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.
Start / Sit recommendations for “Shallow” leagues refer to 10-team leagues while “Deep” is 12- or 14-teamers.
Start: Geno Smith at Chiefs
I’d like to take this time to remind the reader that Smith has been legitimately excellent this season – almost as if he’s swapped bodies with the once-great Russell Wilson. From a fantasy-perspective, Smith ranks 8th in FPG (19.2), ahead of names like Kyler Murray (18.9), Tua Tagovailoa (18.8), and Justin Herbert (17.7). From a real-football perspective, he ranks as PFF’s 7th highest-graded passer and leads the league in completion percentage over expectation (+6.5).
Geno Smith — Steven ORourke (@callmesteveo7) December 22, 2022
Accurate Throw%: 7th (55.3%)
Wow-Throw%: 3rd (6.1%)
Turnover Worthy Throw%: 33rd (4.7%)
FP/DB: 7th (0.49)
Russell Wilson 
Accurate Throw%: 20th (51%)
Wow-Throw%: 12th (4.8%)
Turnover Worthy Throw%: 12th (3.0%)
FP/DB: 27th (0.37)
*of 36 qualifying QBs
And Smith draws an ideal Week 16 matchup, up against a Chiefs defense that ranks: 2nd-worst in fantasy points allowed per dropback (0.48), 2nd-worst in passer rating allowed (99.5), and worst in schedule-adjusted passing FPG allowed (+3.6). So, even with Tyler Lockett out this week, I’d still be starting Smith as though he were 2020 Russell Wilson reincarnated, or as an easy mid-range QB1. [SB]
Start: Gardner Minshew at Cowboys
It seems increasingly likely that Minshew will start this week, in place of Jalen Hurts, who is dealing with a shoulder sprain. On a week where potentially all of Hurts, Lamar Jackson, Ryan Tannehill, Mike White, and Matt Ryan could sit, you might not have any choice but to start Minshew fresh off your waiver wire. But the good news is, he’s not only a viable streamer, he’s a legitimately strong option, who I have ranked as a (very) high-end QB2.
Since entering the league in 2019, Minshew averages 17.8 fantasy points per start, which is more than what Justin Herbert (17.7) and Dak Prescott (17.6) are giving you this year. And in Minshew’s lone start with Philadelphia’s first-stringers last year, he scored 18.8 fantasy points (10th-most on the week) on just 29 dropbacks, resulting in a 0.66 fantasy point per dropback average (2nd-most) alongside a 133.7 passer rating (2nd-most). Granted, this week’s matchup looks very difficult. But Minshew has an elite supporting cast, and Dallas (favored by 3.5) could force a more pass-heavy gamescript. [SB]
Sleeper You Probably Shouldn’t Start
Underrated: Daniel Jones at Vikings
Jones has been a boom-or-bust streamer all year whose outcomes are tethered solely to his rushing. While he played well in their win last week, we only got 10/35 rushing and 9.9 FP vs. Washington as the result.
Jones has tangible upside here, though. This matchup and game environment is strong. The Vikings have allowed a score on 45% of their opponents possessions (second-highest rate) over the last 10 weeks, and they have allowed 19.5 or more FP to seven of the 9 QBs they’ve faced in this span.
On a brutal week at QB outside of the top-10, Jones and Minshew are the top-two streamers on the slate. I am with Scott and prefer Minshew, but Jones isn’t too far behind in what will be a high-scoring game. [GB]
Start: Jerick McKinnon vs. Seahawks
McKinnon has seen an increased snap share in 4 straight games: 31% > 46% > 57% > 62%. Over the last three weeks, he averages 8.0 carries, 6.3 targets, 105.3 YFS/G, and 1.3 touchdowns per game. In other words, he ranks 7th-best in XFP/G (17.4) and 2nd-best in FPG (26.2) over this span.
This is a technically a split backfield, but McKinnon is dominating all of the high-value touches and snaps. Over the last three weeks, McKinnon has played on 82% of the team’s red zone snaps and 91% of the team’s goal line snaps, while handling 86% of the backfield XTD. He’s handled 76% of the backfield targets and 37% of the carries out of the backfield, resulting in 64% of the backfield XFP. Sure, Isiah Pacheco is very likely to lead the team in carries this week. But all of his carries are coming outside of the red zone, and carries outside of the red zone are basically worthless. And they’re especially (relatively) worthless when you’re on a team that ranks 1st in pass rate over expectation (12.9%) as well as 1st in red zone drives per game (4.2).
Kansas City is favored by 10.0-points, up against a Seattle defense that ranks as the league’s biggest run funnel (-5.0%). Theoretically this – the matchup and implied gamescript suggesting a more run-heavy approach – all works in Pacheco’s favor. Maybe. But although the Seahawks are definitely bad against the run, they also rank bottom-5 in receptions (80) and receiving yards (670) allowed to opposing RBs – which better suits McKinnon’s skillset. And although everything suggests a more run-heavy approach, the Chiefs are unique in that they never lean run-heavy. They lead the league in PROE by a wide margin, and they’ve led the league in PROE in 4 straight seasons. And the spread seems fairly irrelevant as well. Since 2020, the Chiefs have been favored by 10.0 or more points 13 times. In those games, they average 309.6 passing YPG (would lead the league this season) and just 75.7 RB rushing YPG (would rank 29th).
Anyway, all of this to say that although McKinnon may feel risky to you, but he feels like a rock solid high-end RB2 to me. And with significant upside beyond that, given his red zone-heavy role, and the Chief’s slate-high 29.5-point implied total. [SB]
Start: Miles Sanders at Cowboys
As much as I like Minshew this week, Vegas isn’t as bullish; Philadelphia averages 29.4 points per game this year, but Vegas is projecting them to score only 21.25 points this week. However, even if we think Philadelphia’s offense takes a step back as a whole, I think the loss of Hurts could be a blessing in disguise for Sanders and his fantasy managers.
After all, in Minshew’s lone start with the first-team offense last year, Sanders hit a season-high in touches (27) and fantasy points scored (20.2). In all other games with Hurts that year, he averaged just 12.4 touches per game. In addition to more volume, Sanders should also see higher-quality volume now that Hurts isn’t there to vulture rushing touchdowns – Sanders has the 9th-most carries inside the 5-yard-line this year (10), but Hurts has the 2nd-most (20).
On paper, the matchup appears exceedingly difficult – Dallas ranks 3rd-best in total FPG allowed to opposing RBs (19.2). But they also rank 10th-worst in rushing YPG allowed (104.0) and 14th-worst in YPC allowed (4.39). And so, in contrast to their elite pass defense – 3rd-best in net yards allowed per pass attempt (5.4) – perhaps it’s a little unsurprising that they’re also the league’s 3rd-biggest run funnel defense (-4.7% PROE allowed).
Ultimately, I don’t think the matchup is enough to scare me off of fantasy football’s current RB12, who is also very likely to see a massive uptick in volume this week. So, start him as a mid-range RB2, even (or especially) if Minshew earns the start. [SB]
Sit: Brian Robinson at 49ers
Robinson has looked back to his old self in recent weeks, and it has been great to see him close out the season fully healthy. However, there are a few concerns for him and this Washington backfield for fantasy this weekend.
First and foremost, Antonio Gibson out-snapped Robinson 60% to 38% last week in a game the Commanders trailed throughout. Gibson playing more snaps again here is likely given that Washington are big underdogs. Even more concerning is the backfield split in the red-zone. Over their last three games together, Gibson has handled 70% of the red-zone snaps while Robinson is at 20%.
This is all without mentioning that RBs vs. the 49ers get smothered. San Francisco hasn’t allowed more than 59 rushing yards to a single RB in a game this season. If you’ve been rolling with Robinson in your RB2 or FLEX spot, this is the week to pull the plug. [GB]
Start: D’Andre Swift at Panthers
Swift is resoundingly one of the biggest busts of the 2022 season, returning RB20-levels of production on a RB9 ADP. So, of course, it might not feel good seeing his name in your starting lineup this week. But I do think he’s startable in most leagues, as a mid-range RB2.
The bad news is, Swift is definitely still stuck in a 3-way committee backfield, playing on just 40% of the team’s snaps last week, to Jamaal Williams’ 31% and Justin Jackson’s 32%. The good news is, that’s a significantly more valuable role than anyone seems to realize. That, and there’s an easy bull-case argument to be made centering around Swift’s health.
D'Andre Swift in the weeks he's on the injury report (8 games):— Jake Tribbey (@JakeTribbey) December 20, 2022
10.5 FPG (RB35)
11.3 XFP/G (RB29)
D'Andre Swift in the weeks he's not on the injury report (3 games):
20.0 FPG (RB4)
18.0 XFP/G (RB5)
Last week, Swift was off the injury report for just the 3rd time all year. He averages 12.3 carries, 6.0 targets, and 120.3 YFS per game in those 3 healthy games. He only scored 12.5 fantasy points last week, but he also averaged 6.5 YPC. And, more importantly, he ranked 10th among all RBs in XFP (17.3). Now, over his last 4 games, he’s finished 9th, 3rd, 27th, and 10th among all RBs in XFP. And he ranks 6th-best by XFP/G (17.0) over this span.
So, yes, he’s stuck in a 3-way committee backfield. But he’s getting the bulk of the high-value touches. And because Detroit ranks 2nd in total team RB XFP/G (28.9), there’s a lot more upside here than Swift is getting credit for.
Again, you’re not going to feel good starting him this week. But up against a Panthers defense that ranks fringe-bottom-10 in YPC allowed (4.60) and rushing FPG allowed (15.2), he should be started in most leagues as a mid-range RB2. [SB]
C-Patt and Allgeier both had usable days last week with Caleb Huntley going down early with an Achilles injury. I know it might be tempting to use one of these two since this is now a two-man backfield for the first time all year, but unfortunately, this is a downright brutal matchup.
Baltimore has played some of the best run defense in the league since acquiring LB Roquan Smith, allowing just 3.08 YPC over their last six games. The Ravens are tied with the 49ers for the best run defense by EPA allowed (-0.24 per play) in this span.
Both Patterson and Allgeier are TD-dependent FLEX plays at best, tethered to a rookie QB who should have thrown 3-4 INTs last week. [GB]
Sleeper You Probably Shouldn’t Start
Underrated: Raheem Mostert vs. Packers
There is some inherent risk in this backfield every week because the usage has been so inconsistent all year, but this is an objectively amazing spot for their run game. Jeff Wilson returning obviously muddies things a bit, but Mostert still has a ceiling based on the matchup alone – the Packers are giving up 5.0 YPC (fifth-most) and rank 31st in Rush EPA.
For what it’s worth, Raheem Mostert was the lead RB two weeks ago even before Wilson hurt and then re-aggravated his hip injury. And, Mostert ran well as the lead RB last week for a season-high 136 yards vs. Buffalo.
If Wilson plays, then Mostert is an upside FLEX option. If Wilson is out or limited, treat Mostert as a top-20 RB play. [GB]
Start: DeVonta Smith at Cowboys
I think A.J. Brown is clearly Philadelphia WR1. But I also think it’s a lot closer than anyone else seems to think. For instance, DeVonta Smith has seen at least 8 targets in 6 straight games, and he averages 15.7 FPG (~WR18) over this span. Brown, meanwhile, has seen 8 or more targets only twice over his last 7 games, and he averages just 15.2 FPG over this 8-game stretch.
I think A.J. Brown is clearly Philadelphia WR1. But I also think that could be a detriment this week.
The Cowboys have lost two starting CBs to I.R. – perimeter CB2 Anthony Brown and slot CB Jourdan Lewis – leaving them with only second-stringers alongside Pro Bowler Trevon Diggs, who has shadowed in 3 of his last 6 games (Allen Lazard, Justin Jefferson, Michael Pittman). Diggs also shadowed A.J. Brown in Week 6, when Lewis and Brown were still healthy.
Dallas ranks tied for best in DK FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (12.1), and worst in DK FPG allowed to opposing WR2s (14.8). pic.twitter.com/Dytg5ckn3o— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) December 22, 2022
Based on this information, perhaps the above stat shouldn’t be too surprising – Dallas is both the best defense in the league at shutting down WR1s and the worst at stopping WR2s. That’s a product of the second-stringers struggling, as well as Diggs’ eliteness funneling more volume in their direction. Over their last 6 games, we’ve seen underwhelming performances from WR1s: Allen Lazard (7.5), Justin Jefferson (6.3), Darius Slayton (9.3), Michael Pittman (3.6), and Christian Kirk (15.2). And we’ve seen big games from WR2s: Christian Watson (32.7), Richie James (15.1), Alec Pierce (18.6), Amari Rodgers (16.0), and Zay Jones (34.9).
So, yes, even with Jalen Hurts very likely to sit out this week. I still recommend you start Smith as a low-end WR2. [SB]
Start: Christian Kirk at Jets
The Jets have been arguably the best defense in the league at limiting opposing outside wide receivers, but that strong play doesn’t extend to the slot – which is where Christian Kirk runs the majority of his routes. Whereas the Jets rank 32nd in receptions (5.9) and yards (66.9) per game allowed to boundary WRs, they are giving up the fourth-most receptions to slot WRs (7.7 per game) and the eighth-most YPG (85.4).
If the Jaguars passing attack is going to find success on TNF, it will most likely be through Kirk – who has seven or more targets in eight-straight games. Kirk is a strong WR2 in PPR. [GB]
Sit: Chris Olave at Browns
I have no idea why this is the case, but this is the case – Olave is both playing behind Rashid Shaheed and is being out-played by Shaheed. Over the last three weeks, Shahid is running more routes (81% vs. 76% route share) and is also more efficient on his routes (4.0 vs. 3.0 YPRR) in contrast to Olave. That’s a concern, but this isn’t even Olave’s biggest concern, which is the fact that his Week 16 game will be played in blizzardicane.
Weather forecast for #Browns vs. #Saints on Saturday in Cleveland:— Noah Weiskopf (@BrownsWithNoah) December 20, 2022
A HIGH temperature of 13 F with the wind chill deep into the negative teens. The wind is expected to be steady at around 30 mph with gusts reaching up to 60 mph. In addition, 1-3 inches of snow is expected ❄️
Okay, you caught me – ‘blizzardicane’ is not a real word. But it should be. And it, at least, perfectly describes the apocalyptic weather conditions Olave will have to play in this week. As such, I’m only expecting low-end WR3 production from Olave this week, and for all other pass-catchers from this game to struggle as well. And Vegas seems to share my concern, giving this game a 32.0-point over/under – which would be the lowest number we’ve seen in 14 years. [SB]
Saints-Browns has an over/under of 31.5 and if it closes at that number, it will be the first time in 14 years (!) we've seen a total below 32 points— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) December 20, 2022
Start: D.J. Moore vs. Lions
Over the last two seasons, Moore averages 14.2 FPG (~WR20) on a 26.7% target share (~WR13) with Sam Darnold, as opposed to only 8.1 FPG (~WR72) on a 22.3% target share (~WR28) with Baker Mayfield under center.
Since Darnold returned in Week 12, Moore has scored 20.3, 0.6, and 18.3 fantasy points. Obviously that number in the middle is tough to stomach, but this performance did come in a bottom-3 matchup against the Seahawks (-4.8 schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to outside WRs). And he now gets a much softer matchup against a Detroit defense which ranks 2nd-worst in FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (19.5).
Ultimately, Moore is not necessarily someone I’m excited to start, but I do like him as a high-end WR3. [SB]
Start: Darius Slayton at Vikings
I don’t know why multiple Giants coaching staffs emphatically hated Slayton’s guts. Because he looks pretty good to me – he ranks behind only Jaylen Waddle (11.2) and Justin Jefferson (10.3) in YPT average (10.2). And since Week 7, he ranks 20th in receiving yards (523) and 14th in yardage share (28.4%), despite ranking just 32nd in targets (50).
So, yeah… Believe it or not – Slayton has been one of the league’s most efficient WRs this season. And this could be the perfect matchup for him to showcase his hyper-efficiency. Against outside WRs, Minnesota ranks worst in fantasy points allowed over expectation (+121%) and worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (+7.5). They also rank 3rd-worst in YPG allowed to opposing WRs on deep passes (62.8), which suits Slayton well, as 30% of his total receiving yards have come on deep targets (14th-most).
Like Moore, Slayton isn’t too exciting. But he is a viable start this week, as a low-end WR3. [SB]
Sleeper You Probably Shouldn’t Start
Underrated: Jahan Dotson at 49ers
Dotson has played on 81% of the team’s snaps over his last 2 games. Across his previous 4 games – due to a nagging hamstring injury – he played on just 56% of the team’s snaps. But in the 5 games Dotson has played on over two-thirds of the team’s snaps, he averages 15.2 FPG. And he exceeded 16.0 fantasy points in 4 of these 5 games. For perspective, 15.8 FPG would rank 14th-most among all WRs (tied with Christian Kirk).
In conjunction with this alluring bull-case narrative, Dotson also gets a very favorable matchup this week; the 49ers rank 4th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing right WRs, which is where Dotson runs 45% of his routes.
Ultimately, Dotson still feels a little hard to trust – he’s been very touchdown-dependent for instance, and perhaps my stats were a little too cherry-picked. So, maybe he’s not quite a “start”, but I do like him as a high-end WR4. [SB]
Start: Dallas Goedert at Cowboys
Among all TEs Goedert ranks: 4th in target share (20.6%), 2nd in YPG (60.4), and 2nd in FPG (12.6).
In his last full game with Gardner Minshew, he earned a team-high 24% target share, catching all 6 of his targets for 102 yards and 2 scores (28.2 fantasy points).
So, yeah… If he’s playing this week – even at the risk of him being somewhat limited in his first game back – I don’t think you have any other choice but to start him as a mid-range TE1. [SB]
Sit: Pat Freiermuth vs. Raiders
Freiermuth has been dealing with a foot injury for the last few weeks, and his snaps have been cut dramatically because of it. He’s played fewer than 60% of the snaps in three-straight games, making him a low-floor play even in what is a great matchup. It’s just hard to trust him since he’s on a snap count.
As ever, TE falls off a cliff after the top-5. For comparison’s sake, I’d start Dulcich, Engram, Waller, and Knox over Freiermuth.
Sleeper You Probably Shouldn’t Start
Underrated: Trey McBride vs. Buccaneers
McBride isn’t rosterable, let alone startable. But I could see him surprising this week.
Last week he recorded a season-high (and nearly team-high) 55 receiving yards. Which makes me think there might be a strong #BackupConnection between him and Trace McSorley. Of course, McSorley only targeted him on 3 of his 15 pass attempts (20%), but McBride did account for a whopping 45% of McSorley’s total passing yards. [SB]