Start 'Em or Sit 'Em - Week 7
By Joel Dehls
Sometimes you go 9/12 in your starts of the week, other times you go 3/12 (check out my Twitter and you’ll know what I’m talking about). Either way, the right process is more important than the results. There will be weeks that all of the research tells you start Alexander Mattison, and then the Vikings go down 20-0 at halftime and everything is thrown out the window. If you want a more detailed breakdown of my favorite starts, feel free to check out my YouTube channel. With that being said, here are my starts, sleepers, and sits for week 7.
Start - Matt Stafford @ Atlanta Falcons
In last week's column, Matt Stafford was my “sleeper” versus the Jacksonville Jaguars. While Stafford was a bust last week, it was due to a weird touchdown distribution. In week 6, the Lions matched their season total of 3 rushing touchdowns in one game. This capped Staffords upside, leading to only 223 yards and 1 touchdown. This week versus Atlanta, I expect a more efficient passing attack for the Lions.
The Falcons defense has been atrocious against the pass, giving up the 2nd most yards per game (335), only trailing the Seattle Seahawks. Additionally, their scoring defense is bottom 5 in the league. Their defense is surprisingly stout against the run, giving up less than 100 yards per game, which will force the Lions to pass. The Falcons are the easiest matchup for opposing quarterbacks, giving up nearly 30 points per game to the position. Along with a terrible defense, Vegas expects this to be a shootout. The over/under is set at 55, the second highest on the week. I expect a top 12 performance from Matt Stafford.
Sleeper - Big Ben @ Tennessee Titans
I was not interested in Ben Roethlisberger this year and while that has mostly proven to be the right move, you can't deny how efficient he has been. He currently has a 6.7% touchdown percentage, which is top 8 in the NFL. The Steelers have beaten up on pretty lousy teams this year (Giants, Broncos, Eagles etc.) so these next two weeks against the Titans and Ravens will be crucial for playoff seeding and overall team confidence. While Ben had an underwhelming week 6 performance, this was due to game script as the Steelers were winning 24-7 by halftime.
Before his game against the Browns, Big Ben threw for 1,016 yards and 10 TD’s, averaging 20.5 points per game, which was 13th best among QB’s. I expect that Ben to return this week against the Titans. The Titans defense has been extremely disappointing this year, giving up the 2nd most yards and points per game. The Titans also give up 22 points/game to the quarterback position, which is bottom 7 in the NFL. Here are the last 4 quarterback performances against the Titans (Yards/TD’s):
- Week 6: Deshaun Watson 335/4
- Week 5: Josh Allen 263/3
- Week 3: Kirk Cousins 251/3
- Week 2: Gardner Minshew 339/3
I expect Ben Roethisberger to have at least 250 yards and 2 touchdowns!
Sit - Jared Goff vs Chicago Bears
6 weeks into the season and I don't know what to make of the Rams or Jared Goff. The first 3 weeks, the Rams looked like one of the best teams in football. The following 3 weeks were not as convincing. They had a sloppy victory against the then winless Giants and a loss to a 49ers team that was on its last life. Goff has been just as inconstient, with 3 weeks under 15 fantasy points, and 3 weeks over 23 fantasy points.
While I believe Goff is startable in the right matchup, this week, against the Bears, he is better off on your bench. The Bears defense has been great all year, especially against the pass. They have only let up 4 passing touchdowns, best in the NFL, and 3 less than the next best team. They have also given up only 12.5 points/game to fantasy quarterbacks, also best in the NFL. While I’m skeptical of the Bears as a whole due to their competition, I cannot deny how good their defense has been. A tough defense combined with a low over/under of 45 points, I’m looking elsewhere at the quarterback position.
Start - Ronald Jones @ Las Vegas Raiders
For anyone who closely follows the NFL and fantasy football knows that Ronald Jones is a must start every week. For those of you who do not follow as closely, throw all the notions you had about Jones out the window because he is a different back this year. Before the 2020 season, Ronald Jones had 1 game over 100 rushing yards. In the last three weeks, Jones has eclipsed the 100 yard mark in all 3 contests. Over the past 3 weeks, he has 55 fantasy points, which ranks 4th amongst RB’s. During this span, Jones has also seen an increase in targets, averaging about 5 per game.
It seems that I’m picking against the Raiders defense every week, but they haven't shown much to make me think otherwise. They have given up the 2nd most rushing TD’s, 8th most yards/attempt, and have a bottom 7 scoring defense. In total, they are the 3rd easiest matchup for fantasy RB’s, as they are 1 of 3 teams to give up more than 30 points/game to the position. Even with Leonard Fournette back in the fold, Ronald Jones is a top 10 play this week.
Sleeper - Justin Jackson vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
I’m diving back into the wishing well of backup running backs. Last week, I had Alexander Mattison as my start of the week. While the process was right, the game script was not in Mattison’s favor. The Vikings were down 20 by halftime, leading to only 10 rushing attempts for Mattison. This week I believe Justin Jackson will pick up the slack in the Chargers backfield. In week 5 against a top 6 rush defense in the Saints, Jackson rushed for 71 yards and had 5 receptions for 23 yards. He also out snapped Josh Kelley 42 to 25. I expect Jackson to see a majority of the 3rd down passing work and 2-min drills where Herbert loves to target running backs. From weeks 2-5 with Herbert as QB, Chargers RB’s have seen a total of 24 targets, giving Jackson a safe floor if the game becomes competitive.
While Justin Jackson is a formidable backup RB, it's the matchup that is bringing me in. The Jags are terrible against the run. Through 5 games, they give up an average of 144 yards and 1.3 TD’s/game to RB’s. The Jags are the 5th easiest matchup for RB’s and they just allowed 180 yards and 3 TD’s to the Lions backfield. I like Justin Jackson as a top 24 play this week.
Sit - Le’Veon Bell @ Denver Broncos
When Le’Veon signed with the Chiefs, I was a firm believer that he would be second fiddle to CEH. This past Monday, Andy Reid confirmed my beliefs. Reid said Bell has been added to, “take just some of the reps but not become [the] starter”. Reid went on to say he doesn't want Bell to, “take the plays of my little guy”. While we will have to see it on the field first, it's a safe bet that CEH will still be the workhorse for this week. Reid has come out and said that he isn't sure if Bell will even be active since he has not had much time to practice and learn the playbook.
If Bell does play, I’m not buying into him this week. Other than this being his first week in a new offense, he draws a tough matchup against Denver. The Broncos have only let up 3 TD’s on the ground and 110 yards/game. There is also a 70% chance for snow in Denver on Sunday, making me pivot away from most players in this matchup. While I have no concerns about starting CEH, Bell is a low-end RB3.
Start - Terry McLaurin vs. Dallas Cowboys
McLaurin was one of my “sits” last week. I thought between bad quarterback play and an elite CB in James Bradberry, he would have a tough week. Well, I was wrong. In this matchup against the Cowboys though, I’m all in on McLaurin. He is seeing an average of 10 targets per game, good for a 26.6% target share, 3rd highest among all WR’s. He is currently WR19 on the year, which could easily be higher if he had more than 1 TD on the season. In 5/6 weeks, McLaurin has at least 4 catches and 60 yards, if he is able to find the endzone consistently, we could be seeing a top 12 WR for the rest of the season.
The Cowboys scoring defense is the worst in the NFL, giving up 36 points/game, 4 points more than the 2nd worst team. Dallas is also the 3rd easiest matchup for opposing WR’s, as they give up nearly 40 points/game to receiving corps. Although the Cardinals receivers didn't do much, it was one of the weirdest games of the season. I can't remember the last time a team scored 38 points while only having 9 completions, that won't happen again. Before the Cardinals game, here is what Dallas gave up to opposing teams WR1 (Receptions/Yards/TD):
- Week 5: Darius Slayton 8/129/0
- Week 4: Odell Beckham Jr. 5/81/3
- Week 3: Metcalf & Lockett 13/210/4
McLaurin has shown his ability to have blow up games. In week 2 he went 7/125/1 and again in week 4 with a stat line of 10/118. Although Vegas is not projecting a lot of scoring with the over/under set at 47.5, I expect Washington to be able to move the ball with ease. Start Terry with top 10 upside.
Sleeper - Christian Kirk vs Seattle Seahawks
Kirk has proven to have big play ability. Just last week against the Cowboys, he had a touchdown for 80 yards. Kirk is also averaging 18.5 yards/reception, which is 7th highest in the NFL. Although Larry Fitzgerald is seeing about 7 more snaps/game, Kirk has only 5 less targets on the season.
I like Kirk as more of a DFS dart throw than a season long start, but this is a matchup where you want to start everybody on the Cardinals. Seattle’s passing defense has been terrible this year, giving up 370 yards/game, which is worst in the NFL. While Seattle has been a bend but don't break defense, I believe Kirk has a great opportunity to bring in another long TD reception. With a high over/under of 55 points, Kirk is in a primetime matchup to shine.
Sit - Michael Gallup @ Washington Football Team
Before the season, I thought Michael Gallup was a great value in drafts. But after the Dak injury and the emergence of CeeDee Lamb quicker than expected (at least quicker than I thought), Gallup is someone you are only starting in a great matchup. While he continues to see a high snap count, the most of any Cowboy WR, he has the 5th most targets on the team. Cooper and Lamb both saw 10 targets with Dalton last week, while Gallup only saw 6.
While Washington has been terrible on defense in past years, they have been lights out in 2020. They are the 2nd hardest matchup for opposing WR’s, giving up 22.3 points/game to the ENTIRE WR corps of opposing teams. They only let up 207 passing yards/game and are top 10 in sacks. With injuries to 4/5 starters on Dallas offensive line, I expect a tough game for everyone on the Cowboys.
Start - TJ Hockenson @ Atlanta Falcons
TJ Hockenson struggled as a rookie, but he is quietly putting together a great 2020 campaign. Hockenson has at least 50 yards or a touchdown in every game so far. He is the #2 option on the Lions offense, only behind Kenny Golladay. Through 6 weeks, he has seen 25 targets, the most on the team. While it has been difficult to project what will happen with Marvin Jones and the rushing attack on a weekly basis, Hockenson is the only other option not named Kenny Golladay you can start with confidence.
Atlanta has been bad across the board defensively, but especially against TE’s. They are the 2nd easiest matchup for the position, giving up 17.5 points/game. The only TE’s they have been able to contain in 2020 are Greg Olsen and Ian Thomas. Here are all the other TE’s stats (Receptions/Yards/TD):
- Week 6: Irv Smith & Kyle Rudolph 7/102/0
- Week 4: Robert Tonyan 6/83/3
- Week 3: Jimmy Graham 6/60/2
- Week 2: Hayden Hurst 5/72/1
This is a matchup where Hockenson has top 5 upside.
Sleeper - Jimmy Graham @ Rams
It feels right that in 2020 Jimmy Graham is relevant. With 4 TD’s through 6 weeks, Graham has shown his ability to be a red zone threat for the Bears offense. He has the second most targets on the team (36) only trailing Allen Robinson. While Graham is TD dependent, this matchup against the Rams is one that can be exploited.
With Jalen Ramsey shadowing Robinson, the Bears will be forced to look elsewhere to gain yards. While Robinson will still see his fair share of targets, Graham will be a more important part of the offensive gameplan. The Rams have been middle of the pack against the TE position, giving up an average of 11.5 points/game. They have let up a couple decent games against TE’s already (Receptions/Yards/TD):
Week 2: Zach Ertz & Dallas Goedert 9/72/0
Week 4: Evan Engram 6/35
Week 6: George Kittle 7/109/1
I expect Graham to have 4-5 receptions for 30-40 yards. But once the Bears enter the red zone, watch out for Foles to throw a couple fade routes Graham's way.
Sit- Tyler Higbee
After a historic 2019 season, I expected Higbee to be a top 10 TE in fantasy for 2020. While he is currently TE8 on the season in PPR leagues, it's time to start worrying. Outside of a 3 touchdown performance in week 2, Higbee does not have more than 3 catches in any game and has only surpassed the 50 yard mark once.
Gerald Everett has also made his presence felt. In week 5, Everett had 4 receptions for 90 yards, while Higbee had 2 receptions for 12 yards. Between an underwhelming start to the season, Everett’s reemergence, and a tough Bears defense, I am steering clear of Tyler Higbee.