Fantasy football Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: 15 players to play or bench in Week 13

It’s officially crunch time for fantasy football managers. With only two more weeks remaining in most leagues’ regular seasons, we have six teams on bye in Week 13. That means lineup decisions will be as difficult as they’ve been all year – at a time when playoff berths could be hanging in the balance.

So yeah, no pressure at all to make the right calls.

So let’s get a jump on some of the factors that need to be considered for those fantasy managers who find themselves in must-win situations.

Here's who to start (and who to sit) for Week 13 NFL fantasy football.

Fantasy football quarterbacks to start in Week 13

Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers

The Niners’ offense is firing on all cylinders, averaging more than 30 points over their past three games. Purdy has been highly efficient, completing at least 70% of his passes in five consecutive outings. Touchdown passes, however, have been sporadic – with only one last week in a blowout win over the Seahawks.

That should change in what looks like a shootout in Philadelphia. The Eagles give up the third-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks and were just torched by Buffalo’s Josh Allen.

Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray completed 27 of 45 passes for 256 yards and a touchdown in Week 12 vs. the Rams. He also ran for a touchdown in the loss.
Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray completed 27 of 45 passes for 256 yards and a touchdown in Week 12 vs. the Rams. He also ran for a touchdown in the loss.

Going out on a limb a bit here, but Murray seems to be getting comfortable in the Arizona offense after missing the first nine games with a knee injury. He’s thrown for at least 200 yards in all three of his starts and has a rushing touchdown in every game.

The Pittsburgh Steelers can be tough, especially at home, but Murray’s scrambling ability will help counter the pressure T.J. Watt and Co. generate. Only seven defenses give up more yards per game than the Steelers do, so look for Murray to exploit their weaknesses through the air or on the ground.

Fantasy football quarterbacks to sit in Week 13

Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams

Stafford is coming off his best game of the season, tossing four touchdown passes in a blowout win over the Cardinals. However, none of those TDs were caught by a wide receiver as Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua have been dealing with a variety of nagging injuries.

This week, the Rams face a staunch Cleveland Browns defense that gives up the fewest fantasy points per game to quarterbacks in the entire league. The immobile Stafford needs time to throw, something he’s unlikely to get with Myles Garrett bearing down on him. Look for L.A. to rely on the ground game with Kyren Williams finally back to 100%.

C.J. Stroud, Houston Texans

Stroud has been a must-start every week so there’s little chance you’d actually bench him in favor of someone else at such a crucial time. However … the Denver Broncos have been on a serious roll ever since giving up 70 points to the Dolphins in Week 3.

Vance Joseph’s defense has held the likes of Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes in check during Denver’s current five-game winning streak, so don’t be surprised if Stroud’s recent run of success hits a speed bump this week.

Fantasy football running backs to start in Week 13

Rachaad White, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Second-year running back Rachaad White has excelled as a rusher and a pass-catcher for the Buccaneers this season.
Second-year running back Rachaad White has excelled as a rusher and a pass-catcher for the Buccaneers this season.

White recorded his first 100-yard rushing game of the season last week in Indianapolis, though he didn’t get into the end zone. That could change against the lowly Carolina Panthers, who are in disarray after firing head coach Frank Reich and several assistants.

White has also been effective as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, ranking second to Christian McCaffrey this season in receiving yards by a running back. He’ll be a serious double-threat against a defense that gives up the second-most fantasy points per game to the position.

Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

Harris is admittedly a high-risk pick, but it’s one that could pay dividends against a porous Cardinals defense that ranks just behind the Panthers in friendliness to running backs. The Steelers seemed to turn a corner after dismissing offensive coordinator Matt Canada, generating over 400 yards of offense for the first time in 59 games.

Harris was a major part of that resurgence, rushing for 99 yards and a touchdown at Cincinnati. While he’ll continue to split time with Jaylen Warren, Harris did see more total snaps last week and scored for the fourth time in six games.

Fantasy football running backs to sit in Week 13

Breece Hall, New York Jets

The one bright spot on the Jets offense, Hall has been asked to shoulder an even larger share of the workload in recent weeks. He’s salvaged his fantasy value by being a frequent target on short dump-off passes that have become more common with Tim Boyle under center.

However, Hall could have more trouble than usual against the Atlanta Falcons, who rank near the bottom of the league in receptions allowed to running backs and allow the second-fewest fantasy points per game to the position.

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals

A borderline first-round pick this summer, Mixon has seen his fantasy potential crater with the loss of QB Joe Burrow. He recorded season lows of 27 snaps and eight carries last week in a low-scoring affair vs. Pittsburgh.

The Bengals will face a Jacksonville Jaguars defense that has allowed 7.2 receptions per game to running backs on the season, more than any other team. Mixon hasn’t been a huge factor in the passing game so far, but he’ll need to be to have a productive fantasy day.

Fantasy football wide receivers to start in Week 13

Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins

It’s always a good idea to start wide receivers against the Commanders. While Tyreek Hill should have a banner day against the troubled Washington secondary, there’s still ample opportunity for Waddle to enjoy some success of his own.

While he’s had a disappointing season compared to a year ago, Waddle did record his second 100-yard receiving day of 2023 last week against the Jets. Now, he goes from facing one of the NFL’s best pass defenses to one of the worst.

Josh Downs, Indianapolis Colts

Downs made good use of the Colts’ Week 11 bye to recover from a knee injury that had limited him for the previous two games. His timing may have been a little off against the Buccaneers, but he did see a season-high 13 targets from QB Gardner Minshew.

If you’re looking for a solid wideout to fill a bye-week vacancy, the rookie third-rounder could very well be your man. The Tennessee Titans rank sixth in most fantasy points per game allowed to wide receivers. With word that RB Jonathan Taylor is dealing with a thumb injury, Downs and fellow wideout Michael Pittman Jr. could be in for big days.

Fantasy football wide receivers to sit in Week 13

DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf is on pace for a career low in touchdown receptions with only three in his first 10 games.
Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf is on pace for a career low in touchdown receptions with only three in his first 10 games.

Metcalf’s wildly inconsistent season may have hit a new low last week when he hauled in only three of his nine targets for 32 yards against the 49ers. Normally one of the more sure-handed receivers in the league, Metcalf has only caught 53.8% of his targets this year.

Part of that has to do with QB Geno Smith’s struggles, especially when facing top-tier pass defenses. Unfortunately, he’ll see one of the best this week in the Dallas Cowboys. Whether he’s matched up against DaRon Bland or Stephon Gilmore, Metcalf will have his hands full.

Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns

Inconsistent quarterback play is an even bigger problem in Cleveland, where PJ Walker could get the start Sunday if Dorian Thompson-Robinson doesn’t clear the NFL’s concussion protocol. Either way, it’s not great news for Cooper, who’s battling a rib injury that forced him to exit Sunday’s loss at Denver in the second half with only two catches for 16 yards.

Although X-rays came back negative, Cooper still has a moderately difficult matchup coming up against the Rams. Expect a lot of heat on whoever’s playing quarterback for the Browns, leading to more short passes to running backs and TE David Njoku – not the big chunk plays on which Cooper thrives.

Fantasy football tight ends to start in Week 13

Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers

While it may take some guts to start teammate Najee Harris this week, Freiermuth is one of the biggest no-brainers of the week at tight end. The changes implemented by the Steelers’ new offensive brain trust resulted in a career-high 120 receiving yards for Freiermuth vs. the Bengals. Additionally, his nine catches equaled his entire total over the first 10 games.

The Cardinals have been one of the better defenses against tight ends this year, but that may not matter with the ‘Muth seemingly 100% recovered from the hamstring injury that forced him to miss five games earlier in the season.

Jake Ferguson, Dallas Cowboys

Ferguson played his second-fewest snaps of the season on Thanksgiving Day, but that was partly due to a blowout win over Washington. QB Dak Prescott still looked for his tight end in the red zone, which led to a TD catch for backup Luke Schoonmaker.

In what should be a more competitive game this week vs. Seattle, Ferguson should see more than the three passes that came his way last time out. He’s been a borderline TE1 because of his position-high 19 targets in the red zone. Look for more of those and a possible touchdown against the Seahawks.

Fantasy football tight end to sit in Week 13

Gerald Everett, Los Angeles Chargers

Back in the lineup after missing Week 11 with a chest injury, Everett caught all four of his targets for 43 yards and a touchdown on Sunday night. He might be an enticing start against the 2-9 Patriots, but defense hasn’t really been the problem in New England. The Pats have allowed a mere 10 points in back-to-back games – and they’re particularly stingy against tight ends. The Chargers can find other weaknesses to exploit.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fantasy football Week 13: NFL players to start or sit