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Don’t forget, start your studs!

Start

Jay Ajayi

Not that you wouldn’t start him. I wouldn’t bench a guy who’s getting 25 carries a game, but he hasn’t blown up yet so some might have their doubts. The Ravens are giving up 4.4 yards per carry, which ranks 23rd in the league, and they’ve allowed the most yards on the ground per game at 145.3. In a game where it should be close and low scoring, there will be plenty of opportunity for Ajayi to keep getting the rock. He can’t be on benches this week.

Joe Mixon

He was a start here last week, but the coaches decided to not give him the ball in the second half, which is what worked for them in the first half, and then proceeded to lose the game. We shouldn’t have to worry about that negative game script this week, as the Bengals are favored heavily at home against the Colts, whose offense is anemic and defense can’t stop anyone. Their rush D has really fell off in the past few weeks, so I think Mixon is a lock this week. The Colts have allowed 10 touchdowns on the ground so far this year, which is the most in the league. They’re allowing 4.3 yards per carry and 124.7 yards per game, which ranks 26th in the league. I’m staying in it with the talent of Mixon, hoping that he gets the opportunity he rightfully deserves in this backfield in a great matchup.

Ameer Abdullah

Abdullah has had a low ceiling this year, and has been getting the work but is not the focal point of the offense. However, if he gets his average of 15 touches a week, Abdullah can be successful against the Steelers. The Steelers are allowing 4.7 yards per carry this year, which is 27th in the league, and have allowed 6 TDs so far. Abdullah hasn’t got a heavy workload yet, but the Lions are going to have to lean on their running game and avoid this great Steelers’ secondary. I’m not going out of my way to have Abdullah in my lineup this week, but he’s a good option.

Kelvin Benjamin

The Bucs have seemed to move Vernon Hargreaves to his more natural position of nickel corner, so Benjamin should see a lot of Robert McClain this week on the left side of the field. That side of the field has given up the 5th most fantasy points to WRs this year, and I don’t expect much to change with McClain on the outside. That Bucs defense is beat up, their secondary is beatable, and they barely have a pass rush. Benjamin should be healthier this week, and can take advantage in what could be a shootout in Tampa Bay.

Demaryius Thomas

DT had a disappointing Week 7 with Casey Hayward shutting him down combined with the struggles of Trevor Siemian. This week, Thomas goes up against the Chiefs, but has only has lined up on Marcus Peters’ side of the field 38% of the time this year. He spends 50% of his time lining up on Terrance Mitchell’s side of the field, where the Broncos have given up the most fantasy points to wide receivers. We saw what Amari Cooper did to them last week, and DT can exploit them as well. He’ll be in my lineup, and he’s a lock in PPR leagues.

DeAndre Hopkins

You’re starting him anyway, but I wouldn’t hesitate because of the perceived tough matchup. Teams definitely struggle in Seattle, but Hopkins only lines up on Richard Sherman’s side of the field on about a third of his snaps. He spends 57% of his time on Shaq Griffin’s side, where the Seahawks have given up the 8th most fantasy points to wide receivers in the last 4 games. Some might be tempted to sit him, but I wanted to give you a little bit of confidence that he shouldn’t be shut down in this game. It’s a very understandable concern, however, since Sherman his allowed the least amount of fantasy points to wide receivers lining up on his side of the field, which makes me more concerned about Will Fuller. Don’t bench Hopkins this week, or any week for that matter.

Keenan Allen

Again, I’m starting Allen almost every single week, but since he hasn’t blown up yet one might have second doubts. Not this week. The Patriots have allowed the most fantasy points to slot WRs this year, and this is expected to be a shootout. That bodes well for Rivers to have a ton of attempts, with a lot of them going Allen’s way. In PPR, he’s a must-start most weeks, and in standard you might have second doubts, but you shouldn’t have any in this one.

Adam Thielen

Thielen has been getting a ton of opportunity over the past two games, seeing 25 targets. Stefon Diggs is expected to play this week, but still hasn’t had a full practice. If Diggs doesn’t play, Thielen is a top-15 play this week, but if he does, Thielen should still get the volume in a great matchup. The Browns have given up the 8th most fantasy points to wide receivers lining up in the slot and the 6th most in the last 4 games. Thielen has already had 43 catches and 529 yards, which is 4th in the league. That bodes well for Thielen, who is becoming Case Keenum’s dependable go-to target.

Danny Amendola and Chris Hogan

Chris Hogan is still an every week start because of his upside. He lines up all over the place, but spends a majority of his time in the slot – about 50% of his snaps. The Chargers are vulnerable to the slot, giving up the 13th most fantasy points to wide receivers there, while being pretty great defensively on the perimeter. Amendola is also a good play this week even as a part time player, assuming he’s healthy enough to go. When he is on the field, he lines up primarily in the slot. He doesn’t have quite the ceiling Hogan does, but he’s a great option in PPR with upside for a TD this week. With Brandin Cooks assumed to be shadowed by Casey Hayward, I would expect more targets to be distributed to Hogan, Amendola, and Gronk.

Alshon Jeffery

This is a last ditch effort, but this is too good of a matchup to pass up. Jeffery has been very disappointing this year, but to fair, he’s had tough matchups. He’s been one to overcome some of these in the past because he would have some ridiculous target numbers, but that isn’t the case anymore. We thought he could get it done against a Norman-less Redskins D last week, but he didn’t come through. This week should be a lot better for him matched up with Dontae Johnson most of the time. The left side of the field where Jeffery lines up at 49% of the time is a huge vulnerability for the 49ers, giving up the 9th most fantasy points to wide receivers in the last 4 games. The other parts of the field aren’t as vulnerable, so Wentz should look to exploit this matchup. Jeffery needs to get it together, and if he can’t get it done in this matchup, we can’t rely on him as an every week starter like he’s being currently being treated. I’m starting him in this matchup hoping for a bounce back game.

DeSean Jackson

Jackson has actually seen very consistent targets this year, averaging 7 a game and has put up decent weeks most of the time. This week he goes up against a Carolina defense that has been struggling in the secondary lately, especially on the side D-Jax lines up on on most his routes. That right side of the field has allowed the 2nd most fantasy points in the last 4 weeks, and D-Jax should take advantage in what could be a shootout.

Desperate Starts

Josh Doctson

Jay Gruden said he’s going to ride the hot hand between Doctson and Terrelle Pryor. Great, ambiguity is just what we need. If you missed it this past Monday night, Doctson got the start over Pryor, with Pryor standing on the sidelines with his helmet in his hands. Doctson has the upper hand right now, and will get the benefit of the doubt from coaches, so he would be the preferred play between the two. I would prefer not to start either until the situation becomes a bit more predictable as far as opportunity, snap count, targets, etc. However, if you need to plug in a WR, this isn’t the worst matchup to plug Doctson in your lineup. Dallas struggles to cover the perimeter, and has allowed the 6th most and 11th most fantasy points to wide receivers lining up on the left and right sides of the field, respectively. Doctson has scored a few touchdowns this year, so he at least has that going for him. We’re hoping for increased target share, and the opportunity is there for Kirk Cousins to start using his wide receivers, which he hasn’t really done yet so far this season.

 

Pierre Garcon

Unfortunately, he’s moved to this section. He’s a great player, and was great with Hoyer chucking him the ball, especially in PPR. However, he only saw 7 targets last week in an ideal game script for him, being down all game. C.J. Beathard still gave him 7 targets last week in a great matchup; Garcon’s only games prior with less than 10 targets was against Patrick Peterson and Richard Sherman. Ronald Darby might be back this week, but he’s yet to put in a full practice. Without Darby this Eagles defense has been very vulnerable on the perimeter, giving up the 2nd and 8th most fantasy points to wide receivers lining up on the left and right side of the field, respectively. Assuming the Philly pass rush doesn’t take over, Garcon should take advantage of the matchup. I would downgrade Garcon if Darby plays.

LeGarrette Blount

Blount is averaging 14 carries a game outside of one game where he didn’t get any work. But outside of that one game, he’s almost had 14 carries on the dot in every game. The Eagles should be up at home for most of this one, and Blount might go over his 14 carry average this week, as the 49ers have allowed the most carries per game in the NFL. San Francisco has allowed the 2nd most touchdowns in the league and the 4th most rushing yards per game. The reason why Blount is more desperate than an absolute start is because he’s not guaranteed more than 14 carries, he’s not involved in the passing game, and Wendell Smallwood is back and will take some of that work away.

Wendell Smallwood

A lot of what I wrote about Blount above applies, but I think what is really relevant to Smallwood’s skillset is the fact that the 49ers are allowing a ton of receptions to running backs, and once they get the ball, they have allowed yardage as well. San Francisco is 31st DVOA against pass-catching running backs. In case you forgot, Smallwood is playing the Darren Sproles role in his offense, and should get a combined 15 touches or so in both the run and pass game.

Matt Forte

Most of the Jets’ games this year have been relatively close, outside of the game in Oakland. With Atlanta’s offense struggling and the Jets defense playing better than average, I expect this game to be relatively close. Matt Forte has been the lead dog for this backfield, and had 12 touches last week when Powell came back into the rotation. His work in the receiving game has been notable, so I’m really only considering him in PPR. He caught all 5 passes this passes in Week 7, and caught all 8 in Week 6. He could provide a decent floor and be someone you can plug in your lineup this week in case one of your RBs is out on bye. Atlanta’s defense is 30th DVOA against the run and 18th DVOA against pass-catching RBs. Forte’s not a bad start this week.

Theo Riddick

As I mention below in why I’m not starting Marvin Jones or Kenny Golladay, Pittsburgh’s secondary has been shutting WRs down. There is a void in this offense for those short to intermediate pass routes that Golden Tate loves to run, and I think Theo Riddick would be the perfect fill-in for that role. We’ve seen him in that role for a few years now, and he’s one of Stafford’s favorite weapons if the offense chooses to feature him. He’s a desperate start, and a not so obvious one, but in order for the Lions to move the ball, they need to find a vulnerability. They are in the middle of the pack DVOA in defending pass-catching RBs, so I think that’s where the Lions will try to exploit them instead of testing their secondary too much.

Juju Smith-Schuster

Juju had a full practice, so he has a good chance of being cleared from the concussion protocol. With Martavis Bryant inactive for Week 8 with his shenanigans, Juju should see increased opportunity, especially with Antonio Brown shadowed by Darius Slay. The Lions have given up the 4th most fantasy points to wide receivers lining up in the slot in the past 4 weeks, so he can take advantage of this matchup with extra targets. He’s been a favorite of Big Ben when they get closer to the red zone, so he has a chance for a score as well. Not a bad fill-in this week.

Paul Richardson

Richardson is a bit of a flier, but with so many receivers on bye this week, he’s someone you might have to consider. He has been lining up on the left side of the field where the Texans have given up the most fantasy points to wide receivers in the past 4 weeks. Lockett’s side is a bit more stingy, so Wilson could look Richardson’s way a bit more often. We’ve seen Richardson be able to make big plays, and he hasn’t disappointed much in most games.

Cole Beasley

Another flier. The Redskins’ perimeter defenders are tough to pass on, especially if Josh Norman is back. If that’s the case, Beasley will have to take advantage of his matchup in the slot, where the Redskins have given up the 4th most fantasy points this year, but have gotten a bit better in the last 4 games, giving up the 13th most points to wide receivers lining up there. We’ve seen Beasley exploit a matchup before, so Prescott should look his way a big more this week.

Temper Expectations

Dez Bryant

We temper, he scores. I’m starting Dez every week. But he could see Josh Norman if he’s back. Still starting him.

Tyreek Hill

I’m probably starting Hill this week, but he’s not an automatic start. He did destroy the Broncos in Denver last year, but now they know what they’re dealing with. With the Broncos anemic offense, the Chiefs could see more possessions with better field position and Hill can have more opportunity. Hill moves around a bunch, so Alex Smith should be able to catch him once he’s in the slot, where the Broncos haven’t done as well compared to the perimeter. He can win against Bradley Roby as well, so there are chances for him to score. However, just beware that you can be unhappy with his final output in this matchup, as it’s still a tough one.

Brandin Cooks

I don’t think I can sit Cooks because of how dynamic he is, but I’m tempering my expectations this week. Casey Hayward shut Demaryius Thomas down last week in combination with Trevor Siemian’s struggles, but Cooks is in for a tough day against him. The Chargers have been great defensively on the perimeter, allowing the 24th and 27th most fantasy points to WRs on the left and right side, respectively, and Cooks has lined up on the perimeter 82% of the time so far this year. Brady also has a ton of options in the middle of the field with Hogan, Amendola, Gronk, and his RBs, so Brady might not need to test Hayward too much.

Sit

Deshaun Watson

A rookie QB going into Seattle? No thank you. Now, yes, this isn’t just any rookie, but good veteran QBs come out of Seattle not happy with their performances. I’m definitely trying to find a better option this week. The Seahawks haven’t allowed a 20 point performance in standard QB scoring this year, and only Aaron Rodgers and Marcus Mariota have gone over 10 fantasy points against them this year.

Jalen Richard/DeAndre Washington

Richard and Washington are going to split work in Buffalo. When they split the work last year when Latavius Murray was out, neither was valuable because they took work and fantasy relevance away from each other. Washington got most of the share, but Richard had a decent sized role. In this matchup, the Bills are pretty good against the run but aren’t as good in defending pass-catching RBs, ranking 18th DVOA. The Bills don’t allow that many attempts either, allowing only 147 for the year. I would lean Richard in this matchup, but it’s a toss-up and I prefer to not start either one.

Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay

There will likely be some extra target share to go around because of Golden Tate’s injury. He will most likely miss this week, but there is still a small chance that he suits up. If he doesn’t, Marvin Jones will likely get the biggest bump in targets out of these two, but the Steelers’ secondary has been lights out this year. As far as fantasy points allowed to wide receivers, the Steelers give up the 29th, 28th, and 31st in defending left, slot, and right WR positions. So I’m not starting either Jones or Golladay this week. Golladay remains a stash in case he can develop into that big receiver Stafford likes over the rest of the season.

Will Fuller

Fuller will see a ton of Richard Sherman in Seattle. He lines up on Sherman’s side of the field 48% of the time, so he will have a chance to move around the formation, but Sherman has allowed the least amount of fantasy points to WRs lined up on his side of the field. Can Fuller get an opportunity when he moves around, yes. But it’s very hard to catch the Seahawks off guard for a big play in Seattle. Fuller’s production has been ridiculously unsustainable, catching 5 TDs on 7 receptions. He’s averaging only 4 targets since he came back this year. There’s no doubt DeShaun Watson and Fuller have some magic going on, and it’s hard to bet against them, but I’m taking my chances with another decent option and sitting Fuller in this game.