By: Brian McDonald (@sackedbybmac)
Good week overall for the start ’em/sit ’em advice with the picks for the Tennessee Titans game, but that one catch performance from DeAndre Hopkins left a sour taste in my mouth.
Hopkins has trended in the wrong direction for two straight weeks, but I’m not ready to back off the “always start your studs” approach, which I’ll elaborate more on later in this article.
This week’s opponent for the Houston Texans is a tough matchup for the team overall, but individual players can still perform for their fantasy teams. So which ones should you avoid playing?
Keep reading to find out.
In standard ESPN leagues, Brock Osweiler currently ranks 25th in fantasy points scored behind guys like Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Tannehill.
His opponent this week ranks second in sacks, fifth in opponent’s QB rating, sixth in completion percentage allowed, have given up only three passing touchdowns to six interceptions, and ranks eighth in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks with just 12.8 per game.
The Minnesota Vikings are a bad matchup for Osweiler.
Osweiler may eventually figure it out, stop turning the ball over, and become a fantasy starter, but continue to sit him in all formats until that metamorphosis happens.
Verdict: Sit in all formats.
Minnesota currently ranks eighth in both rushing yards per game allowed (82.5) and rushing yards per attempt allowed (3.6), so they’re a tough matchup for Lamar Miller this week, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should bench him.
Miller ranks second in the league for rushing attempts with 93—Ezekiel Elliott has 94—and ranks sixth in the league in yards from scrimmage with 429. So while his matchup may be difficult, Miller is a high-usage back that averages over 100 total yards per game, so he’ll have a good chance to break double-digits in fantasy points even against a tough defense.
I’d avoid using Miller in daily leagues where the combination of his price tag and matchup make him a risky play, but in standard leagues where you likely used a first or second round pick to get him, I’d keep him active as a RB2 or flex play. He won’t put up crazy numbers, but he’s been a consistent double-digit fantasy points scorer and you likely don’t have two better options considering his average draft position.
Verdict: Start in standard leagues, use someone else with a better matchup and price tag in daily leagues.
Last week tested the “always start your studs” strategy, but by the odds I still think it’s the right way to approach your lineup in standard leagues. Like I said about Miller, I would avoid DeAndre Hopkins in daily leagues in favor of someone with a lower price tag and better matchup, but sitting him doesn’t make sense for standard leagues.
To get Hopkins on your roster, you likely had to draft him between rounds two and five, so it’s unlikely you also have three other receivers on your roster worthy of starting over him. Eric Karabell of ESPN has Hopkins ranked as just the 15th best receiver this week, which is both a large drop from where he ranked earlier in the season, and also proof that despite the tough matchup he should remain in your lineup.
Since every league requires two starting receivers, a rank of 15th is still a starter, and to sit Hopkins you’re most likely deciding to play someone in the 30-40 range of the rankings instead. So despite the hard matchup, you shouldn’t feel comfortable starting someone like Sammie Coates or Robert Woods over Hopkins.
Listing Hopkins as a “start” isn’t saying that you think he’ll have a great game this week, but instead it’s saying that you likely don’t have two or three better options, and that the odds are better of Hopkins producing despite the matchup than one of your alternatives having a big game.
Just look back to last year when the Texans faced a good New York Jets defense with T.J. Yates playing at quarterback. The same thinking that would have you bench him this week, would have put him on the bench in that game also; Hopkins had 118 receiving yards and two touchdowns that day.
Keep him active.
Verdict: Start in standard leagues as a WR2, use someone else with a better matchup and price tag in daily leagues.
Rookie Will Fuller has been moving up the rankings of fantasy football receivers pretty quickly this season.
Fuller is averaging five receptions for 81 yards this year, but if you take out his one bad game against New England, then his average for yards per game jumps up to 97, which puts him in elite company.
The Vikings might decide to play the Texans receivers the same way that New England did and take away the deep passes that Fuller feasted on the first two weeks, but that might not be a problem with the adjustment the Texans showed against Tennessee.
Fuller was drafted to be their deep threat, but they started using him more underneath last week which shows up in his 11.5 yards per catch average against the Titans, compared to his 23.4 per catch average the first two weeks. If the Texans stick with that adjustment, Fuller should be able to get his numbers even if the Vikings play two safeties deep the whole game.
Fuller also benefits from the attention that will continue to go toward DeAndre Hopkins, and also the returning Braxton Miller.
Verdict: Start as a WR3 or flex in standard leagues.
As a group the Texans tight ends are starting to produce, but for fantasy purposes no single tight end has emerged as a consistent enough threat to be worth starting. The high for any Texans tight end in receiving yards this season is 52 from Ryan Griffin in Week 3, so they’re touchdown dependent and those opportunities haven’t come often enough to warrant starting any of them.
If C.J. Fiedorowicz becomes a frequent red zone target, then we’ll have to reassess at that point, but for now leave all Texans tight ends on your league’s waiver wire.
Verdict: Sit in all formats.
The loss of J.J. Watt didn’t seem to hurt the Houston defense much last week on the field, but Watt was responsible for many of the stats that drive fantasy success.
That drop-off lowers their fantasy value some, but they’re still worth starting. The Vikings’ offense ranks 31st in yards per game, 29th in yards per play, and 15th in points scored. However, if you take away the two defensive touchdowns the Vikings scored in Week 1 against Tennessee, their rank in points scored drops to 25th.
The only concern I have about starting the Texans defense this week, is the Texans offense.
Since defensive touchdowns, or touchdowns set up by short field position after turnovers, count against a fantasy defense the same way offensive touchdowns do, a bad performance from Osweiler and the Texans’ offense could torpedo their fantasy day through no wrong-doing of their own.
Verdict: A low-end start, but worth starting in leagues with 10 owners or more; avoid in daily leagues.
Nick Novak showed surprising leg last week with a made kick from 53 yards, but also missed badly on a kick from 48 yards later in the game. Between his inconsistency, the tough defensive matchup, and the Texans road struggles, Novak isn’t worth starting; don’t even consider it.
Verdict: Sit in all formats.
Best Starts of the Week:
- Tom Brady (at Cleveland)
- Ben Roethlisberger (vs New York Jets)
- Phillip Rivers (at Oakland)
- Derek Carr (vs San Diego)
- Aaron Rodgers (vs New York Giants)
- Le’Veon Bell (vs New York Jets)
- DeMarco Murray (at Miami)
- David Johnson (at San Francisco)
- C.J. Anderson (vs Atlanta)
- Todd Gurley (vs Buffalo)
- Antonio Brown (vs New York Jets)
- Odell Beckham Jr. (at Green Bay)
- Jordy Nelson (vs New York Giants)
- A.J. Green (at Dallas)
- Mike Evans (at Carolina)
- Greg Olsen (vs Tampa Bay)
- Jordan Reed (at Baltimore)
- Zach Ertz (at Detroit)
- Rob Gronkowski (at Cleveland)
- Delanie Walker (at Miami)
- Vikings (vs Houston)
- New England (at Cleveland)
- Cardinals (at San Francisco)
- Broncos (vs Atlanta)
- Panthers (vs Tampa Bay)