Nick Mensio

Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em

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Week 15 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em

Friday, December 15, 2017


Happy Week 15, everyone. It’s the semifinals of the fantasy playoffs. (In most leagues.) Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is aimed toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes, as these are players I’ll likely have some exposure to over the weekend.

QUARTERBACK

Start of the Week: Aaron Rodgers at Panthers: He’s baaack. Out since a Week 6 broken collarbone, Rodgers is retaking his job as the 7-6 Packers’ starter. They likely need to win out to have a chance at the playoffs, and Rodgers gives Green Bay as good of a shot as any other team. The schedule isn’t easy by any means, and it’s tough right out of the gate. Carolina is No. 7 in pass-defense DVOA, No. 7 in total pass defense, No. 8 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, and No. 3 in sacks. The Panthers stopped Case Keenum’s hot streak in Charlotte last week, forcing Keenum to commit three turnovers. But this is Aaron freaking Rodgers. Any time he’s starting, he should be in fantasy lineups. Rodgers hasn’t faced Carolina since 2015, the year the Panthers went to the Super Bowl. Week 9 that year, Rodgers threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns in Charlotte. This game’s total has jumped nearly three points up to 47 since it was announced Rodgers was medically cleared Tuesday evening. That’s tied for the fourth-highest total on the slate. Due to the nature of the Packers’ defense, Rodgers may have to get into a shootout. He’s a top-end QB1 right out of the layoff.

Starts

Nick Foles at Giants: Following Carson Wentz’s season-ending ACL tear last week against the Rams, Foles will be making his first start of the season. It’ll be Foles’ first starts since Week 2 of last season with the Chiefs when he completed 20-of-33 passes for 187 yards and one score. Foles last season as a full-time starter was his 2015 disaster with the Jeff Fisher-led Rams. Foles doesn’t deserve the entire blame for that year. Foles didn’t look great in relief of Wentz last week but did make a couple big-moment throws to help seal the win. He now gets a Giants team that is 31st in total pass defense, 25th in pass-defense DVOA, 32nd in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, and remains without top CB Janoris Jenkins (ankle), who was placed on I.R. after Thanksgiving. All of Foles’ pass catchers are in good spots, which naturally makes Foles someone to consider as a streamer, even if he isn’t nearly at Wentz’s level. This game has a minuscule 40-point total, but as 7.5-point favorites, the Eagles have a respectable implied team total of 23.75 points.

Case Keenum vs. Bengals: Keenum is coming off one of his worst games QB rating-wise of the season last week against the Panthers, but he was really hurt by his teammates, who dropped at minimum five passes, one of which resulted in an interception. And Keenum easily should have had a third touchdown pass, but Adam Thielen dropped two four-yard scores in the span of three plays. Ironically, it was Keenum’s best graded game of the season over at Pro Football Focus. On paper, the Bengals don’t present a matchup to pick on. The Bengals are No. 8 in total pass defense, 12th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, and tied at No. 7 in sacks. However, they’re 19th in pass-defense DVOA and have faced an extremely easy quarterback schedule the last six games, a run that has included Blake Bortles, Marcus Mariota, Brock Osweiler, DeShone Kizer, Ben Roethlisberger, and Mitchell Trubisky. Big Ben just threw for 290 yards and a pair of scores against them in Week 13, and Trubisky had his best fantasy day of the year last week, totaling 276 yards and two scores. Both were home games for the Bengals. Keenum has tossed multiple touchdowns in five of his last six games and should rebound back at home in the dome with zero weather concerns. It also helps that Bengals CBs Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion) and Darqueze Dennard (knee) remain out of practice. Minnesota is a massive 11-point favorite with a 26.5-point implied team total.

Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Titans: The touchdowns haven’t been there for Garoppolo through two starts, as he’s thrown just one score and two interceptions, but Garoppolo has played really well against the Bears and Texans on the road. He’ll now make his first home start with his new team. The Titans are 23rd in pass-defense DVOA, 22nd in total pass defense, 23rd in pass touchdowns given up, and 18th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Blaine Gabbert was dreadful against the Titans last week, but Tom Savage managed the QB14 finish against Tennessee in Week 13. Ben Roethlisberger was the overall QB2 in Week 11. Tennessee has faced the most pass attempts against through 14 weeks, while San Francisco has the highest pass-play percentage under first-year coach Kyle Shanahan. At No. 5 in run defense, the Titans are true pass-funnel defense, playing right into the hands of the Niners. Garoppolo has a multi-touchdown game in his near future. This one sets up well for that. The Niners are two-point home favorites in a game with a 44-point total.

Sits

Alex Smith vs. Chargers: Smith was in a smash spot against the Raiders at home last week, but things didn’t go as planned with Smith throwing for just 268 yards and no scores with one pick. The box score doesn’t tell the whole story, though. Smith easily could have had three or four touchdowns if not for a couple missed red-zone opportunities with Travis Kelce that resulted in a dropped TD, overturned one on replay, and then a third was called back on penalty. Smith, fantasy’s QB3, gets a much tougher draw this time around. The Chargers are No. 6 in pass-defense DVOA, third in total pass defense, and sixth in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Only four teams have surrendered fewer pass touchdowns, and L.A. is third in interceptions. The pass-rush duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram to go along with the cornerback trio of Casey Hayward, Trevor Williams, and Desmond King combine to pose real problems for opposing pass offenses. Smith was the QB21 when these two teams met back in Week 3, and Tom Brady is the only one with a top-12 finish against the Chargers since Week 1. I’d play any of the “starts” above over Smith.

Jared Goff at Seahawks: The QB11 in fantasy, Goff has just five top-12 finishes on the season. When he does have big games they’re often huge. When the Rams and Seahawks squared off in L.A. in Week 5, Goff had no touchdowns and a pair of interceptions with a season-worst QB24 finish. Since then, Seattle has lost CB Richard Sherman (Achilles’), SS Kam Chancellor (neck), and DE Cliff Avril (neck), so the matchup has gotten a bit softer. The Seahawks still play good enough defense, particularly at home, to make Goff someone to avoid in the fantasy semifinals. In the Seahawks’ last three home games, Carson Wentz has been the QB13, Matt Ryan the QB14, and Kirk Cousins the QB24. Goff is only a two-quarterback league option.

Derek Carr vs. Cowboys: One of the biggest disappointments of both the fantasy and real-life season, Carr has been a total disaster under new OC Todd Downing. He’s 19th in passer rating, 14th in touchdowns, and 20th in yards per attempt. Carr is the QB20 in fantasy points per game. Even last week against a Chiefs pass defense that had been getting shredded by quarterbacks all season, Carr threw for just 211 yards, a score, and two interceptions. Carr comes back home to face a Dallas team that is 22nd in pass-defense DVOA, 23rd in total pass defense, and 22nd in fantasy points allowed. But the Raiders will again be without Amari Cooper (ankle), and Carr has let us down in numerous plus spots this season. He’s simply impossible to trust as a streamer in the fantasy semis. Oakland is implied to score 21.5 points as a three-point underdog at home against Ezekiel Elliott-less Dallas.


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Nick Mensio is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. The 2014 NFL season marks his third with Rotoworld. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.
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