Welcome to the weekly Start/Sit column! Each week I’ll aim to analyze upcoming games, research team injury reports, and check-in on any depth chart movement – all to offer you weekly start/sit recommendations.
The starts will feature players that may be on your bench or even on the waiver wire that need to be in your starting lineup. The sits feature more popular players that I think will underperform this week. I’ll list a must start/sit for each position, then briefly touch on some other options that I like/dislike. While this is useful when setting your weekly lineups in your season long leagues, it can also be a valuable tool if you’re playing daily fantasy sports (DFS).
First, in the name of accountability, here’s a look back at my Must Start/Sit column from last week. Week ten may have been my most successful of the year. All of my must-starts finished in the top eight of their position groups, with the exception of Josh Doctson. He did, however, score a touchdown and finished as the WR17 in PPR scoring, his best performance of the year. All of my must-sits were solid advice as well, with the glaring exception of Eric Ebron, who managed to find the end zone three times on three catches and one carry while playing just 38% of the offensive snaps.
Onto week eleven.
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Don’t look now, but after a slow start to the season, Dak has played four solid games in a row. He’s the number ten fantasy quarterback over his last four games played, ahead of the usual fantasy studs Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers. Now he heads to Atlanta to play the Falcons and their defense that gives up the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season and has allowed over 300 yards passing six times. He’s showing good chemistry with recently acquired Amari Cooper, and he’s always a threat on the ground as well. It all adds up to Dak being a must-start fantasy quarterback this week.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Minnesota Vikings
Fantasy owners have waited a long time to put Dalvin Cook back in their lineups confidently, and if you’ve waited this long, now is the time. The matchup isn’t great on paper, as the Bears allow the fourth-fewest points to running backs and are coming off a game where they only allowed to the Lions to rush for 76 yards. However, if you look a little deeper, you’ll see that they did allow a touchdown on the ground and gave up another 98 yards and a touchdown to running backs through the air. Cook has been a viable pass-catcher, averaging over four catches and 42 yards in the three games this season that he’s played the majority of the game. The receiving threat keeps his floor high, and if you saw his 70-yard run in his first game back, you know how explosive he can be. It’s time to start him as an RB1 with confidence again.
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Houston Texans
Even after being traded mid-week before the bye, Thomas was able to play 79% of the snaps for his new team, while catching all three of his targets for 61 yards. He’ll match up with a Washington team that hasn’t been good against wideouts lately, as they’ve given up over 200 yards to wide receivers in five of the last six weeks. Deshaun Watson loves throwing to his receivers and is a definite upgrade over Case Keenum for Thomas, so don’t hesitate to start him in your lineup.
Ricky-Seals Jones, TE, Arizona Cardinals
RSJ caught five of his season-high nine targets last week for 51 yards, with the nine targets being the fourth-highest for tight ends in the NFL for the week. This week the Cardinals face the Raiders, who look good overall against the tight-end position, but gave up over 249 yards and four touchdowns in weeks eight and nine combined. At this point, you can’t ask for much more than a tight end who is getting targets against a defense susceptible to giving up points, which is exactly what Seals-Jones represents this week.
Defense/Special Teams: Arizona Cardinals
The Buffalo Bills are on bye this week (and had an offensive awakening last week) so you can’t just automatically stream their opponent. With that being said, the Raiders have scored a total of nine points over the past two weeks. If you have the Cardinals or can acquire them, they’re a must-start defense.
Other Good Starts
Eli Manning tossed three touchdown passes last week and plays the pitiful Buccaneers defense this week, making him a startable fantasy quarterback.
Last week’s must-start Marcus Mariota has thrown two touchdown passes in consecutive games and is startable again against the Colts this week.
If you’re desperate, you can take a shot with Josh Rosen. The Cardinals rookie has had his best two games since Byron Leftwich took over play calling, and he plays the Raiders, who have given up at least two touchdowns through the air in all but one game this season.
Dion Lewis has averaged over 21 touches per game over Tennessee’s past three games, but has just one touchdown in that span compared to Derrick Henry’s four.
Alex Collins is only averaging 43.6 rushing yards per game, but he’s scored six touchdowns so far this season and takes on a porous Bengals run defense.
Cincinnati ranks 30th against fantasy running backs and has allowed at least one running back touchdown in four consecutive games.
The Cardinals run defense is ranked 29th against fantasy running backs, and Doug Martin has averaged 13 carries over the past three games, so he could be worth starting in a pinch.
Sterling Shepard has been on the field for 94% of the Giants offensive snaps this season and has seen nearly seven targets per game, he should be set up to succeed against the Buccanneers, who allow the second most fantasy points to wide receivers.
The Amari Cooper trade is paying off so far, as he’s averaging nine targets per game with his new team. This week he plays against the Falcons, who have given up at least one touchdown to wide receivers every game except week one.
James O’Shaughnessy saw 69% of the Jaguars offensive snaps last week en route to five catches on six targets. This week he takes on the Steelers, who give up fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends
Jonnu Smith has scored touchdowns in back to back games. The streak could continue as Marcus Mariota heats up in the second half of the season.
Jimmy Graham could be set up for a big revenge game against the Seahawks in prime time Thursday night.
Look for the Carolina Panthers defense to bounce back this week against Lions team that seems to be falling apart.
Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Big Ben had a monster week against the Panthers last Thursday night, but don’t expect that momentum to continue into this week. Roethlisberger and the Steelers will be on the road in Jacksonville, and so far in 2018 Big Ben has thrown for only seven touchdowns in four road games compared to 14 touchdowns in five home games, despite passing for similar yardage whether at home or away. The road opponent this week makes it even more difficult to trust him, as the Jaguars rank eighth overall against fantasy quarterbacks and have only allowed one 300 yard passer all season, Patrick Mahomes. There’s a good chance that Big Ben lets you down if you rely on him this week.
Marlon Mack, RB, Indianapolis Colts
After having back to back huge games in weeks eight and nine, Mack came back down to earth last week against a tough Jaguars defense. He managed just 29 yards on 12 carries, a paltry 2.42 yards per carry. The matchup doesn’t get any better this week when the Colts take on the Titans. Over their past three games against the Chargers, Cowboys, and Patriots, Tennesse has allowed just over 44 rushing yards per game to backs and only one touchdown, which was a goalline plunge by Patriots fullback James Devlin.
Devin Funchess, WR, Carolina Panthers
Funchess was seeing a substantial target share early in the season, but over the past three games has seen an average of just 4.3 targets and 34.3 yards per game with no touchdowns. He was unable to take advantage of juicy matchups with Tampa and Pittsburgh over the past two weeks. He appears to be the third option at best for Cam Newton, behind Greg Olsen and Christian McCaffery. Until Funchess starts seeing the targets typical of a number one receiver he can’t be trusted in fantasy lineups.
Nick Vannett, TE, Seattle Seahawks
It’s tempting to roll with Vannett this week after he’s found the end zone in back to back games, but you’re better off leaving him on the bench this week. Last week’s touchdown came on his only target of the game. He has seen just one catch in half of the games he’s played this season and has only topped 40 yards twice. Vannett and the Seahawks take on the Packers this week on Thursday night. Green Bay has not allowed a single touchdown to any tight end this season and haven’t allowed more than 50 yards to tight ends since week four. There are better tight ends to take a shot with this week.
Defense/Special Teams: Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles have been a surprisingly mediocre fantasy defense this season, and they’re set to travel to the Superdome this week to take on the Saints. New Orleans has the number one scoring offense in the NFL, averaging 36.7 points per game. They score slightly higher at home with an average of 37.25 points per game. Avoid the Eagles defense at all costs this week.
Others to Avoid
Before the week ten bye Kirk Cousins threw for just 164 yards against the Lions. He might not do much better this week he travels to Soldier Field to take on the Bears, who give up the seventh-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Andrew Luck has been rolling lately, but he takes on a Titans team that’s giving up fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks and just shut down Tom Brady last week.
As if Derek Carr wasn’t having a bad enough season, he’ll face an Arizona team that’s allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season.
Josh Adams led the Eagles with just seven carries in week ten. Even if he does get more touches, it’s hard to trust any Philly running back against the Saints. New Orleans is giving up the sixth-fewest fantasy points to running backs and has held Todd Gurley, Saquon Barkley, and Joe Mixon under 100 yards rushing.
Joe Mixon has a second straight tough matchup on the road in Baltimore, as the Ravens have allowed the fewest fantasy points to running backs so far this season.
With AJ Green missing last week due to injury, Tyler Boyd was held in check by the Saints, who have allowed to most fantasy points to wide receivers so far this season. Even if Green is back, It doesn’t look good for him against the Ravens, who have allowed a tougher matchup with Ravens, who have allowed the sixth-fewest.
You can’t bench Antonio Brown, but you shouldn’t have high hopes when he faces off against the Jaguars, who give up the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers on average.
The Eagles are giving up the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends and Ben Watson isn’t getting enough targets to be worth the risk this week.
The Kansas City Chiefs take on the Los Angeles Rams Monday night in a game with an insanely high over/under of 63.5. So yeah, avoid those fantasy defenses this week.
I hope you find this useful and I’m always happy to interact on Twitter @aalarson if you have any start/sit questions. Be sure to check out the rest of our weekly in-season content right here as we give you the tools and content to win every week of the season. Good luck this weekend!