The fantasy football season has reached its most important stretch, and owners are desperate to decipher which Week 13 start 'em, sit 'em sleepers they must get in their lineup.
With injuries creating chaos across the sport and three matchups having already taken place on Thanksgiving, Sunday’s fantasy landscape is much different than usual.
The best owners thrive on the chance to shine, though.
All of the following players are not your prototypical fantasy juggernauts, but each will put up monster numbers and help you make the postseason or spoil the playoff aspirations of another team in your league.
*Based on standard-scoring leagues. Stats via NFL.com.
Shane Vereen, RB, New England Patriots
The New England Patriots are dealing with fumbling issues from No. 1 running back Stevan Ridley, and that will open the door for third-down back Shane Vereen to take a larger role as the team’s primary option.
In Vereen’s second game since returning from a broken wrist, he ran the ball 10 times for 31 yards and caught eight passes for 60 more. With the back expecting more carries as he takes the lead role, the matchup against the lowly Houston Texans should yield fantasy owners the monster statistical day they desire.
New England will likely lean on both Ridley and LeGarrette Blount around the goal line, but Vereen will have ample opportunities to showcase how much talent he possesses in the red zone during Week 13.
Houston’s 22nd-ranked run defense (allowing 118.5 yards per game) is exactly what Vereen needs to capitalize on his opportunity. If and when New England takes an early lead, expect Vereen to get 20 or more touches.
Predicted Week 13 Stat Line: 15 carries for 70 yards and one touchdown; eight receptions for 75 yards and one touchdown.
Cecil Shorts III, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars have been terrible this season, but the fantasy bright spot of the team has been wide receiver Cecil Shorts III. His numbers may not be flashy, but he is consistent and in the right situation to thrive.
Jacksonville has found itself trailing early and often this season, and the passing attack has been on full display as a result. It hasn’t been pretty, but Shorts has racked up some admirable fantasy numbers, including being targeted at least 10 times in eight of his 10 games this season.
After only getting nine targets in his two previous games combined, Shorts was targeted 10 times in the team’s win over Houston last Sunday and amassed a respectable eight catches for 71 yards.
While he hasn’t scored a touchdown since Oct. 6 (his only TD of the season), the matchup with a Cleveland Browns team that could be just as awful as Jacksonville should prove to be the week he gets out of his slump.
Predicted Week 13 Stat Line: Eight receptions for 90 yards and one touchdown.
Josh McCown, QB, Chicago Bears
This sleeper doesn’t apply to every fantasy owner, but if you had a starter like Aaron Rodgers go down injured or you accidentally left your starting quarterback on the bench for Thursday’s games, Week 13’s deepest sleeper is the Chicago Bears’ Josh McCown.
Since Jay Cutler (ankle) went down injured, McCown has taken over the role as starter and managed the games well. He has even showcased some of the power and precision many scouts saw coming out of college.
After throwing for 352 yards and two touchdowns last week against the St. Louis Rams, it is clear that the backup-turned-starter must be considered a viable fantasy option for desperate owners.
It may be hard for smart football fans to trust a perennial backup like McCown after one solid week, but a dream matchup against the 29th-ranked secondary of the Minnesota Vikings should be all the proof owners need to slide the former Bears backup into their starting lineups.
Predicted Week 13 Stat Line: 300 yards passing with three touchdowns and one interception.