The goal of any fantasy season is to make as many good decisions as possible, hoping that the accumulation of good decisions will get you where you need to go. I am not saying everyone listed in this article needs to be automatically benched on your roster — your team depth and context will determine how you play that. Perhaps you’ll use this column more for a DFS slant, or as a springboard to player props.
Like anything else, I advise you to consider any reasonable argument you come across but ultimately make your own measured decision.
I welcome your own fades (and music reccos, and dog photos); join me on Twitter: @scott_pianowski.
Michael Pittman vs. Patriots
It’s been a breakout sophomore year for Michael Pittman. He sits WR17 in standard, WR20 in half-point PPR and is the featured target in the Colts passing game.
Alas, New England’s defense is nasty again, after a lost 2020 season ruined mostly by COVID-19 opt-outs. J.C. Jackson has turned into a shutdown corner, and New England is outstanding when it comes to covering No. 1 wideouts — only the Cowboys have been more effective in erasing top targets, according to Football Outsiders metrics.
Obviously, the Patriots have spent two weeks game-planning for Jonathan Taylor, but they also know Carson Wentz is going to chuck it 30-40 times in Saturday’s showdown. Belichick, Jackson and Friends are unlikely to let Pittman beat them, especially when you consider the significant drop from Pittman down to the next-best Indianapolis downfield option. T.Y. Hilton is getting dusty in his age-33 season. Jack Doyle is mostly a catch-and-fall tight end.
Even in a week messy with injuries and Covid issues, I moved Pittman outside my top 30 at wide receiver.
Jalen Hurts vs. Football Team
I’m certainly not mandating Hurts as an auto-bench as we consider Week 15, the first week of the fantasy playoffs. I’m merely imploring you to consider all factors before you hit play on your starting quarterback.
As we go to press, we’re not positive Hurts will play against Washington. He’s dealing with an ankle injury. And if Hurts does start but is in any way compromised as a runner, that’s a problem. A heavy chunk of his fantasy value is tied to his athleticism and his willingness to scramble and run proactively. His passing metrics, frankly, are a mess — he’s considerably below league average in completion percentage and QB rate, and slightly below average in YPA. It’s fair to wonder if Gardner Minshew is the best pure passer on the Philly roster.
So even if Hurts starts, I see two potential situations where the bottom drops out. Perhaps he’ll put the running game on ice, and that would take a major chunk of his value off the table. It’s also possible Hurts will be rusty off the layoff and struggle, with Minshew ready in relief as needed. An aggravation of the angle injury can’t be ruled out, either.
You know your team and your league better than I do. I’m not suggesting you bench Hurts for Mike Glennon or Zach Wilson. Just temper your expectations somewhat, and do your diligence before you commit to a final answer.
Cowboys Passing Game vs. Giants
This fade is probably more for the prop players than the fantasy managers; if the Dallas passing game is a critical part of your weekly starting lineup, you might not have the depth to consider an alternative. But we can’t ignore that Dak Prescott hasn’t looked right for several weeks.
Prescott was injured and didn’t play in the midseason game at Minnesota. Let’s consider what he’s done in six games since: eight touchdown passes, six picks, 6.56 YPA. He’s shut down the running element of his game, too — 36 yards in total over those six starts. This is not the explosive Dallas passing game we all signed up for.
The Giants have a funnel defense — it’s a respectable 10th in DVOA against the pass, but a leaky 27th against the run. Mind you, the Dallas running game isn’t firing on all cylinders lately, either — Ezekiel Elliott is obviously playing through injuries, and Tony Pollard wasn’t available last week. But given how shaky the Giants offense is, some version of Elliott, Pollard and perhaps even Corey Clement should be enough for the Pokes to grind out a divisional win.
Let’s be clear here — this is not some mandate to bench CeeDee Lamb or Amari Cooper. Your depth will make the call on Prescott. But although the Giants have the look of a doormat right now, you can’t blame the NYG passing defense for that. And it’s been a while since Dallas’s passing game was in sync.