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Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em

Mike Davis is a Top-10 RB1 vs. Detroit

by Nick Mensio
Updated On: November 21, 2020, 11:13 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: Ben Roethlisberger at Jaguars -- Fantasy’s overall QB13 in points per game, Big Ben is on a heater with 42-plus attempts in three of the last four games with the Steelers opening up their passing offense over the last few weeks. Roethlisberger has multiple touchdown passes in all but one game this season but has posted two of his three 300-yard passing games the last two weeks. He’s the QB5 across Weeks 9-10 against the Cowboys and Bengals and gets a similarly easy on-paper matchup in Week 11 at the Jaguars. Jacksonville is 30th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 31st in pass-defense DVOA, and dead last in adjusted sack rate. Pittsburgh is 10th in offensive plays per game. This is a spot for Big Ben to just keep rolling ahead of a big Week 12 date with the Ravens. Pittsburgh’s implied team total of 28.25 points is the third-highest on the board. The Jaguars have surrendered 300 yards and multiple touchdowns to three straight quarterbacks and four of the last five they’ve faced.




Taysom Hill vs. Falcons -- Drew Brees suffered multiple broken ribs and a collapsed lung in Week 10 against the 49ers and is expected to miss at least the next two games before being reevaluated. Jameis Winston came on in relief of Brees against San Francisco and went 6-of-10 for 63 yards, missing a couple throws in a shaky effort. And coach Sean Payton has decided to go with Hill under center. Hill is 11-of-20 passing in his career, but he has gobs of rushing upside as a Tim Tebow-esque fantasy asset. He now draws a Falcons Defense that is 31st in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 28th in DVOA versus the pass, and 29th in adjusted sack rate. New Orleans is top-eight in offensive plays per game, and this game’s 50.5-point total is the fourth-highest on the board while the Saints’ implied total of 27.5 points is sixth-highest. At the very least, Hill is a two-QB league slam dunk. And on ESPN, where he has tight end eligibility for whatever reason, he’s probably the TE2 behind Travis Kelce.

Matt Ryan at Saints -- Ryan is the overall QB14 in fantasy points per game coming out of the bye week. He has just four multi-touchdown games through nine appearances, but when Ryan has spiked weeks they’ve been pretty big. He’s fresh off a three-score assault of the Broncos before the Falcons’ open date and now gets the Saints two times over the next three weeks. New Orleans is a middling 16th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and sixth in pass-defense DVOA, but this game’s 50.5-point total and shootout nature that features two of the top-eight offenses in plays per game coupled with Calvin Ridley’s (foot) expected return to the lineup puts Ryan firmly back in the QB1 mix. This is one of the better games on the board in a week that doesn’t have many projected shootouts if we’re going off Vegas lines. The Saints totally shut down Tom Brady two weeks back but were flamed by Teddy Bridgewater, Justin Herbert, Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers, and Derek Carr for a 16:1 TD:INT mark Weeks 2-7.

Cam Newton at Texans -- In the Patriots’ upset of the Ravens last Sunday night, Cam threw his first touchdown since Week 3 and scored his ninth rushing touchdown of the year. After struggling Weeks 6-7 in his return from a bout with COVID, Newton has found his game again over the last couple weeks. He’s the overall QB12 over the last three weeks with five touchdowns in that span. Newton leads all quarterbacks with 25 red-zone carries, and only 10 running backs have more than that despite Cam missing a game with his illness. The Texans are 11th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks thanks to a softer schedule, but they are 22nd in pass-defense DVOA and dead last against the run. Houston is also 26th in opponent plays per game. The 49-point total for Patriots-Texans is the fifth-highest on the board for Week 11. Cam is a high-risk, high-reward play because he relies on his rushing output more than ever.




Jared Goff at Bucs -- Fantasy’s overall QB22, Goff threw for 302 yards but failed to connect on a single touchdown pass last week in the dream matchup with the Seahawks. Quarterbacking the NFC’s second-most run-heavy offense, the box score stats just haven’t been there for Goff. If he can’t take advantage of easy matchups like last week, there’s no reason we should be trotting him out there in tough ones like this. The Bucs are ninth in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, No. 1 in pass-defense DVOA, and third in adjusted sack rate. Goff also just lost his best lineman in LT Andrew Whitworth (knee) to injured reserve this week. While an exciting on-paper matchup and in primetime, this has the making of a defensive slugfest. Both teams are top-seven in total defense. L.A.’s implied total of 22.25 points is the seventh-lowest of Week 11.

Ryan Tannehill at Ravens -- Attempting 30 or fewer passes in four straight games and five of his last six, the volume just hasn’t been there for Tannehill after a hot first six weeks. Tannehill was the overall QB6 in fantasy points per game Weeks 1-6 but is the QB26 over the last month. Guys like Philip Rivers, Jake Luton, and Daniel Jones are out-scoring Tannehill in that span. Tannehill now gets a date with a Ravens squad that is eighth in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, eighth in adjusted sack rate, 10th in pass-defense DVOA, and 11th in opponent plays per game. Both the Ravens and Titans are bottom-13 in the league in offensive plays per game, suggesting this could be a lower-scoring affair. And Tennessee’s implied team total of 21.5 points is the fifth-lowest of Week 11. Tannehill is merely a low-end two-QB league option.

Tua Tagovailoa at Broncos -- Tagovailoa is 3-0 three starts into his career and has the Dolphins marching toward a playoff spot, but the Dolphins are still hiding him a bit and not really unleashing him as a passer. He’s fired off 22, 28, and 25 pass attempts in his three starts, averaging 170 passing yards per game with nothing in the rushing department. Tua is the overall QB28 in fantasy points per game since taking over under center in Week 8 and is being out-scored by the likes of Alex Smith, Nick Mullens, and Nick Foles. Even in a juicy date with the Cardinals last week, Tua was still just the QB15. This is another plus spot for the rookie with Denver 15th in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks, 12th in pass-defense DVOA, and 29th in opponent plays per game, but it’s Tua’s first trip to Mile High in a game with a 45-point total, the lowest of the week. Tua is fine for two-QB leagues, but he’s an uninspiring streaming option.




Start of the Week: Mike Davis vs. Lions -- Christian McCaffrey missed Week 10 with a shoulder injury and has already been ruled out for Week 11 in what is shaping up as a lost season for fantasy’s No. 1 overall pick. Davis had to leave Week 10 with a thumb injury for a little while but eventually returned. He did very little with his 11 touches, totaling 44 yards. But Davis should be back in a workhorse role as the centerpiece of the offense, playing around 80% of the snaps. Especially if Teddy Bridgewater (knee) is unable to play, Davis should flirt with 25-plus touches in a dream matchup. The Lions are dead last in fantasy points allowed to running backs, 27th in run-defense DVOA, and 28th in opponent plays per game. Antonio Gibson (13-45-2) and J.D. McKissic (8-6-1) rushed for three scores against Detroit last week and combined for an 11-63-0 receiving line. Dalvin Cook went 22-206-2 on the ground versus the Lions the week before. And Colts RBs combined for 36-119-1 in Week 8, headlined by Jordan Wilkins’ 20-89-1 performance. Davis should be viewed as a legitimate top-10 RB1.




Kalen Ballage vs. Jets -- Austin Ekeler (hamstring) remains on injured reserve but hinted he’s close to a return. Justin Jackson missed Weeks 9 and 10 with a knee injury and is now on I.R., allowing Ballage to rack up 40 touches for 186 yards and one touchdown over the last two weeks. He played 73% of the Chargers’ Week 10 snaps. The Chargers have yet to open Ekeler’s 21-day practice window, meaning Ballage will be on the RB2 map against the Jets in Week 11 rookie Joshua Kelley in the coaching staff’s dog house thanks to fumble issues and a tentative running style. The Jets are 25th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, and Ballage’s involvement in the passing game -- nine targets over the last two weeks -- raises his floor significantly. The Chargers run the second-most plays per game while the Jets are 23rd in opponent plays per contest. L.A.’s implied team total of 28 points is the fourth-highest of Week 11. The Patriots creamed the Jets for 36-143-3 on the ground in Week 9 ahead of Gang Green’s bye. Ballage also gets the #revenge factor facing his old coach Adam Gase.

Duke Johnson vs. Patriots -- David Johnson suffered a concussion after just three touches in Week 9 against the Jaguars. In his absence, Duke handled 20 touches and was in on 81% of the plays. With David out Week 10 against the Browns, Duke played an incredible 95% of the Texans’ snaps but was a major fantasy letdown with 14-54-0 rushing and no catches on one target. David is now on I.R., saddling Duke in for RB2 workloads the next two weeks at minimum against the Patriots and Lions. New England’s defense hasn’t been nearly as stout this season, checking in at 17th in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 31st in run-defense DVOA. The concern for Duke is his utter lack of targets last week despite heavy playing time. We need those targets to raise his fantasy floor. Still, it’s impossible not to like the fact that he’s in on every play and should handle 15-plus touches with 20 very much in the realm of possibilities. Playing in a weather-controlled dome environment also helps a lot.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire at Raiders  -- The Chiefs are coming off their bye week. In Le’Veon Bell’s three games with the Chiefs, Edwards-Helaire has set season-lows in playing time (53%, 50%, 40%) and carries (8, 6, 5) in consecutive weeks. Bell has played 33%, 26%, and 31% of the downs. Williams played 29% of the snaps in Week 9, forming a dreaded three-man RBBC. Expect CEH to remain the lead back by default, but his workload has taken a significant hit, sending the rookie to RB2/3 status. Bell is toast, and Williams is just in for pass-blocking purposes. While things haven’t been great for Edwards-Helaire’s fantasy managers, I’m willing to go back to him in a plus-plus Week 11 draw. This game’s 56.5-point total is the highest of the week, and the Chiefs are in a run-favorable environment as 7.5-point favorites facing a Raiders squad that is 28th in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 26th in run-defense DVOA. Kalen Ballage (15-69-1), Kareem Hunt (14-66), and Leonard Fournette/Ronald Jones (24-84-1) have all experienced success on the ground against the Raiders in the last month. CEH’s upside is capped a bit, but there should be enough meat on the bone here to produce a top-24 week. Kansas City’s implied total of 32 points is easily the highest of Week 11.

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Melvin Gordon vs. Dolphins -- Gordon again out-snapped Phillip Lindsay 56% to 30% in Week 10 against the Raiders, but with the Broncos getting obliterated on the scoreboard the last three weeks, Gordon has totaled 25 carries in that span. He’s a low-floor RB2/3 in a bad offense while Lindsay is a droppable RB4/5. Drew Lock (ribs) is less than 100%, and while he’s expected to play, the offense has been stale outside of a couple fourth-quarter onslaughts against the Chargers and Falcons. This game has the lowest total of the week at 45 points, and Denver’s implied team total of 20.75 points as 3.5-point underdogs is the third-lowest of Week 11. The matchup isn’t bad with the Dolphins 17th in fantasy points allowed to running backs and 29th in run-defense DVOA, but the Miami D/ST is still a better one-for-one play here.

Darrell Henderson at Bucs -- Out of the Rams’ bye, Henderson played just 33% of the snaps against the Seahawks, trailing Malcolm Brown (41%) in playing time while rookie Cam Akers (26%) led the team in carries with 10. Henderson was still able to find the end zone once on his seven carries, but Brown punched in a pair of short scores. There appears to be no rhyme or reason to this backfield. And if it remains a three-man committee, none can be trusted for fantasy, even in the NFC’s second-most run-heavy offense. The Bucs are seventh in fantasy points allowed to running backs and second in run-defense DVOA. Mike Davis (7-32), Alvin Kamara (9-40-1), Wayne Gallman (12-44-1), Josh Jacobs (10-17), and Aaron Jones (10-15-1) have all struggled on the ground against DC Todd Bowles’ defense over the last five weeks.

Devontae Booker vs. Chiefs -- With the Raiders destroying Denver last week, Booker set season bests in playing time (36%), carries (16), yards (81), and touchdowns (2) while killing the clock in garbage time as both scores came in the fourth quarter. He went 8-68-1 on the ground the week before in a win over the Chargers. Booker is the overall RB9 in fantasy points per game over the last two weeks and was likely a popular waiver-wire pickup for box-score readers this week. But with the Raiders installed as touchdown underdogs against the Chiefs, this projects as a game where Booker is unlikely to get the late-game, clock-killing work behind Jacobs. Booker handled seven carries against the Chiefs in the Raiders’ Week 5 upset win in K.C. Booker is elite insurance for Jacobs’ fantasy managers, but he’s not startable in Week 11.




Start of the Week: Chase Claypool at Jaguars -- Claypool has seen target counts of 9, 13, and 10 over the last three weeks and is coming off a 4-56-2 performance last week against the Bengals. He has become nearly unstoppable in the red zone with 11- and five-yard scores last week while also seeing a rushing attempt from the five-yard line. Up to nine scores in nine games, Claypool is as good of a bet as anyone to score this week in Jacksonville. The Jaguars are a mediocre 22nd in fantasy points allowed to wideouts and 31st in pass-defense DVOA. And with the Steelers opening up their passing offense in recent weeks, all three of Claypool, Diontae Johnson, and JuJu Smith-Schuster have become weekly must-starts. Claypool just has the highest ceiling with the ability to score from anywhere on the field and being a mismatch in the red zone. His seven red-zone targets are third on the team behind JuJu (10) and Eric Ebron (8). Marquez Valdes-Scantling (4-149-1), Davante Adams (8-66-1), Will Fuller (5-100-1), Brandin Cooks (3-83-1), Keenan Allen (10-125), and Jalen Guyton (2-84-1) have all met or exceeded expectations against the Jaguars over the last three weeks. Claypool is a WR1/2.




Mike Williams vs. Jets -- Williams is extremely boom-or-bust, going over 80 yards three times with Justin Herbert, but failing to top 40 yards in the other four Herbert starts. Playing Williams never feels easy, but the matchup against the Jets sets up for a boom week. The Jets just released starting CB Pierre Desir this week and placed slot CB Brian Poole on I.R. Coming out of the bye, the Jets are undergoing roster changes and shifting to a focus on seeing what they have for 2021. Williams will have the advantage over whoever lines up opposite him in coverage. New York is 23rd in fantasy points allowed to wideouts and dead last in pass-defense DVOA. This is a definite pass-funnel defense. Jakobi Meyers (12-169), Damiere Byrd (5-65), Tyreek Hill (4-98-2), Mecole Hardman (7-96-1), Demarcus Robinson (4-63-1), Cole Beasley (11-112), and Stefon Diggs (6-48) have all met or exceeded expectations in the Jets’ last three games. The Chargers’ implied team total of 28 points is the fourth-highest of Week 11.

Tee Higgins at Washington -- Since going 5-40-2 in Week 3, Higgins is the overall WR12 in fantasy points per game and has 60 yards and/or one touchdown in every game in that span. Higgins has drawn at least seven targets in all but one game since Week 3. A model of consistency in a high-volume pass offense, Higgins has overtaken A.J. Green as the Bengals’ top outside wideout with Tyler Boyd in the slot. While Washington is No. 2 in fantasy points allowed to receivers and No. 5 in pass-defense DVOA, Higgins has already shown an ability to overcome tough on-paper spots. He’s produced 6-125 against the Colts and 7-115-1 against the Steelers. Cincinnati and Washington are both in the top half of the league in offensive pace and offensive plays per game where the Bengals are No. 3 in that category. It’s a matchup between two bad teams that should produce some big fantasy performances. Higgins is a top-15 play.

Jalen Reagor at Browns -- Reagor paced the Eagles in targets and air yards last week in the Eagles’ embarrassing loss to the Giants. It didn’t translate to a big box score (4-47) but signs are starting to point to Reagor realizing a breakout performance. The rookie played a season-high 88% of the snaps and has settled in with Travis Fulgham as Carson Wentz’s outside duo. The Browns have been wrecked by wideouts this season, checking in at 27th in fantasy points allowed to the position and 20th in pass-defense DVOA. Cleveland is 24th in opponent plays per game, and the Eagles are seventh in offensive plays per contest. Wentz hasn’t played well by any means, but this is a chance to right the ship for the second half.




A.J. Brown at Ravens -- It’s difficult to outright sit Brown, fantasy’s overall WR13 in points per game, but most of his production is coming via insane touchdown luck. His five-game touchdown streak was snapped last week against the Colts, and he’s yet to see double-digit targets in a game this season. Tennessee runs the ball at the fifth-highest clip in the AFC, and Ryan Tannehill has gone four straight games attempting 30-or-fewer passes. Volume just isn’t on Brown’s side, and he’s getting by on touchdowns. The Ravens are No. 3 in fantasy points allowed to wideouts and have surrendered the fewest touchdowns (4) to the position. Jakobi Meyers (5-59), Michael Pittman (4-56), Chase Claypool (5-42-1), and Diontae Johnson (1-6) have all struggled to find space against Baltimore over the last three weeks. Brown has the talent to overcome the matchup and is his team’s No. 1 wideout, but expectations should be tempered coming off a 1-21 performance against the Colts.

Jarvis Landry vs. Eagles -- Landry is in the midst of the worst season of his career and has still yet to find the end zone on 55 targets. He’s third on the team in red-zone targets with just four. The Browns call a run play at the third-highest rate in the league, and Kareem Hunt actually leads the team with eight targets inside the 20-yard line. Landry has been off the fantasy radar much of the season. And despite being Cleveland’s No. 1 wideout in the wake of the Odell Beckham torn ACL, that really hasn’t changed. This game has a gross 47-point total.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling at Colts -- MVS is coming off his first 100-yard game of the season (4-149-1) and has scored three times over the last two weeks. He’s the overall WR4 in fantasy points per game in that span, right behind teammate Davante Adams (WR3). But MVS’ six targets in Week 10 were his most he’s seen since Week 4. A true long-ball, big-play specialist, MVS has to score from great lengths, as his five red-zone targets are way behind Adams (14) and Aaron Jones (9) for third on the team. MVS is also likely to take a sizable hit this week with the return of Allen Lazard (core) from injured reserve. MVS played just 54% and 63% of the snaps in the two games Lazard and Adams were healthy earlier this season. Lazard is the Packers’ preferred WR2 because of his blocking prowess. On top of the likely dip in playing time, the matchup is horrible. The Colts are sixth in fantasy points allowed to wideouts and fourth in pass-defense DVOA. No team has allowed fewer 40-plus yards pass plays. Box-score chasers will want to start MVS this week, but he’s best treated as a high-variance WR4.




Start of the Week: Dallas Goedert at Browns -- Goedert has played 84% and 93% of the Eagles’ snaps in his two games back from I.R., but he has just 4-48-0 to show for it on seven targets in that span. The Philly offense looks broken, but Week 11 presents a get-right opportunity against a soft Browns pass defense. Cleveland is 20th in pass-defense DVOA and 22nd in fantasy points surrendered to tight ends. Zach Ertz (ankle) isn’t ready to return from I.R., allowing Goedert at least one more week as the unquestioned top tight end. He’s among the league leaders in routes run at tight end over the last couple weeks. It’s hard to ask for much more than that at fantasy’s thinnest position. Goedert should be fired up as a top-five play.




Logan Thomas vs. Bengals -- No tight end has run more pass routes than Thomas. And he’s started to pick things up of late with 66 yards and/or one touchdown in three of the last four games. The overall TE21 on the season, Thomas is the TE5 in points per game since Week 6. With 100% and 99% snap rates over the last two contests, no tight end sees the field more than Thomas. He now draws a Bengals Defense that is 31st in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Washington and Cincinnati are also both top-11 in offensive pace, giving this game some shootout appeal despite the “two bad teams” nature of it. Thomas is a must-start top-12 TE1.

Eric Ebron at Jaguars -- Second on the team in red-zone targets behind only JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ebron is averaging six targets per game since Week 2 and has scored two of his three touchdowns over the last three weeks with the Steelers opting to open up their passing game. A 5-50 line from Ebron is what we’ve grown accustomed to expect out of him this season, but he now catches a juicy date with a Jaguars squad that is 28th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. Pittsburgh is top-10 in offensive plays per game, and the Steelers’ implied team total of 28.25 points is the third-highest of Week 11. Ebron is on the streamer map.

Hunter Henry vs. Jets -- Henry scored his second touchdown of the season last week and is due for some serious positive regression to the mean in that department over the second half of the season. His six red-zone targets are second on the team to Keenan Allen’s eight. Henry has produced at least four catches in all but two games this season, but his 43 yards per game are well below his 54.3 average last season. Still, Henry is seventh among all tight ends in pass routes and is very clearly the No. 2 option in the pass offense. The Jets are 23rd in fantasy points allowed to tight ends while the Chargers are implied to score 28 points this week.




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.