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 Matt Ryans, Marlon Macks, 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 vs. Dolphins: Fantasy’s QB13 in points per game, Allen is coming off the bye week and entering the cupcake part of the Bills’ schedule, which includes a pair of dates with the Dolphins over the next five weeks. Buffalo is No. 1 in red-zone touchdown rate, and the Dolphins are dead last in opponent red-zone touchdown percentage. Miami’s defense is 32nd in pass-defense DVOA, 32nd in yards per attempt allowed, 32nd in opponent passer rating, 32nd in touchdown passes given up per game, 31st in fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks, 31st in adjusted sack rate, and 31st in interceptions. This defense doesn’t do anything well. If all of that doesn’t convince you to play Allen, then you’re beyond saving. But we’ll continue on here. Most think of the Bills as this run-heavy, slogging offense, but they’re quietly 12th in pass attempts per game and in the middle-third of the league in offensive pace. These are the fantasy QB finishes against the Dolphins this season, starting with Week 1: Lamar Jackson QB1 > Tom Brady QB4 > Dak Prescott QB7 > Philip Rivers QB9 > Case Keenum QB17. The Bills are massive 16.5-point home favorites, and their implied team total of 28.5 points is second-best of Week 7, behind only the Rams. Not only would I simply start Allen, I would play Allen over any other quarterback this week. He has obvious overall QB1 upside thanks to his dual-threat ability. Allen is averaging 8.2 rushing attempts for 31.6 yards per game on the ground with three touchdowns. He lit a bad Dolphins Defense on fire last season with rushing lines of 9-135-0 and 9-95-2 in Weeks 13 and 17. Allen finished as the overall QB2 and QB1 those weeks. And this version of the Dolphins is much worse than the 2018 one.
Daniel Jones vs. Cardinals: Since posting the overall QB2 afternoon against the Bucs in Week 3, things haven’t been all that pretty for this year’s No. 6 overall pick. Jones is a disgusting QB26 in fantasy points per game, trailing guys like Chase Daniel and Marcus Mariota. But the schedule hasn’t exactly been kind to Jones, who is coming off back-to-back losses to the Vikings and Patriots. He has played his last three games without Saquon Barkley (ankle) but gets him back this Sunday and went to Foxboro last Thursday night without Barkley, Sterling Shepard (concussion), and Evan Engram (knee) on a short week. The vast majority of quarterbacks would fail in that scenario. Engram is back this week as well, and Golden Tate is in his third week removed from suspension. Above, I mentioned how the Dolphins were 31st in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. The Cardinals are behind them sitting in dead last. Arizona has surrendered the most passing touchdowns and remains the only team without an interception. That defense at least gets star No. 1 CB Patrick Peterson back from his season-opening six-game suspension, but it’s anyone’s guess as to what kind of game shape Peterson is in after being away from the team for a month-and-a-half. Outside of Peterson, this defense strikes zero fear into an offense. Arizona is 29th in pass-defense DVOA, 30th in passing yards allowed, and 31st in opponent QB rating. DC Vance Joseph’s unit has also allowed the second-most rushing yards to quarterbacks. Jones possesses that dual-threat ability but hasn’t really shown it off since rushing four times for 28 yards and two touchdowns in his first start. Since then, Jones has run the ball 10 times for 63 scoreless yards. That’s still two-plus fantasy points per game to add to his floor. The Cardinals play at the league’s fastest offensive pace, which translates to the opponent getting more offensive possessions, and therefore has Arizona sitting at 24th in opponent plays per game. Both of these teams are top-11 in offensive pace, so this should be a fun game to watch. The 50.5-point total for Cardinals-Giants is the second-highest of Week 7, and New York’s implied team total of 26.75 points is third-best. Jones is very much back in play as a QB1 streaming option.
Gardner Minshew at Bengals: I’ll admit, I didn’t expect Minshew to be nearly this good or competent as a mid-round rookie stepping into the saddle Week 2. But Minshew Mania has taken over, and he’s the overall QB17 in fantasy points per game, which includes his dreadful QB26 day last week against the Saints when he scored just 5.6 points and completed less than 50% of his passes. New Orleans fields a talented defense that has truly been its saving grace during Drew Brees’ (thumb) absence despite what Big Media will lead you to believe. *Whispers ... Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t been anything more than average, at best.* This is a rebound spot for Minshew and the Jaguars’ trio of Minshew, Leonard Fournette, and D.J. Chark. Cincinnati is 30th in pass-defense DVOA, 29th in adjusted sack rate, 28th in yards per attempt allowed, and 27th in opponent passer rating. Minshew should operate from a clean pocket with open throwing lanes most of the afternoon. The 29th-fastest paced Jaguars will also be considerably up in pace against a No. 4-paced Bengals team that can’t sustain drives. Cincinnati is getting creamed for the seventh-most fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks. One big reason is this defense has shown no ability to contain quarterbacks in the pocket, allowing -- by far -- the most rushing yards to the position. The Bengals have hemorrhaged 304 yards and two touchdowns on the ground to quarterbacks. The Cardinals are second-worst in that category and have only yielded 160 rushing yards to the position. Lamar Jackson had 19-152-1 rushing last week as the overall QB3 against Cincinnati. Kyler Murray hung a 10-93-1 rushing line in Week 5 en route to the overall QB6 day. Josh Allen had 9-46 as a runner in Week 4. Minshew isn’t afraid to use his legs. In his five starts, the rookie is averaging four carries for 23.8 yards on the ground. It doesn’t sound like much, but just adding those two-plus points to his floor makes a difference. Jacksonville’s implied team total of 23.75 points is one of its highest marks of the season.
Jared Goff at Falcons: The numbers on Goff have been beaten to death. We all know he’s struggling, and his struggles date back pretty deep into last season. As former Rotoworld Godfather Evan Silva noted numerous times this week, Goff has completed just 59.8% of his passes at 6.7 yards per attempt with a hideous 14:15 TD:INT mark over his last 14 starts. In his 14 starts before that, Goff completed 66% of his throws at 8.7 yards per with a robust 33:7 TD:INT mark. Goff is being pressured 43.3% of the time this season. Only Daniel Jones has been pressured on a higher percentage of his throws. And under pressure, Goff is completing just 43.4% of his throws with a QB rating of 65.0. The Rams’ offensive line is in shambles after letting LG Rodger Saffold walk as a free agent and releasing C John Sullivan. Those guys were grizzled veterans, and the Rams opted to replace them with completely inexperienced sophomores LG Joseph Noteboom and C Brian Allen. Noteboom was horrendous before tearing his ACL last week, and Allen has merely been mediocre. The line is playing bad as a whole. The good news, however, is the Atlanta defensive line gets zero pressure, checking in at No. 32 in adjusted sack rate. This is an extreme pass-funnel defense, as the Falcons are 31st in pass-defense DVOA and No. 7 against the run. Atlanta is 27th in pass yards allowed, 30th in opponent QB rating, and 30th in yards per attempt allowed. Only the Cardinals and Dolphins are yielding more fantasy points to quarterbacks. And the Falcons are going to be without top CB Desmond Trufant due to injury. So, while Goff has been bad, this Atlanta defense has been just as bad, if not worse. And we get this game played in the friendly confines of a dome between two top-10 fastest-paced offenses with the week’s highest projected total at 54.5 points. The Rams’ implied total of 28.75 points is tops for Week 7. If Goff fails, the alarms will ring louder.
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Matthew Stafford vs. Vikings: Very quietly, Stafford is the overall QB11 in fantasy points per game right now. The Lions are playing far more aggressively under new OC Darrell Bevell. Detroit is 16th in pass attempts per game, and Stafford has attempted the second-most passes of 20-plus yards, behind only Patrick Mahomes. Stafford is averaging a crisp 8.0 yards per attempt. Stafford played really well last Monday night against the Packers, but the Lions failed too many times once in Green Bay territory and settled for field goals. That, along with shoddy refereeing, was Detroit’s downfall in the one-point loss. Stafford now gets to come home on a short week to face a Vikings team that is finding its groove a bit. Minnesota is No. 8 in pass-defense DVOA, No. 10 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, No. 10 in adjusted sack rate, No. 7 in passing yards given up, and No. 6 in opponent yards per attempt. The Vikings held Matt Ryan to his only game outside of QB1 territory with a QB14 finish in Week 1. Aaron Rodgers was the QB19 against Minnesota in Week 2, and Carson Wentz needed 40 attempts to get to the QB9 day last Sunday. Derek Carr, Chase Daniel, and Daniel Jones were easily disposed of in between. In two games against coach Mike Zimmer’s defense last season, Stafford averaged a pitiful 157.5 yards with no touchdowns on 34 attempts per contest. This game’s 43.5-point total is the fifth-lowest of the week and will likely be an NFC North slobberknocker between a pair of clubs that prefer to run the ball and play defense.
Philip Rivers at Titans: Rivers is the current QB11 in overall points but QB15 in fantasy points per game. He has a pair of QB9 days under his belt, but Rivers also has two sub-QB24 weeks to go with it. His ceiling hasn’t proven high while the floor is extremely low. The Chargers fire off the fourth-most pass attempts per game, but they run the league’s slowest offense. This week’s tilt with the Titans features two of the 10 slowest offenses, as the Titans are 23rd in pace. That’s reflected in the projected total of 40 points, second-lowest of Week 7 ahead of only Saints-Bears at 38.5 points. Tennessee’s defensive line that is No. 8 in adjusted sack rate versus the Chargers’ offensive line is one of the biggest mismatches in this one. Rivers has been pressured at the sixth-highest rate and has attempted the second-most passes under duress. The Titans are No. 6 in passing yards allowed, No. 12 in pass-defense DVOA, No. 8 in opponent yards per attempt, and No. 9 in fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks. Their schedule has been pretty easy to this point, however, as they’ve faced Baker Mayfield, Jacoby Brissett, Gardner Minshew, Matt Ryan, Josh Allen, and Joe Flacco. This Bolts offense just hasn’t been very good either, especially since Melvin Gordon returned to the team in Week 5. Rivers is a fine option in two-QB leagues, but he’s a tough sell as much more than a floor play in a game with a low total played between two of the slower-paced teams in the NFL.
Sam Darnold vs. Patriots: Darnold returned from his bout with mono to put the QB10 day on the Cowboys last week, upsetting Dallas in the Meadowlands. Darnold was nearly flawless with his third career 300-yard passing game with a pair of touchdowns, including a 92-yard strike over the top to Robby Anderson. Darnold breathed much-needed life into this previously-pathetic offense. He’s someone to own across all formats when looking at the Jets’ upcoming schedule after Week 7. Following their date with the Patriots Monday night, the Jets have @ JAX, @ MIA, vs. NYG, @ WSH, vs. OAK, @ CIN, vs. MIA, @ BAL, and vs. PIT in Weeks 8-16. Seven of those nine games are against current-bottom 12 pass defenses in terms of DVOA. The bad news is this week Darnold squares off with a Patriots Defense that is No. 1 in a ton of categories. They’re No. 2 in pass-defense DVOA, No. 1 in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, No. 2 in passing yards surrendered, No. 1 in opponent yards per attempt, No. 1 in passer rating, and No. 2 in adjusted sack rate. Darnold will also be without TE Chris Herndon (hamstring) for at least one more week. If Darnold is available or gets dropped in your leagues over the next five days, he should be added as a viable weekly option the remainder of the fantasy season. He’s just someone to avoid for Week 7 with the Jets implied to score 16.75 points, the week’s third-lowest. All Jets skill players get big-time boosts starting Week 8.