Start 'Em, Sit 'Em Week 12: Final Review Before Thursday Night FootballNovember 20, 2014
Because the fantasy implications in this week's Thursday Night Football matchup are pretty minimal—start Jamaal Charles and Travis Kelce, sit everyone else—I'm going to focus elsewhere in the weekly edition of Start 'Em, Sit 'Em.
Heck, given the Thursday matchup, I might focus on something else Thursday night, too. Thursday night games are rough enough without watching an 0-10 team find new and creative ways to lose.
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't already be thinking about (OK, obsessing over) your fantasy lineup. I get it—the playoffs are nigh. Every decision matters. Don't make the wrong choices when setting your lineups, folks. Consult my following players to start and sit first.
And maybe catch up on a few shows you've been neglecting on Netflix this Thursday night. Just saying.
Start 'Em: Jay Cutler, QB, Chicago Bears
Jay Cutler has been criticized throughout this season (and throughout many others as well) for any number of reasons. His propensity to throw interceptions. His dour demeanor. A lack of outward leadership.
Feel free to leave all of those complaints at the door when analyzing him from a fantasy perspective, however.
Frankly, Cutler has been fairly steady for owners this year. He has 16 or more fantasy points in eight of 10 games. He's only thrown two or more interceptions in five games, and though his 12 picks on the season are a bit more than you'd like, the turnovers generally haven't hurt his fantasy value. He's on an offense with amazing weapons, including a now-healthy Brandon Marshall coming off a huge week.
Next up is a favorable matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs have been decent of late against opposing quarterbacks, holding the last four they've faced to 16 or fewer fantasy points, but they've also given up 20 passing touchdowns on the season, tied for 27th in the NFL.
Cutler, Marshall and Alshon Jeffery should have a big afternoon against the Bucs. For this week, at least, you can trust Cutler.
Sit 'Em: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington
Stay away. Stay very, very far away.
In his four starts this season, RG3 has yet to exceed 14 fantasy points. He's obviously failed to pick up Jay Gruden's system, and the team rightfully seems concerned with his scrambling too often. And now there appear to be all kinds of rifts in the locker room as well.
Things came to a head this past weekend, when the team lost to the Bucs and RG3 noted after the game, "If you want to look at the good teams in this league and the great quarterbacks, the Peytons and the Aaron Rodgers, those guys don’t play well if their guys don’t play well," via Peter King of MMQB.com.
Gruden's rebuttal to that was pretty sharp, as passed along by King:
Sometimes he worries a little bit too much. We’ve just got to try to get him better. His frame of mind is in the right place. It just doesn’t come out the right way sometimes, but he wants to get better. He knows he has a long way to go to get better. If he stays on the right track as far as work ethic and listening and preparing, then he’ll get better.
It’s his job to worry about his position, his footwork, his fundamentals, his reads, his progressions, his job at the quarterback position. It’s my job to worry about everybody else. And, yes, everybody else needs to improve. There’s no question about it. But it’s not his place. His place is to talk about himself, and he knows that. He just elaborated a little bit too much.
All of the above drama should be enough for you to keep Griffin on your bench for the foreseeable future. But if you are still feeling the itch to start him, consider that his opponents this week, the San Francisco 49ers, are allowing just 12.8 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks per week, third in the NFL.
So please stay away. Please stay very, very far away.
Start 'Em: LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
LeSean McCoy has gone from being the No. 1 overall pick in many leagues to an RB2, breaking more than a few hearts along the way. And though he has been better of late—he has seven or more fantasy points in five straight games—he's never been great for his owners.
This is the week that changes.
This week, McCoy faces a Tennessee Titans defense that has given up a total of 557 rushing yards, five rushing touchdowns and 107 fantasy points to opposing running backs in their past three games. They've given up 24 or more fantasy points to opposing backs six times this season. They're 31st in run defense, giving up 143.5 yards per game.
Much of the Eagles' success last season can be attributed to the running game, one that has stalled this season. After Mark Sanchez really struggled last week and faces a tough Titans pass defense this time around, the Birds would be wise to re-establish that running attack.
And McCoy is going to benefit greatly when they do just that. So will his owners.
Sit 'Em: Jonas Gray, RB, New England Patriots
Yes, I know that Jonas Gray just rushed for 199 yards and four touchdowns. No, I don't think you should start him against the Detroit Lions.
There are multiple reasons to feel this way. There's this tidbit from Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, for starters:
"There is little doubt in my mind that [Gray] can be their workhorse lead back when the game plan calls for that. I'd expect a different offensive approach this week, though, as the Lions rank No. 1 in the NFL against the run."
Yes, yes they do. They're also sixth in the NFL in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs per week. And they've given up just four touchdowns to the position.
Plus, the Patriots are notoriously unpredictable when it comes to their backfield platoons, and it's hard to imagine Shane Vereen will just disappear from any and all future game plans. If anything, this matchup favors him from a fantasy perspective, since he can provide Tom Brady with an outlet in the passing game given how dominant Detroit's defensive line has been this year.
So no, I don't think you should hop on the Gray bandwagon just yet. That bandwagon has a pretty bumpy road to traverse this week.
Start 'Em: Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
You need to ride this hot streak while it lasts, folks.
In the past three weeks, Mike Evans has a whopping 74 fantasy points, catching 21 passes for 358 yards and five touchdowns. And while that level of production seems unsustainable, Evans does have at least seven or more fantasy points in six of the last seven games.
Plus, he's clearly the man to whom Josh McCown is focused on getting the ball, and his ability to beat defenders deep down the field means he's always a single play away from rewarding you for starting him. Add in a favorable matchup against the Chicago Bears, and there is absolutely no reason for you to be sitting Evans this week.
Sit 'Em: Vincent Jackson, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Are you really that surprised to see Vincent Jackson here?
Evans' recent hot streak has meant nothing but bad things for Jackson, who hasn't really thrived this season in general. In games that McCown has started, Jackson has yet to exceed seven fantasy points, and it's clear the Bucs are looking to focus more on their young guns after making several trades at the deadline and giving Charles Sims the majority of the carries this past week.
The Evans Era has begun at wide receiver, and McCown has certainly bought in. Tampa Bay simply doesn't have a good enough offense to consistently facilitate big production from two different receivers, and Evans is the focus right now.
Until that changes, Vincent Jackson belongs on your bench, unless you are in a really deep league and need a flex.
All point totals and points-against statistics via ESPN standard scoring leagues. Hit me up on Twitter—I'll answer your fantasy questions and make some corny jokes, too. It's more fun than being Aaron Rodgers right now. OK, not quite. Fine, it's not like that at all. Jeez.