Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Early Fantasy Lineup Advice for Matchups of Week 18

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJanuary 5, 2022

Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Early Fantasy Lineup Advice for Matchups of Week 18

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    The final week of the 2021-22 NFL season has arrived. For fantasy managers, this means that the final week of the postseason is also here—or, it's time to move on to daily fantasy sports (DFS) action.

    Either way, Week 18 is going to be a tricky one to navigate. Teams often rest starters ahead of the playoffs or the offseason, and predicting which teams will do so can be difficult. The Green Bay Packers, for example, insist that they'll play their starters before their first-round bye, but as head coach Matt LaFleur noted, it isn't an easy decision.

    "If somebody goes in there and gets injured then, 'Well, why'd you play your guys?' But if you go out there in that first playoff game and you lay an egg, 'Well, why'd you rest your guys?' So there's not a right answer," LaFleur said, per Mike Spofford of the team's official website.

    Fantasy managers will have some tough decisions to make as well. It's hard to know who will play and for how long, and it'll be smart to have a backup plan.

    Here, we'll dive into some of the best and worst plays of Week 18, avoiding obvious must-starts. To also avoid obvious sits, we'll be looking specifically at players rostered in at least 50 percent of Yahoo and/or ESPN leagues, according to FantasyPros. All picks are based on points-per-reception scoring.

Week 18 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    Start 'Em

    Taysom Hill, QB, New Orleans Saints

    Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans

    Rhamondre Stevenson, RB, New England Patriots

    Chase Edmonds, RB, Arizona Cardinals

    Darnell Mooney, WR, Chicago Bears

    Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions

    Hunter Henry, TE, New England Patriots


    Sit 'Em

    Derek Carr, QB, Las Vegas Raiders

    Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

    Cordarrelle Patterson, RB, Atlanta Falcons

    Michael Carter, RB, New York Jets

    Marquise Brown, WR, Baltimore Ravens

    Jarvis Landry, WR, Cleveland Browns

    Gerald Everett, TE, Seattle Seahawks

Start 'Em: Taysom Hill at Atlanta Falcons

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    Derick Hingle/Associated Press

    When looking for starters in Week 18, it's good to stick with teams that have something to play for. The New Orleans Saints are playing for a postseason berth. They also need a San Francisco 49ers loss, but the Saints have no shot if they lose to the Atlanta Falcons.

    While Taysom Hill is far from the most polished passer in the league, he's played well as of late. The 31-year-old is a viable dual-threat, and New Orleans has won its last three games with him under center.

    Against the Carolina Panthers last week, Hill rushed for 45 yards while passing for 222 yards and a touchdown.

    The Falcons are not a daunting matchup for any quarterback, as they've surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points to the position this season. Hill didn't start the last time these two teams met, but Trevor Siemian threw for 249 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

    There's no reason for the Saints to rest starters who are even close to healthy in this game. Expect similar production from Hill, only with a few bonus fantasy points on the ground.

Sit 'Em: Jalen Hurts vs. Dallas Cowboys

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Normally, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts would be a must-start because of his dual-threat ability. However, the Eagles have little to play for in Week 18.

    Philadelphia is in the playoffs as the sixth or seventh seed but doesn't necessarily control its fate. If the 49ers make the playoffs, Philadelphia will be the No. 7 seed due to the head-to-head tiebreaker. If the Saints get in instead of San Francisco, Philly will be the sixth seed, regardless of what happens on Saturday.

    Hurts has been dealing with an ankle injury and was limited in practice on Tuesday. With this being a short week, there's a good chance that Gardner Minshew gets the start against the Dallas Cowboys.

    Minshew is available in 98 percent of ESPN and Yahoo leagues, though he isn't the most enticing of waiver-wire options. The Cowboys have allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks (tied).

    While there's a chance that Hurts does suit up, managers should search for a non-Eagles alternative now.

Start 'Em: Rhamondre Stevenson at Miami Dolphins

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    Paul Connors/Associated Press

    Rookie New England Patriots back Rhamondre Stevenson had a superb outing against the Jacksonville Jaguars last week. The Oklahoma product rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns while fellow back Damien Harris exited with a hamstring injury.

    Harris may ultimately be fine for Week 18—he's been dealing with it for weeks and scored twice before leaving against the Jags—but we should still see a heavy dose of Stevenson against the Miami Dolphins.

    Miami has been a middle-of-the-road fantasy matchup this season, allowing the 17th-most points to opposing running backs. However, the Tennessee Titans shredded the Dolphins on the ground last week, racking up 198 rushing yards as a team.

    Expect New England to take a similar ground-and-pound approach against Miami. If it works, Bill Belichick is likely to do it, and the Patriots must have a win on Sunday.

    The Patriots are in the playoffs but can still win the AFC East with a victory and a loss by the Buffalo Bills. Both teams are playing in the late-afternoon window, so New England will be all-in to win against the Dolphins.

Sit 'Em: Marquise Brown vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Gail Burton/Associated Press

    There's a chance that Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (ankle) returns for Week 18.

    "He's been pushing to try to come back and play in practice, and there is a chance that he'll play on Sunday," head coach John Harbaugh said, per Myles Simmons of Pro Football Talk.

    The Ravens are still technically alive for the playoffs, but getting in would require a lot of help—including a Jacksonville Jaguars upset of the Indianapolis Colts. I'd expect the Ravens to take a cautious approach with Jackson.

    Whether it's Jackson or Tyler Huntley under center, though, it's impossible to trust wideout Marquise Brown. Though he did have 10 catches against the Green Bay Packers in Week 15, he hasn't topped 55 receiving yards since Week 9. Brown hasn't found the end zone since Week 7.

    It's all about the PPR upside with Brown, and that's not exactly where managers want to be late in the season. The Pittsburgh Steelers also aren't a pushover matchup, having allowed the 13th-fewest fantasy points to opposing receivers this season.


    *Fantasy points allowed and roster information via FantasyPros