Tommy Garrett’s Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em NFL Fantasy Playoffs: Joe Burrow, Leonard Fournette, and Tee Higgins should find their way into lineups

With redraft leagues over and champions crowned, the growing game of NFL playoff fantasy football gives us a few more weeks to enjoy filling out starting lineups. As the level of competition rises, start ’em or sit ’em decisions become a bit more difficult as the margins begin to shrink. Let’s dive into the fantasy football start ’em or sit ’em decisions for the 2022 NFL playoffs.

NFL Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em for the 2022 NFL Playoffs: Quarterbacks

While the focus in the majority of fantasy leagues falls on skill positions, quarterbacks — in most cases — consistently bring the highest weekly total. Which QBs are must-starts, and who should remain on the bench in the NFL playoffs?

Start ‘Em | Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. LV)

300 yards and a couple of scores. I’m starting to feel we can pencil in Joe Burrow for this every week. Yet, at the same time, there is a different gear he can hit that most quarterbacks can’t reach, as shown in his final two games, where he totaled 971 passing yards and 8 touchdowns. In no way is this the norm. It shouldn’t be expected.

However, when you look at this offense, it needs to be considered, especially in the Wild Card round against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Raiders are coming into the week having just allowed Justin Herbert to put up 383 yards and 3 touchdowns. Although they held Burrow to under 150 yards with an interception in Week 11, it won’t happen twice.

If you are playing DFS, Burrow is going to be very chalky. He is the No. 5 priced QB ($6,800) and in the game with the second-highest odds of being a blowout (PIT vs. KC). It would be foolish not to have at least one lineup built around a Bengals stack.

Sit ‘Em | Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers (@ KC)

For 11 of the 12 starting quarterbacks playing in the playoffs, I can make a case to start each of them at least on Wild Card Weekend. There is only one who I cannot advocate starting. Benjamin Todd Roethlisberger Sr.

The Steelers made it to the playoffs with the help of Roethlisberger on key drives, but it took a miracle win by the Jaguars to even get this far. To close out the season, Roethlisberger averaged just 168.5 passing yards over his final four games with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 3:3. Roethlisberger has finished as a QB1 or better just three times all season.

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The last time these teams faced off (Week 16), he posted only 7 points and finished as the QB28 on the week. His average intended air yards are the second-lowest amongst qualified QBs (6.7), and he gets the ball out quicker than anyone at 2.38 seconds. With no fear of a vertical game, the Chiefs will bring pressure all game, something Roethlisberger can’t get away from at this point in his career.

It’s the end of the road for Big Ben, and aside from a “screw it” play for DFS where the narrative is a Steelers win or offensive explosion off the back of Roethlisberger, he should not be started in any fantasy format for the NFL playoffs.

Running Backs

While these RBs found themselves with adjusted roles following injuries to surrounding players and poor play from others, they are on opposite sides of start/sit debates for the 2022 NFL playoffs. Let’s look at the top start and sit options from RB committees around the league for this week.

Start ‘Em | Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. PHI)

On Monday, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians told reporters Leonard Fournette (hamstring) was expected to be back for the playoffs. He is currently listed as a game-time decision after being designated for a return from injured reserve earlier in the week.

At No. 8 in RB pricing, Fournette is a steal if he is activated. In 12 of his 14 games, he has scored double-digit points, including six straight. And now he faces an Eagles defense that is 31st in points allowed to RBs in their last four games.

From Weeks 9 through 14, Fournette averaged 14.0 carries, 6.4 receptions, 104.2 yards, and 1.2 touchdowns. He would be the No. 1 RB for the weekend and playoffs if not for the slight injury concern.

Speaking of playoffs, Fournette had a per-game average of 16 rushes for 75 yards in last year’s postseason and totaled 3 touchdowns on the ground. He also averaged 5.2 targets, 4.5 receptions, and 37 yards through those four games. Assuming a full workload, Fournette is a must-start in fantasy for the remainder of the NFL playoffs.

Sit ‘Em | Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys (vs. SF)

After rushing for 108.7 yards as a rookie, Ezekiel Elliott’s per-game numbers have fallen every single season. After 17 games, they now rest at 58.9 rushing yards per game. Receiving efficiency has taken a similar path, dropping from 11.3 in 2016 to 7.4 in 2018 and now 6.1 in 2021.

He simply is not breaking tackles as he once was. Per Pro Football Reference, Elliott has just 9 broken tackles on the season, averaging 1 every 26.3 carries. You guessed it — a career-worst.

He has scored 10 or fewer PPR points in four of his last six games, with single digits in three of those contests.

Tony Pollard is as healthy as he can be (foot), and if Dallas hopes to advance, I feel it comes off the arm of Dak Prescott, not the legs of Elliott.

NFL Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em for Wild Card Weekend: Wide Receivers

The WR position is the deepest in fantasy football, with a plethora of quality starting options to choose from every single week. As matchups can be the final deciding factor, here are some of our start ’em or sit ’em recommendations for the NFL playoffs.

Start ‘Em | Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. LV)

All eyes are on Ja’Marr Chase, and rightfully so. The rookie has been nothing short of sensational. However, I think we have lost the context of how good Tee Higgins has been as well.

On the year, Higgins has 74 receptions on 110 targets for 1,091 yards and 6 touchdowns. Since the Bengals came back from their bye, Higgins has outscored Chase on a per-game basis, 18.4 to 17.1.

Then we get to what Higgins does at home. In the eight games played in Cincinnati, Higgins has 50 receptions on 67 targets and scored 5 of his 6 touchdowns while averaging 98.8 yards per game.

In fantasy scoring, it’s a 21.6 to 9.9 difference at home vs. on the road. Given his consistency and usage, Higgins is a must-start against Las Vegas and might be the best value on the slate for DFS ($6,300).

Sit ‘Em | Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers (@ KC)

As we watch these rookies and second-year wide receivers flourish, the falloff of Chase Claypool stings even more. Granted, he did end the season on a high note, scoring 18.1 PPR points. But it was the first time since Week 5 Claypool had scored either 18+ points or found the end zone. His 2 touchdowns in 2021 are a far cry from last season, where he led all rookies with 11 total.

Claypool does not fit in the Steelers’ current offense. Roethlisberger’s compromised arm doesn’t allow him to target Claypool on deeper routes. Also, Claypool does not have a nuanced enough route tree to run the same patterns as a Diontae Johnson or Ray-Ray McCloud. Kansas City held Claypool to 41 yards on 4-of-6 receiving in Week 16, and I expect a similar result. Claypool is a sit ’em, likely his one-and-done playoff appearance for the year.

Tight Ends

It’s notoriously hard for fantasy managers to find consistent production from the tight end position. In the NFL playoffs, start ’em or sit ’em decisions could mean the difference between a win or loss as the margins are razor-thin.

Start ‘Em | Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles (@ TB)

Dallas Goedert has scored 13+ fantasy points in three of his last four games, including two with over 20 points. Over that stretch, he’s averaging 5.3 receptions on 6.5 targets for 84.5 yards per game and scored 2 touchdowns. Yet, it goes deeper than that when it comes to the value he brings to the Eagles’ offense.

Since Week 7 (after Zach Ertz was traded to the Cardinals), Goedert leads the Eagles with 25.6% of the targets and 24.5% of the air yards. He is No. 2 in the NFL in target share amongst TEs over this time (Mark Andrews – 27.5%) and is one of just eight TEs to have 24% or more of the air yards. He is also fourth in aDOT at 9.18 (minimum 25 targets).

Aside from DeVonta Smith, Goedert is the No. 2 target on the Eagles’ passing game. Philadelphia will be forced to pass in order to keep up in their playoff game, making Goedert a must-start for fantasy. He is a steal as the No. 8 priced TE of the slate at $4,500.

Sit ‘Em | Pat Freiermuth, Pittsburgh Steelers (@ KC)

It’s starting to look like I am pouring salt in the wounds of Steelers fans. Even more so now by adding Heath Miller 2.0, Pat Freiermuth, to the sit ’em list.

But even I — as I gently put down my Terrible Towel — have to admit it when I don’t like a player’s prospects for a game, even if I bleed the colors.

Freiermuth has scored 7.7 or fewer fantasy points in three of his last five games. He has also lost time due to a concussion. In fact, he sustained two in less than a month, which is terrifying.

I am all in on Muuuttthhh as a player. He is inside my top-eight TEs in dynasty and was one of my heartthrobs in the regular season. Nevertheless, he needs touchdowns in order to have blow-up games, and that’s a problem against Kansas City. They have allowed zero touchdowns and the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends in their last nine games. Even in a week with just 12 teams, Freiermuth is outside my top 10 for TEs and should not be started for the NFL playoffs in fantasy.

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