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Starts

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Jamaal Williams

It’s about that time to start trusting Jamaal Williams. Another week of healthy Aaron Jones didn’t matter to the coaching staff, as Williams played on 52 snaps compared to Jones’ 7 snaps. The Packers backfield has been a super murky situation over the past few weeks. We knew how much the team liked Aaron Jones, and that he won the opportunity over Jamaal Williams while hurt, even when Williams came back. And then while Aaron Jones was hurt, Williams won the opportunity, even when Jones came back. It turns out that the backfield situation wasn’t murky at all, and that the Packers were going to ride Williams even with Jones healthy, and we saw the snap share reflect that. Can it switch upside down now that Aaron Rodgers back? Sure. But because of how well Williams has been playing in both the run and pass game, he’ll be a huge part of the backfield regardless of any changes. I would start him with confidence this week because of the fact that he’s on the field in any situation in a good offense, even in a tough matchup. The Panthers can’t stack the box against Aaron Rodgers, so we have to remember why these Packers RBs were so sought after earlier in the year.

Latavius Murray

Last week’s matchup in Carolina was a tough one, and it was Murray’s first game in 7 weeks in which he didn’t get 15+ carries. He should bounce back this week against the Bengals, who just gave up a huge game to Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen this past week. The Bengals are very banged up on defense right now, so keep an eye out on those injuries. Either way, the Vikings should control the game, so the game script is looking good for Murray to stay involved throughout the entire game. Don’t forget that this is a good offense, and that prior to the previous 2 games, Murray had 5 TDs in 5 games.

Kenyan Drake

Not sure I really need to tell you to start Drake after his performances over the last two weeks, but he’s looked incredible. Even if Damien Williams comes back, you have to think that Drake has won the starting job or at least a larger role, if not a 3-down role, as he’s excelled in rushing, receiving, and blocking. There isn’t really anything he hasn’t been able to do since given the opportunity. He’s going up against a Buffalo defense that has been gashed by running backs since trading away Marcell Dareus. If Williams is out again, he’ll be a must start.

Samaje Perine

How far are the Redskins going to go down their depth chart for their passing down back? I tend to think that Perine will absorb some of that 3rd down; he is capable. It’s not ideal for Jay Gruden, to thrust Perine that true 3-down workhorse role, but that’s probably how they’ll find the most success at this point. In any case, the Redskins should keep this game in reach in case he stays in his early down role. In the 2 previous games where the Redskins were down big in Dallas and in LA, Perine averaged 14.5 carries. The 2 games before that when the Redskins were right in the game, he averaged 23.5. I would think his carry mark should be up around 20, as the Cardinals shouldn’t blow the Redskins out of the water in Washington.

Alex Collins

Even away from home, the Ravens should go ahead or keep this game close enough for Collins not be written out because of game script. Collins has shown his talent, and anytime we get matchups that allow for a positive game script, fire him up. The Browns have done a good job on a per carry basis, but allow a ton of attempts because they can’t make games competitive enough to force the other team to throw the ball.

Mike Davis

Davis’ last two starts weren’t the most ideal against the Eagles and Jaguars, but he actually played well against them. This week, he goes up a Rams defense that rank 25th DVOA against the run, allowing 4.7 yards per carry, which is 2nd worst in the league. Davis was on pace for 20+ carries before he left the game in the 3rd quarter last week. He’s running hard, and I would try to get him in my lineup this week, assuming his rib injury doesn’t hold him out or limit him. He has shown some potential in the pass game as well, so that should raise his floor a bit.

Mohamed Sanu

Sanu continues to be Matt Ryan’s favorite target when they get into the red zone or close to it. This week, he’s going up against Robert McClain, who has not been good. The Bucs are allowing the 2nd most fantasy points to slot WRs over the year, and the 2nd most within the last 4 weeks as well. In their previous matchup a few weeks ago, Sanu caught 8 balls on 9 targets, so he should be pretty dependable and provide a solid floor with upside in this matchup. Sanu even saw 8 targets last week against the Saints, so it’s safe to say Sanu will be pretty involved in the game plan this week.

Devin Funchess

Funchess is a great play this week against the Packers. Not only do the Packers have a sub-par secondary, we can expect some sort of shootout in the second half with Aaron Rodgers back. Funchess only saw 7 targets each of the last 2 weeks, but he still caught a TD in each of them, even with Rhodes projected to shadow him. Rhodes did shadow him 65% of the time, but he didn’t catch the TD in Rhodes’ coverage. The Packers have had trouble defending the perimeter, even with Damarious Randall playing a little better over the past few games. Even so, the Packers are still giving up the 4th most fantasy points over the last 4 games to WRs lining up on the right side of the field, and have been in the middle of the pack on the left side of the field. Funchess runs a combined 77% of his routes on the outside, so he should be able to get enough work to take advantage.

Josh Gordon

With Jimmy Smith on IR, the Ravens have some vulnerabilities in the secondary. Brandon Carr has been giving up a ton of fantasy production to his side of the field over the past 4 weeks. 1st round rookie Marlon Humphrey has been thrusted into a starting role, and did show some flashes against Antonio Brown last week. Either way, Gordon has been running a majority of his routes on Carr’s side, where the Ravens have given up the 6th most fantasy points over the last 4 weeks. We don’t know how much volume Gordon will see, since it’s been up and down over the past two weeks, but even with 6-8 targets this week, Gordon can fully take advantage of his matchup.

Jordy Nelson

It’s hard to remember the times earlier this year when Jordy Nelson was fantasy relevant. He went way off the map once Rodgers was sidelined. Nelson is 32 years old, and just isn’t the same guy anymore. But the rapport between him and Rodgers is still there, and that’s all that matters. In the 4 full games he played with Rodgers this year, he caught 6 TDs – at least 1 TD in each game, and 2 games with 2 TDs. What else do you need to know? If Rodgers is back, Jordy is back to being a must start; that kind of upside can’t be benched. Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Michael Thomas, and Adam Thielen all caught TDs over the last 3 weeks, so I think we can bet on Jordy to find the end zone this week. James Bradberry and Captain Munnerlyn have been terrible, and are contributing to the Panthers allowing the most fantasy points to WRs running routes out of the slot over the past 4 weeks, and are allowing the most fantasy points this year to WRs who line up on the right side of the field. Jordy runs a combined 70% of his routes from those two positions.

Dede Westbrook, Marqise Lee

I’m starting both of these guys against Houston’s defense. The Texans haven’t faced much competition recently, but when they do, it doesn’t look good. Marquise Goodwin, Larry Fitzgerald, Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods, TY Hilton, Tyler Lockett, and Paul Richardson were all able to have big games against this passing defense, and that was only within the past seven weeks. Dede Westbrook has actually been good enough to slowly move to become Blake Bortles’ favorite target; over the last 4 weeks, Westbrook has had a 27% target share (averaging 9 targets over the last 3 games). He’s actually been playing a lot more on the right side of the field, where Marqise Lee was previously running a majority of his routes, and Lee is starting to play more on the left side of the field. This gives Westbrook a shot at Bortles’ first read on most plays. Lee moved to that spot after Allen Robinson got hurt early this year. Lee is still a good start this week against this defense, and Kevin Johnson is giving up a positive amount of fantasy points per route run against him on that left side, even though he only had 6 targets last week. The 10 targets he had against the Colts the week prior gives us confidence that Lee is still a big part of the Jaguars passing attack.

Keenan Allen

This is the Keenan Allen we were looking for at draft time. It didn’t start out great, but he’s back, and he’s producing at an elite level. 4 straight 100 yard games, and the matchup can’t get any better this week. He’s going up against the Chiefs, who are giving up the most fantasy points to WRs, depending on your scoring format. We don’t have to worry about Marcus Peters, since Allen is primarily running routes out of the slot. He’ll see a lot of Steven Nelson, who is being targeted the most by opposing QBs, simply because he’s allowing a ton of production. The Chiefs have been terrible defending the slot this year, giving up the 3rd most fantasy points to slot WRs, both throughout the year as well as in the last 4 games. Let’s ride Keenan to our championship week.

Chris Hogan

I think it’s an understatement to say that Chris Hogan disappointed in Miami this past week, catching one pass for one yard. Miami’s just one of those places where Tom Brady never seemed comfortable, and the Dolphins didn’t allow the Patriots to convert on any 3rd down on Monday night, which is pretty amazing. With Gronk back in the lineup this week, you have to think that the Patriots will bounce back in a potential shootout against the Steelers. While Hogan is by no means a must play, those looking for upside and/or those without many options should know that if this offense gets back to what it is, Hogan will be very viable, since he’s on the field for almost every pass play; he played on 41 of 45 pass plays. We saw how much Brady looked for him in the end zone before he got hurt, and even though he was TD dependent, he was putting up WR1 numbers. Let’s just hope Joe Haden doesn’t return this week, since Coty Sensabaugh has been absolutely terrible, giving up the most fantasy points per route run against him in the league.

Michael Crabtree

Amari Cooper missed practice and is not expected to play after re-aggravated his ankle injury last week. He should have never played last week. Bump up for Crabtree. As bad as that Raiders offense looked last week, I’m still playing Crab who should get a ton of targets and is in a good matchup at home in what should be a close game. He moves around the formation a bit, but runs a majority of his routes on the perimeter. Dallas hasn’t been particularly great defending the pass on either side of the field, so with Cooper out, I don’t see how I can sit Crab this week.

Juju Smith-Schuster

Keep in mind that Juju was added to the injury report on Thursday and was limited with a hamstring injury. Let’s hope the strain isn’t too bad and he gets to play. With Stephon Gillmore and Malcolm Butler manning the outside for the Patriots, Juju Smith-Schuster can be a beneficiary in the slot this week. The Pats have given up the 10th most fantasy points against the slot over the past 4 weeks, and Jarvis Landry took full advantage last week with 2 TDs. They’ve generally been bad against slot WRs, giving up the most fantasy points to them over the entire year. With Martavis Bryant likely locked up with Gillmore, it’s possible Ben hardly even looks his way, as Gillmore is targeted about 25% less than the other WR positions. Juju isn’t a must play, but he’s a WR3 in a plus matchup, in what could be a shootout.

Theo Riddick (PPR)

The offense just performs better when Ameer Abdullah is not on the field. Theo Riddick has had the opportunity over the last two weeks, and has done a great job moving the ball and helping extend drives. He saw 71% of snaps this past week, had 10 targets, and got into the end zone twice. Abdullah is expected back this week, but I’m weary on using him. I expect Riddick to continue playing a majority of snaps, and even though it’s risky, Riddick should see enough PPR volume to warrant a solid floor with upside, as he is being used around the goal line. There is definitely a bit of risk starting Riddick this week, but based on the vibes around Abdullah and that coaching staff, I would assume that he would basically be playing a little more than Tion Green was; the Lions can’t mess around, as they still have a shot to make it to the playoffs.

Desperate Starts

Alfred Morris/Rod Smith

Morris is dependent on game flow, but I wouldn’t be worried about it in Oakland. This game should stay fairly close, as the Cowboys are favored by 3 points. Rod Smith went off last week, but it was late in the game when the Cowboys like to give him some opportunity outside of 3rd downs. Morris’ ceiling is limited because of it, but he still saw 19 carries last week. He didn’t particularly run well against the Giants, but he’s still a low-end RB2 against the Raiders this week. As far as Rod Smith goes, he’s not going to get a ton of carries, but he’s on the field in all passing situations and still gets worked in a bit in the run game. The carries were split this past week 33-29 in favor of Morris, who also led the snap share in Week 13. It was surprising how close that was considering the Cowboys had full control of the game against the Giants; the only thing that can explain that is Morris’ ineffectiveness. Regardless, the touches should be there for both. Oakland’s defense is pretty bad (worst vs pass DVOA, 21st vs rush DVOA), so there should be some goal line opportunities to go around as well.

Marshawn Lynch

Lynch has been getting it done, even if part of that was a fluky TD run last week with the game already over. He only had 7 carries last week with the Chiefs taking control of the game early, which we didn’t necessarily think would happen the way it did. The hope is that he can get back to 15+ carries like he was the previous two weeks. He’s a desperate play simply because game script can be an issue, but this game is in Oakland, and should stay relatively close. Dallas ranks 27th against the run DVOA, so Lynch can make things happen with his opportunity.

Jay Ajayi

I think we’re finally at the point where we can start Jay Ajayi with (a little bit of) confidence. Ajayi looked pretty good with his 16 touches in last week’s game. He led the Eagles in snaps for a second straight week (43), although we would hope this started to happen with Carson Wentz under center. We can paint the narrative of the Eagles focusing more on their run game with Nick Foles, but we have no idea what’s going to happen this week against the Giants. Either way, the Eagles are a way better team than the Giants with or without Wentz, so they should have control of this game throughout. Because of that, the game script should allow Ajayi to get 15+ touches. Behind this offensive line, that should be enough to give you some fantasy production this week.

Jonathan Stewart

Jonathan Stewart had 100 yards and 3 TDs against the Vikings. I’m sure we all saw this one coming. But check this out: Stewart has at least 1 TD in the last 3 games, so that’s 5, and then before the bye he had 110 yards on 17 carries. I think he’s a guy you should think about if you’re desperate at RB. He’s at home the next 2 weeks against Green Bay and Tampa Bay. He’s definitely going to be TD dependent in most games, because it’s these fluky long TD runs that is giving him yardage, but his stat line is usually like 13 for 44, and if you don’t get that TD, you’re hurting. He’s someone who has been playing well, and even though most of us would be hesitant to play him, he is still pretty viable in an offense that tends to put up points.

CJ Anderson

It’s interesting to see CJ Anderson getting the bulk of the work last week. There was a report the week prior that said Devontae Booker had the flu, so he didn’t see much playing time, but does he still have the flu? Because CJ Anderson got 24 touches to Booker’s 11, out-snapped him 41-27. Charles only saw 5 snaps. We can’t necessarily depend on CJ Anderson and this snap share staying the same going forward, but if you’re really desperation for an option this week, he has a chance to get volume on Thursday night against Indy. If Denver’s defense can keep the game close or even help the team play with a lead, Anderson should get enough work to be startable in a good matchup.

Peyton Barber

He hasn’t been named the starter yet, but I can’t imagine Martin being trotted out there again after Barber has clearly outplayed him this year. He was benched twice this year, twice after fumbles, so Barber is the play over him this week. The problem is, we just don’t have the confidence yet that Barber will start. If he starts, I’m moving Barber to the Start section, as I do like him to get a full workload. We’ve seen the Bucs stick with the run throughout the game, even with it being ineffective and even with games starting to get out of hand. For that reason, if Barber starts, he’s a good bet to get 15-20 carries regardless of game script. The matchup is actually pretty good too; Atlanta ranks 30th against the run DVOA. With this game in Tampa, Barber has a chance to show the coaches that he can be their future workhorse. What else do the Bucs have to play for? Dirk Koetter did leave the door open for Barber to start this week.

Corey Coleman

Coleman wasn’t too involved in Josh Gordon’s debut two weeks ago, but caught more passes than Gordon with the same amount of opportunity last week. Both saw 6 targets, but Coleman caught 5 of his 6 targets for 62 yards and a TD. Coleman can probably be able to handle rookie Marlon Humphrey, but I’m sure sure the first round rookie is looking at this as a huge opportunity and bring his A game. Hopefully Coleman can get some work on Brandon Carr’s side of the field, which is the real liability of this Ravens’ secondary. Coleman has superstar potential, but the offense and Gordon’s return is limiting his ceiling.

Robert Woods/Cooper Kupp

We’re tempering our expectations on both of these guys for different reasons. Woods has a great matchup, as the Seahawks have really been struggling on Richard Sherman’s vacated side on the perimeter. Byron Maxwell has given up 0.43 fantasy points per route run and allowing the 2nd most fantasy points to WRs lining up on that side of the field, so if Woods is 100%, he should be able to take full advantage. But that’s my concern; since this is Woods’ first game back, we really don’t know how much of the field he’ll see this week. We are hoping he’ll play close to a full allotment of snaps, but it’s always a risky assumption in a player’s first game back from a multi-week injury. If you don’t have other decent options, I would still roll Woods out there, as he was seeing some solid volume in his last two games. As far as Kupp goes, his opportunity went way up while Woods was out. Now that he’s back, Kupp doesn’t have the same upside, and can disappear. The positive angle shows Kupp having a decent game, with the Seahawks giving up the 5th most fantasy points to slot WRs over the past 4 games.

Alshon Jeffery/Nelson Agholor

Even with Nick Foles starting this week, I’m still willing to roll out Jeffery and Agholor; the Giants defense has been terrible. The Giants are giving up the 3rd and 5th most fantasy points to WRs lining up on the left side and slot, respectively, over the past 4 weeks. Jeffery runs a majority of his routes on that left side, and Agholor runs out of the slot. Foles has been capable starter throughout his career, and can take advantage of a matchup like this. Because of the change at QB though, we really don’t know what to expect, so that’s why these guys are more desperate than good plays.

Temper Expectations

Jordan Howard

Ah, this section feels about right for Jordan Howard. We love his matchup this week against the Lions, who have been horrifically bad against running backs this year, and have now extended their rushing TD (by a RB) giving streak to 9 games. When we all love Howard, that’s when he doesn’t come through. Not his fault at all, though. Coaching, offensive inefficiencies, and game flow are the main culprits in Howard’s production. The Lions need to make the playoffs, and it’s possible they get out to a big lead. If that happens, expect Howard to be on the sideline for most of the time after that. With all that said to temper your expectations, Howard should be able to produce against this team even if he gets around 15 carries like he did a few weeks ago against them at home. Let’s hope for that TD though.

Kareem Hunt

Similar sentiments as Jordan Howard. Both him and Jordan Howard killed it last week, but they were hard to trust. We know what Hunt’s upside is as we saw from Weeks 1-3, but he hasn’t showed that upside since until last week. Good matchup from a rushing defense perspective against the Chargers, but will the Chargers get out a huge lead? Since this game is in Kansas City, there are less chances that it happens. Another concern outside of game flow is Hunt’s usage. Will he be closer to the 28 touch count he saw last week, or the 13 he averaged in 3 of the 4 games before that? He’s tough to bench, so I would only start another back ahead of him who should get 15+ touches and involved in the passing game.

AJ Green

He’s going to see Xavier Rhodes this week. Rhodes has been great outside of the Marvin Jones game in Detroit. The Vikings defense plays a lot better at home, so I’m not expecting much out of AJ Green this week. I’m starting him regardless; AJ Green can overcome any matchup. You just might have to adjust the rest of your lineup for a higher ceiling. If you really don’t want to play Green, you better have an awesome (and safer) alternative. Remember, Funchess caught a TD last week, but Julio did get shut down the week before in Atlanta. Benching Green really depends how risky you get, and if you do bench him, you better be okay with the possibility of him going off.

Dez Bryant

I’m starting Dez Bryant this week, as Oakland is dead last DVOA in defending the pass. The reason why we need to temper expectations is that Dez runs a majority of his routes on Sean Smith’s side of the perimeter, who has actually held it down the entire year. The real vulnerability is in the slot against TJ Carrie and on the right side of the field against David Amerson. Luckily, Dez runs a combined 49% of his routes from the slot and Amerson’s side of the field, so he should be able to get his opportunity to produce.

DeAndre Hopkins

Hopkins is a baller. We need to temper expectations since he gets Jalen Ramsey this week, but there isn’t one WR, maybe outside of Antonio Brown, that I want in tough CB matchups. Hopkins rises to the occasion, and has been getting it done against these tough shadows, including against Patrick Peterson a few weeks ago. Now, he does have TJ Yates under center instead of Tom Savage this week, and we’ve seen him excel in these tough matchups with Savage, but Yates did throw him his 2 TDs last week. Yates has one job: get Hopkins the damn ball. Here’s what I’m really worried about; he didn’t practice on Thursday because of a new toe injury, and wasn’t in the portion of practice open to the media on Friday. It remains to be seen whether Hopkins even suits up this week. If he plays, I’m playing him.

Tyreek Hill

No word on whether Casey Hayward is expected to shadow Tyreek Hill with how much he moves around the formation. Either way, all of their corners have been great this year, each allowing a stingy 0.25 fantasy points per route run or less. They haven’t even given up 100 yards to any WR this season. So basically, wherever Tyreek moves in the formation, he’ll have a tough matchup. He’s still an upside play if you think you are a huge underdog this week.

Marquise Goodwin

Goodwin has been great this year, and has been pretty reliable with Jimmy Garoppolo. I really want to start him this week, but there is a possibility of Adoree Jackson shadowing him. Jackson wasn’t shadowing most of the year, and has mostly played his side of the field, which is why the Titans have actually been pretty good on that side of the field, allowing the 8th least fantasy points to WRs. He’s only allowing 0.26 fantasy points per route run against him, so there’s a possibility Goodwin has issues this week. The volume should be there, however, so he’s still a potential start this week if you don’t have safer options.

Jamison Crowder

Crowder had a tough game against the Chargers last week, but so did the entire offense. That secondary does not mess around. The week before, Crowder would have put up a great stat line if he didn’t fumble and miss some opportunities in the red zone. I’m hoping Crowder can get back to what he was doing prior to all that this week. Patrick Peterson should shadow Josh Doctson, so Crowder can get a ton of opportunity against the Cardinals. Tyrann Mathieu has been better lately, but isn’t as good in coverage as the other guys in that secondary. The reason why he’s in the temper section is because the Cardinals have been doing better against slot WRs lately, and because he’s not a desperate start or a must-start either. I hope that makes sense.

Sits

Joe Mixon

I can’t imagine the Bengals being able to move the ball much against the Vikings in Minnesota this week. If Xavier Rhodes does a good job against AJ Green, and with the Vikings being so stout against the run, I don’t see how Mixon will get much opportunity to do anything. He’ll have opportunity, but it’ll be to do nothing. That made zero sense, but I’m looking for another option this week, assuming he gets cleared from the concussion protocol. Before his explosion against the Browns, his rushing totals haven’t been good, and it’s mostly because of that offensive line. If you don’t have any other options, obviously Mixon will be in play because he gets work in the passing game as well, and that can help boost his fantasy production. I’m not optimistic though.

Lamar Miller

Miller isn’t a must-sit by any means; he’s on the field a ton. However, this is more of a warning in case you have better options. Jacksonville is favored by more than 10 points at home, and the total for this game is 39, so things are looking bleak for Houston’s offense in this game. Miller should see a decent amount of touches, but with TJ Yates behind center, I can see the Texans stalling a ton in this game. DeAndre Hopkins is their only hope, and if they were to score, my money would be on him.

Orleans Darkwa/Wayne Gallman

There seems to be a new snap leader every week in the Giants backfield, so I would stay away, especially in this matchup. If you really need to start someone, it would probably be Gallman after getting 9 targets last week. But good luck.

Sterling Shepard

It’s really tough to have confidence in Sterling Shepard this week after his huge disappointment last week. Patrick Robinson has played very well in the nickel this season, mostly prior to Cooper Kupp getting the best of him last week. With this Giants offense in shambles right now, I can’t put my trust in Shepard in my fantasy playoffs.