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Into the deep for Week 13

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Every week I'll dive into some sleepers beyond what we write in Start 'Em and Sit 'Em to help some of you in deeper leagues. Some weeks will have more guys than others, but this should be helpful for those owners in 14- and 16-team leagues.

Quarterback

Ryan Fitzpatrick (vs. TEN): We'll give Fitzpatrick another chance this week after his performance in Week 12 at the Jets with 31 Fantasy points. With Fred Jackson (calf) now out, the Bills will rely on Fitzpatrick as much as possible, and he should be OK in this matchup with the Titans. Tennessee has allowed four quarterbacks to pass for multiple touchdowns, and Fitzpatrick has at least 18 Fantasy points in three of five home games this year. We're not big fans of Steve Johnson in this matchup, so look for Fitzpatrick to lean on David Nelson, Scott Chandler and C.J. Spiller. He has the chance to be a Top 15 quarterback this week. (Started in 13 percent of leagues in Week 12)
Alex Smith (vs. STL): You have to give the Rams some credit for their pass defense of late since they have not allowed a quarterback to score multiple touchdowns since Week 7, which includes a matchup against Drew Brees. But part of that also includes some easy matchups against John Skelton twice, Colt McCoy and Tarvaris Jackson. Earlier this season, the Rams allowed multiple touchdowns against Michael Vick, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo, and Smith could be a sneaky Fantasy option this week. He has at least 17 Fantasy points in four of his past five home games, and he should rebound from his poor performance at Baltimore last week when he had just four Fantasy points. (Started in 17 percent of leagues in Week 12)
Caleb Hanie (vs. KC): Hanie's performance in Week 12 at Oakland wasn't pretty with three interceptions, but he still managed 254 passing yards and two touchdowns and an impressive five carries for 50 yards. He needs to cut down on the turnovers, but if he can continue to run at a high level that will only improve his Fantasy value. We like that he's using Johnny Knox, and hopefully he can involve Earl Bennett more as well. This week, he faces a Chiefs defense that has allowed multiple touchdowns to seven quarterbacks, including three on the road. Hanie might not be a direct replacement for Jay Cutler (thumb), but he could help your Fantasy team in a desperate situation. (Started in 2 percent of leagues in Week 12)

Running back

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Roy Helu (vs. NYJ): Helu finally had the breakout game we were waiting for in Week 12 at Seattle with 21 Fantasy points, and we hope Mike Shanahan will commit to him as the starter for the rest of the season. He doesn't have the best matchup in Week 13 against the Jets, who haven't allowed a running back to score since Week 7, but he is worth using in all leagues because he could be a potential flex option. We could see Helu getting close to 100 total yards in this matchup, and he could be a viable weapon out of the backfield as a receiver. (Started in 18 percent of leagues in Week 12)
C.J. Spiller (vs. TEN): Spiller had a difficult game in Week 12 at the Jets with 19 carries for 55 yards and three catches for 15 yards. He should do better than six Fantasy points in this matchup with the Titans. Tennessee has allowed eight touchdowns to opposing running backs and eight to reach double digits in Fantasy points. They have yielded 203 rushing yards, 65 receiving yards and a touchdown the past two games against Michael Turner and LeGarrette Blount. Spiller has the chance for 100 total yards in this matchup, and we consider him a strong flex play in all leagues, especially in PPR formats. (Started in 35 percent of leagues in Week 12)
Donald Brown (at NE): Brown is worth using as a flex option in deeper leagues with his performance over the past six games. He has at least six Fantasy points in five of his past six games with three touchdowns over that span, and the Colts might continue to rely on him in case he's the starter in 2012. Joseph Addai could start to get the majority of carries soon as his injured hamstring gets better, and he even started against Carolina. But Brown should still get most of the work against the Patriots, who have allowed eight touchdowns to opposing running backs and eight to reach double digits in Fantasy points. (Started in 17 percent of leagues in Week 12)
Kendall Hunter (vs. STL): This should be a week where Hunter gets some increased chances to run the ball in the fourth quarter with the 49ers grinding out the clock. Frank Gore remains a must-start Fantasy running back this week, but Hunter can be a useful option in deeper formats. The Rams have allowed 10 touchdowns to opposing running backs and eight have reached double digits in Fantasy points. Hunter has three games this year with at least nine Fantasy points, and he has the chance for a quality outing if San Francisco builds an early lead in this game as expected. (Started in 5 percent of leagues in Week 12)
Marion Barber (vs. KC): Barber had his best rushing game of the season in Week 12 at Oakland with 10 carries for 63 yards. He has double digits in carries in two of his past three games, and he has five rushing touchdowns on the season. Matt Forte remains a must-start Fantasy running back this week, but Barber has done a solid job as a complementary option. He has the chance to score against the Chiefs, who have allowed 10 touchdowns to opposing running backs and eight to reach double digits in Fantasy points. He is worth using as a flex option or spot starter in deeper leagues. (Started in 18 percent of leagues in Week 12)

Wide receiver

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Michael Crabtree (vs. STL): Crabtree is a risky Fantasy option in all leagues because he has just one touchdown on the season, and he has three games with five Fantasy points or less in three of his past five outings. But he has a favorable matchup this week against the Rams, who have allowed 14 touchdowns to opposing receivers and six to reach double digits in Fantasy points. Crabtree has scored in each of his past two games against St. Louis. And he has double digits in Fantasy points in two of his past three home games. Crabtree should be considered a solid No. 3 Fantasy receiver in all leagues. (Started in 29 percent of leagues in Week 12)
Deion Branch (vs. IND): We know the Colts defense is a mess. We know the Patriots should win this game easily, and we know Tom Brady should have his way with this secondary. That lends itself to all the New England receivers playing well, and Branch should be considered a solid No. 3 Fantasy option. Indianapolis has allowed 14 touchdowns to opposing receivers and nine have reached double digits in Fantasy points. Branch has at least nine Fantasy points in six games this season, and he is coming off an impressive performance at Philadelphia with six catches for 125 yards. The one thing to consider with Branch is he hasn't had good games in consecutive weeks since Week 2, but he is worth the risk as a starter given the matchup. (Started in 26 percent of leagues in Week 12)
Doug Baldwin (vs. PHI): Baldwin will have to step up now that Sidney Rice (concussion) is out for the season. Baldwin has played well lately with at least five Fantasy points in four of his past five games, but he hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 5. The Eagles' secondary is a mess right now, and Baldwin could have an opportunity to make plays on Thursday. In their past five games against Dallas, Chicago, Arizona, the Giants and New England, the Eagles have given up 60 catches for 1,012 yards and eight touchdowns to opposing receivers with six reaching double digits in Fantasy points. (Started in 7 percent of leagues in Week 12)
Riley Cooper (at SEA): Cooper continues to play well with Jeremy Maclin (hamstring) out. He now has eight catches for 146 yards and a touchdown in his past two games with 17 targets over that span. Maclin is out again in Week 13, which will keep Cooper in the starting lineup. He should be considered a quality No. 3 Fantasy receiver in all formats since the Seahawks have allowed nine touchdowns to opposing receivers and eight to reach double digits in Fantasy points. (Started in 4 percent of leagues in Week 12)
Johnny Knox (vs. KC): I guess we know who Hanie's favorite target will be since Knox had his best game in his first start in Week 12 at Oakland with four catches for 145 yards and a touchdown. The Bears should have gotten Knox on the field more often earlier in the season, but he could provide a solid finishing kick. He now has seven catches for 242 yards and two touchdowns in his past two games with 15 targets over that span. We liked Knox a lot coming into the season before the Bears made him a reserve, but he could be an excellent Fantasy option to close the year. For this week, Knox can be considered a No. 3 receiver since the Chiefs have allowed 10 touchdowns to opposing receivers and six have reached double digits in Fantasy points. (Started in 4 percent of leagues in Week 12)

Tight end

Scott Chandler (vs. TEN): Chandler hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 8, but he's actually played well the past two games with 11 catches for 121 yards. He's doing a better job in the middle of the field instead of being just a red-zone threat. He has 12 targets in his past two games, which is his highest activity in any two games this season. And this week he has a favorable matchup against the Titans. Tennessee has allowed six touchdowns to opposing tight ends and eight have reached at least six Fantasy points. Chandler could be a useful starter in deeper formats based on his recent play and the matchup. (Started in 13 percent of leagues in Week 12)
Jermaine Gresham (at PIT): We expected Gresham to play well against the Browns in Week 12, and he had his second touchdown in his past three games. The other touchdown was against the Steelers, who he faces this week. He is a great starting option in deeper formats and could be used in all leagues if your No. 1 tight end (Owen Daniels, Greg Olsen or Brandon Pettigrew for example) is struggling. The Steelers have allowed four touchdowns to opposing tight ends on the season and four have reached at least eight Fantasy points. And if Troy Polamalu (concussion) is out or limited that will only make Gresham that much better. (Started in 23 percent of leagues in Week 12)
Jared Cook (at BUF): Cook is my Hail Mary call of the week, and I might even consider Anthony Fasano a safer sleeper based on his matchup with the Raiders. But Cook has a fantastic matchup against the Bills this week since Buffalo has allowed seven touchdowns to opposing tight ends, including four in the past two games against Miami and the Jets. Eight tight ends have reached at least six Fantasy points against the Bills, and Cook has the chance for one of his best games this year. The problem is just getting him the ball. He does have 16 targets in his past two games, but he has only eight catches for 89 yards over that span. He also hasn't scored since Week 7, but he could be worth starting in deeper formats based on his matchup. (Started in 5 percent of leagues in Week 12)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
QB struggles begin to impact Cardinals DST
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:13 am ET) The Cardinals DST scored just one Fantasy point in standard CBSSports.com leagues Week 16 against Seattle, interrupting a stretch of 10 games in which it averaged 15.1, and the Cardinals' offensive woes may have had something to do with it.

Specifically, they've been unable to find a decent quarterback since losing Carson Palmer to injury in Week 10. Backup Drew Stanton at least mounted some kind of threat, but with him sidelined by a sprained knee in Week 16, the Cardinals had to turn to third-stringer Ryan Lindley. He turned the ball over twice without once leading his team into the end zone, completing less than half of his passes in the process.

The quick trips back to the sideline gave the Seahawks more chances to pile up points and yards, and they did, finishing with 35 and 596. Only one other time have the Cardinals allowed more than 30 points in a game, and the 596 yards were a season high. Worse yet, they were lacking in big plays, recording one sack with no takeaways.

Fortunately, the Cardinals will take on a struggling 49ers offense in Week 17, so even if Lindley is back under center, the DST at least has a chance of a respectable performance. Still, if you've been relying on it all season, you might want to make sure there isn't an appealing matchups play on the waiver wire.


Seahawks DST can't be stopped
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:04 am ET) The Seahawks DST had another dominant performance Week 16 at Arizona, continuing a nine-week run that has made it once again arguably the top unit in Fantasy. During that stretch, it has averaged 16.2 Fantasy points, allowing 11.9 points on 231.3 yards.

It allowed only six points on 216 yards in Week 16, recording four sacks and one interception. Of the Seahawks' 33 sacks this season, 20 have come in their last five games.

Clearly, they had a favorable matchup in this one, but they also shut down the Eagles in Week 14. You don't have any reason to shy away from the Seahawks DST against St. Louis in Week 17.


Kenbrell Thompkins comes out of nowhere
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:58 am ET) After making only modest contributions since coming over from the Patriots in Week 6, Raiders wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins suddenly emerged as quarterback Derek Carr's favorite target Week 16 against Buffalo, catching five passes for 90 yards. He hadn't caught even one pass since Week 13, and his previous high in yardage was 47.

Of course, you should know how this goes by now. Fellow wide receivers James Jones and Andre Holmes have both had their stretches of Fantasy relevance this season, as has tight end Mychal Rivera. The Raiders have a multitude of viable receiving targets, but their roles aren't so clear, which makes the task of picking the most impactful from week to week next to impossible.

In other words, you'd need to play in an especially deep league to take a flier on Thompkins for the season's final week.


Latavius Murray trustworthy up to a point
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:51 am ET) If his 23 carries Week 14 against San Francisco didn't convince you, Latavius Murray's 23 carries Week 16 against Buffalo should make the message loud and clear: He is the Raiders' top running back, and they're putting more faith in him than they ever did Darren McFadden.

Granted, it hasn't translated to much production yet, but the 49ers and Bills are two of the toughest defenses against the run. Unfortunately, Denver, the Raiders' Week 17 opponent, is ranked even higher at both.

Can you trust Murray to get his carries? He's gotten them two of the last three weeks, so most likely, yes. And with 20-plus chances, there's always the chance he breaks a long one. But the matchup will make it difficult.

You'd like to start him given his ever-increasing role, but you shouldn't force him into your lineup if you have two (or maybe three) respectable running backs already.


One way or another, Fred Jackson gets his
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:44 am ET) Trailing early Week 16 at Oakland with their playoff hopes on the line, the Bills didn't stick with the running game for long, attempting only three runs in the second half. But in a way, that worked to running back Fred Jackson's advantage. He's such a good pass-catcher out of the backfield that he still topped 100 total yards, doing so for the first time since returning from a groin injury in Week 12.

Even with the return of C.J. Spiller from a long-term shoulder injury, Jackson still led the Bills in carries, but with only six for 10 yards. He also led the team in catches with nine for 93 yards. He had 10 catches just two weeks ago, so clearly, he's a PPR stud.

Is he worth starting in standard leagues as well? Well, he's also gotten 20 carries twice in five games since returning. He hasn't been as effective on the ground as through the air, but yards are yards, however he gets them.

Their matchup Week 17 at New England will probably force the Bills to go pass-heavy again, so unless you're stacked at running back, you can find a spot for Jackson in your lineup.


Desperation fuels Kyle Orton's performance
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:35 am ET) Bills quarterback Kyle Orton didn't have the most efficient day throwing the ball Week 16 at Oakland, but from a Fantasy perspective, it was a productive one. He threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns but also had two interceptions.

What's crazy, though, is that 196 of those yards came in the second half. The Bills were trailing a winnable game with their playoff hopes on the line, and their desperation showed. Unfortunately, that desperation also contributed to the second of Orton's interceptions.

The Bills have been eliminated, so no matter how much they're trailing Week 17 at New England, they probably won't be quite as desperate. You can expect more typical numbers from Orton -- maybe about 250 yards with one or two scores -- even if the matchup appears to be a favorable one, making him a player better left for two-quarterback leagues.


Kenny Britt clearly better with Shaun Hill
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:27 am ET) Rams wide receiver Kenny Britt caught a season-high nine passes on a season-high 11 targets Week 16 against the Giants, but his 103 receiving yards actually weren't a season high.

That's because he had 128, along with a touchdown, Week 11 against the Broncos.

That was Shaun Hill's first game back under center. Week 16, obviously, was his latest one. In the six games since Hill reclaimed the role, Britt has averaged 3.8 catches for 66.3 yards. In the nine games before then, he averaged 2.3 catches for 34.7 yards.

Britt has been especially good lately, averaging 73.3 yards in his last three games. Hill has also been fond of Stedman Bailey, but he doesn't seem to have a clear preference for one or the other.

Of course, the Rams passing attack isn't prolific enough to sustain both, so if you're going to target Britt or Bailey off the waiver wire, make sure it's in a deeper league. You wouldn't want to roll the dice on either in the season's final week if you can help it.


Andre Williams showing more ability
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:19 am ET) Carrying the load for the third straight game with Rashad Jennings sidelined by an ankle injury Week 16 at St. Louis, Giants rookie running back Andre Williams delivered his second 100-yard effort during that stretch, picking up 110 yards on 26 carries. Of course, just like in Week 14, it wasn't the steadiest performance. He had a 50-yard run in that one en route to a career-best 131 yards. He had a 45-yard run en route to his 110 yards in this one.

But that's true for most 100-yard rushing performances. The best backs break long runs occasionally, which makes up for all the 2- and 3-yard gains in between. It's easy to discount Williams' performance because of a long run here or a long run there because he's been so bad on a per-carry basis this season (take that 45-yard run away, and he averaged only 2.6 yards per carry -- oh noes!), but the fact is those long runs count, too. And he barreled over a couple of tacklers to complete it, which was nice to see.

Because Williams is short on receiving ability, his numbers don't look so great when he doesn't break a long run, but with all the carries he's getting now, his chances are better than not of breaking one. He's worth starting in standard leagues Week 17 against Philadelphia.


Rueben Randle not overshadowed for once
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:08 am ET) Since the emergence of rookie Odell Beckham in Week 9, and especially since his even bigger emergence in Week 12, wide receiver Rueben Randle has been an afterthought in the Giants passing game, averaging 2.3 catches for 31.8 yards in the four games leading up to Week 16 at St. Louis. But quarterback Eli Manning finally had enough yards to go around in that one, delivering Beckham his usual eight grabs for 148 yards and still finding Randle on six passes for 132 yards.

Randle even caught a touchdown pass, his first since Week 5. Of course, Beckham caught two and is now up to eight in his last five games, averaging 9.6 catches for 131.4 yards during that stretch.

You see the problem here, don't you? Manning was able to sustain both Beckham and Randle in this one, but that's only because he threw for a season-high 391 yards. If he regresses to a more modest total Week 17 against Philadelphia, we all know Randle is the one taking a back seat. Beckham has other-worldly talent, and Manning is smart enough to deliver him the ball as often as possible.

Of course, the Giants will probably have to throw a lot to keep pace with the Eagles, which bodes well for Randle, but you should still treat him as no more than a No. 3 wide receiver in Fantasy.


Odell Beckham making Eli Manning a stud
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:58 am ET) Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham had another eight catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns Week 16 at St. Louis, which has become par for the course for him. It was his second straight game and third game in five with more than 140 receiving yards and multiple scores.

What you may not have noticed, though, is that quarterback Eli Manning has taken off during that same stretch. He had a season-high 391 yards and three touchdowns in Week 16, completing 25 of 32 passes. Over his last five games, he has averaged 297.2 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.

It stands to reason, of course. Beckham couldn't be putting up all those numbers without someone throwing him the ball. This may be one of those rare cases of the wide receiver making the quarterback as opposed to the other way around. Beckham is clearly a special talent, and Manning has made a point to deliver him the ball as often as possible.

It's reason enough to give Manning another chance Week 17 against Philadelphia if you've been suffering with Matthew Stafford or Colin Kaepernick and are somehow still alive in spite of it.


 
 
 
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