Disclaimer: Starts and Sits are relative to where a player is ranked on the aggregate. In other words, a “Start” is someone I like more than most, and a “Sit” is the opposite. So if I say to start Tyrod Taylor and sit Dak Prescott, that doesn't mean I'd start Watson over Prescott, it just means I think Watson will exceed his expectations while Prescott will underperform his. Cool? Cool. Let's get it. -Seltz
Alex Smith (@ HOU) – I hate to gloat, but I'm going to because I think it's the right thing to do. I kind of killed it with my starts and sits last week. No biggie, just saying. Chief among my calls was telling you to start Deshaun Watson. That worked out, eh? What does this have to do with Alex Smith, you might be asking yourself. And to that I say, nothing. It has nothing to do with Alex Smith. Well, I guess it loosely does because Smith and Watson are going mano a mano this week, but it was really just an excuse to brag. To quote Eric Cartman, “Whatever, I'll do what I want.” Ok, even I'm starting to hate myself, let's get to Smith who I actually do like a lot. He's finished in the top 10 (#1, #6, #9) at quarterback in three out four weeks, yet is the consensus #14 ranked QB heading into this weekend. Houston is banged up in the secondary and just allowed two rushing touchdowns to Marcus Mariota. Smith has some sneaky rushing ability (56 yards and TD last week), in case you didn't know. I expect him to – again – deliver a top 10 QB performance.
Tyrod Taylor (@ CIN) – There aren't any other quarterbacks that are incredibly undervalued this week, forcing me to turn to the guy who's perpetually undervalued. Tyrod seems to always elicit a blah response from people, but he continues to outperform his expectations. This week, Tyrod's being written off because he's better at home than on the road and Jordan Matthews is out and blah blah blah. See, those are legit blahs. Unlike the Tyrod Taylor responses which are unrighteous blahs. Anyhoo, what people haven't talked about is that the Bengals have allowed the most rushing yards to opposing QB's – 100 yards, 7.1 YPC – and Taylor is good at running. So, yeah.
Dak Prescott (vs. GB) – I feel like I'm always hating on Dak in these columns. But I swear it's not my fault. It has nothing to do my hatred for the Cowboys – a hatred that burns with the fire of a thousand suns – and it has nothing to do with the ANNOYING Dak is better than Wentz crowd. The reason I keep hating on Dak is because experts keep ranking him way too high. Dak is the consensus #4 quarterback heading into Week 5. Here is where Dak finished at QB in Week 1-4: #12, #11, #10, #9. Again, he's #4 facing a Packers defense that has allowed the sixth-least fantasy points to opposing QB's. See? I told you it wasn't my fault.
Carson Palmer (@ PHI) – Man, you guys are totally going to think I'm a homer. But hear me out. Palmer has been hit and sacked more than any other quarterback in the league. The Eagles are good at hitting and sacking QB's. Not to mention, Palmer is old, rickety, and traveling west-to-east to play at 1pm eastern time. While I think, assuming he doesn't get hurt, Palmer will have enough volume/opportunity to not be a complete zero, I certainly don't believe he'll finish in the top 10 at his position, even though he's ranked as such.
Bilal Powell (@ CLE) – Would it be uncouth of me to take another victory lap for my stellar call to start Powell last week? Yeah, you're probably right. It would be a jerk move. But for the record, I did...tell you to start Powell...which was a pretty good call...but you know, whatever. Alright, I'm done. I promise. Focusing back on this week, look for Bilal to pick up right where he left off last week against the Jags. He faces a bad Browns defense that has been particularly friendly to running backs in the passing game, which is where Powell tends to shine. Plus, with Matt Forte out, Bilal will get the lion's share of the work. You can't argue with the share a lion would take. I mean, it's a lion. They can probably take as big a share as they want, I would think. They are the King of the Jungle, after all. In addition, Bilal is a great name. Who doesn't want to root for a guy named Bilal? Nobody, that's who. I have gone way off the rails here. To quote Vince Lombardi, “What the hell's going on out here?!” Let's move on.
Duke Johnson (vs. NYJ) – Duuuuuuuuuke. That's me chanting for Duke Johnson as he puts up points for my fantasy team. And I've been chanting more often than not of late, as the Dukester (nope...just...no) has scored a rushing touchdown in back-to-back weeks while also leading the team in targets (10 and 7). The Jets have have been a fountain of fantasy points for opposing RB's – 4th most points allowed in standard leagues and 3rd most in PPR – and Duke has overtaken Isaiah Crowell as the Browns running back you want to start. Which doesn't sound all that attractive now that I'm reading it out loud, but it's meant to be a positive, at least for this week anyway.
Joe Mixon (vs. BUF) – Mixon is another guy who will keep showing up as a sit until he proves that he deserves his inflated ranking. Here is what I wrote about Mixon last week:“Am I the only one who doesn't think Joe Mixon is going to be a superstar? I think I'm the only one. I gotta say, it's lonely over here on “Joe Mixon ain't all that” Island. But I'd rather be lonely than wrong. Luckily I'm never wrong.”
Apparently, I'm still lonely on my island as Mixon is the consensus #15 RB this week. But I'm still not wrong. That's too high. Last week with a similar ranking Mixon ended up with 17 carries for 29 yards. He also chipped in an thrilling four catches for 19 more yards. Did I mention that was against the Browns? I didn't??? Well yeah, it was against the Browns. Lol right? Buffalo is way better than the Browns. Way, way, way, WAY better. After this week, I think my island may be getting a little less lonely.
Jordan Howard (vs. MIN) – Howard's value has been super touchdown dependent this season. Outside of his monster game against the Steelers, Howard has rushed for only 112 yards at paltry 2.8 YPC clip. Most importantly, Minnesota's defense is hella good. Do people still say hella? I'm guessing no. It's a stupid word. I apologize for using it. Seriously though, Minny's D is legit and they've been especially studly against the run. Honestly, I would be shocked if Howard finishes anywhere near his consensus #11 ranking.
Larry Fitzgerald (@ PHI) – I hate the old “that guy kills us every time we play him” thing because there is so much change over from year to year in the NFL. Having said that, Larry Fitzgerald kills us every time we play him and I hate it! Sadly, I see myself continuing to hate it as the Cardinals are deficient in reliable passing options and the Eagles have been know to allow some passing yards from time to time. Especially to Larry Fitzgerald. That dude kills us every time.
Jarvis Landry (vs. TEN) – I hate suggesting anyone or anything that has a close proximity to Jay “gives no bleeps” Cutler. However, the Titans have been good at defending team's #1 WR's (aka Davante Parker for Miami) and much less good at defending everyone else in the passing game. Landry would fall under “everyone else” but also leads the team in targets this season. One last thing that sways me towards Landry, the Dolphins are playing their first home game of the season. They've been to L.A., New York, and freaking London without playing a game at home. I feel like that has to help the Dolphins at least a little bit...maybe...probably not, but it's crazy they haven't played a home game yet, right? Yeah, wild wacky stuff.
BONUS Sleeper Start: Geronimo Allison (@ DAL) – Allison is the definition of a home run play. With Davante Adams likely out this week, Allison will have the chance to step up and run more routes. Aaron Rodgers has said he's a big fan of Geronimo – both the receiver (for sure) and the Native American (maybe). Plus, Dallas' secondary is atrocious. It's really, really bad.
Doug Baldwin (@ LAR) – Baldwin is still dealing with a groin issue that has kept him limited him for close to two weeks now. And despite putting up no more than 63 yards (and no touchdowns) in three of his four outings this season, Baldwin is the consensus #14 WR this week. He's coming off a 3 catch, 35 yard performance against a bad Colts secondary and is facing much better Rams secondary. So I guess what I'm trying to say is, I'd rather start Doug Pederson in a coaching fantasy league than Doug Baldwin in a normal (aka actually a real thing) fantasy league. And let me tell you, I am not someone who would go about starting Doug Pederson in a fictional made up coaching fantasy league lightly. Point made...I think.
Amari Cooper (vs. BAL) – This may be kind of obvious, but it's worth saying. It's time to forget draft day values and evaluate what you're seeing on the field. Despite being a high pick for many, Cooper has sucked. He's sucked SO hard. How hard you ask? Here's how many receiving yards he's had in the last two weeks: 15. COMBINED! I'll say it again, in the last two weeks Amari Cooper has accumulated 15 receiving yards...total. I get it. It's tough to let go. It's tough to admit that some guy you picked up off waivers is probably a better start than the dude you took in the third round. But it's time to do that with Cooper. Especially with Derek Carr out and the Raiders facing a good Ravens defense.
Antonio Gates (@ NYG) – The Giants have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends. By a lot. They've been horrendous defending tight ends. While this has led many to look at Hunter Henry as a strong play this week, Gates is ranked six spots lower in the consensus rankings and offers way more bang for you buck in DFS formats. And for what it's worth, Gates has actually out-targeted Henry, and has seen a more consistent dose of targets on a week-to-week basis. Now I'm not saying Henry is a bad play either, I just think Gates represents the better value of the two.
Jesse James (vs. JAX) – Jesse James. He of the two first names. Also, he of the 20 targets this season, fourth on the team after Brown, Bell and Bryant. We've talked multiple times in this space about Ben Roethlisberger's home/road splits, so you should know that Ben at home is the good one. And while the Jags have done a great job defending wide receivers this season, they've done a bad job against tight ends. Plus, Ben has a penchant of looking for James in the red zone.
Jimmy Graham (@ LAR) – Graham always seems like an afterthought in Seattle's offense. For some reason, they just can't figure out how to use him right. Or he's just not that good anymore. Either way, he's been a consistent under performer from week to week, including last week's 4 catch, 61 yard showing in a game where the Seahawks scored 46 points. Yet, despite all of this, Graham is the consensus #5 tight end heading into a matchup with a good Rams defense. Needless to say, I don't get it. #Analysis
Martellus Bennett (@ DAL) – Bennett continues to be ranked in the top 10 among tight ends each week, and each time he proceeds to not finish in the top 10 at the position. For one, the Packers have never used their tight ends effectively. That hasn't changed with Bennett. Second, Dallas is awful at defending wide receivers, but significantly better at shutting down tight ends. Third, welp, I don't have a third and now I feel like a fool. A FOOL! Moving on.
Baltimore Ravens (@ OAK) – Baltimore's defense is good. Oakland is without Derek Carr and starting E.J. Manuel. That's it. E.J. Manuel. What more do you need to hear?
Arizona Cardinals (@ PHI) – Arizona just lost one of their best defensive players (starting linebacker Markus Golden) and they're facing a juggernaut Eagles offense. Done and done. Just kidding, about the juggernaut thing. But the Eagles offensive line is playing like a juggernaut right now, and they should matchup up well with a now Markus Golden-less Cardinals front seven. The Eagles may not score a ton of points, but they'll score their fair share. More importantly, I don't see the potential for a lot of sacks or turnovers for Arizona, which vastly limits their potential as a viable fantasy defense.
Some guy who's playing in a dome or who's on a team with a good offense.
[BLG Note: Jake Elliott, obviously.]
Any guy who doesn't qualify the above set standard for “Start.”