The bye weeks are finally here, which means that it’s time to start making some tough decisions about who to start or sit at the end of your roster. After all, you can’t just keep relying on the set-and-forget players every week of the year. But, fear not, we’ve sifted through some of the tougher start or sit questions for this week to help you get your roster all faced in the right direction this weekend.
Dak Prescott versus Detroit
Cue the Aerosmith, because he’s Dak in the Saddle, again. Prescott received medical clearance to play in Sunday’s game against the Lions, and there’s little to indicate that he shouldn’t be anything but classic Dak in this one. He will have his full complement of receivers, and given that he left partway through week one, we should talk about his 2021: 278 passing yards, 2.3 passing touchdowns, and 0.6 interceptions per game last year. Prescott also gets an incredibly soft landing this week, taking on the Detroit Lions in his first game back from injury. Generally, I don’t want to start a player coming back from a significant injury, but I will make an exception for a top-six player at their position getting an incredible matchup. The Lions give up the second-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this year, and that’s after Bailey Zappe had just 10 fantasy points in week five. The Lions gave up massive games to Geno Smith, Kirk Cousins, and Carson Wentz already this year, and Dak is at least as good as those guys. Go ahead and throw Dak Prescott back in your lineup and start Dak Prescott this week.
Jared Goff at Dallas
On the flip side, I am going to go ahead and sit Jared Goff this week as the Lions take on the Cowboys. Where the Lions are one of the best possible matchups for a quarterback to face, the Cowboys are one of the worst. The Cowboys have the fourth-highest pressure rate in the league per The Edge, but the Lions’ offensive line is not made up of slouches, either, boasting the ninth-lowest pressure rate allowed. Even with that in mind, I still don’t want to start Goff this weekend. Yes, he’s the QB8 in fantasy points per game this year, but much of that came in weeks two and four, where he finished with over 700 yards and 8 combined touchdowns. I don’t expect him to find success this weekend against the Cowboys defense that allows the third-lowest yards per rush or pass attempt. You can go ahead and skip him this weekend.
Jimmy Garoppolo versus Kansas City
The man some people call “Handsome James” (it’s me, I’m some people) makes for a great start this weekend. You should definitely start Jimmy Garoppolo against the Chiefs. If for no other reason than he now boasts the greatest set of weapons a quarterback could ask for, with Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and now Christian McCaffrey all more than capable of taking whatever off-kilter pass he throws their way all the way to the end zone. Even before he had Christian McCaffrey, Garoppolo was doing a great job of putting together floor games, as he has two touchdowns and between 250 and 300 passing yards in those games, as well. Garoppolo and the 49ers will need to throw on the Chiefs, which is a normal occurrence. KC is in the top five in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. All of that makes for a heck of a homecoming for the newest San Francisco 49er this weekend, and he should be able to help Garoppolo score a touchdown in this Super Bowl rematch.
Ezekiel Elliott versus Detroit
There’s been a lot of pixels spilled about Ezekiel Elliott and his struggles this year. And, he has struggled, I don’t want to minimize that. According to PlayerProfiler.com, the concerns about his play-to-play viability have merit, as Elliott ranks outside the top forty in running back yards per touch, juke rate, breakaway run rate, and yards created per touch. Suffice it to say: Ezekiel Elliott has lost a step. But, Elliott has guaranteed volume, something that most running backs in the league would kill for. Elliott has 17 opportunities per game (102 all told), which ranks him fifteenth in the league in touches per game. All of that is to say: he’s getting a lot of touches, but he just hasn’t been very good with them.
Stop Zeke, you had me at “he’s been getting a lot of touches.” The Cowboys get to play the Lions and they get Dak back this week. The Lions are one of the softest defenses in the entire NFL, and they especially give it up to running backs. They allow the second-most PPR fantasy points per game to the position, and despite the week off last week, have given up eight 10+ PPR fantasy days to the position this season. Go ahead and start Ezekiel Elliott, because if you don’t start him this week, I don’t know when you would.
James Robinson versus N.Y. Giants
James Robinson was supposedly the Achilles repair surgery success story after ripping off 263 yards in the first three games of the season. But, the Jaguars started to limit his snaps, and it turned out that having some long runs don’t make for sustained success. The Jaguars turned Robinson into a sub-50% snapback three games ago, and in those three games, he averages 11 touches for 41 yards per game, or 3.7 yards per touch. That’s very bad. But, unlike Ezekiel Elliott, who gets volume despite a lack of touch-to-touch production, James Robinson has very little to fall back on, as he’s splitting carries with Travis Etienne while Etienne gets all the targets. You can hope for a touchdown with Robinson, but otherwise, I plan to sit James Robinson this week against the Giants. They are not a plus matchup (tenth-fewest fantasy points allowed to running backs) and Robinson’s usage is starting to fall off entirely.
Brian Robinson, Jr. versus Green Bay
Brian Robinson is one of the best feel-good stories in the NFL. He’s back on the field and scoring touchdowns less than two months after he was shot in an attempted robbery. It’s a great story! That doesn’t mean that it’s a good start for fantasy football purposes. The rookie running back is 26 touches into his career, and he’s at 82 yards with those 26 touches. For those of you playing along at home, that’s 3.15 yards per touch. The current league “leader” (min. 50 touches) is Cam Akers, with a league-worst 3.19 yards per touch.
As disappointing as Cam Akers has been, Brian Robinson has been worse on a per-touch basis. I’m not writing off Brian Robinson for his entire career, but I also want to get more distance between him and his shooting before I trust him. Much of his meager production has come via bashing into the line and then Ron Rivera letting one tear drop fall down his face as Robinson scores a one-yard touchdown to make it 11-7 in the fourth quarter of one of the ugliest games in recent memory. Then, after the game, he said he needs to get Antonio Gibson the ball more, the same Antonio Gibson who was the only Commander who had any juice in the second half.
For now, I am going to sit Brian Robinson. The Commanders take on the Packers this week, who have been neutral against opposing running backs, so I want to take this week to be a fact-finding mission for how the Commanders handle their running backs going forward. It could be a gnarly 33%/33%/33% split for Robinson, Gibson, and J.D. McKissic, and I would rather mildly frown at that on my bench than get frustrated if it’s in my lineup.
Alec Pierce at Tennessee
If you listen to the Football Absurdity Podcast, you would know that we love Alec Pierce. I declared him the first Sicko Stash of the Week (a player rostered in less than 5% of leagues who has a path to pop off in the next couple of weeks) after his week three game against the Chiefs, and he’s proof that the process has some legs. He was the hottest pickup this week after he finished inside the top 36 for the third-straight week. Pierce is growing more involved by the week in an offense that desperately needs a second pass catcher behind Michael Pittman, as Pierce’s snap rate and routes run have gone up in each of the last three weeks. He’s also a solid second behind Pittman in air yards in the same timeframe.
This week, Pierce gets the Titans, who are one of the best possible matchups for a big, powerful, and speedy downfield threat. The Titans allow the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers, and that’s thanks to a league-high 15.2 yards per reception allowed. Teams throw downfield to find success against this defense, and Pierce ranks fifteenth in the league at… 15.1 yards per reception. It’s a match made in heaven where you can start Alec Pierce (if you aren’t already).
Darnell Mooney at New England
Stop me if you’ve heard this one or two dozen times before Bill Belichick on prime time absolutely ethering a young and unsure quarterback. That’s what the Chicago Bears face on Monday Night Football with Belichick doing everything in his power to put a Justin Fields-sized hole in the dirt. The Commanders did it on Thursday Night Football last week, but they’re also first in quarterback pressure rate. The Patriots rank twelfth, but they’re going to make life h*ck for Justin Fields this weekend. Darnell Mooney’s production will be tied to how clean the Bears’ OL can keep Justin Fields, and it turns out; probably not all that clean. The Bears allow pressures on 31% of Justin Fields’ dropbacks, which ranks as the most in the league. Pair that with the Patriots’ pass rush and I am going to sit Darnell Mooney because it probably won’t matter how many targets he may or may not get on desperation Justin Fields heaves. I’m staying away from that situation for my sanity this week.
Garrett Wilson at Denver
The New York Jets have a serious wide receiver problem. Elijah Moore is throwing a fit and wants off the team because he went one (1) game not getting targets (and that’s a Zach Wilson problem) so he won’t play this weekend. Unfortunately, that puts the Denver Broncos’ defensive secondary’s crosshairs squarely on Garrett Wilson and Corey Davis. That’s very bad news, as the Broncos allow the second-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season, and they’ve given up just six double-digit PPR games this season. All six had at least 8 targets, meaning that they were volume points, not performance points, and volume is going to be a major problem for Wilson this weekend.
In the last two games, Zach Wilson has 39 pass attempts. While not dropping to early-season Bears levels, that’s still too low to feel good about any part of the passing game. To put it differently, 30% is an elite target share, and that would be less than 12 targets over the last two games (11.7 to be exact). This is why Wilson’s yardage has gone down each week since peaking at 102 receiving yards in week two all the way down to one catch for eight yards last week. Breece Hall has taken over this offense, and because of that, I am going to sit Garrett Wilson this week.
Hayden Hurst versus Atlanta
Another week, another tight end going up against the Atlanta Falcons, and another week I have to tell you to start whoever is playing against the Falcons. The Falcons are allowing the fourth-most fantasy points per game to the position, at 17.2 PPR fantasy points per game. Through six weeks, they’ve yielded six different 9+ PPR days to tight ends, which is the baseline for a good week at the position. What makes this doubly troublesome is that they’ve done this going up against marginal tight ends like Cade Otton, Will Dissly, and Taysom Hill, who all had good weeks against them. As of right now, the tight end playing the Atlanta Falcons is TE3 on the season, a difference of Pat Freiermuth (9.9 PPR points per game) between TE3 and the drafted TE3… Atlanta’s Kyle Pitts. Start Hayden Hurst this week.
Greg Dulcich versus N.Y. Jets
There was a lot of crowing about Greg Dulcich scoring a touchdown last week, with Albert Okwuegbunam inactive. The biggest brains in fantasy football spent a decent chunk of the offseason trying to convince themselves that Greg Dulcich would be a thing for fantasy football, and I just want to caution against falling for any of the accidental traps they might have put down this week following Dulcich scoring a touchdown in his first NFL action. But, if you look beyond the fact that he scored a touchdown, you see that he had just 20 routes and 3 targets. He just lucked into a touchdown. This week, he gets the New York Jets, who are yet to allow a touchdown to the tight end, and subsequently, only allow big games to volume tight ends. Dulcich isn’t there yet, so unless you think he pulls a Rashid Shaheed and scores two touchdowns on two touches, then you can sit Greg Dulcich.