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, David Johnsons, and George Kittles 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: Kyler Murray vs. Panthers: The NFL’s leader in pass attempts (94) after two games -- along with Andy Dalton -- Murray has produced weekly fantasy finishes of QB11 and QB16. Holding back his stats to this point is the Cardinals’ inability to score in the red zone (31st in red-zone TD percentage) and Murray’s dual-threat ability has not been part of his game with just six rushing attempts for 17 empty yards and one fumble. After running the most offensive plays Week 1 against the Lions, the Cardinals fired off the second-fewest snaps last week in Baltimore against the ball-control Ravens. Things should swing back the other way back home against a Carolina squad that is 23rd in opponent plays per game after facing the fast-paced Rams and Bucs. This game should also operate at break-neck speed. The Cardinals and Panthers are both top-six in neutral-situation pace and bottom-10 in opponent plays per game. Carolina is No. 4 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks after shutting down Jared Goff in the opener before allowing just 208 yards and one touchdown to Jameis Winston on a meager 25 attempts last Thursday night. The Bucs surprisingly leaned heavily on the run in that one. Football Outsiders isn’t exactly buying the Panthers’ lofty success against the pass, instead grading Carolina No. 19 in pass-defense DVOA. This is a beatable matchup for Murray, largely due to the pace and expected high volume of plays. More opportunities equals more chances for fantasy points. Murray should again flirt with 40 pass attempts. The rushing numbers will eventually come. After being down on Murray Weeks 1-2, I’m all in this Sunday. He’s extremely cheap on FanDuel at $7,200 sandwiched between Kirk Cousins and Dalton.
Josh Allen vs. Bengals: My “start of the week” in Week 2, Allen hung the overall QB7 day on the Giants. The sophomore is picking up right where he left off as a rookie. New OC Brian Daboll is letting Allen play to his strengths. He’s dialing up shot plays to John Brown, and Allen has ran the ball 17 times, with a rushing touchdown in each of the first two games. That’s a massive part of the draw to Allen in fantasy -- his heightened floor due to rushing output. And these are designed runs, so Daboll knows it’s a strength for the team. The Bengals are fresh off getting steamrolled at home against the 49ers, surrendering the QB6 day to a previously-struggling Jimmy Garoppolo. Cincinnati has faced the fewest passing attempts but is still No. 21 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. Quarterbacks have five passing touchdowns on just 45 attempts against the Bengals. DC Lou Anarumo’s group is 29th in pass-defense DVOA. Buffalo’s implied team total of 25 points is ninth-highest of Week 3. Allen is right back in the QB1 mix with the upside to finish the week as the top-scorer any time he takes the field.
Jimmy Garoppolo vs. Steelers: After slogging through the summer and carrying that into Week 1 against the Bucs, Garoppolo got his year off the ground last week in Cincinnati. He went 17-of-25 for 297 yards (11.88 YPA) and three touchdowns as the week’s overall QB6. Volume is a bit of a concern headed into this spot, however, as Garoppolo’s 52 pass attempts through two weeks is 28th of 34 passers. But Garoppolo is No. 6 averaging 8.9 yards per attempt. And the Steelers have been getting creamed via the pass. Tom Brady was the QB7 against Pittsburgh in Week 1, and Russell Wilson went into Heinz Field and put the QB5 day on the Steelers. GM Kevin Colbert went out and addressed his secondary with the acquisition of DB Minkah Fitzpatrick on Monday, but it’s uncertain how quickly his impact will be felt. Fitzpatrick is expected to start his Steelers career at safety. Pittsburgh is No. 30 in pass-defense DVOA and 26th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, surrendering six touchdowns with no interceptions. The Niners head back to Santa Clara for their home opener but will be without stud LT Joe Staley (broken leg) for an extended period of time. Second-year QB Mason Rudolph will be making his first NFL start for the Steelers. He’s a wild card, but there should be enough meat on the bone here for Garoppolo to have a shot at another top-12 finish. San Francisco’s implied team total of 24.75 points is 11th-highest of Week 3.
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Jameis Winston vs. Giants: One of the premier late-round quarterback picks in summer fantasy drafts, Winston has been a big-time disappointment as the QB26 through Week 2. Winston was downright awful in the opener against the 49ers but was better last Thursday night in Carolina with 208 yards and one touchdown to go with no interceptions. Winston isn’t playing confidently right now, and perhaps coach Bruce Arians sees that, as the Bucs have been one of the more run-heavy teams in close games. But a home draw against the lowly Giants could be just what the doctor ordered to get Winston’s season kicked into gear. The Giants have next to nothing in terms of pass rush and are 31st in pass-defense DVOA while coming in at 30th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. They are one of five teams that have yielded at least five passing touchdowns with no interceptions. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have massive mismatch edges over this Giants secondary; Winston just needs to get the ball out and trust his arm. He has looked scared to make mistakes, and he can’t play that way. Josh Allen just lit the Giants up for the QB7 day in Week 2 after Dak Prescott went nuclear with the QB2 finish in Week 1, finishing just 0.2 points behind QB1 Lamar Jackson. The Giants’ cornerback trio of Janoris Jenkins, Deandre Baker, and Grant Haley all have negative coverage marks at Pro Football Focus, while first-round rookie Baker is PFF’s worst cover man out of 103 qualifiers. Tampa Bay’s implied team total of 27.25 points is fourth-highest of Week 3.
Aaron Rodgers vs. Broncos: It’s been literally and figuratively a slow start to the year for Rodgers. Under new coach Matt LaFleur, the Packers are playing at a molasses-slow pace, as only the Jaguars and Chargers are playing slower. And Rodgers is a middling 17th in pass attempts while checking in as the QB22 through two weeks. The matchups haven’t been ripe for fantasy pickings against the Bears and Vikings, but this also doesn’t look like a totally plus Week 3 draw against a Denver unit coached by Vic Fangio. Fangio has a long history with Rodgers after coordinating the Bears’ defense the previous four seasons. Rodgers hasn’t experienced much success against Fangio’s defenses. He obviously had more talent in Chicago, but this Broncos Defense hasn’t been the team’s issue as they sit 0-2. Denver has effectively shut down Derek Carr and Mitchell Trubisky, allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks despite registering zero sacks. Rodgers is admittedly lightyears better than those two, but this Green Bay offense has been extremely hit or miss to this point. After jumping out to an early 21-0 lead last week, the Packers were shut out the remainder of the game. LaFleur has brought his unfriendly-to-fantasy Titans scheme to Green Bay. The 42.5-point total for Broncos-Packers is the third-lowest of the week, ahead of only Titans-Jaguars and Bears-Redskins.
Andy Dalton at Bills: As mentioned earlier, Dalton is tied with Kyler Murray for the league lead at 94 pass attempts. The Bengals went up to Seattle and almost pulled the upset in Week 1 behind Dalton’s 418 yards and two touchdowns. But the Bengals laid a massive egg in their home opener last week against the Niners before Dalton padded his stats late with a long touchdown to John Ross. And now they get to travel to Buffalo to face coach Sean McDermott’s defense that is annually one of the toughest to pass against. It’s been no different through two weeks. Sam Darnold looked like a scared high school boy against the Bills in Week 1 before the Bills effectively ended Eli Manning’s career last week. Buffalo is No. 6 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and No. 7 in pass-defense DVOA. The Bills were Nos. 1 and 2 in those respective categories a season ago. Cincinnati’s implied team total of 19 points is eighth-lowest of Week 3. Volume could be there for Dalton, but the matchup is as tough as they come.
Jared Goff at Browns: Goff on the road is something I have no interest in for fantasy purposes. Dating back to last season, these are Goff’s weekly finishes in away games, starting with last Week 1: QB15 > QB20 > QB26 > QB18 > QB2 > QB27 > QB39 > QB14 > QB29. That QB29 was Goff’s 2019 season opener against the Panthers two Sundays ago. The QB2 was a shootout with the Saints in the friendly fantasy confines of the Superdome. Cleveland has been pretty good against the pass through two weeks. The Browns are No. 2 in adjusted sack rate with Myles Garrett playing like a man on a mission, and this unit checks in at No. 8 in pass-defense DVOA. Marcus Mariota had a big Week 1 against the Browns, but literally 75 of his 248 yards and one of his three touchdowns came on a screen to Derrick Henry in that one. The Browns then predictably straight-up shut down Trevor Siemian and Luke Falk this past Monday night. Goff is easily their toughest test to date, but Goff has not looked all that great. He was bad in Carolina and definitely had some issues against the Saints last week. Goff is just a two-quarterback league play for me despite a lofty implied Rams team total of 26 points. I think the Browns win this game outright. Cleveland is No. 5 in opponent plays per game.