If your fantasy team is still alive, congratulations. In most leagues, one more win puts you in the championship game. Whether you’re playing for a trophy, cash, or pride alone, the glory is now close enough to taste.
Last week’s start/sits were a mixed bag. On one hand I correctly suggested starting players like Amari Cooper, Jared Cook and Aaron Jones. On the other hand, I told you to sit Spencer Ware, Alshon Jeffery and the Bears’ defense. I won’t be making that mistake again.
I make these suggestions based on each player’s weekly matchups, surrounding talent and in-game usage. While predicting the future is anything but easy, using these tools can help us make better choices when determining which players we start or sit from week to week.
Let me remind you that this list consists of players who aren’t obvious. I shouldn’t have to tell you to start the Todd Gurleys, Aaron Rodgers and Antonio Browns of the world. This article revolves around players who haven’t yet reached “stud” status, and thus require weekly consideration for your lineup.
For more help with your lineup check out The Wolf’s weekly rankings.
I’m giving Rivers another chance after he burned me last week. The 37-year-old logged his best fantasy performance of the year against the Chiefs in week one, throwing for 424 yards and three touchdowns. Kansas City leads the league in points per game (36.2) and has given up the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. The Chargers will rely heavily on Rivers in what’s shaping up to be a fantasy-friendly shootout.
Results: 313 Pass Yards, 2 Pass TDs, 2 INTs, 1 Two-Point Conversion
Big Ben is on pace to set career highs in both passing yards and passing touchdowns. He plays at home this week against a Patriots defense that has surrendered the 10th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Roethlisberger averages over 315 passing yards per game during his last three matchups with New England. The veteran may be asked to carry even more of the load should James Conner miss his second straight game.
Cook’s 18 touches Monday night were the most he’s tallied since week one. Consequently, he posted his best fantasy performance of the season. Finally healthy, Cook has reclaimed the feature ‘back role in Minnesota. This week the Vikings host a Dolphins defense that has allowed the third-most rushing yards per game (139.5) and the eighth-most fantasy points (PPR) to opposing backfields.
The waiver wire addition of the year, Lindsay is currently fourth in the NFL in rushing. The undrafted rookie has scored eight touchdowns in his last seven games and played a season-high 65% of the offensive snaps last week. This Saturday Lindsay plays a Browns defense that has given up the second-most rushing touchdowns (17) and fifth-most rushing yards per game (133.3).
If Melvin Gordon is able to play, Jackson should obviously be relegated to your bench. In the scenario that Gordon doesn’t suit up, Jackson’s outlook shines bright. With Austin Ekeler out, Jackson would have the backfield work all to himself. The rookie has averaged 5.1 yards per carry on his 27 attempts this season and is facing a Chiefs defense that has allowed the second-most yards per carry (5.0). Only the Bengals have surrendered more fantasy points (PPR) to opposing running backs.
Results: 85 Yards From Scrimmage, 3 REC, 1 TD
After disappearing midway through the season, Landry has been featured the past two games, seeing thirteen targets and two carries. He made the most of those opportunities by racking up 214 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. Landry has a chance to continue his hot streak against a Broncos defense that has surrendered the seventh-most passing yards per game (264.2). Undrafted rookie Nick Mullens put up 332 yards and two TD’s on Denver last week in their first game without All-Pro corner Chris Harris Jr.
Experiencing a breakout season, Lockett leads the Seahawks in nearly every receiving category. His nine receiving touchdowns are the sixth-most league-wide. Lockett has a prime opportunity to increase his scoring total against a 49ers defense that has allowed the third-most touchdown passes (28) to date. San Francisco has given up the ninth-most fantasy points (PPR) to opposing receivers.
Samuel is blossoming into Cam Newton’s favorite receiver. The second-year player leads Carolina in targets (19) over the last two weeks and logged 80 yards or more in both games. The Panthers will have to go pass-heavy Monday night to keep up with a Saints offense that averages the second-most points per game (34.4). No team has given up more fantasy points (PPR) to opposing receivers than New Orleans.
Jameis Wintson has a real connection with Brate in the redzone. Brate has three touchdowns during the three games since O.J. Howard hit the IR. This week Tampa Bay faces a Ravens defense whose lone weakness seems to be defending the tight end. Baltimore has given up a touchdown to a tight end in six of their last seven games and have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points (PPR) to the position.
If you’re desperate for a tight end this week, I have a good feeling about McDonald. He’s drawn 22 targets over his last four games and hasn’t recorded less than three receptions since week five. New England always focuses on taking away what opposing offenses do best and are likely to focus on shutting down Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. This should give McDonald a few extra open looks. The Patriots have given up seven touchdowns to tight ends this season.
The Texans should enjoy their trip to New York. They play a Jets team that has committed the third-most turnovers (26) and averages the seventh-fewest points per game (20.8). Houston has forced the fifth-most turnovers (23) and has allowed the fifth-fewest points per game (19.9).
New Orleans Saints:
This is not the same Saints defense we witnessed early in the season. New Orleans hasn’t allowed more than 17 points since week nine and have accumulated the third-most sacks (41). This week they aim to feast on an injured Cam Newton. The quarterback is clearly hampered by a shoulder ailment and has thrown five interceptions and two touchdowns during his past two games.
I know benching Rodgers seems like sacrilege but he’s a risky play this week. The vet has thrown for under 200 passing yards in three of his last five games and has just four touchdowns over the last three weeks. This Sunday he has a date with a Bears defense that just last week made the high-powered Rams look like they were stilled coached by Jeff Fisher. Chicago has allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks.
Famous Jameis’ next stop is in Baltimore, where a fierce defense will be waiting for a meet and greet. The Ravens have surrendered the third-fewest passing yards per game (206.2), the fifth-fewest passing touchdowns (18) and the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing passers. With another difficult matchup in Dallas next week, it may be time to move on from Winston.
The volume and efficiency that made Mack so valuable midseason have faded. The second-year ‘back has averaged 2.7 yards per carry over the last two weeks. This Sunday he faces a Dallas defense that has given up the fewest yards per rush (3.6) and the second-fewest rushing touchdowns (7).
No Alex Smith and no Colt McCoy means no room to run. Third-stringer Mark Sanchez was so horrendous last week he was benched for Josh Johnson, who is preparing to make his first NFL start in seven years. Peterson has played just 32.7% of the offensive snaps over the past two weeks with Chris Thompson back from injury. Despite Derrick Henry’s historic performance, Jacksonville has still allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points (PPR) to opposing backfields.
Barber has averaged 16 carries per game over the last three weeks but is managing just 2.7 yards per tote. This week he travels to Baltimore to take on one of the league’s best run defenses. No team has given up fewer fantasy points (PPR) to opposing running backs than the Ravens.
The Rams have not allowed a touchdown to a wide receiver since Aqib Talib returned from injury. Philadelphia will fly across the country to L.A. this Sunday, where Nick Foles is expected to make his first start since week one. Tate has struggled since joining the Eagles, surpassing 50 yards receiving in a game just once. The loss of Carson Wentz only hurts the 30-year-old’s fantasy outlook.
The Lions have averaged just 212.5 passing yards per game since trading away Golden Tate. Their lack of weapons has allowed defenses to home in on Golladay, who has just five catches for 55 yards over his last two games. Golladay faces the Bills this week, who have given up the third-fewest fantasy points (PPR) to opposing receivers. No team surrenders less passing yards per game than the Bills (185.8).
Godwin and Winston were able to connect on just one of his 10 targets last week. That was at home against a Saints defense that had given up the most fantasy points (PPR) to opposing wide-outs. This week Tampa Bay travels to Baltimore to face a defense that has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points (PPR) to opposing receivers. The Ravens are the top scoring defense in the league, holding offenses to 18.5 points per game.
Its hard to catch footballs with a broken thumb. Graham hauled in just two passes for 13 yards last week. The 32-year-old has failed to eclipse 20 yards receiving in three of his last five games. Green Bay visits Soldier Field this Sunday to play a Bears defense that hasn’t given up a touchdown to a tight end since week eight. Chicago has held opposing tight ends to the 10th-fewest fantasy points (PPR) this season.
It may be time to abandon Burton. Over his past seven games, Burton has averaged just 2.2 catches for 20.7 yards per outing and has just one touchdown. This Sunday he faces a Packers defense that has allowed the third-fewest fantasy (PPR) to opposing tight ends. Green Bay has surrendered just one touchdown to a tight end all season.
The Panthers have given up an average of over 30.4 points per contest during their five-game losing streak. This week they host a Saints team that averages the second-most points per game (34.4) and the seventh-most yards per game (389). New Orleans has allowed the fewest sacks (14) and has committed the third-fewest turnovers (12).
After Sunday night’s embarrassing offensive output, I expect the Rams to rebound in strong way. Last week aside, Los Angeles has been dominant this season, ranking third in both points (32.7) and yards per game (422.5). The Rams have committed the ninth-fewest turnovers (15) and have allowed the ninth-fewest sacks (29).