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 Russell Wilsons, Marlon Macks, and Tyler Locketts 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: Jared Goff vs. Bengals: Goff rebounded from a career-worst Week 6 against the Niners to hang the overall QB5 day on the answer-less Falcons last Sunday, throwing for a pair of scores and running in a third. It’s been a down year for Goff, who is the overall QB19 in fantasy points per game, settling in as a high-ceiling, low-floor QB2 with obvious upside weeks. This London trip against the Bengals fits the upside bill. Cincinnati is 29th in pass-defense DVOA, 27th in opponent yards per attempt, 24th in opponent passer rating, adn 25th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. The Bengals also get next to no pressure on quarterbacks, checking in at 25th in adjusted sack rate, so Goff should have more clean pockets for the second week in a row after not taking a sack in Atlanta. Goff will be the best pure throwing passer the Bengals have seen since Russell Wilson in Week 1. Since then, Cincinnati has faced Jimmy Garoppolo, Josh Allen, Mason Rudolph, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, and Gardner Minshew. The Rams’ implied team total of 30.5 points is the highest number on the slate. Goff should be fired up as a top-six QB1 with 300-plus yards and multi-touchdown upside. The Rams run the league’s fastest-paced offense, and the Bengals are 27th in opponent plays per game. L.A. has a chance to rack up big-time play volume across the pond.
Ryan Tannehill vs. Bucs: Making his first start of the season last week, Tannehill completed 23-of-29 passes for 312 yards (10.8 YPA) and a pair of touchdowns against the Chargers. He was extremely efficient and appeared to find a nice rhythm in the win. It was a pleasant sight after Marcus Mariota showed no signs of progress whatsoever. The performance was good enough for the overall QB13 performance by Tannehill. He now catches a much easier draw against the Bucs, who are 25th in pass-defense DVOA, 32nd in passing yards allowed, 24th in adjusted sack rate, and 28th in fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks. Tampa Bay is coming off its bye but gave up the QB14 day to Kyle Allen (227 yards, 2 TDs) in Week 6, QB4 afternoon to Teddy Bridgewater (314 yards, 4 TDs) in Week 5, QB4 day to Jared Goff (517 yards, 2 TDs) in Week 4, and the QB2 finish to Daniel Jones (336 yards, 4 TDs) in Week 3. This defense has shown no signs of stopping the pass, so even Tannehill should be able to manage a respectable fantasy week against a defense that is 26th in opponent plays per game. Tennessee’s implied team total of 23.75 points is the week’s 11th-highest. I personally added Tannehill where I have Lamar Jackson on bye.
Josh Allen vs. Eagles: One of the chalkiest, most-popular plays of Week 7, Allen and the Bills ran a season-low 51 offensive plays against the Dolphins, but Allen still managed a QB9 finish with 202 yards and two touchdowns as a passer on top of 32 rushing yards. Buffalo should rebound in the play-volume department closer to its 65-ish average while Allen catches another plus-plus matchup. The Eagles are 20th in pass-defense DVOA, 27th in passing yards allowed, 24th in opponent yards per attempt, 25th in passing touchdowns surrendered, and 26th in fantasy points yielded to quarterbacks. Philly is fresh off allowing the QB7 night to Dak Prescott last week after surrendering the QB6 performance to Kirk Cousins in Week 6. This Eagles Defense has collapsed, and veterans have been axed in recent weeks with slot CB Orlando Scandrick being the latest to get his walking papers. Sidney Jones is expected to take over inside after being benched in Week 6 only to play zero snaps last Sunday. Jalen Mills (foot) was also recently activated from PUP and will be making his first start since last December. Rounding out the group is former Bills second-rounder Ronald Darby, who is Pro Football Focus’ No. 95 cover corner out of 113 qualifiers. John Brown and Cole Beasley have winnable one-on-one matchups no matter who is covering them. Allen’s rushing numbers are just the cherry on top, and this Eagles Defense gave up 30 yards and one touchdown to Prescott as a runner last week. And Aaron Rodgers led the Packers with 5-46-0 rushing two weeks prior. Allen should be locked right back into season-long lineups as a high-ceiling QB1 despite this game’s relatively low total of 43.5 points, seventh-lowest of Week 8.
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Matthew Stafford vs. Giants: Stafford has quietly had an amazing first half of the season. He’s No. 8 in yards per attempt and No. 9 in passer rating. No quarterback has attempted more passes 20-plus yards downfield. The Lions don’t run a high-volume passing offense, but Stafford is making up for it by taking shots and using his big arm. Stafford is current QB7 in fantasy points per game and just lit up a top-notch Vikings pass defense for 364 yards and four touchdowns last week. He now gets a Giants unit that is 27th in pass-defense DVOA, 23rd in passing yards allowed, 31st in opponent yards per attempt, 23rd in opponent passer rating, and 22nd in fantasy points given up to quarterbacks. The Lions should also be paced up in this game against the Giants’ No. 8 fastest-paced offense. On top of all that, Detroit lost Kerryon Johnson (knee) to injured reserve this week, which could lead to OC Darrell Bevell putting a bit more on Stafford’s plate moving forward. A few extra pass attempts couldn’t hurt. This game’s 49.5-point total is the week’s third-highest, and the Lions’ implied total of 28.25 is seventh-best.
Jameis Winston at Titans: Winston threw for 400 yards his last time out, an 11-point loss to the Panthers in London, but needed 54 attempts to do so and tossed five interceptions along the way. Winston is dangerously close to being benched again if he has another turnover-filled performance like that. Despite all of the headaches, Winston has still had some big outings this season and is the overall QB12 in fantasy points per game. However, Week 8 doesn’t look like a spot to go back to Winston. The Titans are No. 8 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 11th in opponent yards per attempt, and 11th in passing yards given up on the season. Tennessee is also a respectable 14th in adjusted sack rate and 15th in opponent passer rating. Volume doesn’t figure to be on Winston’s side either with the Titans operating at the seventh-slowest offensive pace. Mike Evans has a distinct size advantage on the outside against small-ish CBs Malcolm Butler and Adoree Jackson while Chris Godwin has a real tough draw in the slot against CB Logan Ryan, who has allowed just a 74.3 QB rating in his coverage. The Titans have surrendered multiple touchdowns to just 3-of-7 quarterbacks. While Winston has a knack for big games, I’m treating him as more of a high-end QB2 with major bust potential.
Philip Rivers at Bears: Rivers is coming off 329 yards and a pair of touchdown passes against the Titans last week as the overall QB11, but he’s shown little upside this season with his best weekly finish as the QB9 against the Dolphins earlier in the year. He’s top-four in both pass attempts and yards but draws a Chicago unit that is No. 8 in pass-defense DVOA, No. 6 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, No. 7 in opponent yards per attempt, and 13th in passing yards surrendered. Rivers may also be without No. 1 WR Keenan Allen after he popped up on the Week 8 injury report Thursday with a hamstring injury. Late-week adds are never good news. Even if Allen plays, he is unlikely to be at 100 percent. The Bears and Chargers are two of the nine slowest-paced offenses, and this game’s 41-point total is the week’s second-lowest. Rivers is fine as a floor play in the top-18 range, but he brings little-to-no upside.
Carson Wentz at Bills: Talked about as an MVP candidate over the summer, Wentz has been anything but that through seven weeks. He’s the overall QB14 in fantasy points per game and is coming off a dreadful QB23 night last Sunday in Dallas. He’s been held to 191 yards or fewer in three of the last four games as the Eagles continue to play without deep threat DeSean Jackson (abdomen), who is expected to miss his seventh straight game. Meanwhile, the Bills are No. 5 in pass-defense DVOA, No. 4 in passing yards allowed, No. 3 in opponent yards per attempt, No. 3 in opponent passer rating, and No. 4 in fantasy points given up to quarterbacks. Buffalo is yielding just 18 points per game at home, and the Eagles’ implied total of 20.75 points is the week’s ninth-lowest. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s QB7 day last week is the only the quarterback to manage a top-12 finish against coach Sean McDermott’s defense, and he did it with a garbage-time rushing touchdown. Wentz should be treated as a middling QB2 in a game with a 43.5-point total as an underdog. The Eagles badly need Jackson back in the lineup.