by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Trying to decide who you should start or sit this week? Let’s take a look at a few potential decisions owners have and try to sort through them:
Start – Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars – at San Francisco
It’s Week 16 and you are preparing to play for your fantasy title. Five months ago if we had said that Bortles would nearly be a must play option, arguably a better choice than Tom Brady, we would’ve been called certifiable. Today though? It’s simply a fact and one that’s clear looking at his performances the past three weeks:
- vs. Indianapolis – 309 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
- vs. Seattle – 268 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
- vs. Houston – 326 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
Sure he’s forced to take the show on the road, but the 49ers have yielded the third most points per week to opposing quarterbacks (ninth most over the past four weeks, so there hasn’t been much of an improvement). Bortles has been playing too well and has too favorable of a matchup to ignore.
Sit – Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys – vs. Seattle
The Seahawks are not the same defense that they were, but they are still in the bottom half of the league in terms of points allowed to opposing quarterbacks over the past four weeks (tied for 18th). You could argue that the return of Ezekiel Elliot will help Prescott, who threw for more than 212 yards in just one of the six games he was out. That said Prescott has thrown for more than 270 yards in one game all season and has 0 TD in five of his past eight games. The problems have been there all year long and it seems impossible to have much faith in him.
Start – Lamar Miller – Houston Texans – vs. Pittsburgh
Over the past two weeks the Steelers have been torched by opposing running backs to the tune of 5 rushing TD (as well as 2 receiving TD):
- Week 14 – Javorius Allen (2 TD), Alex Collins (1 TD)
- Week 15 – Rex Burkhead (1 TD), Dion Lewis (1 TD)
Miller hasn’t topped 75 yards all season so he’s going to be easy to overlook, but with the way Pittsburgh has been going it’s easy to imagine him putting up value. He’s not going to be a RB1, but there’s too high of a ceiling not to consider him a RB2.
Start – Marshawn Lynch – Oakland Raiders – vs. Philadelphia
We have often been down on Lynch, but as the passing game has stumbled he’s been able to rediscover a little bit of his old form. He’s now rushed for at least 60 yards in five straight games, including 1 TD in three of them. He’s had at least 16 carries in three of the four games, so workload also isn’t a question. It’s not an easy matchup, but the upside is there.
Sit – Demarco Murray – Tennessee Titans – vs. Los Angeles Rams
The matchup alone is difficult, but then you look at the “production” Murray has given us it gets that much worse. Taking on the 49ers last week he managed 59 yards despite getting 18 carries. He’s topped 66 yards in a game just once, and that came back in Week 3, and is averaging a meager 3.6 yards/carry. The team could always give more opportunities to Derrick Henry, just further clouding Murray’s outlook. At this point the floor is far too low to trust him.
Sit – Giovani Bernard – Cincinnati Bengals – vs. Detroit
He’s coming off a poor showing, albeit against the Vikings, totaling 43 yards and 1 TD. Of course it also appears like Joe Mixon is set to return, and he’s going to eat into Bernard’s opportunities (and could get the bulk of the work, as the Bengals look ahead to 2018). That simply leaves far too much risk.
Wide Receivers (Two-Receiver Formats)
Start – Martavis Bryant – Pittsburgh Steelers – at Houston
All eyes are going to go to JuJu Smith-Schuster in the absence of Antonio Brown, but would it surprise you to hear that Bryant tied him in targets last week (6 each)? Bryant was also the one who found the end zone and has 28 targets over the past four weeks (at least 6 targets per game). The truth is that both will be usable, even in shallower formats, against a Houston defense that’s allowed the fourth most points per week to opposing wide receivers.
Sit – T.Y. Hilton – Indianapolis Colts – at Baltimore
Is anyone still clutching onto Hilton as an every week starter? The name may appeal to some, and he has busted out three monster games this season, but the last one came in Week 9 (and against the lowly Houston Texans) and he hasn’t topped 60 yards in any other game. The Ravens are one of the better defenses in the league, allowing the third fewest points per week to opposing wide receivers, so he’s impossible to trust in any format.
Wide Receivers (Three-Receiver Formats)
Start – Robby Anderson – New York Jets – vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Anderson’s numbers were down last week (5 catches for 40 yards) and it’s easy to point to Bryce Petty being the quarterback as the reason why. However keep in mind that he was targeted 12 times, so there were opportunities, and look at his production with Petty at QB in early December of ’16:
- 12/05/16 – 4 receptions, 61 yards, 1 TD
- 12/11/16 – 6 receptions, 99 yards
- 12/17/16 – 4 receptions, 80 yards, 1 TD
That shows he can produce and there’s no question about his workload. In deeper formats he remains a solid option.
Sit – Jordy Nelson – Green Bay Packers – vs. Minnesota
He failed to pop a big game, like many hoped, with Aaron Rodgers back under center (3 catches for 28 yards). Now the team turns back to Brett Hundley, and regardless of who is in and who is out of the lineup the floor is simply way too low.
Start – Eric Ebron – Detroit Lions – at Cincinnati
Over the past two weeks Ebron has been one of the most targeted tight ends, turning 18 targets into 15 catches, 127 yards and 1 TD. He’s getting hot at the right time, while the Bengals have struggled against opposing tight ends over the past two weeks (sixth most points per week, including 2 TD). With Detroit’s running game continuing to struggle to get going, look for much of the same from Ebron and company.
Sit – Jason Witten – Dallas Cowboys – vs. Seattle
Over the past two weeks the Seahawks have allowed a total of 2 catches and 16 yards to opposing TE. Witten hasn’t topped 50 yards over his past five games (he’s been above 61 yards once, back in Week 2) and the return of Ezekiel Elliot could further limit the passing attack.
Sources – ESPN, NFL.com