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 Chris Carsons, D.J. Charks, and George Kittles 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. Disclaimer: This doesn’t mean I advocate playing these guys over your weekly studs.
Start of the Week: Josh Allen at Cowboys: Fantasy’s overall QB7 in points per game, Allen has been rock solid all season, and especially since the calendar flipped to October. Allen has multiple touchdowns in seven straight games. When he can put together a game with multiple touchdowns as either a passer or runner along with at least one score in the other area, the sky's the limit for Allen. And we saw it two weeks ago in Miami when Allen tossed three touchdowns and ran in another, finishing Week 11 as the overall QB1. He has seven rushing scores on the year, including four over his last four contests. Allen’s game is pretty much matchup-proof after we saw him put the QB10 day on the board last week against Denver’s stout defense. Dallas is a middling 18th in pass-defense DVOA, but top-10 in passing yards allowed per game (No. 6), opponent yards per attempt (No. 5), passing touchdowns allowed (No. 6), and fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks (No. 8). However, the Cowboys play at the third-fastest offensive pace, and the Bills are also in the top half of the league in pace at No. 14. This game will be played in the friendly confines of the JerryWorld dome with a 46-point total, the sixth-highest of the 16-game Week 13 slate. The Bills are going to have to keep up with Dallas. Dual-threat Jeff Driskel put up 209 yards and two touchdowns as a passer with 51 rushing yards and a third score on the ground against the Cowboys in Week 11, finishing as the QB5. Daniel Jones led the Giants with 54 rushing yards in Week 9, adding 210 yards and a score as a passer. Allen has the most upside of any QB on the Thanksgiving Day slate.
Sam Darnold at Bengals: Darnold is the overall QB5 over the last three weeks after big games against the Giants, Redskins, and Raiders. Weeks ago, we were eyeing this part of the schedule for the sophomore quarterback, but after his “seeing ghosts” performance against the Patriots followed by subpar road games in Jacksonville and Miami, Darnold’s star seemed to fade. But he now catches another plus-plus Sunday matchup. The Bengals are 31st in pass-defense DVOA, 21st in passing yards allowed, 26th in opponent completion rate, dead last in opponent yards per attempt, 30th in opponent passer rating, and 26th in fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks. Mason Rudolph/Devlin Hodges predictably did very little against Cincinnati last week outside of a Hodges-to-James Washington 79-yard score. But Derek Carr put up the QB11 day the week before, and Jared Goff had the QB8 week in Week 8, his lone remotely useful performance of the past five weeks. Cincinnati is 31st in sacks with just 16. The 41-point total for Jets-Bengals is the fifth-lowest of Week 13, but this is an easy enough individual matchup for Darnold to flirt with 300 yards and multiple scores. All of his pass catchers, including Le’Veon Bell, catch easy draws. At worst, Darnold is a top-15 option.
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Carson Wentz at Dolphins: A colossal 2019 disappointment, Wentz is the overall QB22 in fantasy points per game, 21st in completion percentage, and 30th in yards per attempt. The Eagles have absolutely zero semblance of a vertical passing game without DeSean Jackson. Alshon Jeffery can barely move anymore, and Nelson Agholor is a running joke among Philly fans. JJ Arcega-Whiteside can’t seem to get on the field. Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert have been good, but neither stretches the field and are more extensions of the running game. However, Jeffery (ankle) and Agholor (knee) are expected back from injuries this week. And the Dolphins present possibly the easiest matchup of the season for Wentz. Miami is dead last in pass-defense DVOA and dead last in adjusted sack rate. They’ve placed No. 1 CB Xavien Howard and both starting safeties Reshad Jones and Bobby McCain on injured reserve in recent weeks. The Dolphins are 22nd in passing yards allowed per game, 20th in opponent completion rate, 26th in opponent yards per attempt, 31st in touchdowns allowed, 31st in opponent passer rating, and 29th in fantasy points yielded to quarterbacks. Baker Mayfield tossed three first-half touchdowns last Sunday, finishing with 327 yards as the overall QB6. Josh Allen put the QB1 day on the board in Week 11 in Miami. Wentz doesn’t have a 300-yard outing since Week 6 and has five straight one-touchdown games. His supporting cast has just been decimated, but there’s enough meat on the bone here to go back to Wentz as a streamer. The Eagles’ implied team total of 27 points is the third-highest on the board.
Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Eagles: Fitzpatrick has been his usual high-ceiling, low-floor self in Miami. He has four multi-touchdown games over his last six outings and is coming off the QB5 week against the Browns last Sunday. FitzMagic is the overall QB5 since Week 7 and has three rushing touchdowns in that span. It’s not always pretty with Fitzpatrick, but it’s clear when watching the Dolphins that his teammates love playing for him. Even in a lost season, Fitzpatrick’s compete level remains at 100. The Eagles held Russell Wilson to the QB19 week in Week 12, but Wilson had a long touchdown dropped by DK Metcalf and another potential long sideline grab by Metcalf clank off his hands. Wilson also missed a wide-open Jacob Hollister in the end zone. The wind played a factor in Philly. Dak Prescott and Kirk Cousins have posted top-12 days against the Eagles since Philly’s Week 5 bye. The Eagles are 10th in pass-defense DVOA, 12th in passing yards allowed per game, sixth in opponent completion rate, 17th in opponent yards per attempt, 18th in passing touchdowns allowed, and 12th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Easy matchups with Luke Falk, Mitchell Trubisky, and Tom Brady have played a part in spiking those numbers. Fitzpatrick has a basement-level floor but top-10 upside anytime he takes the field. DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki are both in good individual spots.
Baker Mayfield at Steelers: Mayfield has shown signs of life in recent weeks with three consecutive multi-touchdown passing games, including last week’s 327 yards and three touchdowns against the Dolphins as the QB6 for Week 12. Since Week 10, Mayfield is the overall QB10 in fantasy points per game. And that includes the Week 11 matchup with these same Steelers. However, Mayfield only had 193 passing yards in that game, but he did throw two touchdowns and ran in another for his second career rushing score. We can’t bank on the rushing output with Mayfield, especially touchdowns with his feet. Simply remove that touchdown from his stat line and Mayfield would have been the QB18 versus Pittsburgh. The Steelers field an elite pass defense, checking in at No. 4 in DVOA versus the pass, No. 8 in passing yards allowed per game, No. 10 in opponent completion rate, No. 9 in opponent yards per attempt, No. 5 in opponent passer rating, No. 2 in adjusted sack rate, and 11th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Mayfield completed just 53% of his throws at 6.03 yards per attempt two weeks ago against the Steelers. Jared Goff had 243 scoreless yards and two picks in Pittsburgh the previous week. And Ryan Finley was obviously shut down with ease last Sunday. A difficult matchup in a game with a measly 40-point total between two offenses that are in the bottom third of the league in offensive pace isn’t where I’m looking for a QB streamer.
Ryan Tannehill at Colts: Since he took over as starter in Week 7, only Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen have scored more fantasy points than Tannehill. Marcus Mariota was so bad that he has Tannehill looking like the Titans’ version of Jackson. He’s coming off yet another stellar game against the Jaguars last week, finishing as the overall QB2 behind Jackson. Tannehill, however, is averaging 18.5 passing attempts over his last two games but has scored three rushing touchdowns over his last three outings. He’s always possessed that athleticism, but it’s hard to keep up scoring with his feet, especially when Derrick Henry is on the same team. Tannehill has been phenomenal; I just can’t see him maintaining this astounding pace on such low pass volume. This game has a 43.5-point total with a 2.5-point spread, so it’s not as if Tannehill is going to have to win this game for the Titans. The Colts are 12th in pass-defense DVOA, 16th in passing yards allowed per game, 12th in passing touchdowns allowed, 19th in opponent yards per attempt, and 10th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. DC Matt Eberflus’ zone scheme does a good job of limiting big plays and keeping the ball in front of the defense. The Colts are also pretty good at keeping dual-threat QBs contained to the pocket, as Deshaun Watson has 3-10 and 3-32 rushing lines against Indy this season. The Colts play at the third-slowest offensive pace and are No. 5 in opponent plays per game. Tennessee doesn’t play much faster, checking in at No. 10 in pace. This isn’t a game that screams fantasy upside.
Philip Rivers at Broncos: Rivers has really bottomed out in recent weeks and comes into this AFC West matchup as the overall QB24 in fantasy points per game for the season. He has a high-water mark of QB9 against the Dolphins way earlier in the year and has just four touchdowns to eight interceptions over his last four games coming into this one. Meanwhile, the Broncos are 15th in pass-defense DVOA, No. 5 in passing yards allowed per game, No. 6 in opponent yards per attempt, No. 6 in passing touchdowns allowed, 14th in opponent passer rating, and No. 4 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. When these two teams squared off in Week 5, Rivers manages 211 yards, his third-fewest of the season, no scores, and two interceptions, averaging a pitiful 4.4 yards per attempt. The Chargers play at the fourth-slowest offensive pace, and this game’s 38.5-point total is tied for the lowest of Week 13.