It’s time for the weekly tradition we live for: panicking that we made the wrong decision on who to start before we’re mercifully bailed out by a garbage time score, validating all our opinions. This week, we take a look at some questionable start or sit options and help you figure out who should make it into your starting lineup. Let’s take a look at some start or sit questions for week four!
Matthew Stafford at San Francisco
Matthew Stafford’s struggled this year, there are no two ways about it. There was much ado about his elbow this offseason, but it’s his offensive line, not his joints, that are betraying him so far. In week one, Stafford ate seven sacks as the Bills did whatever they wanted against the hapless Rams’ offensive line. Things have gotten better for the line since then, as the Falcons and Cardinals sacked Stafford just twice in the last two games. But, things aren’t great for Stafford and the elbow, either. So far on the season, Stafford has been sacked nine times and has thrown just six catchable deep balls, which is off of his 2021 38 catchable pass pace.
Now, he gets the 49ers, who stifled three terrible pass games in the first three weeks of the season, stopping Justin Fields, Geno Smith, and Russell Wilson in consecutive games. This is their first real test, but this offensive line will have its hands full with Nick Bosa, Samson Ebukam, Arik Armstead, and the rest of the 49ers’ pass rushers. That pass rush crew averages a QB pressure one out of every three passes, at a league-leading 36.5% pressure rate. Mooney Ward will have his hands full with Cooper Kupp, who can make all of this moot, but Matthew Stafford is going to get knocked around on Monday, meaning I will sit Matthew Stafford.
Marcus Mariota versus Cleveland
This is where I plagiarize myself from the streamers article coming out today, as well, but Marcus Mariota has been legitimately good at football this season. The Falcons have a top-ten offense and Mariota has two top-fifteen finishes in three games this year, and he has multiple touchdowns in two straight. He ranks fourth in QB rushes, too, which gives him a nice floor. The Falcons get the Browns this week, who have given up the eleventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this year while going up against Joe Flacco, Baker Mayfield, and Mitchell Trubisky. Even if I’m not in a bind, I am going to start Marcus Mariota this week.
Trevor Lawrence at Philadelphia
The Jaguars were supposed to walk into a buzz saw last week against the Chargers, and I exercised caution. Instead, they obliterated the Chargers and left them without Joey Bosa, Rashawn Slater, or Jalen Guyton anytime soon. While Philly is a tough matchup on paper, Trevor Lawrence and the Jags are also a tough matchup, taking out their last two opponents, the Colts and the Chargers, 62-10. The Eagles have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks, the sixth-fewest passing yards, and the fourth-fewest completion percentage while smashing Kirk Cousins into the earth and ending the Carson Wentz Hype Train in consecutive weeks. When the rubber hits the road, I’m trusting this Eagles team that has allowed 15 points in the last two games over the Jaguars’ offense. It depends on who else you have, but I am going to sit Trevor Lawrence this week if I can.
Jamaal Williams versus Seattle
With D’Andre Swift sidelined for the near future with a shoulder injury, the up-tempo Lions’ offense turns to Jamaal Williams to carry the load in the backfield. He will do great with these opportunities, just as he has in the past. We have to assume that Williams, as the best running back left in that backfield by far, will get at least 15 touches in this one. In 20 career games with over 15 touches in a game, Jamaal Williams averages 102.5 yards and 18.2 fantasy points per game. Five of these have come in his time with the Lions, and in those games, he averages 91.4 yards for 15.9 PPR points per game. He’s in for a big week, and Seattle won’t do much to stop him. The Seahawks allow the fourth-most fantasy points per game and are one of five teams to allow running backs more than five yards per carry, and they’ve allowed the most yards to running backs this season. It’s not even a particularly hard decision to start Jamaal Williams this week.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire at Tampa Bay
As easy as the Jamaal Williams decision was, it’s twice as easy to sit Clyde Edwards-Helaire if you can. CEH has one of the weirdest top-five running back lines I’ve ever seen through three games: 25 carries and 12 targets for 231 yards. That comes out to just over 10 touches for 77 yards per game. I don’t have to tell you that 7.7 yards per touch is unsustainable, especially when you consider his rushing line from week three: seven carries, 0 yards, and a touchdown. He’s a complete mirage at this point, and he’s been buoyed by touchdowns and overwhelming efficiency.
Both of those are going to come to an abrupt halt this weekend against a Tampa Bay Buccaneers rush defense that redefines stingy. In three games, they are yet to give up even 7 PPR points to a running back, let alone enough PPR points to make you feel good about a running back who has been out-snapped by Jerick McKinnon in every game this season. Go ahead and sit Clyde Edwards-Helaire this week.
Travis Etienne at Philadelphia
Speaking of backs who have just 34 touches through three games: Travis Etienne has 26 rush attempts and 8 receptions this early in the season, as he’s taken a significant backseat to James “What Achilles?” Robinson. Etienne played 51% of snaps in week one, but just 37% and 43% of snaps in the last two games. He’s on the short side of the playtime platoon, and that’s led him to getting 64 yards per game through three games. The 64 yards are nice, as is the three receptions per game. He currently averages a usable 9.1 PPR points per game at running back (RB38), but that’s not really anything that raises my heartbeat, especially given the players that have cropped up like the aforementioned James Robinson, Jamaal Williams, and even J.D. McKissic.
Etienne gets the Eagles, who have let running backs score on them this year, but in more specifics: they’ve played five running backs who are playing better than Travis Etienne this year: D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Dalvin Cook, Antonio Gibson, and J.D. McKissic. I’m not bullish on Etienne as the short side of a platoon, and if you play him, you’re banking on a bunch of garbage time targets. I am going to go ahead and sit Travis Etienne.
Chris Olave versus Minnesota
Chris Olave is the NFL leader in air yards (distance traveled in the air on all passes) by a wide margin. This is a good opportunity metric because when he catches the ball, he converts those air yards to real yards, and those yards into fantasy points. Olave is averaging 192 air yards per game, and not only is that tops by a huge margin in 2022, but it’s the tops across all receivers over the last two seasons, by a wide margin. Justin Jefferson comes in second with 122 air yards per game since the beginning of last year. To put it bluntly: nobody is getting more opportunities to produce than Chris Olave this season. The rookie is targeted on 26.6% of his routes, which is in the same ballpark as Brandin Cooks, Travis Kelce, Kyle Pitts, Davante Adams, and Christian Kirk. He’s getting as many targets as some of the best receiving options in the NFL, and he’s getting each one further downfield than them. This isn’t a start Chris Olave versus Minnesota paragraph. This is a start Chris Olave and don’t look back paragraph.
Okay, so full disclosure… I write this on Thursday. Since I wrote that, the Saints declared Michael Thomas out, and Andy Dalton as the likely quarterback for Sunday, as Jameis Winston deals with a back issue. I said what I said, and I stand by what I said. Start Chris Olave, and don’t look back.
Gabriel Davis at Baltimore
I am going to make this very simple: if you don’t start Gabriel Davis in this game, then you will never start Gabriel Davis. That’s it, period. Davis missed week two and wasn’t quite the same last week, but that’s what happens as a big play receiver coming off an ankle injury. Still, across two games, he has 11 targets with an average depth of target over 13 yards downfield, and an average of a hair under 18 yards per catch. So, when he gets targets, he gets them with an opportunity to blow the defense all the way up. And this week, he gets a defense that will let him do whatever he wants against them. The Ravens currently allow the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, and the third most against receivers out wide. Three Jets WRs had at least 9 PPR points against them in week one, the Dolphins threw all over them for five wide receiver touchdowns a couple of weeks ago, and DeVante Parker of all people had over 100 against him last week. Go ahead and start Gabe Davis with confidence.
Jerry Jeudy at Las Vegas
Through three weeks, Jerry Jeudy has exactly one play: a week one 67-yard touchdown on an underthrown ball where Coby Bryant fell down and Jeudy outran Josh Jones, who took an insane angle to try to track down Jeudy. Other than that, Jeudy has seven catches for 64 yards on the season, across three games. He hasn’t done much of anything, and that is a major reason why the Denver passing game just can’t get going. The Raiders are going to potentially be a get-right game for the Broncos, but can you trust that those passes are going toward Jeudy? Because I certainly can’t. Courtland Sutton is doing just fine in this offense, so Jeudy going for 3 catches in 28 yards in the last two weeks speaks to a disconnect between Jeudy and Russ, or Jeudy and enough talent to Hackett in the NFL (get it?). Either way, I am going to sit Jerry Jeudy until he and the Broncos show me something.
Dawson Knox at Baltimore
Much like Gabriel Davis above, if you don’t have the faith to Start Dawson Knox this week, then I’m not entirely sure that Knox belongs on your roster. Yes, Knox has put up some absolute stinkers so far this year, with five catches for 30 yards in weeks one and three, but he showed in week two that he firmly belongs in the 4/40 backend tight end blob discussion. That’s a different tack than the “touchdown or bust” discussion a lot of people have around Knox, one more suited to Irv Smith, Jr. But this week, however, he gets a Ravens team that should provide for a high-flying affair. The best part? Even if you don’t buy that he’s not touchdown or bust, the Ravens are one of seven teams to allow multiple touchdowns this year.
David Njoku at Atlanta
David Njoku showed everyone why people draft him last week, as he had his second-highest scoring fantasy output day last week against the Steelers, going for 23.9 PPR points on 9 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. But, can he continue that this week? I really don’t see any reason why not! He gets the Falcons this year, who have one of the best tight ends in the NFL, but who is also one of the best defenses to stream up against this season, as they’ve given up over 20 PPR points per game to the position this year, making the tight that goes up against Kyle Pitts better than Kyle Pitts so far this season. That means that for this week, I think we can keep it rolling and start David Njoku against the Falcons.
Irv Smith at New Orleans
The Vikings are traveling to Jolly Old England to take on the Saints this week, and Irv Smith hasn’t really lived up to expectations so far. In three games this year, he has just 7 catches for 68 yards. A touchdown saved him in week two, but he’s finished outside the top twelve in two-of-three games this season. The Kevin O’Connell Offense seems primarily concerned with making sure that Justin Jefferson gets the ball as much as humanly possible, so it makes a lot of sense that Irv Smith is running just 21 routes per game, which ranks twenty-third among tight ends, behind even Juwan Johnson and David Njoku. There just isn’t much there for him, and the Saints aren’t going to be the team where he gets right. The Saints allow the third-fewest fantasy points to tight end on the year, as they’ve allowed just 17.8 PPR points to tight ends this season, including holding Kyle Pitts to 2 catches for 19 yards… and that’s the most points they’ve allowed to a tight end. This is a bad matchup, so I am going to sit Irv Smith this week.
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