Week 13 matchups to exploit or avoid

Posted Nov. 30, 2011 @ 11:25 a.m.
Posted By William Del Pilar

There are some matchups that waiver-wire owners can take advantage of this week. Toby Gerhart and James Jones come to mind, but Jermichael Finley has an opportunity to break out of a slump, as well. Be careful with some waiver-wire pickups and this week's matchup. Players like Riley Cooper and Jason Avant had solid Week 12 outings but face stiffer competition this week. Fantasy playoffs start for many, and leaving points on the bench can cost you a victory.

EXPLOIT

QB Matt Hasselbeck, Titans (at Bills)
No one can deny that Hasselbeck was not at his best last week, throwing for 160 yards, one TD and two interceptions. He didn't have to be at his best with Chris Johnson finally coming through. Hasselbeck is a serviceable quarterback if not a true No. 1. However, he's facing a Bills team that is allowing 210 yards and 2.8 TDs per game over the last four weeks, so he has upside. Hasselbeck can exploit this matchup, making him a good play for those in larger leagues.

RB Toby Gerhart, Vikings (vs. Broncos)
If Adrian Peterson can't go because of a high ankle sprain, look for Gerhart to see the start once again. He went 17-44-1 rushing and 2-19-0 receiving last week, only managing 2.6 yards per carry. Since he's being utilized and the Broncos, over the past four weeks, are allowing 179.3 yards from scrimmage and 0.8 TDs per game, he has upside. The Broncos' run defense isn't as stout as the Falcons', and if the offensive line steps up, he could exploit this matchup.

RB Jonathan Stewart, Panthers (at Bucs)
The Bucs are the league's worst the past four weeks at defending opposing running backs, allowing 218.3 yards from scrimmage and 1.8 TDs per game. That's a formula for potential success for Stewart. Stewart went 10-70-0 rushing and 3-12-0 receiving, injury fill-in numbers, but he has an opportunity to surpass those numbers this week and makes a quality flex play. He can exploit this matchup.

WR Emmanuel Sanders, Steelers (vs. Bengals)
Now that Sanders got his feet wet going 2-25-0 on four targets Sunday night, he can be useful in larger leagues as an injury fill-in. He is facing a Bengals defense that hasn't been handling opposing wide receivers well the past four weeks. They're allowing 161 yards and 1.8 TDs per game and, before hurting his knee in Week Eight, he went 5-70-0 on eight targets. With a few opportunities, he could exploit this.

WR Eric Decker, Broncos (at Vikings)
It's not risk as much as fear that grips us when we decide whether to start Decker or not. He's a feast-or-famine guy, as the team doesn't pass much. He did go 3-65-1 on six targets with his best game since Week Eight and has four TDs in five games. He maximizes his opportunities and should do so again with a Vikings defense struggling against opposing wide receivers in their last three games. They're allowing 136.3 yards and two TDs per game, and as the No. 1 WR, Decker can exploit this.

WR James Jones, Packers (at Giants)
High-powered offenses are always one of the first teams to look at for one-week or matchup plays. He just had a huge performance, going 3-94-1 on four targets to come out of a slump. Any Packers receiver can have a big game, and over the past four weeks the Giants are allowing 176 yards and 1.3 TDs per game to opposing wide receivers. With the right opportunity, he can exploit this.

TE Jermichael Finley, Packers (at Giants)
Finley may have found the solution to end the slump he's in, and it's called the Giants. They have been one of the league's worst at defending the TE position the past four weeks, allowing 90 yards and one TD per game. He's set up to post great numbers and should exploit this.

AVOID

QB Matt Ryan, Falcons (at Texans)
Ryan's stout numbers of late may hit a bump in the road against the Texans. Over their last three games, against opposing QBs, they've only allowed 171.3 yards, 0.7 TDs and forced 1.7 interceptions per game. They are one of the league's best fantasy defenses. Ryan in his first seven games threw only one TD in five games and zero in another. This could happen again this week. If you can, avoid this matchup.

RB Michael Turner, Falcons (at Texans)
Turner's having a solid five-game run with two TDs and two 100-yard games. He's having a great season but has struggled at times against tougher defenses, though we're all still scratching our head at a 20-yard day against the Bucs in Week Three. Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has turned Houston into one of the league's best against opposing backs. Over the last three games they're only allowing 66 yards and zero TDs. Odds are you can't bench him, but if you are deep at RB, you may want to avoid this matchup.

RB Roy Helu, Redskins (vs. Jets)
It looks like head coach Mike Shanahan has finally decided to go with one back, and Helu responded, going 23-108-1 rushing and 7-54-0 receiving. Earlier this week, Shanahan said Helu was the team's starting running back. However, he heads into his first game as the official starter against a Jets fantasy defense that is one of the league's best against opposing backs the past four weeks. They're only allowing 83.5 yards from scrimmage and zero TDs. Helu will provide some highlight-reel plays, but if you have other options, consider them and avoid this matchup.

WR Riley Cooper and Jason Avant, Eagles (at Seahawks)
Last week Cooper (3-71-0 on five targets) and Avant (8-110-1 on 14 targets) faced the Patriots, a team that struggles to defend anyone. They both took advantage, with Avant coming out of nowhere. While the Seahawks may be struggling offensively, they're holding opposing wide receivers to 126 yards and 0.8 TDs per game the past four weeks. They're a top-10 fantasy defense, and with DeSean Jackson likely to see time and a Seahawks offense that is not explosive, Vince Young may not air it out like he has been. If you can, avoid this matchup. 

WR Johnny Knox, Bears (vs. Chiefs)
Despite having his best game of the season (4-145-1), Knox does pose risk, specifically because of QB Caleb Hanie. Hanie went to him with 10 targets last week, but there's no guarantee Hanie will stand up to a rejuvenated Chiefs defense. Despite their offense, the Chiefs defense is one of the league's best the past four weeks against the WR position. They're only allowing 90 yards and 0.5 TDs per game, making this a tough matchup for Knox. If you have other options, consider them and avoid this matchup.

WR Anquan Boldin, Ravens (at Browns)
Boldin has been up and down this season with a per-game average of 4.4 catches for 67.9 yards and 0.27 TDs, good enough for No. 3 WR numbers. Realize Boldin's a feast-or-famine guy — just as likely to flameout as he is to post his average in a given week. This week he'll have his hands full against the Browns and CB Joe Haden. They're only allowing 100.8 yards and 0.3 TDs to the position the past four weeks. Avoid this matchup.

TE Heath Miller, Steelers (vs. Bengals)
Miller's taken two steps back with a two-game average of two catches for 25.5 yards and zero TDs on 3.5 targets. He's been streaky, and the Bengals are only allowing 38 yards and zero TDs per game to opposing tight ends the past four weeks. They're among the best fantasy defenses, and Miller doesn't have great history against them. Avoid this matchup.