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Fantasy football start/sit advice, Week 13: Bengals vs. Chargers

Andy Lyons

Neither team in Sunday's matchup can really afford a loss this weekend, but for different reasons.

For the San Diego Chargers, Sunday's game is a chance to reach .500 and stay tied at the top of the race for the AFC's six-seed. For the Cincinnati Bengals, a win would keep them two games ahead in the AFC North, and further their chances at a first-round bye in the playoffs. A loss would hurt San Diego's chances more, to be sure, but neither team can well afford to take one. They face off in San Diego at 4:25 p.m. ET Sunday, and there will be several fantasy-relevant players involved:

Bengals

Start in every league: A.J. Green

Start if you're desperate: Andy Dalton, Giovani Bernard, Marvin Jones, Mike Nugent, Defense/special teams

Bench: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Tyler Eifert, Jermaine Gresham

It's not like Green normally needs the help -- before his Week 11 goose-egg, the receiver had five straight hundred-yard games and double-digit fantasy performances -- but he gets it this week nonetheless, drawing a San Diego defense that lets wide receivers do all sorts of successful football things to it.

Against even an average NFL defense, Dalton would basically be unplayable right now. Outside of his largely inexplicable three-game hot streak in Weeks 6-8 -- 11 touchdowns, two interceptions, and 81 fantasy points -- he has averaged less than 10 fantasy points a game, and the next explanation for his hot streak that makes sense will be the first one. Against San Diego's poor unit, he's an acceptable desperation play, but it better be real desperation. ... Everyone remembers (forever) his eye-popping touchdown run against Miami, but Bernard has actually been underwhelming overall. He is still looking for his first hundred-yard rushing day and has five different games with six or fewer fantasy points. The upside is huge, but the downside is pretty low, as well. ... Jones has been super quiet since his ridiculous Week 8, with 77 receiving yards and six fantasy points in three games, including no points in his last two. Were it not for the friendly matchup, he'd be a bench candidate, and is it is he's still close. ... After topping out at nine fantasy points in the season's first five weeks, Nugent has scored in the double figures in four of six, with at least two field goals seven times this season. ... The Bengals' defense hasn't noticeably suffered from the season-ending injuries to Geno Adkins and Leon Hall, ranking second overall at the position and scoring 20 points a game in its last two. The Chargers are a tough matchup, though.

Green-Ellis has fallen firmly behind Bernard on the depth chart, and his touches have fallen off considerably in the last couple games. Anyone using him is hoping he finds a way to fall into the end zone. ... Neither Eifert nor Gresham has been nearly consistent enough to even justify every-week ownership, let alone regular fantasy play.

Chargers

Start in every league: Philip Rivers, Danny Woodhead, Keenan Allen, Nick Novak

Start if you're desperate: Ryan Mathews, Ronnie Brown, Antonio Gates, Ladarius Green

Bench: Eddie Royal, Vincent Brown, Defense/special teams

After a huge start to the season, Rivers cooled off for a while before erupting for 392 yards and 27 fantasy points Sunday. Even at his low points, though, he hasn't scored fewer than 11 fantasy points, and remains fourth overall among quarterbacks. ... Regardless of Mathews and/or Brown running alongside him, Woodhead has become a reasonably safe start every week, with seven touchdowns in his first season in San Diego. ... Allen is more and more obviously the Chargers' top option at wide receiver, with four hundred-yard games compared to only one combined for Royal and Brown. He's an easy WR2 right now. ... Novak is the No. 6 fantasy kicker, and has kicked multiple field goals in three straight games.

If Mathews plays, he's likely to be hobbled a bit, but has been on fire lately, scoring double-digit fantasy points in five of his last six games. He might be a game-time decision, though, and the fact that it's an afternoon game could make pre-planning bothersome. ... If Mathews does end up out for the game, Brown stands to see his production shoot up. It would be a bold play to use him in fantasy, but high-risk, high-reward. ... Gates still clocks in as the No. 7 fantasy tight end, though Green has been stealing some of his targets of late. Gates is the safer play, of course, but both of them have potential in Week 13.

Anyone using Royal is doing so planning on a touchdown, and while he does have seven on the season, he only has two since Week 2, and he's really hard to rely on otherwise. ... Brown has become a non-factor in the San Diego offense, not topping three fantasy points since Week 5 and only three times all season. ... The Chargers' defense is just terrible.

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Week 13 fantasy football position rankings: QB | RB | WR | TE | D/ST

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