Week 5 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em: Owners have it easy with light bye week
It gets a little easier for fantasy owners this week, with just two teams on bye. And one of those teams is the Raiders, a team not contributing much of anything to the fantasy community. Peyton Manning and the Broncos return to action this week, as do strong fantasy squads in Cincinnati and Arizona. At the same time, more available players in the pool doesn’t necessarily mean easier decisions.
Below are the SI.com start and sit recommendations for every single fantasy-relevant player for Week 5.
The following recommendations are based on 12-team leagues that start one quarterback, two running backs, two receivers, one RB/WR flex, one tight end and one defense. However, to accommodate slightly deeper leagues, they extend to 14 quarterbacks, tight ends, and defenses, 30 running backs, and 40 receivers.
Chicago Bears at Carolina Panthers
Bears: Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Alshon Jeffery, Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett
The Steelers and Ravens have carved up the Carolina defense in recent weeks. The Panthers have allowed the 12th-most points to quarterbacks, seventh-most to running backs, and 10th-most to receivers. You’re starting your Bears every week, but you should feel very good about all of them on Sunday. Marshall still does have an ankle issue, but it’s not likely to keep him from playing. However, expect Jeffery, Bennett and Forte to all be more active in the passing game with Marshall at less than 100 percent.
Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, Greg Olsen
Benjamin has quickly developed into a must-play receiver every week. At 6-5, 240 pounds, we knew he’d be a beast in the red zone. He has been a bit of a surprise on deep balls (characterized as passes that travel at least 20 yards in the air), where he has caught five of his nine targets for 135 yards and three touchdowns. The best receivers in the league are deep threats who are also lethal in the red zone. Benjamin is proving to be just such a player.
Bears: Santonio Holmes, Bears DST
The Packers once again exposed the Bears defense, which has been a theme ever since Aaron Rodgers took over as the starter. This week could be different for the Bears. The Panthers’ offense has a ton of problems, and it all starts with Cam Newton’s inability or unwillingness to run the football. This unit could be a sneaky play come Sunday. Check our cheat sheet for a late-week update.
Panthers: Cam Newton, Darrin Reaves, Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, Philly Brown, Panthers DST
Newton simply cannot be trusted as a fantasy starter if he isn’t running the football. His ankle is clearly still a problem, and it’s keeping him from being effective on the ground. Without that, he’s just a glorified fantasy backup. Reaves will get the start with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart on the shelf, but there isn’t much to like here beyond the matchup. That doesn’t single-handedly make a guy worth starting. Volume isn’t everything, either, even on amps that go to 11. Reaves doesn’t go anywhere near that high. Fantasy owners cannot trust the Panthers defense with the way it has played the last two weeks against an offense like Chicago’s.
Cleveland Browns at Tennessee Titans
Browns: Ben Tate, Jordan Cameron, Browns DST
Tate is expected to make his return after suffering a knee injury in Week 1, but what will the backfield look like now that he’s sharing it with two other players? Both Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell proved their worth in Tate’s stead, and the situation is too murky to predict right now. Head coach Mike Pettine has said that Tate will start if healthy, so he has to be considered atop the totem pole for now. That also makes playing either West or Crowell too risky. Cameron likely benefited from the bye week, but he admitted that his shoulder could be an issue all season. Still, both Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener burned the Titans last week.
Titans: Bishop Sankey, Delanie Walker
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt has finally realized it's time for the Titans to stop limiting Sankey’s touches. He said earlier this week that Sankey would carry the ball more often this week and be involved in the offense earlier. He converted just eight touches last week into 57 yards and a touchdown. Even with the ineffective Charlie Whitehurst under center, Walker went for 84 yards and a score on five catches last week. He has blossomed into a tight end you start every single week,
Browns: Brian Hoyer, Isaiah Crowell, Terrance West, Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin
It’s entirely possible that either Crowell or West will put up top-30 numbers this week. As you’re setting your lineups, however, I don’t see how you could bank on that. There is a strong chance that neither running back gets even 10 touches on Sunday. Both backs are well worth owning, even with Tate healthy, but let’s see how the Cleveland coaching staff deploys the backs with all three available. A healthier Cameron is bad news for Hawkins’ fantasy owners. He’s a deep WR3, even on his best days. With only the Dolphins and Raiders on bye and Cameron as close to full strength as possible, Hawkins is not worth playing.
Titans: Jake Locker, Charlie Whitehurst, Shonn Greene, Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Titans DST
Locker returned to practice on Wednesday and is on track to get back on the field on Sunday, but he still belongs on fantasy benches. He has struggled against a pair of good defenses in Cincinnati and Dallas, and Cleveland has allowed the 11th-fewest points to quarterbacks this year. On the off chance that he doesn’t go, you won’t be sprinting to your waiver wire to pick up and start Whitehurst. As one of Hunter’s foremost supporters, it hurts to recommend him as a sit, but it’s where he should be. He already has four drops this season, two of which came on deep balls. Those are the passes he needs to be catching if he is going to break out in 2014.
St. Louis Rams at Philadelphia Eagles
Rams: Zac Stacy, Brian Quick
While Frank Gore’s game against the Eagles last week turned from good to great because of a fluky 55-yard touchdown reception, he still picked up 119 yards on the ground on 24 carries. Stacy is easily capable of repeating that effort, so long as the Rams don’t let this game get away from them. The Eagles have allowed the fourth-most points to wide receivers this year, and Quick has turned himself into a very capable WR3. Austin Davis is outside the starting class, but he should be able to do enough to help Quick to a productive day.
Eagles: Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy, Darren Sproles, Jeremy Maclin, Zach Ertz
The Eagles get Lane Johnson back at right tackle this week, and that should be huge for this offense. Not only is Johnson one of their best linemen, but his return allows Todd Herremans to kick back inside to his natural guard position. They’re still without Evan Mathis and Jason Kelce, but three actual starters along the line (the other being left tackle Jason Peters) probably feels like a luxury to them at this point. The Rams surrendered 100-yard games to both Bobby Rainey and DeMarco Murray, so it’s time for McCoy to get going. Expect the Eagles to get him move involved in the pass game, as well. Maclin already has a ridiculous 19 deep targets this year. He’s a WR1 all the way.
Rams: Austin Davis, Benny Cunningham, Kenny Britt, Austin Pettis, Jared Cook, Rams DST
The Start 'Em, Sit 'Em column is based on traditional one-quarterback leagues, but it’s worth mentioning here that Davis is a solid play in two-QB or superflex formats. The Eagles have allowed the second-most points to quarterbacks this year. Kirk Cousins famously torched them, and even Chad Henne managed 266 yards and two scores against the Eagles in Week 1. Davis has 8.02 yards per attempt this season, and gave a surprisingly good Dallas defense all it could handle in the Rams' Week 3 loss. Everyone else here is an automatic sit. That Tavon Austin no longer even makes the list should tell you just how dramatically the Rams have mismanaged him, and how far he has fallen short from catching on in the NFL.
Eagles: Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews, Eagles DST
With Maclin dominating the targets in Philadelphia, there aren't a whole lot of looks to go around for Cooper and Matthews. Cooper's still out there in two-wide sets, but he's mostly run blocking in those situations. Matthews is the second Eagles receiver to own, but neither of them deserve to be in fantasy lineups this week.
Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants
Falcons: Matt Ryan, Steven Jackson, Julio Jones, Roddy White
The Falcons have looked like two different teams this year, depending on if they’re in the comforts of the Georgia Dome or on the road. They’re 2-0 at home, and put up a combined 93 points and 1,056 yards in wins over the Saints and Buccaneers. On the road, however, they’re 0-2, while being outscored 75-38, and outgained 960-720. Matt Ryan hasn’t thrown an interception at home, but he has five outside the dome. And yet, this is too good an offense to even think about benching anyone when the Falcons head north to take on the Giants. You may want to temper expectations for Ryan and Jackson, though.
Giants: Eli Manning, Rashad Jennings, Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle, Larry Donnell, Giants DST
What has gotten into the Giants over the last few weeks? They’ve racked up 79 points and 868 yards in wins over Houston and Washington to get back to a .500 winning percentage. Manning has been right at the center of it, 73.1 percent of his passes for 534 yards, 7.97 YPA and six touchdowns against one interception. The Falcons have been terrible on defense this year, allowing the most fantasy points per game to running backs and 8.37 YPA, the second most in the league. Donnell’s emergence should open things up for everyone in the red zone. First to 30 wins this game.
Falcons: Jacquizz Rodgers, Devonta Freeman, Antone Smith, Harry Douglas, Devin Hester, Levine Toilolo, Falcons DST
There has been a bit of chatter about Smith this week, after he notched another big touchdown run. Let’s just get this out of the way. Smith has played a total of 38 snaps this year. He has been on the field for fewer plays than Rodgers and Freeman every week, and doesn’t have more than four touches in a game. No one can sustain fantasy value with that sort of usage rate. Hester could be a deep option in the event that Douglas has to sit again.
Giants: Andre Williams
Do not read too much into Williams’ 66-yard, one-touchdown performance last week. The Giants had the game well in hand by time he was making hay, and Jennings was just four days removed from a 34-carry effort against the Texans in Week 3.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints
Buccaneers: Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson
Martin got back on the field last week, and while he didn’t produce from a per-carry standpoint (40 yards on 14 totes), his knee held up and he got in the end zone. Perhaps most importantly, he had 10 more carries than Bobby Rainey. There’s no running-back controversy in Tampa Bay. Martin is a great start against a New Orleans defense that has allowed the 11th-most points to running backs. Jackson bailed himself out with late touchdowns each of the last two weeks, but chances are he’ll see more targets with Mike Evans out because of a groin injury.
Saints: Drew Brees, Pierre Thomas, Khiry Robinson, Marques Colston, Brandin Cooks, Jimmy Graham
Dallas beating New Orleans wasn’t necessarily a huge surprise, but the fashion in which it happened was. The Saints couldn’t get anything going in the first half, and while they did make a game of it after halftime, it was shocking to see this offense held without a touchdown through three quarters. The bet here is they take it out on the Buccaneers at home. Tampa Bay has allowed the eighth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks, second most to receivers and fifth most to tight ends. That portends of a huge day for Brees and all his pass-catchers. Also, Thomas’ disappearance from the passing game has been a puzzling development. Given that the offense has struggled, expect the Saints to get him more involved this week.
Buccaneers: Mike Glennon, Bobby Rainey, Louis Murphy, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Brandon Myers, Buccaneers DST
Glennon is definitely an upgrade over Josh McCown and he can be serviceable in two-quarterback or superflex leagues, but he’s not anywhere near the starting class in one-quarterback leagues. This could be Rainey’s last hurrah on the start/sit list, depending on how many touches he gets in comparison to Martin. Seferian-Jenkins is a very intriguing deep tight end. He had three receptions for 44 yards last week, but also got an impressive seven targets. Make sure you pay attention to the rookie out of Washington this week. In deep leagues where you have to be early to get a guy, this might be the week to get him.
Saints: Travaris Cadet, Kenny Stills, Saints DST
Cadet gets a mention here merely because he had six catches for 59 yards last week. Those balls mysteriously weren’t targeted for Thomas. Put Cadet on your watch list just in case it happens again. If it does, he could be worth snatching next week. Stills had just three targets last week. He’s only worth rostering in very deep leagues.
Houston Texans at Dallas Cowboys
Texans: Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, DeAndre Hopkins, Garrett Graham, Texans DST
The Cowboys have had a much better real-life defense than anyone expected, and that has shown up in the fantasy world, as well. They’ve allowed the sixth-fewest points to both running backs and receivers, though they have been victimized by tight ends. That’s why Graham shows up here. They’ve allowed the most points to the tight end position, and were a dropped touchdown away from giving up 13.5 points to Jared Cook. Graham is a sneaky option this week. While owners may be down on Johnson, he leads the team in targets, and has had seven balls thrown his way in the red zone. He’s going to start hitting paydirt soon. Foster should be a week healthier, but this is what made him such a risky fantasy proposition.
Cowboys: Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cowboys DST
Can the Texans be the first team to hold DeMarco Murray under 100 yards or out of the end zone? I wouldn’t bet on it. Alfred Morris rushed 14 times for 91 yards against them in Week 1, while Rashad Jennings piled up a season-high 176 yards on 34 carries two weeks ago. Murray is my top back this week. Romo had his best game of the season against the Saints last week. Even though he hasn’t put up huge numbers this season, owners should have confidence in him because of the weapons around him and the line in front of him. The Cowboys probably aren’t complaining too much at 3-1, but they would probably like to see Bryant get more than three red-zone targets in four games. Don’t be surprised if and when Romo throws him a few on Sunday.
Texans: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Alfred Blue, Damaris Johnson
Blue actually got more carries than Foster last week, but he didn’t do anything with them, rushing nine times for nine yards. Foster also racked up 10 targets, so he ended up seeing the ball more times overall than Blue. The Texans are 3-1 and still sit in first place in the AFC South, but Fitzpatrick is no more than a caretaker quarterback. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them turn to Ryan Mallett at some point.
Cowboys: Jason Witten
Witten is going to have a good game one of these weeks, but I wouldn’t bet on it against the team that held the unstoppable Larry Donnell to 45 yards. In all seriousness, Witten just barely misses being in the starting class in favor of his opposite in this game, Graham.
Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions
Bills: Fred Jackson, Bills DST
The heads-or-tails call on Jackson or Spiller comes up heads and Jackson this week. The Lions have been tough against the run this year, holding backs to the 11th-fewest fantasy points. Why Jackson? Rashad Jennings had 15.6 points against the Lions, Chris Ivory had 10 on the dot, and Chris Johnson used a late 35-yard touchdown run to get to 12.1. Jackson is a better facsimile for those players, and the way they scored against Detroit, than is Spiller. Both, however, are ranked between 25 and 35 on my board this week.
Lions: Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Lions DST
Last week’s game wasn’t Stafford’s best from a pure statistical standpoint, but it was very impressive to see him lead the Lions to a victory on the road with Johnson at less than 100 percent. Things will be better statistically this week. Bush could be in for a huge workload, and potentially a huge output, if both Joique Bell (concussion) and Theo Riddick (hamstring) are out this week. The early updates on Johnson’s ankle are encouraging, but he played just 37 snaps last week.
Bills: Kyle Orton, C.J. Spiller, Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams, Robert Woods, Scott Chandler
As the litany of players above suggests, I don’t trust the Bills skill players with Orton at the helm against a defense like Detroit’s. Let’s see what he can do before we trust these guys. As suggested above, Spiller is a sit because he and Jackson rarely both finish the week inside the top 30 at running back, and Jackson’s skillset is a better weapon against the Lions. It’s admittedly hard to sit down Watkins, but he has just nine catches for 80 yards outside of his big game against the Dolphins Week 2.
Lions: Joique Bell, Theo Riddick, Jeremy Ross, Eric Ebron
The Bills have allowed the sixth-fewest points to running backs this year, so it would have been hard to start Bell or Riddick no matter what. Given that both are banged up, you can’t think about rolling them out there on Sunday. Ebron has a chance to grab the tight end’s role and run with it with Joseph Fauria injured. If he were to do so, he would become a very intriguing fantasy player.
Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts
Ravens: Joe Flacco, Justin Forsett, Steve Smith, Owen Daniels, Ravens DST
Flacco’s right on the start/sit border, but I ultimately have him on the good side this week, just barely ahead of Andy Dalton, Blake Bortles and Colin Kaepernick. The connection he and Steve Smith have fostered has proven lucrative for fantasy owners, and the Colts have allowed the ninth-most points to quarterbacks this year. Those two factors are why I’d go with him this week. If the Ravens’ first four games have taught us anything, it’s that one of their backs will be worth starting in fantasy leagues, and that we have no idea who it will be. That’s why I’m going with Forsett, the only Baltimore running back to get at least 12 touches in every game this year.
Colts: Andrew Luck, Ahmad Bradshaw, T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne
Luck was already atop the quarterback season ranks heading into last week, and then he threw for 393 yards and four touchdowns in a win over the Titans. You’re starting him every single week with confidence, though do be aware that the Ravens have allowed the fourth-fewest points to quarterbacks. Trent Richardson continues to get more touches, while Bradshaw continues to put up more yards per touch. Given how well the Ravens have played against traditional runners this year, Bradshaw’s diverse skillset will be more valuable to the Colts on Sunday. The Ravens have allowed the eighth-most points to receivers, letting at least one receiver score double-digit points each week.
Ravens: Bernard Pierce, Lorenzo Taliaferro, Torrey Smith, Marlon Brown
Pierce or Taliaferro could very well lead the Ravens in carries. They could split the lead-back role, and relegate Forsett to nothing more than a change-of-pace pass-catcher. One of them could somehow get zero touches. You just can’t be sure in this offense. The only thing you can bet on is Forsett having some sort of role in the gameplan. Given that the ceiling isn’t terribly high for Pierce of Taliaferro, I’d rather make a play elsewhere. Torrey Smith, meanwhile, scored his first touchdown of the season last week, but got just three targets. He cannot be started.
Colts: Trent Richardson, Hakeem Nicks, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener
I’m softening a bit on my Richardson resistance, but this is a terrible matchup for his style of play. Allen and Fleener continue to get in each other’s way, and with other borderline options like Garrett Graham, Zach Ertz and Heath Miller in much better situations this week, both Allen and Fleener are outside the top 14 at the position.
Pittsburgh Steelers at Jacksonville Jaguars
Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Heath Miller
This is an exercise we might repeat weekly. The Jaguars have allowed the most points to quarterbacks, second most to receivers, and third most to both running backs and tight ends. You’re going to want to have all your players active against them. As for the merits of the Steelers themselves, the triumvirate of Roethlisberger, Bell and Brown has proved very effective, with Bell ranking second among running backs and Brown first among receivers. Both should have huge days on Sunday. Wheaton just can’t seem to get over the hump, but the Jaguars should do wonders for that effort. Miller caught a career-high 10 passes last week, and now gets a Jacksonville team that has allowed 323 yards and four touchdowns to tight ends.
Jaguars: Allen Robinson
With Marqise Lee and Cecil Shorts out, and Toby Gerhart struggling, Robinson is the only Jaguar worth starting this week. The Steelers have allowed the 12th-most points to receivers this year, surrendering 55 receptions for 673 yards and four touchdowns. The Jaguars are likely going to have to put up a lot of points to hang with Pittsburgh’s offense, and that should mean plenty of opportunities for Robinson.
Steelers: LeGarrette Blount, Steelers DST
On the surface, this is a good matchup for the Steelers. Blake Bortles is making just his second career start, and the Jaguars have essentially no running game to speak of. However, last week’s game with the Buccaneers was a good matchup, too, and the Steelers got just one sack and one turnover, while allowing 27 points to a team averaging 17.7 points coming into the game. This defense cannot be trusted for fantasy purposes.
Jaguars: Blake Bortles, Toby Gerhart, Denard Robinson, Allen Hurns, Clay Harbor, Jaguars DST
Given what Mike Glennon did to the Steelers last week (302 yards, two touchdowns, one interception), I was very tempted to call Bortles a starter this week. Ultimately, I just couldn’t nudge him ahead of Joe Flacco or Andy Dalton, my 13th and 14th quarterbacks. Bortles is going to make the fantasy community aware of him this season, and it could very well be this week. He’s just barely outside the starting class. Gerhart scored last week, but he also lost a fumble and nearly split the carries with Robinson right down the middle. It’s too bad Lee can’t get over this hamstring injury, because he could really be a weapon for the Jaguars and fantasy owners if he could just get on the field.
Arizona Cardinals at Denver Broncos
Cardinals: Andre Ellington, Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald
With news that Carson Palmer is seeking a second opinion on the nerve issue in his shoulder, this offense just took a real hit. Drew Stanton has played decently to this point, and there was marked improvement from start one to start two. Still, not many people see him as a viable long-term option. He was able to hook up with Floyd on a few deep balls in Arizona’s last game two weeks ago. That’s exactly what Floyd needs to be valuable. Fitzgerald is dominating the red-zone targets in Arizona, and that will keep him among the regular fantasy starters. The Broncos have allowed the 11th-most points to running backs this year, surrendering huge games to Knile Davis and Marshawn Lynch. Ellington can take advantage.
Broncos: Peyton Manning, Montee Ball, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Wes Welker, Julius Thomas, Broncos DST
Arizona may have one of the best defenses in the league, but they’ve yet to face an offense like Denver’s. And that’s not to say they’ve beaten a bunch of pushovers, either. The undefeated Cardinals have wins over the Chargers, Giants and 49ers, but the Broncos are stacked with must-start players at every position. Demaryius Thomas is in my top five for this week, Sanders is my No. 12 receiver, and Welker is No. 18 on my board. Ball could once again struggle against the stout Arizona run defense, but that would only make him a great buy-low candidate next week. The defense gets Danny Trevathan back from a knee injury this week, and could feast on Stanton.
Cardinals: Drew Stanton, Stepfan Taylor, John Brown, John Carlson, Cardinals DST
The only player above you’re even thinking about starting isn’t a player, but a unit. However, few defenses can be started against the Broncos. The Cardinals are not one of them. Stanton is worth a flier in two-quarterback or superflex leagues given the weapons at his disposal, but there isn’t any reason to own him in traditional one-quarterback leagues.
Broncos: No one who is relevant
Start your Broncos. Simple as that.
Kansas City Chiefs at San Francisco 49ers
Chiefs: Jamaal Charles, Travis Kelce, Chiefs DST
Charles returned from an ankle injury last week and instantly looked like his old self, racking up 108 yards from scrimmage and scoring three times. He admitted to being a bit sore after the game, and needed an IV during it, but he’s the RB1 you drafted about a month ago. The Kelce breakout is real and it's spectacular. He caught eight passes for 93 yards and a touchdown last week. The 49ers have been good against tight ends, shutting down Jason Witten and Zach Ertz, and limiting Martellus Bennett to 37 yards (though he did have a touchdown). Still, Kelce’s looking like an every-week play. The Chiefs defense got on track last week, and can force a few predictable Colin Kaepernick mistakes.
49ers: Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, 49ers DST
The 49ers finally got back to feeding Gore, and he stepped up with 119 yards on 24 carries. The Chiefs have been tough on running backs, allowing the eighth-fewest points to the position, but Gore remains an RB1 for this week. The 49ers offense simply looked a whole lot better with him getting a heavy workload. Crabtree is dealing with a pesky foot injury, but he was able to play through it for most of last week’s game against Philadelphia. There’s no reason for him to be relegated to your bench this week.
Chiefs: Alex Smith, Knile Davis, Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery
Smith showed up in a big way against the Patriots, throwing for 248 yards, 9.54 YPA and three touchdowns. The 49ers are not the Patriots. This is a much harder matchup. You should be able to do better than Smith. Davis piled up 107 yards on 16 carries, but the only way he even comes close to that workload with a healthy Charles is if the Chiefs blow out the Niners. Eleven of his 16 carries came in the second half last week.
49ers: Colin Kaepernick, Carlos Hyde, Anquan Boldin, Steve Johnson, Brandon Lloyd, Vernon Davis, Derek Carrier
Kaepernick has the ninth-most fantasy points among quarterbacks this year, but he still keeps finding his way into the sit pile. The Chiefs are beatable for quarterbacks, but Kaepernick isn’t ever going to be a slam-dunk starter, except in a great matchup. Other borderline quarterbacks such as Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco are better plays this week, and so are guys I have as sits, like Russell Wilson. Davis had to be helped off the field during last week’s game with back spasms. Don’t expect him to go this week.
New York Jets at San Diego Chargers
Jets: Chris Ivory, Eric Decker
Chris Johnson may have scored a late touchdown last week, but it was Ivory who completely dominated the touches out of the Jets backfield. Going up against a strong Detroit defense, he ran for 84 yards on 17 carries, and caught two passes for 16 yards. What’s more, he had six targets to Johnson’s two. He’s unquestionably the No. 1 back for the Jets and should be considered an RB2 for the rest of the season. Decker looked good despite a hamstring injury a week ago, catching four of his nine targets for 48 yards and a touchdown. He’s another week removed from a hamstring pull, and is a WR3 against a San Diego defense that has allowed the fourth-fewest points to wide receivers if he can go Sunday.
Chargers: Philip Rivers, Keenan Allen, Eddie Royal, Antonio Gates, Chargers DST
The Jets have allowed the fourth-most points to quarterbacks and third-most points to receivers this year. Translation: Philip Rivers and Keenan Allen are set for huge games. The fact that the Jets have been so good against the run only means that the Chargers will likely rely on Rivers’ right arm even more than usual. Rivers has actually been one of the most under-the-radar players in the league throughout his entire career. He’s my No. 4 quarterback this week, trailing only Rodgers, Manning and Brees. Meanwhile, Allen got back on track with a 135-yard effort last week, and Royal caught two more touchdowns to give him four on the year. This whole Royal thing might actually be for real, especially with the way the San Diego passing offense is clicking.
Jets: Geno Smith, Chris Johnson, Jeremy Kerley, Jace Amaro, Jets DST
One more poor game out of Smith just might open the door wide enough for Michael Vick to walk through. Johnson’s value is probably only going to come down from here after he scored a 35-yard touchdown last week. There’s no doubt that Ivory is the top guy in the Jets’ backfield now. If you can get an asset for him now, do it.
Chargers: Donald Brown, Branden Oliver, Malcom Floyd, Ladarius Green
Brown has been a serious disappointment since taking over the starting gig after Ryan Mathews sprained his MCL. He has just 81 yards on 41 carries, though he has added some value in the passing game with nine receptions for 62 yards. This is a very tough matchup for a running back, and he cannot be trusted. Once Mathews returns, Brown will be devoid of fantasy value. Floyd is a nice depth guy to have around, but with just the Dolphins and Raiders on bye this week, he shouldn’t be on your radar as a starter.
Cincinnati Bengals at New England Patriots
Bengals: Andy Dalton, Giovani Bernard, Jeremy Hill, A.J. Green, Bengals DST
Even after Alex Smith lit them up for 248 yards and three touchdowns, the Patriots have still allowed the second-fewest points to quarterbacks this year. Of course, they faced Ryan Tannehill, Matt Cassel and Derek Carr before Smith carved them into pieces. Dalton can do similar work, especially with A.J. Green fully healthy after resting his foot during the bye week. The Patriots have allowed the fifth-most points to running backs, and have twice allowed teammates to go for double-digits. It happened last week with Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis, and Week 1 when Knowshon Moreno and Lamar Miller pulled off the feat. Bernard and Hill can do the same.
Patriots: Shane Vereen, Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski
There are plenty of problems in Patriots land these days, and they have taken a huge bite out of the effectiveness of the offense. Gronkowski and Edelman are sustaining their value, though neither is putting up huge numbers. Gronk has been completely dependent on touchdowns, while Edelman can’t find the end zone. Gronk is always going to be a reliable starter, but Edelman has drifted comfortably into WR3 territory. I still expect the Patriots to get Vereen more involved in the passing game as they continue to look for signs of life in the offense.
Bengals: Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Tate, Jermaine Gresham
The Bengals finally got Jones back in practice this week after he missed the first four games with a broken foot, and he promptly tweaked his ankle in practice. He was looking like an intriguing receiver in this offense, but now his season debut is up in the air. He’s still worth targeting in deep leagues, but the way the lower leg injuries keep cropping up for him is discouraging.
Patriots: Tom Brady, Stevan Ridley, Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins, Patriots DST
It would have been unthinkable just a month ago, but Brady simply cannot be trusted as a starter in one-quarterback leagues. It’s not just the line or the total lack of speed outside. Brady’s pocket awareness has deserted him, and he has been indecisive on his throws. We knew his days as an elite fantasy quarterback were gone, but this has been simply shocking to watch. I wouldn’t outright cut him, but he’s not sniffing a starting lineup until he shows some sign of a fantasy pulse.
Seattle Seahawks at Washington Redskins
Seahawks: Marshawn Lynch, Percy Harvin, Seahawks DST
You’re starting Lynch no matter what, but Washington has actually been pretty good against the run this year. Arian Foster needed 27 carries to grind out 103 yards, LeSean McCoy managed just 22 yards on 20 carries, and Rashad Jennings picked up 55 yards on 13 totes before giving way to Andre Williams in a blowout. On a greater analytics basis, the Washington run defense ranks in the top half of the league according to Pro Football Focus. Lynch, as always, remains a great play. It has been a while since we heard from Harvin, who has just 15 catches for 106 yards. Similar to Cordarrelle Patterson, Harvin really needs those splash plays to sustain WR2 value. He doesn’t get enough targets, and the Seattle passing attack isn’t potent enough, for him to do so otherwise.
Redskins: Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson
You know the drill here. This is obviously a tough matchup for all involved on Washington, especially the receivers, but Morris, Garcon and Jackson are too good to sit because of a tough matchup. At least they get the Seahawks on their side of the country. Garcon is a WR2 in my book, while Jackson is a WR3. This is what the Seahawks defense does. It takes highly-rated players, and makes them play down to a little above league-average.
Seahawks: Russell Wilson, Robert Turbin, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse
Wilson is the only guy who might raise any eyebrows here, especially since they have allowed the sixth-most points to quarterbacks this year. However, the quarterbacks they struggled against were Nick Foles and Eli Manning. The Eagles have one of the most dangerous offenses in the league, while the Giants were clicking on all cylinders last week. For as good as the Seahawks are, they don’t exactly have the greatest passing attack for fantasy purposes. I’d rather start Andy Dalton or Joe Flacco this week.
Redskins: Kirk Cousins, Roy Helu, Niles Paul, Jordan Reed, Logan Paulsen
Life isn’t quite as easy when you’re not facing the soft Philadelphia pass defense. The Giants eviscerated Cousins, holding him to 257 yards and picking him off four times. Those were also 257 of the most ineffective yards as you’ll see all season. Things only get harder this week with the Seahawks in town. You can safely stay away from Cousins. Paul could theoretically play after suffering a concussion last week, and Reed has started doing some side work in practice, but it’s unlikely either will be able to go on Monday night.