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. Joe Mixon was my best must-start call of the week as he finished as a top-five running back. Jared Goff was possibly my worst must-start call of the week as he failed to throw a touchdown against the lackluster Eagles secondary. All of my must-sits were pretty solid advice, but to be fair, there were a lot of regular fantasy starters that fell on their face in week 15.
On to week 16 and the fantasy championship! This week I’m going to continue to try and limit my advice to players that could be rostered on fantasy teams still competing for the championship, so you won’t see Jared Goff’s name anymore in this article.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Los Angeles Rams
Since Freddie Kitchens took over the Browns offense in week nine, Mayfield has averaged 266 yards and 2.2 touchdowns per game. Arguably his best game in that stretch came the first time they faced the Bengals when he put up 258 yards and four touchdowns. This week they get to face Cincinnati at home, and given that the Browns are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive, you can expect another strong performance from Mayfield. He’s a better option than many of the usual fantasy studs in championship week.
Jordan Howard, RB, Chicago Bears
Jordan Howard is finally turning into the running back many expected him to be at the beginning of the season. He’s averaged 18 carries per game over the past three weeks and finally found the end zone again last week. You can expect another heavy workload for Howard this week when the Bears travel to San Fransisco. The 49ers have given up a score on the ground in four consecutive weeks, and Howard has a great chance to extend that streak to five.
Jarvis Landry, WR, Cleveland Browns
It took some time for offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens to incorporate him in the playcalling, but the last three weeks have been much better. He’s had at least eight targets in two of the three games and had 54 yards and a touchdown on the ground in the other. The Browns will still be clinging to their slim playoff chances when they kickoff at home against the Bengals Sunday. The last time the two teams faced off in week 12 Cleveland put up 35 points. While Landry wasn’t heavily involved in that victory, his increased role as of late would point to a more significant workload this week.
Tight End: NA
Let’s be real; the only true must-start tight ends are Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, George Kittle, and Rob Gronkowski. If you’ve made it this far without one of them, you’re probably best off just rolling out whoever you have been through the playoffs. If you want to try and play the matchups, you can take a shot on Matt LaCosse, of the Broncos. He takes on the Raiders, who have given up the second-most fantasy points to tight ends this season. Good luck out there.
Defense/Special Teams: Miami Dolphins
It was a rough week for the Dolphins defense last week as they gave up 41 points in Minnesota. The good news is that they play in Miami this week and have been markedly better defensively at home this season, allowing 22.3 points per game at home compared to 31.1 on the road. The better news is that they play the Jaguars, who are averaging a meager 8.75 points per game in the four games that Cody Kessler has started. Miami could be on a lot of championship rosters this week.
Other Good Starts
This section is going to be much shorter than usual. Let’s face it; if you’re in the championship, you might not have many start/sit decisions to make. These are just a few more players you should take a moment to consider if they’re on your bench or available on waivers.
After struggling through one of his worst performances of the season, Dak Prescott should bounce back at home while looking to clinch a playoff berth against Tampa Bay, who gives up the fourth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Few would’ve predicted it, but with his rushing floor, Josh Allen against the Patriots is a legitimate option in championship week.
There are plenty of great running back matchups this week, and if you’re in the championship game, you probably know who most of them are. A few sneaky backs that could be flying under the radar this week include Jamaal Williams and Elijah McGuire, who will be facing off in the same meaningless game this week.
Despite totaling less than 100 yards combined over the past two weeks, you should still feel confident rolling out Philip Lindsay in a good matchup with the Raiders.
Even after last week’s let down, you should feel good about starting Amari Cooper this week against the Buccaneers in Dallas.
Robert Foster has played 90% of the offensive snaps for Buffalo since they released Kelvin Benjamin and Andre Holmes. He’s also had over 100 yards receiving in each of those games, so you can start him in your championship lineup if you need a receiver.
[profiler]Robby Anderson has been Sam Darnold’s top target the last three weeks and has racked up at least 75 yards and a touchdown in consecutive games. He should be in line to produce against this week against the Packers.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Minnesota Vikings
Cousins and the Vikings head to Detroit this week to take on a Lions team that has been surprisingly tough on quarterbacks lately, allowing an average of 217 yards through the air and have given up just two passing touchdowns over the last three weeks. In that same period Cousins has averaged 208 yards through the air and thrown four touchdowns. The Vikings parted ways with offensive coordinator John DeFilippo in large part because he would not commit to the run. Dalvin Cook had a monster performance last week, so expect the Vikings offense to rely on the run game again this week in a game they should control throughout.
Kenyan Drake, RB, Miami Dolphins
Drake was extremely efficient in weeks 12-14, scoring four touchdowns on just 29 touches during those three weeks. That wasn’t the story last week, as he managed only 34 yards on four touches and didn’t find the end zone. With Frank Gore injured there’s the narrative that Drake gets more opportunities, but I think it’s much more likely that the Dolphins want to see more of Kalen Ballage. The rookie from Arizona State ripped off 123 yards on 12 carries in his first significant playing time last week. Drake is best left out of your championship lineup.
D.J. Moore, WR, Carolina Panthers
After seeing at least eight targets in four consecutive weeks, Moore only saw three this Monday for just 12 yards. He also had a nice 22 yards run, but ultimately fumbled it away. Curtis Samuel and Devin Funchess didn’t perform any better than Moore. Cam Newton and his sore shoulder probably had a lot to do with the receiver struggles, and it’s starting to sound like he may be shut down for the season. You probably want to avoid all of the Carolina wide receivers this week, even in a good matchup with the Falcons.
Tight End: NA
As of last week, I’ve thrown in the towel when it comes making tight end sit recommendations. Once you get past the handful of must-start tight ends most options are as good as any other. Last week some of your top-six tight ends included Garrett Celek, Chris Manhertz, and Jeremy Sprinkle. 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: Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers defense has been up and down all season and now travel to New Orleans to play the Saints in the Superdome this week. While the New Orleans hasn’t been scoring as consistently lately, I’m not about to bet my fantasy championship on Pittsburgh shutting down Drew Brees at home while he the Saints are looking to lock up the number one seed in the playoffs.
Others to Avoid
As I sifted through the matchups this week it became abundantly clear that most of the players I wanted to put in this section (Jameis Winston, Adrian Peterson, Chris Godwin) have been so bad over the past two weeks that they probably aren’t owned by most championship final teams. If you’re not sure about a player, hit me up on Twitter (@aalarson) and I’ll give you my thoughts
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! Get that championship!