For most fantasy football owners, Week 13 represents the last week of regular-season action before the playoffs get underway.
That’s why making the right lineup decisions this week can determine whether you’ll have a shot at greatness or will have to wait until next year to win a championship.
Examining this week’s schedule, past player performances and blending it all together with advanced NFL statistics, it’s time to take a look at some fantasy football booms, busts and deep sleepers for Week 13.
*All stats and fantasy football scoring information courtesy of ESPN.com unless noted otherwise.
*All advanced stats courtesy of Pro Football Focus (subscription required) unless noted otherwise.
Boom: Coby Fleener
One of the biggest benefactors of Reggie Wayne’s season-ending ACL injury has been Indianapolis Colts tight end Coby Fleener.
Racking up 19 receptions for 259 yards receiving and a touchdown in Wayne’s absence, Fleener seems to finally have grabbed the attention of his starting quarterback Andrew Luck.
Going up against the Tennessee Titans in Week 13, there are a few reasons to have confidence in Fleener.
For starters, the last time these two teams met in Week 11, Fleener finished with a game-high 107 yards receiving on 10 targets.
Heading into the rematch, the Titans will be without safety Michael Griffin, who, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, has been suspended one game for violating the NFL’s safety rules.
Although ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky points out that the Titans chose to cover Fleener with cornerbacks in their last contest, usually the team prefers to throw a safety on opposing tight ends.
If they go back to their normal way of defending the tight end position, look for Fleener to have a monster game at the expense of backup safety George Wilson.
Bust: Maurice Jones-Drew
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One player who has surged back to fantasy football relevance over the last few weeks has been Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
Scoring double-digit fantasy points in four out of the last five weeks, Jones-Drew has helped owners forget about the horrendous start he got off to this season.
Despite his recent success, Week 13 presents Jones-Drew with a tough matchup against the Cleveland Browns.
Led by defensive coordinator Ray Horton, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), the Browns have generated a positive-31 grade on the season for run defense. That puts them right alongside the quality run-stopping teams like the Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos.
For Jones-Drew to have any impact on this game, he will need to become a factor in the passing game. And if you don’t play in a PPR league, his value will be extremely limited in Week 13.
Deep Sleeper: Josh McCown
Owned in just 6.6 percent of ESPN leagues, Chicago Bears quarterback Josh McCown is a fantastic play this week against a Minnesota Vikings defense that has surrendered 24 passing touchdowns on the season.
But just how good of a play is McCown? Well, according to Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus, McCown is his No. 1 ranked fantasy quarterback for Week 13.
Whether he lives up to those gaudy projections or not, the one thing fantasy general managers need to do is scoop McCown off the waiver-wire and start him.
If you’re one of those owners desperate for a win or simply are just looking to rack up more points, Josh McCown is an outstanding play in Week 13.
Boom: Cam Newton
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Has there been any quarterback this season who has shown more growth than Cam Newton?
The unquestioned leader of the 8-3 Carolina Panthers, Newton has become a diverse weapon for fantasy football owners.
As it stands right now, Newton is the fifth-highest scoring QB in fantasy football. Ranked slightly behind guys like Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford, Newton has put up impressive numbers without having the luxury of playing in a pass-first offense.
Although he managed to put up a respectable 19 points in Week 12, Newton will enjoy even more success this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With Pro Football Talk reporting that the Buccaneers are still waiting to hear about the status of their injured cornerback Darrelle Revis, the league’s 21st-ranked pass defense could be in even more trouble if he can’t go.
When you put all of those factors together, it sure looks like Week 13 is going to be a big one for the Panthers quarterback.
Bust: Lamar Miller
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According to Omar Kelly of the Sun Sentinel, Miami Dolphins running back Daniel Thomas will be sidelined a couple of weeks due to an ankle injury.
That means Lamar Miller will finally become a legitimate starting option for all of his frustrated fantasy owners.
Averaging just 10.4 carries a game, this season Miller has fallen victim to the dreaded running back timeshare. But now with Thomas out, the bulk of the work is going to shift back to Miller.
But before you get too excited, fantasy owners need to be cautious throwing Miller into their starting lineups in Week 13.
Going up against the New York Jets’ top-ranked run defense, Miller is going to have a tough time finding any room to operate.
Deep Sleeper: C.J. Anderson
With The Denver Post reporting that Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno suffered a “significant bone bruise” in Week 12, a deep sleeper for fantasy owners in Week 13 will be backup running back C.J. Anderson.
It’s no secret that outside of Moreno, the Denver backfield has struggled with major fumbling issues this season.
Still, if Moreno can’t go, the safest option right now is the 22-year-old Anderson. Accumulating 16 yards on just three carries against the Patriots, Anderson showed he possesses the vision needed to run behind this talented Denver offensive line.
Boom: Victor Cruz
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Even though Victor Cruz hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 4, according to PFF, the New York Giants wide receiver has still earned himself a positive 6.4 grade this season.
What that means is that despite his recent struggles, Cruz is still an incredibly effective route-runner who can tear apart a defense whenever he’s given the chance.
Now, the fourth-year wide receiver gets the pleasure of facing a Washington Redskins defense that just surrendered 235 yards passing and three touchdowns to struggling San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
This week, fantasy owners will rejoice as they watch Cruz dominate a weak Washington secondary.
Bust: DeSean Jackson
The Philadelphia Eagles are a team on the rise. Led by the fantastic play of quarterback Nick Foles, this Chip Kelly offense has looked great over the last couple of weeks.
One of team’s biggest playmakers has been the speedy DeSean Jackson. Currently the fifth-highest scoring wide receiver in fantasy football, Jackson has complied 985 yards receiving and seven touchdowns on just 58 receptions.
Utilizing his speed and ability to create separation downfield, Jackson has turned out to be one of the most pleasant surprises in all of fantasy football.
Sadly, for all of the great numbers he’s put up, Jackson is going to struggle in Week 13.
Facing the Arizona Cardinals and their superb cornerback Patrick Peterson, Jackson is facing one of his most difficult challenges of the season.
Unlike most cornerbacks in the NFL, Peterson possesses the speed needed to keep up with Jackson. Running a 4.34 40-yard dash, Peterson’s ability to close on a football in the air is outrageous.
Aside from his speed, what Peterson will do to Jackson is blanket him on every snap. A player who always exudes confidence, watch for the former LSU standout to put a damper on Jackson’s fantasy production in Week 13.
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