Week 15 Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em

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Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes.

QUARTERBACK

Start of the Week: Tua Tagovailoa vs. Jets – Coming out of the bye week, Tagovailoa had been playing some of the most efficient football of his career in the three weeks prior to the open date. Across Weeks 11-13, Tagovailoa completed 84-of-105 pass attempts (80%) for 249 yards per game and a 5:1 TD:INT mark. The fantasy results were just the QB19 in points per game in that span, but efficiency like that leads to success against far inferior opponents like the Jets. Any way you look at it, this is a plus-plus spot for Tagovailoa and the Miami offense as a whole. The Jets are dead last in total defense DVOA, dead last against the pass, dead last in opponent completion percentage, dead last in opponent yards per attempt, dead last in opponent QB rating, 27th in passing yards allowed, and 20th in fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks. Taysom Hill, of all people, even completed 15-of-21 throws (71.4%) against this defense last week, averaging over 8.3 yards per attempt. The Dolphins throw the ball at the league’s seventh-highest rate, and with the state of Miami’s COVID-infected backfield that now has four RBs on the reserve list, it could translate to even more being put on Tagovailoa’s plate. The Jets are 26th in opponent plays per game. This looks like a volume spot for the Dolphins quarterback, and Miami’s implied team total of 25.25 points is eighth-highest of Week 15. When these teams clashed in Week 11, Tua went 27-of-33 passing (81.82%) for 273 yards and two touchdowns as the week’s overall QB12. He’s very much on the streaming map this Sunday.

Starts

Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Falcons – Garoppolo’s play has silenced Trey Lance truthers, and we haven’t seen the No. 3 overall pick play a single snap in six of the Niners’ last seven games, only coming in for five snaps in Week 11 mop-up duty against the Jaguars when San Francisco won by 20 points. Since Week 9, Garoppolo has multiple touchdown passes in 5-of-6 outings and a combined 11:4 TD:INT mark in that span. He’s completed at least 65% of his throws in every start since Week 9 after failing to do so in the four starts prior to that. Garoppolo’s pass-game arsenal is as healthy as it’s been all year with Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle all playing the best football of their careers right now. The Niners now draw an Atlanta defense that is 30th in total defense DVOA, 29th against the pass, 28th in opponent completion rate, 31st in passing touchdowns allowed, 25th in interceptions, 27th in opponent passer rating, dead last in adjusted sack rate, and 31st in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Atlanta is also 24th in opponent plays per game. San Francisco’s implied team total of 27.75 points is tied for the fourth-highest of Week 15. Garoppolo has streamer appeal.

Kirk Cousins at Bears – Fantasy’s QB10 on the season, Cousins has been a solid producer, even if the ceiling games haven’t exactly been there. He’s coming off a season-low 45.16% completion rate on 31 throws last week against the Steelers, but Cousins did throw multiple touchdowns for the sixth straight week and 10th time in 13 tries this season. He was still the overall QB17 in Week 14. Cousins has dramatically reduced his turnovers this year, tossing just five picks to date and leading the league with a 1% interception rate. He gets a date with a Bears defense Monday night that is 24th in total defense DVOA, 23rd against the pass, 27th in opponent completion rate, 28th in opponent yards per attempt, 29th in passing touchdowns allowed, 31st in interceptions, 31st in opponent QB rating, and 27th in fantasy points yielded to quarterbacks. Chicago also recently lost edge rusher Khalil Mack to season-ending I.R. and just placed ball-hawking FS Eddie Jackson on the COVID list Thursday. All three coordinators for the Bears are also in COVID protocol. Undermanned is an understatement. The Bears are just playing out the string on their season. Minnesota is implied to score a respectable 24.25 points.

Justin Fields vs. Vikings – On the opposite side of Kirk Cousins will be Fields, who returned to the starting lineup last week against the Packers and had his first multi-touchdown passing game of the season with 224 yards and a pair of scores through the air to go with a 9-74 rushing line en route to the week’s QB10 finish. Fields had the Bears in the game through halftime before the wheels ultimately fell off with a 45-30 loss. Minnesota’s defense is 26th in opponent completion rate, 25th in passing yards allowed, 29th in passing touchdowns allowed, 29th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, and 24th in opponent plays per game. The Vikings have allowed the ninth-most rushing yards to quarterbacks, and Fields’ dual-threat ability has been on display over his last six starts, averaging 7.5 rushing attempts for 54.3 yards on the ground per game in that span. That’s a nice floor to fall back on for fantasy, even if things go somewhat sideways as a passer for Fields. He’ll likely be without Allen Robinson after Robinson was placed on the COVID list Thursday, but Robinson really hasn’t been a factor all season. The Bears are implied to score just 19.75 points in a game with a 44-point total, but there’s enough here to put Fields in the top-16 this week with a shot at top-12 fantasy numbers.

Sits

Cam Newton at Bills – Seven minutes into the game last week against the Falcons, Newton marched the Panthers down the field and bulldozed his way into the end zone for a 12-yard rushing score. We all thought Cam was back, baby. But he did nothing the rest of the day, failing to throw a touchdown for the second straight week while again getting pulled in favor of P.J. Walker. Newton’s rushing upside is there, but he’s just so bad as a passer and is now sharing time under center with coach Matt Rhule trying everything under the sun. Carolina has lost eight of its last 10 games and completely fallen out of the playoff picture following a 3-0 start. Newton simply can’t be used in fantasy lineups facing a Buffalo defense that is No. 1 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, surrendering the fourth-fewest rushing yards to the position, No. 2 in pass-defense DVOA, third in opponent completion rate, first in opponent yards per attempt, second in passing yards allowed, first in passing touchdowns allowed, third in interceptions, first in opponent QB rating, and fourth in opponent plays per game. Newton is a desperation QB2/3 splitting time with Walker and with the Panthers implied to score a measly 16.75 points.

Joe Burrow at Broncos – Playing through a dislocated pinky last week, Burrow used fourth-quarter comeback mode to post the overall QB8 fantasy week thanks to a pair of touchdowns to Ja’Marr Chase in the final 15 minutes of regulation to send the game to overtime after the Bengals mustered all of six points in the first three frames. Burrow’s 348 yards were his second-most of the season, and it was his first multi-touchdown passing game since Week 8. Burrow still leads the league with 14 interceptions and now goes to Mile High to face a Broncos defense that is first in opponent completion rate, 10th in passing yards allowed, fourth in passing touchdowns allowed, fourth in opponent passer rating, and fourth in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks while checking in at second in opponent plays per game. Denver is 7-6 and fighting for a playoff spot while relying on its defense and running game to control the time of possession and limit volume from the opponent. This doesn’t look like a ceiling spot for Burrow, especially with Chase and Tee Higgins seeing Defensive Rookie of the Year longshot Patrick Surtain and veteran Ronald Darby at the outside cornerback spots.

Russell Wilson at Rams – After throwing a career-high 40 touchdowns last season, Wilson’s touchdown rate has sunk to 5.6%, well below last year’s 7.2% rate and below his career average of 6.1%, and it’s translated to Wilson being the QB13 in fantasy points per game on the year. He’s also not running the ball at all, with just 14.1 rushing yards per game and one touchdown on the ground all season. Wilson’s 51.5 QBR would be a new career low. He’s coming off back-to-back strong games against the 49ers and Texans as fantasy’s QB11 over the last two weeks, but now gets a Rams defense that is No. 7 in pass-defense DVOA, second in passing touchdowns allowed, sixth in interceptions, fifth in opponent QB rating, fourth in sacks, and seventh in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. And L.A. just shut down Kyler Murray last week, holding him touchdown-less while baiting him into two interceptions. That was without Jalen Ramsey, who missed Monday night’s game on the COVID list. It’s unclear if he’ll be available for Week 14, but the Seahawks placed No. 1 wideout Tyler Lockett on the COVID list Thursday. Without Lockett, it’s hard to get behind Wilson as a fantasy starter. That would put pedestrian scrub-type receivers Freddie Swain and Penny Hart in three-wide sets behind DK Metcalf with rookie D’Wayne Eskridge missing practice this week with a knee issue. Seattle is implied to score just 20.5 points. Wilson is probably best left for two-quarterback leagues.

RUNNING BACK

Start of the Week: James Robinson vs. Texans – Robinson figures to be one of the biggest winners following the firing of coach Urban Meyer, who had an infatuation with Carlos Hyde thanks to their history together at Ohio State. Hyde is out this week with a concussion, and interim coach/OC Darrell Bevell has already stated Robinson is the Jaguars’ starting running back and will be treated as such. Robinson fumbled in Weeks 12 and 13 and was immediately punished by Meyer and benched for Hyde. Last week, Robinson carried the ball just six times for four yards against the Titans. This week’s date with the Texans is much easier, especially if Robinson is going to be dominating the backfield carries with Hyde out. Houston is a pure run-funnel defense, checking in at 28th in run-defense DVOA compared to No. 8 against the pass. The Texans are last in rushing yards allowed, 28th in opponent yards per carry, 31st in rushing touchdowns allowed, and 28th in fantasy points surrendered to running backs. Only seven defenses are allowing more opponent plays per game. Robinson is a solid RB2 play.

Starts

D’Onta Foreman at Steelers – Over the last two weeks, Foreman has handled 19 and 13 carries for the run-heavy Titans. Foreman scored his first touchdown of the season last week against the lowly Jaguars. With all three of Foreman, Jeremy McNichols, and Dontrell Hilliard healthy, the Titans are running a three-way RBBC with Foreman as the early-down grinder and McNichols and Hilliard handling most of the pass-game reps. Foreman (32%) played the fewest snaps of the three last week, but essentially all three backs played a third of the reps, with McNichols leading the way at 38% and Hilliard second at 34% of the snaps. Foreman is the preferred play when looking for touchdowns from this trio. And the Steelers present a favorable on-paper draw, checking in at 30th in run-defense DVOA, 30th in rushing yards allowed, last in opponent yards per carry, 25th in rushing touchdowns allowed, and 26th in fantasy points yielded to running backs. Foreman can be teed up as a fine RB2/FLEX option Sunday.

Miles Sanders vs. Washington – With the postponement of Washington-Philadelphia until Tuesday, Sanders gets an extra couple days to rest his balky ankle that has cost him some practice reps after the Eagles’ Week 14 bye. Sanders still doesn’t have a touchdown this season but is averaging a robust 5.2 yards per carry on the year and is coming off a 24-120 evisceration of the Jets two weeks back. If Sanders gets better touchdown luck the rest of the way, he could be a true league-winner in the Eagles’ run-heavy offense. Washington has been pretty strong against the run this year, checking in at No. 7 in run-defense DVOA, fifth in rushing yards allowed, and fourth in fantasy points allowed to running backs, but Sanders’ workload is safe, averaging 18 combined carries and targets per game since returning from I.R. in Week 11. He’s also been hyper-efficient despite failing multiple times in the red zone. His 15 red-zone carries have produced 10 empty yards. Sanders is due for major positive regression in the touchdown department. He should be fired up as a confident RB2 with major upside.

Chase Edmonds at Lions – Edmonds hasn’t played since Week 9 due to a high-ankle sprain, but the Cardinals are fully expected to activate him from I.R. ahead of Sunday’s cakewalk against the Lions. With James Conner (ankle) now battling an injury of his own after going down late last Monday night against the Rams, Edmonds could step right back into a prominent role. The Lions are 29th in run-defense DVOA, 28th in rushing yards allowed, 27th in rushing touchdowns allowed, and 31st in fantasy points given up to running backs. More of a pass-game specialist, the Lions are last in receiving touchdowns allowed to Edmonds’ position. At the very least, we should expect Edmonds to eat pretty heavily into the pass-game work when he returns. Edmonds was averaging 9.5 carries and 4.6 targets per game before getting hurt. With the Cardinals as 12-point favorites, look for Edmonds and Conner to both get volume.

Sits

Antonio Gibson at EaglesWashington was never in the game last week against the Cowboys with four turnovers. Gibson’s snap share (68%) remained strong, but the touches weren’t there with the Football Team chasing points. Gibson averaged 23.75 carries per game across Weeks 10-13 before seeing just 10 last week with Washington in comeback mode. Gibson remains a strong RB2 based on his domination of early-down rushing work, but Washington is dealing with some serious COVID issues and is now down to its fourth-strong center against Eagles interior disruptors Javon Hargrave and Fletcher Cox. Philly is a middling 15th in run-defense DVOA, 12th in rushing yards allowed, and sixth in opponent yards per carry. Washington has to be playing with a lead for Gibson to see heavy usage, but the Eagles are favored by 9.5 points. J.D. McKissic (concussion) is also expected back to handle his normal pass-game role. Gibson is tough to take out of fantasy lineups, but there’s considerable risk.

Chuba Hubbard at Bills – Cam Newton led the Panthers in rushing with a 10-47-1 line in Week 14 against the Falcons. Hubbard’s 10 carries produced 33 yards and a score, but he wasn’t targeted in the pass game and is as touchdown-dependent as any running back in fantasy with a brutal schedule the rest of the way. The Bills are eighth in run-defense DVOA, 13th in rushing yards allowed, 12th in opponent yards per carry, and 15th in fantasy points allowed to running backs. Ameer Abdullah is the Panthers’ pass-game specialist, and the Panthers are fully expected to chase points all afternoon as 11-point road underdogs. Hubbard is a low-floor RB3.

Craig Reynolds vs. Cardinals – D’Andre Swift (shoulder) and Jamaal Williams (COVID) both missed Week 14 and are again out this Sunday against the Cardinals. Literally out of nowhere, Reynolds got the start for the Lions and ended up totaling 99 yards on 13 touches as the week’s RB20 against the Broncos. Godwin Igwebuike played 44% of the snaps behind Reynolds’ 46% rate, but rookie Jermar Jefferson could get a little more run this time around after playing just three snaps last week. Coach Dan Campbell cited Jefferson’s missed practice reps in recent weeks for his lack of playing time. Jefferson wasn’t on the injury report this week. The Cardinals are 10th in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 12th in run-defense DVOA. With the Lions installed as heavy 12-point underdogs, it doesn’t look like a run-favorable script for Reynolds, and Igwebuike is the Lions’ preferred pass-game back.

WIDE RECEIVER

Start of the Week: Van Jefferson vs. SeahawksOdell Beckham is currently on the Rams’ COVID list. To this point, Jefferson has avoided the outbreak in Los Angeles, putting him in position to be an every-snap wideout Tuesday against the Seahawks. Jefferson has scored in three straight games and is averaging a robust 16.6 yards per catch. If OBJ does indeed miss this one, Jefferson’s floor should be set around seven targets. Seattle is 27th in pass-defense DVOA, 22nd in catches allowed to wide receivers, 14th in receiving yards allowed to the position, and dead last in opponent plays per game. Jefferson has at least 50 yards and/or one touchdown in six of the Rams’ last seven games, settling in as a big-play WR3/4. His floor will be higher if Beckham is out in one of the easiest on-paper matchups for the Rams.

Starts

DeVante Parker vs. Jets – Parker returned from injury last week and played 71% of the Dolphins’ snaps, catching all five of his targets for 62 yards. Now Jaylen Waddle is out on the COVID list, elevating Parker to WR1 status for Miami this week against the lowly Jets. New York is dead last in pass-defense DVOA, 27th in opponent yards per catch, 26th in opponent plays per game, and has allowed 21 touchdowns through the air. For the pass-happy Dolphins minus Waddle, Parker could flirt with double-digit targets Sunday. He’s a usable WR3 with WR2 upside. Miami is implied to score 25.25 points as 9.5-point favorites.

Christian Kirk at LionsDeAndre Hopkins (knee) is done for the remainder of the regular season. In the three games Hopkins missed earlier this season Weeks 9-11, Kirk averaged 6.3 targets per game, posting 6-91, 7-58, and 2-25 receiving lines in those outings. Kirk now gets a tasty dome draw against a Detroit secondary that has been ravaged by injuries. The Lions are 30th in pass-defense DVOA, 31st in opponent yards per catch, and 16th in yards allowed to opposing wideouts. Kirk and A.J. Green figure to be the biggest beneficiaries with Hopkins out. Arizona’s implied team total of 29.5 points is the highest of the week as 12-point favorites.

Brandin Cooks at Jaguars – In Davis Mills’ seven starts, Cooks has seen target counts of 11, 7, 5, 13, 7, 6, and 11 and is coming off an 8-101 game last week against the Seahawks. Mills is locked in with Cooks and is usually always the rookie’s first read. The Jaguars are 31st in pass-defense DVOA and 27th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts. When these two teams met way back in Week 1, Cooks turned in a 5-132 line on seven targets from Tyrod Taylor. Cooks should continue to be rolled out as a target-hog WR2/3 as the Texans’ clear-cut top wideout.

Sits

Marquise Brown vs. Packers – Hollywood hasn’t caught a touchdown since Week 7 and has failed to top 55 yards in each of his last four games despite averaging 9.5 targets per contest in that span. Lamar Jackson is playing some of the worst football of his career right now, and it’s hurting guys like Brown. Jackson is viewed as a true game-time decision for Sunday afternoon’s tilt with Green Bay. Tyler Huntley has played okay in extended looks this season, but he’d still represent a clear downgrade from Jackson. In a slump and now possibly catching passes from Huntley against a Packers defense that is 13th in pass-defense DVOA and 13th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts, Brown is hard to love in fantasy. The only thing that really keeps him afloat is his domination of targets among Baltimore’s receivers. Brown is a low-floor WR3 option.

D.J. Moore at Bills – Moore pulled his hamstring last week and is questionable to face the Bills after getting in a couple limited practices. He should be out there, but playing at less than 100% in an offense that doesn’t want to throw the ball and now facing Buffalo’s top-notch pass defense, Moore is tough to get behind as anything more than a low-end WR3. The Bills are No. 2 in pass-defense DVOA, first in receiving yards allowed, fourth in opponent yards per catch, and first in fantasy points allowed to wideouts. Moore has just one touchdown since Week 4.

Kenny Golladay vs. Cowboys – Golladay still hasn’t scored a touchdown in a Giants uniform. He turned a season-high eight targets into two catches for 15 yards last week against the Chargers. Golladay hasn’t topped 50 yards since Week 4. He posted a zero-ball on three targets against this same Dallas defense back in Week 5 before leaving after 24 snaps. The Cowboys are No. 1 in pass-defense DVOA, and Golladay will likely see a whole lot of Trevon Diggs in this one. He’ll also have Mike Glennon throwing him passes again. There’s literally nothing to like about Golladay from a fantasy perspective.

TIGHT END

Start of the Week: Zach Ertz at Lions – Ertz practiced in full Wednesday and Thursday but was added to the injury report Friday as a limited participant with a hamstring issue. Assuming he’s cleared to play through his questionable tag, Ertz should be one of the premier fantasy options on the slate. He’s already become one of Kyler Murray’s favorite targets in the scoring area and red zone. Murray was picked trying to hit Ertz in the end zone last week. The Lions are 30th in pass-defense DVOA, 23rd in catches allowed to tight ends, and 24th in yards given up to the position. Ertz is averaging over 5.4 targets per game in seven outings with the Cardinals.

Starts

David Njoku vs. Raiders – Njoku missed Weeks 13-14 on the COVID list but has since been activated while starter Austin Hooper was sent to the COVID reserve earlier this week. Njoku should be in line for 75%-plus of the snaps alongside rookie Harrison Bryant, who is due back from an ankle injury. With Hooper and Jarvis Landry expected to miss this one, it’s possible Njoku paces the Browns in targets against a Raiders defense that is 30th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Vegas has surrendered the fifth-most catches and yards to the position.

Mike Gesicki vs. Jets – Gesicki is coming off an 11-target Week 13 against the Giants with the Dolphins now coming out of their bye week. With Jaylen Waddle now on the COVID list, that opens up a whole lot of targets and usage in Miami’s pass-happy offense. Look for Gesicki and DeVante Parker to handle the bulk of the pass-game work in a plus draw against a Jets defense that has struggled to cover tight ends all season. The Jets have allowed the sixth-most yards and seventh-most fantasy points to Gesicki’s position. Gesicki is an upside TE1 play.

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