Fantasy Football Start or Sit: Week 8

Chris Johnson keeps seeing a lot of work in Arizona's backfield. And in Week 8, against the Browns, he could come up big for your fantasy teams.

The best six seconds of video on the Internet is, without a doubt, the Kirk Cousins "You like that!" vine.

Not just because his reaction to a comeback victory over the Buccaneers in Week 7 was pretty hilarious. It's so good because you can attribute it to so many areas in life.

Including fantasy football.

This column each week isn't about making obvious choices. I could tell you to start Le'Veon Bell or DeAndre Hopkins, but what good is that going to do? Do you really need me to let you know Odell Beckham is a good play?

No, this start-sit article isn't about that. It's about making the tougher decisions so that, come Tuesday morning, you can look at your opponent and say, "You like that!"

Quarterbacks to Sit

Derek Carr (at New York): Derek Carr has balled out this season. There's no denying that. Thus far, only eight quarterbacks have a higher Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) than Carr, while only seven are better on a per drop back basis. And in fantasy, three of Carr's six contests have resulted in top-eight performances.

The only other defense that Carr has faced that's comparable to what he'll see against the Jets this weekend was Denver back in Week 5. Carr finished with 9.86 fantasy points against the Broncos, which isn't uncommon against the best pass defense in the NFL (more on that in a second), but it shows us that he's not matchup proof. The Jets rank fifth against the pass according to our schedule-adjusted metrics and have allowed only Tom Brady to rank higher than 25th against them in weekly quarterback scoring. And while Carr's been good, he hasn't been Brady good.

Aaron Rodgers (at Denver): Look, before you start questioning my sanity, know that a "benching Rodgers" recommendation is really for smaller leagues of 10 teams or fewer. (Yes, fantasy football snob, those leagues exist.)

The fact is, as I mentioned above, Denver's been pretty unstoppable in the secondary this year. We know the talent is there, but they've converted that to performance, ranking first in schedule-adjusted Defensive Passing NEP while allowing the fewest fantasy points to the position. Denver's pass defense has been so good, in fact, that no player has ranked better than 18th against them in weekly scoring, while four of the six quarterback opponents have failed to score double-digit points.

Rodgers has been great but not his usual fantastic self this season thanks to a depleted wide receiving group. He ranks sixth in Passing NEP but has ranked outside the top 10 in weekly quarterback scoring in each of his last three games. It's not as though he has this massive ceiling each week, so if you have a better alternative (maybe some of the guys ranked ahead of him in our weekly projections), feel free to bench Rodgers.

Other quarterbacks to sit: Colin Kaepernick (at St. Louis), Josh McCown (vs. Arizona)

Start These Quarterbacks Instead

Ryan Fitzpatrick (at Oakland): If I had to choose between Fitzpatrick and the aforementioned Rodgers, I'd choose Rodgers, but it's a lot closer than most think. Over the last two weeks, Ryan Fitzpatrick has scored over 45 fantasy points, and he's got a date with the Raiders' 31st-ranked secondary this weekend. Oakland's decent when looking at things with a fantasy points against lens, but Peyton Manning kind of screwed that up -- every non-Manning passer against the Raiders has finished as a usable, top-12 quarterback. Fitzpatrick's been a waiver wire treat for fantasy owners, and that should continue in Week 8.

Eli Manning (at New Orleans): It's been a rough couple of weeks for Eli and the Giants' passing game. After a couple of top-10 performances, Manning has combined to score roughly 15 fantasy points over his last two contests, both middle-of-the-road matchups.

This week should change everything. The Saints' are surrendering the second most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, while ranking 27th against the pass according to NEP. Every passer against them has thrown at least one touchdown pass, including Brandon Weeden, who doesn't even have the starting job anymore. All signs point to Manning bouncing back in a big way this week.

Other quarterbacks to start: Philip Rivers (at Baltimore), Alex Smith (deep play, vs. Detroit)

Running Backs to Sit

Darren McFadden (vs. Seattle): McFadden has been by far the best Cowboys' running back this season, though his Net Expected Points numbers are a little skewed from his big Week 7 performance against the Giants. Long-term, he's a great add off the waiver wire or guy to have as a bye week fill-in, but this week should be tough. The Seahawks have allowed the fewest points to running backs this year, with only three backs scoring more than 13 PPR fantasy points. Only the Jets, per NEP, have a better schedule-adjusted run-stuffing unit. So even if McFadden sees the bulk of the work, he may not find much room to run. If you start him, you're hoping he catches five or six passes, which is possible.

Alfred Blue (vs. Tennessee): Blue was predictably a big waiver wire add this week with Arian Foster's injury, but don't be so quick to throw him in your starting lineup. On a per rush basis last season, only four running backs were less efficient than Blue. This year has been better, yes, but Chris Polk has been just as effective -- he just hasn't had as many opportunities to score fantasy points.

Don't forget that Arian Foster missed time to start the year, and Blue could only muster up one performance where he ranked higher than 47th in PPR running back scoring. And the only reason he was relevant in that sole contest is because he saw 31 carries.

We really shouldn't predict another high-volume game in an offense that's throwing the ball more than any other team in the league. 

Carlos Hyde (at St. Louis): Since Carlos Hyde's big Week 1 breakout, he's had just one top-24, RB2 or better performance in PPR leagues. Four of his seven contests this season have resulted in single-digit outputs, and while some of the competition has been tough, that's exactly what he'll face this weekend: tough competition. The Rams have the sixth-best rush defense according to our schedule-adjusted numbers, and with a potentially negative game script, Hyde could be in trouble.

Other running backs to sit: Melvin Gordon (at Baltimore), Ameer Abdullah (at Kansas City)

Start These Running Backs Instead

Chris Johnson (at Cleveland): Chris Johnson isn't just putting up numbers through volume. On the year, he's been the fourth best 50-plus attempt running back in terms of Rushing NEP. His 41.1% Success Rate -- the percentage of positive runs made in relation to NEP -- is pretty average, but it's still better than what he's seen throughout his career.

The volume combined with strong efficiency makes Johnson a good play each week, but Week 8 is a perfect opportunity for him. The Browns ranked dead last against the run according to our numbers, and no team has surrendered more points to the position than Cleveland. In fact, every team that's faced the Browns has had at least one running back finish in the top-13 in weekly running back scoring. It all makes CJRevivedK a great play this week.

Frank Gore (at Carolina): A quick glance at the matchup for Gore may turn fantasy owners off, but the Carolina secondary is really what's been impressive this year, not their rush defense. The Panthers are actually second worst when it comes to giving up fantasy points to running backs, and our schedule-adjusted metrics peg them as fifth worst in the league. This is largely due to injury, but it's still a thing, making Gore a thing. 

Duke Johnson (vs. Arizona): Johnson's been in this column quite a bit this season, but it's because, in PPR formats, he seems undervalued. Over the last five weeks, only Theo Riddick has seen more targets out of the backfield then Cleveland's rookie, and over this time, Johnson's yet to rank outside of the top 30 in weekly running back PPR scoring. The script against Arizona will most likely be negative for Cleveland, meaning there should be a good number of passes thrown. Arizona, too, ranks fifth worst in the league in running back receptions allowed, surrendering over 6.5 per game. If you've got Johnson in a PPR league, he's a sneaky play this week.

Other running backs to start: Todd Gurley (vs. San Francisco), Charles Sims (at Atlanta)

Wide Receivers to Sit

James Jones (at Denver): Among the 59 wide receivers with 50 or more PPR points scored this season, James Jones has the highest percentage of points scored from touchdown receptions (36.22%). In Week 8, as I mentioned above, Green Bay will face the top-ranked Broncos' secondary, one that's allowed just one wide receiver touchdown in six games played this year. I'd find a way to bench Jones if I could.

T.Y. Hilton (at Carolina): I totally understand that you may not be able to bench T.Y. Hilton, but it's really tough to get behind him this week. The Panthers have the second-best schedule-adjusted pass defense in the NFL according to our numbers and have held top wideouts in check. That includes DeAndre Hopkins, fantasy football's top receiver, who caught just 5 passes on 11 targets for 53 yards. Oh, and Allen Robinson, who's been a top wide receiver asset this year, caught just one pass against Carolina. The Josh Norman effect is real, and it could impact Hilton in Week 8.

Willie Snead (vs. New York): Saints' receivers are annoying. Or, at least, the way Sean Payton uses his receivers is. Despite being the most efficient wideout on the team, Snead has reached the 80% snap percentage mark once this year, while hovering the 60% to 70% range most weeks. For reference, a wide receiver seeing just 70% of his team's snaps in Week 7 would have ranked him 53rd in the NFL.

Snead's overall volume is OK, but he hasn't come close to his 141-yard game from three weeks ago, totaling just 80 yards over the last two weeks on 12 targets. The Giants are a middle-of-the-road team in fantasy against wide receivers, but with Snead's low ceiling, I'd look elsewhere.

Other wide receivers to sit: Torrey Smith (at St. Louis)

Start These Wide Receivers Instead

Nate Washington (vs. Tennessee): Fantasy owners may see last week as a flukey performance, but really, that number-two wide receiver spot in the Texans' offense has been averaging roughly nine targets per contest this season thanks to Houston's enormous passing volume. With Cecil Shorts banged up -- a wide receiver who could steal looks from Washington despite being far less efficient according to NEP -- Washington should be in a good spot for opportunity again against his old team in a decent matchup.

Golden Tate (vs. Kansas City): Speaking of matchups, no team in football has surrendered more fantasy points to wide receivers than Kansas City. And it's not just top receivers doing work -- the aforementioned Washington posted a WR14 PPR performance on KC, Emmanuel Sanders was WR5 in Week 2, James Jones was WR9 in Week 3, and Stefon Diggs was WR15 last week.

Tate has had an ugly, ugly ceiling this year, ranking no higher than 25th in a given week in PPR formats. And that ranking only came because he saw an unprecedented 18 targets. But this week could finally be the one where he puts up big numbers.

Marvin Jones (at Pittsburgh): The Steelers secondary is average according to our numbers, but from a personnel standpoint, it's not all that talented. It doesn't help that William Gay and Will Allen are banged up, either. This presents an opportunity for Jones, who's seen 20 targets over the Bengals' last two games. The Steelers haven't been awesome against number-two wideouts, either, which should help Jones' cause.

Other wide receivers to start: John Brown (at Cleveland), Stefon Diggs (at Chicago)

Tight Ends to Sit

Eric Ebron (vs. Kansas City): Among the games Eric Ebron has finished this year, he's yet to finish with a worse weekly ranking of 12th in PPR leagues at tight end. That's pretty remarkable for such a volatile position. However, as I said above with Golden Tate, this Chiefs' secondary gets torched on the outside. As a result, tight ends haven't been very productive -- only Tyler Eifert has ranked higher than 18th in weekly scoring against the Chiefs.

Other tight ends to sit: Kyle Rudolph (at Chicago), Coby Fleener (at Carolina)

Start These Tight Ends Instead

Benjamin Watson (vs. New York): Every tight end outside of Zach Ertz has found fantasy football success against the Giants defense, including not-so-great options like Garrett Celek (TE8 in Week 5) and Jacob Tamme (TE12 in Week 2). Watson now has 5, 12 and 5 targets over his last three games, respectively, meaning he should have enough opportunity against New York to do some damage. 

Austin Seferian-Jenkins (at Atlanta): We haven't seen ASJ on the field since Week 2, but he practiced on Wednesday, meaning there's a possibility he returns in Week 8. That's perfect timing, as Vincent Jackson is sidelined with a knee injury that will keep him out of their weekend contest against Atlanta. That means, as long as Seferian-Jenkins plays, he should have a decent role in the offense. Getting volume from a waiver wire tight end is no easy task -- take advantage of it.

Other tight ends to start: Tyler Eifert (at Pittsburgh), Jason Witten (vs. Seattle)

Defenses to Sit

New York Jets (at Oakland): Though we shouldn't be overly high on the Raiders' offense this week, we do have to recognize the fact that they haven't been a good target for fantasy defenses this year. The only defensive unit to put up top 10 numbers on Oakland has been Denver, the best defense in the league according to numberFire metrics. It's because Derek Carr has taken good care of the football, and the offensive line has allowed one or zero sacks in half of their games played. The game is also on the road, which is something you'd ideally avoid for fantasy defenses. 

Other defenses to sit: Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. Cincinnati), Miami Dolphins (at New England)

Start These Defenses Instead

Atlanta Falcons (vs. Tampa Bay): There was a great statistic in Denny Carter's weekly "Dreaming of Streaming" article, where he noted that the Buccaneers have allowed 1.8 turnovers per game, while Atlanta is forcing 2.7 turnovers at home. That's precisely what you want to look for in a defensive streaming option -- a team that's at home, can force turnovers and is facing an opponent that turns the ball over. Give Atlanta the nod in Week 8.

Other defenses to start: St. Louis Rams (vs. San Francisco), Kansas City Chiefs (vs. Detroit)