Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 8

The start/sit question is one that many a fantasy football analyst dreads. And yet, it's often the most important one.

As fantasy football enthusiasts, we spend the offseason poring over stats, news, projections, rankings -- whatever we can get our hands on -- all in anticipation of dominating our leagues on draft night.

But while we might agonize over whether Player A will have a better season than Player B as the clock ticks down on our eighth pick, the truth is that once the dust settles and the games actually begin, a good chunk of our roster will be cycling in and out of our lineups all season. At the end of the day, it won't matter that you picked the right guy if you started him in all the wrong weeks.

Of course, leagues come in all shapes and sizes, so it's near impossible to tackle every start-or-sit scenario. A must-start for one team could be a bench option in another.

With all that being said, we're here to help at numberFire! This column will try to highlight some of those tough lineup decisions you have to make every week and will hopefully be able to sway you in one direction or another. And away we go!


Start Matthew Stafford (vs. New York Giants): Matthew Stafford faces a Giants defense that ranks 24th in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play -- numberFire's schedule-adjusted metric for pass defense -- and there should be plenty of scoring chances the Lions as 7.0-point home favorites with a robust 28.00 implied total. With Kerryon Johnson being placed on injured reserve, the Lions may rely on Stafford's arm more moving forward, too. numberFire's model loves Stafford, propping him up with the third-highest quarterback projection of Week 8.

Start Gardner Minshew (vs. New York Jets): Outside of his dud against New Orleans, Gardner Minshew has shown a rock-solid floor in his other six games (including his Week 1 relief appearance), exceeding 16 fantasy points each time. The Jets haven't given up a ton of fantasy points to opposing signal-callers, but this really isn't a pass defense to fear, ranking 17th in numberFire's schedule-adjusted metrics and 29th in adjusted sack rate. And while Minshew isn't anything close to a Kyler Murray or Josh Allen as a runner, he's shown the ability to pick his spots when needed, rushing for over 40 yards on three different occasions -- something we always like to see in fantasy. On an offense that likes to lean on Leonard Fournette, we shouldn't necessarily expect a huge ceiling from Minshew, but he should give another strong performance as this week's projected QB9.

Sit Carson Wentz (at Buffalo): Carson Wentz and the Eagles are coming off a dreadful performance against the Cowboys, and things shouldn't get any easier in a road start against the Bills. Buffalo has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, which is reflected in their top-three Success Rate allowed to the position. Wentz has been held under 200 yards passing in three of his last four games and barely cracks the top-20 in our projections.

Sit Jameis Winston (at Tennessee): Jameis Winston giveth and Jameis Winston taketh away, and the latter is the more likely scenario at Tennessee. The Titans sit just outside the top-10 in numberFire's pass defense rankings, and despite only recording two sacks over the last two weeks, they still rank a respectable 14th in adjusted sack rate. The Buccaneers are coming off a bye week but a modest 21.50 implied total doesn't inspire much confidence, and Winston has mostly struggled in tougher matchups this year. That being said, if you're in a deeper league with yardage bonuses and/or minimal interception penalties, then Jameis' risks are somewhat mitigated, potentially making him still worth the plunge for his upside.

Other quarterbacks to start: Kyler Murray (at New Orleans), Josh Allen (vs. Philadelphia), Kirk Cousins (vs. Washington), Mason Rudolph (vs. Miami), Ryan Tannehill (vs. Tampa Bay)

Running Back

Start Ty Johnson (vs. New York Giants): If you scooped up Ty Johnson this week or already had him stashed away, then you might as well fire him up against the Giants this week. With Kerryon Johnson bowing out early last week, Ty would go on to play 64% of the snaps with 14 opportunities (10 rushes and 4 targets), suggesting that he'll be the top dog in this backfield moving forward. Given the presence of J.D. McKissic as a passing-down back, along with Tra Carson and Paul Perkins possibly mixing in, too, we shouldn't expect Ty to totally replicate Kerryon's featured role, but last week's usage was promising, and this is the right matchup to test the waters. Ty Johnson projects as an RB2 in both standard and PPR formats.

Start David Montgomery (vs. Los Angeles Chargers): David Montgomery's usage has been all over the place, hitting rock bottom with a measly four opportunities in Week 7. The Saints dominated much of that game, but it was close in the first half, making it all the more baffling. Still, prior to that debacle, Montgomery had tallied double-digit opportunities in four straight games (21, 16, 26, 12), and his three highest totals came in victories. Well, Chicago is a home favorite again this week, so hopefully they can live up to those expectations this time around against the Chargers. Los Angeles ranks just 20th against the run by numberFire' schedule-adjusted metrics, and Montgomery projects favorably as the RB18 in standard leagues and RB22 in PPR.

Start LeSean McCoy (vs. Green Bay): Although I pretty much swore off this maddening Kansas City backfield last week, Damien Williams has been a non-factor for three straight games, so it does finally feel like we can somewhat trust LeSean McCoy moving forward. Following McCoy's surprise benching in Week 5 for shoddy pass protection, he's seen over 40% of the snaps and double-digit opportunities in each of the past two weeks, including 14 against Denver in Week 7. No, that isn't amazing usage, but he's clearly ahead of both Damien and Darrel Williams, and with Patrick Mahomes out, we could see the Chiefs skew more towards the run than they typically do. Green Bay's defense is notoriously tough against the pass but is just 31st in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play.

Sit Joe Mixon (vs. Los Angeles Rams): Joe Mixon technically sneaks into the top-30 running backs in numberFire's projections, but it's hard to be optimistic about a back who's running behind a brutal offensive line and has only gotten 18 carries and 5 targets over the last two games. The hapless Bengals are 13.0-point underdogs to the Rams in London, so the running game figures to take a backseat in yet another negative game script.

Other running backs to start: Latavius Murray (vs. Arizona; if Alvin Kamara is out), Chase Edmonds (at New Orleans; if David Johnson is out), Tevin Coleman (vs. Carolina), Carlos Hyde (vs. Oakland)

Wide Receiver

Start D.K. Metcalf (at Atlanta): The Falcons are the gift that keeps on giving to opposing passing games, ranking 31st in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. They've allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers, which is backed up by their league-worst ranking in Target Success Rate allowed to the position. Although D.K. Metcalf owns a mediocre 17% target share, he leads the team with a 27% air yards share and saw a season-high nine targets last week with Will Dissly no longer in the picture. Metcalf hasn't had a true spike week yet, but matchups don't get much better than this.

Start Kenny Stills (vs. Oakland): Will Fuller is expected to miss multiple weeks with a hamstring injury, which opens the door for Kenny Stills to take over his field-stretching role. Sure enough, with Fuller going down at the start of last week's game, Stills would go on to play 94% of the snaps while hauling in 4 of 5 targets for 105 yards. Oakland is numberFire's third-worst passing defense -- no surprise after getting eviscerated by Aaron Rodgers -- and Houston has an alluring 29.25 implied total.

Sit Alshon Jeffery (at Buffalo): If Carson Wentz isn't expected to have a great day, that naturally means his pass-catchers will struggle to produce as well. Buffalo ranks fifth in Target Success Rate allowed to wideouts, and they've given up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the position. Jeffery owns a 25% target share over his five healthy games, giving him a better floor in PPR leagues, but he's still projected to finish as just the WR35 in those formats.

Sit Mike Williams (at Chicago): Mike Williams saw double-digit targets in Weeks 5 and 6, but that dropped down to six in Week 7, and there's a good chance he struggles to see consistent volume with Keenan Allen, Hunter Henry, Austin Ekeler, and Melvin Gordon all vying for targets. Throw in a poor matchup against Chicago (seventh versus the pass) and Williams barely sneaks into the top-50 projected wideouts in PPR scoring this week. (Friday update: With Keenan Allen now questionable with a hamstring injury, Williams becomes a much more intriguing play this weekend. Even if Allen plays, he's expected to play limited snaps, so Williams should see a boost in targets no matter what, putting him back on the flex radar.)

Other wide receivers to start: JuJu Smith-Schuster (vs. Miami), Brandin Cooks (vs. Cincinnati), Calvin Ridley (vs. Seattle), Marvin Jones (vs. New York Giants), John Brown (vs. Philadelphia)

Tight End

Start T.J. Hockenson (vs. New York Giants): If you don't have one of the top seven or so tight ends, it tends to be a depressing position to deal with every week. T.J. Hockenson certainly isn't one of those seven, but he projects as the TE9 in the Lions' matchup against the Giants. Although New York hasn't allowed many fantasy points to tight ends, a quick look at their schedule shows they really haven't faced many (any?) noteworthy pass-catching tight ends this season (sorry, O.J. Howard). Hockenson ranks fourth on the team in target share (14%) and his seven red zone targets sits only one behind Kenny Golladay (eight) and Marvin Jones (eight).

Start Josh Hill (vs. Arizona): If you're scraping the barrel, you could do worse than test the Arizona-is-bad-against-tight-ends theory, despite a surprise clunker from Evan Engram against them last week. The Cardinals have coughed up far and away the most fantasy points to tight ends and rank 32nd in Target Success Rate allowed to the position. With Jared Cook expected to be out for the second straight week, Josh Hill would be the the main beneficiary of the matchup. Hill caught 3-of-3 targets for 43 yards and a score in Week 7.

Other tight ends to start: Gerald Everett (vs. Cincinnati), Jimmy Graham (at Kansas City), Jonnu Smith (vs. Tampa Bay; if Delanie Walker is out)