Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 6
A Sangeet, essentially, is an Indian ceremony the night before a wedding, filled with dancing (dad moves on the dance floor for me) and great music. It's a celebration.
And it's a lot of fun. I know this, because one of my best friends got married this past weekend, I was in the wedding (and was honored to be in it), and the Sangeet, as the kids say, was lit. It was straight fire.
It's what a build up to a big day should be.
Really, Thursday Night Football serves a similar high-level purpose: to open up the week's slate of contests with a primetime, island game for the nation to watch. The difference is that a Sangeet is actually, you know, entertaining and joyful. Thursday Night Football usually makes you want to punch a hole in your living room wall.
Nevertheless, Thursday's game exists each week on the NFL schedule, and it forces us to have to make our lineup decisions earlier than we'd probably like to. As always, the hope is that this column gets you started on the right foot.
Start Alex Smith (at Oakland): According to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, the Raiders have the 29th-ranked schedule-adjusted pass defense in football, which clearly bodes well for Smith's potential this weekend. Oakland has surrendered 22-plus fantasy points in four of their five games this season, too. The fear with Smith, of course, is his conservative nature. But the Raiders have allowed the fourth-most yards after the catch per game this year, meaning Smith's safe tosses could turn into bigger plays.
Sit Eli Manning (vs. Baltimore): I'm not sure how you can confidently trust Manning right now. He had a plus matchup against a banged-up Packer secondary this past Monday night and came through with just a little over 10 fantasy points, making him a low-end QB2 option on the week. He has also ranked no higher than 13th in weekly scoring this year at the position.
He gets the Ravens this week, too. Baltimore's been stingy against non-Derek Carr passers this year, as Carr was the only quarterback to score more than 14.4 standard fantasy points against them this season.
Start Carson Palmer (vs. New York): This is certainly a high-variance play, as Palmer's coming off a concussion, so he may not be 100%. But it looks as though he's going to be good to go this week, and he couldn't ask for a better matchup.
The Jets give up big plays through the air. In fact, they've surrendered the second-most passing plays of 40-plus yards this year. We saw that in full effect last week, as Ben Roethlisberger was able to connect with Sammie Coates for a big one. Meanwhile, the entire Arizona offense under Bruce Arians is based on these high-variance throws. Palmer is actually second among relevant quarterbacks this year in air yards percentage -- that is, the percent of yards accumulated strictly through the air -- and he ranked fifth last season. The combination of the matchup and this style of play gives him an insane ceiling this week.
Sit Kirk Cousins (vs. Philadelphia): Similar to Manning above, backing Cousins feels a little dirty at this point. He's been completely boom-or-bust, as he's got three performances between 17 and 20 fantasy points, with the other two between (roughly) 10 to 12. Against Philly, it could be one of those bust weeks. The Eagles gave up 3 touchdowns to Matthew Stafford last week, sure, but he still only threw for 180 yards after the defense woke up -- coming off a bye -- in the second half. Only Ben Roethlisberger has been able to hit the 200-yard mark against Philadelphia this season. And while, yes, their competition has been weak, holding any starting NFL quarterback to fewer than 200 yards is a feat. It's a no-go for Cousins in this one.
Start Christine Michael (vs. Atlanta): It's nearly impossible to recommend starting or sitting running backs without making the picks fairly obvious. This is my obvious one for the week: start Michael.
The Falcons have been dreadful against the run, even when you consider C.J. Anderson's 41-yard performance against them last week. On the year, they've allowed four top-20 performances in points per reception (PPR) formats, all while ranking 11th-worst in points surrendered per game to the position. They've also given up the second-most receptions to the running back position this year, and Michael himself is averaging over four targets per contest. With Seattle as decent favorites, Michael makes for a great play.
Sit Matt Jones (vs. Philadelphia): This is going to be a regular occurrence moving forward because Washington's schedule is brutal for running backs -- at least between-the-tackles backs, which is what Jones is. On the year, the Eagles have watched two running backs rank in the top-20 in PPR scoring against them, but one of them, Isaiah Crowell, was able to find the end zone, salvaging his day, while the other, Theo Riddick, had two receiving touchdowns. No back has seen more than 12 attempts against the Eagles this year, and there are reports talking about Jones' workload decreasing. Avoid him.
Start Giovani Bernard (at New England): At first glance, this matchup may not look great. The Patriots have surrendered the eighth-fewest fantasy points to the running back position this year, and third-fewest on a points per game basis. But New England's also allowed the fourth-most receptions to backs in 2016 because they're constantly ahead. That's Bernard's forte...catching passes out of the backfield. And if Jeremy Hill misses any sort of time (he was limited in practice yesterday), then that's icing on the cake.
Sit New York Giants Running Backs (vs. Baltimore): Baltimore currently has the top-ranked rush defense in football. The Giants' running game is a mess from a fantasy standpoint, as no one running back has finished higher than 16th in weekly PPR running back scoring this season. The backfield monster could see Rashad Jennings this week, too, just to make the timeshare even worse.
Start Arian Foster (deeper play, vs. Pittsburgh): I'm considering Foster more of a deeper play only because he's coming off an injury and we have little idea what his usage will look like. But the upside is actually there in a game where the Dolphins could trail.
Pittsburgh, thus far, has allowed the third-most receptions to running backs this season, and they've seen backs beat them through the air, whether it's Darren Sproles or Giovani Bernard. That's where Foster's value actually is within this offense: as a receiver. In Week 1 -- the only sample size we have of a healthy Foster in Miami's offense -- Foster saw 5 targets to go along with his 13 carries, and he caught 3 of them for 62 yards. Just last year, Foster was one of the least efficient rushers in the NFL according to NEP, but his fantasy value was raised through his receiving abilities.
The big question mark, as I said, is how they'll use him -- Damien Williams could end up seeing some of those big-deficit targets instead. That's why Foster's a risk, but he does have some reward within a fantasy position that lacks depth.
Other running backs to start: Jamaal Charles (at Oakland), T.J. Yeldon (at Chicago)
Other running backs to sit: Duke Johnson (at Tennessee), Justin Forsett (unless injuries allow him to be top dog, vs. Los Angeles)
Start Jeremy Maclin (at Oakland): I've already mentioned a lot about this Raiders' secondary in the Alex Smith blurb above so, naturally, his top wide receiver is a decent start, as well.
I know Maclin owners are frustrated right now, but he has a 22.56% target market in the Kansas City offense so far this year, and his touchdown total -- one -- should be over two when you compare touchdowns to yardage totals. (In other words, based on his receiving yardage, math shows that his touchdown total should be higher.) Those are all good things in his favor.
Top receivers against Oakland have also dominated in fantasy. Brandin Cooks (who's a fantastic play this week, by the way) ranked as the 2nd-best wideout in Week 1 versus the Raiders (PPR), Julio Jones ranked 8th in Week 2, Steve Smith was 4th in Week 4, and the Chargers' tandem of Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin were 11th and 15th, respectively. The only team to see their wide receivers not torch this secondary was Tennessee and well, those wideouts don't torch any secondary.
Feel confident in Maclin this week.
Sit Travis Benjamin (vs. Denver): You could consider any Chargers' wide receiver here, and the reason is obvious: they're facing Denver. Only Kelvin Benjamin -- back in Week 1 -- has finished higher than 20th in weekly wide receiver rankings (PPR) versus the Broncos, as the team has the second-best schedule-adjusted pass defense in the NFL, per our numbers. It could be messy for the Chargers, even with them being at home.
Start John Brown (vs. New York): Again, looking at what was said about Palmer above will help you understand why I'm into Brown this week. But beyond the big-play potential against the Jets -- and the fact that the Jets' secondary is just straight-up bad, ranking 30th per our numbers against the pass -- Brown's recent usage is encouraging. He played 96% of the team's snaps in Week 4 and 94% in Week 5. Earlier in the season, those numbers were closer to 50% to 60%. As a result, he's seen 31 targets over his last three games, which makes him a nice play this week.
Sit DeVante Parker (vs. Pittsburgh): I'd usually feel good about a wide receiver who has a chance to be peppered with targets in a negative game script, but the Dolphins' offense is a dumpster fire. Pittsburgh's been a lot better than what we thought entering the year against the pass -- or at least at limiting fantasy wide receivers, where they rank 25th in points allowed -- and Parker's target market share over the last three weeks is just 15.1%. He could see garbage time, but I'd rather not bank on that.
Start Will Fuller (vs. Indianapolis): With Vontae Davis likely on DeAndre Hopkins, this matchup lines up perfectly for Fuller. Secondary wide receivers have been solid against Indianapolis this season, exemplified by Cameron Meredith's top-five performance in Week 5. Fuller didn't show up last week in a brutal matchup, but he still has over a 21% target market share in the offense -- the targets should be there this week.
Start Jimmy Graham (vs. Atlanta): Prior to the Seahawks' Week 5 bye, Graham looked healthy again. He saw 9 and 8 targets in Week 3 and 4, respectively, ranking as a top-five fantasy option in both weeks. In this one, he'll face a Falcons defense that has surrendered the third-most fantasy points per game to the position. This could be a big one for Graham.
Sit Dwayne Allen (at Houston): Houston's been tough against tight ends this year -- only Philadelphia has given up fewer fantasy points to the position in 2016. Allen has had two good performances this season, but one came against a porous Detroit defense (that is crazy bad against tight ends), with the other coming last week versus a below-average Chicago defense. He's seen between 4 and 6 targets in each game, which is nice for consistency, but the touchdown ceiling just doesn't seem to be there this week given the matchup.
Start Charles Clay (vs. San Francisco): Clay's target market share has climbed to over 16.5% thanks to 12 total targets over the last two weeks. He gets a matchup this week against a faster-paced San Francisco offense, leading to more opportunities for Buffalo when they've got the ball. The 49ers have also allowed the 12th-most points per game to the tight end position this year. This all makes Clay a pretty decent streaming start.
Start the Detroit Lions (vs. Los Angeles): No defense has completely imploded against the Rams this year, and each have scored at least five fantasy points in each game. The Lions aren't strong defensively, no, but they're at home, they're 3.5-point favorites, and they're facing numberFire's worst-ranked quarterback per NEP: Case Keenum. It's either the Lions or the Titans for you streamers this week.
Sit the Kansas City Chiefs (at Oakland): The Raiders have been excellent offensively this year with their new and improved offensive line, limiting opposing defenses to just one sack per game. Quarterback Derek Carr is doing a good job taking care of the football, too, having thrown just two picks. No defense has finished higher than 19th in weekly scoring against Oakland, and it'd be surprising, in what should be a higher-scoring game, for the Chiefs to buck that trend.
Other defenses to start: Tennessee Titans (vs. Cleveland), Pittsburgh Steelers (at Miami)
Other defenses to sit: Green Bay Packers (vs. Dallas), Miami Dolphins (vs. Pittsburgh)