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• Start Russell Wilson: The Denver Broncos are one of the hottest teams in the league, and Wilson is uniquely suited to dominate the Houston Texans defense.

• Sit James Conner: It’s a revenge game for the former Pittsburgh Steelers running back, but he’s not seeing the same opportunities this year as last year — especially when the Cardinals are playing from behind.

• Six teams are on a bye week: There will be more surprising names in the players to start than usual. The players to sit are more so players who you might consider starting thanks to the bye weeks but should still probably sit.

Estimated Reading Time: 16 minutes

Deciding who to start or sit in fantasy football can be as easy as looking at the PFF rankings and going with the higher-ranked player. This start ’em, sit ’em column digs a step deeper, looking into why someone you might typically start might not have a good week or why someone overlooked might have a good week. In many cases, it’s the usual starters who should star, but we want to explore the borderline players, too.

Jump to a position group:

QB | RB | WR | TE | DEF/ST | K


Sam Howell, Washington Commanders
  • Howell is up to fourth in fantasy points on the season, with most of his bad games occurring early in the season. He is averaging 21.2 fantasy points per game since Week 5.
  • Only once since Week 5 has he finished outside the top 12 fantasy quarterbacks.
  • That was in Week 7 against the New York Giants, when he was sacked six times and completed only 52% of his passes.
  • Since that game, he’s done a much better job of avoiding sacks. He was sacked five or more times in six of his first seven games. He has been sacked four times or fewer in each of his past five.
  • Howell has generally found success as a fantasy quarterback because he is consistently throwing 40 or more passes each game.
  • The Commanders play the Miami Dolphins in Week 13 and are heavy underdogs. It’s very likely Howell will reach 40 passes again, as the Commanders should be playing from behind.
  • The volume alone will be enough to make him a fantasy starter. The Dolphins have a top-six coverage grade and a top-six pass-rush grade, but they’ve allowed an above-average amount of fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, in part because of volume.

player id passing dropbacks passing dropbacks rate 50 last season NFL Base per game

Russell Wilson, Denver Broncos
  • Wilson has finished as a top-12 fantasy quarterback in three of his past four games and five of his past eight.
  • He’s not playing as well as he was during his peak seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, but he is grading notably better than in his previous two seasons.
  • Wilson has graded out much better against zone defense than man this season, with a 76.0 PFF passing grade against zone and a 61.3 mark against man.
  • The Broncos in Week 13 play the Houston Texans, who deploy zone defense at the sixth-highest rate in the NFL.
  • Although the Broncos are one of the NFL’s hottest teams, the Houston Texans are favorites by a few points. Houston has either won or lost by three points or fewer in each of their past nine games.
  • The Texans are among the top 10 teams at allowing fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.
  • Wilson should see a normal amount of volume and be slightly more efficient than usual on his way to a top-12 finish among quarterbacks.
  • He is also among the top 12 quarterbacks this week because Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and Justin Fields are on byes.

player id passing touchdowns per completion passing dropbacks rate 50 last season NFL Base normal


Baker Mayfield, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Mayfield has scored the 16th-most fantasy points this season, with three quarterbacks ahead of him on a bye week.
  • Part of the reason he ranks so highly is because he’s been able to stay healthy, leading to plenty of passing attempts. He has thrown the eighth-most passes this season.
  • He ranks only 20th in fantasy points per game this season among quarterbacks.
  • Mayfield in Week 13 faces the Carolina Panthers, who have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.
  • The Buccaneers are big favorites against the Carolina Panthers, who just fired their head coach.
  • Tampa Bay runs the ball 52.6% of the time with a lead, which is the sixth-highest rate in the NFL, and throws 70% of the time when trailing, which is the seventh-highest rate. This means the fantasy value for Buccaneers players will be more dependent on the game script compared to other teams.
  • The Panthers have been an average coverage defense this season, but the game scripts have left opposing quarterbacks underperforming due to a lack of passing volume.
Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks
  • Smith is one of 12 quarterbacks with a top-five finish in the past three weeks. The other 11 quarterbacks are either fantasy starters this week or on a bye.
  • The Seahawks have the third-worst matchup for quarterbacks against the Dallas Cowboys this week, according to PFF’s strength of schedule tool.
  • The Cowboys have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.
  • Smith has played better against zone defense than man this season, with a 76.6 PFF passing grade against zone compared to a 68.2 mark against man.
  • His 5.7% turnover-worthy throw rate against man is the fifth highest among quarterbacks.
  • The Cowboys deploy man coverage at the second-highest rate in the NFL.
  • While not many fantasy managers were likely considering starting Smith, he was the only quarterback outside of Baker Mayfield who was started in at least 10% of ESPN leagues last week but isn’t ranked in the top 13 or on a bye week.


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