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: Tom Brady vs. Chiefs
It’s been a rough start for the GOAT as he’s opened up the season as the QB27, QB26, and QB18 in weekly scoring. However, this is an obvious spot to go back to Brady as a QB1 with all of his weapons potentially back (fingers crossed). LT Donovan Smith got in a limited practice on Wednesday along with WRs Chris Godwin and Julio Jones. If Brady gets his guys back, this matchup has obvious shootout appeal. The Chiefs pushed Kyler Murray, Justin Herbert, and Matt Ryan to 41 pass attempts per game in Weeks 1-3. [GB]
Start: Marcus Mariota vs. Browns
Mariota quietly ranks as the overall QB13, averaging 17.3 FPG. And that’s about where I’ll have him ranked this week, in a sneaky-good matchup against the Browns.
Against QBs, Cleveland’s defense currently ranks 12th-worst in FPG allowed (20.3), 14th-worst in opposing passer rating allowed (95.3), and 5th-worst (!) in fantasy points allowed per dropback (0.50). So, this may seem like a good-but-not-quite-amazing matchup. So just keep in mind that the only QBs the Browns have faced thus far have been Baker Mayfield, Joe Flacco, and Mitchell Trubisky. [SB]
Sit: Carson Wentz at Cowboys
Wentz was rattled against the Eagles and his pocket awareness fell apart, resulting in a miserable outing as he went 25-of-43 for 211 yards and took nine sacks. This is probably the last matchup Washington would like to have right now with a spooked Wentz. Dallas is generating pressure on 36.6% of their opponents dropbacks (second-highest rate) led by QB wrecking machine Micah Parsons. This feels like a spot where the Commanders have to get their run game going. After opening the season as the QB3 and QB5, Wentz regressed to QB30 last week. This isn’t the spot to get back on board in 1-QB leagues. [GB]
Start: Cordarrelle Patterson vs. Browns
Patterson has been fantastic to start this season, opening up the season as the RBX in FPG with a strong 49/302/2 rushing line. C-Patt has gained five or more yards on 53.1% of his carries, tying Aaron Jones for the highest rate. Not only has Patterson taken over as the clear lead back – he’s handled 68% of the non-Mariota early-down carries – he’s the only RB involved near the goal-line. Patterson has been on the field for a whopping 92% of the Falcons inside-the-10 (red-zone) plays. With the Browns potentially down both Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney this week, Patterson has RB1 upside once again. [GB]
Start: Jamaal Williams vs. Seahawks
Last week D’Andre Swift suffered an injury on Detroit’s first drive of the fourth quarter, and never returned to the game. In his absence, Williams played on 16 of 18 snaps (89%), while handling 10 of 12 carries and 3 of 4 routes out of the backfield.
It seems very likely Williams will be thrust into a bell cow workload in Week 4, but it’s not quite a lock. Last year, when Swift missed time, Williams played on only 45% of the team’s snaps, averaging (through two games): 18.0 of 27.0 carries (67%), 0.5 of 4.0 targets (13%), and 9.0 of 33.5 routes out of the backfield (27%). Granted, Williams was also a little banged up over this stretch, dealing with hip and thigh injuries, but it is possible HC Dan Campbell prefers Williams as only an early-down workhorse, and that he could get scripted out of this game if Seattle maintains an early lead.
Even so, Williams currently leads the league in touchdowns (4) and ranks 4th among all RBs in XTD/G (0.9). He’s seen at least 12 touches in all three games this year, and has out-carried Swift 43 to 27 up to this point. Plus this seems like a winnable game (Detroit is favored by 4.0 points), and one with massive scoring potential (Detroit has the 3rd-highest implied point total of the week). And the matchup seems very attractive on paper – Seattle has given up the 3rd-most rushing FPG to opposing RBs (17.1).
Add it all up and we like Williams as a high-end RB2 this week. [SB]
#OnePride— Jesse Morse, MD (@DrJesseMorse) September 28, 2022
All DNP today:
Swift - shoulder
ARSB - ankle
Hockenson - foot
Chark - ankle
Reynolds - ankle
That leaves Jamaal Williams as the only healthy option for Lions 👀
Sit: James Robinson at Eagles
I liked Robinson quite a bit last week in a good matchup against a Chargers run defense that struggles at times, but this is a much different spot here on the road against an Eagles run defense that has shut down Minnesota and Washington RBs to 3.2 YPC in their first two games. Robinson is also running hot on TD luck as he has two scores from distance this season and shakes out as the sixth-biggest regression candidate by XFP. Robinson is a shaky RB2 as the Jaguars enter Philadelphia as touchdown underdogs. [GB]
It seems like Akers has jumped ahead of Henderson after opening up the season in Sean McVay’s doghouse. Akers’ snap rate has risen every week (18% > 43% > 50%) and he has 26 early-down carries to Henderson’s 12 over the last two weeks. While this backfield has swung back in his favor, I’m still benching Akers in what is a really tough matchup for their ground game. The 49ers have remained one of the league’s best front-sevens against the run to open this season, allowing a lowly 2.81 YPC (third-fewest). Rams RBs struggled in their three matchups against the 49ers last year as their 58 combined carries went for 161 yards (2.78 YPC). [GB]
Start: Khalil Herbert at Giants
Last week David Montgomery suffered an injury on Chicago’s second drive of the game. From that point on, Herbert played on 73% of the team’s snaps (or 92% in the second-half following Trestan Ebner’s fumble), while handling 20 of 27 carries and 2 of 3 targets out of the backfield. This added up to only 18.6 XFP (7th-most on the week), and he ranked 2nd – behind only Derrick Henry – in team XFP% (38%). On that good volume, he scored 30.9 fantasy points, which was the most by any RB in Week 3, and the most by any Chicago RB since 2018. (David Montgomery has never hit the 30-fantasy-point benchmark.)
With Montgomery looking very doubtful to play in Week 4, Herbert appears locked in to a RB1 workload in a winnable (only 3.5-point underdogs) game against the Giants. The Giants rank 2nd-worst in YPC allowed to RBs (5.57) and Herbert himself currently ranks 2nd among all RBs in YPC average (7.3). So, start him with confidence this week as a high-end RB2 / fringe-RB1. [SB]
Start: Jeff Wilson vs. Rams
Jeff Wilson has now made six starts in place of Eli Mitchell over the last two years, handling 21, 13, 23, 17, 20, and 15 touches in those games (18.2 per game). Wilson has been strong in the yardage department as well, totaling 58, 56, 119, 57, 103, and 106 scrimmage yards (83.2 per game) as the lead back. And with Tyrion Davis-Price (ankle) out a few weeks, this backfield belongs to Wilson. Last week, Wilson’s 73% snap rate was seventh-highest among running backs. Wilson is a volume-based RB2 start even in this tougher matchup. [GB]
Sit: J.K. Dobbins vs. Bills
Dobbins made it back last week, turning his nine touches into 40 scrimmage yards against the Patriots. The Ravens predictably rolled out Dobbins slowly in his 2022 debut as Justice Hill (48%) ended up playing more snaps than Dobbins did (42%). While Dobbins’ involvement will increase in the coming weeks, this is a really rough matchup for the Ravens run game. The Bills have limited opposing RBs to just 2.79 YPC (second-fewest) and they held Dolphins RBs to 2.28 YPC last week with DT Ed Oliver and DT Jordan Phillips both out due to injury. [GB]
Sleeper You Probably Shouldn’t Start
Underrated: Tony Pollard vs. Commanders
After a rough opening game, Pollard has bounced back for 203 scrimmage yards and a score on 26 touches over the last two weeks. Overall, Ezekiel Elliott has 37 carries and 4 targets on early-downs while Tony Pollard has 26 carries and 7 targets while this duo has split red-zone snaps down the middle (8 to 8). All of this gives Pollard the slight lead in XFP (10.5) over Zeke (10.2 XFP). This offense now revolves around the run game and Pollard will continue to be a big featured part of it. With Cooper Rush under center, Dallas is fourth in run rate when the game is within a score (47%), trailing only Atlanta (49%), San Francisco (55%), and Chicago (59%). As a home-favorite against a Washington run defense that has been gashed to start the season, Pollard is a strong FLEX play. [GB]
Start: Courtland Sutton at Raiders
Okay, so maybe you were never planning on sitting Sutton this week. But I just wanted it on record that I think there’s a chance (depending mostly on the health of Las Vegas’ cornerbacks) that he goes nuclear and finishes top-5 at the position this week.
Among all WRs, Sutton currently ranks 2nd in air yards (156.3 per game), 8th in targets (10.7 per game), 7th in XFP (19.7 XFP/G), and 5th in receiving yards (exceeding 70 receiving yards in all three weeks).
If Russell Wilson can return to pre-2021 form at any point this season, Sutton could be a league-winner. And there’s a good chance Wilson can, starting with this week – Las Vegas ranks 4th-worst in FPG allowed to QBs (23.3). But even if not, Sutton could at least be a week-winner in this matchup. Las Vegas has been excellent on the perimeter this year, but they could be without both of their starting perimeter CBs Rock Ya-Sin (knee) and Nate Hobbs (concussion), leaving Sutton in a perfect matchup with extra target-volume (given the fact that Jerry Jeudy is still clearly hobbled by rib and shoulder injuries). [SB]
Start: Christian Kirk at Eagles
Kirk currently ranks 6th among all WRs in FPG (20.9). He’s scored at least 17.7 fantasy points in each of his first three games, including 19.2 last week in a worst-possible matchup against the league’s best defense as defending slot WRs. This week he gets a tough Eagles secondary, but will at least spend 81% of his day in the slot away from Darius Slay and James Bradberry. And will have the softest matchup of Jacksonville’s WRs, against Avonte Maddox in the slot.
Kirk really could be a league-winner this year. And especially if Trevor Lawrence starts to live up to his hype, and takes that crucial next step as a player. And by all accounts, he is – Lawrence has a 8:1 touchdown to interception ratio over his last 4 games. Over his previous 9 games he had a touchdown to interception ratio of 2:8.
Despite a matchup that looks extremely tough on paper, but is probably closer to neutral in actuality, Kirk ranks as a high-end WR2 for us this week. And potentially, no less than that every week moving forward as well. [SB]
Sit: D.J. Moore vs. Cardinals
After ranking top-10 in receiving yards in each of the last three seasons, Moore currently ranks 77th in receiving yards (88). His season-high numbers are: 6 targets, 3 catches, and 43 receiving yards.
Moore may never live up to his 2022 ADP (Round 4, WR15), but I do expect him to start to look a bit more like his old self sometime soon. Unfortunately, I think Moore owners are going to have to wait at least one more week. That’s because Moore is likely to draw shadow coverage from Byron Murphy on his perimeter routes (where he spends 76% of his time).
Cooper Kupp has fallen short of 90 receiving yards only three times since the start of the 2021 season; all three of those games came against Murphy (average: 56.3 YPG). Davante Adams has hit double-digit fantasy points in 32 of his last 33 games. The one game he failed to reach that mark? Week 2 against Murphy (12 total receiving yards).
Cooper Kupp has hit 90 receiving yards in 21 of his last 23 games. He fell under 65 yards in his two other games.— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) September 24, 2022
Prior to last week, Davante Adams had hit double-digit fantasy points in 32 straight games.
The common denominator? Shadow coverage from #Cardinals CB Byron Murphy pic.twitter.com/PSzpXKZfiu
So, I have a hard time imagining Moore does any better than those two studs. He currently ranks as just a low-end WR3 for me this week. [SB]
Start: Gabriel Davis at Ravens
Davis disappointed in the box score last week (3/37 receiving) after missing one game with an ankle injury, but his usage remained incredible. Davis has run a route on a team-high 92% (Week 1) and 89% (Week 3) of the team’s pass plays in his two games played so far, drawing five and six targets. This is a perfect spot for Davis to have a blow up game, though. The Ravens have been hammered by enemy WRs, surrendering 4+ receptions and 50+ yards to six individual receivers in three games. Their secondary is yielding a 58.1% completion rate (second-worst) on throws of 15+ air yards, which is right in Davis’ wheelhouse. Go right back to him as a strong WR2. [GB]
Start: Mike Williams at Texans
If you look up the definition of boom-or-bust, it’s just a shrine of Mike Williams. Don’t Google it. WIlliams has a 8/113/1 hammer mixed in with two 2/10 and 1/15/1 duds so far, but this is as good of a matchup that he’s caught all season long. The Texans have been hammered by perimeter receivers to start the season as Michael Pittman (9/121/1) and Courtland Sutton (7/122) ate in Weeks 1-2 before Houston faced the destitute Bears passing offense last week. You know his floor is low, but Williams is a high-upside WR2. [GB]
Start: Garrett Wilson vs. Steelers
Even with the QB change to Zach Wilson, I’m sticking with Garrett Wilson as a WR3 play this week. The Wilson-to-Wilson connection could be strong out of the gates as Zach Wilson targeted his slot WRs at the second-highest rate in the league (28%) in his rookie season. This is good news for the Ohio State rookie who is emerging quickly as a rookie star. Garrett Wilson has run 55% of his routes from the slot – the second-highest rate on the team. Up against this Steelers secondary that has given up production to slot WRs Tyler Boyd (4/33/1) and Jakobi Meyers (9/95) to start this year, Wilson is still making my lineups in PPR leagues. [GB]
Sit: Allen Robinson at 49ers
Robinson has simply been an afterthought in this Rams offense so far as he’s run a route on 85.8% of the team’s dropbacks, but earned a pathetic 11.9% target share despite being an every-down player. A-Rob had a TD go through his hands last week which would have saved his day, but the bottom line is that this passing offense still runs through Cooper Kupp. In fact, A-Rob is fourth on the Rams in first read target rate behind Kupp, Tyler Higbee, and even Ben Skowronek. To make matters worse, the 49ers have allowed the fourth-fewest yards and second-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing WRs. [GB]
Sleeper You Probably Shouldn’t Start
Underrated: Richie James vs. Bears
Since I absolutely killed it in this section last week, recommending Chris Olave and Mack Hollins, I wanted to double-down again this week. I’m doubtful Alec Pierce or James have the sort of upside either one of those two WRs flashed last week, and I don’t think you should start either one of these names even in the deepest of leagues, but… If you’re absolutely desperate, I could see James surprising us with a starter-worthy performance this week.
Sterling Shepard is out for the rest of the year, leaving behind a 23% target share (20th-most among WRs). Wan’Dale Robinson and Kadarius Toney both failed to practice on Wednesday. And Kenny Golladay has retired from football, whether or not he wants to admit it. James, meanwhile, earned an 82% route share last week (up from 64%). He ranks 32nd in YPRR (1.70) and 38th in TPRR (0.19). And despite his route handicap, he ranks 26th in team yardage market share (26%), while hitting at least 8.0 fantasy points in 3 of 3 games. He gets a strong on-paper matchup against Chicago’s slot CB Kyler Gordon, who currently ranks as PFF’s 13th-worst-graded CB (of 103-qualifiers). [SB]
Underrated: Alec Pierce vs. Titans
By a landslide, the Titans are the worst defense against outside WRs. They’ve given up a league-high 37.8 FPG to opposing outside WRs this year. For perspective, that’s +73% more than the league average rate. And, absurdly, that’s 1.55X more (far-and-away a league-high) than the XFP they’ve allowed to opposing outside WRs.
Of course, Michael Pittman should absolutely feast in this matchup as well. But it’s at least interesting that Davante Adams was held to just 36 yards against them last week (while WR2 Mack Hollins exploded for 29.8 fantasy points). Perhaps Tennessee intentionally bracketed Adams and brought extra help to his side most of the game, allowing Hollins to feast. (But then again, Stefon Diggs dropped 44.8 fantasy points against them in Week 2, and no other WR scored more than 7.0 fantasy points.) Still, Hollins’ big day and Adams’ disappointing performance should be viewed as a positive sign for Pierce.
Beyond that, Pierce’s usage is just “fine”. Pierce ran a route on 70% of his team’s dropbacks prior to injury in Week 1. But that dropped to 47% in Week 3, either because they were trying to ease him back following the concussion, or due to Ashton Dulin’s recent success. Even so – and despite basically only getting about two full quarters of work last week – Pierce earned 5 targets and gained 61 yards (just 11 off of Pittman for the team-high).
Pierce isn’t someone I’m playing this week, but he is someone I’m trying to add to my deep-roster teams in case he has a big game. [SB]
Start:Zach Ertz at Panthers
I talked about Ertz at greater length here, but the gist of it is this – Ertz has now seen double-digit targets in 7 of his last 9 healthy games. Given the barren wasteland that is the TE position, that means you’re starting Ertz this week and every week as a mid-range TE1 at-worst. [SB]
Sit: Tyler Higbee at 49ers
Higbee isn’t quite a “sit” this week – because the TE position is so extremely gross as a whole, and his volume has been excellent, ranking 3rd in route share (87%) and 4th in target share (21.7%). That said, it is worth tempering your expectations this week. The 49ers currently rank best in FPG allowed to opposing TEs (2.4) and they’ve ranked top-7 every season since 2018. (Dre Greenlaw is very good at football.) Again, don’t sit Higbee, but he ranks as just a mid-to-low-end TE1 this week, given this tough matchup. [SB]
Start: David Njoku at Falcons
After running a route on just 68% of Cleveland’s dropbacks in Week 1, Njoku has been over 80% in each of the past two weeks. Over this span, he’s earned an 82% route share (7th-most), a 25.9% target share (2nd-most), and he’s averaged 15.1 FPG (2nd-most). He gets an ideal matchup this week, against a Falcons defense that’s given up the 5th-most receiving YPG to opposing TEs (73.7). And unlike so many of the other teams in the top-7 of this stat, the Falcons haven’t faced Mark Andrews or Travis Kelce. They’ve only played the Saints, Rams, and Seahawks. Add it all up, and we like Njoku this week as a mid-range to low-end TE1. [SB]
Sleeper You Probably Shouldn’t Start
Underrated: Tyler Conklin at Steelers
It still feels a little too early to trust Conklin as a reliable TE1 just yet. But Week 4 very well could be the litmus test. And if you’re desperate for a TE you could do a lot worse than Conklin. He currently ranks 8th in route share (80%), 14th in target share (13.5%), 8th in XFP/G (11.6), and 3rd(!) in FPG (12.6). And this week he gets a Steelers defense that just gave up 23.9 fantasy points to David Njoku. He’s a low-end TE1, and legitimately starter-worthy for TE-needy teams. [SB]