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, especially not when you’re going to be without all your Chiefs and Chargers. 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.
Aaron Rodgers at Buffalo
It’s been a rough year for people who drafted Aaron Rodgers. He’s currently QB25 in fantasy points per game and has just one game inside the top 12. It was last week against the Commanders when he threw for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns… and he was QB12 on the week. Rodgers and his receivers can’t get on the same page, as the future Hall of Famer has the fifth-lowest catchable pass rate among the 27 quarterbacks with at least 150 pass attempts (per PlayerProfiler.com’s Data Analysis Tools). He also doesn’t have his receivers really betraying him either, as he ranks outside the top ten in dropped pass rate. It’s just flat dysfunction in Green Bay, and that’s not something I want to lean into this week.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can say about the defense that they’re playing against this week that will make you feel good about Aaron Rodgers. The Bills have allowed one quarterback over 13.1 fantasy points, and it was Patrick Mahomes’ 19.6 points back in week six. He was QB6 that week, but prior to that, the Bills allowed the following finishes: QB25, QB19, QB25, QB32 (of 32), and QB29. You have no choice but to sit Aaron Rodgers this week in a truly awful matchup.
Andy Dalton versus Las Vegas
Andy Dalton got the start for the Saints, and it seems as though the New Orleans’ brass want to see just exactly how far Dalton can take them. Dalton was inconsistent last week for the Saints in what proved to be a worse matchup than he has this week. He threw three interceptions, but topped 350 passing yards and finished with 4 touchdowns. That all came against the Cardinals’ defense that gives up the sixth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks. This week, Dalton gets one of the five teams that would prove to be a better matchup: the Raiders allow the most fantasy points to quarterbacks.
The Raiders have given up the best or second-best week to every quarterback to play them this season, and haven’t given up fewer than 18 fantasy points, with each QB having at least 300 passing yards and a touchdown, or multiple touchdowns. It’s an easy move to start Andy Dalton this week (and next week, against Tennessee, as well).
Justin Fields at Dallas
Justin Fields has had a strong few weeks. The Bears opened up the offense for him, and he has three-straight games of between 17 and 24 fantasy points thanks to their faith in Fields, finishing as QB13, QB8, and QB5 in consecutive weeks. A lot of this comes from rushing 34 times in those three games. Unfortunately, this fun run comes to a (temporary) end this week against the Dallas Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys give up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, most likely because of their top-five pressure rate. Unfortunately, that slams right up against Justin Fields, who is the most pressured quarterback in the NFL. This is why 33 of Fields’ 68 rush attempts came in the form of scrambles. It’s also why Fields leads the NFL in sacks. I don’t think things will work out well for the Chicago Bears versus the Cowboys this week, who just held Jared Goff to 1.5 fantasy points last week, and who haven’t allowed a quarterback to top 17 fantasy points this season. Go ahead and sit Justin Fields in this dreadful matchup.
D’Onta Foreman at Atlanta
Chuba Hubbard missed practice on Wednesday (which doesn’t matter) but also missed practice on Thursday (which does matter). It’s still likely that Chuba plays on Sunday, but it’s also likely that he is limited or misses some time due to his ankle injury. This paves the way for D’Onta Foreman, who turned 17 touches into 145 yards last week, to lead the Carolina backfield in touches and goal line opportunities. Foreman, who flashed several 100+ yard games last season when the Titans lost Derrick Henry, has it in him to carry the load for the Panthers, and the Atlanta backfield, which is middle-of-the-road, will let him rush at an efficient clip (backs against them have rushed for 4.3 yards per carry this season, the league-average). He should have plenty of opportunities to produce this week, so you can start D’Onta Foreman in a flex spot, though chances are, you have better options.
Darrell Henderson versus San Francisco
Darrell Henderson finally has the backfield to himself, what with Cam Akers being bad and then demanding he get traded, because him being bad is the Rams’ fault, of course. Anyway, Darrell Henderson hasn’t been great this year, he’s just been better than Cam Akers, which is a bar about as low as Cam Akers’ yards per touch (it’s last). A lot of this has to do with the offensive line being dreadful at run blocking, based on basically any metric you want to choose: #29 in Run Block Rating, #28 in Run Block Win Rate, and #30 in Pro Football Focus’ run-blocking grades.
This week, that dreadful offensive line takes on the 49ers’ run defense. The Niners have been banged up along the front line, but they’re still allowing the third-fewest fantasy points to running backs. They’ve allowed one back over 16.5 PPR points, and then they went out and traded for him (Christian McCaffrey). Other than that, only running backs with touchdowns have hit double-digit points against the Niners. We’ve already seen Henderson against this team (6.9 PPR points in week four) and because of all of this, I am going to sit Darrell Henderson against the Niners.
Raheem Mostert at Detroit
A few weeks ago, I imbued Raheem Mostert with the strength to carry on, noting that if he had 15 touches, it would be the first time in his career that he’s touched the ball 15 times in back-to-back games. Now, he’s done the unthinkable: he’s done it in four-straight games. And in that timeframe, he’s been RB15, or a top-end RB2. He’s averaged 16 carries, 2 receptions, 90 yards, and 0.6 touchdowns per game in that four-game stretch. That alone would make him a recommended start this week, but his matchup makes him the start of the week.
Mostert takes on the Detroit Lions, who allow the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. In fact, they allow so many points to the position that, despite their bye, they still rank eighth in fantasy points allowed to the position (in one less game). Ten different running backs have had at least 11 PPR points against them this season, with both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard pulling off that feat last week. He’s running hot and everyone going against the Lions runs hot, as well. Don’t overthink this. You have to start Raheem Mostert.
Brandin Cooks versus Tennessee
It’s been a rough go for those of us who believed in Brandin Cooks, and I don’t use “those of us” loosely here, I loved Brandin Cooks in the predraft process. But, what we have instead, is a wide receiver who has finished inside the top 45 at the position just twice so far this year, and has finished outside the top 60 twice, as well. It’s been a terrible go of it, and he’s come dangerously close to making my cut list. But, you should start Brandin Cooks this week.
The Tennessee Titans allow the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers on the season and were even higher prior to the Colts’ passing game falling apart so spectacularly that Indy pulled the plug on the Matt Ryan Experiment after just seven weeks. Even then, the Titans still allowed over 20 PPR points to Parris Campbell. This marks the fourth 12+ PPR point day for receivers allowed in the last two games for the Titans’ defense, after Dyami Brown, Terry McLaurin, and Curtis Samuel all pulled it off in week five, prior to their bye. If Cooks doesn’t pull it off this week, you have my full permission to drop him.
George Pickens at Philadelphia
It’s been great for George Pickens lately, ever since someone (me) said to go try to trade for him after his great catch on Thursday Night Football. Since then, he’s overtaken everyone else on the roster as the best (the only?) fantasy football option on a weekly basis. Over the last four games, Pickens is averaging 7 targets, 5 catches, and 68 yards, giving him an 11 PPR point floor every week. He’s only scored one touchdown, however, so that suppresses his overall rank.
The dreadful Pittsburgh offense will struggle this weekend, and I doubt they make enough of a go of it to make anyone worth trusting in this game. While Philadelphia ranks just outside the top-12 in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers, that’s not what I’m particularly worried about. I’m worried about the Eagles overwhelming opposing quarterbacks, with the second-lowest net yards per attempt allowed, the second-most interceptions, and the fewest passing yards allowed. This is going to be a hideous one for the Steelers, and you’re banking on a touchdown that just might not come. Go ahead and sit George Pickens for this week if you can.
Drake London versus Carolina
I’ve been pounding the table to excise Drake London from your roster for several weeks now, but my compatriots on the Football Absurdity Podcast, intoxicated by the one good game that London had on September 18 (over a month ago) simply refuse to acknowledge reality. Drake London went from 7 targets three weeks ago, to 4 two weeks, to one last week. He plays plenty, it’s just that the Falcons don’t pass the football, at all. That’s why Drake London averages 5 targets per game since that big game in week two, which doesn’t seem like a lot… but also accounts for 27% of the Falcons’ targets. I don’t see a world where the Falcons pass enough to make you feel good about starting Drake London, no matter who the opponent is. Go ahead and sit Drake London this week.
Irv Smith, Jr. versus Arizona
The Arizona Cardinals are one of the worst defenses at stopping opposing tight ends this season. The Cardinals have allowed six touchdowns to tight ends (two of them to Juwan Johnson last weekend) but they’re also top-two in receptions and yards per game to the position, all en route to allowing the second-most fantasy points to tight ends. The Cardinals have given up four double-digit PPR games to tight ends in the last three weeks, and Irv Smith can make it five in four weeks. He hasn’t shown up a lot this season, but he’s taken advantage of strong matchups. This is a strong matchup, so if you’re in a pinch, you can start Irv Smith, Jr.
Dawson Knox versus Green Bay
Dawson Knox is the biggest boom-bust tight end of the season, and by that, I mean that he’s busted so hard that it created a sonic boom. Knox finished as a top-ten tight end last week thanks to a touchdown, but it was the first (and only) time that he’s finished inside the top 15 at the position. He’s finished 18th or worse in four of his five games this season, and he peaked at 4 catches for 41 yards. You just can’t rely on Dawson Knox, and you especially have to sit Dawson Knox in this one. The Packers have only allowed double-digit fantasy points to tight ends twice this season (and once was a touchdown). They’re too strong a defense to reliably play a marginal tight end like Knox against, and it’s looking like you’d be better off with someone else (not Kyle Pitts) in your tight end slot for the rest of the season.
Juwan Johnson versus Las Vegas
Juwan Johnson scored two touchdowns last week against the Cardinals. If you read above, you know that the Cardinals are the second-best matchup for tight ends, so he likely just took advantage of a good matchup. That would normally mean that you should exercise caution, but with Jarvis Landry and Michael Thomas once again likely to miss this weekend, and Juwan Johnson getting a tasty matchup don’t expect me to be cautious about this one, nerds. He gets another top-five matchup in the Vegas Raiders, who have allowed 9.8 or more PPR points to five different tight ends this year. Granted, they played Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, and Travis Kelce. But, they also gave up 14.4 points to Gerald Everett, 10.9 to Geoff Swaim, and 9.8 to Jordan Akins. Go ahead and keep him in that lineup and start Juwan Johnson this week.