By Grant Playter | Staff Writer
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.
At this point in the season a single waiver decision can be what costs you a playoff spot and what wins you a championship. For a few weeks the waiver wire has been rather barren, at least in more competitive leagues, but we had a few young running backs become standouts this week. I want to talk about Mike Davis of the Seattle Seahawks and Peyton Barber of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because right now both are appealing options, but figuring out which is better is at best tricky.
This past week Mike Davis emerged as a viable option for the Seahawks, rushing the ball for 64 yards on 16 carries and receiving 4 times for an additional 37 yards, breaking triple digit yardage from the line of scrimmage. Promoted from the practice squad after a bevy of injuries to the position, the Seahawks have really been hurting at the running back position and Davis seems to be the best option they currently have. Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls have traded duties at the position and fallen flat, so it’s likely to see Davis continue to get volume in this capacity. Trusting any Seahawk running back, however, has proven detrimental on the season.
The situation for the Buccaneers is similar, but different in a few key ways. Peyton Barber started for the Buccaneers over Jacquizz Rodgers following a concussion to Doug Martin, delivering for the second consecutive week. He didn’t get the two touchdowns he did last week, but he did rush 23 times for 102 yards, as well as receiving the ball 4 times for an additional 41 yards. These numbers are really good, starting caliber in fact as Barber ended up as a low-end RB1 on the week at the eleventh spot.
The issue with Barber is that Martin will likely take over lead back duties when he recovers. Martin hasn’t looked good in a while, but it’s a bit like the sunk cost fallacy; they pay him so much and have put so much time in the season into him that not playing him feels counter-intuitive. However, the season is lost for the Buccaneers, and if they want t free up cap space in the off-season by cutting an underperforming Martin, Barber might get some more time on the field to see what they have in him.
From a purely talent level, I like Peyton Barber more and would absolutely pick him up over Davis in a keeper league. I think he’s the future of that team’s ground game and getting a starting caliber running back for nothing is great. But right now his situation is less clear than Davis, who I think is going to be the starter right now when you need the points. Both are great pick-ups, but solely because of the timing I think you should START Mike Davis and BENCH Peyton Barber.
For a few weeks DeSean Jackson was looking pretty good. 14.2 points against the Jets, 10.8 against the Dolphins, and another 14 point game against the Falcons. However, this past game was a dud, catching the ball twice for twenty-four yards on just three targets. The big difference? His quarterback situation, and the chemistry thereof. Ryan Fitzpatrick was the quarterback in those three games, but now that Jameis Winston has returned the situation has changed.
D-Jax has struggled to consistently thrive this season when Winston is under center. With Fitzpatrick he could consistently put up WR3 numbers, but that floor drops out when the actual starting quarterback is playing. Winston is much more likely to feed Mike Evans and Cameron Brate, who both struggled to perform with Fitzpatrick, than he is to help D-Jax. And while that’s good for their bottom line and D-Jax certainly isn’t cuttable, I think he’s more likely to bust than boom against the Lions this week and is worth BENCHING.
I’m one of the biggest Nelson Agholor fans out there, I think the guy struggled early on but is more than deserving of his draft spot and position as WR2 on the Eagles. He might not be the guy but, as last week showed, he’s a great offensive weapon when the targets are sent to him. The question is, and always has been, whether those targets will be there, and determining that will be crucial in whether he’s worth a start this week. Last week there was no Zach Ertz, who usually is ahead of Agholor in the pecking order, which solidified the volume he needed for a big night.
However, Ertz has been cleared from the concussion protocol and will play this week. Having said that, even if it was a losing effort, Agholor managed to deliver in the end zone, not to mention getting double the targets that the WR1 Alshon Jeffery did. I think Agholor has earned a spot in that offensive scheme, I’m personally STARTING him in a must win game for his upside, but the floor could just as easily fall out from under him. Whenever I start doubting Jeffery he has a big game, and if he has one I don’t know if there will be enough for Agholor, who can be somewhat touchdown dependent.
Here’s a guy no one is talking about in spite of a great performance, catching 5 of 12 targets for 79 yards and a touchdown. Starting tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz is going to be out of the game with a concussion, leaving Anderson as the starting tight end against the 49ers this week. In Houston they really want to pass the ball, just ask DeAndre Hopkins, and in spite of the difficulties Tom Savage has being Tom Savage, players like Bruce Ellington had solid flex value because of this.
And it hurts to say this because I’m about as big a fan as Deshaun Watson and big a detractor of Tom Savage as is out there, but it will probably be enough to elevate Anderson into fantasy relevancy again. The match-up is fine, it’s set to be a shoot-out with the 49ers having a good rookie under center against a terrible Houston pass defense, and I think Anderson is going to be fed targets like a Hopkins. Not because of any insane talent on his end, but because who else is he going to pass it to? As much as he would like to, is he only going to try to pass the ball solely to Hopkins? No, he’s not, and for that reason, especially with the waiver wire as barren as it is, Stephen Anderson is a solid STARTING option for team’s struggling at the tight end position.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, per the fantasy hive mind, is set up for a rebound game this week. The Jets are playing the Denver Broncos, who have excellent corners set to cover standouts like Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse, leaving ASJ in prime position to deliver in the passing game. ASJ has had numerous touchdowns taken away from him this season, a lot of the lack of value as of late has been because of them being called back, and was a major figure in the fantasy tight end scene early in the season. Logic dictates that he should come back into the mix this week, right?
To me, however, it just doesn’t feel right. I think the team is going to lean on the guy’s that have been delivering for them week after week in Anderson and Kearse in the passing game in spite of the difficult corners. In part this is because they have had good results, in part it’s because the Broncos have fallen apart and momentum can be a big deal. In that same vein, momentum is working against ASJ, and while I doubt the team will overreact and scheme him out, it’s hard to ignore the hot hand in favor of one stuck in an ice box.
I don’t want to underestimate the power of a good match-up, that can mean a lot and ASJ can absolutely come back into focus, hell he probably will given how bad I’ve been at predicting tight ends not named Cameron Brate this season. Having said that, I’m shutting down the comeback story and suggesting that you BENCH ASJ this week.
- Cleveland Browns D/ST
The fantasy playoffs are here, and in my leagues that means that defenses are being scooped up left and right to prevent playoff opponents from streaming them against them. This leaves the waiver wire pretty barren as far as options go, and teams struggling for a good defense with a good match-up are going to be left wanting. The Browns defense have been bad this year, especially recently, there’s no doubting that. Having said that, they’ve been able to deliver several weeks in spite of never winning a game, and if you’re hurting for options, they’re worth a START against the Green Bay Packers. Because God knows if you can’t start them against Brett Hundley, you can’t start them against anyone.
- Chicago Bears D/ST
The Chicago Bears haven’t been particularly good this year, the offense just hasn’t been able to get it together, but most weeks the defense has actually been pretty solid. They’re the ninth best defense on the season and have had excellent games against good offenses like the Steelers or the Panthers. But they’re playing in an away game against the Bengals, who recently have really gotten it together offensively. In addition to that, recently they’ve been a lot more match-up dependent then they were earlier in the season, likely as a result of the season being definitively lost at this point. I’m BENCHING the Bears D/ST this week, as weird as it is to say.
Two men I’ve talked about at length before are Marcus Mariota, starting quarterback for the Tennessee Titans, and Blaine Gabbert, the latest fill-in for an injured Carson Palmer who has been looking very good as of late.
This season, Marcus Mariota has not been a great NFL quarterback. In fact, it’d be a stretch to call him a good NFL quarterback, sitting on the twentieth spot for the season. What he is good at, however, is making miracles happen in the ground game, and if he can get something started in that regard he can usually make a great fantasy day. Every week Mariota has personally gotten into the end zone, he’s had at the very least a serviceable fantasy performance.
No one on the season has allowed more rushing touchdowns from the quarterback position than the Arizona Cardinals, who have allowed five over the season. The rushing yardage allowed isn’t quite as egregious, they’ve allowed the 12th most in that regard, but if Mariota is going to have a good game now is the time. The Cardinals have recently gotten much better at defending against the pass, so even if their best receiver Rishard Matthews returns I don’t know if Mariota will get much done in the pocket passer role; I predict any value to come from what Mariota is personally able to do.
On the other end of the spectrum is Blaine Gabbert, who is much more of a traditional quarterback. Over his three starts Gabbert has rushed for just 42 yards, an average of 14 a game. His passing stats, however, are much better. Over the past three games he’s passed for an average of 240 yards and an average of two touchdowns a game, whereas Mariota sits at 213 and one touchdown a game.
Gabbert has also been much better at using his passing weapons, establishing a solid rapport with Larry Fitzgerald and rookie tight end Ricky Seals-Jones. This could be especially useful against the Titans defense, who rank 21st on the season. Recently it’s been a bit of a mixed bag, they allowed 40 points three weeks ago against the Steelers but less than 30 combined against the Colts and Texans combined the next two weeks. I’d probably say it’s a good match-up for a competent quarterback, which I’d rank Gabbert as over the likes of Jacoby Brissett and Tom Savage.
I think both are serviceable streaming options this week, but I give the edge to Blaine Gabbert for a few reasons. First of all, even though the Cardinals are one of the better options for a rushing quarterback, relying on any quarterback, even someone like Mariota, to score a rushing touchdown is risky at best. It’s much easier to see consistency from a pocket passer, which Gabbert is. Which is the other big reason: the Titans are bad at defending the pass, and Gabbert has been consistently good in that regard. Marcus Mariota has more upside but I don’t think he’s going to hit it, so BENCH him and START Blaine Gabbert.
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