Here are my top 10 things to watch for from a fantasy perspective heading into Week 13:
1. Joe Flacco is not only the worst QB in football, but is having the 10th worst season for a quarterback adjusted for his league year since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. The stat is yards per pass play, that’s Flacco’s net passing yards (subtracting sack yards). He’s 4.6 yards per pass play and 66 on a scale where 100 this year is exactly league average. Only nine have had numbers relative to their league that are worse in nearly 50 years. That the Ravens are even sniffing the playoffs is insane given that since the merger, teams that win the stat win about three quarters of their games. But the Ravens are somehow 6-5 despite being 4-7 vs. opponents in yards per pass play, the NFL’s most important stat after turnover differential. Flacco, to quote Mike Lombardi of The Ringer, is a made guy given his Super Bowl win: meaning you can’t just take him out. But if one Super Bowl-winning QB deserved to be benched this week, it wasn’t Eli Manning. Don’t get Flacco’d.
2. I don’t think anyone knows what to make of Jimmy Garoppolo and I can’t see how the 49ers can make such an important decision on the impending free agent in just five games. But here we are. Other QBs who didn’t get their third career start until the age of 26 includes just one player who was remotely good: Jake Delhomme. You want to argue David Garrard and Tommy Maddox were decent briefly? Fine. Of course, Garoppolo was playing behind arguably the greatest QB ever until October. The point is that Garoppolo is past his development years and we know really nothing about him: basically unchartered NFL territory.
3. Here’s an interesting piece on Mike Zimmer and Bill Parcells that explains why Zimmer is not just anointing Case Keenum the OFFICIAL starting QB. Zimmer was an assistant under Parcells and talks to him a lot and the only reasonable conclusion is that Zimmer thinks Keenum will play better and more disciplined under the stress of worrying about his job. This has caused fantasy players to worry about Keenum’s status unnecessarily. Don’t let it keep you from starting Keenum this week, as he’s definitely a top 12 fantasy quarterback (and has been for a while).
4. Remember next year when people are raving again about DeVante Parker that he’s very unlikely to live up to his draft pedigree. If you haven’t made a lot of noise by your third season, you’re very unlikely to ever. There are exceptions, but they don’t disprove the rule. Don’t bet a consequential pick on Parker and please don’t expect anything from him this week if you are still alive.
5. Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston have combined for 19 TD passes on 565 attempts. Mariota has a 2.9% TD Rate, which is higher than only Jacoby Brissett, Brett Hundley, Flacco, Tom Savage, Mitch Trubisky, Brian Hoyer, C.J. Beathard and DeShone Kizer. Ouch. Someone asked me this week if they should start Mariota or Dak Prescott. I don’t think there is a right answer there. If you are in a similar spot, grab Josh McCown (40% owned) off the waiver wire.
6. I don’t believe in rookie walls. But I believe that ankle injuries linger, especially for a player that has a long injury history. Leonard Fournette has not scored a TD in his three games since his injury, a predictable scoring slump given his offense is led by Blake Bortles. But since returning from injury, Fournette, who remember said the NFL was easy compared with the SEC, is averaging 3.0 per carry (57 totes).
7. Yes, Alvin Kamara’s crazy 8.3 yards per touch is sure to regress. But implicit in this is that Kamara isn’t getting enough actual touches to continue to be a fantasy force. Note, however, he’s averaging six catches the last five games. Catches are worth twice as much as runs, even in standard. So that equals 12 carries per game. And even if he gets only 5-10 carries like the last two weeks, that’s more than enough expected yardage for him to remain highly projectable. So don’t mistake Kamara’s value being tied only to efficiency. There is enough volume here, too.
8. Keenan Allen has consecutive games with 150-plus yards receiving. He also has 10 catches and three total TDs. Guys who have done at least that (or more) in history, according to Pro-Football-Reference: Jerry Rice (1995), Drew Bennett (2004) and Josh Gordon (2013). I dealt with Gordon extensively here earlier in the week. Ironically everyone will be watching Gordon while the wide receiver most likely to win the fantasy week is on the other team.
9. The Rams are violating the spirit of the NFL rules on the headset by having Sean McVay basically call audibles until the communication with Jared Goff goes off with 15 seconds left of the play clock. I don’t know if there is a workaround here for defenses. If you want to show your defense after there is just 15 seconds left, what do you do if the Rams snap it before? But if there is a counter here, the Rams offense may suddenly become a lot less successful.
10. Can Mike Davis give the Seahawks a running game or are they paying for the sins of their past roster construction in essentially ignoring offensive line? I have no idea. Davis has six carries in his career, for 18 yards. I think offensive lines and offenses period make running games except for elite talents that are extremely rare. The Seahawks simply are not constructed to be able to run.