Make-or-break Week 13 had plenty of boom-or-bust performances. Josh Gordon, Eric Decker, Alshon Jeffery, DeMarco Murray and Ben Tate went off; old favorites Steven Jackson, C.J. Spiller and Roddy White reminded fantasy owners they still have value; guys like Ladarius Green and Andre Holmes made names for themselves heading into the fantasy playoffs (might as well pick them up); and countless players had fantasy owners cursing their ways into consolation brackets and/or the offseason.
No time to waste – let's look at some risers and fallers at each offensive position after Week 13.
Also, don't forget to send your questions in for the Fantasy Football mailbag. Every Friday during the season, we'll tackle the best fantasy questions of the week and help you with roster, trade and strategy decisions. You can submit your questions by 5:00 p.m. CT every Thursday. Please specify players with common last names (e.g. Davis, Jackson, etc.) and include the relevant scoring parameters of your league (e.g. PPR, passing TDs worth 4 points, etc.).
Is Tom Brady back? Maybe. In fact, probably. Brady put up at least 24.8 fantasy points last week for the second-straight game and third time in the past four contests. The returns of Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen have been huge for Brady, as he's put up these numbers against some pretty good pass defenses, include a Pittsburgh unit and a Houston unit than were ranked Nos. 2 and 1, respectively, when Brady played them. Brady has more tough matchups down the stretch (vs. CLE, @MIA, @BAL), but he looks like he's regained must-start status.
Almost matching Brady is Carson Palmer, who's now scored at least 24 fantasy points in three-straight games. The difference is he's done it in three very favorable matchups (@JAC, vs. IND, @PHI). As good as Palmer has looked, there are still reasons to worry about him.
Notable Riser: Ben Roethlisberger is also on a hot streak, scoring at least 20.4 fantasy points in four of the past five games. Last week (25.4) was especially encouraging since Antonio Brown (59 yards) wasn't even a big producer. Roethlisberger has been good about getting his backs involved, and he always likes going to Heath Miller in key situations. If you have slumping “starters” like Andrew Luck or Colin Kaepernick, Roethlisberger just might be the higher-upside play most weeks.
Notable Faller: Both Andy Dalton (190 yards, TD, INT) and Philip Rivers (252 yards, TD, INT) disappointed fantasy owners last week and have now managed just one 20-point performance between them since Week 9. Dalton looks especially bad right now, and his one saving grace is that he manages to still get the ball to A.J. Green. Rivers continues to get the ball to Keenan Allen, but other than that, there aren't many reasons to have faith in either.
As always, running backs were all over the place on Sunday, but it's unlikely any player frustrated owners as much as Houston's Ben Tate. Tate was essentially benched two weeks ago, but last week he ran 22 times for 102 yards and three touchdowns. Dennis Johnson ran just three times.
Coach Gary Kubiak said Tate was his guy before the game, so apparently some coaches do tell the truth. Credit to Kubiak, and credit to Bill Belichick, who didn't make fantasy owners guess about Stevan Ridley last week by simply inactivating him before the game. It's unclear if this will be a weekly thing, but it's clearly not good for Ridley's value. He's too talented – and the Pats are too unpredictable – for him to be dropped right now, but Vereen remains at the top of the fantasy-value chart in New England's backfield. LeGarrette Blount is second … for now.
Notable Riser: Rashad Jennings (17 carries) once again dominated carries in the Raiders' backfield even though Darren McFadden (5) was active, and more importantly, he got in the end zone twice. Jennings did suffer a concussion late, but the Raiders are hoping he'll be ready because of the extra days off. It's unclear if Jennings will continue to get the vast majority of touches as McFadden gets healthier, but he will continue to have value the rest of the year. The same goes for Donald Brown in Indianapolis, who took a while to get going last week but eventually got in the end zone and had nine more carries than Trent Richardson. Detroit's Joique Bell is on the opposite side of a platoon, but with at least a dozen touches in two of the past three games, he still has value.
Notable Faller: With DeAngelo Williams (quad) out, things were set up for Jonathan Stewart. But he managed just 39 yards on 14 carries and received just one carry inside the 10-yard line. He could have some value down the stretch, but he hasn't shown much so far. On the flip side, a bunch of backs fantasy owners wanted to write off stepped up last week, including Willis McGahee, Rashard Mendenhall and Lamar Miller. The latter two didn't do anything great, but they did enough to warrant keeping around for at least another week. Be judicious about using them in your lineup, though.
After two more monster games, Josh Gordon and Alshon Jeffery have proved to be every-week starts, even if it didn't necessarily look like that two weeks ago. But another second-year receiver, Michael Floyd, isn't too far behind them. Floyd has at least 99 yards in three straight games, and he's scored in three of his past five. Even better, both him and Larry Fitzgerald have double-digit fantasy points in three straight games.
Minnesota rookie Cordarrelle Patterson finally got into the end zone, but it wasn't because of the frequent targets he had been seeing in Weeks 11 and 12. Patterson only caught one of four targets last week for four yards, but he scored on a touchdown run. It was actually similar to
Notable Riser: Julian Edelman seems to have supplanted Danny Amendola as the primary wide receiver in New England's offense. Edelman has had back-to-back games with double-digit targets and 100-plus yards. This doesn't mean Amendola should be dropped – he still caught five of five targets for 54 yards – but he's clearly behind Edelman, Gronkowski and Vereen in the pecking order for passes.
Of course, Edelman didn't break through his team's pecking order the way Eric Decker did. Decker caught four touchdown passes to go along with his 174 yards, which should hopefully remind owners that all of Denver's receivers have major upside in any given game especially if Peyton Manning shakes off his cold-weather issues like he did last week. Wes Welker is now the “struggling” receiver, failing to top 7.2 fantasy points since Week 8, but he'll bounce back soon enough.
Notable Faller: Miles Austin still isn't doing much of anything, but now his presence seems to be affecting Terrance Williams, who caught just three of six targets for 23 yards on Thanksgiving. He was still second on the team in looks behind Dez Bryant, so by no means is he a forgotten man, but diminished production and a key fumble last week aren't helping his value.
Fantasy owners shouldn't expect that to be the situation in Atlanta after Roddy White's reemergence last week. Harry Douglas still received 14 targets, so he'll continue to be involved. Same goes for Anquan Boldin, who had 13 targets despite Michael Crabtree's return.
Heading into last week, only five teams were allowing double-digit fantasy points to TEs – Arizona, Jacksonville, Miami, Denver and Minnesota. However, only one, Arizona, allowed double-digit points in Week 13. To be fair, Denver did give up a touchdown to Anthony Fasano, and Miami wasn't exactly playing great tight ends against the Jets, but it was a tough week for matchup-plays.
This doesn't mean you should stop playing sleepers against these teams. These are still great matchups, and the majority of TEs are matchup-plays, so don't ignore the numbers unless you have guys like Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham.
Notable Riser: Miami's Charles Clay lost some fantasy value several weeks ago, but he's had at least seven targets in each of the past four games, including 10 last week. His production hasn't always been consistent, but the upside is there. As we always say, that's half the battle in the fantasy playoffs.
Notable Faller: Tennessee's Delanie Walker once again underperformed in a close game, and this time, he only received two targets. He could obviously see more looks next week, but at this point, he seems like a guy you can only count on if Tennessee is getting blown out. Because you can't always count on that, he makes for a very risky play.
Texans at Jaguars
Stat to know: The Texans have had a top pass defense all year, but they've been more generous lately, allowing double-digit fantasy points to a WR in four of the past five games. Cecil Shorts III has received double-digit targets in back-to-back games, so don't be nervous about starting him.
Sleeper: TE Garrett Graham (Jaguars has allowed the second-most fantasy points to TEs.)