Week 13 Starts and Sits
December 1, 2016 | Scott Cedar
Malcolm Gladwell’s Revisionist History podcast had a great episode discussing two types of geniuses: (1) those who work quickly, knowing exactly what they want to do and can deliver a masterpiece in one shot; and (2) those who work slowly, obsessing through draft after draft, even revisiting their work after it’s finished for further revisions.
While certainly not a genius, I fall into the latter category. The obsessive type. And nothing puts me into obsessive mode like a bad start/sit decision. I think about it all week. Check and re-check my lineup. Pour over the old rankings. Recalculate league standings if I had done this, not that. It’s bad.
In Week 13, where the wrong start/sit decision can end your season, it’s even worse. I don’t want to send anyone into a George Costanza tilt until next September, so let’s get these right.
Two quick ground rules. First, the goal is to highlight some less obvious plays—Drew Brees isn’t a “start” because you already know to start him at home against one of the worst passing defenses in the league. Second, not every “start” is a better play than every “sit”—Alex Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick are “starts” in great matchups while Dak Prescott and Cam Newton are “sits” in terrible ones, but I’d play the latter over the former if both were on my team. It’s all relative. Any questions, check out the TFF rankings or hit me up on Twitter (@scedar015) or in the comments section below.
Start: Russell Wilson vs. Carolina
I’ll touch on Matthew Stafford when discussing running backs, and I’ve already discussed Colin Kaepernick ad nauseum in my waiver columns. Both are great starts—there’s actually a ton of strong QB options this week—but feel too obvious for a deep dive.
One guy who might make his owners a little gun-shy: Russell Wilson. It looked like Wilson was finally turning his season around, then he submitted a truly awful performance on Sunday (17/33, 151 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs). The Seahawks’ offensive line also Benjamin Buttoned to early-season form, allowing 6 sacks. Before that dud, however, Wilson had scored at least 24 points in 3 consecutive weeks, and I like his chance to bounce back to that level against the Panthers. Carolina’s inexperienced secondary has improved as the year has gone on, but they’re still allowing 18.3 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks (8th worst in the league); their reputation as a top defense is an unwarranted carryover from last year. Luke Kuechly is likely to miss another week after his devastating concussion, which should clear up running lanes for Wilson. And both this year and throughout his career, Wilson has been better at home and in the 2nd half of the season.
Other starts: Matthew Stafford @ New Orleans; Colin Kaepernick@ Chicago; Alex Smith @ Atlanta; Ryan Fitzpatrick @ Indianapolis
Sit: Dak Prescott @ Minnesota and Cam Newton @ Seattle
Two of the hardest calls this week are what to do with Dak Prescott and Cam Newton, each on the road against a top passing defense. Both are startable, but I’d try to find someone else. This late in the season you can drop unneeded bench depth for a plug-and-play QB, and in a week with so many good options, why trot these guys out in horrible matchups?
Minnesota is allowing just 13.5 points per game to opposing QBs, 3rd lowest in the league. Last week Matthew Stafford managed a respectable 16.28 fantasy points, but had just 232 yards and 1 touchdown. His 57.5 completion percentage was his 2nd lowest of the season, and his 5.8 yards per attempt were his lowest on the year. Stafford survived on volume—he threw 40 times and had 4 rushing attempts, while the Lions gave their running backs only 14 carries. This won’t be the Cowboys’ gameplan: Prescott has thrown more than 35 passes in a game just 3 times all year, while Dallas has by far the most rushing attempts in the league. Vegas is expecting a defensive game, with the 43.5 over/under one of the lowest of the week. The offense is great and Dak is having an MVP caliber year, but there are safer, higher upside plays.
Newton, on the other hand, quietly isn’t having a great year. He’s QB9 in points per game with career lows in completion percentage (55.8%), yards per carry (4.2) and touchdown percentage (3.8%, on pace for just 21 TDs after throwing for 35 last year). Seattle is allowing the 6th fewest points per game to opposing quarterbacks (and the fewest points per game overall). Their secondary is a bit banged up, but they remain a formidable pass defense, especially at home. Newton will have to face Seattle without star center Ryan Kalil—kind of a problem against a team with the 4th most sacks on the season. I like Newton more than Prescott, but again suggest you look elsewhere this week.
Other sits: Andy Dalton vs. Philadelphia; Trevor Siemian @ Jacksonville
Start: Theo Riddick @ New Orleans
Riddick hasn’t hit double digit points since Week 8, but things set up nicely for him on Sunday.
Riddick’s backfield competition has all but evaporated—he handled 79% of the Lions’ snaps last week (getting at least 70% of the snaps for the 3rd time in 4 games) while out-touching Dwayne Washington 14-5. Detroit has the fewest rushing attempts in the league, but when they do run, they’re increasingly relying on Riddick. He’s averaging almost 10 attempts per game, putting up a respectable 4.0 YPC.
As for the matchup… I love games at the Superdome. Indoors. Saints offense pushing the tempo and putting up points. Saints defense offering little resistance. These games are like hitting the turbo button on NBA Jam. The Saints are giving up the 5th most points per game to opposing running backs, but they’re an especially good matchup for Riddick, as they’ve been susceptible to pass-catching running backs (allowing the 4th most receiving yards to running backs on just the 16th most receptions). This game has the highest Vegas over/under of the week and should be a shootout, with Riddick getting plenty of touches for the Lions.
Other starts: Darren Sproles @ Cincinnati; Jordan Howard vs. San Francisco
Sit: Rashad Jennings @ Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh’s giving up the 4th most points per game to running backs, so this looks like a good matchup for Jennings, right?
Eh. The Steelers are middle-of-the-pack in total yards allowed (965) and YPC (4.2). The point totals have been inflated by an out of whack touchdown ratio: Pittsburgh has allowed 14 TDs to RBs (5th most in the league), but just 9 touchdowns to wide receivers and tight ends (fewest in the league). Those results don’t really jive with their personnel; I think they’re a neutral matchup for RBs.
As for Jennings, his matchup last week at Cleveland was actually a great one, and he disappointed bigly, managing just 5.9 points while playing only 50% of the snaps. This wasn’t an aberration—he has the 5th lowest YPC among qualified backs (3.4) and has just 2 TDs on the year, looking every bit his age. Add in that this is a road game (Giants are scoring just 18 points per game on the road, compared to 23.5 points at home) and the Giants will likely be playing from behind (Pittsburgh favored by 6.5), and it’s hard to see Jennings offering much fantasy value.
Other sits: Terrance West vs. Miami; Tevin Coleman vs. Kansas City
Start: Donte Moncrief @ New York Jets
With Eric Decker on IR, the “all he does is catch touchdowns” mantle has been passed to Moncrief. He’s played 5 full games this season and has scored once in each. The rest of his profile has been a little disappointing. Moncrief hasn’t recorded more than 6 receptions in a game all season, and his highest yardage total is just 64 yards, which came all the way back in Week 1 against Detroit (who, as it turns out, is one of the worst passing defenses in the league).
But there’s reason for optimism. Luck is expected back after missing last game with a concussion. Meanwhile, T.Y. Hilton left the Thanksgiving game with a back injury, leaving Moncrief as the Colts’ top receiver. He saw 11 targets with Hilton out—his highest total all season—so he should have plenty of opportunity if Hilton is out or limited this week. That opportunity will be amplified by the matchup. The Jets have one of the top rushing defenses in the league (allowing just 3.6 YPC, 5th best), while the Colts have struggled to run the ball with an AARP running back and leaky offensive line (averaging just 3.9 YPC). Though the Jets’ secondary isn’t getting burninated quite like they were to start the year, they’re still a favorable matchup, allowing 25 points per game to opposing wide receivers (10th worst in the league). Expect Indy to go pass-heavy on Monday Night Football, with Moncrief in line for the highest target total and a great chance at a score.
Other starts: DeAndre Hopkins @ Green Bay; Tyreek Hill @ Atlanta
Sit: Allen Robinson vs. Denver
This one worries me a bit.
It probably shouldn’t. While I never sit my studs, is Robinson really a stud? He’s WR25 on the year without having missed a game. He’s reached double digit points just 4 times in 11 games. He’s caught only 50% of his targets. His 5.5 yards per target is atrocious—140th among wide receivers. Per the RotoViz AY/A app, Blake Bortles has been worse throwing to Robinson than to any of his other receivers. Robinson’s still an elite talent, and I’ll (probably) be all in on him next year, but 12 weeks into the season I think you have to ignore the name and believe the numbers.
On top of that, the Broncos are by far the stingiest team in the league against opposing wide receivers, allowing them just 15.7 points per game. That’s for a team’s entire receiving corps. If that wasn’t enough, how do you think Blake Bortles is going to fare playing behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league against the Broncos’ pass rush, which leads the league in sacks and QB hits?
Other sits: Phillip Dorsett @ New York Jets; Kelvin Benjamin @ Seattle; Tyler Boyd/Brandon LaFell vs. Philadelphia
Start: C.J. Fiedorowicz @ Green Bay
Fiedorowicz played sparingly the first 3 weeks of the season. Since then he’s averaged 4.6 receptions and 52.75 yards per game while scoring thrice, which doesn’t sound like much, but is good for TE7 over that span. At 6’5” he seems to be the only target the wildly inaccurate Brock Osweiler can find with any consistency. He gets a great matchup at Green Bay, a dumpster fire defense allowing 9.2 points per game to opposing tight ends.
Other starts: Jimmy Graham vs. Carolina; Travis Kelce vs. Atlanta; Eric Ebron @ New Orleans; Vance McDonald @ Chicago
Sit: Coby Fleener vs. Detroit
It’s a great matchup against Detroit, who’s been one of the worst teams in the league covering tight ends, but you cannot start Jacoby Fleener. He’s actually coming off a nice game in which he caught all 4 of his targets for 59 yards, but the raw numbers don’t tell the full story. Fleener played just 24.3% of the Saints’ snaps, his lowest total of the year. Fleener scored more than 8 points just twice this season, while falling under 5 points in 7 of 11 games. Yuuuuuuck. The floor on Fleener is just too low to risk it this late in the year. If you want to capitalize on this prime matchup, I’d rather roll with teammate Josh Hill, who played 78% of the snaps last week and caught 6 of 6 targets for 74 yards.
Other sits: Austin Hooper vs. Kansas City; Vernon Davis @ Arizona