Start/Sit: Primetime Debate

Erik Smith, Aaron Rader, and Matt Bevins provide start/sit recommendations for all fantasy relevant players in the Saints vs. Cowboys Thursday Night game, and debate whether to start Dak Prescott, Mark Ingram, and Dan Arnold.

Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire

Week 13 marks the last week of the regular season in many fantasy leagues, making start/sit decisions more important than ever. Kicking off the week is a matchup of fantasy relevant teams, as the Saints and their high powered offense travel to Dallas to play a Cowboys team riding a three-game win streak. The Saints are favored by 7 points and the game has the fourth highest over/under in the league this week at 52.5, which should produce plenty of fantasy starters.

Erik Smith, Aaron Rader, and Matthew Bevins give you the players they would start and sit from this week’s Thursday night matchup. When they disagree, they will give you both sides of the debate. Decisions are based on PPR scoring.


Saints @ Cowboys

Erik Matthew Aaron
QB Drew Brees Start Start Start
QB Dak Prescott Sit Start Start
RB Ezekiel Elliott Start Start Start
RB Alvin Kamara Start Start Start
RB Mark Ingram Start Sit Start
WR Michael Thomas Start Start Start
WR Amari Cooper Start Start Start
WR Tre’Quan Smith Sit Sit Sit
WR Cole Beasley Sit Sit Sit
WR Keith Kirkwood Sit Sit Sit
WR Allen Hurns Sit Sit Sit
WR Austin Carr Sit Sit Sit
WR Tommylee Lewis Sit Sit Sit
WR Michael Gallup Sit Sit Sit
TE Dan Arnold Sit Start Sit
TE Benjamin Watson Sit Sit Sit
TE Josh Hill Sit Sit Sit
TE Dalton Schultz Sit Sit Sit
TE Blake Jarwin Sit Sit Sit
K Wil Lutz Start Sit Start
K Brett Maher Sit Start Start
D Saints Sit Start Start
D Dallas Sit Sit Sit


Up For Debate

Dak Prescott

Start:  QB Dak Prescott had a monster day on Thanksgiving. He amassed three touchdowns and over 300 total yards. This week he is facing a Saints defense that has allowed 286 passing yards per game this season, which is 30th in the NFL. He has totaled at least 200 passing yards in his last five games and has emerging weapon WR Amari Cooper at his disposal. Dak has also managed to score a touchdown in every game but one this season.

The Saint’s defense has been daunting of late, but their offense is averaging 37.2 points per game. Dak and company will have their hands full attempting to keep pace with them, giving Dak plenty of chances to put up yardage and points. All of these factors, combined with the added bonus of being in Jerry World, make Dak a solid play for Thursday night. -Aaron Rader


Sit:  The reason I’m not calling Dak Prescott a starter this week has more to do with the depth of the quarterback position as a whole than his matchup or recent performance. He’s on average ranked as QB 16 in projections this week, and his average points per game on the year places him at QB15. To show how deep the position is for fantasy, QB11 and 12 this week are Kirk Cousins and Philip Rivers, two QBs that I feel much better about projecting high passing volume and yardage. I can understand the argument to raise him above quarterbacks like Carson Wentz, Tom Brady, or Lamar Jackson, but I can’t rank Dak in the top 12.

Prescott obviously looked great in his last game on Thanksgiving where he put up 27 fantasy points, but the week before he disappointed in a prime matchup against the Falcons, scoring only 15 fantasy points. Prescott has not thrown for 300 yards all season and has only reached 250 yards passing four times. And for those citing his rushing ability as a positive, Prescott has rushed for 11, 9, 5, and 18 yards in his last four games. He has been very reliant on rushing touchdowns, scoring one in five of his last six games. While that trend shouldn’t be seen as a fluke, he probably needs a rushing touchdown just to be in the QB12 range.

In leagues where teams hoard quarterbacks, Dak may be your best option, as he is likely better than the streaming options on waivers. But don’t let his big game on Thanksgiving tempt you into starting him over a big-time quarterback with higher upside. Prescott should be viewed as a safe option with a high floor, but I would rather roll the dice on quarterbacks with higher passing volume, or even one with higher rushing volume like Lamar Jackson. -Erik Smith


Mark Ingram

Start:  RB Mark Ingram has been looking like his old self as of late. He has totaled 259 rushing yards in the last three games and toted the rock 40 times in that span. The Dallas defense is a tough matchup, but the Saints have beaten each of their last three opponents handily. In the clock-killing, lopsided affairs, Mark Ingram benefits the most. The Dallas Cowboys are 23rd in the league in scoring on a points per game basis. This could certainly be a scenario where the Saints jump out to an early lead and ride it out at the expense of the Cowboys’ low volume offense. Ingram has had double digit carries in every game but one since he came back from suspension. He also has at least two receptions in every game, but two. Playing in the Saints’ high powered offense has also led Ingram to 37 red zone carries. He is always a good bet to run for a touchdown in this offense. If you are on the fence about Ingram this week, don’t be. -Aaron Rader


Sit:  Mark Ingram, the Marking Ram, the steamroller compared to the flashy, faster power tools. He’s been seen as a productive or potential driven back almost his whole career, and in 2014 he finally started to blossom. Ingram quickly became the back many expected him to be, but had a tough time finding traction due to injuries, still never finishing a full season of 16 games. And now he has two marks on his record. One, a little-known fella named RB Alvin Kamara. And two, Ingram is coming up on free agency after this season and, to put it bluntly, is just one of a multitude of weapons at QB Drew Brees’ disposal. So, as we go in to free agency next year, why wouldn’t the Saints start to slowly see what they have around them with Ingram expected to leave in free agency.

Ingram sees the field almost every week under fifty percent of the time. Not even in touches, but just snaps alone (the lone week he was over 50 percent of snaps was his first week back from suspension). A true time-share, if I have the choice I’m going with the more dynamic, younger back who can create and make exciting plays in open space. I personally think that Ingram is a solid back, but at running back, going into the playoffs, I would much rather play it safe than go with a projected top 20 back who, while having talent, could be game planned out if the Saints blow out the Cowboys, as well as game planned out if they are trailing and need dynamic playmakers. He’s also, more than anything else, reliant on touchdowns more than sheer amount of volume. Ingram, you’re solid, but heading into the fantasy playoffs, I want to quit you cold turkey. -Matthew Bevins


Dan Arnold

Start:  Two or three weeks ago, I bet we could guess TE Dan Arnold‘s name for hours before we recalled where we had seen it lately. The young tight end made a name for himself last week, on Thanksgiving, carving up the Falcons defense. Seeing the field last week on just 21 percent of the Saints’ plays (well behind TE Benjamin Watson at 32% and TE Josh Hill at 54%), the rookie out of Wisconsin-Platteville was not a household name anywhere in the football world, heck, not even in New Orleans, as he only had four catches combined through week 9. But the big-bodied tight end may have a new friend in Drew Brees, and I think we could mine some sneaky value out of these fantasy mines.

On his twelve snaps against Atlanta in week twelve, Arnold saw an immense 6 targets. Fifty percent of his on the field time he was either getting open or Brees was looking for him, to the tune of four receptions for forty-five yards and a touchdown. In any game over one target, while the sample size is small, he has caught at least 66.7 percent of his targets. Solid hands, a large target, and with Watson, a wily vet who can make his way to a productive line here and there but hasn’t done much to speak of this year, and Josh Hill, an almost pure blocking tight end who has a max of four targets in eleven games this year, I want the upside. Give me Dan Arnold, the rookie tight end drafted into an elite offense who does not have a king of the tight end crown. I’d much rather be ahead of this one than behind, and it isn’t as if the position is chock full of options like the running back position. The Cowboys are a somewhat reliable passing defense (11th on pro football reference), but I think Arnold could have a pretty enticing floor, especially if he can make his way to a minimum of four targets. -Matthew Bevins


Sit:  It’s awfully tempting to start Dan Arnold with the sorry state of the tight end position this year. Playing with Drew Brees gives him a leg up on almost the whole league, and as Brees showed last week, anyone can catch a touchdown pass in the New Orleans offense. Arnold’s solid game on Thanksgiving likely caught the eye of many who were watching, helping add to the hype. But until Arnold’s usage increases, fantasy owners shouldn’t be counting on him with their playoff hopes on the line.

Arnold finds himself on the low-end of a three-way timeshare among Saints tight ends, with Ben Watson and Josh Hill both seeing more snaps than him each week. After seeing a season-high 37% of the offensive snaps in week 10, Arnold has followed that up with 21% of the offensive snaps each of the last two weeks. That amounts to 12 offensive snaps last week, which gives him no margin of error. Last week saw him receive his first red zone target of the year, an incompletion, making even a short touchdown a likely longshot this week.

If we start seeing quotes from Saints coach Sean Payton calling for Arnold to take over the majority of snaps, or an injury occurs to Watson or Hill, then Arnold could quickly become a fantasy starter. But for now, Arnold is not seeing the field enough to be counted on in season-long fantasy leagues. -Erik Smith

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