Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 13
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 Carson Wentz (at Miami): Carson Wentz is coming off a sorry four-turnover performance against the Seahawks, and he's now averaged just 214.4 passing yards over the last five games. Several injuries to key players on Philadelphia's offense surely didn't help Wentz last week, but he's averaging a discouraging 6.5 yards per attempt this season, ranking near the bottom of the league alongside guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick (6.5), Daniel Jones (6.4), and Mason Rudolph (6.2).
While none of that paints a pretty picture, Wentz and the Eagles get the ultimate cure-all in the Miami Dolphins this week, a team that's been torched by Baker Mayfield (three passing touchdowns) and Josh Allen (three passing and one rushing touchdown) in back-to-back weeks. The Dolphins rank 32nd against the pass in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play and have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to opposing signal callers.
Additionally, Wentz should have reinforcements on offense. Tackle Lane Johnson is trending towards coming back from a concussion, and both Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor are expected to return this week. Perhaps the stars are aligning at just the right time for Wentz to bounce back, and he ranks as the QB11 in numberFire's projections.
Start Jared Goff (at Arizona): Wentz may be going through a tough stretch, but it's nothing compared to the soul-crushing performances Jared Goff has submitted lately. Goff's now been held to single-digit fantasy points for three straight weeks, tossing five picks and zero scores over that span. Although it's come against Baltimore, Chicago, and Pittsburgh -- all top-seven schedule-adjusted pass defenses -- confidence in Goff is at an all-time low.
That being said, we shouldn't forget that Goff's results have been almost entirely matchup-based this season, scoring 20-plus fantasy points against Cincinnati, Atlanta, and Tampa Bay -- teams that rank 30th, 31st, and 19th, respectively, in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play.
Well, it just so happens Goff now gets Arizona, which ranks 28th in that metric and has allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Both the Cardinals and Rams are among the league's fastest playing teams, suggesting some shootout potential, too. The sharp money seems to agree, with a whopping 91% of the money (compared to just 55% of the bets) taking the over, per oddsFire.
Goff's recent play makes him a risky option in such a crucial fantasy week, but he checks in at a respectable QB14 in numberFire's projections and shouldn't be written off just yet in a promising get-right spot.
Start Sam Darnold (at Cincinnati): Unlike the previous two entries, Sam Darnold is someone actually on the upswing, cracking 20 fantasy points three straight weeks and coming off a QB3 performance in Week 12. Tossing seven touchdowns to one interception over that span -- and also adding two rushing scores -- he's taken advantage of bottom-tier defenses in Oakland, Washington, and the New York Giants, and he gets yet another plus matchup upcoming in Cincinnati. The Bengals are numberFire's 30th-ranked pass defense and have allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Sit Tom Brady (at Houston): Although the Patriots' defense remains an elite squad since its lone misstep against a red-hot Lamar Jackson in Week 9, the offense has continued to look more and more like a liability, and the upside we saw from Tom Brady earlier in the season has seemingly evaporated. Given his lack of playmakers on offense, not all of it is necessarily on Brady, but he's only averaging 6.7 yards per pass attempt and has thrown for multiple scores just once in the last six games.
The Texans may be a favorable matchup on the road, but Brady still only projects as the QB17 this week. It wouldn't be outrageous to bench Brady in favor of someone from the aforementioned trio, in addition to Nick Foles against the Buccaneers, a team that's allowed the second-most most fantasy points to the position.
Also of note, Deshaun Watson takes on that stout New England pass defense, which ranks number one in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play and fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. The Patriots have allowed just four passing touchdowns all season. It's more than a little scary, but we know the upside Watson brings to the table, and numberFire's projections still view him quite favorably, so he's probably still your guy as a low-end QB1 in most formats.
Start Jonathan Williams (vs. Tennessee): The Titans aren't a great matchup for running backs, ranking fourth in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play, but Jonathan Williams is still plenty intriguing after soaking up 26 carries and 3 targets versus Houston last week. Many were afraid Jordan Wilkins' return would put a damper on Williams' role, but Wilkins would go on to play just one offensive snap all game, leaving Williams to lead the backfield with a solid 67.2% snap share.
Marlon Mack has already been ruled out for Week 13, and it sure looks like the Colts are comfortable rolling with Williams as a near-direct replacement. Williams projects as a low-end RB2 in all formats.
Start Miles Sanders (at Miami): As of Wednesday, Jordan Howard still hasn't been cleared for contact, so Miles Sanders should once again lead the Eagles' backfield in snaps and opportunities. Although Sanders' production hasn't been anything exciting the last two weeks without Howard, he's tallied 17 and 15 opportunities while logging over 84% of the snaps.
His modest results can at least be partially explained by mediocre matchups against Seattle and New England, and now he gets a far easier path to success against Miami. The Dolphins rank just 26th in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play and have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing backfields.
Start Ronald Jones (at Jacksonville): Although Peyton Barber continues to steal his share of snaps, Ronald Jones has now seen opportunity totals of 20, 19, 8, and 15 over the last four games, with the lone single-digit week coming in a blowout loss to the Saints. Excluding that game, he's cashed in scores in each of the other three weeks and should have ample chances to find pay dirt against Jacksonville. The Jaguars have been getting absolutely torched on the ground lately, now ranking just 30th in schedule-adjusted run defense.
The Bucs-Jaguars game also has a solid 48.5 total, and with the vast majority of money and bets hammering the over, per oddsFire, we could have a shootout on our hands, further adding to Jones' scoring upside.
Sit Chris Carson (vs. Minnesota): Chris Carson is by no means a must-sit, but he really should be viewed as more of a flex play this week after yet another fumble and a botched exchange with Russell Wilson (on back-to-back plays) led to him being replaced down the stretch by Rashaad Penny in Week 12. Penny would ultimately turn 14 carries (and 1 target) into 129 yards and a score, while Carson would be left with just 57 yards from scrimmage off a season-low 12 opportunities. Carson now has seven fumbles charged to him this year.
While it's always hard to trust anything Pete Carroll tells us, he indicated Penny will remain involved moving forward, suggesting a likely timeshare against Minnesota. Unfortunately, there's no telling how things will play out, making both backs' workloads giant question marks. Worse yet, the Vikings rank fifth in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play and have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to running backs.
Maybe it's all coachspeak and Carson goes back to a hefty lead back role -- but we also can't rule out him taking a backseat to Penny this week.
Other running backs to start: Phillip Lindsay (vs. Los Angeles Chargers), David Montgomery (at Detroit), Devin Singletary (at Dallas), Bo Scarbrough (vs. Chicago), Benny Snell Jr. (vs. Cleveland; James Conner is expected to remain out)
Start Courtland Sutton (vs. Los Angeles Chargers): It's unclear whether Drew Lock or Brandon Allen will start for Denver this week, but Lock got the first reps on Wednesday, suggesting he could be under center against the Chargers. Allen has mostly struggled in three starts, so a possible move to Lock figures to only benefit this entire offense, including Courtland Sutton.
Sutton has been a target monster with Allen at the helm (31.6% target share and 48.3% air yards share), and considering his lack of competition, that immense usage shouldn't change with a switch to Lock.
Although he'll likely have to contend with Casey Hayward shadowing him, Sutton came through with 92 yards and a score against the Chargers in Week 5, and this is still a modest pass defense overall, ranking 25th in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. Sutton's high-volume role projects him as a top-20 wideout across all formats.
Start Tyler Boyd (vs. New York Jets): On a winless Bengals team, Tyler Boyd has mostly endured modest results despite a high share of targets, but he finally came through last week, catching 5-of-9 for 105 yards and a touchdown. Despite that last result, quarterback Ryan Finley has failed to hit 200 passing yards in any of his three starts, so a return to Andy Dalton at quarterback should actually be a boon to Boyd's fantasy output. In Dalton's eight starts this year, Boyd led the team with a 25.1% target share, and he now gets a matchup against the Jets, who rank 23rd in schedule-adjusted pass defense.
Start D.K. Metcalf (vs. Minnesota): Despite Minnesota's general reputation as a solid defense, they've struggled against wide receivers, allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to the position. While D.K. Metcalf hasn't seen the most consistent volume in a run-heavy offense, over the last five games he's garnered a team-high 25.0% target share. That coincides with Tyler Lockett being a bit banged up lately, but it's still a promising trend for the rookie wideout, and there could be some sneaky shootout potential here (49.5 total). In fact, although only 53% of the public are siding with the over, an eye-popping 87% of the money is heading that way, indicating sharp bettors expect a high-scoring game.
Sit Marquise Brown (vs. San Francisco): Marquise Brown came through with two touchdowns agains the Rams on Monday night, and his seven targets were his most since Week 4. And while a 62.8% snap rate wouldn't typically be noteworthy, that was also his highest mark since Week 4 and led all Baltimore wide receivers in a lopsided victory.
Everything seems to be headed in the right direction for Brown, but a highly anticipated game against the 49ers isn't the best spot to double-down on that recent success. While the otherworldly Lamar Jackson needn't worry about matchups, his pass-catchers aren't as likely to make much noise against numberFire's second-ranked pass defense. This is still the least pass-heavy team by a significant margin, and Jackson hasn't hit even 240 passing yards in eight straight games. You pretty much need a touchdown for Brown to come through, and that could be much tougher to count on this week.
Start Gerald Everett (at Arizona): Gerald Everett has been held under 32% of the snaps in back-to-back weeks due to injury and sat out Wednesday's practice, putting him on shaky footing for this weekend. But we all know what a goldmine Arizona has been for tight ends, allowing far and away the most fantasy points to the position. The Cardinals have allowed 12 touchdowns to tight ends and no other team has allowed more than eight. Despite the injury concerns, Everett is worth holding onto in case he can get healthy in time for Sunday. If not, backup tight end Tyler Higbee has logged at least 70% of the snaps in both weeks Everett has been hobbled, and he saw six targets in Week 12.
Start Jack Doyle (vs. Tennessee): Eric Ebron is out for the season, potentially freeing up Jack Doyle for a much bigger passing game role the rest of the way. Ebron's loss vacates 4.7 targets per game, and we've seen Doyle be a weekly fantasy contributor before, most notably in 2017 when he averaged 7.2 targets over 15 games. Tennessee just so happens to be a solid matchup, too, ranking near the bottom of the league in Target Success Rate allowed to tight ends. Doyle is top-10 at the position in numberFire's projections.