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Fantasy Football: Start or Sit Matthew Stafford?

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Inscriber faithful know that that I am madly in love with Matthew Stafford as a high-value, deep dive fantasy football quarterback in 2016. He’s a scant 45 pass attempts behind Drew Brees for the lead in attempts over the last five seasons, so he throws a ton. There isn’t much in the running game there, so this trend is likely to continue, and he was made suddenly more efficient last season by the shorter passing game. The Lions also set him up with a plethora of receiving options. He’s setup for a big season. That big season will start off in a massive way as he takes on the Indianapolis Colts Sunday.

The big knock against Stafford was that he was wildly inaccurate and a gunslinger, which would make him prone to the ups-and-downs of how able Calvin Johnson was able to go and get his wild passes. Enter Jim Bob Cooter, who simplified Stafford’s options to a series of easy passes, with screens, passes to the flat and slants allowing the Lions’ playmakers to go to work.

With Calvin Johnson watching from his Barcalounger, this passing attack is likely to continue, and will continue without sacrificing Stafford’s per-pass production. He completed the highest percentage of his passes by far since 2011, and did it without sacrificing his yards per attempt (fewer inaccurate bombs to Calvin meant the few times he caught it won’t buoy the Y/A).

Matthew Stafford’s caricature of a deep, inaccurate slinger should be the thing of the past. He’s an Alex Smith on steroids. He dinks, he dunks, but then he can bomb it out when need be. He did it to a tune of a 21.55 fantasy points per game average under Cooter, after having an awful 14.68 fantasy points per game before JBC took over as OC.

The Colts doubled down on this strategy, getting Marvin Jones and Anquan Boldin in free agency to give Stafford a couple more short-route, sure-handed receivers. Stafford is now a much more quality and efficient passer than anyone is giving him credit for in the JBC passing game, and you can reap the fantasy rewards.

Enter the Colts, a team that allowed the eighth-most fantasy points per game (19.08), and a team that should have been much higher on the list. They finished off last season with a murderer’s row of Brandon Weeden, Ryan Tannehill, Alex Tanney and Zach Mettenberger. In this stretch these quarterbacks mustered fewer than 10 fantasy points per game after they allowed more than 20 fantasy points per game all year. Fast forward to 2016 and their secondary has gotten even worse. Vontae Davis is injured and just-signed Antonio Cromartie takes his place opposite newbie Patrick Robinson in an attempt to shut down the plethora of weapons at Staffords’ disposal. They will fail; there are simply too many targets to cover with such a talent-bereft secondary. The Colts will provide relatively little resistance to the Lions passing game this week.

Stafford has a floor of 20 fantasy points this week, and is available in one-of-five Yahoo! leagues (though he will be started in much fewer). He’s likely on your bench and is a better option than several back-end QB1s, including Blake Bortles, Eli Manning and even Cam Newton. Start him with absolute confidence.

Prediction: 28/35 passing, 318 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT (22.7 fantasy points)

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com