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Week 13 Fantasy Football Fades: Is Saquon Barkley really due?

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  • New York Giants
    New York Giants
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Philadelphia Eagles
    Philadelphia Eagles
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Russell Wilson
    Russell Wilson
    American football quarterback
  • Saquon Barkley
    Saquon Barkley
    American football running back

The goal of any fantasy season is to make as many good decisions as possible, hoping that the accumulation of good decisions will get you where you need to go. I am not saying everyone listed in this article needs to be automatically benched on your roster — your team depth and context will determine how you play that. Perhaps you’ll use this column more for a DFS slant, or as a springboard to player props.

Like anything else, I advise you to consider any reasonable argument you come across but ultimately make your own measured decision.

I welcome your own fades (and music reccos, and dog photos); join me on Twitter: @scott_pianowski.

Russell Wilson vs. San Francisco 49ers

I was an early adopter with Russell Wilson. I admired his game at N.C. State, fell in love with the post-grad year at Wisconsin, and aggressively drafted him when he shifted to the NFL. Mostly, it’s been sunshine and lollipops.

Of course, not this year. Oh man, do the Seahawks look broken. It’s gotten so desperate, NBC begged off the San Francisco-Seattle game this week, instead opting for Kansas City and Denver.

Teddy Bridgewater over Wilson, apparently.

New OC Shane Waldron was an exciting hire four months ago; today, he’s in charge of a sluggish offense. Wilson probably rushed back from his finger injury. The Seattle running game is in a funk. Seattle runs fewer plays than anyone in football. There’s no volume in this offense. There’s no there there.

Even Wilson’s scrambling game is out the window; he’s no longer a proactive runner. His sack rate is also out of control.

Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks
What's up with Russell Wilson? (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

For selfish reasons, I’d love this fade to be comically wrong on game day. I have DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett shares that could really help me. But I’m not confident the Seahawks can sustain offense against the Niners — it’s very unlikely Seattle will run on the stout Niners front, and Wilson out of form is unlikely to take advantage of the positive matchups on the back end. I need a show-me week. Maybe I need multiple show-me weeks. (Somehow, Wilson’s ECR is still No. 13 this week. Name brands die hard, I guess. I’ll have him about seven slots lower.)

Wilson will probably be on a different team next year. Remember Coughlin’s Law: Everything ends badly, else it wouldn’t end.

Saquon Barkley at Miami Dolphins

You might say you can’t bench Barkley because he was your first-round pick. You might say you can’t bench Barkley because he’s due. You might say you can’t bench Saquon Barkley because he’s Saquon Barkley.

But never forget, fantasy football is a game about numbers. It’s not a game about names.

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Barkley was able to shake loose for a 32-yard run last week. His other 12 attempts went for all of eight yards, and his four catches netted just 13 yards. The Giants' offensive line has struggled all year, and Barkley’s explosiveness hasn’t returned, either.

It gets early with running backs in fantasy football; that’s just a cruel reality of the game. Look at the career arc of Todd Gurley, or Le’Veon Bell, or David Johnson, or Christian McCaffrey. They’ve been on plenty of fantasy football magazines in recent years. None of them are helping you this year, and neither is Barkley.

Perhaps you’ll have to start Barkley this week because your alternatives are weak. That’s reasonable. You know your situation better than I do. But don’t feel you need to validate past feelings on Barkley or the ADP sticker you paid in August. Those are out the window now. Understand what a sunk cost is. If you feel like an unheralded free-agent back is a better Week 13 start than Barkley, trust yourself. I can’t rank or start Barkley proactively in Week 13, especially against a surging Miami defense.

Devonta Smith vs. New York Jets

It’s not too early to declare Smith a 2021 Draft hit. He’s averaging 14.3 yards a catch, 8.8 yards per target. He flashes on screen, you recognize him immediately. Not every first-round receiver identifies himself so easily — remember guys like Tavon Austin and Kevin White? — but Smith has never had that problem.

But Philadelphia’s retooled offense is all about running the ball. And as dynamic as Smith is, he’s seldom peppered with targets. He has just 25 looks over the past five games, and he’s been a notable fantasy disappointment the last two weeks. Let’s be clear, this is not a comment on Smith; it’s a statement on how the Eagles want to play, and to some extent, the limitations of Jalen Hurts.

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The Jets look like a perfect elixir for Smith, a weak defense arriving just in time. But it’s also possible the Eagles control this game from the jump and view it as a week to unplug Hurts (or Gardner Minshew) in the passing game. If Smith is going to meet his Week 13 consensus rank, it will have to be a victory despite low volume. The Eagles are not an aerial show, especially when the opponent is unlikely to fight back.

Dawson Knox vs. New England Patriots

You’re going to start Knox in seasonal formats. I’m fine with that. He’s having a breakout year and always has touchdown equity.

But it’s a good time to fade Knox in the prop market. The Patriots are the wrong defensive opponent at the wrong time. Even Monday’s weather could be a mess, with snow possible, wind likely, cold temperatures expected.

Much was made of New England’s losing season last year, losing the post-Brady breakup. But the undersold story was how Bill Belichick didn’t have the defense he wanted. COVID-19 opt-outs and injuries ruined that unit before it really had a chance to get started.

In 2021, Belichick has chess pieces again, a defense filled with impact players and versatile talents. And this unit has been especially good at stopping the pass, including opposing tight ends. Over 12 games, the Patriots have allowed just 36 catches, 354 yards, and three touchdowns to the tight-end position. That’s a lockdown unit.

I don’t expect this to be a high-scoring game, either. First team to 20 points Monday night probably gets the win.

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