Fantasy Cheat Sheet: Waiver-wire pickups highlight Week 5 plays
Could this week's early slate be any better? New Orleans at Chicago, New England at Cincinnati, Detroit at Green Bay, Indianapolis at Seattle, Baltimore at Miami and Kansas City at Tennessee all kick off at 1:00 p.m. ET. I mean, aren't there likely at least six or seven of our 12 playoff teams in that group? And to top it all off, the Eaglefs visit the Giants in what should be a ridiculously entertaining game, especially for fantasy purposes.
Of course, there are decisions to make. Justin Blackmon is back from his suspension, Eddie Lacy is back from injury, and two of our favorite young quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson, did not have the kind of September anyone expected. We'll tackle that and more in this week's Cheat Sheet.
We'll be updating here Sunday morning with important news as it breaks. Meanwhile, Alessandro Miglio and Eric Edholm will be taking your start/sit questions in The MMQB's live chat from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET.
10:48 a.m. update -- Our first update of the morning concerns Danny Amendola. The oft-injured receiver will finally get back on the field this afternoon. While I'd normally recommend taking a conservative tack with a guy returning from injury, I think you can feel good about starting Amendola today. He has had a ton of time to recover from his groin injury, and I don't think the Patriots would chance it unless they felt good about his health. He's a solid WR3 today.
11 a.m. update -- Need some help at running back today? Allow me to present Zac Stacy. The rookie will get the start for the Rams against the Jaguars. In case you need a refresher, the Jaguars are terrible in basically every facet of the game. They've allowed 5.2 yards per carry and four rushing touchdowns this year. If the Rams can build a lead, they could end up turning to Stacy 20-plus times. He's a great under-the-radar start this week.
11:18 update -- I've been getting a lot of questions about Eddie Lacy today. He's a solid flex play in my opinion. He has had three full weeks to recover from his concussion, so the Packers should feel comfortable giving him a normal workload. Johnathan Franklin ran for 103 yards two weeks ago and will have a role in the offense, but Lacy will likely get somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 percent of the touches coming out of the backfield. I don't see him as a must-start, but he's a guy you can start confidently in a flex spot.
11:30 upate -- Wide receivers Marlon Brown and Jacoby Jones are both inactive for the Ravens. If you're looking for a sneaky defense this week, consider the Dolphins. With the Ravens down so many skill players, they could easily lock down the running game and get after Joe Flacco.
11:36 update -- Here's our first real shocker active/inactive status of the season. Calvin Johnson is out today because of a knee injury. This is obviously a killer for his owners, but I think it makes Matthew Stafford a bench guy this week. Reggie Bush will feel his absence, too, given that it puts a lid on what the Lions can do as a whole. Ryan Broyles may be worth a flier this week, though.
Noon update -- Need to dig on your waiver wire for a Calvin Johnson replacement? First, check on Ryan Broyles' availability. He should see double-digit targets with Johnson out. Some other widely available receivers who could be in for a big day include Donnie Avery, Stephen Hill and Mohamed Sanu. Remember, we're digging deep here. Losing Calvin this late is a nightmare situation.
LeGarrette Blount back in the spotlight
With Stevan Ridley felled by a knee injury and Brandon Bolden dealing with a knee issue of his own that has him at less than 100 percent, LeGarrette Blount will get the start against the Bengals. Even though he is not a factor as a pass catcher, he should see a ton of work Sunday. It's not just volume, though. He has been an effective runner this season, racking up 129 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries across the last two weeks.
New England has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL and ranks third in run blocking, according to Pro Football Focus. The Bengals rank sixth against the run by PFF's metrics, but that's not a reason to avoid Blount. I expect this to be a tightly played game, one in which the rushing attacks on both sides will matter a great deal. So long as Blount gets 18 touches or so, he'll be an RB2 this week.
Can Justin Blackmon make the Jaguars somewhat watchable?
Not really, but he can be a big help to his fantasy owners. Blackmon is back after serving a four-game suspension, and even with Blaine Gabbert at the helm, I think he's a solid WR3 for the rest of the season. Remember, Blackmon was a top-20 receiver over the final 10 games of the 2012 season. Now, nearly all that damage was done with Chad Henne as the quarterback, but it's not like there's a massive difference between the two. In his last seven games a year ago, Blackmon had 38 catches for 615 yards and four touchdowns. He gave his fantasy owners productive days in five of those seven contests, including one monster day in which he had 236 yards and a score.
If you're thin at the position, there's no reason not to get him in there against the Rams. Dez Bryant, Larry Fitzgerald, Julio Jones and Anquan Boldin have all scored against the Rams this season. With his skill set, Blackmon could easily do the same.
Redeemer Central at The Meadowlands
The Giants are 0-4, they have the third-worst offense in the league per PFF, and Eli Manning has six touchdowns against nine interceptions. After looking like the next evolutionary step in the NFL the first two weeks, the Eagles have regressed to Neanderthal. In losses to the Chiefs and Broncos, Michael Vick threw for a combined 449 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. LeSean McCoy had a down game, for his standards, last week, and DeSean Jackson has just 96 yards in the last two weeks after posting nearly 300 in the first two. So of course they'll all get back on track this week.
Neither of these defenses strikes fear in the hearts of men. Philadelphia has the second-worst unit according to Pro Football Focus, coming in ahead of only Washington. The Giants are in the middle of the pack, but they also have the league's third-worst pass rush. One of the teams below them in the rankings? You guessed it, the Eagles. Manning and Vick should each have all day in the pocket, helping to turn this game into a shootout.
No one will be surprised if McCoy has a big day against the Giants. But if I own David Wilson, I'm starting him with confidence. Lost amid the beating the Giants took from the Chiefs last week was the fact that Wilson had 55 yards on 13 carries. The team cut Da'Rel Scott this week, a de facto endorsement of the embattled Wilson. Meanwhile, he hasn't fumbled since his much-publicized Week 1 debacle. The Eagles have allowed 4.1 yards per carry this season and are ranked 22nd against the run by PFF. Wilson will reward owners who have been patient with him.
Rashard Jennings, winner of weeks
Darren McFadden is all but guaranteed to miss Sunday night's game against the Chargers with a hamstring injury. With Marcel Reece (knee) also banged up, Jennings could be in for a huge day. As we've said here often, volume can be a running back's best friend. Jennings should get 20-plus touches against the Chargers. Moreover, the matchup is great, as PFF ranks San Diego in the bottom-quarter of the league against the run. The Chargers have surrendered 5.2 yards per carry, tied for the third most in the league. You may not use Jennings beyond this week, but you'll be happy you have him on your team Sunday. Make sure he's in your lineup.
Tough day ahead for Russell Wilson
Wilson has not taken the fantasy step forward in the early going that was expected of him by so many people. He has two good games and two terrible ones to his record in 2013, though one of the good outings was against Jacksonville. His 8.2 yards per attempt number looks great, but he was down at 5.35 against Houston last week. That game was also the first in which he was a factor with his legs. Although the Seahawks are 4-0 and one of the best teams in the league, Wilson isn't exactly blazing a trail to fantasy MVP.
It won't get any easier for him this week when the Seahawks visit the Colts. Indy has been very tough against the pass this season, ranking seventh in pass coverage by PFF. They completely shut down Colin Kaepernick two weeks ago, holding him to 150 yards, 5.6 YPA, zero touchdowns and 20 rushing yards on seven carries. The Colts have been vulnerable against the run, allowing 4.2 yards per carry and four rushing touchdowns this season. Expect a heavy dose of Marshawn Lynch on your TV on Sunday afternoon. Add to all that the Seahawks' injuries on the offensive line, and the picture for Wilson is bleak. Look elsewhere.
The rookie backs are coming to play
Two of the top four running backs selected in last April's draft will be on display this week. One is a no-doubter, and the other could go under the right circumstances.
I'm starting Giovani Bernard anywhere I own him. The Patriots have been surprisingly good against the run this year, but one of the most important guys behind that is gone. Vince Wilfork will miss the rest of the season with a torn Achilles, making Bernard's job Sunday a whole lot easier. Bernard was on the field for 50 snaps last week compared to 18 for BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The torch has definitively been passed. I like the Bengals to pull the mini-upset. Bernard will be a big reason why.
The Packers expect to have Eddie Lacy back this week after he missed their last game with a concussion. Both James Starks and Johnathan Franklin starred in his absence, and that bodes well for Lacy. Starks is out this week because of a knee injury, and Lacy is back at the top of the pecking order. Although Franklin will have a role in the offense, Lacy is expected to get more touches behind an impressive Green Bay line. The Packers rank fifth in run blocking by PFF's metrics. Meanwhile, the Lions have not been good against the run this year, ranking 23rd in the league. Green Bay's run game will always take a backseat to Aaron Rodgers, and Franklin's presence complicates things. Lacy isn't a slam dunk this week, but I can see him being a fringe flex option.
Injury news lightning round
Rob Gronkowski is still out because of his back injury. We'll check on him next week when the Patriots host the Saints.
Danny Amendola (groin), Kenbrell Thompkins (shoulder) and Aaron Dobson (neck) are all questionable. Thompkins expects to play, and the good news for Amendola is that he made the trip to Cincinnati. This game kicks early, so it shouldn't alter your plans too much. I'd use them all as you normally would if they play. That likely means start Amendola and Thompkins, but sit Dobson.
Terrelle Pryor practiced all week and is probable after missing last week's game with a concussion. You have to like his chances against the Chargers.
Cecil Shorts (groin) was limited in practice at the end of the week. I'd probably try to find a safer option.
Roddy White is still dealing with the high ankle sprain he has had all year and simply cannot be trusted until we see him at 100 percent on the field. Don't start him this week unless you truly do not have another option.
Miles Austin is doubtful with his hamstring injury and is not expected to play.
Chris Ivory (hamstring) was a limited participant in practice Friday and could play Monday in Atlanta. You weren't starting him, but this does have an effect on Bilal Powell. No matter what goes down with Ivory, I'd be starting Powell confidently.
Jermichael Finley looks good to go after suffering a concussion in Green Bay's last game.
Stephen Hill has been cleared to play after suffering a concussion last week and is probable. I really like his prospects against Atlanta.
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