With one week left before the start of fantasy football playoffs in many leagues, here's why Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson should be in your Week 13 lineup. (NOTE: All rankings are based on ESPN Standard scoring, which includes one point per reception.)
Start: RB Antonio Gibson
Yes, the Pittsburgh Steelers have the NFL's third-ranked total defense. And yes, Washington could be playing from behind.
But that does not mean Gibson should be on your bench or even in your flex spot. He should be locked into one of your running back slots and not forgotten about ahead of Monday evening's game with the Steelers.
"He's very special, and I don't think he knows how good he can be," said wide receiver Terry McLaurin, another must start this week. He's a very hard worker -- he doesn't really say much -- and just to see the way he's grown and he's matured over the season. I feel like he has a really good feel for where the holes are, the O-line is giving him plenty of time to make those cuts, and when he hits them, you see that 4.3 speed, so we need that explosiveness out of our backfield."
Gibson, a third-round rookie out of Memphis, is currently 11th among running backs with 16.5 points per game. A significant reason for that is because Gibson has been one of the best fantasy rushers over the past month.
Since Week 7, Gibson ranks fourth among running backs and eight among skill players (excluding quarterbacks) with 107.8 points. Eight of his 11 touchdowns have come during this stretch, as has 62% of his 645 rushing yards. On Thanksgiving against the Dallas Cowboys, Gibson burst into the national spotlight with 136 total yards and three touchdowns.
The Steelers are a top 3 defense in several categories, but they are not as effective stopping the run. They are currently allowing 105.7 rushing yards per game, which ranks eighth in the league.
The biggest concern for Gibson's fantasy value is if Washington falls behind by multiple scores early and transitions to a pass-heavy attack. That's what happened against the Detroit Lions and the New York Giants, which is why Gibson only combined for 19 carries for 65 yards in those games.
Still, Gibson averaged 17.5 points in those contests because he found the end zone three times, and he should continue to receive most, if not all of the goal line work for the rest of the season. He currently ranks third in the NFL with 11 rushing scores.
"He shows he has a knack for the goal line," head coach Ron Rivera said of Gibson before the Cowboys' game. "He's got an innate ability to find that crease. He runs behind his pads. I know it's an expression, but he runs with some power. He runs physically. He's not going to get arm tackled. Very rarely does he get arm tackled. He's got that skillset that you're looking for in a back."
Even more encouraging is that against the Cowboys, Washington seemed to make a concerted effort to feed Gibson early on. He racked up 16 touches for 64 yards in the first half alone to account for 42% of the offense. If that type of workload continues against the Steelers, that would significantly limit Gibson's bust potential.
Washington is one of the last games of the week, so you'll likely know what you need from Gibson to secure a victory before the fantasy playoffs. And for all of the reasons mentioned above, there are hardly any reasons to worry...unless you take him out of your lineup.