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Fantasy Football: Week 13 Preview

Posted Nov 30, 2012

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

As it is most weeks, especially this late in the season, the theme for Week 13 is injuries. And because so many key injured players look like they're going to be game-time decisions (Percy Harvin, Ben Roethlisberger, DeMarco Murray, Miles Austin, Darren McFadden, among others), fantasy owners are going to have to have contingency plans ready.

Unfortunately, four of the five players we just mentioned have late-afternoon or prime-time games, which means you're likely going to have to play it safe if you're counting on any of them -- or, in Roethlisberger's case, if you're counting on players who will be counting on Roethlisberger. It's too late in the season to be risking zeroes with guys who could be surprise inactives.

However, if you can plan ahead and have some late-game alternatives ready, you'll be in much better shape. That means grabbing boom-or-bust receiving options like Mohamed Sanu or Josh Gordon in case Roethlisberger is out and you can't start Mike Wallace or Antonio Brown. In the case of Austin, grab teammate Cole Beasley or maybe Washington's Aldrick Robinson as an emergency sub. For McFadden and Murray, it's probably best that you use some early-game RBs, but someone like the Giants' David Wilson might be available if you get burned and need a fill-in.

Hopefully, you've built enough depth that you can withstand these late-season injuries. For those that have more traditional roster decisions, here are some key numbers to know about every contest, plus a sleeper, stumbler, stud or injury concern to watch out for with a brief explanation why. Note that the "studs" are guys who are either better than most owners realize or established stars who owners might be foolishly thinking about sitting.

49ers at Rams

Stat to know: When these teams played three weeks ago, the Rams limited San Francisco's QBs to just 189 passing yards in five quarters. However, Colin Kaepernick still produced 17.3 fantasy points thanks in large part to 66 yards and a touchdown on the ground. A repeat of that seems unlikely since Kaepernick has just 37 rushing yards the past two weeks. He's a very risky starting option.

Stud: RB Steven Jackson (League-leading 321 rushing yards over past three games).

Panthers at Chiefs

Stat to know: Both teams rank in the top eight in terms of fantasy points per game allowed to RBs. Jamaal Charles should run wild, and DeAngelo Williams, who's expected to get the bulk of the carries with Jonathan Stewart (ankle) hobbled, should function as a decent RB2 even if he doesn't get goal-line carries.

Sleeper: WR Brandon LaFell (7 targets and at least 14 fantasy points in past two games).

Cardinals at Jets

Stat to know: Both defenses are solid starting options in this one. The Cardinals rank third in FPPG allowed to D/STs (10.4), and the Jets rank fifth (8.3).

Sleeper: TE Rob Housler (at least 9 targets in two of the past three games; Jets allowing eighth-most FPPG to TEs).

Vikings at Packers

Stat to know: The return of Greg Jennings makes it tough to know what to do with any of Green Bay's receivers, but the best bets remain Jennings, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson (in that order). Jennings had 19 targets in the two full games in which he was healthy.

Injury: WR Percy Harvin, ankle (If Harvin is out, Kyle Rudolph has more value and Jarius Wright is a legit PPR option).

Patriots at Dolphins

Stat to know: There's been a lot of talk about Miami's run defense this season, but the Patriots are almost as tough, at least from a fantasy perspective. New England is allowing just 16.2 FPPG to RBs compared to 15.4 for the Dolphins. With Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas sharing carries, this will be a tough week for both.

Sleeper: WR Brian Hartline (Just one fewer target than Davone Bess the past four weeks; Pats allowing sixth-most FPPG to WRs).

Seahawks at Bears

Stat to know: Seattle's D/ST has slipped a bit since the start of the season, but they're still a top-12 fantasy unit over the past four weeks. The Bears are allowing the seventh-most FPPG to D/STs (8.1), so Seattle is still worth starting despite being on the road.

Stumbler: WR Golden Tate (Just 7 targets the past two games; Bears allowing third-fewest FPPG to WRs).

Jaguars at Bills

Stat to know: Despite an expected decrease in touches, Fred Jackson is still a decent flex option against a Jaguars' defense allowing 22.9 FPPG to RBs (fourth most). C.J. Spiller, who's averaged 12.9 FPPG, is a strong RB1.

Sleeper: RB Rashad Jennings (Bills allowing the most FPPG to RBs).

Texans at Titans

Stat to know: Matt Schaub has been inconsistent this year, posting 5.6, 47.1 and 16.5 fantasy points, respectively, in the past three weeks. Going against a Titans' defense allowing the sixth-most FPPG to QBs (22.1), he should produce at least slightly above the latter mark, making him a low-end QB1.

Sleeper: K Shayne Graham (Double-digit fantasy points in each of the past two games; Titans allowing fourth-most FPPG to Ks).

Colts at Lions

Stat to know: T.Y. Hilton has scored twice in each of the past two games, but it's worth noting that he's had three or fewer targets in two of his past three contests. Against a decent Lions' pass defense (20th in FPPG allowed to WRs), he's a risky WR3.

Sleeper: WR Ryan Broyles (Colts allowing fourth-most FPPG to WRs).

Buccaneers at Broncos

Stat to know: The Bucs are giving up the fewest rushing yards per game (81.5), but they have allowed nine rushing touchdowns and 48.8 receiving yards per game to RBs. Knowshon Moreno might not get as many touches as last week, but he's still a starting option.

Sleepers: TE Dallas Clark (at least 6.3 fantasy points in past three games; Broncos allowing most FPPG to TEs).

Steelers at Ravens

Stat to know: Antonio Brown (ankle) is fully expected to return this week, but his value -- along with most of Pittsburgh's other offensive players -- depends on the health of Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder/ribs). Roethlisberger is no stranger to playing hurt, and he's averaged 287.7 passing in three games against the Ravens over the past three years.

Sleeper: RB Jonathan Dwyer (Expected to start; Ravens allowing 13th-most FPPG to RBs).

Bengals at Chargers

Stat to know: Cincinnati's D/ST has scored the seventh-most fantasy points (44) over the past four weeks, and this week it gets a favorable matchup against a reeling Chargers' team allowing the fourth-most FPPG to D/STs (8.7).

Stud: TE Antonio Gates (Bengals allowing seventh-most FPPG to TEs).

Browns at Raiders

Stat to know: Darren McFadden (ankle) is expected back this week, but it's unclear how much of a workload he'll have. Cleveland has improved against the run as the season has gone on, ranking 14th in FPPG allowed to RBs (18). Consider McFadden no more than a flex.

Sleeper: WR Josh Gordon (7 targets each of the past two weeks; Raiders allowing seventh-most FPPG to WRs).

Eagles at Cowboys

Stat to know: DeMarco Murray (foot) and Miles Austin (hip, hamstring) are both expected to be questionable this week. If both are active, Austin is the better play against a struggling Eagles' pass defense that's allowed a league-high 10.36 yards per pass attempt and eight passing TDs over the past three weeks (tied for second most).

Injuries: QB Michael Vick, concussion and RB LeSean McCoy, concussion (Neither is expected to play, making Bryce Brown a solid starting option again).

Giants at Redskins

Stat to know: The Giants are tied for the fourth-fewest FPPG to RBs (14.4), but when these teams met in Week 7, Alfred Morris steamrolled them for 120 yards on 22 carries. He's still a strong RB2 thanks to his high workload (average of 22 carries in past two games).

Sleeper: TE Martellus Bennett (Redskins tied for second-most FPPG allowed to TEs).

Matt Lutovsky is a fantasy football writer for Sporting News' Fantasy Source. You can read more of his work on the Fantasy Source football homepage.