Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes. Those of you that have been reading this for the last several years know that I try to avoid the obvious plays. Anybody can come on here and say we should start guys like Jalen Hurts, Saquon Barkley, and Deebo Samuel. I try to dig a little deeper.
Start of the Week: Derek Carr vs. Cardinals – Carr admittedly forced the ball last week against the Chargers, going 22-of-37 for 295 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions as the week’s fantasy QB17. The Chargers’ enhanced pass-rush duo of Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack was giving Vegas’ offensive line big-time fits. The Raiders have real issues up front, particularly at right tackle, but Arizona’s pass rush is almost nonexistent compared to Los Angeles’ tandem. J.J. Watt (calf) isn’t 100 percent, and Chandler Jones walked in the offseason, leaving Zach Allen, Markus Golden, and Dennis Gardeck as the Cardinals’ main edge rushers last week against the Chiefs when Patrick Mahomes coasted to 360/5 through the air, averaging over 9.2 YPA and finishing as fantasy’s top scorer. In addition to Watt up front, FS Jalen Thompson (toe) and CB Trayvon Mullen (toe) are also banged up on the back end. Cardinals-Raiders sports the highest total of the weekend at 51.5 points. Playing against a far worse defense and at home this week, Carr makes for a high-volume QB1.
Matthew Stafford vs. Falcons – If something would ever happen to Cooper Kupp, Stafford would apparently be in a world of trouble. He can’t seem to function with any of his other pass-catchers, from Robert Woods last season to Allen Robinson in Week 1. Fortunately, Week 2 presents a much weaker opponent in the Falcons, even if the Rams have massive offensive-line concerns. All-World LT Andrew Whitworth retired after the Super Bowl, RG Austin Corbett walked as a free agent, and now new LT Joseph Noteboom is battling through a sprained MCL while C BrIan Allen is out the next 2-4 weeks following a knee scope last week. The Bills lived in the backfield in last Thursday night’s opener, sacking Stafford seven times and limiting him to a grotesque 5.85 YPA and 1:3 TD:INT mark as Week 1’s QB29. Last year’s Falcons finished dead last in adjusted sack rate and saw their top three sack-getters from that squad leave in the offseason. Atlanta checked in at 29th in Pro Football Focus’ pass-rush grades last week. Stafford should have more time to operate Sunday and has had 10 days off. Jameis Winston hung the QB7 day on the Falcons last Sunday, throwing for 269/2 and averaging 7.9 YPA in the comeback win. The Rams have the edge in most individual matchups on the field for this one. Los Angeles’ implied total of 29 points in the third-highest of Week 2.
Russell Wilson vs. Texans – The emotion was overflowing in Wilson’s Broncos debut last Monday night back in Seattle, and it was Pete Carroll who got the last laugh with the Seahawks’ 17-16 upset win. It’s hard to put much, if any, blame on Wilson, however, as he averaged a healthy 8.1 YPA and threw for 340 yards. His only touchdown was a 67-yarder to Jerry Jeudy, but the Broncos lost fumbles at the one-yard line on back-to-back possessions, and then rookie head coach Nathaniel Hackett took the ball out of Wilson’s hands on the final drive, opting for a 64-yard field goal attempt. Now that Wilson’s long-awaited return to Seattle is out of the way, he can relax some, and now gets a Houston pass rush that was 23rd in adjusted sack rate last year and recorded just four hits and two sacks on 52 Matt Ryan drop-backs in Week 1. Wilson still brings very little to the table with his legs at this stage of his career, but both he and Hackett are going to want to come out swinging in front of the home crowd for the first time, especially after the Week 1 debacle. Denver’s implied team total of 27.5 points is the fifth-highest of Week 2.
Carson Wentz at Lions – In his Commanders debut, Wentz fired off 41 passes and finished with 313/4 through the air, including a game-winning 24-yard touchdown to Jahan Dotson with 1:46 to play. Wentz finished as fantasy’s QB3 for Week 1, trailing only Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. Betting on Wentz isn’t for the weak, but his Week 2 matchup with the Lions is every bit as soft after the Lions were 31st in adjusted sack rate last season and finished dead last in Pro Football Focus’ pass-rush grades in Week 1 against the Eagles. Lions EDGE Romeo Okwara (Achilles’, PUP) remains sidelined. Philadelphia was moving the ball up and down the field at will against Detroit. This one sets up as a potential shootout between a couple offenses coming off big opening weeks playing on the fast track at Ford Field. This game’s 49-point total is actually the second-highest on the Sunday slate. On one of my season-long teams, I added Wentz to start over Tom Brady this week with Brady’s wideout room currently wrecked by injuries coupled with an undermanned offensive line against a superior pass rush on the road.
Tom Brady at Saints – As mentioned above, I’m personally starting Carson Wentz over Brady in one of my season-long leagues. Brady played fine last week in the easy win over the Cowboys, averaging 7.85 YPA with 212/1 through the air, but the Bucs sat on the ball much of the second half with a comfortable lead. Brady finished as Week 1’s QB26. That’s obviously not good enough, and now the Bucs have five wideouts on the Week 2 injury report. Mike Evans (calf) DNP’ed Thursday following a limited session Wednesday, Chris Godwin (hamstring) isn’t going to play, Julio Jones (knee) was DNP both Wednesday and Thursday, Russell Gage (hamstring) still isn’t completely over his summer strain, and Breshad Perriman has a gimpy knee of his own. The Bucs could opt to try and ride Leonard Fournette to another win in a divisional tilt with a Saints defense that has had Brady’s number. Since joining the Bucs, Brady has faced the Saints four times, losing all four and producing a 6:8 TD:INT mark while averaging just 259.25 passing yards per contest. Brady’s fantasy finishes in those games, starting with the most recent, are QB29 > QB4 > QB30 > QB10. Quite the range of outcomes, but Brady’s supporting cast will be about as bad as it’s ever been if some of these wideouts can’t suit up, and he’s already missing his presumed starting left guard and center from the summer. New Orleans was No. 6 in adjusted sack rate and No. 4 in pass-defense DVOA last year. Bucs-Saints has one of the lower totals of the week at 44 points. Brady already brings nothing to the table with his legs, so he’s tough to get behind in 12-team, one-QB fantasy leagues.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Bears – The first installment of the post-Davante Adams era wasn’t kind to Rodgers. The Packers were humiliated 23-7 by their division-rival Vikings in Week 1, as Rodgers absorbed four sacks and averaged a pitiful 5.7 YPC en route to 195/0/1 on 34 attempts as fantasy’s QB32, dead last among all starters. Default WR1 Allen Lazard (ankle) wasn’t able to play against Minnesota but is expected back for Week 2. Lazard isn’t anything close to a typical WR1 in the NFL and doesn’t move the needle much. Rodgers is at least returning home to Green Bay against a worse Bears defense that doesn’t field much of a pass rush outside of 32-year-old Robert Quinn, but the Green Bay offensive line with LT David Bakhtiari (knee), RT Elgton Jenkins (knee), and LG Jon Runyan (concussion) all at far less than 100 percent. The ghosts of Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins are soaking up wideout snaps for the Packers. Look for coach Matt LaFleur to implement a run-heavy approach as 9.5-point home favorites.
Ryan Tannehill vs. Bills – Tannehill is coming off the QB11 week in the Titans’ Week 1 loss to the Giants. He produced a turnover-free 266/2 passing line, averaging over 8.0 YPA on 33 throws. But both of Tannehill’s touchdowns were fluky scores to third-down RB Dontrell Hilliard. Without A.J. Brown, Tannehill’s supporting cast is the worst it’s ever been since coming to Tennessee, and the Titans want to remain a run-heavy team on the back of Derrick Henry. After getting a cake draw against the Giants’ anemic pass rush last Sunday, Tannehill is going to be under siege from the Bills’ defensive front after they sacked Matthew Stafford seven times and will now have 11 days of rest between games. Tannehill also didn’t use his legs in Week 1, rushing twice for seven yards. There’s no reason to expect another top-12 week from Tannehill this time around. Tennessee’s implied team total of 19.5 points is the eighth-lowest of Week 2.
Start of the Week: Darrell Henderson vs. Falcons – Henderson was one of the premier Zero-RB targets in the back half of fantasy drafts. Presumed to be the 1B or No. 2 to Cam Akers, Henderson ended up playing 82% of the Rams’ Week 1 snaps, seeing 18 combined carries and targets to Akers’ three. Henderson ran all 39 pass routes out the backfield. Henderson didn’t find the end zone against Buffalo but did post a top-24 fantasy week in half-PPR formats. Akers just hasn’t looked any good since tearing his Achilles’ during the 2021 offseason. Henderson has always played reasonably well when healthy, but staying healthy has been his downfall. For now, Henderson looks like a rock-solid RB2 with RB1 upside, and Akers is little more than a bench stash. Coach Sean McVay said after the Week 1 loss that Akers needs to start playing with more urgency. This is Henderson’s job to lose, and he now gets a much softer Week 2 matchup with the Rams installed as 10.5-point home favorites. It shapes up as a friendly rushing environment for Henderson. L.A. is implied to score a lofty 29 points.
Josh Jacobs vs. Cardinals – Jacobs losing his job was probably overblown during the offseason, as Zamir White was active but didn’t play in Week 1 while fellow rookie RB Brittain Brown was a healthy scratch. Brandon Bolden and Ameer Abdullah are the preferred pass-catching backs, but Bolden is now battling a hamstring issue. Jacobs actually ran 17 routes in Week 1, besting both Bolden’s 11 and Abdullah’s six. Jacobs should find a friendlier rushing script against the Cardinals with the Raiders entering Sunday as six-point home favorites. The Chiefs posted a 25-128-1 rushing line on Arizona last week, and Pro Football Focus graded the Cardinals as the fifth-worst run defense in Week 1. The return of J.J. Watt (calf) should help, but Jacobs projects as a safe RB2 with a floor of around 15 carries. Cardinals-Raiders has the highest total of the week at 51.5 points. We want pieces of this one.
Chase Edmonds at Ravens – Edmonds didn’t get anything going on the ground last week against the Patriots, turning 12 carries into 25 scoreless yards (2.1 YPC), but he handily out-carried Raheem Mostert 12-5 and out-targeted him 4-1. Edmonds’ 21 pass routes were third on the team behind star WRs Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Rookie coach Mike McDaniel dialed up an aggressive passing game plan in the opener, and that certainly bodes well for Edmonds’ receiving ability. Facing a Ravens defense that funneled targets to Jets RBs last week – Breece Hall (10) and Michael Carter (9) – Edmonds should be teed up as a playmaking RB2 despite this game’s otherwise ugly total at 44.5 points.
Melvin Gordon vs. Texans – Javonte Williams had the snaps edge 58% to Melvin Gordon’s 41% in the Week 1 opener, but Gordon was still involved as the Broncos’ top ball-carrier, out-carrying Williams 12-7. Both running backs got chances at the goal line, but both Gordon and Williams lost fumbles at the one-yard line, effectively losing the game for Denver. Williams remains the far superior fantasy back, but Gordon looks like he’s going to play an AJ Dillon-like role for rookie coach Nathaniel Hackett. The Texans were decked by Jonathan Taylor for 31-161-1 on the ground in Week 1. And the Broncos are significant 10-point home favorites with an implied team total of 27.5 points. Gordon is a startable FLEX who sees goal-line chances.
Dameon Pierce at Broncos – Coach Lovie Smith said all the right things leading up to Week 1, admitting Pierce had earned the right to be the Texans’ starter after his impressive preseason. While Pierce technically got the start, the coaching staff quickly fell back into old habits and inserted Rex Burkhead for 71% of the offensive snaps. Burkhead saw a combined 22 carries and targets and ran 25 routes to Pierce’s 12 chances and five routes. Smith expressed some regret about Pierce’s depressed playing time and seemed to indicate he could get more looks moving forward. “How about glass half full,” Smith said. “Pierce is going to be fresher this week.” Well, now the Texans are significant 10-point road underdogs headed to Mile High. It’s not a game script conducive to rushing success, and it could lead to another Burkhead game as the Texans’ preferred pass-protection and receiving back. Pierce is a TD-dependent FLEX in an offense that is implied to score 17.5 points, the fifth-lowest team total of Week 2.
Breece Hall at Browns – Cleveland’s Week 1 opponent, the Panthers ran an opening week-low 53 offensive plays, as the Browns controlled the game with their dynamic backfield duo of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Meanwhile, the Jets fired off 59 pass attempts in Week 1, leading to inflated usage numbers for both Hall and Michael Carter, who saw 10 and nine targets respectively. Both backs ran 26 routes each and essentially are splitting work pretty much down the middle. Playing in a bad offene with Joe Flacco at quarterback and facing a stout defense, both Carter and Hall are risky RB3 plays. The Jets’ implied team total of 16.75 points is the third-lowest of the week while the game total for Jets-Browns is a Week 2-worst 39.5 points.
Khalil Herbert at Packers – While Herbert found the end zone on one of his two-goal line carries, David Montgomery held the decided playing-time edge 66% to 29% and out-carried Herbert 17-9 in total. Herbert averaged an efficient 5.0 YPC to Montgomery’s pitiful 1.5 average, but Montgomery is still slotted in as the Bears’ lead back, even if Herbert does appear to be closing the gap under the new coaching staff. Herbert should be rostered in all fantasy formats, but Week 2 looks like a tough spot to fire him up with the Bears installed as 9.5-point road underdogs and Montgomery seemingly the preferred pass-game option after running 14 routes to Herbert’s four last week. Montgomery was astonishingly the only Bears player to catch more than one pass in Week 1. Chicago’s implied total of 16.5 points is the second-lowest of Week 2.
Start of the Week: Courtland Sutton vs. Texans – Sutton ran a team-best 44 routes on 45 Russell Wilson drop-backs in the Week 1 loss to the Seahawks and also paced the Broncos in air yards with a couple deep targets as Wilson’s new version of DK Metcalf. Sutton only turned it into a scoreless 4-72 receiving line on seven targets as Week 1’s overall WR37, but the usage is there, and he now gets a date with a Houston pass defense that was torched for 9-121-1 by Michael Pittman last Sunday. This looks like a potential breakout spot for Sutton with the Broncos implied to score 27.5 points as significant home favorites.
Allen Robinson vs. Falcons – It was a Rams debut to forget for Robinson, as the big-ticket free-agent pickup was targeted just twice against the Bills, finishing with a 12-yard catch while Cooper Kupp amassed 13-128-1 on 15 targets. However, Robinson’s 48 routes on 50 Matthew Stafford drop-backs were second to only Kupp’s 50. The Rams don’t want another Robert Woods situation on their hands with Robinson after Woods was frustrated about Stafford not targeting him early last season before his torn ACL. This week against the Falcons is a prime spot to get Robinson acclimated and feed him targets after Atlanta was 29th in pass-defense DVOA a season ago and surrendered 5-57-2 to Michael Thomas in Week 1. Rookie Chris Olave also caught all three of his targets for 41 yards against the Falcons last Sunday. Coming off the WR106 week, I’m firing Robinson back up as a WR3 with the Rams implied to score 29 points.
Curtis Samuel at Lions – A forgotten man in Washington after his injury-ruined 2021, Samuel made it through the summer and training camp healthy and played 71% of the Commanders’ Week 1 snaps as the clear WR3. Samuel’s 36 routes were third on the team behind Terry McLaurin’s 42 and first-round rookie Jahan Dotson’s 40, but it was Samuel who paced the team with 10 targets, turning them into 8-55-1 as the week’s overall WR17. Samuel has reemerged as someone worth rostering in 12-team leagues ahead of another cake draw against the Lions. Detroit was 27th in pass-defense DVOA last season and let A.J. Brown do whatever he wanted with the football last week. It’s a good spot for the entirety of Washington’s offense.
Greg Dortch at Raiders – Dortch remains on most waiver wires but played 91% of the Cardinals’ offensive snaps in Week 1 and tied Marquise Brown for the team lead with 42 pass routes, as Dortch turned them into team-highs with nine targets for a scoreless 7-63 line. Coach Kliff Kingsbury was getting Dortch snaps in the slot, out wide, and out of the backfield. The hope is this is the role Rondale Moore (hamstring) will play when healthy, but Moore is going to miss another week after being hurt in practice last Wednesday. It’ll allow Dortch to again act as the Cardinals’ main slot option against a Raiders defense that got cooked for a combined 7-130-1 line by Chargers slot WRs Keenan Allen and DeAndre Carter in Week 1. This is a game we want to attack in fantasy, as Cardinals-Raiders sports the highest weekend total at 51.5 points.
Corey Davis at Browns – Joe Flacco dropped back and fired off 59 passes against the Ravens in Week 1. That’s obviously an extremely inflated number that the Jets never really want to see again. Elijah Moore ran 55 routes, Tyler Conklin 50, and Corey Davis was third on the team with 42, but it was Davis who paced the group with nine targets, turning them into a respectable 6-77 line as fantasy’s overall WR31. The Jets aren’t going to be throwing close to 60 passes this Sunday, and Davis is the most likely to see the bulk of Browns CB Denzel Ward’s coverage. This game’s 39.5-point total is largely one to avoid, and Davis has the toughest individual draw.
Donovan Peoples-Jones vs. Jets – Only eight players across the league saw more targets than DPJ’s 11 in Week 1 against the Panthers, but Jacoby Brissett was wildly inaccurate, and Peoples-Jones turned them into a scoreless 6-60 receiving line. He was still tops on the team with 35 routes, narrowly edging out Amari Cooper’s 34, but this pass offense is one to largely avoid with Brissett under center for another 10 games. As mentioned above, this game’s 39.5-point total is the lowest of Week 2. Cleveland should be able to lean on the ground game.
Jakobi Meyers at Steelers – With DeVante Parker draped in CB Xavien Howard’s shadow coverage all afternoon last week, reliable slot man Meyers remained Mac Jones’ favorite target over the middle with a team-high six targets for a scoreless 4-55 line. It was “good enough” for a top-48 week. Meyers has long been allergic to touchdowns, with a grand total of two on 254 career targets, and things won’t be easy this week against Pittsburgh’s aggressive, lockdown defense that should be in Jones’ lap all afternoon. Meyers is a safe target-accruer but has a ceiling that is the basement. This game’s 40-point total is the second-lowest of the week.
Start of the Week: Pat Freiermuth vs. Patriots – After playing just 62% of the snaps as a rookie, Freiermuth was in on 89% of the Week 1 snaps against the Bengals and tied for the lead among all tight ends with nine targets. Mitch Trubisky can’t challenge defenses deep and loves to play pitch-and-catch with his big tight end in the middle of the field. Freiermuth turned his career-high nine looks into a crisp 5-75 line as the week’s overall TE8. That kind of playing time with that target share makes Freiermuth a matchup-proof, every-week TE1. The Patriots didn’t face any real tight ends in Week 1 since Mike Gesicki has been relegated to blocking duties.
Albert Okwuegbunam vs. Texans – It was an inauspicious start to Week 1 for Albert O, as all three of Andrew Beck, Eric Tomlinson, and Eric Saubert saw the field before Okwuegbunam. But as the game got going, Albert O played a total of 67% of the snaps and caught all five of his targets for 33 yards as a featured member of the pass groupings on third downs, two-minute, and red-zone packages. Russell Wilson looked his way a couple times near the end zone. A lot was made about Okwuegbunam playing deep into preseason games, but this is the role we always wanted for Albert O. He gets the money snaps, even if he’s not asked to be a blocker. Okwuegbunam’s 33 routes were good for third on the team in Week 1, behind only Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy. The Texans were 23rd in fantasy points allowed to tight ends last season. Denver’s implied team total of 27.5 points is the fifth-highest of Week 2.
Tyler Higbee vs. Falcons – Higbee played 94% of the offensive snaps in Week 1 against the Bills and tied for the lead among all tight ends with his nine targets. Higbee, however, turned them into a forgettable 5-39 line with a couple soft drops. Higbee’s 46 routes were third on the Rams behind Cooper Kupp’s 50 and Allen Robinson’s 48; he’s always on the field and gets red-zone looks, but Higbee has long been trying to put it all together since his blistering-hot stretch in 2020. But, as mentioned, Higbee is an every-down player and was one of Matthew Stafford’s favorite red-zone targets last year. With the Rams’ implied total of 29 points in a soft matchup with the Falcons, Higbee belongs in fantasy lineups as a top-12 player at the position.
Hayden Hurst at Cowboys – If Tee Higgins (concussion) is forced to miss this one, Hurst certainly becomes more appealing as a TE1 streamer, but even if Higgins is in the lineup, Hurst will be on the radar with the Bengals going to Dallas in what could be a bounce-back spot for Joe Burrow after his five-turnover day. The Cowboys’ season is already in the balance with Dak Prescott (thumb) expected to now miss close to two months. We want our tight ends to be every-down players in offenses that can put up big points, and Hurst meets those qualifications. The Cowboys surrendered the 11th-most fantasy points to tight ends last season and lost SS Jayron Kearse to a multi-week sprained MCL last Sunday night.