Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 10
Ever hear of a video game called Rocket League? No? Well, it's soccer. But it's soccer with a car. There's this little arena, games are usually two-on-two or three-on-three, and the purpose of the game is to use your car to hit a giant ball into the opponent's goal.
It sounds stupid, it sounds childish, it is childish, but the physics of the game makes it awesome.
There's a motto I try to abide by while participating in a Rocket League game, and it's that sometimes the best plays are the ones where you don't hit the ball. Sometimes it's best to sit back and let the action happen. Because if you're just chasing the ball around the field, you can set the other team up for a goal pretty easily. Or you can screw up your own teammate, causing a tiltfest in your headset.
Don't force it. Don't force an action.
The same goes for making start-sit choices each week in fantasy football. Don't force it. Don't get cute. Don't look at a matchup and oversell yourself on that matchup. Because in the end, a lot of times -- especially at this point in the year -- it's easiest to sit back and let the stars of your lineup do their thing.
Keep that in mind as you're looking at this middle-of-the-road starts and sits for Week 10.
Start Jared Goff (vs. Houston): Let's not pretend Goff has been a plug-and-play passer this season in fantasy football. Last week was his best performance this year, scoring 28 points while ranking first in weekly quarterback scoring. But he's also ranked 22nd or worse in three of his eight games in 2017.
It'd be a surprise if he finishes that low this week, though. Goff's facing a Houston secondary that's a middle-of-the-road one according to our schedule-adjusted metrics, but that's also skewed a bit by a decent start to the season. Through Weeks 1 through 4, the Texans allowed just one quarterback to score more than 16 fantasy points, and it was Tom Brady. They held Andy Dalton, Blake Bortles, and Marcus Mariota to QB2 (or QB3) performances.
However, over the team's last four games, we've seen Alex Smith score nearly 27 fantasy points, Russell Wilson go ballistic with 35 and, just last week, Jacoby Brissett was a top-10 passer with 19.52 fantasy points scored.
According to AirYards.com, the Texans have been one of the friendliest teams in football when it comes to surrendering air yards to opposing passers. And with the Rams at home with the highest implied Vegas total of the week, Goff makes for a fantastic play.
Sit Kirk Cousins (vs. Minnesota): Cousins has ranked as a top-10 passer in weekly scoring four times this year in eight games, but each of those games came against teams that rank in the bottom half of the league in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. In tough matchups -- like last week against Seattle -- Cousins hasn't really come through. And he doesn't have an easy one this week. The Vikings have a top-half secondary according to our numbers, and they've held top(ish) quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Matthew Stafford to modest outings this season. The lack of weapons for Washington scares me off a bit here, too,
Start Josh McCown (at Tampa Bay): Josh McCown being a 38-year-old journeyman turns people off from using him, but so far this season, he ranks as a high-end QB2 in points per game at the quarterback position. He's averaging more fantasy points per contest than Derek Carr, Matt Ryan, and Marcus Mariota. And it's Week 10. Can we take him seriously now?
This week's matchup against the Buccaneers is a doozy. Only Oakland and Indianapolis have worse secondaries than Tampa Bay according to our schedule-adjusted metrics, and the Bucs have been especially bad of late, allowing a top-10 quarterback performance -- about 19-plus fantasy points -- in three of their last four games. McCown's a perfect streamer this week.
Sit Marcus Mariota (vs. Cincinnati): A huge reason for Marcus Mariota's down fantasy season -- aside from injury -- has been his low touchdown rate. Heading into his third season (this season), Mariota had never seen a campaign with a touchdown rate below 5.1%. This year it's 2.9%, which, of the 33 signal-callers with 100 or more attempts this year, ranks 6th worst.
That tells me he should bounce back a bit through the rest of the season, but I'm not optimistic this is the week he goes nuts. Cincinnati's been pretty decent defensively this year, or, at least, they've not provided a sincerely high ceiling for opposing quarterbacks -- only Aaron Rodgers (pour some out) has been able to reach 18 fantasy points against the Bengals. Cincy's also allowed the third-fewest air yards in the league, another bad sign for Mariota.
Moving forward, Mariota's a great stash given touchdown rate regression and a good schedule, but playing him in Week 10 has risks.
Start Orleans Darkwa (at San Francisco): Darkwa missed a Week 4 game against the Buccaneers, but since returning in Week 5, he's averaged 13.5 rushes, 73 rushing yards, and 2.5 targets per game. He's been outsnapping other Giants running backs, and over the last three weeks, Darkwa has seen over 61% of the Giants' rushing attempts. That's the 10th-best share among backs playing this weekend.
In Week 10, Darkwa should have this workload against the 49ers, which is a big deal because the 49ers are awful against the run. In nine games, San Francisco's allowed seven top-13 performances (PPR) to running backs, and they've now surrendered more rushing yards than any other team in football. It's true that some of that has to do with natural game script -- the 49ers are bad, they're losing, and teams are grinding out clock against them. But that's also part of the allure for Darkwa: the Giants are 2.5-point road favorites, and the game is unlikely to get out of hand to the point where we'd see a ton of Shane Vereen on the field catching passes. All of this makes Darkwa a strong play this week.
Sit Ameer Abdullah (vs. Cleveland): You may be looking at Abdullah, saying, Hey! He's facing Cleveland! I've got to start him! No. No you don't.
Abdullah had ball security issues on Monday night against the Packers, which should be alarming for his potential at the goal line moving forward. And it's not like goal-line touches have been there for Abdullah this season anyway: he's seen five attempts from within his opponent's five-yard line, the same number as teammate Dwayne Washington.
And this matchup isn't nearly as much of a cakewalk as folks may think. Sure, the potential for a positive game flow situation could make Abdullah relevant in some way, but Cleveland's actually been good against the run this season, allowing the lowest yards per carry average in the league. The only backs to really post anything studly against the Browns this year did so because of their receiving numbers: no running back has rushed for more than 66 yards, and Cleveland's allowed only 3 rushing touchdowns.
Start Matt Forte (at Tampa Bay): Forte was banged up earlier in the season, but over his last four games, he's seen 8, 5, 7, and 4 targets while toting the rock 9, 7, 4, and 14 times. Over this stretch, he's played as many or more snaps than any other back in the Jets' backfield. As noted with McCown above, the Jets will square off against Tampa Bay this week. And Tampa Bay has been #bad, allowing 25-plus PPR points to three running backs over their last four games. Given his usage, Forte's not in a bad spot.
Sit Rob Kelley (vs. Minnesota): Perhaps this doesn't have to be said, but slotting Rob Kelley in your fantasy lineup is you simply throwing up your arms and saying, "Hopefully he finds the end zone this week!" Over his last four games -- albeit, they weren't the easiest matchups in the world -- Kelley has 36 carries for just 76 yards rushing. That's not all his fault given the offensive line woes, but it's still disappointing nonetheless. He's been able to find the end zone three times over his last two games, but that's still yielded just a grand total of 21.7 PPR points. Simple math: he's only scored 3.7 PPR points in two games when you get rid of the touchdowns. No thanks.
Start Marlon Mack (deeper play, vs. Pittsburgh): Whether the Steelers do what they often do and play to their competition's level this week is yet to be seen, but if things go the way logic thinks they'll go, the Colts should see a negative game script in this week's contest. And that could benefit Mack, who's played 41% or more of the team's snaps in each game since Robert Turbin's season-ending injury in Week 6. Over this time, Indianapolis has lost two games (negative script), and in those contests, Mack has combined for 16 carries and 11 targets. This is all because he sees the field more in those not-great-for-Indy situations -- he's the superior pass-catching threat (and runner, if we're being honest) to Frank Gore. If this game goes as planned, he should see a good number of snaps, making for a decent flex option.
Start Sterling Shepard (at San Francisco): There's a matchup in the slot for Sterling Shepard to exploit this week against San Francisco and corner K'Waun Williams, but this has just as much to do with potential volume as it does matchup. With no receivers healthy for the G-Men, Shepard saw nine targets last week. And while that was a game where New York trailed for almost all of it, this one against San Francisco features two teams who play at top-10 situation-neutral (plus or minus a touchdown) paces. That could lead to more plays and, in turn, more love for the Giants' top wide receiving threat.
Sit T.Y. Hilton (vs. Pittsburgh): Hilton has had three big games this year, but all have come against bottom-tiered secondaries. In games where he's faced even remotely tough competition, he's averaged just a little over 28 yards per game. He'll get Pittsburgh this week, who've allowed the second-fewest points per game to opposing wide receivers this year. The hope for Hilton owners is that he can break a big play, and that's certainly possible, as the Steelers have seen 21 15-plus yard throws against this season, a top-half number in the league. But that also comes with a hell of a lot of variance.
Start Cooper Kupp (vs. Houston): No player in football has more red zone targets than Cooper Kupp this season. That's translated to just three red zone touchdowns, but Kupp owners should feel a little comfort knowing Jared Goff is looking his way close to the end zone.
He's got a great slot matchup against Houston's Kareem Jackson who, according to Pro Football Focus, has allowed more receiving yards from the slot than all but two corners this year. To reiterate, the Rams have the highest implied team total this week, and Kupp should help them get to that total.
Sit Kelvin Benjamin (vs. New Orleans): Benjamin should draw more Ken Crawley than Marshon Lattimore in this week's contest against the Saints, but even still, both corners have been pretty strong this season. Since Week 1, only Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Chris Hogan have posted better than WR20 performances against the Saints, and Tate and hogan did the majority of their work from the slot. The perimeter, where Benjamin will be, has been a tough matchup for opposing wideouts. With Benjamin still figuring things out with his new offense, he makes for an uneasy start.
Start Chris Godwin (deeper play, vs. New York): The Bucs won't have Mike Evans against the Jets, so the next man up is rookie Chris Godwin, who came out of Penn State this past year with a well above average production profile and strong measurables. If he sees the field a lot -- which we should expect him to -- then he'll get targets against one of numberFire's bottom-half secondaries. The Jets have also allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to the wide receiver position, as well as the fourth-most air yards to opposing offenses. The matchup is there, and the snaps should be, too. That makes Godwin a great waiver-wire-to-lineup play this week.
Start Kyle Rudolph (at Washington): Washington's had pretty good outside play against opposing passing attacks this season, and they've actually allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers as a result of that. Tight ends, though, have found success: Washington's allowing the fourth-most receptions per game to the position, and tight ends are scoring more fantasy points on them than all but three teams.
Rudolph has been more involved over the team's last four games, too. During Weeks 1 through 4, he was averaging just 3.75 targets and 25.5 routes run (per Pro Football Focus) per game. Since, those numbers have risen to 8.0 and 30.5 per contest.
Sit Jason Witten (at Atlanta): As I say every week, tight ends who are seeing snaps and that are involved in a team's offense are generally worthwhile starts in fantasy football because, well, the position is garbage for fantasy purposes. But we've seen an inconsistent Witten all season long, with his only three relevant fantasy performances coming against the Giants, Broncos, and 49ers. New York and Denver are dreadful at defending the tight end, and Dallas just destroyed San Francisco, so Witten was bound to be involved. Though this game may look decent on paper, the Falcons have been alright against opposing tight ends, surrendering the third-fewest fantasy points to the position. If Dez Bryant is out (he didn't practice Wednesday), Witten will probably be more involved and you can ignore this blurb. But if he's in, Witten may not be all that reliable.
Start Garrett Celek (deeper play, vs. New York): If you're in a bad spot at tight end and need to dig deep, Garrett Celek may be your dude. The G-Men have given up a tight end touchdown in every single game this season (every single one!), and Celek will be starting given George Kittle's ankle injury. It's somewhat of a dart throw, but there's certainly logic to starting Celek this week.
Other tight ends to start: Jesse James (deeper play, at Indianapolis), Evan Engram (at San Francisco)
Other tight ends to sit: None. If a tight end is getting volume, he's essentially usable this week.
Start the Chicago Bears (vs. Green Bay): One of the most under-the-radar units in football is the Bears defense. According to numberFire's schedule-adjusted numbers, the group ranks as the sixth-best defense in the NFL this season. This week, they're at home as 5.5-point favorites versus a Packers' offense that looked lost on Monday night. Don't be afraid to fire up Chicago.
Sit the Houston Texans (at Los Angeles): No team has been worse for opposing defenses in fantasy football than the Rams this year. Seriously -- only Seattle has posted a weekly ranking better than 17th against the Rams. With the aforementioned Texans' secondary playing the way it is, and with the Rams playing at home, there's no need to throw the Houston defense into your fantasy lineup.