Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 8
I went to my [adorable] niece's birthday party last weekend. It was princess themed, because she's a two-year-old who, apparently like every other two-year-old girl out there, is obsessed with the movie Frozen.
I learned every lyric to the song Let It Go on Saturday.
Because I'm a good uncle.
As painful as it was to listen to that song 435 times in one six-hour period, I think the lyrics actually have a pretty strong tie to fantasy football.
Don't let them in, don't let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know
This talks through your true feelings about Zac Stacy ever since you drafted him in Round 3, despite the fact that you're telling your league mates that "he's still good" and "has nothing to worry about it."
Well, now they know!
That's the very next line. You dropped Zac Stacy.
I don't care
What they're going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway!
It's time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I'm free!
Well, there is a right or wrong. And hopefully this start/sit column can help you realize that.
Start Carson Palmer - Palmer faces off against the 10th-best pass defense in the league according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, but don't let that ranking fool you - Philly's made the most of turnovers, capitalizing on defensive scores. In truth, fantasy quarterbacks perform quite well against them. Fantasy quarterbacks who aren't named Eli Manning, at least.
Outside of Eli, no starting quarterback against the Eagles has finished worse than 12th at the position in a given week. This is because of Philadelphia's up-tempo offense, which forces opposing teams to run more plays - teams are dropping back to pass about 42 times every time they face the Eagles. Since volume is key to fantasy success, quarterbacks perform well against the Eagles.
Sit Ben Roethlisberger - The Colts have the best pass defense in the NFL through Week 7. That's not a typo, and our own Brandon Gdula laid it all out yesterday. Indianapolis does work against the pass.
That's translated to the fantasy football stat sheet. Only one quarterback - Peyton Manning - has finished in the weekly top 10 at the position versus Indy. Roethlisberger's been a fringe play each week, but he's a definite sit in Week 8.
Start Teddy Bridgewater - After totaling fewer than 10 fantasy points over the last two weeks combined, I'm recommending rookie Teddy Bridgewater as a deeper play in Week 8. Why? The matchup is beautiful.
Tampa Bay's secondary is atrocious. Per NEP, the difference in efficiency between the Bucs (32nd against the pass) and the Saints (31st) is the same difference between the Saints and the 21st-ranked Jets.
We watched Joe Flacco tear Tampa Bay apart the last time the Bucs took the field, and there's reason to believe Bridgewater can get things going again after facing two tough defenses in a row.
Sit Andy Dalton - Dalton hasn't been great this year regardless of matchup, ranking 21st in fantasy points scored among all quarterbacks. In terms of Passing NEP, Dalton comes in at 22. Even if AJ Green plays this week, you won't want to throw Dalton in your lineup against a Baltimore defense that's allowed the seventh-fewest points to signal-callers this season. Especially considering the many streaming options in Week 8.
Start Joique Bell - Reggie Bush may play in the early Sunday morning game against Atlanta, but because of his nagging ankle injury, Bell looks to get the bulk of the touches in the Lions' backfield this week.
That's great news for fantasy owners. Though Bell hasn't been effective at all this season (-0.09 Rushing NEP per rush), volume against Atlanta means fantasy points. So far this season, seven running backs have attempted 15 or more carries against the Falcons. Only Justin Forsett ended with fewer than 10 PPR fantasy points, while three of the high-volume players scored 20 or more.
Sit Buffalo Bills Running Backs - With the injuries to the Bills' backfield, you may want to get cute and start either Bryce Brown or Anthony Dixon. One of the two may end up being fine plays, but given what we know now, it's not a smart idea.
Not only do we not know how the backfield will be split - and it very well could be a 50-50 timeshare - but the Jets can stop the run pretty well, ranking in the top half of the league in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP. Stay away from this situation this week.
Start Mark Ingram - Ingram's comeback featured 10 carries for a rather disgusting 16 yards, but it was against one of the best rush defenses in the league in Detroit. This week, the Saints and Ingram will face off against the Packers, who rank second-to-last at stopping the run according to our metrics.
Pierre Thomas is out, too. Though Ingram has historically been awful through the air, he's turned things around a bit this season, and caught a pair of passes in last week's game. If Ingram can end up catching a few passes against the Packers defense to go along with what should easily be 12-plus carries, he's a great start.
The Bills are one of two teams that have yet to allow a running back touchdown. While Atlanta has surrendered 12, Buffalo and Kansas City have given up zero.
The Bills are also a top-five team against the run, per our NEP metrics. It'll be tough for Ivory to make things happen, and without the touchdown upside, he should find himself on your bench.
Start Justin Forsett - Forsett was a mild disappointment last week against Atlanta given he saw 23 carries. The Ravens opted to use Bernard Pierce at the goal line, taking away points from Forsett's fantasy owners, too.
But the Ravens get the Bengals and Cincinnati's 32nd-ranked rush defense this week. You're not reading that incorrectly - the Bengals are about as good at stopping the run as Rebecca Black is at singing songs. Forsett, the most effective runner in football this year, should continue to get touches, and that could mean big things given his opponent.
Start DeAndre Hopkins - The Titans rank 20th against the pass according to our metrics, and 19th in terms of fantasy points against. And in full-point PPR leagues, the Titans have already watched 11 different wide receivers score double-digit points on them.
Hopkins has been strong this year, proving that he was the player who was going to have a big second-year breakout, despite his team's poor quarterback play. He's either scored a touchdown or hit the 100-yard mark in five of his seven contests this year, so regardless of matchup, he's always close to starter status in standard-sized leagues. This week, he should do some work.
Sit Keenan Allen - It seems like anytime I say to sit a player on Thursday night, that player ends up posting respectable numbers. So know that going into tonight's game.
But here are the facts. Denver's pass defense is a middle-of-the-road one, while their rush defense is top-notch. But even though matchups dictate a pass-happy approach, wide receivers aren't benefiting. The Broncos have yet to allow a top-10 wide receiver performance in PPR leagues this year, and have only seen Reggie Wayne and Stevie Johnson break the top 20. Allen's had little standalone value to begin with, and I wouldn't trust him against Denver in Week 8.
Start Doug Baldwin - Was last week just a fluke for Baldwin? Perhaps a bit, but we shouldn't ignore his juicy matchup in Week 8.
Carolina's defense - secondary included - has been dreadful this year. After a season where the unit came out of nowhere, leading the team to the playoffs, Carolina's now ranked 26th in total defense per NEP and 24th against the pass.
They've given up huge games to wide receivers this year, too - of the top-16 performances by wideouts this year in PPR leagues, three of them came against Carolina. Baldwin gets his shot to do it big this week.
Sit Torrey Smith - Though Cincinnati's been poor against the run, they've been pretty strong against the pass this year. Two players have had top-10 performances against the Bengals in 2014, with one of them being Smith...of the Steve variety. Torrey's turned things around, but the matchup - Cincinnati's fourth against the pass in terms of NEP and sixth in fantasy points against - isn't a strong one.
Start Jarius Wright - As I mentioned with Bridgewater above, Tampa Bay's secondary has been awful this year. And just like it could help Teddy in Week 8, it could also help his out-of-nowhere favorite target, Jarius Wright.
In Bridgewater's three starts, Wright has caught 16 passes on 20 targets, no fewer than 4 in a single contest. That's more than both Cordarrelle Patterson and Greg Jennings. Meanwhile, Wright is owned in 0.7% of ESPN.com leagues, while the other two wideouts continue to see ownership close to 90%.
I'm taking Wright above both of them in the favorable matchup this week. I wouldn't start him over sure-fire wideouts, but he's definitely an under-the-radar player to watch.
Start Owen Daniels - As I said above, the Bengals have been strong against the pass, especially against wide receivers. But tight ends? No way, Jose.
No NFL team has defended tight ends worse than Cincinnati this year. In six games, six different tight ends have posted double-digit PPR performances. The only team they've faced that hasn't been able to exploit the porous area of the field has been Atlanta, who doesn't use their tight end a whole lot in the passing game.
The last time Cincinnati faced Baltimore, tight ends saw 20 targets on Joe Flacco's 62 attempts. Dennis Pitta (pour some out) saw 15 of them, but with his season-ending injury, Daniels becomes the man in Week 8.
Daniels has had low-end TE1 use since Pitta's injury, and should be owned in far more leagues. This week could be a huge one for him.
Sit Delanie Walker - With Zach Mettenberger under center, who knows how Tennessee targets will be distributed. But even if Walker continues to see his four-plus targets per game, the matchup doesn't look great statistically.
Houston has allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to tight ends this year, and not a single player at the position has been able to post 11 full-point PPR fantasy points. Walker's slowed down his pace over the last few weeks even with tight end-friendly matchups, making him a less desirable start than he was at the beginning of the season.
Start Jordan Reed - There will undoubtedly be some concerns surrounding Reed because of his quarterback situation this weekend, but I still think he's a good play regardless of who's under center. Dallas ranks 31st in terms of points against to the tight end position, while Reed now has 17 targets and 13 catches in his two games since returning from injury. He's got mid-TE1 appeal, while most may see him more on the lower end due to the quarterback situation.
Start the Miami Dolphins - We've yet to see a defense rank lower than ninth at the fantasy position when facing Jacksonville this season. Add in the fact that Miami is now ranked as the second-best unit in the league according to our metrics, and you've got yourself a perfect option.
Sit the Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals have been a solid enough weekly play according to cumulative fantasy points scored numbers, but that's mostly skewed by big performances against the Redskins and the Giants. The Eagles offense can put up points quickly, and should be able to exploit a week Arizona secondary. Even though they're at home, I'd rather play a streaming option this week.
Other Defenses to Start: Buffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys
Other Defenses to Sit: San Diego Chargers, Green Bay Packers