For the first time in fantasy football history, some owners will be making start ’em, sit ’em decisions in Week 18. While most season-long leagues wrapped up in the new penultimate Week 17 to avoid the possibility of teams resting key players, some will play on through this week’s games and thus require lineup advice.
If your season is over after either winning or losing a title last week, it also would not be a bad time to get your final fix before the NFL playoffs by playing DFS or setting up an extra mini league. Beyond the usual late-season injury and COVID concerns in 2021-22, however, you need to worry about teams resting players.
The Packers, who have clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC, are the one team guaranteed to sit starters on Sunday, including Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones and Davante Adams, and maybe even AJ Dillon. Also in the conference, the East-winning Cowboys and the wild-card Eagles might treat their Saturday night affair as a preseason game, keeping out quarterbacks Dak Prescott and Jalen Hurts and the principals around them. It all depends how much seeding matters to those teams.
There are fewer of those concerns in the AFC. The Titans, Chiefs, Bills, Patriots, Colts, Chargers, Raiders, Steelers, and Ravens have something of note on the line in Week 18. The North-winning Bengals, however, could opt to take no chances with QB Joe Burrow (knee) and other regulars in Cleveland.
With all that in mind, here’s how to navigate through the best and worst matchups to know what players to deploy and avoid in your toughest start ’em, sit ’em calls.
Fantasy Football Week 18 Start ‘Em: Quarterbacks
- Josh Allen, Bills (at NYJ)
- Justin Herbert, Chargers (at LV)
- Kyler Murray, Cardinals (vs. SEA)
- Matthew Stafford, Rams (vs. SF)
- Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs (at DEN)
- Tom Brady, Buccaneers (vs. CAR)
- Kirk Cousins, Vikings (if he returns, vs CHI)
Hill got warmed up in his return against the Panthers and should be game to put up good all-around points with the playoffs on the line for New Orleans.
Wilson has gotten hot late in the season with his weapons booming again, and he should get into another shootout with Kyler Murray.
Lance started slowly against the Texans but looked great as a dual threat in the end. He will be prepped to play well again should Jimmy Garoppolo (thumb) miss another week as expected.
Tannehill didn’t have high volume against the Dolphins, but he did deliver multiple TDs. His wideouts will help him have more fun this week.
Roethlisberger needs one more of his vintage downfield passing games before hanging it up, and the Ravens have become a total mess in coverage.
On the flip side, Baltimore also will want to end on a high note against its rival with the playoffs still a possibility, too. The running helps a lot here, like it does for Hill and Lance.
In a possible preview of what’s to come in 2022, the Packers will give Love a second start this season in place of Rodgers. Love can also run a little, and the passing matchup is fantastic for whoever is playing wide receiver.
He’s been really hard to trust, but he’ll finish well at home with a fair chance of an upset in a game in which Atlanta won’t run well at all.
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Dalton is likely to get the nod again in the weather-friendly confines of the Vikings’ home dome as Chicago should think twice about forcing rookie Justin Fields, the franchise’s future, back into action with his ankle injury. Dalton can put some good garbage points playing off the running game against a bad secondary.
The Lions say they would start Jared Goff again if he can return from his knee injury, but they should feel comfortable about Boyle one more time given they moved the ball the past two weeks. Boyle, a former Packer, also would be motivated to play well against his former team, which should also play without some key defenders.
Fantasy Football Week 18 Sit ‘Em: Quarterbacks
He underwhelmed in the first meeting, and this should be a massive run-heavy game plan for Las Vegas.
Indy won’t be messing around and will ride a heavy dose of its power rushing attack.
This just feels like an ugly defensive matchup, like Week 1.
This just feels like an ugly defensive matchup, like Week 1.
By the numbers it looks good, but the Titans’ defense is sizzling.
He’ll still face enough of the Cowboys’ front-line defenders to avoid in a run-heavy approach.
You might be tempted because the TDs are coming with the turnovers, but no.
He had that nice start against the Vikings, but a battle of backups will be lower-scoring.
You cannot go here if it’s not Joe Burrow (knee).
A Darn-no to that.
Fantasy Football Week 18 Start ‘Em: Running backs
- Jonathan Taylor, Colts (at JAX)
- David Montgomery, Bears (at MIN)
- Alvin Kamara, Saints (vs. ATL)
- Austin Ekeler, Chargers (vs. LV)
- Nick Chubb, Browns (vs. CIN)
- Damien Harris, Patriots (at MIA)
- Rashaad Penny, Seahawks (at ARI)
- Josh Jacobs, Raiders (vs. LAC)
- Dalvin Cook, Vikings (vs. CHI)
- Devin Singletary, Bills (at NYJ)
- Najee Harris, Steelers (vs. BAL)
- Elijah Mitchell, 49ers (at LAR)
- Sony Michel, Rams (vs. SF)
- Javonte Williams, Broncos (vs. KC
- Melvin Gordon, Broncos (vs. KC)
- Saquon Barkley, Giants (vs. WAS)
- Jaret Patterson or Antonio Gibson, WAS (at NYG)
Williams should keep seeing the bulk of the key work in a positive game script against a white-flag defense.
He will get more regular work in his second game back as Detroit gets run-heavy to beat Green Bay’s backups.
They destroyed the Dolphins last week, and this matchup is even sweeter after the Texans struggled against Chargers and 49ers.
This dynamic duo also steps into a terrific home matchup against an awful run defense.
Damien Harris is still battling a sore hamstring, but New England won’t shy away from going run-heavy after what the Titans just did to the Dolphins.
Between Miles Sanders (hand) and Boston Scott and Jordan Howard (reserve/COVID), Gainwell should be busy against mostly Cowboys backups.
You should still play Ezekiel Elliott if Dallas decides to play him, but there’s a good chance Zeke and Tony Pollard will be rested to give Clement nice volume in a revenge game.
Freeman has needed to share more with Latavius Murray in tougher matchups of late, but this one against the Steelers’ reeling run defense puts him in position for around 80 yards from scrimmage and a TD.
This other Taylor should be busy filling in for Aaron JonesJones and AJ Dillon against a putrid Lions run defense that just gave up a career game to Rashaad Penny.
Fantasy Football Week 18 Sit ‘Em: Running backs
Cordarrelle Patterson, Falcons (at NO). It was fun while it lasted, but the experiment is ending poorly and this matchup doesn’t help at all.
The Browns did get gashed by Najee Harris on Monday night, but should Cincy sit Joe Mixon, there’s likely to be a commitee in a meaningless game.
His revenge game will fall flat, as D’Andre Swift gets more regular touches.
The matchup is brutal, and he may not be cleared from his concussion, anyway.
This matchup is not good, and he won’t get that garbage-time TD to vindicate him again.
The Titans’ run defense continues to be tight.
He’s not a worthy pursuit behind Nick Chubb anymore.
He’s bursting well, but Darrel Williams is getting the money touches.
He’s total desperation in their committee.
Ronald Jones (ankle) is hurting, and it could be a messy apostrophe committee of Ke’Shawn Vaughn (ribs) and Le’Veon Bell.
Cue up the Spider-Man meme in this game.
Fantasy Football Week 18 Start ‘Em: Wide receivers
- Cooper Kupp, Rams (vs. SF)
- Deebo Samuel, 49ers (at LAR)
- Justin Jefferson, Vikings (vs. CHI)
- Tyreek Hill, Chiefs (at DEN)
- Stefon Diggs, Bills (vs. NYJ)
- A.J. Brown, Titans (at HOU)
- Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, Bengals (if some/all play, at CLE)
- Diontae Johnson, Steelers (at BAL)
- Brandin Cooks, Texans (vs. HOU)
- Hunter Renfrow, Raiders (vs. LAC)
- Tyler Lockett, Seahawks (at ARI)
- DK Metcalf, Seahawks (at ARI)
- Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins (vs. NE)
- Keenan Allen, Chargers (at LV)
- Mike Williams, Chargers (at LV)
- Mike Evans, Buccaneers (if he plays, vs. CAR)
- Terry McLaurin, Washington (at NYG)
Amon-Ra St. Brown, Lions (vs. GB). He’s played like an Egyptian god among men the past three games, and here, he can make it four.
You don’t need to bend much to keep rolling with OBJ against a 49ers’ shaky cornerback group.
Pittman should get it going for a short score and good yardage with around six grabs in a favorable spot.
The rookie should get a nice tuneup here without facing the key parts of the Cowboys pass defense.
Mooney started to feel it again with Andy Dalton and will torch Minny in the finale.
. He will be used well inside and outside on the Bengals’ limited secondary.
He keeps making big plays to put up big days with Taysom Hill.
He’s replaced Adam Theilen as the main scorer opposite JJ.
Let’s entertain the thought he might be their best wide receiver for this game and also be in there with Cooper Rush, who connects well with him.
He might need to start to field three-wide sets, and he can crush it here as a fill-in No. 1.
Aiyuk worked well with Trey Lance playing off Deebo Samuel and should continue his success probably away from Jalen Ramsey.
Big Ben should have one big game left in him, and that requires big plays from Claypool against a team really struggling in downfield coverage.
He replaced Antonio Brown with a bang against the Jets, and he’ll fly high again against a Panthers’ depleted cornerback group.
Fantasy Football Week 18 Sit ‘Em: Wide receivers
Marquise Brown and Rashod Bateman, Ravens (vs. LAR). They’ve gone downhill in a hurry in their reliability playing off each other, as it’s become the “Mandrews show” in Baltimore.
Not with their QB and the TB DBs mostly healthy.
He’s bound to see Marshon Lattimore outside.
All’s (Antoine) Wesley that doesn’t end Wesley for them.
The matchup is good, but his limited usage of late says keep him in the garage.
Keep him parked, too.
It’s not good for all the wideouts in this game.
C’mon, you shouldn’t need to Treadwell here.
Time to bury Berrios in the rankings.
It’s a Lock they will all go stone-cold again.
Fantasy Football Week 18 Start ‘Em: Tight ends
- Travis Kelce, Chiefs (at DEN)
- George Kittle, 49ers (at LAR)
- Mark Andrews, Ravens (vs. PIT)
- Rob Gronkowski, Buccaneers (vs. CAR)
- Dawson Knox, Bills (vs. NYJ)
- Dalton Schultz, Cowboys (if he plays, at PHI)
- Kyle Pitts, Falcons (if he plays, vs. NO)
- Pat Freiermuth, Steelers (at BAL)
- Darren Waller, Raiders (if he can return, vs. LAC)
- Dallas Goedert, Eagles (if he plays, vs. DAL)
Hunter Henry, Patriots (at MIA). Henry needs to get back in on the fun, and it should happen this week after two Titans TEs just scored on the Dolphins.
He should stay involved to curb into the wideouts’ production.
Fant came through vs. the Chargers, and he’s by far their best option for passing now.
This is assuming he will be cleared to return from the reserve/COVID list. He can take advantage of a great revenge-game matchup.
The Bengals should be careful with Joe Burrow (knee), but that should also lead to also not risking their three talented wide receivers much. Uzomah has caught nine passes the past two weeks and had four grabs on five targets in the first meeting against Cleveland. A touchdown would really make him pay off.
Fantasy Football Week 18 Sit ‘Em: Tight ends
Gesicki has gone cold, and the Patriots won’t help thaw him.
The Tylers actually did something last week, so that means absolutely not this week.
The matchups says yes. The player still says no.
The three-headed monster isn’t making anyone jealous.
Fantasy Football Week 18 Start ‘Em: Defenses
- Bills (vs. NYJ)
- Patriots (at MIA)
- Colts (at JAX)
- Chiefs (at DEN)
- Saints (at ATL)
- Titans (at HOU)
Eagles (vs. DAL). They should be facing backups, and that makes them playable at home given their depth of playmakers.
Steelers (at BAL). They should be getting after whoever’s at QB with the Ravens burned in protection.
They should make some plays, as Trey Lance will still make some mistakes.
They will carry over momentum from the Broncos vs. Derek Carr.
They should at least get a few sacks and a takeaway or two.
Washington is the highest-priced defense on FD, but it is very afforable in the middle on DK. Tampa Bay is the highest-price defense on DK, but is very affordable in the middle on FD. They are two of the stronger standout starts to add to the list above, too.
Fantasy Football Week 18 Sit ‘Em: Defenses
They might play a few backups more than usual, so no.
You can’t go here against a red-hot Seahawks.
They won’t be playing key guys, so ignore the matchup value.
They will be resting mode more than you think, so no.
The numbers say yes. The freefalling team says no.
Get more of Vinnie Iyer’s in-depth fantasy football advice for Week 18 by subscribing to the Locked On Fantasy Football podcast.