For anyone looking to decide who to play and who to bench for this week in fantasy, you need look no further. We’ll take ten players who could go either way and offer whether you should play or bench them. Let the writers here at the Capital Sports Report make the tough decisions for you. And hey, if it doesn’t work out, you know who to wave the pitchforks at.
(The start of the week at the wide receiver position is Cole Beasley of the Dallas Cowboys, set to face off against the Atlanta Falcons. Image courtesy of Getty.)
I enjoyed writing the WR Face-off in the last Start / Bench column, and I think there’s another fascinating discussion happening between two wide receivers on the same team. With the suspension of Ezekiel Elliot, the Cowboys ground game is in question – the best pick-up out of Alfred Morris, Darren McFadden, or Rod Smith is also an interesting discussion – but I think the loss of an elite running back will lead to greater volume in Dak Prescott’s passing attempts, at least in a relative capacity. Dez Bryant is obviously the #1 Wide Receiver for the Cowboys, but the question of who to start between the other two wide receivers between Cole Beasley and Terrance Williams is an interesting one.
Last week both of these players exploded for excellent fantasy production, Williams being the #5 WR on the week and Beasley the #11. However, the two got their value in extremely different ways. Williams was primarily used as a driver, earning excellent PPR value in receiving all 9 of his targets for 141 yards. Conversely, Beasley was more of a red zone threat, catching 4 of his 6 targets for just 24 yards but netting 2 touchdowns in the process. This was the first week Williams hit double-digits scoring in PPR leagues since Week 1 against the New York Giants, and the only other week Beasley was fantasy relevant was when he scored two touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers in Week 5.
With this in mind, an interesting dilemma appears; both are worth flex consideration, but who is the better flex? Normally I would say Williams as I love to chase volume, but it’s not consistently there. Most weeks he struggles to break 3 or even 4 receptions, which means predicting when he’ll receive great volume even more difficult. Beasley has a similar floor, but his value is a lot more touchdown dependent rather than via volume.
Officially, Williams is slotted in as the WR2 on the Cowboys depth chart, while Beasley is the WR3. But I’m going to go against conventional wisdom and say you should START Cole Beasley and SIT Terrence Williams. I don’t think Williams is going to be the one driving field position as long as the Cowboys are working to figure out the role of their ground strategy without Zeke, while Beasley retains his usual boom-bust value in the red zone. Williams likely has a more solid floor, but it’s a small enough increment that I’d personally rather take Beasley’s boom-bust value.
The last time I advocated playing Elijah McGuire, following an injury to Bilal Powell, I got burned hard by the re-emergence of Matt Forte. Now we’re in a similar position, as Forte’s injury has flared back up after an excellent week and taking over lead duties for Bilal Powell. And while Powell will almost certainly be the lead back in this game as a result of that, the question of where McGuire will fit into their offensive scheme is very much present.
And, as much as it pains me to say it, I think he’s a good start at the running back position this week. And it may burn me, but I’m personally starting him over a myriad of other good flex options this week. Matt Forte has benefited immensely from being the pass-catching back, consistently putting up 10 points game since his return from turf toe, and I think McGuire can slot nicely into that spot. It’s a bitter fit for him than slotting in for Bilal Powell as the primary rusher, and McGuire has still gotten some work on the Jets three-headed offense. It’s a big risk, but the upside is definitely there for STARTING Elijah McGuire, especially against Tampa Bay’s 20th ranked rushing defense.
Last week there were a lot of question on who would be a more valuable component in the Dolphin’s rushing offense following the trade of Jay Ajayi to the Philadelphia Eagles between Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams. Ultimately Williams had a larger share of the pass-catching duties and managed to parlay that into a passing touchdown, beating Drake in points for the week.
Having said that, without said touchdown Kenyan Drake would have beaten Williams on the week, and I think that Drake was more effective as a running back on the whole. The eye test was solid on Drake on the ground, who had 69 yards total and 55 more yards than Williams. I think a lot of people are going to start Williams this week because he had more value, at least in the PPR format, but Kenyan Drake is almost certainly going to be the lead back and I see him getting the lion’s share of the work. I don’t see Williams getting a lucky touchdown two weeks in a row, and for that reason I advocate SITTING Damien Williams.
Streaming against the New York Giants has, up until this point, been a very viable strategy. With their opposing team this week being the 49ers, however, the question of how porous their defense will be comes into question. One stat I’ve seen tossed around a lot is that the Giants are incredibly weak against the tight end, offering up a touchdown in every game they’ve played. With George Kittle for on the week, this could provide sneaky value for Garrett Celek.
Or so, the theory states. But there’s a reason Garrett Celek hasn’t been fantasy relevant this season: he’s not that good. The tight ends that have played the Giants are Jason Witten, Eric Ebron, Zach Ertz, Cameron Brate, Hunter Henry, A.J. Derby, Jimmy Graham, and Tyler Higbee. Celek is perhaps comparable to Higbee, but even that’s a stretch. I think the streak is misleading, and anyone who picks up Celek for the match-up will be left wanting. SIT Garrett Celek this week, or better yet cut him from your roster – if for some reason you did think he was worth the start – and pick up George Kittle, should he have been dropped following his injury.
Speaking of tight ends who have scored against the Giants, Cameron Brate has been a solid tight end through most of the year. Until, that is, last week, in a game the Buccaneers struggle to compete in and where an injured Jameis Winston was taken out for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Given that Brate’s rapport has been built with Winston and he hasn’t been quite as electric with Fitzpatrick, a lot of people are worried his streak is going to be stopped for a while.
But, there a lot of good things going for Brate this week. Mike Evans is suspended this week following a fight last week, which while downgrading the Bucs offense on the whole does improve Brate’s standing as a pass catcher. Additionally, the Jets are ranked 7th in points allowed to tight ends, which isn’t Giant levels bad but enough for a talented tight end like Brate to succeeded. As long as Fitzpatrick sends a few deep balls his way – and we all know how much Fitzpatrick loves to throw deep balls – Brate should resume to his proper form; he’s definitely worth a START this week.
- New York Giants D/ST
There were a lot of conventional pick-ups with great match-ups this week, but if you want a defense that is almost certainly not owned in your league, the Giants will be there. This is entirely a match-up based prediction, but the 49ers have posed exactly one game where they broke 24 points, a 41-39 loss against the Los Angeles Rams in Week Three. Superstar corner Janoris Jenkins will be returning to play after his suspension, and with Pierre Garcon out for the season with a neck injury it’s worth trusting him over Marquise Goodwin. Carlos Hyde is a great running back and they’re likely to feed him a lot of their volume, but I think the game script will have the Giants up early and lead to a lot of passing attempts and a lot of interceptions for the Giants. It’s incredibly risky, and I’m not even confident the Giants will ultimately win the game, but I think there will be sneaky points here and that they’re worth a START for this singular week.
- Buffalo Bills D/ST
The Bills are a very solid rushing defense, currently ranked 8th in the league. The New Orleans Saints have transformed into a rushing team this season with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara both consistently putting themselves in the RB1 category. If that was the end of the story, I’d say they’re a fine start. However, not only are these running backs so talented that I don’t know if the rushing defense can retain their solid performance up to this point, but the cannon known as “Drew Brees’ arm” can be unleashed if the game script calls for it. Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. are not slouches, and there’s always the (slim) possibility that Willie Snead becomes relevant to the offense again. Regardless, the Saints offense is just too good, so I recommend that you SIT the Bills D/ST.
As tempting as it was to pick another Jets match-up given my sheer predictive prowess when it comes to Josh Mccown performing (if you do have him, start him) in the interest of keeping things fresh let’s talk about a game that is likely to be much closer. Namely, the showdown between the 3-5 Cincinnati Bengals and the 5-3 Tennessee Titans. Conventional wisdom would say to go the team with a more proven track record, but let’s dive a little deeper.
The Bengals defense has been surprisingly good this season. They are currently ranked as the 4th best passing defense, albeit with the downside of being the 19th ranked rushing defense. Fortunately for them, the Titans have struggled to get a ton going in the ground game this season, with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry having a combined 5 rushing touchdowns across the season. The Titans tend to prefer relying on the pass offensive, and if the Bengals can shut that down then Mariota’s viability as a start will be hampered.
The Bengals have an elite passing weapon in A.J. Green, which when paired against the 17th ranked Titans passing defense could mean a big day for Andy Dalton. The rushing defense is a different story, currently ranked at #10, so the utilization of Joe Mixon could be hit or miss, possibly shutting down the receiving game if the Bengals have enough confidence in their players that they never stack the box. Andy Dalton has 54 rushing yards over the season, which while not atrocious is not likely to be a consideration in his valuation this week.
Which brings us to our final point; can Marcus Mariota step up in the rushing game? After his injury his mobility was severely limited, staying in the pocket rather than rushing with the ball, the question of whether Mariota can retain his value as a dual-threat quarterback is in question. He’s only put up 14 rushing yards since his return from injury, and whether he’ll regain his mobility this week will determine whether he’ll be a better start than Dalton. Mariota is the more talented quarterback in a vacuum given Dalton’s predilection to interceptions, but will he be ready for this match-up?
In my opinion, the answer is yes. I think Mariota will start getting work done again against this weak Bengals rushing defense, and while it may be more modest than some would like, it’ll nicely pad his stats. On top of that, trusting Andy Dalton as a starting option is always a risky play, and Mariota certainly isn’t incompetent as a passer. For these reasons, I recommend STARTING Marcus Mariota and BENCHING Andy Dalton.
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