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Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em

Week 14 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em

by Nick Mensio

This is my “flu game,” as I’ve been battling the flu the past couple days. Sorry for the delay. Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes.

QUARTERBACK

Start of the Week: Deshaun Watson vs. Colts: Watson attempted more than 25 passes in a game last week for the first time since Week 5. He went 22-of-31 for 224 yards and one touchdown in the Texans’ ninth-straight win, adding 30 rushing yards. Watson has just three multi-TD passing games in those nine wins, but has two scores via the ground in that span and has been running a bit more of late, averaging 6.25 attempts for 36.25 yards over the last four games. That raises his floor significantly, keeping Watson in the QB1 discussion despite lower volume as a passer. The Colts have a below-average defense, checking in at No. 21 in pass-defense DVOA, 14th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, and 24th in adjusted sack rate. Since facing Tom Brady in Week 5, these are the quarterbacks Indy has squared off with — Sam Darnold, Derek Anderson, Derek Carr, Blake Bortles, Marcus Mariota/Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Tannehill, and Cody Kessler. Not exactly a murderers’ row. Watson is easily the top talent this defense will have seen in about two months. Both the Colts and Texans are top-eight in offensive pace and in the bottom half of the league in opponent plays per game. This game has a solid 49.5-point total, the sixth-highest of the week and will be played in a comfortable dome environment. These clubs went to overtime in Week 4, when Watson went 29-of-42 for 375 yards, two touchdowns, one pick and a third score on the ground to go with 40 rush yards. The Texans’ offensive philosophy has shifted to more of a run-centric game plan since then, but Watson has a good shot to again eclipse 30 attempts, especially if Andrew Luck keeps it close.

Starts


Philip Rivers vs. Bengals: Rivers brings a 12-game multi-touchdown streak into this one against a Bengals team that has simply given up on its season. Rivers is right up near the top of most statistical categories alongside Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, and Drew Brees. He’s having arguably the best season of his career at 37 years old (on Saturday). Rivers is the overall QB10 in fantasy points per game. Even though he’s not throwing a ton of passes, Rivers’ completion rate and touchdown percentage are out of this world. He now gets a Cincinnati defense that is getting shredded in every which way. The Bengals are 27th in pass-defense DVOA, 30th in pass touchdowns allowed, 32nd in fantasy points given up to quarterbacks, and 25th in sacks. The only real concern here for Rivers is if he will get enough volume with the Chargers as heavy 14-point home favorites. But last time this was a concern for Rivers was two weeks ago against Arizona and he set a record by going 28-of-29 for 259 yards and three touchdowns as the overall QB11. He was also rested in the fourth quarter. The Chargers’ implied team total of 30.75 points is the week’s third-highest.

Lamar Jackson at Chiefs: Since taking over as the Ravens’ starter three weeks ago, Jackson has been good but not great. He’s the overall QB15 in fantasy points per game with one top-12 finish, which came last week in Atlanta as the QB11, even with Jackson missing 15 snaps to get checked for a concussion. The Ravens have averaged 76.7 plays per game with Jackson under center, and Baltimore is No. 1 in the league in that category at 71.7 for the season. Baltimore operates at the fourth-fastest offensive pace, and Kansas City checks in at No. 7, so this game will very likely see plenty of action. More plays mean more opportunities for fantasy production. Joe Flacco (hip) has been practicing more this week, but the expectation is Jackson will get another start after the Ravens have gone 3-0 since he took over under center. The Chiefs have faced the most pass attempts in the league and are 30th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks due to that high volume. They’ve also surrendered the most rushing touchdowns to the position. After averaging just under 22 pass attempts per game in his three starts, there’s a high probability Jackson will have to flirt with 25-30 in this one with the Ravens going on the road as 6.5-point underdogs likely playing catchup. Obviously, Jackson’s bread and butter is the use of his legs. His rushing floor has been 71 yards with touchdown runs in back-to-back games. If Flacco ends up being active as the backup, there is some concern that if the Ravens fall behind, perhaps coach John Harbaugh could turn to Flacco if Jackson is struggling. For now, though, the upside is there for Jackson to have his best statistical game to date.

Dak Prescott vs. Eagles: Since the arrival of Amari Cooper, Prescott is the overall QB14 in fantasy points per game and is averaging 31.6 pass attempts after topping 30 attempts in a game just twice the first seven weeks. This offense still revolves around Ezekiel Elliott, but Prescott’s game has elevated as well with Cooper winning his routes and the quarterback scoring more as a runner. He has three rushing touchdowns over the last four weeks and is averaging 5.25 carries in that span. Back in Week 10 when these two teams squared off in Philly, Prescott fired off a season-high 36 passes for 270 yards, his third-most on the year, and had a touchdown each as a passer and runner. Prescott was the QB6 that week. The Eagles are now even more banged up defensively on the back end, and this one will be played in the comfy dome at JerryWorld. The Eagles are 19th in pass-defense DVOA and 19th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Only four teams have faced more pass attempts. The Eagles have had the luxury of facing Eli Manning and Mark Sanchez the last two weeks after getting throttled by Drew Brees in Week 11 after Prescott’s QB6 day in Week 10. This game has a low 44-point total, but the Dallas triumvirate of Prescott, Elliott, and Cooper remains in play.

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Sits

Kirk Cousins at Seahawks: It’s been an up and down first year in Minnesota for Cousins. He was one of the best quarterbacks in the league Weeks 1-4 with a 10:2 TD:INT mark, but he has just four one-touchdown passing games over his last eight games with a 7:5 TD:INT ratio since Week 9. Over the last five weeks, Cousins is the QB23 in fantasy points per game. That’s just not going to get it done, and we need to be aiming higher in the first week of the fantasy playoffs, especially with the Vikings heading out on the road to play in one of the toughest environments. Seattle’s pass defense has been average at best at 16th in DVOA and 13th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, but the Seahawks Offense runs the ball and controls clock so well that it limits the opposition’s volume. Nick Mullens threw for 414 yards and two touchdowns in Seattle last week only because the Niners were getting smashed from the opening snap. The Vikings are a much better team. Minnesota’s implied team total of 21 points is 23rd of all 32 teams in play this week. He’s a low-upside QB2.

Carson Wentz at Cowboys: Since the Eagles’ Week 9 bye, Wentz is the QB27 in fantasy points per game. That includes his miserable 156 yards and three interceptions day in New Orleans. Wentz also did very little in the Week 12 win against the Giants, throwing for just 236 yards and one score despite playing from behind most of the day. Wentz torched the Redskins this past Monday night and had a fine night against these same Cowboys in Week 10, throwing for 360 yards and three scores. But since that game, the Eagles have found a running back in Josh Adams. Adams carried the ball just seven times in Week 10, but he has back-to-back high-volume outings with rushing lines of 22-84-1 and 20-85 to help mask an offensive line that has struggled to pass protect. Wentz very likely isn’t going to have to throw it 44 times this week like he did back in Week 10 vs. Dallas. The Cowboys’ defense is no cake walk, either. Dallas is No. 7 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 10th in pass-defense DVOA. They’ve faced the eighth-fewest pass attempts because Dallas is able to control the ball so well on offense. The Eagles also play at the seventh-slowest offensive pace. Their 62 offensive plays against the Cowboys in Week 10 were the Eagles’ third-fewest since Wentz returned from injury in Week 3. The 44-point total is the fifth-lowest of Week 14, and the Eagles’ implied team total of 20.25 points is the seventh-lowest of 32 teams.

Tom Brady at Dolphins: Brady was listed in the sits portion of this piece last week, and he answered with the QB16 day, throwing for 311 yards and just one touchdown. It was Brady’s fourth 0-1 TD game over his last five and fifth in the last seven. The upside in Brady’s game has been sapped with the return of Sony Michel in the backfield. Brady is on pace for just 26 passing touchdowns, which would be his fewest since 25 in 2013, and second-fewest since 2006. Playing in hot and humid Miami has been the one source of kryptonite for Brady in his career. Last Week 14, Brady threw for just 233 yards, one score, and two picks in a Patriots loss at the Dolphins. New England is 1-4 in Miami since 2013. The Dolphins are average at best against the pass, checking in at 24th in DVOA and 21st in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, but they’re No. 2 in interceptions. The Patriots are also 7.5-point favorites. There’s no doubt New England can win this game, especially with Dolphins top CB Xavien Howard (knee) expected to sit out. But their path to success has been riding Sony Michel of late and working the short area of the field. Brady has truly shown zero upside and isn’t providing any week-winner games for fantasy footballers. Over his last five games, Brady has finishes as QB20 — QB16 — QB23 — QB16 — QB16. He’s again ideally just a two-QB league play.

RUNNING BACK

Start of the Week: LeSean McCoy vs. Jets: Since the bye, McCoy has mustered up 98 scoreless yards on 32 carries (3.06 YPC) while catching just five balls for 19 yards. In those two games, Josh Allen has 235 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground to go with three touchdowns via the pass. McCoy is the RB40 in that span with Allen checking in as the overall QB1 since Week 12. The one sliver of good news is McCoy is playing his normal reps and getting steady volume. McCoy is now a home favorite getting a Jets Defense that is 22nd in run-defense DVOA and 21st in fantasy points allowed to running backs. Only five teams have faced more rushing attempts, and only five have surrendered more touchdowns on the ground to opposing running backs. Shady had easily his best game of the season when these two clubs squared off in Week 10, setting season-highs in carries (26), rushing yards (113), and touchdowns (two) with the Bills stomping the Jets in their own backyard with Matt Barkley at quarterback. In the Jets’ following game, Sony Michel hung a 21-133-1 rushing line on them. Last week, Derrick Henry (10-40-1) and Dion Lewis (6-36) combined to average 4.75 YPC in a Titans win. In a game with a 38.5-point total, the second-lowest of Week 14, there aren’t many attractive options, but McCoy is one.

Starts

Justin Jackson vs. Bengals: Prior to Week 12, Jackson had played a total of 12 offensive snaps. The seventh-round rookie has seen his role grow the last two weeks, playing 13 downs in a blowout win over the Cardinals in Week 12 before then getting 14 snaps in last Sunday night’s massive road win against the Steelers. Jackson has turned in a beautiful 15-120-1 rushing line the last two weeks and juked a defender out of his shoes on his 22-yard touchdown scamper in Pittsburgh. With Melvin Gordon (knee) out again this week, it’ll be Austin Ekeler and Jackson handling the backfield. Ekeler got the start last week but mustered up just 21 scoreless yards on 13 carries, while catching 5-of-8 targets for 21 more yards. It was an extremely disappointing box score. And Jackson was the guy in the fourth quarter, as his touchdown gave L.A. a 30-23 lead with just over eight minutes to play. And earlier this week, coach Anthony Lynn admitted Ekeler is “wearing down a little bit,” adding that he’s “a little tired.” Lynn continued to say that “you might see Justing Jackson play a little bit more.” He has the fresh legs. Don’t expect Ekeler to be completely phased out by any means; he’s still a good bet for double-digit touches, but Jackson lit it up last Sunday and could flirt with 15-plus touches with the Chargers as massive 14-point home favorites. Jackson broke five tackles on nine touches in Week 13 for an elusive rating of 263.9 at Pro Football Focus. For the entirety of the season, Nick Chubb has PFF’s top elusive rating at 104.1 Jackson handled a massive college workload at Northwestern and would be capable of filling in as a No. 1 back. The Bengals are 28th in run-defense DVOA and dead last in fantasy points allowed to running backs. Jackson couldn’t ask for a better draw. He’s very much on the RB2/3 map with considerable upside.

Jaylen Samuels at Raiders: Like Jackson above, Samuels was one of the hottest waiver-wire pickups of the week. James Conner suffered an ankle injury late in last week’s loss to the Chargers and was ruled out pretty early this week, suggesting he could be looking at a multi-week issue. Just in time for Samuels to save the day for fantasy owners in dire need of running back help for the fantasy playoffs. Samuels has played just 56 snaps as a rookie, carrying the ball 12 times for 31 scoreless yards while catching seven passes for 54 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Drafted as a running back out of NC State, Samuels is more of a natural pass catcher who played all over the field in college. He worked out as a tight end at the Combine. But Samuels is expected to get the start at running back this week, with plodding veteran Stevan Ridley serving as his sidekick. Samuels said the plan for now is for the two to rotate series. But if one player shows more than the other, the Steelers very well could lean on him. Samuels has far more playmaking ability at 22 years old. We’re all probably underestimating Ridley a bit, which may be a mistake, but this matchup is just so easy that both could end up being top-30 backs at the end of the week. Oakland is 31st in run-defense DVOA and 25th in fantasy points allowed to running backs. Only the Cardinals have faced more rushing attempts. Samuels is a good bet for a floor of 12 touches with upside for more should he distance himself from Ridley. Samuels is on the back end of the RB2 map, while Ridley is in the RB3/FLEX convo.

Spencer Ware vs. Ravens: Stepping in for suspended-and-then-released Kareem Hunt last week, Spencer Ware played 69% of the offensive snaps against Oakland and found his way to the end zone for a short score. But his 14-47 rushing line left a lot to be desired, especially against such a bad defense. Ware was also targeted just once in the pass game despite running 21 routes. The touchdown saved Ware’s day from being a total nightmare. Perhaps he wasn’t ready for the large role on such short notice after things moved really quickly on Friday when the Hunt video was leaked by TMZ. We’ll give Ware the benefit of the doubt. He just turned 27 last month and is 15 months removed from tearing his LCL and PCL in his right knee. The Chiefs signed Charcandrick West this week, adding him to the backfield group that also includes Damien Williams and Darrel Williams. West knows the offense but hasn’t played this season. Ware should get another week as the clear lead dog and will need a better showing. The matchup on paper is tough with Baltimore No. 1 in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 12th in run-defense DVOA, but both the Ravens and Chiefs are top seven in offensive pace, and this game has a nice 52.5-point total. Kansas City is a sizable 6.5-point home favorite, so Ware should get a chance to accrue some volume. He’s also functional in the pass game should this one remain close. Keep him locked in lineups as an RB2.

Sits

Gus Edwards at Chiefs: Since taking over as the lead back following the Week 10 bye, Edwards has played 57.4% of the snaps with rushing lines of 17-115-1 — 23-118 — 21-82, all with Lamar Jackson at quarterback. Jackson is expected to get another start this week in K.C., but Edwards is less than 100% due to an ankle injury and saw his snap-percentage tick down to 49.4% last week in Atlanta with Ty Montgomery’s pass-game role increasing and the activation of Kenneth Dixon from I.R. Edwards’ role isn’t as solidified, and a bigger concern is this game getting away from the Ravens on the road at Arrowhead where they may be forced to play catchup ball. Edwards is a zero in the pass game with no targets since his elevation to lead dog. Volume has been his draw with Jackson opening up bigger running lanes for Edwards due to the quarterback’s dual-threat skills. The Chiefs are dead-last in run-defense DVOA, and this game has a nice total at 52.5 points. But Baltimore is a 6.5-point underdog. Dixon and Montgomery may be called on for more reps. Edwards is going to have to score a touchdown to pay off, and that hasn’t happened the last two weeks with Jackson keeping it a couple times in the red zone for short scores.

Josh Adams at Cowboys: Adams has taken over as the Eagles’ clear lead back in recent weeks, getting 42 total carries over the last two games and turning them into 169 yards and one touchdown. The bad news, however, is Adams has been a zero in the pass game with Corey Clement handling that role, and Darren Sproles returned last week against the Redskins to siphon four carries for 22 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown. Adams failed on a couple carries from the two-yard line earlier in the game. His volume is great, but being so dependent on that makes Adams very boom-bust. He pretty much has to score a touchdown to pay off as a fantasy starter. Adams was the RB27 last week without the touchdown. When he did score in Week 12, he was the RB12. Dallas presents a really tough matchup. The Cowboys are No. 6 in run-defense DVOA and No. 5 in fantasy points allowed to running backs. When these two teams met in Week 10, Adams got just seven carries, turning them into 47 scoreless yards, but that was before he was truly unleashed as the No. 1 back. Still, led by the Wolf Killer, Leighton Vander Esch, this Dallas defense absolutely shut down the Saints’ running game in Dallas last week, holding Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram to a combined 60 scoreless yards on 18 carries. Adrian Peterson was stamped out the week before that, mustering up just 35 yards on 12 totes. Dallas hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown since Week 9. This is a week where you play your Eagles at your own risk. Philly has one of the lowest team totals on the board.

Jordan Howard vs. Rams: Howard was cruising last week against the Giants with 68 rushing yards in the first half, but he was curiously completely phased out of the offense after the break with the Bears in comeback mode. Howard had just eight yards after halftime, and Tarik Cohen stole the show with 186 yards on 20 touches while throwing a game-tying one-yard touchdown. Howard hasn’t topped 82 yards on the ground all season and hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 9 while remaining a virtual zero in the pass game. The Rams struggle against the run, checking in at No. 25 in DVOA and 14th in fantasy points allowed to running backs. But they get involved in shootouts, and the Bears will likely just answer with Cohen. This game doesn’t set up well at all for Howard to have success. He could luck into a short score, but he’s averaging just 3.4 YPC on the year and doesn’t get enough volume to overcome that. Howard is best treated as a low-floor RB3 for Week 14, even in a game with a nice 52-point total. You’re playing Howard at your own risk.

WIDE RECEIVER

Start of the Week: Allen Robinson vs. Rams: Robinson had one of his better performances of the year last week against the Giants, making a special 30-yard grab over the top of CB B.W. Webb and then securing a grab on 4th-and-7 to keep the game alive for the Bears. He finished the day with 79 yards on five grabs while seeing nine targets. Pinning down the Bears’ wideouts has been a tough task all year, but the Rams struggle against receivers, allowing the seventh-most fantasy points to the position. And only the 49ers have given up more touchdowns to receivers. Aqib Talib (ankle) is back for the Rams, but he’s very likely not 100% and played just 36% of the snaps in his return last week. They have to keep easing him in coming off ankle surgery. Marcus Peters is playing better, but he’s still Pro Football Focus’ No. 109 cover corner out of 113 qualifiers and has allowed six touchdowns. Only Malcolm Butler and Janoris Jenkins have surrendered more, both giving up seven. No. 1 receivers Tyreek Hill (10-215-2), Tyler Lockett (5-67-1), Michael Thomas (12-211-1), Davante Adams (5-133), Emmanuel Sanders (7-115-1), Lockett again (3-98-1), Adam Thielen (8-135-1), and Stefon Diggs (11-123) have all had big games against the Rams this year. Mitchell Trubisky (shoulder) is also expected back after missing two games. This game’s 52-point total is the third-highest of the week. Robinson is going to have chances to make plays. He’s a WR2.

Starts

Courtland Sutton at 49ers: Sutton was hyped up after the Demaryius Thomas trade, but he’s posted receiving lines of 3-57 — 3-78 — 1-14 — 4-85-1 since the move. The good news is he’s playing close to 80% of the snaps, and Sutton is coming off that 85-yards, one-TD performance against the Bengals. Sadly, Emmanuel Sanders tore his Achilles’ in Wednesday’s practice and is obviously done for the season. Sutton has no choice but to be the Broncos’ No. 1 receiver. This is still going to be a run-dominant offense, but Sanders’ injury opens up a team-high 8.2 targets per game. Sutton should be on the field nearly every snap moving forward with a chance to clear seven or eight targets a week the rest of the way. He has double-digit upside in that department and now gets a plum matchup against the 49ers, who are 26th in pass-defense DVOA, 30th in fantasy points allowed to receivers, and dead last in touchdowns given up to the position. Seattle’s Jaron Brown just scored two touchdowns against San Francisco last week, and Tyler Lockett again scored from way out with a 52-yarder. Mike Evans went 6-116 the previous week. Odell Beckham had 4-73-2 in Week 10. Davante Adams had 10-132-2 in Week 6. Christian Kirk posted 3-85-1 in Week 5. Outside receivers have been tearing up this defense. Richard Sherman is having a fine year, but fellow starter Ahkello Witherspoon is Pro Football Focus’ worst cover corner out of 113 qualifiers. Sutton should flirt with WR3 output the remainder of 2018, and this matchup is as good as it gets right out of the gate.

Demaryius Thomas vs. Colts: In four games with the Texans, Demaryius Thomas has seen 14 total targets and turned in receiving lines of 3-61-0 — 0-0 — 4-38-2 — 3-32-0 as the overall WR59 in fantasy points per game. His high water mark for targets in a game has been five, each of the last two weeks. Thomas is playing close to 80% of the snaps, so seeing the field isn’t a problem. The issue is the Texans have won nine in a row and aren’t being forced to play from behind at all. Watson’s 31 pass attempts last week against the Browns were his most since Week 5, and he’d attempted 25 or fewer passes in six-straight games prior to last Sunday. This looks like a spot for Thomas to set a new personal high in targets with the Texans. Both Indianapolis and Houston are top-eight in offensive pace and in the bottom half of the league in opponent plays per game. The Colts are a pass-funnel defense, checking in at 21st in pass-defense DVOA and No. 4 against the run. The Texans ran a season-high 86 plays the last time these clubs met in Week 4, but that was an overtime game while Houston had a different philosophy back in Week 4. Coach Bill O’Brien has turned to a more run-heavy approach, but I like Watson to again top 30 passing attempts in a plus draw at home with a nice 49.5-point total, the sixth-highest of the week. Thomas is back on the WR3 map in what could become a shootout. This is easily the best offense the Colts have faced since the Patriots in Week 5. Weeks 6-13, Indy faced the Jets, Bills, Raiders, Jaguars x2, Titans, and Dolphins.

Chris Godwin vs. Saints: DeSean Jackson continues to battle a sprained thumb that has kept him from catching passes in practice the last two weeks. He didn’t play last week against the Panthers and is a real long shot to suit up against the Saints. There’s talk of the Bucs potentially shutting Jackson down the rest of the year. In his absence last week, Godwin played a season-high 80% of the snaps and hung a 5-101-1 line on the Panthers with an athletic touchdown grab in the back of the end zone on a high throw from Jameis Winston. Godwin’s 36 pass routes tied Mike Evans for the team lead. In four games without either Evans or Jackson in his career, Godwin has receiving lines of 5-68 — 3-98 — 7-111-1 — 5-101-1 while playing starter’s snaps. He’s been deserving of this role for quite some time. The Saints pass defense has been better of late, but they’re still dead last in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers and 22nd in pass-defense DVOA. Evans should draw shadow coverage from top CB Marshon Lattimore, leaving Godwin to pick on Eli Apple on the other side. Apple is Pro Football Focus’ No. 106 cover corner out of 113 qualifiers and has given up at least 79 yards in his coverage in 4-of-6 games since his trade to New Orleans. Godwin will be a locked-in WR2 with massive upside in a game with the week’s highest total at 56 points.

Sits

Alshon Jeffery at Cowboys: There hasn’t been a bigger loser from the Golden Tate trade on the Eagles than Jeffery. Since the trade, Jeffery has seen a total of 21 targets in four games with eight of those coming in Tate’s debut when he was eased in while playing just 29% of the snaps. Tate has played 58.1% of the snaps the last three weeks. Jeffery has failed to top 48 yards or score a touchdown in each of his last five games. He has just one 100-yard game on the year, his Week 4 debut at Tennessee with an 8-105-1 day. Things don’t get any easier this week in Dallas. The Cowboys are No. 10 in pass-defense DVOA and allow the third-fewest fantasy points to wideouts. Only the Ravens have surrendered fewer catches to the position. Jeffery also figures to draw a heavy dose of CB Byron Jones on Sunday. Jones is Pro Football Focus’ No. 2 cover corner out of 113 qualifiers and has yet to be charged with a touchdown in his coverage this season. Only four corners have allowed a lower passer rating in their coverage. Back in Week 10, Jeffery parlayed eight targets into a 4-48 day, and that was Tate’s debut when he played just 29% of the downs. As Tate’s role has grown, Jeffery’s has gone the other direction. He’s real tough to trust in the first week of the fantasy playoffs in a game with a 44-point total, the fifth-lowest of Week 14.

Devin Funchess at Browns: Funchess returned from a one-week back issue last week against the Bucs to play just 45% of the snaps, finishing fifth on the team with three targets, and turning them into just one grab for a 10-yard touchdown. D.J. Moore is the team’s best wideout, and Curtis Samuel is starting to come on as a playmaker. Christian McCaffrey leads all running backs in targets and is the focal point of the offense. There just isn’t a lot left for Funchess, who has badly underachieved in his contract year with zero games above 77 yards receiving. Even if the Browns are without top CB Denzel Ward (concussion), this doesn’t look like a spot to rely on Funchess in the fantasy playoffs. There’s a very real possibility he’s been passed on the depth chart by both Moore and Samuel. The Browns are also No. 4 in pass-defense DVOA despite being 21st in fantasy points allowed to wideouts. Cam Newton’s surgically-repaired shoulder is acting up again, causing him to moss practice the last two days. Carolina may lean even more on McCaffrey against a Cleveland defense whose weakness is stopping the run. Funchess is a low-floor WR4 in this one.

Tre’Quan Smith at Bucs: Smith has some severe home-road splits in his rookie season. Since Ted Ginn’s injury in Week 5, Smith has a pair of 100-yard games (3-111-2, 10-157-1) and both have come in the Superdome. He scored his other touchdown in a home win over the Rams in Week 9. In four road games since Week 5, Smith has box scores of 3-44-0 — 3-18-0 — 0-0 — 0-0. He simply hasn’t shown anything away from the friendly confines of the Superdome and is impossible to trust in season-long leagues despite a glorious on-paper matchup against a Bucs unit that is 31st in fantasy points allowed to receivers and 29th in pass-defense DVOA. This defense has also been playing incrementally better in recent games against Nick Mulles and Cam Newton, picking the two off a combined six times after recording just one interception as a team the first 11 weeks. At this point, we have to see it from Smith away from home before we can believe it.

TIGHT END

Start of the Week: David Njoku vs. Panthers: Njoku has been incredibly hit or miss over the last five weeks with receiving yards outputs of zero, eight, and 18 yards to go with 53- and 63-yard afternoons. His target share has dipped a bit since OC Freddie Kitchens took over play-calling duties. This still looks like a good spot for Njoku to pop back up for a big game. The Panthers are 30th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends and have given up the most touchdowns to the position. Cameron Brate dropped a touchdown against Carolina last week. Vance McDonald and Jesse James both caught scores against the Panthers in Week 10. O.J. Howard went 4-53-2 the previous week. Mark Andrews and Hayden Hurst combined for 6-60-1 in Week 8. Zach Ertz (9-138) and Dallas Goedert (4-43-1) were the offense for the Eagles in Week 7. Vernon Davis (3-48-1) and Jordan Reed (5-36) were the Redskins’ top two receivers the previous week. A Baker Mayfield stack with Njoku doesn’t look like a bad play at home in a game that could see plenty of points.

Starts

Jared Cook vs. Steelers: Cook’s playing time has been all over the place in recent weeks for the tanking Raiders, but he’s become the most trustworthy pass-catcher for this anemic offense. Cook is seventh among all tight ends in targets per game over the last four weeks and draws a plus matchup against a Steelers unit that is 28th in DVOA against tight ends while allowing the ninth-most yards to the position. Jeff Heuerman and Matt LaCosse combined for a 7-78-1 day against Pittsburgh in Week 12. Mark Andrews had a 3-50 line in Week 9. C.J. Uzomah caught six balls for 54 yards two games prior. Austin Hooper went 9-77 in Week 6. Maxx Williams had 5-51 in Week 4. And O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate combined for 9-106-1 in Week 3. Cook has seen at least five targets in 5-of-6 games since the bye. He’s a rock-solid TE1 at a shallow tight end position.

Trey Burton vs. Rams: Offseason hype piece Burton has been one of the biggest disappointments at tight end. He was being talked about as a candidate to lead the Bears in catches over the summer. Burton laid an egg against the Giants last week with zero catches on one target and watched as Adam Shaheen scored a two-yard TD in his first game back off I.R. Burton has five touchdowns on the year but hasn’t cleared 40 yards since Week 7. He gets another good matchup against a Rams Defense that has allowed the fourth-most yards to tight ends and eighth-most fantasy points. This game figures to be high-paced with plenty of points. Levine Toilolo of all people posted 90 yards against the Rams in Detroit last week to lead the Lions. Travis Kelce had 10-127-1 the previous game against L.A. Nick Vannett secured a touchdown in Week 10 versus the Rams. Ben Watson popped back up for 3-62-1 in Week 9. George Kittle led the Niners with 5-98-1 in Week 7. And Kyle Rudolph had 5-57 in Week 4. Way back in Week 1, Jared Cook exploded for 9-180 against L.A. Burton has been extremely boom-or-bust, but he’s on the TE1 fringe for this one.

C.J. Uzomah at Chargers: With Jeff Driskel playing the bulk of the Bengals’ last two games, Uzomah leads the team in targets with 20 the past two weeks. He has just 72 scoreless yards on 11 catches to show for it all, but when you’re on the field as much as he is and being funneled targets in an offense that is again without A.J. Green (toe, I.R.), it’s hard to turn that volume down at tight end. The Chargers are No. 10 in fantasy points allowed to tight ends and allow the sixth-fewest yards per game to the position. But Uzomah’s snaps and usage keep him afloat as a TE1 streamer in a game the Bengals will likely be playing catchup most of the afternoon.

Sits

Cameron Brate vs. Saints: Brate has played over 68% of the snaps over the last two weeks since O.J. Howard’s season-ending injury. He scored a red-zone touchdown against the Niners in Week 12 and dropped another touchdown last week, so he’s getting primo looks in the scoring area. However, the Saints are among the best teams at defending tight ends, allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to them and giving up just one touchdown to the position. It’s hard to flat-out bench Brate in a game with a 56-point total, but plenty of tight ends have flopped against the Saints.

Kyle Rudolph at Seahawks: Rudolph has topped 50 yards just once since Week 4 and hasn’t found the end zone since Week 3. His two best games of the season are 7-72 and 7-63 days against the Packers in Weeks 2 and 12. Seattle throws Rudolph another tough draw. The Seahawks are No. 4 in catches allowed to tight ends and No. 8 in fantasy points surrendered to the position. And this doesn’t look like a game where the Vikings are going to hang a big number on the scoreboard; their implied team total of 21 points is 23rd of 32 teams in action this week.

Evan Engram at Redskins: Engram is back at practice this week after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury; he should be good to go for Sunday’s divisional game. But this has been a second season to forget for last year’s impressive rookie output. Averaging 4.1 targets per game, Engram is way down the pecking order in this offense behind Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham. He and Sterling Shepard are starting to just fight for scraps as the Giants just get more and more run-heavy. And in a game the G-Men are favored on the road, they can just stick the ball in Barkley’s gut and let him run it 30-plus times against the Mark Sanchez-led Skins.

Nick Mensio

Nick Mensio has been covering the NFL for Rotoworld since 2012. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.