Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 3
I'm thankful for my wife for a lot of reasons, but one of them is because she's not afraid of polite confrontation. And I am.
If my meal comes out with fries instead of the side salad I ordered, I don't send it back. I eat the fries.
If I'm standing in line for something and someone cuts in front of me, I let it happen.
If someone mispronounces my last name, you better believe I let it be. (By the way, it's Zack-ah-ree-sen.)
But thank God for my wife. She's the assertive one who helps -- and has helped -- me realize that the slightly uncomfortable eight seconds of discussion with my waiter about a side salad is an OK one to have. And that, if someone cuts in front of me, I should at least let them know that I was in line waiting.
She doesn't correct someone who mispronounces our last name, though. That's just not worth it.
The feeling of comfort can be a powerful thing. And it can, unfortunately for a lot of us, lead to suboptimal decision-making.
I mean, why should I eat french fries if I didn't order french fries?
That's how things work in fantasy football, too. When you're looking to start or sit a player, it's important to make your decision based not on how comfortable you feel, but by how sound the move is. If your second-round "stud" is playing like a flaming pile of garbage with no hopes of improvement, don't trot him out into your lineup simply because of the draft equity you spent on him in August. Don't use him because he's a comfortable choice.
Use the guy who's the logical choice.
Start Jay Cutler (at New York): In two games, the Jets have surrendered five touchdown passes to Tyrod Taylor and Derek Carr, giving them a bottom-three ranking in fantasy points against to the position. Only the Patriots (who were destroyed in Week 1 by Alex Smith and faced the Saints in the Superdome last week) and Saints (who are very bad defensively) have surrendered a worse adjusted net yards per attempt to opposing quarterbacks this year than New York has.
And the Jets have also been pretty bad on the deep ball. Though they've faced just seven deep passes (15 or more air-yard throws) this season, the average one -- and remember, these are attempts, not completions -- has resulted in a 15-yard gain, which is the seventh-highest in football thus far.
Even if Smokin' Jay doesn't connect on a deep pass, the matchup is an easy one -- both quarterbacks who've faced the Jets have had no issues, and the secondary ranks as the third-worst one in the league, according to our schedule-adjusted Net Expected Points (NEP) metric. As six-point road favorites, the Dolphins' passing attack shouldn't have much of an issue this week.
Sit Jameis Winston (at Minnesota): When the Buccaneers started winning games last season, their offensive philosophy changed. That'll happen when the game script is reversed. But as a losing team -- when they started 3-5 -- the Bucs had a 1.52 drop back-to-run ratio. That fell to 1.20 during the second half of the year as they finished the season 9-7.
That impacted Jameis Winston's bottom line in fantasy. During the front part of the year, his average fantasy points scored per game was 17.36. That fell by about two points over the second half of the season.
That's a legitimate fear if the Buccaneers are good this season, as they were in Week 2. It was good to see Winston chuck it deep seven times, but it wasn't as encouraging seeing his 30 pass attempts. At least from a fantasy perspective.
So that aspect of things is always going to be looming. And then you pile on a Minnesota Vikings secondary that's now held top quarterbacks Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger to modest fantasy performances, making Winston even less attractive in Week 3.
Start Carson Palmer (vs. Dallas): Is that...Carson Palmer's music?
Another week, another Carson Palmer recommendation. Some of you are rolling your eyes (I know this is true), but at least hear me out.
The Cowboys defense looked good in Week 1, but after Week 2's games, we were hit with the realization that their Week 1 opponent, the Giants, just aren't strong offensively, and that the Cowboys' D may actually struggle this year. The Broncos tore them up.
Meanwhile, Palmer's playing his first home game, and it's also his first game where the team isn't traveling to the eastern part of the country for an early Sunday contest. And on top of that, maybe we're not giving the Lions secondary enough credit for what they've done to start the year. Because, realistically, Palmer was fine in Week 2, completing half of his deep passes and finishing as a top-12 passer in fantasy football. Yeah, yeah -- I know, it was the Colts. But let's not pretend this Dallas secondary is frightening, especially on the road.
The game itself features a strong 47-point over-under, and the Cowboys may struggle to run the ball once again, as Arizona enters the contest with the fourth-best schedule-adjusted rush defense in football. That may lead to a game with more plays run, which will help the offenses put up fantasy points.
Now, don't get me wrong -- don't force Palmer into your lineup. But there's enough evidence here that points to him having a useful performance for a second straight week.
Sit Marcus Mariota (vs. Seattle): In a 12- or 14-team league, it may be tough to bench Mariota this week. But the matchup isn't very enticing, as Seattle currently has a top-10 pass defense, according to our numbers, and they've already held Aaron Rodgers to just 16 fantasy points at Lambeau.
The fantasy football fear with Mariota is similar, in a way, to Jameis Winston. In a perfect world, the Titans would love to pound the rock down their opposition's throats. After all, they were the third-most run-heavy team in football last year.
That means Mariota's got to be efficient to make up for the lack of volume, and that'll be tough against this Seattle defense that's given up the seventh-fewest quarterback net yards per attempt in football to start the year.
Start Mike Gillislee (vs. Houston): There's a false narrative out there that Bill Belichick's running back usage is completely unpredictable. Sure, the Patriots will employ multiple backs in their backfield each game, but in positive game scripts, you'll see their bruiser. You'll see, this season, Mike Gillislee.
In Week 1, Gillislee carried the ball 15 times in New England's loss to Kansas City. This past week, that jumped to 18. But only one of those carries against the Chiefs came in the fourth quarter (6.67%), while seven (38.89%) were during the final quarter against the Saints. Remember, the Patriots lost to the Chiefs and beat the Saints. Meaning, Gillislee was seeing more work when the Patriots were closing out the game.
He'll see more work in positive game scripts.
And that's what we should see this weekend against the Texans. New England is a 13.5-point favorite, which should create plenty of opportunity for Gillislee, especially at the tail-end of the contest. Start him confidently even against a scary defensive line.
Sit Jordan Howard (vs. Pittsburgh): Remember all that stuff about feeling comfortable? Sitting Howard this week may make you feel weird and funny inside, but when you remove the capital you spent on him during your draft, you can see why he's listed as a sit.
On the year, Howard's played 53% of Chicago's snaps, which is the 24th-highest mark in the league at the position. Nothing special. He's got a 62.86% rushing attempt market share, which is solid, but he's also carried the ball just 22 times, tied for 24th-most in the NFL. Why? Because the Bears are bad. They're bad at football. That limits his overall opportunity, even with a large market share.
The fear with Howard are games like this week's. The Bears kept things close with Atlanta in Week 1, and Howard was on the field for 57% of the team's snaps. In Week 2, the game was out of hand, and that fell to 48%. Now, this week, they're facing a Steeler defense that ranks in the top-10, according to our numbers, and Pittsburgh's a 7.5-point favorite.
Jordan Howard, in most leagues, will be started. But that's mostly because running back is so thin. If you've got depth at the position, do what may feel uncomfortable this week and bench Howard. He'll more than likely be a touchdown-dependent asset.
Start Theo Riddick (vs. Atlanta): The Lions are home underdogs against the Falcons this weekend, which could play into Riddick over teammate Ameer Abdullah. Abdullah's injured, too, but it reportedly shouldn't be a big issue.
Riddick's been on the field for 36% of Detroit's snaps so far this year, which isn't a shock considering they're 2-0 and have mostly been playing with a lead -- an average Lions drive has started with a 0.1 point differential, which is 11th-best in the league. He's their primary pass-catching back, so there wouldn't be as much of a reason to throw him on the field given this.
There could be in Week 3, though. Atlanta, again, is a three-point road favorite, which could create that negative game script. The Falcons are also going to be without Vic Beasley and Courtney Upshaw, which could open things up for all Detroit running backs. And no team over the last two seasons has allowed more running back receptions -- Riddick's specialty -- than the Falcons.
Sit Bilal Powell (vs. Miami): The upside for Bilal Powell entering this season wasn't touchdown related but pass-catching related. So far, he has just five catches, and he's played only 42% of the Jets' snaps despite consistently being in negative game scripts. Given his usage, there's no reason to start him in your fantasy lineup this week, even in PPR formats.
Start Isaiah Crowell (at Indianapolis): It doesn't hurt that there's been talk that Crowell is going to get the ball more this week, but if we're being honest, his volume hasn't been all that bad. In sum, sure, having 27 touches through two games may be a tad low for a workhorse back, but he's still seen almost 60% of the team's rushes this season, a great number for a running back.
The main reason he hasn't seen more -- and the main reason he hasn't produced in fantasy to start the year -- is because he's been in negative game scripts and bad matchups. This week could be different, as the Browns are road favorites (!!!) against the Colts. This could be the week Crowell gets things going.
Start Terrelle Pryor (vs. Oakland): The entire Washington offense has looked pretty mediocre to start the year, and that's not what Pryor owners were hoping for when they spent a third-round pick on him in August. With that being said, Pryor's still 16th in the league in air yards on all targets, which means even with his poor performance (8 receptions and just 97 yards on the year), production could be coming his way soon. And his Week 3 matchup sets up pretty well, as Washington hosts Oakland in a game with a 54-point over/under, the highest on this week's slate.
Sit Jeremy Maclin (vs. Jacksonville): The Ravens were the most pass-friendly team in all of football over the last two seasons, but this year has been different. Thanks to games against the Bengals and Browns, they haven't had to throw all that much. Maclin's been fortunate to have a pair of scores in those games, but he's done so on just 6 receptions and 87 yards. The average touchdown at wide receiver this year has occurred on every 15.96 catches and 196.78 yards. To put this another way -- touchdown regression is coming for Maclin. In a potentially low-scoring game in London (40-point over/under), banking on a touchdown doesn't seem wise.
Start DeVante Parker (vs. New York): I mentioned this earlier with Jay Cutler, but the Dolphins have a sick-nasty (Is that what the kids say?) matchup against the Jets this week. While Jarvis Landry dominated the passing volume in Week 2 (44.12% of the team's targets), Parker still saw 9 targets (26.47% target market share). Most importantly for this week's game, six of those targets were on balls that travelled 15 or more yards through the air. Against a Jets secondary that, as noted before, has struggled against those types of throws from an efficiency standpoint, Parker has a really high ceiling this week.
Sit Pierre Garcon (vs. Los Angeles): I'm not necessarily expecting Trumaine Johnson to shadow Garcon on Thursday night, but the matchup against the Rams still isn't a great one for Garcon. Through two games, the highest ranked wide receiver against the Rams has been Jamison Crowder, who finished as WR47 in Week 2. And regardless of quarterback play, the Rams have gone up against decent wideouts in T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, the aforementioned Terrelle Pryor, and Crowder himself. Garcon, as usual, should see volume, but the upside is questionable.
Start Devin Funchess (vs. New Orleans): Greg Olsen broke his foot in Week 2, and Devin Funchess ended up seeing seven targets after tallying just two in Week 1. He's been on the field for more snaps than any other Panthers wideout to start the year, and according to AirYards.com, he has a solid 22% of the team's air yards market share.
That'll come in handy against the Saints this week. On the year, New Orleans has allowed 25 yards per play on deep ball passes, by far the worst rate in the league. And they've faced 15 of those plays in just two weeks, which ranks sixth in the NFL.
Meanwhile, Marshon Lattimore is currently in the concussion protocol, and he's easily the best Saints cornerback. According to Jeff Ratcliffe of Pro Football Focus, Lattimore shadowed Brandin Cooks in Week 2 on 31 of his 39 routes run, and Cooks came away with 1 catch on 3 targets on those plays.
Lattimore would draw more Kelvin Benjamin, you would think, but if Lattimore is out, then it's an even better matchup for Devin Funchess. Even if he plays, Funchess would benefit from drawing a lot of De'Vante Harris in coverage.
Start Jared Cook (at Washington): Per Chris Raybon of 4for4, the Washington cornerbacks have allowed 6.0 yards per target this year, while the team's linebackers and safeties have surrendered 12.4. The corners have yet to give up a touchdown, while the other grouping has allowed three. That's shown up in the counting stats -- Washington's allowed the eighth-most points to tight ends to start the year, even with one of their matchups being against an inexperienced Rams unit. Cook has seen over 18% of Oakland's targets through two weeks, and he could easily exploit this matchup in Week 3.
Sit Coby Fleener (at Carolina): Fleener keeps scoring touchdowns with slot receiver Willie Snead sidelined, but I'd be a little worried about using him in Week 3. He's only seen 12.35% of New Orleans' targets in their first two games, and he's been on the field for just 58% of the team's snaps, which ranked 24th at the tight end position. The matchup this week is tougher than what Fleener seen so far, and quarterback Drew Brees has struggled a tad in Carolina over the years. There are probably better options this week.
Start Benjamin Watson (vs. Jacksonville): Watson hauled in all eight of his targets last week, and though he saw just one target in Week 1, he sits with an 18% target market share in the Ravens' offense. The Jaguars defense has shown signs of life this year, but they've struggled against the tight end position already, with nearly 40% of their receiving yardage allowed coming from the position (hat tip to Rotoworld's Rich Hribar for that one). If Watson sees volume again this week -- and should we believe he won't? -- he could be a very useful streamer.
Other tight ends to start: Zach Ertz (vs. New York), Ed Dickson (deep league, vs. New Orleans), Eric Ebron (vs. Atlanta)
Other tight ends to sit: Cameron Brate (at Minnesota), Evan Engram (at Philadelphia)
Start the Philadelphia Eagles (vs. New York): The two defenses -- Dallas and Detroit -- to face the Giants this year came into the season ranked as below-average ones. Even if they end up outperforming expectation over the course of the season, they're not over-the-top dominant units. Despite this, they sacked Eli Manning a combined eight times, picked him off twice, and both ranked as top-10 fantasy defenses in the week they faced New York. Philadelphia shouldn't have any issues at home as six-point favorites.
Sit the Seattle Seahawks (at Tennessee): While I'm not in love with Marcus Mariota this week, I'm also not in love with Seattle's defense on the road. The Titans are slight favorites in the game, and the Titans, as I mentioned above, play a conservative style of football. That generates fewer turnovers (Mariota threw just nine picks last year) and, in turn, fewer fantasy points.