Fantasy Football Start, Sit, Stream, or Fade: Week 6
2020 has been a year of chaos and discombobulation -- whatever the norm was, it's long been thrown out the window. However, despite all the pandemonium, the one thing that's bound to be a constant is the need to make fantasy football lineup decisions.
Imagine spending months searching for a vacation destination, finally finding one, and having absolutely no plan for when you arrive -- that would be all of us after weeks and months of researching for drafts and then not having a plan of action for when the season actually arrives.
If you had a good draft, you should have some tough lineup decisions to make on a weekly basis. If you don't have any tough lineup decisions, there's a good chance that your bench is thinner than LeBron James' hairline. The goal of this piece is to assist with some of those decisions.
Of course, leagues come in all shapes and sizes, so it's near impossible to tackle every start-or-sit scenario. A must-start for one team could be a bench option in another league.
With all that being said, we're here to help at numberFire! This column will try to highlight some of those tough lineup decisions you have to make every week, and will, hopefully, be able to sway you in one direction or another.
We'll break down players into four categories:
Start: These players are good starts in any format unless you have one of the elites.
Stream: These will be players with either good matchups or higher-than-usual projected volume that can be streaming options in many formats.
Fade: This category will be reserved for higher-end fantasy studs who find themselves in a bad spot on that given week. Fade these players in DFS or if you have a loaded roster, but don't get too cute.
Sit: This category will feature players that should ride the pine unless you truly have no better options.
Without further ado, let's get to it!
(When I reference fantasy points allowed, it is Yahoo settings for quarterbacks and half-PPR for the other positions.)
Ben Roethlisberger (vs. Cleveland) - Big Ben, at home, against the Cleveland Browns. Yum. So far this season, the Browns have not sported a very formidable pass defense this season. In fact, they rank sixth-worst in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play through Week 5, and they've surrendered the ninth-most fantasy points per game to the quarterback position. Yes, the Browns have managed to hold both Philip Rivers and Dwayne Haskins to below 13.0 fantasy points, but really, who amongst us hasn't? The three other passers they've faced -- Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, and Dak Prescott -- averaged 28.8 fantasy points against them, and that's despite the fact that Cleveland has allowed just 76 yards and no scores on the ground to quarterbacks. Meanwhile, amongst the 40 quarterbacks with at least 25 drop backs, Ben ranks seventh in Passing NEP per drop back. He has recorded at least 17.2 fantasy points in each game and has topped 20.0 twice.
Matthew Stafford (at Jacksonville) - Touting the passer going up against the Jacksonville Jaguars has not failed us often this season, so we'll go right back to that well. Jacksonville currently ranks dead last in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. Despite facing the sixth-fewest passes in the league, they've allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to opposing signal-callers. Since Week 2, Ryan Tannehill, Ryan Beardpatrick, and Deshaun Watson have each topped 24.0 fantasy points in this spot. Burrow failed to match those guys in Week 4, though he gave way to a monster performance from Joe Mixon -- that's not a real danger with the Detroit Lions. Like Ben, Stafford has totaled at least 17.2 fantasy points in every game, though he's topped out at 21.3. With Detroit having an implied total of 29.0 points, Stafford could be in for a huge game this week.
Gardner Minshew (vs. DET) - On the other side of Stafford will be Gardner Mustachew. Minshew has posted 19.8 fantasy points or more in four of his five outings in 2020, and he'll look to keep that going against Detroit. The Lions rank bottom-12 in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play and fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, which bodes well for the 'Stache. Detroit has yet to allow fewer than 17.0 fantasy points in a game to opposing passers, and they even let Mitchell Trubisky drop 24.3 on them in Week 1. Minshew's been a QB1 three times already this season, and I expect him to make that four in Week 6.
Kirk Cousins (vs. Atlanta) - I'll be entirely honest -- I'm grimacing as I write this paragraph. Endorsing Kirk Cousins as a quality streamer feels like endorsing pineapple on pizza -- it's just wrong on so many levels. However, here we are. Cousins is a recommended streamer for the sole reason that he's taking on the Atlanta Falcons and what very few people would call "a defense". To date, Atlanta is allowing 30.5 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks per game -- 5.2 more than any other team in the league. The Falcons are on pace to allow 5,530 passing yards and 58 total touchdowns to passers in 2020...which is a lot, by the way. They've allowed at least 29.6 fantasy points to quarterbacks in four of their five games this season (Nick Foles and Trubisky combined 30.8 in Week 3). While Cousins has attempted more than 27 passes just once this season, he could be called upon more with Dalvin Cook expected to be out this Week 6.
Ryan Tannehill (vs. Houston) - Traditionally, this spot is reserved for studs who could disappoint. While Tannethrill isn't necessarily a "stud," he could fail to meet expectations this week. The fact that the Houston Texans have yet to register an interception, coupled with them allowing their opponents to complete 68.7% of passes against them, might lead some to the conclusion that this is a smash spot for Tanny -- it's not. Houston has gone up against Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, Roethlisberger, Cousins, and Minshew, and they've come out relatively unscathed. Not one of those passers managed more than 20.4 fantasy points in this spot. While Tannehill has exceeded 23 fantasy points 6 times in his last 13 games, he'll have trouble posting a ceiling game in this one.
Joe Burrow (at Indianapolis) - For the most part, the 2020 first overall pick has been a viable fantasy option this season, posting more than 16 fantasy points in four of his five contests. However, as was the case last week, Burrow could struggle to produce fantasy points in Week 6. The Indianapolis Colts have sported one of the league's best passing defenses thus far, ranking fourth in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. Indianapolis hasn't exactly gone up against top-tier quarterbacks, but Burrow is not in that tier himself. The Cincinnati Bengals currently have an implied total under 20 points, which doesn't help matters.
Teddy Bridgewater (vs. Chicago) - Teddy's reign as a quality streamer will end after two weeks. In Week 6, Bridgewater will have the unfortunate pleasure of drawing the Chicago Bears. After holding Tom Brady to just 14.1 fantasy points in Week 5, the Bears have now allowed 20 or more fantasy points to an opposing passer just once in their last 31 games. This season, Chicago is allowing just 12.5 fantasy points to the position per contest. Teddy's been impressive this year -- he's ninth in Passing NEP per drop back -- but this is a week to let him ride the pine.
David Montgomery (at Carolina) - In the three games prior to Tarik Cohen getting hurt, Montgomery's highest snap share was 56% -- in the two games since, he's been at 85% and 81%, respectively. In addition, Montgomery has set new career-highs in targets in those last two contests, combining for 14 looks. That's all very good news heading into a delicious matchup with the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers, who had already allowed the most fantasy points to opposing running backs this season, just lost defensive tackle Kawann Short for the season. So far in 2020, Carolina has surrendered the sixth-most rushing yards, the most touchdowns, and the most receptions to opposing backfields. Montgomery has actually been solid as a receiver this season -- among the 29 backs to see at least 15 targets, he ranks seventh in Reception NEP per target. This is a smash spot for Montgomery.
James Robinson (vs. Detroit) - Speaking of smash spots, James Robinson gets the smashiest of spots in Week 6 -- the Detroit Lions. To date, the Lions are tied for the league's worst mark in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play, and they've allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to the position. Detroit has allowed six backs to exceed 60 rushing yards through four games, and they've allowed three backs to score 19.4 or more in their last three contests. Meanwhile, Robinson's been a beast, especially as a receiver. Among backs with at least 15 targets, he ranks sixth in Reception NEP per target and second in Target Success Rate (the percentage of targets leading to increases in NEP). Fire him up as a no-brainer RB1 this week.
Devin Singletary (vs. Kansas City) - For streamers, targeting run-funnel defenses is ideal, and the Kansas City Chiefs are as funnelsome (don't spellcheck) as it gets. On the season, the Chiefs rank second-best in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, and they are tied for dead last in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play. The only way they could be more funnel-ly is if they brought a literal funnel onto the field. Singletary has failed to score double-digit fantasy points in three of his five games this season, but he should be able to produce a good fantasy line in this one.
Ronald Jones (vs. Green Bay) - I was a bit hesitant to recommend Jones as a streamer since I trust Bruce Arians about as much as I'd trust Bill O'Brien to run an NFL roster, but the matchup is too enticing to pass up on. Through four games, Green Bay ranks eighth-worst in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play, and they've allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs. Sure, superstar defensive tackle Kenny Clark has missed the last three games and is likely to return in Week 6, but the Packers had plenty of trouble stopping the run with Clark in the fold last year. Meanwhile, Jones has received 46 touches over his last two games, and he's seen at least 19 touches in three of his five outings this season. Leonard Fournette being healthy could definitely make things complicated, especially with Arians manning this team, but I'm still starting Jones.
Antonio Gibson (at NYG) - In half-PPR leagues, Gibson has scored at least 11.7 fantasy points in three straight prior to his 7.6-point dud in Week 5, and he could be headed for another dud in Week 6. The New York Giants are not the toughest matchup in the league, but they do funnel to the pass. On the season, New York ranks 10th-best in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play, and they rank 8th-worst in the passing counterpart of that metric. Teams tend to run a lot on the Giants -- they've faced the eighth-lowest pass-to-run ratio -- but that's because opposing squads have been able to build big leads against them. A team quarterbacked by Kyle Allen or Alex Smith might not be able to build a lead. Gibson's still a flex play in PPR leagues but temper your expectations.
New England Running Backs (at Denver) - Through four weeks, the Denver Broncos have faced Derrick Henry, James Conner, and Ronald Jones, and yet they've allowed the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing backfields. While Conner and Henry didn't bust in these spots, New England's array of backs -- whether it's James White, Damien Harris, or Rex Burkhead -- could struggle to return value. I'd keep all three of those guys on the bench.
Darrell Henderson (at San Francisco) - After an inexplicable dud in Week 4 in which he totaled just 4.2 half-PPR points, Henderson bounced back in Week 5 with his third performance of 18.5 or more fantasy points in four games. However, he could struggle to replicate that success in a tough matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. Despite all their injuries, San Fran ranks third-best in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play, and they've allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to opposing backfields. Yards per carry can be a deceiving stat, but the fact that they've allowed just 3.0 yards per tote on the season is anything but deceiving.
Kenny Golladay (at JAC) - For some reason, Golladay currently has an expert consensus ranking (ECR) of WR17 over at FantasyPros -- he should be ranked much higher. In the two games since he's returned from injury, Golladay has posted 57 yards and a score and 62 yards and a tuddy -- not too shabby. Last year, Babytron had five games with more than 20 half-PPR points -- he could easily post a performance like that this week. The Lions will be taking on the Jaguars in a matchup that currently has a 54.5-point total over at FanDuel Sportsbook. The Jags are currently outside the top-12 in fantasy points allowed to wideouts, but it helps that they played the Colts in Week 1 and the Titans -- sans A.J. Brown -- in Week 2. Last week, Jacksonville allowed Brandin Cooks to drop 161 yards and a touchdown on them, and they also surrendered 58 yards and a score to Will Fuller. Golladay is a WR1 this week.
DeVante Parker (vs. NYJ) - Despite a juicy matchup and the fact that he's posted at least 12 half-PPR points in three of his last four games, Parker currently has an ECR of WR26 -- again, way too low. On the surface, the matchup might not seem all that titillating -- the New York Jets have only allowed the 15th-most points to opposing wideouts. However, facing the 49ers and Colts definitely helped bring that number down. Outside of those two matchups, the Jets have surrendered at least 70 yards or a touchdown to six different receivers. Tim Patrick totaled 113 yards and a score against this secondary. John Brown managed 70 yards and a touchdown. And in Week 5, DeAndre Hopkins posted 131 yards and a tuddy on just 7 targets. As Pro Football Focus notes, Parker's individual matchup against Pierre Desir is one of the best on the slate.
Chase Claypool (vs. Cleveland) - This is too easy, right? Claypool's fresh off a four-touchdown performance in Week 5, and he gets an even better matchup in Week 6. The Cleveland Browns have surrendered the second-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts to date, and they rank fifth-worst in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play. The Browns are one of only three teams to have allowed at least 1,000 yards to the position, and they're one of three teams to have allowed at least 8 touchdowns. Nine different wideouts have totaled at least 69 yards or a score against Cleveland, and they've surrendered double-digit half-PPR points to eight receivers. Claypool has played 76% and 69% of the snaps in the last two games, and that should continue with Diontae Johnson banged-up.
Jamison Crowder (at MIA) - In reality, Crowder is more of a top-20 wide receiver than a streamer, but that's not how he's being treated in fantasy this season. In half-PPR leagues, the only wideouts averaging more fantasy points per game than Crowder this season are Davante Adams and Travis Fulgham (!!). Crowder's received double-digit targets in each of his three games, has caught at least 7 passes in each contest, has topped 100 yards each time, and has scored in two of them. I know the idea of confidently starting any Adam Gase player is anxiety-inducing, but Crowder should be an exception to that. He's a top-20 option in an ideal matchup.
Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore (vs. Chicago) - Anderson (WR8) and Moore (WR25) have both been top-25 fantasy wideouts to this point, but they could struggle this week against the Chicago Bears. Through five games, only the Los Angeles Rams have allowed fewer fantasy points to wideouts than Chicago. The Bears have yet to allow a receiver to score more than 14.2 fantasy points against them. Carolina has one of the lowest implied totals on the slate, which certainly doesn't help matters.
San Francisco Wide Receivers (vs. LAR) - I just mentioned that the Rams have allowed the fewest fantasy points to wideouts this season, and the team facing them will be the San Francisco 49ers. Los Angeles has yet to allow a receiver to exceed 13.1 half-PPR points against them, and only four wideouts have reached double-digit fantasy points against them. Like Kansas City, the Rams have also been funneling to the run all season. While they rank sixth-best in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, they are third-worst in Adjusted Defensive Rushing NEP per play. San Fran's passing game will likely run through George Kittle anyway, so neither Brandon Aiyuk nor Deebo Samuel are recommended starts.
John Brown (vs. Kansas City) - John Brown missed Tuesday Night's game against Tennessee but has since returned to practice. However, even if he does play, I'd keep him on the bench. The run-funnel Chiefs have been the third-stingiest team against opposing receivers, as they've allowed the second-fewest receptions to wideouts on the season. While I would not suggest benching Stefon Diggs, I can't say the same for Brown.
Eric Ebron (vs. Cleveland) - The Browns struggling against tight ends is a tale as old as time. To date, Cleveland has allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, and the only "stud" they've faced was Mark Andrews in Week 1. The Browns allowed 42 yards and a score to C.J. Uzomah in Week 2, and 72 yards and a touchdown to Dalton Schultz in Week 4. Ebron's fumble last week overshadowed what would've been a decent outing by 2020 tight end standards, but the fact that he's received at least three targets in each of his last three games should not go overlooked.
Mike Gesicki (vs. NYJ) - Gesicki's been hit-or-miss this season, posting 8.0 half-PPR points or fewer in three games and 11.6 and 23.0 in the other two. Fortunately, a matchup with the Jets could be just what the doctor ordered. New York hasn't been awful against tight ends, though their competition has something to do with that. The Jets did allow 50 yards and 2 scores to Jordan Reed in Week 2 and 50 yards and a touchdown to Mo Alie-Cox in Week 3. Gesicki has scored in 6 of his last 11 games dating back to last year, and he's got a great chance to hit paydirt in Week 6.
Irv Smith Jr. (vs. Atlanta) - Smith's 5-target, 64-yard performance could not have come at a better time ahead of his matchup with the Atlanta Falcons. It would have been tough to recommend Smith as a streamer based on the first four weeks, but that performance, coupled with a season-high 68% snap share, makes things a whole lot easier. Of course, the reason Smith is a recommended streamer is the fact that he's facing the Atlanta Falcons. Despite not allowing a single reception to tight ends in Week 5, the Falcons have surrendered the most fantasy points to the position this season. In order, they've given up 24 yards and a score to Greg Olsen, 88 yards and a touchdown to Schultz, 60 yards and 2 tuddies to Jimmy Graham, and 98 yards and 3 touchdowns to Robert Tonyan. Smith is a high-upside streamer in Week 6.
Tyler Higbee (at San Francisco) - After a scorching finish to his 2019 season, Higbee has been quite the disappointment (for the most part) in 2020. After garnering a whopping 56 targets in the final five games last season, Higbee has seen just 17 looks through five games this year. Yikes. Don't let his three-touchdown performance in Week 2 overshadow the fact that he hasn't topped 40 yards or scored in any other game. The Niners were the fourth-stingiest team against tight ends last year, and they've fared pretty well against the position in 2020. Prior to Week 5, they hadn't allowed a single tight end to exceed 5.0 half-PPR points against them. According to PlayerProfiler, Higbee ranks 28th among tight ends in routes run. That's...not good.
Austin Hooper (at Pittsburgh) - Hooper might be a popular streamer this week since he's seen 17 targets in his last two games, but I'd proceed with caution here. Only one tight end has exceeded 3.8 half-PPR points against Pittsburgh in 2020, as they've held Evan Engram, Zach Ertz, and Houston tight ends to under 7.0 fantasy points...combined. Hooper also has to deal with the return of David Njoku, who came back last week and played 29% of the team's snaps. I'm fading Hooper, despite the workload he's received over the last two games.