Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes. Anybody can tell you to start the Lamar Jacksons, Melvin Gordons, and Julian Edelmans of the world. That’s not what I’m doing here. I’m looking deeper at legitimate mostly-borderline candidates who owners may truly be contemplating using in lineups.
Start of the Week: Dak Prescott at Lions: Fantasy’s QB4 in points per game, Prescott is essentially a no-brainer start, but I particularly love his spot Sunday. Prescott is No. 2 in yards per attempt and No. 3 in passing touchdowns. He’s had some truly spiked weeks with five games of three-plus touchdowns, including his last two. Prescott isn’t mentioned in the MVP conversation, but if the Cowboys go on a late-season surge, he could enter the mix alongside Lamar Jackson and Russell Wilson. This week, Prescott catches a Lions Defense that is 31st in opponent plays per game, 28th in passing yards allowed, 27th in passing touchdowns given up, 26th in fantasy points given up to quarterbacks, 23rd in pass-defense DVOA, 23rd in opponent passer rating, and 22nd in opponent yards per attempt while facing the seventh-most pass attempts per game. On top of all that, Detroit is 25th in adjusted sack rate with the Cowboys coming in at No. 2 in pass blocking. Dallas is also No. 4 in offensive pace and No. 9 in offensive plays per game. Prescott should have plenty of time to throw, and if Matthew Stafford (back) misses a second straight game, Dallas could possess the ball quite a bit. Mitchell Trubisky just tossed three touchdowns against the Lions last Sunday, a week after Derek Carr put 289 yards and two scores on Detroit. Daniel Jones put the overall QB1 day on the Lions in Week 8 with 322 yards and four touchdowns. Kirk Cousins was the overall QB3 in Week 7 with 338 yards and four touchdowns of his own. Detroit has allowed multiple touchdowns to every quarterback it has faced since the Week 5 bye. Prescott is a lock-and-load top-five QB1 this Sunday.
Drew Brees at Bucs: Brees totally bombed last week at home against the Falcons as the QB21 with 287 scoreless yards in a 26-9 upset loss. It was a major dud, but Brees is in a prime bounce-back spot against a Bucs unit that is an extreme pass-funnel. While Tampa Bay is No. 1 in run-defense DVOA, it comes in at 27th against the pass while allowing the most passing yards per game and facing the most pass attempts. The Bucs have surrendered the third-most passing touchdowns and most fantasy points to quarterbacks. Brees’ top weapons, Michael Thomas and Jared Cook, have highly favorable individual matchups. In three games since their bye, the Bucs have surrendered 11 touchdowns through the air -- Ryan Tannehill (3), Russell Wilson (5), and Kyler Murray (3). Those three quarterbacks averaged 284 passing yards in that span. The Bucs are also 29th in adjusted sack rate. Brees missed the Week 5 date between these two teams when Teddy Bridgewater hung 314 yards and four touchdowns on the Bucs as the overall QB4. Tampa Bay is bottom-10 in opponent plays per game, and New Orleans’ implied team total of 28 points is tied for second-most on the slate. This game sports a 50-point total, third-best of Week 11. Despite his Week 10 clunker, Brees should be glued to lineups.
Josh Allen at Dolphins: The QB10 in fantasy points per game, Allen has been ultra consistent but has yet to really have the spiked weeks we were accustomed to with him down the stretch last season. Allen, however, is coming off the QB6 day last week in a loss to Cleveland when he threw for a season-high 266 yards and rushed for two touchdowns. Allen is averaging over 7.4 rushing attempts for 30.5 yards per game on the ground with six total touchdowns, significantly raising his fantasy floor. Miami is 30th in pass-defense DVOA, 29th in passing touchdowns allowed, 27th in opponent yards per attempt, and 24th in fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks. When the Bills and Dolphins met back in Week 7, Buffalo ran a season-low 55 offensive plays, over eight plays fewer than its season average. Allen was still able to produce the QB9 week with a pair of passing touchdowns and 32 rushing yards. Miami has been better since its Week 5 bye, but this defense has faced Case Keenum, Allen, Mason Rudolph, Sam Darnold, and Brian Hoyer over the last five weeks. That’s about as soft of a QB schedule as they come. Allen has shown a reliable floor but comes with obvious upside this Sunday.
Derek Carr vs. Bengals: The overall QB23 in fantasy points per game, Carr has barely been a usable option in two-quarterback leagues much of the season. He’s third in the NFL in completion rate and sixth in passer rating, but Carr is averaging a mere 244.6 yards per game with zero rushing ability. He’s also 23rd among 34 quarterbacks in percentage of throws 20-plus yards downfield. Carr plays an extremely conservative game. He’s having a fine real-life year. This week is as good as any he’ll see from a fantasy standpoint. The Bengals are dead last in pass-defense DVOA, dead last in opponent yards per attempt, 31st in interceptions, 29th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, and 29th in opponent passer rating. Prior to surrendering the QB1 day to Lamar Jackson last week, Cincinnati allowed 372 yards and two touchdowns to Jared Goff in Week 8 ahead of the bye. Starting CB Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) has also missed the last three games and has yet to practice this week. Oakland’s implied team total of 29.75 points is the highest of the week, giving Carr a decent shot at multiple touchdowns.
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Carson Wentz vs. Patriots: Hyped throughout the summer as an MVP candidate, Wentz has been anything but that for the 5-4 Eagles. He’s 25th in completion rate and 26th in yards per attempt. Losing DeSean Jackson (groin, I.R.) after one game really hurt, taking away the lone deep threat in the entire offense, but Wentz hasn’t elevated those around him. He’s the overall QB15 in fantasy points per game and has four sub-200 yards passing games over his last six. Jackson is already out, and now Alshon Jeffery is sidelined with an ankle injury, missing practice Wednesday and Thursday. Wentz may have to go into Sunday with Nelson Agholor and Jordan Matthews as his top two receivers. Yikes. He also catches a New England defense that is No. 2 in pass-defense DVOA, No. 2 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, No. 1 in opponent yards per attempt, No. 2 in passing yards allowed, No. 1 in opponent completion rate, and No. 1 in opponent QB rating. Philly is implied to score a mere 20.75 points, ninth-lowest of the week.
Kirk Cousins vs. Broncos: Since the calendar flipped to October, Cousins is the overall QB6 in fantasy points per game with 285 yards and/or multiple touchdowns in all six contests. The Broncos have been great against the pass, coming in at No. 3 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, No. 2 in total passing touchdowns surrendered, No. 4 in passing yards given up, and No. 7 in opponent passer rating. The last five quarterbacks to face the Broncos have combined for a 3:5 TD:INT mark. This isn’t an awful spot for Cousins, but with the Vikings as massive home favorites in a game Dalvin Cook should dominate on the ground in tandem with the Minnesota defense, Cousins may not have to throw the ball very much. It could be similar to Week 1 when Cousins went just 8-of-10 passing in an easy Vikings home win over Atlanta. Volume is the major concern here, and with Adam Thielen (hamstring) still out, it’s just a situation I’d try to avoid in fantasy. There are much better streaming options. This game’s 40.5-point total is the week’s third-lowest.
Matt Ryan at Panthers: Fantasy’s QB7 in points per game, Ryan is coming off back-to-back sub-200 yards passing games with an ankle injury and the bye week sandwiched between the two. He’s also been dealt significant blows to his supporting cast, losing both Devonta Freeman (foot) and Austin Hooper (knee) to multi-week injuries in the Week 10 win over the Saints. Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley are more than enough to keep any quarterback afloat, but the Panthers present a stiff challenge, especially with top CB James Bradberry (groin) back in action. Carolina is 1-of-3 teams with more interceptions than touchdown passes allowed, and the Panthers come in at No. 3 in pass-defense DVOA, No. 3 in passing yards allowed, No. 3 in opponent QB rating, No. 3 in adjusted sack rate, and No. 7 in opponent yards per attempt. Carolina is significantly worse against the run. Aaron Rodgers produced a scoreless 233 yards against the Panthers last week, but Aaron Jones ran for three touchdowns. Ryan Tannehill had just one touchdown and two picks the previous week. And Jameis Winston tossed five picks against Carolina four weeks back. This is a much better setup for fill-in starting RB Brian Hill.