It’s time. If you’re still reading my weekly Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em segment, it must mean you have made the playoffs. First off – congratulations – but our job is not done yet. Some of you might be the favorites, but I know a lot of you are searching for that matchup that could put you over the top against a team with an edge over you. That is where I come in.
I’ve given Mayfield his fair share of grief, and he’s deserved every bit of it. He was one of the most overhyped QBs of all-time coming into this year, and he should have been dropped weeks ago in most leagues. But if you’re not in love with your quarterback and feel like you might need a breakout game to beat your opponent in the fantasy playoffs, Mayfield isn’t a bad guy to plug in. The Browns are at home and up against the lowly Bengals, who are allowing 21.7 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Jacoby Brissett. This is a quarterback who had next to no expectations filling in for Andrew Luck and has over exceeded them in his first year as the full-time starter. Injuries slowed him down a bit after a blazing start, but this week, he gets the Tampa Bay Bucs – a team allowing 23.1 points per game to quarterbacks – the second most in the NFL
Another guy who is probably available in your league, Tannehill has been money since taking over for Marcus Mariotta. He has six TDs and zero interceptions in his last three weeks, as the Titans take on the Raiders on Sunday. Oakland is giving up the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. I like Tannehill a lot if you are in desperate need of a QB, and I love him as a low-cost DFS play.
Saying Devonta Freeman has been a disappointment for fantasy owners this season is an understatement. The guy has yet to score a rushing touchdown. However, he came back from injury this past week against the Saints and is clearly still the featured back, totaling 17 carries and running the best he has all season. The Panthers have had a tendency to let running backs feast, surrendering 28.4 fantasy points per contest.
Guice has had a disastrous start to his NFL career consisting of two significant knee injuries. But the former LSU standout is back to 100% and looks like an absolute beast carrying the football. It only took him ten carries to reach 129 yards last week against the Panthers. He has an even juicier matchup this week in Green Bay. Guice should be starting in all leagues.
The Chiefs have given up the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, and they are especially vulnerable versus backs coming out of the backfield in the receiving game, surrendering 722 yards on 67 catches. Considering the Patriots might be playing a little catch up in this one as well, I like White to have a huge game.
Gordon has once again staked his claim as the lead back in San Diego’s offense. This week, he gets one of the easiest matchups you can ask for against Jacksonville. The Jags have allowed the second-most rush yards all season and are not shy about letting backs catch the ball out of the backfield either.
I’ve already talked about Jacoby Brissett against this Bucs defense. Well, someone has to catch his passes with T.Y. Hilton likely out again on Sunday, and it has actually been reported he could miss the rest of the season. That guy should be Zach Pascal, who caught seven balls for 109 yards last week. If your receivers are weak and you’re looking for a potential explosive play, Pascal might be available on your waiver wire.
Samuel didn’t light up the Falcons in their first matchup, catching four balls for only 25 yards. But a lot of that had to do with the pressure Atlanta was able to generate. This time around, I’m sure Carolina will have a better plan, and it’s not like the Falcons pass rush is known for setting the world on fire. They are one of the worst in the league at sacking the quarterback. Atlanta has been shredded all season by opponents #2 wide receivers. I like Samuel to have a big game on Sunday.
Samuel has come alive over the last four weeks, recording over 330 yards and two touchdowns. It seems like he’s the #1 target in that offense over Emmanuel Sanders, but Sanders’ presence has taken some attention off of Samuel since the 49ers acquired him. The Saints’ defense is pretty good, but they are most vulnerable through the air. Samuel should be a reliable flex play, at the very least.
If you’re looking for a sleeper in DFS leagues or are desperate at the tight end spot, Tyler Higbee could be available. He caught seven balls for 107 yards and a touchdown as the Rams struggling offense came to life last week. If I’m Sean McVay, I’m sticking with what worked in a must-win game against the division-leading Seattle Seahawks. Seattle’s defense has also allowed the second-most fantasy points to tight ends.
With Eric Ebron out for the season, Jack Doyle has become relevant again in fantasy. As I mentioned earlier, with T.Y. Hilton unlikely to play, somebody is going to have to catch passes from Brissett. Look for Doyle to have a monster game, and he should be starting in most leagues.
It’s playoff time, which means it’s time to make tough decisions. Generally, I live by the motto, “start your studs.” And I wouldn’t blame you for starting Brees against the 49ers. However, if you’re given a choice between Baker Mayfield/Ryan Tannehill or Drew Brees, I’m probably taking Mayfield/Tannehill. San Francisco has suffocated QBs that are not mobile, and Brees is without a couple of offensive linemen as well. That is not a recipe for fantasy success.
I have Kyler Murray in several leagues, and I’m leaning towards starting him because there aren’t many better options, but I don’t love him this week. The Steelers defense has completely changed the entire feeling surrounding Pittsburgh football. They are only giving up 16.7 fantasy points per game to quarterbacks, and that number is substantially smaller since the addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick. The Cardinals aren’t great at protecting the quarterback, which will spell trouble for Murray come Sunday.
The Patriots have only given up one total touchdown all season to an opposing running back, and McCoy is no longer a must-start these days. I’m giving him the week off and finding a replacement if my playoff life depends on it. For what it is worth, I’m not starting Damien Williams either.
You probably have to start him if you have him, but I wouldn’t be very enthusiastic about it. Despite the Bucs porous pass defense, they have been as stingy as anybody against the run. Tampa Bay has the #2 rushing defense in the entire league, behind only the New Orleans Saints. And if you look at combined yardage (rushing and receiving), they are number one in the league, allowing just 93.3 total yards per game to running backs.
Scarborough has found a nice little role for himself in Detroit with Kerryon Johnson out. However, now is not the week to throw him in your starting lineup. The Vikings have one of the best defenses in the league, especially against the run. And I wouldn’t expect the Lions to move the ball much no matter who is starting under center.
Sanu only has five catches for 18 yards in his last two games with the Patriots. Even though New England will have to put up some points against the Chiefs, I don’t see Sanu going off for a big game as you might expect. Contrary to popular belief, Kansas City is actually the second-best team at preventing wide receivers from scoring fantasy points. Sanu already lacks explosiveness. I just can’t see him on any winning fantasy playoffs teams.
Metcalf’s had a fantastic rookie year despite sliding further in the draft than many may have expected. He’s turned into a quality fantasy option, especially in three-wide receiver leagues. However, I don’t love him this week. The Seahawks are on a short week and up against a defense that has been fantastic of late. I see this being a tough game for Metcalf, and Seattle’s offense as a whole.
I’ve already talked about Kyler Murray against this Pittsburgh defense. But at least with Murray, you usually have a high floor because he can use his feet to create points. I see this being a bad passing day for the Cardinals, which isn’t a good sign for Murray’s receivers, especially if you’re planning to play them in your fantasy playoffs.
I have Cook in a couple of leagues, and he’s turned into a real quality option at the position. However, I don’t love his matchup this week with the 49ers, who are the second-best defense against opposing tight ends. I’m still probably starting him because I don’t have any better options, but I don’t feel confident about it.
Even with a good matchup against Washington, Graham shouldn’t be started. He hasn’t shown any consistency for years. If I’m picking between Jared Cook and Graham this week, the answer is Cook every time. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is.