NFL Game Previews: Week 5

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The RotoExperts staff looks ahead to Week 5, with lineup recommendations in every game capsule.

With four picks and just one touchdown in his last three games, Tony Romo is testing the patience of his owners. Stick with him; he's in store for a 300-plus yard, multiple touchdown game against the miserable Chiefs defense. Roy Williams is dealing with a rib injury and is questionable, meaning Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin and Sam Hurd all hold the possibility of a 100-yard outing. It's just a matter of guessing which one. With a still-sore quad and a bye week looming, Marion Barber III won't be counted on to carry a full load. Look for Tashard Choice to be the Cowboys best fantasy option out of the backfield, especially in PPR play. Matt Cassel's accounted for all five Kansas City touchdowns over the last three games, but his yardage totals are severely lacking, (he's averaging just 152.6 YPG). Dallas ranks near the bottom of the league in passing yards allowed, so counting on Cassel to top 200-yards and a touchdown is a good bet. And chances are if he does toss a touchdown, Dwayne Bowe will be on the receiving end of it. Larry Johnson is gaining just 2.6 yards-per-carry, but he sees enough of a workload (20 touches a game), and the Dallas defense is soft enough to expect a double-digit fantasy day. --Chris Ryan

STANDOUT STARTS: Tashard Choice, Tony Romo Matt Cassel, Dwayne Bowe


Eli Manning missed practice early in the week, and is questionable for Sunday. Even if he does take the field, the Giants will focus on exploiting the Raiders' 26th-ranked rush defense rather than test Nnamdi Asomugha and their legitimately good secondary. That of course means that Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw are in line for heavy workloads and thus healthy yardage totals. Don't be surprised to see each top 100 yards. Steve Smith is leading all receivers in catches, yardage and touchdowns. He's as must-start as you can get right now, even in a somewhat tough match-up. Mario Manningham has shown enough big play ability to warrant flex consideration on a weekly basis, but taking all factors into account (Manning's injury, Raiders secondary, heavy run-emphasis), it's best to leave him on the sidelines this week. Thanks to Darren McFadden's injury, JaMarcus Russell's monumental ineptitude and the stoutness of the Giants defense, the Raiders entire team can be bypassed in all but the deepest of fantasy leagues. --CR

STANDOUT STARTS: Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, Steve Smith

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Eli Manning, Mario Manningham, all Raiders

Josh Johnson showed an inability to get the ball down-field in his first start, averaging just 4.8 yards per attempt. That's bad news for Kellen Winslow and Antonio Bryant owners, especially considering the Eagles' pass defense comes into the game ranked second in the league. Don't expect either pass catcher to be much help this week. Cadillac Williams, however, will benefit from Johnson's inadequacies and should catch five-plus balls while piling up around 70 totals yards. Derrick Ward has done nothing to warrant starting consideration. Both Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook return to the starting lineup for the Eagles, and the two should have no trouble picking up where Kevin Kolb and LeSean McCoy impressively left off. McNabb is a safe play to top 250 passing yards and a couple of touchdowns against a Buccaneers' secondary that's relinquished nine passing scores in four games. Westbrook is less of a sure thing -- and McCoy will still hold RB3 value -- but as long as he's starting, the injury-prone runner is a threat to accumulate over 100 total yards. At the pass catching positions, look for Brent Celek and DeSean Jackson to once again be productive options. --CR

STANDOUT STARTS: Cadillac Williams, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Brent Celek, DeSean Jackson

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Kellen Winslow, Antonio Bryant

Brett Favre has been fantasy gold the past two weeks, but don't expect that to continue in a seemingly tasty match-up against St. Louis. The Rams defense is completely incapable of slowing down Adrian Peterson, and offensively, they'll prove unable to muster much more than 10 points -- leading to a day of ball control and clock eating for Favre. 200 passing yards and a touchdown is the most you can expect. Bernard Berrian looks to finally be in synch with his quarterback, and is a solid WR3 option this week. Percy Harvin and Visanthe Shiancoe are always scoring possibilities, but their yardage totals won't be anything to get excited about. In a good match-up, Steven Jackson is the lone Rams player that owners can count on to produce starter-worthy numbers. In a bad match-up like the one Minnesota presents (they've yet to allow a rushing touchdown), the fantasy cupboard is essentially bare. If you have no better options and are forced to start Jackson, consider 75 total yards and no scores the ceiling. --CR

STANDOUT STARTS: Adrian Peterson, Bernard Berrian

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Brett Favre, Percy Harvin, Steven Jackson

Yeesh, this is a lousy game with lousy fantasy players. But many of you probably have a player in it, so we'll just have to plow ahead. Let's start with who will fill the vacancy left by Braylon Edwards, who had eight catches for 104 yards when these two teams met last year. A popular choice might be Mohamed Massaquoi. I'm not going to advise you not to use your new toy plucked from the free agency bin, but remember that Chansi Stuckey used to play for Eric Mangini while they were both in New York. Considering the Browns are 29th in passing, I would not expect much out of any Cleveland receiver. Don't even consider starting Derek Anderson. The one Brown I would consider is Jerome Harrison. Buffalo is allowing over 150 rushing yards per game, so Harrison should top last week's output of 121 rushing yards. I would also start my Buffalo running backs as Cleveland is the second-worst team defending the rush, giving up two touchdowns and over 175 yards per game. There should be enough fantasy scoring opportunity for both Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson. I would expect at least a touchdown or 80 combined yards at a minimum for either back. I had to choose, however, I'd rather start Jackson due to his capabilities in the passing game. I would also give Terrell Owens at least one more start since he's going against the Browns 21st-ranked passing defense. --Mark Strausberg

STANDOUT STARTS: Fred Jackson, Jerome Harrison

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Mohammed Massaquoi

Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco are turning back the clock and the Bengals defense is allowing just 19 points per game. The Ravens, however, are allowing just 291 yards per game (compared to 345 for the Bengals), and scoring 31 points a game. Baltimore crushed Cleveland, which took Cincinnati into overtime. That's another way to say that I would definitely start all your Ravens. I would even start Kelly Washington, who has said publicly that he wants to show the Bengals they made a mistake in releasing him. I think he successfully does that when he scores this weekend. Washington's touchdown won't be the only passing touchdown as Cincinnati is ranked 26th against the pass, so Joe Flacco should connect on at least two touchdowns and have around 250 passing yards. Sit Cedric Benson. The Baltimore defense rarely gives up 100-yard games to opposing running backs and I don't see this weekend being an exception. However, the Baltimore secondary is still struggling, especially against taller receivers. Expect a decent game from the 6-foot-4 Chris Henry. If I could only pick one receiver from this game to score, he would be my choice. --MS

STANDOUT STARTS: Chris Henry, Kelly Washington, Joe Flacco

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Cedric Benson, Andre Caldwell

When you're playing from behind and losing games, your pass defense is not the area that is typically being tested. Thus, it should be no surprise that Carolina and Washington have allowed the sixth and fourth lowest passing yards per game. The Chiefs are struggling also, yet are ranked 28th. Thus, I'd be very reluctant to start my Redskin receivers. While I doubt you're deep enough at WR to bench Steve Smith, I'd start him but keep your expectations in check. By extension, I'd sit both quarterbacks, especially because neither has been very good. Meanwhile, Carolina has allowed a league worst 182.7 rushing yards per game. Clinton Portis should top last week's 91 yards on the ground and should add a score as well. Washington's rushing defense is only slightly better, allowing the 11th most yards per game. DeAngelo Williams should have at least 80 rushing yards but don't be surprised to see Jonathan Stewart score. - MS

STANDOUT STARTS: Clinton Portis, DeAngelo Williams

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Santana Moss, Chris Cooley

Let's start with the obvious: Detroit will probably be behind and Pittsburgh is ranked third against the run, so sit Kevin Smith. Even if he's able to play, I wouldn't start Matthew Stafford. The Steelers pass rush is enough to give a veteran quarterback "happy feet," let alone a rookie. You don't bench your studs, so you're not benching Calvin Johnson, but how about starting Brandon Pettigrew? Pettigrew is coming off a four-catch, 64-yard performance and the Steelers have given up an average of more than 50 yards and four catches a game to tight ends this season. Heath Miller does not have a lot of yardage, but he's averaging six catches a game, and I would expect Miller to have similar numbers this week for those of you in PPR leagues. If I have to tell you to start Rashard Mendenhall this week, I'm sorry to hear about your coma. Expect over 100 yards rushing this week. It sounds obvious, but I'd start both Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward as well because Detroit has given up a league worst 12 touchdowns to receivers. --MS

STANDOUT STARTS: Brandon Pettigrew, Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward


Both teams have playoff aspirations, but the well-rested Falcons feature more palpable talent, with Michael Turner, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez comprising an effective 1-2-3 punch for Matt Ryan on offense. Turner should run wild versus San Francisco, with White and Gonzalez both chipping in with solid days in the 75-100 yard range and a score or two. Ryan, in just his second year, can effectively run this offense. In other words, don't expect a repeat shutout performance for the San Francisco DEF/ST, as talented as it might be with stars like Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, Michael Lewis and Nate Clements. Falcons No. 2 WR Michael Jenkins has seen his share of targets, but his production isn't quite at the level of a fantasy starter just yet. Shaun Hill was obviously the right choice as signal-caller for San Fran -- a team that finds itself at 3-1 after Sunday's drubbing of the Rams. But without the explosive running of Frank Gore, the upstart Niners will struggle to move the ball consistently against the Falcons. Expect a lot of pressure on Hill and pedestrian days for Vernon Davis and receivers Isaac Bruce and JoshMorgan -- although Davis is hard to sit after two consecutive weeks finding paydirt. The Falcons don't have a great run defense, so Glen Coffee should have a decent day in relief of Gore, posting about 100 total yards and a score. He'll be a particularly solid start in PPR leagues. --Antonio D'Arcangelis

STANDOUT STARTS: Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Glen Coffee

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan, 49ers DEF/ST

As terrible as the Texans are against the run (they allow 165 rushing yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry), the Cards should stick to the approach that got them to the Super Bowl last season -- throwing the ball about 20-30 times to Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin, their two stud receivers. Expect a huge day from Kurt Warner and a quality PPR performance from Tim Hightower. While it's tempting to give Beanie Wells a crack at your starting lineup, it's still a reach, given his relative uselessness in that offense so far this season. There's a decent chance this game turns into a shootout, so Houston's big three: Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and Steve Slaton are all must-starts -- and top-tier ones at that. Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones are the fantasy wild cards in this match-up, and will continue to frustrate owners with on-and-off productivity from week to week. Lay off starting either as anything more than weak WR3s or solid WR4s until they show more consistency. Owen Daniels could be another fantasy goldmine this week, as the Cards allow opposing tight ends to score about 32 percent more fantasy points than the league average. He should contribute around 6-8 catches, 60-plus yards and a score. --A.D.

STANDOUT STARTS: Kurt Warner, Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton, Tim Hightower

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Steve Breaston, Kevin Walter, Jacoby Jones

Okay, so this week we're going to see what the Broncos are really made of -- something even some of the most astute sports minds have yet to settle on. One thing's for sure -- Bill Belichick and the Pats won't repeatedly challenge All-World cornerback Champ Bailey during the final drive. Instead they'll feature a balanced attack that utilizes Tom Brady's talents in the passing game and the multi-headed RB committee to its fullest. Randy Moss and Wes Welker are must-plays (especially in PPR leagues), but the gravy train looks to be finished for the dynamic Julian Edelman. Ben Watson should ride the pine since the Broncos' points allowed for TEs is the second-lowest in all of football, even though they just faced Jason Witten. Kyle Orton isn't safe to start as anything more than a QB2, but sticking with Brandon Marshall after his late-game TD catch-and-run against Dallas is a fine bet. Eddie Royal will have a hard time finding open space against the Pats' bend-but-don't-break defense, and it's not wise to put faith in any of the Broncos RBs, be it the injured Correll Buckhalter or the rookie Knowshon Moreno. If anyone benefits from this match-up, it's Peyton Hillis, who's yet to make a fantasy impact in '09. --A.D.

STANDOUT STARTS: Fred Taylor, Wes Welker, Brandon Marshall

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Ben Watson, Eddie Royal, Knowshon Moreno

David Garrard is flying under the radar so far, averaging 235.2 yards per game with an 89.1 QB rating. The Seahawks defense is in the middle of the pack when it comes to defending the pass, so an average day from Garrard is in the cards. Think 225 and two scores. Mike Sims-Walker burst onto the fantasy scene last week, hauling in two scores. In three games, Sims-Walker has at least six receptions and 81 yards per contest. Sims-Walker's stock will never be higher, and he's a legit WR2 this week. His emergence forces Torry Holt owners into a tough position of deciding whether or not he's even ownable. Keep him on your roster, but he's WR3 material on a good day. Marcedes Lewis had a career game last week, going for 76 yards and a score. He isn't good enough to be an every-week starter, but he's a nice bye-week fill-in this week. He's a threat to score and top 50 yards. Maurice Jones-Drew may not always rack up the yards, but he's tied for the lead in rushing touchdowns and can be counted on to score each week. Anything less than 100 total yards and a score will be a disappointment. Matt Hasselbeck is expected to return this week as his offensive line crumbles. This isn't a good combination, making Hasselbeck a risky start. On the bright side, the Jaguars have the league's second worst pass defense. The result should be a 200-yard, two-touchdown outing. T.J. Houshmandzadeh's first 100-yard game of the season last week should be the first of many. Count on him for 100 and a score this week. Nate Burleson was quiet last week after two straight positive performances. His one touchdown came with Hasselbeck at the helm, so 60 yards and a score are reasonable. John Carlson also has a nice rapport with Hasselbeck so a big game isn't out of the question. A minimum expectation would be 40 yards. Julius Jones has been getting a majority of the carries for the Seahawks and is the only running back worth starting. The Jaguars can be run on so Jones makes for a RB2 this week with 75 yards and a score as his floor. --Brad Rysz

STANDOUT STARTS: David Garrard, Marcedes Lewis, Nate Burleson


Peyton Manning is back to his old MVP ways, throwing for over 300 yards a game with regularity. The Titans boast the NFL's worst pass defense, suggesting Manning is in for a monstrous day. The time share between Joseph Addai and Donald Brown forces each into a flex role, albeit high upside flex's at that. Consider 70 yards and a score the benchmark for both. Reggie Wayne has been fantastic this season and can be counted on for 100 and a score each week. Pierre Garcon has been effective while Anthony Gonzalez spends time nursing an injury and can be started as a WR3. Dallas Clark is arguably fantasy's top tight end and anything less than 75 and a score will be considered a disappointment. The Titans offense has shifted gears a bit this season, becoming more pass heavy since they've been playing from behind. The beneficiary has been Kerry Collins, who is a respectable fantasy backup. Considering the Colts strong offense, Collins should throw for at least 200 yards and a score. Nate Washington has found the end zone for three straight weeks and is a red zone favorite of Collins'. He may not top 70 yards, but a score is likely. Justin Gage and Kenny Britt are WR3's, although Britt has been coming on as of late. Gage is simply too risky to start this week with any confidence. Chris Johnson has a nice match-up against a weak run defense and is one of Week 5's top running back options. He may score multiple times while topping 120 total yards. LenDale White's ineffectiveness force a downgrade from a decent flex to simply Johnson's backup. - BR

STANDOUT STARTS: All Colts, Kerry Collins, Nate Washington

BANISH TO THE BENCH: LenDale White, Justin Gage

Mark Sanchez had his "welcome to the NFL moment" against the Saints and should be pressured just as much by the Dolphins. Things won't be easier this week, as Sanchez struggles to top 200 yards and a score. Braylon Edwards is in town, but Jerricho Cotchery should remain the team's top wide receiver. He has a strong chemistry with Sanchez and is a nice option for 85 yards and a score, making him an elite WR2 option. Edwards needs to get acclimated and probably won't be much of a factor this week. The Dolphins flat out stuff the run and Thomas Jones and Leon Washington will have trouble picking up yards. This gives an edge to Washington who is a factor out of the passing game. Both are low-end RB2 options this week. Dustin Keller hasn't done much since his strong Week 1 and is nothing more than a bye-week filler. Like the Dolphins, the Jets defense can also hold its own, which is bad news for a young quarterback like Chad Henne. He's not a strong start this week as the Dolphins will struggle to gain yardage. This means Ted Ginn Jr., Davone Bess and Brian Hartline are not worth plugging into your lineup, even in three wide receiver leagues. Anthony Fasano has also confirmed that he shouldn't be on anyone's fantasy roster. Instead, the load will fall on Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Brown is third in the NFL in rushing yards and should approach 100 yards and a score this week. Williams will spell him often and accumulate his standard 50 yards. --BR

STANDOUT STARTS: Jerricho Cotchery

BANISH TO THE BENCH: Thomas Jones, Mark Sanchez, Chad Henne, Ted Ginn Jr.