We've got six teams on bye coming up in Week 13, and I've got some bad news for those of you looking for replacements on the waiver wire: Sunday did not give us a lot of compelling options to look for.
There have been some barren weeks on the waiver wire, but I can't remember a week where it was tougher to come up with actionable waiver-wire recommendations than it was last night. There are certainly some viable options –– but, all in all, there just weren't many impressive performances from widely available options Sunday.
As always, the news will come out in the next 36 hours or so to change that before the waiver wire runs Tuesday evening, and we'll have Jamey Eisenberg's top targets in tomorrow's newsletter to make sure you've got what you need to fill any holes you might have. Just know that Sunday's action really didn't give us many players to get excited about.
Before we get to the meat of today's newsletter, the biggest Winners and Losers from Sunday, here are the injuries from Sunday's games you need to know about:
- Chris Olave (concussion) and Rashid Shaheed (quad) both left for the Saints. Olave has dealt with concussion issues before, so I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up having to miss Week 13. If Shaheed is out too, it's not clear who would benefit – A.T. Perry had just one catch on two targets Sunday, so it might just be a whole lot of Alvin Kamara dump-offs. Taysom Hill could also see an increased role with Juwan Johnson exiting Sunday's game briefly.
- Demario Douglas suffered his second concussion of the season. Douglas missed Week 6 with the issue, and given that this is his second of the season, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him miss another game, at least. It's frustrating, because Douglas had six catches on nine targets Sunday and has seemed on the verge of breaking out recently. This could definitely derail that for at least one week.
- Amari Cooper suffered a rib injury. Cooper took a hard shot in the fourth quarter and will have X-rays to determine the extent of the injury. He had just two catches for 16 yards on six targets before the injury, so he'd be tough to trust in Week 13 against the Rams even if he's good to go for that one.
- Dorian Thompson-Robinson suffered a concussion. Thompson-Robinson took a nasty shot that drew an unnecessary roughness penalty and couldn't return to the game. He was replaced by PJ Walker, who has one touchdown to five interceptions this season, and a 6:16 ratio for his career, so I wouldn't be surprised if the Browns turned to Joe Flacco, newly signed to the practice squad. That would probably be better for Cooper (if he can play), Elijah Moore, and David Njoku, though obviously, expectations for the passing game would still be pretty low.
We also saw Javonte Williams and Travis Etienne briefly leave their games, so that's something to keep an eye out for over the next couple of days as we get those post-game updates. With the Bills, Bears, Raiders, Vikings, Giants, and Ravens all on bye next week, we can't really handle more absences.
We've got one game left in Week 12, with the Vikings and Bears kicking off tonight, then we've got one more week of byes to get through. Then, it's a straight sprint to the end of the season, with many leagues beginning the playoffs in Week 15. We're that close, and let's just hope you don't have a must-win game with some of those bye week teams on the way.
We'll talk more tomorrow about how to handle those bye weeks, including trade candidates, waiver-wire targets, along with my initial Week 13 rankings. But for now, let's look back at Sunday's action with my biggest winners and losers from around the NFL:
Biggest winners and losers
Here's who has the arrow pointing up or down coming out of Sunday's action:
You can nitpick the usage if you want. Robinson got 16 carries Sunday, but Tyler Allgeier and Cordarrelle Patterson still got 18 between them, after all. But, at some point, you'd just be complaining for the sake of complaining, because Robinson got 16 carries and six targets Sunday, including two of three carries and one of two targets for the entire team in the red zone. It's been clear Robinson is a superstar since the second he stepped on an NFL field, and complaints about his usage were fully valid earlier in the season. However, the Falcons have seen the light, with Robinson getting 14.5 carries and 4.3 targets per game over the past four games since Week 8. Robinson is a superstar, and he's getting superstar usage. Oh, and he has the Panthers, Colts, and Bears in the Fantasy playoffs. He could end up being a league-winning pick after all.
Kyren Williams, RB, Rams
There was some talk that the Rams might go with a timeshare in the backfield, and I suppose technically, that was true – his 60% snap share was his lowest of the season, and Royce Freeman only had three fewer carries than him Sunday. And Freeman has been effective enough that it's not unreasonable to expect him to have a role here moving forward, so we may not see Williams play literally every snap like he did in one game earlier in the season. However, Williams continues to look incredible in this Rams offense, and he had over 200 yards from scrimmage on 22 touches in his first game back from IR Sunday.
Sure, the Cardinals are a pretty soft matchup, one Williams already torched for 158 yards and a touchdown earlier in the season, so things should be a little more difficult moving forward. But we're now seven games into Williams' career as the Rams lead back, and he's averaging 21.3 PPR points per game, with at least 17 in five of seven. This role is hugely valuable, and it figures to remain mostly consolidated in Williams' hands. The upcoming schedule – vs. CLE, @BAL over the next two weeks, especially – isn't super friendly, but I can't imagine sitting Williams at this point.
Michael Pittman, WR, Colts
Pittman isn't putting up huge yardage totals or finding the end zone every week, but he's been arguably one of the most valuable wide receivers in PPR scoring this season. He caught 10 passes Sunday against the Buccaneers for 107 yards, his fourth straight game with at least eight catches and eight targets and his fifth in six games – in the other one, he caught two for 83 yards and a touchdown. Pittman has a 30% target share from Gardner Minshew, and has been like a poor man's Amon-Ra St. Brown since Minshew took over as the QB, feasting on short, underneath targets to keep the offense on schedule. He's not in that elite tier at WR, but he's one of the next-best things at the position, and I see no reason to expect that to stop being true.
How's this for a stat? With Ridley having 103 yards last week and then 89 Sunday, he had his first two consecutive games with more than 38 yards all season. This is really the first time we can look at Ridley and say he's building some momentum. The Jaguars moved him around the formation more for the second week in a row, and while you can't expect him to average 15 yards per target every week, they've clearly figured out a way to get him going. What might have been most exciting about this one is the fact that, after Ridley was held without a catch on one target in the first half, the Jaguars made a point of getting him going after halftime, with all of his catches coming later on in the high-stakes, close-fought matchup with the Texans. When it mattered the most, the Jaguars leaned on Ridley. I'm not ready to say he's going to be the guy you drafted him to be, but you've gotta feel better about starting him in Week 13 against the Bengals now.
Nico Collins, WR, Texans
It's been the Tank Dell Show in Houston lately, with Collins taking a backseat. However, one thing that has been consistent about this Texans passing game is how willing they are to lean on whichever wide receiver is getting open, regardless of our assumptions about the hierarchy. For a few weeks that was even Noah Brown! Sunday, it was Collins, who caught seven of nine passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, his first 100-yard game since Week 1 (he had two in the first four games of the season. Dell still played a big role, with five for 50 and a score on his eight targets, and he may still be the best Fantasy option here. But I think it's probably going to be pretty close between him and Collins, and, for what it's worth, Collins has 20 targets to 18 for Dell over the past two games since coming back from a calf injury. We may have anointed Dell as the go-to option in this passing game a bit too early. That being said, the fact is the Texans might have two must-start Fantasy WRs with a rookie QB. C.J. Stroud is special.
We've been waiting for Rice to emerge as the top non-Travis Kelce option in the Chiefs passing game, and it sure looked like that's what he did Sunday against the Raiders. Rice earned a team-high 10 targets, catching eight of them for 107 yards and a touchdown, his first career game with more than five catches or 762 yards. Rice didn't quite play an every-snap role, but he led the team's running backs with 39 snaps and 27 routes (on 58 plays and 38 dropbacks), right in line with his career-highs in each category. We've assumed Rice's arrival a few times without actually being right, and he had a drop (or two, depending on how harsh a grader you want to be) in this one, so it wasn't perfect. But Rice was already solidly in the WR3 range of the rankings, and I don't see him going any lower after this one.
Gus Edwards, RB, Ravens
Edwards has been one of the most obvious sell-high candidates in Fantasy for a while now, and the window may have just slammed shut Sunday night. Coming off a two-touchdown game, Edwards was held out of the end zone for the first time in six games, and it revealed just how weak his grip on Fantasy relevance truly is, as he had just 4.7 PPR points. Edwards had an inefficient game, rushing for just 26 yards on eight carries, but it really wasn't that unusual for a guy averaging just 4.2 yards per carry coming in. Keaton Mitchell got more carries than Edwards Sunday, and while I don't think the rookie is going to run away with the job, I do think this is clearly a timeshare moving forward, and Mitchell is just the much more dynamic player. Edwards has his role, and that'll lead to a few more rushing touchdowns down the stretch, but if I'm a contender, I hope I don't actually have to rely on him down the stretch.
Joe Mixon, RB, Bengals
For the past few years, Mixon has just been a volume-based RB2 for the most part, but at least he was in a very good offense that would give him tons of carries near the goal line. With Joe Burrow out for the season with a wrist injury, I don't know if he even has that going for him. And, in a game where the Bengals never trailed by more than nine points, he also had just eight carries, so he might not even have the volume to fall back on here. Sure, partially, that's because the Bengals had just 41 offensive snaps, but with Burrow out, this is going to be a pretty bad offense that struggles to move the ball. Mixon isn't the kind of back who outplays his circumstances, and now his circumstances might be really, really bad. He's an RB3 you're just hoping finds the end zone in any given game, and I'd have to be pretty desperate to start him at this point.
Dameon Pierce, RB, Texans
I thought Pierce would return to a timeshare with Devin Singletary, but that's not at all what we saw Sunday. Singletary played 47 snaps to just 11 for Pierce, with Singletary holding an especially meaningful gap in routes run, 35 to six, on 46 pass plays. Pierce practiced in full all week after missing three weeks with his ankle injury, so I'm not sure how much the injury excuse works here – he might have just been usurped by Singletary after his big performances in Week 10 and 11. Neither back did much on the ground (six carries, 18 yards for Singletary, five for 14 for Pierce) against the Jaguars, but Singletary still had a solid Fantasy game thanks to six catches for 54 yards. I don't think Singletary is much more than a PPR RB2/3, but that's a whole lot higher than I'm likely to rank Pierce here.
Cooper Kupp/Puka Nacua, WR, Rams
We're running out of excuses here, and fast. Kupp has five straight games with fewer than 7.0 PPR points after Sunday's three-catch, 18-yard effort, while Nakua has 7.3 or fewer in four of his past six after going for four for 27 on eight targets Sunday. For a couple of those games, the Rams were either missing Matthew Stafford or he was playing through an injury, but Stafford was terrific Sunday, carving the Cardinals up for 229 yards and four touchdowns, none of which went to Nacua or Kupp. Now, in Kupp's case, I think the ankle injury he was dealing with this week probably does give him a decent excuse, while Nacua's excuse is, hey, he had 18.7 PPR points literally last week. Which is to say, it would be a mistake to write this incredibly talented duo off. But there's no question this was a disappointing performance from both of them, and you really can't just keep penciling them in as WR1s every week. I'm probably still starting them everywhere in Week 13 with six teams on a bye, but I'm a bit more wary about it, at least.
Adam Thielen, WR, Panthers
Thielen's emergence as a must-start Fantasy option for the Panthers this season never really made a lot of sense. It felt like a product of the dysfunction of the Panthers offense more than anything else; that they needed so much from a 33-year-old Thielen was an indictment on the offense, was how I felt. The nature of Thielen's production – coming almost exclusively on short-area targets against soft defense – made it hard to know how sustainable it was. Thielen was the only player doing much of anything for the Panthers, it was true, but nearly every target that went his way felt like the offense was settling, in a way opposing defenses were generally content with.
I'm not sure how fair this read is, to be honest, because the Panthers managed just 10 points in Week 12 with Thielen catching just one pass, so it's not like they've got anyone else stepping up … on the other hand, they had 10 points in Week 11 with Thielen catching eight passes, and 13 points with six catches in Week 10. So, there isn't really a correlation there. This offense stinks, the Panthers seem likely to blow it up moving forward, and Thielen obviously isn't a long-term piece for them, so I wouldn't be surprised if they continued to de-prioritize him. On the other hand, Thielen still ran 36 routes on 38 dropbacks, so it might just be a fluke.
If you can't tell, I'm really not sure how to feel about Thielen right now. But I do know that, like Kupp and Nacua, it's probably going to be hard to get away from him in Week 13, at least. Let's hope he gives us some reason to be optimistic heading into the Fantasy playoffs.
In a game where the Steelers offense finally clicked and got over the 400-yard mark for the first time in literally years, Pickens once again made little impact. He had a couple of nice plays en route to a three-catch, 58-yard game, but he was out-targeted by both Diontae Johnson (four catches for 50 yards on eight targets) and Pat Freiermuth (nine for 120 on 11 targets). Freiermuth's performance was at least in part due to a good matchup against a Bengals defense that hasn't been great against tight ends all season, but it also wouldn't surprise me if Freiermuth just had more targets the rest of the way as Kenny Pickett's release valve. Pickens will still have games where he breaks big plays and find the end zone, but I think he's firmly in that Gabe Davis WR4 range. It feels like a waste for a guy who showed he can be a whole lot more than that when Diontae Johnson was sidelined.