Twelve weeks down, and five to go! You’re in the stretch run of your fantasy football leagues, and you can sniff the playoffs… or you can at least sniff the chair where you’ve spent countless hours debating who to start en route to building your juggernaut of a team… that’s in fourth place but look you’ve had some bad luck and really it should be a juggernaut of a team. But that’s neither here nor there… no, I don’t want to look at your fantasy points against you. Stop that. Close your Sleeper and listen. No, I know, Dameon Pierce was a great play for a long time. Please, stop making excuses.
Anyway, if you need some help deciding who should start or sit this week, I have some choice plays and avoids highlighted below! Enjoy.
Trevor Lawrence at Detroit
Trevor Lawrence is sitting on three-straight weeks inside the top twelve at quarterback, and five of his last six saw him inside the top twelve at quarterback. The former #1 overall pick is just straight up #goodatfootball, and that shouldn’t be a particularly surprising revelation for you. But, given where you took him in fantasy football drafts, chances are you might be wondering if you should start him or a Derek Carr or Kirk Cousins or someone like that. Well, Trevor Lawrence is on a heater that the rest of these guys can only dream of. Over his last three games, Trevor Lawrence is on a pace to throw for 4600 yards, rush for 450 yards, and finish with 34 touchdowns and no picks.
This week, Lawrence gets the Detroit Lions and their woeful pass defense. In the six games since their bye, they’ve allowed an average of 329 total yards and 2.3 touchdowns to quarterbacks. They’ve gone full boom-or-bust with it, as they’ve done that, but the defense also has 7 interceptions in the last four games. There’s so much stacked here in Trevor Lawrence’s favor, so let’s go ahead and start Trevor Lawrence against the Lions.
Derek Carr vs. L.A. Chargers
While I wouldn’t start Derek Carr over Trevor Lawrence, I would start him over a lot of quarterbacks out there. The Chargers are in full-on Chargersing mode right now, dropping two of their last three games, and three of their last five contests. Granted, a lot of this has to do with a myriad of injuries and bad luck, but those are key components of Chargersing. Bad luck is just a part of it. During this five-game downturn, the Chargers have ranked inside the top ten in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks. While spankings at the hands of Patrick Mahomes and Kyler Murray don’t help matters, they also gave up good games to Jimmy Garoppolo and Marcus Mariota.
While Carr isn’t on the same heater as Trevor Lawrence, he’s starting to warm up a bit. He’s been a top-ten quarterback in three-straight games and four of his last five contests. In the one game where he didn’t finish in the top ten, he still had 18 fantasy points and finished inside the top fifteen. This is because Carr and the Raiders have found their way on offense, with Josh Jacobs leading the way and Derek Carr pumping as many passes as humanly possible to Davante Adams. With this gameplan, Carr has at least 248 passing yards and multiple touchdowns in five-straight games. This should continue against the Chargers this week, and Carr should finish as a backend QB1.
Kirk Cousins vs. N.Y. Jets
I intentionally picked Derek Carr and Kirk Cousins with Derek Carr as a start and a bit of advice that you should sit Kirk Cousins. These two are tied at the hip, the conjoined twins of the QB10-QB15 ranks. Except where Derek Carr reaches up to kiss very good games, Kirk Cousins just keeps pitching 92 down the middle and hopes that his opponents let it happen. To wit: Kirk Cousins has either 17 or 23 fantasy points in six of his last seven games. That’s some incredible consistency, but the consistency is getting you somewhere between QB9 and QB15 in most weeks. This week, however, his final stat line will look more like week eleven against Dallas (105 passing yards, 0 touchdowns, 0 picks) than anything else.
The Jets have a very good defense, which is how they were able to win so many games with the supervillain Blunderboy (given name Zach Wilson) under center. The Jets are top-eight in stopping opposing quarterbacks from scoring fantasy points, with only one starting quarterback topping 15 fantasy points against them in their last 9 games. That quarterback was a little guy named Josh Allen, so I am going to say that Kirk Cousins is not on Josh Allen’s level and leave it there.
Cordarrelle Patterson vs. Pittsburgh
The game we are seeing play out right now with the Atlanta Falcons’ backfield is exactly what I feared with Cordarrelle Patterson during the draft season. Last year, the Falcons deloaded Cordarrelle Patterson down the stretch, giving him just 7.8 rushes and 1.8 targets in the last four games of the season. Now, a year older, and a bit more banged up (Patterson missed most or all of five games with an injury), the Falcons are doing the same thing with Patterson. Prior to missing four games (and ignoring his injury game), Patterson averaged 18.6 opportunities per game, and he was the hotness. Since then, however, Patterson is averaging 9.8 carries and 2.3 targets per game, or 12.1 opportunities. He’s dropped back down to a slightly bigger version of what he did in 2021, and it’s exactly what I feared would happen.
That’s why I don’t want anything to do with Cordarrelle Patterson this week, and why you should sit Cordarrelle Patterson. The Steelers are a very good team against opposing running backs, allowing just the tenth-fewest yards per touch to the position this year (4.68) and the eighth-lowest yards per opportunity (4.38). The thing that might save Patterson’s day is a touchdown, as the Steelers’ 3.8% touchdown rate is twelfth in the league, so it doesn’t bode well for Patterson scoring in this one.
Dameon Pierce vs. Cleveland
Dameon Pierce seems to have hit the rookie wall. In his last two games, he has 20 touches for 33 yards. While that’s dreadful for one game, it’s even worse when you consider that it was across two games. He played Washington and Miami, and while Washington boasts a stout run defense, Miami most certainly does not. But, Miami’s run defense has gotten better lately, with David Montgomery (14 carries for 36 yards) and Najee Harris (17 carries for 65 yards) struggling to move the ball against them, as well. You know who didn’t struggle? Nick Chubb. Speaking of Nick Chubb, Dameon Pierce plays the Browns this week.
Start Dameon Pierce. Don’t think about it, become Piercepilled. He plays the Browns this week, and that is exactly the type of thing that is a cure for what ails ya at running back. The Browns are top-five in fantasy points, total yards, yards per carry, yards per touch, fantasy points per touch (#1), and TD rate allowed (#1, at a whopping 5.2) to running backs. They’re bad, folks, and it’s going to be a get-right game for Dameon Pierce.
D’Andre Swift vs. Jacksonville
We all agree that Jamaal Williams has usurped Swift as the RB1 on the Lions. After all, since Swift’s return from his injury, Swift averages 9.2 opportunities per game, and Williams almost doubles him, sitting at 17.2 opportunities per game. Swift finished RB26 or better in three of these five games thanks to his target load, but also because he’s scored three touchdowns in five games since his return. Swift has moved from “must start” to “touchdown or bust” territory. Touchdowns are going to be tough to find in this one, as the Jags allow running backs to score just 2.7% of the time. And the biggest problem with that, from a D’Andre Swift perspective? The Jaguars haven’t allowed a touchdown from greater than three yards out to any running back not named Miles Sanders or Kenneth Gainwell, and that game was two months ago. Those carries inside the five are all Jamaal Williams, as he has scored 10 times on 22 attempts inside the five; those 22 attempts lead the league by 7 carries (Joe Mixon, with 15 carries, is second). D’Andre Swift has 3 carries inside the five this year. Sit D’Andre Swift.
George Pickens at Atlanta
It’s been tough for George Pickens to find consistent fantasy football production this season. This is what happens when you’re a rookie wide receiver paired with Mitchell Trubisky, and then Kenny Pickett, and your running mates on offense either can’t get it together (Diontae Johnson, Najee Harris) or get traded partway through the year (Chase Claypool). Oddly enough, Pat Freiermuth has been the only consistent player around Pickens this year. So, it’s not surprising that the super-talented rookie had trouble finding solid footing. But, this week, he gets the Atlanta Falcons, and that’s the team you want to go up against to try to find footing as a wide receiver. Pickens has at least six targets in seven-of-nine games this year, and wide receivers going up against the Falcons have had a great time if they reached six targets. 23 receivers have at least six targets against the Falcons this season, and their average PPR finish was 16.4 points. Only 7 of these 23 (about 30%) had fewer than 12 PPR points. This is a cheat code to production, so start George Pickens this week.
Curtis Samuel at N.Y. Giants
I think that it’s time that we have a reckoning about Curtis Samuel. Samuel has three-straight games where he’s failed to reach double-digit fantasy points, posting 6, 9.8, and 1.3 PPR points against the Eagles, Texans, and Falcons, respectively. That last one, 1.3 PPR points against the Falcons, is especially damning. This shift in production coincides with the Commanders using him more as a rusher, and less as a pass catcher. He’s turning into a tiny version of his west coast cousin, Deebo. Unfortunately, he’s not Deebo Samuel, and getting 3 rushes and 2 targets per game just don’t work out well for anyone. I’m not saying you can cut Curtis Samuel, just that the Commanders have changed his usage, so you can’t particularly trust him right now. That’s doubly true against the New York Giants, who were lit up by CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup on Thanksgiving… after completely stymying the Cowboys’ offense for the first half of the game. On the year, the Giants give up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, thanks to a great pass rush and secondary. You can sit Curtis Samuel for now.
Zay Jones at Detroit
Let me self-plagiarize from the streamers article this week:
“There’s no better way to put this than this: Zay Jones has 24 targets in his last two games, and he finished with 19 receptions for 213 combined yards. He did this against two iffy defenses, with Kansas City and the Baltimore Ravens as his opponents. The also finished as a top-24 wide receiver both weeks, finishing as WR24 and WR4. Trevor Lawrence should have his way against this questionable Detroit Lions pass defense that allows the fifth-most receptions, the sixth-most receiving yards per game to wide receivers and the seventh-most touchdowns on the year to the position. The Jags should throw all over the Lions this week in a shootout, and Zay Jones will reap a ton of the rewards.”
Start Zay Jones.
Tyler Higbee vs. Seattle
HC Higbee, as we call him around these parts, had a bad game last week. He ran 13 routes last week, per PlayerProfiler.com, and garnered zero targets. That’s because 13 routes is hardly anything, but it was only half of the available routes. The Rams were a complete dumpster fire last week, something that probably isn’t changing anytime soon. But! That doesn’t mean that we can’t start Tyler Higbee this week against the Seahawks. First and foremost: that nonsense, where he was blocking a good amount of the time? It didn’t work, they got shellacked. Second: the Seahawks have one of the worst front sevens in the NFL and one of the best secondaries in the league. So, with John Wolford under center, the game plan is likely 50% dinks and 50% dunks. And who will benefit? Why that would be Tyler Higbee. Higbee is looking at a double-digit target load this week against a Seahawks defense that gives up the second-most fantasy points to tight ends.
Cole Kmet vs. Green Bay
Cole Kmet got us all hot and bothered when he scored 45.4 fantasy points in two weeks back in weeks 9 and 10. Since then, he’s scored 6.5 PPR points and 5.7 PPR points. And, unfortunately, that is more his norm this season than the 20+ points he scored in back-to-back games against Miami and Detroit (two bad defenses). Those two games are the only time this year that Kmet has reached double-digit fantasy points, and they also account for 80% of his touchdowns on the season. This profile won’t work out well for the Bears against Green Bay. The Packers have allowed tight end touchdowns in just one-third of their games this season, and they give up an average of 3 catches for 28 yards to tight ends on the year. You can go ahead and sit Cole Kmet, but remember the good times he gave us versus Miami and Detroit.
Greg Dulcich at Baltimore
Much like Kmet, Dulcich is giving us fond memories of a better time with him. Dulcich finished as a top-twelve tight end in the first three games of his career. He averaged 4 catches for 61 yards in those contests, scoring a touchdown in his first career game. In the three games since then, he has 7 catches for 52 yards… combined. The Denver offense is circling the drain, and they’re doing it in a hurry, mostly because Russell Wilson, when not getting screamed at by career rotational defensive tackles, is thinking back on better times and calling out Seahawks calls at the line of scrimmage. Because of lackluster leadership from Wilson, the Seahawks offense has topped 10 points in just two of their last five games, and that doesn’t scream “upside play” to me. That complete offensive ineptitude will be on full display this week against the Ravens, who have played three games with Roquan Smith in their linebacking corps, and have allowed 6 catches for 70 yards to the position. Sit Greg Dulcich this week.