Outside the Huddle: Week 13

Fantasy football suggestions for when you face the player in your league who wants to change the scoring system every year after missing the playoffs.

This is my first column as a Covid survivor, and as much as I look forward to drinking ales and pounding chicken wings on Sunday afternoon, the reality is that without the sense of taste or smell, I might as well be licking cardboard. There was a moment last Monday night when I was shaking under the covers fully clothed with the fireplace on, wondering if this would be the last time I’d ever watch DK Metcalf steamroll the Eagles secondary. It’s in those darkest moments of the abyss when you appreciate Tyreke Hill streaking down the field for an open touchdown, Derrick Henry turning grown men into mush, and Aaron Rodgers slinging the pigskin every which way with a chip on his shoulder.

It’s the final week of the regular season, and this could be the end of the line. Playoffs bring an opportunity for bragging rights and a slight pay raise, so seize the moment and take advantage of the Packers going up against the Eagles or the Vikings against the Jags. Here are several matchups to consider pushing onto your opponents for Week 13. Good luck on your playoff aspirations.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs Washington) or Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals (@ Dolphins)

It’s safe to say that Wednesday afternoon football didn’t have the same luster as primetime Sunday or Monday night, but the Steelers prevailed against a patchwork Ravens team that nearly pulled a smash and grab with RG III at the helm. Despite Smith-Schuster scoring the team’s only offensive touchdown, the Steelers offense looked rusty, either due to constant schedule changes or concerns with playing an opponent decimated by Covid. Smith-Schuster had less than fifty receiving yards for the second-consecutive game, and Pittsburgh will now face a top passing defense without James Connor to keep them guessing,playing right into Washington’s strengths.

Higgins has seen his production drop since the season-ending injury to Joe Burrow, but he did find the end zone last week against the Giants, keeping him in play as viable scoring option against an average Miami defense. But can the Bengals line protect Brandon Allen long enough to find Higgins open downfield and can Allen find Higgins with the ball? The Miami defense is ranked top-ten in takeaways, so there’s a good chance at least one of those throws will find the wrong team.

Your angle:  It’s Tee time.

Stefon Diggs, WR, Buffalo Bills (@49ers) or Antonio Gibson, RB, Washington Football Team (@ Steelers)

Stefon Diggs has been un-droppable all season, and his chemistry with Josh Allen is one of the main reasons why the Bills are sitting in first place in the AFC East. But Diggs had a season low 39 yards against a good Chargers passing defense and will go up against an even better defense in the 49ers on Monday night. He still warrants a starting role but will strugglewith some difficult matchups over the next couple of the weeks. Then there’s the issue of the Bills’ track record. They haven’t won the AFC East in 25 years. I’m not saying they’ll relinquish the top spot, but no lead is safe in Buffalo.

Gibson ran all over the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, scoring three times and bringing joy to all around the country who love seeing Jerry Jones cry in his mashed potatoes. Gibson has eight touchdowns in his last five games, leading Washington and its improved offense to the top of the NFC East, which isn’t saying much but worth celebrating nonetheless. Washington will play the Steelers on Monday afternoon and will likely be brought back to reality against a punishing defense, so expect Gibson’s numbers to take a dip. But how far is the question.

Your angle: The Steel Curtain’s gone soft, and Gibson’s going to rip right through those busted seams.

Colts D/ST (@Texans) or Saints D/ST (@ Falcons)

Two of the top-five fantasy scoring defenses will be put to the test against high-scoring offenses, and one of them will crack. The Colts had their worst performance of the season after getting mauled by Derrick Henry and his 3 touchdowns on 178 yards rushing. They gave up 35 points in the first half alone and finished with one sack and -5 fantasy points. The Saints had their own post-holiday feast on the quarterback-less Broncos, picking off practice squad WR Kendall Hinton twice and forcing one fumble. The Saints held the Broncos to 3 points and 112 total yards.

The Colts will play against the Texans, with DeShaun Watson averaging 30+ fantasy points the last two weeks, including 4 touchdowns against the Lions on Thanksgiving Day. The Texans, who have the third-best passing attack, just lost Will Fuller to suspension but hope to welcome back David Johnson, who’s been out the past three weeks with post-concussion symptoms. The Saints will play the Falcons, who trounced the Raiders last week despite Matt Ryan only throwing for 185 yards. Two weeks ago, the Saints held the Falcons to nine points and zero touchdowns, but are we to believe that Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Todd Gurley are going to be kept scoreless again? This is a classic revenge game between two rivals.

Your angle: The Saints D will be marching into a shitstorm.

Greg Oldfield’s stories have appeared in Hobart, Carve, Barrelhouse, and Maudlin House, among others. He also writes about soccer for the Florida Cup and the Brotherly Game and often rambles about soccer on Twitter. 

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