We have all been there.
When we have made a move, a move that seemed smart at the time. A move that was well reasoned and researched … at the time. Or a move that was minor, an insignificant drop to clear the way for a waiver grab.
The point is, a move that made sense in the moment but now, much later, in the cold light of day, you realize was a horrible, horrible mistake.
The blood drains from your face and your jaw drops as you see a player, your former player, scoring massive points for someone else. Points that could have been yours. That should have been yours. But they’re not. And it’s your own dumb fault.
Your significant other might not understand. Your parents or kids might not understand. But your fellow fantasy football managers? Oh, they understand. They will commiserate with you. Because they’ve all been there too.
How do I know? Because I just asked them. Hopefully this makes you feel better. Because no matter how bad a move you made this year, at least you’re not one of these managers. That’s right, kids. With my annual apologies to the band Oasis, it’s time for the 2021 edition of Don’t Look Back in Anger. As always, these are actual moves by actual fantasy managers in the Fantasy Life app, a social community for fantasy players. (Full disclosure, I have an equity stake in this app.)
Many managers have enjoyed Cordarrelle Patterson’s breakout season. But not @Sportnutz007. Early in the season, they decided to keep Trey Sermon instead of top-10 running back Cordarrelle Patterson. Which is bad, but at least Sermon is still in the league. @Geer4uo dropped Patterson early in the season for … Le’Veon Bell.
Ah, those Baltimore running backs. We all chased them this season. Like @Krob4real, who grabbed Latavius Murray and waived … Darrell Henderson Jr. to make room for him.
Think that’s bad? Just before the season started, @Jamiesmithsport dropped Mike Williams for … Ty’Son Williams.
Yeah, sometimes those preseason moves will just absolutely haunt you. Not sure how @Timsanity sleeps at night. Just before the season they dropped Deebo Samuel. For Justin Jackson. Maybe they can form a support group with @Duaneski, who traded Deebo for Jerry Jeudy just before Week 1.
Continuing in the theme of trades that went horribly wrong; In Week 1, @Captkirkscousin traded for Clyde Edwards-Helaire. And whom did they send back? Only My Little Cooper Kupp.
You think that’s bad? @Riggersbru traded Hollywood Brown for Trey Sermon. Which still isn’t as bad as @Speedybigeasy, who traded Elijah Mitchell for Robby Anderson.
And while those two are beating themselves up, I am sure, there might not be a person playing fantasy football who has had a worse month than @Kdc101. Four weeks ago they traded for the soon-to-be ice cold and untargeted DK Metcalf, giving up fantasy rock star Joe Mixon.
And while the trades are always bad, the drops — the unsolicited drops, the moves that you and only you make — are the worst. Like @Bears14, who dropped Jaylen Waddle after Week 3. Or @Jsero2938, who dropped Hunter Renfrow for Adrian Peterson.
Or how about @Bryce4thewin, who dropped James Conner for … Kenneth Gainwell?
At least Gainwell is a running back. @Tthomass dropped Elijah Mitchell. For a kicker. It doesn’t matter which one.
And, as you’ll read below, I expect watching football to be really rough this week for @James562. Just a few days ago, they finally dropped Alexander Mattison for … the Rams defense. Oofa.
Thank you to all the members of the Fantasy Life app community who shared their pain so we may feel better about ours. As always, my thanks to Damian Dabrowski for his help at various points in this column. And here’s hoping that, after this week, you don’t have a move anywhere nearly as regrettable as those you’ve just read about.
Let’s get to it.
Quarterbacks I love in Week 13
Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at Falcons)
Since “Man in the Arena” debuted on ESPN+, Brady has yet to score 20 fantasy points in a game. In fact, since Week 9, Brady is averaging just 14.5 PPG. So maybe — finally — people will understand how physically taxing it is to be the face of an ESPN+ show. I tell my rec softball team this all the time, but they just say: “Sorry, there is still no excuse for striking out in slow-pitch softball.” Now they surely understand. I am vindicated! Yet, even the weight of an ESPN+ show won’t slow Brady this week. Atlanta allows touchdown passes at the fourth-highest rate this season, while Brady leads all quarterbacks in red zone pass attempts per game. In a game that is tied for the highest over/under on the slate, Brady should torch the Falcons, just like he did in Week 2 when he threw five touchdowns against them. Since Brady joined the Bucs, he has averaged 27.8 fantasy PPG versus the Falcons, and I say that number goes up after Sunday. My ESPN+ colleague is my QB1 this week.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Broncos)
OK, sure, it’s been pretty frustrating overall to have Mahomes on your team this season. Since Week 7, he is just QB19 in fantasy points per game. Not a typo. QB19. For a six-game stretch that equates to half the season at this point. But here’s the good news: He’s been so bad over the past month-and-a-half I can actually put him on the Love list without any “Yeah, he’s obvious, but I think he exceeds his projection” type of qualifiers. Yes! He’s now human! It’s fun to write about Patrick Mahomes again. Anyway, I like a big game from him this week against a Broncos defense that is tied for the most deep touchdown passes allowed this season and that has allowed the sixth-most deep completions per game. Not exactly a great track record heading into a game against Mahomes and Tyreek Hill. As for a positive track record, there’s this: In his three starts coming off a bye during his career, Mahomes is averaging 24.7 PPG. I have him as a top-three play this week. Hopefully he’s great enough this week that he goes back to the “I can’t write about him” list.
Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints (vs. Cowboys)
OK, so it didn’t happen as soon as we thought when Jameis Winston went down with a season-ending injury, but … welcome back to fantasy relevance, Taysom Hill! In his first start at quarterback in 2021, I have Hill as a top-10 option. Don’t forget, in his four starts at QB last season, he averaged 21.1 PPG. He also led the Saints in both red zone and goal-to-go carries over that stretch, and that was with a Saints backfield that was far healthier than it is now. The Saints will definitely utilize Hill’s legs on Thursday night, and that projects for a good fantasy performance against the Cowboys. Four of the top five fantasy QB games versus Dallas this season have come from a quarterback that either scored on the ground or ran for more than 20 yards. Congratulations to Hill on making the Love list, which I assume triggers some sort of $50 million bonus in his latest monster of a contract.
Others receiving votes: Las Vegas is a 2.5-point favorite over Washington, and Derek Carr averages 21.8 PPG this season in victories. There’s also this: My Washington Football Team allows touchdown passes at the highest rate this season. Even when Washington won last week, there was still a blown coverage or two for Russell Wilson. Wilson, as bad as he looked in that game, still finished with 19 points. Ugh. … As it has always been, a healthy Carson Wentz is a viable fantasy quarterback. Wentz has double-digit rushing yards in five of his past six games and multiple touchdown passes in seven of his past nine. This week he get a Houston defense that has allowed touchdowns on 28.2% of drives, third highest in the league. … Just imagine if Wentz got to face his own defense, because the Colts allow the second-most touchdown passes per game. This week Tyrod Taylor gets a shot at Indianapolis. That shoddy Colts pass defense gives Taylor a decent ceiling on Sunday, while Taylor’s running ability — he’s averaging 8.5 YPC this season when he tucks it — gives him a solid floor, too.
Quarterbacks I hate in Week 13
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals (at Bears)
We haven’t seen Murray on the field since Week 8. But we haven’t seen Kyler Murray, Fantasy Superstar, on the field for even longer than that. From Weeks 5 through 8, Murray was only QB14 on a PPG basis. Some of that may have been due to nagging injuries that are now healed, but it’s unlikely Kliff Kingsbury wants Murray taking hits running the ball in his first game back. Murray is averaging just 18.4 rushing yards per game this season, compared to 51.2 in 2020. He also doesn’t have a run of 20-plus yards since Week 16 of last season. While Arizona has limited Murray’s running by design, Chicago has designs on capping his passing this week, too. Over the past four weeks, the Bears are allowing the third-fewest passing yards per game. I have Murray just outside my top 10 this week.
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Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Chargers)
Way to go, Bengals. You’ve become so good at actual football that you’ve ruined Burrow’s stock as a fantasy quarterback. Classic Bungles. Thanks to a dominant running game and an improved defense, Burrow hasn’t had to air it out of late. In fact, he’s finished outside the top 10 at quarterback in each of his past three games, with just two passing touchdowns total over that stretch. Now he gets a Chargers defense that allows the fifth-fewest fantasy PPG to quarterbacks and is also ranked fifth in pressure rate. Burrow is 17th among quarterbacks in fantasy points per attempt when pressured. Since Week 5, only one QB has scored more than 18 points against the Bolts. The first-place Bengals might very well win again on Sunday, but a huge game from Burrow is unlikely to be the reason they do. He’s just outside my top 12 this week.
Running backs I love in Week 13
Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Chargers)
While we’ve lost the fake football services of Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey in recent weeks, we’ve gained a new top-five fantasy running back in Mixon. Over the past four weeks, Mixon is averaging 27.4 PPG and has finished as a top-four fantasy back in each. He has also scored a touchdown in eight straight games, including multiple touchdowns in each of his past four games. It’s tough to think Mixon’s run of dominance can last forever … but it’s tougher to imagine the Chargers defense stopping, like, anyone holding a football and running in their general direction. The Chargers allow a league-high 145.3 rushing yards per game and have yielded 20-plus fantasy points to running backs in six of their past seven games. It’s one of the reasons I have Joe Burrow on the Hate list this week. Mixon will only bolster his campaign for 2021 Fantasy MVP on Sunday.
Alexander Mattison, Minnesota Vikings (at Lions)
Yes, it’s time for the annual “Dalvin Cook is out, which makes Alexander Mattison a plug-and-play top-12 fantasy back” paragraph. Except Mattison wasn’t plug-and-play in many leagues. Why? Because heading into Tuesday’s waiver deadline, Mattison was rostered in only 33.5% of ESPN leagues. Come on! How is this possible? I tell you every year: Mattison should be rostered in 100% of leagues for this exact scenario! You shouldn’t have been hoping and praying to land him on waivers. You should’ve already had him! It’s the same with backs such as Tony Pollard and, to a lesser extent, Chuba Hubbard, who — wonder of wonders! — are both valuable fantasy assets right now, too! Why do we have to do this every year?! Why?! Whyyyyyyy?! (OK, pull yourself together, Berry. Just tell them why Mattison is such a good play for this week and move on.) So here is why Mattison is such a good play for this week. In his two starts this season, games in which Cook was out, Mattison averaged 24.7 fantasy points and was a top-seven running back in both weeks. He also had at least 25 carries and seven targets in each of those games. And now this week he gets to face a Lions defense that ranks bottom five in rushing yards per game allowed and rushing touchdowns per game allowed to running backs this season. All that makes Mattison a top-four back for me this week. A top-four back WHO SHOULD HAVE ALREADY BEEN ON YOUR ROSTER. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!
Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers (at Seahawks)
I cannot tell you how much hate I got when I suggested using all or much of your FAAB to make sure you got Mitchell after Raheem Mostert’s injury in Week 1. But a talented RB on a run-first team with a path to RB1 numbers rarely comes on the waiver wire, and so far, Mitchell has made me and those who believed look very good. He now has four games on the season with more than 100 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Only Jonathan Taylor has more. Last week, Mitchell handled 86.5% of San Francisco’s running back touches (Yes, Deebo Samuel isn’t part of that, but also, Samuel isn’t playing this week). He was also targeted on six of his 15 routes. With Deebo out, I expect a big workload and another huge game for Mitchell facing a Seahawks defense that sees a league-high 27.4 carries per game by opposing running backs and just got gashed by Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic.
Others receiving votes: Quietly, over the last three weeks, Antonio Gibson is RB11 on a per-game basis and now has multiple catches in seven of his past eight games. The good times should keep rolling this week against a Raiders team allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to running backs. … Even if Ezekiel Elliott plays, I’m still high on Tony Pollard. He had 14 touches on Thanksgiving, a game in which Elliott was active, and Pollard averages 19.1 PPG in his career when getting 14-plus touches. … The Steelers allow the second-most yards per carry to running backs this season, while Devonta Freeman has 15-plus touches in three of his past four games, as well as six goal-to-go carries over his past six. … Philadelphia has had multiple running backs see 10 or more carries in five straight games. Meanwhile, the Jets allow a league-high 35.5 PPG to running backs this season. They’ve also surrendered a league-high 17 rushing touchdowns to the position. That makes both Boston Scott and Jordan Howard (if healthy) viable flex plays this week.
Running backs I hate in Week 13
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants (at Dolphins)
On the bright side, Barkley isn’t injured like fellow first-round fantasy backs Derrick Henry, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Alvin Kamara. But on the down side, I’m not sure he’s that much better than them in fantasy right now. OK, that’s a bit extreme, even for a joke, but still. Barkley has fewer than 60 rushing yards in every game he’s played this season and, if you take away his two longest gains on the ground (which have gone for a total of 73 yards), his other 71 carries have gained just 187. That’s 2.6 yards per carry. And THAT is bad. #analysis. At some point, you have to think someone with Barkley’s talent will break out, but it’s unlikely to happen this week against a Dolphins defense that is allowing the fourth-fewest rushing yards per game over the past four weeks. And since Week 5, the Dolphins are allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. I have Barkley as just a borderline top-20 play.
Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders (vs. Football Team)
I hope Josh Jacobs’ managers gave plenty of thanks for his Thanksgiving Day performance, because I don’t see him duplicating it this week. For one thing, last week was only Jacobs’ second game of the season with more than 55 rushing yards. He’s not putting up big numbers with any consistency. And now Jacobs faces my Washington Football Team who, over the past four weeks, is the No. 1 rush defense in football. Washington has also given up just one running back rushing touchdown over its past five games, while Jacobs averages just 11.0 PPG in games this season in which he doesn’t score a touchdown. At least you’ll always have Thanksgiving Day 2021, Jacobs managers.
Damien Harris, New England Patriots (at Bills)
Buffalo is a top-10 defense in both rushing yards per game and yards per carry allowed to running backs this season. The Bills also allow the third-fewest fantasy points per game to running backs. So that’s a bad matchup for Harris, even if he was the clear RB1 in New England. But he isn’t anymore. Harris saw only 48% of New England’s running back touches last week and has played less than 40% of snaps in three straight games. Bill Belichick hasn’t quite made Harris disappear from fantasy radars like he infamously did with Jonas Gray back in 2014, but with Harris’ minimal passing-game usage and being part of a three-man committee, he’ll need a TD to pay off this week. How lucky do you feel?
Pass-catchers I love in Week 13
CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys (at Saints)
After missing two games due to COVID-19 and a tough matchup (he said in a foreshadowing way), Amari Cooper may be limited on Thursday night and may play fewer snaps than normal. As a result, there’s a decent chance Lamb gets an increased workload. In games in which he’s seen at least six targets this season, Lamb is averaging 20.8 PPG. Meanwhile, the Saints allow the fifth-most fantasy points and fifth-most yards per game to wide receivers. Lamb is a top-five wide receiver for me this week.
DK Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks (vs. 49ers)
It seems impossible, but in the three games since Russell Wilson returned, Metcalf has averaged just 5.0 points per game and has fewer than 35 yards in all three. And the Monday night game against Washington was Metcalf’s third-worst fantasy performance of his three-year career. So obviously he’s on the Love list this week, right? I mean, it feels like an incredible risk. Wilson isn’t even looking his way, but from a “squeaky wheel gets the grease” perspective, I have a gut feeling Metcalf torches the Niners this week just like he has throughout his career. Metcalf has eight-plus targets in all five of his career games against San Francisco and is averaging 20.6 PPG in his three games against the 49ers since the start of last season. And while Metcalf has struggled of late, so has San Francisco’s pass defense. Over the past four weeks, the 49ers are allowing the sixth-most yards per game to wide receivers. So yeah, YOLO, baby, I’m putting Metcalf AND Patrick Mahomes on the Love list this week, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.
Hunter Renfrow, Las Vegas Raiders (vs. Washington)
Yes, Hunter Renfrow is on the Love list this week with DK Metcalf. But it’s not just because of their nearly identical size, strength, musculature and hairstyle. It’s also because, in Renfrow’s case, he’s been extremely productive of late. Renfrow has at least seven receptions in four of his past five games and has finished 11th or better at wide receiver in three of the past four weeks. This week he faces a Washington Football Team that allows the third-most slot completions per game. And he’ll get the bulk of those targets with Darren Waller out. Luckily I have so little hair left, because I know he’s gonna make me pull mine out when I see him convert third down after third down against my WFT.
Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers (at Seahawks)
Over his past five games, Aiyuk is a top-20 wide receiver on a per-game basis and has a target share above 20% in each of those games. Aiyuk is also now the clear WR1 on the 49ers as long as Deebo Samuel is out (which means Deebo’s 28.8% target share is up for grabs). I know Aiyuk’s lack of production at the start of the season leaves some managers terrified that the early-season version of Aiyuk will return, but even if you have no faith in him, have faith in Seattle’s lack of defense. Aiyuk is a locked-in top-20 play this week.
Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Ravens)
Freiermuth is in the concussion protocol, but if he clears it in time for this week’s game, I like him. In his past six games, he has a red zone target in every game and is TE4 on a per-game basis. Freiermuth is also averaging 16.6 PPG in the three games that Eric Ebron has missed this season. With Ebron now on IR, there’s every reason to believe Freiermuth’s production continues on Sunday.
Others receiving votes: Van Jefferson may not excite fantasy managers just yet, but what if I told you he has as many end zone targets over the past five games as Ja’Marr Chase? Jefferson also has five straight games with at least six targets, including a season-high nine last week. It’s time to take a trip with the magical fantasy Van. … The Raiders allow the second-most fantasy points per game to tight ends. That could mean a big game from Logan Thomas, who was TE7 through three weeks this season before going down to injury, and he scored a touchdown last week. (pause) I’m sorry? What did you say? It was overturned? But the rule is it has to be “clear and obvious” to overturn. They took like five minutes to look at that. If it’s clear and obvious, why did it take so long to overturn? Arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Pass-catchers I hate in Week 13
Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys (at Saints)
Cooper will likely be shadowed by Marshon Lattimore in this one, and it’s worth noting that since Week 1, Cooper has just one weekly finish better than WR25 and only four games on the season with 15 or more fantasy points. Cooper also has a rough track record in games in which Michael Gallup is on the field. Since the beginning of last season, his average depth of target (aDOT) is 31.9% lower when Gallup is on the field.
Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. Chargers)
Higgins has scored 14 or more fantasy points just three times this season, against the Steelers, Bears and Vikings. All three of those teams are in the bottom third of the league in terms of deep touchdown rate, while Higgins’ Week 13 opponent is second best in that category. The Chargers also have allowed a receiver to score at least 15 fantasy points only five times this season. You already know I’m down on Burrow in this one, and my expectation is that Burrow needs to get Chase involved after so few targets last week. Higgins is a boom-or-bust receiver, and Week 13 is far more likely bust than boom.
Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears (vs. Cardinals)
Different receiver, same story. Mooney has lit up defenses that struggle against the deep ball this season. But Arizona’s defense is in the top six for the season in completion percentage on deep passes and touchdown rate on deep passes. Nearly 45% of Mooney’s points this season have come on deep passes, so unless Arizona spent its bye week deciding not to defend the deep ball anymore, Mooney is in line for a down week. I have him outside my top 25 for the week.