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Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em

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Week 15 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em

Thursday, December 13, 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. Dolphins: Cousins was as bad as one can be this past Monday night against the Seahawks, going into halftime with 27 yards passing. He was able to garbage-time his way at the end to finish with 208 yards and a touchdown, thrown to Dalvin Cook with less than two minutes to play in a 21-0 game. After the game, the Vikings fired OC John DeFilippo and promoted QBs coach Kevin Stefanski to play-caller. Stefanski was eyed as Pat Shurmur’s OC when he got the Giants job, but the Vikings blocked the move. Cousins was undeniably one of the best quarterbacks in the league the first month-plus of the season, but this offense has fallen apart at times. The offensive line just isn’t any good, and DeFilippo may have relied too heavily on the pass with such a weak blocking unit. This is a get-right spot for the entire offense, however. The Dolphins are coming off their “Super Bowl”, a Week 14 home win over the Patriots. Miami is still in the playoff hunt at 7-6, but they’re really not that good. The Fins have beaten the Jets twice, the Bills, Raiders, Titans, and Bears for their other six wins. They’ve lost to the Bengals, Lions, and Colts. Top CB Xavien Howard (knee) also remains out after hurting his knee in Week 13. Tom Brady, who typically struggles in Miami, carved this sorry defense up for 358 yards and three touchdowns last week with Howard out of the lineup. Miami is 26th in pass-defense DVOA and dead last in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks over the last five weeks. The Dolphins are 29th in adjusted sack rate. Cousins is feeling some heat. Stefanski isn’t going to make sweeping changes to the offense in Week 15 with the Vikings still holding a playoff spot. This looks like a great spot for everyone involved to take a breath and go out and lay one on the Dolphins in Minnesota’s friendly dome environment. The Vikings’ implied team total of 25.75 points is seventh-highest on the week. I’d have zero concerns firing Cousins up as a streamer play.

Starts

Lamar Jackson vs. Bucs: Josh Allen’s last three weeks is what everyone has wanted Jackson to be, as Allen has rushed for 335 yards and two touchdowns over his last three games, adding another three touchdowns as a passer with 597 yards through the air. Allen is the overall QB2 in fantasy points per game Weeks 12-14. Jackson has been fine, but the upside hasn’t been there as the QB14 since taking over under center in Week 11. Starting with his most recent, Jackson has weekly finishes of QB12 — QB11 — QB15 — QB13 in that span. The rushing output has been pretty good, averaging 82.5 yards on the ground with two touchdowns, but Jackson hasn’t done enough as a passer to raise his floor or ceiling. His high-water mark over the last four weeks is 178 yards against Oakland three Sundays ago. He’s averaging just 150 passing yards with three touchdowns and three picks through the air. Jackson is missing way too many easy throws and makings pitch-and-catch completions look extraordinarily difficult. It is who he is right now; Jackson just needs work as a thrower. He’s all arm. Rotoworld’s own Rich Hribar compared him to Vince Young last week. It fits him perfectly. The good news is Jackson will remain the starter for the Ravens after coach John Harbaugh announced it on Wednesday, and the Ravens come back home for yet another easy matchup. The Bucs are 28th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 30th in team-defense DVOA, checking in at 28th against the pass and 30th versus the run. Tampa has played much better of late, allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks the last five weeks, but they’ve faced Nick Mullens, Eli Manning, Alex Smith, an injured Cam Newton, and Drew Brees in Tampa Bay in that span. Even if the Bucs are a little bit better on defense, this game still features two of the six fastest-paced offenses in the league. That means more plays and more opportunities for fantasy production. This game’s 46.5-point total is the week’s sixth-highest. We’d like to see more from Jackson, but he’s a fine back-end QB1 with obvious upside if everything goes right. Joe Flacco is healthy and will be the No. 2. That could shorten Jackson’s leash if he plays poorly, but it shouldn’t be a problem at home in one of the easier matchups.

Derek Carr at Bengals: Carr hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 5, but he also only has four multi-touchdown games in that span with one day above 300 yards. That 300-yard game came last week against the Steelers, with Carr also tossing two touchdowns and legitimately making some good throws. He threw a strike to Seth Roberts deep over the top of the defense to set up the eventual game-winning touchdown. Overall, though, Carr is still not a very good quarterback. He’s a guy who needs literally everything around him to go right and be perfect with a clean pocket in order to have success. Any pressure, and Carr tends to collapse and make horrible decisions. This spot on the road against a Bengals unit that is dead last in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 29th in passing touchdowns given up, and 27th in pass-defense DVOA looks like one Carr can possibly take advantage and put up some usable numbers. Cincinnati is also 25th in sacks. Carr has had very few useful weeks as the overall QB23 in fantasy points per game, but when games stay competitive, he’s able to accrue some stats. Carr was the QB3 in Week 8 against the Colts, put the QB4 on the Chiefs in Week 13, and was the QB13 last Sunday against Pittsburgh. All came at home but were close games on the scoreboard. The Raiders are just three-point ‘dogs going into Cincinnati, and nobody should expect the Jeff Driskel-led Bengals to blow Oakland out. This game’s 46-point total is the seventh-highest on the board of 16 matchups. The Raiders will also be considerably up in pace, as the Bengals play at the 10th-fastest offensive pace and face the third-most plays per game on defense. The only concerns here for Carr is this being an early 1 PM ET start on the road. But everything else looks good on paper for Carr to pop back up for a top 12-15 week.

Russell Wilson at 49ers: Wilson is coming off a disaster of a Week 14 against the Vikings when he completed just 10-of-20 passes for 72 scoreless yards and a pick. He was able to considerably raises his scoring output with 61 rushing yards, however, but still finished as the week’s QB27. The Seahawks still managed to win with relative ease. Prior to last Monday night, Wilson had been on a tear and had some putting his name into the MVP conversation. Wilson entered Week 14 having thrown multiple touchdowns in eight straight games and 11-of-12 games overall. Since the Seahawks’ Week 7 bye, Wilson was the overall QB5 in fantasy points per game prior to Monday. Seattle hosted the 49ers just two weeks back, and Wilson threw a season-high four touchdowns on just 17 attempts as the Seahawks rolled Nick Mullens’ group. In San Francisco this time, things might be a bit more competitive, but the Seahawks should win this one as 4.5-point favorites. The Niners are 18th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks but 25th in pass-defense DVOA. They’ve faced an assortment of bad quarterbacks/offense, including Josh Rosen twice, Case Keenum, Matthew Stafford, Derek Carr, and Eli Manning. Wilson (four TDs), Jameis Winston (312 yards, 2 TDs), Jared Goff (2 TDs, 39 points), Aaron Rodgers (425 yards, 2 TDs), Philip Rivers (250 yards, 3 TDs), Patrick Mahomes (314 yards, 3 TDs), and Kirk Cousins (244 yards, 2 TDs) have all had pretty good success against the defense. Since Week 9, Wilson has averaged 38.2 rushing yards after not topping 21 yards on the ground in any game Weeks 1-8. Wilson is firmly back on the QB1 map.

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Sits

Aaron Rodgers at Bears: It’s been a pretty trying season for Rodgers. It’s arguably his worst as a pro. And in fantasy, he’s barely hanging on as a QB1 as the overall QB11 in points per game, sitting right behind Mitchell Trubisky, Jared Goff, and Philip Rivers. In the Packers’ first game post-Mike McCarthy, Green Bay trounced the Falcons at Lambeau, and Rodgers threw for a season-low 196 yards and two scores. Interim coach Joe Philbin is an old-head, vanilla-style offensive “mind,” who probably prefers to be as balanced as he can get on offense. In his last four road games, starting with the most recent, Rodgers is the QB25 (@ MIN), QB6 (@ SEA), QB12 (@NE), and QB17 (@ LAR). Granted, those are some tough matchups, but this one is just as difficult. The Bears are No. 1 in pass-defense DVOA, No. 8 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, and t-4th in sacks. On top of that, Packers RT Bryan Bulaga injured his knee in Week 13 and remained out of practice Wednesday. RG Byron Bell was just sent to injured reserve with a knee injury of his own this week. And LG Lane Taylor has a foot injury that forced him to miss Week 14. He was limited in practice Wednesday. Missing even one lineman against this pass rush is not ideal. The Bears just took Jared Goff’s soul and dominated the Rams’ offensive line last Sunday night. Chicago is allowing just 17.5 points per game at Soldier Field this season, and that includes the Patriots’ 38 spot in Week 7. Rodgers is a fringe QB1 in one-quarterback leagues this week. I’d start all three of the above listed Cousins, Jackson, and Wilson over Rodgers. Carr is more of a wild card but also a dark horse play.

Jameis Winston at Ravens: Since taking back starting duties in Week 12, Winston is the overall QB4 in fantasy points per game. It’s gone pretty much exactly as we expected; the Bucs throw the ball so much that whoever is at quarterback for them is an auto-play QB1. On the year, Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick’s numbers combined make them the overall QB2 behind Patrick Mahomes. There are a couple things to like about this matchup for Winston. Both offenses are top-six in pace, which should mean more plays and more opportunities to score fantasy points. Also, the Bucs are heavy eight-point road underdogs. That should lead to a ton of pass attempts for Winston. But this matchup is insanely difficult on paper. Baltimore is No. 3 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, No. 5 in adjusted sack rate, No. 6 in passing touchdowns surrendered, and No. 4 in pass-defense DVOA. The Ravens are allowing just 17 points per game at home. The six quarterbacks to face the Ravens in Baltimore, starting with the most recent, have been Derek Carr (QB26), Andy Dalton (QB9), Ben Roethlisberger (QB5), Drew Brees (QB17), Case Keenum (QB30), and Nathan Peterman (QB37). Dalton and Big Ben have put up respectable finishes, but those also came in weeks with multiple teams on bye. Winston isn’t one to completely write off as a play, but there’s no way we can expect him to produce at a top-four clip like he has been. He needs to be bumped down to the 10-15 range at quarterback with a shot at being benched if he starts throwing picks. The Ravens D/ST is a better play in my book than Winston is as a fantasy starter in the semifinals.

Ryan Tannehill at Vikings: Since coming back from his injury in Week 12, Tannehill has thrown multiple touchdown passes in all three games with an 8:1 TD:INT mark in that span. He’s the overall QB9 in fantasy points per game since Week 12. I’m not buying it. Fifty-five of Tannehill’s 265 yards last week came on that fluke lateral-touchdown play to Kenyan Drake. Tannehill also hasn’t been running the ball with zero rushing touchdowns this season and no more than 17 yards on the ground since Week 3. He now gets to go to Minnesota to face a Vikings defense that is No. 5 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, No. 2 in adjusted sack rate, and No. 8 in pass-defense DVOA. This unit just absolutely shut down Russell Wilson in his own house last Monday night, holding him to a pitiful 10-of-20 passing for 72 scoreless yards and an interception. Minnesota is surrendering just 19.3 points per game at home. The last quarterback to come to Minnesota was Aaron Rodgers, and he was just the overall QB25 in Week 12. Tannehill doesn’t have volume on his side, either. The Dolphins are 31st in offensive plays per game and operate at the fifth-slowest pace. Miami’s implied team total of 18.75 points is the fifth-lowest of the week.


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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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