Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 14
If you're still reading this, then you're almost assuredly in the fantasy playoffs, so congratulations to you and your roster.
If not, perhaps you like to apply these matchup notes to your daily fantasy lineups. Either way, you're still hungry for fantasy football, and that puts us in the same boat.
At this point in the year, however, we have to bear down with our season-long teams. That doesn't mean that we just "start our studs" (whatever that means) but that we really need to nitpick our situations and not plug in players whose usage is justifiably concerning or whose matchup is suddenly difficult even if the full-season numbers suggest otherwise.
As always, the point of this column is to be realistic and help offer up some holistic advice for fantasy rosters. It doesn't help if I tell you to sit Doug Baldwin in a tough matchup if I don't help show where he should be viewed relative to your other options. I can also point out Aaron Jones' drastic dip in snap rate last week and show how his situation isn't as great as it seems, but you're not going to bench him if your next best option is Peyton Barber. So context matters. It always matters.
For many reasons, I like to bucket players into groups when deciding who we should start or sit in a given week. To me, no player is ever a must-sit, but there are players you should want to sit if you have other, more viable options. That's the goal here, as well as to show why we should feel certain ways about players.
So, based on market shares, snap counts, betting lines, and defensive matchups, I'll be grouping players into three tiers to help with start-or-sit decisions: players we should be confident about starting, players we can consider playing whenever we don't have better alternatives but who aren't must-plays, and players we should try to bench whenever we do have better alternatives.
These players are listed in order of confidence and preference (so higher on the list means more startable; these aren't rankings, but they're close), and the groupings reflect a 12-team, single-quarterback league with the following hypothetical in mind: if I had other viable options on my bench, should I want to start this player this week? Players not listed should be presumed sit-worthy in a shallow or standard-sized league, and all fantasy points references and rankings reflect half-PPR scoring.
Start With Confidence
- Drew Brees at TB: Brees faces the Buccaneers in Tampa as an 8-point favorite with a 32-point implied team total. The Buccaneers are 29th in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play, our adjusted pass defense metric. Brees has been above league-average on the road in six games (0.26 Passing NEP per drop back; league average is 0.12). In six games against bottom-half adjusted pass defenses, he's thrown 17 touchdowns to 1 pick for 9.07 yards per attempt and 0.57 Passing NEP per drop back.
- Patrick Mahomes vs. BAL: Mahomes has been mostly matchup-proof, averaging 9.41 yards per attempt against top-half adjusted pass defenses, which matters because the Ravens are first in adjusted pass defense and passing success rate allowed this year but haven't had an interception since Week 5.
- Ben Roethlisberger at OAK: Ben has been about league average on the road (0.15 Passing NEP per drop back, 7.65 yards per attempt) while facing four top-five adjusted pass defenses and two outside the top 20. He now faces the league's 32nd-ranked adjusted pass defense (Oakland) and has been the QB11 or better in five straight weeks.
- Aaron Rodgers vs. ATL: Rodgers is free from Mike McCarthy, and that can't really be a bad thing. The Falcons are 30th in adjusted pass defense and 32nd in passing success rate allowed this season. Rodgers has been wholly league average, with 0.13 Passing NEP per drop back and 7.51 yards per attempt. He should be a low-end QB1 at worst in this spot.
- Deshaun Watson vs. IND: Watson has averaged 31.3 rushing yards per game on the season with 38, 7, 70, and 30 the past three games. As far as passing goes, however, he's gotten past two touchdowns just once (5 in Week 8) and has averaged 14.1 passing fantasy points per game over his past four. A matchup with the Colts' 25th-ranked adjusted pass defense (30th by passing success rate allowed) should do the trick to help him have a strong passing outing.
- Jameis Winston vs. NO: Winston has had two passing touchdowns in three straight games while adding 29.3 rushing yards per game in those. He faces the Saints' defense, which ranks 29th in passing success rate allowed and 28th in deep ball defense.
- Philip Rivers vs. CIN: Rivers is a huge home favorite over the Cincinnati Bengals, who rank 23rd in adjusted pass defense and 28th in passing success rate allowed. Rivers operates the league's third-best adjusted passing offense and has at least 15 fantasy points in every game.
- Andrew Luck at HOU: Luck busted hard last week and now hits the road again to face the Texans' 16th-ranked adjusted pass defense as a 4.5-point underdog with a pretty low 22.25-point total. Both teams are top-eight in situation-neutral pace, via FootballOutsiders, to help elevate Luck's floor.
Consider If Needed
- Tom Brady at MIA: Brady hasn't hit 20 fantasy points in five straight games, a span during which he has averaged just 15.2 fantasy points per game (which ranks him as the QB22 over the past five games). The Dolphins are 23rd in passing success rate allowed on the full season and 28th in adjusted pass defense, and with his team healthier, Brady is primed to post a solid outing -- but he's still dealing with touchdown concerns given how run-heavy his team is in the red zone (fifth).
- Cam Newton at CLE: The Browns are 2nd in adjusted pass defense but just 24th in passing success rate allowed because of their big-play interceptions, of which Newton threw four last week. Regardless, Newton has had at least 18.0 fantasy points in all but one game this year. We do, however, need to monitor his shoulder injury.
- Matt Ryan at GB: Ryan is on the road, so he's never a full-on trust, and the Packers are fourth in passing success rate allowed this year. Ryan has been below average on the road this season: 0.08 Passing NEP per drop back, 47.3% success rate, and 7.28 yards per attempt.
- Jared Goff at CHI: The Chicago Bears are 6th in adjusted pass defense, and Goff didn't look great last week, averaging 6.3 yards per attempt against the league's 31st-ranked adjusted pass defense. However, in three games against top-12 pass defenses, Goff has averaged 9.07 yards per attempt with 0.32 Passing NEP per drop back. He's fine but not a must start.
- Baker Mayfield vs. CAR: The Carolina Panthers are 27th in adjusted pass defense, 20th in passing success rate, while Mayfield has been a top-13 finisher in five of his past six games. Plus, the Panthers are just 27th in quarterback hit rate, via FantasyData, and Mayfield should have a bit of time to throw this week.
- Lamar Jackson at KC: Jackson is a pretty respectable 6.5-point underdog in Kansas City and faces the league's 32nd-ranked adjusted rushing defense. Jackson has produced just 5.0, 9.1, and 5.0 fantasy points via passing in his three starts but has averaged 18.3 carries and 87.7 rushing yards per game to average 18.5 fantasy points.
- Kirk Cousins at SEA: Cousins has been hot and cold this year, and while traveling to Seattle isn't what it used to be (they're 18th in adjusted pass defense) Cousins is just not great against top-20 pass defenses this year (0.01 Passing NEP per drop back, 6.76 yards per attempt). He's a fringe QB1 but not a locked-in start.
- Dak Prescott vs. PHI: Prescott has posted above-average passing numbers since the arrival of Amari Cooper (0.16 Passing NEP per drop back, 7.99 yards per attempt) and faces a depleted Philadelphia Eagles secondary, which ranks 28th in Passing NEP per drop back allowed since Week 10.
- Russell Wilson vs. MIN: The Minnesota Vikings did get touched up last week but are still 11th in per-drop back Passing NEP since Everson Griffen's return in Week 8, and Wilson is clinging to hyper-efficiency to produce, generating 22.1 fantasy points on 25.6 attempts over his past eight games.
Bench If Possible
- Mitchell Trubisky vs. LAR: Trubisky returns to face the eighth-ranked adjusted pass defense, and in three games against top-12 pass defenses, he's been rough: -0.03 Passing NEP per drop back and 6.05 yards per attempt.
- Marcus Mariota vs. JAC: Mariota hosts the Jaguars on Thursday in Week 14. They had been trending down on pass defense but stifled Andrew Luck and the Colts in Week 13 and are second in passing success rate allowed on the full season. Mariota has gone over 20 fantasy points in four of his five post-bye games and has a 9.1-yards-per-attempt average in that split, but he isn't matchup-proof, and the spot is bad enough to bench him in 12-team leagues, as the total opened at a lowly 38 points and has dropped.
- Carson Wentz at DAL: Wentz was the QB7 against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10, throwing for 360 yards on 44 attempts. Since then, they've clamped down, keeping Ryan (14.7 fantasy points), Colt McCoy (18.5), and Brees (8.3) in check, ranking 10th in passing success rate allowed in that sample. Wentz has been bad on the road, averaging just 6.54 yards per attempt, against three bottom-half pass defenses.
- Josh Allen vs. NYJ: Allen has had two straight ceiling games (26.3 and 30.7 fantasy points) but has just 10.4 and 15.2 fantasy points as a passer in that sample, as he has had 99 and 135 rushing yards and a rushing score in there. The Jets are 21st in yards per carry allowed to passers but 2nd in passing success rate. Allen also lost his center last week.
- Ryan Tannehill vs. NE: Tannehill has posted a 0.17 Passing NEP per drop back mark since returning two games ago (league average is 0.12) but has thrown just 49 times in those for 341 yards. He does have five touchdowns to one pick, but the Patriots are seventh in passing success rate allowed to passers.
- Nick Mullens vs. DEN: Mullens is in a pretty solid spot against a Broncos defense without Chris Harris and has two games with at least 20 fantasy points but isn't a 12-team start with every team in play.
- Matthew Stafford at ARI: Stafford hasn't been better than the QB14 since Week 2 and has been QB20, QB30, and QB20 the past three games. He's averaged just 257 yards and 1.5 touchdowns this year, and the Cardinals are 12th in adjusted pass defense. Both teams are bottom-four in situation-neutral pace.
- Eli Manning at WSH: Both teams are bottom-10 in situation-neutral pace, and Washington is 13th in adjusted pass defense. Manning has been below league average this year (0.08 Passing NEP per drop back and 44.2% success rate).
- Case Keenum at SF: Keenum has averaged just 11.6 fantasy points over his past three and hasn't hit 20 since Week 6. The @@49ers are 26th in adjusted pass defense, but matchup hasn't mattered for Keenum this year.
Start With Confidence
- Todd Gurley at CHI: The Bears are first in adjusted rush defense and success rate allowed, plus seventh in target success rate, but none of that matters because Gurley has averaged 25.5 fantasy points per game and has 61 red zone carries this year.
- Christian McCaffrey at CLE: McCaffrey has been on fire of late, averaging 21.8 opportunities (carries plus targets) and 27.7 fantasy points over his past six games while playing every single snap for three straight games. The Browns are dead last in target success rate allowed to backs.
- Saquon Barkley at WSH: Barkley has been the RB21 or better in every game and has averaged 23.8 opportunities per game, third-most among all backs. Washington is a mid-range rush defense, ranking 18th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play and rushing success rate allowed to backs, but it doesn't matter for a player such Barkley either way.
- Ezekiel Elliott vs. PHI: Elliott was the RB4 against Philly in Week 10, rushing 19 times for 151 yards and a score and added 6 catches on 7 targets for 36 yards and a score. He has four straight top-seven finishes, and the Eagles are just 28th in adjusted rush defense.
- Alvin Kamara at TB: Kamara has been the RB26 in two straight games despite 15 and 22 opportunities and his usual level of snaps (64.9% and 67.3%) in those. The Bucs are 29th in rushing success rate and 22nd in target success rate allowed to backs, making for a bounceback spot for Kamara.
- Nick Chubb vs. CAR: Chubb has been the RB16, RB31, RB12, RB1, RB3, and RB12 since taking over as the starter. His snap rate did fall last week (47.4% after 79.2% and 71.9% the past two weeks), and the Panthers are sixth in success rate allowed to backs. But Chubb has three targets in three straight, making him pretty game-script proof.
- Leonard Fournette at TEN: Fournette is fresh off a one-game suspension and gets a road-tilt with a mid-level rush defense. He had been the RB7, RB6, and RB4 in his three games back from injury (25.4, 21.1, and 24.3 fantasy points), thanks to 29, 30, and 21 opportunities on 52.0%, 50.0%, and 44.3% of snaps.
- Phillip Lindsay at SF: A 5.5-point favorite, Lindsay should be in the mix for yet another RB2 week, which he has been every week outside of a Week 3 ejection. Lindsay did drop to a 42.4% snap rate last week but had 20 opportunities on his snaps.
Consider If Needed
- Aaron Jones vs. ATL: Last week was probably a fluke, but we can't be sure, and because we don't coach the Packers and control Jones' snaps, we have to react to the fact that Jones played just 51.3% of snaps last week, his lowest since becoming the starter. The Falcons are 31st in adjusted rush defense, though, and Jones with even half the snaps is a firm start option -- just not a completely trustworthy one.
- Tarik Cohen vs. LAR: With 7.0 targets per game in eight post-bye games (21.9% target share), Cohen has finished worse than RB18 just twice in those, and he's in a possible shootout.
- Spencer Ware vs. BAL: The Ravens are second in success rate allowed to backs, which is the only negative for Ware, who played 69.0% of snaps last week and had 15 opportunities. The Chiefs have an implied total of 29.75 points.
- Lamar Miller vs. IND: Miller has yet to finish worse than the RB38 or play fewer than 53.5% of snaps all season. The Colts are top-eight in adjusted rushing defense and success rate allowed, but Miller is a 4.5-point home favorite who can return another RB2 outing here.
- Joe Mixon at LAC: Mixon's situation is bad but not bad enough to bench him unless you're loaded at running back. He's played an average of 64.5% of snaps the past four games with 13, 15, 21, and 14 opportunities in those. A 14-point underdog with a 17-point implied total, Mixon is just a floor play, still a high-end RB3 option.
- Dalvin Cook at SEA: A road underdog, Cook might stand to benefit, as he has had 4, 3, 3, and 10 targets in his four games since returning to finish with 12.9, 0.5, 15.1, and 14.6 fantasy points. Seattle is 26th in target success rate allowed to backs.
- Chris Carson vs. MIN: A home favorite, Carson should see a lot of work, and he's actually had six targets in his past two games to help out with game script concerns against a solid Vikings team. Carson has played 41.4%, 51.6%, and 58.6% of snaps the past three games, finishing as the RB19, RB20, and RB19.
- Sony Michel at MIA: Michel is a heavy road favorite against a defense that's 10th in rushing success rate allowed to backs. Michel has averaged 20.5 opportunities and a 41.7% snap rate in his past two games, and he's first in usage rate among backs with at least 20 snaps per game, via FantasyData.
- James White at MIA: White now has a third backfield mate to deal with (four if you include James Develin) but still saw 9 targets and 6 carries in Week 13, while playing 44.6% of the snaps and finishing as the RB10 (15.3 fantasy points). Miami is pretty generous to receiving backs, ranking 19th in target success rate, but the arrow is pointing down on White overall. Still, he's averaged 8.6 targets per game and is still in the mix for RB3 status at worst with his receiving volume unlikely to disappear.
- Mark Ingram at TB: Ingram has been the RB36 and RB50 the past two weeks and has had between 10 and 16 opportunities in all seven post-bye games. That's not a hefty enough workload to plug him in blindly, but as an 8-point favorite against the league's 29th-ranked rush defense by success rate allowed to backs, he's in the mix for a flex finish.
- Gus Edwards at KC: Edwards has averaged 20.3 carries and 105.0 yards per game and now faces the 32nd-ranked adjusted rush defense, which is also 32nd in rushing success rate allowed to backs. He won't catch passes, and he's just a 6.5-point underdog, so he should see carries for most of the game.
- Jeff Wilson vs. DEN: Wilson played 72.4% of the snaps and had 24 opportunities last week and now gets a home matchup with the 23rd-ranked rush defense by success rate. He also had nine targets last week, and the Broncos are bottom-five in target success rate allowed to backs.
- David Johnson vs. DET: The Detroit Lions are 11th in rushing success rate allowed since trading for Damon Harrison, yet Johnson's workload has been great (25.0 opportunities per game in four post-bye games) even if the results have been down of late (33.8, 15.9, 8.9, and 7.7 fantasy points). Christian Kirk's injury could lead to elevated routes and targets, as well.
- LeSean McCoy vs. NYJ: A 3.5-point favorite over a top-half adjusted rush defense, McCoy isn't anything to get overly excited about, as he has had just one game with more than 12.5 fantasy points. However, he just played 75.0% of the snaps and is now alongside a rushing quarterback, so he's a low-end RB3.
- Austin Ekeler vs. CIN: The Bengals are 29th in adjusted rush defense, 31st in rushing success rate allowed, and 29th in target success rate allowed to backs, so it can't get much better for Ekeler. The issue is that he did cede some snaps and touches to Justin Jackson but still had a 77.8% snap rate and 21 opportunities (8 targets) last week. Talks of Ekeler being worn down push him down the list, however.
- Kenyan Drake vs. NE: Drake faces a Pats defense that's 20th in both rushing success rate and target success rate allowed to backs and has a 17.5% target share on the season (5.0 per game). That can keep him as a flex play as a home underdog.
- Jaylen Samuels at OAK: Samuels is expected to be part of a committee and has yet to play 30.0% of snaps in a game or hit 10 opportunities. Still, Oakland is 30th in both adjusted rush defense and success rate allowed to backs, and Pittsburgh is an 11-point favorite.
Bench If Possible
- Marlon Mack at HOU: Mack is hard to justify this week, really, as he played just 36.8% of snaps and had 9 opportunities as the Colts played from behind. They're road underdogs (4.5 points) again, so he could bust.
- Josh Adams at DAL: Adams has been the RB15, RB15, and RB32 in three games with elevated snaps but saw his targets fall from 6 to 1 and 0 the past two games. Dallas has let just four running backs clock 15.0 fantasy points against them, so he's a floor option at best, but he's averaged just 57.0% of snaps the past three games, not enough to start him blindly.
- Justin Jackson vs. CIN: I can't fault you for wanting to play Jackson has a 14-point favorite against the league's third-worst rush defense, but he did play just 22.2% of snaps last week and get 9 opportunities. He was great, and the matchup is great, but the role isn't yet guaranteed.
- Tevin Coleman at GB: Coleman has had just 11, 12, and 9 opportunities in his past three games (3, 4, 3 targets) and is now playing barely above 50.0% of snaps (60.7%, 50.0%, 54.7%) while Ito Smith chips away at his workload. As a road underdog, his receiving role over Smith keeps him somewhat viable, but he's really fallen into bench-first territory.
- Adrian Peterson vs. NYG: I always try to be realistic with these tiers, and you may not feel comfortable with other backs over Peterson, but he's played just 42.9% and 35.6% of snaps the past two weeks (the 35.6% being his lowest since Week 5 in Chris Thompson's return), and he had just 9 rushes in that game. As a 3.5-point underdog with Mark Sanchez as his quarterback, there's no spinning Peterson as a confident start or even an it's-not-so-bad option.
- Chris Thompson vs. NYG: In his Week 13 return, Thompson played 64.4% of the snaps and had 5 targets (4 of which came from Mark Sanchez) and is now a home underdog. His receiving work gives him enough of a floor to consider, but the 19-point implied team total suggests to bench him unless you really need to use him.
- Jordan Howard vs. LAR: Howard has been the RB50, RB29, RB59, and RB32 the past four weeks (5.3 fantasy points per game) and could get scripted out as a home underdog.
- Peyton Barber vs. NO: An 8-point underdog, Barber is out of contention, as he has had just six targets over his past six games. Plus, the Saints are fourth in success rate allowed to backs.
- Nyheim Hines at HOU: Hines played 60.5% of snaps and saw 9 targets in negative script last week, and the Colts are road 'dogs again. Even with the extended run, he had 10.0 fantasy points (RB28) and isn't a guarantee to play the majority of snaps, pushing him into primary bench territory.
- Doug Martin vs. PIT: Martin has averaged 9.8 fantasy points in six post-bye games but never posted more than 14.7. He's a heavy underdog without a ceiling.
- Theo Riddick at ARI: Riddick has been a high-floor option among his peers, with at least 5.5 fantasy points in five straight games but no more than 10 in any game this season. He'll give you something but not much. Sometimes that's enough, especially against the league's 31st ranked defense by target success rate allowed to backs.
- LeGarrette Blount at ARI: Arizona is 25th in rushing success rate allowed, and Blount has 17.5 carries per game in his past two if you need something to cling to.
- Jalen Richard vs. PIT: The Pittsburgh Steelers are first in target success rate allowed to running backs, which should dampen the impact of Richard's 5.5 targets per game even as a heavy underdog.
- Royce Freeman at SF: Freeman has played 23.2%, 26.3%, and 35.6% of snaps the past three games and has yet to finish better than the RB20.
- Isaiah Crowell at BUF: Crowell has had 9 targets over his past two games to help with game script, and he's been a top-38 back in all eight games since Week 5. He also had 21 carries last week, but he has just once surpassed 12.7 fantasy points in that eight-game sample.
- Ty Montgomery at KC: Montgomery has played 40.0% and 33.3% of snaps in his past two games with 10 targets in those (3 and 7). He could see targets as a road underdog but is only a deep-league consideration.
- Derrick Henry vs. JAC: Henry has been clinging to life of late, finishing as the RB18, RB20, RB14, RB33, RB47, and RB23 in his past six but has yet to crack a 50.0% snap rate. The Jags are 3rd in success rate allowed to backs, keeping Henry and his part-time role a priority bench option in a game with a tiny total.
- Dion Lewis vs. JAC: Lewis has had his opportunity count cut to 12, 14, and 9 the past three games despite an average snap rate of 60.4% in those. The Jaguars are top-10 in target success rate and rushing success rate allowed to backs, keeping Lewis a bench-first option.
- Jamaal Williams vs. ATL: Williams played 50.0% of snaps and had 11 opportunities (7 carries, 4 targets) after just 3, 1, and 1 the three prior weeks. Even with those, he had just 4.7 fantasy points.
- Rex Burkhead at MIA: Burkhead played 23.0% of snaps in his return last week and had 9 opportunities (7 carries, 2 targets) for 5.1 fantasy points. He's doing enough to hurt his teammates but not enough to start.
- Ito Smith at GB: Smith's snaps are climbing (29.3%, 35.7%, 37.1%, and 45.3% the past four), but he's had just 9, 8, 6, and 8 chances in those, enough for deep-league appeal but not standard-sized leagues.
Start With Confidence
- Julio Jones at GB: Jones travels to face the Packers and has had 10.4 targets per game (26.5%) in five post-bye games. The Packers are 7th in target success rate but 19th in fantasy points per target, as they do let up the 3rd-highest success rate on deep balls this year. That should come in handy, as Jones has 53.4% of the Falcons' deep targets.
- Michael Thomas at TB: Thomas, like his Saints teammates, have been down the past two weeks (WR55 and WR56), but he still owns a 28.5% target share in seven post-bye games, and the Bucs are 32nd in target success rate allowed to wideouts.
- Antonio Brown at OAK: Brown has a 12.7-yard average depth of target on 10.5 targets per game in six post-bye games, and the Raiders are 26th against the deep ball in terms of success rate allowed. He's a solid bet to be the week's WR1.
- DeAndre Hopkins vs. IND: Hopkins has had three down games in a row (12.1, 9.9, and 12.6 fantasy points to finish as the WR25, WR35, and WR21) but now faces the league's 25th adjusted pass defense, which is 26th in target success rate allowed to wideouts. Nuk has 32.2% of Houston's targets on the year (9.6 per game), as well as 43.3% of the deep targets. Indy is dead last in defending the deep ball, based on success rate allowed on deep passes.
- Davante Adams vs. ATL: Adams has been a stud this year, with 12.1 or more fantasy points in every game and a 27.8% target share (10.5 per game). The Falcons are 28th in target success rate and 26th in fantasy points per target allowed to the position, keeping Adams near the front half of the WR1 tier this week.
- Keenan Allen vs. CIN: Allen has a 34.8% target share in five post-bye games (11.0 per game) and has been the WR17 or better in all of those while averaging 19.8 fantasy points. The Bengals are 20th in fantasy points per target allowed to the slot.
- Adam Thielen at SEA: Thielen faces the league's top slot defense on a per-target basis, but the volume (28.8% target share, 11.2 targets per game) will thwart that issue -- at least enough to start Thielen without looking back.
- Julian Edelman at MIA: Edelman's Week 13 "dud" (8 targets, 7.5 fantasy points) came on an 89.2% snap rate, but he's been a WR2 in six of his past seven games. Miami is 12th in fantasy points per target allowed to slot receivers, but Edelman owns a 24.4% target share (8.5 per game).
- JuJu Smith-Schuster at OAK: JuJu can be scripted out when the Steelers get ahead, but without James Conner, maybe he sticks in the game plan against the league's 24th-ranked per-target fantasy defense (and 25th against the slot). Either way, the floor and ceiling should carry him to a strong outing.
- Mike Evans vs. NO: Evans went for 7 catches, 147 yards, and 1 touchdown on 7 targets in Week 1 against the Saints, who are 30th in target success rate allowed to wideouts this season and 28th in success rate allowed on deep throws. The issue is that Evans has just a 20.6% target share over the past three games (21.8% on the full season).
Consider If Needed
- Tyreek Hill vs. BAL: Hill had a dud last week due to some overthrows but had been the WR1 in two straight games prior. The Ravens are eighth in deep ball defense and haven't allowed a single receiver to get more than 69 yards.
- Stefon Diggs at SEA: Diggs may not be 100%, but his individual matchups last week were a reason for a dud. He has 18, 11, and 5 targets in his past three games and faces the league's 27th-ranked wideout defense by fantasy points per target.
- Brandin Cooks at CHI: The Bears are first in passing success rate allowed on deep attempts and eighth in target success rate allowed to wide receivers. Cooks has 40.0% of the Rams' deep throws. Still, he owns 8.3 targets per game in the league's fourth-ranked adjusted pass offense.
- Robert Woods at CHI: Woods has had at least 9.5 fantasy points in every game since Week 2, and while the Bears have limited ceiling games to receivers, they've allowed 15 wideouts to get to double-digit fantasy points, ninth-most.
- Amari Cooper vs. PHI: Cooper has 26.0% of the targets and 34.1% of the air yards since joining the Cowboys, and he now faces an Eagles defense that is 25th in target success rate allowed to wideouts on the full season and 30th since Week 9.
- Tyler Boyd at LAC: Boyd has been at least the WR37 in five straight games and has 13 of Jeff Driskel's 74 attempts for 12.2 yards per target. The Chargers are 20th in success rate allowed to wideouts.
- Josh Gordon at MIA: Gordon will certainly avoid shadow coverage from Xavien Howard, who has been ruled out, but his snap rate fell to 64.9% in Week 13. With just eight targets over his past two games, Gordon is well out of a confident start, but his offense keeps him out of afterthought status.
- Corey Davis vs. JAC: The WR30, WR4, WR63, WR4, and WR16 in five post-bye games with target tallies of 10, 10, 4, 4, and 7 in those, Davis caught 2 of 4 targets for 34 yards against Jacksonville in Week 3. Jacksonville has let just 11 receivers get to double-digit fantasy points all season, but Davis' elite 28.4% target share keeps him a viable WR3 or flex option.
- Kenny Golladay at ARI: Golladay has averaged a 95.5% snap rate in his past six with up-and-down production. Patrick Peterson may be allowed to shadow him, and the pace here is a big problem. He's startable but not a lock.
- D.J. Moore at CLE: Moore played 94.3% of snaps last week and has carved out his own role, regardless of injuries to teammates. The Browns are eighth in target success rate and fourth in fantasy points per target allowed to wideouts but have given up five games of at least 20 fantasy points to receivers, third-most in the NFL, and will be without standout corner Denzel Ward.
- T.Y. Hilton at HOU: Hilton got stuffed by Jalen Ramsey for most of last week as he hasn't been playing as much from the slot this year. Hilton's elevated snaps and routes -- plus a 27.3% target share (9.8 per game) in four post-bye outings keeps him in the WR1 tier against the league's 19th-ranked wide receiver defense by target success rate. Hilton is banged up, though, and isn't a lock to play, so we need to lower expectations.
- Golden Tate at DAL: Tate has had 8, 8, and 7 targets in his past three games despite waning snap (70.6%, 60.0%, 48.0%) and route rates (75.0%, 67.7%, 59.0%), and the Cowboys are 24th in fantasy points per target allowed to slot players.
- Courtland Sutton at SF: Sutton has had a 20.2% target share (5.5 per game) since the Demaryius Thomas trade and came through in a plus matchup last week. Now, he's without Emmanuel Sanders, and the 49ers are just 19th in deep ball defense.
- Larry Fitzgerald vs. DET: Fitzgerald has a 25.4% target share (6.6 per game) under Byron Leftwich and stands to see even more work without Christian Kirk. The Lions are 31st in fantasy points per target allowed to the slot.
- Allen Robinson vs. LAR: The matchup is good overall against the league's 27th-ranked defense by target success rate allowed to receivers. Aqib Talib played just 36.1% of snaps last week, and Robinson has been mobile most of the year.
- Adam Humphries vs. NO: Humphries has an 18.6% target share over the past three games with Winston under center (6.3 per game), and the Saints allow more fantasy points per target to the slot than any other team.
- Chris Godwin vs. NO: Godwin still has volume concerns (just six targets in Week 13 even without DeSean Jackson), but his snap rate was up to 80.0%, and he ran a route on 92.3% of drop backs. The Bucs are 29th in fantasy points per target and 30th in target success rate allowed to wideouts.
- Jarvis Landry vs. CAR: Landry had a resurgence last week, playing 80.7% of snaps after sub-70% marks the two prior games, and he had 9 targets for 13.3 fantasy points. He's had more than 16.3 fantasy points just once, though, and is just simply a flex option if you need him. Overall, the matchup is good enough to put him on this side of priority bench territory, but expectations need to be held in check.
- Sterling Shepard at WSH: Shepard has been the WR61, WR25, WR65, WR56, and WR68 in his past five with target totals of 8, 3, 2, 6, and 6 in those but gets a boost with Odell Beckham ruled out. Via the Rotoviz Game Splits App, Shepard has seen a boost in targets (from about 6.0 to 9.0) without Beckham since the start of last season.
Bench If Possible
- Doug Baldwin vs. MIN: Baldwin faces the league's 12th-best slot defense by fantasy points per targets, and he's been a WR2 just twice all season. The snaps are there, but the pass volume is too low to trust Baldwin fully in the playoffs against a defense that has let just 10 receivers post double-digit fantasy points all season.
- Tyler Lockett vs. MIN: The Vikings are 20th in deep ball defense if we need a reason to play someone who has maxed out at six targets in six post-bye games (with 5, 5, and 2 the past three weeks). Lockett keeps scoring, but that could leave us with a bust game this week, which we can't afford.
- Curtis Samuel at CLE: Samuel has had an 18.7% target share (6.7 per game) over the past three and has had a heavy snap rate in the past two (91.5% and 82.9%) but faces a tough per-target defense (fourth) on the road, though it will be without Denzel Ward.
- Tre'Quan Smith at TB: Smith's routes have been up, but he can vanish in the target department, as he has had 0, 13, and 1 targets in his past three games despite snap rates of 68.0%, 71.4%, and 84.6% in those. The Bucs are 24th in deep ball defense, so we probably can roll the dice and hope the combo of routes and matchup click -- if we need to -- but he's got a lot of red flags, as well.
- Randall Cobb vs. ATL: Cobb played 80.3% of snaps in his return and ran a route on 85.2% of drop backs -- with 80.2% of those from the slot, via PFF. Atlanta is 26th in fantasy points per target allowed to the slot, so it's a good matchup. Still, Cobb is more of an if-needed option rather than an optimistic start while the Packers turn it over to a new staff.
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling vs. ATL: Valdes-Scantling's snaps and routes have been pretty solid of late, even with Cobb's return. However, the results haven't been there, and he has just 12 targets in his past three games, 7 of which did come last week. He's a fine desperation play but not a primary start.
- Taylor Gabriel vs. LAR: Gabriel and his 14.4-yard post-bye aDOT faces the league's 31st-ranked deep ball defense, but he has averaged just 5.3 fantasy points in those.
- Alshon Jeffery at DAL: Jeffery has just 13 targets in his past three games despite running every route and has averaged just 5.5 fantasy points in his past five. Something isn't right, and we can't trust Jeffery in the playoffs.
- Mohamed Sanu at GB: Sanu faces a Packers team that is 28th in fantasy points per target allowed to slot receivers, but he's had just 5.4 targets per game since the bye and eight total in his past two.
- Calvin Ridley at GB: Ridley could have a spike game in a possible shootout, but he's averaged 22.6 fantasy points in four WR1 games and 6.0 in every other contest. He does have a 13-target game in Week 12 but just 4 and 5 targets in the bookending games.
- Demaryius Thomas vs. IND: Thomas has a 14.1% target share since joining the Texans with target tallies of 3, 1, 5, and 5, and it's just not enough to target him actively, even against the league's 26th-ranked receiver defense by fantasy points per target.
- John Brown at KC: Brown missed out on a big play, as Lamar Jackson overthrew him, but Brown has 2.8, 3.0, and 0.0 fantasy points on 1, 7, and 4 targets in Jackson's starts.
- Josh Reynolds at CHI: Reynolds has played 97.5% and 97.1% of snaps the past two games but has had 19, 40, 80, and 19 yards in his heavy snap games.
- Michael Crabtree at KC: Crabtree has 19.4% of Jackson's targets (4.3 per game; 3, 6, 4) with WR85, WR37, and WR66 finishes. The Chiefs are fourth in target success rate allowed to wideouts, and the volume has been too low to start Crabtree.
- Chris Conley vs. BAL: Conley has played an average of 90.6% of snaps the past three games, during which he has a 15.7% target share, which is up to 18.8% the past two games. The matchup is rough, but attached to the best passing offense in football, he's close to the cutoff of viability in season-long formats.
- Jordy Nelson vs. PIT: Nelson had 11 targets last week but just a single look the week prior, despite similar snap rates. We can't chase that in a low-value offense.
- Devin Funchess at CLE: Funchess played just 45.7% of snaps last week in his return, and his volume has been low for most of the second half (4.8 per game in his past five).
- Zay Jones vs. NYJ: Jones has averaged a 90.0% route rate this season and clicked with Josh Allen last week, but the Jets are sixth in target success rate allowed to wideouts, and he's not a justifiable recommendation in 12-team leagues.
- Kenny Stills vs. NE: Stills caught a touchdown last week and has averaged a 93.0% snap rate in his past three games. The Patriots are 21st in fantasy points per target allowed to slot receivers, where Stills has been playing from a good bit without Danny Amendola. However, the Patriots are fourth in success rate allowed on deep passes, and Tannehill has just eight deep attempts in his two weeks back.
- DeVante Parker vs. NE: Parker has a 25.0% target share over his past three games (7.0 per game), but the Pats are second in target success rate allowed to wideouts.
- Bruce Ellington at ARI: Ellington's aDOT is just 3.3 yards, and his 26 targets have turned into just 21.2 fantasy points.
Start With Confidence
- Travis Kelce vs. BAL: Kelce has been the TE1 in four of the past five weeks, and tight ends have been the one path to success against the Ravens this year, as they're 20th in target success rate and 24th in fantasy points per target.
- Zach Ertz at DAL: Ertz has been the TE11 or better in all but one game and has 18 targets over his past two. He was the TE1 in Week 10 against the Cowboys, going off for 14 catches, 145 yards, and 2 touchdowns on 16 targets.
- Rob Gronkowski at MIA: Gronkowski's been a roller coaster this year and has maxed out at eight targets in a game. He plays virtually every snap and has a solid 18.3% target share in two games since returning (7 and 4 targets), and the Dolphins are 31st in fantasy points per target allowed to tight ends.
- Eric Ebron at HOU: Ebron has played 71.0% and 76.3% of snaps the past two weeks and has been targeted 23 times. The Texans are 27th in fantasy points per target allowed to tight ends because they've let up 8.7 yards per target (28th) and 6 touchdowns to the position.
- George Kittle vs. DEN: Kittle has 29.9% of Nick Mullens' targets this year (8.8 per game) with an average of 12.6 fantasy points in those. Denver's entire pass defense gets dinged without Harris.
Consider If Needed
- Jimmy Graham vs. ATL: Graham saw 11 targets last week after 1, 1, and 4 the three prior games. His snap rate shot up from 42.9% and 41.5% to 71.1% in this game, so maybe he's feeling good. The Falcons are 21st in target success rate allowed to tight ends.
- David Njoku vs. CAR: The Panthers are most vulnerable against tight ends (29th in target success rate and 30th in fantasy points per target), and Njoku's snaps (80.7%) and routes (79.5%) spiked back up last week.
- Jared Cook vs. PIT: Cook has clung to relevancy with TE5, TE10, and TE2 finishes the past three games while averaging an 18.9% target share since the bye. Pittsburgh is most vulnerable via tight ends, ranking 19th in target success rate against the position.
- Austin Hooper at GB: Green Bay is 28th in target success rate allowed to wideouts but 7th in fantasy points per target because they've let up just one touchdown to the position, so it's a plus matchup overall. Hooper has had a 16.3 target share (6.4 per game) in five post-bye games with a team-high 23.5% of the red zone targets on the season.
- Jordan Reed vs. NYG:Reed is at home but faces the league's fifth-ranked defense by target success rate allowed to tight ends and is catching passes from Mark Sanchez. He did get a team-high 5 of 21 targets from Sanchez, but the only thing keeping him out of bench territory is that he at least plays roughly 70.0% of snaps each week.
Bench If Possible
- Vance McDonald at OAK: Vance draws the league's worst tight end defense but has just 4.8 targets per game since the Week 7 bye and is too volatile to consider anything other than a bench-first play, regardless of how good the matchup is.
- Evan Engram at WSH: Even without Beckham, Engram is still someone you shouldn't chase unless you have to. His target splits are promising without Beckham (7.8 per game compared to 5.6 per game with OBJ), but Washington is top-seven in both target success rate and fantasy points per target allowed to the position.
- Trey Burton vs. LAR: It's time to get real about Trey, who has 1, 7, and 1 targets for 1.4, 2.8, and 0 fantasy points in his past three. The Rams are ninth in target success rate allowed to tight ends.
- Cameron Brate vs. NO: Brate has played 69.9% and 67.7% of snaps the past two weeks with 4 and 6 targets in those, a usable workload for a non-elite tight end. The problem is that the Saints are second in fantasy points per target allowed to wideouts and sixth in yards per target. No tight end has scored more than 8.3 fantasy points against the Saints.
- Kyle Rudolph at SEA: Seattle is beatable with tight ends (17th in target success rate), but Rudolph hasn't hit 10 fantasy points since Week 3, and his post-bye targets are an uneven 5, 7, and 3.
- C.J. Uzomah at LAC: The Chargers are third in target success rate and fantasy points per target allowed to tight ends, though Uzomah has 20 targets in his past two games (for just 12.7 fantasy points) and a team-high 17 of Driskel's 74 attempts. Inefficiency plus a bad matchup keeps him off the start list.
- Matt LaCosse at SF: His snaps shot up to 79.7% last week, but he ran just 50.0% of the routes and saw one target. He could see elevated targets without Sanders, but he's still someone you should hope you don't have to start.
- Jonnu Smith vs. JAC: Smith had been a top-12 tight end four straight weeks but was the TE22 in Week 13 after a similar snap rate (70.6%) and target total (3) that he had during his hot stretch. He's a volatile option without volume.