By Joe Hopkins
If you’re reading this, it most likely means you’ve advanced to your league’s championship game. Congratulations on the successful season. Payouts and trophies aside, one more win earns you bragging rights for an entire year. We at the Roto Street Journal have been studying the trends and matchups all week in order to help you bring home that title.
Last week’s start/sits produced interesting results. I made some good calls such as starting Dalvin Cook, Justin Jackson and Vance McDonald. However, I also suggested benching Marlon Mack, Kenny Golladay and Peyton Barber, who all overcame their difficult matchups to have productive outings. Like always, I will continue to make predictions based on what my research proposes.
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 these lists consist of players who aren’t obvious. I shouldn’t have to tell you to start Antonio Browns, Aaron Rodgers and Todd Gurleys 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.
We could have a shootout on our hands in Seattle. The Chiefs average the most points per game (35.6), which is likely to force the Seahawks into a pass-heavy game-script in order to keep up. Wilson will be facing a defense that has given up the third-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Kansas City has allowed the most passing yards per game (282.5) and the ninth-most touchdown passes (27).
Trubisky looked like himself again last week in his second game back from injury. He completed over 71% of his passes, threw two touchdowns and avoided any turnovers. This week Trubisky faces a 49ers defense that has surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing passers. Only the Raiders have given up more touchdown passes than San Francisco (30).
On Saturday Chubb notched his fifth game of twenty or more touches since week eight. The rookie has averaged over 104 yards from scrimmage per game since the team traded Carlos Hyde. This week he faces a Bengals defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points (PPR) to opposing backfields. Cincinnati has surrendered the third-most rushing touchdowns (17) and the fourth-most rushing yards per game (142.4).
Finally healthy, Cook has been living up to his preseason hype as of late. The second-year ‘back has averaged 6.7 yards per carry over the last three weeks. His 20 touches against the Dolphins were the most Cook has seen since week one. He’ll look to keep things rolling against a Lions team whose run-defense ranks in the middle of the pack, but just lost promising defensive tackle Da’Shawn Hand to IR.
The Colts’ offensive line manhandled the Cowboys, allowing Mack to embarrass one of the best run-defenses in the league. Indy plays at home again this week against a Giants defense that has given up the fifth-most fantasy points (PPR) to opposing running backs. New York has allowed the fifth-most rushing yards per game (128.4) and the seventh-most rushing touchdowns (15).
Up and down over the last few weeks, Smith-Schuster has a prime opportunity to bounce back after an underwhelming week 15. The Steelers face a Saints defense that has allowed the most fantasy points (PPR) to opposing receivers. On the flip side, New Orleans has surrendered the fewest rushing yards per game (79.1). This will likely force Pittsburgh into a pass-heavy game-script regardless of if James Conner can return this week or not.
Dallas’ offense will look to bounce back in a big way after being shutout in Indianapolis. Cooper has averaged 8.5 targets per contest since joining the Cowboys. This week he faces a Buccaneers defense that has given up the fifth-most fantasy points (PPR) to opposing receivers. Tampa Bay has surrendered the second-most passing touchdowns (30) and the sixth-most passing yards per game (258.5).
If I like Wilson this week, I have to like his weapons. Baldwin has seen a 27% target share over the past four weeks, drawing 12 more targets than the next closest Seahawk. He’s coming off his best fantasy performance of the season, in which he logged 77 yards and two scores. This week Seattle hosts the high-scoring Chiefs, who have allowed the eighth-most fantasy points (PPR) to opposing receivers. No team has given up more passing yards per game than Kansas City (282.5).
Cook is a different player in Oakland. He averages 5.8 catches and 91 yards per game at home, as opposed to 3.1 catches for 29 yards on the road this season. This week the Raiders host a Broncos defense that has given up the seventh-most fantasy points (PPR) to opposing tight ends. Start Cook at home.
With Odell Beckham Jr. out of the lineup, Engram has surpassed 70 yards receiving in back to back weeks. He drew a season-high 12 targets on Sunday and now faces a Colts defense that has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points (PPR) to opposing tight ends. Engram is in for another productive outing should Beckham Jr. miss his third-straight game.
Remember the Titans? Tennessee shutout the Giants in New York last week in their most impressive performance of the season. This Sunday they host a Washington team that is down to their third-string quarterback. Still in the wildcard race, I expect Mike Vrabel’s squad to take care of business against a decimated Washington unit.
As I write this, Odell Beckham Jr. looks unlikely to play in Indianapolis. Even if he does suit up, the Colts have been fierce of late, allowing just 12.2 points per game over the last five weeks. Coming off a shutout of their own, Indy will looks to keep it rolling against a Giants offense that produced a goose egg last week. New York has allowed the fourth-most sacks (46) in the NFL.
It’s hard to trust a man who has eight turnovers and one touchdown over his last three games. Goff visits an Arizona team this week that has given up the sixth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. However, the Cardinals have surrendered the most rushing touchdowns (20) and the third-most rushing yards per game (144.9), which suggests the Rams could take a run-heavy approach.
Last week a stifling Ravens defense shutdown Winston, who had thrown multiple touchdown passes in each of his last four games. It doesn’t get much better for Winston this Sunday as he visits a Dallas defense that has allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. The Cowboys have held a trio of Drew Brees, Carson Wentz and Andrew Luck to 547 yards passing, four touchdowns and two turnovers combined over the last three weeks.
Even a healthy Breida shouldn’t be started against a lights-out Bears defense. Chicago has surrendered the fewest rushing touchdowns (5), second fewest rushing yards per game (83.6) and the third-fewest fantasy points (PPR) to opposing backfields. This sentiment extends to Jeff Wilson Jr. should Breida be unable to play.
Another difficult matchup places Peterson on the “sit” list for the second straight week. With no threat of the pass, Peterson has averaged just 2.3 yards per carry over his last two games. The Titans have given up the fewest fantasy points (PPR) to opposing running backs and the third-fewest rushing touchdowns (8).
The emergence of Derrick Henry has killed Lewis’ already shaky fantasy stock. The veteran hasn’t exceeded 52 yards from scrimmage in a game since week 10. Lewis played a season-low 33% of the offensive snaps last week as Henry touched the ball 34 times. Expect Tennessee to continue riding Henry as they fight for a playoff spot.
Thomas is merely a possession receiver for Houston. He’s yet to reach 60 yards in a game as a Texan and has failed to reach the endzone in four of those five contests. This Sunday Thomas travels to Philadelphia to play a defense that looked revitalized last week with Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles back under center.
With DeSean Jackson out of the lineup, many thought Godwin would finally be able to flourish. The opposite has happened. Godwin has one catch for 13 yards over the last two weeks. This Sunday he visits a Dallas defense that has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points (PPR) to opposing receivers.
Carolina finally put Cam Newton and spectators alike out of their misery by placing the injured quarterback on IR. That means former undrafted free agent Taylor Heinicke will be making his first NFL start in Newtown’s place. Heinicke has just five career pass attempts under his belt. I wouldn’t trust any of the Panthers’ pass-catchers this week.
Graham has been held to less than four catches and under 40 yards in five of his last six games. He hasn’t reached the endzone since week nine and is dealing with a broken thumb. He’s a risky play this week on the road against a Jets defense that has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points (PPR) to opposing tight ends.
The forgotten man in Minnesota, Rudolph is having a statistical down-year. The vet has just 11 targets over his last three games and hasn’t scored a touchdown since week three. This week the Vikings face a Lions defense that has given up a touchdown to a tight end just once over the past seven weeks.
Despite all the offseason turnover, Seattle has once again fielded one of the better defenses in the NFL. They still don’t warrant a start this week against an elite Kansas City offense. The Chiefs lead the league in points (35.6) and yards (427.3) per game while allowing the fifth-fewest sacks (25) and committing the sixth-fewest turnovers (15).
Buffalo’s defense has been serviceable this season, but a trip to New England should prevent them from entering your starting lineup. While they haven’t been the offensive juggernaut we’ve seen in years past, the Patriots still averaged the fifth-most yards (395) and seventh-most points (26.7) per game. They’ve also allowed the third-fewest sacks (19) and committed the sixth-fewest turnovers (25).