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Nick Mensio

Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em

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Week 9 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em

Thursday, November 1, 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: Ryan Fitzpatrick at Panthers: FitzMagic is back, baby! Jameis Winston was putting up fantasy numbers, but he could not stop turning the football over and it all came to a head last week in Cincinnati, getting him benched after four interceptions. Since coming back from suspension, Winston has thrown 10 picks and fumbled twice in just over three games of action. In his two full starts, things were fun, even with the turnovers, as Winston was averaging 380 passing yards with five touchdowns. But it’s back to Fitzpatrick after he came on in relief to play 25 snaps last week and brought the Bucs all the way back to tie the game after entering with a 34-16 deficit. Fitzpatrick went 11-of-15 for 194 yards and two touchdowns while the Bengals were playing not to lose instead of keeping the foot on the gas. Either way, FitzMagic’s moments have been, well, magical while he’s been in there this year. He leads the league in yards per attempt (10.8) and passer rating (119.3) while throwing a touchdown on over 11% of his throws. On the road against the Panthers doesn’t jump off the page as a welcoming matchup, but the Bucs throw the ball at the eighth-highest clip and operate at the third-fastest pace. This offense is just too voluminous from a passing standpoint, making whoever starts under center for the Bucs a weekly QB1. Carolina shut down Joe Flacco with ease last week, but this pass defense has been beatable for big games in 2018, checking in at 21st in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 20th in pass-defense DVOA. Two weeks back, Carson Wentz went 30-of-37 for 310 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers. Alex Smith had one of his three multi-touchdown games to date the week before. Even Eli Manning threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns in Carolina in Week 5. There’s more than enough here for Fitzpatrick to bring back QB1 output after averaging 37 attempts and 410 passing yards Weeks 1-3 with 12 total touchdowns. The 55-point total for Bucs-Panthers is the third-highest of the week behind Rams-Saints (60) and Packers-Patriots (57).



Starts

Kirk Cousins vs. Lions: Cousins disappointed in real life a bit last week in the tough home loss to the Saints, throwing a bad pick-six that essentially did the Vikings in, but he still was able to put a top-10 fantasy week on the board thanks to a four-week best 359 passing yards. But Cousins hasn’t had a three-touchdown game over his last four outings after doing it twice Weeks 1-4. He’s the overall QB15 in fantasy points per game since Week 5. The big games haven’t been there mostly because the running game has started clicking with Latavius Murray and the Vikings blowing out the Cardinals and Jets in Weeks 6 and 7. I’m not expecting a top 3-5 week from Cousins against Detroit because the Lions play at the league’s slowest pace, and the Vikings are home favorites. But I am looking for a bounce-back effort from the Vikings as a team. This game has a healthy 49.5-point total as the fifth-highest of the week. Detroit is 12th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks but 30th in pass-defense DVOA and 31st in interceptions. The one advantage they do have is in the trenches; Detroit is No. 1 in adjusted sack rate at Football Outsiders while Minnesota’s offensive line has surrendered the eighth-most sacks. However, there’s still enough here for Cousins to be a useful fantasy starter in a week with six teams on bye after Russell Wilson just sliced this secondary for 248 yards and three touchdowns on 17 attempts last week.

Dak Prescott vs. Titans: Prescott still doesn’t have a 300-yard passing game to his name this season and has yet to even top 275 yards through the air. But he is running the ball more. averaging over 7.5 carries per game the last three times out and has scored as a runner in back-to-back games. Prescott was the QB2 and QB6 in Weeks 6 and 7 before last week’s bye. He now has Amari Cooper added to his arsenal out wide. Cooper has not been good in recent memory, but he’s a talented player who badly needed a change of scenery. I’d be thoroughly surprised if he doesn’t play better. But what really puts Prescott back on the fantasy map is the aforementioned uptick in rushing stats. This game against Tennessee doesn’t look all that attractive for fantasy, but on a short week like this I’m totally willing to take Prescott at home fresh off a bye when he’s averaging 49.7 rushing yards over the last three. That’s a nice floor to fall back on at quarterback. And the Titans allowed over 300 yards and two touchdowns to Philip Rivers through the air last time out. This game has the second-lowest total of the week at 41 points, and both teams are bottom-12 in pace. By no means are we expecting a top-end QB1 day from Prescott, but he’s very much on the QB1 fringe. If he can score again on the ground as we’re seeing glimpses of the old Dak, then he’ll pay off big time.

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Russell Wilson vs. Chargers: It’s a rough week at quarterback with Carson Wentz, Andrew Luck, and Andy Dalton all on bye. Even Blake Bortles is off this week. While not good in real life, he’s very useful in fantasy. Anyway, Wilson is coming off his best game of the season, throwing for 248 yards and three touchdowns in Detroit. And he did it on a season-low 17 attempts. It was Wilson’s first game with fewer than 20 attempts in four years. Fewer passing attempts have been the theme of Wilson’s 2018 season as well. Among passers who have started and finished seven games, Wilson’s 182 attempts are dead last. The Seahawks are the only team in the league that throws the ball less than 50% of the time, and they’re at 47.76% pass to 52.24% run. Wilson has averaged 20.3 attempts per game the last three weeks but has thrown a whopping nine touchdowns in that span with just one interception. He hasn’t thrown the ball more than 26 times since Week 2. He’s throwing a touchdown on 8.8% of his passes, which is unsustainable, and that rate is at 14.8% the last three weeks. That’s astronomical. But let’s keep riding the wave against the Chargers. L.A. is 19th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and a middling 15th in pass-defense DVOA. Marcus Mariota had his second-most passing yards (237) of the season against the Chargers in Week 7 while also throwing a touchdown. Overall, this defense hasn’t faced very talented quarterbacks/offenses, having already gone up against Mariota, C.J. Beathard, Derek Carr, Josh Allen, and Baker Mayfield. The Seahawks are humming right now, having booted Brandon Marshall from the offense and replacing him with David Moore. Tyler Lockett keeps scoring long touchdowns. And Doug Baldwin has alternated solid games with down ones. Volume is the one concern with Wilson. We’ve already accepted the fact that he’s not going to run the ball much this season. But with LE Joey Bosa (foot) still out for the Bolts and their secondary giving up big plays, Wilson is a comfortable QB1 play at home.



Sits

Matthew Stafford at Vikings: Stafford has thrown multiple touchdowns in six-straight games, but after unloading 97 passing attempts the first two weeks, Stafford has averaged 30.8 attempts the last five, and that number is inflated after uncorking 40 throws last week. With the Lions playing more ball-control offense in an effort to hide their defense, Detroit is operating at the slowest pace, and Stafford’s numbers have been affected by it. He saw his pass attempts decline in each successive game from 36 > 30 > 26 > 22 in Weeks 3-7. (The Lions had a bye Week 6.) After trading away Golden Tate on Tuesday, the Lions probably want to stay as balanced as possible. The Vikings are middle of the pack at 18th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 16th in pass-defense DVOA, but coach Mike Zimmer has owned Stafford in the division. Here are Stafford’s last eight games against Zimmer’s defense dating back to 2014, starting with the most recent: 250 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT > 209-0-0 > 232-1-0 > 219-2-1 > 256-2-0 > 286-2-1 > 153-1-0 > 185-1-0. And this year, there hasn’t been enough volume Stafford to be a useful fantasy asset. Since Week 3, Stafford is the QB19 in fantasy points per game with zero top-12 finishes. He’s been ultra-consistent as the QB14 twice and the QB15 twice in that span. He’s fine for that output, but there’s no upside.

Ben Roethlisberger at Ravens: The QB10 in fantasy points per game, Big Ben is fifth in pass attempts and sixth in yards. But he’s 12th in touchdowns, 14th in yards per attempt, 17th in passer rating, and 19th in completion rate. Three of his four multi-touchdown games this season have been at home with the other being in Tampa Bay on Monday Night Football against the league’s worst defense. He has a 2:3 TD:INT mark in his other two road affairs versus Cleveland and Cincinnati. Roethlisberger now gets a date with a Ravens defense No. 2 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 10th in pass-defense DVOA. Only the Jaguars are allowing fewer yards through the air. Here are Big Ben’s last four games in Baltimore dating back to 2014, starting with the most recent: 216 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT > 264-1-1 > 220-0-2 > 217-0-1. He hasn’t been good in Baltimore, and Big Ben’s struggles on the road in 1 PM ET starts have also been well documented. The Ravens held Cam Newton to 219 yards passing and two touchdowns last week, limited Drew Brees to 212 yards and two scores in Baltimore Week 7, and shut out the Titans in Week 6. When these teams met in Week 4 in Pittsburgh, Ben had just one touchdown and 274 yards as the QB20 that week. It’s tough to sit Ben on a week with six teams on bye, but I’d play any of the aforementioned “starts” over him. Pittsburgh’s implied team total of 22.25 points is the sixth-lowest of Week 9.

Mitchell Trubisky at Bills: Since Week 4, Trubisky has been on an absolute tear as the overall QB1 in fantasy points per game in that span. He’s thrown 13 touchdowns in four games with three 300-yard days while averaging 58 rushing yards and scoring a 14th touchdown on the ground. Trubisky has done it against the Bucs, Dolphins, Patriots, and Jets, and three of those have been at home. The rushing output is what’s making Trubisky so elite as a fantasy asset, as he’s completed a pitiful 53% of his passes the last two games. Going to Buffalo will be a different test. The Bills are horrible, but their defense is as good as their offense is bad. The defense is what keeps them from getting embarrassed each week. The Bills are seventh in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, sixth in pass yards allowed, and fourth in pass-defense DVOA. Buffalo just shut down Tom Brady in Buffalo last Monday night, holding the Patriots to zero passing scores, one rushing touchdown, and three Stephen Gostkowski field goals. Opposing offenses are averaging 20.3 points per game in Buffalo, and Philip Rivers (256 yards, 3 TDs) in Week 2 was the only one to have any real success through the air. The Bills have faced a number of mobile quarterbacks, but have surrendered just 98 rushing yards to the position and no scores. Marcus Mariota (2-10), Deshaun Watson (2-2), and Andrew Luck (3-5) all did nothing as a runner. Bears-Bills has by far the lowest total on the board at 37.5 points. Trubisky owners may be in for a rude awakening Sunday.


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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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