The plan was to win a Super Bowl with Jimmy Garoppolo. It started with a 5-0 2017 cameo. Then things got weird and stayed that way. Garoppolo was limited to three games by a torn ACL in 2018 … then reached the Super Bowl in 2019. Then he got injured again in 2020. The Niners decided to draft his successor in 2021 … who got injured and allowed Garoppolo to come within a whisker of another conference championship.
That was still only the warmup act for a 2022 trade that never came and Trey Lance's season-ending Week 2 injury, giving Garoppolo one final shot at accomplishing Kyle Shanahan's long-dreamed goal. Although Shanny was no longer all in on Garoppolo's future, he was all in on his 2022 prospects, surrendering four draft picks for the right to acquire Christian McCaffrey and make the offense whole.
It was a vote of confidence in the man who had gotten a vote of no confidence … we no longer want you, but we can still do this with you. Until fate once again intervened. A broken foot has joined Garoppolo's seemingly never-ending list of serious maladies, throwing the 49ers' present into chaos while once again clarifying their future. They don't know how they're going to do it, but it will no longer be with Garoppolo.
The 49ers rallied around Brock Purdy and played good football on Sunday, but Josh Johnson has already been added as a “knows the system” backup and starter-in-waiting. Purdy's leash will be “make a few mistakes and you're out.” It is good news for McCaffrey and bad news for everyone else. The run game and checkdowns will take the day even more than they did under Garoppolo. George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk will starve down the field. Deebo Samuel will try to make game-changing plays as a slashing hybrid. To that point on Sunday, Purdy's scores went to CMC and fullback Kyle Juszczyk while his interception was an underthrown ball to Aiyuk.
Kyle Shanahan? He will keep dreaming of the day the right player finally stays healthy at the right time. It was almost Jimmy G, but Shanny knew it never would be.
Five Week 13 Storylines
Lamar Jackson out “days to weeks” with knee injury. Almost without exaggeration, Jackson's entire skill corps has missed time with injury. Unfortunately, he ended up joining them on Sunday, attempting four passes before Jonathon Cooper's entire body weight landed on Jackson's leg on a first quarter sack. The only good news is that it's not season-ending, but like Jackson's 2021 ankle ailment, it could prove to be de facto season ending. Clinging to a share of the AFC North lead, the Ravens were being held together by Jackson's singular play-making. Without it, there is no one other than Mark Andrews backup Tyler Huntley can count on to make plays. Huntley has a rushing threat of his own, but unlike Jackson's, it's not enough to carry teams, real life or fantasy. Managers should look elsewhere for their fill-in as they wait on Jackson's timeline.
Off the injury report, D'Andre Swift roars back to life vs. Jaguars. For the first time since Week 1, Swift got in three full practices without an injury designation. For the first time since Week 1, Swift reached 18 touches and cleared 100 yards from scrimmage. He also scored and posted a season-high 49 yards receiving, making himself right at home in the Lions' increasingly-dangerous offensive attack. Although he lost a first quarter goal line carry to Jamaal Williams, Swift got Williams back in the third. Making matters sweeter, Swift's one-yard scoring run came after he himself set Detroit up at the one. Rather than subbing in Williams as they have done all season, the Lions went hurry up and let Swift get the TD. For as long as he can stay healthy, Swift will be an RB2 capable of pushing for RB1 relevance.
Ken Walker “jams” ankle in second quarter against Rams. Walker was just settling in before going down, notching a cool 36 yards on his first three carries. Although he was listed as “questionable” to return, Walker was reported to be getting “condolences” on the sideline. He was then ruled out at halftime, a timeline that casts serious doubt on his Week 14 availability. As is his style, coach Pete Carroll was of little help during his post-game press conference, expressing optimism Walker has avoided serious injury while not exactly inspiring confidence, either. Fantasy managers should operate under the assumption Walker will miss at least a game. With both DeeJay Dallas (ankle) and Travis Homer (knee) also banged up, Saints castoff Tony Jones could end up the lead back against the Panthers. Expect the Seahawks to sign someone, too.
Zonovan Knight once again leads Jets' backfield. The back better known as “Bam” has been active two times as an NFLer. He's cleared 100 yards from scrimmage both times out, looking better than any Jets runner not named Breece Hall and quickly cementing himself at the top of the depth chart regardless of Michael Carter's health. The only Jets RB to receive goal-line carries in Minnesota, Knight also caught five passes. His 20 touches were nine more than James Robinson and Ty Johnson combined. Knight's 90 yards on the ground Sunday were more than Carter has supplied all season, while Carter has bettered Knight's Week 12 total of 69 yards rushing only once. Even if Carter returns from his ankle issue in Week 14 against the Bills, Knight will be the only Jets back worth starting.
Courtland Sutton held to one catch before injuring hamstring. Coming off three straight 5/66 efforts, Sutton finally had some momentum in this moribund offense. Well nevermind that, as Sutton drew only one target before departing in Baltimore. It's just the latest cursed development in this hellbound offense, and yet another roadblock in Sutton's quest to make it all the way back to his pre-injury form. Sutton still isn't the same sideline dominator he was before his 2020 torn ACL. Now 27 years old and two years removed from the fact, it is fair to wonder if he ever will be. He has three scores in 30 games since his breakout 2019. When Sutton returns this season, it will be as a player without a plausible 2022 path to the “next step” in this Russell Wilson-led attack.
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Five More Week 13 Storylines
Panthers end Baker Mayfield experiment, cut him after 152 days. The Panthers tried to do the right thing. They seemed to sense Mayfield wasn't what they needed for 2022, so they waited as long as possible to acquire him. When they finally did, it was for the price of a 2024 fifth-rounder. It was still too much. After playing with one functional shoulder in 2021, Mayfield was no better for the disastrous Panthers, by many measures performing as the very worst quarterback in the league. That's how Ben Baldwin graded him, with Mayfield bringing up the rear — by far — in Baldwin's composite completion percentage over expected/EPA per play metric. Mayfield is a broken player, one who continues to get worse instead of improve. There figures to be no shortage of “well if anyone can fix Mayfield, it's Kyle Shanahan” takes, but with Mayfield continuing to decline — and worse: Just not seeming to be a “winning” player — don't be surprised if the 49ers pass on this hot potato.
Arthur Smith props open the door to a quarterback change in Atlanta. With Marcus Mariota stuck under 200 yards passing in five straight starts — a span in which the Falcons have surmounted 20 points once — Smith is finally admitting the Falcons might need to make a switch. Perhaps it was Mariota's second straight start to finish with a game-sealing pick that piqued Smith's interest. It, of course, could also be the Falcons' Week 14 bye, a natural time to make a change at the most important position. With only four games left, it's time for the Falcons to see what they have in Desmond Ridder headed into next spring's draft. Expect them to do so, but for Ridder to be off the fantasy radar for Week 15 against the Saints.
Matthew Stafford diagnosed with spinal cord contusion. How was your weekend, Matthew? Well, Patrick, it could have been better. I landed on injured reserve and have a bruised spinal cord. I see… At first it seemed like the Rams were using Stafford's recent concussion issues as a (valid) excuse to shut their aging quarterback down amidst a lost season. We now know it's more serious than that, but that even if Stafford could play again this year, the Rams would be well served by not doing so. That's because, as Rivers McCown pointed out in our blurb, Stafford's $20 million 2023 cap hit is reasonable but difficult to dump without wrecking the Rams' cap situation. Translation, not even ever-impatient Sean McVay will be able to find a way to get out from underneath it unless Stafford decides he's tired of the injuries and wants to hang it up. Expect Stafford to be back with an entirely revamped supporting cast in 2023.
Rams kind of just try stuff. Brandon Powell? He got seven touches. Tutu Atwell? He got six, and led the Rams in receiving. Cam Akers? The lead back again for some reason, out-touching Kyren Williams 18-3 and scoring his second and third touchdowns of the season. Out of nowhere, Akers played 72 percent of the Rams' snaps. Coach Sean McVay is firmly in “let's figure out who can help us in 2023” mode. Good for the Rams, not so much for fantasy managers, who will have a difficult time figuring out what is real and what is fiction for the fantasy playoffs. We will have no choice but to use some Rams in Week 14, as six teams are on bye.
Matt Ryan's career ends before our very eyes. You will not see a worse performance than that all season. That is what “E” looks like. Ryan was already running on fumes in 2021. Theoretical coaching and supporting cast upgrades did nothing to change that fact this season, while the Colts' whiplash personnel and coaching changes lowered his already slim chances of success to zero. Unless the Colts decide to chance to human surrender flag Nick Foles down the stretch, Michael Pittman and Parris Campbell are functionally unusable in fantasy. Defenses know they can afford zero respect to Ryan's “passing threat.” Unless it is as a Matt Schaub-style backup, do not expect to see Ryan in the league in 2023.
1. What is the point of the Chargers?
2. DID YOU KNOW: That Kyle Shanahan lost to the 2022 Broncos?
3. How long would be too long for Nathaniel Hackett to settle for a walk-off field goal attempt?
Early Waivers Look (Players rostered in less than 50 percent of Yahoo leagues)
QB: Ryan Tannehill (vs. JAX), Mike White (@BUF), Mac Jones (@ARI), Brock Purdy (vs. TB), Kenny Pickett (vs. BAL), Tyler Huntley (@PIT), Desmond Ridder (Bye)
RB: Zonovan Knight, James Cook, Cam Akers, Jordan Mason, Travis Homer, Tony Jones
WR: Nico Collins, Mack Hollins, Corey Davis, Romeo Doubs, Julio Jones, Demarcus Robinson
TE: Greg Dulcich, Evan Engram, Juwan Johnson, Austin Hooper, Daniel Bellinger
DEF: Titans (vs. JAX), Steelers (vs. BAL), Raiders (@LAR), Cardinals (vs. NE)
Stats of the Week
Tua Tagovailoa posted the second lowest quarterback EPA per play of Week 13. Embarrassing against an elite defense, but probably an indictment of Tagovailoa's Terron Armstead-less protection as much as anything else. Get well soon, Terron. The Chargers are a more forgiving matchup for Week 14.
93. That was AJ Dillon's new season high for rushing yards as Aaron Jones was severely limited by a shin injury. It's a matter to keep an eye on ahead of the collapsed Rams for Week 14.
Christian Watson touchdown update: He is now 69 percent of the way to Marquez Valdes-Scantling's Packers career total.
Jags stat of the week, from Michael DiRocco: "That's 20 consecutive losses to NFC teams for the Jaguars dating back to a victory at the NY Giants to open the 2018 season. Longest interconference losing streak in the NFL since the merger in 1970."
Via John Daigle: “Davante Adams has accounted for 49 percent of Derek Carr's passing yards, 64 percent of his touchdowns, and 38.2 percent of the Raiders' targets since Week 9.”
Week 13 Fantasy All-Pro Team: QB Jalen Hurts, RB Christian McCaffrey, RB Tony Pollard, WR Davante Adams, WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR A.J. Brown, TE Greg Dulcich
Tweet of the Week from John Proctor: Panthers dropping Baker in hopes SF picks him up and he ruins their team.
The Petty Tweet of the Week, from Richard Sherman: That Broncos locker room isn't going to be a fun place. Their Defense did enough today. Tough to lose that way.
The Well I Had A Nice Life Award: Facing the Browns or Cowboys' fantasy defenses.