Injuries, weather obscure Week 13 fantasy landscape

Another week of NFL football has brought yet another injury significantly altering the landscape of daily fantasy.

As the next New England Patriots offensive skill player to go down, top scoring tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered what has been diagnosed as a bruised knee in Sunday’s loss to the Denver Broncos. Though reports seem to be unclear at best, likely a bit of smoke and mirrors employed by head coach Bill Belichick, the only certainty is that he is not a smart start this week.

Even if he does play, a safe assumption would be that his productivity is slowed by his hobbled leg.

After back-to-back quality fantasy performances, Tennessee Titans’ quarterback Marcus Mariota will now play host to a Jacksonville Jaguars team allowing the third-most fantasy points to the position. Just two weeks ago, in the first matchup of the AFC South foes, Mariota scored his first rushing touchdown in the NFL en route to an 18-fantasy point night. Now hosting the Jags, and at a salary of $7,100, the rookie is a value pick worth strong consideration.

Averaging nearly 23 fantasy points per game, Carolina Panthers signal caller Cam Newton has not only played himself into the league MVP conversation, but the fantasy MVPs as well. Facing the New Orleans Saints, the only defense allowing 20 or more fantasy points to the position per game (23.2), Newton is a surefire bet, especially after posting 29.9 in a Week 2 matchup.

Broncos’ running back C.J. Anderson posted a season-high 29.3 fantasy points against a Patriots defense that has clamped running backs this season. This week he faces a San Diego Chargers defense that has not. San Diego’s 21.5 fantasy points per game allowed to the position is the highest in the league. At $6,800, Anderson is a value lock.

With all of the top running backs either recovering from injury or locked in poor matchups, Week 13 creates a great opportunity to take two value running back and two top wide receivers.

Along with Anderson, Pittsburgh Steelers’ DeAngelo Williams rolls into a favorable matchup. The Indianapolis Colts have allowed 17.7 fantasy points per game (eight-most) to the position.

The Colts have also struggled in defending the pass, and since quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returned from a pair of leg injuries, receiver Antonio Brown has been nearly unstoppable. His 107.8 fantasy points over the past five weeks average to 21.56. Expect a number in that area or higher this week.

After being slowed by a knee injury a week ago, all signs point to Houston Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins returning to peak performance this week. Facing a Buffalo Bills team centered in the pack for fantasy points allowed to the position, “Nuk” will return to his 20-plus fantasy-point-per-game form.

With Gronkowski as well as Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert banged up – both listed as questionable for this week – Panthers’ Greg Olsen is the heady move, at $6,600. Titans’ Delanie Walker is also worth consideration at $6,000.

As we get deeper into the cold season, picking a kicker becomes more about venue than anything else. Panthers’ placekicker Graham Gano is the second-highest scoring fantasy kicker in the league and is also playing indoors at New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome. At just $500 more than the lowest-salary kicker, Gano is the heady bet.

If you need to save that $500 for another position and can wait until Sunday morning to assemble your lineup, keep an eye on the health of St. Louis Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein. There is some chance he will return to the field this week, but that will not be determined until Saturday at the earliest.

Uncertainty may be the undoing of the once-promising playoff hopes for the Atlanta Falcons. In what quarterback Matt Ryan believes will be the game that can turn his squad’s season around, running back star Devonta Freeman is listed as questionable, just like Ryan’s recent performances. With a salary of $4,200, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense is a solid value fantasy play.

With starting quarterback Josh McCown out, the Cleveland Browns have decided to go with Austin Davis over Johnny Manziel. Davis looked good in relief last week against a shoddy Baltimore Ravens defense. This week he will face a much tougher Bengals defense, however. Take the Bengal defense in this tilt.