Fantasy football analyst Sal Vetri will use this space to deliver his keys to victory every week of the 2023 NFL season.
Finding No. 1: The best RB spot of the week belongs to Rachaad White
He’s been a top-three running back the past month, averaging an elite 81% of the snaps and 20 opportunities during this stretch. White has dominated as a receiver all season, ranking top five in RB receptions and yards. But in Week 12 we saw him find success on the ground, averaging 6.7 yards per carry on his 15 touches, totaling 100 yards.
This week he’ll face the Panthers' bottom-five run defense. Carolina allowed 20.1 points to a struggling Derrick Henry last week. Opposing backfields are averaging 112 yards per game against the Panthers. Continue to start White.
Finding No. 2: The sketchy RB spot of the week belongs to Joe Mixon
The Bengals offense struggled in Week 12 without Joe Burrow and Tee Higgins. Cincinnati totaled just 222 yards and it averaged just 5.4 yards per play. Joe Mixon had his worst rushing performance of the year as he earned 16 yards on eight carries. His 44 receiving yards saved him from a truly dreadful day.
In Week 13, Mixon will face the Jaguars. He and the Bengals will be a seven-point underdog against Jacksonville’s strong run defense. The Jaguars allow just 59.2 total rushing yards per game to opposing backfields, the fewest in the league. It’s difficult to sit Mixon this week given all the byes, but if you have a viable replacement, I’d consider it.
Finding No. 3: The pick-up-and-play of the week is Curtis Samuel
He battled injuries from Week 7 to Week 11, but in Week 12 he was finally healthy and it showed. Samuel earned 100 yards on a team-high 12 targets.
He continues to benefit from the Commanders' league-high passing volume. Samuel now has four top-24 finishes over his last five healthy games. This week he’ll take on Miami as the Commanders are a 9.5-point underdog. In similar spots this season, the Commanders throw 40+ times and Samuel averages seven targets. He’s available in 63% of leagues — pick up and play him if you can.
Finding No. 4: Christian Watson is a WR trending up
Watson is heating up at the perfect time for your playoff run, leading the Packers in all categories on Thanksgiving. He ran the most routes, played the most snaps and earned a team-high seven targets.
The game started with a 53-yard contested catch for Watson and this was the start to a great day. Watson earned 94 yards and one TD on five catches and he should’ve had an even bigger day. Watson was open late in the fourth quarter and Love underthrew him for what would’ve been a 30-plus-yard score.
We now have a healthy Watson and an improving Jordan Love. This combo has led to back-to-back touchdown performances for Watson. The second-year receiver ranks fourth in average target distance, and if Love continues to play well we’re going to see lots of big plays out of Watson in the next six weeks. He has a favorable schedule against the Giants, Bucs, Panthers and Bears coming up.
Finding No. 5: James Conner is an RB trending down
He hasn’t topped eight fantasy points since Week 3 (he missed four weeks with an injury). Conner returned from IR in Week 10 and saw a strong 64% of the snaps. This continued into Week 11 when Conner played the Texans, earning 66% of the snaps and 16 total touches. This usage allowed us to believe his role was secure and trustworthy, but then things changed in Week 12.
Conner played a season-low 39% of the snaps and saw just 10 touches. Now, this game was a blowout so that has to factor in, but a new running back was involved for Arizona. Michael Carter made his Cardinals debut and earned 38% of the snaps while leading the backfield in routes run. This led to a five-target performance for Carter. If this usage continues, it takes away Conner’s upside in games where the Cardinals play from behind.
Finding No. 6: A name to keep in mind is Joshua Palmer
He’ll miss one more game as he remains on IR for the Chargers. But now is the time to add Palmer before he returns because the Chargers have no other options outside of Keenan Allen (who's nursing an injury as well). Jalen Guyton and Quentin Johnston combined for just 11 yards in Week 12.
Palmer will immediately be the WR2 when he returns. Remember, he’s earned seven or more targets in his last four healthy games, averaging over 13 fantasy points and this includes a top-10 finish in a tough matchup against the Chiefs in Week 7. Palmer is available in 70% of leagues, so stash him for your playoff run.
Finding No. 7: Rashee Rice is a rookie on the rise
Rice saw season-high usage in Week 12, running 71% of the routes and an elite 31% target share. Both were season highs. This led to a strong day of 107 yards on 10 targets for over 20 fantasy points.
Rice now ranks top 15 in WR efficiency this season and top 10 in fantasy points per target. Kansas City will have a great rest-of-season schedule for its receivers. The Chiefs take on six bottom-half-of-the-league secondaries to end the year.
Finding No. 8: The bye-week QB filler is Baker Mayfield
Times are hard. There are six teams on bye and it's Week 13. Right when you're fighting for a playoff spot, this happens. The fantasy gods are testing you.
Have no fear, adversity builds champions!
You need a QB — and Baker is your answer. Believe it or not, Mayfield ranks 11th in expected points among all QBs this season. He has four top-12 finishes over his past six games. It hasn’t been pretty, but he’s getting there on volume alone in a lot of these games. Mayfield leads the NFL in deep passes of 20+ yards and ranks eighth in overall pass attempts.
This usage opens up more explosive plays and upside weeks. Stream Baker at home against Carolina in Week 13.
Finding No. 9: Stash this playoff defense: Green Bay
The Packers’ defense is available in over 80% of leagues. But what if I told you they are one of the 10 best fantasy defenses for your playoff stretch? The other nine defenses are rostered in more than 50% of leagues. This is the type of edge you should be looking for this late into the season.
The Packers’ defense is getting healthier and their offense is playing better. This has led to the defense having more time to rest as the offense sustains drives. Green Bay has generated pressure at a top-10 rate over the past two months. This pressure may lead to more turnovers when they face lesser QBs in the fantasy playoffs. The Packers get juicy matchups against Baker Mayfield, Bryce Young and Joshua Dobbs to end the season. Stash them if you can.
Finding No. 10: Tank Dell is a new Top-10 WR
Dell is now a top-10 receiver for the rest of the season. This puts him ahead of guys like Michael Pittman, Davante Adams and Chris Olave. Dell scored 17 points in Week 12, which is great, but it should’ve been a much bigger day for him. He was underthrown on a likely 70-yard TD and then had a 50-yard play called back by a questionable penalty.
This season, Dell ranks top-12 in WR efficiency and now earns the seventh-most fantasy points per route. He also benefits from run game usage and a great QB who is also excelling each week. Expect the success to continue as the Texans will face the Titans twice in the fantasy playoffs. Tennessee ranks in the bottom 10 against fantasy receivers.