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 at Steelers
After a rough start to the year, Brady has exceeded 19.5 fantasy points in back-to-back games, and now sits at QB13 on the season. His WR corps should be healthier than they’ve been at any point in the season thus far. And he gets a terrific matchup, against a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that ranks 5th-worst in passing FPG allowed (18.4) and 2nd-worst in pressure rate over expectation (-14.7%). And that latter stat is 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: Joe Burrow at Saints
Burrow has yet to finish worse than QB15 in weekly scoring in a game yet this season, but he’s hit 20 FP just twice as this Bengals offense has struggled out of the gates. This is a huge chance for Joe Burrow to finally hit a big 25+ FP ceiling game with a matchup against the man coverage-heavy Saints. New Orleans is one of seven teams to run man coverage more than 40% of the time and they have allowed a generous 8.3 YPA vs. man this season. CB Marshon Lattimore (abdomen) may miss this game, too. Burrow has a 107.1 passer rating vs. man coverage (eighth-best) but that sinks to 74.0 vs. zone (32nd). [GB]
Start: Geno Smith vs. Cardinals
Geno – who started in only five games over the previous six seasons – currently ranks 7th in FPG (20.0), 5th in fantasy points per dropback (0.54), 1st in passer rating (113.2), and 1st in wow-throw rate (7.6%). Seattle ranks 15th-best in pass rate over expectation (+2.4%), after ranking bottom-5 in each of the past three seasons.
Geno Smith has been a mad man this year. Week 5 vs this Saints he put on a Dime clinic.— Brett Whitefield (@BGWhitefield) October 10, 2022
Ridiculous throw compilation. pic.twitter.com/ubtvr3NLPN
I understand no one feels as though this is sustainable – that sooner or later the clock will strike 12 (or Week 8) and Smith will revert back into a pumpkin. That may be true, but right now Smith is looking every bit like 2020 Russell Wilson. (And, by the way, Wilson is looking every bit like 2014 Geno Smith.) And I have a feeling his fairy godmother’s magic will last at least one more week.
That’s because this week Smith faces an Arizona defense that ranks 8th-worst in FPG allowed to opposing QBs (20.3), 7th-worst in opposing passer rating (101.1), and 6th-worst in fantasy points allowed per dropback (0.46). [SB]
Sit: Matthew Stafford vs. Panthers
Stafford and this Rams offense are suffering from a multitude of issues right now between their offensive line that is struggling and their WR corps that is completely dead beyond All-World WR Cooper Kupp. Coupled with Matthew Stafford going through his worst stretch as a Ram and we have a perfect cocktail for the lowly state of this offense. The Rams have scored a TD on just 15.7% of their possessions (25th) and are gaining 29 yards per drive (24th).
Stafford is really struggling against zone coverage right now, due in large part because the Rams have no speed at WR and can’t stretch the defense vertically. Things are so bad that they’ve resorted to taking shots to the pint-sized Tutu Atwell. Stafford is dead last in fantasy points scored per dropback vs. zone coverage (0.23), which isn’t good news considering that the Panthers are running zone at the fifth-highest rate (74%) and are giving up the seventh-lowest completion rate (64.8%) and 10th-fewest FP/dropback (0.29) in zone looks. [GB]
Sleeper You Probably Shouldn’t Start
Underrated: Daniel Jones vs. Ravens
Jones is looking a lot like who I drafted Justin Fields to be.
Despite not having any WRs of note. And despite missing all of the fourth quarter in Week 4. Jones currently ranks as the overall QB14, averaging 15.8 FPG. He ranks 4th in rushing attempts (41), 3rd in rushing yards (230), and 2nd in rushing touchdowns (2).
This week he faces a Baltimore Ravens defense that’s given up the 2nd-most FPG (23.6), the 6th-most passing FPG (17.8), and the 3rd-most rushing FPG to opposing QBs. Although, granted, those numbers don’t look as great if you subtract Tua Tagovailoa’s monster Week 2 (when Baltimore was down multiple starters on defense). Still, if you have a QB on bye, you can do a lot worse than Jones, who I like as a fringe QB1 this week. [SB]
Start: Rhamondre Stevenson at Browns
Last week Damien Harris suffered a hamstring injury on the final play of the first quarter. Per Tom Pelissero, he’s likely to miss the next several weeks.
In his absence, Stevenson took every RB snap for the Patriots, racking up 175 YFS on 27 touches. On the full year, and of 48-qualifying RBs, Stevenson currently ranks 3rd-best by PFF grade (86.9), 6th-best by yards after contact per rushing attempt (3.8), and 10th-best by missed tackles forced per rushing attempt (0.28). And this is just a continuation of who he was in college, and who he was last year (basically, a more efficient version of Harris.)
It’s possible New England has more RBs active this week, and those RBs mix in more than we would like. But I don’t think so. Instead, it appears as though Belichick loves Stevenson almost as much as I do.
So, Stevenson appears locked into a bell-cow workload against a Cleveland defense that ranks: 5th-worst in total FPG allowed to opposing RBs (29.5), 3rd-worst in YPC allowed (5.35), 2nd-worst in rushing FPG allowed (19.7), worst in yards before contact allowed per attempt (2.74, 35% worse than the next-closest defense), and worst in rushing fantasy points over expectation (116%). By pass rate over expectation, the Patriots have the 8th-most run-heavy offense (-3.7%) and the Browns have the 4th-most-frequently-run-on defense (-3.7%).
So, yeah, if you own Stevenson you’re starting him this week as a low-end RB1. [SB]
Start: Jeff Wilson at Falcons
Wilson has now made eight starts over the last two years and has been a rock-solid RB2 for the entire stretch. Wilson is averaging 18.1 touches and 88.1 scrimmage yards per game as the 49ers lead back, finishing as the RB22 or better in weekly scoring in each of his last six starts. The 49ers have the eighth-highest implied team total (25 points) as strong 5.5-point road favorites over this Falcons front-seven that is allowing a nice 4.69 YPC (11th-highest) and ranks 29th in FootballOutsiders Run Defense DVOA. Wilson is an amazing RB2/FLEX starter this week with a low-end RB1 ceiling. [GB]
Start: Ken Walker vs. Cardinals
Walker was a huge favorite of mine throughout the Yards Created process this NFL Draft season, so much so that I liked him as RB1 over Breece Hall. We saw our first glimpse of Walker’s burst and long speed last week and now will be treated with his first start coming in one of the best scoring environments on the Week 6 slate (ARI-SEA over/under is 51 points).
The Seahawks last three games have all gone off to the tune of 50 (vs. ATL), 93 (vs. DET), and 71 (vs. NO) combined points. Seattle is the Detroit of the Pacific Northwest with a terrible defense combined with a fun offense. The Seahawks have allowed a score on a league-high 51% of their opponents' possessions, while scoring on a strong 45% of their own possessions (fifth-best).
It remains to be seen whether or not Walker will be highly involved as a receiver, but the bottom line is that Rashaad Penny (ankle) is unfortunately out for the season while Travis Homer is on I.R. until Week 7. It’s just Walker and DeeJay Dallas in this backfield right now. Walker immediately joins our projections as a strong mid-tier RB2 and he carries a low-end RB1 ceiling in what should be a shootout in Seattle. [GB]
Sit: Ezekiel Elliott at Eagles
Zeke has been nothing short of a disaster at his 4th/5th round ADP as he’s collected weekly finishes of RB49 > RB44 > RB18 > RB29 > RB37 to kick off his 2022 campaign. That’s right. Zeke has been a top-20 scoring RB once all year. Ironically, this is the best Zeke has looked in years but also simultaneously the worst role he’s had in his career. Elliott is the RB34 by XFP (expected fantasy points). We are a long, long way from his prime. Zeke is basically a TD-or-bust option at this stage and is averaging 9.3 PPR points per game in his last 13 games where he hasn’t scored a TD (since the start of 2021).
Dallas has the third-lowest implied team total (18 points) as 6-point road underdogs. [GB]
Start: Devin Singletary at Chiefs
Buffalo has won three of their games by 21 or more points. In their other two games, Singletary was a highest-end bell cow, handling 20 of 28 carries (71%) and 16 of 23 targets (70%) on an 80% snap share. And this could be a continuation of what we saw last season – it’s just a little hard to tell, as Singletary’s back-to-back bell cow games were interrupted by a 38-3 beatdown against the Steelers. Over Buffalo’s final seven games last season (including the playoffs), Singletary played on 84% of the team’s snaps, averaging 19.7 FPG. For perspective, those numbers would have ranked best and 4th-best (respectively) if over the full season.
Anyway… This week’s game should be a far more competitive affair. The Bills are playing the Chiefs as only 2.5-point favorites. This game also has the highest over/under of the week (54.0), and the Bills have the highest implied point total of any team on the week (28.25).
And the on-paper matchup for Singletary is excellent. The Chiefs are giving up the 3rd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing RBs (+5.3). They’re also giving up the most receiving FPG to enemy RBs (19.2, +41% more than the next-closest defense). And that’s a key point, because Buffalo is always a threat to lean atypically pass-heavy, capping Singletary’s touches coming on the ground. But Singletary has scored 70% of his fantasy points through the air this season. And he’s had a stranglehold over the passing-down role over the last three weeks, running 76 routes (18 targets) to all other RBs’ combined 26 routes (7 targets).
Singletary is probably still a little risky, but he has a sky-high ceiling this week (given the matchup and game environment) and an underrated floor as the team’s clear RB1. I’d start him this week as a high-end RB2. [SB]
Start: Raheem Mostert vs. Vikings
In each of the last two weeks Mostert has earned 15-plus carries and exactly 3 targets, while playing on over two-thirds of the team’s snaps. Although that’s clearly a valuable (fringe-RB1) workload, he’s captured only 53% of the team’s backfield XFP over this span – 78% of the carries and 33% of the targets out of the backfield (56% route share). So, he may be closer to being “a gamescript-dependent early-down workhorse” than “a true bell cow,” but he’s also been heavily disadvantaged by gamescript – as Miami has trailed on 99% of their offensive plays over the past two weeks – and these numbers become more impressive within that context.
Unfortunately, the Dolphins are underdogs this week. But the spread is fairly close (3.5-point underdogs). Skylar Thompson is starting at QB, which means the team will probably run a bit more run-heavy than typical. And the on-paper matchup is very favorable – Minnesota is giving up a league-high 6.08 YPC to opposing RBs (+13% more than the next-closest defense).
Add it all up, and I like Mostert this week as a low-end RB2. And hopefully – seeing as how I own him everywhere – every week moving forward as well. (NOTE: Mostert was a non-participant in practice with a knee injury on Wednesday so watch his status.) [SB]
Sit: J.K. Dobbins at Giants
The Ravens have tried to get their ground game going, just to no avail. J.K. Dobbins is averaging a team-best 3.86 YPC on early downs while Kenyan Drake (3.20 YPC) and Mike Davis (2.57 YPC) offer little at the late stages of their career. Dobbins is the best of a bad bunch right now – but he’s only gained five or more yards on 28.6% of his carries, which is the fifth-lowest rate among the 48 RBs with 25 or more carries.
The Giants have been awful on run defense if you want to hold out hope and hang your hat on the matchup, but Dobbins got out-snapped by Kenyan Drake by a 42% to 40% margin in Week 5. He clearly isn’t back yet. Dobbins has finished as the RB46 > RB10 > RB58 in PPR scoring, with the top-10 finish being powered by 2 TDs against the Bills. After getting 17 opportunities (attempts + targets) in Wee0k 4, Dobbins got just nine carries and zero targets in Week 5.
Dobbins is a TD-or-bust RB2/FLEX this week. [GB]
Sleeper You Probably Shouldn’t Start
Underrated: Brian Robinson at Bears
In his return to action last week, Robinson played on only 29% of the team’s snaps, but dominated the rushing work, handling 9 of the team’s 12 carries out of the backfield. Antonio Gibson hit a season-low in snap share last week, and that’s been trending down for a while now (and in a near-perfect linear fashion) – 63% to 58% to 45% to 38% to 33%.
Robinson is probably still on a snap count this week. And even if not, is still probably stuck in a low-upside three-way committee backfield. So, it’s still early to start him, even in the deepest of leagues. But I’m optimistic about his potential long-term, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he impresses this week. The Bears are the league’s No. 1 run funnel defense (-7.2% pass rate over expectation) and they’re giving up the 4th-most schedule-adjusted rushing FPG (+2.4) to opposing RBs on the ground. [SB]
Start: Gabe Davis at Chiefs
This is the last week I will write up or answer start/sit questions about our guy Gabe Davis. If he’s healthy, he’s in your lineup. And that’s the bottom line.
When he’s at 100%, Davis is having a DeSean Jackson-like impact on the Bills passing attack. Over his last eight games where he’s played at least 80% of the snaps and not been on the injury report, Davis has 33 receptions, 708 yards, and 11 TDs on 56 targets. He is averaging 21.3 fantasy points per game over this sample.
Of course you’re playing Davis everywhere you have him in the best game of the week. Bills-Chiefs is 3-1 towards the over in four meetings since 2020 with their games averaging 60.3 combined points scored and beating the closing over/under by a strong +5.0 points on average. Patrick Mahomes is averaging a ridiculous 26.8 fantasy points per game vs. the Bills, but that is only bested by Josh Allen’s unreal 28.5 FPG vs. the Chiefs. Both of these QBs have thrown for 270 or more yards in each of their last three meetings. [GB]
Start: Courtland Sutton at Chargers
Sutton has been the lone bright spot for what has been a putrid Broncos passing offense through five weeks. Blame Hackett, blame Wilson, or both – but Sutton is still getting there for our game with 70 yards and/or a TD in all five games.
This is a great spot for Sutton to continue his strong start against a Chargers secondary that hasn’t been as good as expected, due in large part to JC Jackson playing at less than 100%. The Chargers have allowed the 10th-most fantasy points per target to outside WRs, allowing big games to perimeter WRs Davante Adams (10/141/1), Zay Jones (10/87/1), Brandin Cooks (7/57/1), and Amari Cooper (7/76/1). Sutton is a WR2 with a WR1 ceiling on MNF. [GB]
Sit: Rashod Bateman at Giants
Even if Bateman is healthy enough to play this week, he could be on a snap count. And he was already (basically) on a snap count to begin with, falling short of a 75% route share in three of his four games. So, if he’s active this week, I probably wouldn’t start him, unless you considered mid-range WR4-levels of production to be starter-worthy. [SB]
Start: Curtis Samuel at Bears
I’m thinking this is a week to check scores at the end of the TNF game and catch the condensed 30-minute version on the iPad on Friday morning. Commanders-Bears just doesn’t really get it moving.
That said, this is a good spot for Samuel! Jahan Dotson and Logan Thomas are out, cementing Samuel in for another strong target share. Samuel has seven or more targets in every game so far and catches a nice matchup here against this Bears secondary that is giving up the fifth-highest catch rate (79.5%) to slot WRs. We have Samuel dialed in as a strong WR2 in PPR. [GB]
Start: Rondale Moore at Seahawks
Through the first three weeks of the season, Greg Dortch – playing in the “Rondale Moore role” – ranked 25th among WRs in targets and 19th in fantasy points scored. Moore returned in Week 4, but was moved out of position (39% slot rate) to accommodate the absence of A.J. Green. In Week 5, with Green back, he returned to his typical role (83% slot rate), earning 2 carries and 8 targets, and scoring 13.1 fantasy points. If we combine Dortch and Week 5 Moore, we’d get 14.7 FPG, equivalent to the current WR22 (D.K. Metcalf).
Moore gets a near-perfect matchup this week, up against a Seahawks defense that has surrendered the 6th-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing slot WRs (+2.1), and the 2nd-most fantasy points over expectation to opposing slot WRs (135%).
Moore might not have much of a ceiling, but he feels about as safe as they come. I’d start him this week as a mid-range WR3. [SB]
Sleeper You Probably Shouldn’t Start
Underrated: Alec Pierce vs. Jaguars
Alec Pierce has hit 80 yards in back-to-back games. For perspective, Michael Pittman has hit 80 yards in back-to-back games only once in his career.
Over the last three weeks, Pierce is averaging 74.0 YPG on a route share of just 53%. And, hopefully this speaks to his inherent upside should he earn a full-time role. I mean, could we simply assume a ~140.0 YPG on a 100% route share? Probably not, but Pierce’s production and efficiency are highly encouraging to say the least. (Over the last three weeks, Pierce is averaging 3.17 YPRR to Pittman’s 1.34.) As is the fact that his role appears to be growing; he ran a route on 73% of the team’s dropbacks in Week 5, up from 37% in Week 4.
And he draws a neutral-at-worst matchup by most metrics. And a top-5 matchup by one key stat – the Jaguars are giving up the 5th-most fantasy points over expectation to opposing right WRs, which is where Pierce runs 56% of his routes.
Right now I have Pierce ranked as a low-end WR3. He feels a little risky, but you could do a lot worse if you’re looking for a bye-week fill-in. [SB]
Start: David Njoku vs. Patriots
Only three TEs rank top-5 in route share and target share: Mark Andrews (1st, 1st), Travis Kelce (2nd, 4th), and David Njoku (3rd, 5th).
Njoku has now hit at least 70 receiving yards in three straight games. Only four other TEs have accomplished this feat over the past three seasons – Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, Darren Waller, and George Kittle.
This week, he gets a neutral-to-above-average matchup, against a Patriots defense that’s surrendered 5 of their 8 receiving touchdowns allowed to TEs. Start him this week as a mid-range TE1. [SB]
Start: Pat Freiermuth vs. Buccaneers
Freiermuth got knocked out of the Steelers blowout loss to the Bills last week, but apparently is progressing quickly through the league’s concussion protocol after getting in a limited practice on Wednesday. That gives him a shot to play Sunday and if he does, I’ll be going back to him as a TE1. The Steelers are the second-largest underdog on the slate (+8.5), which means that Kenny Pickett will likely have to throw a ton again to keep up with Tom Brady. The Bucs’ have allowed the fourth-most receptions and sixth-most fantasy points to TEs and that is after facing the Kyle Pitts-less Falcons last week. [GB]
Sit: Tyler Conklin at Packers
It appears Conklin’s run is up. Last week, CJ Uzomah (11) ran more routes than Conklin (9) as the Jets have gone run-heavy with Zach Wilson under center. The Jets are eighth in run rate over expectation over the last two weeks after ranking ninth in pass rate over expectation with Flacco under center in Weeks 1-3. If Conklin continues to split time with Uzomah, there simply isn’t enough volume to go around to support him in fantasy. I’d give it one more week, but Conklin is looking like a drop candidate after this week if he is still in a timeshare. [GB]