Fantasy Football Start ‘Em Sit ‘Em: NFL Week 18 lineup advice, best matchups, DFS picks

By | January 3, 2023

For those of you in seasonal leagues playing into Week 18 and looking to cash in DFS contests in the final week of the regular season, Sporting News’ NFL writer Vinnie Iyer is back with one more week of start ’em sit ’em advice.

There are a few teams in position to rest players with playoff seeding either locked up or not changing much, led by the Buccaneers and Giants. There are several more highly motivated teams trying to get into the playoffs, but one needs to be wary of team philosophies with their personnel. 

Navigating through all that and considering matchups, usage, and other factors, here are the deploy or avoid recommendations for Week 18. If you have specific lineup questions, check out RotoBaller’s industry-leading “Who To Start?” tool below and compare up to four players across all positions.

MORE: Click here to become a RotoBaller VIP subscriber and receive exclusive access to their premium lineup tools, DFS cheat sheets, and Team Sync platform! Use discount code SPORTING.

QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | D/STs | Kickers

Fantasy Football Week 18 Start ‘Em: Quarterbacks

QB must-starts

  1. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs (at LV)
  2. Jalen Hurts, Eagles (vs. NYG)
  3. Josh Allen, Bills (vs. NE)
  4. Joe Burrow, Bengals (vs. BAL)
  5. Justin Herbert, Chargers (at DEN)
  6. Dak Prescott, Cowboys (at WAS)
  7. Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars (vs. TEN)
  8. Aaron Rodgers, Packers (vs. DET)

Stronger starts

Kirk Cousins, Vikings (at CHI). They need a key offensive tune-up for the passing game, and the Bears’ defense is an absolute hollow shell.

Geno Smith, Seahawks (vs. LAR). He keeps getting it done playing off the run, and he’ll finish a surprise season with two more scores.

Justin Fields, Bears (if he plays. vs. MIN). There’s a chance they rest him after he got beat up more against the Lions, but he still has such a high floor because of his running.

Tom Brady, Buccaneers (at ATL). No one expects the GOAT to play a ton in a meaningless game for the Bucs’ seeding, but the matchup is great enough for him to drop multiple TDs before he exits in the second half.

Brock Purdy, 49ers (vs. ARI). Purdy is an easy bet for two more TDs as he’s done it in every game, and the Cardinals’ pass defense is a mess.

Jarrett Stidham, Raiders (vs. KC). Stidham is a volume-based play at home in a favorable game-script spot with top-flight targets.

Mike White, Jets (vs. MIA). He should play through his ribs injury to exploit a reeling pass defense.

DFS Targets

FanDuel cash game pick

Jalen Hurts, Eagles ($9,000, vs. NYG). The Eagles feel good about him playing after Gardner Minshew went 0-2 and the offense sputtered last week. He should go to work on a Giants’ defense resting key players.

DraftKings tournament pick

Dak Prescott, Cowboys ($6,600 at WAS). He’s in a sweet spot to produce 250 yards and two TDs as a floor, as it’s difficult to run on the Commanders.

Streamer Special

Kenny Pickett, Steelers (vs. CLE). The rookie’s moxie is what might get his team into the playoffs, and he’s overdue for a multi-TD game with his clutch passing and running. He’ll play well off the run for production.

WEEK 18 DFS LINEUPS: FanDuel | DraftKings

Fantasy Football Week 18 Sit ‘Em: Quarterbacks

Weaker starts

Jared Goff, Lions (at GB). Goff is facing a red-hot defense in the cold outside, so no.

Deshaun Watson, Browns (at PIT). The Steelers’ defense is bringing it of late, and Watson won’t put enough combined numbers on the road again.

Russell Wilson, Broncos (vs. LAC). Wilson owned the Chiefs with his best numbers this season, but he’s struggled against most other tough defenses. The Chargers now qualify as such.

Mac Jones, Patriots (at BUF). The Bills will be rough on him a second time as he cools off from the Dolphins game.

Tyler Huntley, Ravens (at CIN). The Ravens should continue to rest Lamar Jackson (knee), and that’s not great for their offensive upside.

Carson Wentz, Commanders (vs. WAS). He might keep his job for one more week, but neither Wentz nor Taylor Heinicke have appeal against a motivated Cowboys defense.

Baker Mayfield, Rams (at SEA). He might be a tempting streamer again, but the Seahawks turned back Mike White and the defense wants to put its team on its back for playoff position.

Andy Dalton, Saints (vs. CAR). Dalton should lean heavily on the run again, and the offense should deploy plenty of Taysom Hill, leading to limited opportunities.

WEEK 18 DFS: Best values | Best stacks

Fantasy Football Week 18 Start ‘Em: Running backs

RB must-starts

  1. Christian McCaffrey, 49ers (vs. ARI)
  2. Austin Ekeler, Chargers (at DEN)
  3. Derrick Henry, Titans (at JAX)
  4. Dalvin Cook, Vikings (at CHI)
  5. Najee Harris, Steelers (vs. CLE)
  6. Josh Jacobs, Raiders (vs. KC)
  7. Kenneth Walker III, Seahawks (vs. LAR)
  8. Nick Chubb, Browns (at PIT)
  9. Travis Etienne Jr., Jaguars (at TEN)
  10. Cam Akers, Rams (at SEA)
  11. Aaron Jones, Packers (vs. DET)
  12. Joe Mixon, Bengals (vs. BAL)
  13. Alvin Kamara, Saints (vs. CAR)
  14. Tony Pollard, Cowboys (if he returns, at WAS)
  15. Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys (at WAS)
  16. Jerick McKinnon, Chiefs (at LV)
  17. Isiah Pacheco, Chiefs (at LV)
  18. Rhamondre Stevenson, Patriots (at BUF)
  19. D’Andre Swift, Lions (at GB)
  20. Tyler Allgeier, Falcons (vs. TB)
  21. Jamaal Williams, Lions (at GB)

Stronger starts

AJ Dillon, Packers (vs. DET). He should rebound playing off Aaron Jones as the Packers have a complete, dominant offensive performance at home.

Miles Sanders, Eagles (at NYG). Sanders has been disappointing with Gardner Minshew, but Jalen Hurts’ likely return is a big boost against a defense resting key players.

David Montgomery, Bears (vs. MIN). Monty should go back to producing with volume, and the Vikings have been shaky vs. run of late. Khalil Herbert also can be a deeper-league flex.

Zack Moss and Deon Jackson, Colts (vs. HOU). They should be busy with the QB drop to Sam Ehlinger, and the Texans’ run defense is the ideal matchup.

Raheem Mostert, Dolphins (at NYJ). He’s looked better than Jeff Wilson Jr. of late, and his type of speed/power running can give the Jets issues.

D’Onta Foreman and Chuba Hubbard, Panthers (at NO). They are still the lifeblood of a run-first offense around Sam Darnold, and the Saints have been leakier vs. the run of late.

Matt Breida, Giants (at PHI). Saquon Barkley should be rested for most or all of the game against the Eagles, and Breida ran well in blowout duty last week.

Royce Freeman, Texans (at IND). He’s getting most of the work, and that will pay off more against a wilting defense.

DFS targets

FanDuel cash game picks

Kenneth Walker III, Seahawks ($7,700 vs. LAR). He’ll keep getting the rock often to wear down an Aaron Donald-less front, and he’s overdue for a score with 100-plus yards.

Cam Akers, Rams ($7,300 at SEA). Akers should have scored last week but just missed on a big play, and he should get back on track with volume this week against the team that sparked his return to relevance.

DraftKings tournament picks

Najee Harris, Steelers ($6,100 vs. CLE). The Browns still stink against the run, and the red-hot back will be leaned on to lift Kenny Pickett again.

Raheem Mostert, Dolphins ($6,000 vs. NYJ). They need his speedy power running on full display to have a shot to make the playoffs.

Fantasy Football Week 18 Sit ‘Em: Running backs

Weaker starts

Brian Robinson Jr., Commanders (vs. DAL). He disappointed in a good spot last week, and the Cowboys have been more effective run-stuffing than in pass coverage of late.

Leonard Fournette and Rachaad White, Buccaneers (at ATL). It’s difficult to believe they would give either much work with Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard available.

James Conner, Cardinals (at SF). Conner is battling a new thigh injury, and this matchup is brutal should he go.

Latavius Murray, Broncos (vs. LAC). The Chargers have tightened up against the run, and Chase Edmonds is getting more touches, too.

JK Dobbins and Gus Edwards, Ravens (at CIN). The Bengals are tough on the run, and there’s suddenly iffiness on the committee usage.

Devin Singletary and James Cook, Bills (vs. NE). The Patriots have stayed nasty vs. the run overall, making it hard to trust either back.

Cordarrelle Patterson, Falcons (vs. TB). He’s getting some trickle-down production in the running game, but the rookie Allgeier is still the lead.

Zonovan Knight, Jets (vs. MIA). You can’t trust any Jets back at this point.

Damien Harris, Patriots (at BUF). He’s still not doing much while available behind Rhamondre Stevenson.

Fantasy Football Week 18 Start ‘Em: Wide receivers

WR must-starts

  1. Justin Jefferson, Vikings (at CHI)
  2. Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals (vs. BAL)
  3. CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys (at TEN)
  4. Davante Adams, Raiders (vs. KC)
  5. A.J. Brown, Eagles (vs. NYG)
  6. Stefon Diggs, Bills (vs. NE)
  7. Amon-Ra St. Brown, Lions (at GB)
  8. DK Metcalf, Seahawks (vs. LAR)
  9. Tyler Lockett, Seahawks (vs. LAR)
  10. DeVonta Smith, Eagles (vs. NYG)
  11. Amari Cooper, Browns (at PIT)
  12. Garrett Wilson, Jets (at MIA)
  13. Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins (vs. NYJ)
  14. Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers (vs. ARI)
  15. Terry McLaurin, Commanders (vs. WAS)
  16. D.J. Moore, Panthers (at NO)
  17. Chris Olave, Saints (vs. CAR)
  18. Keenan Allen, Chargers (at DEN)
  19. Mike Williams, Chargers (at DEN)
  20. Christian Kirk, Jaguars (vs. TEN)
  21. Mike Evans, Buccaneers (at ATL)
  22. Chris Godwin, Buccaneers (at ATL)

Stronger starts

Gabe Davis, Bills (at NE). He scored in the first meeting and should have better volume here vs. a banged-up cornerback corps.

Drake London, Falcons (vs. TB). He’s dominating their targets and has a decent connection with Desmond Ridder to put up numbers vs. a mostly backup pass defense.

Michael Pittman Jr., Colts (vs. HOU). Another QB change hurts, but the Texans’ zone is beatable by his route running.

Marquise Brown, Cardinals (at SF). They are banged up at receiver, and he showed a good connection with David Blough.

Christian Watson, Packers (at DET). The rookie should feel healthier this week and produce a touchdown with a couple of big plays.

Diontae Johnson, Steelers (vs. CLE). He handled their coverage well the first time and will be productive for Kenny Pickett when he needs him most.

Zay Jones, Jaguars (vs. TEN). Jones will work over Tennessee’s secondary well on the outside to produce along with Christian Kirk.

Jahan Dotson, Commanders (vs. DAL). He is the one QB-proof target Washington has when there’s effective volume, and he should finish well in a favorable spot.

Treylon Burks, Titans (at JAX). He should have a chance against this shaky secondary with a possible negative game script.

Kadarius Toney, Chiefs (at LV). He looked healthy and like Kansas City’s best wideout again last week, and he’s the best big-play option vs. the Raiders.

DFS targets

FanDuel cash game picks

D.J. Moore, Panthers ($7,300 at NO). Moore is feeling it with Sam Darnold and should rip a secondary that just got ripped by the Eagles.

DK Metcalf, Seahawks ($7,200 vs. LAR). Metcalf and the wideouts were quieter against the Jets, but they will make more noise here away from Jalen Ramsey.

Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers ($7,100 vs. ARI). Aiyuk is dominating as a No. 1 for a while with Deebo Samuel out, and the Cardinals’ cornerback corps has dwindled.

DraftKings tournament picks

CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys ($8,200 vs. WAS). Lamb can’t be covered well at all by the Commanders and has a chance for one more high-volume blowup.

D.J Moore, Panthers ($6,100 vs. NO). See above.

Marquise Brown, Cardinals ($5,300 at SF). Brown can deliver a big play in garbage time that likely goes for a TD against the 49ers.

Fantasy Football Week 18 Sit ‘Em: Wide receivers

Weaker starts

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chiefs (at LV). JuJu has been very inconsistent in his usage compared to Kansas City’s other pass-catchers, and that won’t change here.

Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, Broncos (vs. LAC). The Chargers’ pass defense has been locking things down all over the field lately, and that will continue in this matchup.

Donovan Peoples-Jones, Browns (vs. PIT). DPJ scored a TD and still had only one catch last week, and Amari Cooper should be way more trusted against this pass defense.

DJ Chark, Lions (at GB). He might see a good chunk of Jaire Alexander on the outside.

Brandin Cooks, Texans (at IND). Cooks won’t do much in his presumed final game for Houston.

Michael Gallup, Cowboys (at WAS). It’s hard to know where the ball will go after CeeDee Lamb.

Adam Thielen, Vikings (at CHI). Thielen’s lessened necessary role continues here.

George Pickens, Steelers (vs. CLE). This is a better spot for Diontae Johnson than for him.

Jakobi Meyers, Patriots (at BUF). He’s banged up, and the Bills can contain him with their corners inside and out.

Van Jefferson, Rams (at SEA). Jefferson broke out last week but cools off against this secondary. 

Fantasy Football Week 18 Start ‘Em: Tight ends

TE must-starts

  1. Travis Kelce, Chiefs (at LV)
  2. George Kittle, 49ers (vs. ARI)
  3. Darren Waller, Raiders (vs. KC)
  4. Mark Andrews, Ravens (at CIN)
  5. Dallas Goedert, Eagles (vs. NYG)
  6. Evan Engram, Jaguars (vs. TEN)
  7. T.J. Hockenson, Vikings (at CHI)
  8. Dalton Schultz, Cowboys (at WAS)

Stronger starts

Taysom Hill, Saints (vs. CAR). He continues to defy logic with his dynamic hybrid role, so suspend disbelief for one more week.

Dawson Knox, Bills (at NE). The Patriots have been vulnerable to athletic targets, and Knox should find the end zone again.

Pat Freiermuth, Steelers (vs. CLE). Freiermuth shakes off last week’s clunker to be a key underneath target for Kenny Pickett again.

Tyler Higbee, Rams (at SEA). Tyler Conklin came through in this premier matchup for tight ends last week, and this Tyler will, too, as a key target for Baker Mayfield.

Tyler Conklin, Jets (at MIA). Speaking of Conklin, he stays hot in this coverage matchup after rekindling his connection with Mike White.

Cole Kmet, Bears (vs. MIN). He has a good chance to score again as the primary pass-catcher by default.

Gerald Everett, Chargers (at DEN). He scored last week, and there should be some hope it happens again based on this favorable matchup.

DFS targets

FanDuel cash game pick and DraftKings tournament pick

Dallas Goedert, Eagles ($6,200 and $4,900, vs. NYG). Jalen Hurts and Goedert are reunited and it will feel so good because the Giants can’t cover the position, giving Goedert a shot at 80 yards and/or a score.

Fantasy Football Week 18 Sit ‘Em: Tight ends

Weaker starts

David Njoku, Browns (at PIT). The Steelers can keep him slumping much like the Commanders did with their safety play.

Juwan Johnson, Saints (vs. CAR). The Saints pivoted to a more diverse passing game with more pop from the wideouts, and this matchup is tough.

Noah Fant, Seahawks (vs. LAR). The Rams have been generally good at covering the position, and he’s too much of a “boom-or-bust” option.

Hunter Henry, Patriots (at BUF). Henry steps into a tough spot with little wideout buzz to draw away coverage attention.

Hayden Hurst, Bengals (vs. BAL). He already had his first revenge game, so he’ll go back to a limited role behind Cincinnati’s wideouts. The Ravens also have tightened vs. the tight end of late.

Trey McBride, Cardinals (at SF). McBride finally got going as a rookie rill-in for Zach Ertz last week, but the 49ers’ coverage is still more vulnerable against wide receivers.

Cade Otton, Buccaneers (at ATL). The matchup is fine, but his usage will still be questionable because of rest worries.

Fantasy Football Week 18 Start ‘Em: Defenses

Defense must-starts

  1. 49ers (vs. ARI)
  2. Bills (vs. NE)
  3. Chargers (at DEN)
  4. Cowboys (at WAS)
  5. Eagles (vs. NYG)
  6. Jets (at MIA)

Stronger starts

Jaguars (vs. TEN). The Jaguars have been making big plays on the ball of late with their aggressive group, and they should have a chance to keep it up this week.

Colts (vs. HOU). The Colts will hope for a little better offense so its defensive principals can go to work on the lowly Texans.

Seahawks (vs. NYJ). They controlled the action up front and forced mistakes against the Jets, and it can happen again here.

Packers (vs. DET). Give them the emotional prime-time bump at home with a wild-card berth on the line.

Steelers (vs. CLE). Give them the emotional afternoon bump at home with a wild-card berth on the line.

Bengals (vs. BAL). They will force either Tyler Huntley or a banged-up Lamar Jackson (knee) into shaky situations that lead to sacks and takeways.

DFS targets

FanDuel cash game pick and DraftKings tournament pick

Steelers ($3,900 and $3,200. vs. CLE). Pittsburgh won’t be denied a defensive-minded winning season under Mike Tomlin. The Browns will be sloppy one more time with Deshaun Watson.

Fantasy Football Week 18 Sit ‘Em: Defenses

Weaker starts

Chiefs (at LV). The Raiders can put up some points on them on the road.

Browns (at PIT). Kenny Pickett can be clean with major help from the run.

Saints (vs. CAR). They’re a bit risky against a suddenly dangerous offense.

Panthers (at NO). They’re also a bit risky against a suddenly dangerous offense.

Dolphins (vs. NYJ). It’s a bit of a trap, as they are limited on playmakers.

Vikings (at CHI). This also is tempting, but they could also give up quite a bit of scoring and production.

Get more of Vinnie Iyer’s in-depth fantasy football advice for Week 18 by subscribing to the Locked On Fantasy Football podcast.