Crystal Ball Week 13 2018

By Evan Tarracciano
Evan Tarracciano
“Again! Oh, blast it! Poop flirt, rattle crap, camel flirt! You blunder frattle beak struckle brat! Of a womp sack butt bottom fodder….”

“In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.”

Few things scream the holiday season like the immortal movie, A Christmas Story. One of the mainstays on TV leading up to gift giving, it was a tradition in my house to sit down and wrap all of the presents while watching Ralphie spin a tale of pole licking, fragile Italian legs and dogs that ate a massive turkey. The scene described above pit his father trying to fix the furnace, which according to the “Old Man” would have the capability of freezing up in the middle of summer on the equator.

The frustration felt even though the character was off screen was palpable. His children and wife cringe as the sound of wrenches striking metal spews forth up the stairs, followed by an epic rant of near-swearing proportions.

My mood on Thanksgiving afternoon and evening rivaled that of Ralphie’s father. In the 13 leagues that I participate in I’ve already clinched a playoff spot (or conversely bowed out) in several, but there were still one or two left where Week 12 and 13 would decide if I was in or out. Tiebreaker city. And seemingly every decision, recommendation or tout that I backed on Twitter failed to deliver.

Starting with the opening snoozefest of the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, I felt that Detroit would come out strong at home and get the win against a divisional rival that was missing its franchise quarterback. Matthew Stafford accomplished little-to-nothing, throwing two interceptions and no touchdowns and failing to surpass 250 yards in the air. The Lions were led on the ground by LeGarrette Blount, who was incapable of generating positive yardage prior to this game, and he came away with both touchdowns for the team. Zach Zenner hardly played, receiving just two carries and catching one pass. Chase Daniel played well enough to win, but neither Tarik Cohen, Jordan Howard or Allen Robinson amounted to much for their Fantasy owners.

The second game was equally frustrating between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. After losing Alex Smith for the season with a horrific leg injury, it would make sense that the ‘Skins would try and pound the ball on the ground with Adrian Peterson, right? Nope. In fact, Colt McCoy had nearly as many rushing yards as AP. Maurice Harris, Jordan Reed and Josh Doctson didn’t score touchdowns. Instead it was Trey Quinn and Vernon Davis. Sigh. Thankfully, at least Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper succeeded where they were supposed to.

In the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints game, I had thought that this would at least be a competitive game. There are plenty of playmakers on both teams that were worth starting, including both quarterbacks, running backs, and the top receivers on each team. Both backfields struggled, especially on Atlanta’s side – Tevin Coleman managed a paltry six yards on eight rushing attempts. Ito Smith had four carries for zero yards. On the Saints side of the ball? All four passing touchdowns went to players who were virtually unowned, between Tommylee Lewis, Austin Carr, Keith Kirkwood and Dan Arnold. Double sigh.

Similar to gift giving, you win some and you lose some. Some presents are slam dunks and very easy to purchase – you know what the other person wants and buying it is a breeze. Others you put a lot of thought and energy into, and they fall short of expectations. And those my friends, are the most frustrating by far.

In the most recent “Diehards After Dark” Twitter show, I received a fair number of questions about starting lineups and waiver wire selections. As we enter perhaps the most crucial week of all, I’ll preface things with the following very obvious statement.

Don’t. Overthink. It.

Start the players who have led you this far, and don’t overrate difficult matchups. Does Ezekiel Elliott have a difficult matchup this week against the New Orleans Saints? Absolutely. But I’m not benching him for Austin Ekeler. Does T.J. Yeldon’s value spike up after the Leonard Fournette suspension? Of course. But I’m not starting him over Nick Chubb or Joe Mixon.

Rather than sharing questions this week, I wanted to share my thoughts on some players that I touched on specifically, and what I would do if I owned them or considered picking them up.


Aaron Rodgers – Please start him. Yes, he struggled last week against the Minnesota Vikings. Yes, he is currently only looking at Davante Adams for some reason. Unless I have someone named Mahomes, Newton or Goff instead, I’m not sitting the Green Machine. Ever.

Jameis Winston – Do I trust him? No. His totals the past two weeks against the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers were better than I expected, but make no mistake, this is still a very turnover prone and mistake laden quarterback. This week’s matchup against the Carolina Panthers bodes well, but all indications have DeSean Jackson missing the content, and Mike Evans only had one reception for six yards the last time these two teams squared off. I’m tentative here.

Lamar Jackson – Both of his starts have been bolstered by the number of yards he accrues on the ground as a nice floor, leading to low-level QB1 numbers. The Atlanta Falcons linebacking and secondary cores are some of the slowest in the league currently due to injury, and I’d fully expect Jackson to approach 75-100 yards on the ground yet again. I actually have him projected for more points than Matt Ryan or Tom Brady, oddly enough.

Running Back

Gus Edwards – Is he the real deal? Hard to argue at this point, especially from the amount of touches that he has seen in each of the past two games. The Baltimore Ravens have gone out of their way to make the path to playing time easier, going so far as to hold out Alex Collins with a supposed “foot injury” in Week 12. Edwards has eclipsed 115 rushing yards in each of the last two games, and I think that number continues here. As I alluded to above, the Falcons have a subpar defense incapable of making tackles and are slow. Cha-ching.

Josh Adams – Twenty two carries for 84 yards doesn’t seem like a major step forward at first glance, but anyone watching the game against the New York Giants saw how dominant this young talent can be. Penalties majorly cut into a solid performance, as Adams had a 50 plus yard touchdown wiped away. He has entrenched himself as the starter moving forward and will surpass the 100 total yard mark again against the Washington Redskins.

Malcolm Brown/Rod Smith/Carlos Hyde/DeAndre Washington/Stevan Ridley/Rashad Penny etc.- Phew. Lot of names there. What do they have in common? All are handcuffs that need to be owned, especially by the team who has the primary option. In the playoffs it makes much more sense to grab someone without the role that would instantly benefit rather than a backup defense or rotating performer. All are cheap, virtually unowned, and need to be picked up in any situation where the incumbent would touch the ball 15-20 times out of the gate.

Wide Receiver

D.J. Moore – At least THIS ONE I managed to get right. If (somehow, someway) he is still available, please get him. Devin Funchess appears to be heading towards another week of non-practice with a back issue, and the chemistry between Moore and Newton is obvious.

Josh Reynolds – Do I expect another six reception for 80 yards and a touchdown type of day from him? No. In fact, I have him ranked as a mid-to-bottom tier FLEX option, rather than the WR3 that many others have him projected for. Don’t forget that Todd Gurley’s leg injury forced him to miss many opportunities in the game against the Kansas City Chiefs, and both Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee have been more involved since Cooper Kupp’s injury.

Dontrelle Inman/Bruce Ellington – Meh. Of the two I’d prefer to grab Ellington, but I don’t think that either player will surpass 10 points in a PPR format in Week 13. Secondary options currently.

John Ross – I’d prefer not to start him with A.J. Green coming back.

David Moore – Drives me insane, but you can’t argue with his production since Week 5. He’s scored five touchdowns in that span, and has multiple receptions in every game but one. He’s a boom-or-bust option that I’d be hesitant to start outside of deeper standard leagues.

Tight End

Outside of Zach Ertz, Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Eric Ebron (and to a lesser extent Rob Gronkowski and Jared Cook) – everyone else is a roll of the dice. If I absolutely had to rank a few pickups this week, I’d throw out:

Cameron Brate first, though he’s likely already owned prior to last week.

Matt LaCosse second, with how often Denver utilizes the tight end and with the loss of Jeff Heuerman.

And finally, Jonnu Smith third. His athleticism opens the door for big splash plays and the Tennessee Titans offense is lacking playmakers.

Defense and Special Teams

I’d recommend streaming any combination of the Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins or Green Bay Packers. All are owned in less than 20 percent of leagues.

Best of luck to everyone in Week 13! Fingers crossed that you come away with a victory and secure a playoff spot!