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Remember, start your studs!

I got the news about Deshaun Watson midway through this article, and wrote the rest on full tilt. So sad for him and hope that he has a speedy recovery. He was on the verge of greatness, so he deserves a lot of respect today. Even though we’re not starting him this week, I couldn’t put anyone else’s picture up for this week’s article.

Starts

Devin Funchess

Funchess is now the #1 WR in Carolina, and he is going to continue to get a large target share. His share was scheduled to end once Greg Olsen came back from injury, but now Olsen coming back should help Funchess avoid the majority of attention. Funchess doesn’t seem like an ideal #1 WR, but if he’s going to get the targets, we have to start him. If he continues to stay on the right side of the field, he has a good matchup yet again, remembering that he hasn’t produced in good matchups over the past few weeks with volume. Then why are we starting him? Because you can’t sit him when he’s going to get a ton of volume. Volume is the name of the game, not production. As for the good matchup, in the last 4 games, the Falcons have given up the 9th most fantasy points to wide receivers on the right side of the field, where Funchess lines up 48% of the time. He also lines up in the slot on a quarter of his snaps, where the Falcons are very vulnerable, giving up the 6th most fantasy points there.

Demaryius Thomas

This offense is struggling, but the QB change will switch things up a bit, although it doesn’t get much better. We’ve seen Brock Osweiler get the ball to DT somewhat successfully in the past, and he better, because the matchup is great. Thomas lines up on the left side of the field 53% of the time, and Rasul Douglas has given up the 2nd most fantasy points to wide receivers so far this year. I’m much more comfortable starting Thomas in a full PPR league, as he hasn’t found the end zone in a while.

Golden Tate

Even though Tate probably isn’t 100%, he did just fine last week against a really good Pittsburgh secondary. Green Bay has particularly been bad against the slot this year, and it’s a matchup Tate can definitely can take advantage of. Damarious Randall has been playing more slot recently since Davon House came back, and Tate has the upper hand in that matchup.

Doug Baldwin/Tyler Lockett

Doug Baldwin owners couldn’t even enjoy that amazing game last week between the Seahawks and Texans. So much back and forth and Baldwin wasn’t nearly as involved. It felt like a game of monkey in the middle where Baldwin couldn’t get out of the middle and get a hold on the ball. That should change this week, as Washington allows the 4th most fantasy points to slot WRs, and has done particularly bad over the last 4 weeks, allowing the most during that period. Baldwin plays almost exclusively in the slot, about 70% of the time, while Lockett plays in one of the slot positions on 58% of his snaps. Russell Wilson should take advantage as the Redskins are pretty good defensively on the perimeter.

Tyreek Hill

Tyreek Hill has a good shot to beat the Cowboys defense over the top at some point on Sunday in what should be a shootout. Vegas has this as the highest total of the week as a pick ’em. That’s the type of line you want to attack and help you decide between a couple of players. Hill lines up all over the formation, and the Cowboys are very vulnerable to the pass, especially to WRs on the outside where he lines up 62% of the time. Hill has been very boom/bust this season, but I would have him in my lineup with confidence this week.

Joe Mixon

Mixon couldn’t get it done on the ground last week, but saved your fantasy day with his involvement in the passing game. The Jaguars secondary is not one to mess with, so the Bengals need to try and win on the ground yet again. The Jaguars allow 5.2 yards per carry and 138.6 rushing yards per game, both by far the highest in the league, so with some volume, Mixon should be in for a nice day as long as the Bengals stick with the game plan.

Adrian Peterson

As long as the game is close or the Cardinals have it in hand, Peterson should get a ton of volume. The only games where I wouldn’t be comfortable starting Peterson is in games where I think the Cardinals can get into a hole, which shouldn’t be the case this week against the 49ers. The team will lean on Peterson while Stanton is in at QB.

Desperate Starts

Cooper Kupp

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie will likely move to the outside to cover Sammy Watkins, which leaves Ross Cockrell as someone who will likely guard the slot. If that’s the case, Kupp is a bit sneaky in this matchup, where the Giants have struggled to cover the middle of the field if DRC isn’t covering the slot WR man to man.

Brandon Coleman

You’re praying for a TD with Coleman, but he’s got it done in most of his good matchups in the slot. The Bucs have been really bad against the position, giving up the 2nd most fantasy points to slot WRs this year. Him and Brees are BFFs, so Brees should try to take advantage near the red zone.

Ted Ginn Jr.

If Brent Grimes is out, all systems go for Ginn. Grimes was not in practice on Thursday, so it’s not looking good for him to play this week. The Bucs have been getting better on that side of the field, but without Grimes it’ll be tough to keep Ginn in check. The Bucs are okay against the run, so I expect Brees to have to air it out a bit more than he has had to do this season.

TY Hilton

He would normally be in my sit section this week, but with the Colts probably down in this game and coach Pagano talking about getting Hilton the ball more, we have to see him at least get some volume in this game. He’s obviously a boom/bust play, but he’s done well in this matchup over his career. He’ll have a particularly good matchup when he lines up in the slot against Kareem Jackson, which he does about 40% of the time. I’m not sitting him for other desperate starts, but if he does well in this game, try to ship him off for some every-week value. If you started him and he does well, his value goes up because your owner knew you had the confidence in starting him… just a thought! Don’t make that the reason why you start him.

Marquise Goodwin

I like Goodwin this week because of the game script the 49ers will likely be in. I don’t think they will be up early, and I think they will have to continue passing the ball. Goodwin had 8 targets 2 weeks ago and none last week, but Beathard was under pressure all game long and could not get comfortable. This week, if Pierre Garcon plays and Patrick Peterson shadows him, I don’t expect Beathard to test Peterson. That leaves Goodwin available for a large target share and he can definitely take the top off this defense, as they’ve allowed 4th most 40+ yard passing plays this year. The last 4 weeks have been especially rough for the Cardinals on the side that Goodwin plays a majority of his snaps, allowing the 7th most fantasy points to wide receivers in that span. He’s a flier for sure, but I think the targets should be there this week. Update: Pierre Garcon was placed on IR on Thursday with his neck injury, so it’s possible that Goodwin sees a lot of Patrick Peterson. I’m not as confident in him this week.

Jermaine Kearse

No E.J. Gaines will make life a bit easier for Kearse this week. Robby Anderson has been stepping up over the past few weeks, but most of his night will be a bit tougher against Tre’Davious White. White has been beat a bit over the last 4 games, but I expect Kearse to be able to have some production and possibly be someone that Josh McCown looks for in the red zone. He probably won’t get volume, but you’re hoping for a TD from Kearse.

Nelson Agholor

Chris Harris is a great nickel corner, so Agholor has a tough matchup on paper. I would avoid it if I can. However, depending on the Broncos coverage, receives have been able to do work in the slot. The Broncos have given up the 13th most fantasy points to slot receivers over the entire year, but have been getting better over the last 4 games. He’s a dart throw, but a good one, as the Broncos aren’t as good covering the middle of the field at the second level as they are on the perimeter.

Jeremy Maclin

Maclin is back, and someone Joe Flacco has been looking towards when he’s on the field. The Titans have been horrendous against wide receivers this year, but they haven’t been giving up big plays, which is why I’m not feeling Wallace as much this week. Maclin is someone who can find space and Flacco should be able to hit him in spots in the zone coverage. The Titans are 9th overall against slot receivers, but that number would be way higher if they didn’t just play three out of four teams who don’t have a prominent slot WR in Cleveland, Indianapolis, Miami and Houston. And yes, Jarvis Landry had a good day against them. They’re bad. Update: Mike Wallace was added to the injury report on Friday with a back injury, which is never a good sign. If he doesn’t play, Maclin gets a bump.

John Brown

This is a bit of a dart throw, yes. John Brown is just a very talented receiver, and we’ve seen that Drew Stanton is able to send the ball his way in the preseason with some success. I would normally not be talking about Brown with Stanton at QB, but they’re playing the 49ers this week. Brown moves around a bunch, and can beat the 49ers on the perimeter. They just traded away Rashard Robinson to the Jets, which leaves Ahkello Witherspoon on the outside. Who? They were already giving up a ton of fantasy points to that side of the field. Bruce Arians wants the ball in the most talented player’s hands, and Brown is that guy outside of Larry Fitzgerald, who actually has a bit of a tough matchup this week in the slot.. I don’t love him.

Allen Hurns (if Marquise Lee sits)

The Bengals are a tough matchup, but if Lee sits, Hurns can take advantage of his matchup in the slot that isn’t quite as good as the Bengals are on the perimeter. They’ve done a pretty good job all year in the slot, but have been particularly bad over the last 4 games, giving up the 4th most fantasy points to slot WRs. Hurns also has the speed to take the top off of this slower secondary, so his skillset is also a plus. The Bengals D as a whole is pretty good, so I’m not so confident in him, but if Lee is out, he should definitely get volume, which is all I need to have him in my lineup.

Russell Shepard (PPR)

Shepard is a dart throw PPR play because there are targets to go around after Kelvin Benjamin was shipped out of town. He was playing the slot, and I’m assuming he would stay there, while the speedster Curtis Samuel takes one of the outside roles. Shepard is a veteran who can get some volume and produce in a PPR setting for a decent floor.

Kenny Golladay/TJ Jones

Not sure if Golladay will play this week, but I wouldn’t bet on it. If not, TJ Jones is a fine play. Jones had some volume over the last 2 weeks, but keep in mind that the Lions were fighting from behind in both games, so there was extra volume to go around. All three of the receivers had 8+ targets against the Steelers, which is less likely to happen against a Brett Hundley-led Packers offense. The Packers are vulnerable on that side of the field, however, allowing the 8th most fantasy points to wide receivers this season, and 4th most over the last 4 games. If Golladay plays, I’m a lot more confident in playing him since there should be some deep shots and red zone opportunities for him – the Lions need it.

Alfred Morris/Darren McFadden (Update: Zeke is playing this week. Don’t play either of these guys)

Forget everything you’ve heard over the past week about who’s the starter, who’s where on the depth chart, etc. Let’s take a deep breath. We know that Morris is capable between the tackles, and we know that McFadden is as well along with being very adept in the passing game. We also know that Morris will likely start the game and get opportunity. One scenario for this game is that Morris gets the early down work and McFadden gets the passing work, with Rod Smith spelling the two. That’s the narrative I’m leaning towards for this game in particular (assuming Zeke is out for sure), so I’m okay starting both if you don’t have comparable options. McFadden is safer in PPR, and Morris is safer in standard. Rod Smith is a big risk play, with not as much upside with the other two still in the fold. The matchup is good for whoever runs it in between the tackles; the Chiefs give up 4.9 yards per carry, and this will likely be a close game throughout. Take another deep breath.

Temper Expectations

AJ Green

I’m not sitting Green, but his matchup is rough. Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are the best CB duo in the NFL. The Jaguars have allowed the least amount of fantasy points to wide receivers, although both Antonio Brown and Deandre Hopkins both had a decent fantasy day against them. The superstars can do it, which is why you leave Green in your lineup.

Larry Fitzgerald

We already needed to temper expectations once Carson Palmer went down, but Fitzgerald actually has a tough matchup in the slot against the 49ers. They’ve vulnerable on the perimeter, but have allowed the 7th least fantasy points to slot WRs. I’m still starting Larry, but understand that not playing much on the outside combined with Drew Stanton might not lead to a nice outing on Sunday.

Emmanuel Sanders

Sanders is expected to play this week, but Brock Osweiler is taking the field for the Broncos. The offense as a whole will not have as much potential, and Osweiler has favored Demaryius Thomas in the past. The Eagles have done a much better job on the side of the field that Emmanuel Sanders spends a majority of his time on, giving up the 24th most fantasy points to wide receivers in the last 4 games. If Sanders truly had a high ankle sprain, I wish they kept him out a bit longer to truly heal and recover.

Jordy Nelson/Davante Adams

These two were close to being sits for me. There better have been a revelation during the Packers bye week in order for me to get on board with this passing offense under Brett Hundley. One of these two will be shadowed by Darius Slay, and if Hundley is forced to throw in the other direction, it’s easy pickings for a team who has been turning the ball over all year. If you have to start them because of who you think they are, go for it, but I’m looking for other options.

Sterling Shepard

Shepard is going to be great rest of season as the #1 WR on this Giants offense, but he has a tough matchup this week. The Rams have defended the slot pretty well this year, giving up the 8th least fantasy points, and only giving up the 3rd least in their last 4 games. However, Shepard will definitely get some volume, so I’m more than okay starting him in PPR leagues; just have the expectations that he won’t have a monster game.

Sits

Kelvin Benjamin

He’s desperate this week, and I’m leaning more on the side of not starting him against the Jets. He was traded on Tuesday evening, and he has a game on Thursday night that’s not in Buffalo. How many snaps is he even going to play? I rather have another option who are a lock to get a majority of snaps on the field. Even if he gets 50% of the snaps, is that enough to warrant a start for a Bills team that doesn’t throw to WRs? I rather wait to start him the following week, once he’s had almost a week and a half to dive into the playbook.

Mike Wallace

Some might be considering starting him because of the good matchup, but Wallace is a big play guy, and the Titans actually don’t give up huge passing plays. It’s a bit counterintuitive for a passing defense that allows so many fantasy points to receivers, but the Titans have allowed the least amount of 20+ and 40+ passing plays this season. He doesn’t get consistent volume anyway, so he’s not an educated dart throw this week.

Alshon Jeffery

If you’ve been keeping up, I’m not a fan of Alshon Jeffery this year. The volume isn’t there, and he’s only caught more than 4 passes once this year. Doesn’t sound like a #1 WR to me. And now he’s going up against the Broncos? No thanks.

Corey Davis/Rishard Matthews

I’m excited for Davis to be back too, but this is just a tough spot for him this week. Coming off an injury and playing against a Ravens secondary who has allowed the least amount of fantasy points to WRs who line up on his side of the field. Rishard Matthews doesn’t have it much better, as the Ravens have allowed the 8th least fantasy points on his side. The Titans have to find a way to win this game on the ground, and I don’t expect either of these guys to come out of this game with a good fantasy game.

Jamison Crowder

Jamison Crowder hasn’t practiced the past two days (including Thursday), and might not suit up. I would try to find another option either way. There’s no guarantee he would’ve contributed, as last week was his only good week of the year. And yes, Jordan Reed is out so he has a good chance of soaking up more targets, but his matchup is pretty tough. Justin Coleman has played great in the slot for the Seahawks since Jeremy Lane was benched, and now traded. The Seahawks have been covering the slot very well overall this year, only allowing the 5th least fantasy points to slot WRs, and have done even better over the last 4 games. He was a hot pickup off of waivers, but I’m waiting another week.

Will Fuller/Deandre Hopkins

Horrible news about Deshaun Watson. I was in the middle of writing this when the news of his torn ACL came out. I can’t play Fuller or Deshaun Watson this week. Here’s the original write-up I was about to put out about starting Fuller: “You don’t need me to tell you to start Fuller. I had him in my sit section last week. Yup, I did. That’s why he’s here, because I need to somehow feel better about myself. Also, the Colts have allowed the most passing plays over 40 and 20 yards this season. I’m going to stop now…. but he’s going to regress to the mean at some point! Sorry, had to get that out.” So sad. Wish the best for Watson, and hope for a strong recovery.