by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
Thursday games are often tricky as it is, because there isn’t necessarily a reason to take any undue risks with questionable options (which could set you back and spoil your week). Who are the borderline players that should be in lineups? Who should be sat down? Let’s take a look at the skill players taking the field tonight and try to answer those questions:
Ben Roethlisberger – Quarterback
There was a time that the Panthers were a vaunted defense, but that hasn’t been the case in 2018. It’s not that they’ve been terrible, but they are middle of the pack. Coming off a game against the difficult Ravens’ defense where he threw for 270 yards, 2 TD and 0 INT, the arrow appears to be pointing up for Roethlisberger. He looks even more attractive when you look at some similar quarterbacks who have significantly more difficult matchups (like Andrew Luck, who will take on Jacksonville). It all comes down to your alternative, but Roethlisberger should be viewed as a viable QB1.
Verdict – Start ‘Em (borderline QB1)
JuJu Smith-Schuster – Wide Receiver
Smith-Schuster has gone three straight games without a touchdown, though he does have 78+ yards in two of them and continues to be a highly targeted option. On the season he’s amassed 53 receptions, 672 yards and 2 TD so it’s obvious that he has value but is he the “must start” option people want to believe he is? Just look at his average targets per game:
- First 4 Games – 12.25 targets/game
- Next 4 Games – 7.25 targets/game
That’s a significant step down and while he could always pop a big game, it’s fair to call him a borderline WR2 as opposed to a must start given the significant reduction in opportunities.
Verdict – Start ‘Em (only as a borderline WR2, depending on your alternative)
Vance McDonald – Tight End
The Carolina Panthers have allowed the most points per week to opposing tight ends, including 7 TD. While McDonald is always going to be the fourth option, at best, this type of matchup and questions up and down the position are going to make McDonald an intriguing streaming option if you need the plugin.
Verdict – Start ‘Em (streaming option)
- James Conner – Running Back
- Antonio Brown – Wide Receiver
Cam Newton – Quarterback
The Pittsburgh Steelers have allowed the fifth most points per week to opposing quarterbacks, routinely giving up passing TD (17 TD vs. 5 INT) and being hurt by opposing quarterbacks who can run the football (165 yards and 1 TD). With Newton capable of hurting you in both categories, what’s not to like? He’s thrown for at least 2 TD in seven straight games (6 TD vs. 0 INT in his past three) and has at least 29 rushing yards in each game (4 rushing TD). It all comes together for a potential Top 5 option.
Verdict – Start ‘Em
Devin Funchess – Wide Receiver
He’s second on the team in targets, just behind Christian McCaffrey (55 compared to 58), though we have to remember that Greg Olsen missed time and is just now rounding into form. In the past two games as Olsen has seen his role expand (10 catches on 10 targets, for 132 yards and 2 TD) Funchess has managed just 7 catches, 71 yards and 0 TD.
Even when Funchess was operating as the “top” option, routinely getting 7+ targets, he never eclipsed 77 yards and only twice had more than 5 receptions. In other words he’s a TD dependent option and while the Steelers have allowed 11 TD to opposing wide receivers is anyone willing to bank on Funchess getting one this week? That’s not to say that he’s a must sit given the bye weeks, but he’s a risky WR2 at best.
Verdict – Start ‘Em (risky WR2, viable WR3)
DJ Moore – Wide Receiver
Moore was mentioned on this week’s “Ditch List”, as we noted that:
The offense is going to run through McCaffrey and as Olsen gets healthy and comfortable he should become an even bigger part of the passing game. Throw in Moore having to battle Samuel for opportunities as well as likely trailing Funchess on the depth chart and he becomes tougher to trust.
Curtis Samuel is coming off a big performance, with 57 yards and 2 TD, and he’s going to continue to factor into the gadget plays that would otherwise go to Moore. At best the rookie is third on the target list, though in most weeks it’s going to be fourth or fifth. Yes there’s upside, but this early in the week he’s more of a desperation WR3/FLEX as opposed to a player worth trusting.
Verdict – Sit ‘Em
- Christian McCaffrey – Running Back
- Greg Olsen – Tight End
Sources – ESPN, NFL.com
Make sure to check out all of our Week 10 rankings: