Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 8
You can never go wrong with a sports analogy. Everyone -- well, mostly everyone -- can at least appreciate and relate to sports, which helps bring context to a lot of situations or stories.
Here, let's run through a couple of examples.
Maybe you've never watched The Blacklist. To a sports fan, I may say, "The Blacklist is kind of like Andy Dalton in a plus matchup during an island game. You get really excited for it to finally be good, but it always ends in disappointment."
Or maybe, "You remember that Colts fake punt last year when they lined their punter under center and snapped the ball? That's what my taste buds feel like after a dinner at Applebee's."
This is all exaggerated during Halloween time, as candy debates fill the social media air. I can't just say Almond Joys are bad. (They are.) I need to say that they're Greg Little-bad. The badness needs to be reinforced through a wide receiver who has a sub-50% career catch rate.
You know what Reese's Peanut Butter Cups remind me of? Regular-season Peyton Manning. Always good. Always reliable. Always elite.
As you read the first guy in this week's start-sit, think about the times you got Lemonheads while trick-or-treating. You never really wanted them, but there were still times post-Halloween when they hit the spot. Even if those instances were few and far between.
Start Brock Osweiler (deeper play, vs. Detroit): Make no mistake, Brock Osweiler is the candy corn of the NFL. He's currently got the lowest Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) among all starters, and he's scoring just 11.5 standard fantasy points per game, which is lower than every relevant passer in the league. He's yet to finish higher than 16th in quarterback scoring in any given week, too.
So why in the world would you start him? Well, in most cases, you wouldn't -- this is certainly a deeper play. However, keep in mind that the Texans have faced some really tough competition, including Kansas City, New England, Minnesota, and Denver. Per our numbers, three of those four teams (not New England) rank in the top-six against the pass this season. In his other three matchups, Osweiler averaged over 16 fantasy points scored.
This week, he gets the best matchup in football against a Lions secondary that's pacing to be the worst unit our database has ever seen, and one that could be without top cornerback Darius Slay. Even with Slay, the Lions have surrendered five top-seven performances to the quarterback position in seven games.
It's a battle of being bad in Houston this week, and the result could be a decent performance from Osweiler.
Sit Philip Rivers (at Denver): We've been through this before. The Broncos -- especially in Denver -- aren't a good fantasy matchup for opposing quarterbacks. On the year, only Cam Newton -- mostly because of a rushing touchdown -- has been able to hit the 15-point mark in fantasy, while Denver's faced passers like Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan. Rivers was solid-enough from a real football perspective earlier in the season against this D, but he was also at home, and he still finished with just 11 fantasy points. And after hitting 15 points in fewer than 50% of his games this year, let's not pretend Rivers is this elite fantasy option, either.
Start Ryan Fitzpatrick (at Cleveland): The Browns currently rank 27th against the pass, according to our schedule-adjusted metrics, and they've given up at least two passing scores to every quarterback they've faced this season. The only passer to rank worse than QB13 in weekly quarterback scoring against Cleveland this year has been Joe Flacco, who's averaging the 27th-most fantasy points per game at the position. (Read: he's not great.) Everything sets up well for Fitzpatrick this week, despite the fact that his own team may not be enthusiastic about starting him.
Sit Dak Prescott (vs. Philadelphia): The Eagles have the best secondary in football, or, at least, that's what our schedule-adjusted numbers say. It's no surprise, though: they're holding opposing passers to just 10.8 fantasy points per game, and that's even while facing a few good fantasy quarterbacks in Ben Roethlisberger, Kirk Cousins, and Matthew Stafford.
As a result, I don't love Dak this week. He's fine, I suppose, but you're really hoping and praying for rushing production to help bolster his totals. After all, he's thrown one or fewer passing touchdowns in four of his six starts this year. Would it be surprising if his team runs their typical conservative gameplan in a big divisional battle this week, resulting in lower fantasy numbers? Absolutely not.
Start Devontae Booker (vs. San Diego): Part of me is upset about the C.J. Anderson injury -- he could miss a few weeks, potentially more -- because I had already pegged Booker as a nice start this week versus San Diego. But with the injury, Booker's starter status is pretty obvious. He'll be fed the rock even more than usual (he'll be the workhorse) against a team that's allowed the sixth-most points per game to the running back position in fantasy. And he's at home with his team as a five-point favorite. What more could you ask for from your fantasy running back?
Sit Jordan Howard (vs. Minnesota): The fantasy world probably called Howard's breakout a little early when you consider his three games as the workhorse back for Chicago were against Detroit, Indianapolis, and Jacksonville, three teams that rank towards the bottom of numberFire's rush defense rankings. And then, with a healthy Ka'Deem Carey last week, Howard saw just 7 attempts while playing 46% of the team's snaps. Carey played 56% of them.
In Week 8, the rookie will face a Vikings' defense that's been tough against running backs, ranking 27th in fantasy points against to the position while coming in with 3rd-best rush defense, per NEP. If there wasn't the split, Howard would be fine on volume alone. But with the split backfield and the potential for Jeremy Langford to return, he needs to be on your bench.
Start Giovani Bernard (vs. Washington): Yes, Jeremy Hill went HAM last week against Cleveland, rushing for 168 yards to Bernard's 80. But Hill's performance was also flukey, as he played 34% of the team's snaps while seeing only 9 carries.
Bernard's been doing Bernard things from a PPR standpoint of late. He's got three straight top-20 performances within the format, and he's out-touched Hill 27 to 21 on the ground over the Bengals' last two contests. Cincinnati faces Washington this week, a squad that ranks 22nd against the run, according to our metrics, and one that's allowed close to bottom-10 numbers when it comes points surrendered to backs through the air. Given Gio's usage nowadays, he makes for a really nice play.
Sit Isaiah Crowell (vs. New York): Crowell got off to a red-hot start this season, but he's cooled down quite a bit -- for the most part -- over his last three games. He should be fed, and that makes him valuable in most leagues, so I can understand why you wouldn't be able to sit him. However, the somewhat touchdown-dependent Crowell will face a high-end run-stuffing Jets team that's given up just one non-David Johnson touchdown this season. The matchup certainly isn't there, but like I said, it may be tough to put Crowell on your bench given the running back landscape (and the bye week situations this week).
Start Jacquizz Rodgers (vs. Oakland): It sounds like the Buccaneers are going to take it slow with Doug Martin, which means Rodgers is a top-notch play again this week. In his two starts this year, Quizz has logged a ridiculous 56 carries, running for 255 yards. Somehow, he still hasn't found the end zone.
Maybe that streak ends this week against Oakland, though, as the Raiders have the worst rush defense, according to our metrics, having surrendered the third-most rushing yards to the position this year. And touchdown regression may hit them as well -- though they've allowed the third-most rushing yards, there are 12 teams who've given up more rushing touchdowns. Math is really favoring Rodgers in this one.
Start Stefon Diggs (at Chicago): As I mentioned earlier, the Eagles have the best secondary in football, so we have to look at last week's Vikings' contest with a grain of salt. Diggs saw just five targets, and that'll surely scare some folks, but he was coming off an injury in what might end up being Minnesota's worst offensive performance of the season.
The fact is, Diggs had a 26.56% market share prior to his injury a few weeks back, never seeing fewer than 7 targets per game. I'd fully expect him to be more involved this week versus Chicago, and that's good news, because Chicago's secondary has surrendered the absolute most fantasy points per contest to opposing wideouts. This could be a nice bounce-back game for Diggs.
Sit Alshon Jeffery (vs. Minnesota): In that same contest, Jeffery is going to square up against both Terence Newman and Xavier Rhodes, two corners with strong grades this season, according to Pro Football Focus. That strong corner play has made the Vikings a nightmare for opposing wide receivers -- on the season, DeAndre Hopkins has had the best performance against the Vikes, and he ranked 17th at the wide receiver position when they squared off. The Vikings have been so good that, in PPR formats, only three wide receivers have ranked in the top-30 against them this season.
Though Jeffery should start to turn things around given Jay Cutler will now be under center, this probably isn't the week things get better.
Start Terrelle Pryor (vs. New York): If Pryor plays, you've got to put him in your lineup. The Jets have the fifth-worst secondary, according to our numbers, and they've given up the fifth-most yards after the catch this season. That could really help someone like Pryor, who's been one of the worst yards-after-the-catch wideouts in football this season -- on a per-catch basis, only eight wide receivers see fewer yards after the catch per reception than Pryor does. Even if he can't up his yards after the catch numbers, the targets along with the negative game script (the Jets are four-point home favorites) should lead to plenty of fantasy points.
Sit DeSean Jackson (vs. Cincinnati): The 2016 season hasn't been kind to DeSean Jackson. Despite seeing seven or more targets in five of Washington's seven games this year, he's ranked in the top-20 in wide receiver PPR scoring just once. A big part of that is his yards after the catch ability, as he's seeing 1.4 fewer yards after the catch per reception this year compared to last. He'll more than likely see a lot of Adam Jones this week, who's easily been the best corner for Cincinnati this season, per Pro Football Focus. That makes D-Jax a really risky start, and you're banking on him making one of his splash plays, which just haven't come this year.
Start Ty Montgomery (at Atlanta): Montgomery's usage has been off the charts since the injury bug hit Green Bay's backfield, as he's rushed the ball 12 times while catching 20 passes over the last two weeks. He's lining up all over the field -- mostly in the backfield -- which has allowed him to be a PPR machine. And that's a beautiful thing this weekend, as he'll get a Falcons' defense that's allowed 58 receptions to running backs (again, he might not be running back eligible in your league, but he's lining up there), which is the second-most in football. I'd expect Knile Davis to be involved a little more this week as an early-down back, but Montgomery still has plenty of upside in what should be a high-scoring game.
Start C.J. Fiedorowicz (vs. Detroit): Over the last four weeks, Fiedorowicz has seen 5, 8, 7, and 7 targets, respectively. And, over the Texans' last three contests, their starting tight end has a market share of 18.03%, which is 12th-best among tight ends. If this type of usage continues against Detroit, he could be in for a big day. The Lions have given up the third-most receptions to tight ends this year and, as a continuation of last season, they've allowed the most tight end touchdowns.
Sit Jack Doyle (vs. Kansas City): Doyle was a start in this column last week, so don't think I'm putting him as a sit because I'm bitter for not calling out his big potential from Week 7. It's just that the situation has changed a bit with Donte Moncrief looking ready to play -- which could limit his overall volume -- and the matchup isn't a good one. Kansas City has yet to allow a tight end to rank higher than 15th in PPR formats this season, and that's not a whole lot different from what we saw last year, as they were the absolute toughest team for tight ends in fantasy football.
Start Cameron Brate (vs. Oakland): Brate now has two top-12, TE1 performances since Austin Seferian-Jenkins left town, and his production has actually been a little predictable. One of those games came in a high-scoring affair versus the Rams (OK, the game score wasn't predictable, but play along with me here), while the other came in a super negative game script versus Denver. In other words, two games with a lot of passing.
He's also been the starting tight end in a low-scoring, slow-paced game versus Carolina, and a blowout against San Francisco -- two contests that didn't call for much passing.
The game this week sets up to be higher-scoring -- and a potential negative game script -- with the Raiders coming to town. (Passing!) Oakland has been bad against tight ends again this year, too, which is just another reason Brate is an attractive streamer in an offense that lacks receiving weapons outside of Mike Evans.
Start the Tennessee Titans (vs. Jacksonville): The Titans are tied for third in sacks this season while the Jaguars rank eighth-worst in sacks allowed per game. Blake Bortles has thrown a pick in all but one contest this year, too. In a game where Tennessee is a 3.5-point favorite at home, they could post a lot of fantasy points.
Sit the Philadelphia Eagles (at Dallas): After talking about how strong the Eagles have been through the air this year, they do make for a risky play this week. Dallas is so good at controlling the clock and shortening the game, which limits opportunities for opposing teams. It also feeds into their lack of turning the ball over -- Dallas has given the ball away just five times this year, which is tied for the second-fewest in the league. That's led to opposing fantasy defenses finishing with two or fewer standard fantasy points in four of six contests this year. Given the Eagles are on the road, I'd stay away.
Other defenses to start: New York Jets (at Cleveland), Carolina Panthers (vs. Arizona)
Other defenses to sit: Green Bay Packers (at Atlanta), Houston Texans (vs. Detroit)