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. Phillip Lindsay absolutely crushed it as a must-start, while Dak Prescott, TY Hilton, and the Colts defense weren’t top-tier performers, but they also didn’t torpedo your week. Jordan Reed didn’t do much, but it didn’t help that he was catching passes from Mark Sanchez. As far as the must-sits; Tom Brady was just a middle of the pack quarterback, Tevin Coleman, and Alshon Jeffery were best left on the bench, and Trey Burton did absolutely nothing. I did whiff on the Jaguars defense, as they shockingly shut out the Colts.
Onto Week 14, the first round of the fantasy playoffs for most of you. This isn’t the week to mess around taking chances and looking for glory plays, so some of my picks might seem a bit obvious. If you’re in the playoffs, it’s possible that you’re debating between several good options at some positions, so read below for some useful start/sit information before you set your playoff lineups.
Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
Rivers has been flying under the radar a little bit, but he’s thrown multiple touchdowns in every game and is the QB8 for the season. He went across the country to Pittsburgh last week and put up a great performance in a hostile environment. Now Rivers and the Chargers welcome Cincinnati to town. It should be well known by now that you can start any quarterback that matches up with the Bengals. They’re still giving up the most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, even after decent performances against sub-par quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Case Keenum in two of the past three weeks. Rivers, on the other hand, should have no problem lighting up the Bengals weak secondary in a game that the Chargers need to win to keep pace with the Chiefs for in the AFC West.
Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers
It seemed strange that after Jones had been so dominant, the Packers practically split carries between him and Jamaal Williams last week against the Cardinals. Mike McCarthy took a lot of heat this season for being so slow to embrace Jones as a feature back, and now that he’s been mercifully let go, hopefully, Joe Philbin incorporates a heavy dosage of Jones. The matchup at home against the Falcons can’t get much better. Atlanta is giving up the third most fantasy points to running backs this season, and have allowed over 100 yards to backs in four straight weeks. Jones himself has found the end zone in four consecutive weeks; looks for him to extend the streak this Sunday.
Amari Cooper, WR, Dallas Cowboys
It feels a little surreal, but you should trust Amari Cooper in the fantasy playoffs. Over the five games since arriving in Dallas, Cooper has averaged eight targets, six catches, and nearly 85 yards per game while catching three touchdowns. This week the Cowboys host the Eagles in a battle for the top of the NFC East. Philadelphia and their decimated secondary are giving up the second most fantasy points to wideouts this season. Given his target share, a whopping 41% since week nine, Cooper is set up for a massive game this week.
Rob Gronkowski, TE, New England Patriots
So it’s come to this, I feel the need to mention Gronk as a player you need to start. The odds are that if you’re the Gronk owner, you likely have another decent tight end that got you through the season. However, unless you somehow ended up with the likes of Ebron or Kittle, you probably don’t have a sure thing at tight end. Gronk is still a touchdown threat everytime he’s on the field. Are you going to be ok with it if he goes off for 100 yards and two scores on your bench, while the streaming tight end you played catches three passes for 20 yards? It’s no sure thing, but I think if you own him, you play Gronk in the playoffs.
Defense/Special Teams: Los Angeles Chargers
It’s a great fantasy playoff strategy to stash defenses, so you might have a couple to choose from here. It’s also possible that the Chargers defense was dropped last week in their matchup with the high powered Steelers. This week, they get to host the struggling Bengals, who will be without Andy Dalton and AJ Green. They should be in line for top defensive performance this week.
Other Good Starts
It should go without saying, but you need to start Drew Brees against the Buccaneers, no matter how badly he burned you last week.
It’s tough to ignore what Josh Allen has done in the past two weeks since returning from the elbow injury. His rushing floor alone makes him worth playing if you’re in need of a quarterback.
After throwing three interceptions last week, Baker Mayfield should bounce back against the Panthers in a much easier matchup.
Gus Edwards limped off the field at the end of last week’s game, but if he’s healthy this week, you can slot him into your lineup against a Chiefs defense that’s allowing the second most fantasy points to running backs.
Dalvin Cook looked better than ever last week, gaining 84 yards on just nine carries before the Vikings inexplicably stopped giving him the ball. Look for them to feed him against the Seahawks, who rank 21st against fantasy running backs this year.
The Cardinals have given up a league-high 15 rushing touchdowns to running backs this season, so you can expect a Lions running back to score, whether that’s a healthy Kerryon Johnson or the battering ram that is LeGarrette Blount.
Jarvis Landry finally had another solid performance last week, and you should be able to trust him in a plus matchup with the Panthers this week.
The Chargers have a juicy matchup with the Bengals, so Mike Williams has as good of a chance as anyone to haul in a touchdown pass this week.
Emmanuel Sanders suffered a torn Achilles in practice today. With that unfortunate turn of events, Courtland Sutton becomes a great play against the 49ers, and even DaeSean Hamilton becomes intriguing.
If you’re the Greg Olsen owner, you might have to take a chance on Ian Thomas, who came through with five catches on five targets for 46 yards after Olsen went down. He offers as much upside as any other tight end that’s available at this point.
The Denver Broncos defense has been playing great lately, and they get to take on a 49ers team that’s lost just about every offensive weapon since the beginning of the season.
Jared Goff, QB, Los Angeles Rams
Goff has been outstanding this season, but he draws a tough matchup in the first week of the fantasy playoffs. He and the Rams travel to Chicago to play the Bears, who have given up the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. They’ve only allowed over three hundred yards through the air twice, and not since week six. Goff is coming off a rough performance, completing just 17-of-33 passes for 207 yards with one touchdown and one interception last week against a weak Lions team.
The weather isn’t going to help anything, as the temperature should be in the 20’s by the time the game kicks off Sunday night. Goff doesn’t have much history playing in the cold; the only time he played in below freezing weather was earlier this season in Denver when it was 24 degrees at kickoff. It was the only game this year that he didn’t throw a touchdown and was easily his worst game of the season. As high powered as the Rams offense has been this season, this matchup is brutal, and you’re probably better off finding a high-end streamer.
Spencer Ware, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Fantasy owners were quick to insert Ware into their lineups last week in the wake of the Kareem Hunt fallout. He only gained 47 yards on 14 carries but did find the end zone to salvage what was an otherwise disappointing performance. If Ware wasn’t able to thrive against the Raiders, you shouldn’t have high hopes against the Ravens. Baltimore allows the fewest fantasy points to running backs and has only surrendered five touchdowns to running backs this season. You might be in a tight spot if you were the Hunt owner, but you should do your best to find another option this week.
Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions
Kenny Golladay has had some excellent games and has been on the must-start side of this article several times this season. But he needs to be relegated to the bench for this week. He’s should still be considered the number one receiving option in Detroit, but that means he’ll likely see plenty of Patrick Peterson, who is still an effective shadow corner in his eighth season. It also doesn’t bode well for Golladay that Matthew Stafford has been struggling lately. The future is bright for Golladay, but you don’t want to count on him this week.
Cameron Brate, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Brate is a starting tight end for an NFL team and has a good rapport with his quarterback. He’s likely to get some targets, which makes him as good of a start as the majority of tight ends this season. The problem with Brate is the matchup; the Saints are only allowing 35.7 yards per game to tight ends and have only surrendered one touchdown to the position. To be clear, despite the title of this section, Brate isn’t a true must-sit due to the nature of the position, but you need to check your options and temper your expectations.
Defense/Special Teams: Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens have been a strong defense this season, but you need to see if you can find a better option this week. Baltimore has to travel to Arrowhead to take on the Chiefs, who have the number one scoring offense in the NFL at 37 points per game. The Ravens might be able to slow them down a little, but there are better matchups you can take advantage of this week.
Others to Avoid
Over the last five weeks Matthew Stafford is averaging 235 yards passing and has thrown four touchdowns and five interceptions. Again, five games. Four touchdowns. Five interceptions. If he’s been your starter, you probably aren’t in the playoffs anyway, but if you did somehow make it in you need to find another option.
Macus Mariota has been playing well lately, but I don’t want to trust him against Jacksonville after they just shut out Andrew Luck and the Colts last week.
You probably can’t bench him unless you have great running back depth, but it might be hard for Joe Mixon to find success in Cincinnati’s depleted offense when they travel to Los Angeles this week.
Peyton Barber has been productive lately, seeing at least 16 carries and finding the end zone in three straight games, but his matchup with New Orleans is rough this week. The Saints have held running backs under 80 yards every game this season and have only allowed six rushing touchdowns for the year.
Last week was a tough matchup for Marlon Mack on the road against Jacksonville, and it doesn’t get much easier this week on the road against the Texans.
Alshon Jeffery continues to disappoint and can’t be trusted again this week against a Cowboys defense that allows the fewest fantasy points to wide receivers.
Tyrell Williams was able to play last week, but you probably didn’t notice. He had just one catch for 14 yards. He hasn’t been much of a factor for the Chargers since week nine and can be safely left out of your lineup, even with the good matchup.
The Chicago Bears will likely slow down the Rams at home in the cold, but I still wouldn’t feel comfortable starting them against Gurley and company.
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!