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. I have to gloat a little and mention that I nailed it with Cooper as my must-start receiver and Goff as my must-sit quarterback; there were definitely some playoff matches won or lost with by those two players respectively.
My other must-start picks were all solid, though Rivers did disappoint a bit given the cushy matchup he had. My must-sits were all solid advice as well; Brate did score a pair of touchdowns, but I think I qualified it clearly enough in the article that he wasn’t a “true” must-sit.
On to the next round and week 15, the fantasy semifinals for most leagues. This week I’m going to try and limit my advice to players that are probably rostered on fantasy teams still competing for the championship. Nobody needs me to tell them not to start Matthew Stafford. If he’s one of your options, you’ve probably been eliminated by now.
Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams
If you have Jared Goff and are still alive in the playoffs, it means you probably took my advice last week and benched him for a better option. Or maybe you’re able to snag him off the waivers after last week’s awful performance. Either way, you’re in luck because he draws the perfect matchup to bounce back this week.
Goff and the Rams will be back in warm and sunny southern California and will be hosting an Eagles defense that’s fresh off of allowing 455 yards and three touchdowns to Dak Prescott. The Rams average nearly 38 points per game at home, so expect Goff to find plenty of success through the air against Philly’s depleted secondary. He was a colossal bust last week, but if you have the chance to play Goff this week, he could lead you to the championship round.
Joe Mixon, RB, Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals don’t have much to play for as a team, but they appear committed to feeding Joe Mixon. It makes sense since he is the only legit weapon left in their injury-depleted offense. Last week against the Chargers Mixon carried the ball a season-high 26 times for 111 yards and a touchdown while also catching five passes for 27 yards. This week he should continue to see plenty of volume against an Oakland Raiders team with a below average run defense. Mixon is safe at worst, with one of the highest ceilings of any running back this week.
Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles Rams
I already mentioned how bad the Eagles secondary is right now, and Robert Woods is the leading candidate to benefit this week. Woods has averaged 10.7 targets and targets in the three games since Cooper Kupp went out for the year. He’s also caught touchdowns in two of the past three weeks, with the exception being last weeks poor offensive showing in Chicago. Woods was one of the few players from last weeks Sunday night game that didn’t completely torpedo your team, so there should be plenty of playoff teams that have the option to slot him in for a big performance this week.
Vernon Davis, TE, Washington Redskins
It isn’t surprising that Jordan Reed is done for the season with an injury; it’s surprising that it took this long into the season to happen. That once again opens the door for Vernon Davis to be the primary tight end for Washington. They take on the Jaguars, who have been more susceptible to the tight end position than receivers and running backs. Journey quarterback Josh Johnson found Davis for a two-point conversion last week and is sure to look to him as a reliable check down option. If you’ve been playing the streaming tight end game all season, you have a solid choice this week in Davis.
Defense/Special Teams: Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks completely shut down Kirk Cousins and the Vikings on Monday night. Now travel to San Fransisco to take on a 49ers team that is in the running for the top pick in next spring’s NFL draft. When they faced off two weeks ago Seattle’s defense forced three turnovers and scored a touchdown. They are an extremely safe defense to start this week and come with plenty of turnover upside.
Other Good Starts
Dak Prescott is coming off of his best game of the season last week and should continue to roll against Indianapolis this week, where Dallas will likely have to keep scoring points to beat Andrew Luck and the Colts.
It may be hard to stomach, but you can start Derek Carr this week against the Bengals. Cincinnati has the second-worst defense against fantasy quarterbacks, and Carr has had at least 285 passing yards and two touchdowns in consecutive games.
It’s looking more and more like a running back duel between Justin Jackson and Damien Williams Thursday night. They should both be solid plays in the same game, just like everyone predicted at the beginning of the season.
The Seahawks continue to run the ball more than any team in the NFL, making Chris Carson a great play when Seattle visits the lowly 49ers Sunday.
Josh Reynolds could be another beneficiary of a Rams offensive bounce back at home against the Eagles this week.
Dante Pettis has been red-hot lately with 21 catches, 255 yards, and four touchdowns in his last three games. He’s worth starting despite the matchup with Seattle this week.
It feels completely unnatural, but the Arizona Cardinals offense has been so sorry that you can even start the Atlanta Falcons defense against them this week.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens
On paper, this matchup is great for Jackson. The Buccaneers give up the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and Jackson has been a productive fantasy option at the position over the past four weeks. The problem is that even though coach John Harbaugh has already named Jackson the starter, Joe Flacco will be looming as the backup. Jackson has been a turnover machine with three interceptions and six fumbles in his four starts. His running style also makes him more prone to injury; he limped off the field with an ankle injury and was replaced by Robert Griffin III last week. In such an important game for Baltimore, Jackson is likely to have a short leash, and that isn’t a risk I want to take when vying for a spot in the fantasy football championship.
Sony Michel, RB, New England Patriots
Michel has certainly gotten volume lately, to the tune of 19.3 carriers per game over the past three weeks. However, that volume hasn’t translated into much success over the past two games in which he’s only compiled 120 combined yards and no touchdowns. The biggest problem seems to be touchdown vulture James Develin, who’s turned five carries into three short touchdown runs over the past two weeks. He’ll likely continue to get the majority of the work between the twenties, but with the combination of Develin, James White, and Rex Burkhead all threating his scoring ability, Michel is far from a sure thing this week.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Boyd is probably still present on plenty of playoff rosters. As a whole, he’s had an impressive season, but as the only legitimate receiver for backup quarterback Jeff Driskel he doesn’t offer much appeal. The matchup with the Raiders isn’t awful, but the Raiders have been relatively competitive over the past two weeks and have some momentum after topping the Steelers last week. Boyd is still likely to draw the most targets for the Bengals, but that probably won’t add up to much in a Cincinnati offense that will likely continue to lean on the run game.
Tight End: NA
At this point in the fantasy playoffs, I’m throwing in the towel at making tight end sit recommendations. In recent weeks there have been top-eight tight end performances from the likes of Dan Arnold, Anthony Firsker, and Derek Carrier. Once you get past the handful of must-start tight ends most options are as good as any other. It’s a highly volatile position, so don’t hesitate to take a shot on any healthy tight end that’s gotten playing time over that past few weeks.
Defense/Special Teams: Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys defense has been playing great lately, but I still don’t feel comfortable starting them on the road against the Colts. Indianapolis put up an offensive dud in week thirteen, but last week they put up 24 points and nearly 450 yards of offense against a stout Texan defense. I’d much rather find a better matchup this week then take my chances facing off with Andrew Luck and his second-highest passing touchdown total this year.
Others to Avoid
Ryan Tannehill has eight passing touchdowns three weeks since returning from injury, but don’t expect those good numbers to continue on the road in Minnesota this week.
Jameis Winston has thrown for under 250 yards in three of the four games since regaining the starting role in Tampa Bay. Don’t expect much if you have to start him this week as he goes up against a tough Ravens defense in Baltimore.
It’s possible that Adrian Peterson has finally run out of steam on what has been an impressive season from the veteran running back. It could also be that he’s running behind a makeshift offensive line with Josh Johnson starting at quarterback. Whatever it is, you can’t trust him this week against the Jaguars.
It’s sad that it’s come to this, but with the poor play of Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense in general, Kenny Golladay is a definite sit against the Bills this week.
You might be in trouble is you chase the points with Kenny Stills headed to Minnesota this week.
It’s probably wise to avoid both the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs defenses Thursday in a game with the highest over/under of the 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!