Unlike his brother Peyton, Eli Manning is testing fantasy owners' patience. Does it make more sense to give the resurgent Philip Rivers a start? Plus, how good can Le'Veon Bell be, and how do you know if your team is in danger of missing the playoffs? Our fantasy experts Michael Beller and Brian Flood discuss in this week's fantasy roundtable.
1. Who would you rather have for the remainder of the season: Eli Manning or Philip Rivers?
Beller: At the start of the season, it appeared Manning had cemented himself as the fringe starter in 12-team leagues. That guy that you're happy to start with the right matchup, but just can't trust every single week. Meanwhile, it appeared Rivers was slipping out of fantasy relevance. Just one month later, the tables have turned. While I still wouldn't trust Rivers as an every-week starter, he's certainly a guy I'd love to have on my roster as part of a quarterback tandem where I play the matchups.
As for Manning, how can anyone trust him as a fantasy quarterback right now? He has six touchdowns against nine interceptions and is completing just 56.3 percent of his passes. More than one-third of his yards and four of his six scores came against the Cowboys in Week 1. The Giants' offense looks totally out of sync. The only guy I'd want on this team right now is Victor Cruz, who keeps on putting up huge numbers despite all the tumult around him.
Give me Rivers, all day.
Flood: Phillip Rivers looks rejuvenated and is playing at an elite level. Eli Manning is playing so poorly that he'd be a candidate to hit the bench if he weren't Eli Manning. It appears they're heading in opposite directions. Manning will be fine over time, but I'd roll with the hot hand of Rivers if I had to choose one for the rest of this season.
2. What do you expect out of the rest of Le'Veon Bell this season?
Beller: The most important number from Bell's NFL debut last week? 16. That's the number of carries he had, compared with five for all other Pittsburgh backs. If there were any doubt he would immediately become the team's workhorse, it was left behind in London. The yards per carry weren't anything to write home about, but he did hit paydirt twice, giving anyone who had the foresight to start him a very productive day. Pittsburgh's offense is lacking and its offensive line is dealing with injuries, but Bell is one of the few backs in the league who really won't have any competition in the backfield. I see another 700 to 800 rushing yards and six more touchdowns as quite realistic for the rest of the year.
Flood: I have high expectation for Bell going forward, if he can stay healthy. Half of the "high-end" running backs are having terrible seasons, anyway. I don't see why a healthy Bell couldn't emerge as a rock solid RB2 or even a low-end RB1. He's fresh and now has two weeks to prepare for a Week 6 matchup against the Jets. He had 16 carries and four receptions last week and his workload will only increase as he earns the confidence of a veteran coaching staff. I would expect typical games of around 20 carries for 80 yards with a few receptions mixed in. Touchdowns are harder to predict but he's in a situation to score.
3. How proactive should an owner be when it comes to adjusting his or her roster with new talent a week or more in advance?
Beller: This is the great market inefficiency in fantasy football. Everyone is going to try to pounce on the flavor of the week. If you can anticipate who will be valuable two weeks or more in the future, you can get huge steals on the waiver wire or via free-agent pickups. First, you'll have to pay attention to your own roster. When will you be down players because of bye weeks? Next, check out the matchups for that week. For example, Chicago, Tennessee, Indianapolis, San Diego, Baltimore and Houston are all on bye in Week 8. With all those teams sitting, chances are you'll be down a starter or two. If you have deadweight on your roster, it makes all the sense in the world to throw a dart and try to hit on someone who you can slide into your starting lineup that week. It's a total low-risk, high-reward move. This is a strategy you can try to employ every week, especially Wednesdays through Sundays, when players are free agents.
Flood: It's hard enough on a weekly basis for some most owners to decide who they're going to start and sit as the 1 p.m. kickoffs approach -- nevermind taking a look on Sunday mornings at the week or weeks to come. But if you know you're going to be at the end of the waiver wire line come Tuesday, and you have a player you consider expendable, it might not be the worst idea to gamble on a free-agent pickup before the 1 p.m. games, drop him for a different gamble before the 4 p.m. games, then drop that player for yet another gamble before each of the Sunday and Monday night games.
Take last week for instance -- and hindsight is 20-20 -- in most leagues Donald Brown could have been picked up before the 1 p.m. games on the off chance that Trent Richardson went down. Brown then could have been dropped by 4 p.m. for Rashad Jennings on the off chance that Darren McFadden went down, followed by Jennings for, say, LeGarrette Blount before the Sunday night kickoff, and then drop Blount before the Monday night kickoff for a Saint or Dolphins or one of the unclaimed players for teams on a bye (Green Bay's Johnathan Franklin, Carolina's Ted Ginn Jr. or even the Green Bay defense). A lot of owners overlook the fact that players on a bye remain free agents up until the Monday night kickoff. You might have a better chance of landing them there than in the waiver process.
In short, if you're serious about outsmarting your fellow owners in an attempt to make the playoffs (and we're sure you are), perhaps its prudent not to leave any options unexplored.
4. Time to lighten things up. Your sub .500 fantasy team might be in serious danger of making the playoffs if...
• You expected Ray Rice to put up in one game what he has through all of September (89 rushing yards, one rushing TD; 44 receiving yards, no TD).
• You went into draft day thinking Monte Ball would get the bulk of the carries in Denver; conversely, you're still waiting on the Broncos rock-paper-scissors running back situation to clear up.
• You drafted a quarterback platoon of Eli Manning and Joe Flacco.
• Your first three draft picks were any combination of C.J. Spiller, Stevan Ridley, Steven Jackson, David Wilson, Roddy White or Danny Amendola.
• You were banking on Chris Johnson to party like it's 2009.
• You waited on wide receivers at the draft because you thought "sleepers" such as T.Y. Hilton, Golden Tate and Michael Floyd were all going to explode.
• You believed this was the year Darren McFadden would remain healthy.
• You thought this would be the year Bill Belichick went with one featured running back.
• You bet on draft day that Robert Griffin III's comeback would resemble Adrian Peterson's.
• You figured that if Jeff Fisher and the Rams saw some value in Darryl Richardson as their starting running back, that you should too (ditto the Chargers and Ryan Matthews).
• You're 1-3 or 0-4 and still haven't faced the juggernaut team with Peyton Manning as its starting quarterback.
(Feel free to add your own one-liners in the comments section below.)
5. If you own a receiver on either Jacksonville, Minnesota or Tampa Bay, who do you want under center?
Beller: I'm going to start with the Buccaneers, because that's where the disparity is greatest. As poorly as Josh Freeman had played this year, I still felt OK about Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams with him at the helm. I don't want anything to do with either of them now that Mike Glennon is the starter. He looked overmatched on Sunday and is only starting because of the nightmare situation in Tampa right now. If there were ever a time to trade a player for 60 or 70 cents on the dollar, this is it.
I think it's telling that Matt Cassel's first start coincided with the first time this season that both Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson had useful fantasy performances. Having said that, there's little reason to believe Cassel will unseat Christian Ponder as the starter. Leslie Frazier said after Sunday's game that Ponder remains at the top of the depth chart, and we have to take him at his word. The Vikings have a bye this week, and that could be enough time for Ponder to recover from his broken rib to return for their Week 6 game against the Panthers. I'd prefer Cassel if I were a Jennings or Simpson owner, but I'd be very surprised if Ponder weren't right back in there when he's healthy.
As for Jacksonville, I don't think it makes a bit of difference. Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne are two of the worst quarterbacks in the league, and neither would probably have a chance to start for any other team. It's a shame because Cecil Shorts and the returning Justin Blackmon could both be big-time fantasy weapons in the right environment. Jacksonville is the decidedly wrong environment.
Flood: If you're starting a Jaguars receiver, the options are bleak. I own Justin Blackmon and I'd prefer Henne over Gabbert. It's close, but neither is going to make a fantasy star out of their receivers.
In Minnesota it doesn't make much of a difference either. Ponder and Cassel are equally adequate at getting the ball to Greg Jennings. On paper it seems like Cassel is the better option, because Jennings scored twice in Week 4 with Cassel in the game, but it's a mirage. Jennings was only targeted four times by Cassel, but Ponder looks his way closer to seven times per game. The touchdowns would balance out.
As for Tampa Bay, Vincent Jackson may thrive once comfortable with Glennon. They're not going back to Freeman, so it's a moot point in that respect. Perhaps the Week 5 bye will help the parties get on the same page. The Bucs come out of the bye with a game against Philadelphia, do don't give up all hope on the Bucs receivers just yet.
MORE WEEK 5 FANTASY FOOTBALL CONTENT:
BELLER: Week 5 player stat projections -- Rodgers won't let the Packers lose
GONOS: Start 'em, sit 'em -- With so many injuries, who are the best starters?
SI STAFF: Composite player rankings -- Reggie Bush realizing his potential
BELLER, FLOOD: Weekly Roundtable -- Does anyone trust Eli Manning anymore?
FLOOD: Waiver Wire -- Rashad Jennings given the opportunity of his career
McQUADE: Risers, Sliders -- Philip Rivers bounces back with a strong game vs. the Cowboys
BELLER: Fast Forward -- Peyton Manning on pace to shatter NFL records