Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 10
The island game tilt is real.
Each week, I give a set of recommendations for you, the fantasy football owner, to digest. Sometimes you probably take the advice and use it, other times you think I'm an idiot and move on.
When the former occurs, there's pressure. I want to be right, and I want you to win. And when the players I advised you to start or sit are playing during an island game -- a primetime game on Thursday, Sunday, or Monday -- the feelings of wanting to be right get pretty intense. There are more viewers solely watching that game, making every play incredibly tilt-worthy. (Oh, to you older folk, tilting is when you reach a state of emotional frustration because things just aren't going your way.)
Unfortunately for me, Thursday night may be a rough one. Because the Ravens-Browns island game has some interesting season-long plays in it.
Start Joe Flacco (vs. Cleveland): Flacco hasn't been good this year. In fact, according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, only three quarterbacks have been worse through the air. That's shown up on the fantasy scoreboard, as Flacco has just one performance where he ranked higher than 16th in weekly quarterback scoring.
But there's hope.
The Ravens, as I mentioned, face the Browns this week on Thursday night. Cleveland's secondary, per our numbers, is the third-worst in football, and they've given up at least two touchdown passes to every quarterback they've faced this season not named Ryan Fitzpatrick -- including Flacco in Week 2. The Ravens are heavy, heavy favorites (nine points), giving them the third-highest team total of the week, per Vegas.
Not only does that all match up, but Flacco may also have some positive regression coming. On the year, he's thrown a touchdown for every 346.3 passing yards, when the average quarterback in the NFL threw one every 156.8 passing yards last season. He's on pace for well over 4,000 yards, but he's only thrown 12 touchdowns -- every single 4,000-yard passer in NFL history has thrown at least 17 touchdown passes.
Sit Carson Wentz (vs. Atlanta): Note: Since writing this, Desmond Trufant has been ruled out for Sunday's contest. Wentz can still struggle, but his matchup certainly got a lot better. You're staring at that matchup against Atlanta and thinking, "Man, maybe Carson Wentz isn't that bad of an option this week." And maybe he won't end up being one. But given his recent performance, I'm not sure how you can confidently trust him -- he's finished no better than QB23 over the last four weeks in weekly scoring, never totaling more than 12 fantasy points in a single game. Despite the matchup against a beatable Falcons' secondary -- at least from a fantasy standpoint -- it's best to pass. There are better deeper options.
Start Jay Cutler (at Tampa Bay): Cutler looked solid against a good Vikings' secondary the last time we saw him, and the matchup is much better this weekend against the Bucs. Tampa Bay ranks as a bottom-10 pass defense, according to our numbers, and they've been torched by relevant passers this season -- the only guys to not post a decent-enough QB2 performance were Derek Anderson and the combination of Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian. With an over/under that's been trending upwards a bit over the last 24 hours, Cutler makes for a nice streaming play this week.
Sit Blake Bortles (vs. Houston): The notion of Bortles being the garbage time king is very real, as he leads the NFL this year in passing yards and pass attempts with 10 minutes or less remaining in the fourth quarter. He's gotten a ton of fantasy points in garbage time as a result, which is exactly why I hate this matchup for him. The Texans are just 1.5-point favorites, meaning the contest in Jacksonville this weekend should be fairly close. And Houston's also been great against opposing quarterbacks, ranking fourth-best in points allowed per game at the position. In other words, banking on Bortles in garbage time just isn't a safe thing to do this week.
Start Devontae Booker (at New Orleans): There's a chance Kapri Bibbs ends up playing a significant role for the Broncos against the Saints on Sunday, but my money, at least for this week, is still on the rookie Booker. In Week 9, despite a poor performance, Booker played 82% of Denver's snaps -- to move all the way into the, say, 40%-50% range would be a massive change. And the matchup is gorgeous, too: New Orleans has allowed six top-10 running back performances this year (PPR) while ranking as the ninth-worst rush D per our schedule-adjusted numbers. Bibbs is certainly a nice sleeper this week, but Booker is still likely the better play.
Sit Isaiah Crowell (at Baltimore): I'm always pessimistic about Crowell each week, mostly because the Browns still haven't won a game and generally see negative game scripts. Anytime a negative game script occurs, the fear is that Crowell won't be on the field -- Duke Johnson will come in instead.
That fear exists this week against the Ravens who, as I said above, are nine-point favorites. But there's also the fact that Baltimore has the best rush defense in our league, according to our metrics, which makes Crowell an even less appealing option.
Start Terrance West (vs. Cleveland): On the other side of the ball, West has a chance to really pile up some carries this week given the way this game could potentially go. He did cede touches to Kenneth Dixon against the Steelers this past week, but West was still able to carry the rock 15 times versus Dixon's 9 while playing 41% of the team's snaps. Given the high team total in this contest and the likelihood of West continuing to see the most looks in the backfield, he should be fine in Week 10. Beyond that? Who knows.
Sit Rob Kelley (vs. Minnesota): I don't fully hate Kelley this week, just because it's difficult to find a running back who's in line to get touches -- after all, he's been named the early-down back for Washington moving forward. The matchup itself against Minnesota isn't all that inspiring, though, as they've surrendered the ninth-fewest fantasy points to backs this year. Kelley is going to be fairly touchdown-dependent, too, as Chris Thompson will see passing down looks, which adds up to make Kelley more of a flex play this week.
Start C.J. Prosise (deeper play, at New England): Prosise continues to play more snaps each week, going from 25% in Week 7 to 43% in Week 8 to 55% this past week. He hasn't gotten a ton of action, but those numbers are encouraging, especially in a game where the Seahawks are big underdogs in New England. As the primary pass-catching back, that could mean a healthy amount of targets in Week 10, and Seattle coach Pete Carroll already said Prosise is going to "play a lot" this week. He's not a bad dice roll, especially in PPR leagues.
Start J.J. Nelson (vs. San Francisco): The last time we saw this Cardinals offense, Nelson was out there playing starter snaps against the Panthers, catching a pair of touchdowns on 12 targets. Since that point in time, he's been named a starter. That's great news this week, because Arizona's offense is going to square up against the fast-paced San Francisco 49ers. On the year, no team has surrendered more wide receiver touchdowns than San Francisco, and given the Cardinals have highest implied team total on the whole slate, Nelson has as good of a shot as anyone to find the end zone.
Sit Willie Snead (vs. Denver): You almost always want to play a Saints' wideout when he's at home, but this week's different with the Broncos coming to town. Not only does Denver allow the fewest points per game to opposing wide receivers, but Snead will likely see a lot of Chris Harris in the slot this week. And it's not like Snead's been blowing up of late -- he hasn't scored since Week 2, and he's ranked higher than WR36 just once since that time, too. He's an easy sit.
Start Tyrell Williams (vs. Miami): Williams has had a great five-week stretch when you realize that his two duds in those contests came against the aforementioned Denver secondary. This week, the Chargers' top (best) receiver will face Miami, a squad that's allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. Williams could also see a nice uptick in targets this week, as well, with Travis Benjamin nursing an injury, which is certainly not a bad thing against corners Tony Lippett and Byron Maxwell.
Sit DeSean Jackson (vs. Minnesota): The Vikings have dropped three straight, but the secondary isn't exactly to blame. On the year, the Vikings' pass defense has been the third-best in the NFL, and only Golden Tate -- who plays a much different role than Jackson for his offense -- has been able to hit WR1 territory. It's been a pick your poison type of situation for passing games against Minnesota, too: both Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman have had strong years, with Newman -- not the highly-touted Rhodes -- grading out as Pro Football Focus' third-best cornerback in football. He generally lines up on Jackson's side, which could spell trouble.
Start Kenny Britt (deeper play, at New York): In PPR formats, Britt's floor really hasn't been all that bad -- he's finished as a WR3 (top-36) wide receiver in four of his past five games, averaging 6.4 targets per contest over that span. Those are strong flex numbers.
And then you factor in the Jets.
New York has allowed the fifth-most 30-plus yard plays in the NFL this year, while Britt has 5 catches for 30 or more yards on the season, a number that's tied for the 10th-most in football. Given a relatively decent floor -- again, this is within context, because we're talking about a wide receiver getting passes from Case Keenum -- Britt has interesting upside appeal due to his big-play ability.
Start Dennis Pitta (at Cleveland): The last time Baltimore faced Cleveland -- back in Week 2 -- Pitta had a coming out party, catching 9 passes for 102 yards. That's been a trend for Cleveland this season, the whole not being able to stop a tight end thing. No team has allowed more tight end receptions or yards than Cleveland has this year, as six tight ends have produced top-10 PPR performance against them. Pitta could be in store for a nice game on Thursday night.
Sit Gary Barnidge (at Baltimore): Opposite of Pitta will be Barnidge, who has felt the effects of not having Josh McCown under center for most of the year. Since the start of 2015, Barnidge has averaged 0.4 fewer touchdowns, 1.83 fewer targets, and 22.07 fewer yards per game with non-McCown quarterbacks under center. That's what he'll be dealing with tonight in a tough matchup against the Ravens.
Start Lance Kendricks (at New York): I promise I don't love the Rams' passing game this week, but Kendricks is another piece of it that could give you a nice spot start. He's had a top-notch snap rate the entire season, never falling below the 79% mark, and over his last three games, he's seen 8, 9, and 12 targets. That's equated to the third-highest market share in football during this span among all tight ends. The Jets have allowed the 13th-most points to the tight end position this year -- they're beatable -- making Kendricks a really intriguing streaming choice.
Start the Washington Redskins (vs. Minnesota): Aside from their awful performance Week 1 against the Steelers, the Washington defense hasn't been all that bad from a fantasy standpoint, putting together four top-12 games in eight contests played. They'll face the Vikings this week, who have the worst rushing offense in football, per our metrics -- that's an important thing to point out, because Washington's rush defense has been a bottom-10 one this year. That could force more throws to an at least talented, albeit underperforming, secondary, which could force more turnovers and sacks.
And, let's be honest, this Vikings' offense isn't scaring you, at least of late. Two of the last three defenses to face the Vikings finished as top-six ones in fantasy, and the only unit that didn't was the Lions, who rank as the worst defense in the NFL, per NEP.
With this game in Washington with a low over/under, the Redskins are a nice streaming look.
Sit the Seattle Seahawks (at New England): The Seahawks have rattled off five straight top-12, startable defense performances in fantasy, but that'll more than likely end this week. They're playing in New England, they're big underdogs, and the best defensive performance against the Pats since Tom Brady's return was Pittsburgh, when the Steelers finished as the 23rd-ranked D in that given week. Stay away from the 'Hawks.
Other defenses to start: Houston Texans (at Jacksonville), Baltimore Ravens (vs. Cleveland), New York Jets (vs. Los Angeles)
Other defenses to sit: Philadelphia Eagles (vs. Atlanta), Dallas Cowboys (at Pittsburgh)