Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes. Anybody can tell you to start the Lamar Jacksons, James Conners, and Julian Edelmans of the world. That’s not what I’m doing here. I’m looking deeper at legitimate mostly-borderline candidates who owners may truly be contemplating using in lineups.
Start of the Week: Josh Allen at Giants: Allen wasn’t particularly good in the Week 1 opener against the Jets, but he was far better than Sam Darnold. Darnold played scared in the pocket and missed a ton of throws, whether it was on him or his receivers. Despite the lackluster game, Allen still managed to finish as the QB16 for the week on the heels of his dual-threat ability. Allen had one touchdown each as a passer and runner. He tossed a couple interceptions, but the pick-six was extremely unlucky, as it hit off Cole Beasley’s thigh and popped into the air to C.J. Mosley. Allen is technically going back out on the “road” for an away game Week 2. But the Bills are simply playing in the same stadium they played last week. They’ll face both the Jets and Giants in their respective home openers at MetLife Stadium. The Giants were absolutely shredded by Dak Prescott Week 1, surrendering 405 yards and four touchdowns through the air. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and even Randall Cobb were running free all afternoon. The Giants’ defensive line recorded Football Outsiders’ second-worst pass-rushing score, better than only the Broncos. Under DC James Bettcher, the G-Men play a ton of man coverage, and that typically benefits mobile quarterbacks who can get out of the pocket and run when defensive backs have their backs turned to the line of scrimmage downfield. The Giants yielded the seventh-most rushing yards to quarterbacks a season ago under Bettcher. Prescott didn’t have to run last Sunday. But dual-threat QBs Blake Bortles (42 yards), Prescott (45), Deshaun Watson (36), and Cam Newton (29) all had success on the ground against New York in 2018. Allen rushed 10 times for 38 yards and one score last week. That’s just part of his game and considerably raises his floor as a fantasy prospect. The 43.5-point total for Bills-Giants doesn’t jump out as a game to attack, but there’s a non-zero chance Allen finishes Week 2 as the top fantasy scorer. John Brown should also be running free most of the afternoon.
Jared Goff vs. Saints: One of my “sits” last week, Goff went to Carolina and put up the overall QB30 week while throwing for just 186 yards on 39 attempts (4.8 YPA) with one score and one pick. Goff never challenged the Panthers downfield and relied heavily on dump-offs. As noted last week, Goff’s home-road splits were drastic a season ago. At the L.A. Coliseum last year, Goff attempted on average five more passes per game than on the road. His completion percentage was 7.5 points higher at home, and his passer rating was 116.7 at home compared to 82.7 in away games. Goff also threw 22 touchdowns in home games to just 10 on the road. Goff’s fantasy finishes in his seven home games, starting with the most recent: QB21 > QB2 > QB11 > QB4 > QB2 > QB6 > QB12. Goff faced the Saints twice last year, once in the 80-point shootout at the Superdome in Week 9 and again in the NFC Championship game back in New Orleans. Goff attempted 40 passes in both games, producing a combined 688 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. The Saints are fresh off getting lit up by Deshaun Watson on Monday night and now travel to the west coast on a short week off an emotional win. New Orleans gave up the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks in Week 1 and were 30th in fantasy points surrendered to the position in 2018. The Saints have a formidable pass rush, but the back end of their defense is a bit leaky. This game sports a 52-point total, the second-highest of Week 2. Goff is firmly back in play as a top-12 play and solid option in daily leagues at his somewhat depressed price coming off a forgettable opener.
Derek Carr vs. Chiefs: Carr was surgical in the Raiders’ emotional Week 1 defeat of the Broncos, completing 22-of-26 throws for 259 yards and one touchdown. Carr took what the defense gave him and methodically poked his way down the field with high-percentage passes. He attempted just four throws 20-plus yards down the field, completing three for 92 yards. Carr now gets a Chiefs Defense at home where he had arguably his best game of the season last year. Week 13 last season, Carr completed 29-of-38 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns, finishing as the overall QB4. The Chiefs were 31st in opponent plays per game in 2018, and Oakland ran its second-most plays of the season in that Week 13 contest. Jaguars quarterbacks Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew combined to complete 27-of-33 passes (81.8%) for 350 yards (10.6 YPA) and three touchdowns with one pick against the Chiefs in Week 1. Minshew is a sixth-round rookie who was making his NFL debut, and the Chiefs made him look like a 10-year veteran. Playing Carr isn’t sexy by any means, and it might not feel right. But this Kansas City defense bleeds points to quarterbacks. Carr is extremely cheap on daily sites, priced beneath Case Keenum and Mitchell Trubisky on FanDuel. He’s a cheap way to load up on skill players and makes for a fine streaming option in redraft formats. The 53.5-point total for Chiefs-Raiders is the highest of the week. Pairing Carr with Tyrell Williams and/or Darren Waller makes a whole lot of sense. All three players are at big-time value price points.
Andy Dalton vs. 49ers: Dalton turned in the QB13 day last week against the Seahawks in Seattle, throwing for a robust 418 yards and two scores on 51 attempts. This game was close all afternoon, and the Bengals nearly pulled the upset. The 51 attempts very well could go down as Dalton’s season high when all is said and done, but this looked like an offense under new coach Zac Taylor that wants to push the pace, similar to the Rams team Taylor worked for the last few years. The Bengals were 14th in pace Week 1 and ran the sixth-most offensive plays. Cincinnati’s defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage much of the day, getting the ball back in Dalton’s hands relatively quickly. This 49ers-Bengals game is sneaky for stacking in fantasy. San Francisco played at the sixth-fastest offensive pace Week 1 and finished 20th in opponent plays per game. The Bucs just couldn’t do anything against the Niners. San Francisco is back in the eastern time zone for an early 1 PM ET start after playing in the late afternoon last week. The Niners’ pass rush is much improved with the additions of Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, but Taylor did an unbelievable job of scheming the ball out of Dalton’s hands quickly last week in Seattle to make up for the Bengals’ offensive-line issues. Cincinnati used play-action 33.9% of the time, the fifth-highest Week 1 mark. The 49ers field largely the same exact secondary from a year ago when they finished 19th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and 27th in pass-defense DVOA. They’ll be better this year if the pass rush hits home more often, but this still looks like a defense to pick on in this spot. John Ross’ blazing speed should play well against slower-footed, big-bodied outside CBs Richard Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon. Tyler Boyd in the slot against CB K’Waun Williams is another mismatch in Cincy’s favor.
Editor's Note: Drafting is only half the battle. Dominate all season long with our Season Pass! Use our NEW Start/Sit Tool, Trade Analyzer, Consensus Rankings, Projections and more on your way to a championship! Click here for more!
Aaron Rodgers vs. Vikings: Making his debut in new coach Matt LaFleur’s offense, Rodgers and the Packers played at the sixth-slowest pace in Week 1 and ran the seventh-fewest plays. It’s hard to fault Rodgers for his down numbers -- 203 yards and one touchdown -- against the Bears’ elite defense at Soldier Field, but the offense also wasn’t conducive to fantasy production. At least Rodgers is playing at home this week, but the draw is similarly tough against a Vikings Defense that suffocated Matt Ryan last Sunday. Ryan tossed a pair of garbage-time touchdowns to save his fantasy day, but Atlanta was getting shut out for a good portion of it. Minnesota surrendered the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks in 2018 and now have DE Everson Griffen back to full health coming off the edge opposite stud Danielle Hunter. Xavier Rhodes locked down Julio Jones last week, and Harrison Smith remains one of the best centerfield safeties in the sport. Rodgers has long struggled against this defense since coach Mike Zimmer took over. Since the start of 2015, Rodgers has managed finishes of, starting with the most recent, QB25 > QB18 > QB1 > QB17 > QB19 > QB8 against Zimmer’s defense. Rodgers is a borderline 12-team league play this week and best suited for two-QB formats. There are far more enticing streamer options listed above who I’d all play over Rodgers.
Matthew Stafford vs. Chargers: Heavily aided by overtime and playing against the breakneck-paced Cardinals last week, Stafford managed the overall QB4 finish in the desert, throwing for 385 yards and three touchdowns. Stafford’s 45 pass attempts were his most since Week 2 of last season, which was before the Lions became extremely run-heavy under medieval coach Matt Patricia. In Patricia’s ideal world, Stafford would throw the ball 10 times like Kirk Cousins did for the Vikings last week while riding the run game to victory. The Lions aren’t good enough for that, but Stafford averaged just 32.5 attempts per game after Week 2 last year. He topped 300 yards just twice over his final 14 games and never threw more than two touchdowns in a game in that span. The Chargers now come to Detroit after playing at the third-slowest Week 1 pace. This game features two of the nine slowest-paced offenses from last week. After running 80 plays last Sunday, the Lions will likely drop down to the 55-65 range. The Bolts limited Jacoby Brissett to 190 yards on 27 attempts. L.A. was No. 7 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks a season ago, return the bulk of that defense sans S Derwin James, and have a stud pass-rush duo in Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Lions LT Taylor Decker was having serious issues in pass pro last Sunday against Chandler Jones and Terrell Suggs. RT Rick Wagner wasn’t much better on the opposite side. Both Decker and Wagner graded out as bottom-15 tackles in Pro Football Focus’ Week 1 rankings. Stafford fades back to mid-range QB2 status and is only an option in two-quarterback formats.
Kyler Murray at Ravens: Murray attempted a league-high 54 passes in his NFL debut against the Lions, finishing as the overall QB11. That was heavily aided by overtime and the Cardinals firing off an NFL-best 82 offensive plays. Arizona played at the sixth-fastest pace. Playing fast and attempting a lot of passes will be normal for coach Kliff Kingsbury’s group. But going on the road for a 1 PM ET start all the way across the country against a Ravens Defense that is one of the best in the league and fresh off harassing Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t ideal for the rookie’s first road outing. The Ravens’ defensive front should thoroughly dominate Arizona’s subpar offensive line that surrendered five Week 1 sacks to the Lions. There are some bullet points in Murray’s favor, however. The Cardinals and Ravens were both top-three in offensive plays per game last week, and Baltimore was No. 1 in that category a year ago. There’s a good chance both of these teams run a ton of plays Sunday. The Ravens should have no trouble putting up points against a barely-there Cardinals secondary. Lions wideouts and tight ends were running free all afternoon last Sunday. That will again force the Cardinals to play catch up against a secondary that will be without top slot CB Tavon Young (neck, I.R.) and No. 1 outside cover man Jimmy Smith, who injured his knee Week 1. There could be enough second-half garbage time for the 13-point road underdog Cardinals to get Murray into the top-12 in fantasy. But I just would prefer to see how Murray performs in this tough road test before relying on him as my QB1. The Ravens annually play extremely tough defense in their own backyard. Baltimore was No. 3 in pass-defense DVOA and No. 4 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks in 2018. Only Ben Roethlisberger (QB5) and Andy Dalton (QB9) managed top-12 finishes in Baltimore last year.