Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes. Anybody can tell you to start the Lamar Jacksons, Tyreek Hills, and Ezekiel Elliotts of the world. That’s not what I’m doing here. I’m looking deeper at legitimate mostly-borderline candidates who managers may truly be contemplating using in lineups.
Start of the Week: Josh Allen at Dolphins — Last week’s QB3 overall after pasting the Jets for 312 yards and two touchdowns as a passer along with 14-57-1 as a runner, Allen gets another beautiful divisional draw against a team he has historically tortured. Allen had his first career 300-yard passing game in Week 1 and now gets a Dolphins team Cam Newton blasted for the QB6 day. Allen is often compared to Newton due to their similar skill sets as big-armed passers and power runners. Newton completed 79% of his throws at 8.16 yards per attempt and hung a 15-75-2 rushing line on the Dolphins. There’s no reason Allen can’t do something similar with an even higher ceiling thanks to superior surrounding talent. The 40.5-point total for Bills-Dolphins is the second-lowest on the board for Week 2, but I like the over on Buffalo’s implied total of 23 points. Allen’s four career starts against the Dolphins, starting with the most recent, have yielded the following stat lines: 256 passing yards and 3 TDs with 7-56-1 rushing, 202-2 with 4-32-0, 224-3 with 9-95-2, and 231-2 with 9-135-0. Not many quarterbacks possess the raw upside of Allen, and he’s been extremely consistent as a high-floor fantasy producer since the start of 2019. Bills OC Brian Daboll has loosened the reins on the third-year quarterback and is playing to his strengths. Allen is a legit top-five fantasy play against Miami.
Dak Prescott vs. Falcons — Last year’s overall QB2 in fantasy, Prescott completely flopped as the QB19 last week against the Rams. He was pressured on 40.5% of his drop-backs, finishing with 266 yards and just one touchdown on a check-down to Ezekiel Elliott. There are offensive line issues in Dallas following the retirement of C Travis Frederick and injuries to RT La’El Collins and fill-in RT Cameron Erving, but we should keep betting on the abundance of offensive talent at the skill positions. Prescott dominated at home last season, and the Falcons just got destroyed by Russell Wilson in Week 1, surrendering the overall QB1 day to the Seahawks quarterback. Wilson was flawless, completing 31-of-35 throws for 322 yards and four touchdowns, adding 29 rushing yards. This game’s 52.5-point total is easily the highest on the board for Week 2, and Dallas’ implied total of 28.5 points is tied with the Ravens for the week’s highest. Prescott managers need to leave Week 1 in the rear view and run him back out there.
Tom Brady vs. Panthers — 43-year-old Brady really struggled in his Bucs debut, but he was able to garbage-time his way to the QB10 finish thanks to a late touchdown toss to Mike Evans. Brady tossed a pick-six earlier in the contest and didn’t look all that comfortable against the Saints. The Panthers, however, present a much easier on-paper matchup after allowing 8.0 yards per attempt to Derek Carr and 34 points to the Raiders in Week 1. Loaded with rookies and veteran scrubs at all levels of the defense, Brady is primed for a breakout game after last week’s embarrassment. Bucs beat writers have called Brady “laser-focused” in practice this week and a “man with one thing on his mind, and everything else is simply in the way.” Angry Tom is back. Tampa Bay’s implied total of 28 points is the third-highest on the board. The Panthers have already lost No. 2 CB Eli Apple to injured reserve, and No. 1 cover man Donte Jackson is playing on an ankle that is less than 100 percent. Mike Evans is said to be “over the hump” with his balky hamstring, but the Bucs may be forced to play without Chris Godwin (concussion), as he hasn’t practiced the last two days. Evans, Scotty Miller, and the tight ends are enough weapons to get the job done. Brady should be a confident QB1 play.
Philip Rivers vs. Vikings — Rivers tossed two horrendous interceptions in the upset loss to the Jaguars last week, finishing as fantasy’s QB22, but he was pretty darn good outside of those Rivers-esque turnovers. In all, Rivers went 36-of-46 for 363 yards (7.9 YPA) and one touchdown, peppering Parris Campbell and his running backs with high-percentage throws. T.Y. Hilton dropped a pair of passes on the final drive, taking blame for the eventual loss, but this Colts Offense is lined up for a major rebound effort in Week 2. The Vikings didn’t have a prayer against Aaron Rodgers last week, getting no heat on the quarterback without stud DE Danielle Hunter, and surrendering the overall QB2 day. Rodgers put on a laser show and did whatever he wanted, as the Packers simply dominated time of possession and ran 76 plays. After completely making over their cornerback group in the offseason, the Vikings used Holton Hill to shadow Davante Adams for chunks of Week 1, a matchup Adams won with ease. Slow-footed rookie Cameron Dantzler is the No. 2 corner and was beat like a drum. He’s also now hurt with a ribs injury. Mike Hughes and first-round rookie Jeff Gladney round out the group. Hilton and Campbell have decided advantages in the speed department. Rivers is worth streaming consideration with the Colts implied to score 25.5 points, ninth-highest of Week 2. The offensive line protected him well in Week 1, allowing no sacks, and should handle this short-staffed front.
Drew Brees at Raiders — Brees averaged a pitiful 5.3 yards per attempt on 30 throws last week against the Bucs, amassing just 160 yards and two touchdowns en route to the overall QB24 finish. The Saints also played at the seventh-slowest offensive pace in Week 1 and will now be without Michael Thomas (ankle) for “several weeks.” Tampa’s defense is much better than Vegas’, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Saints go with a run-heavy approach, riding Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray while relying on their defense. Brees’ top-10 fantasy days are well behind him, and he’s always at risk of being pulled near the goal line in favor of coach’s pet Taysom Hill. Saints-Raiders had a 50.5-point total on Wednesday but was bet down all the way to 48.5 just 24 hours later. Brees is an uninspiring fantasy start and best left for two-QB leagues.
Gardner Minshew at Titans — Minshew was pinpoint in his 19-of-20 dissection of the Colts last week, completing 95% of his throws for 173 yards and three scores. He finished as the overall QB13 for Week 1, but the Jaguars ran the fewest plays (47) in the league and operated at the second-slowest pace. That’s not conducive to weekly fantasy success. The Titans are without top CB Adoree Jackson (I.R.), but they had no problem shutting down Drew Lock in Week 1, holding him to 6.5 YPA and one touchdown as the QB26. The Jaguars just play too slow to offer any excitement for fantasy. Jacksonville’s implied team total of 17.75 points is the week’s fourth-lowest. Minshew is fine for two-QB formats, but he’s a low-floor, low-volume play.
Teddy Bridgewater at Bucs — Bridgewater looked good in his Panthers debut against the Raiders, but 75 of his 269 yards and the lone touchdown pass came on a wide-open, busted-coverage hookup with Robby Anderson. This matchup with the Bucs is much tougher after Tampa Bay shut down Drew Brees, holding him to 5.3 yards per attempt and the Saints as a team to 4.1 yards per play, the lowest mark in the league for Week 1. DC Todd Bowles’ defense has been stellar dating back to the second half of last season. There might be enough here for Bridgewater to hang some numbers in garbage time with the Panthers as eight-point road underdogs, but Carolina’s implied team total of 19.5 points is the week’s eighth-lowest. Coming off the QB15 finish last week, Bridgewater is best-treated as a back-end QB2.
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Start of the Week: Jonathan Taylor vs. Vikings — Marlon Mack got the Week 1 start in Jacksonville, and I firmly believe he would’ve been in for a big game before tearing his Achilles’ in the second quarter. Mack was getting targets in the passing game and picking up chunk yards on the ground. It was surprisingly Hines, though, who was the guy in the red zone for the Colts, seeing two inside-the-10 carries to Taylor’s one. Hines converted his prime looks for a pair of scores, catching one and running in the other. With Mack now out for the season, this backfield is much easier to project moving forward. Think of Taylor as the Melvin Gordon to Hines’ Austin Ekeler in the old L.A. offense with Philip Rivers. Both have real value, but Taylor should be much more stable from a volume standpoint as the early-down back. He has RB1 upside from here on out and showed good hands in the passing game against the Jaguars. The Vikings surrendered the RB12 week to Aaron Jones in Week 1 and couldn’t get off the field on defense, as the Packers ran 76 plays. Indy’s team total of 25.5 is the week’s ninth-highest.
Ronald Jones vs. Panthers — Jones played 47% of the snaps and handled 20 combined carries and targets against the Saints, totaling 82 scoreless yards in a tough matchup. Jones was the early-down guy and LeSean McCoy the pass-game back for his blocking ability. Leonard Fournette did nothing with his handful of looks and continues to show why the Jaguars gave up on him. Fournette should get more chances as he gets more comfortable in Tampa, but Jones out-carried him 2-0 inside the 10-yard line against the Saints and continues to be praised as the lead back by coach Bruce Arians. Jones is the one to play Week 2 against the lowly Panthers after Carolina was thrashed for 139 total yards and three touchdowns by Josh Jacobs in Week 1. Jones doesn’t have that kind of upside, but he should be comfortably plugged in as an RB2. Tampa Bay’s implied team total of 28 points is the week’s third-highest, and the Bucs are heavy 8.5-point home favorites. Jones has a shot at 20-plus carries in this one.
Devin Singletary at Dolphins — Singletary got the start against the Jets in Week 1, as expected, but lost out to rookie Zack Moss in the area of the field that matters most. Moss out-carried Singletary 4-0 inside the 10-yard line, and Moss caught a four-yard touchdown on a broken play. Moss was unable to pound in any of his goal-line carries, but he definitely has the edge there. Touchdowns were Singletary’s downfall as a rookie, as well, and with Moss and Josh Allen better bets for touchdowns, Singletary is an extremely volatile RB2. The Bills did well to get him looks in the passing game, however, targeting Singletary seven times, which is a different way to raise his floor. Both Singletary and Moss are FLEX plays for Week 2 against a Miami defense that surrendered a league-worst 217 rushing yards in Week 1 to the Patriots. Buffalo goes to Miami as significant 5.5-point favorites. Both Singletary and Moss could see 12-plus touches.
Latavius Murray at Raiders — Murray out-carried Alvin Kamara 15-12 and 4-3 inside the 10-yard line in last week’s easy win over the Bucs. With Michael Thomas (ankle) expected to miss several weeks, the Saints could become even more run dominant, giving Murray standalone FLEX value while Kamara remains a top-five back. The Raiders allowed a couple touchdowns on the ground to Christian McCaffrey in the opener. That’s not to suggest this is a bad defense against the run since McCaffrey lights everyone up, but I really get the sense coach Sean Payton is going to try and lean on this backfield tandem to carry the offense while Thomas is out. The Saints are 5.5-point road favorites with an implied team total of 27 on Monday night.
James Robinson at Titans — The Jaguars ran the fewest plays (47) in Week 1, playing slow, methodical, efficient offense. Robinson got off to a hot start, turning his first 10 carries into 61 yards, but the final six totaled just one yard. He’s going to need the game script to be in his favor this season as a non-factor in the passing game, making Robinson a highly volatile RB2/3. Third-down back Chris Thompson saw just two targets on 20 Gardner Minshew pass attempts. He’s a low-floor, minimal-upside RB3 in PPR who should do better in games where the Jaguars are chasing points, and this projects as one of those games if we’re to believe the sportsbooks. The Titans are heavy 8.5-point home favorites. Robinson could quickly be phased out of the game plan. And considering Jacksonville’s slow pace coupled with Tennessee’s above-average run defense, I’m actively looking for other running backs where I have Robinson in fantasy.
Myles Gaskin vs. Bills — The Dolphins appeared to come out of the gates in a full-blown four-way committee against the Patriots, giving all four of Gaskin, Jordan Howard, Matt Breida, and Patrick Laird touches in the first half. Gaskin easily looked like the most talented of this group, and his increased snaps as the game went on proved that. Howard is still going to be a thorn in the side as the goal-line back, but Gaskin already looks better than Breida. Howard will be phased out of the offensive game plan anytime the Dolphins are chasing points on the scoreboard, making Gaskin the preferred back to own in Miami at the moment after he was in on 63% of the snaps in New England. The Bills present a similarly-tough matchup for running backs after stuffing the Jets on a regular basis in Week 1. Buffalo allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points to running backs in 2019. Miami’s implied total of 17.5 points is the second-lowest of Week 2. Gaskin needs to be owned in 12-team leagues, but he’s a low-floor RB4 Sunday.
Cam Akers at Eagles — Everyone expected veteran Malcolm Brown to get the start for the Rams, but nobody saw him handling as much of the Week 1 workload as he did against Dallas. A pedestrian talent, Brown ended up leading this committee with 22 combined carries and targets and converted his scoring opportunities for one- and two-yard touchdowns. Akers struggled, but his 15 touches were promising. Darrell Henderson was playing on a bum hamstring and looks to be a distant No. 3 in L.A. Ultimately, the Rams would like Akers to pull ahead of Brown, but the veteran is a steady hand who knows his role and gets the job done. Akers needs to be stashed in all formats, but Brown earned another week as the No. 1.
Start of the Week: Diontae Johnson vs. Broncos — A summer hype piece, Johnson played 86% of the Week 1 snaps and saw a team-high 10 targets, commanding over 31% of the market share while also pacing the team in air yards. That didn’t translate to a strong stat line, as Johnson posted a forgettable 6-57-0 line, but he was able to rebound from a drop-filled first half against the Giants to catch five balls for 55 yards in the second 30 minutes. Johnson now gets a date with a Broncos Defense that lost Chris Harris in the offseason and then saw new No. 1 CB A.J. Bouye separate his shoulder in the opener and land on I.R. Denver allowed Corey Davis to hang a 7-101 line on its secondary this past Monday night. Johnson is an upside WR3 play in all formats with the Steelers as 7.5-point home favorites and Ben Roethlisberger looking as healthy as ever off elbow surgery. Johnson is someone I’d be looking to buy in fantasy.
T.Y. Hilton vs. Vikings — Hilton was targeted a team-high nine times in the Week 1 loss to the Jaguars and predictably led the Colts in air yards. Similar to Diontae Johnson above, Hilton had a forgettable, drop-filled afternoon and finished with 4-57-0. Hilton took the blame for the Colts’ loss after dropping two passes on the final drive. Hilton should be motivated for a rebound effort and has notoriously dominated in home games. The Vikings’ new-look cornerback group was eviscerated by Aaron Rodgers in Week 1, giving up endless amounts of catches to Davante Adams and several big plays to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. MVS converted a 45-yard touchdown, roasting slow-poke CB Cameron Dantzler, but the wideout also later dropped what would have been a 61-yard score. Hilton has similar speed to burn as MVS and should be able to get loose behind this secondary on a couple shot-play attempts. The Colts’ implied team total of 25.5 points is the ninth-highest on the board. Hilton should be stapled into fantasy lineups.
Mike Williams vs. Chiefs — You’ll notice a theme here at wideout. We’re targeting players who had a strong target share and dominated air yards for their respective teams in Week 1. Playing through pain in his shoulder, Williams paced the Bolts with nine targets and was targeted on a number of downfield throws. Williams came down with a 37-yard sideline shot but finished with just 4-69-0 against the Bengals. Tyrod Taylor hasn’t been good in years, so there will be disappointing weeks for Williams. But he remains a high-ceiling player in the right spots. With the Chiefs still missing Bashaud Breeland on suspension and CB Charvarius Ward suffering a broken hand in the opener, there should be opportunities on the outside for Williams. Chiefs-Chargers sports a strong 48-point total, and the Chargers very likely will be playing from behind as 8.5-point underdogs. Williams is an upside WR3 after Will Fuller cashed in a garbage time-aided 100-yard game last week in Kansas City.
John Brown at Dolphins — Like the others listed above, Brown paced the Bills in both targets and air yards, turning his 10 looks into 6-70-1 against the Jets, scoring his touchdown on a 17-yard quick pass and utilizing his top-end speed to blow by the secondary. Byron Jones and Xavien Howard are one of the most talented cornerback duos in football, but the Dolphins’ utter lack of pass rush can put them in vulnerable spots, having to hold coverage for so long. Brown absolutely decked the Dolphins in two 2019 matchups, turning in receiving lines of 5-83-1 and 9-137-2. He and Stefon Diggs have such a commanding grasp on Josh Allen’s target share while guys like Cole Beasley, Dawson Knox, and rookie Gabriel Davis fight for leftovers. I like both Brown and Diggs as strong WR2 plays with upside in a game where Allen could absolutely pop off. I fully expect the Bills to go into Miami and smash the Dolphins.
Robby Anderson at Bucs — Last week’s overall WR5 on the heels of a 75-yard touchdown on a busted coverage by Raiders first-round CB Damon Arnette, I want to see Anderson repeat his big game before buying into him for fantasy. His eight targets provided hope of sustainability, but this matchup with the Bucs looks a lot tougher on paper after Tampa Bay shut down Drew Brees and Michael Thomas last Sunday. Anderson is always a candidate to shake loose for a long score, but I’m treating him as a boom-or-bust WR4. Carolina’s implied team total of 19.5 points is the week’s eighth-lowest. The Bucs allowed just eight catches to Saints wideouts last week.
Allen Lazard vs. Lions — Lazard was a distant fourth on the Packers with four targets last week but made the most of them by catching all four for 63 yards and a touchdown, adding a 19-yard carry. Lazard posted the overall WR13 week, but there’s just no way I can get behind chasing his 9% target share. Aaron Rodgers is going to feed Davante Adams all he can handle, and both Aaron Jones and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are ahead of Lazard in the pecking order. The Lions don’t present an overly tough matchup, but Lazard is too dependent on scoring a TD.
Sterling Shepard at Bears — Shepard was third on the Giants with six targets last Monday night against the Steelers, but that was without Golden Tate (hamstring) in the lineup. Tate is expected back this Sunday against Chicago, which will likely push Shepard to the outside where he’s far less effective. Shepard also doesn’t threaten defenses deep. He needs volume, and with everyone healthy in a game with a mediocre 42.5-point total, I’m off Shepard this week.
Start of the Week: Jared Cook at Raiders — Cook led the Saints in catches, yards, and air yards last week against the Bucs and figures to be the featured weapon in the pass game while Michael Thomas (ankle) is out. Emmanuel Sanders and Tre’Quan Smith are low-volume options. Expect Cook and Alvin Kamara to be the offensive centerpieces for the immediate future. The Raiders handled Ian Thomas last week, but Cook is a far more accomplished player and much higher on his offense’s target totem pole. Cook should be locked into season-long lineups and will be a popular daily fantasy option on small slates.
Hayden Hurst at Cowboys — Jamal Adams eliminated Hurst in last week’s Falcons loss. Hurst turned five targets into just three catches for 38 scoreless yards. His five looks were a distant fourth on the team behind all three of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and Russell Gage, who all saw 12 each. I’m willing to chalk up the bad game to Adams’ coverage down the seams. A feather in Hurst’s cap is the fact he played 78% of the snaps and ran a route on 81% of Matt Ryan’s drop-backs. Dallas released Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at final cuts and lost stud LB Leighton Vander Esch to a broken collarbone last Sunday night. Hurst should find far more space to operate, and there’s a good chance he overtakes Gage as the No. 3 pass-game option. Falcons-Cowboys is a game to target and stack with its mouth-watering 52.5-point total.
Logan Thomas at Cardinals — Converted college QB Thomas is being dubbed this year’s version of Darren Waller as a late-career breakout star. Thomas is in his seventh NFL season as a 29-year-old, but he’s finally getting a chance to show off his athleticism as a top pass-catching tight end on his team. Thomas led Washington in targets while playing 74% of the offensive snaps and caught Dwayne Haskins’ lone touchdown pass in the comeback win. The Cardinals were smashed by tight ends last year, giving up the most yards, touchdowns, and fantasy points to the position. George Kittle got hurt last week or likely would’ve had his way with this unit. Washington comes into this one as seven-point road underdogs, suggesting Haskins will be chasing points and throwing the ball quite a bit more than he did Week 1. Thomas should be owned in all formats and fired up as a TE1 in this spot.
Jonnu Smith vs. Jaguars — A.J. Brown (knee) is expected to miss this one, leaving Smith and Corey Davis as, by far, the Titans’ top two pass-game weapons. Smith scored a one-yard touchdown last week against the Broncos and was third on the team with seven targets while playing 73% of the snaps. He and Ryan Tannehill worked out together in the offseason and built a strong rapport after flashing chemistry in 2019. Smith is one of the best after-the-catch YAC specialists at the position. Tannehill is unlikely to come close to the 43 pass attempts he fired off in Week 1, but with the subtraction of Brown, it raises the target projection for Smith.
While tight end is deeper than it’s been in recent years, it’s hard for me to argue against anyone at the position. It’s a crapshoot, and all we’re looking for are tight ends who can find the end zone and/or see volume in terms of targets. Predicting touchdowns is the hardest thing to do in football. Just finding a tight end who is on the field enough and runs plenty of routes is difficult enough. It’s why having Travis Kelce, George Kittle, or Mark Andrews is such an advantage.