Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward redraft leagues but can also be used for setting DFS lineups, as these are the players I’ll likely be filling out my cash lineups with on Sunday. As is the case each week, I’m ignoring the Thursday night game.
Start of the Week: Blake Bortles at Ravens: The Jaguars are 5.5-point underdogs with an implied team total of 21.25 in a game with a 48-point over-under, the third-highest of the week. Bortles is overall QB10 through nine weeks, averaging 18.94 fantasy points per game. He’s thrown at least two touchdowns in 6-of-8 starts and topped 270 yards in 5-of-8. The Ravens have surrendered the sixth-most touchdowns through the air and picked off the fewest passes, while allowing the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. RCB Jimmy Smith has been horrific, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 93rd-ranked cover corner out of 111 qualifiers, and LCB Shareece Wright was just picked up as a free agent four weeks ago and has long been stretched thin as a starter. A Baltimore team weak against the pass and strong against the run is a prime spot for Bortles. Stacking him with proven, matchup-proof No. 1 receiver Allen Robinson is a strong first step in DFS.
Josh McCown at Steelers: McCown took some shots to the ribs Weeks 7 and 8 against the Rams and Cardinals and had to sit last Thursday night against the Bengals. By Sunday, he’ll have had 14 days to rest and should be ready to resume starting after practicing earlier this week. The Steelers have turned their pass defense around a bit since early-season woes, inserting CB Ross Cockrell as a starter and generating some pass-rush heat from their edge defenders, but this is still an above-average spot for McCown, who’s thrown for 270 yards and/or two-plus touchdowns in all six of his full games. The Steelers are still trotting out burn-victim CB Antwon Blake for 100 percent of the snaps. Derek Carr diced this Pittsburgh secondary for 307 yards and four scores last week on the road, albeit with better weapons than McCown. The Browns’ lack of a running game and the Steelers’ defensive strength against the run make McCown an even more attractive streaming option.
Sam Bradford vs. Dolphins: Dolphins-Eagles is tied with Jaguars-Ravens for the third-highest over-under of the week at 48 points. As 6.5-point favorites, the Eagles have the fourth-highest implied team total at 27.25 points. Bradford is coming off his best game in over a month after completing 69.4 percent of his passes and averaging 8.2 YPA against the Cowboys. The Dolphins recently lost their top pass-rusher in LE Cameron Wake to a torn Achilles’ and have been getting flamed via the pass in recent weeks. Tyrod Taylor attempted just 12 passes against Miami in Week 9, but completed 11 of them (91.7 percent) and averaged an astronomical 15.1 YPA. The Dolphins’ secondary hasn’t been able to cover anyone for much of the year. The Eagles are a run-first offense, and it’s been clicking, but there’s still enough here for Bradford to get his as a back-end QB1. The Dolphins are a bottom-10 pass defense at PFF and have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks.
Joe Flacco vs. Jaguars: As 5.5-point favorites at home in a game with a 48-point over-under, the Ravens’ implied team total sits at a healthy 26.75, fifth-highest of the week. With no Steve Smith Sr., it’s a bit surprising and somewhat hard to see where these points are going to come from, but the Jaguars have really struggled against the pass. Top-dollar CB Davon House was benched a couple weeks back before being reinserted Week 9, and safety tandem FS Sergio Brown and SS Johnathan Cyprien can’t cover a lick. The Jaguars’ pass rush also isn’t hitting home. Jacksonville hasn’t been able to stop opposing passing games, but is playing strong run defense. All of this gives Flacco one of his easiest on-paper matchups of the season. It’s the first time all year the Ravens have played back-to-back home games. Flacco has performed much better at home throughout his career.
Kirk Cousins vs. Saints: If there’s any week to use Cousins, this is it. Saints-Redskins has a 50-point over-under with a one-point spread. Both teams are projected to score over 24 points. The Saints have allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks and field Pro Football Focus’ 29th-ranked pass-coverage unit while generating next-to-zero heat via pass rush. New Orleans is bleeding touchdowns through the air, allowing 24 through nine games, while no other team has given up more than 19. Eli Manning tossed six touchdowns against the Saints in Week 8, and Marcus Mariota followed it up with four last week. Cousins’ pass-game arsenal is as healthy as it’s been all season with Jordan Reed and DeSean Jackson 100 percent, joining Pierre Garcon and rookie slot WR Jamison Crowder. This group struggled with drops Week 9, leaving it as the lone concern here, but it’s an impossible stat to predict. Cousins is dirt-cheap on DFS sites and a viable streamer.
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Marcus Mariota vs. Panthers: Panthers-Titans has a meager 44-point Vegas total, and Tennessee is currently 5.5-point home underdogs after the game opened the week with a 4.5-point spread. The Titans have one of the lowest implied team totals of Week 9 at 19.25 points. Mariota is coming off a four-touchdown assault of the Saints on the road and will be a popular start, but the Panthers have played strong pass defense anchored by its interior pass rush and lockdown LCB Josh Norman. According to Evan Silva’s Matchups column, only Aaron Rodgers has finished as a top-12 quarterback vs. Carolina this season. The Panthers have picked off a league-high 13 passes and are one of just three teams to have more interceptions than it’s allowed touchdowns.
Jay Cutler at Rams: Bears-Rams has an uninspiring Vegas over-under of 42.5 points. Chicago is projected to be the lowest-scoring team of the week with an implied team total of 17.75 as seven-point road underdogs. Cutler and the Bears are coming off a fourth-quarter comeback win over the Chargers on the road last Monday night and on a short week coming in against one of the league’s top defenses. Rams D/ST will be a popular play against turnover-prone Cutler. St. Louis plays considerably tougher at home and is second in sacks, fifth in Pro Football Focus’ coverage grades, and second overall in team defense. The Rams haven’t surrendered a passing touchdown in over a month and have allowed just five all season, fewest in football.
Ryan Tannehill at Eagles: The Dolphins have become considerably more balanced on offense, running the ball with a greater purpose under interim coach Dan Campbell. They’ve made it known they want Lamar Miller and rookie Jay Ajayi to get more carries. The Eagles have righted the ship after starting the season hemorrhaging fantasy points through the air. Philadelphia leads the league in takeaways and is fifth in Pro Football Focus’ team pass-coverage rankings. The Dolphins don’t possess any serious threats on the outside. Jarvis Landry should be peppered with targets, but he’d have to break off another pair of 50-yard touchdowns to carry Tannehill to QB1 status.
Russell Wilson vs. Cardinals: Wilson was routinely the third quarterback off the board in summer drafts behind Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers. He’s QB25 in fantasy points per game behind guys like Alex Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Seahawks’ struggles in the red zone are a major reason why, as they’re dead last in touchdown percentage at 29.41 percent. For comparison’s sake, the 49ers are 31st at 39.13 percent. Jimmy Graham has been a mammoth disappointment, though at little fault of his own. And the Seahawks’ pint-sized shrimps at receiver can’t win jump-balls in the end zone. The Cardinals have picked off the most passes in the league, allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks, and field Pro Football Focus’ third-ranked coverage unit.
Start of the Week: LeGarrette Blount at Giants: Patriots-Giants has the highest over-under of the week at a whopping 55 points. The Patriots are 7.5-point favorites with a team total in the thirties for the second-straight week. We want to have pieces of this pie. Dion Lewis suffered a heart-breaking torn ACL last week and is done for the season. While fantasy owners ran to the waiver wire for James White and Brandon Bolden, Blount continues to go overlooked in this high-powered offense. This sets up beautifully for another big game from the bruising inside runner. The Giants lost NT Johnathan Hankins to a torn pectoral last week, and MLB Jon Beason was placed on season-ending I.R. with yet another knee injury. Before going down, Hankins was Pro Football Focus’ No. 4-ranked nose tackle against the run. It’s a monster loss for an already-bad defense. The Giants were allowing over 4.30 YPC before Hankins went down. Blount is a good bet for two touchdowns.
Doug Martin vs. Cowboys: The Dougernaut had been on a tear Weeks 4-7, but has mustered just 102 scoreless yards on 34 carries (3.0 YPC) the past two games. Martin also lost a fumble last week. However, the Bucs stuck with him, and he’s in no danger of losing early-down work to pass-game specialist Charles Sims. Dallas-Tampa Bay has a 43-point Vegas total with the Bucs favored by two. Both offenses should be balanced with a lean toward each running game. After nine weeks, the Bucs are running the ball 48.96 percent of the time, the sixth-highest clip in the league. Martin is sixth among all running backs averaging 17.88 carries per game. He’s seen at least 20 carries in 4-of-8 games. The Cowboys just got shredded by DeMarco Murray and the Eagles’ rushing attack last week and are now allowing the second-most fantasy points to the position. They’ve yielded over 4.29 YPC and the fourth-most rushing touchdowns. MLB Rolando McClain has been getting washed out on defense, and WLB Sean Lee suffered a concussion last week. Lee’s backup, Anthony Hitchens, is also sidelined at practice after twisting his ankle in place of Lee last Sunday night.
Matt Jones vs. Saints: In the Redskins’ first game after the bye, Jones out-snapped Alfred Morris 25-10 against the Patriots last week. If not for the blowout coupled with a Jones second-half fumble and passing-down specialist Chris Thompson playing heavy snaps, the margin would have been wider. Despite not topping 40 yards on the ground since Week 2, the coaching staff is still feeding Jones touches in the hopes to get the run game functional. He’s touched the ball at least 12 times each of the past three games, but has had to be phased out of the offense late in games due to blowouts. Saints-Redskins has a 50-point over-under and a one-point spread. This one shouldn’t get too far away from Washington where it’ll have to abandon the run. New Orleans’ pass-defense deficiencies are well-chronicled, but it also struggles mightily against the run. The Saints are allowing over 4.71 YPC to running backs. Jones isn’t a lock to blow the top off this one, but with the scarcity at the running back position, he’s a solid dart throw as a low-end RB2/FLEX option.
Theo Riddick at Packers: The Lions are the biggest underdogs of the week. Green Bay is favored by 11.5 points at home with a Vegas total of 47.5. Riddick handles all of the late-game work as a proficient pass catcher out of the backfield. He’s led all Lions running backs in snaps the past four weeks with 165, playing 56.12 percent of the downs. Riddick isn’t a typical running back, as he’s not getting many carries, but he trails only Devonta Freeman (6.9) and Danny Woodhead (6.7) in targets per game out of the backfield with a 6.6 average. Detroit will likely be trailing much of this one, and Riddick will be the one seeing the bulk of the work ahead of rookie Ameer Abdullah. Riddick is quietly a back-end RB2 as the overall RB22 in PPR leagues.
Mark Ingram at Redskins: Ingram flopped badly in a prime spot against the Titans last week, managing 52 scoreless yards on 21 carries and getting stuffed inside the five-yard line a handful of times. The workload was very promising, however, and this is a tremendous bounce-back spot for Ingram. He played 68-of-77 snaps and handled 26-of-29 running-back touches against Tennessee. Game script is once again in Ingram’s favor in a game with a sky-high 50-point Vegas total and one-point spread. The Redskins have been rag-dolled in the run game in recent weeks and are allowing over 4.63 YPC on the season. Ingram is still the favorite for all goal-line work with Khiry Robinson (leg) out of the picture, and he remains a candidate for 3-5 catches out of the backfield.
Isaiah Crowell at Steelers: Robert Turbin fumbled twice Week 8, was benched Week 9, and released Monday. Crowell has reemerged as the early-down back in Cleveland, while Duke Johnson handles passing downs. No more three-headed “monster” that wasn’t scaring anyone. Crowell touched the ball 13 times Week 9 and should hover in that 12-18 range. He’s worth owning again in 12- and 14-team leagues, but this doesn’t look like the week to start him. The Steelers have allowed just two rushing touchdowns to running backs all season and the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the position. There will be better spots to use Crowell should he remain ahead of Glenn Winston.
Eddie Lacy vs. Lions: In case you’ve been under a rock, coach Mike McCarthy confirmed on Wednesday that James Starks is the Packers’ No. 1 running back, and Lacy is officially the backup and change-of-pace. That’s reason enough to not play Lacy. Being drafted as high as No. 1 overall in summer fantasy drafts, Lacy has been arguably the biggest bust of the year. He doesn’t have a 100-yard rushing game to his name in 2015 and has broken just nine tackles on 83 attempts while averaging a pitiful 3.7 YPC. Starks is the back to own in Green Bay. He should see 12-15 carries, while pot-bellied Lacy mixes in for 5-8 attempts. Lacy is borderline-droppable in 12-teamers.
Joique Bell at Packers: After averaging 1.1 YPC Weeks 1-3 and sitting out the next three games, Bell has returned the past two weeks and looked fairly competent as the Lions’ early-down runner. He played 29 totals snaps Weeks 7 and 8 and rushed 10 times for 87 yards (8.7 YPC). With Bell handling the run-down snaps and Theo Riddick the pass-game reps, rookie Ameer Abdullah has been rendered useless to the Lions for the time being. He’s had consistent ball-security issues and isn’t making any big plays. Detroit are big 11.5-point underdogs on the road at Lambeau Field. There simply doesn’t project to be enough bankable volume for Bell to be anything more than an RB3.
Ronnie Hillman vs. Chiefs: Just as it appeared there was some clarity coming out of the Broncos’ backfield in Week 8 with Hillman rushing 19 times for 60 yards and two scores, it was slammed shut Week 9 at Indianapolis. Hillman was out-snapped 27-24 by C.J. Anderson and severely out-gained 38-1 by his backfield counterpart. Hillman turned seven carries into one measly yard. In a favorable matchup, both Hillman and Anderson could have some RB2 upside, but this doesn’t qualify as one. The Chiefs are allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points to running backs and are fresh off their bye week. Hillman and Anderson are both low-upside, low-floor RB3 options.
Start of the Week: Stefon Diggs at Raiders: Diggs was on the injury report last week with a hamstring issue. He was listed as probable and got the start, but played a four-week-low 66.7 percent of the offensive snaps and saw a season-low five targets. It was a tough matchup against an elite Rams pass defense. Things get much easier Sunday, and Diggs is no longer on the injury report. The Raiders do a decent job against the run and will likely put their eggs into that basket trying to slow Adrian Peterson. Diggs should see single-coverage all afternoon and dismantle Oakland’s pedestrian cornerbacks with precise routes and vise-grip hands. Diggs has drawn comparisons to a young Antonio Brown, and we all saw what Brown did to this Raiders secondary in Week 9. The rookie should be back up into the 8-10 targets range with the upside for high-end WR2 numbers.
Kamar Aiken vs. Jaguars: In the game Steve Smith Sr. missed earlier this season, Aiken was treated as Joe Flacco’s No. 1 receiver, seeing a team-high nine targets. Now Smith is done for the season with a torn Achilles’, and it’s safe to pencil Aiken in for at least seven or eight targets Sunday in a tasty matchup with the Jaguars’ bottom-barrel pass defense. Aiken isn’t a special player, but he’s stepping into the top pass-catching role in the Ravens’ offense and has shown an ability to catch what’s thrown to him and move the chains. At 6’2/215, Aiken and Crockett Gillmore will be Flacco’s go-to targets in the red zone with Chris Givens as the deep threat.
Willie Snead at Redskins: Saints-Redskins has a 50-point Vegas total, and the Saints are favored by one with a healthy 25.5-point implied team total. Both offenses are in play in this one, as neither team can stop the run or the pass. Snead has taken over as Drew Brees’ go-to possession receiver, ahead of Marques Colston, and is averaging close to eight targets per game the past month-and-a-half. Unlike most “possession” receivers, Snead also comes with big-play ability. He’s averaging over 15.3 YPR. The Redskins’ top-three corners and starting free safety are all on the Week 9 injury report. They’ve been banged up for the past month-plus and don’t possess a true No. 1 cover man, even when healthy. With both defenses playing sloppy football, this game has shootout potential. Continue to comfortably use Snead as a WR3 with WR2 upside.
Travis Benjamin at Steelers: Benjamin has been deathly-quiet in recent weeks. He hasn’t topped 54 yards or seen more than six targets in three-straight games. Benjamin is still playing heavy snaps, though, and remains the No. 1 receiver and second option behind Gary Barnidge. Benjamin moves all over the formation and will see his fair share of Steelers RCB Antwon Blake on Sunday. Blake is Pro Football Focus’ 110th-ranked cover corner out of 111 qualifiers. He’s been the most-heavily targeted corner in the league and has surrendered the most catches in his coverage. A true speed freak, Benjamin is a threat to run by anyone on any given play, and his chances are heightened Sunday. And if Ben Roethlisberger (foot) plays, this could turn into a shootout. The Steelers have allowed the most catches and ninth-most fantasy points to receivers.
Brandon LaFell at Giants: Since LaFell came off reserve/PUP three games ago, he’s played 76.7 percent of the snaps and is third on the team in targets with 24, behind Rob Gronkowski (30) and Julian Edelman (26). Now that Dion Lewis (knee) is out of the picture, his seven-plus targets per game have to go somewhere. All three of the aforementioned players could see an uptick in usage. While Edelman is expected to see the most of Giants LCB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, LaFell runs the bulk of his routes at right corners. Giants RCB Prince Amukamara (pectoral) is expected to miss one more game, giving Jayron Hosley (5’9/198) another start on the outside. LaFell (6’2/211) has a nice size advantage. All the Patriots’ skill players are in play with a team total of 31.25.
Dorial Green-Beckham vs. Panthers: Green-Beckham set new season-highs in snap percentage (67.6 percent) and targets (10) last week against the Saints and needs to be owned in all formats as an end-of-bench stash. His snaps have risen each week, and Marcus Mariota said on Wednesday that “we’re expecting a lot out of” Green-Beckham. This doesn’t look like the week to get excited about the rookie and plug him into lineups. The Panthers’ outside cornerback tandem of Josh Norman and Charles Tillman is one of the best in the league, and DGB runs 90 percent of his routes outside the hashmarks. The Titans have a low team total at 19.25 points, and the Panthers allow the sixth-fewest fantasy points to receivers. Their weakness is with slot CB Bene Benwikere.
Golden Tate at Packers: Tate hasn’t topped 80 yards in a game this season and continues to do very little with his eight weekly targets. The volume is nice, but the production just isn’t there. Tate also draws the toughest matchup of the Lions’ receivers Sunday. Packers slot CB Casey Hayward is Pro Football Focus’ No. 19 cover corner out of 111 qualifiers. Calvin Johnson, Eric Ebron, and even Theo Riddick might out-produce Tate. And with a projected team total of 18.25 points, there isn’t a whole lot to go around. When Ebron is healthy and on the field, Tate’s numbers tend to dip.
Jamison Crowder vs. Saints: Crowder led all Redskins receivers in snap percentage last week at 94.9 percent, but he’s yet to score a touchdown as a rookie and is averaging a Jarvis Landry-ish 9.0 YPR without getting the red-zone love. Crowder is fine if you want a mediocre tight end-like 4-5 catches for 40-50 scoreless yards. The ceiling is clearly extremely low. The Saints’ secondary is awful, but Crowder is a mere fourth in line for targets with DeSean Jackson back. Jordan Reed is the play among the Redskins’ pass catchers with Jackson’s upside a close second.
Jeremy Maclin at Broncos: The Broncos and Seahawks have allowed one total touchdown to opposing wide receivers this season, and only Seattle has allowed fewer fantasy points to the position. Maclin figures to see more than a handful of targets, but the matchup is brutal with Pro Football Focus’ No. 3-ranked CB Chris Harris, who may opt to shadow Maclin with Aqib Talib serving a one-game suspension. When these two teams met in Week 2, Maclin turned seven targets into four catches for 57 scoreless yards. The Chiefs have the second-lowest team total of the week at 18. Charcandrick West figures to dominate touches for Kansas City.
Start of the Week: Gary Barnidge at Steelers: Over his past seven games, Barnidge has averaged 8.3 targets per and scored six touchdowns. He has three 100-yard games mixed in and has been held under 50 yards just twice in that span. And with Josh McCown (ribs) tentatively scheduled to return to the lineup, Barnidge gets a big boost after posting a paltry 2-35 line on seven targets with Johnny Manziel at quarterback in Week 9. The Steelers have allowed the fifth-most catches, seventh-most yards, and sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. With the Browns unlikely to find much success running the ball, red-zone dominator Barnidge is the favorite for a touchdown.
Delanie Walker vs. Panthers: Since his three-target Week 1, Walker has averaged eight targets per game in the six games since. He’s catching over 82 percent of the passes that come his way and emerged as a legitimate, locked-in TE1. Kendall Wright (knee) is expected to miss another week, leaving more middle-field targets up for grabs between Walker and fill-in slot WR Harry Douglas. The Panthers have played strong overall defense, but if they have one weakness, it’s the middle of the field. Packers TE Richard Rodgers caught two touchdowns against Carolina last week.
Eric Ebron at Packers: In the five games Ebron’s been healthy, he’s seen at least four targets and caught a touchdown in three of them. Tight ends are averaging 6.25 catches for 71.25 yards per game against the Packers this season, and Green Bay has allowed the 10th-most fantasy points to the position. Especially late, in what projects to be a blowout with the Packers as 11.5-point favorites, Matthew Stafford will likely look to the middle of the field toward Ebron, Calvin Johnson, and satellite RB Theo Riddick for quick, easy, chunk gains. Ebron is worth TE1 streaming consideration.
Jordan Reed vs. Saints: Only Antonio Gates (10.8) is averaging more per-game targets among tight ends than Reed (9). He’s seen at least six targets in each game played this season and has topped 60 yards or scored a touchdown in 5-of-6 contests. His floor is extremely high, and Reed leads the team in red-zone targets. Delanie Walker just waxed the Saints for two touchdowns last week. Only the Raiders have allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than the Saints. With a 50-point over-under and a team total of 25.5, Reed is a good bet to find pay dirt Sunday.
Julius Thomas at Ravens: Thomas openly admitted this week that he and Bake Bortles aren’t on the same page with timing after Thomas missed the first four games following hand surgery. His 7-78-1 line from Week 6 is looking like an outlier with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns dominating targets on the outside. In Thomas’ three other games, he’s totaled six catches for 38 scoreless yards on 13 targets. If Hurns (foot) misses Sunday, Thomas could see a boost, but more than likely, Allen Robinson would just dominate targets. The Ravens have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to tight ends and just one touchdown.
Heath Miller vs. Browns: Play tight ends against the Raiders is the mantra, but Miller didn’t live up to the standard Week 9, turning six targets into three catches for 32 scoreless yards. Miller is off limits if Landry Jones gets the start at quarterback. And he’ll only get a slight boost if Ben Roethlisberger (foot) is able to play. The floor is close to zero, and Browns FS Tashaun Gipson and ILB Craig Robertson recently returned to action to plug a leaky middle of the defense.
Jordan Cameron at Eagles: Cameron’s snaps are on the decline. He played just over 50 percent of the snaps last week against the Bills and was out-targeted by No. 2 TE Dion Sims. Cameron hasn’t caught more than three balls in a game since Week 1 and has topped 35 yards just once in that span. He’s entered Kyle Rudolph territory in terms of targets without the TD upside. The Eagles have allowed just one touchdown and the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends.