I'm tired of writing about injuries. You're tired of reading about injuries, but trust me, I'm more tired of writing about them. They've dominated this Fantasy season in a way I can't really remember in my 13 seasons writing about Fantasy Football, and it's just been impossible to avoid the topic.
And that, unfortunately, continued to be true in Week 13. In fact, this might have been the worst week of injuries all season, which is really saying something with six teams out of the picture already due to byes.
I wrote about the biggest injuries Sunday and how to react to them here, but putting those aside, let's dive into the biggest winners and losers from Week 13. Here's who has the arrow pointing up or down coming out of Sunday's action.
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Week 13 winners
Jordan Love, QB, Packers
After throwing for multiple touchdowns against the Steelers, Chargers, and Lions, Love faced his toughest test yet against the Chiefs Sunday night, and he passed it with flying colors. Facing the No. 3 scoring defense in the NFL, Love went 25 for 36 for 264 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, his third straight game without a pick. And it was Love's third straight game with 100-plus yards on play-action passes, giving him 378 in that span, a mark that leads the league.
There has never been a question about Love's arm talent going back to college, but there was a bit too much Jameis Winston in his game early on this season, whether by design or nature. There just weren't enough easy reads and easy throws for Love, and while that led to some big plays, it also led to a very poor 58.7% completion rate through the first nine games of the season. Over the past three, that number is now up to 68.5%, without really losing any of the big-play potential. It's a tough balance to strike, and there will surely be times moving forward where they fall on the wrong side of it. However, Watson's young receiving corps is growing up before our eyes, and this offense is rolling heading into a stretch run with a very favorable schedule:
- Week 14 @ NYG (13th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
- Week 15 vs. TB (29th)
- Week 16 @ CAR (4th)
- Week 17 @ MIN (15th)
- Week 18 vs. CHI (19th)
Is Love a top-12 QB the rest of the way? I'm not sure I can go that far, but he'll be in that discussion.
De'Von Achane, RB, Dolphins
Given Achane's suddenly rather lengthy injury track record, it was fair to be skeptical of how much the Dolphins would use him in his return from yet another knee injury. Well, they certainly didn't handle him with kid's gloves, as Achane led the team with 17 carries and had three catches on four targets, turning them into 103 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Now, some will fairly note that Achane did almost all of his work after the game was already well in hand, as he had just three carries and two targets when the Dolphins led, 31-7 at halftime. But, I think the relevant thing here is that Achane made it through the game with a lot of touches and stayed healthy. The Dolphins know what he's capable of. They know how good of a fit he is in their offense. They weren't holding him back because they don't trust him to execute the scheme, or something like that. The fact Achane got 20 touches and got out of the game without injury is, to me, the most important factor here.
He might be a top-12 RB the rest of the way. And that may be too conservative.
Chuba Hubbard, RB, Panthers
In the first game of the post-Frank Reich era, the Panthers treated Hubbard like a legitimate No. 1 running back, which feels like a pretty strong signal. Hubbard ran the ball 25 times for 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and though he wasn't targeted in the passing game, Hubbard ran as many routes as Miles Sanders, 10 to 10. The Panthers' new coaching staff clearly de-prioritized using their backs in the passing game, as a back ran a route on just 21 of 35 pass plays, which certainly caps the upside of these backs moving forward. But, if Hubbard is going to get that kind of usage in the running game, that's the more important factor here.
Nico Collins, WR, Texans
Dell's injury is a huge bummer, but it might free Collins up to be a league-winner down the stretch. He was already out-targeting Dell since coming back from his calf injury a few weeks ago, but now Collins looks set to be unquestioned No. 1 for C.J. Stroud down the stretch, and that's quite an exciting proposition. Collins was really the only thing the Texans had going Sunday, catching nine of 12 targets; no other player had more than three catches, and only one had more than one. There will be weeks when Noah Brown, Dalton Schultz, and others contribute more, but Collins has a clear runway to be a hugely impactful Fantasy option down the stretch.
Puka Nacua, WR, Rams
I had a bit of an existential crisis around 6 p.m. Sunday evening. We had already lost Dell, and then Nacua went down with what looked like a serious rib or shoulder injury. He hit the ground hard and stayed down for a while, before eventually getting helped right to the locker room, and I thought, "Well, so much for having fun things in Fantasy Football in 2023!"
But Nacua eventually came back and showed the injury wasn't as serious as it seemed, throwing a tough block on his first play back and eventually finishing with 139 total yards on six touches, with a 70-yard touchdown against an elite Browns defense. And it could have been an even bigger day, as he had a 45-yard run called back due to a holding penalty. There have been some ups and downs for Nacua, but he shot past the 1,000-yard mark Sunday and showed he still has plenty of upside in his offense. He's clearly ahead of Cooper Kupp the rest of the way and remains a must-start Fantasy option. The only question at this point is how high is too high to rank him for 2024. He's a top-12 guy for sure.
Trey McBride, TE, Cardinals
Between the groin injury that limited him in practice and a couple of good-not-great games, I definitely felt some apprehension among our audience for McBride while answering start or sit questions Sunday morning. And, not to toot my own horn or anything, but I had McBride as my No. 2 tight end and never wavered there. He had earned at least nine targets in three of his previous five games. He had seven targets in one of the other games and five in a game where the Cardinals threw it just 20 times in the other. There just aren't many tight ends with that kind of locked-in role right now.
And there certainly aren't more than a couple of tight ends with that kind of role and the kind of talent McBride has shown. Just check out this highlight of the Cardinals top plays from Sunday, which gets very McBride heavy at the two-minute mark and think of how many tight ends right now you think are replicating that. Travis Kelce, sure. A healthy Mark Andrews? OK. T.J. Hockenson? He's more of a short-area guy, but sure. Maybe Sam LaPorta, who had his own monstrous Week 13. George Kittle if he got the opportunity every week … and that's probably it, right? We're talking about contested catches down the field and in the end zone, big plays after the catch, and plays across the middle where he makes the first defender miss and gains extra yards. And he's doing it every week, even if the production isn't quite that gaudy every week. The only thing that can possibly slow McBride down is his unfortunately timed Week 14 bye.
Week 13 losers
Sam Howell, QB, Commanders
I really thought this would, at least, be a very good game for the Commanders for Fantasy. It wasn't surprising to see the Dolphins offense burn through the Commanders, but I at least expected Howell to sling the ball around and put some points up, but he managed just two rushing touchdowns, while passing for 127 yards on 23 attempts.
The Dolphins might just have a really good defense now, but this is now three disappointing showings in a row for Howell, with five interceptions to just one touchdown over his past three games, with a passer rating below 75 in each. It's especially disappointing because it looked like Howell had started to figure things out around the mid-way point of the season, and he's just badly regressed since mid-November. And, when you look at the schedule, you might just need to drop him at this point; if you can't count on him against the Dolphins and Cowboys, can you really use him against the Jets (Week 16), 49ers (Week 17), or Cowboys (Week 18 if you play that long). With a bye in Week 14, Howell might not be worth hanging on to.
Austin Ekeler, RB, Chargers
It's easier to believe that Ekeler just still isn't 100% healthy after his early-season high-ankle sprain, rather than that he just suddenly lost it going from his age-27 to age-28 season, but he just doesn't look like the same player these days. He had just 18 yards on 14 carries, plus two catches for 9 yards on three targets, which was basically the same production the Chargers got out of Joshua Kelley Sunday. Ekeler now has just 329 yards on 110 carries in eight games since returning from the injury, with 27 catches for 248 yards through the air. The efficiency through the air is still pretty solid, but 31 yards per game? This is a guy who has averaged 38.5 per game for his career.
Part of the problem is that this Chargers offense just isn't great; they scored six points Sunday and just 36 over their past three games. They're severely lacking in big-play threats with Mike Williams and Josh Palmer on IR, and Quentin Johnston just hasn't developed into the guy they need him to be. You can see that most acutely in Justin Herbert's averaged intended air yards, which was north of 10 yards per attempt three times in the first six games but has been below 10 yards every game since.
Still, this offense had similar issues last season, and Ekeler was arguably the best player in Fantasy, so I don't think that entirely explains it. Which brings me back to the first point: I think Ekeler probably just isn't 100%. With matchups against the Broncos and Raiders in three of the next four games (plus a much-diminished Bills defense), you probably can't get away from Ekeler down the stretch, so you just have to hope he figures it out. But I don't have much hope for it right now.
Devin Singletary, RB, Texans
Last week, it looked like Singletary might have established himself as the Texans back to have. Sure, he had just six rush attempts, but hey, Dameon Pierce only had five himself, while Singletary dominated the passing downs. Singletary still had the edge in passing-downs work Sunday, but it was definitely diminished, as he ran a route on just 14 of 35 dropbacks, with Pierce and Dare Ogunbowale at eight each. However, where Singletary really lost out was in the running game, as Pierce resumed his clear 1a role, carrying 15 times to Singletary's eight. In game scripts where the Texans figure to throw a lot, Singletary might still be the play, but Sunday makes it pretty clear that he's going to be matchup-dependent at best, while Pierce still matters. Both are probably no more than RB3s moving forward in this split.
Breece Hall, RB, Jets
Jets coach Robert Saleh was not just subjecting us to coach speak when he told reporters last week that Hall needed to do a better job of getting the "grimy yards" instead of trying to hit home runs on every carry. Whether you agree with that criticism or not – I kind of think the Jets probably need to be trying to hit more homers, even if it causes them to get off schedule a bit more often – the Jets backed up that talk by increasing Dalvin Cook's role Sunday.
Rather predictably, that failed to get the offense going, as Cook had just 35 yards on nine carries against the Falcons. However, it's not like Hall suddenly turned things around, either; he had just 16 yards on his 13 carries, so it's hard to argue it was a mistake to give that extra work to Cook. Hall was still active in the passing game, with six catches for 29 yards on eight carries, but if he's going to be splitting carries in this offense, it might be hard for Hall to even be an RB2. I'll still rank him that way because there just aren't many backs who can create a 50-yard touchdown out of thin air like Hall. But his floor is near the basement right now.
Adam Thielen, WR, Panthers
We might officially be past the point where you can use Thielen in Fantasy. He was targeted just three times last week, but I wanted to see what things looked like with head coach Frank Reich out of the picture. And, unfortunately, that doesn't seem to have been a good move for Thielen, who was targeted six times on 31 passes Sunday, catching three for 25 yards. Thielen hasn't shown much ability to create big plays, so he's been extremely volume dependent this season, and with rookie Jonathan Mingo getting 10 targets Sunday, it seems like the Panthers might be done prioritizing the 33-year-old veteran. That's a reasonable enough decision for a team with one win, and while I don't want to give up on Thielen entirely, it just doesn't make a ton of sense for the Panthers to go back to featuring him at this point. It's not like the offense was operating so much more effectively when he was getting eight-plus targets every week, you know?