This article is part of our Exploiting the Matchups series.
Better late than never! We're a day late this week at Start/Sit, after a fierce ear infection and an even fiercer performance from D'Ernest Johnson. A lot of us fantasy managers are worried about byes, injuries and weather more so than matchups this week, but for the more fortunate among us, let's dive in...
Unless otherwise noted, references to 'fantasy points' are based on PPR scoring with 25/10 yards per point and 4/6 points for TDs. Start % comes from Yahoo, as of Friday morning.
Ryan Tannehill (vs. KC)
He's been quiet even in recent weeks with the Titans turning their season around, but Tannehill should finally have his big fantasy game this Sunday, facing a Chiefs defense that still ranks bottom five in most key efficiency stats. Only Washington has allowed more fantasy points to quarterbacks, while only Detroit and Jacksonville have given up more net yards per pass attempt (7.8). The Chiefs probably won't be this bad all year — and they did start to play better last week — but it's at least clear their defense has taken a step back from last season (which was far from elite in the first place).
- Honorable Mentions: Matthew Stafford, LAR vs. DET; Sam Darnold, CAR at NYG; Tua Tagovailoa, ATL vs. MIA
Mike Davis (at MIA)
Davis has scored between 10 and 14 PPR points each week, but don't mistake that for a total lack of upside moving forward. He ranks ninth among RBs with 4.8 targets per game, and while Cordarrelle Patterson has made all the splash plays, it's actually Davis who has taken the team's most valuable carries, including two of three inside the 5-yard line and six of eight inside the 10. There's upside for 20 points this week even if he merely matches his season averages for targets and carries (12.4), facing a Miami defense that's given up the fourth most points to RBs and the 11th most rushing yards (125.3 per game).
J.D. McKissic (at GB)
The game log makes McKissic hard to trust, but he does have a couple things working in his favor this week if you're on the fence about starting him. Most important, Antonio Gibson has been playing through a stress fracture and seemed to have some trouble with it last week, with season-low 39 percent snap share contributing to McKissic's big game. Even if Gibson is fine this week, there's an increased probability of negative game scrip (i.e., more McKissic snaps) with Washington being a 7.5-point underdog. That's enough to put McKissic on the RB2/FLEX map with six teams on bye, and he then becomes a high-end RB2 if Gibson doesn't end up playing.
- Honorable Mentions: Damien Harris, NE vs. NYJ; James Conner, ARZ vs. HOU; Myles Gaskin, MIA vs. ARZ;
Jaylen Waddle (vs. ATL)
Waddle should eventually be more of a deep threat, but for now his high-volume, low-aDOT, slot-based role looks reasonably promising for fantasy. Maybe not to the extent we saw last week, but it should pay off on a lesser scale this Sunday, facing a Falcons team that ranks 30th in pass-defense DVOA (15.1%) and 19th in fantasy points allowed to WRs (38.7 per game). It isn't entirely clear who will guard the slot for Atlanta, with options including fifth-round rookie Avery Williams (hamstring), fourth-round rookie Darren Hall and second-round rookie safety Richie Grant.
Darnell Mooney (at TB)
It's admittedly a leap of faith to put any confidence in Justin Fields in a road matchup with the defending Super Bowl champs. So, we might not call this a good matchup, but we can say it's not as scary as it sounds. For one thing, the Bucs are banged up on defense, with the IR/inactive list this week likely including three of their top four cornerbacks, and possibly LB Lavonte David (ankle) as well. Perhaps that creates an opening for Fields, who has sent 29.2 percent of his targets in Mooney's direction (compared to 26.0 percent for Allen Robinson).
- Honorable Mentions: Jakobi Meyers, NE vs. NYJ; Brandin Cooks, HOU at ARZ; Marquez Callaway, NO at SEA; Mecole Hardman, KC at TEN
Dallas Goedert (at LV)
While he didn't practice, Goedert's removal from the COVID list on Thursday suggest he should be fine by Sunday, likely ready for an expanded role in Game 1 of the post-Ertz era of Philadelphia football. While the Raiders' cornerbacks have been surprisingly good this year, Vegas hasn't enjoyed the same success defending tight ends, allowing the sixth most fantasy points (17.6 per game) and fifth most yards (67.8). Assuming he's healthy, Goedert should see at least five targets this week, and he's always a good bet to do something with his chances.
Carson Wentz (at SF)
Wentz is mostly being started out of desperation this week, but there are still better options being used by fewer fantasy players, including Jones brothers Mac (21% started vs. NYJ) and Daniel (12% vs. CAR). Apart from the Monday game in Baltimore a couple weeks ago, Wentz has been a game manager this year — and not an especially good one — with no more than 251 passing yards or two TDs in any of his other six starts. There's even an argument for Taylor Heinicke (9% at GB) over Wentz, as Washington's QB at least adds something with his feet. Plus, Wentz will have to deal with a talented, well-rested San Francisco defense coming out of a Week 6 bye.
Alex Collins (vs. NO)
A groin injury may prevent Collins from playing, in which case this warning applies to Rashaad Penny (IR/calf) and DeeJay Dallas instead, though Dallas at least has shown some potential as a pass catcher. The problem here, though it didn't bother Collins in Pittsburgh last week, is the matchup with a consistently excellent run defense. Despite their offseason losses, the Saints again rank Top 5 in a slew of stats, including DVOA (2nd, - 38.3%) and yards allowed per carry (1st, 3.3 YPC). Someone will have to take carries, obviously, but we shouldn't expect it to be efficient.
Kenyan Drake (vs. PHI)
This isn't actually a bad matchup, but even with all the byes this week, it seems a lot of people are chasing points here. Yes, Drake scored twice last week. His first two TDs of the season. On six touches. After four touches total over the previous two games. And with Jalen Richard now stealing a lot of work on passing downs. This could be a big rebound spot for Josh Jacobs, but that doesn't mean Drake will get in on the fun.
- Honorable Mentions: Khalil Herbert or Damien Williams, CHI at TB; Jamaal Williams, DET at LAR; Mark Ingram, HOU at ARZ
Corey Davis (at NE)
Davis has two huge games and three duds this season, with the latter including a 2-8-0 receiving line on five targets in a Week 2 blowout loss to these very same Patriots. The matchup is part of the problem, but also consider that Davis is averaging 7.2 targets per game — not bad, but far from true No. 1 receiver volume. In fantasy terms, he's basically made a living on contested catches in the end zone. That looks cool, but it's not sustainable. He needs the Jets to develop some semblance of a real passing game or else he'll slide to WR4/5 territory as the year goes on.
Amon-Ra St. Brown (at LAR)
The rookie got a little more perimeter work a couple weeks back, but he then took 92 percent of his Week 7 snap in the slot, which is where the Rams often play Jalen Ramsey (46 percent). It's also just a tough matchup overall, with Detroit a 16-point 'dog and tied for the second lowest implied total (17.25) of the week. The Rams are only middle of the pack in terms of fantasy points allowed to WRs, but that's because they've faced the third most targets (145). They rank fourth in YPT (7.5) on those targets.
Zach Ertz (vs. HOU)
Options are thin this week, I get it. And this isn't to say Ertz is unstartable, but let's be realistic about expectations. There's not much reason for the Cards to rush his involvement, given the opponent, and the offense Ertz is being integrated into isn't one that prioritizes tight ends. Maybe Ertz changes that... just not this week.
For Shallow Leagues (40-66 percent rostered)
QB Sam Darnold (at NYG)
RB J.D. McKissic (at GB)
RB Khalil Herbert (at TB)
RB Devontae Booker (at CAR)
WR Brandon Aiyuk (vs. IND)
WR Robby Anderson (at NYG)
WR Christian Kirk (vs. HOU)
WR Darnell Mooney (at TB)
TE Ricky Seals-Jones (at GB)
K Nick Folk (vs. NYJ)
D/ST Packers (vs. WAS)
For Medium-depth Leagues (15-39 percent rostered)
QB Daniel Jones (vs. CAR)
QB Mac Jones (vs. NYJ)
RB Rhamondre Stevenson (vs. NYJ)
WR Rashod Bateman (vs. CIN)
WR Nelson Agholor (vs. NYJ)
TE Evan Engram (vs. CAR)
TE Gerald Everett (vs. NO)
K Jason Sanders (vs. ATL)
D/ST Raiders (vs. PHI)
For Deep Leagues (under 15 percent rostered)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo (vs. IND)
RB DeeJay Dallas (vs. NO)
RB Devonta Freeman (vs. CIN)
WR Van Jefferson (vs. DET)
WR Allen Lazard (vs. WAS)
WR Quez Watkins (at LV)
TE Hayden Hurst (at MIA)
TE Ross Dwelley (vs. IND)
K Randy Bullock (vs. KC)
D/ST Seahawks (vs. NO)