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Thursday Night Matchups Analysis & Start/Sit Recommendations

What's up RotoBallers. For most folks, welcome to the second round of the fantasy football playoffs.

Nothing like starting up the semifinals with a hard-hitting matchup between the St. Louis Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, am I right? With less options to debate about, below are the definite plays and the not-so-definite plays for the opening game in one of the most important rounds of the season.

Let's get to it... good luck with your matchups!


Buccaneers @ Rams - Thursday Night Matchups Analysis

Must Play: Todd Gurley

I know, we're geniuses. On a serious note, last week cemented Gurley's involvement moving forward, as he was coming off back-to-back duds against the Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals. After two tough draws with little quarterback help, Gurley was a monster against a normally-stingy Detroit front, rushing 16 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Managers were patient with his injury in the beginning, reaped the rewards for the majority of the season and hit a snag in the last few weeks, but it's all systems go from here on it.

The matchup is not above-average as TB has a top-10 run defense in terms of fantasy running backs point scored, but if the Saints and Tim Hightower made it work last week, expect the Rams to force feed Gurley on Thursday Night Football. Also, home game + short week is not a bad thing for a team that emphasizes the run game.

Must Play: Doug Martin

Even with only 11 carries, Doug Martin scored double-digit fantasy points as he found the end zone for the second straight game. It's the fifth straight week Martin has been a double-digit scorer, and there's no reason why it won't continue on TNF.

Martin will see even more work than last week as it is hard to envision the Rams getting out to a big lead, in addition to the Rams being in the top seven in fantasy points against for running backs.

Must Play: Mike Evans

The St. Louis pass defense is real and Mike Evans is coming off his worst performance since Week 5. The optimist wants to see a bounce-back, but last week was discouraging-- all the signs were pointing at a big game for Evans with the small amount of carries for Martin and a Vincent Jackson injury.

With a Jackson injury lingering and Evans being the the main target for Winston, Evans is in nine out of 10 lineups and hopefully he'll perform like the player most drafted him as.


More Questionable Lineup Decisions

Decision Time (Start): Austin Seferian-Jenkins

If Jackson is out, ASJ is in. Oddly enough, ASJ has two identical outputs in his last two games with three catches and 31 yards on six targets.

The Rams are right in the middle of the NFL in allowing points to tight ends, so if you were a manager holding onto ASJ for an absurd amount of time through his injuries, he's in the top half of playable tight ends for the semifinals.

Decision Time (Sit): Tavon Austin

Although the explosiveness is everything managers want for a plug-and-play wide receiver option, it's nearly impossible to start Tavon Austin with confidence and to no fault of his own.

No one wants their playoff hopes to ride-or-die on a special teams play or a 75-yard touchdown. The system he's in is too ineffective, so he'll be on my bench this week.

Decision Time (Sit): Jameis Winston

A short week against a defense that is top seven against quarterbacks in fantasy points allowed + only has one true wide receiving target = a bad recipe for Jameis Winston. Although I fully expect the Buccaneers to win the game, St. Louis has had some prime-time performances where the unit that shows up the most is their defense, and more specifically their defensive line.

He should be started in two-quarterback leagues, but not in one-quarterback 12-team leagues or even 10-team leagues as he's only scored more than 25 points one time this season (six-point passing tds).


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