So, Aaron Rodgers is really going to try to come back, huh? He was back at Jets practice Wednesday for the first time since his Achilles injury in Week 1, and the Jets officially opened up his 21-day window to return from IR. It's not hard to argue that was the biggest news to come out of Wednesday's practice sessions around the NFL.
Now, of course, that doesn't actually mean we're going to see Rodgers on the field for the Jets this season. In fact, I'd say it's more likely than not that he doesn't play, at this point. Rodgers has maintained throughout this process that, if he's going to come back, he's going to do so if the Jets have a chance to make the playoffs. And, at 4-7, 13th in the AFC, the Jets chances of making the playoffs are incredibly slim.
But ... you're saying there's a chance?
Yeah, maybe Rodgers rushes back from the injury and helps salvage what I'm 100% certain would have been a first-round caliber season for Garrett Wilson. Maybe he can inject some life into the Jets offense for a few games at the end of the season, allowing Breece Hall to live up to his full potential. We know those guys are incredible talents; we've seen it just by both of them managing to be starting-caliber players amidst the terrible circumstances they've found themselves in.
Yeah, it's a long shot. It's unlikely. But, with Rodgers actually progressing enough to get on the practice field, it's at least a realistic chance now. I did not expect we'd get to this point, even.
Alright, now let's get to the rest of what you need to know about from around the NFL. Today's newsletter is all about getting you ready for tonight's first lineup lock of the week, with my previews for every game, featuring the toughest lineup decisions and latest injury news you need to know about for Week 13. Let's get ready:
🔍Week 13 Game Previews
There's something to watch in every game on the NFL schedule every week, even if you have to squint to see it sometimes. Here's a look ahead at every Week 13 game, with some notes on what Vegas is expecting to see, the latest injuries, and the toughest lineup decisions:
- Thursday, 8:15 p.m. ET
- Line: Cowboys -9; 47.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Cowboys 28.25, Seahawks 19.25
If Geno Smith were playing at the level he did last year, I'd give the Seahawks a better chance of hanging around in this one. Smith's average depth of target has actually dropped a bit from last season, which makes his on-target throw rate dropping from 78.8% to 73.5% look even worse. I still think he's capable of reaching that level again, but the margin for error against this opportunistic Cowboys defense is basically non-existent.
- Toughest lineup decision: Zach Charbonnet -- Start. We're kind of in the same spot as last week with Charbonnet, where I have a lot of confidence in the workload he's going to get, but very little confidence in the production we're going to get from him. He played 88% of the snaps in Week 12 and turned it into 9.8 PPR points. In a normal week, against a Cowboys defense that allows the fourth-fewest points per game to running backs in Fantasy, Charbonnet would be a fringe starting option; in Week 13, .
- Injuries to watch: Kenneth Walker (oblique) is doubtful for the game, because Pete Caroll is apparently too much of an optimist to rule Walker out. Walker hasn't practiced in two weeks, but maybe he ends up playing -- Maxx Crosby played through a doubtful tag last week, after all. But Walker probably isn't playing.
- Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
- Line: Colts -1; 42.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Colts 21.75, Titans 20.75
The line moved a few points toward the Titans since the start of the week, as the Colts opened as 2.5-point favorites. I'd be surprised if that was a reaction to Jonathan Taylor's injury, given how well Zack Moss has played in his absence this season. Moss is a must-start RB for however long Taylor is out.
- Toughest lineup decision: Josh Downs -- Start. I started Downs ahead of Rashee Rice last week, and while the 15.4-point gap in their production hurt, I still think it wasn't a terrible decision. Downs played his most snaps since Week 8, a sign he's closer to 100% after dealing with a knee injury, and he earned 13 targets, a 32% share of Gardner Minshew's 41 attempts. The Titans are still allowing the fifth-most points to opposing wide receivers for the season, so the set up here is very good for Downs. It's been a while since we've had a good Fantasy game from him, but I'm still pretty confident in the rookie.
- Injuries to watch: Taylor is obviously not expected to play, but he might be the only significant absence here. Will Levis (ankle) was limited Wednesday, while Treylon Burks (concussion) practiced in a limited manner for the first time since Week 9, so it looks like he has a chance to get back.
- Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
- Line: Chargers -6; 41.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Chargers 23.75, Patriots 17.75
I look forward to the Chargers finding a way to lose a one-possession game to a team that hasn't scored more than 17 points in a game since Week 7.
- Toughest lineup decision: Rhamondre Stevenson -- Start. One annoying thing about the Patriots offense being such a disaster is, Stevenson's role has actually been pretty good lately. He's had consecutive 20-carry games after five straight of 10 or fewer, and he's been targeted at least five times in five of six games as well. The problem is, this is just a bad offense, so Stevenson needs the Patriots to keep the game close to get 15-plus carries. Doing that against the Giants or Colts is one thing, but Justin Herbert should be able to pull away in this one. It makes Stevenson a risk, but one you probably don't have much choice but to take at this point.
- Injuries to watch: Keenan Allen (quadriceps) is pretty banged up right now, having missed time due to shoulder injuries the previous two weeks. Now he's got this quad injury, though judging by the way the past few weeks have gone, he's gonna gut this one out, too. Or at least try. Demario Douglas' (concussion) chances of playing seem pretty slim as he recovers from his second concussion in less than two months. I'm expecting him to miss at least one game.
- Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
- Line: Lions -4; 45.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Lions 24.75, Saints 20.75
Early on, the Lions looked like legitimate Super Bowl contenders thanks to a defense that looked like it has taken a big step forward. However, they've allowed at least 26 points in four of their past five games and no longer look like such a tough matchup. That's especially true against the run, where they held their first six opponents below 100 rushing yards, a mark three of their past five have gone past. Are the Saints equipped to take advantage?
- Toughest lineup decision: David Montgomery -- Start. One of the problems for the Saints' chances of keeping this one close is that they're just extremely thin on playmakers in the passing game right now. We'll see what the final injury report says, but this could end up being a game where the Lions can just sit on the ball and lean heavily on their running game. That's a game script that figures to benefit Montgomery, who has been largely a non-factor in the passing game. He's a top-20 RB this week for me.
- Injuries to watch: Montgomery (foot) was limited in practice Wednesday, so that's one to keep an eye on over the next few days. Obviously, starting him depends on him being healthy enough to play. On the Saints side, Chris Olave (concussion) was surprisingly limited Wednesday. He still has to get through the concussion protocol to be cleared, but this is a positive first step. Rashid Shaheed (thigh) was unable to practice Wednesday, and he isn't expected to play this week, per reports from earlier in the week. However, the hope is it won't end up being a long-term absence at this point.
Falcons at Jets
- Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
- Line: Falcons -3; 33.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Falcons 18.25, Jets 15.25
The Jets have lost four straight to tumble to the periphery of playoff contention, and three of those losses have come by 21 points or more. And yet, the Falcons are only three-point favorites, which is fitting, because last week's nine-point win was the fourth-largest margin of victory in the Arthur Smith era. The Falcons don't really do blowouts, by design.
- Toughest lineup decision: Kyle Pitts -- Sit. Or start him. Maybe he hits on a long play, or finds the end zone randomly. But, at this point, it's impossible to actually make an affirmative case for Pitts as a Fantasy option. He hasn't had more than five targets in a game since Week 6, and has just one game all season with more than 60 yards. Pitts is still too talented to give up on entirely, but there's no point expecting anything from him anymore.
- Injuries to watch: Breece Hall (hamstring) is a new name on the injury report for the Jets, as he was limited Wednesday. Hopefully this is just a precaution, but we'll keep an eye on this one throughout the week -- and, if you've got the roster spot to play with, consider picking up Dalvin Cook and Israel Abanikanda, just in case. Abanikanda didn't practice Wednesday due to an illness, so that should factor into your decision as well.
- Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
- Line: Steelers -5.5; 41.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Steelers 23.5, Cardinals 18
The Steelers fired Matt Canada and immediately topped the 400-yard mark for the first time in 58 games. Of course, they also scored just 16 points, so it would be a stretch to say they solved all of their problems. Still, it was the most promising performance we've seen from this offense since ... I don't know, before Ben Roethlisberger's elbow fell apart in 2019? And now they get one of the softest matchups in the league as a follow-up.
- Toughest lineup decision: Pat Freiermuth -- Start. The Cardinals actually have decent numbers against tight ends this year (23rd-most Fantasy points allowed), but when you look at the schedule it becomes hard to argue that's because they do anything particularly impressive against them -- Mark Andrews and David Njoku both found the end zone while Darren Waller had 76 yards on six catches against them, so George Kittle might be the only must-start TE they've actually had good results against. Freiermuth has only had one good game this season, so there is certainly the potential for some recency bias here, but I'm firing him up in every league where I have him.
- Injuries to watch: The Cardinals have a few injuries to monitor this week, none more notable than Trey McBride missing practice with a groin injury. It's a new injury for McBride, and given that he sat out practice with it, we have to take it seriously. For now, that means making sure you have an alternative ready to go in case he can't get up to speed by Sunday. Marquise Brown (heel) didn't practice Wednesday, though that's an injury he's played through the past few weeks, so we'll assume he does the same this week. Michael Wilson (shoulder) also didn't practice, and given that he's missed the past two games with this injury, he'll likely need to get up to a full practice before he can return. Greg Dortch remains in the streaming flex conversation for this week if Wilson is out.
- Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
- Line: Dolphins -9.5; 49.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Dolphins 29.5, Commanders 20
The Commanders have allowed a league-high 49 completions of at least 20 yards. They've also allowed a league-high 31 completions of 25-plus yards, and a league-high seven of at least 50 yards. The Dolphins have the sixth-most completions of 20-plus yards, the fourth-most of 25-plus, and the most of 50-plus. The Dolphins have had some disappointing showings offensively, but this shouldn't be one of them.
- Toughest lineup decision: Brian Robinson -- Sit. It's hard to call anyone a sit this week, but I'm trying to steer clear of Robinson. With Antonio Gibson back from his toe injury last week, Robinson's passing game role disappeared, as he ran a route on just 22% of the team's dropbacks -- he was at 67% in Week 11 with Gibson out. Given another likely trailing script, this just doesn't feel like a great set up for Robinson to thrive.
- Injuries to watch: Tyreek Hill (ankle) didn't practice Wednesday, but seeing as he played through the injury without much issue last week, I'm guessing this is more of a precautionary/rest absence than anything -- kind of like Raheem Mostert's weekly Wednesday absence, which continued this week. De'Von Achane (knee) was limited Wednesday, but seeing as he missed last week despite being limited, I don't think we can just assume that means he's on track to play. Let's see him get a full practice by Friday.
- Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
- Line: Texans -3.5; 47.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Texans 25.5, Broncos 22
Here's a question I don't have a good answer to: Is the Broncos defense good? They're clearly not the disaster they seemed to be early on, but I'm not sure they're anything more than average at best -- their only truly impressive performance came when they held the Chiefs to 274 yards and nine points in Week 8. I'm starting my Texans with confidence this week.
- Toughest lineup decision: Javonte Williams -- Start. If you have Williams on your team, it was surely frustrating to watch him end up with 10.1 PPR points last week while backup Samaje Perine had 13.6, but there's some context necessary here. Williams left last week's game briefly with a neck injury, and it was during that time that Perine closed out a drive for a touchdown. Williams came back shortly after and was still the clear lead back despite the injury, with 11 carries and two targets in the second half to four and one for Perine. Assuming the injury is a non-factor this week, I don't have any qualms about starting Williams.
- Injuries to watch: Jerry Jeudy (groin) didn't practice Wednesday, so it looks like he has a chance of missing this week's game. If he does, maybe Marvin Mims becomes a desperation flex play -- or, more likely, a nice upside play in DFS tournaments. Tank Dell (calf) didn't practice either, and Texans coach DeMeco Ryans offered a non-update update in his press conference Wednesday, saying, "We'll see how the week continues to go for Tank. We expect him to be OK." Hopefully that's not just coach-speak, but we'll watch this one over the next few days to see. Dell is a top-15 WR if he plays. Noah Brown (knee) progressed to a limited practice, so he could be in the starting conversation if Dell does have to sit out.
- Sunday, 4:05 p.m. ET
- Line: Buccaneers -5; 36.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Buccaneers 20.75, Panthers 15.75
The "post-firing bump" is a real, documented phenomenon, as Five Thirty Eight noted a few years back, so maybe the Panthers won't be quite the pushover they've been before letting go of Frank Reich. Of course, the fundamental problems are still here: They've got a young QB, a bad offensive line, and maybe the least impressive group of weapons in the league. Even against a mediocre team like Tampa Bay, there still seems to be a significant talent deficit here.
- Toughest lineup decision: Adam Thielen -- Start. As I wrote earlier in the week, I'm genuinely not sure what to make of Thielen's season. He was a must-start Fantasy option for a while, but in a way that never felt like he was really making a difference for the Panthers. If anything, his massive role as a short-area target reflected the dysfunction of the team's offense. But it's also the case that, with Thielen failing to produce lately, it's not like the Panthers offense has gotten any better; they've scored 13 or fewer points in four straight games, with Thielen failing to reach 50 yards in three of four. Nobody else is stepping up here, so I'm going to assume last week's three-target performance was a fluke and I'm going to get him right back into my lineup.
- Injuries to watch: Baker Mayfield (ankle) practiced in full Wednesday, so that looks like a non-issue. On the Panthers side, Hayden Hurst (concussion) and Laviska Shenault Jr. (ankle) didn't practice, though I'm not sure either really matters for Fantasy one way or the other.
- Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
- Line: Rams -3.5; 39.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Rams 21.5, Browns 18
The Browns deserve credit for remaining as competitive as they've been, but with arguably their two best defensive players dealing with injuries, it might be too much to overcome in Week 13. I will say this, though: I think Joe Flacco might actually be an upgrade for this offense at QB if he has to play.
- Toughest lineup decision: Amari Cooper -- Start. I mean, look, I'm not expecting Flacco to save the Browns offense, or anything. He's going to be 39 soon, remained unsigned until November despite a pretty acute QB crisis around the NFL, and averaged just 5.5 yards per pass last season. Still, 5.5 Y/A would be a significant improvement over what the Browns have gotten from Dorian Thompson-Robinson, and it's not like they're doing much to take advantage of DTR's athleticism. If Flacco starts, I do expect him to be better for the Browns' passing game, especially Cooper, who I expect him to lean on.
- Injuries to watch: Cooper is listed on the injury report as a DNP Wednesday, but it doesn't seem like reason to be concerned -- he has the rib injury, but was also listed as being out to rest, so it shouldn't be an issue. Kareem Hunt (groin) might be, as he didn't practice, but he's also a veteran, so we'll need to see his status Thursday and Friday before reacting. But Jerome Ford could be an even better starting option if Hunt is out. And Thompson-Robinson didn't practice due to his concussion, so I'm assuming Flacco will start. And, to cap off a lengthy report for the Browns, both Myles Garrett (shoulder) and Denzel Ward (shoulder) were DNPs Wednesday, though like Cooper, Garrett was listed as a rest day as well, so it may not be much of a concern.
- Sunday, 4:25 p.m. ET
- Line: 49ers -3; 46.5 O/U
- Implied totals: 49ers 24.75, Eagles 21.75
If you'll indulge me for a second: I've seen a lot of criticism of Jalen Hurts as the MVP frontrunner, saying that he's only viewed that way because of the Eagles' league-best 10-1 record. I just want to say that, while team record can never be put entirely at one play's feet, I do think Hurts deserves a lot of credit for the Eagles' success in close games. How often they are able to convert high-leverage, short-yardage situations, and how aggressive they are with those decisions as a result, is a big part of why they keep winning close games, and Hurts is a big part of that. In a year without an obvious MVP choice, I'm fine giving him a bit of extra credit there. He's earned it.
- Toughest lineup decision: Dallas Goedert -- Sit. It sounds like Goedert actually has a chance to return this week, just four weeks removed from a fractured forearm that required surgery. That's remarkable, and if he's available in your league, you should go add him for the stretch run. But I'm going to take a wait-and-see approach if he does return this week, because I have to imagine his reps will be limited in his first game back. If you want to start Goedert, that's fine, he'll be in the fringe TE1 range for me if he's cleared. But I would hope I have a better option.
- Injuries to watch: Goedert (forearm) didn't practice Wednesday, so that's not a good first step. DeVonta Smith (knee), A.J. Brown (thigh), and D'Andre Swift (ankle) were all limited, so I'm assuming they'll be good to go this week.
Chiefs at Packers
- Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET
- Line: Chiefs -6; 42.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Chiefs 24.25, Packers 18.25
The Chiefs had their best offensive game since Week 7, scoring 31 and putting up 360 yards against the Raiders in Week 12. It's a far cry from the highs we've gotten used to from this offense, but you have to wonder if they didn't unlock something with Rashee Rice's usage last week. Hopefully, that's here to stay.
- Toughest lineup decision: Jordan Love -- Start. I think basically the entire Packers offense are fringe starters this week. In year's past, I might have been more excited about Love, Jayden Reed, Christian Watson, and the rest, but the Chiefs have a legitimately great defense right now, and while the Packers have shown flashes of life in the passing game in recent weeks, I'm still not quite ready to assume Love has unlocked a new level of performance. If he shines in this one, he might be a top-12 QB the rest of the way, though.
- Injuries to watch: One to watch here is AJ Dillon (groin), who didn't practice Wednesday alongside Aaron Jones (knee). Jones seems unlikely to play, but if Dillon is out, that would likely throw Patrick Taylor and James Robinson into the starting mix. Neither would be more than a desperation flex even if both Jones and Dillon are out, but I could see Taylor being useful as the pass-catching option with the Packers listed as six-point underdogs. Jayden Reed (chest) also missed practice with the same injury he played through last week, so we'll see if that affects his availability.
- Monday, 8:15 p.m. ET
- Line: Jaguars -8; 37.5 O/U
- Implied totals: Jaguars 22.75, Bengals 14.75
The Bengals have the lowest implied total on the Week 13 schedule. Yes, lower than the Jets with Tim Boyle and the Browns with Joe Flacco (or Dorian Thompson-Robinson). Lower than the Patriots. Jake Browning didn't have an awful game by the box score, but his longest completion last week came on a tipped pass Ja'Marr Chase tracked down and turned into a 31-yard gain; his second-longest was a screen pass to Joe Mixon. Yeah.
- Toughest lineup decision: Joe Mixon -- Sit. In a different week, Mixon would be a sure-fire sit. As it is, he's RB27 for me, so you might not be able to get away from an RB who is a good bet for 10-15 touches. But this looks like a pretty terrible offense right now, the Jaguars have a solid defense, and Mixon just isn't the kind of guy who can overcome his surroundings anymore. If he manages to get into the end zone, Mixon will be a decent starter, but his chances aren't great.
- Injuries to watch: Neither team will release a full practice report until Thursday, so we'll have to wait and see what Tee Higgins' chances of playing are. Though, with Browning in at QB, I'm not sure he's much more than a WR3 even if he does play.