six receptions in three consecutive games (33 targets) while averaging 90.3 receiving yards. In fact, Johnson’s 106 receiving yards in Week 12 marked his first 100-yard game of the season. The Jaguars have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season.

I expect this game to open up, so fans and fantasy owners will marvel at the Ryan Fitzpatrick-Chad Henne matchup. Yeah, I wrote that.

Sleeper Options

Brandon LaFell at KC
Longtime readers know of my affinity for LaFell. He’s scored in back-to-back weeks and has been targeted 22 times in the past three weeks, producing 12 receptions for 196 yards. I know that he’s hardly a rock-solid option on the road, as Cam Newton has not exactly been dominant. However, the attention afforded Steve Smith has allowed LaFell to shine.

Davone Bess vs. NE
The New England defense has improved markedly in the past several weeks, though playing from far ahead will generally create opportunities for turnovers. I put Bess on the radar for owners seeking an alternative to their struggling/fading superstars. He’s been targeted at least nine times in five of the past six weeks, producing at least four receptions in each of those contests.

Jarius Wright at GB
It doesn’t appear that Percy Harvin will be cleared to play, thereby putting the rookie from Arkansas in position for a high target count against the depleted Green Bay back seven. Wright has recorded 10 receptions on 15 targets for 114 yards in the past two games. It’s hard to trust Christian Ponder downfield, but I expect him to be throwing often while trying to keep pace with the Packers offense.

Brandon Stokley vs. TB
Stokley represents a sneaky play this week against Tampa Bay, a defensive unit that has allowed the most fantasy points to wide receivers, including a ton of yardage. The veteran receiver has amassed 12 receptions on 17 targets, producing 54, 55 and 62 receiving yards in the past three weeks with two touchdowns.


Mike Wallace at Baltimore
Ben Roethlisberger was downgraded to “OUT” for the rematch against Baltimore. As a result, Wallace probably finds your bench this week. I am moderately optimistic that the return of Antonio Brown would elevate Wallace’s status even if Roethlisberger remains sidelined. But, that’s more wishing and hoping with Charlie Batch under center than we can back statistically.

Wallace has produced only five receptions for 33 yards in the past two weeks. He’s squares of with a Baltimore defense that ranks 12th against wide receivers (eight touchdowns, one of which was a spectacular catch by Wallace before Roethlisberger got hurt).

Larry Fitzgerald at NYJ
I don’t know what else I need to say. Fitzgerald got out of the gate quickly in Week 12 with several receptions, but disappeared quickly. Fitzgerald finished the game with those three receptions and 31 receiving yards. He’s scored once in the past five weeks and hasn’t reached 100 receiving yards since Week 3.

You want to play Fitzgerald. You drafted him early and love the man. I just can’t back this passing game, particularly against the Jets (10th-ranked unit against wide receivers). Fitzgerald is unfortunately no better than a WR3 option this week.

Vincent Jackson at DEN
Jackson has struggled historically in his individual battle with Champ Bailey. He’s never reached 100 receiving yards against Bailey in their 12 matchups. The Broncos have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers overall (eight touchdowns).

Jackson stays on the board as a mid-WR2 this week because the Buccaneers face a daunting task on the road and may need to keep throwing while playing from behind. I’d still temper my expectations and weigh my other options.

Dwayne Bowe vs. CAR
Like the other elite members in this group, I just can’t trust the quarterback position. Bowe last scored in Week 4 and hasn’t eclipsed 79 receiving yard since that game. This week, he squares off against the Carolina secondary that has quietly posted a fantastic season. The Panthers have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers. He joins Wallace and Fitzgerald in the list of WR3 options.

Tagged: Falcons, Bills, Bears, Bengals, Broncos, Lions, Packers, Vikings, Patriots, Saints, Giants, Buccaneers, Redskins, Panthers, Jaguars, Cardinals, Steelers, Texans, Brandon Stokley, Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Wes Welker, Vincent Jackson, Brandon Marshall, Calvin Johnson, Pierre Garcon, Stevie Johnson, Mike Wallace, Hakeem Nicks, Eric Decker, Brandon LaFell, Victor Cruz, A.J. Green, Randall Cobb, Cecil Shorts III

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