- Despite Doug Baldwin's disappointing start to the season, here's why you should start the Seahawks wideout against the Lions this week in fantasy.
Finding interesting players to discuss in Start ’Em, Sit ’Em every week is a formulaic process. No one needs to be told to start Todd Gurley or sit Jacquizz Rodgers, but that’s just step one. The goal is to find players on the start/sit border at every position. Ideally, there will be arguments for and against starting every player in our Start ’Em, Sit ’Em column.
The surest way to find those players is to consult FantasyPros, the fantasy industry’s rankings clearinghouse. Most of us in the industry use FantasyPros’ rankings widget to craft and publish our rankings, which means that the site houses rankings from more than 100 writers. Their expert consensus gives us as strong an idea as we can get as to where the fantasy community stands on every relevant player from week to week. From there, I see the players on whom I strong differ from my fellow rankers, and a Start ’Em, Sit ’Em column comes to fruition.
This week, there is one player on the start/sit border who I am higher on than every other ranker on FantasyPros. It only made sense that he got this week’s introductory treatment. If Doug Baldwin is on your team, you’ll want him in your lineup for Week 8.
It has been a tough year for Baldwin, who started training camp with a knee injury he admitted would likely keep him at less than 100% for the entire season. In Week 1, he sprained the MCL in his other knee, costing him two games. After shaking the rust off on the field for two weeks, we finally saw the receiver we expect Baldwin to be in Seattle’s Week 6 win over Oakland. He caught six of eight targets in that game for 91 yards, easily his best game of the season. When he takes the field against the Lions on Sunday, his knee will have had another two weeks of recovery time, with the Seahawks’ bye arriving fortuitously last week.
I do understand why some are concerned about Baldwin in this game. First, the recent knee injury isn’t the one that Baldwin said would prevent him from being 100% all season, and that remains an issue. The Lions are ranked 11th against receivers in 4for4’s schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed metric in standard leagues, and seventh in PPR formats. Despite that, I put more stock in Baldwin’s most recent performance than pronouncements he made back in August, and the fact that this game carries an over/under of 49.5 outweighs any matchup concerns.
Baldwin is back atop Seattle’s receiver depth chart, and is as healthy as he has been all season. Tyler Lockett has taken on a larger role this season, but there’s no question as to who is Russell Wilson’s favorite receiver when everyone is healthy. Baldwin has received a target on 21% of his routes run this season, compared with 15% for Lockett, according to Pro Football Focus. He has a significant advantage of Detroit slot corner Nevin Lawson, and that should only drive more targets in his direction. Baldwin has a WR2 floor this week, and should be treated that way by the fantasy community.
With that, let’s get to the rest of Week 8 Start ’Em, Sit ’Em.
Cam Newton, Panthers (vs. Ravens)
The Ravens represent a tough matchup for any quarterback, but don’t overthink this one. Newton has thrown for at least two touchdowns in five straight games, and is averaging 42.8 rushing yards per game this season, with a low of 29 yards and a high of 58. He has done it in good matchups against the Falcons and Bengals, and bad ones with the Cowboys and Eagles. The Ravens are a different beast altogether, but Newton’s rushing floor makes him hard to fade in any fantasy context. That 42.8-yard average equates to an additional passing touchdown in standard-scoring leagues. Unless you have another slam-dunk option, Newton is an easy start on Sunday.
Mitchell Trubisky, Bears (vs. Jets)
In Trubisky’s last three games, he has thrown for 1,003 yards, 9.37 yards per attempt and 11 touchdowns against three interceptions. Sure, the six-score game against the Buccaneers is doing a lot of the heavy lifting in the touchdown department, but that still leaves five scores in losses to the Dolphins and Patriots. What’s more, Trubisky ran for 53, 47 and 81 yards in those three games, with a rushing touchdown last week against New England. His weekly finishes at the quarterback position in those three weeks? First, fourth and first. The Bears are favored by a touchdown over the Jets this week. Get Trubisky in your lineups.
Andy Dalton, Bengals (vs. Buccaneers)
Dalton flopped in a great spot against the Chiefs last week, throwing for 148 yards, 5.1 YPA, one touchdown and one interception. That seems to be pushing him down the rankings, because I can’t figure out why else he’d have a consensus ranking of QB10 in a matchup with the Buccaneers at home. The Buccaneers rank 32nd in quarterback aFPA, allowing 341.5 yards and three touchdowns per game to the position. This game has an over/under of 54, the second-highest total on the board this week, and the Bengals are favored by 4.5 points. Dalton has overall QB1 potential this week.
Case Keenum, Broncos (at Chiefs)
The Chiefs may have shut down Dalton last week, but they still rank 28th in quarterback aFPA. On the other side of the ball, Patrick Mahomes and company are doing their part to make sure opposing offenses have to keep the foot on the gas all game. As we discussed in a recent Target and Snap Report, the Broncos have been surprisingly effective on offense, ranking 10th in yards per play and seventh in Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA. The Broncos may not only lose and fail to come within the 10-point spread, but they will score some points.
Matthew Stafford, Lions (vs. Seahawks)
In this week’s Target and Snap Report, I wrote that the emergence of Kerryon Johnson is likely to have a significantly negative effect on Matthew Stafford’s fantasy value through reduced volume in the passing game. With that said, this sets up as a game where he still has low-end QB1 volume. The over/under is 49.5, the Lions are favored by a field goal (giving them an implied total of 26.25 points), the game will be played indoors at Ford Field, and all three of Detroit’s receivers have comfortable advantages over their primary defenders in coverage, according to the WR/CB matchup chart at Pro Football Focus.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks (at Lions)
On the other side of that game, it’ll be up to Wilson to keep the Seahawks in what could turn into a shootout. The concern is that the Lions could nurse a lead that allows offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter to slow things down to a pace he prefers, but the bet here is that Wilson will keep enough pressure on the Lions to score to prevent the game from grinding to a halt. The Lions haven’t exactly been a tough nut for quarterbacks to crack, allowing 18.4 points to Dak Prescott and 17.76 to Brock Osweiler, sandwiched around a 442-yard, three-touchdown game by Aaron Rodgers.
Baker Mayfield, Browns (at Steelers)
We’re going with just two quarterbacks in the sit section this week, because it’s nearly impossible to find compelling quarterbacks you absolutely should not play this week. You don’t need me to give you 75 words on why Alex Smith or C.J. Beathard is a bad play this week, right? Exactly. Mayfield, however, is one of the few potential starters I’d shy away from. Pittsburgh’s defense has gotten right in recent weeks, holding the Falcons and Bengals to 17 and 21 points, respectively. The Steelers are coming off a bye, while the Browns are coming off a game that was essentially five quarters, and will be playing their second straight road game. This one has Pittsburgh romp written all over it.
Joe Flacco, Ravens (at Panthers)
We have long since passed the point where we should be surprised when Baltimore’s passing attack puts up a big game, as it did against the Saints last week. John Brown and Michael Crabtree have elevated Flacco this year, which, at the very least, has him on the stream radar most weeks. A trip to Carolina, however, could slow things down. The over/under in this game is 44, tied for fourth-lowest on the board, and while the Panthers haven’t shut down opposing quarterbacks, they’ve done a good job of limiting them, holding Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton, Alex Smith and Carson Wentz below their season averages.
Matt Breida OR Raheem Mostert, 49ers (at Cardinals)
The weekend is here, and Breida still has yet to practice. That's bad news, and suggests that he will be out on Sunday because of his nagging ankle injury. If we get word that he will play before the 1 pm ET kickoff time (the 49ers and Cardinals start in the late afternoon slot), then I'd still play him. If we don't, I'd feel great about rolling with Mostert. No matter who draws the start for the 49ers, he's going to have a great matchup against a Cardinals defense that ranks 32nd in running back aFPA in standard leagues, and 31st in PPR formats. Mostert has handled more than 40% of the backfield touches for the 49ers in their last two games, and if Breida is out, he could be looking at something bordering on a workhorse role, ceding a handful of carries to Alfred Morris and targets to Kyle Juszczyk.
Doug Martin and Jalen Richard, Raiders (vs. Colts)
I wouldn’t start both Martin and Richard if I had them on the same team, which is unlikely. I do think that both are worth starting in a vacuum, considering the realistic composition of fantasy rosters in your standard 12-team league. The reasonable expectation is that Doug Martin will handle most of the early-down work, essentially inheriting Marshawn Lynch’s role, while Richard will remain the team’s dangerous pass-catching back, and likely get a few extra carries, too. With Amari Cooper now in Dallas, Richard’s volume in the passing game could increase, making him an even worthier play this week, especially when you consider that the Colts rank 17th in running back aFPA in standard leagues, but 21st in PPR formats. Martin and Richard both carry low-end RB2 or flex value, depending on league size, this week.
Isaiah Crowell, Jets (at Bears)
Bilal Powell is on IR with a neck injury, and the conventional wisdom is that Crowell’s role won’t change very much. Trenton Cannon steps in as the team’s primary pass-catching back, at least until Elijah McGuire is ready to return, and Crowell remains the favorite for early-down work. The problem with that theory is that Powell was more than a pass-catching back along the lines of a Jalen Richard or Nyheim Hines. He had 80 carries in seven games this season, and had four games with double-digit carries while playing alongside Crowell. That opens up a ton of rushing volume for the fifth-year player out of Alabama State that might make him a regular RB2 going forward. The Bears are a tough matchup, ranking in the top 10 in running back aFPA in standard and PPR leagues, but Crowell’s likely volume is too good to ignore here.
Aaron Jones, Packers (at Rams)
Yes, I’m going back to the well here. No, I am not a masochist. By simple math, at least 30 running backs are going to be worth starting in fantasy leagues every week, and Jones is my No. 26 back for Week 8, aided by the Chargers, Falcons and Cowboys being on bye. Jones continues to make the absolute most of his chances, running for 188 yards on 32 carries, good for 5.9 yards per rush. The Packers have the firepower to stick with the Rams, but they would benefit from minimizing possessions in this game, given some of the realities of this matchup. If the Packers do lean on the run more than they have previously this season, they simply have to get Jones 15-plus touches. That’s a bet worth making, given Jones’s ceiling.
Chris Ivory, Bills (vs. Patriots)
LeSean McCoy is in concussion protocol this week, which puts Ivory back on the fantasy radar. The problem, though, is that Patriots-Bills is the Monday Night Football game this week. Unless McCoy is ruled out by Friday, he’ll almost certainly be a game-time decision. Banking on Ivory drawing the start is a risk that most fantasy owners shouldn’t take, especially considering his floor in a matchup where the Patriots are favored by two touchdowns. This game could get ugly early and stay ugly throughout, and that could take a huge chunk of volume away from the starting running back, no matter who it is. There may be some fantasy owners who are dealing with significant bye-week or injury issues pressed into starting Ivory, and, if that describes you, he’s a better option than every other back we’re about to discuss. Still, the risks associated with Ivory are too great to be confident in starting him this week.
Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood, Eagles (at Jaguars)
This week’s Target and Snap Report covered the major problems with trusting Philadelphia’s backfield. In short, the overall volume is scarce, the Eagles are not scoring or moving the ball at the same clip they did last year and there’s seemingly no rhyme or reason to the roles played by Clement and Smallwood. Add in a matchup with a Jacksonville defense ranked in the top five in running back aFPA in standard and PPR leagues, and it becomes an easy choice to avoid this backfield in Week 8.
T.J. Yeldon, Jaguars (vs. Eagles)
Week 8 will bring the Jacksonville debut of Carlos Hyde. It could also signal the end of Yeldon’s fantasy relevance this season. The Jaguars have made pronouncements that Hyde is merely insurance for Leonard Fournette if he can’t return from his hamstring, or suffers another aggravation of the injury, but I’m not buying that line from a team that has misjudged and misrepresented the severity of Fournette’s injury every step of the way. This team is still harboring what appear to be fleeting Super Bowl aspirations at the moment, and the move to get Hyde did not feel like an insurance policy. It felt like a swing for the fences in a season that is slipping away. I may be proved wrong and Yeldon may remain the primary back this week, but I know I don’t want to risk a spot in my starting lineup to find out the team’s plans.
Trenton Cannon, Jets (at Bears)
Cannon is going to get some love this week now that Bilal Powell is on IR, but, just as we discussed with Ito Smith last week, that will be a case of the fantasy community being too cute by half and everyone needing to feel like the smartest person in the room. Cannon should step into the pass-catching portion of Powell’s role, but, as we just noted, Powell is fantasy-relevant because he also handles his fair share of carries. There’s little reason to expect Cannon to get those touches, which will likely go to Isaiah Crowell, instead. Don’t fall for the Cannon hype.
Demaryius Thomas, Broncos (at Chiefs)
The Broncos won’t trade Thomas, at least not before Sunday’s game in Kansas City, and that makes him a worthy start this week. Thomas has churned out a workmanlike season, catching 33 passes for 372 yards and three touchdowns in seven games. The target base is there for him most weeks, though he has just 16 looks in his previous three games. We noted the sneaky effectiveness of the Denver offense earlier when discussing Case Keenum, and this game has an over/under of 53.5 at most books. Even with the Broncos being 10-point underdogs, they have an implied team total of 21.75 points.
Jordy Nelson, Raiders (vs. Colts)
Now that Amari Cooper is in Dallas, Nelson is the No. 1 receiver for the Raiders. I laid out my thoughts on the trade and those affected by it earlier this week, noting that Nelson is likely the biggest winner. The 11-year veteran has done well with his opportunities this year, catching 22 of 31 targets for 323 yards and three touchdowns. The target share was his main issue, as few receivers are going to get by on barely more than five targets per game. With Cooper gone, Nelson could be looking at eight-plus targets per game the rest of the season. The Colts are ranked 25th and 30th, respectively, in wide receiver aFPA in standard and PPR leagues.
Geronimo Allison, Packers (at Rams)
All signs point to Allison returning this week after missing two games with a hamstring injury. The Packers had a bye last week, so when Sunday rolls around he will have had a month off to recover. Before the injury, Allison was emerging as a reliable weapon for Aaron Rodgers, averaging 4.75 receptions, 7.25 targets, 72.25 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game. Add in Rodgers’s improving health and an over/under of 56.5 points, and there should be plenty of scoring on both sides of Packers-Rams.
DeSean Jackson, Buccaneers (at Bengals)
In two games with Jameis Winston at the helm, Jackson has six catches for 102 yards. Jackson makes his money, literally and figuratively as a deep threat, but he and Winston have yet to hook up on a shot down the field, with the quarterback overthrowing him all too regularly. In four games started by Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jackson had seven catches of at least 20 yards, three of which went for at least 48 yards. In Winston’s two starts, Jackson has one reception of 20 yards or more. If Jackson isn’t hitting on his big plays, he’s unlikely to generate much fantasy value. Chris Godwin is in a better spot for the Buccaneers.
Robby Anderson, Jets (at Bears)
If you look at the receivers who have had big games against the Bears this season—Randall Cobb, Albert Wilson and Josh Gordon—one thing about their performances stands out. All three made one huge play after the catch. Cobb and Wilson both caught short passes that they turned into 75-yard touchdowns, while Gordon nearly did the same, getting tackled at the 1-yard line on what was a 55-yard reception. That’s not Anderson’s game. He’s going to make big plays on deep shots down the field, and the Bears have done well to limit those plays this season. Indeed, according to Pro Football Focus’ WR/CB matchup chart, Anderson has the seventh-worst matchup among all receivers this week, going up against Kyle Fuller.
Chris Hogan, Patriots (at Bills)
I’m actually higher than most of my fellow rankers in the fantasy industry this week, which is unexpected considering I’ve been the foremost Hogan fader going back to the summer, when I gave him one of the lowest season-long rankings during draft season. Still, I’m only relatively bullish on him, and even that modest boost owes entirely to the fact that the Patriots have an implied team total of 29.25 points this week. Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman are both ahead of Hogan in target share, James White steals away seven-plus targets per game from the receiving corps, and while Rob Gronkowski may miss another game because of his back injury, he’ll almost certainly be a game-time decision, which will drag things out until Monday night. There’s little reason to trust Hogan, unless you have to because of byes or injuries.
Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (vs. 49ers)
In what has been a dreadful year for the Cardinals, few players this side of David Johnson have suffered individually as greatly as Fitzgerald has. Just one year ago, Fitzgerald caught 109 passes for 1,156 yards and six touchdowns while playing more than half the season with Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton under center. This year, he has 26 catches for 255 yards and one touchdown through seven games. Until this offense shows a modicum of respectability, Fitzgerald should be on your bench. There is some long-term hope, however, with Byron Leftwich taking over as the offensive coordinator this week.
Evan Engram, Giants (vs. Redskins)
Engram made his return last week after missing three games with a knee injury, catching two of four targets for 16 yards. The bottom-line production rarely matters for a player in his first game back from injury. What does matter is that he was able to play more than 80% of the Giants’ snaps without incident. That has him comfortably back among the TE1 group this week.
C.J. Uzomah, Bengals (vs. Buccaneers)
Uzomah got just two targets last week, but one of them ended with him in the end zone celebrating his second touchdown of the season. Both of those scores came from inside the five-yard line, which suggests Uzomah is developing into a go-to weapon for Andy Dalton when the Bengals get into the scoring zone. The Bengals on Sunday host the Buccaneers, a team ranked 31st in tight end aFPA in standard leagues, and 28th in PPR formats.
Jordan Reed, Redskins (at Giants)
Reed has been a major disappointment this season but, in a great reversal of fortune, he has been one of the healthiest pass-catchers in Washington. That’s enough to get him onto the right side of the start/sit divide in a game where Washington has an implied team total of 21.75 points.
Kyle Rudolph, Vikings (vs. Saints)
My fellow rankers keep placing Rudolph safely in the TE1 group, and he keeps disappointing them, despite the Vikings regularly putting up big scores. Last week, the Vikings scored 37 points, and all Rudolph had to show for it was one catch on four targets for 16 yards. He hasn’t had more than five targets in a game since September, and has topped 60 yards once all year. I do not want to bet on Rudolph scoring a touchdown in an offense where Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs account for more than 50% of the target share.
Ben Watson, Saints (at Vikings)
Watson is going to find his way into lineups this week after he caught six passes for 43 yards and a touchdown last week. I totally understand why fantasy owners would buy into that performance, especially considering the strength of the New Orleans offense, but this remains a unit dominated by Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram. I’d much rather play Chris Herndon, who’s available in about 90% of leagues across the industry.
Ricky Seals-Jones, Cardinals (vs. 49ers)
Seals-Jones is my No. 19 tight end this week. I have in front of him everyone you’d expect, plus Vance McDonald, Chris Herndon and both other players on the sit side in this column, Watson and Rudolph. If you honestly can’t find one of those players to play ahead of him, then feel free to ride with Seals-Jones, a player with 17 catches for 204 yards and a touchdown through seven games this season. But, of course, Herndon is available in about 90% of leagues, while Watson and Uzomah are out there in about half of all leagues.