Week 6 Starts and Sits
October 13, 2016 | Scott Cedar
To be, or not to be…
Hamlet was contemplating whether to live or die, but this was all before the advent of fantasy football. If Shakespeare were alive today, this soliloquy would no doubt entail Hamlet agonizing over whether it was nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of another god-awful Brandin Cooks performance, or just ride the hot hand with Cameron Meredith.
The point is, there’s nothing more important in season than start/sit decisions. Not just for your team’s success, but for your mental sanity. (Yeah, I’m still kicking myself for benching Russell Wilson in his 40-point game a few years ago). So let’s get to it. Be sure to check out TFF’s rankings, and for any specific questions, hit me up on Twitter (@scedar015) or in the comments section below.
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Start: Alex Smith @OAK
I gave the positive spin on Oakland’s defense last week, and as a streamer defense they performed well. But in terms of real life defense… not so much. The Chargers hung 31 points on Sunday, and Oakland has now surrendered at least 28 points in 4 of their 5 games (The 5th? Two words: Exotic Smashmouth.). Much of the damage has come through the passing game, with Oakland allowing the 3rd most points per game to opposing quarterbacks (22.5) and the 4th most passing touchdowns (12), and the most net yards/attempt (8.3). This all sets up well for Smith, coming off a bye against an Oakland offense that drags everyone into shootouts.
Others to start: Russell Wilson is obvious, but it’s worth pointing out his great matchup (Atlanta allows the most points per game to opposing quarterbacks), and he should be fully healthy off a bye… the Jets are getting torched on defense, especially on deep plays (more on that below), so I like Carson Palmer to revert to 2015 form… Dak Prescott has a great floor (at least 17.5 points in every game since Week 1) and favorable matchup… Lower down, Trevor Siemian, Brian Hoyer, Marcus Mariota are all bad quarterbacks usable in good matchups; I rank them in that order.
Sit: Philip Rivers @ DEN
You don’t spit into the wind. You don’t tug on Superman’s cape. And you don’t mess around with the Denver defense. Some Rivers owners are emboldened because Matt Ryan—excuse me, #1 Overall QB Matt Ryan—didn’t implode last week vs. Denver. But Ryan’s 14.98 points was well below his season average, and his production came primarily from his two stud running backs. Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman combined for 7 catches, 167 yards and a TD, while Atlanta’s receivers and tight ends caught only 8 catches for 100 yards. Denver remains death to passing games (conventional ones, anyway)—per Raymond Summerlin, they haven’t allowed a passing touchdown to a wide receiver since Week 1, Drive 1, and as Sam Monson points out, you’re generally better off just spiking the ball.
Others to sit: Kirk Cousins faces an Eagles defense giving up only 10.1 points per game to opposing quarterbacks (3rd fewest in the league), and allowing opponents to score on just 18.6% of drives (best in the league)… Is anyone still using Ryan Fitzpatrick? Probably not, but especially not this week at Arizona (allowing the 10th fewest points per game to opposing QBs)… the Ravens offense should be better under Marty Mornhinweg, but it will be a less pass-heavy attack, and Joe Flacco hasn’t been any good despite the volume and favorable matchups.
Start: Giovani Bernard @ NE
Before the season I inquired with one of my friends about trading for Bernard and was quickly rebuffed: “Gio’s untouchable… he’s going to have a huge year.”
Well, Bernard sits at 38th in points per game among running backs and my idiot friend is in last place, but this matchup sets up perfectly for him. Tom Brady showed zero rust, and the Patriots should have no problem putting up points in his homecoming. That will put Cincinnati into negative game scripts, where Gio can rack up points. He already out-snapped Hill 53-15 last week while Hill was limited by a shoulder injury, and New England has allowed the 5th most targets and receptions to opposing running backs. We also know the Patriots make their bones taking away what opponents do best, and with the Bengals’ WR depth chart basically A.J. Green and four guys named “Not A.J. Green,” I’d expect Belichick and Co. to focus on stopping Green. It might be primarily garbage time production, but I think the final numbers will be there for Bernard.
Others to start: C.J. Anderson has averaged just 3.14 YPC since Week 1, but I think he gets back on track vs. San Diego (allowing 2nd most points per game to opposing running backs)… Jamaal Charles played only 10 snaps in Week 4, but is now fully healthy. I’m not worried about workload; they’ll feed Charles first and work out the rest later… the Lions signing the sheriff, Justin Forsett, is yet another indication they’re not high on Zach Zenner; I think Theo Riddick continues to get a ton of work as the Lions go even more pass-heavy… if Jonathan Stewart is healthy, roll him out there; he’s got a great matchup against the Saints, and may find more goal line work as Carolina finally talks about limiting hits on Cam Newton.
Sit: James Starks vs. DAL
There are “lingering concerns” about Eddie Lacy’s ankle, so Starks likely sees the full workload on Sunday. So why do I say to sit him?
Because. This. Is. How. The. Dallas. Cowboys. Play. On. Offense.
But damn if it isn’t effective. Dallas has gone back to its keep-away offense, going run heavy and milking clock to limit the time their awful defense is on the field. Per Matt Harmon, the Cowboys haven’t allowed a team to get above 70 plays in any of their 5 games this season.
That bodes poorly for a player like Starks, whose value is driven by volume more than anything else. Green Bay is still a good offense (their 2.23 points per drive ranks 10th in the league), but they’re no longer the hyper-efficient, elite attack from 2013-14 that set Lacy up for 20 touchdowns. Running back is always an apocalypse, so I get it if you need a warm body, but I wouldn’t automatically plug Starks in if Lacy sits.
Others to sit: You probably don’t’ have a better option than Tevin Coleman (8th among running backs in points per game), but Seattle is allowing the 3rd fewest points per game to running backs and Coleman’s snap percentage dipped below 40% for the first time on Sunday… Matt Forte had a season low in touches last week and now has 6 or fewer points in each of his last 3 games. Plus he’s not getting much passing-game work; problematic if Arizona goes up big early… The Dolphins cut 2/5 of their starting offensive line from Sunday; that probably won’t jump-start their running game, and neither Arian Foster nor Jay Ajayi are appealing in this dumpster fire offense.
Start: John Brown vs. NYJ
The Jets’ once vaunted passing defense has been getting killed by big plays. They’re allowing 12.9 yards per catch, 4th worst in the NFL. Exhibit A: Sammie Coates had 6 catches for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns last week, but it could’ve been double that if not for a few drops.
Oh, hi John Brown. Finally over his preseason concussion, Brown had 11 and 16 targets in his last 2 games with Carson Palmer while playing nearly every snap. Brown’s blazing speed makes him a big play threat à la Coates, and both Palmer and Arians love to take shots deep. Everything sets up nicely for Brown to make a few splash plays and find the endzone at least once.
Others to start: Will Fuller is not the model of consistency, but if Vontae Davis shadows Nuk, Fuller gets to do what Cameron Meredith did to the rest of the Colts secondary last weekend… It’s been a long time since Brandin Cooks was good, but he’s actually had deceptively tough matchups. Atlanta and San Diego are bad passing defenses overall, but each has an elite cornerback. Cooks always plays better at home and Carolina’s secondary is having a worse October than Billy Bush… With Cleveland quarterbacks stuck in a Final Destination movie, I wouldn’t be surprised if Terrelle Pryor gets another Swiss army knife game where he takes snaps at QB. Even if not, Tennessee doesn’t scare anybody… As a deeper play, Jordan Reed’s concussion probably brings Jamison Crowder back into play, after his role was reduced in recent weeks.
Sit: Cameron Meredith vs. JAC
I’ll be honest, I had a hard time coming up with someone to list here, as there aren’t a lot of non-obvious “hates” at wide receiver this week.
So we’ll go with Meredith, who exploded last week for 17.60 points and finished as WR8. That all came against the Colts, who have one of the worst secondaries in the league outside of Vontae Davis. Meredith didn’t see much Davis, allowing him to run wild, but the path gets tougher this week. The Jaguars are an underrated passing defense; their net yards/attempt allowed (5.2) is 4th best in the league, and they’ve allowed more passing touchdowns (8) than you’d expect given their low yardage total (allowing 198.8 passing yards per game). I think they’re due for some regression. I also think Alshon Jeffry is due to get thrown the damn ball.
Others to sit: All the San Diego wide receivers (see above)… Randall Cobb is another Packer who’s volume dependent, as he’s no longer finding the end zone or making big plays… You can’t start Michael Floyd until he shows something on the field. 12 catches through 5 weeks?!?!
Start: Zach Ertz @ WAS
Ertz was really good in Week 1, catching 6 of 7 targets for 58 yards and showing instant rapport with Carson Wentz. He missed the next 2 games with a rib injury, and returned last week to catch all 3 of his targets for 37 yards. I think he’s back to full speed this week and the target volume goes up. The Redskins give up 9.2 points per game to tight ends, 9th most in the league, so it’s a relatively good matchup. If you own him you’ve been using someone else as a fill-in; this is the week to switch back to Ertz.
Others to start: Delanie Walker and Jimmy Graham are almost too obvious to mention; they get Cleveland (allowing the most fantasy points to tight ends) and Atlanta (2nd most), respectively…Travis Kelce’s in a good spot against the Raiders, who give up 10.8 points per game to opposing tight ends (6th most in the league)… Jason Witten has a good matchup against Green Bay, and Dez is still only 50/50 to play.
Sit: Dwayne Allen @ HOU
Allen’s had an up-and-down season. Last week it was up, with 6 catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. However, Houston presents a bad matchup for a number of reasons. They’re giving up only 2.3 fantasy points per game to tight ends, 2nd lowest in the league. More importantly, the Texans are getting pressure even without J.J. Watt, with the 7th most sacks and 3rd most QB hits in the league. The Colts’ line remains in shambles, as Luck took another 5 sacks last week to add to his lead. That suggests Allen may stay in to block more, and in any event, he’s still splitting work with Jack Doyle.
Others to sit: Jacob Tamme has a tough matchup in Seattle, who has allowed the 3rd fewest points to tight ends; I think this is the week the ATL offense final stumbles… I’m worried about Hunter Henry; not just because of the matchup, but because last week Antonio Gates had more targets and figures to steal the red zone work as he chases the all time tight end TD record.