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 Sit/Starts from last week. Doug Baldwin was the best of my must-starts as he looked like a number one receiver again, seeing seven targets and catching six passes for 91 yards. On the other hand, Jordan Howard thoroughly disappointed in his juicy match up with the Dolphins. My best must-sit recommendations were Isaiah Crowell and DeSean Jackson, who both finished outside the top 30 at their respective positions in PPR scoring. My worst must-sit was Mitch Trubisky, who surprisingly finished as a top-five quarterback again.
Onto week seven.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns
Your time has finally come Baker Mayfield truthers. After playing tougher defenses in consecutive weeks, the number one pick in this year’s NFL draft gets to take on the woeful Buccaneers defense. Tampa Bay is allowing a league-high 28.4 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Given the offensive weapons at his disposal and this weeks matchup don’t be surprised if Mayfield gives his best fantasy performance to date.
Royce Freeman, RB, Denver Broncos
If there is ever going to be a Royce Freeman breakout game this season, Thursday night presents the best opportunity. While Phillip Lindsay has been a thorn in the side of Freeman owners all season, Freeman has actually out-snapped Lindsay 145-138 on the season and out-carried him 9-4 last week as Denver hung around against the Rams. The Broncos take on the Arizona Thursday night, and the Cardinals are allowing the second most fantasy points to running backs. Case Keenum has been less than impressive under center for the Broncos, so the best game plan will be to get the run game going with the workhorse style back that is Royce Freeman.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
Tyler Boyd continues to be overshadowed by teammate A.J. Green even though they’ve put up nearly identical numbers so far this season. Boyd and the Bengals take on the Chiefs Sunday night in a game that sports the highest projected point total of the week according to Vegas. Kansas City’s defense is giving up nearly 40 fantasy points per game to wide receivers, so you can expect Boyd to get his fair share of points in your lineup this week.
Greg Olsen, TE, Carolina Panthers
At first glance, Greg Olsen’s return from injury last week may have seemed disappointing. But there are reasons to be optimistic about him moving into this week. First of all, Olsen appeared to get through the game healthy even while playing 98% of the offensive snaps, indicating that the foot injury that kept him sidelined for the previous three weeks isn’t hampering him. Olsen has always been a favorite target of Cam Newton, so even with the tough matchup against the Eagles defense, you should roll Olsen out with confidence.
Defense/Special Teams: Denver Broncos
The Broncos defense has been terrible most of the season, but get an ideal matchup with the Cardinals Thursday night. Arizona’s offense, led by rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, is averaging the fewest yards per game and the second-fewest points per game in the NFL. The Broncos have elite pass rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, who should make in a long night for Rosen and the Cardinals.
Other Good Starts
It might be hard to believe, but Mitch Trubisky is primed for his third good fantasy game in a row as the Bears will likely spend Sunday trying to keep pace with the Patriots.
The Andy Dalton matchup streak continues as he takes on the Chiefs in what is expected to be the highest scoring game of the week.
The Falcons defense is so banged up and bad that Eli Manning makes for a good start Monday night when the Giants head to Atlanta.
I wouldn’t usually feel the need to mention Alvin Kamara in a start/sit article, but some owners might be scared off by Mark Ingram’s big return and the tough Ravens defense. Don’t be. Start Kamara.
The Chiefs are allowing the most fantasy points to the running back position and Joe Mixon has been on a roll. He’s set for another big week.
Marlon Mack had a solid return to the Colts backfield last week and should be in line for another fantasy relevant game this week against Buffalo.
LeSean McCoy is averaging 20 carries and 4 targets over the past two weeks, so he should be in line to see plenty of volume when the Bills and quarterback Derek Anderson take on the Colts.
Jarvis Landry is averaging 11 targets per game this season. That kind of target volume against the Buccaneers should yield a nice fantasy game for Landry.
Adam Humphires has seen the field on over 75% of offensive snaps the past two weeks and led the Buccaneers in receiving yards last week. He’s startable in deep PPR leagues.
Taylor Gabriel leads the Bears in receptions and receiving yards. He could be used as a “Tyreek Hill Lite” in Matty Nagy’s offense against the Patriots this week.
Baker Mayfield and David Njoku appear to be building the type of rapport you love to see between tight end and quarterback. Njoku has seen at least 11 targets in the last two games and has a great matchup with the Buccaneers this week.
In this week’s edition of “Last Tight End Standing,” look for James O’Shaughnessy to get the majority of tight end snaps and targets for the Jaguars.
C.J, Uzomah, like every other offensive weapon on the Bengals, is a solid play this week against the Chiefs.
If you’re in need a defense, remember, you can always start whoever is playing the Bills. Yes, that even includes the Indianapolis Colts this week.
Alex Smith, QB, Washington Redskins
So far this season Alex Smith has been a far cry from the fantasy stud he was a year ago. He’s currently ranked 24th in fantasy points per game behind the likes of Blake Bortles and Joe Flacco. He’s also lost the rushing base that used to help keep his fantasy floor high, averaging only 13.6 rushing yards per game compared to the 23.7 he averaged last season. This week he takes on the Cowboys, who have only been allowing 16.6 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, good for 11th best in the league. Even with the increased number of teams on bye this week, you should be able to find better streaming options at quarterback.
Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears
Last week I featured Jordan Howard as my must-start running back of the week, but after his horrific performance against the Dolphins, he’s squarely on the must-sit list. Last weeks matchup couldn’t have been any better, and he still only managed 69 yards on 14 carries, most of which came in overtime. Even more troubling is the fact that his snap percentage has gone down in four consecutive weeks, from 73% in week two to 51% last week. The Bears will likely be trying to keep pace with the Patriots this week, which will be more conducive to pass-catching back Tarik Cohen. You probably spent some high draft capital Howard, but it might be time to leave him on the bench until he proves he can be a fantasy relevant back again.
Paul Richardson, WR, Washington Redskins
Richardson leads Washington receivers in targets, catches, yards, and touchdowns. He’s also scored touchdowns two of the past three weeks. This all sounds good until you dig deeper and notice that he’s third on the team in most receiving categories behind tight end Jordan Reed and running back Chris Thompson. This week Washington faces Dallas, whose defense sports the third best fantasy defense against wide receivers and features shut down corner Byron Jones. You’ve gotten lucky with touchdowns if you’ve started Richardson lately, but don’t expect it to continue this week.
Eric Ebron, TE, Indianapolis Colts
Ebron is the number one fantasy tight end in standard scoring and number two in PPR, so it might seem crazy to bench him, but this is a bit of a conditional benching. Two of Andrew Luck’s favorite targets, Jack Doyle and T.Y. Hilton, could be returning from injury this week. If either one of them does return then Ebron’s fantasy value takes a small hit. If both of them return, it will take a much larger hit. Both Doyle and Hilton were playing well over 90% of the offensive snaps when healthy. On top of that, the Bills have been pretty good against tight ends this year, giving up the 7th fewest fantasy points to tight ends on average. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but you might want to start looking for a tight end to stream if you’re the Ebron owner in your league.
Defense/Special Teams: Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals have been the ninth best DST so far this season, but this week they travel to Arrowhead to take on Pat Maholmes and the Chiefs. If you’ve been paying attention this season you probably already know that you should probably avoid whatever defense has to take on Kansas City and their high powered offense.
Others to Avoid
Blake Bortles isn’t a top streaming option this week as the Jaguars welcome J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans to town.
Even though the matchup isn’t terrible, don’t expect a top fantasy performance from Marcus Mariota when the Titans take on the Chargers in London early Sunday morning.
Sam Darnold is the top rookie quarterback for fantasy football so far this season, but the matchup is tough this week when the Vikings come to town.
Derrick Henry/profiler] has been bad all season. There’s no reason to expect that to change against the Chargers this week.
The return of Marlon Mack causes [profiler]Nyheim Hines to lose some luster as a fantasy option against the Bills this week.
Carlos Hyde has seen his carries and snaps decrease over the last few weeks, which makes sense given his career-low 3.4 yards per carry so far this season.
You aren’t benching DeAndre Hopkins, but you have to temper expectations. He’s only averaging 67.5 yards per game and has only one touchdown over the past four matchups with Jalen Ramsey and the Jaguars, despite averaging over 14 targets in those games.
John Brown is still a deep threat that can score from anywhere on the field, but he appears to be third in Baltimore’s pecking order behind Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead right now.
Phillip Dorsett is trending towards irrelevancy with the as Josh Gordon begins to see increased time in the Patriots offense.
There was some hype surrounding the regular season debut of Hayden Hurst, but the rookie tight end has still been the fourth tight end in the Ravens’ rotation.
Every time Mike Gesicki gets praise from the Dolphins coaching staff he seems to take a step backward. In week six he was thoroughly outplayed by teammate Nick O’Leary.
The Chicago Bears had been one of the best DST units in fantasy football but were thrashed by the Dolphins last week and take on the Patriots this week, so you may want to look elsewhere.
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!