With byes now a factor, I had considered changing the criteria, but I will stick to what I've been doing. This column focuses on the options in the "QB2/TE2/DST2" range, i.e. those ranked that week from around 13 to 24. That's the tier I will be evaluating. And more often than not, I'll try to give you a lower-ranked option for whom to start and a higher-ranked option for whom to sit when possible.
With bye weeks hitting, your decisions might actually be a little easier for our three weekly featured positions. However, if you are still struggling, let's see if we can help make things a little easier.
Teams on bye: Atlanta, New Orleans, New York Jets, San Francisco
START This QB
Justin Fields, Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers
I discussed earlier in the week how overrated the Packers' defense is given how they are in the bottom half of the league in points allowed. That alone puts Fields in our consideration set.
But let's start with the negatives. According to Pro Football Focus, Fields has targeted an open or wide-open receiver on just 32 percent of his pass attempts this season. That's the worst percentage among 37 qualified quarterbacks and by a lot. No other QB is even below 40 percent. Obviously, there's tons of room for improvement. But that's just it – I think Fields will begin to improve on that mark as just the natural regression to the mean. And when that happens, he should see his numbers rise
Plus, he is already beginning to see his numbers improve. Last week he had his first TD pass. The week before he nearly doubled his yardage total on the year. It's happening in baby steps, but it's happening.
SIT This QB
Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers
The Vikings have some serious questions on offense. While Cousins has been good when has a clean pocket, things are dramatically different when he doesn't. And wanna guess who has the highest pressure rate? That's right, the Panthers at 41 percent. And sure enough, their sack numbers match that kind of pressure. Carolina is tied for the third in the league with 16 sacks.
But it's not just a ferocious pass rush. Just six secondaries have allowed fewer than 6.0 yards per dropback: Bills (4.5), Raiders (5.4), Panthers (5.4), Eagles (5.7), Cardinals (5.9), and Broncos (5.98).
Now add in the fact that Cousins has just as many interceptions the last two weeks (against the Lions and Browns, not quite the most fearsome defenses in the league) as he does TDs. I'd stay away from Cousins this week.
START This TE
Donald Parham Jr., Los Angeles Chargers at Baltimore Ravens
Going deep with this one this week, but my spider senses are tingling. Even if the Ravens shut down their opponents' WRs, they seem to struggle with TEs year after year. And this year is no different. I'm willing to give them a pass in the opener against Darren Waller because few teams can defend the Raiders' Pro Bowler. But Mo Allie-Cox for crying out loud had one of his best efforts this season against Baltimore on Monday night. The Ravens are currently giving up the second-most fantasy points to TEs.
Parham meanwhile has caught a TD pass each of the last two weeks and don't be surprised if we see him make a Dawson Knox-like run and finds the end zone again on Sunday.
SIT This TE
Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
So Tonyan once again appears in this space. I told you to sit him last week versus Cincinnati. He responded with another miserable week of just one catch for eight yards. Has he had even one good week yet this season?
Ignore my advice at your own peril as the Bears are just one spot behind the Bengals when it comes to preventing TE fantasy points this season. I do think Tonyan will have some decent games later this season, but it's not happening this week.
START This Defense/Special Teams (DST)
Carolina Panthers vs. Minnesota Vikings
The Panthers are right on the cusp of the DST1 range this week. But do you realize just how good the Panthers have been?
They are the third when it comes to the fewest points allowed per game. And when it comes to yards per game, they are even better (second). Can you imagine if Sam Darnold threw fewer interceptions forcing this unit back onto the field?
At least Darnold doesn't have to face his own team's defense. See the Cousins section above as to how good Carolina's pass defense is. But they're allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to RBs as well! They are allowing less than 100 rushing yards per game, so I wouldn't worry about Dalvin Cook too much either. The Panthers don't have a lot of counting stats to show for their efforts, but y'all might want to start Carolina this week.
SIT This Defense/Special Teams (DST)
Las Vegas Raiders at Denver Broncos
I will refrain from commenting on the Jon Gruden thing other than saying I think we can all agree that at a minimum all the attention and questions are probably a bit distracting for the players. Very tough to say what the team will look like on Sunday. But it's far from an ideal matchup anyway. First off, the Raiders will be away from the cushy confines of Allegiant Stadium.
Secondly, the Raiders have now gone three straight weeks without a turnover. With the conservative Teddy Bridgewater at the helm, I don't see that changing this week. And this is more than just a recommendation in a vacuum. I've been holding onto the Raiders DST in my primary league myself for the last few weeks, but this was the week I finally decided "not enough was enough." My team is now devoid of the Raiders.
— Written by Mark Strausberg, a member of the Athlon Network Contributor, who despite his youthful exuberance and good looks has been playing fantasy sports before Wildcats or Hoosiers even made it to VHS. Got a fantasy sports question or thought? Hit him up on Twitter @MarkStrausberg.