Week five of the fantasy football season is upon us, and things are really starting to get interesting. If you’re sitting at 0-4 it’s desperation time. Few teams ever make the playoffs starting 0-5, so you better hit the waiver wire or work on some trades. We know that the support group for people who drafted Thomas Jones just got a new coffee pot. Take a look at our intensive game-by-game analysis to capitalize on what should be a monster fantasy week for a lot of players.
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Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver Roy Williams is out, and will likely be replaced by Miles Austin in the starting line-up. Against the Chiefs, he may be worth taking a look at this week.
Detroit Lions Quarterback Matthew Stafford is out. Daunte Culpepper will get the nod.
Eli Manning has been warming up all morning and appears ready to play.
New York Jets Wide Receiver Jerricho Cotchery was limited in practice yet again, and is still listed as questionable against Miami on Monday night.
Chicago – Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Greg Olsen and company will get a much needed rest before their week six showdown with the Falcons
Green Bay – Ryan Grant, Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and Jermichael Finley get to think about their Monday night loss for one extra week.
New Orleans – This may be the only way to keep Drew Brees, Reggie Bush, Marques Colston and Pierre Thomas off the scoreboard.
San Diego – Nothing helps get over another loss to the Steelers like a bye. Enjoy the rest Phillip Rivers, Darren Sproles, Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates and the guy who used to be LaDanian Tomlinson.
Start – How do you think they’re marketing this one in Buffalo? “Do you like interceptions, false starts, and coaching staffs that have already scheduled college scouting trips during Week 14 of the NFL season?” This game has the appeal of a Marv Levy romance novel, only with less fantasy implications and more fan disgust. The only interesting aspect here is the chance for Bills’ fantasy owners to collect some much needed points. Marshawn Lynch had a rough start to his comeback against the Dolphins last Sunday, but should excel this week against the worst rush D in the NFL. Owners facing a bye week can also look at Fred Jackson for the flex start. Give Terrell Owens the nod as well. Sure, his quarterback looks like he’s auditioning for a spot on the Browns’ roster, but there’s nothing T.O. loves more than putting up big numbers in a meaningless game against an inferior opponent (also known as the Alex Rodriguez effect). And on that note, get ready for Fox to interrupt regularly scheduled episodes of Family Guy in order to show A-Rod choking in the playoffs this weekend. Baseball playoffs, catch the fever!
Sit- Last week the Browns held Carson Palmer to less than five yards-per-attempt and didn’t allow a single completion over 27 yards. This means that given Buffalo’s desire to get Lynch rolling again and the Browns’ terrible rush defense, there’s no reason to believe that Trent Edwards (one touchdown, four interceptions in his last two games) will have a banner day. He should register an average one, instead. Give the Stanford alum a seat on the bench, despite the temptation to play him against the NFL’s worst team. Same goes for Lee Evans who broke 32 yards for the first time last week against Miami.
Now, here are some fun stats for Cleveland fantasy owners:
With the exception of James Harrison, who had a solid game last week and is looking like the only healthy Browns RB, sit everyone else from Cleveland.
Start – In “theory” this is a road game for the Steelers, but if you get a chance to look at any of the 46 crowd shots CBS loves to show during the game, take a gander at all the Pittsburgh jerseys. Because if there are two things to know about Steelers fans, it’s that they love following their team on the road and have no problem leaving the burgeoning Steel-town nightlife scene on weekends to do so. Thus, we will not count this as a road game. It’s more like Pittsburgh vs. Detroit on a neutral field in Michigan. Rashard Mendenhall (regardless if Willie Parker returns from a toe injury), will get at least 20 carries. This is great news for his fantasy owners considering Mendenhall is averaging almost six yards-per-rush this year and is coming off a monster Sunday night explosion against the Chargers. In the passing game, Ben Roethlisberger should continue to roll against the league’s worst scoring defense. He has touchdown passes in every single one of his starts and has broken 300 yards in two of his first four games. Expect Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, and Heath Miller to reap the rewards of what should be an offensive onslaught.
Brandon Pettigrew is worth starting at tight end for the Lions, and Calvin Johnson (133 yards last week) is talented enough to come down with at least one or two jump balls. He was a little banged up this week, but returned to practice on Thursday and is good to go. The problem is that it’s looking like Daunte Culpepper will get the start.
Sit- Willie Parker is still hurt, and won’t be rushing back to a game that the Steelers could probably win without him… or three-fifths of their offensive line. Even if he suits up, his carries should be minimal. With Matthew Stafford possibly out and Daunte Culpepper taking the snaps, the Steelers seventh ranked defense should put a lot of pressure on a guy that hasn’t been effective since the late 1990s. Kevin Smith is also nursing a shoulder injury, and against the Steelers tough run D, it’s going to be tough sledding. It’s looking like Troy Polamalu will not play this week, but it doesn’t make much of a difference as they’ll stack the box and dare Culpepper to throw.
Start – So far the best thing anybody can say about the Cowboys is that they play in a real snazzy stadium. They’ve looked mediocre on offense, disinterested on defense, and have actually started questioning whether getting rid of Terrell Owens was a smart move. The ‘Boys will need a big bounce back week after last Sunday’s loss to the Denver Broncos, which is quite probable given their opponent. The Chiefs have given up 33 points per game against non-Oakland Raider opponents (again, games against the Browns or Raiders shouldn’t count) and have the league’s 27th ranked defense. Marion Barber is almost healthy and managed to score last week, but did little else as he gave way to Tashard Choice for the latter half of the game. We wouldn’t be surprised to see the same thing here. Choice is worth keeping an eye on as the week progresses with Felix Jones out and Barber still recovering, he should see at least 15 carries in this one, and more if Dallas decides to rest Barber against the awful Chiefs D. At quarterback, Tony Romo has been disappointing lately, but will have a nice week against the Chiefs. Along with Jason Witten, Romo will be able to exploit one of the league’s worst secondaries and finally shut Tony Dorsett up for at least a day or two.
One of the reasons Dallas has been so bad this season has been their defense. They rank 29th in the NFL against the pass and have given up an alarming number of big plays through the air. So, go ahead and start Matt Cassel this week. He’s had two straight multiple touchdown games and even looked surprisingly mobile at times. His primary target last week was his safety valve (surprise, surprise) TE Sean Ryan. Keep an eye on him, but don’t start him yet. He could become a nice bye week replacement. We’ve gotta think that Dwayne Bowe will finally get on track against one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, but he carries risk, so only consider him as a flex start.
Sit- Patrick Crayton is one of those flash in the pan guys--one big game, two awful ones. He’s not worth the risk anymore. Larry Johnson looks like a shell of his former self. He hasn’t had a touchdown all year and is averaging 2.6 yards per carry. He should be able to fall forward for that many yards per carry. Also stay away from Mark Bradley and Bobby Wade. Wade has scored a TD the last two weeks, but has done little else. So unless you’re in a TD league, keep him reserved. Breaking news also has Roy Williams likely out of this game.
Start – Looks like Vikings’ fantasy owners won the “who gets to play the Rams?” lottery this week. Here are some facts about St. Louis:
Brett Favre is coming off a three touchdown revenge performance against Green Bay, while Adrian Peterson, Sidney Rice, Visanthe Shiancoe and Bernard Berrian have combined for 10 touchdowns in their four wins this season. Expect a big home game for the Vikes with players like Rice and Berrian making nice flex starts.
Sit – So far, despite zero help from his passing game, Steven Jackson has gained a lot of yards on the ground and been a decent fantasy player. The only problem is, his team has been shut out twice already, and he hasn’t recorded a single touchdown this year. Against the Vikings’ seventh-ranked rush defense, this likely isn’t the week that Jackson finally gets in the end zone. As for the Rams passing game… wait, they have one, right? Well, if they do don’t start anyone associated with it. Donnie Avery needed to step up last week with Laurent Robinson out for the season and he didn’t. As for Percy Harvin, keep him on the bench for now. After a strong week one showing, he hasn’t had a big fantasy day since.
Start – It’s not “technically” a bye week for the Giants, but it’s as close as they’re going to get to one while Eli Manning tries to get healthy. Manning (who is listed as day-to-day) may not start this week, so be sure to watch the injury wire or check Spike’s Sunday update for last second injury news. Even if Manning takes the week off, start Steve Smith, and especially Mario Manningham. The danger with Smith is that he’s going head-to-head with the best corner in the game, Nnamdi Asomugha. Hakeem Nicks and Kevin Boss make nice bye week fill-ins even if David Carr starts in place of Manning. The Raiders don’t shy away from giving up big plays, and may not get a first down the entire game. Translation – the Giants will have A LOT of offensive series. And no matter what happens with the passing game, start Brandon Jacobs (184 yards in his past two starts) and Ahmad Bradshaw (168 yards in his last games) – as the Giants will rely on their rushing attack against the Raiders’ 26th ranked run defense. If Manning doesn’t play, these two will absolutely run wild.
Sit – The Raiders, anybody who used to play for the Raiders, and anybody who owns a Raiders jersey. The Giants have one of the league’s best defenses and the Raiders have the NFL’s worst ranked offense. By all means start the Giants defense and count on a shutout.
Start – Donovan McNabb is back from injury, and should be motivated considering how well Kevin Kolb played filling in. Expect him to play with a Brett Favre-sized chip on his shoulder against the NFL’s 31st ranked defense. DeSean Jackson, Jason Avant, and Brett Celek (five combined touchdowns in three games) should all have nice fantasy days, while LeSean McCoy (93 yards and a touchdown in his last game) is quickly establishing himself as a premiere threat. He will continue to help take pressure off a banged-up Brian Westbrook – who is also a start as he comes back from injury this week against Tampa Bay’s 30th ranked rush defense. Westbrook has not been confirmed to play yet, which stinks for his owners because matchups don’t get much better than this.
With Derrick Ward still recovering from injury, Cadillac Williams will shoulder the load in the Tampa Bay backfield against a mediocre Eagles’ rush defense. Williams had 99 yards in the Buccaneers’ loss to the Redskins last week, and has also caught 12 passes in his last three starts. In both games where Williams had more than 13 carries this season, he has combined for nearly 200 total yards and a touchdown.
Sit – The Eagles are going to throw everything but the kitchen sink at Josh Johnson this week. Expect complex blitz packages and lots of pressure that frazzles the inexperienced starter. This will also hurt Kellen Winslow and Michael Clayton. Welcome back to the NFL Antonio Bryant. Now go back to being irrelevant. On the Eagles’ sideline, Kevin Curtis will be coming back from a knee injury, but likely won’t be a huge part of the Eagles’ attack, as he was only averaging 2.5 receptions per game before going down.
Start – DeAngelo Williams could be an official fantasy stud if only his coaches gave him the ball. He’s had more than 75 total yards in every one of his starts this year and has touchdowns in two of his three games, despite receiving a minimal amount of carries. The Panthers coaching staff has to realize they could have won their last game if they just handed him the rock and gave Jake Delhomme a break. If the coaches smarten up (50-50 chance) and realize that last week Cadillac Williams ran the ball all over the Redskins, they should let Williams ram it right down Washington’s throat.
The other running back in this one, Clinton Portis (coming off a 98 yard rushing day) will face the league’s worst run defense in what should be his best fantasy performance of the year. You can finally dust him off. And after watching the relative ease with which Tony Romo moved the ball against the Panthers last Monday night, give Jason Campbell (multiple touchdowns in his last two starts) the nod in larger leagues along with Santana Moss and Chris Cooley.
Sit - Honestly, it’s getting pretty hard to find new ways to make fun of Delhomme every week. He has two touchdowns and seven interceptions this season and has looked even worse than his statistics indicate. This has led to Steve Smith (less than five fantasy points in two of his three starts) and Mushin Muhammed (zero touchdowns this year) to suffer. It’s not for trying. Smith is the most targeted receiver in the NFL right now. Against Washington’s fourth ranked pass defense, this probably won’t be the week Carolina’s passing attack breaks loose. Antwaan Randle El hasn’t scored yet this season and didn’t catch a single pass against the Bucs last weekend. Clearly he has fallen out of favor in the Redskins offense.
Start – Joe Flacco has had multiple touchdown performances in three of his four starts this season, and has two 300-yard games as well. Basically, he’s quickly becoming one of the best fantasy football quarterbacks around. Along with Todd Heap and Derrick Mason (yes we finally believe in him), Flacco and the Ravens’ passing attack have put up consistent numbers all year and will continue their impressive play when they return home to take on the Bengals. And even though Willis McGahee has only banked 12 combined carries in his past two games, he has still scored a touchdown in every one of his starts, putting up six total scores so far this young season. He’s great for touchdown leagues. Start both McGahee and a recently impressive Ray Rice (152 total yards last week against the Patriots).
For the Bengals, it’s time to start believing in Chad Ochocinco again. He’s had three touchdowns in his last two starts, and is, quite frankly, the only legitimate threat Cincinnati has at the wide receiver position. Not that it matters at this point, but we hope it doesn’t go to his head.
Sit – Last season Carson Palmer went 9-24 with no touchdowns and a pick against the Ravens’ defense and has given inconsistent performances throughout 2009. Take Palmer, Andre Caldwell and Laveranues Coles out of the starting rotation this week. From a rushing standpoint, as weird as it sounds, Cedric Benson has become one of the more reliable fantasy football backs in the entire NFL. He’s put up big numbers in three of his four starts, but only had 74 last week against the lowly Browns. He should hit a wall this week when he faces the Ravens’ top-ranked rushing defense.
Start – The Atlanta Falcons are coming off of a bye week, which means Matt Ryan had plenty of time to dissect the 49ers’ game film. Last season, after a week off, Ryan put up 277 yards and two touchdowns, which should help his fantasy owners still reeling from a disappointing showing against the Patriots. Give Ryan a shot this week along with Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White. It’s unlikely that the Falcons rushing game will get much going against the 49ers’ front seven, so the passing game will have to fill in and make up the points. Shaun Hill, contrary to what NFL scouts and the majority of his family thought, may actually be an NFL quality quarterback. The eight year pro (yep, he’s been around for eight seasons) has four touchdowns in his last two starts and will be playing the Falcons’ 27th ranked pass defense. Give Hill and Vernon Davis (three touchdowns in his past two games) the start, as they seem to be developing a pretty nice connection down by the Bay.
Sit – The San Francisco 49ers’ defense is the real deal. They’re allowing less than 14 points per game and have the NFC’s number one rush defense. As good as Michael Turner is, it seems unlikely that he surpasses the nine point fantasy day Adrian Peterson was held to against San Francisco two weeks ago. Frank Gore is still injured and will be out of this one, but don’t go for Glenn Coffee out of desperation. He’s averaging less than 2.5 yards per carry. Yeah, the Niners finally signed Michael Crabtree, but it will take several weeks before he becomes effective. The rest of the Niners receivers are a joke.
Start – Don’t look now, but the Jacksonville Jaguars are getting hot enough to finish three games behind the Indianapolis Colts and get smoked in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Get excited all 1,300 Jaguars season ticket holders, because with David Garrard (323 yards and three touchdowns last week against the Titans) and Maurice Jones-Drew at the helm this week against a Seahawks defense that gave up 23, 25, and 34 points in their last three losses, it should mean a third straight win. Now that Mike Sims-Walker (91 yards and two touchdowns against the Titans) and Marcedes Lewis (two touchdowns in his last three games) have given Garrard two nice targets, the Jags could have their third straight game with 30-plus points on the board. Start all of them.
Julius Jones is coming off a rough week against the Colts, but should rebound when facing the Jaguars 30th ranked defense that gave up five yards-per-carry to Chris Johnson last week. Jacksonville is particularly bad against the pass (actually dead last in the entire league), so give Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and John Carlson an uptick. If Matt Hasselbeck comes back (it’s still about 50-50), this may be a shootout.
Sit - Torry Holt has clearly lost a step this season and has yet to register more than nine fantasy points in three of his first four games (and that’s in point-per-reception leagues).
Start – Hold onto your horses sports fans, there’s a bit of a quarterback controversy brewing in Arizona… Just kidding Matt, sit back down on the bench. Despite being horribly outplayed by Peyton Manning on Sunday night, Kurt Warner is still putting up nice numbers (575 yards and three touchdowns in his past two games) this year and should continue to make his fantasy owners proud in a high scoring game against the Houston Texans. Along with his main targets Larry Fitzgerald (two touchdowns in his past three games), Tim Hightower, Steve Breaston (averaging nearly 90 yards per game) and a continually improving Anquan Boldin, look for the Cardinals’ NFC leading passing game to go wild once again.
After a bumpy start, the Houston Texans are getting on-track, thanks in large part to the impressive play of Matt Schaub. The veteran QB has been putting up Madden-like numbers and is on pace for over 4,000 yards and 32 touchdowns. With the help of his number one target Andre Johnson and everyone’s favorite sleeper Kevin Walter, Shaub has become one of the best fantasy quarterbacks around and should be able to continue his success against a Cardinals defense that gave up 379 yards to Peyton Manning two weeks ago (that’s right, for those keeping score at home, that’s a Matt Schaub – Peyton Manning comparison). And for Steve Slaton owners who finally took a deep breathe last week, keep exhaling. Slaton, and Owen Daniels, should continue to get better each game and put up respectable numbers.
Sit – Unless you’re actually considering starting Beanie Wells, there’s no fantasy starters worth sitting here. This game should feature a ton of points.
Start – Let’s be clear about something. The Denver Broncos’ defense is not the devastating presence that the fine (yet annoying) folks at ESPN First Take have made them out to be. They’ve shut down the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals, and Oakland Raiders. In theory, Denver played their first real professional game last week against the Dallas Cowboys. Now, don’t get us wrong – the Broncos defense is good, but don’t be afraid to start Tom Brady, Wes Welker, or Randy Moss because of it. The Patriots’ passing attack is due for a big game, and with his former quarterback coach on the other sideline, Brady will want to prove that the student can defeat the teacher. As painful as this is to write, give Brandon Marshall the start. He’s starting to show flashes of his 2008 brilliance and has kept the whining to a relative minimum. Knowshon Moreno has had two solid weeks in a row, and now that Correll Buckhalter looks to be out this game, he should get most of the carries to himself. Moreno makes a nice flex start.
Sit- Now that Welker is back, Julian Edelman has become an afterthought for the Patriots. Don’t drop him quite yet, but don’t start him either. Give Fred Taylor and Lawrence Maroney a seat. Against a similar Ravens’ defense they could only muster up 30 yards between them and Sammy Morris is emerging as the best fantasy back in New England. Besides, this is the Tom Brady show in week five. And keep Benjamin Watson on the bench, too. He’s all but disappeared after week one. Kyle Orton has put up some surprising numbers recently, but we’re still not convinced that you can rely on him as a starter. He’s an emergency bye week fill-in at best. Eddie Royal will only see his chances dwindle now that Brandon Marshall has returned to prominence.
Start – Seriously? Peyton Manning’s on national television again? Well, this is good news for his fantasy owners (and the people at Supercuts who keep getting free advertising for their “Peyton Part” style). In his last Sunday night game, the reigning MVP had 379 yards and four touchdowns, while Reggie Wayne gave his owners 126 yards and one trip to the end zone. Sunday’s game should look very similar, as the Titans’ 31st ranked pass defense has struggled to stop pretty much everyone they’ve faced. So be sure to pencil in Dallas Clark and Pierre Garcon too.
If the Titans’ lose this game, they may actually be eliminated from the division race five weeks into the year. Jeff Fisher knows this, and will try to combat the potent Colts’ attack by slowing things down with Chris Johnson – who is averaging over 160 yards per game in his last three starts.
Sit – With Donald Brown and Joseph Adai splitting carries, neither have become weekly fantasy threats. There’s probably some sort of mathematical equation from Russell Crowe’s movie “A Beautiful Mind” to describe this, but for now let’s refer to it as The Shanahan Effect (circa Denver 2005). Kerry Collins looks like he’s one bad start from losing his job to a guy who’s listed as day-to-day on the injured reserve with bi-polar disorder, and should struggle against a talented Colts’ pass rush. Keep Collins and his receivers on the bench this week.
Start – With Chad Pennington out for the year, the Dolphins’ offense has effectively turned into the Ronnie Brown show. In the team’s first game without Pennington, Brown rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns and ran wild in the wildcat. Don’t expect the same number against a talented Jets’ defense, but look for Brown to get plenty of opportunities to produce at the very least. Definitely temper your enthusiasm for his numbers, though.
Mark Sanchez is coming off a horrible game against New Orleans where he looked like a rookie and then some, but he should bounce back against the Dolphins 24th ranked pass defense. Now that he has started to develop chemistry with Jerricho Cotchery and Dustin Keller (and with the addition of Braylon Edwards – not a start this week), he should learn a lot and improve from his meltdown in week four.
Sit- The New York Jets shut down Drew Brees and Tom Brady already this year. Something tells us Chad Henne won’t fare any better. Take out the Miami passing game. One of the keys to the Dolphins’ recent success has been their ability to stop the run. They are currently second in the NFL against the rush and have only given up one touchdown to a running back in their first four games. Sit Thomas Jones. And although everyone in the big apple is excited to welcome Braylon Edwards, wait a week to start him. It takes time to wash the smell of desperation and defeat off after leaving Cleveland (and to learn the playbook).