Fantasy football Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: The thinnest week yet
There are currently 28 NFL players dealing with hamstring injuries, including seven skilled position players whose fantasy status is in trouble. Miles Austin, Marlon Brown, Santonio Holmes, Chris Ivory, Steven Jackson, Stevie Johnson and Darren McFadden are walking gingerly, making their chances of dominating in fantasy lineups this week smaller.
With four teams on byes this week (Buccaneers, Redskins, Steelers, Vikings), this is the thinnest week so far, so injured players essentially hamstring your fantasy team. (That's right.)
Some of the more important fantasy names taking a week off are running backs Adrian Peterson, Doug Martin and Alfred Morris, and wide receivers Antonio Brown, Vincent Jackson, Mike Williams and Pierre Garcon.
These Week 5 Start 'em, Sit 'em recommendations are based on standard scoring, non-PPR, 12-team leagues that start 1-QB, 2-RB, 2-WR, 1-TE, 1-FLEX, 1-K and 1-DST. I've tried to list most of the possible players at each position, but if you find one missing -- please comment below, and I'll share my recommendation.
Baltimore Ravens at Miami Dolphins
• Ravens: Ray Rice, Torrey Smith, Ravens DST
Don't be fooled by the Dolphins' pass defense being ranked 24th, considering they play much more like a top 10 to 15 defense ... Just not against the Saints' buzzsaw offense. The Dolphins come home from a Monday night shellacking in the Crescent City, and they'll take on a reeling Ravens team that couldn't make it happen against Buffalo. Rice was able to play, despite a hip injury, but he didn't do much -- and his presence limited whatever Bernard Pierce was going to do. They'll run it more against the Dolphins, and a rested Rice should do better. Smith, meanwhile, has been a very good fantasy player in PPR leagues, and he finally got his first touchdown of the season. He gets a ton of targets and should be considered a good WR2 going forward.
• Dolphins: Lamar Miller, Dolphins DST
The Dolphins' sophomore running back out of Miami showed some flashes in Week 4, and he now has a touchdown in two of his past three games. That three-yard game in Week 1 is officially in his rear-view mirror. While the Ravens have been strong against the run so far, the Dolphins will look to get Miller involved in more ways.
• Ravens: Joe Flacco, Bernard Pierce, Marlon Brown, Dallas Clark, Justin Tucker
Brown impressed us once again against the Bills, as he caught his third touchdown pass of the season. There are just six other wide receivers with more touchdown catches so far. But he is out for this game, as is Jacoby Jones. We expect the Ravens to lean on their ground game in Week 4. Miami is the only defense yet to allow a touchdown catch to a wide receiver.
• Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, Daniel Thomas, Mike Wallace, Brian Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Charles Clay, Caleb Sturgis
The Ravens have allowed just one rushing touchdown this season, which gives fantasy owners more reasons to keep Thomas on the bench. And Wallace takes a seat in fantasy after a disappointing effort on Monday night, dropping passes and failing to come up with a deep (albeit, underthrown) ball from Tannehill. The Ravens have given up just one touchdown pass in the past three weeks. Clay works as the tight end and H-back, and Tannehill has grown comfortable getting the ball to him, but there are better options available this week.
Jacksonville Jaguars at St. Louis Rams
• Jaguars: Maurice Jones-Drew, Justin Blackmon
MJD isn't finding any room and he's not making any plays. He might even sit himself in fantasy play at this point. He's a borderline player right now. This is Jacksonville's first game this season with Blackmon, its 2012 first-round pick, and we hope to see him blow up like Josh Gordon did in his Week 3 return. Blackmon caught 64 passes for 865 yards and five touchdowns in his rookie season, and the Rams have already given up nine touchdown passes this season. He didn't have great success with Gabbert as QB last season, however.
• Rams: Austin Pettis, Jared Cook, Greg Zuerlein, Rams DST
It's a shame the Rams have to waste 10 days of preparation on a team they could probably beat with two days of prep. While the Jaguars' pass defense is relatively good, it's tough to gauge because it allows so many rushing yards -- teams don't need to pass the ball. That makes it tough to plan your fantasy lineups. The Rams have some problems in their backfield, as Richardson (toe) is hobbled and unproductive even when healthy. Pead appears to be in the doghouse, but it's either up to him or Benny Cunningham -- or rookie Zac Stacy. With three or four cooks in the kitchen, it's anyone's guess who gets the lion's share of fantasy points against a bad Jaguars defense.
The wide receivers are equally risky, with Austin Pettis leading them in catches and receiving yards in Week 4. Even so, we're too stubborn to suggest starting him outside of larger leagues. Look for Cook to come through, considering the Seahawks scored twice with TE Zach Miller against Jacksonville a couple weeks ago.
• Jaguars: Blaine Gabbert, Cecil Shorts
Gabbert remains a must-not-start, even if there are 24 teams on byes, rather than just four. Shorts has averaged 12 targets, six catches and about 80 receiving yards a game without Blackmon, so it makes sense he'll take a step back in the food line. Shorts let two passes come off his hands to become interceptions in Week 4.
• Rams: Sam Bradford, Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead, Benny Cunningham, Zac Stacy, Chris Givens, Tavon Austin
Bradford has a good enough matchup that we like him if your starter is on a bye. We want to give Givens another shot at some point this season, as he leads the team with 13 catches for 235 yards. The Rams are also a great option for your survivor leagues this week, facing a horrible team and coming off 10 days of rest.
Kansas City Chiefs at Tennessee Titans
• Chiefs: Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs DST
We're at a point where both Charles and the Chiefs defense are must-starts every week. Charles hasn't hit the 100-yard rushing mark yet, but his 23 catches out of the backfield lead the NFL with Matt Forte and Darren Sproles. He's the top-scoring fantasy RB right now, and the Titans are mediocre against the run. The Chiefs defense, meanwhile, has been the best fantasy defense, with three defensive touchdowns, 41 points allowed and an NFL-high 18 sacks.
• Titans: Chris Johnson
CJ2K finally had one of those 25-yard rushing games we've worried about, and he still hasn't found the paint this season. The Chiefs are strong against the run, but even so, he's a featured back who gets most of the carries for his team (only Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin have more carries), and he still has breakaway speed in the open field.
• Chiefs: Alex Smith, Donnie Avery, Anthony Fasano, Ryan Succop
Avery had 10 targets in Week 4, which is three more than Bowe, but he could only catch two of those passes for 23 yards against a bad Giants secondary. The Titans are decent against the pass, ranking 10th in passing yards, so we're only going with one Chiefs wide receiver this week.
• Titans: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright, Nate Washington, Delanie Walker, Rob Bironas, Titans DST
Fitzpatrick gets the start in Week 5 after Jake Locker injured his knee and hip against the Jets Sunday. The former Bills QB threw 24 touchdowns and 16 interceptions for Buffalo last season, but this Chiefs defense is going to harass him all day. It's tough to start anyone in the Titans passing game, including Washington. He had his second 100-yard game in Week 4, with two touchdown catches, but the Chiefs have given up just two passing touchdowns to wide receivers in four games so far.
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
• Eagles: Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Alex Henery
Don't worry, fantasy owners with Eagles on their team, the Giants secondary is here to cure what ails you. The Giants have allowed the most passing touchdowns in the league, and the Eagles are licking their wounds from their trip to Denver. Jackson will draw Bucs CB Darrelle Revis in Week 6, so hopefully, he can rack up some points this week. Note to your future self: If Jackson doesn't do much this week, wait until after the Bucs game to try to obtain him in trade at his low-value point. He still gets to face the Cowboys, Giants, Packers, Raiders and Redskins in the five games before his Week 12 bye.
• Giants: Eli Manning, David Wilson, Victor Cruz
As crazy as it sounds, Manning and Wilson are both "start-able" this week. Manning has six interceptions to just two passing touchdowns in the past three weeks, but the Eagles have allowed nine touchdown passes and 325 passing yards per game. Eagles opponents are rushing for more than 100 yards over the past three weeks, and the Giants just cut Da'Rel Scott, meaning more touches for Wilson.
• Eagles: Bryce Brown, Jason Avant, Brent Celek, Zach Ertz, Eagles DST
In spite of the Giants' inability to do much offensively, the Eagles defense is nearly as inept. There are only a handful of fantasy defenses worse than the Eagles, and they shouldn't even be owned.
• Giants: Brandon Jacobs, Hakeem Nicks, Rueben Randle, Brandon Myers, Josh Brown, Giants DST
A case can be made for starting Nicks in some leagues, as the Eagles have allowed the most touchdowns (nine) to receivers than any other NFL team so far. But he has 26 targets -- and just 12 catches. The Eagles haven't given up a TD to a TE yet.
Seattle Seahawks at Indianapolis Colts
• Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks DST
The Texans were tough against Wilson in Week 4, keeping him from throwing a touchdown pass and holding him to just 123 passing yards. He faces another very tough matchup this week, against a Colts team that has allowed just two touchdown passes this season. Lynch led the Seahawks in receiving yards in Week 4, and he's definitely more active in the passing game than he has been in recent seasons. He's on pace for 364 receiving yards, which would be a career best. However, he has not yet rushed for 100 yards in a game. While the matchup might be a tough one, you have to keep the Seahawks DST active. They're forcing almost four turnovers and three sacks per game in their past three weeks.
• Colts: Trent Richardson, Reggie Wayne, Coby Fleener
Richardson saw his workload increase in Week 4, as well as his fantasy output. Fleener has been one of the hottest tight ends over the past three games, and while Seattle is tough on tight ends, he should continue to be a huge part of Luck's offense. The Colts will need to move Wayne around to keep him away from CB Richard Sherman, who is having a stellar season so far.
• Seahawks: Russell Wilson, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Sidney Rice, Zach Miller, Steve Hauschka
Wilson is just drawing some really tough defensive matchups this season, and once again, he's a start-him-if-you-must category against a Colts defense that has proven to be one of the three toughest against fantasy quarterbacks. If Wilson's a sit, then so is his troika of wide receivers. The Colts have yet to allow a touchdown to a tight end, also.
• Colts: Andrew Luck, Ahmad Bradshaw, T.Y. Hilton, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Adam Vinatieri, Colts DST
It shouldn't take a lot of convincing to get Luck on your bench against the Seahawks. While we think Wayne and Fleener will get their yardage, Luck will still fight an uphill battle against a defense that has allowed just three passing touchdowns.
New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears
• Saints: Drew Brees, Darren Sproles, Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham, Garrett Hartley
We found out on Monday Night Football that Sproles is the all-time leader in total yards among active players. While Brees and Graham are at the top or near the top of their respective positions, Colston has been a relative disappointment so far, with just one touchdown catch. But he does have nearly 300 receiving yards after four games. The Bears have had trouble stopping the pass lately, also.
• Bears: Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Martellus Bennett
Forte has been a top-five fantasy back this season, and I think he'd be drafted as such if you just woke up from a coma and had a fantasy draft in Week 5. Marshall won't have as easy a time as we expected against the Saints before the season started, but he's still a WR1 this week, with Jeffery a decent flex option. The second-year receiver is building a good rapport with Cutler, and if Marshall ever gets hurt, Jeffery would become a reliable WR2 in many formats.
• Saints: Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Lance Moore, Kenny Stills, Saints DST
Stills is becoming a more attractive play as long as Moore is out with a hand injury. And while the Saints defense is looking good, they're not someone to start against a Bears team that can both run and pass.
• Bears: Jay Cutler, Michael Bush, Robbie Gould, Bears DST
Cutler is on pace for 32 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in his first season under Marc Trestman, but the Saints are allowing fewer than 200 passing yards per game so far.
New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals
• Patriots: Tom Brady, Kenbrell Thompkins, Julian Edelman
Brady passed for over 300 yards for the first time in Week 4, and if Gronk is able to come back (still a big if), then Brady's fantasy value climbs even further. The fact that Stevan Ridley has been ruled out of the game and Brandon Bolden reported to be banged could create a scenario in which some owners might consider starting LeGarrette Bount. The Bengals are a tough defense, but they allowed Brian Hoyer to throw for 269 yards and a couple touchdowns.
• Bengals: Giovani Bernard, A.J. Green
The Patriots have allowed just one rushing touchdown this season -- but the loss of DT Vince Wilfork (Achilles') will greatly affect this defense up the middle. Bernard got more touches than BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and we expect that to continue over the coming weeks. A.J. Green has just 138 receiving yards over his past three games. But there's no reason to really worry, considering he continues to be highly targeted.
• Patriots: Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, LeGarrette Blount, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Patriots DST
As mentioned above, Blount and Bolden are now interesting options with Stevan Ridley ruled out. Amendola is playing for the first time since Week 1, but who knows how many plays he'll see. The Patriots DST is a low-end starting option, as the Bengals do have several offensive weapons.
• Bengals: Andy Dalton, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Mohamed Sanu, Tyler Eifert, Jermaine Gresham, Mike Nugent, Bengals DST
The Patriots, even without Wilfork, are still a pretty good defense, so let's be cautious with Dalton and The Law Firm. With Ridley suddenly out and Bolden not at full strength, the Bengals DST might be a sneaky play this week, but we think there are better options.
Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers
• Lions: Reggie Bush
With Calvin Johnson out with a knee injury, the entire Lions offense suffer. Stafford would be a risky start. If you held a fantasy draft today in a PPR league, Bush would likely be a top-10 pick -- rightfully so. The Packers defense is allowing over 15 yards per catch to wide receivers, ranking as one of the best defenses to play WRs against.
• Packers: Aaron Rodgers, Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Mason Crosby
The Packers are coming off a bye week for a big divisional matchup against a defense allowing 268 passing yards per game. Lacy (concussion) is practicing again and should be ready to play. It's funny how a fellow rookie's breakout game can suddenly make a guy feel a little better. Johnathan Franklin will still get some snaps. Detroit has allowed five rushing touchdowns in four games.
• Lions: Matthew Stafford, Joique Bell, Ryan Broyles, Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria, David Akers, Lions DST
Bell works better as a flex player this week, especially now that Bush is healthy again. Broyles is still coming back from a knee injury, but he's likely to get more targets today with Johnson out. We still don't like him this week, but he's someone to think about as a backup. The Packers have had trouble stopping tight ends, so Pettigrew could be a nice bye-week replacement for Heath Miller or Kyle Rudolph. But there should be plenty of good tight end options this week.
• Packers: Johnathan Franklin, Jermichael Finley, Packers DST
Franklin had a breakout game before the bye week, but the rookie running back out of UCLA returns to a backup role behind Lacy. Finley is still working his way back from a concussion. And the Packers DST just isn't a good option against the Lions' high-octane passing attack.
Carolina Panthers at Arizona Cardinals
• Panthers: Cam Newton, DeAngelo Williams, Steve Smith, Greg Olsen, Panthers DST
You have to like the big-name Panthers coming off a bye week against the Cardinals. Newton had a big game before going into the bye, which certainly had to quell his fantasy owners' worries. Williams faces a tough defense that has allowed just one rushing touchdown, but he still makes for a good RB2 in a week without several good running backs due to bye weeks. The Panthers DST is looking like a solid fantasy option against even average offenses.
• Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald's hamstring injury from Week 3 didn't appear to affect him against the Buccaneers, and he was able to catch his second touchdown of the season. He'll find the going a bit easier against the Panthers.
• Panthers: Mike Tolbert, Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr., Graham Gano
The Cardinals defense is still good enough to avoid secondary players like Tolbert and LaFell. Tolbert, however, could vulture another touchdown away from Williams.
• Cardinals: Carson Palmer, Rashard Mendenhall, Andre Ellington, Andre Roberts, Michael Floyd, Rob Housler, Cardinals DST
It's time to put Ellington on your radar for a future pickup, as the rookie out of Clemson is flashing some playmaking ability. He just needs the snaps -- and Mendenhall isn't doing enough to keep Ellington on the bench. Floyd, a second-year receiver, is gaining Palmer's confidence. He's a big receiver and he's coming off his best game of the season. If you have room, then now's the time to pick him up.
Denver Broncos at Dallas Cowboys
• Broncos: Peyton Manning, Knowshon Moreno, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas, Matt Prater
You're likely not going to see many weeks where most of the Broncos aren't recommended fantasy starters. Manning remains on pace for a record fantasy season, and after the first four weeks, he looks like a first-round pick. He even has four great passing matchups in his next five games, including the Cowboys, Jaguars, Redskins and Chargers.
• Cowboys: Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Dan Bailey
Romo has eight touchdown passes compared to just one interception over the first four games of the season. Granted, the Broncos defense is formidable, but they are allowing over 300 passing yards per game. Murray, meanwhile, should have a tougher time, as the Broncos are stingy against the run. But he remains a good start because the Cowboys do use him in the passing game. His 21 catches put him on pace to pass his career high (35 catches) by Week 7. Stephen Gostkowski and Dan Carpenter are the only kickers with more field-goal opportunities than Bailey's 10 through four weeks.
• Broncos: Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball, Broncos DST
Hillman remains the top option after Moreno, and he nearly got as many touches. While it's difficult to say the Broncos defense will hold the Cowboys to a certain number of yards and points, their three defensive touchdowns tell us their fantasy ranking is a little inflated. Denver's D has just six forced turnovers in four games, and 13 teams have more sacks than the Broncos' 11.
• Cowboys: Miles Austin, Terrance Williams, Cowboys DST
While Austin has made some progress this week from his injured hamstring, his fragile hammy could limit him even if he does play. The Cowboys defense has given up 10 touchdown passes this season, which ties for the most in the NFL. That's not a good stat to own when you face Manning and Co.
San Diego Chargers at Oakland Raiders
• Chargers: Philip Rivers, Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead, Antonio Gates, Chargers DST
This game is a late, late one Sunday night, as the stadium has to be converted from a playoff baseball game. Rivers has thrown for three touchdowns in three games this season, and he's reached the 400-yard mark twice. The Raiders are allowing more than 110 rushing yards per game, and Mathews might see his first rushing touchdown of the season. Woodhead, meanwhile, has 22 catches so far, which is more than all but three NFL running backs through four weeks. The Chargers DST is recommended because Raiders star tailback Darren McFadden might miss the game with a hamstring injury.
• Raiders: Terrelle Pryor, Rashad Jennings, Denarius Moore
Pryor was expected to start in Week 4, but Matt Flynn replaced him in the 11th hour. Pryor is slated to start this week and will have a solid matchup against a Chargers team that ranks among the worst against quarterbacks from a fantasy perspective. That defensive unit has allowed over 1,300 passing yards and 10 passing touchdowns. McFadden has a sore hamstring, so Jennings is expected to get the carries in his place. The Chargers are soft on the run, as well.
• Chargers: Eddie Royal, Keenan Allen, Vincent Brown, Nick Novak
Ever since Royal's three-touchdown game in Week 2, he has just five catches for 76 yards in two games, and he's back to "alternate" status. Allen, the rookie out of Cal, had his best day as a pro in Week 4, catching five balls for 80 yards against Dallas. While we're not recommending him this week, he's someone to keep your eye on for future weeks.
• Raiders: Matt Flynn, Darren McFadden, Rod Streater, Mychal Rivera, Sebastian Janikowski, Raiders DST
While the Chargers have plenty of defensive holes, the Raiders have just as many offensively. Janikowski has just five field goals through four weeks, which puts him on pace for just 20 field goals on the season. That would end up tying his second-worst season in the NFL.
Houston Texans at San Francisco 49ers
• Texans: Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, Owen Daniels
While the 49ers looked very good against the Rams in Week 4, you can't sit Foster after he finally rewarded owners with his first 100-yard game of the season. He had four times the touches of Tate this week, but will likely return to just twice as many touches in Week 5, as Houston tries to keep him healthy. Johnson will have a tough matchup against a Niners team that averages fewer than 200 yards passing through four games. Daniels is a borderline start against a good defense, especially now that the running game is picking up for Houston.
• 49ers: Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis, 49ers DST
Kaepernick threw two touchdown passes against the Rams in Week 4, and he stopped throwing interceptions. He's a borderline start this week, and you can make a believable argument either way. Gore is coming off his best game in several years, rushing for 153 yards and a score against the Rams. The long time between games will help the 30-year-old running back regenerate some power for Week 5. The Texans lead the league in pass defense, too, but with four teams on byes, Boldin also remains someone you should start. Kaepernick will be looking to Boldin frequently once again.
• Texans: Matt Schaub, Ben Tate, DeAndre Hopkins, Garrett Graham, Randy Bullock, Texans DST
LB Brian Cushing left the Seahawks game with a concussion and the 49ers have had 10 days to prepare. Note that the teams that played on Thursday nights this season are 5-1 in their next game. Graham has been a nice surprise this season, with three touchdown catches, but he's just not that high on the priority list in this offense. He's a fantasy possibility in the future, but just not against the Niners.
• 49ers: Kendall Hunter, Kyle Williams, Phil Dawson
Not a lot of surprises among the "don't starts," but Dawson has been a relatively disappointing kicker, thus far -- 28 kickers have more than his three made field goals.
New York Jets at Atlanta Falcons
• Jets: Bilal Powell
Powell continues to be a quiet fantasy starter, as he has scored at least 10 fantasy points in his past three games. The Falcons are average against fantasy running backs, but the Jets will really try to run the ball a lot.
• Falcons: Matt Ryan, Jason Snelling, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez, Matt Bryant, Falcons DST
This is lining up to be a big day for the Falcons' stars. While Snelling and Jacquizz Rodgers share touches, Snelling is still the likely goal-line option. Ryan continues to knock on the door of the Fantasy Elite QBs Club. The Jets are tougher against the run than they are the pass.
• Jets: Geno Smith, Chris Ivory, Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, Kellen Winslow, Jets DST
While the Falcons are allowing over 300 passing yards per game, this is still not a great matchup for the rookie QB out of West Virginia -- especially if Holmes (hamstring) is sidelined.
• Falcons: Steven Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, Roddy White, Harry Douglas
Jackson and White continue to deal with injuries, and while the former sits, the latter keeps playing through. He's a good buy-low option right now, especially as fantasy owners get desperate to not go 1-4 or 0-5.
David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and over 100 fantasy football leagues. You can also follow him @davidgonos on Twitter. If you have some good Week 5 Start 'em, Sit 'em opinions, drop them in the comments below.
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