Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes.
Start of the Week: Tom Brady vs. Dolphins — The overall QB4 on the season, Brady leads the league in completions and pass attempts and is Pro Football Focus’ No. 1-graded passer through four weeks. But Brady made his return to Foxboro last Sunday night and laid an egg as fantasy’s QB28 of the week against the Patriots with a TD-less performance in a rain-soaked, ratcheted-up, nerve-racking environment. The Bucs throw the ball at the league’s second-highest clip and should rebound in a big way this week against Miami. The Dolphins are top-10 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 12th in pass-defense DVOA, but they’ve allowed back-to-back multi-score games to Derek Carr (386/2) and Carson Wentz (228/2) after getting blown out 35-0 by the Bills in Week 2 and barely beating Mac Jones in his pro debut. Top Dolphins CBs Byron Jones (quad, Achilles’) and Xavien Howard (shoulder) have been limited in practice this week. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown are all in favorable spots, and Brady is a top-five fantasy QB1 with the Bucs implied to score 29 points as 10-point home favorites.
Daniel Jones at Cowboys — A quarter of the way through his to-date third-year breakout, Jones is Pro Football Focus’ No. 2-graded passer behind only Tom Brady and is fantasy’s overall QB6 coming off the QB6 week, stunning the Saints for season-highs across the board in the overtime win. Jones went 28-of-40 for 402 yards (10.05 YPA) and a 2:1 TD:INT mark with a 4-27 rushing line and two-point conversion. Jones now catches a Dallas defense that has allowed the second-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, including the overall QB1 week to Sam Darnold last Sunday. Both the Giants and Cowboys are in the top half of the league in pace and top-eight in yards per play. This game has shootout potential under the JerryWorld roof with a 52.5-point total, the second-highest of the week behind Bills-Chiefs (56). Jones is an upside QB1 streamer.
Kirk Cousins vs. Lions — Cousins entered last week as the overall QB6 after a strong opening three weeks, but he laid an absolute egg at home against the Browns in Week 4. After marching down the field on the opening drive, going 6-of-6 for 59 yards and a touchdown, Cousins and the Vikings were shut out the rest of the way. Cousins posted the QB27 week and is now the QB13 on the year. But the Lions represent a get-right spot for quarterbacks, checking in at 30th in pass-defense DVOA. Justin Fields and Darnell Mooney were dropping bombs over the top of the Detroit secondary last week. And now the Lions are already without top CB Jeffrey Okudah (Achilles’) for the season and just lost No. 1 edge rusher Romeo Okwara to a season-ending torn Achilles’ of his own last week. This defense is in bad shape. The Vikings can run all over this defense if they choose, but Cousins could easily throw three-plus scores. The Lions are surrendering a league-worst 10.6 yards per attempt to opposing passers. Minnesota’s implied team total of 29.25 points is the week’s third-highest.
Trey Lance at Cardinals — Jimmy Garoppolo (calf) isn’t going to play this one after exiting at halftime last week. He’s dealing with what is called a calf contusion. In one half of work last Sunday against the Seahawks, Lance went 9-of-18 for 157 yards and two touchdowns to Deebo Samuel, one of which came on a busted coverage from 76 yards out. Lance added 7-41 as a rusher, finishing as the week’s QB14 in 30 minutes of playing time. A big-play passer and threat as a runner with double-digit carries upside, Lance should be viewed as a high-ceiling QB1 headed into a showdown with the high-octane Cardinals. This game’s 49-point total is tied for fifth-highest of the week. Arizona has surrendered the seventh-most rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks. Lance is a confident QB1 play.
Taylor Heinicke vs. Saints — Heinicke is the QB8 since taking over starting duties in Week 2 and is coming off the QB5 performance last week against the Falcons with a 290/3 passing day to go with a season-high 43 rushing yards. He’s being dubbed the modern-day Ryan Fitzpatrick as a DGAF-type player under center who is willing to chuck it and play fearlessly. But Heinicke now draws a New Orleans defense that is No. 6 in pass-defense DVOA and No. 8 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. The Saints did just surrender 402 yards and the QB6 week to fellow dual-threater Daniel Jones last Sunday, but this game’s projected slowed pace and its miserable 43.5-point total don’t make it all that appealing for fantasy decisions. Heinicke should be locked into two-QB fantasy lineups, but he’s more of a mid-range QB2 in a game we don’t expect to see heavy play volume.
Matt Ryan vs. Jets — Ryan is coming off a spiked week that saw him flame Washington for 283 yards and four touchdowns on 42 attempts, finishing as Week 4’s overall QB3. But in this dink-and-dunk Atlanta offense under first-year coach Arthur Smith, Ryan is the overall QB20 and averaging a career-worst 6.2 yards per attempt. He’ll now be without Calvin Ridley (personal) and Russell Gage (ankle) in an across-the-pond London matchup with a Jets unit that has overachieved and is No. 2 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. New York has surrendered just two passing touchdowns through four games. Defensive-minded coach Robert Saleh is short on talent but has his guys playing well against the pass. No quarterback has finished better than the overall QB16 against the Jets to this point. We shouldn’t expect Ryan to change that without his top two receivers and no rushing ability in a game with a 45-point total. Ryan should only be teed up in two-QB leagues as a mid-to-low QB2.
Derek Carr vs. Bears — Fantasy’s overall QB11 through four weeks, Carr crashed back to Earth last week against the Chargers with just 196 yards and a 2:1 TD:INT mark as the QB24. Carr had thrown for at least 382 yards and two touchdowns each of the first three weeks. But he draws another subpar matchup against a Bears team that is 10th in pass-defense DVOA, 12th in opponent plays per game, and 14th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Chicago has stamped out opposing passing games the last three weeks after being flamed by Matthew Stafford in the opener. For whatever reason, Carr also seems to struggle more when Josh Jacobs is in the lineup, which he is again after returning last week. This game’s 44.5-point total is the fourth-lowest of Week 5.
Start of the Week: Leonard Fournette vs. Dolphins — It sounds like Giovani Bernard (knee) could be back this week after missing Week 4 with his sprained MCL. In his absence, Fournette set season-highs in snap rate (82%), touches (23), and total yards (139) while seeing five targets in the passing game. He absorbed Bernard’s role on third downs and in clear passing situations. The only thing missing for Fournette was a touchdown, as he’s yet to find the end zone this year and watched Ronald Jones vulture one in New England.. But it’s evident Fournette is the team’s best back and can excel in all phases of the position. Even if Bernard plays, this sets up as a game for Fournette to do work. The Bucs are massive 10-point home favorites, and Miami is 20th in run-defense DVOA, 31st in fantasy points allowed to running backs, and 31st in opponent plays per game. Jonathan Taylor (16-103-1) just busted his slump against the Dolphins last week as the overall RB9. And Peyton Barber hung the RB4 week on the Dolphins the previous Sunday. Fournette should be fired up as a confident RB2 with RB1 upside.
Cordarrelle Patterson vs. Jets — The Falcons are fielding arguably the league’s least exciting offense. The one bright spot thus far has been Patterson, who continues to light the world on fire fresh off a three-touchdown game against Washington. Patterson went over 100 total yards against The Football Team and did it on just 23 snaps. With Patterson doing big things on a relatively small snap share, I’d actively be looking to sell high on him in fantasy. But this looks like a week to definitely fire him up with Atlanta missing Calvin Ridley (personal) and Russell Gage (ankle) against the Jets. Patterson is the overall RB5 on the year and is being manufactured touches in both the run and pass games. The Jets are surrendering the most fantasy points to running backs, putting Patterson and Mike Davis in the mix as season-long plays.
Damien Harris at Texans — It’s been a brutal last couple weeks for Harris. After starting the season as overall RB18 in half-PPR points per game Weeks 1 and 2, Harris has mustered a 10-10-0 (1.0 YPC) rushing line the last two weeks with four catches, checking in as the RB59 in that span. Harris’ floor is pretty much zero. But this looks like a bounce-back spot for the early-down grinder. Running backs are averaging 5.0 yards per carry against Houston, and the Texans are 23rd in fantasy points allowed to the position and 31st in run-defense DVOA. New England is a nine-point road favorite, giving Harris a chance to #EstablishTheRun and get Harris in a groove. He should be able to return top-30 numbers at running back this week.
Latavius Murray vs. Colts — Ty’Son Williams was a healthy scratch Week 4 against the Broncos, as the Ravens trotted out senior citizens Murray, Le’Veon Bell, and Devonta Freeman as their backfield trio. Williams can be dropped in season-long leagues. And Murray needs to be rostered purely on the run-heavy approach by the Ravens where he’s the lead dog after playing 62% of the snaps last week and handling 18 of the 26 backfield opportunities. Murray will be a weekly RB2/3 with touchdown upside as the starter in an offense that runs the ball at the fourth-highest rate. The Colts are surrendering 4.08 YPC and the ninth-fewest fantasy points to running backs. But Chris Carson and Derrick Henry have both totaled over 100 yards against them while Darrell Henderson (13-53-1) visited the end zone in Week 2. Indy got to face the Dolphins’ lousy backfield last Sunday. Murray is a top-25 option.
Samaje Perine vs. Packers — Joe Mixon (ankle) has missed practice all week but will try to do some things Saturday. Odds are Mixon will miss this one. Perine was one of the more popular waiver-wire adds of the week, but the expectation is he and rookie Chris Evan’s will split the work against Green Bay. The Packers are allowing just 3.92 YPC to running backs and have faced the 10th-fewest rushing attempts. In Perine, fantasy players would simply be praying for a touchdown against a defense that doesn’t allow much on the ground. Evans is the preferred back in PPR-based leagues. Mixon isn’t expected to miss much time if he does end up sitting this week.
Melvin Gordon at Steelers — Gordon and rookie Javonte Williams are forming the most even backfield timeshare in the league right now. Neither is playing well enough to separate himself from the other, and they now draw an underperforming Steelers unit that is still No. 6 in fantasy points allowed to running backs, No. 7 in run-defense DVOA, and has yet to allow a rushing touchdown to the position. In what is expected to be a low-volume, low-scoring affair, it’s hard to be excited about Gordon in fantasy. This game’s 39.5-point total is the lowest of the season to date.
Trey Sermon vs. Cardinals — Sermon has turned 29 carries into 120 yards and one touchdown over the last two weeks with Elijah Mitchell out with his shoulder injury. Look for Mitchell to reclaim his role atop the depth chart this week after being removed from the injury report. But overall, this backfield will be a season-long headache with both backs being involved throughout the year. If Trey Lance takes over as starter, it could unlock the run game. But we need to get a clearer picture of this backfield before either Sermon or Mitchell can be trusted as anything more than an RB3. Mitchell should be ranked ahead of Sermon.
Start of the Week: Jakobi Meyers at Texans — Meyers’ touchdown-less start to his career has been well documented to this point. He’s managed to see 163 targets and catch 112 of them but has no touchdowns in his 33-game career. Meyers has seen 26 targets over the last two weeks as Mac Jones’ slot receiver. On the year, Meyers’ 41 targets are 19 more than the next-closest Patriots wideout (Nelson Agholor). While this projects to be a spot the Patriots can pound the ball on the ground as nine-point favorites, Meyers has such a stranglehold on targets that there should be plenty of meat on the bone against a defense that is 25th in opponent plays per game. Meyers is a high-floor, low-ceiling WR3.
Antonio Brown vs. Dolphins — AB drew a season-high 11 targets in last week’s win over the Patriots, turning in a 7-63 line, but Tom Brady missed him on a couple would-be long touchdowns. Brown’s seeing a big share of the air yards in Tampa Bay’s extreme pass-heavy offense. This isn’t the easiest on-paper matchup with the Dolphins 11th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts and 12th in pass-defense DVOA, but the Bucs are the second-heaviest pass offense while Miami is 30th in opponent plays per game. Brady should once again fire off 40-plus passes. And with Rob Gronkowski (ribs, lung) out, the target tree is narrowed in Tampa Bay. Brown should be viewed as a high-upside WR3. The Bucs are implied to score 29 points as 10-point home favorites.
Michael Pittman at Ravens — Pittman has yet to find the end zone this season, but his 36 targets are easily the highest on the Colts, 13 more than fill-in No. 2 WR Zach Pascal. And over the last three weeks, Pittman is averaging a weekly receiving line of 6.7-83.3 on 10.7 targets per game. Pittman also paces the Colts in air yards. Pascal is edging Pittman out in the red zone, out-targeting him 9-6 inside the 20 and 7-5 inside the 10-yard line. Pascal also has three red-zone touchdowns. Pittman is due for some positive regression. He’s a pure volume play with the Ravens checking in at No. 7 in fantasy points allowed to receivers. Pittman just has such a massive target share to be ignored against this Marcus Peters-less secondary.
Laviska Shenault at Titans — With D.J. Chark going down with a broken ankle on the opening series last week against the Bengals, Shenault saw an uptick in playing time (75%) and turned seven targets into a season-high 99 yards on six catches with an 11-yard rush. He should remain a focal point of the offense moving forward alongside Marvin Jones. This week’s matchup on paper looks appealing. The Titans are 30th in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers and have allowed the second-most yards and touchdowns to the position. Zach Wilson and the Jets just ripped up this Tennessee pass defense with all three of Corey Davis, Keelan Cole, and Jamison Crowder having strong games. Shenault is a solid WR3 with WR2 upside.
JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Broncos — JuJu has turned 27 targets into just 15 catches for 127 scoreless yards through four games and has yet to draw a single target in the red zone. He’s fantasy’s overall WR66 and is looking closer to being waiver-wire fodder than a fantasy starter at this point. Signed to a one-year deal to return to Pittsburgh in the offseason, JuJu is someone who could probably use a change of scenery at this season’s trade deadline. On top of minimal production, this spot is brutal. Denver is No. 7 in pass-defense DVOA, and this game has a 39.5-point total. That’s the lowest total of any game this season.
Henry Ruggs vs. Bears — Ruggs is on pace to blow way past his rookie-year numbers and is far more involved on offense with Derek Carr showing more willingness to heave some deep shots downfield. But Chicago is 10th in pass-defense DVOA and 12th in opponent plays per game. This game’s 44.5-point total is the fourth-lowest of the week. Darren Waller is the clear focal point of the passing game, and with Josh Jacobs back in the lineup, the Raiders like to feed him touches. This looks like a low-volume, low-upside game.
Robby Anderson vs. Eagles — Carolina tried to grease its squeaky wheel in Anderson last week, feeding him 11 targets, but Anderson produced just five catches for 46 yards against Dallas and remains without a touchdown. D.J. Moore is just dominating targets for the Panthers with a 30.7% target share. The Anderson-Sam Darnold reunion simply isn’t hitting. At this point, Anderson needs to be knocked down to WR4 status. We need to see it happen.
Start of the Week: Kyle Pitts vs. Jets — It’s starting to reach the do-or-don’t stage with Pitts. But with Calvin Ridley (personal) and Russell Gage (ankle) out for this one, the Falcons will have to keep Pitts involved and even increase his usage. Pitts is fourth among tight ends in routes and is very much due for a big game after seeing a season-high nine targets on 72% of the snaps last week against Washington. He had a target at the goal line broken up and knocked away. The Jets are sixth in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, but the peripheral numbers are just too strong for Pitts. He is a top-five TE1 play.
Tyler Conklin vs. Lions — Fantasy’s TE15, Conklin is playing 77% of the Vikings’ snaps and is 12th among tight ends in routes. George Kittle (4-78), Robert Tonyan (3-52-1), and Mark Andrews (5-109) have all experienced success against this sieve of a defense. Implied to score 29.25 points, the Vikings have the third-highest team total of the week.
Mo Alie-Cox at Ravens — Alie-Cox’s playing time spiked to 69% last week and took advantage of it with a 3-42-2 line on five targets against Miami. He’s always been a strong per-route producer and deserves a longer look as the starter ahead of washed up Jack Doyle. The Ravens have surrendered the most fantasy points to tight ends.