I can’t even count the number of threads or discussion topics stemming from Week 13. Playoff odds have shifted. The future of one franchise instantly changed after a devastating injury. Oh, and we’ve got six teams on bye this week. It’s like we’re back in Week 6, but a loss may end our season. With the fantasy playoffs on the line, I’ve got three lessons with actionable takeaways to boost your chances of getting to the championship.
Quarterback: Jared Goff, Lions
Week 13 Results: (Projected) 15.5, (Actual) 21.6
Sometimes good quarterback performances get lost in the shadow of their receivers. Think about Derek Carr after Sunday. Davante Adams stole the show with enough highlight-worthy catches to punctuate the afternoon of close games. But Derek Carr still had a decent day as a passer, and the same was true for Jared Goff. We see the name, and our eyes glaze over. But if we’re excited about the receiving options, the quarterback should factor into our plans for being on our roster if needed.
Advice Moving Forward:
Goff has been, essentially, as advertised. He’s currently the fantasy QB17, weathered a five-game losing streak, and has a sliver of hope for the playoffs. You won’t catch social media ogling over his stats, but Amon-Ra St. Brown gets similar praise. The sophomore receiver certainly makes the offense better, but my jaw dropped at the impact of his play.
In games where St. Brown has been healthy, Goff is third in EPA per attempt amongst all quarterbacks. It’s a nine-game sample. There’s no cherry-picking here, but it emphasizes a simple point. Great players elevate their team, and St. Brown embodies this principle. It’s not just a pitch-catch relationship between him and his quarterback. The offense benefits from the connection.
Detroit averages 35.6 yards per drive, while Goff and St. Brown are cooking defenses. The Eagles (37.1) and Bengals (37.0) aren’t too far ahead. I’m not here to debate Goff’s future or their legitimacy as playoff contenders. But we know the offense is efficient and fantasy-friendly with this duo working the controls.
St. Brown is the centerpiece, but complementary options have popped up for big games (DJ Chark, Josh Reynolds, D’Andre Swift). Their value intersects at Goff. With a 51.5-point contest ahead of them in Week 14, Goff is a priority streaming candidate for those looking to replace an injured/bye-week starter. Plus, with a matchup against Chicago in Week 17, Goff could bring home a championship for a few fantasy managers.
Running Back: James Cook, Bills
Week 13 Results: (Projected) 6.4, (Actual) 16.5
I’m still yet to understand the Bills’ process for drafting James Cook in the second round. Well, at least when I look at it from a fantasy standpoint. Teams can’t lie with their wallets, and Day 2 currency is significant. Cook’s pass-catching ability was a skill the Bills hunted all offseason. So, the public need and Cook’s early-round selection was a slam dunk. But Cook averaged less than 20.0% of the offensive snaps for the first half of the season and only saw seven targets in seven weeks. However, the workload shifted in his favor giving me some hope for the rookie.
Advice Moving Forward:
Cook is the top waiver-wire add with RB3/flex appeal for the rest of the season.
I feel as if I should’ve seen this coming. It’s like the Isaiah McKenzie play from Thanksgiving. For short or single-game DFS slates, we have to get unique with our builds. Josh Allen would be a popular play along with his pass-catchers. McKenzie was too popular, and Gabe Davis “was due” for regression. Chicago and Green Bay had shown New England was vulnerable on the ground, so Devin Singletary was a natural pick. As a result, Cook was the (in hindsight) best player to roster.
He recorded five targets the previous week and had 11 rushing attempts in Week 11. The opportunity was starting to come for the rookie. Betting him was a “see it before it happens” wager, but there was a larger payout after the game.
Cook saw his highest snap share against the Patriots. In a game Buffalo controlled for the second half, everything shifted toward the rookie. Everything but his third-down and short-yardage usage took a step forward. His route participation (40.5%) and target utilization (40.0%) were also higher than Singletary’s. But it’s important to add context to the data.
As I said, the Bills dominated the match. New England didn’t score again, after an early touchdown to start the game, until the fourth quarter. So, we can’t judge the usage spike based on the box score. However, the breakdown tells a similar story.
Cook (8 attempts) out-carried Singletary (5) through the game's first two quarters. Cook also had three targets to go with his totes. Singletary had one. Qualitatively, it was a positive shift for the rookie in an important divisional matchup. As a result, Cook should be back on our radar.
If he’s on our waiver wire, I hope you have plenty of FAAB or have the highest priority. Buffalo faces the Jets for their divisional rematch this weekend, and Cook’s brother plowed through them for 86 yards and a score. It could be Allen or Singletary, but the workload isn’t as uncertain with positive matchups to keep Cook as a flex option through the fantasy playoffs.
Wide Receiver: Michael Gallup, Cowboys
Week 13 Results: (Projected) 9.3, (Actual) 18.3
Michael Gallup returned in Week 4, but it wasn’t to the same offense. Cooper Rush was under center, so Gallup’s role was in flux. He split time with Noah Brown as the team’s perimeter receiver with tough contests against the Rams and Eagles. Dak Prescott’s reinstatement in Week 7 wasn’t an improvement on Gallup’s outlook as he got blanked in the boxscore. But his playing time and peripherals have been on the rise since Week 8, and we saw it all come together on Sunday.
Advice Moving Forward:
Gallup is a low-end WR2 or high-end flex option through the fantasy playoffs. With Dallas’ upcoming schedule, Gallup’s volume should keep him in our starting lineups unless you have clear top-12 options on your roster.
I try and keep up with “background metrics” like air-yard share or targets per route run, but the Cowboys’ running game distracted me. Coming into Week 13, Dallas was 21st in early-down passing rate in neutral situations. Tony Pollard was stealing headlines, and the conversation focused on his split with Ezekiel Elliot. However, Gallup continued to get in sync with gradual improvements to his metrics.
Cognitively, I associate Gallup with a higher share of the team’s air yards. His high aDOT is more conducive to prayer yards than air yards, but we account for them similarly. However, he didn’t even have the prayer yards in his first few weeks with Prescott. But his target utilization and air yards have returned over the last two weeks. We’ve also seen his red-zone touches increase.
Gallup’s two scores saved what would have been another dud. But he has five targets from within the 20-yard line in his last two games. Combined with his targets, he’s resumed his role as the pass-catcher to target behind CeeDee Lamb. And with matchups against Houston, Jacksonville, and Philadelphia over the next three weeks, Gallup remains a worthy flex option for folks managing the last round of bye weeks.
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