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. My must-starts were highlighted by great performances by Baker Mayfield (QB5) and Josh Adams (RB15). Doug Baldwin struggled through a groin injury, and while he led the Seahawks in targets, Russell Wilson missed him wide open in the end zone. Dalton Schultz was a dart throw that completely missed the board.
The only must-sit worth mentioning is Evan Engram, who ended up not even playing in the game. The rest easily outperformed their expectations. On a side note, I will never declare Deshaun Watson a must-sit ever again after being burned by him for a second time this year.
Onto lucky week Thirteen.
Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Dak Prescott had another excellent performance against Washington on Thanksgiving Day, but you might not realize just how good Dak has been since Amari Cooper came to town. Over his last three games played Dak is the eighth-highest scoring fantasy quarterback on average. He also has been getting it done with his legs lately, rushing for a touchdown in five of the last six games. On Thursday night he matches up with the high scoring Saints, so the game script should be in Dak’s favor. The Saints have also allowed four rushing touchdowns to quarterbacks this season, tied for most in the NFL. Taking everything into account, Dak should be penciled in for another top-tier quarterback performance this week.
Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos
Lindsay is the latest player to transition from my must-sit list immediately to my must-start list. His talent and stranglehold on the backfield are no longer in question. While I didn’t like the matchup with Pittsburgh last week, I love the matchup with Cincinnati this week. If he can run for 110 yards and a touchdown on the Steelers seventh-ranked fantasy run defense, imagine what he can do against the Bengals, who are 31st against fantasy running backs.
Lindsay has the second-highest yards per attempt in the NFL with an impressive 5.8 and has scored three touchdowns in the last two games. Even more appealing, the Bengals have allowed league-high 17 touchdowns to running backs, including nine in the past six games. You should expect another top end performance from Lindsay this week.
T.Y. Hilton, WR, Indianapolis Colts
Hilton has been the top scoring fantasy wideout in half-point per reception scoring over the past two weeks, going off for 280 yards and two touchdowns on 16 catches. That alone should be enough to make him a must-start, but some people are still scared off by what the Jaguars defense used to be. While they are still ranked fourth best in fantasy points given up to wideouts, they’ve just been a shadow of their former selves lately.
They gave up over 100 yards to both JuJu Smith-Schuster and Antonio Brown in week eleven then were burned deep by undrafted speedster Robert Foster last week. Hilton still has top end speed and a great connection with Andrew Luck, who has been on a nice hot streak of his own lately. Don’t overthink this one, get Hilton in your lineup.
Jordan Reed, TE, Washington Redskins
Reed has been a fantasy let down for much of the season, but since Colt McCoy took over in week eleven Reed has had his best two performances of the season, totaling 13 catches on 19 targets for 146 yards in those two games. He also caught his first touchdown since week one when McCoy entered the game against Houston.
They play the Eagles Sunday, who have been solid against the tight end position, ranking third in fewest fantasy points allowed. However, they have given up touchdowns to Greg Olsen and O.J. Howard, the two quality tight ends they’ve faced. It should be worth noting that Vernon Davis also had a nice week and a touchdown from McCoy last week, but he has seen only four targets since McCoy has taken over, so my money is on Reed this week.
Defense/Special Teams: Indianapolis Colts
I picked the Colts as my must-start defense last week as well, and while it worked out alright, I have higher expectations for them this week. They take on a Jacksonville team that is completely lost offensively. Within the past week, they’ve fired their offensive coordinator, benched Blake Bortles for Cody Kessler, and lost Leonard Fournette to suspension, making for the perfect recipe for offensive disaster when they travel to Indianapolis this week.
Other Good Starts
It’s looking like Lamar Jackson is going to get another start against Atlanta this week. The Falcons give up the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Even more appealing, they give up the seventh-most rushing yards to quarterbacks, and Jackson is already arguably the top rushing quarterback in the NFL.
Jameis Winston looked good last week after regaining the starting job for the Buccaneers. Now he takes on a Panthers team that gave up four scores through the air to Tampa Bay last time the teams faced off.
He’s been awful lately, but Matthew Stafford could put up some nice garbage time numbers against the Rams this week.
Gus Edwards has gone over 100 yards rushing the last two games. Look for the Ravens to continue their run-heavy attack on Atlanta’s third-worst fantasy run defense that’s allowed at least 120 yards to running backs in three straight games.
The Giants have allowed a running back to score in four straight games, and have given up ten rushing and six receiving touchdowns to backs so far this season. Jordan Howard or Tarik Cohen should find the end zone this week. If I had to bet, I’d go with Cohen.
LeSean McCoy shouldn’t be forgotten. He is still getting plenty of touches for the Bills and is taking on a Miami team that’s allowed 100 or more total yards to running backs in eight of eleven games this season.
The Broncos should continue to feature Emmanuel Sanders as they try and keep their playoff hopes alive. Last week he saw 12 targets, while the next highest targeted Bronco was four. The Bengals defense is susceptible to wideouts, so Sanders should be a nice play.
Amari Cooper had one of his classic breakout games on Thanksgiving. Hopefully, he keeps the momentum rolling as he takes on a Saints defense that gives up the most fantasy points to wide receivers.
Rober Foster, the speedy undrafted free agent out of Alabama, has looked like the real deal the last two weeks. Feel free to play him this week if you need to take a chance.
D.J. Moore has been a little under the radar, but he’s led the Panthers wideouts in targets for three straight weeks. He’s got a good chance to find the end zone this week against the Buccaneers, who have surrendered at least one touchdown to wide receivers in every game this season.
Eric Ebron is tied for the NFL lead in receiving touchdowns, and Jack Doyle is on injured reserve for the rest of the season, making Ebron on obvious tight end play from here on out.
The rapport between Cameron Brate and Jameis Winston was on display again last week. Brate should be a top tight end option for the rest of the season
Mark Andrews is my dart-throw tight end of the week. He made a big play on a pass from Lamar Jackson last week, so if you want to take a shot, he might be your guy.
Coming off the bye week, the Kansas City Chiefs get to play the lowly Raiders, making them a solid defensive play.
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
This may be considered blasphemy by some, but the days of auto-starting Tom Brady are over. Brady is currently on pace to throw just under 28 touchdown passes this season, which would be his lowest 16-game total since 2009. What’s worse, he’s only thrown three touchdowns in his past four games.
This week he takes on Minnesota, who ranks sixth best against fantasy quarterbacks this season. The Vikings have held future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees both under 200 yards passing this season, and haven’t allowed any quarterback to through multiple touchdowns since week five. With the depth of options available at the position, you can easily do better than Tom Brady this week.
Tevin Coleman, RB, Atlanta Falcons
Things have been trending downward for Coleman in recent weeks, and it’s not likely to get any better this week. He’s combined for only 16 carries and six receptions over the past two weeks. He did manage to find the end zone last week on one of those receptions, but he isn’t likely to repeat that this week against a Baltimore defense that has only allowed two receiving touchdowns to running backs so far this season. Overall the Ravens have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to running backs, and haven’t allowed more than 60 yards to them over the past two weeks. With all the bye weeks finally over you should have better options in the backfield than Coleman this week.
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
Jeffery had a great stretch of games in the first half of the season but has all but disappeared lately. He hasn’t scored a touchdown or gone over 50 yards since week seven. It hasn’t helped that Carson Wentz has struggled to find a rhythm in recent weeks, and the addition of Golden Tate has completely muddied the wide receiver position for the Eagles. For the time being, Jeffrey should remain on the bench for fantasy owners.
Trey Burton, TE, Chicago Bears
Burton was a productive fantasy tight end through the first half of the season when he scored four of his five touchdowns. Of course, that means that he’s only caught one touchdown in his past five games. He’s also only averaged 24.6 yards receiving in that span. The matchup isn’t good either; the only tight end to find the end zone against the Giants this season has been Zach Ertz. The tight end position is rough right now, but you can still likely find a more dependable option than Burton.
Defense/Special Teams: Jacksonville Jaguars
It’s time to give up on the Jaguars defense being a fantasy force this season. They could still have value in the right matchup, but this week is not one of those matchups. They travel to Indianapolis to take on Andrew Luck and the Colts. Luck leads the NFL in touchdown passes and has thrown at least three in eight consecutive games. As strange as it may seem, there are plenty of better defensive options out there.
Others to Avoid
Matt Ryan has been great this season, but he has a tough matchup this week with Baltimore, who allow the eighth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Baker Mayfield has been able to take advantage of a soft schedule in recent weeks. Things will be tougher for him when he travels to Houston this week to take on the Texans, who give up the sixth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Austin Ekeler is in line to be the top running back for the Chargers with Melvin Gordon sidelined, but the Steelers have been solid against the run, and he may concede some carries to rookie Justin Jackson
As bad as the Jaguars defense has been overall, they’ve held their own against running backs. With Marlon Mack coming off of a concussion he may not be a great play against them this week.
Lamar Jackson isn’t exactly lighting it up through the air yet. It’s tough to trust any Ravens wide receiver at the moment, even in a good matchup.
The Jaguars wideouts are even harder to trust. With a new offensive coordinator and Cody Kessler under center, it’s anybody’s guess as to where the targets will go.
Dalton Schultz couldn’t take advantage of his starting opportunity on Thanksgiving, catching one pass for negative yardage. He’s not worth considering against a Saints defense that’s only allowed one touchdown to opposing tight ends this season.
I wouldn’t play the Los Angeles Chargers defense against a red-hot Steelers offense led by Big Ben in Pittsburgh.
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!