Graham Barfield and Scott Barrett are here to help you out with all of your Start / Sit needs with a deep rundown of their favorite- and least-favorite plays every single week. This article will be continually updated with news throughout the week, so make sure you keep it locked on our projections and on this column all the way through to kickoff on Sunday.
For the context of this article, any Start / Sit recommendation for “Shallow” leagues refers to 10-team leagues while “Deep” is 12- or 14-teamers.
Start: Cam Newton at Dolphins
Cam’s first start in 10 months was yet another reminder of why we want to play running QBs, no matter the circumstance. The Panthers passing game was conservative last week against Washington as Cam’s average depth of target was just 5.6 yards downfield and just two of his 27 passes traveled 15+ yards in air. Still, Cam got it done with his legs (10/46/1 rushing) while adding 189 yards and 2 TDs through the air en route to a QB4 scoring week (26.2 FP). The Dolphins defense has been a bit better as of late by the numbers, but you have to keep in mind that they faced Tyrod Taylor in his first start since September, then blitzed Lamar Jackson a ton on a short week on TNF, and then faced Joe Flacco last week. In their four previous games, Miami permitted 37.7 FP to Brady, 319 yards to Trevor Lawrence, 336 yards to Matt Ryan, and 29.5 FP to Josh Allen. We have Cam ranked right on the QB1 borderline for Week 12. [GB]
Sit: Russell Wilson at Washington
After missing five weeks with a badly broken finger, Wilson’s poor performance in his return against the Packers was somewhat excusable. Maybe he just needed an extra week to get back into the groove? Nope. Seattle came out flat and stayed flat at home against a Cardinals team missing Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins. Offensively, Seattle’s performance was absolutely putrid. Outside of a 48-yard gain to Tyler Lockett on an extended play late in the first-half, the Sehawks had no explosive element in their offense this past week as Wilson completed just 14-of-26 passes for 207 yards and 0 TDs. Seattle simply couldn’t sustain any offense against Arizona and ended up running just 49 total plays while possessing the ball for a pitiful 19:38 of game-clock. The good news is that Seattle gets a Washington defense that has struggled all year next up, but Wilson is extremely difficult to trust. We have Wilson buried at QB15 in our projections and like streamer types Jimmy Garoppolo and Cam Newton better. [GB]
Start: Joe Burrow vs. Steelers
Last week, Burrow came out of the bye and bottomed out to 9 FP and his second-straight game below double-digits. The Bengals went extremely run-heavy last week and a part of the reason Burrow flopped is because he ended up only throwing it 29 times as they dominated time of possession over the Raiders. This week presents a great bounceback spot, though, if TJ Watt sits. With Watt out, Justin Herbert absolutely keyed up the Steelers for 34.7 FP because the Chargers kept him clean all game long. Watt didn’t play when these two teams met back in Week 3 and Burrow completed 78% of his 18 passes for 9.6 YPA and 3 TDs. [GB]
Sit: Ryan Tannehill at Patriots
Tannehill fell apart last week against Houston in a slop-fest, but it’s not all his fault of course. AJ Brown picked up not one but two injuries (hand, chest), the Titans struggled to run the ball, and Tannehill had to press late in the game and keep chucking it down 19-0 to the Texans as a result. Tannehill and the Titans’ offensive efficiency has cratered without Derrick Henry (H/T Ian Hartitz) and this is a brutal spot for this attack to bounce back. The Patriots are holding enemy QBs to a league-low 6.4 FPG while generating 15 sacks and 13 turnovers over the last five weeks. Tannehill is only in play in SuperFlex / 2QB leagues this week. [GB]
Start: James Robinson vs. Falcons
Robinson seems to be trending in the right direction health-wise, getting in his first Wednesday practice since Week 8. And with Robinson seemingly nearing full health, I think we should be expecting a full-on bell cow workload this week. And, thus, I think he should now be viewed identically to how we saw him last year — you know, when he finished 5th at the position in FPG, despite his team’s 1-15 record — which is to say, he should be valued as an easy RB1 this week, and throughout the remainder of the fantasy season.
Robinson played on only 63% of the snaps last week, but also handled 12 of 12 carries and 3 of 4 targets out of the backfield (90% of the backfield XFP). Seemingly, only losing empty snaps to Carlos Hyde (30% snap share). And so, it seems he already was a bell cow last week. And he clearly was prior to injury.
If excluding Weeks 8-10 due to injury, then Robinson averages 16.2 carries, 3.8 targets, 16.5 XFP (RB10), and 19.7 FPG (RB6) over his last 5 healthy games. Over this span, he’s handled 84% of the backfield XFP (RB2) on 74% of the snaps (RB5). He also ranks as PFF's 2nd-highest-graded runner (90.1) and 4th-best of 55-qualifying RBs in yards after contact per attempt.
And, in any case, he’s definitely an RB1 this week. Jacksonville enters as underdogs, but only by 2.0-points (best since Week 1), behind a 22.25-point implied total (best since Week 1). And the matchup is great; Atlanta ranks 5th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing RBs (+4.9), and bottom-6 in both rushing and receiving FPG allowed to enemy RBs. [SB]
Start: Antonio Gibson vs. Seahawks
Gibson has gotten two back-to-back ideal game-scripts out of Washington’s bye and has been loaded up with 24 and 19 carries as a result. Gibson didn’t get into the box last week, but he ran hard and made some nice quick cuts en route to the best single-game YPC (5.0) he’s had since Week 2. Gibson looks as healthy as he’s been all year, which is perfect timing because now he’s catching a Seahawks run defense that is giving up the seventh-most YPG to RBs (108.8) and has allowed over 20 FP to four of the last 5 lead RBs they’ve faced (Harris, Kamara, Dillon, and Conner). Plus, this should be another good game-script with the markets viewing Seattle-Washington as a pick ‘em. [GB]
Start: Miles Sanders at Giants
With their change in offensive philosophy over the last month, the Eagles have gone a ridiculous 72% run-heavy on early downs in their last four games. How crazy is that? Well, the next closest team in early down run rate in this span is the Patriots (61%). As a result, we’ve seen the Eagles RB group average a whopping 30.8 carries per game since they started this new approach. This gives their backfield a massive ceiling every single week based on sheer volume and Miles Sanders should see a huge chunk of it this week with Jordan Howard (knee) out. Even after losing a fumble, Sanders ended up leading their backfield in carries (16) and snaps (46%) after Jordan Howard exited early last week. Now he’ll only have to share the work with Boston Scott with Kenny Gainwell maybe mixing in for a few snaps. Keep in mind, the Eagles told us what they thought of Gainwell last week by making him a healthy scratch. Sanders has a RB1 ceiling against this Giants defense that has been cracked for 27.8 FP (vs. Chiefs RBs), 33.3 FP (vs. Raiders RBs), and 24 FP (vs. Bucs’ RBs) over the last three weeks. [GB]
Sit: Myles Gaskin vs. Panthers
Here’s the good news: Gaskin scored 18.6 fantasy points last week. And, over the last three weeks, Gaskin ranks 3rd among all RBs in XFP/G (20.7). Over this span, he’s handled 58 of 69 carries (84%), 14 of 17 targets (82%), and 12 of 13 10-zone opportunities (92%) out of Miami’s backfield. Add it all up, and that’s good for an 85% share of the backfield XFP, which would rank 2nd-best among all RBs if over the full season.
Here’s the bad news: I don’t think he’s very good. He ranks just 24th in FPG over the last three weeks (13.6). He’s the 2nd-most inefficient RB in fantasy, falling 30.8 fantasy points short (-19%) of his volume-based expectation. And even last week, against a generationally bad New York Jets run defense, Gaskin fell 9.5 fantasy points shy of his volume-based expectation. (He fell short of his expectation by exactly 9.5 fantasy points the week prior as well.) The Jets are giving up a league-high +13.6 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs, which is nearly double the worst defense from the 2020 season. And though Gaskin’s 18.6 fantasy points seems good, it’s dreadfully poor in contrast to the pillow-soft matchup, and the fact that he totaled 28.1 XFP (3rd-most among RBs on the week).
So, if he was still woefully inefficient against the Jets, that doesn’t really inspire much confidence moving forward. And now he gets a Panthers defense that ranks 2nd-best in schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (-6.1). And, the Dolphins just added RB Phillip Lindsay to the roster. Given how poorly Gaskin has played, I’d expect him to receive meaningful work, and for Gaskin’s days as the team’s bell cow to be numbered, if not immediately over. As such, despite his recent high-end RB1 volume, he’s just a fringe RB2 this week. [SB]
Start: Elijah Moore @ Texans
Oh boy. Has it finally happened? The true Elijah Moore breakout we’ve long awaited?
Since Week 8, Moore leads all wide receivers in fantasy points scored, averaging 20.9 FPG. Over this span, he ranks 4th in YPRR (2.92) and 2nd in PFF grade (86.7). And he’s been the single most efficient WR in fantasy over this stretch, exceeding his volume-based expectation by a whopping 61%.
He’s now hit double-digit fantasy points in 5 of his last 5 games, and 25.0-plus fantasy points in 2 of his last 3 games. That seems… I don’t know… Good?
But up until last week, Moore’s production felt somewhat flukey. Or at least, hard to trust. Over the prior three weeks, Moore was clearly and inexplicably just a part-time player, running a route on only 51% of his team’s dropbacks. And, keep in mind, the team was without Corey Davis in two of those three games. But last week, Moore’s route-share jumped to 82%. And he looked dominant in that new full-time role, turning a team-high 11 targets into 8 catches for 141 yards and a score (plus 15 rushing yards on one carry).
What took so long? I have no idea.
I’m now back fully on board the Elijah Moore hype-train, but in order for him to come anywhere near Exodia-status, like I dreamed of this offseason, we need competent QB-play from Zach Wilson. We need him to be only Joe Flacco-, Mike White-, or Josh Johnson-levels of bad, rather than “worst QB in football”-bad. Because Moore averages just 5.0 FPG in Wilson starts, but 20.9 FPG without him. So, that seems to be the one thing that could derail the Elijah Moore hype-train and breakout campaign.
But, even with my distrust of Wilson, you’re still starting Moore this week as a mid-range WR2. He gets a near-perfect matchup against a Texans defense that ranks 2nd-worst in FPG allowed to opposing outside WRs (25.8). [SB]
Start: Brandin Cooks vs. Jets
Cooks is the clear focal-point and near-entirety of the Texans’ offense, and is seeing terrific volume, but he’s only modestly productive, is woefully inefficient, and highly volatile. He’s hit 17.5 fantasy points in 5 (6th-most) of his 10 games, but averages just 7.5 FPG the rest of the time. He ranks 7th in target share (26%), 8th in XFP% (23%), 12th in targets per game (9.4), 14th in XFP per game (15.9), and 28th in FPG (13.7). So, fringe-WR1 volume, high-end WR3 production, and bottom-10 levels of inefficiency. I think that seems about right as an every-week expectation moving forward.
However, part of the problem is, Cooks has flopped in back-to-back games. And both games were near-perfect matchups. In Week 9, he scored 11.6 fantasy points against a Dolphins defense that ranks 2nd-worst in FPG allowed to opposing WRs. In Week 11, after his bye, he scored just 3.8 fantasy points against a Titans defense ranking 3rd-worst. Clearly, he’s become very hard to trust and highly volatile.
But, still, I think you have little choice but to start him this week as no less than a mid- to low-end WR2. Because this week’s matchup is again incredible. Over the last five weeks, the Jets are giving up a league-high +10.9 schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs, and the 4th-most to opposing WR1s (+4.2). I think, even if the Jets decide to bracket Cooks, that won’t be enough to stop him, given how nearly every player in their secondary is of almost a practice squad-caliber. [SB]
Sit: Jerry Jeudy vs. Chargers
Things looked great to start the year, as Jeudy had 6 catches and 72 yards in just two quarters and a series of work. And then he suffered an injury, missed the next 6 games, and hasn’t quite lived up to our offseason hype. Since returning, he averages only 10.5 FPG, with a high of just 12.9 fantasy points. And, although he’s seen a jump in targets every week (4, 8, 9), which is encouraging from a season-long perspective, he’s still exceedingly tough to trust this week.
Jeudy runs 79% of his routes from the slot, and this is a worst-possible matchup for any slot WR. The Chargers rank best in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs (8.4 FPG, 35% better than the league-average rate), led by Chris Harris Jr, a future Hall of Famer and maybe the NFL’s best ever nickel cornerback. So, he’s just a high-end WR3 this week. [SB]
Start: Brandon Aiyuk vs. Vikings
After the first six or seven weeks, Aiyuk’s season looked lost. He was playing a normal, full-time role – but just not seeing any targets. The lightbulb has definitely come on as of late, though. Aiyuk admitted a few weeks ago that he was in Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse because he was struggling in practice and that he has since turned a corner. Now the production is following. After catching just 9 balls for 96 yards in his first six games, Aiyuk has totaled 20/245/2 over his last four after having one of his best outings of the year against the Jaguars. The trust factor in Aiyuk is clearly back – he’s seen 7 or more targets in three of his last 4 games and has the same number of total targets (19) in his last three games as George Kittle. We like Aiyuk as a strong WR2 start in deeper formats against this Vikings secondary that was just shredded by the Packers even after getting CB Patrick Peerson and S Harrison Smith back. [GB]
Start: Jakobi Meyers vs. Titans
Meyers got off to a relatively hot start, averaging 13.4 FPG through his first 4 games, but that's fallen to just 9.2 FPG in the 7 games since. Across the full-season, he’s seeing WR3 levels of volume but is producing as just a high-end WR5; he ranks 29th in targets per game (7.8), 36th in XFP/G (12.8), but just 50th in FPG (10.2). Obviously the flukey lack of touchdowns is a big factor, but he has been fairly inefficient beyond that.
So, what’s going on?
I think Meyers has been underperforming due to an outlandishly and outlierishly difficult stretch of schedule. Over his last 8 games, he’s faced 3 teams ranking top-3, 5 teams ranking top-10, and 0 teams ranking bottom-12 by FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs. And that’s an issue, as that’s where he runs 68% of his routes. Luckily for him, he gets his softest matchup yet — the softest possible matchup for any slot WR — the Titans rank worst in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs (18.8%).
We like him this week as a high-end WR3. [SB]
Sit: Tee Higgins vs. Steelers
Higgins has been a smoke & mirrors player for fantasy all year long and he bottomed out this past week for just 2/15 receiving on 3 targets against the Raiders. Granted, Joe Burrow only needed to throw it 29 times in the Bengals winning effort because Joe Mixon was running so well, but Higgins has now been held under 15 FP in six-straight games since returning from injury in Week 5. In fact, Higgins has played a distant second fiddle to Ja’Marr Chase as Chase has out-targeted Higgins 54 to 45 since Week 5 as well. At this point, Higgins is nothing more than a low-ceiling WR3 and we have him ranked as such this week. [GB]
Start: Rob Gronkowski at Colts
If Gronkowski suits up, you have little choice but to start him. Through four mostly-healthy games, Gronkowski averages 7.3 targets, 63.8 YPG, and 17.9 FPG. If over the full season, those numbers would rank 4th-, 4th-, and 1st-best among all TEs. He’s seen at least one end zone target in every game thus far, and Tampa Bay is expected to score 4 touchdowns this week (28.0-point implied point total). And his on-paper matchup is excellent; Indianapolis ranks 2nd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing TEs (+4.7). Start him this week with confidence as a mid-range TE1. [SB]
Start: Kyle Pitts at Jaguars
Pitts’ roller coaster season continued after predictably getting shut down by the Patriots for 3/29 on six targets last week on TNF. Outside of the two games against the Jets (26.9 FP) and Dolphins (23.3 FP) in Weeks 5 and 7, Pitts is averaging just 3.4 receptions, 44.1 yards, and 7.8 fantasy points per game in his eight other outings. There are positive signs this could be a boom game, though! With Calvin Ridley taking some time away from football, the Falcons aren’t using Pitts at tight end. He’s a wide receiver. Since Week 8, Pitts has run 84% of his routes split out wide or lined up in the slot. I’m excited to see if Pitts can get back on track against this Jaguars secondary that has gotten hammered for 36.6 FPG (seventh-most) over the last five weeks. [GB]
Start: Pat Freiermuth at Bengals
Since Week 6, Freiermuth ranks 6th in targets per game (7.4), 4th in XFP/G (13.6), and 4th in FPG (13.5). He’s seen at least 6 targets in 5 of 5 games over this span, or at least 7 targets in 4 of 5 games. He has 4 touchdowns over his last 4 games, and has also hit double-digit fantasy points in 4 of his last 5 games.
Keep in mind, TE Eric Ebron played in 3 of these 5 games, and when he was out, Freiermuth averaged 17.9 FPG, and his route share jumped from 57% to 70%. With Ebron now out for an extended period of time — potentially the remainder of the season — Friermuth needs to be viewed as an every-week TE1.
And that’s also how he should be viewed this week as well. Cincinnati ranks as an almost perfectly neutral matchup on paper (-0.2), but matchups don’t really matter too much for TEs unless at the polar extreme. So, I’d start him this week as a low-end TE1 at worst. [SB]
Sit: Tyler Conklin at 49ers
We’ve been on Conklin as a streamer and DFS punt a few times this year, but this is by no means one of those spots. Even before erasing Dan Arnold for 0/0 last week, the 49ers were giving up just 30.2 YPG (third-fewest) to TEs on the season. Conklin’s target share bottomed out to a season-low 9% last week and I’m not confident that it’ll rebound here with the 49ers facing the fourth-lowest target share (17%) against TEs. [GB]