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. Falcons
It’s been a rough month for Brady; the Buccaneers have lost their last two games, he’s getting divorced, and, worst yet, he ranks behind Jacoby Brissett in FPG as just the QB22 (15.2). But good news – I think this is the ultimate get-right spot for Brady and the Buccaneers.
The team should have its full stable of WRs back this week – Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Julio Jones – who have missed a combined 5 full games up to this point. Add to that, Brady getting a perfect matchup, and one he’s dominated in recent seasons – 358.3 passing YPG and 28.5 FPG in 4 career games against Atlanta while in a Buccaneers uniform. The Falcons currently rank 2nd-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs (+7.7), and this is now the third straight season they’ve ranked bottom-3. The Falcons also have no pass rush to speak of, ranking 2nd-worst in pressure rate over expectation (-16.0%). And that’s a key point, because Tampa Bay’s beleaguered offensive line is the clear liability of this offense, and much like kryptonite to Superman, pressure has been the only thing that’s ever made Brady look mortal in his career. [SB]
Tom Brady averages 7.4 *fewer* FPG in his most-pressured games (18.8 vs. 26.3 FPG)— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) August 15, 2022
Jalen Hurts averages 3.0 *more* FPG in his most-pressured games (24.9 vs. 21.4 FPG)
TLDR: I'm farrrr more worried about Tampa Bay's OL for Brady than I am Chicago's OL for Justin Fields
Start: Russell Wilson vs. Colts
Wilson finally came to life last week against the Raiders, hitting season-highs in FP (27.5) and YPA (9.5). Wilson attempted 21 passes compared to just five run plays in the second-half after Javonte left the game. Especially with Javonte Williams out, the Broncos may really struggle to run the ball against the Colts on Thursday. Indianapolis has opened up the season giving up the second-fewest YPC (3.09), which should force Wilson to throw more. The Colts play the highest rate of Cover-3 in the league (47.1%) and Wilson is much better against man coverage, but Indy’s Cover-3 shell has shown cracks. Through Weeks 1-4, the Colts rank seventh-worst in fantasy points per dropback and ninth-worst in YPA allowed in their Cover-3 looks. [GB]
Sleeper You Probably Shouldn’t Start
Underrated: Carson Wentz vs. Titans
After ranking as the overall QB4 through the first two weeks of the season (29.3 FPG), Wentz has since fallen back down to earth, hitting every tree branch on the way down (9.0 FPG). I don’t trust him enough to start him this week, but I could see him having a big game. The Titans are currently giving up the 2nd-most passing FPG to opposing QBs (20.9), while also ranking worst in opposing passer rating (107.2). Although the over/under for this game is low, Washington is almost just as bad against the pass as Tennesee. And so, I could see this game shooting out, and Wentz surprising with a QB1 performance. But again, I probably wouldn’t start him in any league. [SB]
Start: Breece Hall vs. Dolphins
This is going to be a much higher volume rushing offense moving forward relative to the Flacco offense in Weeks 1-3, especially with RB Breece Hall breaking out. The Jets ran the ball at the seventh-highest rate above expectation in Week 4 as OC Mike LaFleur called 27 early-down runs to 23 passes. Hall was a gigantic part in their shift of philosophy last week, hitting season-highs in snaps and carries. Even if Hall struggles on the ground this week, he has a great role on passing downs to bail him out. Hall also took over on passing downs last week, running 26 routes to Carter’s 15. It doesn’t hurt that the Dolphins have allowed the fifth-most receptions to RBs. Hall is a RB2 with RB1 upside in Week 5. [GB]
Sit: Broncos RBs vs. Colts
I don’t know if all of the bids I saw this week for Latavius Murray were hilarious or just sad. Pour one out for Javonte Williams and hope he’s back to 100% for 2023.
At this point, I have zero confidence in any of these Bronco RBs for Thursday night. Melvin Gordon is struggling mightily and not just with fumbles. Gordon has gained 10+ yards on just 2.7% of his carries this season, which is the third-lowest rate behind James Conner and Joe Mixon. Those two have dealt with far worse offensive line play than Gordon, too. This Bronco staff was so sick of Gordon in the second half of their game against the Raiders last week that Mike Boone played 18 snaps to Gordon’s nine after Javonte got hurt. I don’t want to play any of these guys this week until we see some signs of how this will shake out. It doesn’t help that the Colts are also offering up just 3.09 YPC (second-fewest). [GB]
Start: James Robinson vs. Texans
Robinson appears to me to be a glaring “sell-high,” ranking 12th among RBs in FPG (14.8), but also worst in percentage of carries to gain fewer than 3 yards (57.6%). If you take away just one of his runs, he’s averaging only 3.6 YPC. Add to that an impressive young Round 1-caliber RB waiting in the wings, and heightened injury risk following an Achilles tear just 10 months ago.
He’s a sell-high for me, but he’s also a must-start this week in deeper leagues. As much as we may want Travis Etienne to get more work, Robinson has been dominating the backfield with neutral and positive gamescripts. (Etienne has played on 68% of the team’s snaps when trailing by 6 or more points. The rest of the time that falls to just 39%.) And this is a very winnable game for the Jaguars, favored by 7.0-points.
And the matchup couldn’t be anymore perfect on paper. The Texans are the league’s top run funnel defense this year, ranking 10th-best in passer rating allowed (79.9) and 9th-worst in YPC allowed to RBs (4.98), and also bottom-6 in pass rate over expectation (-2.7%). They’re currently giving up the most FPG (32.8), the 2nd-most rushing FPG (21.6), and the most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (+7.7).
Start Robinson with confidence this week, as a high-end RB2. [SB]
Sit: Antonio Gibson vs. Titans
Gibson is holding onto his last bit of fantasy relevance and even then, it may already be gone. After a promising start, Gibson’s PPR finishes (RB11 > RB16 > RB28 > RB34) have dipped along with his snaps (64% > 54% > 44% > 41%). Last week, we saw Jonathan Williams and JD McKissic mix in for 13 combined carries while Gibson had 13 himself. Gibson is averaging a plodder-esque 3.89 YPC over the last two combined years as Washington continues to show no faith he’s going to turn it around. With Brian Robinson eligible to come back as soon as this week, Gibson’s role will be even further diminished. [GB]
Sleeper You Probably Shouldn’t Start
Underrated: Raheem Mostert at Jets
The Dolphins pass rate over expectation has dipped in four-straight games (+12.3% > +8.8% > +1.4% > +0.8%) after they came out of the gates firing. Teddy Bridgewater is arguably the best backup QB in the league and this offense still runs through Hill and Waddle, but I wonder if HC Mike McDaniel tries to get their run game going against the Jets. Mostert quietly broke out with a season-high 72% snap rate last week and marked the fourth-straight week where his snaps have gone up. The Dolphins are 3.5-point favorites here even without Tua, so we should expect good game-script if the Dolphins do try to “hide” Bridgewater to a certain extent. The Jets have been somewhat stingy against the run so far, but they are still giving up plenty of TDs. Jets’ opponents have scored a TD on 26% of possessions against them this season, the ninth-highest rate. [GB]
Start: Terry McLaurin vs. Titans
Rookie WR Jahan Dotson is likely out this week, leaving behind his 5.3 targets, 1.0 end zone targets, and 1.5 deep targets per game. Curtis Samuel leads the team in targets and XFP, but has a brutal matchup, running 71% of his routes from the slot, up against a Titans defense that’s given up the 7th-fewest FPG to opposing slot WRs (8.9). But McLaurin…
McLaurin has been a little underwhelming and a little hit-or-miss this season, but he walks into a perfect matchup this week.
McLaurin gets a Titans defense that’s given up the 2nd-most FPG to opposing outside WRs (33.3) and the 2nd-most FPG to left WRs (20.0). Tennessee also ranks bottom-2 to both outside WRs and left WRs by schedule-adjusted FPG allowed and fantasy points allowed over expectation. For clarity, McLaurin runs 84% of his routes from the outside, and 59% aligned to Carson Wentz’s left. The Titans are also giving up the 2nd-most FPG to opposing WRs on deep targets (13.9), and McLaurin ranks 4th among all WRs in deep targets per game (2.5).
Start McLaurin with confidence this week as a mid-range WR2. [SB]
Start: Chris Godwin vs. Falcons
Godwin returned to action last week, playing on 83% of the team’s snaps and earning a team-high 10 targets. And he should see similar volume this week, with Atlanta’s top CB A.J. Terrell likely to shadow Mike Evans. Evans shouldn’t necessarily be downgraded, but I do think Godwin needs to be upgraded because of it.
And also because Atlanta is giving up the 6th-most FPG to opposing slot WRs – which is where Godwin has run 77% of his routes. And all WR2s playing Atlanta have hit season-highs against them – Jarvis Landry (114 yards), Allen Robinson (15.3 fantasy points), Tyler Lockett (9 receptions), and Donovan Peoples-Jones (71 yards).
Godwin probably isn’t quite back to 100% health, but in this matchup and given his usage last week, I feel comfortable starting him as a mid-range WR2. [SB]
Sit: Rashod Bateman vs. Bengals
I wouldn’t start Bateman for three reasons. 1) He’s hurt, dealing with a foot injury. 2) His usage has been highly underwhelming, falling short of a 75% route share in three of his four games. 3) Even if he does suit up and he isn’t then limited on a snap count, he has a brutal CB matchup against Chidobe Awuzie’s shadow coverage. [SB]
Start: Amari Cooper vs. Chargers
In Week 1, on the road, Cooper totaled only 4.7 fantasy points against Jaycee Horn’s shadow coverage. In Weeks 2-3, Cooper played at home and didn’t see shadow coverage. He topped 100 yards and scored a touchdown in both games. In Week 4, on the road, Cooper was shadowed by A.J. Terrell, scoring only 1.9 fantasy points.
And this is something I’ve talked about this for a number of years now; Cooper’s frustrating volatility, his frequent disappearing acts, how he only ever seems to play well at home, and how he’s the most shadow-sensitive WR in all of fantasy.
The good news this week is Cooper is once again playing at home. And even if he is shadowed this week, I don’t think there’s a CB who can hang with him. The Chargers are giving up the 6th-most FPG over expectation to opposing outside WRs (109%). And Los Angeles’ two perimeter CBs – J.C. Jackson and Asante Samuel – rank, respectively, 3rd-worst (0.46) and 25th-worst (0.34) of 93-qualifying CBs in fantasy points allowed per snap in coverage.
There will always be some risk and some inherent volatility with Cooper, but I’m confident enough to start him this week as a fringe-WR2, with significant upside beyond that. [SB]
Start: JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Raiders
Smith-Schuster was one of our biggest fades of the season. And that’s looking like a really good call – he currently ranks as the WR52 by FPG (10.4), and he hit a season-low in route share last week (72%).
Still, if you own him, you’re starting him this week. (And then, probably, looking to sell-high.) Smith-Schuster gets the league’s No. 1 slot funnel defense. The Raiders are giving up the most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing slot WRs (+9.4), and the 6th-fewest to opposing outside WRs (-6.8). Given this ideal on-paper matchup, and Kansas City’s 29.0-point implied total (2nd-most on the week), I’d start Smith-Schuster this week as a mid-range WR3. [SB]
Start: Allen Lazard / Romeo Doubs vs. Giants
Lazard is starting to emerge along with Romeo Doubs as Aaron Rodgers’ go-to guys in the fallout of Sammy Watkins’ injury. Doubs has seemingly earned Rodgers’ trust and leads the team in targets (16) and first read target share (29.5%) over the last two weeks. Lazard’s targets (3 > 6 > 8) have increased every week and he has a 14.1-yard aDOT over the last two weeks coming off his ankle injury. As Rodgers’ primary deep threat, Lazard is a strong WR3/FLEX play against this untested Giants secondary while Doubs is a good play in the WR3 range again. Doubs is in the middle of a breakout and it speaks volumes that Rodgers went back to him in OT after he dropped the would-be game winner in regulation. New York’s opening slate of QBs could not have been any easier – they've faced Tannehill, Mayfield, Rush, and Fields – and they will catch their first true test here against Rodgers. [GB]
Start: Robert Woods at Commanders
With Treylon Burks (toe) sidelined for a game or two, Robert Woods is going to be relied on even more as the Titans lone good wideout. After a slow start in Week 1, Woods has seen a 26% target share over the last three weeks and now gets a great draw. The Commanders have been awful against receivers this year and are giving up 31.5% FP above their opponents average to WRs on the season, the fourth-highest rate. No team is giving up more fantasy points per dropback (0.56), also giving Ryan Tannehill some low-end streaming appeal. [GB]
Sit: D.J. Moore vs. 49ers
You have no choice but to sit Moore at this point. I don’t think he’s droppable yet, but it really feels like the Baker Mayfield experiment is already a lost cause at this point. Here’s what I wrote in Stat-Pack…
Mayfield’s completion rate is -7.8% below expectation. Only Fields (-12.1%) is worse.
A whopping 62.5% of Mayfield’s total passing yardage has come after the catch, which is the second-highest rate in the league.
Mayfield leads the league in percentage of throws that are batted down at the line of scrimmage (8%).
Mayfield has completed just 51.9% of his throws on plays where he has not been blitzed, which is last in the league.
Mayfield has taken a sack on 7.7% of his dropbacks when he has not been blitzed, which is fifth-from-last.
All of this is on top of the fact that Mayfield and Moore clearly aren’t on the same page. DJ Moore ranks 67th-of-73 WRs in catchable targets (62.1%) among receivers with at least 15 targets.
This is literally the last matchup that the Panthers want to see right now. The 49ers have been dominant defensively to start the season and are allowing the third-fewest YPA (5.9) and are generating the second-highest pressure rate (37.5%). [GB]
Sleeper You Probably Shouldn’t Start
Underrated: Michael Gallup at Rams
Gallup was eased back into playing time last week, earning only 3 targets on 64% of the team’s snaps. Granted, he scored a touchdown, but I don’t think he’s close to 100% full health and maybe not quite ready for a full workload. And, so, I don’t trust him enough to start him in any leagues, but I could see him posting a big game.
CeeDee Lamb and Noah Brown are averaging, respectively, 19.8 (~WR6) and 13.2 FPG (~WR31) in Cooper Rush starts this season. And Gallup has a near-perfect matchup, and a much better matchup than Lamb (at least on paper). The Rams are giving up “only” the 15th-most FPG to opposing slot WRs (13.1), which is where Lamb runs 54% of his routes. (The Rams might also have Jalen Ramsey shadow Lamb this week.) But, against outside WRs, the Rams are giving up the most FPG (34.1), the most schedule-adjusted FPG (+17.2), and the 2nd-most FPG over expectation (+142%). [SB]
Underrated: Rondale Moore vs. Eagles
In his first game of the year, Rondale Moore led the team in routes (33) followed by Marquise Brown (30) and Zach Ertz (28). Greg Dortch’s snaps got cut dramatically (17 routes) as a result. That type of involvement out of the gates puts Moore immediately on the WR3 radar in PPR leagues. This is a good spot, too. The Eagles are allowing the ninth-most FPG to slot receivers and the Cardinals will undoubtedly have to throw a ton to keep up with the Eagles scoring. [GB]
Start: Kyle Pitts at Buccaneers
It’s really not looking good for Pitts. Yes, his underlying usage looks positive – ranking 3rd in targets per route run (0.26), 5th in target share (22.2%) and 14th in route share (75%). But HC Arthur Smith is running this offense like Marcus Mariota is Kendall Hinton. By pass rate over expectation, the Falcons rank ahead of only the Bears (-7.7%). And they’re also the 12th-slowest offense in football (27.3 seconds per snap).
Or, at least, that’s my best explanation for why Tyler Higbee recorded as many receptions last week as Pitts has recorded all year (10). And why, last week, 42 different TEs – including Giovanni Ricci and Jody Fortson – ran more routes than Pitts’ 12.
That’s the bad news. The good news is, this should be a matchup where Mariota is finally forced to pass. Atlanta hasn’t really been forced to abandon the run at any point this season, entering Week 5 with a 0.500 win-percentage and their two losses being decided by 4 or fewer points. But this week, they travel to Tampa Bay as 8.5-point underdogs. Further, Tampa Bay was the league’s No. 2 pass funnel defense last year (by pass rate over expectation), and they rank 8th this season. They’re also a top TE funnel defense, giving up 30% of their production to opposing TEs (4th-most), good for 16.9 FPG (5th-most) or +6.0 schedule-adjusted FPG allowed (5th-most).
I think if you drafted Pitts at his Round 3 ADP, you probably don’t have any other choice but to start him anyway. But I am bullish on his potential this week, and would start him myself as a mid-range to low-end TE1. [SB]
Start: Dallas Goedert at Cardinals
Since the Eagles traded Zach Ertz last year, Dallas Goedert is averaging 12.5 fantasy points and 65.6 yards per game in his 14 full starts. Goedert is off to a “quiet” start this year, but this is a spot for him to hit a ceiling. The Cardinals have been hammered by tight ends as Kelce (8/121/1), Waller (6/50/1), Higbee (4/61), and even the Panthers TE group last week (5/68 combined) all have had success. [GB]
Start: Pat Freiermuth at Bills
Even though the Bills have been the toughest TE matchup running for multiple years, I think you have to keep going back to Freiermuth and chase the volume he’s seeing. Freiermuth is one of the few tight ends that is somewhat consistently getting the ball and ranks second in targets per route run (0.283). That trails only Mark Andrews (0.29). He’s by no means been a league-winner, but Freiermuth is one of the lone consistent players at the position as he’s finished as a top-10 PPR scorer three times in 4 games. The Steelers are massive 14-point underdogs here, which should force Kenny Pickett to throw a bunch to keep with Josh Allen and the Bills. [GB]
Sit: Dawson Knox vs. Steelers
Knox has been invisible in this Bills offense despite Josh Allen’s hot start largely because he isn’t really a full-time player. Knox has run a route on just 59.1% of the Bills pass plays in the opening month, which is just the 22nd-highest route share among TEs. Knox is 29th among qualifying tight ends in targets per route (0.149). I’m still holding Knox because I want pieces of this passing offense, but you can’t play Knox until some of his usage numbers start to look better. [GB]
Sleeper You Probably Shouldn’t Start
Underrated: Greg Dulcich vs. Colts
Albert Okwuegbunam should be dropped in all formats. He was out-snapped by Eric Saubert 41 (77%) to 1 (2%) in Week 4. By all appearances it seems like the team just hates him.
#Broncos have not activated Greg Dulcich yet. Per Hackett there is a chance that happens this week. There is a buzz around that they want Dulcich to be the guy and he could play in Week 5. @1043TheFan cc: @SigmundBloom— Cecil Lammey (@CecilLammey) October 4, 2022
We don’t yet know whether or not Round 3 rookie Dulcich will be ready to play this week. But if he does play, I think there’s a chance he impresses in his debut and becomes a top waiver wire-add in Week 6. Against Indianapolis, TEs have out-scored their volume-based expectation (XFP) by a league-high +143%. The Colts have given up the 3rd-most FPG to opposing TEs (17.3) and the 3rd-highest percentage of their total receiving production allowed to TEs (32.2%). You’re definitely not starting Dulcich this week, but I think he may be worth stashing if you have the roster space, and if you’re a TE-needy team in a very deep league. [SB]