FANTASY PLAYS: No additional pressure this week (really)
FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 27, 2016, file photo, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers passes against the Houston Texans during the first half of an NFL football game in Houston. The Chargers would like to think that, even at 5-6, they've got a chance to make the playoffs. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
Each fantasy football decision in Week 13 seems to have additional pressure attached.
After all, a win or a loss this week may ultimately determine your playoff destiny. Maybe a win puts you in or earns you a bye. Lose, and you could be already looking ahead to 2017.
A big key is to not put too much additional pressure on yourself. Don't overthink things because the stakes seem to be raised this week. Make a firm decision, stick with it, and let your players do the rest. If your choices are well-researched and informed, you give yourself the best opportunity to win. Don't drive yourself crazy, set the best possible lineup and you'll know you did all you can to keep your title hopes alive.
San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick has two touchdown passes in three of his past four games, and has totaled double-figure fantasy rushing totals in two of those outings. He rushed for 113 yards last week and 55 yards with a score in Week 10. He has the look of a QB1 heading into the Week 13 matchup with the Bears. Kaepernick is always a threat to boost his totals with his rushing prowess, and Chicago allows 25.9 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. Kaepernick is a productive dual threat with a lot of statistical promise.
PUT SMALLWOOD IN AGAIN
Eagles rookie Wendell Smallwood deserves another opportunity to be in your lineup. Ryan Mathews is still battling a knee injury and the Bengals allow 120.5 yards rushing per game, fifth-most in the NFL. He carried nine times for 37 yards last week but should see more work against the Bengals, likely serving as Philadelphia's primary ball carrier.
AFTER COOKS SHUTOUT?
Wide receiver Brandin Cooks was somehow shut out last week while the Saints scored 49 points against the Rams. Look for Drew Brees to make a strong effort to get him the ball in what could be a shootout with the Lions. Last week's zero should lead to the Saints attempting heartily to get him back into the offensive flow. Start Cook with confidence this week.
The Chargers are dealing with key injuries at wide receiver. Tyrell Williams has a labrum problem, and Travis Benjamin has yet to show he is adequately recovered from a knee injury. Look for Dontrelle Inman to be a frequent target for Philip Rivers this week. He caught six passes for 119 yards last week and should certainly build on that momentum against Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers' pass defense is mediocre, Rivers should throw frequently and Inman will be his top target. Start him as your third fantasy wide receiver.
Chicago's Marquess Wilson was the pickup of the week after catching eight passes for 125 yards and a TD against the Titans. The 49ers allow 28.0 FFPG to opposing wide receivers, the most of any NFL team. Wilson should stay in your lineup this week as a third wide receiver or flex. New starter Matt Barkley clearly identified Wilson as his favorite target and the Bears should continue to move the ball well enough vs. San Francisco this week. Even if they run often with Jordan Howard, Wilson should remain the top pass-catching option when Chicago throws the ball.
WARE VS. OAKLAND
Spencer Ware has not rushed for more than 80 yards or ran for a score since Week 6. That was when he last faced Oakland, when he had 131 yards and a TD. This week, Ware gets the Raiders again, and you should start him again despite a recent run of mostly mediocre outings. Kansas City will need to establish the ground game to try to keep a potent Raiders offense off the field as much as possible. Oakland has allowed 116.9 yards rushing per game, seventh-most among NFL teams, with a dozen rushing scores.
There are some nifty streaming (one-week play) options if you a desperate for help at tight end. Consider New Orleans' Coby Fleener, as the Lions allow a league-high 11.4 FFPG to the position. Zach Ertz is in play against the Bengals, who yield 10.2 FFPG to TEs, fourth-most in the league. C.J. Fiedorowicz is a solid start. He has been a sometimes pleasant surprise this season, and the Packers allow 9.6 FFPG to the position. Cameron Brate has considerable TD potential against the Raiders.
It's not easy to find the right defense to utilize this week, but consider the Packers, who bounced back against the Eagles last week, and now face the Texans. Brock Osweiler has 13 interceptions, the second-highest total in the NFL. Against Philly, the Packers dominated time of possession and brought significant pass pressure against Carson Wentz. They generated four sacks and could force Osweiler into some mistakes this week. The Panthers have 33 sacks (third in the NFL) and should register a few more at Seattle. San Diego is an underrated unit that could force some turnovers at home against Tampa Bay. The Chargers lead the NFL with 14 interceptions. Miami is a solid play at Baltimore to at least keep the score down. The Bears and 49ers are both mistake-prone and oppose each other.
This column was provided to The Associated Press by the Fantasy Sports Network, http://FNTSY.com