In “Start or Sit,” we make a call on players who merit strong starting consideration — and players who might be best on the bench. However, owners should tailor their own lineup strategy to their roster constraints, league rules and other relevant factors.
Here’s our Week Nine rundown:
Jaguars RB Rashad Jennings (vs. Detroit) — Jennings’ appeal in yardage leagues stems from his volume of touches (51 in the past two games) and his heavy involvement in the passing game (13 catches, 114 yards on 17 targets in Weeks Seven and Eight). The Lions don’t defend the run well; Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch gashed them for a 77-yard TD run a week ago, and they have allowed at least 127 rushing yards in three of the last four games. The matchup is good, and the workload is outstanding. I’ve warmed to Jennings, and I consider him a solid starting option in Week Nine.
Buccaneers TE Dallas Clark (at Oakland) — If I wrote this column in 2008 and included Clark, someone would write in and say, “OF COURSE you start Dallas Clark — tell us something we DON’T KNOW.” Today, the risk when mentioning Dallas Clark is that someone writes in and says “NO ONE OWNS DALLAS CLARK. RABBLE. GRUNT. HISS.” Well, I press on, undaunted, to point out that Clark, available in the vast bulk of Yahoo! fantasy leagues, has been a bigger part of an improving Tampa Bay passing game of late, and he faces an Oakland defense that has surrendered four TDs to tight ends in seven games.
Raiders WR Denarius Moore (vs. Tampa Bay) — Only three teams are surrendering more than 300 passing yards per game. The Buccaneers are among them. Even if Moore had a tough matchup, he wouldn’t be a bad starting option; he has a TD in three consecutive games, and he has been targeted at least eight times in every game in which he has played this season. The Bucs could have real problems stopping him.
Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew (at Jacksonville) — Interestingly enough, the Jaguars have not allowed a single TD pass to a tight end this season. So why do I like Pettigrew? The Lions’ playmaking ability on the outside must be respected, which opens up the middle of the field. Pettigrew plays a lot of snaps, and only Calvin Johnson has been targeted more for Detroit through seven games.
Dolphins WR Brian Hartline (at Indianapolis) — He has been, um, quiet since his 253-yard outburst on Sept. 30 at Arizona. But this might be a matchup he can exploit. After all, the Colts rank in the bottom half of the league in yards per pass surrendered. I like Hartline more in three-WR formats than in two-WR lineups, considering he’s coming off an eight-catch, 100-yard October.
Bengals QB Andy Dalton (vs. Denver) — On balance, it has been better to start Dalton than sit him this season, and it’s quite possible he could pile up good-enough yardage and TD totals for fantasy owners in Week Nine. But I just don’t see this as a favorable matchup for the Bengals. The Broncos have a stout pass rush and a solid secondary and could give Cincinnati a good deal of trouble. Also, I haven’t been encouraged from what I’ve seen recently from the Bengals’ offense. There have been too many instances where the attack has sputtered, with the Week Seven loss to Pittsburgh being an obvious example. To me, Dalton is a fine spot-play in the right circumstances — but not this week.
Ravens WR Torrey Smith (at Cleveland) — While Smith racked up six catches, 97 yards and a TD in the first meeting with the Browns in Week Four, there are two factors that could limit his upside in the rematch. For starters, Browns CB Joe Haden missed the Week Four matchup; he’s back now, and the Cleveland secondary is far more formidable. Also, the Ravens’ passing game has been much better at home than on the road. Smith, it must be noted, has caught just 9-of-22 passes thrown his way in three road games, and he has yet to score a TD away from Baltimore in 2012.
Cowboys RB Felix Jones (at Atlanta) — Look, the Falcons have had problems vs. the run, so if you want to start Jones on the basis of the matchup, go right ahead. I just don’t see him as anything close to a surefire Week Nine play. In two starts against shaky defenses, he has gained a mere 63 yards on 28 carries. I wouldn’t want to be trailing by double digits on Sunday night and having to count on Jones to win the week.
Titans passing game personnel (vs. Chicago) — Opponents are averaging 238.1 passing yards against the Bears, but it’s taking a lot of work to gain those yards, and it’s not exactly amounting to much. To wit: Chicago is surrendering just 5.87 yards per pass play, and it has allowed only six passing TDs in seven contests. It’s hard to recommend QB Matt Hasselbeck or any of the Titans’ pass catchers with a lot of confidence.