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Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em

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Week 8 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em

Thursday, October 25, 2018


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: Kirk Cousins vs. Saints: Cousins has failed to reach 300 yards in each of his past two games and is fantasy’s QB16 in points per game over that span. Owners might be getting a bit anxious, but this isn’t time to pull the plug and make a switch. The Vikings have blown out the Cardinals and Jets in back-to-back games, allowing Latavius Murray to pile up carries late while Cousins puts the ball in his belly rather than picking apart defenses. Cousins has been tremendous in year one with Minnesota and gets another gargantuan NFC matchup Sunday night. Last time we saw Cousins in prime time back in Week 4 against the Rams, he threw for 422 yards and three scores in one of the best games of the year. We doubt this one disappoints, either. The Saints are beatable via the pass. They’re 30th in pass-defense DVOA compared to No. 2 against the run. New Orleans has allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and is 27th in adjusted sack rate. Joe Flacco had a flawless Week 7 against this defense, throwing for 279 yards and a pair of scores. Matt Ryan had 374 yards and five scores in Week 3. And Ryan Fitzpatrick had his 417 yards and four scores Week 1. In between, the Saints faced Tyrod Taylor, Alex Smith, and Eli Manning. Cousins and his supporting cast are much closer to the Bucs and Falcons offenses. And Cousins gets this defense in Minnesota. The Saints went out and added CB Eli Apple via trade to help out on the back end, but it’s anyone’s guess as to how much he’ll play after one week with his new team. Either way, Cousins is a lock-and-load elite QB1 in a game with a 52.5-point total and no favorite. This has shootout written all over it as long as Drew Brees and the Saints can overcome the road environment factor.



Starts

Andy Dalton vs. Bucs: Dalton has been a brutal fantasy and real-life quarterback the last three weeks. He seems to be reverting to pre-2018 form a bit, completely laying an egg last week in primetime against the Chiefs, throwing for just 148 yards with a touchdown and a pick. He hasn’t thrown for 300 yards since Week 4 and has just one multi-touchdown game over the last three. Dalton tossed multiple touchdowns each of the first four weeks. This has rebound all over it. Prior to Baker Mayfield (215 yards and 2 TDs) last week, the Bucs had allowed a 300-yard passer every game of the season. They’ve still allowed the most touchdown passes and fantasy points to quarterbacks while ranking 32nd in pass-defense DVOA and 24th in adjusted sack rate. Dalton has never been able to perform under the bright lights and gets Tampa Bay at home for a cozy 1 PM ET start. Just how he likes it. Every quarterback aside from Nick Foles in Week 2 has thrown multiple touchdowns against the Bucs. Take his game out of it and Tampa Bay is surrendering 3.4 passing scores per week. Dalton should be able to compile a top-12 week. The 54-point total for Bucs-Bengals is the second-highest of the week, and Cincinnati’s implied total of 29.25 is third-highest.

Derek Carr vs. Colts: This feels so dirty, as Carr has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league through seven weeks. His seven touchdowns are dead last, tied with Alex Smith and Eli Manning, among quarterbacks who have started every game for his team. And Carr’s eight interceptions are third-most in football. But Carr is attempting over 38 passes per game and is No. 2 in completion percentage behind only Drew Brees. There’s some progression to the mean due for Carr here soon. He’s not going to be this bad forever. A date with a Colts defense coming off a home win and traveling cross-country might be just what the doctor ordered with the Raiders coming off their bye. The Colts are 21st in pass-defense DVOA and 19th in overall pass yards allowed. And that’s counting Derek Anderson’s 175-yards, three-interceptions bomb of a day against Indy last week. Sam Darnold (280 yards, 80%, 2 TDs) had his best game of the season against this defense in Week 6. Tom Brady was the overall QB2 in Week 5. Deshaun Watson was the QB6 in Week 4. The Colts are a try-hard defense that gets by with good coaching and hard work. I like Carr’s chances of at least being able to muster up a useful fantasy outing for Matt Ryan or Philip Rivers owners who need a streamer. As a Ryan owner myself, Carr was who I went with in a couple spots. This game has a tasty 50-point total and a three-point spread featuring offenses that like to throw the ball.

Andrew Luck at Raiders: Carr’s counterpart on Sunday, Luck has been far more useful for fantasy owners as the overall QB9 in points per game. And from Week 4 on, Luck is the overall QB2 behind none other than Mitchell Trubisky. Luck has thrown 15 touchdowns over his last four starts while topping 300 yards four times and 400 yards once. There’s no reason to take the foot off the gas. The Colts run the league’s fastest-paced offense and will take on a Raiders team 22nd in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 31st in pass-defense DVOA, and 32nd in adjusted sack rate. Luck has also not been sacked each of the last two games with LT Anthony Castonzo healthy and RT Braden Smith taking over the other side. Russell Wilson threw a season-high three touchdowns against Oakland in London last time out. Philip Rivers had 339 yards and a pair of scores in Week 5. Baker Mayfield had his first multi-touchdown game of his career in Oakland in Week 4 to go with 295 yards. And Ryan Tannehill had 289 yards and three scores in Week 3 with WR Albert Wilson also throwing a 52-yard touchdown that day. This Raiders secondary is atrocious, and coach Jon Gruden can’t seem to find a combo he likes on the back end. It also doesn’t help they get zero pressure on quarterbacks. With T.Y. Hilton and Marlon Mack back healthy and Jack Doyle potentially returning from his hip injury, Luck has his fullest supporting cast of the year. He’s a locked-in elite QB1 in a game with a 50-point total and three-point spread that has some big shootout upside.

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Sits

Carson Wentz vs. Jaguars: Wentz has been awesome the last four weeks, averaging 311.75 yards passing with a 9:0 TD:INT mark against the Titans, Vikings, Giants, and Panthers. He’s the overall QB8 in points per game in that span after knocking the rust off in his first start of the season versus the Colts in Week 3. Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery are playing the best football of their careers right now. It’s tough to not keep riding the wave with Wentz, but even with the Jaguars struggling as a team, their defense is still one of the best in the league. Jacksonville is No. 9 in pass-defense DVOA, No. 2 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, and No. 1 in passing yards surrendered. For all their problems, the Jaguars have given up just six passing touchdowns in seven games. They just need to get their pass rush, which ranks 22nd in adjust sack rate, going, and a date with an Eagles offensive line that is 24th in adjusted sack rate allowed might do the trick. LT Jason Peters is playing through a torn biceps, and RT Lane Johnson is battling an ankle injury that has hampered him. Wentz has been sacked 17 times in five starts. This looks like a week to maybe take a break from the Eagles quarterback in a game with a 42.5-point total, the lowest of Week 8.



Matthew Stafford vs. Seahawks: Stafford has thrown multiple touchdowns in five-straight games, but after unloading 97 passing attempts the first two weeks, Stafford has averaged 28.5 attempts the last four and has seen his total number of attempts decline in each successive game from 36 > 30 > 26 > 22 with the Lions playing a more ball-control game and running at the slowest pace in the league to try and mask their horrid defense. Stafford has played great with what he’s been asked to do since his meltdown of a season opener, but unfortunately there hasn’t been enough volume for him to be a useful fantasy asset. Since Week 3, Stafford is the QB17 in fantasy points per game with zero top-12 finishes. He’s been ultra-consistent as the QB14 twice and the QB15 once in that span. He’s fine for that output, but there’s no upside here, and Stafford now gets a matchup with a Seahawks defense that has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to passers and checks in at No. 3 in pass-defense DVOA. Jared Goff had one of his worst statistical days against Seattle in Week 5, throwing one touchdown and two picks. A peek into the schedule reveals the Seahawks overall have faced one of the easiest slates of quarterbacks, from Case Keenum to Mitchell Trubisky to Dak Prescott to Josh Rosen and Derek Carr. It’s tough to tell just how good this pass defense really is, but the Lions’ molasses-slow pace of play and newfound commitment to Kerryon Johnson has me betting against Stafford popping up as anything more than a two-QB league option. This game has a solid 49.5-point total, though it’s hard to tell how it gets there if Detroit can control the clock.

Russell Wilson at Lions: Among quarterbacks who have started and finished at least six games, Wilson’s 192 drop-backs and 165 pass attempts are dead last. Seattle passes the ball just 50.5% of the time, the lowest rate in the league. Wilson hasn’t attempted more than 26 passes in a game since Week 2. With such little volume and running the ball less than ever, Wilson has zero upside and is the overall QB20 in fantasy points per game. The matchup with the Lions doesn’t look all that daunting, with Detroit 28th in pass-defense DVOA, but coach Matt Patricia’s group is No. 1 in adjusted sack rate and No. 10 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Detroit has faced the second-fewest pass attempts in the league. After a rocky start to his tenure, Patricia may have found a way to mask his leaky defense, and that’s by having his offense run at the NFL’s slowest pace. That keeps opposing offenses off the field, leading to fewer chances for fantasy production. There’s no reason Wilson should be owned in most 12-team fantasy leagues that start just one quarterback. But I know there are owners out there who drafted him high and have refused to cut bait. The only thing worse is waiting too long and being stubborn. It’s just not going to happen for Wilson this year under OC Brian Schottenheimer and coach Pete Carroll, who want to run the ball as much as possible.


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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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