Welcome to this the latest installment of start/sit fantasy advice for quarterbacks and defense/special teams (DST). Last week was Thanksgiving, so let’s see if there was enough evidence to thankful for my suggestions or not.
Start Derek Carr (23.7 fantasy points) – Huge bounce-back game on the road against the Jaguars.
Sit Matt Ryan (11.1 FP) – What has happened to Matty Ice?
Start Sam Bradford (DNP) – He can’t do anybody’s fantasy team any good if he doesn’t play, right?
START THESE QBs...
Jay Cutler, CHI (vs. SF)
Believe it or not Cutler is averaging close to 20 fantasy points per game this season and most people aren’t even starting him. It’s true that he’s only scored 23.4 fantasy points combined in his last two games, but you were probably smart enough and didn’t start him because those games were against the Broncos and Packers. This week he gets an excellent matchup as the San Francisco 49ers come to town. The 49ers did shut down Carson Palmer and the high-powered Arizona Cardinals last week, but that game was in San Francisco, where for some reason the 49ers are able to play excellent defense. On the road, the 49ers’ defense is terrible! On the year the 49ers are giving up the seventh-most fantasy points to quarterbacks and this is a game where Cu6tler should easily go over 300 yards passing with at least three touchdowns.
Marcus Mariota, TEN (vs. JAC)
As most rookie quarterbacks do, Mariota has struggled at various stages this season, but also shown glimpses of his future fantasy superstar potential. Still, Mariota has a 2:1 TD-to-INT ratio (16 TDs, 8 INTs). It appears that Mariota has recovered from the knee injury that sidelined him for a couple of games and he is now playing at a high level and getting more comfortable with each passing week. While the Titans as a team are a train wreck, Mariota is their lone bright spot and he will shine even brighter this week as the Titans welcome the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars to town. This is a defense that just got torched by Philip Rivers last week. The Jaguars are giving up the sixth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season and Mariota should finish the day with close to 300 passing yards and three TD tosses.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, NYJ (at NYG)
When Brandon Marshall is healthy and plays like an elite WR1, Fitzpatrick also becomes a QB1, albeit a lower-end QB1, but that’s fine. Case in point is last week where thanks to Marshall, Fitzpatrick was able to finish with 29.18 fantasy points courtesy of 277 passing yards and four TDs against the Dolphins. This week the Jets are technically the away team as they play the New York Giants in the stadium that they also call home. The Giants can’t defend the pass and as only one team is allowing more fantasy points to QBs this season. Look for Fitzpatrick to match his numbers from last week and once again hook up with Marshall all over the field.
MIGHT BE WORTH THE RISK...
Derek Carr, OAK (vs. KC)
For Carr and the Raiders, it must feel like an eternity since they last played a home game since they’ve spent the past two weeks on the east coast, losing to the Lions and beating the Jaguars this past week. Carr was terrible against the Lions, scoring only 7.56 fantasy points, but was great against the Jaguars scoring 23.7 fantasy points. Normally, Carr is a must-start at home, but this week the Raiders are hosting one of the hottest teams and defenses in the NFL right now in the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have won six games in a row and have been led by their resurgent defense, which is allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. If Justin Houston, the Chiefs’ best pass rusher, is able to play, Carr will be in for a tough day. Even if Houston is out, Carr isn’t going to produce the 20 fantasy points that we’ve grown accustomed to.
SIT THESE QBs...
Russell Wilson, SEA (at MIN)
Heading into the season many expert prognosticators had Wilson finishing as a top-5 fantasy quarterback and may had him ranked as high as No. 3. After all, the Seahawks had added tight end Jimmy Graham and Wilson was one of the best running quarterbacks in the league. Well, even though Wilson has finally put up some decent fantasy points the last two weeks, the Graham acquisition has been a bust and he is now out for the season, while Wilson still hasn’t scored a single rushing touchdown. This week Wilson and the Seahawks travel to Minnesota to take on a Vikings defense that is currently allowing the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks on the year. Wilson also has struggled on the road, averaging less than 15 fantasy points per game away from CenturyLink Field. If you have another viable option to use at QB, it would be best to go with him this week.
Philip Rivers, SD (vs. DEN)
Rivers has been one of the best fantasy quarterbacks this season. He’s currently fifth at his position in fantasy points, which isn’t too bad for a guy who was drafted as an afterthought in most fantasy drafts. Rivers is coming off a huge game against the Jacksonville Jaguars where he scored 28.9 fantasy points thanks to 300 yards passing and four touchdowns. This week the Chargers return home, but unfortunately for Rivers, they are hosting the Denver Broncos, whose defense that has given up the fewest fantasy points to QBs this season. It’s true that the Broncos’ defense is a little bit banged up, but the Chargers really have no offensive threats with Keenan Allen on injured reserve and Antonio Gates can barely run. That leaves Stevie Johnson as the only viable receiving option and he will be shut down by Denver cornerback Aqib Talib. Stay away from Rivers this week.
Matt Ryan, ATL (at TB)
What has happened to Ryan this year? While not a truly elite fantasy quarterback, over the last few years he has at least been one of the most consistent. That’s not the case this year as “Matty Ice” sure has struggled, which is strange with the emergence of Devonta Freeman and the presence of Julio Jones. This week Ryan faces the Buccaneers on the road where he’s been very inconsistent in the past (7 G in Tampa – 9 TDs, 10 INTs). While on paper the Buccaneers’ defense has given up the 14th-most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, they have been playing extremely well as of late, allowing an average of just 13 FP per game since Week 9.
YOU’VE BEEN WARNED...
Drew Brees, NO (vs. CAR)
Brees is as usually an automatic start, especially when the Saints play in the Superdome, but Brees and the entire Saints offense looked terrible last week against the Houston Texans, and that was coming off their bye week. This week the Saints return home to face the only undefeated team in the NFL, the Carolina Panthers. If you’re hoping that Brees bounces back this week, you might want to think again. Thanks to cornerback Josh Norman and the rest of their defense, the Panthers are allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. Brees is going to struggle in this one and will be hard pressed to score 15 fantasy points. Not good if you have Brees and are fighting to make your league’s playoffs.
Defense/Special Teams (DSTs)
START THESE DSTs...
Cincinnati Bengals (at CLE)
In a make-or-break week for many fantasy GMs looking to make the playoffs, you would usually like to start a defense that is
playing at home, but this week the Bengals have the best matchup even though they are on the road. After scoring an outstanding 17 fantasy points last week against the Rams, the Bengals travel to Cleveland this week to play a Browns team that will be starting Austin Davis at quarterback. Look for Cincinnati to once again put up some nice numbers this week.
New England Patriots (vs. PHI)
Over the last two weeks, opposing DSTs have averaged a terrific 13.5 fantasy points a game when facing the Eagles’ struggling offense. That's good news for the Patriots, even after their defense scored a mere four fantasy points in a road loss to the Broncos. New England's D should bounce back and produce in this contest.
SIT THESE DSTs...
St. Louis Rams (vs. ARI)
What has happened to the Rams’ defense? Over the last four weeks, this unit has scored a combined 13 fantasy points. That's not good. What's more, St. Louis has a brutal matchup against Carson Palmer and the Cardinals. Opposing DSTs have combined to score the third-fewest fantasy points against Arizona this season.
New York Jets (at NYG)
Last week without Darrelle Revis, the Jets DST scored a respectable eight fantasy points in a win over the Dolphins, but this unit has put up a combined 15 points in its last three games overall. Couple that with a matchup against the Giants, who have not been kind to opposing fantasy DSTs, and the Jets become a serious risk for owners for Week 13. This is the case even with Revis is able to play and go head-to-head with Odell Beckham Jr.
— Written by Michael Horvath, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Horvath is a Canadian who also happens to be a fantasy football (not to be confused with CFL) and fitness nut. Follow him on Twitter @realmikehorvath.