Best, worst Week 13 matchups

Matt Flynn AP Photo/Morry Gash

The bye weeks are over, everyone has played 11 games and with Thanksgiving here, we are heading into the NFL's stretch run. With three games on Thursday, here's a look at the plus-minus projections for the notable fantasy players:

Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions: Anyone starting Scott Tolzien last week had to love his touchdown run, but overall it was a disappointing game. For Aaron Rodgers owners, can you trust Matt Flynn now? He's likely to get the start, hoping to recreate his 2011 magic, when he passed for 480 yards and six touchdowns against Detroit in a 45-41 win. He may need it, as the Lions have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to running backs -- hence a minus-3 for Eddie Lacy. The Green Bay defense also has been struggling, so Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush are in great shape to make up for Sunday's loss to Tampa Bay in this battle for first place in the NFC North.

Oakland Raiders at Dallas Cowboys: If you spend Thanksgiving with your family and any of them are just casual football observers, then they must think Tony Romo is the greatest quarterback in the world. Romo averages 22.1 fantasy points on Thanksgiving and gets another favorable matchup here with Oakland's 23rd-ranked pass defense. For Oakland, Rashad Jennings is the top start against Dallas' 31st-ranked run defense. With Denarius Moore likely out, Rod Streater should be the top receiver.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens: Do not be fooled by the 19-16 outcome in Week 7. Both offenses played well in a game with few possessions, but on a short week and with both teams desperately needing the win, expect a low-scoring affair. Ben Roethlisberger has been playing well, but receiver Antonio Brown is the real fantasy star with double-digit points in his past four games.

Here are the best and worst fantasy matchups for the rest of Week 13:

(Note: references to defensive rankings for the pass and run are based on Football Outsiders' DVOA metric, explained here).


Josh McCown (plus-3 points)

This one's hard to believe, but McCown has played well in all five of his appearances for the Bears this season. He even leads the NFL in Total QBR (81.0). It's time to trust him in his fourth start of the season. Minnesota (28th) is as bad as any pass defense he'll see.

Drew Brees (minus-6 points) and Philip Rivers (minus-5 points)

Normally elite projections, these two quarterbacks are playing against the two best pass defenses in the league with Brees in Seattle (No. 1) and Rivers hosting the Bengals (No. 2). Now, both already have overcome a very negative projection this season with brilliant games. Brees did it against Buffalo and Rivers did it in Week 12 in Kansas City. They have the ability to play well this week, too, but we should lower our expectations based on the matchup.

To be optimistic, even rookie Mike Glennon had 15 fantasy points in Seattle earlier this season, so it's not impossible for Brees to have one of his big performances as the Saints try to hand Seattle its first home loss since 2011. Rivers will be at home against a Cincinnati team that compiled most of their statistical dominance with Geno Atkins and Leon Hall on the field. Both players are out for the season, and Rivers just had one of the best games of his career.

Do not be afraid to start either, but remember, they're playing against the two best pass defenses, so expectations should be tempered.

Running backs

C.J. Spiller (plus-1 point) and Fred Jackson (plus-1 point)

It's been a tough season for Spiller, but Atlanta ranks 31st against the pass and 24th against the run. That's why nearly all of the Bills' skill players show up in the favorable table. Buffalo just had a bye week following its best performance of the season. There should be ample scoring opportunities for both Spiller and Jackson in this one: Atlanta allows the ninth-most fantasy points to running backs.

Zac Stacy (minus-1 point)

The Rams' rookie has been very good, with 12-plus fantasy points in his past five outings, but he left Sunday's game with a concussion and he's questionable for Sunday. The 49ers rank 11th against the run, but will be at home after their big win against the Redskins. In the meeting earlier this season, the Rams had 16 handoffs for 22 yards. Stacy did not have a carry, but Benny Cunningham had four for 6 yards.

Wide Receivers

Alshon Jeffery (plus-1 point)

He's emerged as a good option behind Brandon Marshall this season. He's had at least five targets in every game, and at least 10 targets in five games. Minnesota ranks 21st against No. 2 receivers and allows an average of 61.3 yards per game to them.

Tight Ends

Jordan Cameron (plus-1 point)

Cameron has frequently visited this column, ranging from a plus-start to a minus-start to an elite player. Lately he's been absent, with just one touchdown in his past seven games and a total of 10 catches for 65 yards in the past three games combined. Enter the Jacksonville Jaguars, who, despite shutting down Houston, still rank 30th against the pass.

Cameron has been bothered by the musical chairs at quarterback for Cleveland -- a rotation that has bothered everyone not named Josh Gordon -- but he's also dropped some catchable balls. This week is his best chance to return to the end zone, as only the Cardinals allow more fantasy points to tight ends than the Jags.

Elite players

These are the elite fantasy players for Week 13 not listed in the above tables. You will want to start these players regardless of matchup on a weekly basis.

Two weeks ago we looked at the Broncos-Chiefs matchup. Expectations have changed after the Chiefs suffered injuries to pass-rushers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali. Denver already had success in blocking the pass rush, and Peyton Manning should bounce back with a good game in Sunday's crucial rematch. Tight end Julius Thomas is expected to return, so continue to start all of the Denver skill players. It's not supposed to be too windy.