Welcome to the Week 4 start/sit bible. In this article, Scott Barrett and Graham Barfield will highlight some plays to make and avoid for shallow (10-teams) and deep (12- and 14-teams) leagues.
With so many injury situations and a game that will be pushed back due to COVID, make sure you keep it locked to our site projections for final 1 vs. 1 start/sit decisions.
Start: Aaron Rodgers vs. Falcons
Has Rodgers found his high QB1 ceiling again? Through three games, he has already notched two top-8 weekly performances and is averaging 8.4 yards per pass attempt which would mark a five-year high. With the highest total on the slate (56.5 over/under), this game should feature plenty of points and passing on both sides of the ball. The Falcons are the perfect opponent not only because their defense is terrible, but also because they play incredibly fast on offense. According to FootballOutsiders, Atlanta is getting plays off at the third-highest rate when the game is within a score and at the sixth-highest rate when trailing. With the Falcons using such little game clock in between plays, it will lead to more opportunities for the Packers offense. Consider Rodgers a near top-6 play this week.
Sit: Jared Goff vs. Giants
The Rams offense is off to a great start, but this is not the week to go back to the well on Goff as a QB1 in shallow leagues. The matchup is great -- the Giants are allowing the eighth-most fantasy points per pass attempt -- but the projected game script should have the Rams running early and often. The Rams are 13 point home favorites against the lowly Giants, and if the game gets away from New York early and LA builds a lead, HC Sean McVay will have no issue leaning heavily on the run. McVay has gone 58% run-heavy when his team is ahead on the scoreboard this year (sixth-highest rate). Goff is a fine start in deeper leagues, but the Rams may only need to throw it 25-28 times to beat the Giants on Sunday. There are a few higher-ceiling plays to make in 10-teamers like Matthew Stafford and Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Start:Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Seahawks
Since Week 12 of last season, only Lamar Jackson averages more FPG than Fitzpatrick (22.6), who also ranks 5th in rushing yards per game (26.3), just 2.9 behind Josh Allen. He draws a dream matchup against a Seattle defense that’s giving up the second-most FPG to opposing QBs (30.7), and which may now be without S Jamal Adams and LB Jordyn Brooks in addition to S Lano Hill and CB Quinton Dunbar. Fitzpatrick was hyper-efficient last week (160 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 2 incompletions) but didn’t need to keep his foot on the gas in a 31-13 blowout. Look for high volume from Fitzmagic this week against Seattle’s juggernaut offense.
Sit:Carson Wentz at 49ers
Wentz ranks 30th of 31 qualifying QBs in PFF Pass Grade, ahead of only Dwayne Haskins. The Eagles offense is now (at best) back to where they were at the tail-end of last season – desperately needing speed and separation at WR – without Dallas Goedert, Jalen Reagor, DeSean Jackson (likely), and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (likely). The (although very banged up) 49ers rank third-best in passer rating allowed (75.3), second-best in passing FPG allowed (9.8), and best in passing fantasy points allowed per pass (0.28). Yeah, this one’s easy. And to be quite honest, he’s closer to a “drop” candidate than a “sit” candidate.
Start: Kenyan Drake at Panthers
Drake is off to a bit of a mediocre start but this matchup couldn’t possibly be any better. To open the season, Carolina’s defense has been ripped to shreds for RB1 (Josh Jacobs), RB3 (Leonard Fournette), and RB3 (Austin Ekeler) weekly performances to the first three backs they’ve faced. In this span, they’ve hemorrhaged the ninth-most yards per carry, the most fantasy points per carry, and the most receptions to running backs. You have to lock in Drake in every league this week.
Start: Joe Mixon vs. Jaguars
Like Drake, Mixon is off to a somewhat slow start. But this is the week he gets right. Mixon and the Bengals are 3.5-point home favorites over the Jaguars, which should lead to plenty of opportunities for Mixon. Even in three-straight losses to start the year, Mixon has handled 20, 20, and 19 touches and he has been absolutely lights-out in similar game situations in his career. Since the start of 2018, Mixon has averaged 19.3 fantasy points per game as a home-favorite and 14.0 FPG in all of his other contests.
Sit: Todd Gurley at Packers
The start of Gurley’s season has gone exactly as we expected. He’s not involved in the passing game -- he has 3 receptions for 3 yards so far -- making him highly touchdown-dependent. Gurley is ceding work on passing downs to both Brian Hill and Ito Smith while Hill got nine carries to Gurley’s 14 last week in a game where Atlanta led in the first three quarters before collapsing in the fourth against Chicago. This week, the Falcons are massive underdogs (+7.5) against the Packers which should mean that Atlanta will have to abandon the run and air it out to keep up with Green Bay. Through three games, the Falcons have gone 77% pass-heavy when trailing (second-highest rate in the NFL), making Gurley’s volume incredibly fragile.
Sit: Mark Ingram at Washington
Baltimore is running a full-blown three-man committee, rendering all of their backs useless. J.K. Dobbins actually slightly leads this group in snaps (67) followed by Ingram (66) and Gus Edwards (48). Meanwhile, Lamar Jackson (32) leads the team in carries with Ingram (26), Edwards (18), and Dobbins (10) splitting the rest of the work. After seeing fewer than 12 carries just twice last year, Ingram doesn’t have more than 10 totes in a single game so far. The Ravens are going to crush Washington -- they are massive 13-point road favorites -- but there is just no way you can trust Ingram in lineups with such little volume going his way.
Start: Melvin Gordon at Jets
After losing starting QB Drew Lock to injury and seeing backup Jeff Driskel benched… After back-to-back brutal matchups against Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay (arguably the two toughest defenses against opposing RBs dating back to Week 1 of last season)… After seeing just 8 carries in Week 3… Gordon has become the forgotten man in Denver. But his usage has been quite a bit better than his touch-totals might imply, seeing 72% of the snaps, 86% of the carries, and an 11.2% target share since Phillip Lindsay went down with an injury. In what should be a competitive game against the Jets – okay a smoldering dumpster fire of a game, but a competitive game nonetheless – Gordon is worthy of starting as a low-end RB2 so long as Lindsay sits out.
Start: Darrell Henderson Jr. vs. Giants
At first look, it appears Henderson was Los Angeles’ featured RB in Week 3, out-touching Malcolm Brown 21 to 7, and 5 to 1 inside the 10-yard-line. He was also (clearly) the more effective RB, scoring 19.0 fantasy points to Brown’s 1.9. But digging deeper, Henderson only saw one more snap than Brown (33 to 32) while running 7 fewer routes (17 to 10). Still it’s encouraging Henderson saw 20 carries in a game Los Angeles trailed throughout. There might be some concern for future weeks that Henderson gets pulled for Brown on passing downs, but not this week. Favored by a whopping 13 points, look for Henderson to run all over the Giants. So long as Cam Akers remains out, start Henderson with confidence this week as a low-end RB2.
Sit: Joshua Kelley at Buccaneers
We were reminded last week that Kelley is massively game script-sensitive. In Week 2, which Los Angeles led throughout, Kelley saw 25 touches. In Week 3 (a game Los Angeles trailed throughout) Kelley saw only 10 touches (despite averaging 5.4 YPC) to Austin Ekeler’s 23. Game script is a concern this week, as 7.0-point underdogs, but so is the matchup. Dating back to Week 1 of last season, Tampa Bay ranks best in rushing FPG allowed to opposing RBs.
Start: D.J. Moore vs. Cardinals
Coming off of a disappointing Week 3 (2/65 receiving on four targets), Moore is in a great bounceback spot against Arizona. Because the Cardinals play so fast and get so many snaps off on offense, it leads to additional volume for opposing teams. And as 3.5-point underdogs, the Panthers should have to throw a bunch to keep up. Arizona’s secondary wasn’t tested in Week 1 against the ailing 49ers, but got ripped to shreds by Terry McLaurin (7/125/1) in Week 2 and just allowed Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones to combine for 9/108/1.
Start: Odell Beckham at Cowboys
At this point, we know how the Browns want to play. They want to run the ball on early-downs, move the pocket with play-action, and hide Baker Mayfield. HC Kevin Stefanski has done a masterful job executing that plan in back to back games -- Mayfield has thrown it just 23 times in Week 2 and 3 -- but he’ll have a hard time sticking with the run in this game if Dallas gets out to a lead. OBJ won’t have many opportunities to hit big ceiling weeks this season with the way Cleveland is playing, but this is his best chance by far. Not only should the Cowboys force the Browns to throw more and keep up with their pace -- no team is getting plays off faster than Dallas -- this matchup couldn’t be much better. To start the year, the Cowboys have allowed the 7th-most fantasy points to receivers aligned out wide and four 100-yard performances (Woods, Ridley, Metcalf, and Lockett). We have Beckham ranked as a borderline WR1 this week.
Sit: D.J. Chark at Bengals
Fading injured wide receivers is low-hanging fruit, but even with 10 days to rest his chest/back injuries, this is not a good spot for Chark. In the Jags’ first two games, Chark saw just 7 targets as OC Jay Gruden is spreading the ball around in this new-look offense. The Bengals have a reputation as a somewhat easy defense, but the numbers don’t bear that out. Cincinnati plays a ton of man coverage (60%; fourth-most) and have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points per pass attempt in man. If Chark does suit up this week, he’ll be a boom-or-bust FLEX play.
Start: DeVante Parker vs. Seahawks
The Seahawks have played just three games thus far and have already allowed 4 WRs to reach 130+ yards against them, 6 WRs to reach 100+ yards against them, and 10 WRs to reach 65+ yards. 5 of the 20 highest-scoring WR games thus far have come from teams playing Seattle, with only one other defense making the list more than once. Seattle is simultaneously allowing the most FPG to opposing left and slot WRs, while also allowing the third-most to opposing right WRs…. Okay, okay, you get it. Why Parker? Well, as Wes Huber outlined here, he has the best matchup of the team’s receivers. But also, he seems to clearly be Ryan Fitzpatrick’s favorite target. Parker left Week 1 early due to injury, but still caught all 4 of his targets for 47 yards. That was on just 12 routes, and despite seeing shadow coverage from Stephon Gilmore (the best CB in the league) on nearly all of his routes. In Week 2, despite getting shadow coverage from Tre’Davious White (the second-best CB in the league), Parker posted a 5-53-1 line on 8 targets. In Week 3, Parker dropped a 5-69-0 line on 5 targets, but considering Fitzpatrick only threw the ball 20 times, that represents a 25% target share and a 43% yardage share. Start him with confidence as a high-end WR2 this week.
Start: Will Fuller V vs. Vikings
Fuller should be started as a borderline-WR2. That’s about our median projection for him, but, seeing as how it’s Fuller it really feels like we’re saying -- “There’s a 50% chance he scores 3.0 fantasy points and a 50% chance he scores 24.0 fantasy points.” That’s just sort of who Fuller is – very boom or bust – but this feels like a great week for a boom-game. Houston has a 29.5-point implied total this week, which is 10.0 points more than their per-game average this year. So, the scoring potential seems good, as does Fuller’s matchup. He runs 77% of his routes from the outside, while Minnesota (banged up at CB, and with limited practice time this week due to COVID-related complications) is giving up the sixth-most FPG to opposing outside WRs.
Sit: T.Y. Hilton at Bears
Through three weeks, Hilton ranks 76th in routes run per game (26.3), 46th in targets per game (17), 50th in XFP per game (9.8), and 74th in FPG (7.8). Yeah… That’s not good. And to make matters worse, this week he draws a Bears defense that ranks top-6 against opposing outside WRs (where he runs 84% of his routes) for the second-straight season.
Start: T.J. Hockenson vs. Saints
Hockenson saw a massive uptick in usage and volume in Week 3, as target volume rose from 4.5 (Week 1-2) to 7, and route share increased from 63% to 89%. In addition to this new more valuable role, Hockenson also draws an ideal matchup against New Orleans’ TE funnel defense. The Saints have given up a league-high 27.3 FPG to opposing TEs this season which represents a whopping 40.9% of their total receiving fantasy points allowed (most by a landslide). And that’s in spite of the fact that their opponents’ TEs are averaging just 10.0 FPG in all other games (would rank 14th-most). Because New Orleans is so stout on the perimeter (thanks to CBs Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins), Matthew Stafford will likely have little choice but to pepper Hockenson with targets this week.
Sit: Evan Engram at Rams
Even with the injury bug biting the Giants once again, Engram has been an afterthought in this offense. For whatever reason, Engram just hasn’t shown much chemistry with Daniel Jones. Dating back to last year, Engram is averaging only 10.1 fantasy points per game in his last nine starts with Jones at the controls. This likely isn’t the week Engram turns it around, either. The Rams have allowed third-fewest yards per target to tight ends (4.6), which is right behind the stout 49ers defense (4.0 YPT allowed) that just shut Engram down (3/22).
Start: Hunter Henry at Buccaneers
Year in and year out, the tight end position is terrible. 2020 has been no different. Henry is one of the few players that has kept a consistent floor, though, going over 10 PPR points in three-straight games with at least 7 targets in each contest. As big road underdogs (+7.5), the Chargers should be forced to the air to keep up with the Bucs’ scoring. This matchup is quietly nice for Henry, too. Tampa Bay plays a lot of zone (65%; 12th-most), which will force Justin Herbert to target the middle of the field to find holes in the coverage.
Sit: Logan Thomas vs. Ravens
Among TEs, Thomas ranks fourth in routes run (105), second in targets (24), third in end zone targets (3), and second in XFP per game (14.3). That’s the good news. The bad news is that he’s done very little with that terrific volume, ranking just 21st in FPG (9.1), and with 28% of that production coming on a lone TD against busted coverage in Week 1. After flopping in back-to-back dream matchups, it’s too soon to trust Thomas as anything more than a mid-range TE2 this week.