Nick Mensio

Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em

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Week 14 Start 'Em or Sit 'Em

Thursday, December 7, 2017


Happy Week 14, everyone. We’re gearing up for the fantasy playoffs. Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is aimed toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes, as these are players I’ll likely have some exposure to over the weekend.

QUARTERBACK

Start of the Week: Alex Smith vs. Raiders: After averaging just 223.5 yards passing with a combined 4:4 TD:INT mark in four games Weeks 8-12, Smith rebounded in a big way on the road against the Jets last Sunday. He threw for 366 yards, averaged a season-high 11.1 YPA, and tossed four touchdowns with no picks while adding a 70-yard run. Smith finished as the overall QB1 in Week 13. There had previously been thunderous chatter of the Chiefs needing to bench Smith for rookie Patrick Mahomes, but Smith clearly wasn’t the problem in last week’s loss. He now gets to come home and face a Raiders defense that ranks dead last in total defense DVOA, dead last in pass-defense DVOA, dead last in opponent passer rating, 25th in sacks, 23rd in pass yards allowed, and tied for 21st in touchdowns surrendered through the air. Oakland also has a league-low one interception that came on a lucky tipped ball in the end zone via Paxton Lynch two weeks ago. First-round CB Gareon Conley (shin) is on injured reserve, and starting LCB David Amerson (foot) hasn’t played since Week 7. When these two teams met on Thursday night in Week 7, Smith was 25-of-36 for 342 yards (9.5 YPA) and three touchdowns, finishing as the QB5 that week. The Kansas City offense has sputtered for the most part since then, but Smith is a locked-in top-10 play this week. The 47-point total for Raiders-Chiefs is the second-highest of Sunday’s games.

Starts

Jimmy Garoppolo at Texans: Making his first start for his new team, Garoppolo looked great in a tough environment in Chicago, completing 26-of-37 passes for 293 yards and an interception in the 15-14 win. The numbers don’t pop off the page, but Garoppolo got the ball out extremely quick with a fast release and made a number of difficult throws. He was doing it with guys like Louis Murphy and Trent Taylor as secondary options to default No. 1 wideout Marquise Goodwin. The next step for the Niners in the offseason will be to find Garoppolo a legit alpha dog top receiver. But Garoppolo will play out the string of the 2017 season and gets a tasty road date with the Texans on Sunday. Houston is 31st in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, tied for 31st in touchdown passes surrendered, and 22nd in total pass defense. The Texans have had it a bit easy in recent weeks with matchups against Blaine Gabbert, Joe Flacco, and Marcus Mariota in back-to-back-to-back games, but Gabbert and Mariota did manage a pair of top-nine fantasy performances. Garoppolo has the arm talent and much more aggressive play-caller on his side than Mariota, while this game will be played under Houston’s retractable roof without weather concerns. Garoppolo is squarely on the streaming radar in a game that has a decent chance to hit the over on its current 43-point total.

Philip Rivers vs. Redskins: Rivers has enjoyed a fine three-game stretch that has coincided with Keenan Allen’s breakout. Over the last three weeks, Rivers has completed 72.2% of his passes for 1,029 yards and a 7:0 TD:INT mark. The Bolts are surging in the AFC West, going 6-2 over their last eight after opening the year 0-4. They’ll play their third home game in the last four Sunday against a middle-of-the-pack Redskins defense that is 19th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 13th in total pass defense. Washington allowed two passing touchdowns to Dak Prescott in Week 13, got torched late by Drew Brees in Week 11, and allowed the QB5 performance to Case Keenum in Week 10. The Chargers are healthy and playing their best ball, so there’s no reason to hop off Rivers as we enter the fantasy playoffs. He gets plus spots against the Chiefs and Jets in Weeks 15 and 16. There’s a good chance Rivers will be the quarterback on many fantasy champions.

Blaine Gabbert vs. Titans: Gabbert is a legitimate streamer for fantasy playoff teams the next three weeks. He gets the Titans at home on Sunday, followed by a road date with Washington and another home game against the Giants. Gabbert predictably struggled against the Rams last week, tossing a pair of picks, including a pick-six, while throwing for just 221 yards. Turnovers are just part of the deal with Gabbert; they’re going to happen. But he has enough of an arm and playmaking ability with his legs to make noise in fantasy. In three starts, Gabbert has two top-14 finishes, including a QB8 day against the Texans in Week 11. The Titans are 25th in pass-defense DVOA, 25th in pass yards allowed, 22nd in fantasy points given up to quarterbacks, and tied for 26th in touchdown passes surrendered. Default No. 1 CB Logan Ryan also suffered a concussion Week 13. Ryan likely would have been stuck on Larry Fitzgerald if healthy. With Fitzgerald and Ricky Seals-Jones winning in the middle of the field, Gabbert has found success throwing on the inside while picking and choosing his deep shots. No. 3 overall in run defense, the Titans are a prime pass-funnel defense. This one has a 44-point total and will be played in weather-friendly Arizona under the retractable roof. I’d trust Gabbert more than his counterpart in this one, Marcus Mariota.

Editor’s Note: FanDuel is hosting the Rotoworld Beat the Writers Series, where you can play against five Rotoworld football writers for your chance at cash prizes and free entry into their Sunday Million. Put your knowledge to the test!

 

Sits

Kirk Cousins at Chargers: As the overall QB6, Cousins is very likely the signal caller on a number of fantasy playoff teams. He’s thrown multiple touchdowns in three-straight games but has failed to top 251 yards in three of his last five. Cousins has been as solid and reliable as they come and now gets arguably his toughest matchup to date this season. The Chargers are No. 7 in pass-defense DVOA, No. 7 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, fifth in pass yards given up, fifth in pass touchdowns, and No. 4 in sacks. The Bolts have one of the best pass-rush tandems in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram to go with a cornerback trio of Casey Hayward, Trevor Williams, and Desmond King. All three of Hayward, Williams, and King are top-nine cover corners at Pro Football Focus out of 116 qualifiers, and Hayward in No. 1 overall. Los Angeles has held the last seven quarterbacks it's faced to 0-1 touchdown passes. Cousins is one of the best passers in the game right now in one of the friendliest offenses, but he’s hard to trust in the must-win nature of the fantasy playoffs. In Cousins’ favor is the Redskins being six-point dogs, which could lead to plenty of accumulation of passing stats in the second half. He’ll have to get there on pure volume.

Cam Newton vs. Vikings: As up and down as they come, Newton is the overall QB5 through 13 weeks, but it’s been a treacherous ride for his owners. Newton has made things happen with monster rushing weeks. He’s been held to under 200 passing yards in four of the last five and has zero or one passing touchdowns in five of the past seven outings. In those last seven games, however, Newton has averaged 60.7 rushing yards with three scores. This date with coach Mike Zimmer’s Vikings defense looks like one of Cam’s toughest on the 2017 schedule. Minnesota is ninth in pass-defense DVOA, 10th in total pass yards given up, and No. 3 in fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks. On top of that, the Vikings have yielded the fewest rushing yards to quarterbacks. Back in Week 3 against the Vikings last year, Newton threw for 262 yards and three interceptions with no touchdowns. He was also sacked eight times that day. Newton’s season appeared to turn for the worse that Sunday. Newton has massive upside, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable with him here.

Derek Carr at Chiefs: Carr had easily his best game of the season back in Week 7 against the Chiefs, throwing for 417 yards and three touchdowns, finishing as the QB2. But that one was at home, and Carr has laid numerous eggs in prime spots this year to the point he’s real difficult to get behind as a fantasy starter in one of the more important weeks of the year. Carr has just two multi-touchdown games over his last nine and has just three 300-yard games on the season. The Chiefs have been getting bludgeoned to death defensively for the past couple months, allowing Josh McCown’s QB2 game last Sunday, and the fifth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks on the year. They’re 24th in pass-defense DVOA and 28th in total pass yards allowed. Kansas City also suspended top CB Marcus Peters for Sunday’s game against Oakland for conduct detrimental to the team. On paper, this looks like a spot Carr can exploit, but he’s never played well at Arrowhead. He’s had three previous games in Kansas City. As a 2014 rookie, Carr was 27-of-56 (48.2%) for 222 yards and one touchdown. In 2015, Carr was 21-of-33 (63.6%) for 194 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Last year, Carr’s best season to date, he was 17-of-41 (41.5%) for 117 yards and no scores. Already failing in plum spots in 2017, I’m not taking the bait on Carr for Week 14. Kansas City has allowed point totals of 20, 20, 19, 19, and 16 in its five home games this season.


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Nick Mensio is a football writer for Rotoworld.com. The 2014 NFL season marks his third with Rotoworld. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.
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