Week 13 Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Accounting for Running Back Role Changes

The running back landscape is shifting for a lot of teams. How should we view certain backfields? And who else can we start this week?

Another season of fantasy football, another trove of start-or-sit scenarios to answer.

It's not just enough to draft the right team and make the right moves off the waiver wire, no. We all know that. We also have to make sure that we are starting the right players each week.

Of course, we have our studs, anchors, and the players we're starting virtually no matter what. We don't need anyone to tell us to start Travis Kelce. But, the further down the lineup we go, the more those questions trickle in.

Then again, no player is a "must-sit" in every scenario, and perhaps the WR3 you've been plugging in each week may have a better alternative.

To answer the question, "Should I sit Player X," depends on the answer to the question, "Who can you start instead?" That's why I like to switch up the typical start-or-sit column format. I'm going to be listing out all relevant fantasy football players each week and bucketing them into tiers.

Take some of the guesswork out of setting our lineups weekly, I'll be leveraging thousands of slate simulations that are based on numberFire's player projections with dynamic measures for variance, such as quarterback rushing, running back receiving, and receiver target depth.

The results will boil down to three tiers: players we should be confident about starting, players we can consider starting whenever we don't have better alternatives but who aren't must-plays, and players we should try to bench whenever we do have better alternatives (i.e. players listed above them on the list).

These players are listed in order of frequency of hitting the stated threshold (i.e. QB12, RB24, WR24, and TE12 performances), and higher on the list means more startable.

The groupings reflect a 12-team, single-quarterback league with the following hypothetical in mind: if I had other viable options on my bench or the waiver wire, should I start this player this week?

Players not listed should be presumed sit-worthy in a shallow or standard-sized league, and all fantasy points references and rankings reflect half-PPR scoring.

Note: Injuries impact projections and will be forecast as best as possible, but be sure to check out numberFire's updated fantasy football projections closer to kickoff and track NFL player news updates.


Start With Confidence
- Patrick Mahomes at CIN (72%)
- Jalen Hurts vs. TEN (71%)
- Josh Allen at NE (69%)
- Justin Herbert at LV (60%)
- Joe Burrow vs. KC (60%)
- Lamar Jackson vs. DEN (59%)
- Deshaun Watson at HOU (52%)
- Trevor Lawrence at DET (52%)
Consider If Needed
- Aaron Rodgers at CHI (47%)
- Dak Prescott vs. IND (45%)
- Geno Smith at LA (45%)
- Tua Tagovailoa at SF (43%)
- Justin Fields vs. GB (41% if starting)
- Jared Goff vs. JAC (40%)
- Kenny Pickett at ATL (37%)
- Jimmy Garoppolo vs. MIA (36%)
- Kirk Cousins vs. NYJ (36%)
- Derek Carr vs. LAC (36%)
- Tom Brady vs. NO (35%)
Bench If Possible
- Marcus Mariota vs. PIT (34%)
- Mike White at MIN (33%)
- Daniel Jones vs. WSH (32%)
- Bryce Perkins vs. SEA (31%)
- Russell Wilson at BAL (29%)
- Ryan Tannehill at PHI (23%)
- Mac Jones vs. BUF (22%)
- Kyle Allen vs. CLE (20%)
- Taylor Heinickeat NYG (20%)
- Matt Ryan at DAL (19%)
- Andy Dalton at TB (18%)
- Trevor Siemian vs. GB (13% if starting)

Notable Injuries and Early-Week Projection Notes
- Given that Aaron Rodgers has said he plans to play in Week 13, he is projected as if he will start and play the full game.
- Justi Fields is initially projected for half of his usual workload, which impacts the rest of the Chicago Bears. If he does start, he is likely going to be scaled back with his rushing volume and thus is a Tier 2 play.

Only two teams are on bye, so we have a lot of the usual options in action. That means less chance that your team is relying on a streamer for this week. But if you need one, there are plenty.

A pass funnel matchup awaits Jared Goff against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville ranks 28th in adjusted pass defense, according to numberFire's metrics, but is 7th in adjusted rush defense. Therefore, the pass rate for the Detroit Lions should go up from its usual baseline. Goff has been very matchup-dependent this season. Against teams ranked in the top 12 in adjusted pass defense (six games), Goff has averaged just 217.5 yards and -0.03 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back over expectation. Against other opponents (five games), he's averaging 275.4 yards and 0.26 Passing NEP per drop back over expectation.

You'll probably see Derek Carr ranked higher in other places than in the simulations. But it's important to remember how close he is to other options in the odds (which is why I like them compared to pure rankings). That being said, Carr has been nothing but a fringe QB1 over his last four games (QB9, QB15, QB10, and QB10). The Los Angeles Chargers are a mid-level adjusted pass defense, yet they already faced Carr back in Week 1. In that game, Carr did throw for 295 yards but no touchdowns to finish as the QB17 that week. Carr's top-12 odds are just not that great, given a lack of a big ceiling.

I check in on Tom Brady often, but it's because he's no longer a no-brainer, Tier 1 start. However, it still is tempting to plug him into lineups when we need him -- because he's Tom Brady. This week, Brady faces the New Orleans Saints for the second time this season. In Week 2, Brady had only 190 yards and a single touchdown against the Saints. New Orleans ranks 18th in adjusted pass defense. In six games against teams 13th through 23rd -- mid-tier matchups -- Brady has averaged 16.2 fantasy points on the back of 270.0 yards but just 1.3 touchdowns. Like with Carr, a truly huge game against a repeat divisional opponent seems unlikely.

Running Back

Start With Confidence
- Josh Jacobs vs. LAC (88%)
- Derrick Henry at PHI (81%)
- Rhamondre Stevenson vs. BUF (80%)
- Saquon Barkley vs. WSH (78%)
- Austin Ekeler at LV (77%)
- Christian McCaffrey vs. MIA (76%)
- Kenneth Walker III at LA (70%)
- Nick Chubb at HOU (70%)
- Travis Etienne at DET (70%)
- Dalvin Cook vs. NYJ (70%)
- Jonathan Taylor at DAL (69%)
- Alvin Kamara at TB (69%)
- Najee Harris at ATL (67% at full; 24% at half)
- Rachaad White vs. NO (65%)
- Aaron Jones at CHI (65%)
- Joe Mixon vs. KC (64% at full; 27% at half)
- David Montgomery vs. GB (63%)
- Jamaal Williams vs. JAC (62%)
Consider If Needed
- Miles Sanders vs. TEN (57%)
- Jeff Wilson at SF (56%)
- Dameon Pierce vs. CLE (55%)
- Latavius Murray at BAL (54%)
- Tony Pollard vs. IND (53%)
- Cordarrelle Patterson vs. PIT (50%)
- Samaje Perine vs. KC (49% if no Mixon; 18% with Mixon)
- Zonovan Knight at MIN (47%)
- Ezekiel Elliott vs. IND (46%)
- A.J. Dillon at CHI (45%)
- Isiah Pacheco at CIN (45%)
- Antonio Gibson at NYG (42%)
- Devin Singletary at NE (40%)
- Brian Robinson at NYG (40%)
- Kyren Williams vs. SEA (38%)
- Leonard Fournette vs. NO (35% at full; 11% at half)
Bench If Possible
- Jerick McKinnon at CIN (28%)
- D'Andre Swift vs. JAC (25%)
- Kareem Hunt at HOU (25%)
- Michael Carter at MIN (20%)
- J.K. Dobbins vs. DEN (20%)
- Tyler Allgeier vs. PIT (18%)
- Gus Edwards vs. DEN (16%)
- Cam Akers vs. SEA (15%)
- Darrell Henderson at DET (13%)

Notable Injuries and Early-Week Projection Notes
- Travis Etienne was cleared to return to Week 12's matchup and is expected to play a full workload in Week 13.
- Joe Mixon is initially projected for a half workload.
- Najee Harris' status is unclear. Jaylen Warren is also still projected for a half workload. If both sit, Benny Snell Jr. is a low-end Tier 2 play (35%).

Be sure not to write off Jeff Wilson's Week 12 performance. He ran 13 times for just 39 yards and caught 1 of 3 targets for another 13 yards. However, Wilson's Miami Dolphins ran away with their matchup against the Houston Texans, and he was limited in the second half as a result. Wilson played on 76.7% of the team's first-half snaps and had all 7 running back carries and 2 of 4 running back targets before halftime. He has an in-season revenge game against his former team, the San Francisco 49ers, who do rank first in the NFL in rushing yards over expectation per carry. Raheem Mostert is expected back, but in games they've shared, Wilson still has a 55.8% snap rate and looks to be the priority.

Is Isiah Pacheco an every-week, no-brainer start? He's getting close. Pacheco had only a 54.2% snap rate last week but saw 22 carries and a target on those 39 snaps for a 59.0% opportunity-per-snap rate. Overall on the season, among backs with at least 15 snaps per game and at least two games played, Pacheco ranks 11th in opportunity-per-snap rate (52.6%). Injected into the Kansas City Chiefs' offense, that holds a lot of added value.

Can we trust Zonovan Knight, a key waiver-wire pickup this week, in starting lineups right away? Knight, last week, had a 49.2% snap rate in a game during which Michael Carter left early. Knight handled 10 of 15 running back carries and 2 of 3 running back targets after Carter left the game. But Knight was already involved before then (he had four carries and a target before that). Knight totaled 103 scrimmage yards on those chances. The New York Jets are up against a pretty solid Minnesota Vikings defense that ranks 15th, on average, across three key rushing metrics. Still, Knight is expected to be very involved in the offense, and if you were able to add him this week, you can start him over a lot of other options.

Interested in a running back who played a 70.4% snap rate last week, ranking 15th among the position? Then Kyren Williams should pique your interest. However, Williams' 38 snaps within the Los Angeles Rams' offense led to just 11 carries and 3 targets for 60 yards from scrimmage. The single red zone rush went to Cam Akers. I think you can do worse than Williams, given the involvement, but just keep expectations in check even against a Seattle Seahawks team that ranks fifth-worst in rushing yards over expectation per carry allowed to backs.

Wide Receiver

Start With Confidence
- Tyreek Hill at SF (75%)
- Davante Adams vs. LAC (73%)
- Amon-Ra St. Brown vs. JAC (73%)
- Ja'Marr Chase vs. KC (73%)
- Justin Jefferson vs. NYJ (68%)
- Stefon Diggs at NE (67%)
- A.J. Brown vs. TEN (66%)
- CeeDee Lamb vs. IND (63%)
- Deebo Samuel vs. MIA (59%)
- Christian Kirk at DET (59%)
- D.K. Metcalf at LA (53%)
- Tyler Lockett at LA (52%)
- DeVonta Smith vs. TEN (51%)
Consider If Needed
- Tee Higgins vs. KC (49%)
- Amari Cooper at HOU (48%)
- Garrett Wilson at MIN (46%)
- Terry McLaurin at NYG (44%)
- Jaylen Waddle at SF (44%)
- Chris Godwin vs. NO (44%)
- Mike Evans vs. NO (44%)
- Michael Pittman Jr. at DAL (43%)
- Courtland Sutton at BAL (43%)
- Keenan Allen at LV (42%)
- Chris Olave at TB (41%)
- Mike Williams at LV (40% at full; 8% at half)
- George Pickens at ATL (39%)
- JuJu Smith-Schuster at CIN (38%)
- Gabe Davis at NE (38%)
- Allen Lazard at CHI (38%)
- Diontae Johnson at ATL (36%)
- Zay Jones at DET (36%)
- Brandin Cooks vs. CLE (33%)
- Brandon Aiyuk vs. MIA (32%)
- Josh Palmer at LV (31% without Mike Williams; 20% with Williams)
- Christian Watson at CHI (30%)
- Donovan Peoples-Jones at HOU (30%)
Bench If Possible
- Marvin Jones at DET (29%)
- Mack Hollins vs. LAC (29%)
- Adam Thielen vs. NYJ (28%)
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling at CIN (27%)
- Drake London vs. PIT (26%)
- Jakobi Meyers vs. BUF (26%)
- Michael Gallup vs. IND (24%)
- Randall Cobb at CHI (23%)
- Darius Slayton vs. WSH (22%)
- Treylon Burks at PHI (22%)
- Van Jefferson vs. SEA (21%)
- Julio Jones vs. NO (21%)
- Tyler Boyd vs. KC (20%)
- DeAndre Carter at LV (20%)

Notable Injuries and Early-Week Projection Notes
- Mike Williams is initially projected with a half workload. His status will impact Josh Palmer's viability greatly.

Let's check in on Michael Pittman since Matt Ryan returned as the Indianapolis Colts' starter. In the past three games, Pittman has averaged 9.0 targets (which is a 30.0% target share). The results: just 63.0 yards per game and one total touchdown. He now draws a matchup against a Dallas Cowboys team that ranks in the top 10 in adjusted fantasy points per target allowed to receivers. It's really tough to balk at a 30.0% target share for any player, so I won't call Pittman a sit. However, the expectations are lower than the volume suggests.

Brandon Aiyuk has been really up-and-down in recent weeks. He's finished as the WR10, WR40, WR9, and WR44 over the past four games. He has not had more than 84 yards in a game all season, making him more touchdown dependent than we'd generally like. Now, Aiyuk does have a respectable 27.3% red zone target share, but he's got an 11.5% overall red zone opportunity share once we account for the rushes that the 49ers have in the red zone. Miami's defense ranks eighth in adjusted fantasy points per target allowed to receivers, so Aiyuk, averaging just 6.3 targets per game in three post-bye matchups, is a bit overrated entering Week 13.

Zay Jones should be a viable WR3 or FLEX-level play in a matchup against the Lions, who rank just 17th in adjusted fantasy points per target allowed to receivers. They're 29th in catch rate over expectation allowed and 31st in yards per route run to the position. Last week, we saw Jones generate a 37.8% target share (14 targets) for 145 yards with 5 of those targets traveling at least 10 yards downfield. Zay also had a 25.6% target share in Week 10 before a bye, and he's really separated from teammate Marvin Jones in the market share department in recent weeks.

Tight End

Start With Confidence
- Travis Kelce at CIN (86%)
- Mark Andrews vs. DEN (68%)
- Pat Freiermuth at ATL (62%)
- Tyler Higbee vs. SEA (54%)
- George Kittle vs. MIA (53%)
- Dalton Schultz vs. IND (50%)
Consider If Needed
- David Njoku at HOU (42%)
- T.J. Hockenson vs. NYJ (41%)
- Evan Engram at DET (39%)
- Greg Dulcich at BAL (39%)
- Tyler Conklin at MIN (39%)
- Foster Moreau vs. LAC (37%)
- Dawson Knox at NE (32%)
- Hayden Hurst vs. KC (31%)
- Taysom Hill at TB (31%)
Bench If Possible
- Hunter Henry vs. BUF (29%)
- Logan Thomas at NYG (27%)
- Robert Tonyan at CHI (26%)
- Gerald Everett at LV (25%)
- Isaiah Likely vs. DEN (25%)
- Noah Fant at LA (25%)
- Cole Kmet vs. GB (24%)
- Mike Gesicki at SF (24%)
- Juwan Johnson at TB (24%)
- Austin Hooper at PHI (23%)

Notable Injuries and Early-Week Projection Notes
- Isaiah Likely is projected to return.

The top-12 odds at tight end feature a very slow, methodical drop off. That's a big advantage in the odds versus pure ranks.

The usage for David Njoku got much better in his second week back from injury. In Week 11, he had a 7.7% target share; in Week 12, that was up to 19.4%. Njoku faces the Houston Texans, who have faced the highest target-per-route rate by tight ends of any team in the NFL.

Evan Engram gets the Lions, who are 32nd in adjusted fantasy points per target allowed to the position. Engram's involvement in the Jaguars' offense, though, is pretty bleak. He has had single-game target shares of 6.9%, 10.3%, and 2.7% over the last three. Because tight end is so poor overall, he still rates out as a viable Tier 2 option despite that.

Tyler Conklin gets a revenge game -- there are numerous this week -- against the Vikings. Minnesota is just 24th in adjusted fantasy points per target allowed to the position. Conklin has averaged a respectable 5.1 targets per game this season, good for a 16.1% target share.

Taysom Hill played a season-high 47.2% snap rate last week. The fantasy points weren't there, but Hill has now played 17 and 8 quarterback snaps over the past two games, respectively. Although he has a wide range of outcomes, that's welcomed at such a weak position.