With fantasy playoff spots on the line, Week 13 had a few surprising breakout performances. Let’s break down this week’s top performers.

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The New England Patriots are notorious for their unpredictability, especially when it comes to running back usage from week-to-week. So it should come as no surprise James White followed up his worst week of the season (0.9 points) with the best of his career (37.7) Sunday night against Houston.

He rushed 14 times for 79 yards and caught 8/98/2 on 11 targets; a true RB1 workload. The Patriots commonly use an RBBC approach, involving three or more RBs in most games. In spite of that, White had been consistently solid this season with only two weeks below RB2. The Patriots pass offense has struggled this season and White has been less effective as well, ranking outside the top 100 in FPOE for the first time in his career. This performance shows what his potential is when given a big workload (24 touches, but this was the first time in his career getting more than 12 carries and he has only reached 10+ on four occasions. If there are injuries to the backfield, he becomes a lock and load play, but outside of that, I expect his touches to fall back into the 7-13 range.

Posting a Top 5 performance for what appears to be the first time in his career, DeVante Parker scored 34.9 points by catching 7/159/2 on 10 targets. He brought in multiple impressive contested catches and showed good sideline awareness with YAC on one where he tiptoed to stay in bounds for a 43-yard TD. He has been a perpetual disappointment up to this point in his career, but is in the midst of a fifth-year breakout with Ryan Fitzpatrick quarterbacking.

Parker had never scored more than 21.9 points, so this was truly an outlier ceiling game for him. After averaging a disappointing 10.2 PPG from 2016-2017, he could only muster 5.5 PPG in 2018 and was considered a bust. This year, he’s gone over 50 receiving yards and/or scored a TD in all but one game (against NE), a consistency that is tough to find among WRs. Since Week 7, he is averaging 9.3 targets per game with 10+ in five of seven. Fitzpatrick is known for chucking it deep and playing a high-risk style of QB, and Parker has been the main beneficiary raking 5th in air yards. He is averaging 14.5 PPG and has unexpectedly become a high-floor weekly starter. 

Robert Woods returns to the Top 5 for the second time this season on a near-identical performance, 13/172/0 on 19 targets (30.2 points). He had eight more yards on the same number of catches as in Week 4, with four more targets and again was held scoreless. This is a strange year for Woods, as his only TD came via a rush. He caught six TDs last season with an increased role while Cooper Kupp was on IR, but has not produced well this year with Kupp’s return and Jared Goff’s struggles.

Entering the week, Woods ranked sixth at WR with 7 YAC per reception, the main source of his production. He is sitting 84th in total TDs and 170th in FPOE per game, falling far short of his eighth rank in expected points. While his role is not quite the same as last year and his floor is hard to count on, his opportunity suggests that TD regression is likely to come. It will be difficult to predict though, as his target counts (13, 2, 8, 15, 9, 4, 7, 2, 11, 9, 19) have been erratic resulting in a WR you can’t trust on a weekly basis.

Deshaun Watson is back in the Top 5 thanks to a lower scoring week across the board, and a hyper-efficient performance against the Patriots top overall pass defense. He was 18/234/3 on 25 attempts and added a cheeky reception for a 6-yard TD on a trick play (28.9 points). The Patriots had held opposing passers to an average of 13.1 fantasy points over their last five, which is actually bolstered by a 30 point day from Lamar Jackson. They were holding QBs to 13.1 fantasy points per game, a 54% completion percentage, 173.8 yards per game and a 1:2 TD/INT ratio over their past five games.

Watson ranks top 10 in everything except attempts and expected points, which is not an issue because his efficiency overcomes both easily, 8th in QBR and 3rd in FPOE per game. With elite receiving options in DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller, Watson is a top tier QB choice every week regardless of matchup.

Edging out the field for fifth the week was Alshon Jeffrey, who had 9/137/1 on 16 targets (28.7 points). Since 2013 when he had 37.8 and 48.9 point fantasy games, he has not surpassed 30.5 fantasy points. Though his ceiling is somewhat capped, it is impressive he can still approach it a couple times each year.

He certainly benefited from the game shooting out and flying over the 45 point total, as 16 was the most targets he received since 2015. He does not rank inside the top 30 in all but two metrics: total TDs and expected points. He averages an unfortunate 0.5 FPOE per game (72nd) and 2.6 YAC per reception (91st). Jeffrey is boom or bust, injury-prone, and at the tail end of his career. He is a fine GPP option for DFS, but not trustworthy in weekly fantasy.