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.
For the context of this article, any Start / Sit recommendation for “Shallow” leagues refers to 10-team leagues while “Deep” is 12- or 14-teamers.
Note: Graham will be in our Discord channel every Thursday at Noon ET and on Sunday mornings answering all of your start/sit questions. Make sure you come hang out!
Start: Kirk Cousins vs. Cowboys
Cousins has been such a sneaky good fantasy play to open the year. He’s finished as the QB12 > QB6 > QB6 > QB28 > QB23 > QB1 in weekly scoring in his first six starts and he’s really only had one down game (vs. Browns). He finished as QB23 vs. the Lions, but his periphery stats were still strong as Cousins completed 74% of his passes for 275 yards. This should be a massive shootout here for Cousins to post his fifth top-12 performance of the year. This Cowboys-Vikings game has the highest total on the Week 8 slate (54 points) and while Dallas’ defense has generated a lot of takeaways, they gave up 300 or more yards in four-straight to open the year before they played the Giants in Week 5 (Daniel Jones got hurt) and the Patriots in Week 6. Cousins is a high-floor, high-ceiling QB1. (GB)
Sit: Aaron Rodgers at Cardinals
Through seven weeks, Rodgers ranks 12th in FPG (20.2), behind Kirk Cousins (21.0) and Joe Burrow (20.7). And now he’ll be without both Davante Adams and Allen Lazard this week. Although, oddly, Rodgers averages more FPG in his (full) games Adams has missed (25.6) rather than played (20.2). But that feels fairly outlierish. To make matters worse, this is a brutal matchup.
Arizona is the league’s top run funnel defense, with a league-high +5% run rate over expectation. They rank 3rd-worst in YPC allowed to opposing RBs (4.79), but 4th-best in opposing passer rating (84.4). And they rank 4th-best in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing QBs (-4.9).
So, be sure to start Aaron Jones, who averages 29.1 FPG across the last six games Adams has missed. But Rodgers, with everything working against him, is just a fringe-QB1. (SB)
Start: Daniel Jones at Chiefs
Note: This is only if Jones gets all of his guys back. Golladay, Toney, Shepard, and Barkley all got back to practice Wednesday, which is a great sign.
By now, everyone knows this Chiefs defense is no good. But the context behind their decline is wild. After giving up 328 yards to Baker Mayfield in Week 1, Lamar Jackson (32.3 FP), Justin Herbert (28.8), Jalen Hurts (28.2), and Josh Allen (36.5) all absolutely shredded Kansas City in Weeks 2-5. Washington flopped in Week 6, but then Ryan Tannehill hit them for 270 yards and 19.4 FP in what amounted to three quarters of work (Tannehill didn’t throw a pass in the 4th). If Jones gets all of his main weapons back for MNF, he is easily the best streamer of the week in this matchup. Jones has always been a passer we want to target against bottom-tier defenses and this is certainly one of them. In his career, Jones averages 28% more fantasy points when he faces a bottom-8 pass defense and the Chiefs are giving up the fifth-most passing points per game. (GB)
Start: Cordarrelle Patterson vs. Panthers
Patterson was only moderately productive last week (scoring 14.1 fantasy points), but his volume was excellent. On a season-high 74% snap share, he earned 14 of 19 carries while out-targeting the other RBs 5 to 0. That represents an 88% share of the backfield (in terms of XFP), up from a prior high of just 56%.
So, although the production really wasn’t there (his second-lowest score of the season), I’m now more bullish on Patterson than ever before. Over his last two games, he’s averaging a 65% snap share (up from 35%). He’s also now being used as a true RB/WR hybrid and not just as a scatback. Over his last two games, he’s averaging 20.0 WR routes per game (up from 6.8). And, over his last three games, he’s averaging 37.3 air yards per game, up from -6.7.
Since Week 2, Patterson ranks 10th among all RBs in XFP per game (16.3) and 5th in FPG (21.4).
On paper this matchup is brutal, the Panthers are giving up a league-low 15.4 FPG to opposing RBs. But I don’t think that really matters much for Patterson, who — as was just established — shouldn’t really be viewed as a true RB. So, start him this week as a low-end RB1 or mid-range WR1. It doesn’t matter which, so long as you start him. (SB)
Cordarrelle Patterson’s routes run at WR:
Week 1 – 3
Week 2 – 9
Week 3 – 4
Week 4 – 11
Week 5 – 17
Week 7 – 23
So, not only is he getting more RB work – he's out-carried Mike Davis 28 to 17 over the last two games – Patterson is also getting way more burn as an actual WR.
— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) October 26, 2021
Start: Damien Harris @ Chargers
The Patriots are 5.5-point underdogs, so Harris has legitimate gamescript concerns, but otherwise the on-paper matchup is just about perfect. The Chargers are one the league’s biggest run funnel defenses, with teams electing to run +4.5% more than their gamescript-based expectation (2nd-most). Los Angeles also ranks worst in YPC allowed (5.29) and worst in rushing FPG allowed (21.2). And Harris, outside of his two games against the league’s toughest- (Tampa Bay) and 2nd-toughest run defenses (New Orleans), averages 17.8 DK FPG, hitting double-digit fantasy points in 5 of 5 and 100 rushing yards in 3 of 5. Add it all up, and in spite of the gamescript concerns, we like him as a high-end RB2 this week. (SB)
Start: Leonard Fournette at Saints
Even though this is a tough matchup against a New Orleans front-seven that is giving up the fewest YPC to opposing backs (2.92), there is no way you can take Fournette out of a lineup right now. Since the Buccaneers finally moved on from giving Ronald Jones the “1B” role, Fournette has finished as the RB14 > RB13 > RB2 > RB11 over the last month and has 16 or more touches in every outing. The great thing is that Fournette is not only getting the majority of the carries, but he’s playing a ton on passing downs, too. Over his last four games, Fournette has run a route on 63% of the Bucs’ passing plays – which is the fifth-highest rate among RBs in this stretch. So, if the Saints do slow Fournette on the ground, he has plenty of outs between his passing down usage and TD upside attached to this offense to come through for another solid game. (GB)
Sit: Mike Davis vs. Panthers
As Scott outlined with Patterson, he absolutely deserves more touches and snaps. And all of that will come at the expense of Mike Davis, who has been rendered obsolete in this offense. Last week out of their bye, Davis played 38 snaps – but they were all empty calories as he got just four carries and zero targets. You’ll need Davis to fall over into the end-zone for him to come through. (GB)
Start: Elijah Mitchell at Bears
The 49ers came out of their bye and continued to let Elijah Mitchell run as the unquestioned featured back. Mitchell absolutely shredded the Colts in the first quarter – he had nine carries for 80 yards and a score – and then HC Kyle Shanhan inexplicably only gave him 9 more totes for the remainder of the game. The bottom-line, though, is that Mitchell is going to dominate the workload for as long as he’s healthy. Mitchell played on 66% of the team’s snaps on SNF while Ja’Mycal Hasty worked in for a 34% snap share in his return from an ankle injury. Meanwhile, Trey Sermon only played on special teams while it sounds like Jeff Wilson (knee) isn’t going to be available until late November at the earliest. This is Mitchell’s backfield and he is now one of six backs to handle at least 75% of the team’s carries in their starts alongside Derrick Henry, Najee Harris, Alvin Kamara, James Robinson, and Joe Mixon. This week, Mitchell catches a Bears run defense that has given up 135 rushing yards to the Packers and 171 to Bears backs over their last two games. (GB)
Start: Zack Moss vs. Dolphins
Choosing between this Bills backfield has been a tough endeavor for two straight seasons, but it does seem like Moss has started to separate himself from Devin Singletary as of late. Since missing Week 1 and getting back up to speed in Week 2, Moss has out-snapped (59% to 42%) and out-touched (55 to 44) Singletary by fairly wide margins. Most importantly, however, is that Moss is the Bills preferred goal-line back. Over the Bills last four games before their bye, Moss was on the field for a whopping 16-of-19 of Buffalo’s snaps from inside-the-five while Singletary got just three snaps. As 14-point home-favorites against a Miami run defense that has given up 4.46 YPC (seventh-most) and seven TDs on the ground (fifth-most), Moss is a strong RB2 start. (GB)
Start: Terry McLaurin at Broncos
After clearly being limited by a hamstring injury last week, McLaurin proved he is back against the Packers after dropping a 7/122/1 hammer. McLaurin’s day could have been even better had he not dropped a TD as Washington was cursed from scoring in the second-half of the game. McLaurin’s production has been a roller coaster ride because Taylor Heinicke has been so up-and-down, but we have to keep taking the bad with the good because the huge weeks drastically outweigh his 8-12 FP outings. This should be a spot where McLaurin hits the peak of his coaster, too. Denver has gotten beat deep by Marquise Brown, Diontae Johnson, and Henry Ruggs in three of their past four games and McLaurin is the only deep ball threat in town for Washington as he is tied for the league-lead in targets of 15 or more air yards with Marquise Brown (24). In fact, McLaurin has seen 48.6% of the team’s air yards, which is the second-highest percentage right behind Brandin Cooks (48.8%). McLaurin is an easy WR1 this week. (GB)
Start: Adam Thielen vs. Cowboys
Among all WRs, Thielen ranks 14th in FPG (17.8) and 13th in XFP per game (17.4, +0.2 more than Justin Jefferson). So, he’s producing like a fringe-WR1 on fringe-WR1-levels of volume. But he should be viewed as an easy mid-range WR1 this week, with CB Trevon Diggs likely to shadow Justin Jefferson.
Now, that doesn’t mean we should be downgrading Jefferson too much. Diggs is sort of the current iteration of Marcus Peters, but on a level we’ve never quite seen with Peters. He’s what we refer to as a “gambling corner,” where the tradeoff with his high interception total is he surrenders a large number of big plays. He has seven interceptions on the season (most by any CB through six games since the 1970 NFL merger), but he’s also given up the most “big plays” (30+ yard gains) of any CB, with six (two more than next-closest).
Although Jefferson has elite big-playmaking ability, Diggs’ seven interceptions should make Kirk Cousins wary. And so, I’d expect Cousins to favor Thielen in the far more advantageous matchup against CB Anthony Brown, who has five fewer interceptions and ranks 2nd-worst in yards allowed per game (62.3).
Dallas ranks 6th-best in FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (12.6), but worst in FPG allowed to opposing WR2s (17.7), and that’s actually more than all but five teams have given up to WR1s. So, this is one of the rare weeks we’ll have Thielen projected well ahead of Jefferson. (SB)
Start: D.J. Moore @ Falcons
In spite of Sam Darnold’s exceedingly poor play over the last three weeks (165.0 YPG and 0.67 touchdowns per game), I’m still viewing Moore as an every-week WR1. And, this week, as a mid-range WR1.
Moore ranks 6th in targets per game (10.9), 10th in air yards per game (121.3), 8th in XFP per game (18.6), 6th in XFP% (23%), 7th in YPG (83.7), and 13th in FPG (17.8). He’s seen double-digit targets in 5 of his last 6 games, while also hitting at least 70 receiving yards in 6 (most) of 7 games this year.
And both Moore and Darnold draw favorable matchups this week. Darnold shouldn’t be seeing any ghosts this week as Atlanta not only ranks 3rd worst in opposing passer rating (109.9) but worst in pressure rate (24%) and 2nd-worst in PFF pass rush grade. Against outside WRs, Atlanta ranks 6th-worst in FPG allowed (25.4). And that’s in spite of the fact that they’ve faced only two outside WRs who rank inside the top-30 by FPG — Mike Evans (24.5 fantasy points) and Terry McLaurin (30.3). (SB)
Sit: Mike Evans @ Saints
Now, I’m not actually recommending you to sit Evans (though maybe I am depending on your options), but I will suggest you strongly temper your expectations. He ranks 11th in FPG (18.4), but we have him ranked just 22nd on the week, in a brutal matchup in shadow coverage against CB Marshon Lattimore.
Over the prior two seasons, a Lattimore shadow was typically worth a 19.3% reduction to a WR’s FPG average. Included in that figure are three shadow games against Evans, where he totaled a combined zero yards on five targets when lined up against Lattimore (71% of his routes). Lattimore has shadowed three times this season, against Davante Adams, Terry McLaurin, and D.K. Metcalf. And, if we ignore just one play, he’s held them all to a combined 7.2 FPG (7.7 targets per game).
With Antonio Brown also out, look for bigger games from Chris Godwin and Rob Gronkowski. (SB)
Start: Jerry Jeudy vs. Football Team
Jerry Jeudy suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 1, which kept him off the field for the team’s next six games, but he will (confirmed) be back this week against the Washington Football Team.
Jeudy’s injury came early in the third quarter, capping him at just 47% of the team’s total snaps. But he still walked away with a team-high 72 yards, catching 6 of 7 targets. (So, on pace for 171 receiving yards.) And he ran 78% of his routes from the slot, up from 30% a season ago. That’s equally encouraging, as that’s his natural position.
Saban makes it clear at the end, that - though Jeudy is also capable on the outside - he prefers him in the slot. Though, that will most certainly be KJ Hamler's role in Denver. https://t.co/14p9N99NZk— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) April 28, 2020
This week Jeudy gets a Washington defense that ranks worst in total FPG allowed to opposing WRs (51.0), giving up the most FPG (27.4) to opposing outside WRs and the 2nd-most (18.1) to opposing slot WRs. Start him with confidence this week as a fringe-WR2. (SB)
Start: Tee Higgins at Jets
Ja’Marr Chase is rightfully getting all the praise for how well he’s playing, but that doesn’t mean Tee Higgins isn’t overdue for a monster game of his own. Since returning to the lineup three weeks ago, would you believe me that Higgins has actually seen more targets than Chase? Well, that’s exactly what’s happened. Granted, it’s not by a huge margin (28 to 26) but Higgins is still getting a lot of volume his way. And while the Jets might seem like a tougher matchup based on the numbers (third-fewest FPG allowed to WRs), that needs a lot of context. The Jets haven’t faced any receivers close to Chase and Higgins’ stratosphere recently as they’ve faced the Patriots (twice), Broncos, Titans (without Brown and Julio), and Falcons (without Ridley) over their last five games. I’m rolling Higgins out as a high-end WR3 in this spot. (GB)
Sit: Jakobi Meyers @ Chargers
Contrary to popular belief, Meyers is not actually a massive touchdown-regression candidate, ranking 11th among all WRs in negative differential (-1.6). And that’s because he’s not really seeing much work near the end zone. He ranks just 62nd among all WRs in total XTD (1.6). Though he’s seen 62 targets this season (11th-most), he has just one end zone target all year (77th). He averages only 0.22 XTD per game, which is one-third that of CeeDee Lamb’s 0.66, who is averaging only 0.1 more targets per game.
He’s a touchdown-regression candidate but not a massive one. But he is a borderline every-week starter, ranking 21st in targets per game (8.9), 28th in XFP per game (14.3), and 48th in FPG (11.4). (He’d rank 36th in FPG if he was perfectly neutral in touchdown efficiency / luck.)
So, we like Meyers, we just don’t like him a lot this week. And that’s because the Chargers have maybe the NFL’s best ever nickel cornerback (Chris Harris Jr.) manning the slot. Uncoincidentally, Los Angeles ranks best in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs (7.7, nearly half the league-average rate), which is where Meyers runs 70% of his routes. He’s just a mid-range WR4 this week. (SB)
Start: Tyler Higbee @ Texans
Tyler Higbee, the Higbeast, hasn’t quite lived up to the lofty expectations we had for him coming out of Week 1. But the usage that had us so excited is still there — on one of the most potent offenses in football, he’s a full-time receiver, running a route on 82% of his team’s dropbacks (4th-most among TEs). The volume and production hasn’t been quite as good, ranking 9th in XFP (14th per game) and 13th in fantasy points scored (17th per game). But, given the matchup, we can view him as an easy low-end TE1 this week. The Texans are giving up the 2nd-most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing TEs (+6.8), and rank much better against WRs (12th-best), and especially slot WRs (6th-best) which is where Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods run the plurality of their routes (72% and 45%, respectively). (SB)
Start: Hunter Henry at Chargers
Henry extended his TD streak to four games against the Jets and now gets a chance to make it five-straight in a Revenge Game against the Chargers in Week 8. Henry’s usage has been fairly tame in his hot streak – he’s averaging just 4.8 targets per game over the last month – but that could tick upwards if Jonnu Smith (shoulder) is limited. Regardless, we are largely chasing TDs at the position if you don’t have Kelce, Waller, or Kittle and Henry continues to get it done. This is a great spot for Henry to stay hot against a Chargers defense that gave up 7/104 to Kelce, 4/50/1 to Waller, 7/149/1 to Njoku, and 5/68/1 to Andrews over their last four games. (GB)
Sit: Jared Cook vs. Patriots
Cook has been quite a bit better than most seem to realize; a viable starter and a near-TE1 this season, ranking 11th in XFP per game (10.4) and 15th in FPG (9.4). But, he's also seen a declining workload in four straight games, with his route share falling from 78% to 74% to 67% to a season-low 62% prior to the team's Week 7 bye. At least one Chargers beat writer, hinted at an expanded role for XFL legend Donald Parham, and though it seems we’ve been trending in that direction already, a team’s biggest changes usually come following their bye week. Add to that concern an absolutely brutal matchup this week — New England has given up the fewest receptions (18) and 3rd-fewest yards (201) to opposing TEs — and Cook should be viewed as just a low-end TE2 this week. (SB)
Start: Dan Arnold @ Seahawks
If you’re desperate for a TE, you can do a lot worse than Arnold. After running a route on just 39% of the team’s dropbacks in his Jacksonville debut (Week 4), that number has jumped to 70% over his last two games. Over this span, he averages 7.5 targets (tied for most on the team), 11.5 XFP (~TE9), and 8.6 FPG (no touchdowns) over his last two games. And he now returns from the bye, ideally, more acclimated and familiar with the offense. His matchup this week is pillow-soft, against a Seattle defense that ranks 5th-worst in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing TEs (+3.7), and 3rd-worst over the last five weeks (+6.3). He’s rostered in just 3% of ESPN leagues, but we like him as a mid-range TE2 this week. (SB)