Welcome to your weekly start or sit column. Before we proceed, let me tell you that this article is NOT here to state the obvious. I will not ever recommend you start Adrian Peterson, Drew Brees, Calvin Johnson or Jimmy Graham. The fact is you should like your fantasy football live under the following mantra: START YOUR STUDS!! If you need me to tell you to start your studs, you need a lot more help than this column will provide.
There may be some rare occasions where I might possibly suggest you sit a top-level player simply based on the match up. I’ve done similar things in the past for WR’s scheduled to be on Revis Island. That all being said, if you don’t see your player named on the start list, that doesn’t mean it’s a suggestion you sit him. If you don’t see your player named on the sit list, that doesn’t mean you should start him. For any lineup questions you should visit the FFLockerroom forums and one of our staff of experts will address your specific question. With all that out of the way, let’s get to it.
Andy Dalton (at BAL) – Dalton is not one of the names usually bandied about when discussing the top fantasy quarterbacks but he’s currently 4th in the NFL in yards passing. His “battery mate” A.J. Green is #1 in the league in receiving yards. This week he gets a Ravens defense that was just beaten badly by Jason Campbell of all people. The Ravens have surrendered 14 touchdowns through the air versus only 1 on the ground. That ratio bodes well for Dalton’s chances of putting up a big score. Dalton struggled mightily against Baltimore last season but this is a different Ravens defense.
Russell Wilson (at ATL) – I haven’t been a big supporter of Wilson over the weeks. I think he’s a much better real quarterback than fantasy provider. That being said, this week I’m on him. Every quarterback has scored at least two touchdowns against the Falcons this year. Not only that, the Falcons have had difficulty with mobile quarterbacks as Cam Newton and Geno Smith have done well on the ground too. Atlanta is in shambles and Wilson will take advantage of them this week.
Terrelle Pryor (at NYG) – I will preface this by saying make sure Pryor’s knee is ok before plugging him in but I really like him this week. The Giants have allowed five quarterbacks to top 20 points against them this year. Don’t be fooled by their success the last two weeks. Anyone can stop Josh Freeman and Matt Barkley. Pryor will lead this offense, especially without Darren McFadden.
Eli Manning (vs. OAK) – You just witnessed what Nick Foles did to this Raiders defense so of course I’m going to recommend Eli. The Raiders simply have no one who can cover either Victor Cruz or Hakeem Nicks. I don’t think Eli throws 7 touchdowns but I’m pretty sure he gets at least two and I wouldn’t be surprised to see four.
Colin Kaepernick (v. CAR) – Even at home and coming off a bye I’m leery of Kaepernick this week. He’s facing a Carolina defense that ranks #1 in points allowed to opposing quarterbacks. The Panthers have given up only 7 passing touchdowns all season. They have 12 interceptions and a grand total of zero quarterbacks have had multiple touchdowns against them. Sure, it’s a trend that will eventually break but I’m not willing to be the first to bet on it.
Case Keenum (at ARI) – Watching Keenum light up the Colts in the first half last week was certainly exciting. Watching him do nothing in the second half was concerning. This week he gets to travel to Arizona and face a very underrated Cardinals defense. The Cards have shut down the likes of Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick this year and have only allowed one 20+ performance since Week 3. With Patrick Petersen shadowing Andre Johnson, Keenum is going to have to find someone else to shine. Tough match up and while I like DeAndre Hopkins, I don’t like him enough to carry Keenum into my starting lineup.
Matt Ryan (vs. Seattle) – In his last two games Ryan has thrown two touchdowns and been picked off seven times. Seattle has only allowed 8 touchdowns while picking off 13 passes thus far this season. Ryan may get Roddy White back but with a bum ankle and facing Richard Sherman or Brandon Browner, I’m not expecting big things from him. Sure, Ryan does better at home but not with this offense and not against this defense.
Chris Johnson (vs. JAX) – Maybe this belongs in the no-brainer department but it’s not like Johnson has been a fantasy provider over the past few seasons. This week he gets a Jacksonville defense that gives up 161.8 yards per game on the ground. The Titans offensive line has finally started to gel and I think Johnson goes over 100 once again with at least one score.
Reggie Bush (at CHI) – The Bears are a mess and I don’t think the return of Jay Cutler is going to help their defense. Chicago gives up 127.5 yards per game on the ground and has given up 10 rushing touchdowns. Bush is so dynamic both in the running game as well as the passing game that you just know the Lions will make sure they use him often in this very important divisional match up. I’d like him more on the fast track in Detroit but I’m still starting him with confidence in Chicago.
Pierre Thomas (vs. DAL) – With Mark Ingram’s fade to oblivion Thomas is the lead runner in New Orleans. What’s even more surprising is the fact he has more receptions than Darren Sproles. The Cowboys struggle with dynamic runners as seven running backs have caught at least five passes against them this year. With Sproles nursing a concussion Thomas is in line for a huge workload this weekend. He’ll come through.
Zac Stacy (at IND) – Stacy has become my favorite young runner to watch. At this point he seems immune to any match up issues as he has now victimized Seattle, Carolina and Tennessee. This week he gets a Colts defense that allowed Ryan Mathews to run for more than 100 yards!! Since becoming a starter Stacy is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and has even become active in the passing game. He should do well once again this week.
Giovani Bernard (at BAL) – For some reason the Bengals still feel the need to give the ball to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Add to the fact that the Ravens have allowed only one touchdown to a running back all season and you can understand this recommendation. I like my starting running backs to get lots of touches as opportunity is the key to success. Bernard will be active in the passing game but without the carries, you’re praying for the screen pass touchdown. That’s a shaky position to be in.
Rashad Jennings (vs. NYG) – It’s tempting to start Jennings this week fresh off his 170+ yard performance last week. Avoid the temptation. In the past two weeks the Giants have stymied Adrian Peterson and LeSean McCoy, holding them to under 3 yards per carry. Now Jennings shouldn’t and won’t draw the same defensive attention as the prior two, but its evidence of the impact Jon Beason has had on this defense. Left for dead, Beason has resurrected his career in New York and therefore presents a tough match up for Jennings.
Ben Tate (at ARI) – Usually, when Tate is given an opportunity, he succeeds. This week he’s facing a Cardinals defense that gives up only 88.3 yards per game on the ground. In addition, they’ve given up only 3 rushing touchdowns all season. Tate is playing through 4 broken ribs and admitted it hurts to even breathe. I don’t know about you but I need oxygen to survive, especially if 300 pound linemen are trying to squash me.
DeAngelo Williams (at SF) – Williams has a tough match up with a 49ers defense ranked 12th in the league. What muddies the waters more is the return of Jonathan Stewart. Last week Williams only received 13 carries and that’s a trend that’s likely to continue. In a shared backfield situation, you’re usually going to want the one who scores the touchdowns. Even without Stewart Williams has only one touchdown this season. Avoid Williams going forward.
Golden Tate (at ATL) – The Falcons have allowed 17 touchdowns through the air this year. Coming off a bad week I expect Tate to have a very strong bounce back performance. Wilson is entirely too athletic for this Falcons defense. Since I predicted good things from Wilson, I have to like his #1 target. So should you.
Hakeem Nicks (vs. OAK) – I love Victor Cruz this week and I’ve been down on Nicks most of the season but this week you have to plug him in. Over the past four weeks Nicks is averaging over 10 targets per game so clearly he still has the confidence of his quarterback. The Raiders are fresh off allowing seven touchdown passes and things won’t get any easier for them this week. Nicks is still seeking his first score of the season and odds are he gets it on Sunday.
Antonio Brown (vs. BUF) – What team has allowed the most touchdowns through the air this year? The answer is the Buffalo Bills. In eight games the Bills have allowed 20 touchdowns and you just know the Steelers are very much aware of this fact. Brown is Ben Roethlisberger’s #1 target and is leading the team with 61 catches for 701 yards and 3 touchdowns. I like all the Steelers wide receivers this week but of course favor Big Ben’s favorite target.
Alshon Jeffery (vs. DET) – Jeffery gets to face a familiar foe this week. In Week 4 he had 5 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown against the Lions. Jay Cutler appears poised to return this week and while McCown has done well, Cutler’s return is definitely an upgrade for the Bears offense. Detroit gives up 273 yards per game through the air which is 26th in the NFL. The Bears will bounce back this week and score points against this Lions defense.
Cecil Shorts (at TEN) – With Justin Blackmon done for the year Shorts steps up into the #1 role for the Jaguars. This week he faces a Titans defense that gives up only 218 yards per game through the air. What’s more, they’ve only surrendered 7 passing touchdowns and only 2 of those went to a wide receiver. Shorts is still a must start in PPR formats as he’s a target machine but in standard leagues I wouldn’t expect a big yardage total or a score.
Mike Wallace (at TB) – For weeks I would tell you to sit a receiver against the Bucs and week after week I was wrong. Apparently I was the only one mystified why you’d pay millions for a shutdown corner and then make him play zone. Well, the days of zone are over and Revis Island is back. In the last two weeks Revis has held #1 receivers to a combined 7 catches for 71 yards. Ouch. Wallace hasn’t been a strong option for most of this year and he’s a particularly weak one this time around.
Steve Smith (at SF) – I think we’ve seen the last of Steve Smith #1 receiver. Thus far this season Smith has a grand total of 387 yards receiving. That’s only 35 more yards than Brandon LaFell. Traveling across country to play a 49ers team that only gives up 221 yards per game through the air I don’t like Smith to buck his season long trend. The 49ers have almost as many interceptions (9) as touchdowns allowed (10).
Steve Johnson (at PIT) – The bad news is the Steelers only allow 210 yards per game through the air with 9 touchdowns. The good news is E.J. Manuel appears poised to return to the starting lineup and Ike Taylor is going through the NFL concussion protocol this week. Without Taylor, I’m a bit more optimistic on Johnson but if Taylor plays, I’d certainly avoid Johnson if at all possible. Make sure you’re checking the injury reports on Taylor if you’re going to rely on Johnson.
Timothy Wright (vs. MIA) – Wright is coming off back-to-back games with a score and this week he runs into a Miami team that has given up 6 touchdowns to opposing tight ends. That’s a terrific combo to look for in a starter. With Mike Williams done for the year Wright is stepping into that #2 option role for Mike Glennon and he’s exceeding expectations. Ride the wave.
Antonio Gates (vs. DEN) – This game purports to be a shootout so Keenan Allen and Gates better be ready. Philip Rivers threw for four touchdowns in two meetings with Denver last year and with Peyton Manning lighting up scoreboards, the pressure will be on Rivers to keep up. That means a whole lot of targets for Gates. It’s possible this is a 100 yard day for Gates.
Greg Olsen (at SF) – Olsen has been one of Cam Newton’s favorite targets this year but this week he faces a 49ers team that hasn’t allowed a tight end to exceed 60 yards in any games yet this season. Tight ends have a total of 33 catches and 2 touchdowns when facing the 49ers so the trend says this isn’t a week that Olsen will shine. If you have another option, go that route.
Tyler Eifert (at BAL) – The Ravens have been tough on tight ends this year. Only two tight ends have scored double digit fantasy points. Big things were expected this year from Eifert and he hasn’t produced as expected. Against a Miami team vulnerable to tight ends, Eifert only managed 3 catches for 14 yards last week. Based on that, I can’t possibly recommend you start him this week against a tougher foe.
Cardinals (vs. HOU) – There’s only 3 teams in the NFL with more takeaways than the Cardinals. While they are middle of the pack with 23 sacks, the Texans offensive line looked a bit vulnerable last week against the Colts. With Patrick Peterson on Andre Johnson and no Arian Foster, this could be a good week to ride the Cards at home.
Bills (at PIT) – This might seem surprising but the Bills are third in the NFL in sacks with 29. Ben Roethlisberger always seems to hold the ball a bit too long and against this defense, that could be a mistake. He’s been sacked 32 times this year which is tied for second in the league. The Bills have also picked off 12 passes this season while scoring 2 touchdowns and Roethlisberger has thrown 9 picks of his own. The Bills could be a sneaky play this week.
Dallas (at NO) – The Cowboys have actually been a solid defense this year but usually only at home. The Saints are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Jets and returning home will be just what the doctor ordered. Even if Demarcus Ware returns, I’m not at all high on the Cowboys this week. The Saints will march right through this defense this week and put up 30+ points.
Sorry folks, I just don’t do kickers. You’re on your own there.
See ya next week.