Week 8 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em

·20 min read



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: Matthew Stafford at Texans -- Fantasy’s overall QB7 on the season, Stafford is playing at an MVP level with 19 touchdowns to just four interceptions and is coming off a 334/3 evisceration of his former Lions teammates last week as Week 7’s QB3. He catches a third straight easy matchup after torching the Giants and Lions. The Texans are 24th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 19th in opponent plays per game, and 27th in average time of possession, so the L.A. offense should be on the field plenty in this one. Kyler Murray got off to a slow start against this Houston defense last week, but Arizona went on to post 31 unanswered points over the final three quarters while Murray finished with 261/3 and the QB8 week. The Rams are two-touchdown favorites in this one and are implied to score 30.75 points, the second-highest team total of the week behind Buffalo’s 31.5 mark. Look for Stafford to keep padding his MVP case with another efficient outing against an overmatched defense.

Starts

Joe Burrow at Jets -- I had Burrow in the “sits” section of this column last week, and he went out and flamed the Ravens for the QB2 fantasy week with a career-high 416 yards and three touchdowns in a statement win. Ja’Marr Chase was a man on fire with 8-201-1 on 10 targets, wrecking CB Marlon Humphrey’s coverage. After being one of the run-heaviest offenses to open the season, coach Zac Taylor seems to be loosening the reins on Burrow in recent weeks. Burrow is averaging 34.25 attempts per game over the last four after averaging 25 passes per contest Weeks 1-3. He’s tossed multiple touchdowns in every game this season and is all the way up to the QB11 on the year. Burrow is second in the NFL with his astronomical 8.0% touchdown rate, trailing only Jameis Winston in that department. The Jets have played above their heads in pass defense, allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks, but they’re 28th in pass-defense DVOA, 31st in opponent plays per game, and the offense is 29th in time of possession. Cincinnati is also fifth-best in red-zone touchdown rate. This offense is humming and teeing off on a Jets team that is fresh off getting blasted by the Patriots. Burrow should be fired up with confidence as a top-12 play with the Bengals implied to score 26.5 points.

Sam Darnold at Falcons -- After listing Darnold as one of my “starts” last week against the Giants this makes me shudder. Darnold was flat-out pitiful against New York last week, throwing for 112 scoreless yards at 4.48 YPA with an interception. He “led” the Panthers to three points before getting pulled in favor of P.J. Walker, who was somehow even worse. Darnold is back in the saddle this week despite Deshaun Watson trade rumors and gets another plus draw on paper. I’m erasing last week’s performance from the memory bank and moving forward. The Falcons are 29th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 30th in pass-defense DVOA, and 28th in adjusted sack rate. If Darnold can’t make something happen in this one with a friendly dome environment against a defense that can’t rush the passer, then I’ll finally throw in the towel on him. This game sports a 46.5-point total with a narrow spread and a pair of offenses that are in the top half of the league in pace and top-nine in plays per game. I’m in on Carolina again.

Teddy Bridgewater vs. Washington -- During the Broncos’ 3-0 start, Bridgewater posted a clean 4:0 TD:INT mark and was fantasy’s overall QB12 the first two weeks of the season. He’s since posted an 8:4 TD:INT with a fifth turnover on a lost fumble, as the Broncos have dropped four straight. But Bridgewater now gets a Washington defense that is dead last in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 29th in pass-defense DVOA, and 27th in opponent plays per game. This is a true pass-funnel unit, as the Football Team is No. 8 in run-defense DVOA. The Packers made it a point to attack this secondary last week, calling 38 pass plays for Aaron Rodgers to just nine carries combined for Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon. There’s a blueprint to beating DC Jack Del Rio’s defense, and it’s via the pass. Bridgewater is also expected to get No. 1 wideout Jerry Jeudy (ankle) back in the lineup this week after he was injured midway through Week 1. Jeudy went 6-72 on seven targets across just 47% of the snaps against the Giants. Bridgewater isn’t going to win a fantasy matchup by himself, but this is a ceiling game for him in one of the easiest matchups he’ll see all year. He has top-12 upside and is a lock for two-QB leagues.

Sits

Ryan Tannehill at Colts -- Even on a day the Titans put up 27 first-half points on the Chiefs, Tannehill still finished as just the QB11 last week with six teams on bye. Tannehill has just one multi-touchdown passing game this year and only one 300-yard game. He’s attempted 29-or-fewer passes in four of the last five games. The Titans’ recipe for success to this point has been to feed Derrick Henry carries at a wild rate; the Big Dog is on pace for 464 carries. Tennessee is running the ball at the league’s fifth-highest clip. Tannehill’s touchdown rate (3.1%) is way down after posting 6.9% and 7.7% marks the previous two years. Low volume in a run-heavy offense that doesn’t play fast isn’t a quarterback I want to be latched to in fantasy. Tannehill is the overall QB23 on the season, and both the Colts (32nd) and Titans (23rd) are bottom-10 in the league in pace. And the Colts are No. 8 in opponent plays per game. This game’s 51-point total is the highest of Sunday’s main slate, but it doesn’t feel like one that’s going to get there. Tennessee isn’t suddenly going to veer off script and spray it through the air.

Tua Tagovailoa at Bills -- The Dolphins are throwing the ball at the league’s highest rate, and Tagovailoa has attempted 47 and 40 passes in his two games since returning from I.R. He posted the overall QB1 week last Sunday against the Falcons with 291 yards and four touchdowns in the home loss. The sheer volume of pass attempts for Tagovailoa makes him attractive in fantasy, but he’s now getting a Buffalo defense that is No. 1 in opponent plays per game, No. 1 in pass-defense DVOA, and No. 1 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. On the flip side, the Bills are No. 4 in time of possession on offense. It’s hard to see the Dolphins possessing the ball enough and making enough plays to warrant firing up Tua as a streaming option in 12-team leagues. Miami’s implied team total of 18 is the week’s fourth-lowest.

Taylor Heinicke at Broncos -- Heinicke rushed for a season-best 10-95 last week against the Packers and was inches short of a touchdown run, but he’s now gone three straight games with 0-1 touchdown passes and has just one 300-yard passing game to his name through seven weeks. Heincke’s performance last week was good enough for the overall QB10 week, but he now draws a Denver defense that is No. 2 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and No. 3 in opponent plays per game despite being 24th in pass-defense DVOA. Von Miller (ankle) was injured last week and could miss this one, which would give Heinicke a bit of a boost, but it’s not enough of one to make him an attractive streamer on the road in a game with a 44.5-point total. Washington is dealing with several injuries in its pass-catching corps with Terry McLaurin (ankle), Dyami Brown (knee), Curtis Samuel (groin), and Logan Thomas (hamstring) all beat up.

RUNNING BACK

Start of the Week: Darrel Williams vs. Giants -- After posting the overall RB6 week the previous Sunday against Washington, game script got away from Williams last week with the Chiefs falling in a 27-0 first-half hole that they were never able to erase. Williams finished as the overall RB34 last week, but the good news is he played 64% of the snaps and handled all nine backfield carries. In the two games without Clyde Edwards-Helaire (knee, I.R.), Williams has handled 30-of-33 backfield carries while drawing eight targets. Williams isn’t an explosive player, but he gets the job done and doesn’t make mistakes while playing in an offense that can put up points in a hurry. The Giants are 20th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, 24th in opponent plays per game, and 22nd in run-defense DVOA. Playing 70% of the Chiefs’ snaps with CEH out, Williams is a borderline RB1 Monday night with the Chiefs favored by 9.5 points.

Starts

Zack Moss vs. Dolphins -- The Bills are coming off their bye week. After being a healthy scratch in Week 1, Moss is the overall RB22 in half-PPR points per game entering this one. He’s the Bills’ preferred back when they’re playing with a lead, and they have one of the easiest remaining schedules. Buffalo is a massive 14-point home favorite over the Dolphins this week. Moss paces the Bills with 17 red-zone carries and draws a Miami defense that is 27th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, 18th in run-defense DVOA, and 28th in opponent plays per game. Moss scored a pair of touchdowns on just eight carries against this defense back in Week 2 and has earned a larger piece of the pie since. Moss is an every-week RB2, and this one is no different with the Bills implied to score a Week 8-high 31.5 points.

Alex Collins vs. Jaguars -- Chris Carson remains on I.R. with his neck injury. Collins has been the starter the last three weeks, but Rashaad Penny did return last week to narrow the snap-share gap in this backfield. Neither runner was able to do anything against the Saints with Geno Smith unable to move the ball through the air. While the Seahawks tried to see if Penny could get going in the first half, they quickly got their answer (no) and went back to Collins after the break. Collins still finished with just 16 carries for 35 scoreless yards, but he’s seen carry totals of 15 > 20 > 16 the last three weeks and now catches a Jacksonville defense that is 23rd in fantasy points allowed to running backs, 20th in run-defense DVOA, and 23rd in opponent plays per game. Smith will still struggle to throw it, but Collins should find more running room against the Jaguars than he did the Saints. Collins is a zero in the pass game but a volume-based RB2. He and DK Metcalf are essentially the only startable Seattle players.

Myles Gaskin at Bills -- With Malcolm Brown (quad) off to I.R., this backfield is suddenly usable again in fantasy. It should be Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed splitting things 60-40 with Gaskin getting the edge in the passing game while coming off a season-high 15 carries last Sunday. Gaskin is third among running backs with 36 targets in a Dolphins offense that passes the ball at the league’s highest rate. Buffalo has shut down opposing running backs, holding them to the third-fewest fantasy points and the fewest catches, but Gaskin did see five targets against this defense in Week 2. Look for Miami to play from behind much of this one as 13.5-point road underdogs. Gaskin is purely an RB2/FLEX only because of his pass-game role and Brown’s removal from the backfield for at least the next three weeks.

Sits

Kenneth Gainwell at Lions -- Gainwell is the most popular fantasy pickup of the week with Miles Sanders (ankle) now out of commission for at least this game. But it’s worth noting that Boston Scott out-carried Gainwell 7-5 with Sanders hurt last week. And Jordan Howard is expected to be elevated from the practice squad. Gainwell is an RB2/3, but we shouldn’t be expecting 20 touches. Gainwell is the preferred back in the passing game, but how often will Philly throw it against Detroit as 3.5-point favorites is the question. The Eagles are going to spread it around their backfield, and Hurts is still the team’s best bet for rushing scores near the goal line. Also, Detroit is No. 7 in opponent plays per game. Volume won’t be on Gainwell’s side.

Mike Davis vs. Panthers -- After being propped up by his role as a pass-catching back, Davis was targeted zero times last week against the Dolphins and was pretty much phased out of the offense in favor of the ultra-productive Cordarrelle Patterson, who looks really explosive with the ball in his hands and as a downhill runner. He’s earned the playing-time spike as an every-week RB2 with upside. Davis still played 60% of the snaps last week in Miami but was given just four carries while Patterson handled a combined 19 carries and targets. Davis has averaged just 3.2 YPC on 66 attempts this season. Seeing fewer touches, he’s impossible to trust against a Carolina defense that is No. 1 in fantasy points allowed to running backs.

J.D. McKissic at Broncos -- McKissic is tied for fifth among running backs with 34 targets this season and has seen 25 over the last four weeks. But he’s seen more targets than carries this season, which obviously severely lowers his floor in fantasy as the overall RB34 on the season. With Washington installed as mere three-point underdogs and the Broncos allowing the third-fewest catches to running backs and third-fewest plays per game, it’s hard to see this as a McKissic ceiling game. It might be more of a chance to get Antonio Gibson 15-plus carries.

WIDE RECEIVER

Start of the Week: Tee Higgins at Jets -- Higgins is 15th among all wideouts seeing 8.6 targets per game and is coming off a 15-target Week 7 against the Ravens. But Higgins turned those looks into just seven catches for 62 scoreless yards and is only the WR42 on the season. Higgins hasn’t scored since Week 2 and is producing 2.4 fewer yards per target than he did as a rookie last year. However, the sheer volume and Higgins leading the team in red-zone targets would suggest he’s due for some positive regression in the box score. The Jets have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing wideouts but are 28th in pass-defense DVOA. Their schedule has been extremely easy, facing the Patriots twice, the Calvin Ridley-less Falcons, the A.J. Brown- and Julio Jones-less Titans, and the Jerry Jeudy-less Broncos. The Jets are 31st in opponent plays per game, and the Bengals should live in the red zone, where they like to throw the ball. Cincinnati’s implied team total of 26.5 points is the eighth-highest of the week.

Starts

Emmanuel Sanders vs. Dolphins -- Sanders is coming off the bye week where he was able to rest his 34-year-old legs ahead of a date with a Miami defense that is 30th in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers, 26th in pass-defense DVOA, and 28th in opponent plays per game. Sanders is playing 83% of the snaps in Buffalo’s offense and that number could rise the next couple weeks with Dawson Knox (hand) out. It may lead to the Bills using even more four-wide sets. Sanders is averaging a career-best 17.2 yards per catch in this big-play offense and is on pace for his first 1,000-yard season since 2016. He’s the overall WR19 on the season. Miami’s inability to rush the passer -- 24th in adjusted sack rate -- hasn’t helped its high-paid cornerbacks in coverage. The Dolphins have surrendered the most catches of 20-plus yards.

Robby Anderson at Falcons -- Much like Sam Darnold above, I simply can’t quit Anderson. I’m willing to go down with this ship and even traded for him in dynasty this week in preparation for the stretch run. Anderson has seen 38 targets over the last four weeks but has turned them into just 101 yards and one touchdown. He’s heavily involved in the offense still with the Panthers’ wideout room depleted by injuries to Terrace Marshall and Brandon Zylstra. Anderson played a season-high 95% of the snaps last week against the Giants. He simply can’t play any worse, and there has to be a turning point. The Falcons could be a springboard, as Atlanta is 21st in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers and 30th in pass-defense DVOA. This game will be played in a friendly dome environment with no weather concerns.

Laviska Shenault at Seahawks -- Shenault is playing roughly 75% of the snaps and has seen a total of 20 targets in three games since D.J. Chark suffered a season-ending broken ankle. He’s coming off a season-high 10 targets last time out against the Dolphins and now gets a Seattle defense that has surrendered the seventh-most yards to wideouts and is dead last in opponent plays per game. This is a pass-funnel unit, too, as the Seahawks are 25th in pass-defense DVOA and 11th against the run. Shenault has yet to score a touchdown after finding the end zone five times as a rookie. He’s a solid WR3/FLEX option for this one.

Sits

Allen Robinson vs. 49ers -- At this point, Robinson needs a trade out of Chicago before Tuesday’s deadline in order to find some potential fantasy success. It just isn’t happening in this extreme run-heavy offense that is calling run plays at the third-highest rate in the league. In five starts, Justin Fields is averaging just 23.2 pass attempts per game. And Robinson has been out-targeted 29-25 by teammate Darnell Mooney in Fields’ starts. Robinson hasn’t scored since Week 2 and has produced 35 yards or less in 5-of-7 outings as fantasy’s overall WR81 in half-PPR points per game. The 49ers are a middling 14th in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers and 15th in pass-defense DVOA. Robinson is merely an end-of-bench stash.

Tyler Lockett vs. Jaguars -- Over the last two weeks with Geno Smith under center, Lockett’s 10 targets have produced four catches for 47 scoreless yards. He’s fantasy’s overall WR91 in that span. Teammate DK Metcalf has turned his 12 targets into 154 yards and one touchdown with Smith at quarterback. But the bulk of that came on an 84-yard touchdown grab last week. Smith simply can’t move the ball, leaving this offense mostly off limits outside of Metcalf and Alex Collins. Lockett needs Russell Wilson (finger, I.R.) back after next week’s bye.

Julio Jones at Colts -- Playing on a bum hamstring, Jones was in on a season-low 43% of the snaps last week with the Titans stomping the Chiefs 27-3. It gave the Titans an opportunity to rest Jones with a big lead, but he’s very clearly not healthy and missed Wednesday and Thursday’s practice sessions this week. In his two games back after missing a pair, Jones has five catches for 97 scoreless yards on nine targets. Teammate A.J. Brown has out-targeted him 18-9 in that span, and Jones has yet to score a touchdown this season. Jones is fantasy’s overall WR68 since coming back from injury. This offense just goes through Derrick Henry and Brown so much that Jones is a distant third option. The Colts are No. 8 in opponent plays per game, and Julio managed just three catches for 47 scoreless yards in Week 3 against them.

TIGHT END

Start of the Week: Tyler Higbee at Texans -- Playing 100% of the Rams’ offensive snaps, Higbee is definitely due for better box-score results moving forward. He’s a buy-low in fantasy as fantasy’s overall TE20 on the season. Higbee is second on the Rams with 12 red-zone targets behind Cooper Kupp, but those dozen looks are good for seventh-most in the league. He has just two touchdowns on the year, however, and only one game of 50-plus receiving yards. Higbee now gets a Week 8 date with a Texans unit that is 30th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends and just surrendered Zach Ertz’s career-long 47-yard touchdown last Sunday. The Rams’ implied team total of 30.75 points is the second-highest of the week.

Starts

Noah Fant vs. Washington -- Fantasy’s TE10 on the season, Fant has run the fifth-most routes among tight ends and is seventh at the position, seeing seven targets per game. He’s scored three times on the year and now gets a Washington defense that is 19th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends and 27th in opponent plays per game. The return of Jerry Jeudy may hurt Fant, but this matchup is so soft that multiple Denver pass-catchers could have big games. At such a shallow fantasy position, Fant is a no-brainer top-12 play among tight ends.

Dan Arnold at Seahawks -- In his last two games, Arnold has played 73% and 62% of the Jaguars’ offensive snaps while seeing a total of 13 targets in that span. He’s managed to catch eight of those for 91 yards. Running plenty of routes and seeing the field as the obvious starter in Jacksonville, Arnold now gets a Seattle defense that is dead last in opponent plays per game and 25th in pass-defense DVOA while checking in at 17th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Arnold isn’t an exciting play, but there’s enough here for him to be a solid streamer.

Hunter Henry at Chargers -- Henry is making his return to L.A. after spending the first five years of his career with the Chargers. He’s also caught a touchdown in four straight games. With Jonnu Smith (shoulder) banged up, look for the Patriots to try and get Henry into the end zone again while peppering him with targets against his former teammates. The Chargers have allowed the second-most fantasy points and fourth-most touchdowns to tight ends.