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Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em

Brandon Aiyuk a WR1 with Upside vs. Dallas

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: December 20, 2020, 3:03 am ET

Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em is geared toward season-long leagues but can also be used for daily fantasy purposes.




Start of the Week: Ryan Tannehill vs. Lions -- Tannehill completed a season-high 79.2% of his passes last week against the Jaguars but attempted just 24 of them en route to 212 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He has multiple touchdown passes in 10-of-13 games this season and is currently fantasy’s overall QB10 in points per game. For the fantasy semifinals, Tannehill draws a Lions Defense that is 25th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 30th in pass-defense DVOA, 28th in adjusted sack rate, and 24th in opponent plays per game. With the Titans installed as heavy 11-point favorites, Tannehill may not be able to produce a ceiling-type game with Derrick Henry likely to rack up around 30 carries, but the Titans should live in the red zone, setting the offense up for multiple touchdown spots. Tennessee’s implied team total of 31.25 points is the highest on the Week 15 slate. Tannehill is a lock-and-load top-10 QB1.




Jared Goff vs. Jets -- Fantasy’s overall QB22 on the season, Goff has 0-1 touchdown passes in five of his last six games with the Rams reverting to run-heavy sets. L.A. runs the ball at the fourth-highest rate in the NFC, and Goff is averaging 20 fewer yards per game than he did last season. More of a see it-throw it quarterback, Goff is a lowly 22nd in pass attempts of 20-plus yards, instead living in the short areas of the field. It’s helped him raise his completion rate by 5.3% from 2019. Goff hasn’t shown much of a fantasy ceiling this year, but this does project as a high-floor game for him. The Jets are 31st in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 32nd in pass-defense DVOA, 25th in adjusted sack rate, and 31st in opponent plays per game. Much like Tannehill above, Goff is unlikely to have a huge ceiling game with the Rams as monster 17.5-point favorites in a very run-friendly spot, but the Rams should live in the Jets’ end. Goff has legitimate streaming appeal and is a solid 4pm slate daily fantasy option.

Jalen Hurts at Cardinals -- Making his first NFL start last week, second-round rookie Hurts went a mere 17-of-30 for 167 yards (5.57 YPA) and one touchdown as a passer but was able to run all over the Saints with an 18-106 rushing line en route to the overall QB13 week. Previously extremely pass-happy with Carson Wentz under center, the Eagles were the fifth-most run-heavy team in Week 14. With that kind of volume as a runner, Hurts immediately vaults himself onto the streaming map as a borderline QB1 with massive upside. The Eagles played much faster with Hurts, and this is a game that features two offenses that are top-nine in total plays and top-eight in offensive pace. The Cardinals are 26th in rushing yards allowed to quarterbacks. I like this game to go “over” its 49.5-point total in a domed environment.

Mitchell Trubisky at Vikings -- In a 29-point drubbing of the Texans last week, Trubisky set season-highs in passing yards (267), touchdowns (3), and yards per attempt (8.09) on his way to the QB7 week. Since reclaiming starting duties in Week 12, Trubisky is the overall QB13 with a 7:2 TD:INT mark. The Bears are averaging 30.3 points per game in that span. The Vikings are a middling 17th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 19th in opponent plays per game, and 24th in adjusted sack rate. This game will be played in a friendly dome environment, and essentially all of Trubisky’s weapons are in plus spots, including Allen Robinson, Cole Kmet, and David Montgomery. This one has a mediocre 46-point total, but Trubisky’s strong play of late keeps him on the map for season-long leagues. He always possesses DFS upside.




Kirk Cousins vs. Bears -- Since the Vikings’ Week 7 bye, Cousins is the overall QB7 in fantasy points per game and sports a 16:2 TD:INT mark in that span. But coming off a down game at Tampa Bay last week, Cousins draws a similarly tough Week 15 draw. The Bears are fourth in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 10th in pass-defense DVOA, and 13th in adjusted sack rate. When these two teams met in Week 10, Cousins managed 292 yards and a 2:1 TD:INT mark as the overall QB11. This game’s 46-point total that features two of the seven-slowest paced offenses coupled with Cousins’ minimal rushing floor makes him more of a two-QB play.

Tua Tagovailoa vs. Patriots -- After averaging just 23.75 pass attempts per game across his first four starts, the Dolphins have started to unleash Tagovailoa the last couple weeks. After missing Week 12, Tua has attempted 39 and 47 passes against the Bengals and Chiefs in back-to-back games, totaling 612 yards and a 3:1 TD:INT mark with 9-27-1 as a runner. He’s coming off his first 300-yard game last week and combined for three touchdowns in the loss to Kansas City. Much of that was aided by comeback mode in the second half, but Tua was able to hang the QB4 week on the Chiefs. This is a much different game script against the Patriots. New England is sixth in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and first in opponent plays per game. The Patriots run the ball at such a high clip that it drains clock and keeps the opponent off the field. This game’s 41.5-point total is easily the lowest of the weekend. It’s unfair to expect a ceiling game from the rookie quarterback, making him more of a back-end QB2 play.

Baker Mayfield at Giants -- On a true heater right now, Mayfield is averaging 311.7 yards per game over the last three weeks with a crisp 8:1 TD:INT mark in that span and a ninth score as a runner. Only Lamar Jackson and Aaron Rodgers are outscoring Mayfield the last three weeks. He’s faced some truly dreadful defenses, however, ripping up the Jaguars, Titans, and injury-depleted Ravens. The Giants present a stiffer test, checking in at third in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and allowing just 18.4 points per game over the last five. This game’s 44-point total is the third-lowest of the weekend. But Mayfield’s matchup did get easier when top Giants CB James Bradberry was sent to the COVID list. I still prefer Mayfield as a QB2.




Start of the Week: J.K. Dobbins vs. Jaguars -- The Ravens have reduced their three-man RBBC to a two-man one, featuring Dobbins and Gus Edwards. Mark Ingram played one snap and didn’t touch the ball in Week 14. Dobbins was in on 62% of the snaps and handled double-digit carries for the third straight game and has scored in three straight contests. Edwards has maintained his 33% role and remains a weekly TD threat after scoring twice in the Monday night thriller against the Browns. Neither is a pass-game factor. With the Jaguars on deck, Dobbins has RB1 upside while Edwards is a passable FLEX. The Jaguars are 30th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, 24th in run-defense DVOA, and fresh off getting creamed for 26-215-2 by Derrick Henry in Week 14. Baltimore runs the ball at the NFL’s highest clip, and this sets up as an extremely run-friendly script with the Ravens as 13-point favorites.




Leonard Fournette at Falcons -- Fournette was a healthy scratch for Week 14. With Fournette benched, Jones (67%) played his most snaps since Week 5 and went 18-80-1 on the ground against the Vikings. Jones is now sidelined on the COVID list on top of a broken finger that required surgery this week. LeSean McCoy was active on third downs and in the pass game last week, but rookie Ke’Shawn Vaughn remains stuck on special teams. Fournette is fully expected to step right into lead-back duties with Jones on the shelf and now catches a Falcons unit that is seventh in fantasy points allowed to running backs and fourth in run-defense DVOA. But the Falcons have surrendered the eighth-most catches to the position, and Fournette has shown proficiency catching the ball at times aside from a drop-filled Week 11 against the Rams. In a dome environment with a 49.5-point total and slated to play 60%-plus of the snaps, Fournette should immediately be slotted in as an upside RB2. Tampa is implied to score 27.75 points.

Jeff Wilson at Cowboys -- Jerick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman have been phased out of the offense completely the last two weeks with Raheem Mostert and Wilson splitting the snaps right down the middle 67-67 in that span. Mostert and Wilson should both be treated as upside RB2/3 plays in a run-first offense, but Mostert is dealing with a bit of an ankle issue after getting hurt in Week 14. He’s been removed from the injury report and will play against Dallas, but perhaps Wilson will get a couple extra touches thrown his way. Wilson is a hard-nosed, straight line runner who gets by on effort and power. Wilson has also drawn eight targets over the last two weeks. Dallas is 27th in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 27th in run-defense DVOA. In a game featuring two bad quarterbacks, look for both teams to lean on their run games.

D’Andre Swift at Titans -- After missing three games with a concussion/illness, Swift returned in Week 14 to pace the Lions in snap share (54%) and touches (11) ahead of Adrian Peterson (24%, 5) and Kerryon Johnson (21%, 3) while the rookie also found the end zone with a three-yard touchdown. Johnson also punched in a goal-line score. And after Peterson scored four times Weeks 12-13, this backfield looks like a total crapshoot from a TD standpoint. But it was promising to see Swift step right back into lead-back work. Assuming his conditioning is fine, look for Swift to get even more work against the Titans. Facing Tennessee’s awful defense, Swift will be an upside RB2. The Titans are 26th in fantasy points allowed to running backs and have surrendered the second-most receiving touchdowns to the position. With the Lions as 11-point road underdogs, Swift should dominate the Detroit backfield snaps.




David Johnson at Colts -- In his first game back from a concussion-induced I.R. stint, Johnson (58%) narrowly out-snapped Duke Johnson (53%) in Week 13 against these same Colts, but his 10 carries were a season-low while he didn’t catch a pass. Duke caught all six of his targets. David was able to find the end zone, however. David then missed Week 14 on the COVID list as a close contact. The Texans got destroyed by the Bears, and Duke played just 45% of the snaps and registered 10 touches with David out. Buddy Howell (35%) and C.J. Prosise (20%) were more involved than expected. David has already been cleared for Week 15 and should resume lead-back duties, but it’s unclear just how much of the snap share he’ll have with Duke, Howell, and Prosise all in the mix. The Colts are 11th in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 12th in run-defense DVOA. Houston is a significant touchdown underdog on the road here.

Todd Gurley vs. Bucs -- Gurley has played No. 2 to Ito Smith each of the last two weeks. Smith has out-snapped Gurley 49-41 in that span and out-touched the veteran 21-17. With Brian Hill siphoning 20 snaps and seven touches in the same span, this whole backfield should be avoided going forward. A date with the Bucs’ No. 2-ranked run defense in terms of DVOA and sixth in fantasy points allowed to running backs doesn’t seem like a recipe for Gurley to get back on track. The Falcons are six-point home underdogs. Gurley is a TD-dependent RB3/4.

Damien Harris at Dolphins -- With the Patriots getting trampled by the Rams last week, Harris (37%) played a three-week low in snaps while James White’s 46% was his highest rate in the same span. Sony Michel has also played 33% and 25% of the snaps since returning the last two weeks. Cam Newton’s dominance near the goal line keeps Harris an extremely TD-dependent RB3 with a basement-low floor thanks to zero passing game usage. The Dolphins are ninth in fantasy points allowed to running backs. This game’s 41.5-point total is the lowest of the week.

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Start of the Week: Brandon Aiyuk at Cowboys -- Deebo Samuel hurt his hamstring on the opening drive last week against Washington, leaving Aiyuk to totally dominate the targets, seeing a season-high 16 of them en route to a 10-119 line. Aiyuk has 100 yards and/or one touchdown in six straight games. Samuel is expected to miss the remainder of the regular season, and George Kittle (ankle, I.R.) has yet to be cleared for action despite returning to practice this week. Aiyuk gets about as good of a matchup he’s seen all season. Dallas is 26th in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 23rd in pass-defense DVOA. Marquise Brown (5-39-1), Terry McLaurin (7-92), Adam Thielen (8-123-2), and Justin Jefferson (3-86-1) have all met or beat expectations against the Cowboys’ secondary since Dallas’ Week 10 bye. Aiyuk has a real shot at leading all wideouts in targets this weekend.




Cole Beasley at Broncos -- Beasley has already set a new career high in receiving yards (838) and should cruise past his highs in targets and catches over the next couple weeks. With John Brown injured, Beasley has seen double-digit targets in three of the last four games and has two 100-yard games in that span. Coming off a down Week 14 against the Steelers (5-41 on 10 targets), look for Beasley to bounce back against a Denver defense that is without its top three corners in A.J. Bouye (PEDs), Bryce Callahan (foot), and Duke Dawson (knee). Panthers slot man Curtis Samuel registered a 7-68 line on nine targets against Denver last week in the Broncos’ first game without all their corners. Buffalo is implied to score 27.5 points Saturday.

Corey Davis vs. Lions -- Davis is coming off a three-target game against the Jaguars where he went 3-34 with a lost fumble. It was his second-lowest output of the season off a monster Week 13. Look for Davis to rebound against a Detroit pass defense that is 28th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts and 30th in DVOA while missing top CBs Jeffrey Okudah and Desmond Trufant on injured reserve. A.J. Brown should demolish this secondary as a WR1 play, but Davis is very much on the WR3 map with upside. Tennessee is implied to score a Week 15-high 31.25 points as massive 11-point favorites in a game with a 51.5-point total.

Keke Coutee at Colts -- In two starts with Will Fuller and Kenny Stills out of the picture, Coutee has played 75% of the Texans’ snaps and registered a combined 11-165-1 line on 12 targets against the Colts and Bears. Coutee just faced this Colts Defense in Week 13 and posted a robust 8-141 line on nine looks. He’s demolished this defense in three matchups over the last three seasons, posting 11-109 on 15 targets in 2018 and 11-110-1 on 14 targets last playoffs. Indianapolis plays a zone defense that likes to limit big plays but has plenty of soft spots on the inside. Coutee just has this defense’s number and should be fired up as a WR3 in this spot.




CeeDee Lamb vs. 49ers -- Lamb’s two targets last week against the Bengals were a season low for the rookie wideout, and he's yet to top 71 yards in a game since Dak Prescott's injury. The ceiling has been lowered considerably with Andy Dalton under center, and Lamb has just two touchdowns since Week 4. Lamb will be a low-floor WR4 against the 49ers, who are 13th in pass-defense DVOA and 14th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts. San Francisco’s main coverage weaknesses are on the outside; slot wideouts have struggled against the Niners. Dallas’ implied team total of 21 points is the eighth-lowest of Week 15.

Jamison Crowder at Rams -- Since Sam Darnold’s return in Week 12, Crowder has averaged just 5.3 targets and 28.3 yards per game while dealing with a calf injury. He missed practice Wednesday before limited sessions Thursday and Friday. Crowder is fully expected to play through his questionable tag but catches a truly miserable on-paper matchup against the Rams. L.A. is No. 1 in fantasy points allowed to wideouts and third in pass-defense DVOA. There’s no reason to expect Darnold to have success in this spot. The Jets are massive 17.5-point road underdogs and are implied to score just 13 points, easily the lowest of Week 15.

Tyler Boyd vs. Steelers -- Since Joe Burrow’s torn ACL, Boyd is averaging three catches per game for 43.3 yards with just one touchdown on a busted coverage. Even with Burrow in the lineup when these two teams met back in Week 10, Boyd managed 41 scoreless yards on eight targets. And the Steelers just shut down Bills slot man Cole Beasley for a 5-41 line on 10 targets last Sunday night. It’s impossible to trust Boyd as anything more than a WR4/5 with the Bengals implied to score just 13.75 points as 13-point home underdogs Monday night.




Start of the Week: Rob Gronkowski at Falcons -- Fantasy’s TE16 in half-PPR points per game, Gronk is coming off a 1-2-1 line on two targets last week against Minnesota. But he’s still playing over 75% of the snaps, and the Bucs are featuring two-TE sets with a much easier on-paper draw up next. The Falcons are 28th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, and Gronkowski gets this defense two times over the final three weeks of the season. Hunter Henry (6-41) and Jared Cook (3-28-1) have each met expectations against the Falcons the last two weeks. In a domed game with a 49.5-point total, Gronk should be glued to lineups as a TE1.




Cole Kmet at Vikings -- Over the last four weeks, Kmet has out-snapped Jimmy Graham 194-116 and out-targeted him 20-11. Kmet has 5-37-1 and 4-41 lines on 14 targets the last two weeks and appears to have finally taken over Bears’ TE1 duties. The Vikings are 16th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Rob Gronkowski caught a touchdown against Minnesota in Week 14 after Tyler Eifert (6-45) and James O’Shaughnessy (4-41) were second and third on the Jaguars in receiving the week before at Minnesota. Kmet is on the field plenty and runs enough routes to put him on the streaming map in a winnable spot.

Hayden Hurst vs. Bucs -- Hurst has fallen off the map in recent weeks with receiving lines of 0-0, 4-48, 1-9, and 1-7 over the last four games. He’d been nursing an ankle injury but was finally left off the injury report this week ahead of a date with a Bucs defense that is 24th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Irv Smith (4-63-1) led the Vikings in receiving against the Bucs last week, and No. 2 TE Tyler Conklin was second in line with a 5-40 line. Travis Kelce went 8-82 the week before. And Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee combined to catch eight balls the previous game against the Bucs. Hurst’s recent production is concerning, but tight end is just so shallow that he needs to be considered as a legitimate streamer with Julio Jones out.

Jared Cook vs. Chiefs -- Drew Brees (ribs) is back under center after missing four games, and Michael Thomas (ankle) is out for this one. That leaves Alvin Kamara, Cook, Emmanuel Sanders, and Tre’Quan Smith as Brees’ top four targets. Look for Kamara, Cook, and Sanders to be the big playmakers here in a game where the Saints may be chasing points and trying to keep up with Patrick Mahomes. Cook is a locked-in top-six TE1 play in a potential shootout.




Tight end is a crapshoot, and all we’re looking for are tight ends who can find the end zone and/or see volume in terms of targets. Predicting touchdowns is the hardest thing to do in football. Just finding a tight end who is on the field enough and runs plenty of routes is difficult enough. It’s why having Travis Kelce and Darren Waller is such an advantage in fantasy.

Nick Mensio

Nick Mensio has been covering the NFL for NBC Sports Edge since 2012. He can be found on Twitter at @NickMensio.